Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Can I Help You?

I've recently become hooked on  If you're not familiar with it, it's a web site where visitors can post business reviews, mostly restaurants.

After scanning some places here in our area, both well known and not, one thing really jumps out.

For the most part, the food is okay.  What separates the good establishments from the bad ones is-- THE SERVICE!

It surprises me.  We keep hearing about the quality of the local work ethic.  On those rare occasions new businesses locate here, they always say it's due to the quality of the local work force.  Translation:  they found people who will work cheap.

The great Ron Allen of WARM radio always used to say "the most expensive thing in the world is cheap help."  Ron admitted stealing it from someone, and I really don't remember the original source.

Ron was on the money.  I've had many dining experiences tainted by lackluster, inattentive service.

I don't get it.  There are a lot of people looking for work.  Can't you find employees who care?  After decades of being in, and observing the work force, I'm convinced most employee problems are really management problems.  If you can't handle your people, and that includes motivation, it's going to affect job performance.  You will find you have a staff of slackers.

Look, you can get food at a lot of places.  Service really makes the difference.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

7 Days

Wow!  A month ago, a lot of experts, myself included (although not an expert), were ready to write Mitt Romney's political obituary.  Now, he stands a good chance of becoming the 45th president of the United States.

The planets started to align back on October 3, the night of the first presidential debate.  Obama stumbled badly.  Romney looked presidential, and more importantly, reasonable.  He ran for the nomination by appealing to his party's right.  You can't become president by staying there.  The debate showed a move to the middle.

There was more than Obama's lackluster performance.  The economy appears to be improving, but only a little.  People expected (and deserve) more by now.  There are allegations the U.S. could have done something to stop the murders at the American embassy in Libya.

This race will be won and lost in a handful of battleground states.  Obama has most of New England, plus New York and California.  That's a nice base, filled with big electoral vote states.

Romney has much of the south in his pocket.

That means Florida, the Great Lakes states, and the mid Atlantic will determine who gets the keys to the White House January 20.

While the race in Pennsylvania has tightened, we're still seen as Obama blue.  For the most part, the surrogates have campaigned in our area.  We haven't seen a high level visit in months.

Polls open 7 AM, one week from today.  It's trite, and it's a cliche...  but, it also happens to be true.  This will be one of the most interesting weeks in a long time.

Monday, October 29, 2012

OK. Now, it's Christmas

By the Apal barometer, the Christmas season has "officially" arrived.  Santa can't be far behind.

The Hickory Farms kiosk is up and running inside the Viewmont Mall in Dickson City, and chances are, there's one near you.

Above is a camera phone photo I snapped Thursday afternoon.

I can't remember a recent time when I've indulged in Hickory Farms merchandise, but it always was a part of holidays past.  If I didn't blow in there for a gift pack, someone had Hickory Farms cheese or their meat-like products on a party platter.  Supermarket cheese sections have come a tremendous way, and there's not much of a need for Hickory Farms these days.

That stuff will start looking pretty good if the power goes out during Sandy, and I run out of food.  Luckily, I laid in a supply of Diet Pepsi, Spaghetti-O's and Pop Tarts.

I'm old enough to remember the time Hickory Farms had a store at Viewmont year-round.  They were big on giving out samples, especially banana chips and some horrid sesame crackers.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bad Photography Sunday: The Big Orange Box

Once in a while, something catches your eye, and you're fortunate if you have a camera at the ready.

I wanted some photos from the parking lot of the Dickson City KMart.  It's on a plateau overlooking the valley.

I'm surprised I didn't find this sooner, but the Dickson City store is not my KMart of choice.  It doesn't open until 8 AM, while Moosic opens at 7.  As previously noted, I'm an early riser.

Here's what's printed at the base of The Big Orange Box, outside Parker Hill Church, which used to be a cineplex next to KMart.
Unusual, interesting and with a message.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Bad Photography Saturday: The Train

I really like this one, and you might be seeing it in this year's top ten at the end of December.

Here's the story.  I was on Lackawanna Avenue in Mayfield on a recent afternoon.  I could see a train off to my right, moving up the tracks toward Carbondale.  I needed to get ahead of it, jump out of the car, point the camera, and get my shot.

Problem:  a slow moving garbage truck was ahead of me-- a very slow moving garbage truck.

The driver finally became inspired, or the garbage truck caught a good gear.  It began to gather a little speed, enough for me to get ahead of the train.  I quickly pulled over to the side of the road, grabbed the camera, ran up an embankment and began firing away.

This is one of the few times I used the "sports" mode on my camera.  It's meant to capture moving subjects, and you can fire off several shots in a short amount of time.  The results weren't great, but good enough for a decent shot.  Red train.  Fall foliage.  It works.

