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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Andy's Angles: Market Street Bridge

I know I'll get an argument from some people, but there are few structures here in our area prettier than the Market Street Bridge over the Susquehanna River, between Wilkes-Barre and Kingston.

Friday, July 21, 2017

I Don't Get It

I will admit that I'm out of the mainstream on several topics.  Food is one of them.

I'm happy with the simple things.  Case in point, I had some time to kill before an appointment last week.  I found myself near a Burger King, so I treated myself to a time killing, but delicious Whopper (no mayonnaise).  It was my first Whopper in a long time, and I loved it.  It will be tough to resist the temptation to try another.

CBS News did a piece on lobsters last week.  There is a record supply.  There is also a record demand, so prices stay high.  No matter.  I'm not a lobster guy.  In fact, I think it's one of the planet's most over rated foods.  I tried it.  It wasn't bad.  I found no reason to have more.

I do enjoy shrimp, which is similar to lobster, and also very expensive.  Unlike lobster, shrimp doesn't need to be dunked in butter.

And while I'm on the food thing, what's the deal with salt?   There is sea salt, kosher salt, and a dozen other variations.  It all tastes the same to me.  I know the cheap stuff has needless iodine and anti clumping additives.  It's supposed to taste metallic when compared to the pure stuff.  I don't detect a difference.  Maybe all those years of drinking diet cola has burned off my taste buds.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

TomatoWatch

I've been hearing a lot of people complain this summer that their backyard gardens are behind schedule.  I'm not surprised.  We had a lackluster spring.  However, it seems like a recent spell of hot and sunny days should make up for it.  It's the curse of the tomato.  They all seem to ripen at once.  No complaints there.  It means a better chance at getting free ones from friends and coworkers.  That excess had to go somewhere.

I know I yammered on about the weather Monday, so apologies for revisiting the topic too soon.

Farmers' markets are popping up all over the place.  While I have yet to visit one, I have seen the video on Newswatch 16.  It looks like there's a nice selection, so maybe the weather isn't as awful as we believed.

Another summer phenomenon is the lawn getting dry and brown.  Again, no complaints there.  A brown lawn doesn't need to be mowed as often.  Less mowing means a quieter neighborhood.  If you have to sleep during the day, as I do, you know what I'm writing about.

In spite of it all, there's something about the zucchini.  They seem to grow exceptionally well in our area.  I've long suggested a Zucchini Festival to go along with the Pittston Tomato Festival.  It's a tourist event, ripe for the picking.

Strange to say, but I smell fall.  Shorter days have become more noticeable, especially if you're an early riser.  The first of the county fairs, Lycoming, is underway-- and that's a sure sign fall is approaching.

Before all of that, the next highly anticipated event-- the yearly sweet corn explosion.  Increased supply.  Decreased price.  Can't wait.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Text Book Case

If you want a perfect and shining example of why American brick and mortar retail is failing, and why people are flocking to the internet, this is it.

I stopped at a big box store at 2:00 AM Monday for a couple of cases of water.  Personally, I like tap.  The chlorine makes me feel clean inside.  I have family members who won't touch the stuff.

I grabbed a cart and wheeled it to the back of the store, threw in two cases, and headed for the self serve check out in the front.  I zapped the bar codes with the gun at the register, jammed my credit card in the slot, and headed for the door.

Before I got to the exit, a security guard stopped me and asked to see my receipt.  I replied that I checked out six feet in front of him, ten seconds ago!  He replied that he has to check everyone as they leave.  I supplied my receipt, but I wasn't done with the store yet.  

I told the guard there should be  security personnel in the parking lot because the place was crawling with shady characters.

That will never happen.  Here's why.

If someone steals from your car in the parking lot of the store, that's your problem.

If someone steals from the store, that hurts the company-- and the company feels it's more important than you, your shopping experience, and more importantly, your safety.

By the way, the security guard could not have cared less about my concerns.  Next time, the manager gets a visit.

