Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bad Photography Sunday: Easton

Easton has a lot going for it-- a rich history, some really nice monuments, Lafayette College, the confluence of the Lehigh and Delaware Rivers...

But when I think of Easton, I think of one thing.  Dixie Cups.
Yes, they used to make Dixie Cups here, and the plant, with its cup shaped water tower still stands just outside the downtown.
The photos don't do it justice-- the plant is huge, and it takes up a big chunk of real estate.
It's right across the street from Easton Area High School.  Remember:  Once a Rover, always a Rover!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Bad Photography Saturday: Allentown

Allentown is like a lot of mid sized old industrial cities-- not much of a sky line.  This one was shot from left field at Coca Cola Park in late August.

If anyone knows a great spot to get a beauty shot of Allentown, please drop me a line.  I saw a few locations on the other side of the city, as you come down the hill in Salisbury Township, from Interstate 78 that had potential.

Friday, September 28, 2012

BlogCon 2012

NEPA BlogCon is tomorrow at Luzerne County Community College in Nanticoke.  You can read all about it here.  Simply put, it's a day all about bloggers and blogging.  It sounds like an interesting day.

I was asked to participate on a panel.  After all, I've been at this almost eight years.  Even though I was exceptionally flattered, I can't fit it into my schedule. The organizers tried to accommodate me, but the logistics don't work.  I work overnights, and LCCC is too far from home.

It is tradition to bore you with the story behind this blog every November 16th, on my blog's anniversary, so I'll save that discussion for a while.

Here is all you need to know about blogging:  have fun.  That's it.

Write about subjects that interest you, and hopefully, your readers.  Throw in a photo or graphic to spice it up.  Boom! Done!

One of the joys of blogging is also one of its drawbacks.  Anyone can write about anything.  Some writers can pull it off.  Others, who profess to be experts in a field, who really aren't, come off as silly.  You might get away with it once in a while.  Eventually, readers will realize you're a phony.  Advice:  stay in your comfort and knowledge zone.

There are some really good blogs out there, based in our area.  The list is

More advice, more of a plea actually, and it goes to my friends Kevin Jordan and Vince Sweeney:  please write more.

To BlogCon's organizers:  thank you for the invite, and I hope the day is a huge success.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

One Month

I started biking one month ago, and today we have a quick update on my progress.

I've thrown up only once.

I've popped the chain only once, and that was my fault. I got a little too aggressive while climbing a hill.  The problem appeared to be too much shifting, too fast.

My legs feel a little stronger.  I have slightly more endurance.  I can now use harder gears on the hills where I formerly used first.  There is still a little pain after a ride, but it's a good type of pain, if you know what I mean.  I feel like I received a good work out.

I've found drivers to be very nice.  But then again, I cycle through a small town, and at off peak hours.

I am concerned about the arrival of colder weather, and it will be difficult to put the bike away for the winter.  The issue is losing all that progress I'm making.  Buying a stationary bike isn't in the cards.  I had one a long time ago, and I found it to be excruciatingly boring.  Join a gym?  Price isn't an issue.  Some are very affordable.  I never saw myself as a gym kind of guy, but then again, I never thought I'd be on a bike again, either.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Out of the Tube

The Emmy awards were handed out Sunday night, and the whole thing made me feel so out of touch with the rest of the world.

"Modern Family" won for best comedy.  I tried to watch it a couple times.  It did nothing for me, and I couldn't make it through an entire episode.

"Homeland" picked up a bunch of awards.  I had never heard of it.

I don't watch "Dancing with the Stars," but I was happy to see Tom Bergeron win for reality show host.  I've always liked his work.

Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" was one of Sunday night's winners.  People keep telling me how great "The Daily Show" is.  I've tried.  I just don't see it.

Jimmy Kimmel hosted the Emmy broadcast.  I didn't see it.  It was well past my bed time.  I've read good and bad Kimmel reviews.  He can be a horse's arse on occasion, but most of the time I find him to be really funny.

