Thursday, November 28, 2013

Turkey Day Sports Chowdah Update- Patriots Buck Broncos in Historic Comeback; NHL Agrees to Massive Broadcast Deal with Rogers

Wow- very seldom does a marquee NFL game live up to the pre-game hype. Sunday night's Bronco's-Patriots matchup did exactly that, although you couldn't tell from the first half.

Steven Senne- AP
NFL- I'm not gonna lie to you. Part of the reason it took me so long to do a sports update is because Sunday night's game at Gillette left me at a loss for words (the good kind!). Sure preparations for Thanksgiving was part of it, but it's hard to summarize Sunday night's primetime Broncos-Patriots game in mere words, but here's my attempt-

To start off with, literally everything was going Denver's way in the first half at Foxborough. With just under 10 minutes to go in the first quarter, Stevan Ridley fumbled the ball which was promptly recovered by Broncos LB Von Miller and run back 60 yards for a TD to give Denver the early lead.

On New England's next possession, Brady was sacked and lost the ball on the Patriots own 28 yard line. Denver recovered and was able to punch it in from the Patriot's 10 yard line thanks to two carries by RB Knowshon Moreno to give the Broncos a startlingly quick 14-0 lead.

With Ridley benched, LeGarrette Blount came in at RB and on the 3rd play of New England's drive, fumbled the ball at mid-field. The Broncos recovered [starting to sense a pattern?- NANESB!] and Denver was once again in New England's red zone thanks to carries by Knowshown Moreno and Montee Ball. They got as close as the Patriot's 6 yard line before the Patriots defense came up with a huge sack of Peyton Manning, costing the Broncos 10 yards and forcing them to settle for a FG to make it a 17-0 game.

Denver added to their lead in the second quarter- although this was on a 70 yard TD drive engineered by Manning that started on the Broncos own 30- not capitalizing on a Patriots turnover (surprisingly). The drive was capped by a 10 yard TD pass from Manning to TE Jacob Tamme to but the Broncos out to a seemingly insurmountable 24-0 lead.

So- did you turn off the TV by this point? Either because you were a disgusted Patriots fan or were expecting a much better ballgame despite not being emotionally invested in either team? I gotta confess: I did- although I did end up tuning in for the 3rd quarter.

Brady broke Denver's shutout bid right out of the gate with a quick strike in the 3rd quarter. The Patriots started out from their own 20 to open up the second half and Brady moved the ball by passing to Kenbrell Thompkins, Rob Gronkowski and Shane Vereen before the Patriots got on the board with a 5 yard TD pass to WR Julian Edelman. This made it a 24-7 ballgame and the Patriots were down by a mere three TDs.

On the Broncos first possession of the second half, Denver got the ball as far as midfield before Montee Ball fumbled and Pats LB Brandon Spike recovered, giving New England the ball back on the Denver 32. With the short field, Brady got inside the Broncos red zone thanks to completions to Gronkowski and Vereen before RB Brandon Bolden was able to punch it in on a 1 yard TD run to make it a 10 point game with the better part of one and a half quarters of football to play. Those Patriots fans optimistic enough to be talking about a comeback at halftime were suddenly starting to look downright prophetic.

The 3rd quarter wrapped up the way it began- with a quick scoring drive from the New England offense. Thanks to an 11 yard return from Edelman (who had fumbled earlier in the game), the Patriots started out on their own 35 yard line. The drive began with a completion from Brady to WR Kenbrell Thompkins for 14 yards to put the ball at mid-field before Brady connected with Edelman for a 43 yard pass to put the ball on the Denver 8. With 19 seconds to go in the 3rd, the Patriots made it a three point game thanks to an 8 yard TD pass from Brady to Gronkowski to make it 21-24.

Starting out from their own 22, the Broncos were able to run exactly one play in their first possession of the 4th quarter before Peyton Manning was picked off by rookie cornerback Logan Ryan. Starting from the Denver 30, New England required just two passes from Tom Brady- a 15 yard completion to Gronkowski and a 14 yard TD pass to Julian Edelman to give New England a 28-24 edge, their first lead of the night and seemingly impossible scenario during halftime.

The Patriots were able to add to their lead thanks to a lengthy drive that started out from their own 47 that took just under 5 minutes- although the Broncos defense stiffened and forced the Patriots to settle for a 31 yard Gostkowski FG to make it 31-24.

