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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Mystery to Me

It's one of those cases where everyone has a theory, and as we learned during Watergate, "those who know don't talk, and those who talk don't know."

58 year old Robert Baron disappeared last week.  He owns Ghigiarelli's restaurant along Main Street in Old Forge.  Police and the district attorney believe he's in danger.

Volunteers searched the Coxton Road area of Duryea Sunday.  They didn't say why they chose that area.  If anything was found, they're not saying.  We were led to believe nothing important turned up.

Police found Baron's car in Old Forge.  Blood in the car.  Blood in the business.  I fear this won't have a happy ending.

Another search took place yesterday.

We'll eventually know what happened.  Understanding what happened and why is a different story.

Your heart breaks for the family.  Waiting and wondering must be agonizing.

It will be fascinating to see how this concludes.


Monday, January 30, 2017

Unfinished Monday

Revisiting topics discussed earlier...

LED'S:   It looks like Scranton is transitioning its street lights to led's.  They save energy, but I don't think they're as bright as the lights they're replacing, and it takes more fixtures to do the job.  I bounced my thoughts off someone who works for a big utility.  He agreed.

CRAIG FERGUSON:  Big fan.  Celebrity Name Game has been cancelled.  Late night TV isn't as good without Ferguson on the CBS Late Late Show.  Ferguson soon starts a 6 to 8 PM show on satellite radio.  I love the guy, but I gave up satellite radio a long time ago, and even Craig Ferguson isn't enough to entice me to go back.

CASHIER:    Before Christmas, I wrote about an encounter with a newbie cashier on the overnight shift at one of the big box stores.  She was clearly struggling, and I didn't think she'd make it through the night.  Much to my surprise, I saw her again last week.  She actually helped me maneuver through those horrid self checkout machines.  It's odd.  I'm at this store once or twice a week, and this is the first time I've seen her since that first night.  Maybe she was on another shift.  I'm happy to say I was wrong.  She's a survivor.

THE GYM:    It appears most of the people who joined at the start of the new year have given up, at least at the time I make my thrice weekly visits.  It's too bad.  I thought we had some who would stick around.  They were really "in" to it for a while, and that includes buying snazzy gym wear.  I suspect a few were college kids, looking for something to do during winter break.  They're now back at school.  I don't know about the rest.  It happens every year.

WINTER:    Hey, it's cold!  I recently said it looked like we'd have an early end to winter.  I still could be right, but it doesn't feel that way this week.  Look at it this way:  December, January, and February are the three coldest months of the year.  We've made it through two.

POTHOLES:    The freeze/thaw cycle has opened up some beauties, and it seems like pothole season is here a little earlier than usual.  You can't blame it all on Mother Nature.  The weather seems to have exploited shoddy road work and accelerated the deterioration.

SUNSHINE:  Noreen Clark schooled me.  Warm winters mean a lot of cloudy days.  I was not a big believer in seasonal affective disorder, but the lack of sunshine really does get to you after a while.

TIGER WOODS:   Not a fan of the man, as a human being.  Like everyone else, I was in awe of his abilities.  He owned the tour for a long time.  Age and injuries have taken their toll.  I admire how he's back out on the course, giving it his best shot, pardon the pun.

PRO BOWL:   Why?

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Andy's Angles: Hungry

Birds were around long before we were here to feed them.  I was up before the birds, obviously, Tuesday morning.  hey, it was snowy and icy.  Why not sleep in?

The scene was much different later in the day.  The birds were up, and they were hungry.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Andy's Angles: In the Breeze

As I was wandering around my back yard early Tuesday morning, I spied this.  It gives you an idea of what happened-- freezing rain and sleet, topped by wet snow.

By the way, do people still dry clothes outside these days?  As I've noted here in the past, a summer morning bike ride gives me the opportunity to inhale dryer softener sheets on every street in every neighborhood.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Media Notes

ESPN has cancelled "The Sports Reporters" after 30 years.  In a way, it makes me sad.  On the other hand, I can do without hearing Lupica and Ryan.  They are gifted writers.  The charm didn't translate to TV.

Hearing WCBS, WINS, and KYW cover this week's nor'easter was a thing of beauty.

77 year old Brent Musberger retires at the end of the month.  I think he was the best studio host ever, and he added excitement to a broadcast when he was dong play by play.  He made weak color analysts good and good ones great.  College football survived Keith Jackson's retirement and the same will happen after Musberger exits.  Verne Lundquist recently left college football on CBS.  Two legends depart in the same season, and I don't think there's anyone nearly as good out there.

More irritating than The Weather Channel naming winter storms is hearing elected officials use those names.

Even though I'm old school, with some new school skills, the power of Twitter and Facebook continually amaze me.

I thought there was way too much filler during last week's inauguration coverage, but that's the nature of the beast.  There are huge stretches of time when nothing is happening, or what is happening is closed to cameras.

I wonder if the President Trump/news media rift can be healed.  The lack of respect, on both sides, is occasionally alarming.

I worry that there is a new generation of "reporters" who are comfortable tossing in opinion to their primary work.  By the way, yes, there is opinion here.  It's kept out of my job that puts food on the table.