Friday, October 26, 2012

There Used to be a Restaurant Here

This really isn't breaking news.  Newswatch 16 reported in a few weeks ago.  Fresno's Restaurant, along Business Route 6 in Dickson City was torn down to make way for a hotel.

When I visited last week, all that was left was the covered entrance and the sign.

Let's back up a bit.  I don't remember the original name, but Fresno's began as a coal breaker themed restaurant.  Yep!  Noting builds an appetite and says "fine dining" like dinner in a coal breaker.  Needless to say, it didn't last long.  I will say the architect did a fine job.  The windows on the back side overlook the Lackawanna Valley, and it's a great view.

Fresno's came in and got off to a good start.  It was out in front of the Tex Mex wave, but then something happened.  The restaurant changed hands.  The food became bad and the service was even worse.  The chains moved in and Fresno's was doomed.  I wasn't surprised to see it close several months ago.

Still, there were some pleasant times here-- and there was that million dollar view.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


I have two basic goals in life:  make a little bit of a difference, and try to leave a place in better condition than I found it.  I know I haven't always succeeded.

Today's blog really isn't about me.

A former college professor of mine recently lost her mother, and I expressed a quick thought on one of those on line obituary guest books.  By the way, I hate those things.  I send a real card with real handwriting whenever possible.  Unfortunately, I didn't have a home address, so on line it was.

In the small world department, a co-worker's mother is employed at the same place as my former college professor, so messages were passed.  I don't write to expect a "thank you" in return, but it was nice to receive one.

Let me tell you a little bit about my former college professor.  It was a literature course, one of my Achilles heels.  In case you're wondering, art is another.  I came from a high school where art and literature were confined to the bathroom walls, and it was some pretty good stuff.

Getting back to college, it was a literature course with no tests.  However, we did have to write a paper every week.  If it sounds easy, it wasn't.  Tests force you to memorize.  Papers force you to think, and one is a lot more important than the other.

My former college professor made a difference, and she left places in better condition than she found them.  Her mother must have been very proud.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

New Look

ABC World News changed its graphics and tweaked its set October 1.  The new logo is featured above-- a red, white, and blue floating cube effect.  The famous ABC News theme has been modified a bit.

Change is good, and it's nice to freshen things up once in a while.  I can't say I'm thrilled.  The signature notes of the theme, the thing that let's you know you're watching an ABC newscast are muted.  The graphics, while new, appear dated.

I'm in the minority, and I admit that.  ABC says it conducted research on the new look and sound.  They tested well, and in the network TV business, nothing gets on the air unless it's studied a thousand different ways.

Remember, content is king.
Above is the old look.  New is not necessarily better.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Stand Off

"The Hollywood Reporter" recently ran an interesting story on the movie "Argo."  It deals with Americans hiding out at the home of the Canadian ambassador during the Iran hostage crisis.

Ted Koppel of ABC News knew about the hiding Americans.  Koppel received a call from the secretary of state, asking him to be careful with the story.  If the Iranians knew Americans were hiding at the home of the Canadian ambassador, the embassy would be stormed and people would die.  Koppel decided, rightly, not to run with it.  He said it was the only time in fifty years that he spiked a story.

Clearly, I've never experienced anything close to that during my 30 + years in the business, but I do recall a story on a summer morning in Peckville.

It was a stand off.  A man with some mental issues was inside his apartment.  Police were outside.  The man wouldn't come out.  There was the possibility he was armed, and would harm himself and others.  We were outside with a live truck, when I was approached by the police chief.  He asked us to hold off on the story, and he gave his reasons.

In the old days, police would simply cut the power and phone lines to the home involved, essentially ending contact with the outside world.  The person inside would have no idea what was going on outside.  Times have changed.  Thanks to cell phones and other wireless technology, there is no such thing as a total blackout.

I dialed the office, got our acting news director at the time, and put him on the phone with the chief.  They talked it over.  Reason won out, and we sat on the story until it was over.  The man surrendered peacefully.  We got out story and all's well that ends well.

You just have to wonder what would have happened if Facebook, Twitter, texts, etc were around in 1979 and 1980.

I'm not sure how it would have ended, but I am sure things would have been a lot more complicated.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Journey

People like George McGovern, who passed away yesterday, fascinate me.

Above is the 1972 electoral college map-- the one where Richard Nixon captured 520 electoral votes to McGovern's 17.  It was one of the worst defeats of all time.  The South Dakota senator didn't even win his own state.  His only victories were in Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

I was two months away from my 11th birthday in 1972.  Even someone my age knew Nixon was going to win in a landslide.  Nixon was riding high.  Man was walking on the moon.  The Vietnam nightmare was ending.  The Democratic Party was a mess, having lost some of its biggest stars.  McGovern's convention was a disaster.  A rules fight pushed McGovern's acceptance speech to the early morning hours.  His first choice for vice president was suspect.  His second didn't add much to the ticket.

