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Friday, February 28, 2020

Greed

Major League Baseball floated a plan a couple of weeks ago to allow more teams in to the playoffs.  The NFL followed last week.

The NFL plan is getting generally good reviews.  Not here.

14 of the NFL's 32 teams will make the playoffs, nearly half.  Too many.  It renders much of the regular season useless.

Of course, this is all about the money.  The league will have more playoff games to sell to the networks.  Forget that it cheapens the game in the long run.  I'm old school.  If you want to increase the value of something, decrease the supply.  OPEC seems to have mastered that plan.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Done!

You could have heard my sigh of relief throughout the county.

I had my taxes done last week.  It's not about the money.  If you take my federal refund, subtract what I owe the state, and the tax prep fee, I break out even.  That's okay.

Money is secondary.  It's the relief of having a complicated task completed for another year.

I follow the Tony Kornheiser rule.  My tax prep person has one instruction:  Keep me out of jail!

My returns are a tad more complex than average, but I'm no Donald Trump or Michael Bloomberg.  Each year, as I watch my returns done and I stare at all the numbers on the screens, I can't help but think there has to be a better way.

It has to involve fewer penalties for saving and investing, and a simpler way to calculate what you owe.

What ever happened to all those congressional plans for flat taxes, and returns on post cards?

You can't get the toothpaste back in the tube, and I fear things will always get more complex.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Front Row Seat

It might not be the most glamorous job in television, but it is one of the most important.

I filled in as producer of Newswatch 16 This Morning on a recent weekday.  The producer writes most of the stories, decides how much time each should get, puts them in the proper order, selects the accompanying graphics, etc.

It was wild morning.  We were getting updates on the condition of NASCAR driver Ryan Newman, the Boy Scouts filed for bankruptcy, a murder trial was going to the jury, snow and ice were moving in to the area, new information on the Scranton school problem...  There was hardly time to take a breath.

Thankfully, I had plenty of help.

The bottom line is this, and college kids, listen up.  There will always be work for a quality producer.  Producers are always in demand.  You might be behind the scene, but you are a major force in influencing what gets on the air.  There is a lot of pressure and stress, and some long hours.  On the other hand, it can be exceptionally rewarding.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Miracle!

I'm usually very good at documenting those "Where were you when...?" moments, but I'm having a lot of trouble with his one.

February 22nd was the 40th anniversary of the US hockey team capturing the gold medal at the Lake Placid Olympics.

I remember the victory over the USSR,  and then Finland to capture the gold medal, but I don't recall getting caught up in the whole thing.  The Olympics usually bore me, and I'm not much of a hockey fan.

I was early in to the second half of my freshman year at Marywood at the time.  We used to do short newscasts and sportscasts on the college radio station, so I had a pretty good idea of what was going on in the world.

The significance of the event isn't lost on me, and Al Michaels, then of ABC, turned in an outstanding performance.

I'm just saying the whole thing really didn't push my buttons.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Election Day

courtesy:  Reuters
Above is a Reuters news service picture of a man voting in last week's Iranian elections.

There are many places in Pennsylvania where you can't get a camera in to a polling place.

Something is wrong with that.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Andy's Angles: The Courthouse





The Luzerne County Courthouse has been featured here many times before, and one more look won't hurt.

It is one of the most spectacular buildings in our area, inside and out.  Recent restoration efforts make me happy.  This building deserves preservation.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Andy's Angles: Stop Motion



I've had a company IPhone for more than a year, and I recently started exploring some of its capabilities.



This is a souped up view of early morning traffic at North River and North Streets, near the Luzerne County Courthouse in Wilkes-Barre.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Trash Talkin'

I haven't done an MBWA entry in a while, so it's best that I get you up to speed.

Walmart founder Sam Walton used to have a sign in his stores, near the manager's office.  It said simply "MBWA."  It stands for management by walking around.  Walton wanted his managers out on the floor, seeing what works, helping customers, assisting employees, etc.

I've adopted some of that on my daily travels through the universe.

I was on my way home from the gym yesterday morning, and it was apparently trash day in the neighborhoods I traveled through.  Three things jumped out at me.

The first is something I've mentioned before.  Northeastern Pennsylvanians love their pizza.  Just about every home had pizza boxes out for the trash or the recycling.

The second, it's clear that a lot of stores had television sales in advance of Super Bowl Sunday.  At least one home on every street had a new television box out with the trash.

The third kind of stunned me, but in reality, it shouldn't.  It was the amount of Amazon boxes at curbside.  The company appears to have a stranglehold on American commerce, and I will admit to being part of that.  It's not difficult to understand why Macy's is struggling, why Sears/KMart is circling the drain, why malls are empty.  People love Amazon.  I've found its prices to be average, but you can't beat the convenience.

I feel so trashy.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Really?

The new mayor of Scranton is soliciting ideas for a new city flag.

Let's back up a bit.

A mayor will be judged on safe streets, efficient firefighting, timely trash collection, nice parks and filled pot holes.  Financial solvency is also a plus.  Scranton is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and it's been that way for a while.  It is a problem inherited by the new mayor.  It's none of her doing, but it's now on her plate.

A flag isn't high on the list.

As I have noted here before, it's also a mayor's job to get citizens feeling good about themselves and their city.  Scranton's Jim McNulty was the best I ever saw-- master showman, fantastic promoter.  He thought big, and that is a rare commodity around here.

There is nothing wrong with the old flag.  A new one might be the first step toward a new image, and a symbol of new thinking.  It just seems to me there are other problems that need to be tackled first.  It's like slapping a fresh coat of paint on a house with a crumbling foundation.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Sam

Most people outside the business yawn at journalism and media issues, but indulge me today.

There has been a big debate in the industry over something former ABC News correspondent Sam Donaldson just did.  Sam blasted President Trump and endorsed Michael Bloomberg for president.