I guess I can avoid those 2:00 AM shopping trips, but that's when I have time available.  I'm sorry the store cares more about loss prevention than safety preservation.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

First Person: Theater Fire

I consult WNEP.com before I begin my short drive to the office every day, so I have a decent idea of what I'll face when I hit the door.  Yesterday, I knew I'd be working on the Middle Smithfield Township theater complex fire.  It doesn't mean the day was cut and dried.

We had a crew at the fire just after it broke out Sunday night, so I had some solid material with which to work, but the story was far from over.  There was a logistical challenge.  I could handle the newest details from our newsroom, or we could race the clock and drive to Monroe County.  Producer Kim and I weighed our options.  I always say "You miss 100 per cent of the shots you never take."  Photographer Jeff and I piled in a satellite truck for the trip to the Marshalls Creek area.  We made it with about 15 minutes to spare.
Today's photos were taken after sunrise, so let me describe the scene at 4:00 AM.  No fire trucks.  No firefighters.  Just a fair amount of smoke and a few small pockets of fire burning in the rubble.  Eerie is an understatement.  The smoke hung low to the ground, and I ate enough of it during my shift.  More on that later.

We spent the morning showing video from the height of the fire, plus live pictures of the aftermath.  Nearby residents started showing up to take a look, as well as a vendor.  They all shared their stories of the movie theater/shopping center/flea market complex.  Thank you.
The fire chief arrived with some new nuggets of information.  A fire truck followed to put out the hot spots.   Photographer Jeff and I took what we had gathered and headed back to the office.  My fingers hit the keyboard.  Editor Erich assembled the piece.  My friend and co-worker Carmella Mataloni was live at the scene on Newswatch 16 at Noon to introduce my piece and add what she had learned.  My day was finished.

I should really add how sad it is to watch a theater burn, even one that had seen better days.  I bored Photographer Jeff in the truck with tales of growing up with places like the Center, the Strand and the Comerford in downtown Scranton.  There were summertime trips to the drive in in Dupont and Dickson City.  I rarely see movies these days.  The family memories are awesome.

Now, some side notes.  I skipped lunch when I got home.  The smoke played games with my stomach.  I headed right for the shower.  I couldn't wait to get out of those smokey clothes.  As I write this, the stench of the smoke is still lodged in my sinuses.  I've been covering fires for a long time.  Some hit you harder than others and this was one of those cases.

I'm very sorry for the people who lost jobs and businesses in the fire.  It would be nice to see the theater complex rebuilt.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Half

I play this silly little game late in the year that helps get me through the long, hard, dark Pennsylvania winters.  The three coldest months of the year are December, January and February.  It means each week is eight per cent of the coldest season of the year.  Temperatures bottom out during the last week in January.  Then, it's the slow climb to something moderate.

I've found winter goes a little faster when you can tick off the time in manageable little bites.

Today, the summer version.  I don't enjoy the heat as much as I once did, and I can't wait for September.

The way I see it, summer is more than half over.  The hottest time of the year, according to records and averages, is July 13 to August 4.  The average highs and lows start slipping after that, but we have had some brutal Augusts.

If you like summer, relax.  There is plenty left.

If you don't, more comfortable temperatures are only a few weeks out.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Andy's Angles: The Tower

Murgas and Marconi knew their stuff.  I've been in broadcasting for decades and I'm still fascinated how pictures get to your TV, and how sound gets to your radio.

This is the radio tower atop the Scranton Times building.  AM 630 and AM 910 come off this tower.

Sometimes, photography is dumb luck.  This is a camera phone shot, and I caught the flash of the aircraft warning strobes.  Neat!


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Andy's Angles: Tranquility

I took this one just after sunrise on Independence Day.  It's the Bicentennial Building on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre, with one of our mobile newsrooms parked out front.  Our Wyoming Valley Newsroom is on the first floor.