The new head of the Federal Communications Commission is said to be a big fan of deregulation.  It doesn't necessarily mean bad things for consumers and those in the communications industry, but if the past is any judge, there could be some dangerous days ahead.

Jimmy Kimmel could mane the Academy Awards broadcast watchable again.

I'm actually looking forward to a few days of Super Bowl hype next week.  I usually tire of it by the time Thursday rolls around.

CBS has ordered a pilot for a drama on modern journalism called "The Get."  It will never happen, but HBO should bring back "The Newsroom."

Jay Mohr has left the FOX Sports Radio 3 to 6 PM slot.  I was a frequent listener.  It was a different kind of sports show.  Mohr was outspoken, but the humor, at times, was over the top.  No permanent replacement yet.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

In Memoriam

I try to avoid blog entries any time someone famous dies, but a few recent passings deserve mention...

The first is Eugene Cernan.  He was the last man to walk on the moon, and the way things look, he will be the last to walk on the moon in my lifetime.  He is only of only a dozen to do it.  Growing up when I did, astronauts were heroes.  We were all glued to the TV when Walter Cronkite would anchor another space launch.  It was great stuff, fascinating, and dramatic.

ABC News used Eugene Cernan as the "go to" guy during shuttle missions, and Good Morning America employed him as a science correspondent back in the Charlie Gibson days.  TV wasn't his thing.  Cernan was dry and not very exciting, but he got the point across.  A good anchor, in this case Frank Reynolds and Charlie Gibson, can make a decent analyst great, and Reynolds and Gibson had the ability to ask the right questions.

Eugene Cernan was 82.

Again, if you grew up when I did, you knew Dick Gautier.  He was Hymie the Robot on Get Smart.  I was surprised to learn that Gautier appeared in only six episodes.   Hymie was a memorable character, and the fact that he made an impact was proof of Gautier's skills, as well as the writers.

Gautier has a long resume.  I was raised on 60's and 70's game shows.  He was a familiar face.  Always funny.  He added to the games without going too far.

Dick Gautier was 85.

And then, there is Miguel Ferrer.  Cancer took his life at the young age of 61.  I'm assuming most people know him from NCIS.  I'm not a crime show guy, so I am unfamiliar with his work there.  I first saw Ferrer in the 1998 NBC sitcom Lateline.  It was a take off on Nightline.  Al Franken was the correspondent.  Robert Foxworth was the anchor.  A young and leggy Megyn Price was a producer, and Ferrer was executive producer Victor Karp.  They only made 17 episodes.  I have them on DVD.  The show was uneven, but occasionally very funny.  If you get a chance to stumble across an episode, give it a look.

And finally, Mary Tyler Moore.  I was too young to get a lot of the Dick Van Dyke show humor, and to this day, the series is not among my favorites.  On the other hand, there was the Mary Tyler Moore Show.  Mary was funny.  The people around here were funnier, and that's what made the show work.  The was the rock. Others were in her orbit.  It's tough to be funny.  It's even more difficult to be the straight person.

If you look carefully, it was the formula in other sitcoms produced by the company Moore and her then-husband, Grant Tinker, formed.  Bob Newhart was the straight man.  The people in his psychology group provided a lot of the laughs.  Newhart's other sitcom worked the same way.  Gary Sandy got top billing on WKRP in Cincinnati.  Johnny Fever, Art Carlson, Venus Flytrap and Les Nessman got the laughs.

I was flipping around between CNN, MSNBC and FOX News Channel yesterday afternoon.  I must have heard the Mary Tyler Moore show theme a dozen times, and a teared up on every occasion.

I have to close with one final story.  I was working with someone recently who was having an absolutely awful day.  I won't mention her name, but to cheer us both up, I began singing the MTM theme.  We both got a good laugh out of it,.  It made the morning pass quickly, and it broke a lot of tension.

Mary Tyler Moore was a giant.  She was 80.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Where's Winter?

If you believe the long range forecast, it looks like we'll make it through January without a major cold snap and just one decent sized snow storm.

You know what?  I'm okay with that.

I know people like to ski, and tourism/recreation is one of our area's big industry, but snow is dangerous and disruptive.

We have had more than our share of rain and ice.  The freeze/thaw cycle hit early, and that means potholes.  A mild winter is not all fun and games.

I get the feeling we'll have another early spring.  I smelled a skunk weeks ago.  I even saw one outside Dunmore Cemetery on the ride to work Monday morning. Judging by bunny footprints in the mud and some bunny "residue," the critters are active early this year.

I saw on one of the networks that there's another El Nino setting up, so the winter of 17-18 could be as mild as 15-16.  Warm winters could be the new normal.

Having said that, we've had some of our biggest storms in February and March.  On the bright side, the sun is getting stronger and the snow that falls in the late winter months doesn't hang around long.

Winter isn't over yet, but all the signs, at least to this amateur, point to a change.,

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tuesday Scrapple

Cheese in a can has to be one of the best inventions ever.  A cracker.  A squirt of cheese.  Instant party.

Say what you want about Rush Limbaugh, but you cannot deny he is a skilled broadcaster.  Proof:  Obama blamed some of his problems on Rush.

My pen collecting has backed off considerably.  I wish the same could be said for lip balm.  Addiction.

