Saturday, October 31, 2015

Train Station Saturday: East Stroudsburg

I dug in to the archives for this one because it's always worth taking another look at a success story.

Dansbury Depot in East Stroudsburg was heavily damaged in a 2009 fire.  They almost ripped down the entire building.

People stepped in to save it.  Donations of cash, and the government actually helped!

The fire damaged portion was destroyed.  The rest was moved to the other side of the tracks and preserved.
It looks great.  People here in East Stroudsburg should be very proud of what they've accomplished.

Friday, October 30, 2015

GMA 40

ABC's Good Morning America turns 40 years old November 3.

Next week will be tied up with election stuff, so I'm doing the anniversary piece now.

GMA really was the morning show game changer, in so many ways.

David Hartman and Nancy Dussault were the first hosts-- a pair of actors, and that was unheard of at the time.  GMA was originally produced by ABC's entertainment division, not the news division.  The whole thing proved you really didn't have to be a journalist to handle a morning show.  You did have to show some genuine warmth and curiosity.  David Hartman really had that.  He was a friendly face in the morning, and you can't underestimate the value of that.  In the early days, Hartman was teamed up with ABC News' Steve Bell for the serious interviews.  When Bell eventually left, Hartman referred to him as "my teacher."

GMA's premise was simple-- the news of the day, plus things to help your life.  ABC established a stable of contributors, and it worked nicely.  The set was filled with plants-- a stark contrast to the sterile Today show on NBC and the even more sterile CBS Morning News.  Some say you can't be all things to all people, but GMA came close back in those days.

GMA has evolved quite a bit since those early days-- more slick, faster paced, more celebrity news, a lot of music, Times Square...  I miss the hard news.  Luckily there are other places to get that, and I do realize tastes and viewing habits change.

GMA was actually ABC's second morning effort.  The first, AM America, with Peter Jennings as the news reader, failed in less than a year.

Morning television is a fascinating business.  The news division now runs GMA.  The show survived after the Kevin Newman/Lisa McRee fiasco.  I still believe it wasn't a host issue.  It was a producer issue.  The show had no direction and those running ABC at the time didn't know what they wanted GMA to be.  Luckily, the network had Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer willing to climb on board (Charlie's second stint) to right the ship.

Happy anniversary!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Thursday Scrapple

Penndot is the organization you love to hate.  I'm among the first to call it out when I find something lacking.  However, I find myself strangely sympathetic here.  The roads have to get fixed.   Overnight work isn't always the answer.  It's unfortunate local police departments don't have the manpower to control traffic on back roads and side streets when the interstates are backed up.  As for the rash of interstate crashes, it's just too much reckless driving and not enough speed control from State Police.  Also, I'm amazed by the number of nimrods who still ignore the wipers and headlights law.

Walgreens is buying Rite Aid.  Color me troubled.  Less choice is never a good thing.  I've always found Walgreens to be a bit pricier than the other chains.  Rite Aid is headquartered in Camp Hill, near Harrisburg, so it looks like a lot of Pennsylvanians will lose their jobs.

I get a major kick out of the fact that a local kid is the voice of Peppermint Patty in the new Peanuts movie.

Still no state budget, and that's criminal.

It looks like some campaigns are heating up as we near Tuesday's election day.

I know central Pennsylvania is not my beat, but has anyone complained about the Crusaders nickname at Susquehanna University?  A new name should be in place this spring.

Are people still complaining about the Washington Redskins?

The Dickson City restaurant explosion is fascinating.  When will we reach critical mass?  How many chains can we support?

I can understand FOX Sports losing one source of power at the World Series Tuesday night, but I've never heard of the primary and back up generators both going down.

A new study shows processed meats, especially ham, bacon, hot dogs, and sausage are bad for you.  Is that really a surprise?  We all knew that.  However, a sausage sandwich and an occasional bacon slice isn't going to kill you.

What genius predicted the Mets in 6?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Book Review: Matchless

I intended to nibble away at "The Matchless Gene Rayburn" during my vacation.  It didn't work out that way.  I devoured it in two days, and it's a rather thick book, with small print.

You have to understand that "The Matchless Gene Rayburn" is in my wheelhouse.  It deals with some of my favorite subjects-- TV and radio history, old game shows, and Gene Rayburn.

Author Adam Nedeff does a meticulous job of chronicling Gene's life, from his birth in 1917, to his passing in 1999.  He does it by speaking with Gene's daughter, Lynn, plus friends, including Peter Marshall of "Hollywood Squares" fame.

It's not a pretty story.  Rayburn lost his father and brother at an early age.   He had an unhappy childhood.  There were several career setbacks, and some rather sad final years-- plagued by money and health problems.

Rayburn actually helped write the book.  He was preparing an autobiography, but dementia eventually stood in the way.  Nedeff did have access to Gene's notes, and there are direct quotes throughout the book-- items that would have been included if Gene had the opportunity to write his own story.