Yet, McGovern pressed on.  I could imagine how difficult that was-- the speeches, the travel, the handshaking, the money raising...  all for an effort you know is doomed.  I respect that.

Here's a paragraph I pulled from the NY Times obituary, and it says a lot:

On election night, Mr. McGovern did not bother to call Nixon. He simply sent a telegram offering congratulations. Then, he said, he sat on his bed at the Holiday Inn in Sioux Falls and wrote his concession speech on hotel stationery. 

Did McGovern hold out hope that he would win the election?  He didn't prepare a concession speech until after it became clear he had lost.

It reminds me of Walter Mondale's visit to Wilkes-Barre, just days before the 1984 election-- my first as a broadcast professional.  I covered his Public Square speech for WARM 590.  Everyone knew a pasting from Ronald Reagan was just days away.  Mondale, on a chilly afternoon, did his best to capture the hearts, minds, and votes of people here in our area.  It didn't work.  He tried.  It had to be tough.  Polls showed a Reagan landslide was fait accompli.

As for McGovern, he returned to the senate, fighting for liberal causes.  After he left Washington, McGovern worked with agencies aimed at ending world hunger.  He might have suffered one major and unforgettable defeat, but there were many successes on his journey.

George McGovern was 90 years old.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Bad Photography Sunday: The Park

The intent of my early Friday afternoon expedition was to capture a little fall.

This is that footbridge over the Lackawanna River, between Blakely and Olyphant that I mentioned yesterday.  This shot is from the Blakely side.

As I noted in a blog a few days ago, even a grey fall day still has its charm.  Above is proof of that.  It's a picture of the trail that runs along the Lackawanna on the Olyphant side.  It's not the Yellow Brick Road.  It's the yellow leaf road.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Bad Photography Saturday: The River

I was surprised at how fast the river came up after Friday morning's rain.

My intent was to find a little fall, but it's just my luck.  I don't have free time on sunny, clear days.  It was still cloudy and drizzly early yesterday afternoon when I found an opportunity to grab the camera and do a little exploring.

This is a shot of the Lackawanna River, from the footbridge between Blakely and Olyphant.  This is the upstream view, showing a high and rapid Lackawanna River.  I've been on that bridge hundreds of times, and it was really rocking in the current.

The water color was strange.  It always muddies up after a heavy rain.  This time, it seemed darker than normal, almost like hot chocolate.

One thing the photo can't capture is the smell.  The stench of raw sewage was everywhere.  Apparently the storm run off overwhelmed a system or two somewhere, and some bad things wound up in the Lackawanna.

Remember boys and girls, it's why you rarely see Uncle Apal wade through flood waters, like some grandstanding reporters.  It's the equivalent of walking through an open sewer.  I like e-readers, not e-coli.  I have no interest in a potentially life threatening bacterial infection.  I have enough problems.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Save the Date

The Christmas trees are up inside the Viewmont Mall Sears.  Outside, in the mall itself, you can tell Christmas is coming, even though the holiday decorations have yet to be hoisted to the ceiling, and Santa is still hanging with the elves up at the North Pole.

The calendar kiosk is up and open for business!

I'm not campaigning, but calendars make great gifts-- both attractive and useful, and hundreds from which to choose.  It's art with a purpose.  It seems like 90 per cent of the calendars here feature either puppies or kitties, and how can you go wrong with that?

Above is a camera phone shot from last week.

The calendar kiosk is another reminder that yet another year has flown by.

I'll really know the holiday season is here when the Hickory Farms stand is here.  It's not Christmas without salami and cheese.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Another Guess

Colder weather has arrived, and with it, one of my major annoyances-- long range winter forecasts.

At best, predicting temperatures and precipitation over the next four months is a guess.

Yes, we can look at upper level winds, ocean temperatures and ocean currents.  It's clear the climate is changing.  No one really knows what it's going to do, and those people who try to feed you this stuff have no idea what they're talking about.

I'm still waiting for that active hurricane season that was predicted this year, and no one saw the mild winter of 2011-12 coming.

From what I've been reading so far, the government and the private forecasting services are all predicting a wetter and colder winter this year.  Read the fine print.  Their "forecasts" are little better than 50/50.

Concentrate on what you can do-- the next seven days.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I almost did it, and I wasn't happy about it.

