Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Wednesday Scrapple

The only place I want pumpkin pie spice and pumpkin flavor is in a pie, and I'm not particularly thrilled with it there, either.

The summer is coming to an end, and I hope that means TV marathon season is also over.  As much as I like "How It's Made" on the Science Channel, I don't want to see it for 12 hours a day. Please, let's get back to regular schedules.

I intend to watch some college and NFL football, but I can't say I'm eagerly awaiting the upcoming season.

By the way, what's up with the Notre Dame and Pittsburgh Steelers players getting in to some serious trouble?  Those organizations used to stand for something.  Those days are over.

Blazing Saddles, Young Frankstein.  I loved Gene Wilder.

While I haven't visited La Festa Italiana in Scranton in years, I do enjoy watching the tents go up.  It means "fall."

The Halloween overkill is kicking in to high gear, and there is still two months to go.

Thinking back to my school years, September was always a tough month.  June seemed so far, far, far off in the distance.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

First Person: Time Passages

As my time in the business accumulates, a thing that gives me increasing joy is watching green kids, newbies, walk through the door, and become fine broadcasters and journalists.

It hurts when they leave for bigger cities, but that's understandable.  It's another story for another time.

A friend of a friend is starting her sophomore year at my alma mater, Marywood.  I was approached about a tour of the station.  No problem.  I was glad to do it.  Those who wear the Marywood green and white stick together.

The sophomore was a very nice young woman.  Smart.  She watched part of our Sunday morning broadcast from the control room, and the rest, with me, in the studio.

Before I walked her through the operation, she got the speech.  I'll give you the short version.  Much of it deals with time.  I told her that she should make sure this is something she really wants to do.  You'll be here on birthdays and holidays, days and nights and overnights.  When your friends get the day off because of snow, you'll be coming to work.  This is not a 9 to 5, forty hour work week job.

I heard I scared her.

Uhhh...  Sorry?!?!

She's not the first, and she won't be the last.  I am continually amazed that no one at colleges and universities point that out.  When you get in to the news business, your sleep schedule is shot.

I'm not complaining.  I often quote those in organized crime:  "This is the life we have chosen."

I should point out that the station has never cheaped out on getting hotel rooms for staffers during snow storms.  We are also well fed when big stories keep us at the office for long hours.

I don't know how many times I've stood, microphone in hand, in front of a live camera thinking "I'm one of the first to know something, and I get to tell thousands of people about it."  Believe me, it's a rush.  It's also a joy to do a lighter story, introduce you to someone, like the Marywood move in story last week.

The news business can break your heart, but it's also fantastic fun and extremely rewarding.

Kids, study hard.  Keep up on current events.  And, get a good alarm clock.

Monday, August 29, 2016

First Person: Mall School

I continue to be fascinated by the concept.

As I've said here before, it seems like the only entities with the money to expand these days are hospitals, dollar stores...  and colleges.

Luzerne County Community College wanted a presence in Lackawanna County for a while.  Management says it looked at 30 sites before settling on the second floor of the Marketplace at Steamtown, formerly the Mall at Steamtown, in downtown Scranton.

The mall has been a big part of my career.  I covered every tedious development in the struggle to build it.  I broadcast, live, the implosion that cleared the way for it.  I did the first live shot from inside the mall, the night before the grand opening.  I was there when store after store after store closed.

Now, LCCC.

The ribbon on LCCC's campus on the mall's second floor was cut Tuesday morning, and I was there for that, too.  LCCC is taking over most of the second floor space vacated when Bon Ton left.

It's clear the mall's future is not retail.  Office space is already here, and LCCC is the newest non traditional tenant.  I can't speak for the finances, but it appears to make sense.  There's room, plenty of parking, restaurants, public transportation...  It helps fill the need for an affordable higher education, even though Lackawanna College is just up the street.

The ribbon cutting was set for 11 AM, not the greatest time  for TV.  Photographer Steve and I got there early to get some video and do some interviews.  We still needed the signature shot of the big scissors, but that came after speeches.  With video stored on the camera card, we got outside to the truck and put something together for the noon broadcast.  We made it with five minutes to spare.

After the noon live shot, Steve went back inside to get more video.  He'd be working with the afternoon crew.  My shift, which began at 2:30 AM was over, so I jumped in my car to head home.

I can't see how LCCC at the Marketplace at Steamtown could fail, but you never know, and we'll be following this one closely in the months to come.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Andy's Angles: The Church

You've seen this building here before.  It's the Smurfit Arts Center at the University of Scranton, built as a church in 1897.