I don't understand the people who don't like Joe Buck.

I've warmed to podcasts, mainly thanks to Tony Kornheiser, but nothing beats good live radio.

There is no doubt that Amazon will eventually rule the planet.

I topped 1,800 Twitter followers last week, and that's pretty good for someone who doesn't Tweet much.  Apologies for not doing more on Facebook, but that's a "work" thing.  I've been in the building a lot lately.  Facebook will see more action when I get back out on the road.  This blog is the first born and still my favorite.

I didn't watch them, but judging by the scores, most of the NFL playoff games were really bad.

The Oakland Raiders have filed paperwork with the NFL to move to Las Vegas.  I'm ok with that.  Major League Baseball remains a joke because it still can't solve the Oakland Athletics stadium problem.

A huge congratulations to my former co-worker and Luzerne County native Phil Yacuboski, who had a role in ABC Radio's inauguration coverage Friday.

I know very little about the Atlanta Falcons, and what I know about the New England Patriots, I don't like.

There are few things more disturbing than hearing sleet ping off your window.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Overload

Don't ask me how you would do it, but Tony Kornheiser had a great idea on his podcast a couple of weeks ago.

He felt the college football national championship game doesn't get the attention it deserves because it's on a Monday night AFTER the NFL playoffs have begun. 

Kornheiser is right.

Now, the nuts and bolts.  The NFL and college football seasons would have to restructured to accommodate this, and that's easier said than done.  You could shorten the college season and begin it a week earlier, but you can't move the New Year's Day bowls, which are part of the college playoff system.

So, does the NFL season begin a week earlier?  The NFL is a the big dog in this country, and it calls the shots.  I can't see the NFL changing.

Unless...

There has been talk of adding two games to the NFL season, and reducing the number of pre-season games.  Say, you begin the season a week earlier and end it one week later to accommodate the additional games.  There is also talk of a second "off" week during the season for NFL teams.  It pushes the Super Bowl in to mid February, and clears out a weekend in early January.  Give the NFL its usual Sunday.  Play the college football championship on a Saturday night, while the NFL is still in its regular season.

It could work, but it will likely never happen.

And, a note about the San Diego Chargers moving to Los Angeles...

A little background...  San Diego needs a new stadium.  Voters rejected tax increases.  The billionaire team owner and the league volunteered to cough up some money, but not enough to keep taxpayers happy.

Having an NFL team puts you on the map as a "major league" city.  It helps your image and gives people work.  Because of the climate, a new stadium would guarantee San Diego gets a Super Bowl every five or six years.

On the other hand, a government should provide public safety, educate the kids, fill the potholes (if there are any in San Diego) and pick up the trash.  Handouts to billionaires isn't on the list.

I was two for two on championship game picks yesterday, although I thought Green Bay would put up a better fight.  I'm still not jumping on the Atlanta bandwagon.  I still might do it, but it's too early.  I've got two weeks to break this one down.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Andy's Angles: Food Court




It's a mystery to me.  I'm sure the experts have an answer.

Some mall food courts do great.  Others struggle.  The Mall at Steamtown food court, now the Marketplace at Steamtown was never great.  It had some great offerings once in a while.  I remember a place in the early 90's that had a very good spaghetti pie.  It didn't last long.  Wendy's came and went.  It's a long list of those who tried and exited.

Mall management is trying a different concept.  As you can see, the place has been gutted.

With downtown colleges and offices, and national historic site out the back door, I'm surprised the food court never did better.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Andy's Angles: Sunrise

This is another one from my recent Lackawanna State Park visit.

Unfortunately, this one looked better in the viewfinder than it does on my computer screen.

Even though the days are getting longer, it seems the extra daylight is tacked on to the end of the day, not the beginning.  This is a late, hazy sunrise, with the light reflected off the lake ice.

Friday, January 20, 2017

45

Yesterday was the Obama entry.  Today, this space is devoted to the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump.

He becomes/became president at noon today.  If you supported him, congratulations.  If you didn't, you're just going to have to learn to deal with it.  The voters have spoken.  While Trump didn't win the popular vote, he walked away with the most electoral votes, and that's the way the system works.

Trump approaches this thing as a businessman, not a politician.  Clearly, he has a different way of doing things.  Different could be better.  It could be worse.  Several aspects of our government haven't been working.  Trump tapped in to that.  His message resonated with voters and he's the one who will have his hand on the bible at the capitol today.

Trump went off on CNN and BuzzFeed at a news conference last week.  One one hand, it was un-presidential.  On the other, if an organization put out false and unsubstantiated information about me, I'd be angry too.  Even the great Bob Woodward, on FOX News Sunday, said Trump had the right to be upset.  A president punching back, and calling out media outlets for shoddy work could be the new normal.

Campaign 2016 was not the media's finest hours.  Some reporters stopped reporting and started advocating.  Lines were blurred.  Credibility was damaged.  As was noted in the HBO series "The Newsroom," reporters having opinions is not new.  Murrow had one, and that was the end of Joe McCarthy.  Cronkite had one, and that was the end of Vietnam.  The problem here seems to be personal preference and bias.  A reporter actually cried on the air when her candidate lost.  Fake news was everywhere and people bought it.

