Saturday, February 29, 2020
To say the least, it's been slow, but at least there are visible signs of the progress. It really is a great location for a supermarket. It's close to major roads and it's in the center of a densely populated area. There are other supermarkets near by, including one chain run by some great people, and I'm exceptionally fond of them and their product. However, competition makes everyone stronger and there is room for both chains.
You know you're old when... The first store to occupy this space was Arlan's I'm not sure exactly when Arlan's disappeared. A Google search shows the chain filed for bankruptcy in 1973, with all the stores closing by 1975.
This is actually the second supermarket to have space in the plaza. The first one was on the opposite end.
Friday, February 28, 2020
The NFL plan is getting generally good reviews. Not here.
14 of the NFL's 32 teams will make the playoffs, nearly half. Too many. It renders much of the regular season useless.
Of course, this is all about the money. The league will have more playoff games to sell to the networks. Forget that it cheapens the game in the long run. I'm old school. If you want to increase the value of something, decrease the supply. OPEC seems to have mastered that plan.
Thursday, February 27, 2020
I had my taxes done last week. It's not about the money. If you take my federal refund, subtract what I owe the state, and the tax prep fee, I break out even. That's okay.
Money is secondary. It's the relief of having a complicated task completed for another year.
I follow the Tony Kornheiser rule. My tax prep person has one instruction: Keep me out of jail!
My returns are a tad more complex than average, but I'm no Donald Trump or Michael Bloomberg. Each year, as I watch my returns done and I stare at all the numbers on the screens, I can't help but think there has to be a better way.
It has to involve fewer penalties for saving and investing, and a simpler way to calculate what you owe.
What ever happened to all those congressional plans for flat taxes, and returns on post cards?
You can't get the toothpaste back in the tube, and I fear things will always get more complex.
Wednesday, February 26, 2020
I filled in as producer of Newswatch 16 This Morning on a recent weekday. The producer writes most of the stories, decides how much time each should get, puts them in the proper order, selects the accompanying graphics, etc.
It was wild morning. We were getting updates on the condition of NASCAR driver Ryan Newman, the Boy Scouts filed for bankruptcy, a murder trial was going to the jury, snow and ice were moving in to the area, new information on the Scranton school problem... There was hardly time to take a breath.
Thankfully, I had plenty of help.
The bottom line is this, and college kids, listen up. There will always be work for a quality producer. Producers are always in demand. You might be behind the scene, but you are a major force in influencing what gets on the air. There is a lot of pressure and stress, and some long hours. On the other hand, it can be exceptionally rewarding.
Tuesday, February 25, 2020
February 22nd was the 40th anniversary of the US hockey team capturing the gold medal at the Lake Placid Olympics.
I remember the victory over the USSR, and then Finland to capture the gold medal, but I don't recall getting caught up in the whole thing. The Olympics usually bore me, and I'm not much of a hockey fan.
I was early in to the second half of my freshman year at Marywood at the time. We used to do short newscasts and sportscasts on the college radio station, so I had a pretty good idea of what was going on in the world.
The significance of the event isn't lost on me, and Al Michaels, then of ABC, turned in an outstanding performance.
I'm just saying the whole thing really didn't push my buttons.
Monday, February 24, 2020
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Saturday, February 22, 2020
Friday, February 21, 2020
Walmart founder Sam Walton used to have a sign in his stores, near the manager's office. It said simply "MBWA." It stands for management by walking around. Walton wanted his managers out on the floor, seeing what works, helping customers, assisting employees, etc.
I've adopted some of that on my daily travels through the universe.
I was on my way home from the gym yesterday morning, and it was apparently trash day in the neighborhoods I traveled through. Three things jumped out at me.
The first is something I've mentioned before. Northeastern Pennsylvanians love their pizza. Just about every home had pizza boxes out for the trash or the recycling.
The second, it's clear that a lot of stores had television sales in advance of Super Bowl Sunday. At least one home on every street had a new television box out with the trash.