I want to say I enjoyed every page, and one one level, I really did.  However, it was difficult reading about Rayburn's disappointments.  He always wanted to be an actor.  Broadway.  He did some, but not enough to make him happy.  Rayburn wanted to be known as more than a game show host.  It never worked out that way.

Gene Rayburn was a true pioneer-- from his days in radio, to taking "Match Game" and making it his own.

Even though I knew quite a bit about Rayburn's career, there were some revelations-- including how he thought "Match Game" had a "rotten" format, and emphasizing the comedy saved the show.

Also, "Match Game 73" came along when Rayburn was 55 years old-- proving that you are never too old to take on a new challenge.

If broadcasting history and game shows are your thing, you'll love "The Matchless Gene Rayburn."  If you're just looking for a good biography of an interesting man, you'll love it, too.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

World Series

It starts tonight.  Mets vs Royals.  On paper, it looks like a great match up.  But then again, they always look great before the first game.

The American League has home field advantage, thanks to its win in the All Star game in July.  KS gets the first two and last two at home.  The designated hitter rule is in effect at American League parks.  It usually hurts AL teams when they're on the road.

The Mets are hot, but they've had a long lay off.  It will be a challenge to stay hot.  No DH for the Royals during those three games at Citi Field.

Prediction:  Mets in 6.

I admit, it's a guess, but it's based on the strength of New York's pitching.

I really don't care who wins.  I just want a competitive series, one that goes seven games.  The seventh game of a World Series is the most exciting event in all of sports, in my opinion.

The games are after my bed time.  I'll catch the highlights the following morning.

Monday, October 26, 2015


Some of my vacation time was dedicated to research.

Another roundabout (Penndot says don't call them "traffic circles") opened at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport exit of Interstate 81 in Luzerne County.  I drove around on a recent morning to get a feel for the layout.

The first, several months ago, was met with unenthusiastic reviews, and I was part of the crowd.  The second has done nothing to change my mind.  The layout is confusing and the signs and pavement markings are of little help.

Parts of the interchange improvement project were badly needed.  The Interstate 81 acceleration and deceleration ramps have been lengthened.  Safety improvement.  Bravo!

Extending Navy Way from the airport entrance to the industrial park should cut down on truck traffic at the Pittston exit.  Double bravo!

Roundabouts?  Are you kidding me?  In what universe are circles with multiple entry and exit points better and safer than straight lines?  If there was an issue at an intersection, put up a traffic light.  Problem solved.

As I've noted before, the roundabouts were a solution in search of a problem.  Since the yearly summer air shows stopped, how many times have you heard someone complain about the congestion at the airport exit?  It's a safe bet the answer is "never."

Penndot will counter that its statistics show roundabouts are safer, and it is only planning for future growth.  That's all well and good, but it's not much of an argument.  This interchange needed some minor changes, not a major overhaul.

I still have a long way to go before I retire, and I have the feeling I'll be standing along the road one day, doing a story on how roundabouts are a thing of the past, and it's time to re-do the interchange, again.  This time, the right way.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Andy's Angles: Personal Favorites

I was playing with my camera in downtown Scranton not too long ago, and I've been sharing some of my favorites during recent weekends.

I've always liked this one, and it always seemed like a companion to the old train station across the street.  However, I could never find a connection.

For years, Pennsylvania Gas and Water had offices here along Jefferson Avenue.  Lackawanna County has owned it for a long time.

It's not a large structure, but it does have a lot of detail and character.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Train Station Saturday: Nicholson

It's another diamond in the rough today-- the train station nearly right in the middle of Nicholson.

It appears the building is used for storage, and as you can see, it needs some work.

There are efforts to do something with it, and that's fantastic.  It would make a nice companion to the spectacular Tunkhannock Viaduct, aka The Nicholson Bridge, a very short distance away.  There's a lot of history in this area.  The old train station would be a great place to house it, as well as a viaduct visitors center.

Friday, October 23, 2015


I'm burning off my last vacation week.

It's a great time of year.  The weather is chilly, not cold.  There is still some color left on the trees.  It's a nice break before we roll in to the busy holiday season, and then the dead of winter.

There are no plans.  Maybe some photography, reading a new book, a little shopping, a lot of rest.

The very capable Jackie DeTore has the anchor chair this weekend.

I'll see you soon.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Thursday Scrapple

Please!  Enough with the "Back to the Future" stuff.  It was a barely entertaining movie, at best.

Having said that, I caught a "Taxi" episode on one of the TV digital sub channels the other night.  Great show!  Several unforgettable characters, especially Christopher Lloyd's Jim Ignatowski.

We got in to a discussion at work the other day.  Is it OK to say "Indian Summer?"  We weren't sure, so the old rule came up.  "When in doubt, don't."