Understatement of the year:  We are in for an interesting ride.

Shifting gears, looking ahead to the American and National conference championship games...

Pittsburgh can beat New England, but I'm concerned the Steelers couldn't get in to the end zone versus Kansas City.  New England wins and covers.  The opening line was 6.

Steeler coach Mike Tomlin shouldn't have blasted for Antonio Brown's Facebook Live broadcast of an internal locker room speech.  Tomlin has no control over this team, and he should blame himself.  As QB Ben Roethlisberger noted weeks ago, there is no discipline and accountability.  In my view, that comes from the head coach.

I want to pick Green Bay, but the team let Dallas make a huge comeback Sunday afternoon.  Atlanta looked really good against a surprisingly weak Seattle.  Atlanta started the week a 4 point favorite.  You get three just for being the home team.  This could be the best championship game in a while.  leaning toward Atlanta.

It's a New England/Atlanta Super Bowl.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Instant Analysis

Back in the day, CBS News used to do something "instant analysis" of presidential speeches and news conferences.  It's funny how revolutionary it was back then-- a panel of correspondents and commentators picking apart what the president said, right after he said it.  It's so common today.

So, we're getting a new president tomorrow at noon.  Let's take a quick look at the current one, Barack Obama.

Whether or not you agreed with his policies, you can't argue that he is charismatic and likable.  Obama has the ability to inspire, and we haven't seen that in a while.

Osama bin Laden was captured and killed on his watch.  On the other hand, ISIS flourished.  He oversaw a draw down in the middle east, which was a popular move in some circles.  It might have been premature.

There were some mass shootings during Obama's eight years.  There is an inability to get a handle on violence in this country.  I don't know who you blame for that.  We can debate the solution, if there is one, for days.

We needed a national health care insurance program.  It's up to you to decide if Obamacare is the right one.

Other than Obamacare, he didn't get a lot done.  Congress bears some responsibility.  There are two ways to look at it.  A hostile congress stopped Obama from doing good things, or prevented him from doing bad things.  It's up to you.

The economy was in the tank four years ago.  It's recovered, but it has been one of the slowest and weakest recoveries in American history.

Immigration, violence by and against police, poverty, crumbling inner cities, race issues...  All remain problems.

We won't have the answer to this until long after we're all gone.  How will history judge Barack Obama?  The instant analysis leans toward good, but not great.  Probably middle of the presidential pack.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Mistaken Identity

I felt awful...

I went to one of the big box stores the other day, and I made my way to the cash register with only three items in hand.  This particular store recently installed self check out lanes.  I generally avoid those things.  They never work right and it's more frustration than standing in line for a few extra minutes.

Throwing caution to the wind, I headed for one of the self service lanes.  As I said, I only had three items-- razor blades, toothpaste, and lip balm.

This store is like every other that has self check out.  There is one employee looking over four or six machines-- making sure you don't have any problems, and really making sure you don't run out the door without paying.

The overseer saw me, smiled, and said hello,  I returned the pleasantry, and I immediately realized I knew this kid from somewhere.  He looked a little like a co-worker's husband, but I know where he works and this isn't it.

I scanned my stuff, bagged the items, jammed my chip equipped credit card (you get a 5 % discount), and headed for the door, still wondering where I saw this kid before.  I thought about it on the sidewalk and in to the parking lot.  As I took my seat in my car, it came to me:  He was the overnight desk guy at my gym for several months.  Really nice kid-- kept the gym clean.  I'd see him studying for college courses while working the all-nighter.  He attended my alma mater.  I will remember him most for his string of girlfriends, who frequently stopped by the gym.  Each was prettier than the last.

I can be rather aloof, and I'm not the most outgoing person.  Of course, I leave that at the door when I'm working.  My life is rather compartmentalized.  Inquisitive at work.  Shy and quiet when I'm off duty, and I hope people don't mistake that for ego and arrogance.

My intent is to get back to the big box store in the days to come and apologize to the kid for not instantly recognizing him.

I'm sorry.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Business Tuesday

I found myself with a little free time on a recent icy morning, so I ventured out after the temperature came up and some of the ice melted.  I ventured in to the Wyoming Valley Mall, a place I hadn't visited in months.  Big, bright, clean-- and a lot of empty spaces.  That includes the food court, which has always struggled.

At least, all the anchor stores are still there, which is more than can be said at a lot of malls.

Macy's, Sears, and KMart started making news right after Christmas because they are closing stores.

Macy's is in the troubled "big department store" sector.  There are two Macy's near my home.  Both are very nice stores.  I'm a frequent browser, rare purchaser.  I can get the same stuff, cheaper, elsewhere.

Sears and KMart are in a different category altogether.  Other companies ate Sears' lunch.  Home Depot and Lowes do the hardware, appliance, and outdoor stuff better.  There are plenty of places to buy clothes.

I don't know how KMart has held on this long.  It does some things well, but not many.  Walmart rendered Kmart irrelevant, and KMart cut its own throat by failing to invest in its stores.  They're not fun and attractive places to shop.  Management can keep cutting, but I don't think they can cut their way out of this one.