The third kind of stunned me, but in reality, it shouldn't. It was the amount of Amazon boxes at curbside. The company appears to have a stranglehold on American commerce, and I will admit to being part of that. It's not difficult to understand why Macy's is struggling, why Sears/KMart is circling the drain, why malls are empty. People love Amazon. I've found its prices to be average, but you can't beat the convenience.
I feel so trashy.
Thursday, February 20, 2020
Let's back up a bit.
A mayor will be judged on safe streets, efficient firefighting, timely trash collection, nice parks and filled pot holes. Financial solvency is also a plus. Scranton is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and it's been that way for a while. It is a problem inherited by the new mayor. It's none of her doing, but it's now on her plate.
A flag isn't high on the list.
As I have noted here before, it's also a mayor's job to get citizens feeling good about themselves and their city. Scranton's Jim McNulty was the best I ever saw-- master showman, fantastic promoter. He thought big, and that is a rare commodity around here.
There is nothing wrong with the old flag. A new one might be the first step toward a new image, and a symbol of new thinking. It just seems to me there are other problems that need to be tackled first. It's like slapping a fresh coat of paint on a house with a crumbling foundation.
Wednesday, February 19, 2020
There has been a big debate in the industry over something former ABC News correspondent Sam Donaldson just did. Sam blasted President Trump and endorsed Michael Bloomberg for president.
The Poynter organization, a group that overthinks media issues, believes Donaldson shouldn't have done it. Once a journalist, always a journalist. Below is a quote from Poynter.
Donaldson is free to do as he pleases, but it’s disappointing and damaging that he felt his endorsement of a presidential candidate was more important than preserving the integrity of the institution that he served so well for most of his life. With all due respect to Donaldson, I’m not sure his endorsement helps Bloomberg as much it hurts journalism.
I have news for Poynter, but this is not a new phenomenon. Dan Rather regularly goes on CNN and bashes the current administration. Rather hasn't endorsed anyone for president but you clearly know how the guy feels.
Anderson Cooper on CNN clearly doesn't like what is happening in Washington. Yet, CBS allows him to freelance for "60 Minutes."
MSNBC allows Rachel Madow to coanchor political coverage, and that makes me cringe.
The Donaldson move does seem to reinforce the "liberal media" stereotype.
FOX News seems to do a better job of separating opinion and news programming, but you know about the network's agenda.
Okay, so where do I fall on the Donaldson issue?
Should he have done it? No.
Is it a big deal? No.
Tuesday, February 18, 2020
That's all well and good. From the pictures I saw in the newspaper, the murals seem well done and perfectly fine. The artist is very talented.
My issue is... the casino is in Luzerne County. Don't we have anything around here that's mural-worthy? The Susquehanna River, Public Square, Luzerne County Courthouse, the mountains, the colleges, one of the last remaining KMarts, the airport roundabouts...
It's often said people around here have a poor self image. Celebrating the good things in our area, in mural form, would be a nice start toward fixing that. Let's stop living in the shadows of the big cities.
Monday, February 17, 2020
It's not difficult to see Macy's problems. Many of its stores in malls and malls are struggling. I frequently pass through the Viewmont Mall Macy's. Nice stores. Nice merchandise, but just a touch on the pricey side. The issue is the shopping experience. There isn't one. The place always looks the same.
The same can be said for Kohl's. It's stores don't change much, but as a big box store, it can get away with that. Kohl's is getting rid of a bunch of employees at the corporate office, a move the company says it needs to improve efficiency.
My heart goes out to all the Kohl's and Macy's people who are losing their jobs.
The same goes for the people at Wells Fargo. A banking industry expert sees a round of cost cutting and layoffs this year.
A major American newspaper chain, McClatchy, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week. People aren't buying newspapers. Newspapers are becoming more successful at monetizing the internet, but they still have a way to go. It appears the papers will stay in business, but this one really has me worried.