Regular blog readers will remember I had a Blackberry Tour a few years ago, and I hated it.  It was more phone than I needed at the time.  The screen and keyboard were too small to be really useful.  Yet, the phone was too big to be comfortably portable.  I got rid of it and went back to a traditional cellular phone.  My model has changed a couple times.   I am still without a smart phone.

Fast forward to last week.  I was in Bellefonte for the Sandusky sentencing.  A lot of information was coming at me from the office.  We added to our coverage on the fly.  There are Twitter pages and web sites that need constant feeding.  I was tied up being in front of the camera at the crucial moments, and I didn't have time to power up my notebook.  A smart phone would have come in handy.

I received input from an expert on the subject, WNEP's information technology person.  Not surprisingly, she's a huge smart phone advocate.  On line research showed Apple's iPhone made the most sense.  It seems to be the most user friendly and feature filled.

A visit to the phone store was a dizzying experience.  There are a lot of choices, plus data plans, accessories, etc.  A session with the iPhone5 display device proved it's easy to use.  A sales rep and I ran the numbers.  It wouldn't add crushing debt to my monthly bill.

The new units won't ship until early next month.  I could have ordered one, but did not.  The delay in shipping gives me more time to think about it.  I could have easily pulled the trigger on a phone from another manufacturer.  Most of my phones over the years have been from Motorola, and I've found them to be trouble free.  Still, the iPhone appears to be on its way to becoming the industry standard.  I'll quote Larry King once again, who always advised going top shelf.  It'll cost more at the beginning, but it's worth it in the long run. 

I'm still shopping, and thinking.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tuesday Scrapple

What were they thinking when they redesigned  It's a mess.

Jerry Sandusky will likely die in prison.  Yet, there is a nagging feeling that a minimum thirty year sentence isn't enough.

I was very sorry to learn former Detroit Lion Alex Karras passed away at the age of 77.  He seemed like a very likeable individual, on and off the field...  in sports and in broadcasting/acting.

Best laugh of the week:  a co worker said her pumpkin pie yogurt tasted like potpourri.  It's why I stick with the basics-- vanilla, peach, strawberry.  I'm not a blueberry guy.

Political reporting these days is awful.  All we're hearing about is polls, and the Obama/Romney race tightening.  The media wants a close horse race, and it will get one-- in the popular vote.  Obama still has a huge lead in the votes that really count-- electoral votes.  No one talks about that.  Having said all that, election night will be very interesting.

Six months ago, who would have thought Sen. Bob Casey would be in a very close reelection battle?

The early rounds of the Major League Baseball playoffs have turned out to be very entertaining.  Yet, very few pay attention.  We live in NFL Nation.

Even a chilly, grey fall day still has its charm.

Arby's, Long John Silver's, and Wendy's are all introducing new logos.  Better food will help sales more than new art work.

What's with the current fascination with zombies?

I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving more than usual.  It's a great time of year.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Arlen Specter

Some thoughts on the life of former Senator Arlen Specter, who died yesterday...

Specter was counsel to the Warren Commission, the group that investigated the JFK assassination.  The commission found Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, and Specter was said to be the originator of the "magic bullet" theory.  Simply put, Specter believed the magic bullet struck both Kennedy and Gov. John Connally.  A lot of people didn't buy it then, and didn't buy it now.  I'm sure Specter was asked about it until the day he died.

I can believe Oswald acted alone.  I was never sure about Specter's magic bullet theory.

The man had an impressive resume-- Philadelphia district attorney, private practice, author, senator...  He lost elections for DA, governor and senate, and he kept coming back for more.  Specter was a fighter-- in politics, and against the cancer that eventually took his life.  The political and personal fights were admirable.  Facing a similar set of circumstances, many would have just given up.

Let me tell you something about the Arlen Specter experience.  He made frequent trips to our area, usually on Monday holidays.  Why?  Monday holidays are notoriously slow news days, and he knew that meant his visits would be page one and top of the newscast stories.  He would always work a room when he entered, walking around, exchanging pleasantries, shaking hands with everyone-- reporters, photographers, and anyone else who happened to be there.  I'm not sure if he was being a nice guy or a smart politician.  Probably both.

I will never forget the night in 1992 I yelled at Arlen Specter.  He had just won another election, and he had chosen the Glaziers' Union hall, far outside center city Philadelphia as the location for his victory speech.  I was working at a TV station down the street.  A photographer and I were assigned to get the victory speech, then get to center city, to meet up with another crew, covering Specter's opponent, and our satellite truck, to be live on the 11 PM news.  Typical Specter.  He was working the room after being declared the winner, shaking hands, basking in the glow.  I was looking at my watch.  Specter had yet to make his speech and it was getting dangerously late.  As he made his way to my side of the room, I yelled "It's getting late."  Motioning to the podium, I added "Would you get up there, already!"  He did.  I got my sound bite.  The photographer and I broke the sound barrier getting downtown, and we made our slot.

