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Monday, November 30, 2015

Nathan

I tweeted a picture of Nathan the kitten on Thanksgiving, and several responded with kind comments.  Nathan and I appreciate it.  When Nathan was plucked off the streets of Wilkes-Barre, a cold and dirty stray, he didn't expect to be an internet star.

He's doing well, and growing fast.  In fact, I had to swap out his baby collar for a big boy collar the day before Thanksgiving.  Nathan has recovered well from his surgery, and I hope he doesn't miss Father's Day.  Some vets nip off an ear tip so you can readily tell the ones who are spayed or neutered.  I'm not thrilled with the process for boys.  One nip is more than enough.

Nathan has an interesting color pattern.  His nose, chin, and whiskers aren't dirty.  He just has splashes of red and beige there.

Nathan is a spunky little guy, already spoiled beyond belief.  Sorry to say, there are a lot more like him out there.  I wish we could get them all off the streets and in to good homes.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Andy's Angles: The Tower



The WEJL tower is all lit up for the holiday season, and it's a spectacular sight.  You can see it for miles, and it always gives me a happy feeling when I look down from Interstate 81 on my way to work-- and I'm not a Christmas guy.

This photo was taken around 3 AM Friday.  There are times the tower is shut off for the overnight hours.  I hope the "all night" is here until the new year.  It's quite a sight any time, especially when it's the dead of night, and the surroundings are almost totally dark.

For the last few years, the Scranton Times~Tribune has been throwing a big party on tower lighting night-- the night before Thanksgiving, and I think that's fantastic.  Things like First Night, First Fridays, and the Italian Festival keep the streets active in to the evening, and the city certainly needs more of that.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Train Station Saturday: Waymart

Today, it's another one from the archives.  This is the Gravity Railroad Depot in Waymart.

It always reminded me of a quaint little home, in a residential section of town.  The building was restored about ten years ago.  It's now home to the D&H Gravity Railroad Museum.

This railroad building could have been like so many others-- demolished.  It's fantastic a bit of history is preserved in Waymart.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday

I don't want to disappoint, so here's my yearly anti Black Friday rant...

I get that a lot of people have to go out on Black Friday.  Those sales do stretch a budget.  It all seems tremendously excessive to me, and I really dislike the concept of stores open on Thanksgiving.  I can see mini marts and drug stores, but malls and department stores?  Not for me.

By the way, Black Friday is NOT the biggest shopping day of the year.  It's actually Super Saturday, the last Saturday before Christmas.  If you hear a news reporter or anchor say Black Friday is the biggest shopping day, someone didn't do their research.

My Thanksgiving was nice.  A visit to the gym in the very early morning, followed by some picture taking, a dog walk, some computer time, family dinner, football, and an early trip to bed.

By the way, I detoured through downtown Scranton after leaving the gym.  It was nice to see the WEJL tower still lit at 4:30 AM.  The rest downtown, except for Courthouse Square, was dark and dismal.  Somebody really has to work on that.

My picture taking expedition took me on to Interstate 380.  Jeez O'Pete, what a bumpy road!  If it's this bad now, I shudder to think of its condition when we get to pothole season in the spring.

I hope you had a good holiday.  See you tomorrow morning, and don't forget about Small Business Saturday.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving

I usually put a cartoon turkey here, but this year, it's some real ones.  This photo was taken a couple of weeks ago, in a grassy area outside the old Harper Collins building, along Marshwood Road in Throop.

Forgive me for lecturing and preaching today.

We eat turkey, but it's not Turkey Day.  It's Thanksgiving.

No matter how miserable things might be, we can all find something, tiny as it may be, for which to be thankful.

I'm counting my blessings.  The year has been far from perfect, but I have a great family, good friends, a job I like, the unconditional love of a beagle, and a newly rescued, formerly stray, kitten named Nathan.

Enjoy the day, and please think of what it's all about.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

First Person: Charity

I saw it coming.  Yesterday, I predicted a holiday charity story in my future.  The prediction came true.

I was assigned to to a Thanksgiving food distribution for families in need.  United Neighborhood Centers and volunteerts provided the heavy lifting.  Much of the donated food came from WNEP's Feed a Friend program.  The distribution point was a church on Madison Avenue in Scranton.

