Monday, January 26, 2015

Northeastern States Brace for First Major Blizzard of 2015

Winter storm warnings and travel advisories are in effect for much of the Northeast from West Virginia to Maine and Canadian Maritime Provinces as a massive winter storm [named Juno- how long have they been naming winter storms? Seems like a recent phenomenon- NANESB!] bears down on the region.

While cities like New York and Boston could get as much as 2 feet from winter storm Juno, outlying and mountainous areas could be getting as much as three feet overnight. Airlines and commuter agencies are suspending service ahead of Juno's arrival while state, municipal and county officials are prepping sand and salt trucks to deal with the snowfall.

The governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut have issued travel bans for their respective highways that will go into effect on Monday night. In Boston, Logan airport, the MBTA and state offices will be closed on Tuesday. Newly sworn-in governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts also cautioned that some areas could expect power outages because of the wet heavy snow.

Airports from New England to Washington DC cancelled more than 5000 flights on Monday, with most of the cancellations around the New York-area airports like Newark-Liberty, La Guardia and JFK. Amtrak announced there were no cancellations as of Monday, but would be re-evaluating throughout the day and running a modified schedule starting Tuesday.

Monday night is a pretty light sports schedule with no games scheduled in the NHL the night after the All-Star game in Columbus, OH on Sunday. There are 7 games scheduled in the NBA tonight, but two of them in New York- Portland vs Brooklyn and Sacramento vs the Knicks- have been postponed.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Today's Train of Thought- Happy Australia Day! Jan 25th, 2015

Today's Train of Thought takes us (where else?) Down Under to Australia.

While railways elsewhere in Australia were something of an amalgamation of different gauges and engineering techniques [that apparently weren't brought to a single national standard until the 1980s- NANESB!] the iron-ore railroads of Western Australia's Pilbarra region operate some of the biggest trains in the world in some of the most inhospitable terrain on earth.

One of the first iron-ore lines in northwestern Australia was the Hammersley Iron line between the port of Dampier and the then newly-opened Tom Price mine more than 300km inland back in 1966. Japanese manufacturers sought massive quantities of iron-ore from the Pilbarra region and in no time, 230+ car trains of iron ore began winding their way from mines in the unforgiving interior to waiting vessels in Dampier. To the east, a competing iron-ore railway called the Mount Newman Railway was under construction and by August 1969 saw the first iron-ore trains on its rails.

Much more recently, Fortescue Metals Group sought rail service their Cloud Break mine and Port Hedland some 250 miles away. Before spending more than A$2 billion on a mew line, Fortescue sought access to Cloud Break by way of obtaining trackage rights on BHP Billiton's Mt Newman line. However, that faced legal challenges and Fortescue ended up building their own iron-ore line to Port Hedland, with work completed by 2008.

Meanwhile, like railroads in the US, the other western Australia iron-ore rail lines were subject to mergers and consolidations [although unlike the boom and bust cycles in the USA, the Aussie lines have seen steady growth since opening up- NANESB!] and the original Hammersely iron line came under the control of multinational Rio Tino.

Here, contributor Sean McGarraghy caught Rio Tinto ES44AC #8185 on the point of a northbound ore train as it makes its way through Millstream-Chichester National Park on its way to Dampier on May 14th, 2014. These massive trains routinely exceed 230 cars and often require additional power in the middle of the train.

While on the subject of Australia, the Miss Universe pageant was on Sunday. While Miss Australia, Tegan Martin, made the final cut of 10, the grand prize was awarded to Miss Colombia.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Long Overdue Championship Weekend Sports Chowdah Update- Nevermore! Patriots Rally Past Ravens, Advance to AFC Title Games; Kung Fu Gripping, Red Sox Sign Pablo Sandoval; Pedro, Big Unit Biggio and Smoltz Heading to Cooperstown; B's Blank Blueshirts; Rondo Heads to Dallas

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS- Heading into the playoffs, the Patriots weren't looking particularly sharp. After thrashing the Miami Dolphins in weeks 15- avenging their season-opening loss and New England won the division in convincing fashion. However, the Patriots barely bested the Jets in the Meadowlands in Week 16 thanks to a 17-16 win over New York and fell to Buffalo by a 17-6 final after starting most of their second-stringers.

