Monday, December 31, 2012

Top Ten: On the Move

We have a little train action as we move toward 2013.

Today's shots were taken on the afternoon of October 19.  I was doing some mindless wandering.  While I was driving on Lackawanna Avenue in Mayfield, I spotted a small freight train off to my right.  I needed to get out ahead of it and take a shot.
There was a problem.  There was a fully loaded garbage truck ahead of me, and it  was crawling.  Plus,  it was in a location where passing would have been unsafe.  Finally, fate smiled on me.  The trash truck found a burst of speed.  It was enough for me to get a jump on the train.  I pulled over the the side of the road, crawled up a small embankment, and I took some pictures as it headed north toward Carbondale.
And, there it goes!

I hope 2013 is a great one, and thanks for dropping by here every day.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Top Ten: 6,600

This photo was taken the afternoon of Veterans Day last month.

Marywood University students had 6,600 flags planted on campus-- one for every American service man and woman killed in fighting since 9/11/01.  It was powerful.

Let's talk a little about photographic technique.  It was a total accident.  The auto focus zeroed in in the closest flag, leaving the rest of the flags, the trees, and the library building nicely out of focus.  I like this shot a lot.

Tomorrow...  my favorite photograph of 2012.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Top Ten: The River

This picture was taken back in June, just before the 40th anniversary of the Tropical Storm Agnes flood.  It was taken from the Market Street Bridge in Wilkes-Barre, looking upstream.

My intent was to show how great the river and the river common can be when the sun is out, and the water is low.  I hope I achieved that goal.

I've always been amazed how a few days of rain can turn the Susquehanna in to a raging monster.  Thankfully, we didn't have any of that in 2012.

Tomorrow...  remembering.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Top Ten: Blackout

Main Street in downtown Stroudsburg is normally one of the busiest here in our area.  This picture was taken in the middle of the morning rush hour, October 30.  The street is empty.  Why?  Hurricane Sandy is overhead.  There is no electricity.  Monroe County, in terms of the number of homes and businesses blacked out, was the hardest hit county here in our area.  The recovery took several days.

This is one of those pictures where the lack of activity speaks volumes.

Tomorrow... pleasant scenery.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Top Ten: The Sticker and Paul Stueber

Today's Top Ten offering requires a little more explanation than usual.

The photo in and of itself is not a thing of beauty, but the fact that it's still around makes it worthy of mention.

I took this picture back in the spring, in the Tripp Park section of Scranton.  The sticker is from Ed Mitchell's 1976 congressional campaign.  It stayed stuck for more than 36 years, and I hope it's still there today.

Tomorrow...  days in the dark.

I cannot let the day pass without mentioning the death of former WNEP news director Paul Stueber.

I had just lost my job as morning news producer at channel 22 in May of 1998.  It was merging with channel 28, and my services were no longer required.  I was offered a job in Charleston, WV and I tentatively accepted it.  I asked the news director in West Virginia for a little more time to make sure.  He said "Take two weeks."  In that two weeks, I called Paul Stueber at WNEP.  I thought it was a long shot, but you miss 100 per cent of the shots you never take.  He agreed to a meeting.  We talked.  I showed him my tape of saved stories, and I thought it went well.

I later learned through a third party that there were forces working against me at WNEP.  I fully expected and understood that.  I was the competition, first on radio, then TV for more than 15 years.  You're going to step on some toes.  Fortunately, a former general manager and a former news director both lobbied Stueber on my behalf.  He had the good sense to follow his gut and not listen to the nay sayers, and I will forever be grateful.

There was a bit of a compromise.  I didn't get the Action 16 job I wanted.  I was offered the job as producer of the weekend morning broadcasts.  The money wasn't the greatest, but I took it, and that was 14.5 years ago.

Not quite a year in to my run, Paul called me in to the office.  He didn't like the chemistry of the weekend morning team, so he asked me to become co-anchor.  I was a little concerned.  I had been off the air for a few years. Luckily, the rust came off after a few weeks, and it went well.

I will always remember a day when I was producing the 6 PM weekday news.  I was struggling with a script and I found it impossible to make interesting.  I asked Paul for help.  In just a few seconds behind the keyboard, it was a polished masterpiece.  He is on the very short list of "great news minds" I've worked with.

