Sunday, January 31, 2010

Off Topic - That Was the Week It Was - 01/31/10

Yay, another winter month GONE! A step closer to spring! And, of course, another week has gone by. So it's time for my weekly off topic post reflecting back on the week in words and photographs I've taken.

The weather here in the NJ/Greater NYC Metropolitan Area has been crazy this past week. We started out with near record highs (and a monsoon) early in the week, then dipped to way below freezing for the end of the week. In both extremes, we had heavy duty winds. Oh. And we had an unexpected snowstorm early Thursday morning which wreaked havoc on the local roads. That's on top of the flooding earlier in the week.

I braved it all. Rain, sleet (we had none of that), snow, gloom of night ... I slogged through it daily for work. I had my trusty warm waterproof Totes winter boots -- not fashion boots for sure, but very functional in bad weather and they don't slide on snow, either! My big umbrella met an unfortunate demise in Monday's rain and wind. The second time it turned inside out, it was time to say goodbye.

It seems most of my co-workers are sick, mostly bronchitis and laryngitis. I have neither and I don't want to catch anything. Hand sanitizers have been my best friend along with their friend, antiseptic wipes. I've been wiping down my computer keyboard at work as I know I'm not the only one to touch it, just the main person. I've been wiping down phones. I've had a slight cold for a while, but if I can avoid the severe stuff, I will. I do have chapped lips. Grr.

Thankfully the heat in my apartment has been working fine since Monday. With the weather the way it's been, all I want to do is get home from work and hibernate in my warm robe and slippers. Someone let Jehovah's Witnesses (the Jesus people!) in the building and I ignored them as I was already all warm and comfy the other day. Yeah, I knew it was them ... I heard them knocking on every door. (Grr.) FIOS people have also been in the building this week soliciting. I want to know who's letting these intrusions in now that all the building doors actually lock! Hey, if I'm not expecting anyone, I'm not answering the door except for police or firemen. Even they had better have a good reason to be bugging me. Yes, I've turned into a winter curmudgeonette.

My life continues to be so exciting, eh? For an extra thrill, I have to go to my office for a few hours today as it's the closing of the fiscal year at work. Joy, joy. Onto the photos I've taken this week -- clicking on an image will open it larger in a new window:

Plainfield Train Station in a mini-snowstorm

This is the side where I wait for my train to go to work. We have no heat on the westbound side and they turn our lights out early. The other side has the main train station which is open from about 5 AM to noon (or so), along with the ticket machines. They have heat.

I suppose the assumption is that most people who wait for the train are heading into the city (NYC) and when they arrive home on the westbound side, they don't wait in the elements and just go on home -- so they don't need heat. NJ Transit does the same thing with the bus stops. Eastbound has shelters and benches, westbound stands on the corners. I scream discrimination against against the flow travelers!

Dedicated Railfan

Despite the fact that the windchill is about 3 degrees, this brave railfan has his tripod and camera set for the action at the Bound Brook Train Station. Until I started taking the train and noticing the groups of railfans, I had no idea the cult exists. Bound Brook is a favorite setting for them as there are two freight lines (in background) and the NJ Transit commuter line. They're more interested in the freight trains than the commuter trains. This guy got his prize as two freight trains were going opposite directions as I rode through on NJ Transit. I took this shot from the warmth of inside the train.

Paying respects to a fallen comrade

The cones gather to mourn their loss on East Front Street in Plainfield.

Barren branch shadows

The early morning sun casts shadows of barren limbs on the Friends Meeting House (Quakers) on Watchung Avenue in Plainfield. I edited the photo to leave only the meeting house in color.

Ingles computacion y classic soulfood

You know, I think life is much more interesting when there's diversity all around you! I can recommend the restaurant, but I'm not really suited for taking computer classes in Spanish teaching me English software programs. Watchung Avenue in Plainfield.

Just hanging around

I spotted this upside-down owl in the doorway of 116 Watchung Avenue in Plainfield. Huh? What's that all about? No, it's not a real owl. I'm thinking it may have been put there to keep pigeons from nesting, kind of like a scarecrow. But since it's upside down, the pigeons probably point and laugh at it.

Every snowflake is unique

Yep, we're all special snowflakes.