Photographer Dave and I arrived around 10 AM.  We found a line in front of the church, people braving a November wind to get a little holiday help.  We approached a few for interviews.  They declined.  I explained that our photography would be done from behind, and much of it below the waist.  We were not out to wound anyone's dignity.
It was an amazing sight inside the church.  Mounds of turkeys, boxes of foods, and an army of volunteers to make sure everyone had what they needed.  Many of the volunteers were school kids.  They lugged the food out to cars, and never complained.
We eventually found a couple of people willing to share their stories.  Interviews.  Video.  Back out to the truck to write, edit, and microwave the completed package back to the office for playback on Newswatch 16 at Noon.  We then set up the camera and I stepped in front of it, ready for a live intro and close.

There was an issue.  President Obama and the president of France were speaking.  ABC News aired a special report, and it ate up all our news time.  We were told to stay hot until 12:30, in case the special report ended, and we had a little time left for news.  It didn't happen.  It was frustrating.  We had a good story to tell, but world events are also important.  I get it.

The story aired in the afternoon.  Thanks to those who made it happen.

One of the reasons I got into the business was to help people.  I hope we did okay, exposing poverty issues, showing people were there to make life a little easier.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Giving Thanks

I had a few spare moments at the office yesterday, so I checked what's called the planner or daybook.  It's a computer file of upcoming stories.

It's that time of year again.

Many of the potential assignments deal with distribution of food to families in need at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and Christmas toys for children in less fortunate families.

I can't speak for others, but let me tell you how I operate.  Photographers are instructed to shoot recipients from the back, or the waist down.  No one is interviewed without their permission.  Getting the story is important.  Preserving dignity is extremely important.

I've never been in one of those lines.  I had to sign up for unemployment compensation once, and it was one of the most difficult things I'd ever done.  I did nothing wrong.  I was entitled to the help.  Still, it was a blow to my pride.  I've never forgotten that, and it's made me extremely sensitive covering stories involving charities and donations.

You may ask, why do we cover these things?  That's easy.  It lets people know where they can get help.  It lets fortunate people know where to make donations, and shows there is a need for charity here in our area.  It seems to grow larger every year.

There is a phenomenon I call "charity fatigue."  So many organizations are looking for help.  It's overwhelming.  You can't help them all.  No one has that much money.  It breaks your heart when you have to decline.

I do have a couple of favorite organizations and they hear from me every year at this time.  2015 will be no different.  As I said, you can't help them all.  Do a little research.  Choose wisely and carefully.  Find someone deserving of a hand, and do your best to help.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Media Notes

It's been a while since a Media Notes entry appeared, so here goes..
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I was saddened to learn on Friday that Jim Perry had passed away.  Cancer.  82.

There were two major game show claims to fame here in the United States-- the first Card Sharks on NBC and $ale of the Century.  Perry was good at both-- seeming genuinely happy when contestants won, sad when they lost.  He moved the games along quickly, and he never became bigger than the show.  Jim Perry realized the game was the star, and he made them fun to watch-- moving them along at just the right pace.

Jim Perry did other games shows in Canada, plus the Miss Canada pageant.  For years, I thought he was Canadian, but Jim Perry was born in New Jersey.

If you want a chuckle, go to YouTube.com and look up the pilot for a game show called "Twisters."  It was interesting.  There was potential.  However, the pilot never came together and the show was never picked up by a network or a syndicator.

Christopher Kimball left the America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Country magazine and television show group.  Management says they couldn't agree on a new contract.

Maybe Kimball was asking for too much, but at first blush, I see this as a big mistake.  Kimball was the heart and soul of those TV shows.

I'll level with you.  the first time I saw ATK, I hated it.  Kimball seemed like a miserable old sob.  For some bizarre reason, I watched a little more, and realized the crankiness was part of the program.  He was an effective conduit.  Kimball knew how to ask the right questions, and get the best information out of his chefs and contributors.  He was also smart enough to know the food was the star.

It's too bad they never got that concept at another public TV show, This Old House.  It became hideously unwatchable the day Bob Vila was asked to leave.  First, no one can afford those projects.  Second, the producers made the contributors bigger than the projects.  Mistake.  Big one.  It could work if the hosts are likable and interesting.  The last two hosts were duds.  The landscaping guy acts like he's the only one who knows how to plant a bush.  The plumber thinks he's the first one who ever fluxed a fitting.