Michael J. Fox was one of the presenters.  I wasn't a "Family Ties" or "Spin City" viewer, but I always felt Fox carried himself with a great deal of dignity and class.

Like a lot of big TV events, I skipped the Emmys, but I don't feel like I missed anything.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


George Banks went on his Wilkes-Barre and Plains Township killing spree 30 years ago today.

Some thoughts from then and now...

At the time, I was "swing man" at WARM 590 and a senior in college.  I was a news person when WARM needed one, and a jock at other times.

I was in bed, asleep, with a horrible head cold that day.  Terry McNulty from the station called, waking me up, and asking me to come in well before my Saturday evening shift.  I knew nothing about the shootings until Terry told me.

I got to the studio in Avoca as fast as I could.  My job was to handle the requests for information and audio from out-of-town radio stations.  Remember, we did everything over the phone back then.  There was no e-mail, or sending audio files over the internet.  There was no internet.  If memory serves, I was on stations in Cleveland, Atlanta, and a few other major cities.  It gave Terry an opportunity to concentrate on his WARM newscasts.

After a fast dinner break, I was on the air for a late Saturday night disc jockey shift.  It was odd-- trying to do a normal show when so many people, including children, were dead.

After work, early Sunday morning, I recall going out for some newspapers.  Back then, the Sunday Independent was the only game in town, but the Times~Leader and the Citizens Voice both put out special editions.

George Banks was later tried, convicted, and sentenced to death.  He got a fair trial.  Mental illness keeps Banks from being executed.  The experts say that mental illness keeps getting worse, and it's unlikely George Banks will ever pay the ultimate price for what he did, the price a jury of his peers believed was just.

This could have been avoided if appeals were carried out in a timely manner.

Banks and his attorneys manipulated the system, masterfully.  I don't blame them.  The system is ripe for manipulation.  The lawyers were only doing their job.

The system is broken.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Third Choice, Bad Choice

Obama and Romney are on the ballot for the November 6th election, but I've been reading where many Americans will be making another choice, and that is to stay home.

It makes me ill.

As I've noted here before, I've never missed voting in an election in which I've been eligible to cast a ballot.

Voter apathy has always been an issue.  Some feel this presidential election could set a record.  Barack Obama isn't generating that excitement he had four years ago.  A lot of people haven't warmed to Mitt Romney.  Apathy isn't limited to one party.  Negative ads are always a turn off.  Factor in a lack of productivity in congress, and you can understand why people are frustrated.  They don't know where to turn.  They feel no one represents their views and interests, so they stay home.

Refusing to be part of the process doesn't solve anything.

The last day to register to vote is October 9.  Use your privilege.  Please.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Bad Photography Sunday: Mary Stegmaier

Another Wilkes-Barre mansion to close out the weekend...

This is the Mary Stegmaier mansion, on South Franklin Street.

If memory serves, the Red Cross used to be here, and WKRZ AM and FM were in a structure on the same property, to the left and rear of this photo.

It was up for sale, for $450,000 when I took this photograph, and below is the entry from the real estate agent web site.

Three-story historic mansion built in 1907 by the owners of the Stegmaier Brewing Company. This building is in excellent condition designed with stained glass windows and a solarium of stained glass. It is located in the historic district of Wilkes-Barre adjacent to Wilkes University. There is a large 2-car garage to the rear and off-street parking for 15 cars. It is ideal for office or residential use.
The property is located in the downtown Wilkes-Barre business district.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Bad Photography Saturday: The Mansions

One of the neat things about Wilkes-Barre is the number of cool mansions downtown.  You can see some great ones on an informal walking tour.

Unlike Scranton, where the big houses are in the hill section and Green Ridge, Wilkes-Barre's mansions are just a couple blocks off Public Square.

Above is Wekesser Hall, the property of Wilkes University, and below is the entry from the Wilkes web site.

Some call it "The Castle."
Those lucky enough to work in Weckesser Hall are surrounded by the opulence of one of the largest former mansions in our historic neighborhood.