I interviewed Arlen Specter many times.  There were countless news conferences.  He never ducked a question.

Arlen Specter went against this party many times.  He was given the unenviable position of trying to impeach the credibility of Anita Hill, as she made accusations against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.

Specter, citing Scottish law, voted "not proven" during the Clinton impeachment.  It was among the silliest things I had ever heard, and Specter took a major credibility hit, at least in my book.

Things didn't end well.  Specter switched parties three years ago.  He started as a Democrat.  The bulk of his career was spent as a Republican.  Specter returned to his roots in an effort to win reelection.  He knew his goose was cooked in the Republican primary.  As it turns out, the Democrats didn't take kindly to a recent convert.  Arlen Specter's political obituary was written many times over the years.  He always proved the pundits wrong, but nothing is forever.

I had mixed feelings on the whole thing.  Conviction is important, and some would say Specter had none.  Others counter that Arlen Specter always had the same beliefs.  He was just expressing them under a different banner.

I read Specter was horrible to work for, but I also know people who stuck with him for a very long time.

Arlen Specter wanted cameras inside the U.S. Supreme Court, and a three lane Interstate 81 from Nanticoke to Clarks Summit.  We'll never see either.

Arlen Specter was Pennsylvania's longest serving senator, five terms.  I doubt we'll ever see anyone like him.  Arlen Specter was 82 years old.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bad Photography Sunday: Aftermath

I was saddened when it happened last month, and even more sad when I saw the damage in person Tuesday morning.

Historic Bellfonte was hit by another fire in September.  The Hotel Do De, adjacent to the courthouse,  burned and it will have to come down.  The Garman Theater building next door has a lot of damage.  Some believe it can be saved, but not without a lot of work and a lot of money.  The Centre Daily Times reports the Garman's owner and the bank are currently in foreclosure proceedings.

The Do De is more than one hundred years old.  Bellefonte has a lot of character, so if something new does go up in that space, I assume there will be an attempt to make it fit in with the neighborhood.  I've seen it happen before, and there are some excellent examples, but it's never the same.

The Hotel Do De was a rooming house, in its final years, before someone set fire to the building.  Everyone got out safely, and that's the most important thing.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bad Photography Saturday: Brockerhoff

I was lucky Tuesday.  During a little down time between live shots, I had a chance to do some limited Bellefonte exploring.  It has to be one of the prettiest towns in Pennsylvania.  The courthouse area features this building-- the Brockerhoff.

Below is a description from the Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association web site.

The Brockerhoff Hotel stands on South Allegheny Street at the southwest corner of The Diamond.  This was once the site of a log cabin tavern owned by James Benner.  The Hotel was built on this site in 1864 and 1865 by Henry Brockherhoff, following the relocation of the log cabin at the corner of Allegheny and Bishop Streets.  It was redesigned by Robert Cole in the 1890s by adding a fourth floor and interesting roof design.  In the end, it is a perfect example of Gothic Revival architecture, with multi-tiered slate mansard roof and Romanesque windows on the front.  It is today a residential facility. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

In the Rear View Mirror

One more Sandusky blog before I move on to other things...

As were leaving Bellefonte Tuesday morning, photographer Mark Monahan and I wondered if we'd ever be back.  I said it's likely. 

What happened here will live on for a very long time-- after Jerry Sandusky's life ends behind bars, after I retire.

Sandusky's lawyer plans an appeal.  He could get a new trial.  The experts think it's unlikely.  There are the civil suits against Penn State University, though the university has expressed an interest in settling as many as possible, as fast as possible.

Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, the ones who allegedly tried to cover up Sandusky's horrible acts, will go on trial, but that will be in federal court, not in Bellefonte.

I'm sure there legal proceedings ahead we still don't know about.

I don't think we've seen the last of Bellefonte.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

New Tech, Old Home

I've always referred to big events, crammed with media, like the Sandusky sentencing as "old home week."  You see a lot of people you worked with and against over the years.  It's a broadcasting reunion.  My Tuesday in Bellefonte was a little different.

There were the photographers from another station, overwhelmed and overworked because they were also filing reports for other stations in the same ownership group.  Technical issues galore, and I felt sorry for them.

There was the reporter, who I've known for decades, dealing with some recent family losses.  We talked about the old days, when we were just starting out, and figuring out how everything worked.

There was one of my many, many former bosses, now on the other side.  He gave up TV for public relations.  I had a nice conversation with his intern.  She's lucky.  She has someone knowledgeable guiding her along the way, and a nice guy on top of that.