The Poynter organization, a group that overthinks media issues, believes Donaldson shouldn't have done it.  Once a journalist, always a journalist.  Below is a quote from Poynter.

Donaldson is free to do as he pleases, but it’s disappointing and damaging that he felt his endorsement of a presidential candidate was more important than preserving the integrity of the institution that he served so well for most of his life. With all due respect to Donaldson, I’m not sure his endorsement helps Bloomberg as much it hurts journalism.

I have news for Poynter, but this is not a new phenomenon.  Dan Rather regularly goes on CNN and bashes the current administration.  Rather hasn't endorsed anyone for president but you clearly know how the guy feels.

Anderson Cooper on CNN clearly doesn't like what is happening in Washington.  Yet, CBS allows him to freelance for "60 Minutes."

MSNBC allows Rachel Madow to coanchor political coverage, and that makes me cringe.

The Donaldson move does seem to reinforce the "liberal media" stereotype.

FOX News seems to do a better job of separating opinion and news programming, but you know about the network's agenda.

Okay, so where do I fall on the Donaldson issue?

Should he have done it?  No.

Is it a big deal?  No.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Philadelphia Freedom

The Plains Township casino is tweaking its food court.  One of the new main attractions is a cheese steak restaurant with its roots in Philadelphia.  Part of the tweak involves the installation of murals of Philadelphia landmarks and famous figures.

That's all well and good.  From the pictures I saw in the newspaper, the murals seem well done and perfectly fine.  The artist is very talented.

My issue is...  the casino is in Luzerne County.  Don't we have anything around here that's mural-worthy?  The Susquehanna River, Public Square, Luzerne County Courthouse, the mountains, the colleges, one of the last remaining KMarts, the airport roundabouts...

It's often said people around here have a poor self image.  Celebrating the good things in our area, in mural form, would be a nice start toward fixing that.  Let's stop living in the shadows of the big cities.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Business Monday

Macy's announced plans to close about 20 per cent of its stores.  Its brick and mortar stores are taking a hit from the internet.

It's not difficult to see Macy's problems.  Many of its stores in malls and malls are struggling.  I frequently pass through the Viewmont Mall Macy's.  Nice stores.  Nice merchandise, but just a touch on the pricey side.  The issue is the shopping experience.  There isn't one.  The place always looks the same.

The same can be said for Kohl's.  It's stores don't change much, but as a big box store, it can get away with that.  Kohl's is getting rid of a bunch of employees at the corporate office, a move the company says it needs to improve efficiency.

My heart goes out to all the Kohl's and Macy's people who are losing their jobs.

The same goes for the people at Wells Fargo.  A banking industry expert sees a round of cost cutting and layoffs this year.

A major American newspaper chain, McClatchy, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week.  People aren't buying newspapers.  Newspapers are becoming more successful at monetizing the internet, but they still have a way to go.  It appears the papers will stay in business, but this one really has me worried.

Do you know anyone itching to take a cruise these days?

Published reports have retired baseball star Alex Rodriguez interested in buying the New York Mets.  I can't see how this can be a bad thing.  The franchise has lacked direction for years.

Wendy's starts serving breakfast early next month.  Competition makes everyone stronger.  There are a lot of places where you can get an egg sandwich.  In my book, service makes the difference.  Get me in and out-- fast.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Andy's Angles: The Fast Lane

This is a wider view of the area you saw yesterday. It's the Lackawanna River, looking downstream from Blakely.

I used a fast shutter speed here to better capture the motion of the water.  While your eye is naturally drawn to the "rapids" in the middle of the shot, take a close look at the lower left.  You can practically see every drop move.

A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.  I've been watching You Tube photography "how to" videos and I bought a book.  2020 is the year I try to up my photography game.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Andy's Angles: Fast Weekend

Last week, it was an experiment with slow shutter speeds.  This week, something completely different.

The shot above isn't a wave crashing in to the Pacific coast.  It's the Lackawanna River at Blakely.

Unfortunately, I can't remember the shutter speed, but it was exceptionally fast.  I used a 50 mm prime lens.

I went with the fast shutter speed because I read that it will accentuate the chop of the water.   You see every drop.

It's true!

A wider view will be featured here tomorrow.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Friday Scrapple

It was record low ratings for Sunday night's Academy Awards telecast.  It's not hard to see why.  Once again, there was no host.  The broadcast needs a compelling and interesting host to draw eyeballs to the screen.  On top of that, there were really no big blockbuster films that captured interest.  It was a bunch product from streaming services that no one ever heard of.  And the icing on the cake, you knew many of the acceptance speeches would be filled with partisan political material.  You are automatically turning off half of the country.

The Major League Baseball commissioner has to be out of his mind.  His playoff expansion plan will make the game a joke-- like the NHL and NBA, where everyone gets in to the playoffs and the regular season means nothing.

Weekend number 2 of the XFL is coming up.  The league has its roots in wrestling, and I'm not a fan of that.  I didn't watch any of the opening weekend games.  Still, I hope the league succeeds.  There is room for spring time football.

Jim Carrey is in trouble for crude remarks to a reporter.  It seems like Carrey was just trying to get noticed, which hasn't happened much lately.

The Scranton School District lead and asbestos contamination issue is headed for federal court.  A lawsuit was filed this week.  A lot of people need to answer the question "What did you know, and when did you know it?" Several people, including some big names, dropped off the radar screen this week.  They will have to emerge sooner or later.

I know they are relatively minor events, but the words "winter weather advisory" make me cringe.

Presidents Day weekend is here-- the last three day weekend of winter..  It's been a mild winter but it still feels like the longest of the four seasons.

Tourist trains have returned to Jim Thorpe.  I'm glad the amusement tax issue was worked out.  Jim Thorpe is nice-- and even better with trains.

Happy Valentine's Day!  I hope it's a good one.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Early Contests



It's been a while since I've analyzed presidential politics.  We've had two early contests, so it seems like the perfect time.