I really should back up several years.  I was working at WARM in the early 80's, and I sent Paul a letter, asking for a job.  He sent back a reply, ripping me and ripping the station.  It dripped with nastiness.  I kept the letter, and several months after I started at WNEP, we talked about it, and Paul asked to see it.  He looked at it and apologized.  When he offered to give it back, I declined, saying it was all in the past.  I assume it went in the trash.

It wasn't all sunshine.  Paul could be quick tempered and difficult to be around.  There were health problems that kept him out of the office for extended periods.

When you total it all up, I was lucky to work for Paul Stueber.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Top Ten: Bellefonte

Everyone who visits falls in love with the place.

This is a pre dawn shot of the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, taken in early June.

Unfortunately, a horrible story brought me to the borough.  This picture was snapped on the first day of jury selection in the Sandusky trial.

One of my 2013 goals is to get back there and really take a good look around.

Tomorrow...  sticking around for some history.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas !!!

As you look at a photo of the Public Square, Wilkes-Barre Christmas tree...

Merry Christmas to you and your family, and thanks for being loyal blog readers during the last eight years.

Take a moment to realize how fortunate we all are.

And below, a Christmas treat.  This is the cover of a Christmas card that appeared in my mail box last week.  It features the photography and art work of Ben Rice.  I had the pleasure of working with Ben for several years at WNEP.  He's now working in Washington, DC.  The card was so original and interesting, I had to share.  Merry Christmas, Ben...  and all the others who sent cards and e-mails this year.

The Top Ten photo review continues tomorrow.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Top Ten: North of the Border

There are two courthouses in this year's Top Ten, and this is the first.

This is a late July shot of the Broome County Courthouse, in Binghamton, NY.

It's not a tall building, and it really doesn't dominate the downtown Binghamton sky line, but once you find it, you can't help but be impressed.

On the day after Christmas...  the second courthouse in this year's Top Ten.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Top Ten: The Stadium

After the project nearly crashed and burned, the demolition of Lackawanna County Stadium began in the late spring.  This photo was taken in mid June.

What made it happen?  State money and the sale of the team to the organization that presided over huge attendance declines in recent years.  The team's new president promises things will be different when the new stadium opens in April.

The team will have a new name and logo-- a porcupine RailRider.  As noted last month, ugh!

Tomorrow...  a different view.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Top Ten: Classical Gas

I've seen these things several times.  I marvel at their operation, and I still can't get used to them.

This is a shot of a natural gas drilling rig, near Montrose, taken in late March.

It's amazing how a major industry sprung up in our area, virtually overnight.  I'll let you decide whether it's good or bad.  It is visually striking.

Tomorrow...  the end of an era.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Top Ten: The Diesel

It wouldn't be a Top Ten list without at least one train, and this year's offering comes from the spring of 2012.  I was playing with my camera during National Parks Week.  Steamtown was admission free, and I snapped this one of a diesel on the turntable.  From this angle and height, it looks like a toy.

Tomorrow...  another industrial shot.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Top Ten Preview

Well, it's that time of year again...

I think it's the third or fourth year I've been doing a Top Ten photograph review.  It's a nice way to get through the slow holiday period, and look back on some interesting moments of the old year.

I really enjoyed going through the files of things I snapped during 2012.

There are some good ones this year-- some water, some trains, some buildings.

As I've said before, they are not necessarily the best photos of the year, but ones I liked a lot.  In some cases, the photograph isn't all that important, but the time, place, and circumstances were.  Every picture has a story.

And, as always, I'll add a thought or two when something big happens.

The countdown begins tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Christmas Letter

It is something I look forward to, yet dread every year.

An old college friend always sends me a Christmas card and letter.  A lot of people hate those family newsletters.  I don't.  I like this person, and I'm always interested in how her year went.

The problem is the response.  My friend has a really good life-- great family, great job, great vacations. 

I have nothing to offer in return.  Here's my first draft of the letter she receives in response.

I had a nice year.  Work kept me busy with several big stories.  There was a lot of time in court, and Hurricane Sandy (I refuse to say "superstorm") jump out at me.