The one that surprised me was an e-mail from Virginia.  One of our former producers was watching our coverage via a satellite feed.  She's a good kid, and it made my day.

Even though it was an interesting time in Bellefonte, some might even say historic, it felt good to be back in the car, and one the way home.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sandusky and the Damage Done

Convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky was sentenced yesterday at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte.  He received 30 to 60 years, which effectively puts him in prison for the rest of his life.  Sandusky told the judge he didn't do it.  He rambled on about a conspiracy between lawyers, the investigators, the media, the accusers and even Penn State University.  Not only is Jerry Sandusky a pedophile, he's also a liar.

Above is some of the crush of media that invaded the courthouse yesterday-- the view from the front of the building.

Below, the scene in the back parking lot.  This is the entrance used by the judge, the attorneys and Sandusky.  Even more photographers showed up after I snapped the photo.

As I walked around Bellefonte yesterday morning, I couldn't help but think of all the damage one man inflicted on so many people.

Jerry Sandusky wrecked his own life, and the lives of his victims and their families.  The Sandusky family has to be suffering, as well.

Former Penn State officials Gary Schultz and Tim Curley face criminal charges for allegedly covering up Sandusky's activities.  Sandusky gave them the ammunition to ruin their lives.  Schultz and Curley merely pulled the trigger.

Joe Paterno saw his reputation destroyed in the final months of his life.  It can also be argued that Paterno played a big role in his fate.  I will never forget the image of the Paterno statue being dragged away from the front of Beaver Stadium on a summer Sunday morning.

The reputation of Penn State University took a major hit.  The football program was almost destroyed.  Collateral damage has been inflicted on the players because the people who should have known better, did not.

The Second Mile Charity is gone.

The PSU Board of Trustees is is turmoil.

Civil suits are piling up.  This has already cost the university millions, and it will get a lot more expensive before it's over.

And, there's Mike McQueary, the whistle blower, who did't blow the whistle hard and long enough.

I'm sure there's a lot more damage that I haven't thought of.

Clarence the angel in "It's a Wonderful Life said "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives."  It's so true.  Except, there's nothing wonderful here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The System

For the most part, our justice system works.  However, it does have its bugs.

Sentencings always confound me.  Let's use today's Jerry Sandusky case as an example.

The judge wants to hear the person being sentenced express remorse and take responsibility for their actions, but how do you do that if you still say you didn't do it?

Victims can give statements, either in person or in writing.  The person being sentenced also has the right to speak.  Jerry Sandusky, via the NBC Bob Costas interview, already proved he's an inarticulate clod.  He has the potential here to dig the hole even deeper, and it looks like a planned statement in court will do just that.

It goes far beyond one man in one courtroom.  What happens in Bellefonte is sure to affect the victims and their lawsuits against Penn State University, plus the criminal cases against former PSU officials Gary Schultz and Tim Curley.

Joe Paterno's reputation and legacy are already shot to hell.  Maybe Jerry Sandusky can say something to salvage it.  Even if Sandusky says Paterno knew nothing, consider the source.  Getting a character reference from Jerry Sandusky isn't much of a plus.

When you add it all up, it doesn't look to be a good day for 68 year old Jerry Sandusky.  Even the low end of the sentencing scale puts him in prison for the rest of his life.

There are many who believe that is just.

>>>UPDATE:  A judge sentenced Sandusky to 30 to 60 years in prison Tuesday morning.  I guessed 40.  He was defiant Monday, in that statement broadcast by a student radio station.  Sandusky was the same way in court Tuesday.  He went down swinging.  The only ones hit were the victims, who had more abuse from Jerry Sandusky heaped upon their injury.

Monday, October 8, 2012


By now, you've probably heard the story of the overweight news anchor from LaCrosse, WI.

To make a long story short, a viewer sent an e-mail to Jennifer Livingston, calling her a poor role model because she's overweight.

Livingston responded and played the bully card.  She spent four minutes of the station's air time trying to turn the tables-- saying the e-mail writer was a poor role model for his family.  Livingston attempted to prove someone who writes nasty things influences bad behavior on the part of his children.


Clearly, the viewer's comments were mean.  If Livingston is happy with herself, and if management is okay with it, her weight is not an issue.

Bullies pick on those who cannot defend themselves.  Jennifer Livingston is not in that group.  Leave the kids out of this.

Criticism comes along with the television territory.  Have people said mean things to me?  Certainly.  It's unpleasant, but you learn to live with it.  Women broadcasters have it even tougher.  You should hear and read the things my co-workers, past and present, have been peppered with over the years.

There are many things Jennifer Livingston needs to reassess.