After a first round bye, the Patriots were set to host Baltimore after the Ravens upended the AFC North champion Steelers in the first round. This would be the fourth time since the 2009 season that the Ravens and Patriots met in the playoffs, with Baltimore winning two out of the first three matchups.

Early on, it looked as though it appeared the Ravens would add to their all-time playoff lead against the Patriots. Ravens QB Joe Flacco took their first two possessions and marched down the field for two quick TDs to take a 14-0 lead while the Ravens defense held New England to a couple of three-and-outs in the first quarter.

However, late in the first the Patriots put together a good-looking drive that included a 40 yard completion from Brady to Gronkowski and was capped by a 4 yard TD run by Brady on 3rd and goal. New England got on the board with 48 seconds left in the first and it was now a 14-7 game.

Despite increased pressure on the pocket from the Ravens defense, a fired-up Tom Brady managed to find the end zone late in the 2nd quarter on a 15 yard completion to Danny Amendola- with the WR fighting for key extra yardage to get into the end zone to tie the game at 14-14 after Stephen Gostkowski's point-after. However, almost as soon as the momentum was swinging the Patriots way, the Ravens came up with a key pick at mid-field with just over a minute to go in the half. Joe Flacco and company made the most of that thanks to a pass-interference call against Patriots CB Darelle Revis. With only 10 seconds to go, the Ravens quieted the crowd at Foxborough with an 11 yard TD pass from Flacco to TE Owen Daniels to put Baltimore back on top, 21-14.

In the second half, the Ravens managed to get a pass-interference call on 4th and 6 to set them up inside the New England red zone- altho they were pushed further back to the 16. However, Flacco connected with RB Justin Fosett for a 16 yard TD reception and give Baltimore a 28-14 lead and giving New England a bigger hole to climb out of. However, that's exactly what Brady and company did, with the Patriots QB connecting with Gronkowski on a five yard TD pass to make it a 21-28 game with 6:48 to go in the 3rd. After holding the Ravens to a 3 and out, Baltimore was forced to punt and the Patriots were able to start from their own 30.

What happened next could undoubtedly be considered the highlight of the game. After moving the ball to midfield on two quick plays, Brady quickly lateralled the ball to WR Julian Edelman. Edelman then threw the ball to a wide open follow WR Danny Amendola for a 51 yard TD pass to tie the game at 28-28.

On Baltimore's next possession, DB Devin McCourty picked off Flacco at the Ravens 37, giving New England a short field that they were unable to capitalize on. On the Ravens' next possession, they managed to march down the field pretty efficiently, including converting on a 4th and 1 along the way- but were shut out of the end zone, forced to settle for a FG with 10:17 left in the 4th quarter. With the Ravens back on top by a 31-28 score, New England couldn't afford any more three and outs.

Starting on their own 26 yard line with 10:10 remaining in regulation, the Patriots offense managed to get big chunks of yards while burning off some of the clock. With 5:13 left in the game, the Patriots took their first lead of the day on a perfectly thrown 23 yard TD pass from Brady to WR Brandon LaFell, putting the Patriots on top 35-31. Flacco once again put together a solid drive, getting to midfield in time for the 2 minute warning. However, with 1:38 left, Flacco went long from the Patriots 36 yard line only to be picked off in the end zone by Patriots SS Duron Harmon. The Ravens still had a timeout left, which prevented New England from simply kneeling down three times in the victory formation and running out the clock, so Ryan Allen had to punt. The Ravens got the ball back on midfield with just 4 seconds left, giving Baltimore just enough time for a hail-mary pass that the Patriots managed to bat out of the end zone.

The Patriots would only lead for just over five minutes, but it was all they'd need as they go on to win by a 35-31 final in what many are already calling an instant classic.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NFL PLAYOFFS- The New England Patriots will be facing the Indianapolis Colts and starting QB Andrew Luck in the AFC championship game this weekend at Foxborough. As rusty as the Patriots looked in the first quarter, the Broncos looked almost as bad for their entire game after their first round bye. Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos fell to his former team, losing by a 24-13 final at Denver. So demoralizing was the loss that the Broncos fired head coach John Fox within days and many are openly speculating that this may be the end of QB Peyton Manning's career, if not his tenure with the Broncos.