I shopped for a new car.  I didn't buy one.

I shopped for a smart phone.  I didn't buy one.

I did buy a bicycle and joined a gym.  I love the bike, and I feel better since I've been "working out."

I managed to put the brakes on my pen collecting, and I spent a lot of time playing with my camera.

My blog turned 8 this year.

I consumed enough "5 Hour Energy" to kill a yak.

I really racked up the points on my Subway rewards card, and I ate at White Castle for the first time.

Hours were spent pondering how a porcupine could possibly be connected to a train.

Hours were spent watching Penndot patch the same interstate bridge over and over and over again.

Well, that's 2012.  I hope your year was a great one, and I look forward to hearing about your 2013.

Happy Holidays to you and the family.

Your friend, Andy.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

We Needed That

Since Friday morning, the most horrible of stories has been front and center.

Yesterday, I was at the opening of the new Seventh Street Bridge in Stroudsburg.  It was a big deal-- complete with high school band, a joking radio DJ, fancy cars, and plenty of politicians.  About a hundred people were there to watch-- and have a good time.

I was too busy writing when the people were here.  If you didn't see the story I did, or the one Raegan Medgie produced, you'll have to take my word for it.

It seemed to me that people enjoyed the bridge opening more than they normally would.  I suspect everyone needed a break, an opportunity to have a little fun, a bit of a chuckle, and a chance to celebrate something good.

It wasn't much, and it didn't last long.  Still, it was a tiny bit of relief everyone needed.

Monday, December 17, 2012


Monty Hall and Wayne Brady would be proud.

The holidays present an interesting situation in the big newsroom.  Everybody wants Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day off.  Not everyone can have it.

There isn't any whining or bawling.  When you take a job in the news business, you have to know you're going to work holidays.  You'd be amazed at how many people entering the business don't seem to "get" that.  What are they teaching them in college?

Management tries to keep as many people happy as possible, and that creates a lot of trading.  The scheduler makes an offer.  You make a counter offer.  Co-workers trade.  It all works out.  The news gets covered.  The shifts are filled.  All's well that ends well.

I'm lucky.  This is my 15th holiday season at WNEP.  I'm high enough on the seniority ladder to be asked about my preferences.  I'm not greedy.  I do realize I'm blessed that my family is close.  I'm also not much of a holiday guy, so I took some less than desirable shifts.

It's no "big deal."  I asked for it.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Bad Photography Sunday: And Bridge Two

This is the newer of the two Susquehanna River crossings between Wilkes-Barre and Kingston.  There's a simple reason for that-- the old bridge that connects Pierce Street in Kingston with North Street in Wilkes-Barre fell in the river during the Tropical Storm Agnes flood in 1972.

If you look carefully, you can see construction equipment on the bridge, part of a long resurfacing project.

This bridge doesn't have the grace and beauty of its downstream counterpart, but if you look at it right, it does have its charm.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Bad Photography Saturday: Bridge One

The pictures are new.  The subject is not, and there is a reason for that.  It's rather simple.  The Market Street bridge, over the Susquehanna River between Wilkes-Barre and Kingston is a magnificent structure.

This is from Thanksgiving morning-- brilliant sunshine, low water, and a nice reflection in the river.
When they designed this one, they did it right.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Unfinished Business

Gun control is one of those "third rail" issues.  Now matter how you approach it, you're going to get hurt if you touch it.  NBC's Bob Costas uttered some pro gun control comments on an NFL telecast on the weekend where a member of the Kansas City Chiefs shot and killed his girlfriend, then himself.  I think we can all agree that too many bad people have guns.  I have no idea where to go after that.  Costas certainly has the right to express his opinion, but it seemed out of place at an NFL halftime.  Report the story.  Move on.  Save the commentary for another time.

The alleged "war on Christmas" is another third rail zapper.  It's like this.  If you want to celebrate Christmas, go nuts.  If you'd rather not, great.  In a similar vein, I was totally against shopping on Thanksgiving, so I didn't do it.  Where we run into trouble is when others, and this involves both sides, thrust their views in your face.  This seems to be tabloid TV fodder, more than anything else.

