Sunday, December 30, 2012

Off Topic: That Was the Week It Was - December 30, 2012

It's the last Sunday of 2012! Why, that must mean it's time for my last off television topic photo post of the year. Woohoo! Of course, I haven't really been posting about television lately as everything is in repeats for the holidays. I did watch the Kennedy Center honors show this week and enjoyed it immensely. The ballet dancer seemed a bit out of her element, but I found the rest of the folks being honored people who have indeed played roles in my own life to a certain extent -- Dustin Hoffman, David Letterman, Buddy Guy and Led Zeppelin. I'm just not a big ballet fan albeit I find it beautiful when I do watch.

Last week I had a dearth of photos. This week, probably too many. You just might want to grab a big mug of coffee and some snacks before getting too involved in this. Not only did I find some things of interest in a bit better weather week locally to photograph, but I went into Manhattan on a whim on Christmas Day. 

Since I actually (for a change) had two days off -- Christmas and the day after -- with no real plans other than a quiet holiday at home with Vincent the Cat ... I decided to hop a bus into town. That means I walk about one minute to the bus stop and soon I'm dumped in Midtown. A storm was due Wednesday, but Christmas day was nice. Overcast, but I prefer that for taking photos anyway.

So, after I talked to my brother in California on the phone for a while, I was on my way. I thought it might be a bit quieter with all the big stores closed. Um. No. All the people just mobbed the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center instead of shopping! Oy. I will say that it wasn't as bad with the crowding as was the Chinese New Year parade in the city last year. I was concerned I might have a rib broken in the crowd crush for that.

I walked from the Port Authority Bus Terminal, through Times Square, over to Fifth Avenue, up to Rockefeller Center, back over by Saint Patrick's Cathedral (which had huge crowds, but scaffolding all about as they rehab the exterior), back down Madison Avenue to escape the crowds and breathe, back through Times Square, then back home. Yeah, that was one sentence. Want to make something of it? Uh-oh. I was in my travel in crowds in Manhattan persona. Oops!

The knees held up just fine. I only sat for a few minutes on a chair in Bryant Park. (Oh yeah, I went there, too.) For some reason, five different people stopped me to ask directions to five different places. Hey, just because I'm walking alone in the city doesn't necessarily mean I know where everything is! Thankfully, they all asked for places I do happen to know like Grand Central Station, Rockefeller Center and such. So I guess I was a good one to ask. I couldn't answer the folks who asked me a bus question, though. I have never been on a New York City bus. Subways, taxis and on foot, yes. Bus, no. 

Three separate groups of people -- an older white couple, a group of five black hip-hop garbed teenagers, and a family who seemed to speak either Russian or Polish -- handed me their iPhones and asked me to take photos of them. Don't they know that Mayor Bloomberg claims the rise in the robbery rate is due to iPhone and iPad thefts? Do I NOT look dangerous and thuggish? Sheesh. Yeah, I took their photos for them and handed them back their expensive playtoys. I figured I could probably only outrun the elderly couple.

Other than the trip into the city, it was a quiet week. Some real icky weather at times, but quiet for me. How was your week?

Onto the MANY photos -- clicking on an image will open it in a new Photobucket window, clicking again will make it larger. To return here, just close out the Photobucket window.

Rockefeller tree
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

The holiday light show at Saks Fifth Avenue ...

Empire State Building
Empire State Building

The lights are even better now! They replaced the old lighting system with new LED lights and can actually do "light shows." Before, every time they wanted to change colors, they had to physically remove a huge colored lens from each light. Now, it's computerized. Since the colors atop the building change per event, celebration, whatever ... this is going to be fantastic now!

Bryant Park
Bryant Park tree and skaters


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Off Topic: That Was the Week It Was - December 23, 2012

It's Sunday morning. G'morning, y'all. Of course, that would mean that it's time for my weekly off television reflection on the week gone by in both words and photos I've taken. Hmmm ... it hasn't been the best of weeks for my photo taking. To think about it, although not horrible by any means, it has been a nondescript kind of week in my life. Perhaps nondescript tinged with a bit of sadness and fatigue. Yeah, that's it!

The holidays aren't always a great time for me on a personal basis. My parents died decades ago, my brothers and I are spread across the country and I have no family (as defined) here. My workplace is always extremely busy this time of year and I don't have any extended time off to go anywhere. I've grown used to all of that. I have my own little things I do on the day and consider my cat Vincent a member of my family! However, it can still be a bit rough as everyone's talking about spending the holiday with their families and, what little family I have left, is scattered far and wide. 

But that's not the cause of the sadness. I'm still reacting to the shootings in Newtown. I tear up just thinking of those children and their surviving families. I'm still in shock every time I hear the town name "Newtown" so casually added in with places I don't personally know such as Columbine. I know Newtown. I lived near it for years. I have old friends in Newtown. 

Then there's all of the controversy what should be done to stop events like this from happening again. I don't think you can stop anyone determined to "go out with a bang." I recall the horror of Charles Whitman way back in 1966. Gun laws or not, it will keep happening. And, that indeed is a sad thing. It's not the gun laws per se (although we seriously need to clamp down drastically on those assault rifles -- no hunter or person protecting their property or life needs that amount of firepower), it's not necessarily mental illness (if every person with a mental illness went around shooting people, there would be few folks left on Earth), it's not the fact that prayer isn't allowed in schools, it's certainly not Asperger's Syndrome. I've grown tired of zealots on each issue arguing. Arguments tend to make my head hurt. Make it stop.