There can be exceptions.  Big host.  Successful show.  Robert Irvine on Restaurant Impossible immediately comes to mind.  He makes that show work.

Shifting gears, this FCC AM radio revitalization thing is getting a lot of interest.  It's quite the topic in the trades, and I received a few e-mails when I wrote about  it here a couple of weeks ago.

A big key is the FCC giving AM operators a crack at FM translators.  All that does is spread bad programming over an additional frequency, and the concept fails in big cities, where there are few, if any, available FM frequencies left.

Plus, most AM operators also have full powered FM's in the same market.  Why don't they put the AM programming on one of the big sticks?

The key is programming.  Do something good, and listeners will flock to you.

Perfect example of the AM malaise, and I'd really like to mention names...  One of the big radio groups had its vehicles in Scranton's Santa Parade Saturday morning.  Its FM stations were represented by big, bright, shiny, colorful vans and SUV's.  The AM station, and a well known one at that, wasn't represented.  Nothing.  Zero.  Also, zero is about its share of the local listening audience.

If you don't promote and invest in your product, don't complain that people aren't listening.  You shouldn't be running to the government for the gift of an additional frequency.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Andy's Angles: The Lackawanna

The leaves had peaked when I took this photo earlier this month.  I'm standing on the Olyphant side of the Lackawanna River.  Blakely is off to the left.

I grew up near the river, and it was an open sewer not too long ago.  I'm amazed and pleased as to how well it's recovered.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Train Station Saturday: Tamaqua

I pulled this one out of the archives from five years ago.

I was doing a story in Tamaqua, when I had a few moments to stroll through the downtown.  Tamaqua was smart enough to preserve its train station, and make it the centerpiece of an improved business district.

The train station is home to a restaurant, plus travelers information station.  Just off to the left, out of the photo is a fountain.  You can see the gazebo, the flowers, and trains come rolling through now and then.

I'm happy the people of Tamaqua realized how lucky they are to have a passenger train station right in the middle of the borough.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Stop the Presses

Marywood University has decided to stop printing its student newspaper, the Wood Word.  It's a move that distresses me greatly, and let me tell you why.

Print is struggling.  Greatly.  It's not dead.  A Wood Word editorial called print the past.

There are thousands of journalists around the world busting their humps to make print relevant.  To them, it's not the past, but it is changing.

As far as I'm concerned, if something needs help, you fix it.  You don't pull the plug.  Keep breaking news on the web site.  Use print for long form.  Photography.  Essays.  Things best served away from daily deadlines.

Believe it or not, print is a different writing style from web.  What I write here is different from what I put on WNEP.com and the stories I write for our newscasts.  I'm sorry you have decided to take a "one size fits all" approach.

There are some good things going on at Marywood. In my day, print and broadcast never mingled.  I'm glad someone there has figured out we're in the same business.  The Wood Word has aggressively covered social issues on campus and Marywood's apparent financial problems.  Kudos, again.

It's too late now, but you should have kept the print.  You're not saving that much money.  You're missing a lot of the medium's potential.

This is not a jab at Marywood in particular, but I take you back to what might have been the greatest four minutes in the history of television.  It was character Will McAvoy's rant in the first minutes, of the first broadcast of HBO's "The Newsroom."  McAvoy said America was great in the past because we "were informed by great men, men who were revered."

I grew up on Cronkite and his stable of outstanding CBS correspondents, Chancellor, Brinkley, Smith...  I marveled at how Woodward and Bernstein brought down a president, and the Washington Post (that's a newspaper) had the onions to back them.  What do you have in the internet age?  Matt Drudge?  I consider myself to be very lucky.

One more print item before I hit the "publish" button.  Stan Lukowski passed away this week.  He was Throop mayor for many years.  Before that, he was spokesman for Tobyhanna Army Depot.  Lukowski also wrote a Scrantonian column, focusing on Throop, Dickson City, and Olyphant.  I received a few mentions over the years.  It was always a kick, and a source of pride for the family.  Stan will be fondly remembered.  My sympathy to his family, friends, and fans.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Does It Really Work?: Echo

I considered getting an Echo from Amazon for a while now.  It got a passing grade from Kurt Aaron's "Does It Really Work?" on Newswatch 16.  That brought me close.  A discount from Amazon pushed me over the edge.

