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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tuesday Scrapple

I pick football games.  I don't pick Academy Award winners, but I was very successful in one Sunday night prediction-- it would be four hours of political speeches.

There's a Facebook page dedicated to WPIX archives.  It's outstanding!

I have my issues with Major League Baseball, and I'll likely address them here before the regular season opens, but it was nice to turn on the TV and watch some spring training games over the weekend.

It will be interesting to see if Sunday's Daytona 500 reversed the rather substantial TV ratings slide.

I've nearly run out of things to say about the weather.

A "business news" blog entry is in the near future.  I will say this, now.  Penneys is closing 140 stores.  The bottom falling out of the department store business is fascinating.

Tastykake Chocolate Juniors are one of the great joys of life.  I had my first one in eons over the weekend.  Blew me away.  Simple and delicious.  You still can't beat a Tastykake lemon pie.

President Trump is skipping the White House Correspondents Association dinner.  I can understand that.

People's Court Judge Joseph Wapner died Sunday.  97 years old.  I was working at another TV station, when the decision was made to dump The People's Court in favor of a game show.  The receptionist and the newsroom were bombarded with angry phone calls.  The game show bombed.

On the other hand, I wouldn't be sad if all the court TV shows went away.

How did presentation of the Best Picture award get so screwed up Sunday night, or more accurately, Monday morning?

GiraffeCam was fascinating viewing.




Monday, February 27, 2017

I Tried

My days of getting excited over prime time television are long gone.  I'm not invested in anything right now, and it's been that way for a while.

I was a fan of the early years of The Big Bang Theory.  The show, unfortunately, morphed into another bickering couples comedy.  Pass.

The Blacklist started off strong, and I've always been a James Spader fan.  The show took a creepy, gory and disturbing turn.  On top of that, the plot got way too complicated.  Pass again.

I think the last prime time show I watched religiously was Scrubs, and that included the very mediocre final season.

I did enjoy Wings and Frasier.  Friends?  No way.  Wrong demographic.  The Seinfeld whiners was like fingernails on a chalkboard.

I'm not a TV snob.  Match Game reruns still entertain me beyond belief.  I can watch the America's Test Kitchen people rip apart a chicken, though I rarely cook.  Some of the things on Antenna TV and MeTV make me chuckle, and I've spent many a morning with Andy, Barney, Opie and Aunt Bee.

My eyes and ears perked up when I saw a new offering on CBS, Superior Donuts.  Any show with Judd Hirsch is worth sampling.  Long story short, Hirsch is a grumpy old man who runs a Chicago donut shop.  He takes on a hip, young kid as a helper, and let the laugh ensue.  Unfortunately, there are no laughs here, in spite of Katey Sagal's role as a Chicago cop.  I gave it three episodes.  That's enough.  I'm done.  It's just not funny.

Superior Donuts reminded me of a modern day Chico and the Man.  The year was 1974.  Jack Albertson plays Ed Brown, a crusty, grumpy old man who gives a young and hip Freddie Prinze a job.

TV shows never die.  They just get recycled.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Andy's Angles: Box of Cat

It's been a couple of weeks since I've posted a Nathan picture.

He's like most cats I've encountered over the years.  You can buy them all sorts of toys, beds, and scratchers.  Throw a box on the floor, and he's happy.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Andy's Angles: Big Boy

It's Steamtown's signature piece, and I'm never tired of looking at it.

Today, a photo of Union Pacific 4012, known as "Big Boy."  I took this shot during a Steamtown visit last month.

Built in '41, retired in '62.  It was one of the largest steam locomotives in the world, and I can just imagine what it was like watching this and its brothers traveling across the nation.


Friday, February 24, 2017

Unfinished Friday

Following up on some previously addressed topics...

WEATHER:  I saw the state running street sweepers on some highways Tuesday.  It's an activity usually reserved for the end of winter.  Does PennDOT know something the rest of us don't.  I wouldn't be surprised to see a snow event or two before the end of March.

RADIO:  President Trump is turning into ratings gold for some news and news/talk stations.  Rush Limbaugh is seeing an uptick in ratings.

The Associated Press, for years, had a wonderful and solid radio network.  This week, AP announced it was ending overnight and weekend top of the hour newscasts.  It made me sad.

THE GYM:  The New Year's newbies are long gone.  There are a few new faces.  I suspect they are people looking to work off some winter weight.

AL BOSCOV:  A memorial service is set for Sunday in Reading.  There were newspaper stories on the future of the chain before his body was cold.

CABLE NEWS:  I'm really enjoying CNN's "The History of Comedy."  America could use George Carlin today.  You might not agree with him, but he could really make you laugh.