Meanwhile, in what was dubbed 'Ice Bowl II', the Cowboys made their first postseason visit to Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI since the 1967 NFL Championship Game. While the temperatures were much more mild than in 1967, like the original title game the Packers ultimately prevailed- although what looked like a 32 yard completion from Cowboys QB Tony Romo to receiver Dez Bryant on 4th and 2 that would've put the ball on the Green Bay 1 yard line was overturned after challenged by Green Bay. The Packers would go on to win by a 26-21 final and will face the Seattle Seahawks in the Pacific Northwest for the NFC title next week. Seattle beat NFC South champions Carolina by a 35-17 final.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NFL- With the end of the regular season, a number of new coaching vacancies and hirings have been announced. On Friday, the Chicago Bears announced that recently-dismissed Denver head coach John Fox would be their new head coach. Meanwhile, former Jets head coach Rex Ryan will be staying within the AFC East as the Buffalo Bills named him their new head coach after Doug Marrone opted out of his contract.

The biggest news came earlier this month when- after weeks of speculation- San Francisco 49ers and head coach Jim Harbuagh parted ways at the end of the regular season. By December 30th, the University of Michigan announced Harbaugh as their head coach, replacing Brady Hoke after a disappointing 2014 campaign.

RED SOX- The Red Sox have been letting no grass grow under their feet in the offseason. After signing Koji Uehara to a two year contract extension, Boston signed free agent 3rd baseman Pablo Sandoval to a five year, $100 million contract. During his 2014 championship run with the San Francisco Giants, Sandoval batted .279 with 16 homers and 73 RBI. The same week as the massive Sandoval deal was announced, Boston announced that one-time prospect Hanley Ramirez was signed to a 4 year deal worth an estimated $80 million.

Another former Red Sox farmhand returning home is Justin Masterson, who Boston signed to a one year contract worth just over $9 million in December. The Red Sox also ended up trading OF Yoenis Cespedes, RHP Alex Wilson and a prospect to the Tigers for starting pitcher Rick Porcello who was 15-13 with a 3.43 ERA with Detroit last year. Within a day of the Porcello deal, the Red Sox also sent starters Rubby De LaRosa and Allen Webster to Arizona in exchange for pitcher Wade Miley.

De LaRosa and Webster weren't the only Red Sox to make their way to the NL West- shortly before Christmas, the Red Sox announced that they had sent 3B Will Middlebrooks to the San Diego Padres in exchange for C Ryan Hanigan.

BASEBALL HALL OF FAME- The 2015 Baseball Hall of Fame inductees have been announced and Red Sox fans can expect a familiar face among the honorees.

Pitchers Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and John Smoltz were first-ballot hall of famers while former Houston Astros 2B Craig Biggio made it to Cooperstown after his 3rd year of eligibility. Martinez, who has an ERA of 2.93 over his 17 year MLB career, has played for the Dodgers, Expos, Red Sox, Mets and Phillies. However, Martinez's career highlights (and lowlights) were in Boston. During the 1999 ALDS, Martinez came into the game in the 4th inning against the Indians and threw five no-hit innings of relief. The 2004 World Series was one of only two World Series appearances for Pedro- he threw a shutout in Game 3 at Busch Stadium against the Cardinals and even drew a walk in one of his at-bats.

Martinez was an 8 time All Star and has three Cy Young trophies to his name and led the AL in strikeout in 1999, 2000 and 2002.

The lanky Randy Johnson- dubbed "Big Unit"- had a slightly longer career, breaking into the bigs with the Expos in 1988 before playing nearly a decade with the Seattle Mariners. After a single season with the Astros, Johnson then signed with the newly-formed Arizona Diamondbacks in their second season and is best known for his performance in the 2001 World Series where he was credited with three wins in the dramatic 7-game series against the Yankees. In the deciding game 7, then-manager Bob Brenly pulled Curt Schilling in the 8th with one away before bringing in Miguel Batista to get out one batter [who happened to be Derek Jeter- NANESB!] and having Johnson- who started Game 6- come in to pitch relief. Johnson got all four batters he faced out and was credited with the win after Mariano Rivera loaded the bases and Luis Gonzales hit a single past a drawn-in Derek Jeter in the bottom of the 9th.

BOSTON BRUINS- Let's face it- it's been a pretty rough couple of weeks for the Bruins, but not too long after the calendar flipped over to 2015, something seems to be clicking for the B's.