So, those things have been bothering me as we head into Christmas. The weather this week hasn't helped any. It's been warmer than usual, then cold blasts, then monsoon rains and wind. Now that the trains are finally back on their normal schedule, it's dark when I go to work and it's dark when I come home. It's been overcast (or raining) every morning except one on my way to work. I only saw the start of one actual sunrise this week once I arrived at work.

Speaking of trains back on schedule, lots of folks are probably complaining. My morning train, the first westbound train of the day, has arrived and left the station five or so minutes early each day. That's a no-no. It hasn't affected me as I always plan to get to the station ten minutes early. However, all of those folks who always have to run to make it on time when the train is on time or late ... well, they're missing the boat. Er, train.

As a result of the weather and the darkness, my photos this week are severely lacking. My apologies.

Chotola pigeons

Pigeons hunker down in the winds on Saturday, one of the few days I saw daylight. This is the Chotola apartment building on North Avenue in Plainfield, where the long gone Roofus the Cat used to bask on the ledges.


Kind of says it all for the week, eh? I managed to kill one of my best umbrellas battling the wind and rain on Friday morning. Just as I decided I was soaked and it wasn't doing me any good so I might as well close it, the wind ripped it inside out and damaged the framing (spokes? whatever). This is not my umbrella. Mine was better. Wah.

I know you're not there

I don't think parking this empty Community Patrol (COPS) van all around the Plainfield Train Station will stop the ne'er-do-wells who inhabit the benches. I realize it's popular to park an empty decoy police car around trouble areas to give the illusion there's a cop nearby. But not for days at a time!

Bridgewater sunrise

The one start of a sunrise I witnessed this week.

Ho ho ho
Christmas oasis

The house at the corner of Richmond and East Front in Plainfield.

Wet branches

I used GIMP photo editor's illusion filter on this shot of dripping branches lighted up by a street lamp.

Apartment door wreath

My neighbor's door wreath. It sheds little stars each time the door opens or closes.

Santa, I've been a good cat all year!

Well, for the most part. I seem to recall some toilet tissue incidents and attacks on my bare feet. But, yeah. You're a great cat, Vincent, although you're not always perfectly behaved.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Survivor: Philippines - Season Finale and Reunion Show Blog Party


Why oh why do they schedule a three-hour show to air after football on a Sunday evening? ARGH! As I type this up to post, the football game in question is in overtime and 60 Minutes has yet to air. They had already delayed the start of the finale here, scheduling it to start at 8:30pm ET. 

Anyway ... as to tonight's show, I don't think I'd mind if any of the final four won. For me, each comes with their own merits. Skupin, horribly burned in his first shot at the show, would be on the top of the world if he won. Lisa has grown tremendously since Blair days and honestly seems like a very nice person. Malcolm is just darn good, as is Denise. My personal favorite for the win would be Denise. How about you?

Once the show starts, I'll update this post with major events. However, the real fun is always in the comments area. Come join in!

Okay, the game just ended. It's 7:52pm ET here. Expect Survivor (and me!) to start at about 8:55pm ET ... and end near midnight. Sigh.

After a shortened 60 Minutes and an Obama speech from Newtown, we're on at 8:56pm ET. Did I call it or what?

Recap blah-blah-blah. Now it's time for the Reward Challenge -- race through obstacles, collect bags, solve dragon puzzle. Winning the challenge gives the winner an advantage in the final Immunity Challenge. Malcolm wins!

Fallen comrade walk time. Ritual, of course.

Immunity Challenge time. Balancing a ball on a wooden "pole" made up of wooden pieces added to make it longer as time goes on. Malcolm's advantage is that he can have a second shot if he drops the ball. He does drop it first and resets.

Malcolm is OUT! Even with the advantage, this wasn't a challenge made for him! Argh ... now DENISE is out! Lisa is out. SKUPIN WINS IMMUNITY!

The tally: Malcolm, Denise, Malcolm, Malcolm. Aw, the kid is gone! He played a very good and honorable game. Well, as honorable as Survivor can be.

Jury time --
Denise is proud to be there and built alliances, workhorse, valuable in challenges, made moves. Survived every single TC. Outwitted, outplayed and outlasted.
Lisa - we did it in different ways. Strategy wasn't pretty, run, fall down, get up, played own game. Brother told her to trust her gut.
Skupin - Returning player not expected to progress, did things with fire because his back was against the wall, respected core of the game, love the game.

Artis -- Cannot congratulate them as they had holier than thou actions. Karma is a bitch.

Carter -- Good job, Lisa. Good job, Skupin. Skupin, when did you know I was going home. Skupin says so likeable, friendships in the game sometimes have to be separated.

Pete -- Lisa, hiding behind not voting for people when she knew they were going home. She said she didn't know. Denise said going tribe to tribe, etc. Worked with fractures in the tribes.

RC -- Wanted Lisa out because she was sneaky and sweet, proud of her. Skupin said he thought Penner was going home, not her.

Malcolm -- Denise, stop appeasing everyone. Why do you deserve it more? No appeasing! There is value playing social game, playing the game although it may come across as appeasing. 

Jeff -- Bitterness. Three kinds of people -- make things happen, watch, clueless. Skupin said he makes things happen. His name came up so much. Lisa -- didn't float? Her Malcolm blindside moves. 

Abi -- All about her, most unlikeable, heart broken. Asks why she should vote for Lisa. Lisa said loyal until things disintegrated. Michael, outwit, outplay, outlast. Denise apologizes if she was truly traumatized.

Penner -- Congratulations! Denise -- I'm confused. You've shown the world you're a bitch. Skupin -- Your name hasn't been written down as much as you say. Lisa -- Friend, close ... share? He says she was a television star. Exposes her. Two have been ridden in, yoked like oxen ... 