I've been shopping for tablet cases recently.  Good golly!  That's an awful lot of money for a couple pieces of plastic, cardboard, vinyl, and felt.  At best, it's $2 worth of material.

I haven't been watching much of the ALCS and NLCS this year.  A big part of the reason is I usually don't make it a habit of tuning in TBS and FS1.  A Mets/Royals World Series could be very interesting.

New York City had another police officer murdered the other night.  It's not just a gun problem.  It's a "lack of respect for life" problem as well.

I'm still thrilled with my "Blog of the Year" award.

Hillary Clinton's testimony before the Benghazi committee should be interesting.  On the other hand, Clinton supporters will cry "politics" if something goes wrong.  Clinton foes will say "See, I told you so."  Clinton leads her Democratic presidential nomination opponents by a wide margin.  I really wonder if people care about Benghazi and emails.

I saw pumpkin spice gum in a mini mart yesterday morning.  Ugh!

Is it going to take a closed school district to get a state budget passed?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Business Wednesday

I have to admit, I was a bit underwhelmed.    There was a huge build up toward the announcement of a new business at the mostly vacant Mall at Steamtown in Scranton.  I expected some big retail announcement.   By now, you know what it is--  a movie theater complex that also provides alcohol and full meals.

Let's go a little deeper.

There are a lot of places where you can catch a movie these days.  If you're going to enter the field, you have to do something different.  I'm sure the "one stop shopping" concept appeals to a lot of people.  Why make a separate stop before or after a movie, when you can do it all at once?  I frequently pass by the intersection of Penn and Lackawanna.  It was so sad to see it dead.  I'm thrilled a business has decided to invest in a struggling downtown, and a struggling area, in general.

But...  (and you knew that was coming)

When I go to a movie, admittedly rarely, I like to watch the movie without distractions-- and go out for lunch or dinner afterward.  I'm not in the target demographic here.  The simultaneous dinner and movie thing doesn't have much appeal to me.

I suspect I'll be like a lot of people-- check it out when it opens next year to give it a fair trial.

This might not be the big anchor store home run a lot of people were wishing and hoping for.  On the other hand, the news restaurant, theater, and gym are big steps in the right direction.

I've noticed some stores, including Staples, have said "no" to opening Thanksgiving night.  Good move.  I know some families see holiday shopping as a group, fun activity...  but, I think you can give it a rest for a day.  Have a slice of pie.  Down a beer.  Watch a little football.  Take it easy.  There is plenty of time left to shop.

Shifting gears...  some Wall Street experts are predicting the end of McDonald's.  Sales are down.  Franchisees are having a tough go of it.  The breakfast all day thing isn't going over well.  Chaos in the kitchens.  People are eating cheaper breakfast sandwiches in the afternoon and evening rather than more expensive burgers.

I think predictions of McDonald's demise are far overblown.  Let me describe a scene I see weekend evenings, on my way to work.  I have a Wendy's on the left and a McDonald's on the right.  McDonald's usually has a drive through line around the building.  Wendy's is usually empty.  The McDonald's closest to me is a 24 hour operation.  There's always a car or two at the drive through, even at 3 AM.

It all comes down to this-- McDonald's has to battle the conception that its food is greasy, unhealthy junk.  I'm a student of the "everything in moderation" school.  A burger or an Egg McMuffin once in a while isn't going to kill you.  Don't do it every day.  McDonald's has to show consumers that it can do good food, fast.  Simple.

I have to admit, I was fascinated by Burger King's black bunned Halloween Whopper.  The black comes from A1 steak sauce baked in to the bun.  I do like A1, even though the experts on the TV show America's Test Kitchen judged it as too vinegary.  I can't remember the last time I had a steak.  I usually swap out ketchup on hamburgers for steak sauce, or barbecue sauce.  I walked into a Lackawanna County BK last week.  No Halloween Whoppers anywhere to be found.  No signs in the store.  Nothing on the web site.  Halloween isn't over yet.

I suspect the burgers were quietly pulled after social media reports surfaced that the Halloween Whopper has a certain colorful intestinal effect on some people.

I had a regular Whopper, sans mayonnaise.  It wasn't the same.  Color me disappointed.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Two Weeks

The general election is two weeks from today, and one thing in the current cycle has really jumped out at me.

Judicial races, especially ones for Pennsylvania Superior and Supreme Court used to be genteel affairs.  Candidates would tout their achievements, accomplishments, and records.

Now, the races are negative and nasty.  Many of the ads come from third parties, and not candidates themselves.  Still, it's a disturbing trend.  I think I speak for a lot of voters when I say I like to vote "for" a candidate rather than "against" one.

Sad to say, quoting sports broadcaster Michael Kay, the milk isn't going back in the udder.  Nasty is here to stay, and it will probably get even worse.