It's tucked in to Scranton's Hill Section, and it's remarkably easy to miss...  but if you get the right angle, the steeple dominates the skyline.

It's one of my favorites.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Andy's Angles: The Tracks

I like this shot, not for what it is, but for what it used to be.

It's the view to the west, near the University of Scranton and behind the Radisson, formerly the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western rail station.

No matter how many times I've been here, and how many times I've taken this picture, I think of all those people rolling in to the station, or leaving Scranton.  Happy and sad reasons for the journeys, probably a lot of tears.

A passenger train passing through once in a while probably wouldn't be a bad thing.

Friday, August 26, 2016

I Saw the Light

A community here in our area was recently hit by some mini mart robberies.  At least one was violent, where the clerk was attacked and beaten.

That led one community official to call on mini mart management to install new and brighter LED fixtures.

That's all well and good, but if light was the ultimate solution, there wouldn't be any crime during the daytime.

That leads me to a story...  A weekend anchor I once worked with wrote a story about a "daring daylight bank robbery."  In addition to being a horrible cliche, I called him on one other fact.  Banks aren't open at night.  All bank robberies happen in the daylight.  OK, I'll concede that banks close in the dark during the short daylight months in November, December, and January.

Getting back to the mini marts, I'm sure lighting will help.  Getting rid of the drug problem, and putting more police on the street will go a lot further than a few new light bulbs.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

First Person: Movin' Out

I have a great job.  I produce a little.  I anchor a little.  I report a little.  I love the variety.

But there are times when it doesn't work out so well.  I really love doing the "college freshmen moving into the dorms" story.  But, most of the time, it happens on weekends, when I'm doing inside work.  I watch others do it.  I get frustrated.

Why do I like the story so much?  It's a great study in human nature and behavior and it's fascinating to watch.  The kids try to put up a brave face, but you know many are terrified.  It's the first time being away from home on an extended basis.  In addition to the terror, there is great anticipation.  It's a big step into adulthood, and let's face it.  There is tremendous potential for great fun, and maybe some of it is on the naughty side.

As for the parents, it's relief another one is out on his or her own, but there's worry there as well.  Mom and dad want to encourage the young ones, but you can see the fear on their faces.

Fate smiled on me Monday.  My alma mater, Marywood, shifted its schedule a bit.  Freshman move in day was on a weekday rather than a weekend.  I grabbed photographer Steve and went up to take a look around.

It was was a delight, everything I expected, and more.

As is my habit, I was looking for a story rather than a bunch of facts.  It wasn't hard to find.  I built most of the piece around a father and son.  The son was looking forward to beginning his higher education and being on his own.  Dad had mixed feelings.  While he was thrilled for his son, dad was sorry his youngest was leaving the nest.  Dad told me it wasn't just a son moving out.  It was also his friend.  We all teared up.

There was an additional element.  Upperclassmen were there to help in the move-- spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  I spied this tiny little girl, throwing around crates, boxes, bed frames and mattresses like a Viking.  It gave me another hook.  She weighed all of 95 pounds, and was doing more work than men and women twice her weight.  On top of that, she was a sweet, spunky kid.

I am a very harsh self critic, but I have to admit that the piece came out pretty good.  Thank you, photographer Steve.

I think another reason the "dorm" story fascinates me is I never had that experience.  I actually lived closer to my college than I did to my high school.  It worked out well.  I hooked on at WARM when I was a sophomore, so I learned on the job as well as learning in school.  There were days when I pulled an all nighter at WARM, took a nap, went to school, pulled an afternoon shift on the college radio station, then headed back to WARM to work an evening schedule.  It's an experience I wouldn't trade for anything.

Class of 2020, welcome to college.  Class of 2021, I'll see you next fall.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


It's one of those things that might makes sense on the highest levels, and makes no sense to the rest of us.

NBC hired Mike Tirico away from ESPN to do Thursday Night Football.  According to the NY Daily News, the NFL is insisting NBC's "A" team of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth do the games, and that is exactly what will happen this fall.

Tirico is adequate.  I always thought his voice was rather thin.  I grew up with the deeper richer voices of Ray Scott, Pat Summerall, Jack Buck, Verne Lundquist, Curt Gowdy, Jim Simpson, Charlie Jones, etc.

Here's my point.  It appears Michaels and Collinsworth didn't want the extra workload.  Is calling two football games a week really "work?"

