Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bad Photography Sunday: Dushore Churches

I don't know why I don't visit Sullivan County more often.  I spent a few hours there the other morning-- a great place to explore with a camera, and no shortage of subjects.

A couple churches, high on a hill off Main Street caught my eye.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bad Photography Saturday: Lovelton Church

As has been noted earlier, if I have a camera in the car, I can't resist taking pictures of old churches in rural areas.

This one is along Route 87 in Lovelton, Wyoming County, not far from the Sullivan County line.
The sign says the church was established in 1972, but the building looks older.  It's possible the congregation moved into an existing building 40 years ago.

No matter.  It's a pretty building in a very nice location.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Mailing it In

It is one of those heart versus head conflicts.

The United States Postal Service is in trouble.  Business is down.  Costs are up.

The Postal Service has proposed closing thousands of small town post offices as a way to save money.  Saturday delivery is also on the chopping block.

I'd hate to see it happen, but I can understand it.

Post offices are part of the fabric of the community, places that give a small town its identity.

I can live without Saturday delivery, and I'm all for it if it makes the system stronger.

Personally, all I really need is a place to buy stamps.  I'l lucky in that I work near a big post office that has an automated stamp machine in the lobby.  I wish the postal service would install more of those in stores and malls.

It's rare that I ship a package or a big envelope.  When I do, I appreciate the expertise of the USPS employee behind the counter.

Trying to make lemonade out of this lemon, a cut back at the USPS opens up more opportunity for the private services and those "pack and send" places.  Filling the government void could create jobs.

Speaking of government, the debate over a plan to get the state out of the liquor business continues in Harrisburg.

The process is fascinating.  It's clear the state needs some sort of reform and modernization.  It's unclear how far Harrisburg is willing to go.  It's possible the current system can remain, with some modifications.  There are those pushing a plan to turn just about everything over to private enterprise.

Harrisburg moves at a glacial place, so you can bet that this one won't be decided for quite a while.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Road Trips

Here's the abridged version of a couple recent road trips...

I parked the car at a meter and walked around downtown Wilkes-Barre the other day.  I had no problems finding a really good space at a meter, and that's a tip off that business could be better.  It shouldn't be impossible to find a space.  The streets shouldn't be empty, either.

There was a decent amount of foot traffic and people having lunch outside, in spite of the heat.  As I've said before, most cities would kill for a space like Public Square in the middle of downtown.  It's nice to see so much activity there.

A few things were striking-- like the overwhelming stench of sewer gas on South Washington Street, how much the big department store needs an overhaul and some air conditioning, and the number of vacant buildings.

Every city has storefront vacancies, but the Wilkes-Barre ones looked horrible.  At least, try to clean them up a little.  Trash abounds.

My other recent trip was through Wyoming, Sullivan, and Bradford counties.  The scenery was splendid, especially Sullivan County.

While dump trucks and water trucks were everywhere, thanks to the Marcellus Shale drilling, I only saw a couple wells.  It's entirely possible I wasn't looking in the right places-- and I didn't venture that far up into Bradford County.

I was spinning around the radio dial.  WKSB, Kiss FM, from Williamsport booms in.  After all these years, Gary Chrisman still does an outstanding morning show.  He doesn't mail it in.  There was something entertaining in every break, with a really good energy level, and that's not easy to do.

Elsewhere, I found some music I liked, but the guy behind the microphone talked for the sake of talk.  It was pointless chatter.

I took a few pictures on the northern tier trip, and I'll bore you with those in the days to come.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Another One ?!?!?!?!

It broke my heart.  Sheetz has joined Turkey Hill and Joe's Kwik Marts in developing a loyalty card program.

When you work odd hours, you live in mini marts.  There's nothing like an icy cold soda and a sandwich made three days ago at 2 AM.

I can't say I'm a fan of loyalty cards.  It's just another step in the process, a delay of the ultimate transaction. 