On Thursday night, Tukka Rask turned aside all 30 shots he faced while Boston got goals from Bergeron in the first, Krejci in the second and Eriksson in the 3rd to get by the Rangers 3-0 in a nationally televised contest. The win puts the Bruins back in the playoff picture with about a week to go until the NHL's All Star break.

The win over the Rangers is the Bruin's 5th straight (this includes two shutouts) and Boston hopes to keep the momentum going on Saturday when they travel to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets. Puck is scheduled to drop at 7:00 ET and the game will be televised on NESN.

2014 NHL WINTER CLASSIC- The 2015 NHL Winter Classic has come and gone- taking place at Nationals Park in Washington DC on New Years day with the Capitals hosting the Blackhawks.

The Capitals got out to a pretty quick 2-0 lead with tallies by Eric Fehr and Alex Ovechkin, but thanks to goals by Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad, the Blackhawks were able to tie the contest up at 2-2 in the second. It looked as though the contest would be headed to overtime, but a late penalty on the Blackhawks led to a Caps power play and with 12 seconds left in regulation, Troy Brouwer was able to give Washington a 3-2 lead with a late goal on the man advantage. The Capitals would hang on to win in the remaining 11 seconds of regulation by a final of 3-2.

According to and TSN's Bob McKenzie, Boston is reportedly the front-runner to host the 2016 Winter Classic. Fenway Park was the host for the 2010 Winter Classic where the Bruins hosted the Flyers. However, there has been no official word from the NHL and other venues such as Denver or the Twin Cities are also reportedly under consideration. An announcement from the league is expected by February.

NCAA WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL- Regrettably, I missed most of the Volleyball season- although I was able to catch some of the finals back in December.

The Brigham Young Cougars women's volleyball team holds the distinction of becoming the first NCAA women's volleyball program to advance to the finals after upending #14 Nebraska and #2 Texas. However the Lady Cougars were swept by defending champions Penn State. This would be the Nittany Lions 2nd consecutive women's volleyball title, giving Penn State an NCAA record total of seven volleyball titles and their sixth in the last eight years.

BYU fell in three sets (21-25, 24-26 and 14-25) to the Nittany Lions at Oklahoma City's Chesapeake Center. Nittany Lion juniors Megan Courtney and Aiyana Whitney led the offense with 11 kills each while senior Nia Grant had nine kills to her credit.

NCAA FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP- With the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl serving as a playoff for the first ever NCAA FBS Championship playoff, the Oregon Ducks made quick work of the Florida State Seminoles on New Year's Day [with Ducks fans and players mocking QB Jameis Winston by chanting "Noooo means Noooo!" to the tune of the Seminoles fight song after the game- NANESB!] after beating FSU by a 59-20 final. The loss was Florida State's first in 29 games- including last year's NCAA Championship game, which was the last under the old system.

Later on that day, the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans would determine who the Ducks faced in the NCAA title game. This one turned out to be much closer, with the Ohio State Buckeyes prevailing over Alabama by a 42-35 final. This set up a Jan 12th meeting between the Ducks and Buckeyes at AT&T stadium in Arlington, TX for all the marbles [for the first time ever, no less- NANESB!]. Early in the matchup that featured Heisman-winning QB Marcus Mariotta against the Buckeye's 3rd string quarterback was going Oregon's way early on, with the Ducks getting out to an early 7-0 lead before Ohio State seemed to find their footing and go on to win by a 42-20 thanks in large part to Ezekiel Elliot's 4TD and 246 yard performance.

NCAA FCS CHAMPIONSHIP- After holding off a late rally by Illinois State, the North Dakota State Bison have won their fourth straight FCS title last weekend. The NDSU Bison were trailing the Redbirds 27-23 late before re-taking the lead on a 5 yard rushing TD from Carson Wentz to give North Dakota State a 29-27 lead. Just to make the final minute of regulation more interesting, the point after attempt was successfully blocked by the Redbirds.

With less than a minute to go, Illinois State was able to put together a drive that got them to midfield, but with just 8 seconds left, Redbirds QB Tre Robertson threw an interception to seal the win for the Bisons.