Some steroid users are on baseball's Hall of Fame ballot.  I hope voters keep them out, in spite of their excellent statistics.  Always remember, it's the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Numbers.

After a little radio bashing the other day, something good.  It's called Red Eye Radio, and it runs 1-5 AM.  I don't think current hosts Eric Harley and Gary McNamara are as good as the guy they replaced, Doug McIntyre, but it's still a decent listen-- even though it's not local.

CBS Sports starts a radio network next month.  I don't see any local affiliates, but there's always the internet.  Some of the hosts look like they have something interesting to offer.

This next entry is going to start with a radio reference, but it's not about radio.  I'm a huge fan of Tony Kornheiser's radio show.   It's on a local station in Washington, DC and is available via internet.  On Tuesday, Tony was talking about his Cadillac loaner while his car was in the shop, and he was unable to operate the radio!  Yes!  I test drove a new Honda a few months ago.  It was a great car, but I was confounded by the radio.  I couldn't figure it out.  It seemed to be a combination smartphone/tablet/notebook.  No!  Just play the music and make stations easy to find.  I didn't buy the car, even though it was a fantastic vehicle.  I'm still looking.

Reinhold Weege died December 1 in San Diego.  He created the NBC sitcom "Night Court."  It wasn't the greatest show of all time, but it consistently produced laughs and introduced us to one of TV's best bad guys, Asst. DA Dan Fielding, played by John Larroquette.  Larroquette won four straight Emmy awards, and that's a record.  Before "Night Court, " Weege was a writer and producer on "Barney Miller," one of the most under appreciated sitcoms in history.  Weege was 62.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Are You Kidding Me?

I've been exercising more and eating less.

My daily intake includes bananas and V8.

I try to get enough rest.

I use Listerine and I've had a flu shot.

There are bottles of vitamins in my bathroom.

I keep containers of hand sanitizer everywhere, and I use antibacterial soap.

A mixture of blood and Lysol runs through my veins.

Before I type one word at work, my telephone and keyboard are treated to a Clorox wipe.

And, I've had two colds in less than one month.

I think someone is telling me to go back to fast food and doughnuts.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Radio Notes

It's been a while since I went off on the radio industry, so here goes.

There are a few radio stations here in our area that have gone "all Christmas."  Some started around Thanksgiving.  As a listener, I can't stand it.  I'm in the minority.  I can't speak for what happens locally, but nationally, "all Christmas" stations usually see a ratings bump.

There's a dirty, little secret.  Most DJ's don't like Christmas music!  I've been there.  There are a few good songs.  It's nice to hear the classics, but that gets old fast.

Things have changed.  Back in the day, you'd have to sit in a a little room for hours and play the same songs over, and over again.  Technology has given us "voice tracking."  DJ's record their breaks, dump them into a computer, and what used to take hours now takes minutes.  It sounds live.  It's not.  At least, it spares the DJ's from actually listening to what they play.

Speaking of "live," allow me to swing off into another "geezer moment," the second of the day.   As is my habit, I drop by Marywood's radio station, WVMW, when I'm on my way to the Christmas tree lighting.  I enjoy keeping an eye and an ear on my alma mater.  The radio and TV area of the media center used to be a beehive of activity.  There'd be an air person and a news person on duty at the radio station.  Someone was always working on a project at the adjacent TV area.  Some of us who just loved the business were always hanging around.  When I dropped in last week, there was one student, sitting on a couch, playing with a smart phone.  The place was dead, and it made me sad.

As noted above, radio people are now more computer programmer than disc jockey.  Thanks to laptops, you can edit audio and video anywhere.  You don't have to be physically in the media center.  Times change.  I always enjoyed peering at the teletype to see the latest news from the Associated Press.  Thanks to smart phones, we now have AP in our pockets.

I do have a new favorite radio station.  It's AM 1640 in the Scranton area.  The owner?  Penndot.  Most of the time, it simply re-broadcasts the National Weather Service around the clock.  It's nice to get constantly updated weather, something the commercial stations rarely do.

Now, the big one-- the prank a couple Australian DJ's played on a worker at the hospital where Kate Middleton was being treated.  The nurse believed she was talking with the queen.  She wasn't.  The nurse was so horrified, she took her own life.  It seems like a harmless joke, but we don't know if the nurse was punished by her hospital, or incurred the wrath of the royal family.