There's nothing worse than being in a long line, with the person in front of you buying lottery tickets for every drawing until Christmas Eve, and the people behind you breathing down your neck.  You now have to whip out your loyalty card to get a dime off your soda.

Yes, every penny adds up.

It would be nicer if the mini mart owners would take that money, install some additional cash registers, hire the people to run them, and give them a good raise.

Being known as the place that gets you in and out in an instant will draw more customers than any loyalty card discount program.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mixed Feelings

It has been said many times, many ways, that television news is a combination of things you want to know, and things you need to know.

Amy Winehouse died Saturday.  27 years old.  She was a talented, Grammy award winning singer, who fought the demons of drugs and alcohol for the past few years.  She was all over the tabloids and the internet.  It was like watching a train wreck, excepted it lasted years rather than seconds.

General John Shalikashvili also died Saturday.  He was the Polish immigrant who rose to become chairman of the joint chiefs of staff under President Clinton.  The man had a chest filled with medals and ribbons.  Clinton called Shalikashvili a "soldier statesman"  He was supreme NATO commander under the first President Bush.

Guess which one got more ink and air time over the weekend.

I'm not happy about it, either.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Down Time

I've worked eight out of the last nine overnight shifts, and now, I get to enjoy a little time off.

Let's put things in perspective.  I'm not outside, digging a ditch in 100 degree heat.  I'm not fighting a fire in 1000 degree heat.

I'm in a comfortable, air conditioned building, sitting in a nice, padded chair-- with snacks, drinks and a clean bathroom close by.  I have a good job.

Still, I'm a little tired.

So, what will I be doing with my down time?  Nothing.  Well, I shouldn't say "nothing."  I'll be walking the dog, getting a hair cut, out playing with my camera, reading, visiting the dollar store, and sleeping.  Plenty of sleep.  I can't stress that enough.

I'll be thoroughly enjoying my week.  I hope yours is a good one.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bad Photography Sunday: Scranton

Today, it's another new shot of something you've seen here before.

One of these days, I'll compile a list of my favorite building in northeastern and central Pennsylvania.  This one will be near the top.  It's the Scranton Life building at Spruce Street and Adams Avenue.

Architecture is like art.  It's subjective.  It's just a big box, but it has a lot of character.

The building seems to change color with the time of day-- white at sunrise, grey midday, and golden at sunset.  I wonder if it was designed that way.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bad Photography Saturday: Scranton

This weekend, new views of things you've seen here before.

I was playing with the camera on a recent morning, not long after sunrise.

In the right light, the Lackawanna County Courthouse can look like a castle, surrounded by that awful and inappropriate for the site, moat of concrete and granite.

This is the view from the corner of North Washington Avenue, and Linden Street.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Six Months

Today is a minor milestone, of sorts.  I opened my Twitter account six months ago.

So, what's the verdict?  It's not working.  Incoming:  it's not the information bonanaza I hoped it would be.  PPL is great.  So are the newspapers and PennDOT.  WNEP gets an "A."  Others:  not so good.

Outgoing:  I wasn't using the platform to its fullest extent.  Some of my co-workers really know how to make this work, and I tip my cap to them.

I'm glad 101 people signed to "follow" me.  It was greatly appreciated.
It's time to move on.  Let's look at this as a noble, but failed, experiment.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Borders: 1971-2011

We've learned a lot this week.  Here is a summary of some of the findings.

Numbers don't lie.  The majority of businesses that declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection eventually fail.

Borders says it can't find a buyer and will liquidate.  In other words, the 400 store chain, down from 1,000, is going out of business.

It doesn't make a difference if an individual store is doing well.  You live and die on the strength of the company.  After the Chapter 11 declaration in February, a source said the Dickson City store is one of the chain's better performers.  It will close like the rest

You have to get in there and plant your flag early.  Amazon  and Barnes & Noble did faster, better jobs of developing e-readers and on line sales.