I know there's a lot of preparation and effort involved.  Travel in this post 9/11 world isn't easy.  But, for a few million a year, I'll work an extra day, even if it means going from one end of the country to the other, and I'm sure Michaels and Collinsworth aren't flying tourist class.

The bottom line is that you're sitting in a booth, at a stadium calling a GAME.  You're not up there tarring the roof.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tuesday Scrapple

The publisher of the newspaper I complained about on Friday returned my e-mail.  He promised to fix the problems.

Outside of Phelps and Bolt, it seems most Olympics stories the past two weeks were negative-- polluted Rio, lying American swimmers.

Why does our area seem to have so many heartless and cruel homicides.  I know. They all are.  A starvation death in Schuylkill County, where the two suspects were arrested last week, is particularly nauseating.

A big smile erupted when I saw overnight lows in 50's on the 7 day forecast board.  I love fall.  Unfortunately, it doesn't last long enough, and it's followed by winter.

It's great to see the college students coming back.  Colleges and universities add a lot of life to our area.

I gave up my Pittsburgh Steelers fan status last year when the team signed Michael Vick.  I'm in no hurry to return to the flock, especially when you look at some of the shady characters on the squad this year.

Jack Riley passed away last week.  He was in dozens of television programs, most notably as Mr. Carlin on The Bob Newhart Show.  Very dry, and extremely funny.

76 days until the presidential election.  Most polls have Trump trailing Clinton.  Is there enough time to turn it around?

I was watching a Ronald Reagan documentary on PBS the other morning.  Regardless of what you thought about his politics, the man knew how to deliver a line.  He really was The Great Communicator.

While I'm really looking forward to Bad Santa 2, it really seems like Hollywood is making the same movies over and over and over again.

Monday, August 22, 2016

One Photo

One of the reasons I've always been attracted to photography is the power of the medium.  A photo can stick with you for the rest of your life.

I learn a lot about television, from watching people watch television.  Case in point:  last week at the gym.  My gym is one of those places that features an array of screens.  You just wear ear buds and punch in the desired number.

When the photo below came on one of the screens, it's like the entire place stopped to watch.

It's a little boy, dazed and bloodied after a bomb attack in Syria.  This is the photo that broke millions of hearts around the world.

The photo triggered a lot of memories.  I remember doing stories with a man from Dickson City who used to host kids from Northern Ireland every summer.  The kids had a great time.  No car bombs.  No beatings, shootings or other violence.  it was just a couple of weeks in the summer when kids could be kids.

A friend reminded me of another local who used to bring children from the Soviet Union over for a little while.  They were fascinated most by the supermarket.  No lines for bread.  You could get anything you wanted.

I haven't seen it in the news for a while, but there was a program that brought inner city kids to our area for part of the summer.  I hope it still happens.

At the top of this entry, I noted the power of a photo.  What you see here is at the top of the list.  However, I really doubt it will change much in Syria.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Andy's Angles: Signature Piece

This is the signature piece of the Steamtown collection.

While it doesn't operate, it's still amazing, and you wonder what it was like when these locomotovies made their way across the country.

Below is the story from the Steamtown web site.

The Big Boys were built for power. They did the work of three smaller engines, pulling 120-car, 3800 ton freight trains at forty miles per hour in the mountains of Utah and Wyoming.
With power, though, comes weight - larger cylinders, pistons, drive rods, boiler and firebox. Steam locomotive manufacturers added more wheels with idlers and powered drive wheels.
The extra wheels added length. Long engines had difficulty squeezing through the sharp track curves, especially in the mountains. A Swiss designer, Anatole Mallet (1837-1919) added a "hinge" to the middle of a locomotive to allow it to "flex" slightly. Two pairs of cylinders supplied power to the two sets of drive wheels.
The Big Boys were built in Schenectady, New York by the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) to the Union Pacific's design. ALCO delivered the first batch of 20 - including #4012 in the Steamtown NHS collection - in 1941 and the remaining 5 in 1944.
Big Boys had over one mile of tubes and flues inside the boiler. Their firebox grate measured 150 square feet. The Big Boys had sixteen drive wheels, each measuring 68 inches. From coupler to coupler they measured 132 feet 9 inches. The tender held 24,000 gallons of water and 28 tons of coal and the engine and tender weighed 1,189,500 pounds in working order. The engines well deserved the name 'Big Boy' which was written on one of the drive rods by an unknown worker at ALCO.
The 25 Big Boys were built to pull long, fast freight trains over the Wasatch Mountains of Utah and Sherman Hill in Wyoming. They served there until 1959 when the new diesel-electric locomotives took over. The Big Boys were not the most powerful engines, though they were the heaviest. But no engine ever came close to matching Big Boy's combination of speed, power and agility. Today, the Union Pacific "Big Boy" #4012 is preserved and on display at Steamtown. Though it does not operate, it remains a most impressive machine.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Andy's Angles: My Favorite

It's been a while since I've inflicted train photos on you.