If I was a radio executive, and the DJ's came to me for permission, would I have given it?  Yeah, probably.

I do read some radio industry on-line newsletters, and many allege the prank horribly damaged radio's reputation.  Tragic as it is, this one will fade away in time.  Radio does more damage to itself by the continuing loss of most local programming, and the local programming that remains is bargain basement stuff.

I do not want to gloss over the tragic loss of a life here.  She was a wife and a mom.  The woman worked at a hospital, and I'm sure counseling was merely steps away.  Something apparently so harmless would up being so awful.

Always remember this, Pennsylvania has a wiretap law, and it applies to radio as well.  You cannot be recorded without your permission.   The prank probably wouldn't have happened here, and if it did, there would be hell to pay.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I Wish It Was Different

I just can't help it.

I cannot listen to John and Yoko's Christmas song, Happy Xmas, without thinking of how Lennon died, December 8, 1980.

It makes me sad.  It shouldn't.  Happy Xmas is a very good song, about a tough time in world history. We thought Vietnam was winding down when Happy Xmas was released in 1971.  It's one of the very few Christmas songs that doesn't compel me to hit the "scan" button on my car radio.

It's a protest song with a high degree of optimism.

There's a lesson here-- accentuate Lennon's life, not his death.  It's easier said than done.

Happy Xmas.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Take it Down

Most of the things here have been triggered by former state senator Bob Mellow's guilty plea to misusing public money, but the lessons can be applied to any organization that names something after a politician.

Marywood University has an athletic facility with Mellow's name on it.  The university has been coy about whether it will remain.  Knowing Marywood as I do, I'm expecting the university will stall for a while, hope people forget about the issue, and keep the name up there.  The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader reported a university spokesperson said "any consideration for changing this honor would be made only after comprehensive private dialog among Marywood University principals."

It sure sounds like Mellow's name stays.  That's wrong.

News reports showed most of Marywood's students don't care about Mellow's name on the building.  All that tells me is Marywood needs to beef up its Ethics courses.

Also on the wrong side of the issue is Lackawanna College, and its Mellow Theater.  At least Lackawanna was straightforward in saying the name will stay.

I keep hearing that institutions want to recognize elected officials for their "public service."  Why?  That's their job.  Why do they name things after politicians?  It always appeared to be an attempt to curry favor.  Slap a name on a building, and you have a friend in Harrisburg, or Washington.  Ego.  Attitude.  Thank you for pumping public money into private institutions, like Marywood.

And, yes, I am a Marywood alumnus.

Perhaps I'd feel better about Mellow and his ilk if they spent their own money.  They don't.  Mellow and the others are very good at spending our money, and then taking the credit for it.

Marywood, Lackawanna, and the other should set an example.  Stand for something.  Do they really have to be reminded it's wrong to steal?  I always expected more out of Marywood, a higher standard.  All this does  is send the message that it's okay to steal, as long as we get our share.

Marywood and the others might see Mellow's actions as a bump in the road.  Really?  Please, don't forget Mellow continued to arrogantly break the law, even as fellow legislators were being charged with similar crimes.

While I'm at it, I read the 200 letters sent to the sentencing judge, asking for leniency for Mellow.  I have no problems with the letters.  However, many people wrote those letters using the stationery of their employers.   On the list, the Diocese of Scranton, the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce, Fordham University, Scranton-Lackawanna Human Development Agency, the University of Scranton, and Northampton Community College.  I perceive that to be a Mellow endorsement by an institution, not an individual. What you had here were organizations like colleges, public service agencies, and other groups giving a kiss on the forehead to an admitted thief-- someone who stole your money.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Bad Photography Sunday: The Sculpture

Call me a Neanderthal, but I don't "get" a lot of contemporary art.

This is the new sculpture along the river common in Wilkes-Barre.  27 feet high.  Two tons of stainless steel. It's called "The Ribbon" and it's meant to be a positive inspiration for generations to come.

It's nice.

It doesn't fit.  It's a contemporary piece in a neighborhood of old buildings.  The size and scope are off.