First of all, I thought Kamala Harris and Cory Booker brought a lot to the process, especially Harris.  I was a little surprised when neither caught fire and both dropped out of the race relatively early.  Months ago, Newt Gingrich predicted Harris would be the Democratic nominee, and I saw the wisdom in that.  Her campaign never caught fire.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg have to be smiling after strong showings in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Sanders' age and recent heart attack don't seem to be issues, at least during this early stage of the campaign.  There are concerns about Buttigieg's ability to draw minority voters, but that's not a factor in states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is struggling.  She has to show some traction, and fast.  It seems like many of her followers drifted over to the Sanders camp.

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar impressed many with her performance during last week's debate on ABC, and she pulled decent numbers in New Hampshire, but not enough to really be a factor. That could change, if and when voters seek a moderate Democrat.  If Klobuchar stays in the upper-middle of the pack, she has to become a prime pick for the second place spot on the ticket.  I could see her getting a major boost if Joe Biden continues to struggle.  More on that in a moment.

And then there is Scranton native and former Vice President Joe Biden.  Poor showing in Iowa.  Poor showing in New Hampshire.  If you remember, he showed very strong in the early polls and a certain blogger said that was simply due to the fact he had the most name and face recognition.  It was bound to change as the campaign heated up and the other candidates became better known.

So, what is Biden's problem?  He's still in the center as his party moves left.  Biden and his campaign seem to lack vitality and energy, and there are still unanswered questions over his son's business interests in Ukraine.  The New York Post called it a "spectacular collapse."  Joe Biden talks about the past a lot when voters seem more interested in their futures.

Look, this is far, far from over.  South Carolina and Nevada are on the horizon, both states where Biden can do well.  He needs a win, badly.  A Yahoo! politics story had Biden struggling with fund raising.  I can't see how it gets any better after New Hampshire.

There is one name that's been absent so far-- Michael Bloomberg.  The former New York mayor was essentially on the sidelines in Iowa and New Hampshire.  That changes.  He will become a factor simply because he's a billionaire and has the willingness to spend it.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Spring!

This is the 16th "spring" I've had this blog and every year, I think I've mentioned the first sign of spring is not a robin sighting or what Punxsutawney Phil has to say.  It's the arrival of, and the aroma of the first skunk of the new year.

Skunks get hungry at the end of the winter, and they go looking for love when spring arrives.

This year is something out of the ordinary.  The skunks never went away, at least in my neighborhood.  They were a constant presence because the weather never really cooled off,  and temperatures never went below zero.  I smelled.  I saw. 

I really think we're in for an early spring, in spite of some really cold weather predicted for the end of the week and the start of the weekend.    The skunks know.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Rush

Let's talk about Rush Limbaugh.

As I have said before, whether or not you agree with his politics, Rush Limbaugh is a skilled broadcaster.  He's on 600 radio stations and pulls big numbers.  There are some shows also on a huge number of stations, but they're on in the evening or late at night.  There is one guy who has a financial advice show.  For the life of me, I can't understand his popularity.  The same goes for the overnight guy who spends all of his time talking about Martians and the end of the world.

Back to Rush...

This is not an exaggeration.  I really think he saved AM radio.  Rush proved a syndicated mid day show can work, and generate a big audience.  He's keeping the lights on at a lot of stations around the country.  If and when he steps away from the mic, a lot of stations are going to be in big trouble.  There is no one even close in his category.

Limbaugh recently public with his diagnosis of advanced lung cancer.  This doesn't end well.

President Trump gave Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom during last week's State of the Union address last week.

I will be the first to acknowledge that Rush Limbaugh said some mean and awful things about people over the years.  He's a bomb thrower.  The award set off a new wave of anti Limbaugh attacks.  I understand why some people don't like him.  I get that.  His remarks were indefensible.  Still, I found jumping on a 69 year old man dying of cancer to be in horrible taste.

The worst thing you can do to someone in the media is ignore them.  There were other State of the Union things to talk about.

The view is always nicer from the high road.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Orson Bean

I looked down at my computer screen at the office around 4:30 Saturday morning and my heart broke.  Orson Bean, hit by a car and killed Friday night in Venice, California.

If you're a regular here, you know I love old game shows and Johnny Carson.  Orson made more than 200 "Tonight" show appearances in the Paar and Carson days.  He was a regular on the "To Tell the Truth" and "Match Game" panels.

Orson Bean was the guy everybody wanted to be-- smart, witty, funny, and fast.  He could tell a joke.  He could tell a longer story.  Always engaging.  The life of the party.


Orson Bean had the best line when describing why he quit "To Tell the Truth."  Bean simply said "I didn't want to learn anything any more."  By the way, he eventually came back.  His record of discerning the guest from the impostors was average, but he knew how to play the game-- have fun, but take the game itself seriously.


Having said all that, go to You Tube one of these days and search for a couple of "Concentration" pilots Orson Bean hosted.  He was awful.  Bean admitted that in an interview, saying being a host is a much different skill set from being on a celebrity panel.  That version of "Concentration" was never picked up by a network or syndicator.  I can see why.  They tried to modernize the game, and it fell flat.  The version that made it to NBC daytime, with Alex Trebek as host, was much more true to the original.

Also, go to IMDB.com.  Orson Bean had a long list of acting credits.  The guy had talent in several areas.

I swear this next part is true.  I was walking through the Viewmont Mall in Dickson City, one morning, several years ago, and I saw a dapper elderly man making his way through the stores.  If it wasn't Orson Bean, it was an exact double.  I regret not stopping to say hello and ask if he was the genuine article.

It was an awful way for Orson Bean to exit the planet and I am truly sad.

Orson Bean was 91.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Andy's Angles: The Slow Lane

Today, it's another shot from my recent pancake lens/slow shutter speed experiment.