My gym recently took CNN off its monitors and replaced it with MSNBC.  I'm catching Brian Williams' "The 11th Hour" replays.  Producers pack way too much in to 30 minutes.  It's not unusual to see five guests in on one discussion.  No one can complete a thought.

I can't get enough panda video.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Journalism

President Trump is currently at war with the news media, and it's really become rather fierce.

Yes, there are members of the media with agendas, and some have made no secret that they intend to try to take Mr. Trump down.

Can we do our jobs better?  Of course.  Absolutely.  But, that was true long before January 20, 2017.  I think it goes back to Gutenberg inventing the printing press in 1440 and Marconi inventing radio in 1901.

Are we enemies of the people?  Well, the public owns the airwaves.  If you use the public's airwaves to spread lies, I guess you are an enemy of the people.  Who decides what's a lie?  That doesn't cover the print media and internet.

If there's one thing I hate on this planet, it's sanctimony.  Some "journalists" feel they're above reproach.  Bunk!

Here is one of the issues I see, and it deals mostly with the cable networks.  Daytime programming used to be straight and unbiased news.  Night time was reserved for opinion oriented talk shows.  Now, the lines have been blurred.  Opinion is creeping in to the news reporting, and not just from the guests.  Anchors are getting in to the act, and that's wrong.  Liberals get insulted on FOX.  Conservatives get the same treatment on CNN and MSNBC.

Report the news fairly.  The words and Tweets of the president, and anyone else, live or die, pass or fail, work or crash, on their own merit.  I refuse to believe viewers and readers are stupid.

It's not easy to keep your mouth shut when you're attacked.  Thanks to the internet, the words fly at the speed of light.  Once you hit "send," they're not coming back.  There's not much time for thought and reflection.  Change that.  Pump the brakes.  Think for a while.

I'm a big fan of watching old newscasts on YouTube.  You can see Walter Cronkite, Howard K. Smith, and David Brinkley getting irritated at President Nixon during Watergate, and even before.  Agitated anchors and reporters is nothing new.  But, the technology has changed.  We had all better be more careful.  That includes the newsmakers as well as the journalists.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

DIRW: Razor's Edge

Like most American males, I hate shaving.  One of my happiest moments is when I put down the razor after shaving Tuesday mornings because I know I won't have to touch it until Friday night.  I rarely shave on my days off.

I've tried just about every razor brand, plus pre shaves and after shaves.  Everything is OK.  Nothing great.

I tried Harry's razor's a few years ago.  The company started another advertising push, so I decided to try it again.

Let me back up for a moment.  Harry's is a discount razor company.  Blades cost half as much as the big guys.  For years, it was on-line sales only.  The stuff is now for sale in Target.  Harry's is a big advertiser on Tony Kornheiser's podcast.  I was walking through Target recently and I decided to give them another try.

I e-mailed the company, asking how many shaves I can expect from each blade.  The response was six to eight.  Considering the price, it's reasonable.  The company was right.  They start to dull up real bad after six.  I unwisely stretched it out to ten, and that was a mistake.  I didn't get nicked but you can really feel the pull.

You can get a lot more shaves out of a Shick or Gillette cartridge, but you will also pay a lot more.  When it comes right down to it, the price per shave is really about the same.

Does It Really Work?  A qualified "thumbs up."

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tuesday Scrapple

West 192  East 182.  Is there a bigger joke than the NBA All Star Game?  The NHL and NFL all star games also feature a lack of defense.  It seems the last competitive contest is in Major League Baseball.

Parts of upstate New York have a lot of snow.  I expected higher river levels around here because of the record heat and snow melt.  Yes, the rivers are coming up, but nowhere near the danger level.

I really didn't like Arnie Spanier when he worked elsewhere.  However, his Sunday night/Monday morning FOX Sports Radio show is a fin and interesting listen.

I've had an American Express card for decades, but it's one of their free ones.  For the life of me, I can't figure out why people pay $95 for the basic and $195 for the gold card.  Yes, I had a gold card for a long time, but the annual fee got too high, so I dumped it.  Status isn't worth it.

I can't get interested in the Academy Awards.  You know it will be three hours of anti Trump speeches.  Can't we give it a rest for one night and celebrate the art of motion pictures?

The smell of brush fire smoke is the smell of spring time to me.  Skunks, too.

It's been years since it's been redesigned and I still can't warm up to USA Today on-line.

There's a web site called www.newscaststudio.com.  It's dedicated to TV set design, and I'm addicted.

Speaking of addictions, the Times-Leader prints health department restaurant inspections from time to time.  It's fascinating and frightening reading.  Thank heaven for a healthy immune system.