I had it up and running mere minutes after the UPS truck brought it.  Plug it in, download the app, fill in a few questions, and you're done.  You can learn it in seconds.

As I've noted here before, local radio really isn't meeting my needs these days.  Echo is a fantastic internet radio device.  It plays music.  It answers questions and provides information.  Echo really delivers as promised.

On top of that, Echo is just plain fun.

Can you live without it?  Certainly.  Does it make life a little easier and more entertaining?  Absolutely.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

France

Last week's terrorist attacks in Paris were beyond horrible.

I keep wondering, what is it about French security that keeps allowing terrorist attacks?

A magazine office got shot up in January.  Several sites were hit Friday evening.

I've read and seen reports that terrorist networks are highly sophisticated these days, tech savvy, with enablers inside and outside the country.  Several nations are doing a pretty good job at harboring terrorists, Syria being the latest.

No border system is perfect.  No law enforcement agency is perfect.  There are risks we have to take if we want to live in a free society, whether it be in Scranton, PA, USA, or Paris, France.

Trying to bomb terrorists out of existence is not a bad thing, and I fear "boots on the ground" is next.  I also fear that despite the best efforts of the world's free and decent people, terrorists and terrorism will be with us for a very, very long time.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

11

It's a big year for the blog.

It captured Blog of the Year in the news and politics category at this year's NEPA BlogCon, and today is its 11th birthday.

As is tradition, it's time for the annual telling of how the blog came to be.

Dennis Fisher was WNEP's news director at the time.  He was looking for ways to get fresh and original content on to WNEP.com.  I suggested I write a column.  He asked for a sample.

Before I could provide one, our then webmaster, Mark Sowers, noticed the blog thing catching on.  He offered me the chance.  I took it, and the rest is history.

We changed platforms a couple of times over the years, so I don't have an accurate count of blog entries.  I estimate it's not far from 4,000.  As I've said before, that's a lot of bad photography and banality.

It was fun when it started.  It's still fun.  It's a chance to show and tell what I can't do on TV, and what I don't have time for on TV.  I don't look at hit numbers a lot, but I have noticed the "inside TV" stories generate the most views.  I'm proud to say that in those 11 years, WNEP management has never ordered an entry pulled or changed.

WNEP.com has grown over the years.  We are doing so much more with our web site,  and I know the blog can be difficult for some to find.  I've started providing links to Twitter and LinkedIn.

Thanks for punching it up every day.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Speeding Up

Fall usually goes by quickly for me, even more so this year, and let's examine that for a moment.

September:  Labor Day, plus a vacation week

October:  another vacation week

November:  the month starts with election day and ends with Thanksgiving

December:  Christmas preoccupation, plus the triple whammy at the end of the month-- Christmas-birthday-New Year.

I've been scratching my head, trying to figure out why time has been accelerating lately.  Nothing really jumps out at me.  I've been a little busier than usual.

Possibly the defining factor is the weather.  Most of the first half of November was great.  Sunny.  Above normal.  Fantastic days.

Conversely, it's why January drags.  It's a long, cold, dark month.

The 2016 calendar page flip will be here before you know it.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Andy's Angles: Before We Go

There is one thing I hate about fall.  It's too short.

This photo was taken a couple of weeks ago.  It's the train that runs along the Lackawanna River in Olyphant.  Blakely is in front of me.  Downtown Olyphant is at my back.

It's the middle of November, so we still have at least a few weeks before the chance of significant snow.

While the snow does have it's charm, I'll take a sunny fall day, any time.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Train Station Saturday: Driebe

Not all old train stations have fallen in to disrepair.

Thsi is the old Driebe freight station along Ann Street in Stroudsburg, not far from Main Street.  It's now home to the Monroe County Historical Association.  It provides space for artists to display their work.

The building isn't more than a wooden box, but the meaning is more than the boards.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Are You Kidding Me?

I can't believe the Starbucks holiday cup story has such legs.

To get you up to speed, this year's Starbucks cup is plain red, with the green and white Starbucks logo.

Some complain, it's not "Christmassy" enough and doesn't contain the word "Christmas" on it.

Enough already.  At the risk of sounding sappy, Christmas is in the head and the heart, especially the heart.  What it says, or doesn't say on a coffee cup is irrelevant.