America is changing.  Apparently, we don't like brick and mortar book stores these days.  As I look on my shelves, I see that the majority of my purchases came from Amazon.  Still, you can't beat the charm of a quality book store, and the thrill of coming across a great find as you browse the aisles.

I read a comment that said Borders put a lot of mom and pop book stores out of business over the years, so it's pay back time.  That may very well be true, but who's suffering here?  The answer:  the 11,000 people who lose their jobs when Borders closes.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Concrete Crumbles

I've been pulling several extra overnight shifts lately, so that means I have a little free time during the day.

Monday, I took a drive from Scranton to Wilkes-Barre to do a little sightseeing and shopping.  My walk around downtown Wilkes-Barre is another blog, for another time.  Today, I'm concentrating on the drive.  Specifically, Interstate 81, north and south.

The bridges are a mess.  I'm not talking about little potholes.  We have some giant craters.

I just don't get it.  We live in the most civilized, most technologically advanced country in the world, and we can't make a bridge that doesn't fall apart.

We have smart phones, GPS, LED's, tagless underwear, and vanilla flavored vodka.  Yet, a solid piece of concrete somehow eludes us.

I don't want to hear about salt corroding the rebar, the freeze-thaw cycle, and heavy trucks.   There has to be a solution, a way to fix this.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Business News

Wilkes-Barre is getting a new indoor lacrosse team.  The name:  the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Shamrocks.  The owner was quoted in the Times~Leader as saying “We could not have picked a more appropriate name.”  Do you want a second opinion?

It looks like the Borders book store chain is done.  The company is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.  A take over deal fell through.  Next step:  liquidation.  Even though I do the vast majority of my book shopping and buying on-line, I did occasionally visit the Dickson City store and I'm sorry to see it go.  There is still a chance for a late miracle.  Some court things are planned later this week.  Stay tuned, but it doesn't look good.

More than a dozen Wilkes-Barre employees recently took the day off to attend a fund raising golf tournament that was part of the mayor's re-election campaign.  I have no problem with taking time off, but if 14 city employees can be off, and the city still runs, perhaps we have too many city employees.

We're in the second half of summer.  Staples started back to school specials two weeks ago.  Walmart is filled with school supplies and uniforms.  Like the Christmas shopping season, back to school time seems to begin earlier every year.

The Major League Baseball All Star Game earned its lowest overnight ratings ever last week.  I wonder if if will migrate to cable during the next contract.  I can't see how FOX is happy paying big money for a small audience.

CMC-Scranton and Geisinger are merging.  In case you need a reminder, health care = big business.  Many wonder how Scranton can continue to support three hospitals.  CMC and Regional are now part of big corporations.  It will be interesting to see what happens with Moses Taylor, or as they say in Scranton, "The Moses."

>>>10:30 AM UPDATE:  Moses Taylor Hospital is being acquired by Community Health Systems.  It's the same company that owns Wilkes-Barre General and Scranton's Mercy Hospital (now Regional Hospital of Scranton).  One paragraph in the sale announcement news release jumped out at me:

Moses Taylor and Regional Hospital of Scranton will each continue to offer healthcare services on their respective campuses while the two hospitals work collaboratively to plan how they will deliver clinical services for the future.

Translation:  Moses Taylor Hospital will be a very different place in the future.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Those Were the Days

Once upon a time, if you had a job in the Keystone Industrial Park, you were on the gravy train with biscuit wheels.  You worked hard, but the money was good.

The park straddles Throop and Dunmore.  At one time, it was home to heavyweights like RCA, Norton, Emery, and Harper & Row.  Some remain.  Most are gone.

I remember getting a tour of RCA during my radio days.  It was a fascinating place, and there was sense of pride knowing that picture tubes for many of America's TV's were manufactured in our own back yard.

Ocean Logistics, pictured above, announced last week it's closing its Keystone Industrial Park warehouse.  200 people lose their jobs.  Some workers have been here for decades.