UPDATE:  Washington sports talk radio legend Andy Pollin has signed on with WJFK.  He recently lost his job at WTEM after 25 years.  Pollin recently guested on Tony Kornheiser's podcast-- funny and smart at the same time, and that's a rare combination.

America's Test Kitchen without Chris Kimball isn't nearly as entertaining.

Motorcycle season is kicking off.  Freedom is great, but it still troubles me to see people ride without helmets.

The very first Kmart, in Michigan, is closing.  That's sad.  Yahoo! seems obsessed with the Sears/Kmart problems.  There are at least two stories every day.

Facebook likes and Twitter followers are slowly and steadily increasing.  Thank you.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Holding On To Yesterday

I admit there are times when I live in the past, especially when it comes to broadcasting.

I miss the days when every radio station in town did at least a little news, and some did a lot of news.

I miss the days my college radio station trained the broadcasters of tomorrow, rather than just played endless music.

I miss the days I wrote out out my scripts on a legal pad or a steno pad, and I was a radio pup running from story to story.

I miss the days before network news people labeled everything as "breaking news."

I miss the days when CNN actually did news.

I miss the days when TV shows had opening themes and credits.

I miss the days when The Big Bang Theory was funny.

I miss all those daytime game shows on the networks.

Thank heaven for YouTube, so I can watch old Tom Snyder shows.

Here is what really triggered today's blog entry.  The NFL Network recently played a bunch of old Super Bowls.  Many were broadcast by the team of Pat Summerall and John Madden.  Holy Cow!  those guys were good.  I knew it then.  I appreciate them more now because most of today's broadcast teams leave a lot to be desired.  Joe Buck and Troy Aikman are very good.  The same goes for Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth.  The rest?  Meh.

Summerall had the voice and the delivery.  He didn't talk a lot and made every word count.  Plus, he knew exactly how to set up Madden.  John Madden did talk a lot, and he made it entertaining.  Enthusiasm, without going over the top.  No hype.  They celebrated the game, and called out those who came up short.  Summerall and Madden might have been the best team ever, and I miss them.

You can look it up.  A web site called AwfulAnnouncing.com listed all the legends who have recently stepped aside or who are lessening their workload.  There are some big names, and they seem to be exiting the stage all at once.  Yes, there is some fine young talent on the way up., and I'm keeping an open mind.

However, I can't help but look back and marvel at what we had.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Classic Andy's Angles: The Breaker

I was going through some old photo files the other day, and I saw this.  It's one of my favorite photos of the old Huber Breaker in Ashley.

There was always mixed feelings about this place.  It was the last of the standing Wyoming Valley breakers.  It was big and ugly, and an image of the bad old days.

On the other hand, the breaker, and mining in general, is a huge part of our area's history.  We out to remember the good and the bad.

It became a moot point.  the photo was taken in 2013.  The breaker was demolished a couple of years later.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Classic Andy's Angles: Grease

I haven't had a lot of time to take pictures recently, so it's a couple from the archives this weekend-- and the stories to go along with them.

This photo was taken in December of 2013.  It was a snowy morning.  I was on road report duty.  Our location that morning was in the back parking lot of a chain restaurant outside the Columbia Mall in Hemlock Township.  We chose that location because it offered a great view of Interstate 80 below.  We could show the interstate, and be safely out of the way.

The location came with a bonus.  The restaurant had a grease dumpster out back, and a bicycle, chain locked to a light pole.  When you're on road duty, there are a finite number of things you can say about snow.  So you start looking for what I call "color."  I described the scene, including the grease dumpster.  Eventually, someone who said he spoke for restaurant management came by to say we were no longer welcome at that location.  I guess he wanted the fact the restaurant served greasy food to be a surprise.  I know a lot of places have these, and I never mentioned the name of the restaurant on the air.

We have been blessed with a couple of mild winters recently, so I haven't broadcast from that location in years.  I'm assuming the grease dumpster is still there because the restaurant is still in business.  I'm not sure about the bike.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Inside Snowflake

An entry on radio school cancellations prompted a few questions from readers, so today, a history lesson.

I started at WARM 590 in 1981, and for years, WARM was the king of cancellations.  Posters went up on school bulletin boards.  The audience took a huge jump on snowy mornings.  Extra advertisers came on board during storms, just so they could latch on to that big audience.

Cancellations on WARM had the catchy name of "Operation Snowflake."

Our morning man, the legendary Harry West really loved those snowy days.  I dare to say, millions over the years, learned whether or not they had school from Uncle Harry.

When I got to WARM, I was shocked at how simple the whole process was.