I've never been in a Starbucks.  I'm not a coffee drinker.  If I ever crave a $6 cup of tea and a $12 danish, I might stop by.  I'm sure it's a fine company.  Can we please move on to other things?

Well, one more thing...  and I'm sorry I have to go through this every year.

There is no "war on Christmas."  Many of us, especially those in the media are fond of "Happy Holidays" and "Seasons Greetings."  You know why?   Because it's INclusive, not EXclusive.  It involves all holidays, religions and celebrations.  It lasts from Thanksgiving through the start of the New Year.  Merry Christmas is included, and I say that, too.  There is no intent to offend.  None whatsoever.

Considering all the major and important problems out there, why do we waste time with this?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Globe

If you grew up in the Scranton area, The Globe WAS Christmas...  everything from the windows on Wyoming Avenue to Santa on the 5th floor, and everything in between.

It was a kick when several groups decided to get together to put together a Globe retrospective and Christmas window display.  It's set to debut Friday, December 4.

The Globe was a magical place around the holidays.  People deserve a chance to re-live that.  Youngsters should learn what the hulking department store was like.

Having said all that, it's time for (apologies to the late Paul Harvey), the rest of the story.

I'm really tired of social media posts saying the key to bringing Scranton back is the return of The Globe.

NewsFlash:  its time has passed.

Stores can no longer be all things to all people.  Let's examine The Globe.  I loved the book and record department.  Most book stores have closed.  No one buys records.  Appliances?  Home Depot, Lowe's, Best Buy and others do it better.  Even Boscov's has given up selling them.  Sporting goods?  It's tough to compete with the big box stores.  The small specialty shops cover the niches quite nicely.  There's a restaurant every few feet in the busy shopping districts, and the supermarkets have really stepped up their bakeries.  There's stiff competition in the furniture game.  That leaves clothes, and a big store like The Globe cannot survive on clothing alone.

Let's not forget that The Globe was a pretty lousy store in the final days.  It was drab and dingy and old and tired.  Its merchandise mix skewed very old.  There wasn't much reason for anyone under the age of 25 to swing through those revolving doors.

I was working at a TV station around the corner on the day The Globe closed in 1994.  I interviewed the customers and the workers.  Our operations manager, the great Jack Scannella, dug in to the film library to pull out all those Santa visits, the Easter Bunny arrivals, the back to school shopping... and I teared up.

The Globe was a big part of our lives.  Let's remember it fondly, but realize it's not coming back.  Never ever.
I walked into the collection zone Tuesday, the men's store section of The Globe.  It looks the same way it did in 1994, except it was missing the merchandise.  Diversified renovated much of the main store, but the men's store was never touched.  It was such an eerie feeling walking through.  The beige walls, the yellowed tile floor...

The county commissioners are floating a plan to get all county offices under one roof.  As it stands now, they're spread over downtown, with some expensive leases.

The Globe actually makes sense on a lot of levels.  Admittedly, renovations will be hugely expensive, and the property comes off the tax rolls.

On the other hand, a filled tax free building is better than an empty taxed one.  It puts people downtown.  Construction jobs, public convenience, and it adds life to a dead block.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans Day

It's Veterans Day.  No long winded speeches or preaching from me today.

You know what you have to do.  Remember those who are no longer here.  Thank those who are.

I took these photos Monday afternoon at Marywood University in Scranton.  I'm very proud of my alma mater when the students do something like this.  I do wish the display was in a more prominent place on campus, but space is at a premium these days.  The flags are in a field, facing North Washington Avenue, behind the Fine Arts building.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

AM

I grew up on AM radio.  I worked in AM radio.  I will always love AM radio.  Unfortunately, I'm in the minority.  AM radio is struggling.

The Federal Communications Commission has come up with some ways to help AM operators and revitalize the struggling band.

Some of the ideas are technical, and frankly, way over my head.

Here's the way I see it.

If station operators want to revitalize the band, it's simple.  Program things people want to hear.  That's it.  End of story.

But, I am a practical person, and I know that will never work because that takes money and vision.

There are other ideas.  The FCC wants to give AM operators a crack at FM translators, even moving them around to different parts of the country.  All that will do is make a crowded FM band even more cluttered.

