A random look at the life and times of Jim Rising recovering radio addict and newspaper columnist.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Snow Job

Some random thoughts about the recent snow. The weather forecasting business must suck. When they are wrong and they are wrong more than they are right, they get kidded unmercifully about getting paid to be wrong. When they are right they are the messenger you want to shoot. After a couple of swings and misses over the past winter they nailed it last week and we got crushed. It seemed on Thursday that they had missed again but by Friday when it had snowed constantly for 48 hours we were in deep do-do. In fact the do-do was so deep that the U.S. P. S. said “Uncle” instead of "Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these courageous couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” To be fair that is not even their motto. Some Greek guy coined it. Probably doesn’t even snow in Greece. So schools were called off both Thursday and Friday and cruising the blogosphere I see people hating the “snow school” announcements on the TV and the radio. I was in radio for more years than I choose to mention and trust me, reading school closings is worse than listening to someone read school closings. In this day and age with you kids and your fancy email and texts it does seem as useful as mammary glands on a bull. But the one year we eschewed the tedious reading and asked anxious kids and parents to go to the web site, the ratings went down. And back on the air the closings went. Other rantings on the internet were hating on the plow guys. In some posts that I read violence was suggested after the plow went through and buried the freshly shoveled driveway or sidewalk. I myself wondered at the timing when I unburied my mail box for the third time (a futile effort – see above) to return to the warm and cozy house only to see my work undone by the big yellow truck. Two things to remember here. First: The road must be cleared. The mailman might come! And secondly it’s basic physics. The snow on the road when pushed off the road must go somewhere. Chances are it’s going on the side adjacent from whence it came. Physics don’t know it’s your driveway/sidewalk/mailbox. Physics does what physics does. Get over it. Suggestion: Wait it out. Shovel once – later. Lastly a shot across the bow of the annoying neighbors kid who spent this summer noisily clearing a hillside yards from my at home office to make a snowboarding area. I work from home. I’ve not seen it used. Once. What a waste. I could be wrong.

Change the channel, please

Watching local TV has always been a guilty pleasure of mine. I guess it began when I was a young sprout growing up in the granite fields of Vermont when television was something of a novelty. Our first set was a converted oscilloscope that had a green circular screen the size of a tea cup saucer. I may be exaggerating. I think it was smaller. The first TV newscast I saw originated from Poland Springs Maine. You may have enjoyed the water. Channel 8 WMTW got the “MTW” because at the time they had their transmitter site on top of Mount Washington where one of the highest winds on earth ever was measured. The guys who ran the gear lived on the mountain for most of the winter as the way up or down was pretty much impassable. One of them gave a weather forecast from the mountain. Wore a bow tie, a white shirt with a pocket protector full of pens and pencils. He looked into the one black and white camera and with a strong down east accent talked about the wind and snow on the mountain. Thinking about it today it makes backyard weather forecasting seem pale by comparison. It was crude at best but it was innovative for the time. Now we have Doppler this and weather map that but I miss the geeky engineer from on top of the mountain. He is, I am sure long gone to the engineers home in the sky and a few years ago WMTW’s transmitter site burned to the ground and they moved to a less inhospitable place. Like all media, local TV is being pummeled by the World Wide Web. ABC news recently announced cutbacks of 1,400 and the ones left will not only report the news but will be camera operators (think flip video cams) soundmen, editors and producers. The local TV news operations will no doubt follow suit. When a good percentage of video is being shot by ordinary people (how much skill does it take to point the phone cam at a house fire?) the days of a three person crew doing it are numbered. I hope it doesn’t stop them from showing “local color.” The best thing about a live shot on the news is the people waving and grinning like ninnies at the camera. The stand-up reporter could be talking about a bus wreck that killed 40 and idiots in the background will be waving at Ma. Second best thing: the eyewitless interview. Where do they find these people? With both eyes on one side of their head and occasional teeth they are clearly not of this earth. I could be wrong.