Each school had a code number, and it was in alphabetical order.  The a's had the low numbers.  The z's had the high numbers.   Each school had an index card in a huge file.  A superintendent would call in.  We'd put the information on a paper label, and stick it to the card.  That way, we didn't need a new card for every storm.  We'd just stick a new label, on the card, over the old label.  Alphabetizing was easy because each school's code number was on the upper right corner of the card.  Put the numbers in order, and you had an alphabetical list of closings and cancellations.  Blessedly simple.  Hugely effective.

Eventually, computers came in.  WARM added a sister station, WMGS.  The first computer system we used was bulky and balky and buggy.  We'd enter the information, then do a huge paper print out a few times an hour.  It took an eternity.  We used wide paper, and the printer was the original tractor feed type.  The system wasn't user friendly.  Even though I did the news on Harry's show during the last six months of my time at WARM, handling the cancellations went to others on the staff.   There was plenty of frustration, and I gladly watched it all from a distance.

It is with mixed feelings that I note how radio has abandoned doing school cancellations and delays.  Radio used to own the process, but times change.  TV, the internet and direct messaging now do a better and more efficient job.  It was fun while it lasted.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Unfinished Thursday

NEW THOUGHTS ON OLD TOPICS...

POLITICS AND MEDIA:
Rosie O'Donnell seems in a desperate bid to make herself relevant again.  The lack of respect on both sides is not letting up, and it might never end.  The media, who got the election wrong last year, is going down the same path and ignoring all those people who voted for Donald Trump.

ROAD DOG:
While I was off during last week's storm, I did not escape its wrath.  I had to travel to a medical appointment 25 miles away, right as the storm was at its peak.  The roads weren't great, but much better than I expected.  Road crews did a nice job.

THIS OLD SCHOOL:
Last week's blog entry, where I eviscerated my old school district touched a mini firestorm.  Via Facebook messaging, I heard from a few old classmates, who reminded me of the laughs we had and the mischief we found ourselves in.  Points taken.

SPORTSCASTING:
Bob Costas steps aside as NBC's main Olympic host.  Costas has upped the sanctimonious level in recent years, injecting political commentary into his stuff.  It looks like Costas will do more with the MLB Network, and he's great there.  Replacement:  the thin voiced Mike Tirico.  Dan Patrick would have been a better choice.  I really don't care for NBC's "plausibly live" Olympics coverage, so it's a moot point for me.  I won't watch, no matter who is in the host's chair.

PA GOVERNMENT:
If there's a state that needs streamlining, it's Pennsylvania.   I could never understand why there's a Fish & Boat Commission and a Game Commission, for example.  The governor proposed some consolidation.  Not enough.

SUPER BOWL LI:  
I watched a replay of the end of the Super Bowl.  It looked like the Falcons weren't even trying.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Professor

Before Russell Johnson was The Professor on Gilligan's Island, there was another professor-- Professor Irwin Corey.

It was an odd comedy act.  He's appear on stage with hair askew and in a ratty tuxedo.  Professor Corey was billed as the world's foremost authority on everything.  Corey didn't have a memorable catch phrase or a signature joke.  He's wander around stage aimlessly and ramble on a series of funny, often hilarious thoughts.

Professor Corey was a fixture on the old Mike Douglas Show, back when it was based in Philadelphia.  He was always a scream.  He was always a favorite.

Professor Irwin Corey died last week.  He was 102.  The course was laughter, and I'm happy I took his class.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

I. Me. Mine.

While I am a blogging pioneer, I'm overall late to the internet game.  I was always a consumer of news and information, but I wasn't a generator of content until relatively recently.

By the time I decided it was time to do something, AndyPalumbo.com was taken.  I grabbed Andy-Palumbo.com and AndyPalumbo.net.  I had a couple of other similar domains and I let them expire.  AndyPalumbo.com belonged to a real estate agent in Australia for a long time.  He wasn't giving it up.

Then, it became available, but at a price I wasn't willing to pay.  Don't ask me how and why.  The price began to trickle down.  Last week, AndyPalumbo.com became available at a fraction of the original asking price, so I grabbed it.  It now points to my web site, which has been on line for several years.  Yes, it needs updating.  One thing at a time, please.

Okay, now what?  It will evolve in time, maybe even becoming the location for more original content, including that podcast I've been considering for eons.  For the time being, it's status quo.  Blog, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are still around.  I wish the person who has AndyPalumbo on Twitter, who never uses it, will contact me and give it up.  It's not that big of a deal.  However, it would be nice.

Welcome to AndyPalumbo.com.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Al

You can always tell a reporter who's been working in this market for a long time.  Our eyes roll when we hear "The Mall at Steamtown."