Same morning as yesterday's picture, but a different location.  This is a shot above Interstate 81, taken from Reeves Street in Dunmore.  The headlights are southbound.  Taillights are northbound.

Like yesterday, it was shot with a 24 mm lens, with an exposure of 25 seconds..  Trees and weeds obstruct the view.  I'll have to try it with a non-prime lens next time.  I was attracted to the prime lens here because it is more "low light friendly."

It wasn't the best morning to shoot.  It's tough to tell in this picture, but there was a snow shower at the time.  Auto focus wouldn't kick in because of the lack of light, so I had to do it manually, which wasn't easy with glasses wet from the snow.

The experiment was promising enough to try it again.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Andy's Angles: Slow Weekend

I recently put this one up on some other social media sites, so the blog is getting equal time this weekend.

This is a recent view from the parking lot of the Viewmont Mall.  I'm at the end, near where Sears used to be, looking down on Interstate 81 and the North Scranton Expressway.

This was my first experiment with slow shutter speeds.  In this case, I had it open for 25 seconds.  For those of you unfamiliar with the area, Interstate 81 runs left to right.  The expressway rund below and goes off in to the distance.  Downtown Scranton is in the upper left.

This was also my first experiment with a new 24 mm pancake lens.  It's a prime lens, so what you see is what you get.  No zoom.  That's how I got stuck with a bunch of weeds and wires in the foreground.  It did an exceptionally nice job capturing the streaks of headlight and tail light, and I am especially pleased with the way the green overhead signs pop.

For the first time employing the technique, it's not bad.  There are some fairly serious flaws with the photo, and I hope to correct those with more practice.

I only tried the shot with the pancake lens.  It was a quick impromptu trip, an experiment.  My kit lenses and gear bag were deliberately left at home.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Enough, Already

It's time Iowa enters the new century.

Something went wrong on Caucus Night Monday.  It took hours and hours and hours to get the results.

Iowa has a lot of significance because it is traditionally the first presidential contest of the year, so it's important they get it right.

Part of getting right means dumping the caucus system and voting the way the rest of the country does.

I get the whole "quaint and tradition" thing, but its time has passed.

Watching MSNBC in the early hours of Tuesday was amusing.  There were no new numbers, so the pundits, plus Brian Williams and Rachel Madow were spent  the morning dissecting the Hillary Clinton versus Bernie Sanders contest of 2016.

Iowa, there has to be a better way.

America, there has to be a better way.  Some have suggested a handful of regional primaries, and that seems to make a lot of sense.

We have an odd way of selecting the leader of the free world.


Thursday, February 6, 2020

Unfinished Thursday

It's a day when a few previous blog topics need to be revisited...

I went off on tobacco Monday.  Later that day, Rush Limbaugh announced he has advanced lung cancer.  The man was a cigar fan.  I say "was" because I assumed he stopped smoking after the diagnosis.  As I have said here before, whether or not you agree with Limbaugh's politics, he is a skilled and entertaining broadcaster, and I'm sorry he is sick.  I still have no idea how American society and government tolerate a product that has killed so many, and has cost our economy trillions in lost productivity.  If a mouse gets a tumor from red dye, it comes off the market.  Tobacco skates by.

More thoughts on Rush Limbaugh in the days to come.

I picked the San Francisco 49ers to win the Super Bowl over the Kansas City Chiefs.  Wrong. Well, I was actually right for three and a half quarters.  I will always take the team with the better defense, in this case, SF.  I didn't see that collapse coming.

As is my habit, I did not see one second of the game.  It was on TV when I got to work Sunday night, but I was too busy to look up and watch.  Even if I had the time, I probably wouldn't have watched.  I can't think of a Super Bowl I cared about less.  I'm assuming I'll break my record next year.  TV ratings climbed a bit over last year.  I'm sorry I didn't help.

Some felt the JLo/Shakira half time show wasn't family friendly.  I didn't see enough of the clips and replays to judge.  It looked like it might have been over the top.  That's up to you to decide.

In a Super Bowl commercial, Mr. Peanut died and was reborn.  There was considerable weeping and wailing here in our area because Planters Nuts started in Wilkes-Barre.  My friend, the Prospector on Rock 107 got this one right.  He said we shouldn't care because Planters abandoned Wilkes-Barre, and still does nothing for our area.  It's time to move on.  Amen.

Pete Rose is seeking reinstatement to Major League Baseball.  He feels he should get a break because the cheating Astros got off comparatively easy.  No.  Never.  Ever.  If Rose gets back in, it will be like when my team, the Steelers, signed dog killer Michael Vick.  I'm out!  I'm done!  Finished.

I've often said the first four years of MASH were among the best shows ever on television.  One of the people responsible, Gene Reynolds, died this week.  96.  Reynolds also helped put "Lou Grant" on the air-- a solid show and I really admired how the producer took a character from a comedy and turned it in to an outstanding drama.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Sky Safety

Retired basketball star Kobe Bryant and eight others were killed in a January 26 helicopter crash, and suddenly everyone is an expert on helicopters.

I am no genius when it comes to aviation, but here is my two cents.

I flew with Bob Gobla and Scott Butler at WYOU.

I flew with Dave Frey and Randy Freeman at WNEP.

I flew in a stunt plane for a WNEP story, and I flew in a Vietnam era National Guard helicopter for another story on WARM.

If I didn't feel safe, I wouldn't have done any of it.

I've had flights where we got knocked around in the wind.  Visibility was fine.

The only time I was a little nervous was one Monday, when rain forced a postponement in a Pocono race from the day before.  The reason for my anxiety was other air traffic over the track-- three other helicopters.  Air traffic controllers gave each of us an individual altitude, and as long as no one strayed, we would all be fine.  We were.

I will admit to being considerable relived when our noon broadcast was over and we were heading back to the pad at the station.