Do you know anyone itching to take a cruise these days?
Published reports have retired baseball star Alex Rodriguez interested in buying the New York Mets. I can't see how this can be a bad thing. The franchise has lacked direction for years.
Wendy's starts serving breakfast early next month. Competition makes everyone stronger. There are a lot of places where you can get an egg sandwich. In my book, service makes the difference. Get me in and out-- fast.
Sunday, February 16, 2020
I used a fast shutter speed here to better capture the motion of the water. While your eye is naturally drawn to the "rapids" in the middle of the shot, take a close look at the lower left. You can practically see every drop move.
A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. I've been watching You Tube photography "how to" videos and I bought a book. 2020 is the year I try to up my photography game.
Saturday, February 15, 2020
The shot above isn't a wave crashing in to the Pacific coast. It's the Lackawanna River at Blakely.
Unfortunately, I can't remember the shutter speed, but it was exceptionally fast. I used a 50 mm prime lens.
I went with the fast shutter speed because I read that it will accentuate the chop of the water. You see every drop.
A wider view will be featured here tomorrow.
Friday, February 14, 2020
The Major League Baseball commissioner has to be out of his mind. His playoff expansion plan will make the game a joke-- like the NHL and NBA, where everyone gets in to the playoffs and the regular season means nothing.
Weekend number 2 of the XFL is coming up. The league has its roots in wrestling, and I'm not a fan of that. I didn't watch any of the opening weekend games. Still, I hope the league succeeds. There is room for spring time football.
Jim Carrey is in trouble for crude remarks to a reporter. It seems like Carrey was just trying to get noticed, which hasn't happened much lately.
The Scranton School District lead and asbestos contamination issue is headed for federal court. A lawsuit was filed this week. A lot of people need to answer the question "What did you know, and when did you know it?" Several people, including some big names, dropped off the radar screen this week. They will have to emerge sooner or later.
I know they are relatively minor events, but the words "winter weather advisory" make me cringe.
Presidents Day weekend is here-- the last three day weekend of winter.. It's been a mild winter but it still feels like the longest of the four seasons.
Tourist trains have returned to Jim Thorpe. I'm glad the amusement tax issue was worked out. Jim Thorpe is nice-- and even better with trains.
Happy Valentine's Day! I hope it's a good one.
Thursday, February 13, 2020
It's been a while since I've analyzed presidential politics. We've had two early contests, so it seems like the perfect time.
First of all, I thought Kamala Harris and Cory Booker brought a lot to the process, especially Harris. I was a little surprised when neither caught fire and both dropped out of the race relatively early. Months ago, Newt Gingrich predicted Harris would be the Democratic nominee, and I saw the wisdom in that. Her campaign never caught fire.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg have to be smiling after strong showings in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Sanders' age and recent heart attack don't seem to be issues, at least during this early stage of the campaign. There are concerns about Buttigieg's ability to draw minority voters, but that's not a factor in states like Iowa and New Hampshire.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is struggling. She has to show some traction, and fast. It seems like many of her followers drifted over to the Sanders camp.
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar impressed many with her performance during last week's debate on ABC, and she pulled decent numbers in New Hampshire, but not enough to really be a factor. That could change, if and when voters seek a moderate Democrat. If Klobuchar stays in the upper-middle of the pack, she has to become a prime pick for the second place spot on the ticket. I could see her getting a major boost if Joe Biden continues to struggle. More on that in a moment.
And then there is Scranton native and former Vice President Joe Biden. Poor showing in Iowa. Poor showing in New Hampshire. If you remember, he showed very strong in the early polls and a certain blogger said that was simply due to the fact he had the most name and face recognition. It was bound to change as the campaign heated up and the other candidates became better known.
So, what is Biden's problem? He's still in the center as his party moves left. Biden and his campaign seem to lack vitality and energy, and there are still unanswered questions over his son's business interests in Ukraine. The New York Post called it a "spectacular collapse." Joe Biden talks about the past a lot when voters seem more interested in their futures.