It took years to get the thing built, and many of us covered it every tedious step of the way-- from the announcement, to the planning, to the endless court fights over getting the land, to the implosion, to the construction, to the opening, to the defection of stores, to the sale, the the renaming, to today.  The early days were especially frustrating.  It was delay on top of delay.  Nothing was happening.  No progress.  It seemed to be the same story over and over again.  We counted the number of times we said "the proposed mall has cleared another hurdle."  There were lots of hurdles back then, more than any athlete ever encountered.

Al Boscov was there with us.  I admire Boscov for sticking with it, even though most people would have walked away.  I don't live in a fairy tale world.  There was money to be made in Scranton and Al Boscov was a good businessman.  He had patience.  There were also a lot of reasons to stay.

Boscov went in to a sort of retirement several years ago.  His successors expanded too much, too fast, and in to areas that really didn't get what a Boscov's was all about.  Chapter 11 bankruptcy followed.  Boscov returned and steered the ship away from the iceberg.

One of the first times I met Al Boscov back in the mid 80's.  I was working at WARM.  We were doing an all day remote broadcast at the Paramount Theater on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre.  WARM was publicizing the effort to save the theater from demolition, renovate it, and turn it into a center for  the performing arts.  Yes, that was back in the day when radio stations tried to help their communities.  Al Boscov was one of the people behind the project.  It was the right thing to do, and it was another example of why he was a smart businessman.  A renovated theater meant traffic.  More people in downtown Wilkes-Barre translated in to more people walking through his South Main Street store.

The same goes for the Northampton St., Wilkes-Barre movies.  Boscov is given credit for helping to attract a theater operator to Wilkes-Barre.  It was the right thing to do, again, and I'm sure it translated to more shoppers at his store.

Al Boscov was a charming man, and he loved running his stores.  Shoppers adored him.  Employees revered him.  It was a joy to watch him travel through aisles and displays, shaking hands, checking out merchandise.  He was kind, and friendly, and approachable.  Again-- a smart businessman.

By now, you probably know Al Boscov died Friday night.  87.  Pancreatic cancer.

I'm guessing I interviewed him more than a dozen times over the years.  It was always entertaining.  Al Boscov was always a gentleman, even when my questions were annoying.  You couldn't ask for a better face for a big company.

Perfect?  Not really.  The Scranton store has some gaps where appliances used to be.  There's a lot of "dollar store" type merchandise.  The store looks a little tired, occasionally cluttered and unorganized.   Wilkes-Barre was a wreck until the company finally threw some money in to it.

He couldn't stop stores from deserting the Mall at Steamtown in droves.  He remained committed to the mall concept, even though it was failing in so many places.  Default.  Sheriff's sale.  An attempt to buy the property at auction failed.

Boscov's company also controlled the old Oppenheim building in Scranton for a while.  That's the place Scranton mayor Jim McNulty originally wanted Boscov to locate.  Boscov saw the building as too old, too small, and with a lousy parking situation.  Oppenheim's was turned in to offices, and I don't think the place was ever close to being filled.

Overall, and it's not even close-- we're much better off because Al Boscov chose to do business here.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Andy's Angles: More Nathan


My last few pictures of Nathan featured him in the napping mode.  He does that rather well.

I'm not sure what caught his attention here, but I had my phone in hand at the time, and I snapped off a picture of the relaxing cat.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Andy's Angles: Valentine Weekend

It's really become a gem and an asset to its neighborhood.

This is the old North Scranton Junior High School.  It's now apartments for the elderly run by Goodwill.

I had a picture here in December, with the building decorated for Christmas.

The building has turned red for Valentine's Day, and it's really something to see.

Valentine's day falls on a Tuesday this year, so I'm assuming most "lovely" activities will happen this weekend.  I hope you and your significant other have a great time.

I'll keep checking to see if the building turns green for St. Patrick's Day.


Friday, February 10, 2017

Happy Day

Fellow blogger Joseph Peter Klapatch informed me that today is the 40th anniversary of one of the happiest days of my life.  One of my schools was condemned.

I was a sophomore.  We had classes in two buildings across the street from each other.  One was purely high school.  The other was half elementary and half high school.  The pure high school building was hideous, and that was the better of the two.

The state condemned the other building because of oil soaked wooden floors, open stairwells, and a stench in the lavatories.  A fire during school hours would have left dozens dead, and that was the state's estimation, not mine.

My first exposure to this hell on earth was the 6th grade.  I had a teacher I didn't like in a building I hated.  It was either too hot or too cold.  Our playground was a paved alley in the back.  No gym.  No cafeteria.  No library.  No labs.  No parking.  We were big on depression.  I remember discussing educational alternatives with my parents.  I just couldn't see myself in a Catholic school, so I toughed it out with a teacher who used the same methods on his first day on the job as he did on the last.  By the way, nothing against Catholic schools.  They are fine institutions, but they weren't for me at the time.