RC - Lisa
Penner - Denise
Carter - Skupin

Well, it won't be unanimous this time!

Onto live in Hollywood!

Moment of silence for the victims in Newtown.

The votes:
Skoopin (Carter's vote)


Closest vote ever on the 100K favorite, Lisa and Malcolm in the running. Lisa won!

Next season -- fans and favorites again. 

Off Topic: That Was the Week It Was - December 16, 2012

It's Sunday morning. That means it's time for my weekly off television topic reflection on the week gone by in both words and photographs I've taken. Later on tonight, it will be time for the Survivor three-hour season finale and reunion party. Hopefully we'll have a great blog party for that one right here!

Unfortunately, this past week took a tragic twist. While I'm not a parent and I couldn't fathom what it would be like to lose a very young child in those circumstances, the school shooting hit close to home for me. Before I was transferred to New Jersey by my workplace, I lived for nearly two decades in Danbury, CT. My workplace was located on Newtown Road in that town. Newtown is adjacent to Danbury.

Many of my co-workers there were from Newtown. Many folks in the Danbury Ski Club were from Newtown. Friends of mine have children and grandchildren in the school district there. No one I know seems to have been directly involved. But still ... very close to home.  I personally know the school. I personally know the town. I'm still in shock.

If someone were to ask me what Newtown would ever be famous for, I'd have two answers. Olympic swimmer Bruce Jenner graduated from Newtown High School. And, years ago, the general store (which still exists since 1847) was the backdrop for a Breyer's ice cream television commercial. Now, it will forever be linked with tragedy. Newtown doesn't deserve that. Honestly, no town, village or city deserves such a horrific act. But, Newtown. It's a sleepy, spread-out almost rural-ish in some areas, picture perfect New England small town. A good place to raise your children. Sigh.

Anyway ... onto this week's photos. Clicking on an image will open it in a Photobucket window, clicking again will make it larger. To return to the blog, just close out the Photobucket window.

Sunset 2
Lamps at sunset

As you'll see, I took advantage of this sunset this week. We've had so much icky weather that, when I see beauty, I must take action! Plainfield Train Station, early Friday evening.

Catnip rolling
Rolling in catnip

Vincent is a silly cat!

Squirrel with orange
I gots an ORANGE!

From my apartment window, I watched this squirrel struggle up the tree carrying an orange in his mouth. He's a good thirty feet up -- I'm shooting from the second floor with a zoom lens. Unfortunately, I still have Sandy storm dirt on the outside of my windows or the photo would be more clear. Before he could get through the orange peel, the orange plummeted to the ground where another squirrel snagged it and took it out of sight behind the neighbor's garage.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Survivor: Philippines - 12/12/12 Episode Blog Party


I hear there's a big concert going on somewhere, so I don't know how busy our little party will be here. Ah, who am I kidding? I'm recording the concert and, had I been able to get tickets, I would have abandoned you for the evening! But, as I'm not a wealthy person with disposable income to spend frivolously on rock concerts with outrageous ticket prices ... no way could I go. But I'll have fun here nonetheless.

As the show airs, I'll update this entry with the major events. However, as always, the real fun will be in the comments. Come join us!

They've figured out that Abi really doesn't have an idol.

Rewards have them racing up and over a slide into the ocean, retrieving bags of rings, then tossing them for the win. Winner will choose two people to join them for a pizza party on a whale shark watching cruise. Skupin wins! He decides to take Malcolm (because he chose Skupin's son last week) and Lisa. Abi is all upset that she wasn't chosen. @@

Malcolm makes a final deal with Lisa and Skupin. But Lisa may have other thoughts.

Uh-oh. Denise has fang marks on her neck and a possible allergic reaction.

Immunity Challenge time! They have to use planks to cross a rope bridge, collecting pieces of a maze along the way, then assemble the maze. Malcolm wins Immunity!

Denise, although she thinks they'll vote out Abi, asked Malcolm for his hidden idol. No go. Lisa is seriously pushing for a Denise vote. It's Tribal Council time! Abi's mouth is doing its thing.

The tally -- Denise, Abi, Abi, ABI. YES! Abi is history!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

The Amazing Race: Season Finale Blog Party

Welp, this is it. It's the two-hour season finale. I'm so hoping the twins don't win. Although annoying (to me), I have to give them credit for being a much stronger team than I thought they would be in the beginning. We all know that since Abbie and Ryan got the boot, the two million dollar prize is off the table. But a million is nothing to sneeze at! Plus, running the race is just such a wondrous adventure. I'd love to tag along with them!

As always, I'll update this entry with the major happenings. But the real party is in the comments area. Be there or be square. Or, something like that ...

The teams are heading to France. Sigh, product placement for the Ford Escape kick tailgate doohickey. The twins have a speed bump and are really upset with the Beekman boys, Josh and Brent.

Detour -- Chow or Plow. Feed hunting hounds or use horse and plow to cultivate a field. After the Detour, Trey and Lexi are in the lead, followed by the Chippendales. Then the Beekman Boys!

Roadblock - Who's a fun guy? Searching for mushrooms. Trey and Lexi are heading to the Pit Stop, followed by James and Jaymes. Beekman Boys are lost and the twins are behind. Gah, the the Beekmans got to the cave for the mushrooms and the twins are there now, too.

Yay! James and Jaymes are the first to the Pit Stop! They each won a Ford Escape. Surprise, surprise. One of them was saying how his mother needed a car. Trey and Lexi are the second team to arrive.

Gah, the twins are done with the Roadblock before the Beekmans.

I can't believe it! The Beekman Boys beat out the obnoxious twins! Karma!