There have been efforts over the years to switch to a merit selection system, rather than popular votes.  I still have my reservations on that.  Anything that takes choices out of the hands of voters doesn't work for me.  Do we really want the people in Harrisburg, or panels chosen by legislators, to do the selection for us?  All you have to do is look at the current Pennsylvania budget mess for the case against merit selection.  Harrisburg doesn't have a track record that inspires pride and confidence.

Again, there are two weeks to go before we head to the polls.  Use the time to do a little research, and make what you believe are the wise choices.

Monday, October 19, 2015


Major League Baseball is down to the final four:  Kansas City, Toronto, Chicago Cubs and New York Mets.

I sort of gave up on baseball right around the time my team, Oakland, gave up on its season.  You may ask why I'm an Oakland fan.  The reason is simple.  I got interested in baseball in the early 70's, when Oakland was doing well.  I've been with them ever since, although it hasn't been easy.  As I noted weeks ago, if a team isn't in contention at the All Star break these days, it sells off all its good players and goes through the motions for the second half of the season.

It's nice to have a team to root for as we go through the championship series and World Series.  It's tough this year.  I've never liked the Cubs or the Mets.  The Cubs are a bit tempting.  Manager Joe Maddon comes from Hazleton.  Toronto?  A Canadian team?  Please!

That leaves Kansas City.  I can live with them.  KC was in the World Series last year.  It was decades of losing before that.  I always root for the underdog, so I guess KC is this year's choice.

Some other baseball notes:  FOX has been using Pete Rose on its pre and post game shows.  My hand can't reach for the remote fast enough.  I wish MLB would settle on a couple of networks for post season play.  Games were all over the place and difficult to find.

It looks like there will be a rule change during the off season, eliminating the Chase Utley type slide that took out Ruben Tejada.  Bad idea.  Utley was just playing hard, trying to break up the double play.  I'm sorry Tejada came out of it with a broken leg, but that's the way the game has been played for a very long time.

Bottom line:  I'm hoping for a seven game World Series because, in my opinion, there is no more exciting day or night in sports than the seventh game of a World Series.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Andy's Angles: Scranton Life

This has to be my favorite building in downtown Scranton.  I know I've photographed it, and written about it before.  Indulge me one more time.

It's the Scranton Life building at Spruce and Adams.  Retail on the first floor.  Offices above.  Congressman Joe McDade had offices in here for years.

The inside is nice, but I ;love the exterior.  The color of the building changes with the time of day and angle of the sun.  It looks yellow/gold in the late afternoon.  It was bright white when I took this picture, not long after sunrise on a recent morning.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Train Station Saturday: Old Forge

Once again, an old train station with a new use.

This train station along South Main Street in Old Forge houses a relatively new yoga and massage business.

The outside of the building retains much of its original character.
I don't think I've been inside since 1996.  Statre Representative Frank Serafini used to have an office here.  If I remember correctly, there was still a lot of the original wood inside, and I hope that's true today.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Where Did You Go?

The route for next month's Scranton Santa Parade has been announced, and above is the map provided by the parade people.

Notice something different?

The parade skips Lackawanna Avenue, the mall, and the city's only department store.

It's a nice event.  I walked in in a few times, back when my schedule allowed.  It brings thousands downtown, and that's what the city really needs.  Adding Courthouse Square is a nice touch, but the mall thing troubles me.

Some say if the mall fails, so does Scranton.  It has a new owner, with a couple of new businesses already committed.  I wonder why the parade is marching in the opposite direction.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Revisionist History

Every once in a while,someone says something that just stuns you.

Katie Couric told Fortune magazine that she tried to do too much, too soon during her time as CBS Evening News anchor.

She thought it was a shock for CBS viewers to see a woman in the anchor chair.  I think that's a joke.  Women have been in major anchor roles for a long time.

Couric & Company did mess with the format, more chatty, lighter fare, occasional commentary...

Couric also admitted she should have been more political and "sucked up" to the right people.  Hello!  Couric had the blessing of the head of the network.  It doesn't get much more "right people" than that.   Couric made $15 million a year at CBS.  And now, you're complaining?

It comes down to this.  She wasn't lousy at her job.  Simple.  That's it.  Katie Couric was a very good morning show person.  Believe me, that's tough.  I have a great amount of respect for those who do it well.

Evening news anchor?  No.  It wasn't her thing.  Couric and her producers badly misjudged what viewers want.  She couldn't relate to the audience.  Insiders will say she didn't relate to the staff, either.  After Couric left, the sign on the Evening News offices was changed from CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, to CBS Evening News with "all of us."  By the way, CBS went back to a more traditional approach, with Scott Pelley in the anchor chair, after Couric left, and the ratings went up-- a lot.

Couric, after her talk show flamed out, became global news anchor for Yahoo.  When was the last time you clicked on any of her stuff?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Help Wanted

It was a pre Halloween fright, in a most unexpected place-- a supermarket.