East meets West

In the snow at the Plainfield Train Station the other day. While cars were slipping and sliding all over the roads, I had a pleasant commute. Layers are the key.

On the down-low again

This time I set my camera on the platform looking the other way in the snow squall. Plainfield Train Station.

State News in the snow

The corner of Watchung and East Front early Thursday morning (Plainfield).

Do the star-spangled banners yet wave?

Yep, they do. East Front Street in front of the Monarch.

Bridgewater Train Station

This NJ Transit rail station is more of a stop than a station. Yet, they remain true to the fact that eastbound towards NYC has a little building with heat while westbound has benches out in the elements. I edited this with GIMP's "posterize" to give it the illustration effect. We have a better station and much better lamps in Plainfield.

Sunrise in my crystal ball

Okay, it's a lamp outside the main post office on Watchung Avenue in Plainfield. I left the globe of the lamp in color, slightly posterized and made the rest of the image black and white. It's not quite as good as I hoped it would be.

In training

Uh-oh. They're working out, readying to overthrow mankind!

The geese, not as professional

I don't know what's become of the younger generation. It's supposed to be a V in formation, gaggle! Oh my. I think they're skywriting. Oh no! "Surrender Dorothy!" Eep.

Two defectors

Going AWOL into the angry clouds. Perhaps they'll fly to the sun, melt their wings and they'll fall into the sea like Icarus.

A note on the clouds -- this was Monday's sunset after our monsoon-like day. Gorgeous, but it signaled the cold front moving in.

The geese keep trying

Well, now they're in a straight line, kind of sort of. They really need discipline.

Sunshine caught in the gaps

The late afternoon sunshine lights up the gaps on this old bridge at the Bridgewater Train Station.

I've said it before

Don't sleep near me on the train.

In the early morning rain

With a dollar in my hand, an aching in my heart ... and an inside-out umbrella. Looking up East Front Street from in front of the Plainfield YWCA pre-dawn Monday morning in the MONSOON.

Roughly the same view

Three days and an hour later. Thursday morning in the snow.

Supremo arket in the rain

Monday pre-dawn. Purty lights, but I was soaked clear through. Well, except for my feet. East Front Street, Plainfield.

Wake up, Vincent!

Hey, Vincent! It's a wolf moon outside! It's the biggest full moon you'll see all year! Okay, you won't see it. You prefer to nap. I don't know how you're ever going to be a well-rounded cat. You didn't want to see the last blue moon either.

How was your week?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

This Week's American Idol Auditions

Has American Idol jumped the shark even though Simon Cowell is still there? Sure, I know we're in the auditions, the riff-raff of the season. But usually someone's voice really catches my interest by now. Yes, there have been some decent voices, a handful probably better than some recording artists out and about today. But no one has made me sit back and go "WOW!" I want my WOW and I want it now!

The guest judge thing has been different this year. I wasn't impressed with Avril Lavigne and her little horned hoodie on Tuesday evening. She really didn't add much as far as input on the auditions, either. However, she played with the horns on her sweatshirt. Maybe she got it from a boi.

Last night we had Neil Patrick Harris for the first day in Texas, a Jonas brother (Joe?) for the second day. True to form, NPH jumped right in and got involved. If you've ever seen him on talk shows or when he's substituted for Regis ... he's good at these things. The Jonas was a bit like Avril Lavigne sans an horned hoodie.

As for the auditions themselves, the Tourette's guy sang decently and his little sad story was a nice touch when he really could sing. Did he blow me away? Nope. Nome of them did. We need a Melinda Doolittle methinks. How about you?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Off Topic - That Was the Week It Was - 1/24/10

It's Sunday, time to take an off topic look back at the past week in words and photographs I've taken. We had a fairly mild week here weather-wise. It amazes me how warm 40 to 45 degrees can feel after we had such frigid cold just a few weeks back. Of course, the nights are still below the freezing mark. It is still winter after all.

On the home front things are quiet. I didn't win the Mega Millions. Hey, I spent a dollar. I should have won, right? They say "a dollar and a dream." Well ...? Where's my hundred million? I spend a good ten dollars a year on the lottery. I want a refund! Okay, I'm not a big gambler, I guess. It bugs me when I see the folks with a gazillion lottery numbers playing every game imaginable. It usually seems to be the people who can least afford to do so.