Look, this is far, far from over. South Carolina and Nevada are on the horizon, both states where Biden can do well. He needs a win, badly. A Yahoo! politics story had Biden struggling with fund raising. I can't see how it gets any better after New Hampshire.
There is one name that's been absent so far-- Michael Bloomberg. The former New York mayor was essentially on the sidelines in Iowa and New Hampshire. That changes. He will become a factor simply because he's a billionaire and has the willingness to spend it.
Wednesday, February 12, 2020
Skunks get hungry at the end of the winter, and they go looking for love when spring arrives.
This year is something out of the ordinary. The skunks never went away, at least in my neighborhood. They were a constant presence because the weather never really cooled off, and temperatures never went below zero. I smelled. I saw.
I really think we're in for an early spring, in spite of some really cold weather predicted for the end of the week and the start of the weekend. The skunks know.
Tuesday, February 11, 2020
As I have said before, whether or not you agree with his politics, Rush Limbaugh is a skilled broadcaster. He's on 600 radio stations and pulls big numbers. There are some shows also on a huge number of stations, but they're on in the evening or late at night. There is one guy who has a financial advice show. For the life of me, I can't understand his popularity. The same goes for the overnight guy who spends all of his time talking about Martians and the end of the world.
Back to Rush...
This is not an exaggeration. I really think he saved AM radio. Rush proved a syndicated mid day show can work, and generate a big audience. He's keeping the lights on at a lot of stations around the country. If and when he steps away from the mic, a lot of stations are going to be in big trouble. There is no one even close in his category.
Limbaugh recently public with his diagnosis of advanced lung cancer. This doesn't end well.
President Trump gave Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom during last week's State of the Union address last week.
I will be the first to acknowledge that Rush Limbaugh said some mean and awful things about people over the years. He's a bomb thrower. The award set off a new wave of anti Limbaugh attacks. I understand why some people don't like him. I get that. His remarks were indefensible. Still, I found jumping on a 69 year old man dying of cancer to be in horrible taste.
The worst thing you can do to someone in the media is ignore them. There were other State of the Union things to talk about.
The view is always nicer from the high road.
Monday, February 10, 2020
If you're a regular here, you know I love old game shows and Johnny Carson. Orson made more than 200 "Tonight" show appearances in the Paar and Carson days. He was a regular on the "To Tell the Truth" and "Match Game" panels.
Orson Bean was the guy everybody wanted to be-- smart, witty, funny, and fast. He could tell a joke. He could tell a longer story. Always engaging. The life of the party.
Orson Bean had the best line when describing why he quit "To Tell the Truth." Bean simply said "I didn't want to learn anything any more." By the way, he eventually came back. His record of discerning the guest from the impostors was average, but he knew how to play the game-- have fun, but take the game itself seriously.
Having said all that, go to You Tube one of these days and search for a couple of "Concentration" pilots Orson Bean hosted. He was awful. Bean admitted that in an interview, saying being a host is a much different skill set from being on a celebrity panel. That version of "Concentration" was never picked up by a network or syndicator. I can see why. They tried to modernize the game, and it fell flat. The version that made it to NBC daytime, with Alex Trebek as host, was much more true to the original.
Also, go to IMDB.com. Orson Bean had a long list of acting credits. The guy had talent in several areas.
I swear this next part is true. I was walking through the Viewmont Mall in Dickson City, one morning, several years ago, and I saw a dapper elderly man making his way through the stores. If it wasn't Orson Bean, it was an exact double. I regret not stopping to say hello and ask if he was the genuine article.
It was an awful way for Orson Bean to exit the planet and I am truly sad.
Orson Bean was 91.
Sunday, February 9, 2020
Same morning as yesterday's picture, but a different location. This is a shot above Interstate 81, taken from Reeves Street in Dunmore. The headlights are southbound. Taillights are northbound.