As you know, this is my favorite of the Steamtown collection.  I've shot it several times.  One more won't hurt.

Friday, August 19, 2016

I Read the News Today...

Let's build a foundation.

I'm a newsie.  It's still a thrill to get up in the morning, or late night and turn on the computer to learn something I didn't know yesterday.

I cut my teeth as a radio pup when both Scranton and Wilkes-Barre had two distinct and competitive newspapers.  I marveled at how the newspaper reporters were so thorough.  They had to be, had to get every detail because their stories were so much longer than what I was doing on radio.

Even though I spend a big part of my day with my nose pressed to a computer screen, I still buy newspapers-- the print version.

One is delivered, and even after all these years, there's still a feeling of anticipation, a little kick, when I hear the thud of the newspaper landing on the front porch.

There's another newspaper I like.  It isn't delivered where I live, so that is the subject of today's blog entry.

This paper has been slipping, badly, in the circulation department.  Yes, I've e-mailed my complaints.  I understand I'm slightly out of the core market, but this paper has been in stores and racks (coin boxes) very late, if at all.

All the journalism, the features, the ads are worthless unless you can get them in the hands of the readers.  Why is that so difficult to understand?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Unfinished Thursday

Two items are on the agenda today.

The first is now former Attorney General Kathleen Kane.  Her resignation took effect yesterday.  Kane was found guilty of abusing her power Monday night.  She leaked secret grand jury information to damage an opponent.  She lied to cover it up.  Kane disgraced herself and her office.  Sentencing is set for October 24.  She could go to jail.

The red flags started going up early in to Kane's term, long before the "leak" scandal started.  Her press people insisted reporters give Kane questions in advance.  The good reporters refused.  The top law enforcement officer in the state can't handle simple questions?  Voters likely elected someone who wasn't ready for the job.

Yesterday, on her last day in office, Kane told reporters she had "no regrets."  Let's examine the record for a moment, and please don't perceive this is kicking someone when they're down.  Kathleen Kane's personal life has challenges.  Her professional life is shambles.  Her law license is suspended.  It could be taken away permanently.  The once rising star Democrat has been abandoned by people in her own party.  She lost her job.  She could lose her freedom.  I think there's room in there for a regret or two.

Public affairs show host John McLaughlin died Tuesday.  89.  Complications from prostate cancer.  I loved "The McLaughlin Group."  It was the first of the shouting political debate programs.  Even though I detest noise, the heated debate never seemed mean.  At times, it was even humorous.  I became a big fan of Jack Germond of the Baltimore Sun.  He knew precisely how to pierce McLaughlin's pomposity.  Many imitators, but here was no show quite like it before or after, and it leaves a big hole in my life at 11:30 Sunday mornings.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Time Warp

It's been established that Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" is one of my all time favorite songs.

Dave Ramsey's syndicated radio show uses it as its theme.

I've always been against using pop songs for commercials and themes. It was a no no in the radio biz back in the day. There were a lot of reasons, including people expecting and wanting to hear the full song. Well, times have changed. Hit songs are frequently used as transitions coming in and out of commercial breaks.

Then, I did some math.

"Baker Street" was a hit in 1978. It would have been the equivalent of using a late 1930's tune back when "Baker Street" was at the top of the charts.  No one, not even a geezer like me, would have objected.

Above is a version of "Baker Street" with the vocals cut out. Strangely enough, I read where the saxophone player thought he was a bit flat. Are you kidding me?   It was perfect, and the tune has been going through my head for days.

If that isn't enough, listen to the beat behind the sax-- the prefect compliment.

Do yourself a favor. Find the original. Get a good set of headphones and prepare to be delighted and amazed.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


The verdict was in, even before the jury came back with a decision last night in Montgomery County.

We heard 14 witnesses last week at Kathleen Kane's perjury and obstruction trial.  We read the newspaper columnists.

Above and beyond the legal acts, the attorney general's professional competence and personal maturity were called in to question.  The court of public opinion was in session, and its sentence is severe.  It might be a lifetime penalty.