Instead of throwing vast amounts of my money away, I prefer to keep the bills paid and a roof over my head. If I make it to retirement alive, hopefully my 401K, retirement pension (yeah, I actually have one, but it's nothing exciting), and social security just might let me continue to spend ten dollars a year on the lottery. But you won't see me acting like it's some sort of daily ritual.

The Conan/Leno/Letterman/Kimmel shows should be calming down this coming week. Well, we know Conan will quiet down as he's now history at NBC. As Letterman loyal as I am, I recorded Conan's last show and will watch it later today. In poking around, I found out that Conan was the valedictorian of his high school class and graduated from Harvard. Impressive. I knew he was a writer on SNL before he hit late nights, but I wasn't aware that he had that sort of educational background. I'm sure he and his staff (along with the several million bucks) will land on their feet. And I'll continue to not watch Jay Leno.

I watched the celebrity-laden telethon for Haiti on Friday night -- 57 million dollars raised and they're still counting. I still can't imagine what the people of Haiti are going through. My company (the one I work for, not one I own) is providing $100 calling cards and offering free counseling for Haitians who work for us. Plus they're sending support to Haiti. That made me feel good about the corporation on the whole. I first started with them (when I obviously was a child) in 1977. I don't recall them ever doing anything like that before. I know they did a lot for 9/11, but the company itself lost several people on one of the planes. So, that one really touched home.

Hmm ... as I type this, I notice my heat isn't working once again. Grr. While it's supposed to go into the 50s later on, this isn't good. They're also predicting thunderstorms and heavy rain during the time I head out to work Monday morning. Grr again. I suppose rain will wash away the really dirty remaining snow piles. Shame on me, but I hope we don't see any more snow this season. I could live with that.

I was saddened to hear of some deaths in the news this past week, outside of the Haiti tragedy. Survivor Palau's Jennifer Lyon, only 37 years old, died of breast cancer having fought the disease since shortly after her television series. That is too young to die. Another death which I took particular note of was the passing of author Robert B. Parker. Police, crime, and mystery buff that I am, I have many of his Spenser books in my collection, including a few signed copies as I met him a couple of times. His character Spenser, a Boston private detective, was the focus of television's Spenser For Hire starring Robert Urich some years back. Parker was 77, but not known to be ill, and was working on yet another Spenser novel at the time of his death. Author Erich Segal also died last week. He wrote Love Story, which was one of the big tear-jerkers of my high school era, as well as the screenplay for the Beatles movie Yellow Submarine.

As you can tell, it's been another quiet week for me. At least, by not driving, I have enjoyable commuting times. I can listen to my not-an-iPod, look around for interesting photo shots, and get to know the people in town. That and patronize local businesses, mind you. It's so much better than sitting in traffic in New Jersey. Here are my shots for the week, clicking on a photo will open it larger in a new window --

J.D. Loizeaux Lumber Company

It's long gone from 470 Watchung Avenue in Plainfield, but its ghost sign remains in the brick.


He looks intent on something ... perhaps overthrowing humanity!

Papa John's

This is a few blocks away from where I live. Yes, I messed with the colors with my photo editor. It's early in the morning. I guess there's not much demand for pizza at 7 AM. Unless, of course, it's cold leftovers for breakfast! East Front Street, Plainfield.

Huh? Whazzat?

Yes, I know it's the local Presbyterian Church. I mean on the pole!

It's one of those solar panel doohickies!

I read in other local blogs that these were popping up in various places all over town. Now there's one in my neighborhood. I hope it doesn't fall on anyone! It's HUGE. And, the wire leading to the other side of the street is just flopping around. East Front Street, Plainfield.

Striped sunset

Taken from the Supremo Supermarket parking lot (Roosevelt Avenue-ish, Plainfield) at sunset on Wednesday evening. If I had more energy, I'd edit out the pole and wires. I still might ... some day.

Jus' resting

He seems to have his own special nook. Or is it a cranny? East Front Street, Plainfield.

Poison Ivy

Late at night while you're sleepin' poison ivy comes a'creepin'" - "Poison Ivy" as sung by The Coasters. Here's another look at the dormant poison ivy vines growing near the Bridgewater (NJ) Train Station. Now, I know it's poison ivy because I see it growing through the other seasons. But another way to tell is by the "hairy" vines.