I vividly remember the day one of my friends got caught playing with a lighter in one of the bathrooms.  I wasn't there.  I didn't see it.  You should have seen the way everyone panicked.   They knew, in the backs of their minds,  the building was a disaster waiting to happen.  Outwardly, it was denial all the way.

The true tragedy here was the people running the district at the time kept telling us these buildings were just fine, thank you, and there was no need to build new.  They believed the place was a palace and we were lucky to be there.  A privilege to be wandering those halls and classrooms.   With the backward thinking and complacency in that district, it's a wonder we graduates went to college and found jobs.  It was culture of negativity and failure.  We, as a district, were laughed at.  It was years before the kids had decent buildings and the football team had a stadium of its own.  I was long gone by then.

Above is the prayer garden/park where the condemned school once stood.  The alley that served as our elementary playground is off to the left.  The brick building with all the charm of a state prison or a third world sweat shop is the former senior high, now apartments for the elderly.  A church did a nice job turning the old school plot into an asset to the community.  My personal preference would have been to burn down the building, cart away the remains, and plow salt into the earth so nothing grows there ever again.

So, why was I happy when the state padlocked the place?  I should add that, at around the same time, a school in another town, in the same district was condemned.  We doubled up.  Senior high used the one barely passable building in the morning.  Junior high students had it in the afternoon.  My "home room" went from the top floor of the fire trap, to the basement of the building next door.  It used to be the weight room for student athletes.  Weights were moved out.  Desks were moved in.  It stunk, literally.  Years of sweat permeated the floors and the walls.  Nauseating.  I've mentioned it here before.  The half day sessions were the best thing that ever happened to me.  First, it was less time in that soul crushing atmosphere.  Second, I used part of my free afternoons to read and go to real libraries at near by Penn State and Marywood.  Those half days lasted through half of my sophomore year and all of my junior year.  The district finally rented enough space in other buildings to end half days when I was a senior.

The condemned building was torn down decades ago.  The remaining building is now apartments for the elderly.  I still pass through that neighborhood on occasion.  My stomach tightens ever time.

I don't expect to be asked to speak at this year's commencement, or any one until the end of time.



Thursday, February 9, 2017

Media Notes

Agreement or disagreement is irrelevant, but I'm really tired of Hollywood celebrities telling me what to think.  Ashton Kutcher can lecture me after he makes a decent movie.  I think I'll have a long wait.

Johnny Carson joked about politicians because it was funny.  Today's late night comics do it because they are pursuing their agenda.

CNN actually devoted a long segment the other night to Howard Stern's comments on President Trump.  Some producer has to be asking himself or herself is this was an effective use of air time.  I fear that producer thinks it was a genius move.  Really?

I actually physically pick up the print version of a few newspapers a day.  It seems they've gotten much thinner in recent weeks.  It can't be for lack of news.  And, that certain newspaper still has problems getting its stuff out on the streets on a timely basis.  One day, I will name names.

Why can't NBC make a graceful talent transition?  The network botched Carson/Leno/Letterman, followed by Leno/O'Brien/Leno and Curry/Guthrie on the Today show.  It looks like another debacle is in the making with the arrival of Megyn Kelly and the departure of Tamron Hall.

I heard Michael Vick on FOX Sports Radio Friday night.  I couldn't change the station fast enough.

The new administration has opened up a Skype seat for presidential press secretary daily briefings and news conferences.  Interesting.  It's another effort to take the information flow away from the Washington press corps and give it to "America."

CBS Radio and Entercom are merging.  CBS Radio News is still part of CBS News and is not part of the deal.  I hope Entercom carries on the tradition of quality at its all news stations.

I heard a national radio network anchor totally butcher a top of the hour newscast a couple of weeks ago.  This guy is always solid as a rock.  It happens to the best of us.

The winter olympics are less than one year away, and NBC's hype is already in high gear.

TBS is said to be considering changes to Conan O'Brien's talk show.  it's possible the show could go weekly, from four times a week.  i never thought I'd say it, but O'Brien has matured considerably and it's among the better late night offerings.  The guy can be funny.  he's gotten away from trying to top his guests and the monologue is solid.

I still don't understand the people who don't like Joe Buck.  I caught the replay of the fourth quarter and the overtime of the Super Bowl on an NFL Network replay.  Buck was outstanding.   Troy Aikman doesn't bring a lot to the table, but he's not bad.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

I Finally Did It

It was something I wanted to do for a long time-- have a Primanti's sandwich.

My fascination went back years, to when I first saw the Pittsburgh restaurant on Guy Fieri's Food Network show, Diners, Drive Ins and Dives.  By the way, does every episode of that show look exactly the same to you?  Adam Richman also featured Primanti's on some of his pointless Travel Channel gluttony broadcasts.