It's almost as if the jury's guilty verdict last night was secondary.  We watched a personal and professional life go up in flames.  Kathleen Kane has no one to blame but herself.  Her name was being mentioned as a potential governor and senate candidate.  There were big things ahead.  Not any more.

Even if the verdicts were not guilty on all charges, the damage was done.  The highest ranking law enforcement officer in the state acted unprofessionally.  The jury's verdict added "criminal behavior" to the list.

The attorney general always said the criminal charges against her were retribution for exposing all the dirty e-mails that were floating around state government, including the Supreme Court.  You know, that might be true.  But, Ms. Kane gave her opponents an avenue for their payback.

Kane will be sentenced in 90 days.  Jail time is a possibility.  I can just imagine that talk with her children.  It might be more difficult than the jail time.

It never should have happened.  Kathleen Kane should have known better.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Business Monday

It was a disturbing week.

Macy's says it's closing about 14 per cent of its stores.  Thousands of people will lose their jobs.  The list of affected stores isn't out yet.  Macy's says it will beef up its on-line efforts.

I have a close friend in the retail industry.  She told me the first thing that gets cut is usually employees.  As a result, there are fewer workers on the floor and shoppers have a negative experience.  Oh, one other thing.  Shoplifting has spiked.

The Philadelphia Inquirer had a nice story the other day on the massive King of Prussia Mall.  The two buildings are now connected by a new food court, so the mall is now officially one huge building.  Developers say the goal is to make shopping an experience.  Maybe some of America's troubled retailers should listen up.  There are many times when shopping simply isn't fun.

Ruby Tuesday is closing more than ninety of its restaurants.  Been there.  Never a problem, but Ruby Tuesday is nothing special, and that could be the problem.  I live near a commercial strip, and I wonder how all those chain restaurants can survive.  On the other hand, parking lots are usually crowded on nights and weekends.  Like Macy's, the list of closures is still secret.

Logan's Roadhouse filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week.  Several restaurants were closed, including one in Wilkes-Barre.  Never been there.

Retail and food are cyclical.  There are times of expansion, but nothing lasts forever.  It's clear what part of the cycle we're now visiting.

But then again, the Wall Street Journal's on-line edition recently featured an ad that said Hardees's fast food franchise territories are available here in Pennsylvania.  There used to be one near the Wyoming Valley Mall and in Frackville.  I was a frequent visitor when I was visiting friends in Harrisburg and Baltimore.  I always felt Hardee's featured stand out breakfast items, while the rest of the day was average.  It's been a while since I've been in one, and I wonder if we'll have the opportunity here in our area.

Still, I have to wonder if all the really good locations for fast food restaurants have been snapped up.  I'm sure there is a prime spot or two just waiting to be developed.

Why does the international Olympic Committee keep awarding games to countries and cities that are clearly polluted and inadequate?  The list grows longer every two years.  London is one of the few exceptions.  I suspect it's the power of the pitch and the size of the check that do the trick.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Andy's Angles: Old and New

This is one of those shots I really didn't like until I got it home and loaded it in to the computer.

It shows the old and new at the University of Scranton.  The old science building has been knocked down.  You see that in the foreground.  The new science building rises to the rear.

The U plans green space here, and that's not a bad idea.  it actually opens up the view to the original campus, an area long hidden behind the science hall.  More on that in future weeks.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Andy's Angles: Sprucing Up

I assumed the project would be further along when I visited the University of Scranton a couple of weeks ago.  The college is sprucing up some areas on campus, including the plaza in front of the library, just where Linden Street enters the campus from downtown.

If there was one knock on the U of S, it was the aesthetics.  For a long time, it simply was not an attractive campus.  Urban schools often have that problem.  Administration apparently realized that.  They've taken big steps in recent years, including a lot more green space.

It's now a rather good looking campus.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Media Notes

A little yammering about the business as we head in to the weekend...

NBC's Olympic ratings are strong, but down a bit from recent games.  I wish I could give you a reason.  A lack of really compelling stories, viewers want live coverage rather than recorded, competition...  It could be a lot of things.

ESPN's John Saunders passed away the other day.  61.  I liked him because he, unlike most at ESPN, wasn't a clown.  On top of that, he managed to keep that Sunday morning windbag sports columnist show moving.  FOX wanted Saunders for its NFL show when James Brown jumped back to CBS, but Saunders chose to stay at ESPN.