However, the Broncos weren't done yet. After getting the ball back on their own 25, Peyton Manning led a drive down to the New England red zone where they were able to tie up the ballgame thanks to a 7 yard Demariyus Thomas TD catch to know up the game at 31-31 with 3:06 remaining in the 4th.

Both the Patriots and Broncos weren't able to able to do much of anything in the remainder of regulation, forcing OT. Interestingly, the Patriots won the coin toss but Belichick elected to give the Broncos the ball to start out the OT.

Just like the end of regulation, both teams weren't able to do much of anything with Denver getting the ball into New England territory before a 10 yard penalty forced them to punt. The Broncos were then able to pin the Patriots back inside their own 20 on the ensuing punt, and New England was able to get as far as their own 37 before they had to punt on 4th and 4.

This went on for awhile, and it appeared as though the NFL would have its second tie game of the day [earlier in the day, the Vikings and Packers played to a 26-26 tie at Lambeau Field- NANESB!] but when the Patriots punted with 3:01 left in OT. Former Patriots WR Wes Welker was set to field the ball inside the 20, but the ball made contact with Denver WR Tony Carter, making it a live ball that Pats Safety Nate Ebner recovered at the Denver 13 yard line. After two runs up the middle, it was decided to go for the chip-shot FG on 3rd and 10 with 2:00 left in OT. Gostkowski's kick was good from 31 yards to give New England the 34-31 OT win.

Tom Brady went 34-50 with 344 yards and 3 TD passes while getting sacked 3 times. Peyton Manning went 19-36 with 150 yards, 2 TDs, 2 sacks and an interception. Wes Welker had a total of 31 yards and was a conspicuous non-factor in his return to New England while Knowshon Moreno had 224 rushing yards and 1 TD for the Broncos. For the Patriots, Julian Edelman had 110 receiving yards on 11 catches with 2 TD receptions.

The comeback from 24-0 is the biggest in the history of the New England Patriots and the ratings were the highest for a November football game in 17 years and the highest rated contest since NBC began the Sunday Night Football telecast in 2006.

For this upcoming Sunday, New England will travel to the Lone Star State to take on the Houston Texans on Sunday afternoon with a kickoff scheduled for 1:00 ET. The rematch of the 2012 Divisional playoffs will be televised on CBS.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NFL- Since it's Thanksgiving, this means that both the Cowboys and Lions will be playing [Not each other, tho- apparently the universe will collapse upon itself if Dallas and Detroit ever play each other on Thanksgiving- NANESB!].

The Detroit Lions will host NFC north rival Green bay at Ford Field- that game is scheduled for a 12:30 ET kickoff and is scheduled to be televised on FOX.

Later on in the day, the Dallas Cowboy will take on the Oakland Raiders at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. The contest is set for a 4:25 ET kickoff and will be televised on CBS.

To wrap things up, the Baltimore Ravens will host the Pittsburgh Steelers for an AFC North matchup on a game that will be televised on NBC with a kickoff scheduled for 8:30 ET.

NHL- HUGE news out of Canada heading into the Thanksgiving break [ours, not theirs- NANESB!]. The National Hockey League and Rogers Communications [NYSE- RCI: TSX- RCI-A & RCI-B] have agreed to a 12 year, C$5.3 billion deal to broadcast NHL games in Canada, blindsiding competitors such as TSN and the state run Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

This isn't just Rogers getting a bigger slice of the pie- this is basically Rogers buying up the Marie Callendar's chain while TSN and the CBC were waiting for their waitress to bring them a slice of the pie and then telling TSN and the CBC that they've secured the rights to any pies sold for the next 12 years.

Under the deal, the CBC will retain their iconic Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts, but only after Rogers has already selected their first pick for that night's matchup on their networks.

The deal with Rogers- Canada's largest wireless and cable provider- also includes rights to the Stanley Cup playoffs and the Stanley Cup finals. Although no official announcement has been made, it's widely believed that Rogers will re-sell some rights to Bell Canada [NYSE- BCE]- Bell and Rogers are joint majority owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Curiously, ADRs of Rogers traded on the New York Stock Exchange were down slightly after the announcement.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NHL- Wow...that was pretty embarrassing.