We like pinning blame when things like this happen.  Ocean Logistics was hurt by the bankruptcy of A&P, and that's a sad story in and of itself.  At one time, A&P was a dominant grocery store chain, but it it lost its way.  It barely hangs on.

I can remember the time, and it wasn't that long ago, when you avoided Keystone Industrial Park roads, Marshwood Road and Cypress Street in Throop, and the O'Neill Highway in Dunmore at 7:30 AM and 4:00 PM.  Traffic was a nightmare.  Now, you can coast through the area without a problem.

Where are all the good jobs?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bad Photography Sunday: Waymart Church

A clear day, blue sky, green trees, and white clapboards-- it's an unbeatable combination.

Today, it's another church in Waymart.  As I said yesterday, Thursday was a great day to visit Wayne County.  It was the perfect summer day.
I'm a weather geek, so I've noticed we're in the hottest time of the year and the days are getting shorter.

If you're a "summer person," enjoy it while you can.  Fall is in the not too distant future.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Bad Photography Saturday: Waymart Church

The last time I spent any significane time in Waymart, it was 2006, and a large section of town was under water.

The weather was great for my latest visit-- Thursday afternoon.  It was sunny and clear with plenty of blue skies.  There was none of that haze and humidity that hangs over our area in the summer.

I'm a sucker for pretty, little country churches, and this one caught my eye.
Of course, utility poles, wires and transformers marred the view, but I've come to accept that as part of photography in northeastern and central Pennsylvania.

Another church occupies this space tomorrow.

Friday, July 15, 2011

15 Years

Sunday is the 15th anniversary of the crash of TWA 800 off the coast of Long Island.  229 died, including 16 high school students from Montoursville and five chaperones.

It was one of the most unforgettable days in my career, and here's the short version of what happened.

I was working for another TV station in 1996.  That day was marked by highs and lows.

The reporter who lived and worked in central Pennsylvania was pouting over an internal station political issue and refused to answer her phone when we learned of the local connection to the Long Island crash, so my phone rang late at night.  I didn't mind.  It was a good story.

I met a photographer at the office in downtown Scranton.  We jumped in a truck and headed west on Route 118.  It was a misty and foggy night.  I thought the photographer was driving a little too fast.  I could see the glow of deer eyes along the road, and I was praying one of the animals didn't jump out in front of us.  We made it to Montoursville without incident.

I was struck by something when we pulled in to town.  Every light in every house was on.  It was 1:00 AM, but there was so much activity, it looked like 7:00 PM.  No one slept that night.

We went to Montoursville High School.  The district had its "disaster plan" in effect.  I don't think it worked.  21 dead from one school district was overwhelming.  I mean no disrespect to the school district people.  The situation was impossible.

We did some interviews and put together a story.  Our pouting reporter and another photographer finally showed up in Montoursville a few hours after I did.  Another problem developed.

The station had an office in downtown Williamsport, but the microwave link that got the video from Williamsport to home base was broken.  The station also had a satellite truck, but in an effort to make a few dollars, it was rented out to a TV station from Washington, DC and was sitting at Washington Redskins training camp in Carlisle, PA.

There was no choice.  It was back in the truck for the ride back to Scranton.  I think I wrote the story in record time, and the photographer edited it in a flash.

Here comes another problem.  At the time, our morning news didn't start until 6:30 AM.  The story from Montoursville was too big to wait.  I assembled the production crew and asked if they'd be ready to go on the air at 6:00 AM.  They were a great bunch, and we did a ten minute special report at 6:00 AM.  I tossed it back to the network, and we did our usual broadcast at 6:30.  By the way, the morning anchor knew nothing about this.  She was putting on her make up or something and didn't seem to care about what we were doing.

In spite of all the handicaps, I thought we did a reasonably decent job.  It could have, and should have been done better.  I'm always reminded of something Philadelphia, and later NBC reporter Jessica Savitch once said:  "Do the best with what you have, where you are."  We did our best.