Etched in frost

We've had a number of warmer days with high temperatures in the 40s. But at night, it's dipping way below freezing. The result? Some really cool heavy frosts before the sun melts 'em.

A frosty close-up

If this wasn't the dead of winter with many sub-freezing days behind us, this would be a killing frost. And, no. The killing frost did not kill Wildfire. Frost can't kill a horse, just plants. Horses generally don't care about frost.

Am I boring you, Vincent?

Apparently he's tired. Or bored.


Some fool(s) went and covered up the cool street art I previously featured with this junk. Non-stop fun, eh? Off of East Fifth Street in back of the YMCA in Plainfield.


Been down so long it looks like up to me. Watchung Avenue, Plainfield.

Valdez Supermarket

Yes, I edited this one to have only the store windows in color. Watchung Avenue.

Spoonful of supplies

The E&A Restaurant Supplies place on East Fifth Street and Cleveland Avenue in Plainfield really spiffed up their building with new graphics!

Gangster Whitewalls

This was my find for the week. It's definitely a Cadillac LaSalle. I believe, from poking around on the Internet, that it's a 1946 one. They added another trunk emblem on the models from 1947 on. Obviously restored nicely, I found this on Cleveland Avenue in Plainfield.

Though you may not drive a great big Cadillac
Diamond in the back, sunroof top
Diggin' the scene
with a gangsta lean,
Gangsta whitewalls, TV antennas in the back." - "Be Thankful for What You Got" by William DeVaughn

Another view of the Cadillac

It's sitting outside of Wreck-A-Mended, an auto body repair business.

Pigeons plot in secrecy

I seem to be in a lyrical mood today. Hamsters turn on frequently. That is "At the Zoo" by Simon and Garfunkel. However, these pigeons are plotting on the streets of Plainfield, NJ.

View From the Down Low

I took this shot from the ground level of the platform at the Plainfield Train Station. I didn't stoop -- I just didn't go up the stairs/ramp to the platform, setting my camera on the platform. It had stopped raining a few hours before, so the ground (and platform) were still wet. Pre-dawn, not at night ... per se. I suppose pre-dawn could be night. But night has a totally different crowd.

Bad Sneakers

... and a pina colada, my friend. Eep, there I go with more lyrics. I have too many songs in my head. That one's Steely Dan. Actually, it's more like bad steps than bad sneakers in this shot. I hope they didn't pay a contractor to do them. East Second Street, Plainfield.

Raising capital

Uh-oh. They're gathering funds to overthrow mankind. Bridgewater, NJ.

How was your week?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Teams Announced and Official Website up for The Amazing Race

The official CBS website is up for The Amazing Race! The season starts on Sunday, February 14 (aw, Valentine's Day) at 8 PM ET/PT. Between now and then, I'll delve into my opinions of each team from the bios. But I wanted to get this news out to you tonight. Yes, Jeff and Jordan from Big Brother 11 are on the show. Here are a few of the short videos from the CBS site:

Margo already has the start of the blog pool (which I'm including in the comments area) -- everyone is welcome to join. The big prize is bragging rights if your team wins. You can't beat that with a stick!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Boo on the American Idol Chicago Auditions!

Oh my. I want the hour of my life back. Y'know, Chicago is a city full of talent. Apparently most of the talented were out of town when the auditions were held. Even the ones who made it through didn't thrill me. I thought last week's auditions fared so much better. I can't keep myself from thinking "pants on the ground, pants on the ground, lookin' like a fool with your pants on the ground." Yeah, he's 62 and not a real contestant, but he's spot on! Randy Jackson was on Letterman last night and they showed the clip again.

What ended up to be my only real point of interest in the Chicago auditions was the guest judge, Shania Twain. If there was a Six Degrees of Shania Twain game like the Kevin Bacon one, I'd score a two. No, I don't know her. But I went to junior high/high school with Dave Malachowski and he was in her band for years. More recently he's been playing with Commander Cody and the Lost Airmen, Savoy Brown, and now the Woodstock All-Stars. Obviously, he's not as country as he is blues and rock.