Here's an idea.  Give tax breaks to failing operators.  Let them turn in their licenses.  Throw them a few dollars.  The AM band becomes less crowded.  The remaining stations can increase power.  Part of the problem is solved.  And don't say the public will suffer with fewer stations.  The strong community stations won't go off the air.  The weak ones, the ones that will disappear likely weren't serving the community, anyway.

As I've said here before, a wise old news director once taught me that the prosperous stations (TV or radio) are the ones that do the best job of reflecting their community.  The AM band hasn't been doing a great job of that.  Yes, there are exceptions.  Some stations, sadly wouldn't be missed and there wouldn't be much of a job loss.

AM isn't dead yet, but it's close.  It can be saved.

Monday, November 9, 2015

It Gets My Goat

I haven't done a "It Gets My Goat" entry in quite a while, so here goes...

New Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said one of the first things he had to do after taking over John Boehner's office was rid the place of its cigarette smoke smell.

Huh?  What's that again?

Yes, it looks like Boehner smoked in his Capitol Hill office long, long after it became illegal for everyone else who works at the capitol to do so.

From what I've read, house and senate members skirt the rules.  They can get away with it in enclosed and separately vented areas.  I wonder who paid for the venting?

Here we go again.  It's one set of rules for the privileged class, and another set for the rest of us.  Boehner got away with it.  No one else could.  Things like this erode faith and confidence in government.  Cynicism abounds.  And we continue to wonder why fewer and fewer people vote.

Boehner is a Republican, but this is not a party thing.

Stephen Reed, a Democrat, smoked in his office during the 28 years he was mayor of Harrisburg.  I'm told the office reeked.  Again, one rule for him.  Another for the rest of us.

By the way, Reed has been charged with theft and is awaiting trial.

I don't smoke.  Never have.  I'm not advocating it.  However, we all should play by the same rules.  Everyone can do it.  No one does it.  Pick one.  Being elected to office doesn't give you a pass.

It gets my goat.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Andy's Angles: Leaf Peeping

I didn't get a chance to do much leaf peeping this year.  Other projects and responsibilities occupied my time.  I'm not complaining.  It happens.

There was some camera time, in Olyphant, one week.  This is shot is from a park in an area of the borough called "the flats."  You can't see it here, but the Lackawanna River is in the distance, just down an embankment, behind these trees.

Mother Nature is a fickle woman.  Some trees hold their leaves and colors, long past the peak.  While others are bare and seem ready for winter.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Train Station Saturday: Wilkes-Barre

This one has aggravated me for a long time.

This used to be a train station near downtown Wilkes-Barre.  It was restored to an entertainment destination in the 70's and 80's.  Eventually, they all failed and moved away.  The building was vacant for a long time.  Decay set in.  County government bought it, then realized it didn't have the money to fix it.  More decay.

The building is now in the hands of a private developer, who promises to do something.

Thank Heaven.  This building is too wonderful to lose.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Third and One

This week marks the third anniversary of my gym membership.  Believe it or not, I've been religiously stopping by three times a week for the past three years.

It's nothing major, no heavy lifting.  It's just two hours, each visit, split between the climber, the elliptical, the bike, and the treadmill.  I recently started using this torso twist machine that is supposed to strengthen your abdominal muscles.

My calorie intake still isn't the wisest, but at least I'm burning off much of the ingest.

During part of the spring, all summer, and part of the fall, I cut my gym visits to twice a week.  I devote that third day to a bike ride.  Again, it's nothing major-- just an hour of pedaling, in the pre dawn hours, around the little towns near my home.  I really enjoy it.  In addition to the exercise, I savor the alone/think time.

The gym membership sprang from the bike ownership.  When it got too cold to ride during my first year, I joined the gym.  I've kept up the routine ever since.

My cut off is 50 degrees.  If it dips below 50, the bike stays locked up.  However, this year was special.  Thanks to above normal temperatures and the purchase of lightweight, synthetic thermals, I've been able to stretch a few extra weeks out of the riding season.  This is the first time I've been riding in November.  The 50 degree threshold has been trimmed by a few.

Alas, I think my cycling time is just about up.  The long range forecast isn't in my favor.  I fear it's time to put the bike away for the winter, the long, long winter.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

About the Cover

Regular blog readers know I have a fascination with cupolas and steeples.  They've been featured as headers many times before.

This month, something a little different-- a cupola that's sitting on the ground.