The bottom line-- quit speculating, and let the experts do their jobs.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

In Memoriam

You might not have known the name Fred Silverman, but you see his influence every time you turn on the television.

He helped CBS maintain its powerhouse status for decades.  His decisions while at ABC vaulted that network to the top.  He presided over some landmark quality programming at NBC.  After leaving the networks, Silverman's production company was responsible for "Matlock," among several others.

Fred Silverman gave David Letterman an underappreciated NBC daytime show.  It bombed, but it led to Letterman's "Late Night."  He also helped developed "Scooby Doo."

Do yourself a favor.  There parts of a Fred Silverman interview on You Tube.  Watch.  Listen.  You'll hear his talk about legendary shows, actors, and decisions.  Listen for something else-- the passion.  The joy.  Fred Silverman clearly loved what he did.

Fred Silverman died last week.  82.  The word "genius" is tossed around too frequently.  It really applies here.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Perspective

There is currently an uproar in the Scranton School District over lead in school drinking water and asbestos in buildings.  That's totally understandable.  It's especially maddening if the allegation that district officials knew about it and did nothing.

This country recently went ape over the problems associated with vaping.  Several people died.  It's leading to increased scrutiny of the vaping industry and that makes sense.

A recent report released by the American Lung Association is flying under the radar.  It says Pennsylvania's anti tobacco efforts need a lot of work and Pennsylvania's anti workplace smoking regulations are among the weakest in the nation.

Apparently, the casinos and the tobacco companies have better lobbyists than the American Lung Association and health groups.  A web search shows bills to strengthen anti smoking laws never made it out of committees.

A state senator from Erie introduced a bill to get rid of the exceptions for all bars and clubs-- except casinos.

Follow the money.

There is no safe level of second hand smoke.

Yes, there is a simple solution-- don't go to any place that allows smoking.  It's worked for me.

Yet, this appears to be another case where the state is failing its residents.

And, one more thing before I go...  AAA reports an increase in the number of crashes in places where recreational marijuana is legal.  Think long and hard about that one.

PS:  yes, i was wrong about the Super Bowl.  More on that later this week.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Andy's Angles: Caught Again!

It seems to be the popular thing for Turkey Hill drivers to do-- get off the road for a while, and have a snack at Sheetz.

This is the second time I've witnessed the phenomenon at the Dunmore store.

The driver was in the store when I visited, in the seating area, going over something on his laptop.

Turkey Hill has upped its game in recent years, and it has some exceptional stores.  Its ice cream is outstanding.  I guess the driver couldn't resist the allure of hot food at 1:30 in the morning.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

About the Cover

This month, a combination of two of my favorite things-- trains and broadcasting.

This is a building used by Reading & Northern in Fairview Township, alone Route 437 in the Mountaintop area of Luzerne County.

Unfortunately, there were no freight trains here during a recent visit.  It was a crystal clear day, a "sterling" day as old friend J. Kristopher used to say.  Blue sky.  Sunshine, and a nice view of the broadcasting towers on top of Penobscot Knob in Hanover Township in the distance.

A train would have made it perfect, but it's still a nice shot.


Friday, January 31, 2020

LIV a Little

Even though I've stopped paying much attention to the NFL, I feel compelled to do the tradition of making a Super Bowl pick.

First, it's refreshing to see a championship game that doesn't involve the New England Patriots.

The point spread is only 1.5, so, on paper, it looks to be a pretty good game.  The over/under is in the mid fifties, indicating gamblers think it will be a high scoring affair.

I'll follow my trend and habit,  and pick the team with the better defense, so I expect the San Francisco 49ers to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs.  I'm also leaning toward the "under."

I haven't seen a Super Bowl since 1999, and this one should be no different.  I might be up for the very end of the game.  We'll see what happens.

I also have zero interest in any commercial, especially the expected death of the beloved Mr. Peanut.  Hats off to the marketing geniuses at Kraft Heinz.  They let a "Mr. Peanut death" item trickle out a couple of weeks ago.  Of course, every radio station, television station, newspaper and social media site had to do something on it, giving the company millions, maybe billions in free advertising.  Wisely, since the death of Kobe Bryant, the company is backing off.

Gullibility makes me sad.  Please, leave me out of your "commercial" discussions.

I'm guessing Mr. Peanut is exceptionally popular and the company will find some way to give him new life.

Enjoy the game!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Impossible to Breathe

What an incredible news cycle it's been.  Impeachment trial.  Kobe Bryant.  Coronavirus.  Presidential election.  Cheating in baseball.  Super Bowl.  Winter weather.  Australian fires.

In the news business, you get the occasional lull-- a time where nothing really big happens.

My friends, those days are over.

I'm sure there is a deeper meaning somewhere.  Possibly, the explosion of media.  A little story can become a big story in a matter of minutes.

It does keep us hopping and it's just beginning.  Buckle up.  A wild ride is ahead.

And, while I'm at it...  There was some sloppy reporting immediately after the crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight others.  Some had the right information, but put it out there before immediate family was notified.  Others simply had the wrong information.

Let me tell you something.  It takes a lot of courage to get breaking news out there.  It takes more courage to pump the brakes and make sure you are doing the right thing.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Gym Rats

I'm a little late with this yearly entry, and it deals with the gym.

2020 was no exception.  Several new people started showing up right after the first of the year.  It always happens.  New Year's resolutions.  Most fade away after a while.  I'm happy to report some of the new faces are still visiting as we approach the end of the first month of the year.

In addition, some of the people who drifted away during the holidays have returned.

Let's face it.  The gym isn't fun.  Yes, there is a feeling of satisfaction when a work out is over.  The "during" is the hard part.

As always, my advice is to have realistic expectations and get a gym buddy.  It's easier when you're working out with a friend.

Most importantly, stay with it.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Reed

courtesy:  WPMT 43
I've been reading a lot about former Harrisburg mayor Stephen Reed.  He died Saturday from prostate cancer.  70 years old.