Like yesterday, it was shot with a 24 mm lens, with an exposure of 25 seconds.. Trees and weeds obstruct the view. I'll have to try it with a non-prime lens next time. I was attracted to the prime lens here because it is more "low light friendly."
It wasn't the best morning to shoot. It's tough to tell in this picture, but there was a snow shower at the time. Auto focus wouldn't kick in because of the lack of light, so I had to do it manually, which wasn't easy with glasses wet from the snow.
The experiment was promising enough to try it again.
Saturday, February 8, 2020
This is a recent view from the parking lot of the Viewmont Mall. I'm at the end, near where Sears used to be, looking down on Interstate 81 and the North Scranton Expressway.
This was my first experiment with slow shutter speeds. In this case, I had it open for 25 seconds. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, Interstate 81 runs left to right. The expressway rund below and goes off in to the distance. Downtown Scranton is in the upper left.
This was also my first experiment with a new 24 mm pancake lens. It's a prime lens, so what you see is what you get. No zoom. That's how I got stuck with a bunch of weeds and wires in the foreground. It did an exceptionally nice job capturing the streaks of headlight and tail light, and I am especially pleased with the way the green overhead signs pop.
For the first time employing the technique, it's not bad. There are some fairly serious flaws with the photo, and I hope to correct those with more practice.
I only tried the shot with the pancake lens. It was a quick impromptu trip, an experiment. My kit lenses and gear bag were deliberately left at home.
Friday, February 7, 2020
Something went wrong on Caucus Night Monday. It took hours and hours and hours to get the results.
Iowa has a lot of significance because it is traditionally the first presidential contest of the year, so it's important they get it right.
Part of getting right means dumping the caucus system and voting the way the rest of the country does.
I get the whole "quaint and tradition" thing, but its time has passed.
Watching MSNBC in the early hours of Tuesday was amusing. There were no new numbers, so the pundits, plus Brian Williams and Rachel Madow were spent the morning dissecting the Hillary Clinton versus Bernie Sanders contest of 2016.
Iowa, there has to be a better way.
America, there has to be a better way. Some have suggested a handful of regional primaries, and that seems to make a lot of sense.
We have an odd way of selecting the leader of the free world.
Thursday, February 6, 2020
I went off on tobacco Monday. Later that day, Rush Limbaugh announced he has advanced lung cancer. The man was a cigar fan. I say "was" because I assumed he stopped smoking after the diagnosis. As I have said here before, whether or not you agree with Limbaugh's politics, he is a skilled and entertaining broadcaster, and I'm sorry he is sick. I still have no idea how American society and government tolerate a product that has killed so many, and has cost our economy trillions in lost productivity. If a mouse gets a tumor from red dye, it comes off the market. Tobacco skates by.
More thoughts on Rush Limbaugh in the days to come.
I picked the San Francisco 49ers to win the Super Bowl over the Kansas City Chiefs. Wrong. Well, I was actually right for three and a half quarters. I will always take the team with the better defense, in this case, SF. I didn't see that collapse coming.
As is my habit, I did not see one second of the game. It was on TV when I got to work Sunday night, but I was too busy to look up and watch. Even if I had the time, I probably wouldn't have watched. I can't think of a Super Bowl I cared about less. I'm assuming I'll break my record next year. TV ratings climbed a bit over last year. I'm sorry I didn't help.
Some felt the JLo/Shakira half time show wasn't family friendly. I didn't see enough of the clips and replays to judge. It looked like it might have been over the top. That's up to you to decide.
In a Super Bowl commercial, Mr. Peanut died and was reborn. There was considerable weeping and wailing here in our area because Planters Nuts started in Wilkes-Barre. My friend, the Prospector on Rock 107 got this one right. He said we shouldn't care because Planters abandoned Wilkes-Barre, and still does nothing for our area. It's time to move on. Amen.