The teams are flying to NYC and the Coney Island boardwalk. That would be pre-Sandy, of course. All three teams keep walking by the clue! Now they have to head to the Brooklyn Navy Yard (where an ex of mine used to work!). Sigh. James and Jaymes are still looking for the clue as the other two teams head off.

Roadblock - Who's ready for an amazing escape? It's a Houdini related strait jacket hanging upside down bungee jumping thing.

Trey and Lexi are leading, now in the first pizzeria in NY (Lombardi's) and must deliver 10 pizzas.

I believe they're heading to the United Nations now.

Yep, I'm right. Trey and Lexi still in the lead. Chippendales just got to the pizzas, but the Beekmans made the deliveries wrong.

Roadblock - Who has a way with words? They have to match hellos and goodbyes from the various countries traveled in the race in order. Yikes.

OMG - Josh and Brent are on the way to the Pit Stop first! Lexi is breaking down. James and Jaymes are done with the Roadblock now.


James and Jaymes came in second. 

Off Topic: That Was the Week It Was - December 9, 2012

It's Sunday morning. Yay. I'd say that means I can sleep in, but obviously I'm not really doing that. But sitting around sipping coffee in my robe and fuzzy slippers isn't anything like heading out to work for the day. So, I'll take that any day! It also means that it's time for my weekly off television topic reflection on the week gone by in both words and photographs I've taken.

Hmm ... this week certainly isn't going to go down in the annals of exciting times in my life. I'm pulling a bit of a blank on reflection. Oh my. Well, I did catch a brief, but nasty, stomach bug going around here. I'd just as soon forget that. It didn't last more than a day, but ...!

I had planned on going to the lighting of the Plainfield Christmas tree by City Hall when I got out of work on Friday. It was raining, so I skipped that. When I got home last night from work, I noticed the tree was totally dark. So I don't know if the lighting ceremony even went down. 

Tonight is the season finale of The Amazing Race. Depending on how I feel next Sunday, I might head into the city (Manhattan) to get some photos of holiday happenings there. There's no place like New York City during the holidays. I could also check out some of the places listed in this piece. I'd have to go out to Brooklyn to get the bacon donuts, but the rest of the bacon desserts are in Manhattan. I so want to try a Choinkwich from the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop! Chocolate ice cream sandwich with bacon marmalade? I'm so there!

I really don't have much more for you this week. My photo shots were dampened by the weather most days, so not too many great shots this week. I did, however, have an extended photo shoot of Vincent! Clicking on an image will open it in a Photobucket page, clicking again will make it larger. To return here, just close the Photobucket page. 

Vincent 1
The Vincent

Yep, I'm leading off with a Vincent shot this week. Not to worry, I'll also be closing with a Vincent shot. Who's the cat? He's the cat!

Off to work

It has been foggy or rainy (or any combination thereof) in the mornings when I leave for work. So I decided, since it's a grey world, this shot would be best in black and white. Plainfield Train Station.

In the rain
Berries in the rain

The golden casings on these red berries are disappearing by the day. I've noticed that birds leave these alone. I'd say they're probably either poisonous or just plain nasty to eat. Church Street, Plainfield.


Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Survivor: Philippines - December 5 Episode Blog Party


Survivor fans ready? Tonight's episode is the "loved ones" episode. These can sometimes be very interesting. I, once again, am wishing that Abi will go far away. I'm still shocked that she actually won Immunity last week. If she does that for a second week in a row, my head will explode. Yep, it definitely will explode. 

As usual, although I'll update this entry with the major happenings as they air, the real party is in the comments area. Come join us! Beverages and snacks welcomed. We provide the comfy chairs.

The Reward Challenge has them paired up with a loved one. Surprise, surprise. They have to toss a muddy bag to their loved one, loved one tries to knock down five targets with said bag. Winner gets loved one to spend night back at camp.

Malcolm and his brother win Reward! Malcolm gets to pick one more person and he chose Lisa because she's been having so many problems. He gets to choose another, he goes for Skupin.

What? No Denise? I'm shocked!

Ohh ... Lisa's brother is trying to work the betray Malcolm move. Will she go for it?

Immunity Challenge time! Over water, they must race across balance beams, assemble poles, drop a flag.

Malcolm wins Immunity! So much for the plans to oust him this week.

Abi is still hanging with her lie about having a hidden idol. It's likely she or Carter will be voted out. Abi doesn't play her fake idol.

Tally: Carter, Abi, Carter, Carter, Carter ... ACK! Carter is voted out instead of Abi! Sure, going against her in the end is more of a sure win, but ...! 

Sunday, December 02, 2012

The Amazing Race: December 2nd Episode Blog Party

Sigh. The show isn't scheduled until 8:30pm ET due to football. I fear it's a bit behind schedule even at that. So, while I'm getting this post up for the regular 8pm ET slot in case folks show up at that hour, it will be more than a half-hour later that the real party will start. 

Once things get underway, I'll update this entry with major happenings as they air. However, as always, the real fun is the party in the comments area. Come join us!

8:41pm ET and we're finally starting. The teams are off to Barcelona, Spain. The goat farmers actually caught up with the other teams, so all are off to an even start. But they're soon in last place once again.

Roadblock - Who wants to get smashed? It's a tennis challenge, not a drinking competition.

Detour - Spin it, repairing a windmill. Bullit - Become bulls in a bullfight.

Pit Stop --
1. Trey and Lexi - won a trip to Riveria Maya (?)
2. James and Jaymes
3. Josh and Brent beat out the twins!!! Yay!
4. Natalie and Nadiya -- rats, non-Philimination leg.