The Boston Bruins headed into the Thanksgiving weekend on the wrong end of an absolute beatdown at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings as the Bruins lost by a 6-1 final on Wednesday night at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena. Jarome Iginla accounted for the lone Bruins goal (which came late) while the Red Wings got tallies from Justin Abdelkader, Tomas Tatar, Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall, Drew Miller and Gustav Nyquist.

The loss ends a 5-game streak where the Bruins managed to get at least one point and had won eight of their last 10 games.

The Bruins will return back to the TD Garden for a Friday afternoon for another Original 6 matchup when they host the New York Rangers. Puck is scheduled to drop at 1:00 ET and the game will be televised on NBC.

NCAA FOOTBALL- Big upset last weekend in the top 25 standings as the only undefeated team in the Big 12 was felled by a conference opponent late in the regular season- and it wasn't even close.

In Stillwater, OK, the Oklahoma State Cowboys managed to put up 49 points on the #3 ranked Baylor Bears on Saturday night, going on to win by a final of 49-17. At halftime, the Bears were trailing by a score of 14-3, but Oklahoma State came out in the second half to score three unanswered TDs in the 3rd quarter and won this one going away. Baylor slips to #9 in the AP standings while OSU vaults past them into #7.

So out of all the Top 25 teams, this leaves Alabama, Florida State, Northern Illinois and Fresno State as the remaining undefeated teams as they head into 'rivalry week' and their respective conference championships.

Perhaps the most compelling Rivalry Week matchup will be Saturday's Iron Bowl between #1 Alabama and a resurgent Auburn program, who comes into this weekend ranked #4. Kickoff from Auburn is scheduled for 3:30 ET and the game will be televised on CBS and can be heard on XM Channels 86 and 91.

Other Rivalry week matchups featuring undefeated teams from the BCS Top 25 include #16 Fresno State on the road against San Jose State on Friday- kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 PM ET on Friday afternoon and the game will be televised on CBS Sports network.

#2 Florida State, meanwhile, will travel to Gainesville, FL to take on the struggling Florida Gators, who are coming off a 26-20 stunning home loss to FCS Georgia Southern. To round out the BCS undefeteds, #14 Northern Illinois thumped the Western Michigan Mustangs by a 33-14 final on Tuesday night and will await the winner of Friday's Buffalo-Bowling Green State game for the MAC title game on December 6th.

To round out the BCS undefeateds on Rivalry Week, #3 Ohio State travels to the Big House in Ann Arbor, MI for The Game- that kicks off at 12:00 PM ET and will be televised on ABC and XM Channel 91.

While it doesn't involve an undefeated BCS title contender, another rivalry game of potential interest will pit #6 Clemson against #10 South Carolina, which kicks off at 7:00 ET and will be televised on ESPN.

BOSTON COLLEGE- No record-setting afternoon for RB Andre Williams, but the senior RB had a productive afternoon nonetheless on Saturday with 2 TD runs and 263 yards total against Maryland in the Eagles' 29-26 win over the Terps.

The final game of the regular season also happens to rekindle the old Big East-era rivalry with Syracuse as the Eagles will travel to the Carrier Dome to take on the Big Orange for the first time in three years and for the first time with Syracuse as a member of the ACC. This will be the Eagle's first trip to the Carrier Dome in 9 years and Syracuse needs a win to be bowl eligible while Boston College is looking to run the table and win their fifth straight game.

Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 ET and the game on XM channel 191 and will be streamed on ESPN3.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

White House, Democrats Announce New 'Berate Your Family' Charm Offensive For the Holidays

If you're travelling to visit loved ones this Thanksgiving or Hanukkah, the Democrats and Obama Administration have made it clear that they would like you to incessantly pester your loved ones about the merits of 0bamacare (or gun control) in an attempt to sugarcoat the flailing 0bamacare rollout.
From Obama's own website which shockingly, actually works:
This holiday season, millions of Americans have a chance to get quality, affordable health insurance—many for the first time. If you have family members who are uninsured, you can play a big part in helping them find coverage that works for them. It might not always seem like it, but your family listens to you. So have the talk.
He's actually encouraging people to print up these lying points and to, I don't know, recite them at Thanksgiving dinner? This sort of flies in the face of his reassuring back-patting and confidence in you being your family's healthcare policy expert if you have to rely on pathetic propaganda you printed up. It's got pretty colors and paint-by-number instructions, so maybe this shit will fly over at the kids' table, but I wouldn't be so quick to try this in front of adults. Hungry and varying degrees of intoxicated adults who just want to watch football and be left alone.