Maybe, that's the point.  It's meant to be different, stand out, and be noticed.

Still, something is preventing me from loving it.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Bad Photography Saturday: The Courthouse

If you have the stomach to go back through all my old photographs, you will find that two structures occupy most of the hard drive space-- the Tunkhannock Viaduct at Nicholson, and the Luzerne County Courthouse in Wilkes-Barre, pictured above.

While I have tons of courthouse photographs, I couldn't resist one more.  Like others you've seen here on recent weekends, this was an early morning shot.  The sun is bouncing off the eastern side of the dome, the construction scaffolding recently removed.  There's frost on the grass, and no one is out on the river common in the morning cold.

I don't care for covering things on the inside, but I do love taking photographs from the outside.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Tree

As I say every year, it is my greatest challenge.  Photographing Marywood's Christmas tree has always been really difficult for me.

Technique, in a moment.  First a little history.  I always wondered why I go back for the tree lighting every year, but I was never there as a student.  Marywood's president said yesterday this was the 30th year for a tree in the Liberal Arts building rotunda.  Before that, it was a decorated tree outside.  So, the first year for the indoor tree would have been my senior year.

I took an excess number of credits during my freshman and sophomore years.  I took classes every summer.  By the time my senior year rolled around, I was only at the school a couple days a week.  In fact, I had only one class as a second semester senior.  In other words, I was never around.

Marywood does Christmas right.  My favorite aspect is the Christmas season doesn't get rolling until AFTER Thanksgiving.  I wish more institutions and retailers could be like that.

The rotunda is spectacular without the tree.  The addition of the tree and the lights cannot be described, and I've yet to see a picture that does it justice.

That brings us to the technique.  If you use the flash, you see the tree, but wash out the lights.  If you go in the other direction, you see the lights, and nothing else.

I consulted the internet for tips.  It seems I'm not alone.  A lot of people are challenged by holiday light photography.  The suggestions I read involved two things-- keep the camera open, and use a tripod to avoid shake and blur.  Check.  Also, take a shot or two on every setting on the camera.  Double check.

It took a while Wednesday afternoon, but I came home with a few shots I liked.  They're not perfect, but they are OK.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Power of Suggestion

I'm sure it happens to all of us...

You hear a song, and it sticks in your head for days.

The same can be said of images.

One of my co-workers recently said when she hears the phrase "fiscal cliff." she's reminded of The Price is Right's "Cliffhanger" game.  You know the one-- a yodeler goes up the mountain, only to crash over the side if your guess is way off.

There are similarities between the "fiscal cliff" and the game.  In both cases, if you lose, you go home with nothing.

On a serious note, just about everyone agrees that going over the "fiscal cliff" is bad.  Yet, there is considerable evidence to indicate it's going to happen at the end of the year.  Nothing gets done in Washington, and it's one of the reasons why people are so angry and cynical.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Do the Math

I will preface today's entry by saying I'm not taking sides.  There are no easy answers.

If we all had our way, there would be a fire station in every neighborhood.  Paying for it is another story.

Most of our small towns, boroughs, and townships have volunteer fire companies.  They do a great job.  When they're not fighting fires, they're trying to raise money to keep their companies going.

Today, we're talking about paid firefighters.  Eleven Wilkes-Barre firefighters recently lost their jobs because the city has a major budget deficit.  The city has a declining population.  It seems more people are on fixed incomes and/or some sort of public assistance.  The economy is in bad shape, with unemployment around ten per cent.  Can we afford to keep all those firefighters?  Can we afford to let them go?

It's easy to say we have too many-- until there's a major fire.  By the way, these men and women also respond to a myriad of public welfare calls and accidents.  Most of us know we're going home at the end of our shifts.  Firefighters don't have that luxury.

On the other hand, they make good money with a nice benefits package.  As they say in organized crime "This is the life we have chosen."

Will you pay more in taxes to keep the status quo?

Firefighters picketed city hall yesterday.  That's the photo above.

The mayor is involved in a political gamble.  Apparently, he feels his hand is strong enough to order the pink slips.  Scranton's mayor learned a lesson the hard way.  The city had a couple major fires right after a round of layoffs.  Those firefighters are back on the job.  Closed Scranton fire stations have been re-opened.