Next week is the big two-hour finale. Please don't let the "twinnies" winnie!

Off Topic: That Was the Week It Was - December 2, 2012

It's Sunday morning. That can only mean one thing. Yep. It's time for my weekly off television topic post reflecting on the week gone by in both words and photographs I've taken along the way.

We've had a chilly week here in New Jersey. My heart goes out to the folks still struggling without electricity or heat. Thankfully my own power celebrated its first entire week without an outage since October 29. Yet, mind you, my bill was higher than ever for the month including my extensive outage. Well, not as high as in the summertime with the air conditioning on, but ...! They claim they couldn't send out meter readers post-Sandy and that they estimated what the bill should be. Grr. They also claim it will be adjusted next month. It better be.

It would have been nice if my landlord had offered a rent abatement, but they didn't. I know some places did offer abatements as, technically, the apartments were uninhabitable without electricity or heat during the long outages. Had I actually left instead of roughing it here, I would be pushing for some money off the rent. I have yet to fight my battles with Comcast cable television and Verizon internet for charging me when I was out of service for so long.

Let's see ... what else this week? Oh. On the day of the slushy snowstorm, the landlord had someone steam cleaning the carpet in the corridors. While I thought that was extremely bad timing, that's not the worst of it. They RUINED the carpets! The carpet is a forest green. Well, it was before they ruined it. Now there are white patches all over it. Hopefully the landlord will get them to either fix it or install new carpet. It looks horrible! It looked so much better just dirty! When I first moved here there was maroon carpet in the corridors. I recall how noisy that was when they ripped it up and installed the green. But something must be done.

Other than that, life has been work, eat, sleep and work some more. So it's onto the photos for the week. Clicking on an image will open it on a new Photobucket page, clicking again will make it larger. To return to the blog, just close out the Photobucket page.

Drop on a branch

The Bridgewater Train Station is reflected upside down in a droplet on a branch.

Sunset train
Train at sunset

The double-decker trains always look so short from a distance. However, they're not. True, it's better to be stuck at a railroad crossing waiting on one of these rather than a freight train. But, no. They are indeed lengthy. This is the train arriving at the Bridgewater Train Station to take me home for the day.

Snowy sunflower doll
Snowy sunflower doll

The sunflower doll stuck in the bush on Berckman Street in Plainfield was less than thrilled with this week's snow. Not only did she bend with the snowfall, but it looks like she's frowning as well.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Survivor: Philippines - November 28 Episode Blog Party


Yep, yep, yep. It's time for this week's Survivor blog party! Tonight's episode includes the auction which is always entertaining. But, of course, I'm more interested in seeing Little Miss Abi do herself in. I so hope she implodes tonight! How about you?

As always, as the show airs, I'll update this entry with the major events. However, the real fun is ALWAYS in the comments area! Come join us!

Lifeguard Laurie advises me that the latest blog pool standings are:

Abi-Maria : Chrob61, meb, SueGee
Denise : Buzzmaam, Karen in CA
Jonathan : Brian, JonMD1267, Tammy G
Lisa : Gaylos, Nana in the NW, Terry in TX
Michael : Donna in FL, Lars
Malcolm : Dewan, Margo

RC (Roberta) : ChicMc, PDX Granny, Sharon S
Jeff : DKNYNC, Jennasmom
Artis : Delee, MLCarter : Deb, Pam M in NJ, Syd
Pete : Becky, Rbennie

For the auction, each castaway got $500. Denise spent all of her money right away on pancakes and bacon. They can't share food, same rules as always. Abi claims she's going home soon, so she'll keep her money. Carter traded his baked potato for rice and beans for the tribe. Abi spent all 300 on "an advantage in the game."

Her advantage is that she can go directly to the final round of the upcoming Immunity Challenge and have a one in three shot at winning it. But, after all, it's Abi. Can she win a challenge even with that head start? She's decided to pretend that she has an idol. She wants to latch onto Malcolm.

The Immunity Challenge has them tied to ropes going through a course. A twist is that Jeff will ask a question. If they get it wrong, 5% of their body weight is added to them. Abi lied and said her note was two parts, hinting that the second unread part has to do with the hidden idol. It's Carter, Penner and Abi in the final round.

Abi won Immunity. I guess pigs can fly after all.

The general consensus is that they will vote for Penner. Lisa is in personal turmoil over the decision. Penner tries to turn the vote to Denise.

The tally: Denise, Denise, Penner, Penner, Denise, Penner, Penner.

Penner is gonzo. He makes a rather elaborate unusual exit, whistling with a curtain call.

Good. I'd rather Denise stay. I really wanted Abi to go!   

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Amazing Race: November 25 Episode Blog Party

Sure, the show is starting on time here on the East Coast. Of course, with so many folks on the road returning home from a long Thanksgiving weekend, the viewership is bound to be down a bit. But will that stop us from our blog party? No way!

As the show airs here, I'll update this entry with the major events. However, as always, the real fun will be in the comments area. Come join the party!

Getting only a flag as the next clue, they need to figure out that it's the Netherlands where they need to go. James and Jaymes looked up the flag on the Internet. Trey and Lexi thought it was France. Thankfully, they're in with the Chippendales who steered them right.

Grr. The twinnies found the Fast Forward clue first. The Chippendales aren't that far behind them, but Abbie and Ryan got hung up in Frankfurt missing their connecting flight.

The twins have to eat raw fish on a bus which will go underwater. They finished the task and are heading to the Pit Stop just as the Chippendales arrive at the FF. Of course, the twins win the leg. They also won $5,000 cash each.

The Detour - Back in Time - recreate a Rembrant masterpiece. Organ to Grind - operate huge organ and collect 30 Euro in tips. U-Turn ahead.