Big Brother is NOT watchting

One of the cheap thrills in my life is checking the police blotter in the newspaper. There is always an interesting story or three like the guy who was asking women to sign his member and I don’t mean jacket but that’s not what I am curious about here.
More than a month ago a big hairy deal was made about the multitude of surveillance cameras installed in and around downtown Wilkes-Barre. $2 million worth of gear. Over 50 cameras and a 24 hour a day, seven day a week staff of people including some law enforcement types are watching them. One of the tools is a huge five foot by five foot monitor that will enable the view of Public Square to be in 3-D, just like the movie Avatar. No doubt there are quite a few blue creatures on the square along with other assorted monsters. That actually sounds like kind of a fun job, spying on people for living. The job description: Voyeurs wanted. Must bring own 3-D glasses.
The system, while only partially complete now, will eventually control 150 cameras. A smug statement said that while some will be extremely visible, some will be hidden so as to not alert the evil doers of their presence. Hidden surveillance cameras, what a concept.
Here’s my question. These 50 snooping cameras and the attendant voyeurs have been on the job for a month and a half. Why hasn’t any crime been stopped? The list of cars being broken into and purse snatchings goes on unabated in the police blotter. Wouldn’t it make sense that at least ONE crime in that time frame may have been seen? One perpetrator brought to justice? None that I have seen and I have been looking at least as hard as the ones who are tasked with the job.
Possibly the “powers that be” do not want the success of the $2 million dollar toy that gobbles up $232,000 a year in staffing charges to be publicized. Yeah, that’s it. Politicians don’t want to blow their own horn. And this breaking news: a dark planet will crash into the sun in 3…2…1..Hmmm. Never gonna happen.
Or maybe (black helicopter theory warning) all the cameras are just decoys, like the state trooper car that used to sit on I-81 near Scranton with a dummy in the driver’s seat. You could buy a lot of decoys for a few thousand bucks, right? Rig up the press demo with the rented big screens . Then what happens to the rest of the dough?
Am I suggesting that Luzerne County Politically connected might do something….what’s the word? WRONG? Perish the thought. Big brother is watching. Maybe.


I haven’t gotten my census form yet. This really worries me for a number of reasons. First of all a lot of people I know (Well one actually) have gotten theirs. Why have I been left out? I don’t mean to go all existential here, but if I am not counted by the U.S. Gumm-mint, do I really exist? If I fall in the woods and no one hears, do I make a sound? So there is that problem. The other thing nagging me is that if I do not get it in the mail which costs the U.S. Gumm-mint 49 cents, then I will no doubt be visited by a census taker which costs $47. So please mail me one soon? Save money and possibly a census taker. You see if you do dispatch a census worker to my neck of the woods you have to beware. Not from me, you understand. Even though the Rising compound is far back in the woods and we no longer get visited by Jehovah’s witnesses after the “Incident” we mean no one any harm. Pay no attention to the killer attacking Red Squirrels, their bite is worse than their bark. Not the case for my demented neighbor. We know that he is stupid and mean but I am also 100% certain he is armed. You will recognize his driveway by the animal skulls (Cue ”Dueling Banjos” from the movie Deliverance) scattered there. That and the “Kill ‘em all, let God sort them out” bumper sticker on his pick-up truck. Good luck.

I peeked at the census form on-line. Most of the 10 questions seem to make sense. Some of them do not. Some seem just downright nosy. And some, like my neighbor, are just plain dumb as rocks stoo-pit.

The Gum-mint needs to know if I own my home or not? Nosy.

They need my name? They are supposed to count heads. Period. Nosy.

Why does the Gumm-mint need my phone number? Nosy

Questions eight and nine have to do with race. Number eight asks if you are “Hispanic, Latino or Spanish.” Question nine wants to know what you are with a long list of possibilities from “White” to “Samoan”. First of all should those questions be combined? And secondly what if I claim to be “American?” (Thanks to Rush Limbaugh). Dumb

But the capper-question seven wants my age on April 1, 2010 and then asks for my birth date including year. Now I am no rocket scientist but…if you know how old I am on 4/1/2010 a quick calculation can give you my birth year. And why does the Gumm-mint what my Birth date? Are they gonna send me a card?