If you can't catch the Chris Hayes "how to talk to conservatives about Obamacare at Thanksgiving dinner" special, don't worry, the same thing has already been printed in a number of newspapers and magazines across the country. From WaPo: A guide to surviving Obamacare debates at Thanksgiving.
That's the part of the health-care law that isn't working. But in some states that built their own insurance marketplaces, Obamacare is working--and the health law is meeting enrollment projections. California, for example, has signed up 80,000 people for coverage and Washington has enrolled nearly 12,000. These examples are limited, but the suggest that the problem isn't with demand but a technical one. We won't know whether this is true everywhere, though, until is fixed.
[What they neglect to mention is that an estimated 900,000 people in California have lost their individual health insurance policies under 0bamacare, so even if the 80,000 figure is accurate the ratio of those who lost their insurance plans still vastly outnumbers the enrolled under California's 0bamacare exchange- NANESB!]

Yeah, go with that.

Next up, Huffington Post, who is not even trying to hide what side of this debate they're on: Here's Every Argument You'll Need To Win Your Obamacare Debate This Thanksgiving.

We've all got a crazy uncle we love. He might not even technically be an uncle -- it's not something the family likes to get into -- but he's there at Thanksgiving every year just the same, getting heavy handed with the 1.5-liter wine bottle, insisting on calling the dog "bitch," starting with off-color jokes that made people uncomfortable even before the country "evolved" and finishing with a tea party-inspired screed about the Kenyan in the White House. We'll call him Uncle Hank.
Those plans were terrible anyway -- high deductibles, no hospital coverage, dropped you if you got sick, etc. It wasn't insurance if you actually needed it. Cite an example from a family member here who's gotten screwed by an insurer. Shouldn't be hard to find.

Your plan sucks Uncle Hank, you dumb slack-jawed hick. Get over it.

Slate jumps in as well. They're not content with just bringing up Obamacare, they actually want you to fight about it: How To Pick a Fight With Your Relatives This Thanksgiving

2) Getting Started. First off, you should wait until everyone's seated at the table before you try to get things started. That way you have a captive audience that has to watch the fireworks, and everyone is settled in for a nice long time. Getting the topic of conversation to politics shouldn't be too hard. Stick to short, sarcastic, tendentious remarks to get things going. "I'm thankful for all that free stuff Obama gave me." Once you've engaged the enemy, it won't take much effort to pivot to whatever particular subject you feel most comfortable with. A good Thanksgiving skirmish will scamper from topic to topic wildly and without warning, but it's best to begin by digging into one particularly contentious subject to get tempers flared.

"Get in their faces". I remember someone saying that once.

There are others out there, even in local papers like the Denver Post and the Pittsburgh Courier. I'm sure there will be more before Thursday. But what if you don't feel like talking about Obamacare, what with the steady, embarrassing and collapsing failure and all? Well don't you worry one bit, because there are other liberal causes you can awkwardly bring up as well! Michael Bloomberg wants you to start talking about gun control, for instance.

Lovely people, aren't they? And of course, all coincidental.

Perhaps completely unrelated, the White House had a closed-door meeting with select journalists from the Washington Post, MNSBC, the Huffington Post and Mother Jones last week, reportedly to coordinate damage control over the 0bamacare rollout. The media has also been attempting to find positive stories about the 0bamacare experience in the wake of last week's meetings.

Despite the happy talk by some media outlets, a number of state-run 0bamacare exchanges had only a fraction of the anticipated number of enrollees- in some cases falling well short of projected 'worst case scenario' numbers.

[Hat tip- Ace of Spades; Weasel Zippers]

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Today's Train of Thought- Reading (and Northern) Rainbow, November 23rd 2013

Today's Train of Thought takes us to Anthracite Country in eastern Pennsylvania and features the regional Reading & Northern. Since its modest beginnings in 1983 as a 13 mile former Conrail branchline outside of Reading, PA, the railroad has been able to weather the ups-and-downs of railroading in the northeastern USA better than most, growing to its current size of more than 300 miles.