I love how sunrise is reflected off the windows-- a quiet morning with Independence Day mayhem only hours away.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Media Friday

The NBA is eliminating some late game time outs.  It should take the final minutes of an NBA game merely awful, rather than hideous.

Whether or not you agree with it, it was a great line.  Trump spokesperson Kellyanne Conway and CNN's Chris Cuomo got into a verbal sparring match the other morning.  Conway shot back that CNN has made a conscious business decision to be an anti Trump network.  Cuomo responded with his standard shocked, surprised, stunned, deer in the headlights look.

I read something fascinating the other day.  There will be fewer erectile dysfunction drugs advertised on NFL games because patents are running out, and generic forms will be available before the end of the year.  I'm sure there will be other ads, so networks need not worry.

Former NBC anchor Tamron Hall has hired people to get her a daytime talk show.  Many have tried and failed.  Hall has the charisma to pull it off.

The FCC is considering loosening up the rules for the way radio stations identify themselves at the top of the hour.  Why?  It's necessary and the current system works just fine.

I haven't been watching them, but it's nice to know that game shows are back on network TV for the summer.

My former co-worker, Raegan Medgie, is now working for the local FOX station in New York City.  "The Medge" is one of the good ones.

A while back, I mentioned WECK in Buffalo, an AM station that has returned to full service radio-- news, weather, information, music, disc jockeys, etc.  I've been listening, and I like what I hear.  Several bodies have been hired to make the format work.  Let's hope there is a positive listener and advertiser response to justify the expense.

Peyton Manning was very funny reading a TelePrompter at the ESPY's the other night.  I wonder if he'd be as good adlibbing as a color commentator during a football game.  The guy can write his own ticket.




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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Making Sense

My job is not to second guess juries, but I've been reading and hearing a lot about the jury's decision in the Jessie Con-ui case in federal court at Scranton.  Con-ui murdered a correctional officer four years ago.  There is no question.  There is video to prove it.  The defense did not contest that part of the trial.

The defense did put its muscle into the penalty phase, and an effort to keep the killer from getting the death penalty.  It worked.  A juror told us it was 11 to 1 for death, but the decision has to be unanimous.  Con-ui gets life in prison.  He was already serving a life sentence for a murder in Arizona.

Never forget, it's a court of law.  It's not a court of justice.  Big difference.

Continuing our law and order theme today...

Governor Wolf recently signed a law stiffening the penalties for animal abuse.  Bravo!  An animal welfare worker told me years ago that there are some people out there who view animals as disposable.  They are not.  That thinking has to change.  It seems like the new law doesn't go far enough.

One more note...

Governor Wolf made a big deal about signing the animal abuse law.  Another law was signed quietly and behind closed doors.  It deals with police body cameras.  The law makes it exceptionally difficult for the public to get a look.  The burden has shifted from the police to the public.  According to the American Civil Liberties Union:  "Now, the requester has to justify why it should be a public record as opposed to the burden being on an agency to explain why it is not."

Yes, not everything should be public record, especially if it would jeopardize an investigation or put officers at risk.  This is all about accountability and keeping everyone honest.  The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently ruled you have the right to see body cameras.  The new law essentially reverses the court decision.

As I've said here many times before, bad things happen in the dark.

Remember, Pennsylvania is the state where many counties ban cameras in polling places.  Iraq doesn't even do that.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Wednesday Scrapple

Fireworks:  Either you love them, or you hate them.  As someone who needs and values his sleep, you know what side I come down on.


I can't remember an NBA off-season when the sport has received so much attention.


Two homicides in less than one hour Sunday morning in Luzerne County.  Not connected, but still terrifying.


Listen to a police radio on your average weekend.  The number of overdoses is nothing short of alarming.

I know the Penn State frat house hazing death kids are innocent until proven guilty, but I'm simply stunned by the cruelty of their alleged actions.

The Giant's Despair Hill climb is one of our area's underrated spectacles.