The first floor of the limestone building features two boardrooms and a kitchen, in addition to a reception area and other offices.

The second and third floors -- former bedroom suites and an opulent Oriental-style ballroom -- are now home to administrative offices.

The attic and basement are used for storage and other purposes. One room of the basement was used as a billiard room in the original house.
originally had... a third-floor ballroom
still has... a working elevator & a surround shower
one chandelier... hangs from a 24-foot chain
rain gutters... inside the building

If you were at Wilkes after 1956...
Weckesser might have been your "Castle" for a semester or two. The building was acquired by Wilkes in 1956, after the passing of Mrs. Anna Weckesser. It was used as a female dorm from 1964 to 1967.

The Weckesser home was built between 1914 and 1916 as a residence for Frederick J. Weckesser, who moved to the Wilkes-Barre area at the turn of the nineteenth century. He became associated with F.M. Kirby, who lived at 202 South River Street (our current Kirby Hall). When Kirby's business merged with the Woolworth Company, Weckesser became a district manager, and at the time of his death in 1953, was the director of the F.W. Woolworth Company.

This success in the business world provided Weckesser with the means to build his fabulous Beaux-Arts style home, which was popular in the United States prior to World War I. It is one of the few examples of this type of achitecture left in Wilkes-Barre. Also included in the property is a large garage, now known as theWeckesser Annex

Friday, September 21, 2012

Going Cashless

I flew in to a supermarket around 2 yesterday afternoon, just grabbing a sandwich and a root beer.

When I reached the front of the store, I was thrilled. There were a few open check outs, and I chose one where there was only one person in line ahead of me.

Just my luck.  She was paying by check.  There's nothing wrong with that.  I assumed the woman knew she was going to the supermarket.  She could have  written most of the check by the time she hit the store.  Between the writing and the store's lengthy approval process, it turned out to be a significant time waster.

As I stood there, watching the scene unfold, I started thinking.  I honestly could not remember the last time I saw someone in a supermarket or big discount store pay by check.  It's either cash, or a quick swipe of the credit/debit card.

I still write a lot of checks, although not in stores.  I never really warmed to the electronic transfer process.  My cell phone bill comes directly out of a bank account.  My cable bill goes on a credit card, and I write out a check for that every month.  Why?  I get a cash back bonus!  Utilities and everything else?  I pay by check.

Pardon the "geezer" moment here...  Printed newspapers are becoming extinct, and checking accounts will follow.  An entire generation is growing up without them.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


The news media has been feasting on a couple newsy items lately.  You know how it works.  A drop or two of blood winds up in the water, and before you know it, as Jimmy Buffet says "You got fins to the left.  Fins to the right, and you're the only girl in town."

Our first case in point is NBC's "Today" show.  "Good Morning America" caught up and passed it in the ratings.  NBC threw Ann Curry to the sharks.  It didn't help.  It seems there's a story in one of the New York tabloids every day about internal turmoil in NBC's news division.  Recent topics include Al Roker allegedly sabotaging the broadcast because he's angry his friend, Ann, was made a scapegoat.  Another is Matt Lauer becoming an anchor monster, who is freaking out over the ratings slide and NBC's inability to correct it.

"Today" is a shadow of its former self. The former morning news gold standard is a fluff laden mess.  NBC got away with it for years because ABC struggled to find its footing.

I'm sure there will be more stories in the tabloids before this one settles down.

Our second feeding frenzy story has a finite shelf life.  It ends November 6th-- the day of the presidential election.

I will not discuss the merits of Obama and Romney.  This is a blog about the controversy over what Romney said about Obama's supporters.  To quickly get you up to speed, Romney was recorded, without his knowledge, saying 47 per cent of the people in this country feel they deserve some type of government entitlement.  I'll let you decide whether or not it's true, but here's what it's done.  It put Romney on the defense and it's taken his campaign off-message.  It's like swerving off the road to avoid a pot hole of your own making.  The story dominates this week's political campaign news, and it will be interesting to see if Romney can make it to shore without suffering any more shark bites.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

All Access

I've been kicked out of many schools over the years, and in more ways than one.