One of my interviews from Montoursville wound up on the "CBS Evening News with Dan Rather" that night.  Another portion was used in a later CNN documentary.

I'm sorry if this is too "inside baseball" for you.  On the other hand, some of you like learning about the behind the scenes stuff.

When you're covering tragedy, and your best laid plans are falling apart around you, I never fail lose sight of the people who have it worse than I do-- the victims and their families.  Thinking about that puts it all in perspective.  I could live with a disgruntled co-worker and failing equipment.

Too many died too fast, too young that night 15 years ago.  The heartache will never go away.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What Have We Become?

I've been sickened by watching the debate over the budget, the deficit, and the debt ceiling.

There's enough blame to go around-- the president, both houses of congress, both political parties...

Through all of this, I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes of all time, and it came from Minnesota senator and vice president Hubert Humphrey.  You've seen it here before.  It's worth repeating, and here it is.

It was once said that the moral test of Government is how that Government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.

The people we have elected to serve us, and work for our best interests have lost sight of that, and we are less of a nation as a result.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Common Thread

I never thought I would write about Betty Ford and Sherwood Schwartz in the same blog, but here goes.

Former first lady Betty Ford died last week at the age of 93.  She will be remembered for facing breast cancer with courage, and talking about it at a time when such things weren't discussed publicly.

She was also open about her addictions and she let people know her children experimented with marijuana.  At the time, her candor was stunning.

Betty Ford showed it was okay to be open and honest.  She discussed her problems without playing the victim.

Sherwood Schwartz passed away yesterday morning at the age of 94.  He wrote and created the 60's TV series "Gilligan's Island."

Schwartz showed it was okay to be silly, at least once in a while.

Both Ford and Schwartz made big contributions to American culture.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Media Notes

Wimbledon goes exclusively to cable, ESPN, beginning next year.  It's 43 year association with NBC is over.  Of course, money is the big factor.  The people who run the tournament say they didn't like NBC running some big matches on video delay.  One day, ESPN will have every major sporting event.  I'm not thrilled with the ESPN approach to things, but I do give management credit for making the ESPN sports networks THE place to be.  By the way, I'm not a Wimbledon watcher, so the network makes no difference to me.

I had zero interest in the Casey Anthony trial.  Granted, it was a horrible story, and my heart broke for the young victim.  HLN'S Nancy Grace makes my skin crawl, and that was one of the big reasons for avoiding trial coverage.  I did see some of the post-acquittal coverage, and no one, NO ONE, got it right.  It comes down to these two things, and you've heard me say them before.  First, it's a court of law, not a court of justice.  Second, a trial is not a search for the truth.  It's a judgement of evidence.  The lack of respect for the jury system exhibited by alleged legal experts was sickening.  Was Anthony guilty?  Likely.  Did the prosecution prove it beyond a reasonable doubt?  No.  Case closed.

CNN is reshuffling its line up again.  Former NY Governor Eliot Spitzer is out at 8 PM.  Anderson Cooper, someone I just don't get, is the new 8 PM guy.  Cooper's 8 PM show will be rebroadcast at 10 PM.  CNN promises updates in case of breaking news.  Still, the fact a major cable news network will have a taped "news" show at 10 PM is cause for concern.  Has CNN given up on the time period?  There is a place for Eliot Spitzer somewhere in the business, but as a commentator and expert-- not a show host.

James Spader has signed on to be a regular on "The Office."  A great actor will be wasted in a dreadfully unfunny sitcom.

I'm sorry I missed Al Michaels and Bob Costas doing a baseball game together on the MLB Network.  Michaels, Jim Palmer, and Tim McCarver made an excellent team on ABC in the 80's and 90's.

Vin Scully's long career as a major league baseball broadcaster is drawing to a close.  There's a move afoot to give him some innings during the FOX World Series coverage this fall.  Lead FOX broadcaster Joe Buck is on board with the plan, and I think it's a great idea.  Scully was never my cup of tea.  I always thought he was too wordy and unwilling to share the microphone.  Still, he's had an amazing career and deserves a little more time on the national stage.