I don't dine out all that often.  Most restaurants are opening as I'm getting ready to go to sleep.  Fate intervened last week.  I had several stops to make, including a visit with a banker, the post office, my broker and my tax guy.  All that activity pushed me to lunch time, and I was frazzled.  I needed to be nice to myself for a moment.  It was to be my Primanti's day.

By the way, the image you see above was stolen off the internet.  It's not my photo.

I walked in a little before noon, was seated quickly, had my order taken quickly, and had it delivered quickly.

As I waited, I checked out the decor.  It has that standard chain restaurant look-- big bar, booths, tables, giant tv's and tchotchkes everywhere.  I expected to see the waitress with at least 15 pieces of flair.  Primanti's is based in Pittsburgh, so there was a lot of Steelers and Panthers memorabilia on the walls.

I ordered the turkey sandwich.  The waitress gave me the option of the standard Primanti's sandwich, or have everything on the side.  In case you're not familiar with Primanti's, it's loaded with tomatoes, french fries, and a vinegar based cole slaw ON THE SANDWICH.  It was my first time, so I had the sandwich loaded.

So how was it?  Big, but not too big.  It wasn't overly filling.  It didn't overwhelm me with its size, and it wasn't sloppy to eat at all.

Flavor?  Meh.  It was fair.  The fries were the component I tasted the most.  That could be different if I chose a stronger flavored meat, like the sausage or fish.  The vinegar of the slaw wasn't strong at all, and I rather liked that part.  Nice crunch.  The bread, which is often my favorite part of a sandwich, didn't bring anything to the table.  Bland.  The fries were OK, and the turkey got lost in the shuffle.  There really isn't a lot of meat on the sandwich.

If you wanted a side, you had to order it and pay extra.  It appears the Primanti's philosophy is the sides are already on the sandwich.  I should have some fries on the side to judge their flavor and quality.

Overall, I wasn't disappointed, but I wasn't thrilled.   It's not one of those cases where I expected too much.  I honestly didn't know what to expect.   I'd like to go back and try something else.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Customer Service

I'm a regular overnight visitor at one of the big box discount department stores.  I can't say I'm a huge fan, but the staff is nice, the store has what I need, and it's open all the time.

Here is something that happened to me twice in three weeks.  I was stuck waiting while the computer cash registers went through an upgrade and reboot at 4:00 AM.  Both times, I was stuck there for about ten minutes.

The last time, last week, the store was busier than usual for that time of day.  People had full carts and were heading toward the one manned checkout line.  I had only a few things, so I wandered over to the do-it-yourself checkout area.

My stomach sank.  Red lights above and "off line" symbols on display screens.  A fellow person in line said he was told the wait would be 20 minutes, and that was five minutes ago.

The manager on duty came over to apologize to the growing group of disgruntled shoppers.  My response was "I know this isn't your fault, but how did this company become the largest retailer in the country?"  He said "by being committed to low prices" and walked away.

There was nothing to do but wait, watch my frozen pizza thaw, and watch my blood pressure go up.

Here, you had a dozen people willing to give you money, and your horrible technology system keeps them waiting.  Obviously, the store and the chain needs to install a back up system.  Use one while the other is updated, and vice versa.  I guess investing in something that would keep customers happy and the money flowing would affect that commitment to low prices.

I was tempted to leave my stuff on the counter and walk.  Instead, I took a few deep breaths and waited it out.  This store is the only overnight game in town.  With KMart apparently on the way out, this could become the only big box discount store, period.

There has to be a better way.

Monday, February 6, 2017

RadioWatch

This topic has been on my back burner for a while.  I should get to it before winter is gone.

History:  I'm a huge fan of KYW, an all news radio station in Philadelphia.  All news, all the time.  Great information.  Great presentation.  Great talent.  KYW and WCBS in New York are my "go to" stations, and thanks to my internet radioand Amazon Echo, I have them on almost constantly.

KYW did something radical this winter, and it was so big that it made the newspapers.  KYW stopped doing school cancellations on the air.  Philadelphia does it a little differently than most places.  Every school has a number, and announcers read those numbers on the air.  KYW management reasoned that it takes 14 minutes to get through all the numbers on a very snowy day.  The time is better used giving forecasts and information.  Schools these days issue closing and delay alerts directly to cell phones, and KYW has been pushing people to its web site.

You know what?  Get ready for a shocker.  I'm okay with that.

School cancellations on the radio are passe.  There is a better way to do it.  KYW hasn't shirked its responsibility to inform the public.  Getting cancellations off the air increases web traffic, and that's becoming a big source of revenue for broadcasters these days.  More revenue means more broadcasters keep their jobs.