Pete Rose is seeking reinstatement to Major League Baseball. He feels he should get a break because the cheating Astros got off comparatively easy. No. Never. Ever. If Rose gets back in, it will be like when my team, the Steelers, signed dog killer Michael Vick. I'm out! I'm done! Finished.
I've often said the first four years of MASH were among the best shows ever on television. One of the people responsible, Gene Reynolds, died this week. 96. Reynolds also helped put "Lou Grant" on the air-- a solid show and I really admired how the producer took a character from a comedy and turned it in to an outstanding drama.
Wednesday, February 5, 2020
I am no genius when it comes to aviation, but here is my two cents.
I flew with Bob Gobla and Scott Butler at WYOU.
I flew with Dave Frey and Randy Freeman at WNEP.
I flew in a stunt plane for a WNEP story, and I flew in a Vietnam era National Guard helicopter for another story on WARM.
If I didn't feel safe, I wouldn't have done any of it.
I've had flights where we got knocked around in the wind. Visibility was fine.
The only time I was a little nervous was one Monday, when rain forced a postponement in a Pocono race from the day before. The reason for my anxiety was other air traffic over the track-- three other helicopters. Air traffic controllers gave each of us an individual altitude, and as long as no one strayed, we would all be fine. We were.
I will admit to being considerable relived when our noon broadcast was over and we were heading back to the pad at the station.
The bottom line-- quit speculating, and let the experts do their jobs.
Tuesday, February 4, 2020
He helped CBS maintain its powerhouse status for decades. His decisions while at ABC vaulted that network to the top. He presided over some landmark quality programming at NBC. After leaving the networks, Silverman's production company was responsible for "Matlock," among several others.
Fred Silverman gave David Letterman an underappreciated NBC daytime show. It bombed, but it led to Letterman's "Late Night." He also helped developed "Scooby Doo."
Do yourself a favor. There parts of a Fred Silverman interview on You Tube. Watch. Listen. You'll hear his talk about legendary shows, actors, and decisions. Listen for something else-- the passion. The joy. Fred Silverman clearly loved what he did.
Fred Silverman died last week. 82. The word "genius" is tossed around too frequently. It really applies here.
Monday, February 3, 2020
This country recently went ape over the problems associated with vaping. Several people died. It's leading to increased scrutiny of the vaping industry and that makes sense.
A recent report released by the American Lung Association is flying under the radar. It says Pennsylvania's anti tobacco efforts need a lot of work and Pennsylvania's anti workplace smoking regulations are among the weakest in the nation.
Apparently, the casinos and the tobacco companies have better lobbyists than the American Lung Association and health groups. A web search shows bills to strengthen anti smoking laws never made it out of committees.
A state senator from Erie introduced a bill to get rid of the exceptions for all bars and clubs-- except casinos.
Follow the money.
There is no safe level of second hand smoke.
Yes, there is a simple solution-- don't go to any place that allows smoking. It's worked for me.
Yet, this appears to be another case where the state is failing its residents.
And, one more thing before I go... AAA reports an increase in the number of crashes in places where recreational marijuana is legal. Think long and hard about that one.
PS: yes, i was wrong about the Super Bowl. More on that later this week.
Sunday, February 2, 2020
This is the second time I've witnessed the phenomenon at the Dunmore store.
The driver was in the store when I visited, in the seating area, going over something on his laptop.
Turkey Hill has upped its game in recent years, and it has some exceptional stores. Its ice cream is outstanding. I guess the driver couldn't resist the allure of hot food at 1:30 in the morning.
Saturday, February 1, 2020
This is a building used by Reading & Northern in Fairview Township, alone Route 437 in the Mountaintop area of Luzerne County.
Unfortunately, there were no freight trains here during a recent visit. It was a crystal clear day, a "sterling" day as old friend J. Kristopher used to say. Blue sky. Sunshine, and a nice view of the broadcasting towers on top of Penobscot Knob in Hanover Township in the distance.
A train would have made it perfect, but it's still a nice shot.