Harry Smith is leaving CBS after 25 years.  He's heading to NBC to work on a new prime time news magazine.  I assume there will also be assignments on MSNBC.  I've always been a huge Harry Smith fan, and he's an under rated journalist.  Hiring him is a great move for NBC.

Newswatch 16 is now in HD.  That topic will get a blog of its own one of these days.

Monday, July 11, 2011

All Star Break

Minor league baseball is in its All Star break.  The season is in its second half, so I thought it would be a good time to take a look at the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees.

Once again, the local operation is next to last in attendance in the International League.  You can't blame it all on an aging stadium and a rainy spring. The SWB Yankees have done little to build the fan base and become part of the community.  That "we're doing you a favor by allowing you to come to the ballpark" attitude is still there.

If that isn't enough, there are reports circulating that the Yankees will move to Staten Island for a year during stadium reconstruction.  The proposed changes to the Moosic ballpark are extensive, so a temporary move appears to be a reasonable option.  Still, it's hard to excite the local fans when you play two hours away from home.

If you get a chance, take a look at the promotion calendar of other teams in the league.  They're always giving something away, and people love that.  While the Yankees have increased the freebies this year, other teams, especially our friends to the south, Lehigh Valley, leave them in the dust.

Yankees, you need more than fireworks.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Bad Photography Sunday: Tamaqua

One of the things I really enjoy seeing is new uses for old buildings.  The Tamaqua Historical Society and Museum is in the old First National Bank building on Broad Street.  

I really wanted to look around, but it was closed during my mid morning visit.

This is the way banks used to look-- multi stories, lots of stone, built for walk up business.  Now, one story, plenty of parking, and it has to have a drive through lanes with ATM's.  The convenience is great, but charm went out the window.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bad Photography Saturday: Tamaqua

Before I get to the photo, a little bit about the news gathering and reporting process...

I was in Tamaqua for a fire the other morning.  A pair of photographers and I got our video and did interviews.  I went back to the truck, fired up my laptop, wrote a script, zapped it back to the station, called in, went over the script with a member of the management team, got it approved, recorded my audio, and handed it off to the video editor to put together the final product.

I'm not the type of reporter that hovers over the editor to watch every shot dropped in to the piece.  First, I trust our staff.  Second, most editors hate someone looking over their shoulder.  We'll discuss what goes where while I'm writing.  I'm not the one who shot the video, so if the photographer has something they want included, they'll mention it to me, and I'll make sure to write it in to the story.

While my noon story was being edited, I grabbed my camera and went for a walk through Tamaqua.  Broad Street is impressive, with several old and restored homes and commercial buildings.

No trip through Tamaqua is complete without a stop to the train station.  There's no passenger service, so the train station is now holds stores, a restaurant, and a tourist information center.  The gas station that used to be here is long gone, replaced with a park-- including benches, trees, flowers, and a gazebo.

Tamaqua is an under rated town.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Bigger = Better ?

Consumer Reports did a new study of American fast food.  Two of the biggest chains, McDonald's and Burger King tested poorly in food quality and customer service.


I am.  A little. 

I find the food okay, albeit a bit pricey and not a good value.

Customer service is always a problem.  Fast food isn't very fast, and I've encountered far too many employees who could use lessons on politeness, manners and simply speaking loud enough to be heard and understood.

It shows bigger isn't necessarily better.

I know it's different with young people, who see fast food as a fun destination.  For me, the burger chains are places I hit when I need something fast.  In other words, I'm there when I need to be, not when I want to be.

Walmart is the same way.  Does anyone really "love" the Walmart experience?

I visit often because they have what I want and at decent prices.  Plus, and this is the overwhelming reason, Walmart is always open.