Above all else, the internet makes things so darn easy.  A few clicks, and what I want shows up at my front door.  Yeah, it's not as much fun, and there are times you really just have to get out of the house.  There will always be a place for brick and mortar stores, but only the strong and smart will survive.

I read where Penney's CEO predicts some store closures this year.  I can't say I'm surprised.  "Big department stores" is a tough business.

A writer for PC Magazine crunched the numbers.  He didn't blame the internet for damaging big department stores.  he blamed the stores themselves and a "stale" shopping experience.  I get that.  We want to be entertained these days.  Walk into a mall or department store, and it looks the same as it did the day before, the week before, the month before, the year before...  Sears and KMart are especially guilty of that, and now they are paying the price.

I know people who work in retail.  It's a tough job.  But, how many times have we been in a store that's understaffed, and some of the people there apparently would prefer to be somewhere else?   it drives people to the internet.  No surly workers to deal with.   Labor costs a lot of money.  If you improve the shopping experience, the rest should fall in to line.

Monday, January 16, 2017

I Won't Miss You

It was surprising, but not a total shock.

The news broke late Saturday night.  Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus goes out of business this spring.

Let's back up for a moment.  Newswatch 16's Ryan Leckey and Corey Burns went to Ringling Brothers' elephant sanctuary in Florida last year.  It's where the elephants live after they leave the circus, and Ringling Brothers was in the process of phasing out the elephant act.  Wilkes-Barre Township last spring was one of the final stops.

Circus workers whispered to our guys that, with the elephants gone, they knew the end was near.  They were right.  I didn't think it would happen this quickly.   Not being a circus goer, I underestimated the elephants' popularity.  Circus management says ticket sales plummeted when the elephants left.  I thought the circus could survive without them.  Steps were taken to make the circus more contemporary, like bringing in motorcycles.  It seems fans want their favorites.

Look, I know the circus provided entertainment for tens of millions over the years.  It provided jobs to circus workers and arena people at each stop along the way.

It came at a horrible costs.  There were allegations the elephants were mistreated.  The circus denied that.  Video seemed to indicate otherwise.  A source tells me professional animal welfare people checked carefully every time the circus came to our town.  No violations.

If you read this blog on a regular basis, you know I like cats.  In fact, I like all animals, with the exception of reptiles.  I took the photo you see above outside the arena in Wilkes-Barre Township back in the spring.  Big cats.  Small cages.  No.  The big cats should have been phased out along with the elephants.  It's a moot point now, but it's not natural to live in a little cage, get moved from city to city, and be forced to jump through flaming hoops.

While some will look back on the big circus days fondly, I won't.  There are still other circuses out there.  Many have chained and caged animals.  We know better.

Before I hit "publish," here is my weekend NFL pick report card.   I went 50/50.  My upset special, Green Bay over Dallas, came through.  I correctly predicted New England would cover the spread against Houston.  I underestimated Atlanta.  The Falcons easily defeated Seattle.  My modus operandi is to pick the better defense.  Kansas City kept Pittsburgh out of the end zone, but the Steelers kicked their way in to the AFC championship game.

More football thoughts later in the week.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Andy's Angles: The View

This was the view through my windshield when I got in my car Wednesday morning.  This was more than a layer of frost.  It was ice, and a heavy coating at that.

There was an ice storm in my neighborhood Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.  I heard the sleet and ice pellets pinging off my window, so I suspected my early morning gym visit would be cancelled.  A peek out the window, and a look at my car confirmed that.  The car was covered in ice, and the road was a shiny and slick skating rink.

I did stay up all night long, listening to the police radio, getting information on the internet.  It was an interesting time, and one of those mixed feeling events.  It was a relief to avoid traveling on icy roads, but I did miss on a big story-- that major crash on Interstate 81 in the Clarks Summit area.

This is what I found when I ventured out after the sun came up.  I tried a scrape.  It didn't work.  The ice was too heavy.  I turned on the car and let the defroster work from the inside.  It did the trick after just a few minutes.  It loosened up the ice, and it came off in big sheets.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Andy's Angles: Nate Nap

I haven't posted a Nathan picture in a while.

This shot was taken Thursday morning.  Nathan was enjoying a cat nap in one of his Christmas presents.  It's a bed in the shape of a cat's head.  The thing is made out of corrugated cardboard, so he can claw the heck out of it, then crawl inside for a snooze.

I was concerned the bed would be too small, but Nathan isn't a large cat, and he enjoys curling up to catch a few winks.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Divisional Weekend

This is the time of year when I start putting my football picks here on the blog.  It's harmless fun, and I preface this by saying that I have no idea what I'm talking about.

Here goes.  It's Divisional Playoff weekend, and the NFL is down to its final eight, a fast and efficient playoff system.  Why can't the NBA and NHL do this?

Atlanta is a 4 point favorite over Seattle.  Take Seattle and the points, and I think Seattle wins the game.  The Lions didn't give Seattle much of a tussle last weekend.  Seattle isn't what it used to be, but the team is still strong in the right places.  I will admit that I really don't know much about the Falcons.

The late Saturday game is Houston visiting New England.  The Patriots are giving up 14.  The Patriots win and cover the spread.