I dropped in to one of my favorite stores for a few odds and ends on a recent morning.  It wasn't much.

The fright occurred back in the deli department.  I was waited on by a trainee.

Don't get me wrong.  We all have to start somewhere.  I admire the work ethic, and the trainee clearly wanted to do well.  He attentively listened to instructions from his superior.

Still, I cringed when he took the long stick of sandwich pepperoni from the refrigerated display case and placed it on the slicer.  The guy didn't seem to have a command of the machine.  To make matters worse, his superior obviously had better things to do.  Instead of watch a trainee handle an exceptionally dangerous piece of machinery, she wandered off to the back room.

The slicking seemed to take an eternity.  In reality, it wasn't.  Thankfully, the episode ended without blood and with all ten fingers.  It was touch and go for a while.  I could breathe again.  The next struggle was with the machine that weighs the meat and prints out a price sticker.  At least there's no potential for injury there.  Well, maybe a paper cut.

I would assume the trainee's skills will be better upon my next visit.

You might be wondering (maybe not), what gets a supermarket on my favorite list.  First, it's the ability to get in and out in a reasonable amount of time.  The store I favor always seems to have a decent number of registers open.  The store is sans frills, no shoppers club cards, no fancy cheese case, no restaurant, no beer, -- just a good supply of the basics.  It's all I really need.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

First Person: Columbus Day

Let me tell you about my Monday.

I hit the office about 2:20 AM.  As always, there is a discussion of what needs to be covered between producer Kim, anchors Tom and Mindi, and I.

There were two choices:  the Wilkes-Barre homicide and a rash of Scranton water main breaks.  There wasn't much new on the homicide.  Nine water main breaks (the number was eventually adjusted down to seven), in the same city was most unusual, and it was happening NOW.  NOW is a magic word in television.  The story choice became clear.

Second choice:  location.  Again, this one was easy.  We picked the water main break on Mulberry Street because it had the potential to have the biggest impact.  It was near the University of Scranton, the hospitals, and a whole lot of homes and apartments.  We didn't have a lot of information, but we had enough.  Plus, the pictures really told the story.  Photographer Jason hit every place in the city where water was coming out of the ground.  There was a lot of video to play with, and that is a major luxury.  Jason and I conferred in an edit booth.  He told me about the best shots.  I wrote to what he photographed.  The kid hustles, an unsung hero of our morning broadcast.

Once we worked around a glitchy truck, we were on the air.  There was some good news.  Four of the seven water mains were repaired rather quickly.  The finishing touches were put on the Mulberry Street break while we were live on the air.

After the broadcast was over, photographer Jamie and I set out around the city to see some of the other breaks.

Glen Street, near the old Scranton Lace factory, pictured below, was rather striking.
Water gushing from the broken main buckled the pavement.  The road was closed.  The smell of chlorinated water filled the air.

Eventually, the water company was able to tell us what happened:  a problem at a pressure regulating station.    Boy, I would have liked to have been at water company control when the "oops" moment was realized.  I have a feeling "oops" wasn't the word used.  The company told us only about 100 homes and businesses were affected by 9:00 AM.  This wasn't a massive Kingston type break we saw back in August.

It gave photographer Jamie and I some time to do other things.  One of them was the annual Courthouse Square wreath ceremony, at the Columbus statue, sponsored by the Columbus Day Association of Lackawanna County.  It was standard stuff, and that's what bothered me a bit.  It was standard.  Other than a guy in a Columbus costume a few years ago, there isn't much effort toward making this fun and interesting-- a media event.  Get a guy with an accordion to play Italian songs.  Give out little Italian flags, or Italian cookies.  We Italians know our food, especially our pastries.  Bring more people in to the tent.  Save a little Le Festa Italiana magic for Columbus Day.  Think fun.  Think interesting pictures.  Think about what gets people talking.

The Columbus Day Association is a fine organization.  It raises a lot of money for charity.  Good people.

Jamie and I went back to the office to put together some things for our noon broadcast.  Producer Lindsey told us what she wanted, and the slots where they would be placed.  I banged out my scripts at the computer.  Jame matched pictures with words.  But then again, I wrote with his pictures in mind.

While I was back at the office, we all learned Sister Adrian Barrett had passed away.  For years, Sister Adrian ran Friends of the Poor.  She was a spunky woman who made things better for a lot of people.  High on the list was the annual Thanksgiving dinner.  It was for the poor.  It was for the elderly.  It was for the lonely.  I covered dinner preps for many years.  First on radio, then television.  Sister Adrian became the face and voice of Thanksgiving in Lackawanna County.

Sister Adrian was not a one holiday woman.  There was help for those in need at Christmas.