I'll leave my student activity out of this and just stick to the "professional" years.   A couple things stick out, and if I gave it more time, I can come up with several examples.

A photographer and I were booted off the sidewalk in front of Coughlin High School in Wilkes-Barre four years ago while attempting to ask kids what they thought of then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton paying a visit to their school.

I was told to leave the Scranton High School parking lot back in the spring of this year for having the audacity to ask students what they thought of the state's no vaccination, no school policy.

Having built upon that foundation, it was amazingly refreshing when no one bothered us at Mid Valley Monday morning.  To get you up to speed, Mid Valley's new school year was delayed two weeks because of a slow moving elementary school addition project, pictured above.

We talked with high schoolers about the late start to the year, and the anticipated late finish.  Administration had to know they were going to take some hits from the kids.  It really wasn't that bad.  The students understood why it took so long to get things ready.

Over at the adjacent elementary school, parents and kids were available.  Administration allowed us inside to see the renovation work.

Why?  Common sense.  Taxpayers, through our camera, could see what their money bought.  Concerned parents, who weren't able to make it to the school, could observe that their kids weren't attending class in the middle of an unsafe construction zone.

Full disclosure:  I'm a Mid Valley graduate.  The new high school opened after I had graduated.  I had my issues with the way things were run when I was a student.  Buildings and facilities were embarrassingly bad.  I had some good teachers, but several lazy and uninspired ones as well.

The bottom line here is the way to keep everyone happy is to open things up and show what's going on-- not to lock the doors and hide from reality.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Does It Really Work?

Most days, I have to be asleep in the early afternoon.  I've always called that an unnatural act, so I often need a little help.

I stumbled across iChill on an internet site.  It has a few ingredients designed to get you drowsy.

I'll have to give it a qualified "thumbs up."  Here's why.  It's designed for normal people, who need a little push to get them sleepy in the evening.

It's not potent enough to sedate you for sleep out of the normal cycle.

It does produce a few yawns, and I can see how it would be a big help at 10 PM, but not at noon.

I bought a carton, on-line, for about $ 2 per bottle.

While it worked, I doubt there will be a re-order.

By the way, if you want to learn a lot about this country, visit the "health and beauty" section of your local Walmart or drug store.  Sleep aids are taking up a lot more space these days.

I don't know how the stores can find the room, because of the massive supply of indigestion medicine and laxatives.

That pretty much sums up America these days.  We can't sleep, and we can't ...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Looks Like We Made It

I thought I'd try it again.

Regular blog readers know I stopped by White Castle in Allentown last month, only to find it closed due to a power problem.

As my vacation was wrapping up last week, I decided to give it another try.

My heart sank when I drove in to the parking lot Thursday morning.  No cars.  A utility truck in the parking lot.  Jeez O' Pete, not another power problem!!!

I was lucky.  It was business as usual.  The utility truck was working on the traffic signals, just outside the parking lot.

I walked in and looked at the menu board.
Apologies for the quality of the picture above.  It's from a camera phone.  I wasn't wearing my glasses and I couldn't see what I was shooting.

I'll give White Castle credit for a blessedly simple menu.  Wendy's, McDonald's and Burger King are far too cluttered.

I chose a combo meal of four sliders, an order of fries, and a medium soda.  I ordered a side of onion rings.

This is what I received.
Yes, it's another camera phone photo.

Let's start at the right.  The onion rings are those beauties comprised of chopped up bits of onion, formed into a ring, a la Burger King.  They come with a container of zingy dipping sauce, which is in the middle of the napkin.  The sauce wasn't bad.  The rings were weak, and I'm being kind.

The fries are of the crinkle cut variety and are mediocre, at best.

Not in the photo is my Diet Coke, which tasted watered down and heavily iced.

Now, the burgers.  White Castle steams its burgers and buns over a bed of reconstituted onions.  I like my burgers with a fried or broiled taste.  Steaming does nothing for the flavor of the meat.  While the onions weren't strong, they clearly overpowered the flavor of the beef.