NBA- It's the end of the era for the Boston Celtics as the last of the Big Three from the 2008 Championship team was traded away to the Dallas Mavericks. In return for Rondo, Dallas will send Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder and Jameer Nelson to the C's and Boston will also receive a conditional first round pick in the 2015 draft and a second round pick in the 2016 draft.

Rondo, who had spent his entire NBA career in a Celtics uniform prior to the December 18th trade, returned to the Garden on January 2nd and had a season best 29 points as the Mavericks cruised to a 119-101 win over the Celtics.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

US Army Rejects Beretta Proposal for Updated Version of M9 Service Pistol

The US Army has announced that it will be seeking to replace their current M9 series sidearm, presenting a rare and lucrative opportunity for small arms manufacturers both here and overseas. However, the manufacturer of the current Army sidearm may be on the outside looking in.

The Pentagon has invited gunmakers to submit designs for a “modular handgun system.”

Beretta has produced 600,000 M9s for the Department of Defense and is still under contract to produce another 100,000. The M9s were initially made in Italy, but they have been manufactured in the U.S. since 1987.

The venerable Italian arms manufacturer has been in business since 1526 and their 92 series 9mm pistol was chosen to replace the Colt 1911A1 as the US military handgun in the late 1980s. The military version of the Model 92- known in all four branches as the M9- features a metal frame, slide-mounted safety and 15 round magazine. In December, Beretta introduced the M9A3 which featured improvements such as a removable, modular wrap-around grip, a threaded barrel, tritium sights, an under-barrel accessory rail and a 17-round magazine. The pistol itself is sand-colored, a change from the current gunmetal black. Another selling point Beretta highlighted is that the M9A3 would be interchangeable with components and accessories from the current batch of M9s.

However, the Army rejected Beretta's proposal this month and the new Modular Handgun System will most likely use an entirely different platform. Given the widespread use of Glock handguns by police agencies throughout the United States as well as some NATO allies, it would seem logical that some variation of the polymer-framed 9mm Glock 17 was evaluated at some point. Although relatively new, Smith and Wesson's Polymer-framed M&P series pistol is also being evaluated by the Army as a replacement for the M9. Despite being around for less than a decade, Smith & Wesson's M&P series has been adopted by a number of law enforcement agencies in the US, Canada, Europe and Australia- even replacing earlier versions of Glocks in some instances. Smith & Wesson's [NASDAQ: SWHC] bid for the lucrative Modular Handgun System contract will be assisted by General Dynamics [NYSE: GD] Ordnance and Tactical Systems.

Another possibility could be Modular Handgun System being awarded to SIG-Sauer. The US Army Criminal Investigative Division presently carries the SIG P228 [designated the M11- NANESB!] and the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command ordered 5000 polymer-framed SIG SP2022 9mm pistols. The SP2022 has a number of features similar to SIG-Sauer's full-size P226 series pistols, but is lighter thanks to the polymer frame.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

At Least 12 Killed After Islamist Gunmen Attack Office of French Magazine, Assailants Still At Large

Editors of a popular French magazine and three local police officers were killed when masked gunmen stormed the offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris on Wednesday and opened fire. The magazine was firebombed a few years ago after they had published cartoon images of the Islamic prophet Mohammed and chief editor Stéphane Charbonnier was assigned a police bodyguard. Both Charbonnier and his police bodyguard were killed after shortly after the gunmen had forced their way into the building. Eyewitnesses and survivors said that the attack inside the Charlie Hebdo office lasted five minutes and that the three masked gunmen spoke French fluently but also called out "Allah Akhbar!". As local police responded to reports of gunfire in the area and the gunmen opened fire on two officers [both reportedly unarmed- NANESB!]- one of the attackers was videotaped walking up to a wounded policeman laying on the sidewalk and shooting him point blank before getting in a car and driving off with his accomplices. By Wednesday night, the youngest suspect in the attacks had turned himself in to authorities in suburban Paris.

The two suspects still at large have been identified as two brothers- Said Kourachi, 34, and his younger brother Cherif Kourachi, 32. Both suspects were known to both US and French officials- both of them were placed on Homeland Security's No-Fly list while Cherif was jailed for 18 months for attempting travel to Syria in order to aid Islamist fighters fighting US troops in Iraq. More recently, both brothers are said to have travelled to Yemen in 2011 and received training with Al Qaeda affiliates in the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Wreckage Found Off Coast of Borneo May Be That of Missing Air Asia Flight 8501

Searchers combing the waters between Borneo and Sumatra may have found the wreckage of an Air Asia flight that disappeared off of radar screens abruptly early Sunday morning. Prior to losing contact with Air Traffic Control in Indonesia, Air Asia flight QZ8501 took off from Surabaya on the island of Java enroute to Singapore.