Every summer, she took busloads of kids on vacation to Harrisburg, Annapolis, and Washington.  Again, I was at the starting point for many of those trips.  I remember my dad doing some business with Penndot in Harrisburg, and taking me along for the ride when I was a little boy.  We were walking in the capitol building one morning when we bumped in to Governor Milton Shapp coming out of his office.  He shook our hands, asked where we were from and chatted for a moment.  It was a thrill.  To this day, I still get a tingle when I'm in that building.  I know it had an influence on my career choice.  I'm betting some of Sister Adrian's kids are the journalists or public servants of tomorrow because they got an up close look at government.

Sister Adrian had her detractors.  Some alleged she imported poor people from other areas.  I heard the stories time and again.  I never saw direct evidence.  Was she a soft touch, an easy mark for scammers?  Probably.  As I've said before, I'd rather let some people scam the system than take a chance on denying help to someone truly in need.

Sister Adrian was an advocate for those often forgotten.  I remember radio general managers telling me how Sister Adrian wasn't shy about asking for donations.  She knew how to work the phones.  She knew where to go for help.  There was no shyness on the news side of things.  She was a frequent caller when I was on the radio.  Sister Adrian would call, asking for help with one of her charity efforts.  You couldn't say no.  I'd either do an interview over the phone or drop by her office, or the Masonic Temple, or wherever she happened to be buzzing about.  It was the same when I moved to TV.  Sister Adrian knew the value of publicity.  TV and radio equaled awareness, and awareness equaled donations.  It also served as a beacon for those in need.

There were funny moments.  Sister Adrian had a sense of humor.  I'll never forget the Thanksgiving when she dropped a frozen turkey on her foot and broke her toe.  She laughed through the pain.

I should note Sister Adrian was always appreciative for what in the media did for her organization.

I'm glad I knew her, a little.  Thousands of people are better off because there was a Sister Adrian Barrett.  She made a difference.

Monday, October 12, 2015


Ben Maller of FOX Sports Radio always says "the best stories are in the losing locker room."  He's right.

I always wanted to interview Richard Nixon, to this day, and forever, a fascinating character, for all the wrong reasons.  I was 12 when Nixon resigned.  Watergate had me glued to the TV news way back when.  It's likely a contributing factor to what I do today.  Government and politics are a fascination.

Bob Woodward has a new book.  It's called "The last of the President's Men."  It revolves around top Nixon aide Alexander Butterfield.  Our friends at CBS did a story over the weekend, and the network disclosed it owns the publishing company handling the book.

Butterfield called Nixon "complex."  Nixon openly lied to reporters, and he hated White House employees keeping pictures of JFK in their offices.

I think Nixon always interested me because he was a smart man, a foreign policy genius, who did some very stupid things.  There's evidence Nixon suffered from several mental health problems, made worse by the constant pressure over Watergate related crimes.

I always wanted to know how and why he got off the track.  The 1968 election was a squeaker, but '72 was a landslide.  Nixon didn't need the dirty tricks, but paranoia compelled him to wreck his presidency.

It was an American tragedy, and Nixon found the one to blame was in the mirror.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Andy's Angles: The Tower

I'm picky about a lot of things, especially when it comes to radio.

Most people call this the "Times Tower" in downtown Scranton.

Yes, that's correct.

More accurately, it's the tower for WEJL AM 630.  Little known fact, AM 910 also moved here several years ago, after the land where it had its tower in Minooka was sold and the tower was dismantled.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Train Station Saturday: Avoca

It sits at the intersection of Main and McAlpine in Avoca.

Its days as a train station are long gone, but at least the building still stands, and it retains much of its original look.

The old station has been a pool supply business for a very long time.  Trains still come by, but they're loaded with freight rather than people.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The All Night Satellite

Due to a series of personal and professional choices, I find myself up all night most of the time.

I have no complaints.  Over the years, I've learned to appreciate the advantages.  They include no traffic, no lines at Walmart, a relaxed atmosphere at the all night gym,  fresh newspapers, quiet, some decent stuff on TV and radio...

I am still in awe of the majesty of a starry night, and the first glow of the sun peeking over the horizon.

Skunks, bunnies, possum and stray cats abound.

A scatter shot of some late night/early morning things...

Stephen Colbert seems to have settled into a decent groove.  His show is solid.  He relies a bit too much on politics, but that's his thing.  I don't consider it "must see TV."  If I'm in the mood for a little late night TV, it's among my primary choices.

Jimmy Fallon still can't deliver a monologue, and I don't find his silly game amusing.  But then again, he has succeeded in making the Tonight Show his own, and I realize I'm not in Fallon's target demographic.

Seth Meyers is simply OK.  James Corden is an exceptionally talented and charming man.  His show is hit and miss.  Some bits are well executed and funny, while others fall flat.

There's a nice choice of news programs.  CBS has its very serious "Overnight News."  ABC has the very entertaining "World News Now."  CNN's "Newsroom" is also very good.  I flip around to make up the news deficit caused by sleeping all day.