I will say the service was good and the cashier was very patient with this newbie.  Prices were fair.

I won't say White Castle is bad, but it clearly doesn't live up to the hype.  Not even close.

I might stop by again the next time I'm in the neighborhood.  Unfortunately, I found White Castle not worth a trip out of your way.

Sorry, Harold and Kumar.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bad Photography Sunday: Restoration

I'm a big fan of restoring old buildings, and there's a lot of that going on near the courthouse, on Court Street, in Binghamton, NY.

During a late July visit, one of the workers here told me that one of the buildings in the middle, as well as the tall building in the back, might have to come down due to fire and water damage.  I'll have to get back to the scene one of these days for an update.
The building on the corner is my personal favorite of the cluster.  I'd really like to see how it all comes out.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Bad Photography Saturday: Binghamton

I blew through Binghamton, NY a couple months ago.

Like most medium sized northeastern USA cities, there are challenges here, but many brights spots as well.  This is one of them.  Binghamton's old city hall is now the Grand Royale Hotel.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Media Notes

We hear a lot about media bias, and a lot of it is justified.  FOX News leans right.  MSNBC goes left.  CNN is supposedly in the middle, but it is really?

I was enjoying a pizza at a restaurant during the Democratic National Convention.  CNN was on the TV above the bar.  The anchor was interviewing some Hollywood star who supports Obama.  There wasn't one critical or challenging question.  None.  However, I'm not sure if this is a case of bias, or merely incompetence.  I'm leaning toward the latter.

NBC Radio Sports made its debut earlier this month.  NBC licenses its name to a company called "Dial Global" and it does the rest.  Right now, there are updates twice per hour, plus talk shows from 7 pm to 5 am.  More shows will be added in the months to come.  Initial impressions?  Solid.  Well done.  Sounds solid and nicely produced.  Unfortunately, it's your average sports talk and not much of a reason to twist a dial.  I've never been a big fan of ESPN Radio or TV, so it's nice to have alternatives, like Yahoo! Sports Radio and FOX Sports radio.  I have no brand loyalty.  I cherry pick what I like from the networks.  By the way, if you want to listen to NBC Radio Sports, you have to hit the internet.  It has yet to pick up a terrestrial affiliate in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area.

I hoped this year would be different.  I sampled the NFL pre game shows on opening weekend, and it's the same old story.  Laughs first, information second.  It is possible to blend the two and keep everyone happy, but they haven't figured out how to do that.  Best of the bunch:  NFL Network, but not by much.

The new set FOX uses for college football and the NFL is spectacular.  The comedy bits, provided by Rob Riggle, are not.

NBC's "Today" is getting some heat for not broadcasting a 9/11 moment of silence.  I don't agree with the editorial decision, but I do respect it.  The people screaming about NBC, including the usual uninformed roster of radio talk show hosts, neglected to mention that other than last year's 10th anniversary, NBC has skipped the moment of silence for the last few years.

After sampling the roster of new and existing TV talk shows...  Lake, Couric, Probst, Williams, Cooper, Harvey, etc...  one thing is abundantly clear.  Phil Donahue was really, really good.

USA Today introduced a redesigned newspaper for today's 20th anniversary.  For better or worse, USA Today changed the print industry.  Publishers were forced into discovering graphics and photographs.  Stories became shorter and snapper.  I'm not sure shorter was a good thing.  I saw some photos of the redesign.  I don't sense much of a change.

David Letterman is being honored by the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.  He is one of the most creative people to ever light up a TV screen.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


I feel better, already.

The headline of today's blog is misleading.  It doesn't hurt.

Yes, I'm referring to my annual flu shot.

I rolled up my sleeve and got stabbed last week.  It only took a few seconds at my doctor's office.  It helps me from getting sick, and it helps me from spreading the illness.

If you don't have a doctor, you can get a flu shot, rather inexpensively, at the drugstore down at the strip mall.  I love seeing flu shots available everywhere.  The flu is a horrible thing, and I'm in favor of whatever can be done to stop it in its tracks.