I also have to note last week's passing of David Huddleston.  85.  Among many things, he was the elder of the unrelated Jeff Lebowskis in "The Big Lebowski."  I love that movie.

I actually watched the Kitten Summer Games on the Hallmark Channel.  Scoff if you must, but it was an entertaining 90 minutes.

One of the WVIA digital subchannels broadcast the Kennedy and Johnson "American Experience" shows again this week.  It was outstanding television.

Speaking of digital subchannels, I still get a kick hearing the old "Tonight" show theme and watching Johnny Carson walk out from behind the rainbow curtain on WNEP2.

FOX is broadcasting the final Alex Rodriguez game tonight, and that's not a bad idea.  I think Rich Eisen said it the other day, and it's how I feel...  I want so badly to like Alex Rodriguez, but it's just not happening.

In a broader sense, this can be media, because it did advertise...  Jet's Pizza in Dickson City closed last week.  It wasn't great pizza, but it was a good pie.  Fast service and the staff was very nice.  I hope they all find new jobs very soon.

This really deserves a blog entry on its own, and I'll do that one of these days...  but, once upon a time, in another place, I produced a morning newscast.  I'd write something funky, and the anchor, who I loved and respected, would print the script, walk over to my desk and ask "Would Cronkite say it that way?"  I admitted he wouldn't, and I'd modify the script to keep the anchor happy.  Anchors can be monsters.  This guy wasn't, but if an anchor doesn't like a script, he's not going to read it well.  Most of the times, you can compromise.  Bottom line, I watch a lot of news.  I see and hear so many things these days that would have Uncle Walter shaking his head.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Round Up

There are times you get into really odd conversations, and this one took place at the gym yesterday morning.

A friend remarked that she bought a watermelon over the weekend, and it was really good.

I asked if it was round, and she replied that it was.  My gym buddy is only a few years younger, so we had many of the same experiences growing up.

Back in the day, watermelons were enormous oblong fruit.  Now, they're almost circular, like a basketball.  What's up with that?

I really like watermelon, if someone else is doing the work.  My friend and I agreed that slicing the round watermelon is more difficult than its oval cousins of years past.  I'm sure they taste just as good, and they have fewer seeds.  However, the round ones clearly have less delicious juicy flesh inside.

Science likes to improve everything.  The industry might have missed the mark with its basketball fruit.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Clock Is Ticking

It's one of the odd little things I do a couple of times a week.

Interstate 81 offers a quick and easy route between home and office.  It takes just a few minutes.

But, there are many times I skip the interstate and drive to work the long way-- though the towns as I call it.  Borough and city streets.  It takes a little while longer, but I truly enjoy the "me" time.  Other than the radio, it's quiet.  No traffic.  I often notice the things that I'm too busy to see during the day.

Okay.  Big foundation.  I'm getting to the point.

Since the Pokémon Go craze started, Courthouse Square in downtown Scranton has been rather busy, even in the wee hours of the morning.  It's filled with people gazing down at their cell phones, their faces illuminated by the glow.

While Pokémon Go isn't for me, I really didn't mind seeing the square filled.  It's good, clean fun.  Legal.  The kids weren't getting in to any trouble.

Something struck me during the ride to work yesterday morning.  Courthouse Square was empty.  It wasn't the weather.  It was great.  Is the Pokémon Go craze beginning to fizzle?

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


I spent a big part of my Monday at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.  Delta had a power problem at its headquarters.  That led to computer issues.  Delta operations came to a halt.  It began getting limited flights in the air at mid morning.  By then, it was too late.  Flights were missed.  Thousands of people were stranded at airports around the country.

Delta isn't the first airline to have computer problems.  According to the Associated Press, Southwest had a meltdown last month.  United had computer issues when it tried combining its system with Continental.

It's only a small part of the problem.

Look at what happens when part of an interstate highway is closed for construction or a crash.  Chaos.

The great Ted Koppel recently wrote a book at how the U.S. electricity grid is vulnerable to hacking.

So many systems we depend upon, especially when it comes to transportation and energy, are just so fragile.  It doesn't take much to create an issue, and the dominoes start to tumble.

Of course, the answer is to build redundancies.  But, that costs time, money, and the willing ness to invest.  I remember Rep. Paul Kanjorski trying to push "Wall Street West" after 9/11.   He wanted major financial firms to establish operations in the Poconos, off the New York metropolitan area power grid, in case of another catastrophe.  How did that work out?