James and Jaymes don't want to do anything at the Double U-Turn. But, in the end, they U-Turned Ryan and Abbie. Sigh.

The Roadblock has them pole vaulting over a water-filled ditch. Ho-hum.
James and Jaymes made it second.

As per their previous plan, Trey and Lexi U-Turned the Chippendales, knowing they already were through. That keeps Abbie and Ryan from U-Turning the goat farmers. Those last two teams are traveling together. I sense a break up ahead.

Trey and Lexi are third to the Pit Stop.

Uh-oh. The last two teams just hit the U-Turn. Eep.

Josh and Brent are in 4th place.

Abbie and Ryan came in last, Philiminated. There goes the big two million. They're quite bitter about the Chippendales.

Off Topic: That Was the Week It Was - November 25, 2012

It's Sunday morning. You know what that means! It means that it's time for my weekly off television topic reflection on the week gone by in both words and photographs I've taken. 

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. Mine was quiet. Since relatives live too far away and I always have to work the Friday after the holiday, I generally stay home and have a peaceful kind of day. Oh yes, I definitely make up a little feast each year! This year, instead of turkey, I had Trader Joe's rosemary marinated chicken, stuffing, mashed potatoes, broccoli/cauliflower along with Trader Joe's coffee ice cream for dessert. I was thankful I finally seem to have steady electricity and food in my refrigerator!

That said, Sandy seems like the storm which just wouldn't die ... there's always something there to remind me. From tree limbs and debris, to a new FEMA location on my way to the train station, to the still not right schedule for the trains, to Philly's SEPTA buses by the Plainfield Train Station, to power outages at home which finally seemed to stop earlier this week, to dubious wires still on the ground, to the foliage show we missed out on and to another Halloween which wasn't ...

At least I no longer feel like a hunter/gatherer foraging for daily food. I remembered a few things I had forgotten to mention in my earlier Hurricane Sandy coverage.
  • After the power went out on the night of the storm, it was scary creepy. I could hear the winds, stronger than I've ever heard in my life, yet it was total darkness. I couldn't see a thing.
  • That is, until transformers started blowing. Then the skies became punctuated with a green glow. The bending trees gave the appearance of being caught in a surreal green strobe light.
  • More than one person with kids told me that when they told their children the explosions were just transformers, the kids panicked. They thought they meant Transformers!
  • The night after Sandy blew through, all was blackness. Well, until someone a block or so away hit up their illegal supply of fireworks. These were pretty ones, not just ones which go BOOM. Vincent and I sat by the window for over an hour watching them. After all, there was literally nothing good on TV.
At least now I feel I've done my trial run for the Zombie Apocalypse. Are YOU prepared?

Onto this week's photos. Clicking on an image will open it on a Photobucket page, clicking again will make it larger. To return here to the blog, just close out that Photobucket page.

Early morning
Early morning skies

With the train schedule still a bit off, it's not quite dark still as I head off to the train station. Many mornings have been cloudy and grey. But there was this early morning treasure. Looking over towards East Second Street from East Front Street in Plainfield.

Frost etching
Outlined in frost

It's better to see frost outlining leaves than to wake up with an ice cube nose!

It's a Studebaker!

This old car at the intersection of Berckman and East Front in Plainfield caught my attention. A Studebaker. Cool. It would be cooler if it was fixed up a bit more, but cool nonetheless.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

2009 Thanksgiving, Created by Zoetawny for

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and relatives, near and far! I have a lot to be thankful for this year, especially in view of the recent hurricane. Friends, family and a cat named Vincent helped me get through the storm (which was very unnerving in and of itself) and the days afterward as the road to normality was strewn with several roadblocks. I'm more thankful for heat, hot water, electricity and food in the refrigerator than I have ever been before, too. Odd, that.

I hope you all have a fine holiday filled with great food and love. Oh. And football, if you're into that kind of thing.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Survivor: Philippines - November 21 Episode Blog Party


Come one, come all! It's the Thanksgiving Eve Survivor show blog party! As the show airs here, I'll update this entry with any major happenings. But, as always, the real fun is in the comments area. Come join the party!

Reward Challenge -- Divided into teams, getting drums face up while the other team is turning them over. The reward is a spa visit followed by a feast. Red - Abi, Carter, Malcolm and Pete. Yellow - Penner, Lisa, Skupin and Denise. Eep. Skupin flipped the wrong drum. Red wins.

Abi gloats and alienates. She also says she will cook no more, but they can cook for her. Malcolm, Skupin, Denise and Lisa make a final four pact.

Immunity Challenge time -- In rounds -- obstacle course getting a buoy to their post. Five make it through. Malcolm, Penner, Denise, Skupin and Carter moving on. Three moving on to the next round. Skupin, Carter and Denise are in the final round. Carter wins immunity!

Tribal goes against dear Abi. Too bad, so sad. She plays her idol. Malcolm doesn't play his.

Abi, Abi, Abi, Pete, Malcolm, Pete, Malcolm, Pete.

Buh-bye, Pete. You should have stayed away from Abi! 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Amazing Race: November 18 Episode Blog Party

The show isn't scheduled to start until 8:30 PM here in the NYC viewing area. I wasn't keeping track, so I don't know if it will start any past that. However, once it does start, I'll update this entry with the major events.

But ... as always, the real fun is in the comments area. Come join us as we watch the show!

8:50 PM ET, and we have a start! We still have last week's unfinished business at hand. James and Abba need to find their passports, two teams are still the synchronized swimming. Josh and Brent ended up getting a four-hour penalty -- they couldn't finish the swimming as the pool closed for the night. The last two teams are still working together.