I spied it at a architectural salvage yard called Olde Good Things.  It's on Providence Road in Scranton, and it caught my eye while I was covering the strike at Scranton High School across the street.

I'd love to have it, but I have no place to put it. I really hope someone buys it, fixes it up, and plops it atop some spectacular building somewhere.

Here's what I found on the company's web site:

This cupola was salvaged from a school building in Pennsylvania. The top is all copper with a tall tapered finial, and the sides are louvered metal. It has a copper bottom.  $35,000

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Summing Up

It appears the last votes have been counted.  The official vote count takes place later this week.  I'm sure there will be a few recounts along the way.  Candidates have the option of asking if irregularities turn up.  There is an automatic trigger in the very close races.

My area of specialty is the eastern part of our coverage area, and here are a few thoughts on what we learned last night.

I don't think I've every witnessed an election with so many candidates, with so much negative baggage.  It goes from the statewide judicial races all the way down to counties, to cities, even down to little borough councils.  You always get the "they're all bums" argument from disenchanted voters.  I heard it more often than usual this year.  And, yes, there are decent and honorable candidates out there.

Democrats jumped out to early leads in all of the statewide court races.  As Joe Peters pointed out on WNEP 2 last night, that wasn't unusual.  We'll see if the leads hold, and if the new elected judges can clean up the mess in Pennsylvania's highest courts.

In a lot of races, the winners weren't surprising, but the margins were.

Tony George cruised as mayor of Wilkes-Barre.  Frank Sorick put up a good fight, but he didn't generate solid numbers.

Luzerne County DA Stefanie Salavantis easily won a second term over Vito DeLuca.  It was Salavantis' first try at re-election, and she was vulnerable.  DeLuca's campaign, in a heavily Democratic county, never gained traction.  Salavantis did OK in Democratic strongholds and cemented her lead in other parts of the county.

Notarianni and O'Malley easily walk into the Lackawanna County commissioner's office.  As of this writing, Laureen Cummings is running ahead of Bill Jones for the third spot.  It appears Charie Spano's write in campaign hurt the other Republican, Bill Jones.  The Republican side of this race was nasty in the primary, and it continued into the fall.

Speaking of Lackawanna County Republicans, the party really needs to get its act together.  They didn't put up candidates for row offices, and that is a shame.  Voters deserve a choice.  Lackawanna County Republicans couldn't field a unified team for commissioner, and the white flag of surrender went up early and often.

On the other hand, Republicans own Schuylkill County.  Perhaps they can offer some advice to the GOP in Lackawanna County.

A Republican stays in the Hazleton mayor's office.  Jeff Cusat beat incumbent Joe Yanuzzi in the spring, and he captured the office last night.  Jack Mundie was the Democrat.

As of this writing, the contest for Pike County DA is very close  Incumbent Ray Tonkin lost to Kelly Gaughan in the Republican primary.  Tonkin won the Democratic nomination via write ins, setting up yesterday's re-match.  It appears Tonkin has achieved a narrow victory.  This could have been the most fascinating race of the night.

Pike County voter turnout was large, and that was the exception to the rule.  Voter turnout was embarrassingly bad in most places.

And once again, there are several counties here in our area that do a lousy job counting votes.  Numbers trickled in, barely, in a lot of places.

There will be updates here as more outcomes become clear.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Election Day

I've been covering elections for 35 years, and I still get the same feeling on Election Day morning-- a slight queasy feeling in my stomach, a combination of worry and anticipation.

Worry, because an Election Day is like the Super Bowl of news.  The days are long.  Stakes are high.  Reputations can be made or destroyed.

Anticipation because, although I know how most races will turn out, there is always a surprise, or two, or three.  You never know, totally, what way it will fall when the last vote is counted.

And yes, even after all those years, election days are still fun-- although my news responsibilities end long before the polls close.

Barring breaking news, I'll be previewing some big races for Newswatch 16 This Morning.  It's then a tour of polling places to check turnout and look for problems.  As I noted yesterday, this election, like all elections, is important.

I'll try to get the blog updated during the day.  Look for a Tweet, Instagram, and maybe even a SnapChat if time permits.

Please, remember to vote.  Polls are open from 7 AM to 8 PM.