Reed was Harrisburg's mayor from 1982 to 2010.  He's been given credit for cleaning up the city, creating a restaurant row, establishing City Island Park as a great recreational area, improving education, and more.

He was THE information source, appearing at just about every big fire and major crime.  He was the only one authorized to speak to the media, and I was warned about that very early in to my freelancing stint there several years ago.

Reed grew to be too powerful, spending millions of taxpayer dollars on artifacts for a proposed Wild West museum.  Yes, a wild west museum in Harrisburg.  Thank heaven Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty weren't around to see that one.

The museum never happened.  Investigators smelled something fishy.  Criminal charges followed. 

There were other problems, including a debacle over a trash incinerator that cost taxpayers millions.

Absolute power.

You know the rest.

I doubt we'll ever see another Stephen Reed type again.

I'm not complaining.

Monday, January 27, 2020

In Memoriam

Jim Lehrer died last week.  85.  PBS reporter and anchor.

I'm not going to pretend to be a "NewsHour"fan, but I was impressed that he moderated 12 presidential or vice presidential debates.  That's a tribute to the man's fairness and respect.

I did read Lehrer's book. "A Bus of My Own" when it was released.  Lehrer's father ran a bus company and then managed a bus station.  Lehrer loved buses, collecting signs and other memorabilia over the years.  He even bought and restored an old bus that he drove around his farm.  I'm sure you can find the book somewhere.  You'll enjoy it, even if you're not a news junkie.  The man had a fascinating career.

Lehrer, according to the Washington Post, was one of those journalists who never voted.  That makes me sad.   Lehrer believed it preserved his impartiality.  Voting is a privilege.  Use it.  if you're a journalist, be fair and leave your bias behind when you walk out of the polling place.

Shifting gears...

Friday was the 45th anniversary of the death of Larry Fine, by favorite Stooge.

I loved Larry for several reasons.  He reminded me of the guy who lived across the street.  My neighbor wasn't a stooge, but there was a slight resemblance, especially in the nose and the hair line.  I still look at the porch where my neighbor spent so many days after retiring, and I really miss him.

Larry always tried to be the peace maker between Moe and Curly or Shemp.  He always tried to do the right thing, the voice of reason, and he was always rewarded with a slap.

Few people know Larry was an accomplished violinist, and a Philadelphia native.

He made me laugh, and I am grateful for the gift.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Andy's Angles: Old and New

Regular readers know I'm a big fan of the Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton.

If I do have one criticism, it is that it doesn't change much.

Imagine my delight when I found this on a cold morning earlier this month-- an old and a new Reading engine side by side.  Again, regular readers know the one on my left is my favorite in the collection.  I just adore the black, green and gold.

Having said that, I really hate this shot.  The winter sun was not my friend, a very low angle.  It was impossible for this amateur to get the shot he wanted.

I will return.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Andy's Angles: Solitary Duck

He's tough to spot, in the middle of a cold Lackawanna River at Blakely.

It was a solitary duck, on a sunny but cold winter morning.

In all honesty, he wasn't so solitary.  Some friends were on the bank off to my left.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Heal Thyself

There was a fascinating guest editorial in the Times~Leader this week.  It was written by a doctor, who was alarmed over the increasing number of Americans who no longer have a primary care physician.

The writer blamed some of that on the increased appearance of walk in medi-clinics and the internet.  In a refreshing twist, he also placed some of the blame on the medical industry,  and primary care physicians who have become less responsive to patients' needs.

I've written about my issues with the medical industry in this space before.  I had one doctor, who I loved, close a practice with very short notice.  The medical group this doctor belonged to really didn't seem to care what became of the patients.

I called one doctor, who wanted me to apply to become a patient.  Pass.

Others seemed more interested in my insurance than my needs.  Pass.

I found a nice, little, small town practice.  There were a few years of happiness.  He then closed it, and moved in with one of the giant companies.  Pass.

I didn't drop my primary care physician.  He dropped me.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Reminiscing

A quick review:  I've made no secret of the fact that I hated 6th grade.  I was stuck in a horrible, decrepit old building.  No library.  No cafeteria.  A paved alley was our playground.  It was a fire trap that was condemned by the state a few years after I had moved on.  My teacher was an OK guy, but stuck in the past.  He was nearing retirement.  The passion and the fun were gone, and there was no joy in that classroom.  It reminded me of those black and white "Leave it to Beaver" classrooms, where smiling was outlawed.

Foundation established.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a blog entry about my follies in the school band.  Well, one thing led to another.  It started an exchange of several messages with my 6th grade music teacher, who was not connected to the band.

Let me tell you something.  This woman was a ray of sunshine in an otherwise dismal and tear inducing  school year.

STEM is important, but she was living proof you do need arts in a school curriculum.   Those music classes got me through the year.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The Swagger

The only thing I know about acting is "I can't do it."

I do pick up on little things now and again.  Acting is more than lines.  It's movement.

I've seen "The Fugitive" at least a dozen times, a vastly underrated film.  As I've said before, you know a movie is good if you know the ending beforehand, and it still captures your attention.  A fabulous piece of film making called "Quiz Show" is a perfect example of that.  So is "Apollo 13."

Anyway, back to my point.  Just watch the way Tommie Lee Jones moves throughout "The Fugitive."  Such confidence.  I call it the "swagger."  If you want another example of that, watch my all time favorite movie, "My Favorite Year."   Just watch the way Peter O'Tole glides from scene to scene.  Here is a man who lives on the edge.  His world can crumble beneath him at any minute, and he walks with supreme elegance and confidence.

A tiny part of me was always curious about the performing arts.  Maybe some day, I'll give The Swagger a try.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Prince of Darkness

Let's review.