I have no problem finding what I need.  The problem comes when I get to the check out.  There are never enough lanes open, and if the person in front of you has a problem, like a return or a credit card issue you'd better go to the sporting goods section and grab a tent.  You're going to be there for a while.

I should note, I was in a Walmart Friday morning, last week, around 7, and I sailed through the check out.  Four lanes were open, and that's a lot for that time of day.  Maybe management ordered extra help because of an anticipated holiday weekend crush.

You would think "bigger" and "better" in the same sentence is an easy fit.  As the Consumer Reports survey shows, that is not always the case.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tamaqua Fire

It was just a sad morning.  There is no other way to describe it.

Two double homes on South Lehigh Street in Tamaqua went up in flames early Tuesday morning.  A third double home, the one on the far right of this photo, has heavy damage.  It can be saved.

11 people lost their homes, and everything inside.  Some lost pets.  There's a support network in place  The Red Cross and Salvation Army in the Tamaqua area are very active.  Many of the victims told me they are thankful they have family in town.

No one was hurt, and that is a miracle in and of itself.  3 AM fires are always frightening.  The fire chief says police officers helped wake up sleeping residents and get them to safety.  The fire was moving fast.  Seconds count.

There is always a moment or two, on stories like this, that you take home with you.  I talked with a man who lost one of his dogs, a pet he believes traveled upstairs to be with his master, when the home filled with smoke.  The man made it out.  The dog didn't.  I told the fire victim that, when he's ready and back on his feet, animal shelters are filled with dogs that need good homes.  He already knew that.  One of his dogs was a shelter rescue.  He'll visit a shelter when the time is right.

There are no happy endings on a story like this, but you do hope the fire victims recover as quickly and as painlessly as possible. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Song Remains the Same

You have to give Scranton credit.  It never changes.

I did a story for Newswatch 16 several years ago in the area around Franklin St., Spruce St., and Mifflin Ave.  Weeds had grown out of control.  I called the mayor.  He said he wasn't sure if it was the city or the property owner's responsibility, but the city would fix it.  He was true to his word.  By the way, the property owner is the state.  The weedy sidewalks are adjacent to the Career Link office, the place formerly known as the unemployment office.

I was driving past the other morning, and history was repeating itself.  Once again, the area had become a jungle, with weeds approaching the height of the parking meters.

The above photos were taken Thursday morning.  Let's look at the map for a second.  The forest of weeds is only a block away from the Mall at Steamtown, and just a few blocks away from the Steamtown National Historic Site.

Now, let's look at the calendar.  The photo was taken just before the start of the long Independence Day weekend, a time when thousands of visitors will be here to shop, look at the trains, and attend a weekend philharmonic concert and festival on Courthouse Square.

What would it take?  A city worker and a weed whacker could take care of the problem in a half hour.  I can understand a problem slipping through the cracks from time to time.  But, this has happened before, and there's no reason for a repeat occurrence.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Plymouth Flash Flood

I now spend the majority of my work week behind a desk, so I've missed a few natural disasters recently. 

That all changed yesterday morning, when I was sent to Plymouth to take a look at the damage from Sunday evening's flash flooding.  Above-- a mud covered Route 11, looking south and west.

Below, it's a look at what Coal Creek did to Coal Street.  A bridge was nearly washed away.  The home you see on the left lost part of its front yard.  Homes further off to the left lost their back yard.  Most had inches of dirt and mud in the house, and flooded basements.
The scenes up the hill were frightening.  Above, an SUV flipped on to its roof and buried in the street.  Theose are large slabs of asphalt on top of what used to be the bottom.

And below, this used to be a street. It's now part of Coal Creek.

As always, I was amazed that mud covered people who lost their homes were willing to take a moment to share their stories.  They were angry and frustrated.  They couldn't get answers to their questions from the people elected to serve them.

I can understand how there can be confusion during a disaster.  Let's hope this gets straightened out fast, and this neighborhood makes a quick recovery.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Free Speech

On this Independence Day, a celebration of free speech.