>>> 2:35 AM UPDATE:  I really wasn't hungry, but tradition is tradition.  I stopped for my usual spicy chicken election day morning sandwich on the way to the office.  Mediocre, at best.  The 24 hour truck stop  fast food outlet that sells it is the absolute worst of its chain.  They were out of tomatoes!  Tradition once again.  It's time for one last check of the prepared preview pieces.  Then, it's time to hit the road.

>>> 4:40 AM UPDATE:  First live shot of the day completed.  At least five more to go, plus interviews, writing, editing, etc...  No complaints.  I always enjoy election days, in spite of the sorry and stress.  Democracy in action.  We're so fortunate.  We're back on Coal Street this morning to focus some of our efforts on the mayor's race.  I like it here.  It's a busy polling place with plenty of parking.

>>> 8:00 AM  UPDATE :  Spent first hour at a polling place in Wilkes  Barre.   Very slow.

>>> 9:20 AM UPDATE:  Moved in to Scranton for a check on numbers there.  More people handing out cards than voters.  One candidate for a major office told me it's slow in most places in Lackawanna County.  Back at the office now to work on a piece for noon.

>>> 10:30 AM UPDATE:  Written and voice tracked.  Editing of the noon story is underway.  Still getting reports from around the area of light turnout, even areas with hotly contested races.

>>>1:20 PM UPDATE:  A flurry of activity-- finished the noon piece, ran out to do a noon live shot, went home, voted, warmed up some leftover Chinese food, and here I am.  Special thanks to Newswatch 16's Jim Hamill and Alicia Nieves.  Both supplied voter turnout numbers from their respective beats-- Pike County and Hazleton.  Pike County was busy.  Hazleton, not so much.  Hazleton was a bit surprising, considering there is a spirited three way race for mayor.  Pike Countians are interested in the contest for District Attorney.  It should be a fascinating night, but my day is done.  I hit the door at 2:30 AM and arrived home ten yours later.  No big deal.  Long hours come with the job, and it was a most interesting day.  It's time to do a little web surfing, then a nap so I can watch the returns tonight.  Check this space later and tomorrow for updates.  Thanks!

>>>10:55 PM UPDATE:  One eye on the computer, the other ont he TV since polls closed at 8 PM.  While I miss the fun of an election night in the newsroom or at a candidate's HQ, having all the numbers at my fingertips is still a rush.  I'm working on tomorrow's blog entry, which hits in an hour.  Quick summary:  winners and losers not surprising.  Margins of victory are.  Some races were blow outs, others were squeakers.  It's still far from over.




Monday, November 2, 2015

Eve

The smell of anticipation is in the air.  Tomorrow is election day.

Off year elections usually have a low turnout.  As I've said a million times by now, these elections are extremely important.  We've voting for the men and women who really have a lot of influence on our lives.  They oversee our courts, our police, our schools, our services, our taxes...

I was working on some election preview stories last week and in to the weekend.  I'm working with a new video editor this year.  We went over some past stories so he gets a feel of what I do and how I do it.  Something jumped out at me.  Yes, there were some new faces here and there.  Generally, it was the tried and true-- candidates and hangers on who have been there for a very long time.  You can draw your own conclusions.

This year's election is likely more "off" than most.  People are already looking past Vote 2015 to next year's presidential and congressional elections.  Sadly, it's "one party rule" in many parts of our area.  If you make it past the primary, you're guaranteed a win in the fall.  Our friends at Wilkes-Barre's Citizens Voice newspaper counted 100 Luzerne County races have NO CANDIDATES!

I hope you've been studying the races where there is competition, looking to make informed decisions tomorrow.

I'll see you at the polls.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Andy's Angles: The Princess

Today, it's a couple from the archives.

Donald Trump has been in the headlines, every day, since he announced a bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

Back in the late 80's, I happened to be at Baltimore's Inner Harbor when the Trump Princess came for a visit.  That's it in the lower right of the bottom photo.

Believe me, the pictures didn't do it justice.  Big.  Immaculate.  Gleaming white.  Polished metal.  Awe inspiring.

Say what you want about the man and his presidential aspirations, but he knew how to run a clean yacht.  The New York Times says Trump bought she yacht from the Sultan of Brunei in 1987 for $30 million.  It was sold in 1991, to an Arab prince, for $20 million.  The Trump Princess is now known as the Kingdom 5KR.