But he was with Shania Twain for more than a few years and through her breakthrough success with "You're Still the One." He's the closest thing we have to a rock star in my high school graduation class. I fear he has the same haircut he had when they removed the dress code in the last year of high school. Here's a video I found of Shania, along with Dave (he's the long-haired guitarist on the right) from those days circa 1996 or so ...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Off Topic - That Was the Week It Was - 01/17/10

It's Sunday morning -- time for me to kick back, perhaps enjoy a mug of hot cocoa, watch CBS Sunday Morning and relax a bit. In other words, it's a day off from work! But, more importantly, it's time for my weekly off topic reflection on the week gone by in words and photographs I've taken.

Let's see. What happened this week? Well, it started off bitter cold with high winds here, but that's par for the course this winter. We had no new snow. Most of the snow we have had this season is gone with the exception of nasty-looking dirty snowbanks and patches on the ground here and there. The last few days brought a heat wave. Yep, we got in the 40s! Hey, anything above freezing is good for me. I've decided I'd rather have bitter cold than snow and ice, though. I can always put on more layers and I can't slip and fall on cold.

The big news in the world is the Haiti earthquake. I can't imagine what those folks are going through. The only folks I've known from Haiti over the years have been strong people who've worked hard to achieve success here in America (or, more precisely, New Jersey). I only pray that the people in Haiti are as strong as they can be and that the entire world helps the victims.

On a lighter note, but with some serious considerations behind it, I've been amused by the great Late Night Television Debacle. It's really perked up the after primetime viewing! I've been channel-surfing, catching bits and pieces of every late show just to see what they're saying. I think I've watched more Jimmy Kimmel this week than I have in my lifetime -- he's not half-bad.

My late night choice has always been Letterman, even back to when he was much later at night. Jay Leno has always annoyed me, kind of like David Caruso's melodramatic acting annoys me. I just have trouble watching him, so I don't. I wasn't keen on him back in his stand-up comedy days either. Conan O'Brien? I've watched him on and off since he first appeared on late nights. He never clicked with me like Letterman did. However, he has made me laugh. Right there, he's done better by me than Jay Leno.

But what gets me about the debacle is that it's so entirely wrong. A deal is a deal. Sure, they're paying off Conan. But it's not all just about Conan, either. What of the staff? What of the folks who made the cross-country move with him? They made the decision five years ago he would get the show. All of a sudden when the time comes, Jay doesn't want to leave? Instead of having him go primetime with a doomed show, that would have been time to break the deal right then and there before Conan and company even took over the show. Poo on NBC. Poo on Jay Leno. (I told them, didn't I?)

I hear that NBC isn't even letting O'Brien use the "intellectual property" much as they tried to stop Letterman from The Top Ten and other standard acts/skits. I think in the end, Conan will do all right for himself. I think Leno, never funny to me, is now tarnished with a taint which just won't fade.

So, from this bit I've written, you're correct in assuming nothing much is happening in MY life. I've worked, eaten, slept, and worked again. My highlight was on my last day off (Wednesday) when I finished writing up that gazillion AOL celebrity bios. I had to rewrite the bunch I lost in my computer crash. But, there I was, two days before deadline doing my "I'm done! The albatross is gone!" happy dance. Usually writing projects are fun for me. But this was so limited in word-count for each one and there were so many ... it's was just tedious and not a lot of fun. And now, I have my first day off since I finished and I can actually relax and houseclean and play with a certain cat!

Enough blathering -- onto the week in photos I've taken. Clicking on an image will open it larger in a new window.

Plainfield (NJ) Train Station Lights

These lamps have been a recurring theme in a lot of my photos since I started walking around with a digital camera. The style and symmetry attract my eye. Plus, if I'm at the train station, I'm not hurrying to get there. I'm either waiting for a train or getting off of work. So I have time to take photos. This shot was taken in the late afternoon. Yes, I'm actually seeing some daylight as my work hours scaled back a bit.

I'm walking, yes indeed, I'm walking

Another shot taken at the Plainfield Train Station. The walking man is originally from Gautemala. He and I have chatted a bit over the past few years. I might know more Spanish than he knows English, but he tries. Sometimes he really makes me smile when he boldly tries to express himself in English without hesitating. Last night he was on the later train (odd as he tends to be a weekday morning commuter). He made a point of saying hello. When we got off in Plainfield, he bid me a cheery, "Happy night to you!" as we parted ways. Of course, the expression is "good" night. But his "happy" night made me smile. I used photo editing to make this a bit grainier.