The Scranton Farmers' Market, the one off Albright Avenue, opens Friday.  It's a magical place.  While it's synonymous with summer, the place has great charm in the fall.


Rumor has it soon to be former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is on line for a radio sports talk job.  It would be a waste.  He'd be great on a news talk radio show.  Christie is interesting, smart, and he can handle himself in a fight.


Watching dysfunctional Pennsylvania government in action, or inaction, is a constant source of frustration.


Speaking of things that bug me... people who start blogs, Facebook pages, LinkedIn pages, etc-- and then pay absolutely no attention to them.

Amazon Prime Day:  Interesting, but nothing jumped out at me.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Tough Call

The Weis market in Eaton Township, near Tunkhannock, is scheduled to reopen later this week.  Three people were murdered there last month.

The reopening has touched off a huge debate.  Some feel the building should be demolished, and a new Weis built elsewhere.  Others look forward to the reopening.

I totally understand the feelings on both sides.  It must be horrible for victims' families to drive by and think about what happened there.

If this Weis closes, even for months, people will be out of work, shoppers lose an option, and the killer wins.  He wanted a disruption.  He got it.

Honor the victims with trees, plaques, scholarships in their memories, donations to charities...  There are dozens of ways to do it.  It's important they live on in our memories and our deeds.

Perhaps the greatest tribute is not letting a disturbed young man affect our lives even more.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The List

I couldn't sleep the other afternoon (yes, my bedtime is in the afternoon), and my mind started to wander.

Don't ask me why, but I started making a mental list of regrets.

By the way, I never believe people who say they go through life without regrets.  Everyone makes mistakes.  Some, more than others.  Remorse is natural.

Perhaps I shouldn't have been, but I was shocked at the length of the list.

No, I'm not a bad person.  Average, I guess.

Most of the missteps involve me and only me, so there is some relief there.

I have no desire to go back and do things over.  What's done is done.  Some people deserved better from me-- and vice versa.  Especially vice versa.

Next time i can't sleep, I hope my mind wanders over to a list of good things.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Andy's Angles: Jonah

This is Nathan's friend Jonah.

I've always envied a cat's ability to bed down anywhere and sleep peacefully for hours at a time.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Andy's Angles: Gone Fishin'

Independence Day morning was as close to perfect as you ever get.

Sunny.  Blue skies.  Comfortable temperatures.

I found myself on South River Street in Wilkes-Barre, looking down in to the Susquehanna River.  A couple of guys were out fishing, and appeared to be having a spectacular time.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Inevitable

The last Independence Day sparkler was still warm when this arrived in my mail box, the day after the holiday.

I'm not picking on Boscov's.  It's a fine store.  I drop in once in a while.

But, isn't it a little early for back to school sales?

I have to add that I don't have a dog in this fight.  No kids.

If I was school age, I'd likely get a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach.  It seems like summer just got started, and now it's time to plan for the end.

I can't say I'm surprised.  The passing of Independence Day is seen as the start of back to school season, much like the end of August begins Christmas shopping time.

The way I see it, we have two months of summer.  Plus a September that's always comfortable.

Enjoy-- and don't forget about the sales.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Peg

I've seen your picture
Your name in lights above it
This is your big debut
It's like a dream come true
And when you smile for the camera
I know they're love it.
-- Steely Dan, "Peg"

I've noticed something recently, and it mostly deals with non controversial stories.  Fewer people are declining on-camera interviews.

Once again, you can trace it back to social media and the internet.  More and more people, especially young people are used to being on camera.  It's not just still pictures.  It's video and even live video.  What's the difference if it's a smart phone or a tv news video camera?

I don't mind because we're always looking for people to tell their stories.  Keep it up.

As for me, I'm glad this stuff wasn't around when I was growing up.  First, it's the potential for even more incriminating evidence.  Secondly, I enjoy my privacy.

Smile!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Labor Day

On snowy days, we do a thing at WNEP called "Travels with APAL."  A photographer and I just wander around a designated area, and we do a story with whoever we see.  We never fail to find something unusual, something different, people coping with the snow and cold.