The man who wrote the letter needs to change the channel.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Bad Photography Sunday: Home of the Pigs

Take a good look at these photos of Coca Cola Park in Allentown, because the new Lackawanna County Stadium is supposed to look something like this.

Notice, it's a low stadium, and the seats are close to the action.  This picture was taken from left field.  It's a lot different that the high stadium we were used to seeing in Moosic.  There are 8,200 seats here, but the capacity is listed at 10,100.  They count the number of people who can fit on the outfield lawn.
The minor league season has been over for a while.  We'll keep tuned to the major league playoffs and World Series this month.

It's back to the minors in six months!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Bad Photography Saturday: Stadium Tour

I found myself in the Lehigh Valley again recently, so I decided to take a spin over to Coca Cola Park in Allentown, home of the Iron Pigs.

It opened in 2008, and I wanted to see how it was holding up.  I was also suffering from a little stadium withdrawl, prompted by the demolition of Lackawanna County Stadium in Moosic.  Other than a little chipped concrete, the park looks great.  Plus, I was there on a spectacular weather day.  There's something about a ballpark on a late summer sunny day that makes you feel good.
Coca Cola Park is almost as much kiddie playground as it is AAA baseball stadium.  This is a shot from the outfield walkway.  Yes, that's a mini golf hole on the left, and a slide in the middle.  There is a bouncy house just to the right of the slide.  The picture was taken well before game time, so it was deflated.

The purist/snob part of me hates the playground concept, but I do realize minor league baseball is family entertainment, and if you keep the kids happy, they'll want to keep coming back.  "Coming back" is what it's all about.

More stadium pictures tomorrow.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Back to the Future

I remember it being one of my prized possessions as a wee tot-- a Schaefer 500 tee shirt.  All kids love cars, and I thought it was neat that such a huge event was right here in our own backyard.

Way back then, stock car racing was basically a southern thing.  Open wheeled cars ruled the roost.

Times changed.  The people who ran the Indy car leagues fought among themselves.  NASCAR came on strong, doing it bigger and better, developing personalities, and establishing a huge fan base.

I think the average person on the street can name a few NASCAR drivers.  Indy cars?  I don't think so.

Let's hope that comes to an end.  Indy cars are coming back to Pocono after a very long absence.

I never really understood the Pocono business model-- a huge piece of real estate, on a two lane road, that's only in use a few weekends a year.  Another race means more money being pumped into the area, and who can argue with that.

Welcome back.  All I need is a new tee shirt.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thursday Scrapple

USA Today reports McDonald's is developing an in-store TV channel.  Some customers have complained about the current offerings.  McDonald's sees it as a way to get more advertising in your face.  My advice?  Take out the TV's.  Drop the in-store channel.  Use the money to hire more workers and cooks.

The NFL has finally settled with the referees.  The refs union was asking for a lot, but then again, the NFL makes a ton of money.  The referees, as we saw in the first three weeks of the season, play a big role in the league, and they should share in its success.

This is the greatest nation in the world.  How can we be facing a bacon shortage?

I'm still waiting for that NEPA visit from Obama, Romney, Biden and/or Ryan.  I've been covering presidential election cycles since 1984, and I can't remember a time when our area has been so badly neglected.  I understand it.  I don't like it.

Proof there are too many TV channels:  Honey Boo Boo

Why do so many kids waiting for the school bus in the morning look so miserable?

Is is just me, or is Heinz ketchup a lot sweeter than it used to be.  It tastes like slightly spiced corn syrup, and I'm searching for another brand.   Unfortunately, Heinz has the fast food market cornered.

Major League Baseball has renewed its contracts with FOX and Turner.  Good.  FOX does a great job with baseball.

An update on the Easton Dixie Cup factory blog:  The Allentown Morning Call reports today a developer is looking for tax breaks as he attempts to turn the building in to 35 one and two bedroom apartments.  There's also room for commercial and office space.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


So many issues involving children lately...

It was one bad thing after another in Scranton.  Mold was discovered in Prescott Elementary SIX MONTHS AGO!  The report got misfiled and it sat in a drawer.  Do you mean to tell me no one who knew about the mold back in March said anything until now?  It's strained credibility, to say the least.  A public meeting on the issue was held Monday night.  There were more than enough poor performances to go around.

It reminds me of the "kids for cash" scandal in Luzerne County.  THOUSANDS of juveniles went before Judge Mark Ciavarella without legal representation, and no one said a word, and that includes people in the district attorney's office.  I will never be able to understand that.

I will take a neighborhood school over a regional school any day.  I've been in many of the city's schools.  Some tough choices are ahead. The current buildings are old and crowded.  I've seen classes in glorified basement storage areas.  Books are stacked in hallways because there's no space to put them.  Libraries are inadequate.  It's clear some of the city's buildings are in need of replacement.  Unfortunately, they're in a city where property owners are looking at years of big tax increases to pay for years of incompetency.  To say the least, there are tough choices down the road, and the road isn't that long.