I tell you ad nauseum that I hate Black Friday, I don't like Independence Day noise, I'm not fan of Christmas and New Year's mayhem...  and the last two weeks in January are among my least favorite of the year.

Here's why January is on my "you know what" list..  Even though the days are getting longer and the sun is a little stronger, it's still pretty dark out there.  The Christmas decorations and lights are down.  It's dismal.

There is a little "light" at the end of the tunnel.  It seems like an increasing number of people decorate for Valentine's Day.  It's nice to see strings of red lights on front porches.  I've noticed a relatively new trend of light blue light strings on homes.  I assume that notes the snow, ice, and cold of winter.  I like it!  It's a tough time of year to find anything bright.

Speaking of lights, I see the city of Scranton and the newspaper have finally noticed what I've been complaining about here for months-- the darkness of downtown Scranton, especially Lackawanna Avenue.  Some fixes are on the way, and you need more.

There is another late January issue-- the cold and the snow.  All the lights in the world can't fix that.  The worst will soon be over.  The average daily highs and lows bottom out soon, and the climb begins February 1.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Listen and Learn

It happens Saturday, and it's one of the most important events of the year.

The League of Women Voters is holding its annual school on how to run a campaign.  You can find it at the University of Scranton.

I've been doing this a long time, and I am continually amazed at the number of candidates who run lousy campaigns.  Even more amazing is the number of so called political consultants and advertising people who have little or no clue as to that new news media needs.

I've never been to one of these schools, but I have seen extensive videos on the local cable TV public access channel.  It's good stuff.  Valuable information. 

It's not just a "candidate" thing.  I've seen so many who manage to get elected that just can't handle the news media.  We're not your friends.  We're not the enemy, either.  We're just out to get a solid story and inform our audience.  I've seen dozens of elected officials who are not pro-active and haven't the slightest idea how to keep their constituents informed.  Running a city or a county, a police department, a coroner's office...  are not 9 to 5, Monday through Friday jobs.  You want the big chair behind the big desk?  You want the power?  Get ready to shoulder the responsibility.

There is a new batch of elected officials in office.  Some have started off the wrong way.  they feel they are not responsible to the people who elected them.  They are trying to muzzle employees and stifle the free flow of information.  I've seen it many times before.  It never works.

Go to campaign school.  It's a decision you won't regret.

By the way, mixed results on my Championship Weekend picks.  I did predict a Kansas City vs San Francisco Super Bowl, but I didn't think SF would cover the spread.  It did.  As I write this, KC is a one point favorite.  I'll likely make a pick, here, the Friday before the game.

People will watch the Super Bowl regardless, but FOX has to be happy with the match-up.  Big population in the Bay Area.  Kansas City has a big star QB.  Both teams have powerful offenses, and scoring is what brings eyeballs to televisions.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Andy's Angles: They Even Took the Flag

Gander Outdoors, to the right of Staples, recently closed its Dickson City store, and several others.

When Gander Outdoors, formerly Gander Mountain, took over, it planted a huge flag pole and flag in the parking lot.

The flag was huge.  You could see it for miles.  Sadly, the flag disappeared when the store closed.  It's too bad the plaza's owner, Staples or the other store in the plaza, Best Buy, didn't assume responsibility.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Andy's Angles: Focus

I recently bought a couple of new lenses for a camera I've had for years.  Some rare down time during Christmas afforded me the opportunity to watch some "how to" videos on the internet.

Fast forward to the morning of January 2.  It was again some rare down time, and an even more rare sunny winter day.

One of my "go to" spots is a park in Blakely, along the Lackawanna River.

In the shot below, notice how the focus is on the tree branch hanging over the river.  The water is blurred.
In the photo below, it's just the opposite.
Okay, I'm not going to win any awards, but it's a start.

By the way, one video I watched showed how much shutter speed can influence how you photograph water.  I'll have more on that in the weeks to come.

Friday, January 17, 2020

The Sports Edition

ESPN is said to be prepared to offer Tony Romo $ 10 million to jump from CBS when his contract expires later this year.  Why?  Romo is good.  He's not great.  It's clear Monday Night Football needs changes.  There are better people out there. Romo talks way too much.

13 days between the national college football semi finals and the championship game.  Far too long, and I lost interest days ago.  The NCAA has to find a way to keep the championship game from getting lost in the NFL playoffs.  I listened to a fair amount of sports talk radio this week.  It was all NFL, all the time-- until the baseball cheating scandal hit.

There's speculation Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints will retire and go right in to the network television booth.

The Mad Dog sports talk channel on Sirius/XM has assembled a very entertaining line up.

Former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher is going to the Hall of Fame.  This is the guy thought Kordell Stewart was the answer to the Steelers problems.  How did that work out for you?  Cowher was 2 and 4 in AFC championship games.  As I always say, it's the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Pretty Good.

I have less of a problem with former Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson going to the Hall of Fame.  As someone who doesn't like the Cowboys, that is difficult for me to say.  Johnson has been on FOX for years, and in my opinion, he's the only one on the set who really has interesting things to say.  I wish FOX would give him more time.  Terry Bradshaw comes in second, but only when he's really riled up about something.

Both Cowher and Johnson were told of their selections on live TV.  I just have a feeling they would still be on the outside looking in if they didn't have high profile network TV jobs.

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in less than a month.  Hallelujah!  I just can't get interested in the endless seasons, and even more endless playoffs of the NBA and NHL.

Kudos to the Houston Astros for firing their cheating manager and general manager.   I hope it sends a strong message to the rest of the league.  If a game loses its integrity, it loses everything.  The same goes for the Red Sox.

