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.