Pittsburgh is a 2 point underdog in Kansas City, in Sunday's early game.  Pittsburgh looked really good last week, but Miami didn't show up.  The Steelers' defense has improved as the season progressed.  However, I'm still not a believer.  KC wins and covers.

My upset special is the late Sunday game.  The Packers are a 5 point underdog in Dallas.  The Packers are peaking at the right time, and although Aaron Rodgers has struggled, I'll take his playoff experience over the rookie on the other side of the field.

My report card will be issued next week.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Drive By

I'm not what you would call a "car guy."  I don't have to own the newest, biggest, and best.  I just want something simple and dependable, and something that's decent in the snow.  I don't get snow days.

Now that another foundation has been established, let's get going.  Like yesterday's entertainment rant, I do keep an eye on automotive news.  Part of my job is knowing a little bit about a lot of different things.

Toyota is concerned that its Camry will lose the coveted title as the most popular car in America, so it's going through a redesign for next year.  Lower, longer, rounder.  It really looks good.  The current Camry has been compared, by some,  to a kitchen appliance.

I owned a Camry many years ago.  I picked up during a zero apr promotion.  I loved it.  Big, but not too big.  Roomy.  Comfortable.  A little power.  Some nice toys inside.  Unfortunately, I thought it was too low and it wasn't great in the snow.  If I lived in a snow-less climate, or at least one where the snow doesn't get deep, I would have no problems with getting another one.

My current vehicle is a small SUV, and so was the one before that.  It was the first time in my life that I've owned the same thing twice.  It's not what you would call fun or sexy, but it makes a lot of sense for me.  It's good on gas and great in the snow.  There's enough room for my bike in the back.  It handles nicely.

There are three packages of this particular SUV.  My first was the basic.  I missed little creature comforts like a storage area between the seats, a thermometer and a sun roof.  When I bought my second one, I opted for the middle package.  There are still a few options I'd like.  I found the top tier package just didn't make sense and offered things I'd never use, so the middle package was a good compromise.

I have mixed feelings on technology and options.  On one hand, it's nice to be pampered.  On the other, it's just more stuff that could go wrong.  I've been lucky.  There has never been an issue.  Plus, I'm a regular at the dealer.  I have confidence in its service.

I read where Ford is bringing the Bronco back.  It looks to be the smaller 70's version rather than the big OJ model we saw in the 80's.  A friend had one back in high school, and it was a great little truck.

It's nice to have choices.  Drive carefully. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Award Winning

I'm not big on entertainment industry news, but I keep an eye on it because of what I do for a living.  I really have to know a little bit about a lot of different things.

The last time I visited a theater, it was to see the first "Ted" and I think that was almost five years ago.

Okay, foundation established.

The Golden Globes were handed out Sunday night.  I doubt most people can name an award winner, but they do know Meryl Streep and some others went off on president-elect Donald Trump, and Trump responded via Twitter.

This has nothing to do with any past, present, or future occupant of the White House, but I wish entertainers would stay out of politics.  We watch TV, and go to movies, to escape for a little while.  Award shows should celebrate the best of the industry, note the accomplishments of legends and new stars.   Glitz.  Glamour.  Gowns.  Tuxedos.  Fun.   Leave the real world out of it.

I've never voted for or against any candidate because a movie or TV star told me to, and I suspect you're the same way.

We are a divided country.  I have a NewsFlash for you.  It's always been that way, and it will always be that way.  Red states.  Blue states.  Liberal.  Conservative.  Republican.  Democrat.  When an entertainer starts spewing political views, half the potential audience is instantly alienated.  That's simply bad business.

I hate to keep going back to Johnny Carson, but I will do so again.  His old shows run nightly on Antenna TV, seen in this area on WNEP2.  Carson was an equal opportunity offender-- Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton.  He joked about them all, and he did it with clever quips and a smile on his face.  Stephen Colbert should spend less time being nasty and more time studying the master.  Maybe his mediocre ratings would turn around.  It's just not fun to watch the same thing night after night.

There is a separation between church and state.  While I support the rights of everyone in this country to speak out, including entertainers, a voluntary and friendly separation between politics and entertainment doesn't seem like a bad idea at times.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Coat + 20

I've told this story here once before, but considering it's the 20th anniversary of the purchase, I'll tell it again.

At this time 20 years ago, I was "between jobs."  If you've ever been there, and I hope you never are, it's not fun.  You worry about everything-- especially money.  Even though I've always been a saver, I had no major expenses, and the government provides a safety net, I was still frightened.

You do have to live, and I allowed myself one minor extravagance a week.  Most of the time, it was an afternoon movie and a big soda.  Some weeks, I'd go for a long drive.  There were times I'd walk around the mall.  I'd confine my purchases to a soft pretzel and a soda.  I just liked looking at stuff and people watching.  Plus, I had to get out for a while.

I don't remember how I wound up at Burlington Coat in Eynon one day in January of 1997, but I did and I saw a winter coat I liked.  It wasn't expensive, and I didn't buy it.  Several days had passed, and I started thinking about the coat.  I went back to see if it was still there.  It was, and I bought it.

Part of me felt guilty for buying something I really didn't need, but after getting beat up for a while at the old job, and then the early days of unemployment, I felt a small need to be nice to myself.