I'm going with the favorites, and I expect a Kansas City/San Francisco Super Bowl.  I am less confident about picking San Francisco to beat Green Bay.  If I was a gambling man, I'd be tempted to take Green Bay and the points.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Speech

I give variations of the same speech to every prospective journalist and broadcaster I meet.  It essentially entails:  Make sure this is something you want to do.  You will be here on weekends, overnights, early mornings, birthdays and holidays.  You will see many unpleasant things, and you will meet people on the worst day of their lives.  When your friends get the day off because it snows, you'll be coming to work.  You're not going home, either.  You'll be in a hotel for your safety and to make sure you can get to work.  We don't get "snow days."

Yes, it has scared away a few.  You simply have to know what you're getting in to.  when I hear complaints, I invariably say "What did you expect when you took this job?"

That brings us to Harry and Meghan.  Meghan Markle married a prince and seems to be uncomfortable with life in the spotlight?  Well, what did you expect when you married a prince?

Having said that, I think the media shouldn't hound the royals without mercy.  I have a NewsFlash for the foreign media.  The royal family isn't that interesting.

Harry and Meghan plan to move to Canada to get away from it all.  It's caused an uproar in the royal family.   Why?  Respect their wishes.  Let them go to lead their own lives.  Don't force Harry and Meghan to be miserable.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Already?

Even though we've been enjoying above normal temperatures this month, the dead of winter seems to last forever.

There is the occasional ray of sunshine and it arrived this past weekend.  Bakeries and supermarkets have started to fry up paczki.  It's a filled doughnut that arrives in winter and disappears the day before Lent.

The donuts are delicious, but I find what they represent even tastier.    It's "Spring" in the not too distant future.

The issue is getting from here to there.  Luckily, there are paczkis to make the days a little more tolerable.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Philadelphia Freedom

I've touched on this briefly before and the topic came up again when the Pennsylvania Turnpike hiked its tolls January 5th.

I always loved going on the turnpike as a kid, because it always meant a fun trip-- a Phillies game, Atlantic City, the big mall near Allentown, just some general wandering.

Clearly, things have changed.  The turnpike is a nice short cut from Clarks Summit to Taylor and Pittston.  I use it at work to get to stories in Carbon County.  Most of the joy is gone, but there are still fond memories.

Springboarding off that, part of the fun involved with heading south on the turnpike was listening to Philadelphia radio stations.  KYW was at the top of the list, but there were others.  Philadelphia was heaven for a radio and news junkie like me.

Well, some of that magic is gone, too.  There is someone you can blame.  Her name is Alexa.    I can listen to KYW, WOGL, WIP and WPEN FM any time I want, and I still do it most days. KYW is on my smart speaker most mornings of my off days.  It's still a kick and I still appreciate solid radio news and sports. 

The mystique has disappeared, but it has evolved in to something else.  I know people who work at KYW and WPEN FM.  It's a kick to hear them and I'm thrilled they are doing well.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Half

We are only a couple of days away from January 15, the day I consider to be winter's "half finished" point.  Meteorological winter is considered December, January, and February-- the three coldest months.  Half way through January means half way through winter.

As I see it, it hasn't been bad so far-- only a few minor show and ice events where I live.  Yes, I know our northern tier counties were hammered a couple of times.  We've had above normal temperatures, including some record breakers.

Even if you factor in "astronomical winter," Groundhog Day, the half way point, is only a few weeks away.

Yes, I know we've had some fierce cold in late January, and some major snow storms in February and March.  Still, we have made it over a significant hump.  Sunrises are late, but sunsets get a little later every day.  You can feel the sun getting a little stronger.

We'll be complaining about the heat and humidity before you know it.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Andy's Angles: First of the Year

It's 12 days in to the new year, and I still haven't inflicted a train photo upon you.

Your luck has run out.

This one was in the Steamtown National Historic Site roundhouse the morning of January 2.  As you can see, it was still decorated for Christmas, complete with wreath on the front.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Andy's Angles: Mini Me

The photo isn't mine.  I think it's from an old yearbook.  My friend Linda recently put this on her Facebook page.  I'm in it, so I have no problem stealing it for my blog.  Back row, far left.

The photo is of the Mid Valley band in the 74-75 school year.  I see that George Kinsley was the director back then, so I calculate this was the third of my four years with the band.  The first two were under the great Anthony Angeli.

I was 12 or 13 when this photo was taken, and yes, I was small.  Very small.  My growth spurt, complete with peach fuzz mustache, came a few years later.

When I saw the photo, I was shocked by how small the band was.  I really remembered it to be larger.  If memory serves, the photo was taken in the basement music room of the junior high building in Dickson City. The lack of kids coming out for the program was the way a punk like me snuck in.  There was no "junior" band back then.  The district were hurting for participants.  There was no age requirement.  If you could hold a horn, you were golden.

Kinsley made great strides in making the band bigger and better.  In an odd way, it led to my departure.  I kept getting yanked from a favorite 9th grade science class for late afternoon band practice.  Kinsley and I butted heads over that.  As I have noted in this space before, I wasn't a good musician.  I was enjoying it less and less, as Kinsley made more and more demands on my time.  I'm not blaming him for that.  Sacrifices are necessary for growth, and this band eventually evolved in to a top notch unit.  It was best that I wasn't around for it.

I eventually came to realize my future was playing songs on the radio, and not playing songs on a football field.

George Kinsley died several years ago.  I ran in to him a few times before I graduated.  He wasn't very nice to me, and I don't know why.  I added nothing to his band, and he shouldn't have been torqued off that I quit.  In fact, my departure improved the thing.  I will not dispute the man's organizational and musical skills.  Snubbing a kid, even a quitter, wasn't very nice.  The band got four years out of me.  Smile because it happened.

As for the others in this photo, not a bad egg in the bunch.  Good people.  I'm still in touch with Linda, to my left in the photo.  I think she stayed with it until graduation.  I admire her commitment and value her friendship.

My band time wasn't a total loss.  I did gain more of an appreciation for music, even if I wasn't very good at playing it.  I saw plenty of high school football games, which came in very handy later in life.  Most importantly, I made some great friends.