I've heard the excuses, and none of them hold water.  You don't get the flu from a flu shot.  There are several other myths, and I won't give them the dignity of being listed here.

If you won't do it for yourself, do it for your family and your co workers.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tigerless Tank

I'm not sure who gets the bulk of the blame for this-- Exxon/Mobil or Citi Bank, so I'll torch them both.

I've had a credit card with those two for a few years.  It got me a few cents off gasoline.  It wasn't much, but it was better than nothing.

I just received notice that the credit card program is being discontinued, but there's great news!  I can have a new credit card from Exxon/Mobil that gets me six cents off a gallon!

Of all the gasoline credit cards out there, a six cent discount is the largest I've seen.  Wonderful!  I'm pre approved.  Oh, wait.  There's some fine print here.  Let's take a look.

In order to get the discount, I have to buy 45 gallons of gas a month.  I think my tank holds 14 gallons.  That means I have to buy three tanks per month, and fill up when the tank is on empty.

Impossible.  First, I rarely go below a quarter tank.  I'm blessed that I live close to work and the dollar store.  There's no way I buy 45 gallons a month.

The credit card offer quickly found a home in my shredder.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What About Us?

Labor Day has come and gone.  It's been the traditional start of the campaign season.  That concept went out the window a long time ago.  The next campaign begins as soon as the last vote is counted.  Still, many of us see Labor Day as the day things get serious.

I'm still waiting for that big appearance from Obama, Biden, Romney or Ryan.

Most polls have Pennsylvania leaning blue in November.  A few newspaper stories, including one in Sunday's Pittsburgh Post Gazette, say the Romney camp has given up on Pennsylvania, and its 20 electoral votes, and that's unfortunate.

Still, northeastern and central Pennsylvania ought not to be forgotten.  Yes, we did have that quickie visit from VP Joe Biden back in July.  We deserve more.

This is an enormous TV market-- from the New York line to nearly Harrisburg...  from the Delaware River to nearly the center of the state.  There are votes to be corralled here,  minds to be changed.  Republicans need to solidify the base in the northern tier and central part of the state.  Democrats have to make sure heavily Democratic Scranton and Wilkes-Barre are united, and they can whittle away at areas where the opposition is strong.

This election fascinates me, at least from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton perspective.  This area is heavily Democratic.  Advantage:  Obama.  But, the economy is bad and there are a lot of people out of work.  Advantage:  Romney.  The former Massachusetts governor is portrayed by many as an enemy of the middle class.  This is a huge blue collar area.  Advantage:  Obama.  Voters have been fond of change in recent years.  Advantage:  Romney.

I'll defer here to the campaign experts.  The Romney people aren't spending advertising money here.  Pennsylvania will be blue in eight weeks.  The election will be won or lost in Ohio and Florida.

Still, I can't believe we've gone this long with only one major visit.

I'm sure we'll get the surrogates-- the second cousin of the nephew of the guy who cut the lawn at the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis, or the neighbor who once mistakenly received George H.W. Bush's mail.  It's a big yawn.  No one cares, and I can't see how the surrogates can garner many votes for their candidates.

We'll also get the "fly ins."  Candidates will arrive at the airport, step off the jet, say a few words, shake hands with the local politicos, kiss a baby, and fly out.

We need to see the candidates, in person, who should look you in the eye, answer your questions, and ask for your vote.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Bellefonte: Before and After

It is impossible to spend any time in Bellefonte without falling in love with the place.  That part of Centre County is filled with small town America charm, complete with some great old buildings.

I woke up to some very sad news Sunday morning, and below is a photo from the Centre Daily Times.
A few buildings on High Street went up in flames.  A lot of history burned Sunday morning, and it looks, at this point, that some of the buildings cannot be saved.  Pity.

Below is the way that row of buildings looked back in June, during the Sandusky trial.
Satellite trucks and news vehicles dominate the photo I took on June 5th, but you get the idea.  Bellefonte is a pretty little town.