Here in our area?  Well, that's a much different story.  Like Philadelphia, radio broadcasters push people to the web.  It's quicker, cheaper, and easier than actually having a news staff to inform the public.   The local time that was devoted to cancellations gets filled by commercials, another song, or an announcer reading some cute little time wasting ditty from USA Today.  It beats actual show preparation and work.

Look, I was the guy who read those cancellations on the radio for a long time.  I still get a kick when someone says "I used to listen to you before going to school in the fourth grade."  Regular blog readers know I'm still a bit of a radio geek.

Times have changed.  There are better and more effective ways, than radio, to get cancellations and delays out there.  My problem is that a lot of stations haven't traded one form of information for another.  It's simply a matter of cutting back and doing less public service.

Shifting gears...  My Super Bowl prediction was correct.  I said the Patriots would win and cover the three point spread.  However, I was wrong when I thought the Patriots would do it easily.  Cheating will be part of the Patriots' legacy, much the same way choking in a Super Bowl will follow the Falcons around for eternity.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Andy's Angles: Caboose

Every locomotive has a character of its own, and so does every caboose.  This one was parked outside the Steamtown roundhouse last week

Looks like it needs a little tlc, but at least it's still here, and there aren't many left.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Andy's Angles: Restoration

This beauty arrived at the Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton in December.  It's a little diesel, built in 1951.  It had been the property of  the New York, Ontario, and Western Railway, and the GE engine had been sitting somewhere in New Jersey.

The goal is to restore it, and have it do some work in the Steamtown yard.

Only two of these locomotives exist.  The other is at a museum in Georgia.  We're lucky to have it in our back yard.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Super Bowl LI

I had a decent track record when I picked games during the playoffs, and I've been pretty good at picking Super Bowls, so let's try it again.  As always, I preface the pick with the warning that I really don't know what I'm talking about.

As is my habit, I will sleep through the game.  Oddly enough, the last Super Bowl I was awake for was the January 1999 game, when Denver beat Atlanta, the last time Atlanta was in a Super Bowl.  On top that, any discussion of Super Bowl commercials bores me to tears.

My formula for picking the winner all comes down to this:  go with the better defense.  In this case, it's New England, so I predict New England wins and covers the spread.

I'm not a New England fan.  They cheat.  It's been proven.  I would be very happy to see Atlanta get the big trophy tonight.  It's the classic head versus heart conflict.  Go with the head.  New England.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

RatingsWatch

With the Super Bowl coming up Sunday night, it seems to be an appropriate time to bring this up:  NFL football TV ratings slipped a bit this season.

Is this hard to figure out?  Absolutely not.

There are more entertainment choices than ever before.  Some big NFL stars, like Peyton Manning, have exited the stage, and their replacements have yet to flower.  There is potential for big new stars of tomorrow, like the kids on the Dallas Cowboys.

The games are too long, with too many commercials and time outs.  The NFL seems to be attempting to address that problem.  I wish the NBA would do the same thing.  The final minutes of a basketball game take an eternity to play.  It's maddening, and it's a big tune out factor.  The hard core fans stay.  Everyone else goes.

As for the NFL broadcasts themselves...  the pre game shows have become yuk fests with very little useful information.  Funny first.  News second.  The pre game shows used to be must see TV.  Now, you can get everything you need to know through a ten minute internet visit.

Once you get in to the game themselves, they look great.  They could cut back on the graphics, and outside of the top two announcing teams on the networks that broadcast several games on a Sunday afternoon, the talent is weak.

And, America can live without Thursday Night Football.  The market is over saturated.

So, networks and the NFL, there is your solution.  Get to work.  No charge.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

About the Cover

Admittedly, I didn't take a lot of pictures in January.  Any time I had an opportunity, the weather was lousy.

Even though it was cloudy and drizzly, I did visit Steamtown last week.  I felt the itch to take some photos, and it's been a while since I inflicted train photos on you.

Steamtown is a great place, but let's face it.  It doesn't change much.  I lucked out on last week's trip.  There was a trolley out toward the South Washington Avenue side of the yard.  They are barely visible in this photo, but off to the left, there were a few men with papers and files.  It looked like they were doing something official, and shortly after I snapped a few trolley photos, the car backed out toward South Washington Avenue.

Trolleys are a big part of our history, and it's great that we have a Trolley Museum as well as some scattered trolley rides.  Unfortunately, the trolley line isn't all that visible.  I know money is always an issue, but wouldn't it be great to see the line extended to an area where people can actually see it?

Speaking of visibility, the Steamtown National Historic Site has to be the toughest federal property in the country to find.  It lost some sign space when the new intermodal transportation center was built.  The place clearly needs more signs than it has now.