They're always watching us

Yep, conspiring to take over the world. This was taken out the train window in Dunellen, NJ.

In which I mess with the birds

I used the GIMP "illusion" effect to do this with the previous photo. Hmm ... I kind of like it. It's creepy and eerie. You know, kind like birds are when they plot to overthrow mankind.

Late day sun in Bridgewater, NJ

I like taking photos in the winter as the sun's angles tend to be more dramatic. I'm also out in more sunrises and sunsets during to the winter.

Uh-oh, they brought the big guns in

A flock of geese holding a summit meeting. They're probably discussing how to bring down more aircraft. Yes, this week marks the anniversary of "the miracle on the Hudson." Bridgewater, NJ.

Shadows of summer gone by

The ball stadium where the Somerset Patriots play baseball is cold and deserted. The early morning sun sun casts some cool shadows. Bridgewater, NJ.

Let me pose for you

The squirrels are really busy as of late. Everywhere I look, they're scampering and chasing each other. Sydney said this is the time of year the babies are born. I've been watching the nest in the tree outside my window. It seems quiet. The only weird thing there is that a squirrel actually fell asleep sitting on the branch near the nest. He was in the same position for a good two hours! Photo taken on East Front Street in Plainfield.

Vincent thinking he's oh-so-cute

And he is. He's on the edge of my bed with his head actually kind of hanging off the bed. Well, in this shot he is. Actually he's curled up on the chair next to me because I won't let him get on my shoulder as I try to get this entry done.

Boneless cat!

See! See! He's still on the bed but with his head hanging off looking at the floor! This is the kind of thing he does over my shoulder although he's generally not on his back when he does it.

Train in the sunset

This is at the Bridgewater Train Station. Unlike Plainfield, it's not a raised platform. Okay, it's raised to curb height. But that's it.

Setting sun

Love the shadows of the contrail in this one.

Diggin' with a Cat

This is construction, or actually deconstruction, where they just took down some buildings in an old car lot on the corner of Cleveland and East Fourth (Fifth?) Streets in Plainfield. I edited it to leave only the Cat machine in color. Doesn't it almost look like a cat is driving the Cat?

Plainfield Municipal Court

I edited this one also, leaving the sky as it really was yet messing with the courthouse. This was a bitterly cold day early in the week with high winds and an oncoming sunset. I've never been in the courthouse. I wonder if my knee would set off the alarms.

Same day, other side of the same building

The flag looks great in the wind outside the Plainfield Police Department. But, trust me, it's better to look at the photo than to be standing outside in the winter wind taking the photo! This one I didn't mess with except to bring up the contrast a bit.

More Plainfield Train Station Lamps

This one I played with -- black and white except for the golden hue of the lamps.


I hate when people do this -- on the old trains, you could feel their knees in your back. With the new trains, it just jostles your seat not in the same jostle the train does. Some people can't sit like normal people.

Maybe he just doesn't know how to sit

Same guy a moment later. I mean, c'mon. It's not like a cross-country journey. It's the Raritan Vally Line of New Jersey Transit. From one end to the other, it may be what ... 50 minutes? An hour? And this was in the late afternoon!

Conspiracy theories abound

I know they're talking about us.

Practicing symmetry

Uh-oh. Advanced thinking processes!

Great work

Someone (not me) stuck this sticker on my train window. Yeah, it's great work until the cleaner guy has to scrape it off.

I told you she's alive

Either that or someone has changed her scarf.

Plainfield sunset

As seen from the Fourth Avenue side of the Plainfield Train Station,

Plainfield Train Station lamps (again)

In black and white.

Same shot in color

I told you I like the lamps! Better in B&W or color?

I've shot this sign before

And, I'll probably shoot it again. It's at the Bridgewater Train Station, a remnant of the old Calco (?) plant. With age, I find the sign very intriguing. It's beginning to have a weird story effect on me or something.

Before the dawn

The corner of Watchung and North in Plainfield before the dawn, taken from the westbound platform of the train station. That red line in the street is the taillights of a passing car. The evil bench (my bruise is STILL evidence) is sitting there in front of Danny's trying to look innocent.

Welp, that was my week. How was yours? What's your opinion on the latenight debacle?