Abbie and Ryan, Josh and Brent hit the Pit Stop at teams number four and five. Josh and Brent get their four hour penalty. James and Abba don't have their passports yet, but it's a non-Philimination. They're still in it, but still need to get their passports.

They're remaining in Russia for now.

Roadblock -- Who's in the zone? Figuring time in different cities. It's nowhere easy as it sounds.

Detour - Movers or Shakers. Learning a Russian soldier dance or identifying historic Russian leaders at a costume party.

The twins used their Express Pass to get by the map/time zone roadblock.

Pit Stop -
1. James and Jaymes! They won a trip to Costa Rica.
2. Trey and Lexi
3. Natalie and Nadiya
4. Abbie and Ryan
5. Josh and Brent
6. James and Abba ... still don't have their passports ... Philiminated. 

Off Topic: That Was the Week It Was - November 18, 2012

G'morning! Welcome to my weekly off television topic post in which I reflect on the week gone by in both words and photographs I've taken. This week I have a bit of an overlap with the past three weeks ... or, to be more precise, since Sandy landed.  Warning -- this is REALLY long and I apologize for the delay in posting. I just wanted to get the Sandy stuff finished and onto this past week in photos.

I've never been through anything like Sandy in my life. In a way, it's like I lost two weeks of my life and the week following was still a bit askew of "normal life." While I was aware of happenings in the world for the almost two weeks my power was out thanks to my MP3 player's FM radio, it wasn't like being a part of the world. It was more like living in some sort of parallel universe in a quasi-post apocalyptic world. 

I was through extended power outages of three and four days with last year's freak early snowstorm and Hurricane Irene respectively. But they were nothing compared to this. This time, the entire area for hundreds of miles around was affected. This time we were on our own. (And, if the elevator tries to take you down, go crazy -- Prince) Not only that, but it was COLD.

In this area, about ten or so miles inland from Staten Island as the crow flies, we didn't have flood damage (which the area suffered from with Irene). We had wind damage. Horrible wind damage. I was told by a PS&G worker, "Our poles do NOT fall down. YOUR trees knock down our wires and poles. The city of Plainfield does NOT trim the trees. They should." 

I believe he had a point. I live on a county road that runs through the city. I didn't see any wires or poles down on my block or a few blocks either way. They regularly trim and remove iffy trees along my street. Of course, in the long run, that didn't help me as the entire power grid in my area went down and the switching station suffered horrific flooding damage. All I had to do was go around the corner off of my street to see extreme tree fallen on wires damage, too.

Not in Philly!
SEPTA buses in Plainfield

Let's try for a litter free PLAINFIELD, not Philadelphia! Buses on loan from Philly have been running shuttle service for NJ Transit each morning at the corner of Gavett Place and North Avenue by the Plainfield Train Station.

Speaking of litter free, I notice the PMUA trash cans on that block of North Avenue across from the train station have gone missing. The folks who live in apartments there or run small businesses and don't pay for their trash are now just setting trash out on the street.

Neighbors ex-tree
Still can't park

Next door to next door, they're still parking on their front lawn. That was one huge tree which came down. It apparently hit their roof as well as blocking their paved parking lot in back of the home cut into apartments. There is blue tarp on a section of their roof.

Plainfield OEM
Now I see them

I don't know where they were when the power was out for so long, though.

Like spaghetti

Dunellen water and ice giveaway as seen from the train window

I heard these kind of things happened in Plainfield. But no one informed us they were happening ...


Running Late

Just a note -- I'm running a bit late today. My weekly off television topic photo post will be up a bit later today.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Survivor: Philippines - November 14 Episode Blog Party


Okay, not only did I catch up watching the last two weeks of the show online, but I have the Zoetawny graphic for this season! Again, my thanks to all for the kind words, good wishes and even donations! It's all very appreciated.

As the show airs here, I'll update this entry with the major happenings. However, as always, the real fun is in the comments area. Come join us!

The reward challenge has them, divided into two teams, going through a sloppy course looking for balls, then shooting hoops. Heh. Abi wasn't picked and has no chance of reward. The winning team will bring school supplies and toys to a village while the villagers give them a feast. Penner exposed bags of balls for his team and put them in the lead. Penner, Denise, Malcolm and Carter win reward!

Immunity challenge time! Balancing a large paddle, rolling balls down it and trying to get six balls to stick in the six indented spots. Mike Skupin wins immunity!

The tally at tribal council -- Artis, Penner, Artis, Penner, Penner, Penner, Artis, Artis, Artis.

Artis is gone, Penner remains! They got Skupin and Lisa to flip!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Amazing Race - November 11 Episode Blog Party

Thank you, everyone, for your concern about me in the wake of Hurricane Sandy! I'm back!

As the show airs here on the East Coast, I'll update this entry with the major events. But the real fun is in the comments area. Join us there!

Teams are off to Moscow.

The Detour has to alphabetize (collecting books) or synchronized swimming. The Roadblock is with keys and locks. Two teams -- the goat farmers and Abbie/Ryan are way behind due to flight issues.

1. Trey and Lexi - Won a trip to Maui.
2. James and Jaymes
9. Natalie and Nadiya

James and Abba lost their bags in a taxi. They weren't allowed to check into the Pit Stop at number four. And, then it ends. This leg is a two-parter.

Off Topic: That Was the Two Weeks It Was - Nov. 11, 2012

Plainfield Train Station after the storm

It's Sunday morning, time for my weekly off television topic reflection on the week gone by in both words and photographs I've taken. Of course, this week it's actually about the past two weeks, thanks to Hurricane Sandy. I'm still feeling quite discombobulated here, so please bear with me. My power was out from Monday, October 29, until Thursday, November 8. That doesn't sound that long, does it? Well, when it's cold, dark and a bit on the scary side, it can turn your life upside down.