It remains to be seen if Wilkes-Barre has made a prudent financial move, or if the city is whistling past the graveyard.

Good luck to all involved.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Good and Bad

I've been whining a lot about customer service lately, and I recently encountered two excellent examples of what to do, and what not to do.

First, the good.

I had some problems with a newly purchased lock from MasterLock.  The model in question is at the right of the photo.  I e-mailed the company.  It offered a few suggestions.  They didn't work.  I told the company.  It mailed me a replacement.  Free.  No questions asked.  Nice!  I was impressed.  Now, that's good customer service.

That brings us to the bad.

Even though MasterLock didn't want my troublesome lock returned, I decided to mail it back, anyway.  In a letter to the company, I said perhaps they could fix it and sell it as refurbished, or use it for testing.

There are options for sending packages, even small ones.  I'm sure FedEx and UPS would have appreciated my business.  Both are more than competent.  As noted here in the past, FedEx is lousy at dealing with the news media, but they do know how to get things from one point to another.

I chose the dependable United States Postal Service.

I arrived at the Stafford Avenue, Scranton location about 11:45 AM Thursday, and was greeted by a long line.  I wasn't surprised.  This is a big post office, and it's always busy.  Unfortunately, there was just one employee to handle the crush.  One!  The woman said her co-worker was on break, and she was really trying her best.  Her efficiency was impressive.  Still, the number of people waiting was overwhelming.  A man applying for a passport was mucking up the works.  It wasn't his fault.

When it was my turn, I paid for shipping the lock back to the manufacturer, and I paid.  The worker opens the cash drawer, and she was out of change!  What should have been a quick and easy transaction turned in to a frustration filled and needless time consuming odyssey.

The one worker on duty here was not to blame.  Unfortunately, she works in a broken system and one that's designed to fail.  Did it occur to the Postal Service that Christmas is coming and post offices are getting busy?   In fact, many of the people in line before me were buying Christmas stamps.  The government has closed several post offices, so that puts pressure on the ones that remain.  Think it would be a good idea to have more people on customer service?

Postal Service executives blame e-mail and private package shipping companies for their problems.  As Shakespeare once wrote, The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.

Next time I have a package to ship, I'll consider using someone other than the United States Postal Service.

Monday, December 3, 2012

About the Cover

This month's blog header is an example of Christmas the way I like it-- simple, basic, un-fancy (if that's even a word).

It's a wreath atop a Public Square, Wilkes-Barre light pole.  That's it.

December blog headers, since I started changing them on a monthly basis a few years ago, present the biggest challenge.  I want something Chistmassy, but a lot of the major Christmas displays aren't up until later this month.  I'm okay with that.  Christmas these days is often too much, too soon.

It's a busy month, and one that usually moves fairly quickly.

Let's hope it's a good one.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Bad Photography Sunday: Satellite Snow

I have to admit that standing in a snow storm is not my favorite things to do, but when you take a job in TV news, you know it comes along with the territory.

This photo was taken Tuesday morning.  We chose a pretty good location for our reports during Newswatch 16 This Morning-- a busy intersection in Mount Pocono.  It was well lit, so you could see what was going on.  It's one of the major intersections in the Poconos.

What you can't see here is we're in the parking lot of a Burger King.  That's key.  Here's why.  The first reasons are easy-- hot food and a bathroom.

We're also out of the way.  I love those people who continually complain about TV reporters standing along a road in a snow storm.  I don't do that.  It's not safe.  We'll find a place close enough to see what's going on, but far enough away to stay away from cars, trucks, and plows.

We were spoiled last year.  It didn't snow.  The party's over.  Winter's here.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Bad Photography Saturday: Snow Day

We had our first snow of "winter" on Tuesday.  This is where I spent most of my morning-- the Five Points Intersection in Mount Pocono.  It's where Routes 196, 940 and 611 meet.  Above, the view looking north, and below, we're looking south.
The roads here were slushy most of the morning.  They were merely wet after sunrise.

There was no shortage of Penndot trucks rolling through the neighborhood.  If you want clean roads, get a TV crew to set up shop on your street.