I mentioned "Overnight America" on CBS Radio yesterday.  I'm also a big fan of Ben Maller's 2 to 6 AM show on FOX Sports Radio.  If I'm up early enough, JT the Brick, 8 to 11 PM, is also a good listen.  It should be noted that JT's update guy and sidekick, Tomm Looney, is an Elmira native and Penn State graduate.

There is a lot to be said for having "normal hours," but if you're going to be up all night, you might as well find ways to enjoy it.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Thursday Scrapple

I'm not a Yankee fan, but I will admit the playoffs are more interesting when they're around.  It's a moot point now, since the Yankees lost their play-in game with Houston Tuesday night.

By the way, is there anything sillier than a one game playoff?  Major League Baseball continues to shoot itself in the foot.

The owner of the Indianapolis Colts has been quoted as saying there will be at least one team in Los Angeles next season.  Nice.  L.A. should have a team.  Unfortunately, it means the fans of Oakland, San Diego, or St. Louis will get hosed.

I love fall.  Unfortunately, it doesn't last long enough and it's followed by winter.

The sinking of the El Faro fascinates me.  Hurricanes don't sneak up on you.  How can something like this happen?

My heart breaks for the people of South Carolina.  Three FEET of rain in some places!  Simply amazing.

More than three months without a new state budget is inexcusable.

I bought some LED floodlights for my outdoor light fixtures.  They should pay for themselves in about 15 years.  Seriously, if it's a choice between a big initial outlay, versus burning less power over the long run...  Well, you know my decision.

I like Egg McMuffins, but I've never had the craving for one after 9 AM.  As I noted before, I'd rather have a burger at 6 AM than eggs at 6 PM.  McDonald's thinks it will turning around slumping sales.  It's a lot to bet on a little sandwich.

Our friends at Burger King now have a Whopper with a black bun.  Color me intrigued.  I'll have to grab one before Halloween.  The bun is black because A-1 steak sauce is baked in.

I'm not taking sides, and I don't have any answers.  However, we keep debating the gun thing without any progress toward a solution.

No one around here carries it, but CBS Radio syndicates a show called "Overnight America."  None of that UFO, conspiracy theory stuff.  Just solid news and intelligent conversation.   KMOX, KDKA, and WBAL are among the stations that stream it.  If you're looking for something smart and entertaining overnight, give it a try.

I don't get:  fantasy football, salted caramel (salt is for french fries), and pumpkin spice anything.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The AM 1640 Saga

Today, a story about the dysfunctional nature of state government, federal government, and American business.

Regular blog readers will know I've been whining about AM 1640 in the Scranton area for months.  It's one of those travelers information stations.  Their existence is noted by signs along the interstates.

1640 in the Scranton area had been down for months.  When it was up, it was rebroadcasting the forecast provided by National Weather Service radio.  I loved it.  It was a forecast and the current temperature, all the time.  It had a button on my car radio, and it was the first thing I hit, every day.

When the station fell silent several months ago, I complained to the local Penndot office.  There was a promise to investigate.  Weeks passed.  I e-mailed my state representative.  Nothing.  Not even the courtesy of  a "we received your e-mail" response.  I complained to Penndot in Harrisburg.

It appears the Penndot Harrisburg guy got back to the local Penndot guy, and this is what I've learned.  AM 1640 is for emergencies only.  It wasn't supposed to be rebroadcasting National Weather Service radio because the Federal Communications wouldn't allow it.  The reason?  below is a quote from the Penndot response, and that's a quote from the FCC case.

The chief opposition to the authorization of TIS operations originally came from
commercial broadcasters who argued that it would duplicate information provided by commercial
broadcasts, siphoning off advertising revenues. 

By the way, TIS stands for travelers information station.

Yesterday, I received this clarification of a clarification from Penndot:

All Highway Advisory Radios (HARs) are regulated by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) in accordance with 47 CFR § 90.242 (Travelers’ information stations).  In 2013, the FCC released new rules for HARs which restricted the broadcast of “routine, non-emergency information" including NOAA weather forecasts.  Subsequently, the FCC received a number of petitions asking the Commission to reconsider its decision on the basis that such weather information would help travelers to plan their routes.  In 2015, the FCC reaffirmed the restriction concerning the rebroadcast of routine NOAA weather by stating the rebroadcast of weather information is restricted to periods of unusual or extreme events.  To reflect the FCC’s decision, the broadcast of “routine weather information” has been prohibited in PennDOT’s standards.  Although we understand your concerns, PennDOT must adhere to the FCC’s ruling.

Let's examine this a little more.  The reason I loved AM 1640 because it's nearly impossible to get a forecast from a commercial radio station around here.  At best, they deliver the weather twice an hour, and that's only during the day.  Most stations have some sort of computer controlled automation at night.  No humans.  Possibly, you get a recorded, old forecast in the middle of the night.