I still wear the coat many times every winter, and I'm wearing it in the photo above, taken Thursday morning.  The coat and I went back to Burlington for a visit.  No, I didn't buy anything else last week.  Burlington used to have a kick butt tie selection.  It looked like the store needs to replenish stock after Christmas, in many departments.  There were vast spaces of emptiness.

The moral of the story:  no matter how miserable things might be at the moment, there are times you have to stop and be kind to yourself.  Don't do anything silly.  Don't do anything stupid.  A winter coat was a decent investment, and I still have it.

If you know someone who is unemployed, be kind, be patient, be understanding and be supportive.

I eventually found a new job, and then a better job when that one ended.

I was lucky.  I found a good coat and a great way to make a living.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Media Monday

ABC's "World News Now" celebrated its 25th anniversary last week.  While the broadcast gets a bit too goofy at times, it is rather nimble in switching gears to breaking news.  In these days of cost cutting, I'm glad it's still around, and it makes overnight gym visits go by a bit faster.  I still think the original anchor team of Aaron Brown and Lisa McRee was the best.  The same goes for the original theme.

It's been clips-a-plenty on World News Now this week.  Has there ever been a better newscast set than that big Peter Jennings newsroom of the 80's and early 90's?  When you saw that room, the desks, the people, the huge logo...  you got the distinct and unmistakable feeling that you were watching 'THE NEWS. "

Brent Musberger got in a bit of hot water during the New Year's night broadcast of the Sugar Bowl on ESPN.  He hoped Joe Mixon gets a solid second chance, and has a great NFL career.  Mixon is the college player who smacked a woman in the face so hard, he broke bones.  This is a tough one.  We are a forgiving society, but Mixon committed a horrible act, and it was caught on video.  I will always be a huge Musberger fan.  It wasn't really what he said, but how he said it, and there was no mention of the victim.  Musberger will be 78 in May.  I'd hate to see him go out this way.

Megyn Kelly has left FOX for NBC.  It looks like she'll get the third hour of the "Today" show plus a Sunday night broadcast and be featured on big events.  This could work.  Handing her an established show is easier than creating a new one.  Ask Katie Couric and Meredith Vieira.  By the way, I think FOX News will be just fine.

Tony Kornheiser, Maury Povich and others have purchased a Washington DC restaurant.  Kornheiser wants to add a podcast/radio studio to the building. 

Former FOX personality Greta Van Susteren is headed to MSNBC.  Good move.  MSNBC needs more moderate voices and established personalities.

Once again, CNN embarrassed itself on New Year's Eve.  One anchor drank during the broadcast had had his ear pierced.  Why?

I got in to the business because I was influenced by giants like Cronkite, Rather, Reasoner, Brinkley...  Will we ever hear someone say "I was influenced by (insert some of the geniuses working today)?

Sundance is running old Mary Tyler Moore Show episodes.  Has a sitcom ever had a stronger cast of supporting characters?

Chris Berman will be doing fewer events for ESPN.  I respect his longevity, but the act was very, very, very tired.

I was working while the Mariah Carey debacle unfolded on live TV.  I was watching out of the corner of my eye, so I didn't appreciate the scope of the mess until web sites were being updated.  It seems like there's enough blame to go around.  Carey should have rehearsed.  Technical people should have been better prepared.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Andy's Angles: State Park

It's another winter shot from Lackawanna State Park...

Except for the green grass, it's rather bleak.  The sky was pale blue, but clouds were rapidly changing that.  A thin layer of ice took on the grey from the sky.

Still, I like the shot and the way the leaf-less trees form a bit of a frame.

The park was dead when I took this shot early Thursday morning, not even a dog walker.  If you're looking for a place to bundle up and enjoy winter, head to Lackawanna State Park.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Andy's Angles: State Park Weekend

I hadn't been out playing with my camera in about a month.  The holidays ate up some time.  Plus, it seemed like just about any time I had a free moment, it was cloudy and nasty.

The sun was out for a little while Thursday morning.  I usually make at least one winter trip to Lackawanna State Park.  I think the park is actually more beautiful in the winter.

The winter has been mild so far, so the ice wasn't safe.  There were vast sections of open water on the lake.

I like this shot-- pale blue sky, grey ice.  I'll probably be back before winter ends six months from now.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Welcome!

It is one of the rites of early January.  The gym is a bit more crowded than usual.  Sadly, many of those new faces won't be around a month from now.

It all works like this.  You pick up a few pounds during the holidays, and a New Year's resolution to get in shape follows.  some gyms offer year end specials, or you get a membership as a Christmas gift.  You go a few times and give up.

I've been watching the routine for five Januarys.

It might not look like it, but I've been visiting a gym two or three times a week since November of 2012.  I burn off come calories and work up a good sweat.   I have great legs, and my upper arm muscles are getting bigger.  Pectorals!  Really!  Unfortunately, I still need to make better food choices, but that's a story for another time.

Right after the first of the year, I've noticed some newbies at the gym.  Friends tell me there is an even greater influx during the day and evening.  I'm an early morning person.

The gym thing isn't easy.  You don't see results right away.  I can see how people can get discouraged and give up.