While over the Karimata Strait, the crew requested clearance to change altitude from 32,000 feet to 38,000 feet to avoid storm clouds. Permission was denied by Indonesian controllers due to already heavy traffic in the area. Less than 45 minutes into its flight, the Airbus A320 disappeared from screens with 162 people on board and no distress signal sent.

Searchers began scouring the area of QZ88501's last known whereabouts with aircraft and sonar within hours of the flight's disappearance. After nearly 48 hours, searchers believed they had spotted debris from the air and bodies were being recovered from the sea by helicopter and warship. Horrified relatives waiting on news regarding their loved ones were reportedly shown images from Indonesian media of a helicopter crew retrieving a dead body floating from the sea.

By early Wednesday, Indonesian officials said that they had obtained what appeared to be sonar images of an airplane upside down on the sea floor. Meanwhile, Air Asia CEO Tony Fernandes sent out a tweet that confirmed the debris spotted by Indonesian searchers was in fact the remnants of QZ8501.

The A320 used by the Kuala Lumpur-based airline was reportedly purchased new from Airbus in 2008, According to the passenger manifest, all but 7 of QZ8501's passengers and crew were from Indonesia. Other nationalities on board included South Korea, Malaysia, the UK, Singapore and France.

Air Asia was started in 1993 and is widely considered to be southeast Asia's first viable budget airline.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Today's Train of Thought- Merry Christmas!, Dec 25th 2014

With the world seeming as though it's spiraling out of control with each passing day, it certainly is nice to be able to unwind among friends and loved ones around the Holidays where our concerns may be no more grave than getting black olives on the wrong half of the pizza you ordered for everyone or questioning whether or not a gift card could be considered tacky and impersonal.

This Christmas-card worthy scene that you see here takes place in Caledonia County, Vermont, which is a little ways away from Washington County. Yet despite not going through Washington County [which is where Vermont's capital of Montpelier is located- NANESB!], this line is named after Washington County.

Once upon a time, the Washington County Railroad served the quarries and Bombardier plant around Montpelier, VT. In the 1990s, the railway suffered a catastrophic enginehouse fire, destroying their only two locomotives. After operating under a few different interim operators, the Vermont Railway ended up acquiring the WACR in 1999. By 2003, the Iron Road Railways- which had acquired the Bangor & Aroostook, the former Canadian Pacific mainline between Brownville Jct, ME and St Jean Quebec and the former B&M line from Newport, VT to White River Jct- filed for bankruptcy. Most of the original Bangor & Aroostook as well as the newer Canadian-Atlantic railway linking northern Maine to Montreal was reorganized under the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic [which was in turn re-established as the Central Maine & Quebec after the disastrous 2013 Lac Megantic train wreck and explosion bankrupted the MM&A- NANESB!]. However, the Newport to White River Jct line was acquired by the state of Vermont and almost immediately subcontracted to the Vermont Railway [similar to what the Green Mountain state did in response to the Rutland Railroad's 1963 bankruptcy- NANESB!]. The line was operated under the Washington County- or WACR- banner with the original Washington County trackage around Montpelier being referred to as the Granite District and the 100+ mile line threading its way through northeastern Vermont being referred to as the Connecticut River Division.

As you can probably gather from this image, the WACR is in fact affiliated with the Vermont Railway system. In this winter vignette shown above, the crew of this Washington County Railroad plow train appears to have not that much in the way of accumulated snowfall to worry about. NERail photos contributor Richard Deuso caught Vermont Railway GP40-2 #308 leading a Clarendon & Pittsford GP38 through Lyndonville, VT on January 3rd, 2013 with a VTR snowplow on point. Interestingly, the 308 didn't venture too far from its original haunt, since it started out life as Boston & Maine #303 in 1977.

It doesn't look like there's a lot of snow to clear on this bright winter day, so it's possible it's en route to being repositioned elsewhere for future use.