I'm proud to be a broadcaster.  It's all I ever wanted to be.  Unfortunately, I feel my radio brethren are way off base here.  Do they really think a series of pea shooter powered AM radio stations, broadcasting the droning computer voice of the National Weather Service, will hurt their bottom line?  I wish you could see my skeptical raised eyebrow right now. 

AM 1640 is now silent once again, unless there's a traffic jam or some other emergency.  I hope someone remembers to turn it on.

In the meantime, I'll be reaching for my smartphone.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

By Any Other Name

Words fascinate me, and I certainly hope so.  It's how I make my living.

A co worker and I fell into the same trap during our coverage of Pope Francis' visit to the United States.

She kept writing "Pope Benedict" in her scripts.  I had the tendency to write "Pope John Paul."  Of course, the slip ups never made the air.  It's just a case of old habits and the hands on the keyboard occasionally moving faster than the brain.

It's not the first time it's happened.  I started in radio when Jimmy Carter was in the White House.  Making the shift to typing "President Reagan" was quite the adjustment.  I wonder who's name will be in my scripts in January of '17.

Of course, the name game goes beyond people.

When Gerrity's Supermarkets provided its yummy hot dog buns to the Wolf Inauguration in January, it set off a newsroom discussion.  Is it a bun or a roll?  For the most part, the words are interchangeable.  The best definition I could find:  If you stuff something in to it, it's a bun.  If it's eaten alone, it's a roll.  But then again, I've heard of submarine rolls, but never submarine buns.

That leads me to a discussion I had with a gym buddy last week.  I don't know how we got on the subject, but we were talking about macaroni salad.  Her mother always called it "noodle salad."  Born and raised here.  I never heard that.  We made sure we were talking about the same product-- elbow macaroni in a maynnoaisey dressing.  Yep.  That's it.  When I think "noodle salad," something Asian comes to mind.  Now I know.  It can also be plain old, American macaroni salad.

Delicious discussions over words.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Rite of Fall

I'm a firm believer in flu shots, and for the life of me, I can't figure out why some people oppose them.

I haven't had a super serious case of the flu in years.  Last season was a little different.  I felt flu-ish for a few days, late in the season.  It was nothing major  I took it easy for a while, and was back to normal in no time.

Yes, the flu shot doesn't guarantee a flu free year, but it's good protection-- especially if you're around the very young and the elderly.

Insurance usually covers the cost of the shot.

I got mine the other day, while wandering through my favorite drug store.  A little paperwork.  A little stick in the arm.  Boom.  Done.  I was out of there in just a few minutes.

It didn't hurt.  There is no reaction to the vaccine.

I feel better already.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Andy's Angles: To Infinity, and Beyond

A friend and I share the same view of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  It was always a kick to travel it because it meant you were going somewhere, usually fun, like the beach or a ballgame in Philadelphia.

I get, sort of, the same feeling, when I look at railroad tracks, stretching to infinity.

Yes, I know passenger service is long gone, but I still marvel at the millions who got somewhere via this track, and others like it all across the area.

This particular section is in Tobyhanna.  The view is to the south.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Train Station Saturday: Glenburn

Today, it's a bonus-- a train station actually in use, but not as a train station.

Several years ago, Glenburn in Lackawanna County turned this old train station into its municipal building.  It can be difficult to find, but if you're ever in the area, it's worth a look.

And, there's another bonus.  This caboose has been here for a long time, but it's recently been repainted, and it looks great.

Friday, October 2, 2015


Scranton teachers are wrapping up their first week on the picket line.

While not commenting specifically on the Scranton situation, good teachers should get good money.  Bad ones should get fired.  I've encountered far too much laziness and incompetence during my personal and professional life.

I do see the need for the union.  Even the best teacher might need some protection from politically charged school boards.  Once again, I've seen far too much "it's who you know" type behavior out there.  School boards are another topic for another time.  I've seen a lot of baffling and questionable behavior over the years.

Scranton's strike is different from most others.  Extra curriculars, including sports, are done until the strike is over.  I know academics are more important than football games, but this one really seems to hurt the kids.

I can't help but wonder how many times we have to go through this before we come up with a better way of handling and compensating our educators.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

About the Cover: Train Day

Most of the time, I have a specific goal in mind when I go out to shoot a monthly header photo.

This month, a fortunate accident.

I was photographing the Old Forge train station when I heard a rumble in the distance.  A Reading and Northern Freight train was approaching from the south, and I was in a perfect position to snap a few photos.

When I got back and loaded them into my computer, I saw the colors were good, the lighting was right, and the sun angle was favorable.  It screamed out "header."

The header photo is the engine at the back of the freight.  Above, it's the front of the train.

Enjoy the serendipity.