Here is my advice:  start slowly, have modest goals and be patient.  Take a friend with you or make new friends at the gym.  Exercise, even with a bank of televisions over your head can be really boring.  Conversation makes the time fly.

I didn't invest in expensive gym clothes.  Most of my stuff came from Walmart and KMart.  No high tech sweat wicking materials-- just cotton tee shirts and shorts.  I enjoy peeling off that sweat soaked shirt in the locker room.  It's a sense of accomplishment.

A co-worker put it best.  He said "The hardest part is getting in the car."  It's true.  It's very easy to hibernate on these colds winter mornings.  Crawl out of bed and hit the elliptical.  You won't be sorry.

If I can do it, anyone can.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Transitions

There are certain times of the year that are more transitional than others.

Easter is on the list as we move from winter in to spring.

Labor Day is another as summer gives way to fall.

You have to include Thanksgiving because it ushers in the holiday season.

And then, there is the first week of January.

Christmas decorations are coming down.  I received a Land's End "spring" catalog in the mail.  You can tell the days are getting a little longer.  I saw a Liberty Tax employee dressed as the Statue of Liberty beckoning me to come in.  New faces have been spotted at the gym, even though many will give it up after a month.

This year has some additional elements.  A new president takes office on the 20th, and we could get an early spring.

Every year, I post about the aroma of skunk tells me winter will soon be over.  Skunks get hungry and lonely in the spring, and active skunks signal a change in season.  Get this.  I was walking out to my car New Year's night when I smelled a skunk.  It could be a fluke, or warmer days are ahead.  Although, there is no sign of spring on the latest 7 day forecast I checked.

I'll go back to the tried and true.  The coldest months of the year are December, January and February.  One of those months is gone, We are more than one-third finished with winter.  Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in one more month.  Better days are coming.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Holiday Farewell

I cannot remember a Christmas season where I did less.

Except for one pet store blitz, all of my shopping was done on-line.

I didn't attend any holiday events.

My home and car radios steered clear of any Christmas music.

I just couldn't get "in" to Christmas this year, and I admit that I didn't try all that hard.

Yes, I did work 10.5 hours Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.  I'm not complaining.  When you take a job in news, you know working Christmas is part of the package.  It's like playing football and being surprised people are trying to take your head off.

I also worked an extra shift the week after Christmas.  It was a good deed.  Two people wanted the same day off, and me taking the extra shift keeps both happy.  I admit there was something in it for me.  I'll get an extra day off this month.  it makes a cold and dark month go by a little faster.

Will it be different this year?    I doubt it.  This seems to be the new normal.

Like Christmas, the new year came in a weekend, and I worked that one too.  Again, no complaints.  It's part of the package.

I did enjoy seeing the optimism of younger friends and co-workers.  I miss that.  These days, I'm just thrilled to maintain what I have.

As I walked around the other day, I noticed Christmas decorations go up earlier than ever, and they come down earlier than ever.  I'm okay with the second part of that, not the first.  If something isn't around long, it makes it a little more special, sort of like the McRib.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Holiday Leftovers

Before we dive in to 2017, some things need to be said.

"A Christmas Story" is a cute movie, but it doesn't deserve to be played over and over and over again.  The Andy Griffith Show marathon on Sundance was much more entertaining.

Enough with the ugly Christmas sweaters.  It was amusing for a while.  Now, it's just tedious.

I drove home from work in a snow storm a few weeks ago.  Since when is it OK for people to dump snow back in the street?  I must have encountered it a half dozen times on a 10 mile drive.  Snow thrower owners seemed to be the biggest offenders.

I don't mind receiving Christmas catalogs in the mail, but some companies seemed to be sending the same things over and over again.

I've become addicted to coconut lip balm.

It was another year of un-creative news writing, where every person who does something wrong around Christmas is referred to as a "grinch."

Speaking of that, police in Stroudsburg nabbed a guy for stealing donation jars from bars and restaurants.  Words cannot express my disgust.

Chewy.com is building a warehouse in Hanover Township.  I believe it's being constructed with all the money I spent at Christmas.

Watching the NFL isn't a priority these days, but I have to say I'm very surprised by the strength of Dallas, Oakland, Miami and Atlanta.  New England is a surprise only when they lose.

Are there too many college football bowl games?  Yes.  Is this hurting anyone?  No.

Monday, January 2, 2017

About the Cover

Well, here we are.  It's the first new blog header of 2017.

I wanted something that said "winter."

This scene was captured in mid December, while I was at Marywood University in Scranton taking some Christmas tree pictures.  This is Marywood's signature building, the Liberal Arts building.  There was a fresh coating of snow, on top of a couple of inches that had fallen three days prior.

I remember a lot of cold, winter trudges from the parking lot to early morning classes here.  Yes, I was a morning guy, even decades ago.

Winter is 33 per cent over.  It's still a long way to spring.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year!

I'm one of those people who thinks we place far too much emphasis and significance on the turning of a single calendar page, but we do and I'll deal with it.

It does give opportunity for hope.  If 2016 was lousy, I hope it turns around this year.  If the last year was good, I hope your streak continues.

Time has been flying by at a maddening pace.  I would like it to slow down a bit, make the most of what I have now, but that's impossible.

It's one foot in front of the other, and pray for the best.

Happy 2017!