Friday, December 19, 2014

2014 College Football Bowl Schedule Update

I'm aware that I'm long overdue for a Sports Chowdah update, but right now about all I have time for is a quick rundown of the upcoming NCAA Bowl games starting Saturday.

Saturday, Dec 20th
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Nevada vs. UL Lafayette
11:00 a.m. ET ESPN

Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Utah State vs. UTEP
2:20 p.m. ET ESPN

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
#22 Utah vs. Colorado State
3:30 p.m. ET ABC

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Western Michigan vs. Air Force
5:45 p.m. ET ESPN

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
South Alabama vs. Bowling Green
9:15 p.m. ET ESPN

Monday, Dec 22nd
Miami Beach Bowl
BYU vs. Memphis
2:00 p.m. ET ESPN

Tuesday, Dec 23rd
Boca Raton Bowl
Marshall vs. Northern Illinois
6:00 p.m. ET ESPN

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Navy vs. San Diego State
9:30 p.m. ET ESPN

Wednesday, Dec 24th
Popeyes Bahamas Bowl
Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky
12:00 p.m. ET ESPN

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
Fresno State vs. Rice
8:00 p.m. ET ESPN

Friday, Dec 26th
Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl
Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech
1:00 p.m. ET ESPN

Quick Lane Bowl
Rutgers vs. North Carolina
4:30 p.m. ET ESPN

Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl
NC State vs. UCF
8:00 p.m. ET ESPN

Saturday, Dec 27th
Military Bowl
Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech
1:00 p.m. ET ESPN

Hyundai Sun Bowl
#15 Arizona State vs. Duke
2:00 p.m. ET CBS

Duck Commander Independence Bowl
Miami, FL vs. South Carolina
3:30 p.m. ET ABC

New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Boston College vs. Penn State
4:30 p.m. ET ESPN

National University Holiday Bowl
Nebraska vs. #24 USC
8:00 p.m. ET ESPN

Monday, Dec 29th
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Texas A&M vs. West Virginia
2:00 p.m. ET ESPN

Russell Athletic Bowl
#17 (17) Clemson vs. Oklahoma
5:30 p.m. ET ESPN

AdvoCare Texas Bowl
Arkansas vs. Texas
9:00 p.m. ET ESPN

Tuesday, Dec 30th
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Notre Dame vs. #23 LSU
3:00 p.m. ET ESPN

Belk Bowl
#13 Georgia vs. #21 Louisville
6:30 p.m. ET ESPN

Foster Farms Bowl
Maryland vs. Stanford
10:00 p.m. ET ESPN

Wednesday, Dec 31st
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
#9 Ole Miss vs. #6 TCU
12:30 p.m. ET ESPN

Vizio Fiesta Bowl
#20 Boise State vs. #10 Arizona
4:00 p.m. ET ESPN

Capital One Orange Bowl
#7 Mississippi State vs. #12 Georgia Tech
8:00 p.m. ET ESPN

Thursday, Jan 1st
Outback Bowl
#19 Auburn vs. #18 Wisconsin
12:00 p.m. ET EPSN2

Goodyear Cotton Bowl
#8 Michigan State vs. #5 Baylor
12:30 p.m. ET ESPN

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl
#25 Minnesota vs. #16 Missouri
1:00 p.m. ET ABC

Rose Bowl**
#2 Oregon vs. #3 Florida State
4:30 p.m. ET ESPN

Allstate Sugar Bowl**
#1 Alabama vs. #4 Ohio State
8:30 p.m. ET ESPN

Friday, Jan 2nd
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Houston vs. Pittsburgh
12:00 p.m. ET ESPN

TaxSlayer Bowl
Iowa vs. Tennessee
3:20 p.m. ET ESPN

Valero Alamo Bowl
#11 Kansas State vs #14 UCLA
6:45 p.m. ET ESPN

TicketCity Cactus Bowl
Washington vs. Oklahoma State
10:15 p.m. ET ESPN

Saturday, Jan 3rd
Birmingham Bowl
East Carolina vs. Florida
12:00 ET ESPN

Sunday, Jan 4th
GoDaddy Bowl
Toledo vs. Arkansas State

Monday, Jan 12th
College Football Championship Game
Semifinal [Rose Bowl] Winner vs. Semifinal {sugar Bowl] Winner

**denotes national championship semifinal under new NCAA Football playoff format
8:30 p.m. ET ESPN

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sony Pulls The Interview From Theaters After Suspected North Korean Hackers Issue Threats

Sony Films announced this week that they were cancelling the release of the Seth Rogen comedy The Interview after the studio's emails and files were on the receiving end of a sophisticated hack.
Sony has confirmed it has no plans to release the satirical film The Interview internationally, in any form, following threats from hackers.