We're leaving ourselves open to many more Delta days in the future.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Sports Scrapple

I watched Alex Rodriguez retire yesterday, and while I've never been a fan, it was a classy performance.  While he will fall short of that 700 home run mark, he stays in the game as an advisor to the Yankees for the next year and a half.  Translation:  he keeps that big contract money.  I'm sure Rodriguez could have requested he be released from that contract and signed with another team.  Rodriguez worked for FOX during the playoffs and World Series last year and showed a lot of promise, but he would have left a lot of money on the table.  I don't blame him one bit.  Would I vote for Rodriguez for the Hall of Fame?  Great stats, but it's the Hall of  Fame, not the Hall of Numbers.  Rodriguez sat out a season for cheating in the form of performance enhancing drugs, and that's a disqualification in my book.

I won't miss John Sterling doing that tired old "A-bomb from A-Rod" home run call.

The NFL Hall of Fame Game was on ESPN last night.  While I'm ready for fall, I'm not ready for football.  I didn't watch.  Moot point.  They decided not to play the game.

FOX does a couple of golf tournaments a year, and it gets a lot of criticism for thinking outside the box.  That's OK.  At least, FOX does the fan friendly thing of keeping the leader board up on the screen most of the time.  CBS and NBC/Golf Channel leave you hanging for big hunks of time.

I've tried to watch the summer Olympics.  I really have.  I'm trying to put my finger on the reasons I don't care.  It could be the lack of compelling stories.  It could be the over the top production, but I think it comes down to this:  everything NBC does has a canned and packaged quality.  It's more reality show, less sporting competition.

NASCAR is pushing back most of its start times to 3:00 PM next year.  I'm sure NASCAR's TV partners are pulling the strings on this one.  A later start means better ratings.  However, it doesn't seem fan friendly to me.  A lot of those races are in the winter and spring, while kids are in school.  Factor in race time, stuck in traffic time, travel time...  and it's a long day for a lot of families.

Admitted drunk driver and former Ezgles/Redskins QB has signed on to work for ESPN Radio.  I used to listen to McNabb on NBC Sports Radio, and he was pretty good.  Not condoning what McNabb did to get a short stint in jail, he deserves another chance.  The man admitted he did something very wrong.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Andy's Angles: Wheel

It's another shot from inside the Marketplace at Steamtown in downtown Scranton.

What's billed as the world's tallest KNEX Ferris Wheel was recently constructed here, and it was still up during a recent visit.

It's tough to see in this shot, but in the upper left, second floor, west end of the mall, a new children's play area is going in.

While the mall is making strides, a lot of it isn't in retail space.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Andy's Angles: Taking Shape

There really isn't much of a reason to visit the west end of the Marketplace at Steamtown.  That's scheduled to change this fall, when Luzerne Counth Community College opens a branch campus here.

The college has leased space on the second floor, formerly Montgomery Ward, formerly Bon Ton.  A recent trip shows a lot of dry wall is up, along with HVAC.

I can't wait to see what LCCC does for the marketplace and downtown Scranton.

Friday, August 5, 2016

End of Vacation

My second of four vacation weeks has come to an end.  Let's review.

On the positive side, I rode my bike and went to the gym.  It had to offset a few too many Blue Bunny scoops.  I made it to KMart.  There was one nice photography morning.  I indulged in a couple of tie sales.  One was in a mall and the other was on line.

I broke a tooth.  I had a tooth fixed.

And, I slept a lot.

On the opposite side, it was far too hot.  I wanted to try a couple of restaurants I hadn't visited before.  Fail.  I wanted to get in more photography time, but that didn't work out.  Some friends have been left hanging for months.  I really intended to reconnect during the last ten days.  It didn't happen, and I'm sorry.  I wanted to hit a carnival or church picnic.  It's been years since I've done that.  Fail again.

My next vacation week comes up after Labor Day.

Thanks to Stacy Lange for filling in last weekend.  The eager beaver is back tonight.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

About the Cover

A little serendipity this month...

I set out to photograph one thing for this month's blog header.  I didn't get what I wanted.  While wandering around downtown Scranton, I snapped off a few around Elm Park United Methodist Church.  When I got home and loaded the images in to my computer, I discovered I really liked the tan of the church stone, the green trees, blue sky, white puffy clouds.  It really worked out for me and it screamed out "August header."

It might be time for a little tree pruning.  They've gotten rather large and are hiding a lot of the church's beauty.