There have been a few teen suicides in our area lately, and there is nothing as sad as a child taking his or her own life.  We're told bullying is the reason, and experts have been crawling out of the woodwork to render opinions.  It's like this- anyone who says they have the answers is full of you know what.  Kids aren't proud of being bullied.  They're embarrassed and don't want to talk about it.  That's why teachers, parents, and peers have to look for the signs and speak up.

Bullying is more than getting beat up after school these days.  The internet has taken bullying to a whole new level, and that brings us to our next topic.

There were gun rumors floating around a school district here in our area yesterday.  We checked.  There was no truth to the story.  You're not helping your kids by spreading false stories around cyberspace.  I'm sure most intentions were good-- to let people know about a potential danger, but in reality, it was no help.  It only added to the fear and paranoia.

The kids deserve better.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Road Not Taken

Above is the spectacular Comenius Hall on the campus of Moravian College in Bethlehem.

In a recent blog entry, I wrote that I had two criteria for choosing a college-- close and affordable.  Marywood and the University of Scranton were at the top of the list.  I could have walked to the Penn State campus in Dunmore, but it didn't offer what I wanted.

I don't know if it still works this way, but back in the day, you could have your SAT scores reported to three colleges free of charge.  Additional colleges were extra.  My three?  The U of S, Marywood, and the University of Miami.  There was no way I could swing becoming a Hurricane, but I needed a third, and it went down on my form.  I should note that the material I received from Miami was spectacular.  The brochures looked like items you would receive from a travel agent, rather than a university.  Marywood and the U sent the bare minimum.  It didn't make much of a difference.  I wanted Marywood.  I settled on it early in the process.  It was smaller, and a better fit for me  At the time, the U didn't have a real broadcast radio station (Marywood did), and the U's urban campus (since greatly improved) left a lot to be desired.

Something strange happened during my final high school months.  Moravian in Bethlehem kept sending me tons of stuff.  I never found out if they heard I was a decent chap with good grades (top 15 per cent of my class), or if this was standard operating procedure.   Moravian looked like a great place, but my mind was made up.  I was destined to become a Marywood Pacer, rather than a Moravian Greyhound.

Moral of the story?  I should have checked out Moravian.  I'm not saying I would have changed my college choice, but I do regret not exploring every opportunity.  As some recent sightseeing showed, it's a very nice place.  I think I could have been happy there.

Again, as noted in an earlier blog, I received a solid education at Marywood, and there are no major regrets, but I do wonder what things would be like if I made a different choice a long, long time ago.

Monday, October 1, 2012

About the Cover

It is one of the most famous parts of the Moravian College campus in Bethlehem-- the statue of John Amos Comenius, considered to be the father of modern education.

I took this photo on a recent early fall morning, and I will have more to say about Moravian tomorrow.

Below is the story of the statue from the Moravian College web site.

The great bronze statue of John Amos Comenius (1592-1670) on Moravian's campus depicts him as a fierce old man. It may reflect Comenius's reaction to being driven from one home after another by religious wars and persecution, watching his first wife and their two children die under refugee conditions, and being continually misled by false hopes of returning to his homeland. But it may be an expression of his enduring rage at the educational conditions of his time, a rage he never directed at students, but always at the difficulties they faced in learning.
Throughout his life he tried to improve the ways students were taught. His first success in this area was a beginning Latin textbook, Janua Linguarum Reserata ("The Gate of Languages Unlocked"), published in 1631. Much later in life, he showed that he still had the needs of beginners on his mind, producing the first-ever children's picture book, Orbis Pictus ("The World Illustrated"), published in 1658. Both these books became best-sellers, translated into every major European language and used by beginning learners for over a hundred years.
Comenius's most important work, however, was written between 1628 and 1632, first in Czech and then in Latin: the Didactica Magna, usually called in English The Great Didactic. Perhaps a more meaningful translation would be "The Whole Art of Teaching." It explored how people learn and how they should be taught from infancy through the university and beyond. Published in 1649, it was a radical work for its time. In an age when people believed that human beings were born naturally evil and that goodness and knowledge had to be beaten into them, Comenius believed that they were born with a natural craving for knowledge and goodness, and that schools beat it out of them.
Although he did not use the modern words (nor did the Victorian translator who made his work available in English), Comenius addressed such topics as
  • Education for everyone
  • Students' natural tendency to learn
  • Learning by easy stages
  • Financial aid
  • Career preparation
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Lifelong learning
It is thanks to him that educators today think these things are important.