Cinemas in the US cancelled screenings of the film, about a plot to kill North Korea's leader, prompting Sony to shelve it altogether.

But there has been dismay in Hollywood, with Ben Stiller calling the move "a threat to freedom of expression".

Hackers had issued a warning to cinema-goers who planned to watch the movie.

Sony said it was "deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie".

"We respect and understand our partners' decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theatre-goers," the studio said.

It added: "We stand by our film-makers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome."

The cancellation comes after hackers calling themselves Guardians of Peace released emails and data stolen from Sony in late November.

In a later warning to cinemas screening The Interview, they referred to the 9/11 attacks, claiming "the world will be full of fear".

"Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time," the hacker group wrote, in a message on Tuesday.

"Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment."

Sony had given theatres in the US and Canada the option to bow out of showing The Interview in the wake of the threats.

Sony had given theater chains throughout North America the option to pull out of showing The Interview. Once major chains like Regal Cinemas [NYSE- RGC], Cinemark [NYSE- CNK] and AMC Cinemas [NYSE- AMC] opted out of distributing the film that reportedly had a cascading effect on other distributors.

The comedy stars Seth Rogen and James Franco as two bumbling Hollywood insiders who manage to land an interview with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and are recruited by the CIA to assassinate him.

The move by Sony to pull The Interview from its scheduled Christmas day release as condemned by many in Hollywood, Washington DC and on social media, with actor Rob Lowe [who has a cameo in the film, according to the IMDB- NANESB!] tweeting that Sony's decision "would've made Neville Chamberlain proud". Comedian Steve Carell simply tweeted a clip from Charlie Chaplin's 1940 satire The Great Dictator in which Chaplin was mimickinng Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's speeches and mannerisms.

Shortly after Sony announced the cancellation of The Interview, some theaters announced that they would be airing the 2004 comedy Team America: World Police which mocked Kim Jong Un's father and then North Korean-leader Kim Jong Il. However, Paramount Pictures has told theaters not to air the movie.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pakistan Taliban Murder 132 Schoolchildren in Peshewar Attack

Taliban gunmen and suicide bombers attacked an Army-run school in the Pakistani city of Peshewar on Tuesday, killing at least 132 students and 9 members of the school's staff. With gravely injured students being treated in nearby hospitals for burns as well as bullet and shrapnel wounds, the death toll may go even higher over the next few days.

Pupils as young as nine were shot in their classrooms, or picked off as they ran for cover or begged for help. Others died when the bombers detonated their suicide vests in the playground which was packed with youngsters.

"They dragged the students from classrooms and shot them with automatic rifles," Kashif Ali, 13, one of the injured pupils, said.

Muhammad Shakoor, another injured 13-year-old, said: "The militants pulled the students from beneath the desks and tables and killed them."

A spokesman for the Taliban said it had targeted the school, which served children of the military, in retaliation for the killing of jihadist fighters by the Pakistan army.
As Pakistani troops moved in to secure the grounds of the school, horrific accounts from eyewitnesses and survivors began trickling out. In a classroom with about 60 pupils, a Taliban suicide bomber entered and blew himself up. Others tell of a teacher being burned alive by Taliban gunmen as they forced the students to watch.

According to survivors, many students were gathered for a First Aid class that was to be given by Pakistani Army medics. There were at least six attackers and they reportedly went from room to room, shooting students as they hid under desks or behind bleachers. The attackers also seemed to know that the wives of some high-ranking Pakistani Army officers were present, bolstering claims that the assailants had inside information about the school.

The attacks come about a week after the Obama Administration released the Tehrek-i-Talibani's second in command after he was captured by US forces in Afghanistan during a 2013 raid. The timing of the massacre also came shortly after Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousefzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for continuing to speak out in favor of women's education after she was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen in her native Swat Valley in 2012. At age 17, Yousefzai is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize and her family condemned the Peshawar school attacks in statements to the media.