I realize that many folks had/have it much worse than we did here where I live in New Jersey, but it was still an ordeal I wouldn't wish on a soul. Folks are still walking around shell-shocked. I've lost a bit of the shell-shocked and am merely discombobulated, dazed and confused at this time. 

Eventually I might write more about the whole experience, but for now here are some random (yet chronological) thoughts and reflections on the experience:
  • The wind was the worst I've ever experienced that wasn't a tornado. I've been through tails of hurricanes, nearby tornadoes and such before. At times it seemed to have the train sound of a tornado.
  • Prior to the storm, I expected the power might be out for a few days. I had plenty of water as I don't like the taste of the tap water here. I order it regularly from Peapod grocery delivery.
  • I had a good stock of canned foods -- vegetables, mostly. I could easily last a few days. We were out three days with last year's October snow and four days with Irene.
  • When my power went out, I noticed the floodlight on the lawn next door was on. Then I noticed our building lights (halls and parking lot) were on. Well, that wasn't fair! Just as I was contemplating getting a long extension cord to the hallway plug, all went dark.
  • I looked out the window into a world of blackness as far as the eye can see.

Where I voted on Tuesday evening

I vote at the Richmond Towers, an apartment community for the elderly and disabled. As such, they run on back-up power during power outages. They're about a two minute walk from where I live. They were not a shelter although it seemed a bit that way on voting day!

After I took the above shot, I turned my camera towards my apartment ...

Into the darkness

Except for the lights of cars coming and going ... totally black.


Friday, November 09, 2012

Must Catch Up!

A stroll through my NJ 'hood

After my big announcement that my power came back on Wednesday night in the middle of the nor'easter, it went out again. It returned yesterday morning. It was almost strange to come home to a warm apartment with a working refrigerator after work. An empty working refrigerator, but ...!

However, I'm woefully behind on my TV shows. I'm hoping to catch up online with some over the weekend. Tonight is my night to watch CSI: NY and Blue Bloods, but I don't really post on them. 

Once again, I'd like to thank everyone for their well wishes. Everyone around here is still walking around a bit shell-shocked and life isn't going to be back to normal for some time to come. But, at least it appears my power may be on to stay. Yay.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

I'm BACK!!!

Thankfully not mine

However, the brick building in the background is my apartment building.

After 10 nights and 9 days without power, I seem to be back. Hopefully my power will stay on. Right now outside it's snowing pretty good with more than a few inches on the ground and the wind is whipping.

I appreciate the good wishes from all!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Amazing Race - October 28 Blog Party

Who's ready for some Amazing Race? I am! It's actually starting on time here tonight although I'm worried about storm related news interrupting it. The storm here so far is just a bit windy, not bad yet. 

As the show airs here, I'll update this post with the major events. However, as always, the real fun is in the comments area. Come join us!

The Roadblock has them weighing wood with rocks as a counterbalance. They're still in Bangladesh. Onto the Detour with Abba and James in the lead. Straw Dogs or Bamboo Jungle. Most seem to be going for transporting bamboo on a rickshaw type vehicle. Straw dogs has them manufacturing jute bags.

1. James and Abba again! They won a trip to Malaysia's tropical rain forest.
2. Abbie and Ryan
3. Natalie and Nadiya
4. Rob and Kelly
5. Trey and Lexi
6. Jaymes and James
Last ... Josh and Brent, but it's a non-Philimination leg. They're still in it!

Off Topic: That Was the Week It Was - October 28, 2012

Good morning! It's Sunday morning, therefore it's time for my weekly off television topic reflection on the week gone by in both words and photographs I've taken along the way.

Have any of you folks heard that there's some kind of storm heading towards the Mid-Atlantic and East Coast? Apparently it's supposed to be a whopper, eh? I read that the weather people (as opposed to the Weathermen) want people to stop calling it silly names like "Frankenstorm" because it's just so darn dangerous.

Now, I'm not doubting it's going to be serious. But, sheesh. I think the media makes people panic about it. Someone even stole my Sunday newspaper this morning, possibly thinking it has the latest up to the minute storm details. 

Me? I'm not all that worried. I live in a very populated area. I have enough food to last a number of days if need be. I have candles, batteries, one of those stick on lights and a good flashlight. I have plenty of water, plus my water doesn't go out even if the power's out. Normally my landline stays working, too. Plus I have my cell phone and police, weather alert (etc.) scanner. 

If, for some reason, there's a really long power outage, it's not like there's no other people around. One of the shelters set up is a five minute walk away. Getting to work may be another issue. I doubt I'll be going in until after my next day off. They're already talking about shutting down the NJ Transit trains and buses. Heck, work might not even be open! I have plenty of paid time off in the bank, so I might have a little vacation!

Right now, it's not doing anything out there. But, yesterday, I returned home from work to find the notice below shoved under my door. I think I prefer Chinese menus, thank you very much! (And in the 12 years I've been here, I've only seen flooding once -- during Irene.) I don't doubt there will be street flooding because the city never bothered to pick up the huge piles of leaves at the curb!

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Oh my

Train station lamp
Plainfield Train Station lamp

On Monday, I spent an inordinate amount of time at the Plainfield Train Station. I'll get into that later. But I was there after the sun started shining.

One squirrel

The squirrels have been extremely active lately. Beside gathering their goodies, they're chasing each other around and chattering at people for daring to come near them. This was on East Front Street in Plainfield.