I took a few other photos in that neighborhood, especially when it comes to new construction, and I'll share those with you in the weeks to come.

Below are a few paragraphs lifted from the Elm Park United Methodist Church web site.

The historic Elm Park campus is located on a triangular plot of land bordered by Jefferson Avenue, Linden Street, and Madison Avenue.
In 1839, a Methodist Class was organized in Slocum Hollow, Scranton. The membership grew quickly and in 1841, the Village Chapel was built facing Lackawanna Street on what is now Adams Avenue.
The church was incorporated on September 8, 1859, and after outgrowing several buildings, the Congregation broke ground for the new church home on September 8, 1891. After two major fires and reconstruction, a dedication service was held on December 17, 1893. In 1927, the parsonage was moved from the Linden Street side of the Sanctuary to Jefferson Avenue. The Church House (Elm Park House) was built on the Linden Street property which is bordered by Madison Avenue, completing the triangle where the entire church complex is now located.
For over 150 years, Elm Park has been a major and powerful voice of Methodist Protestantism in the greater Scranton area. The church continues to offer significant leadership for the spiritual, cultural, and civic life of northeastern Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Wednesday Scrapple

Every vacation, I say I won't grow my traditional vacation beard.  Every vacation, I still grow the scruff.

It's been a bad vacation for photography.  last week, too hot.  This week, too cloudy.

Is the Pokemon Go craze over yet?

Condolences to family and friends of former Scranton Police Chief George Murphy.  I always found him to be very professional and easy to work with.

This has turned out to be the summer of flash flooding.  I can't remember anything like it.  There have been past instances of storm cells hanging out over communities, like Bear Creek, several years ago, but nothing like this.

McDonalds is changing up its ingredients to make its food healthier.  It really triggered a McNugget craving.

When the dominant story of the Rio Olympics turns out to be filth and pollution, you know you're in a bit of trouble.

I never understood smoking.  It's expensive.  It will kill you.  Second hand smoke also kills.  Why do it?

Is there a more frustrating and expensive experience than a visit to the cell phone store?

I miss ELO.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Done In By a Wheat Thin

This never would have happened if I wasn't on vacation.

I was snacking on Wheat Thins Saturday afternoon.  If I was on my "work week" schedule, I would have been asleep.

One cracker seemed crunchier than the others.  Problem:  It wasn't the cracker.  It was my cracked molar.

I checked it out in the mirror.  A big section of tooth was gone.  Odd.  I wasn't in any pain, and a cracker shouldn't have caused a molar to shatter like that.  No matter.  The damage was done.

While there was no pain, there were a few sharp edges left that were very annoying.

I could have called my dentist immediately.  He does respond to weekend emergencies, and if he can't, a colleague would have patched me up.  Considering I wasn't in pain or bleeding, and I was on vacation, I decided to wait.

I placed a call shortly after opening time yesterday.  They had an opening, but it was immediate, and I had a couple of other things that needed my attention first.  The next available slot was 5 PM.  I took it.

My dentist must be part magician.  I didn't think there was enough tooth there to work with, but he fashioned a repair that feels as good as new.

I still have some Wheat Thins, and solid teeth left.

Monday, August 1, 2016

More Conventional Wisdom

The political conventions are over for another four years.

Some random thoughts...

The television coverage was, well, conventional.  The sky boxes looked the same, the floor reporters, the reporters interviewing reporters, the pundits with nothing to say, endless and useless speculation.

I didn't notice any whiz bang advances in technology or content.  On the other hand, technological advances should be transparent to the viewer.  I'm sure cameras, communication, graphics, etc. were better than they were four years ago.  It didn't look that way, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Political conventions aren't what they used to be.  For the most part, parties show you what they want to you see.  Tight lids.  Restricted access.  As much control as possible.

It's why the stakes are higher than ever before.

Remember all that brokered convention talk in the spring?

It was all said and done by the time delegates arrived in Cleveland and Philadelphia.  It's why the media, mainstream and other wise, will take any nugget and jump all over it.  Total saturation.  Isn't that redundant?

Melania Trump's plagiarism, Republican unrest and snubs by big party names, DNC emails and Bernie Sanders...  it's all like taking a steak and waving it in front of a hungry dog.

And, can we think of better ways of describing convention addresses? I've been watching conventions since I was a tot, and every four years, just about every reporter and anchor says "(Insert candidate name here) tonight will give the biggest speech of his/her political life."

Is that the best you can do?

We'll see if it gets better in 2020.  I hope to see you then.