As of this writing, it appears everyone got out of the burning buildings safely.

Bellefonte, good luck in your recovery.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Bad Photography Artsy Sunday

Okay, another ill fated attempt at being artsy to close out the weekend...

We amateur photographers often have a problem achieving depth with our images.  This one hits the mark a little better than most.

It was taken from atop the dike along the Susquehanna River in Wilkes-Barre.  The thing sticking up in the foreground is one of the eagles at the east side of the Market Street Bridge.  Of course, that's the fog shrouded Luzerne County Courthouse, complete with construction scaffolding, in the background.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Bad Photography Artsy Saturday

Don't say you haven't been warned.  There are two attempts at "artsy" on tap for this weekend.  This is the first.  I call it "superstructure."

It's the side of the intermodal transportation center on South Washington Street in Wilkes-Barre, along with the staircase, the bridge to an existing building, and an old brick spire at the back of a building on Public Square.

Friday, September 7, 2012


GSN's "The Pyramid" debuted Labor Day.

My review?  It's not bad.

This version is more true to the original than the Donny Osmond hosted revival several years ago.  Osmond was a good host, but the show felt rushed and too high tech.  Rounds were only 20 seconds long.  The look wasn't right.  The GSN version is closer to the mark.

As I noted a while back, the Osmond version was missing the classic Pyramid sounds.  The revival is nicely modernized, but it still has that 70's feel, and they got the sounds right.  The subjects on the big pyramid board are on screens, but the reveal triggers a sound effect, like the cube flips on the old board.  Genius!  Even though "Family Feud" has been doing old sounds on a new set for years, I still think it's genius.

The light bulbs have been replaced by neon.  The pyramid board isn't as imposing as the original.  I can live with it.

There's a twist I really like.  The least you can play for is $10,000.  $5,000 is added to the potential winnings for every perfect "7" round in the qualifying game.

Mike Richards is the host.  Vanilla, but that's not a bad thing.  He realizes the game is the star-- not the host.  He plays it very straight, much the way Dick Clark did.

Most GSN original productions have a cheap feel.  "The Pyramid" is one of its better efforts.
And, there is another game show note today.  I don't know how this one escaped me until now.  Bill Rafferty died August 11.

We first saw Bill Rafferty on some comedy specials.  He later became one of the hosts of NBC's 70's reality show "Real People."

Bill Rafferty did a few game shows over the years, including "Card Sharks" and "Blockbusters."  I could never figure out why he didn't more work.  He was glib, and funny, and smooth and very likable.  Some of his work is on  If you take a look, you'll know what I mean.

In recent years, Bill Rafferty hosted a show about the internet and computers on Retirement Living TV.

Bill Rafferty was 68.

And, one more thing before I go...

The producers of "The Price is Right" excluded Bob Barker from this week's 40th anniversary broadcast.  Barker ran the show for the first 35 years, and he should have been there, rather than appearing in just old video clips.

Barker has been critical of the new regime.  In Bob's day, they wouldn't give away a foreign car.  That rule is long gone.  Barker is also peeved the new TPIR gave away tickets to Sea World and the Calgary Rodeo, places Barker believes are animal unfriendly.

I can understand why there's friction between Barker and the producers.

Bob Barker is a legend, and he deserved better.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Taking Shape

There is at least one advantage to the Drought of '12.  Construction crews haven't been getting rained out.

Lackawanna County Stadium makes visible progress every week.  This photo was taken one week ago.  As you can see, demolition is complete.  The right field light stands are up.  The framing for the press box/suite level is being dropped in to place.

On the left field side, the clubhouse area for the home team remains.  It's the green and tan area on the right side of this photo.

The new owners promise a better fan experience.  That takes more than a stadium.  We'll see when the Trolley Frogs/Blast/Black Diamond Bears/Rail Riders/Porcupines/Fireflies take to the field in April.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Mid Life Crisis

Some men buy boats when they reach their mid life crisis.  Others purchase Corvettes and chase college girls.