We did an Independence Day edition Monday.  On Newswatch 16 This Morning, it was a preview of the Scrantastic Spectacular.  The thing didn't get rolling until 4 PM, long after I was off duty.  Set up didn't start until the tail end of my shift, so photographer Jeff and I set out on a warm weather "Travels with APAL."

Our hook would be people who work hard to make sure you have a nice Independence Day.  This year was strange.  Independence Day fell on a Tuesday, so Monday was a semi holiday for a lot of people.  So many took the day off, but the rest of us worked.

We visited workers grinding down St. Ann's Street in Scranton so it could get a coat of fresh pavement.  It was then on to a fireworks tent, where the worker was just coming off an all night shift.  We caught the early risers at a roadside produce stand, and the owner of a beer store.

What did we learn?  People really love their corn on Independence Day and the beer to wash it down.  Sitting along a busy highway and selling produce doesn't seem like a fun job to me, but the young people at the stand made the best of it, and they didn't do it alone.

As for the beer store, sales started picking up at the beginning of the weekend and they stayed strong throughout the holiday.  Beer store visits are always an adventure.  I can't believe all the brands and varieties out there.  When I was growing up, it was Genessee, Budweiser, Miller and Pabst.  That's it.  That's the list.

The fireworks tent was perhaps the most unusal stop on our journey.  It's tough to a secure a tent, so someone has to stay there all night to keep an eye on the place.  They either sleep in their car or in the tent.  The variety amazed me, and so did the prices.  The stuff isn't cheap, but deals were available.  Most tents were cutting prices and throwing in some freebies.

The bottom line is the holiday, any holiday, isn't for everyone.  Some people work twice as hard while you get the day off, and I'm glad they're around.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Independence Day

As I always say on holidays, please remember what the day is all about.

The Revolutionary War always fascinated me, and I still get a thrill walking around Philadelphia.  One of the first "real" books I read as a kid was a Benjamin Franklin biography.  I'm still amazed by the foresight of the founding fathers and how documents crafted nearly 250 years still hold up today.

Picnics, barbecues and fireworks are great, but Independence Day is so much more than that.

Monday, July 3, 2017

About the Cover









I love this building.  It's the Northumberland County Courthouse in Sunbury, built in 1865.  An addition was completed in 1911.




The style is called Italianate, and the copper covered clock tower dominates this section of Market Street.




1865 was the year congress passed the 13th amendment, abolishing slavery, President Lincoln was murdered, the Secret Service was formed, Cornell University was chartered, and "Alice in Wonderland" was published.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Andy's Angles: Scranton Intermodal


I haven't done a total turnaround on the Intermodal Center on Lackawanna Avenue, but I have refined my thinking a bit. It's nice to have local buses, long distance buses and taxis in the same place. My beef always was with the location. It's on the low end of Lackawanna Avenue, and there isn't much around it.



However, the buses do stop where the people are-- the courthouse, Wyoming Avenue, the Marketplace at Steamtown, etc.



I did stop by for a moment this week. I was doing a story near by and needed a bathroom break. A lot of people were using the place, and that's a good thing.



The Intermodal Center did eat up some of Steamtown's sign space, and that's something that really needs to be fixed. The Steamtown entrance is nearly invisible.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Andy's Angles: The State of the State

I spent a good part of my Monday here, in front of the Scranton State Office Building on Lackawanna Avenue.  We were previewing a potential budget mess-- the fiscal year beginning today without a new spending plan.  That's nothing new.  It seems to happen most years, a sign of Pennsylvania's dysfunctional state government.

The general assembly approved a budget Friday, without much consideration as to how to pay for it all.

As noted here before, this was never one of my favorite buildings.  It's functional on the inside, but a boring and sterile brown brick box on the outside.  The trees have grown nicely to soften the look, but I never felt this building did much for the neighborhood.