Mark Halperin turns up in several places, including Time magazine, as a political analyst.

Last week, on MSNBC, where he is a regular, Halperin called President Obama a slang word for a penis.

MSNBC has suspended Halperin indefinitely.

Mark Halperin is an educated man.  He uses words for a living.  He could have chosen better words for expressing his thoughts on the president's job performance.  In other words, Mark Halperin should have known better.

We're all human.  We all make mistakes.  Halperin apologized, and I'm okay with that.  This appears to be his first offense.  He's not Helen Thomas, a woman who made enough mistakes to earn a forced resignation.  He's not Don Imus, a man who has made a career out of being offensive.

MSNBC made the right call, and it would probably be better in the long run if both went their separate ways.  There's a place in the business, somewhere, for Mark Halperin.  While I was floored by his stupidity, this isn't a case for the journalistic version of the death penalty.

That brings us to today's discussion.  Halperin had the right to say what he did, but there are limits and boundaries.  If Mark Halperin was his own boss, if he stood on a street corner and began to pontificate, have at it.   He made the comment on MSNBC, and when you're on their channel, they make the rules.  It's that way everywhere. 

Thanks to the founding fathers for the United States Constitution and the 1st Amendment.

Happy Independence Day!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Bad Photography Weekend: Keystone

As I was walking around the Keystone College campus in Factoryville recently, I was looking for "the shot."  In other words, the picture that defines Keystone, a picture that people will instantly recognize.  I realized that Keystone doesn't have one of those.  It's a nice campus, and it appears to be a great place to go to school.  As far as an instantlyidentifyable building, I don't think the campus has one, and that doesn't make it a bad place.

Above is Harris Hall, a building constructed in 1870, and it's a lovely structure.

Notice, I said "Factoryville" in the first paragraph today.  Most of the campus is in Factoryville, but Keystone bills itself as being in LaPlume.  I think Factoryville sounds quaint and small town America.  The marketing people apparently disagree.  They think Factoryville conjures up images of dirty, grimey streets and buildings.  If you've ever been there, you know that isn't true.  The key is to get people to visit, and you have to get people in town first, and they think LaPlume is the way to do it.  So be it.

Before we hit "save" for the day, another view of Nokomis Creek, just behind Keystone's Factoryvillle/LaPlume campus.

Enjoy, and have a happy and safe Independence Day weekend.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Bad Photography Weekend: Keystone

I've been pulling a few more overnight shifts recently, and I usually try to stay up for a while after work.  A good way to do that is grab the camera, jump in the car, and explore.

I'd been here before, and it was time for a re-visit.  This is the suspension foot bridge over Nokomis Creek (also known as the south branch of Tunkhhannock Creek) behind Keystone Colllege in LaPlume..

It was a frustrating morning.  The weather in the valley was sunny and clear with bright blue skies.  It fell apart when i traveled north.  Just after "the notch," the skies clouded up and I hit some early morning fog.  The pictures came out okay.  They could have been better.

The bridge has quite a bounce and sway, but you never feel unsafe.

And then, there is the view.  It's worth the trip.

Tomorrow, another creek view and more about Keystone.

Friday, July 1, 2011

About the Cover

Independence Day is right around the corner, so I wanted to go with a patriotic/historical theme for this month's blog header.

Last July, I chose the Battle of Wyoming monument in Luzerne County.  This year, we've moved from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War.  We've moved north to downtown Scranton and Courthouse Square for a look at the memorial to General Philip Sheridan.

I Googled and Binged for quite a while.  I learned a lot about the general and I discovered this monument was erected in 1910.  I could not find why the fine people of Lackawanna County chose to honor Sheridan.  While his achievements are significant, I couldn't find a direct connection to Scranton.  Do you need a connection to get a monument?  No, not really.  I was just curious.

The Sheridan monument always reminded me of a giant chess piece.  I like it.  It's big and makes a statement without being overwhelming.  You can find it on the square, at Adams and Spruce.