Me?  I bought a bicycle.

Let me back up a moment.  I've been considering it for a while, at least a couple years.  I looked in stores.  I looked at used bikes on-line.  I could never pull the trigger.  A big box sporting goods chain would have had a sale if it had attentive employees.

I started to add it up.  I'm tired all the time.  A recent kitchen remodeling project meant reliance on far too much fast food.  I need the exercise.  I talked it over with friends and co-workers.  They all suggested I get over my fears and buy a bike.

I stopped in a bike shop on a recent afternoon.  I told the salesman I didn't want to go hard core.  I just want something to pedal around the neighborhood for fifteen minutes in the morning.  He suggested a model. I gave it a look and got some instructions.

It was a little more than I wanted to pay, but I remembered the words of Larry King:  "Always go top shelf.  You'll pay more in the beginning, but it's worth it in the long run."


On the way home, I stopped for a burger and fries.  Big mistake.  More later.  You can guess where the story is going.

I arrived home, took the bike out of the back of my SUV, adjusted the seat, and went for a ride.

Too much, too soon.  I flew out of the driveway and through the neighborhood like Lance Armstrong.  I attempted far more than I should have in the afternoon sun, heat, and humidity.  I hadn't been on a bike since I learned to drive a car, and that was a very, very long time ago.  I'm not a kid any more.

My head was in the toilet soon after arriving home from the bike ride.  I lost my lunch.

The next trip, the next day, was much better.  Each subsequent trip has been a little smoother, and a lot more fun.

Wish me luck in the second half of my life.

I should have bought the Corvette.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

About the Cover

I've been taking a lot of photos lately, and there were several possibilities for September's blog header.

In year's past, I've tried to do something education related in September because it's the big back-to-school month.  However, it's the first anniversary of the Tropical Storm Lee flood.  That drew me to the Susquehanna River at Pittston Thursday morning.

Regular blog readers will recognize that I've been here before.  It's a great place to take pictures, and a fog shrouded railroad bridge wound up being my favorite photo of the year, a few years ago.

This shot was taken on the Pittston side, looking upstream, with the Fort Jenkins bridge at my back.

I saw river fog in the forecast, so I tried to replicate the shot of a few years ago, with a different camera, and a better lens.  Unfortunately, the fog Thursday morning was not as intense as it was a few years ago.  I'll keep looking, and keep trying.

I was on vacation for last year's flood, but I was watching the excellent coverage of my colleagues while I was away.  The images are burned in to my head, and I was lucky.  I'm not in the flood plain.

There are still some places that haven't recovered from Lee, and it will be a while before they do.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day

On this Labor Day 2012, a picture of the John Mitchell monument, on the Adams Avenue side of the Lackawanna County Courthouse.

Mitchell was a labor leader and United Mine Workers union president.

Unemployment is still high on this Labor Day.  If you're without a job or under employed, my heart goes out to you.  I've been there and it's not fun.

Let's all hope better days are ahead.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Bad Photography Sunday: The Mountain

One more picture from Palmerton as we close the weekend...

I've done a lot of stories here over the years, and most have dealt with the mountain just outside of town.  It's impossible to visit Palmerton without looking up.

At one time, Palmerton had a big zinc industry.  Vegetation on the mountain died.  Someone finally figured out that plants don't enjoy growing in zinc.  The zinc industry left.  There was an effort to get the plants to come back-- lots of fertilization and seeding over the last few decades.  There were times it appeared it just wasn't going to happen.  The mountain would be barren forever.

As you can see, it's working--  slowly.  Green is a great color.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Bad Photography Saturday: The Park

It's one of the really neat things about northeastern and central Pennsylvania.  In many ways, it's one region, but it's actually a rather nice collection of small towns.

This is the center of borough park in Palmerton.  One web site I found refers to the structure as a band shell, and I'm sure it's used for that.  It also resembles a gazebo.

Whatever you call it, it's a very pretty part of Carbon County, and it's small town America at its best-- a nice place to spend part of a Labor Day weekend.