By BOB URBAN

rurban@tnonline.com [1]

Today some thoughts, along with some observations about today's economy, sent to me by a loyal reader.

Tamaqua lost one of its good people last weekend, when Howie Miller, 74 lost his courageous battle with cancer and passed away in St. Lukes Hospital, Fountain Hill.

I'll miss his many emails, our conversations and his conservative leanings which he was always willing to share with anyone who cared to listen.

A Marine Corps veteran, one of my favorite Howie Miller stories was about the occasion that I wrote a headline for the paper, identifying an individual as an "ex-Marine". Bright and early the next morning Howie was on the phone explaining to me in no uncertain terms that there was no such thing as an "ex-Marine."

"There are only Marines and former Marines" he explained. It was a lesson I never forgot.

TIMES NEWS reporter Andy Leibenguth, lamenting Miller's passing, remarked that "he was always nice to me."

Howie was nice to a lot a people. He had a very engaging personality.

My sympathies go out to his two children, Cindy and young Howie, and the rest of the Miller family. I'll toast him with a cold one this weekend, up at the cabin in his honor. We had some good times and some stimulating conversations there over the years. That's what I'll remember best.

The economy is so bad I got a "pre-declined" credit card in the mail.

Another Tamaqua notable who passed away at age 98 last weekend was Ethel W. Berner, the mother of R. Thomas Berner, the former Penn State educator, journalist and author, who was also one of my early mentors.

For 26 years, until she was 68, she was secretary to the high school principal at Tamaqua High School.

"She ran the place," observed a former Tamaqua teacher, she was an elegant women and a voracious reader and a wordsmith, according to her son.

She also left an indelible mark on the Tamaqua community over the years.

The economy is so bad if the bank returns your check marked "insufficient funds" you call and ask them if they meant them or you.

After his performances over the past several weeks, the Eagles' Michael Vick's nickname shoud be "fumbles."

The economy is so bad that Brad and Angelina have fired their nannies and are trying to learn the names of their own children.

Watching the New England Patriots' hurry-up offense is really entertaining, unless it's your team trying to stop that vaunted attack.

The economy is so bad, I ordered a burger at McDonald's and the kid behind the counter asked, "Can you afford fries with that?"

I was correct last week in calling the Texas-West Virginia game as the college game of the week. And I was almost correct in predicting that the two teams would combine for a hundred points.

This week's game of the week? Notre Dame and Stanford. But don't look for the Cardinal tp put up 54 points against the Irish like they did last week against Arizona. Notre Dame's defense is too good.

The economy is so bad Motel Six won't leave the light on anymore.

It bothers me that Jerry Sandusky has access to television in prison so he can watch all the Penn State games.

The economy is so bad a truckload of American was caught sneaking into Mexico.

In case you missed it, last Monday was designated as National Pierogie Day.

The economy is so bad, Exxon Mobil laid off 25 congressmen.

For the first time in American history, the United States does not have a Protestant majority. It's no coincidence, but the number of Americans with no religious affiliation is on the rise - up to 20 percent.

The economy is so bad that CEO's are now playing miniature golf.

I think Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers winning the triple crown this year is the best baseball story of the year, followed closely by the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Nationals and Oakland A's making the playoffs after being predicted in the pre-season to be non-contenders.

And finally, Congress says they are looking deeper into the Bernie Madoff scandal. Well, ain't that just great. The guy who made $30 billion disappear is being investigated by the people who made $1.5 trillion disappear.