Besides anthracite coal, customers for the Reading & Northern include the Yuengling Brewery and Kimberly Clark Paper. Up until recently, the Canadian Pacific utilized trackage rights over R&N's former Lehigh Valley line between Scranton and Leighton, PA to reach Philadelphia under an agreement with the Delaware & Hudson as part of the 1976 formation with Conrail. The line through the Lehigh River Gorge is also home to the Jim Thorpe, PA based Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway which operate popular excursions out of the former Central Railroad of New Jersey depot in Jim Thorpe. Power for these excursions can be anything from a 1980s built SD50 to the R&N's striking blue 1928-built 4-6-2 Baldwin.

However, the Reading & Northern remains primarily a freight-hauling outfit that traverses the same scenic terrain as the Lehigh Gorge Scenic railway as well as other, less frequently traveled lines.

Here, photographer Chris Starnes caught Reading & Northern SD40-2 #3058 in charge of freight MCQA [Mount Carmel to TamaQuA, PA- NANESB!] heading eastbound through fall foliage at Barnesville, PA in October 2012. Today's train is waiting for a track crew just up the line to finish up before continuing east to Tamaqua- the pair of SD40s started out life on the Union Pacific and are painted in colors reminiscent of the original Reading Railroad.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Long Overdue Sports Chowdah Update, Tarheel Edition- Patriots Fall to Panthers on Disputed Call; Boston College Routs Wolfpack At Chestnut Hill

Bob Leverone- AP
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS- New England's only Monday night game of the 2013 season ended on a contentious note in the 4th quarter as the Patriots ended up losing on what turned out to be the final play of the game.

With Carolina re-taking the lead with less than a minute to go on a 25 yard TD pass from Cam Newton to WR Ted Ginn Jr, New England started out on their own 20 with 59 seconds left. The Patriots managed to move the ball down as far as the Panthers 18 yard line thanks to a 23 yard completion to Gronkowski on 4th and 10 and a Carolina penalty. As time expired, Carolina safety Robert Lester picked off Brady in the end zone and the game was seemingly over before a flag was thrown. Initially it appeared as though the Patriots would get one untimed down since the game couldn't end on a defensive penalty, but after the officials conferred the flag was picked up and it was announced that the game was over.

Tom Brady went 29-40 with 296 yards with 1 TD and an interception while Carolina QB Cam Newton went 19-28 with 209 passing yards, 61 rushing yards and 3 TDs on Monday. Both teams now sport identical 7-3 records, with Carolina in 2nd place behind New Orleans.

Carolina goes on to win by the final of 24-20 on the disputed call (then non-call) on New England's only Monday night game. However, there's more prime-time football on the horizon for New England as they will host the 9-1 Denver Broncos at Foxborough on Sunday night. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:30 PM ET and the game will be televised on NBC.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NFL- Speaking of the Denver Broncos, this will be their second consecutive Sunday Night Football matchup. Last week featured a matchup against Kansas City where the Broncos handed the Chiefs their first loss of the season, winning at Mile High by a 27-17 final [no word on whether or not the remaining '72 Dolphins were still up to pop the cork- NANESB!]. Although both teams now sport an identical 9-1 record, the Broncos hold the advantage in the AFC West thanks to the tie-breaker going to the team with the best intradivisional record [Denver's only loss so far came from outside the AFC West when they played against the Indianapolis Colts- NANESB!].

There are several storylines heading into Sunday's game, particularly with Wes Welker returning to Gillette stadium as a Bronco for the first time and the buzz and anticipation that goes into any Peyton Manning/Tom Brady matchup.

Michael Dwyer- AP
BOSTON COLLEGE- The Boston College Eagles had their final home game of the 2013 season at Chestnut Hill on Saturday and finished it on a high note.

For starters, RB Andre Williams single-game rushing record set during week 11 against New Mexico State lasted exactly one week when he rushed for 336 yards against the North Carolina State Wolfpack- including three TDs.

The Eagles jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first thanks to a Nate Freese FG and Williams' first TD on the day before the Wolfpack got on the board with a Rashard Smith TD reception to close within three points early in the second before BC freshman Myles Willis rushed 19 yards for a touchdown to put BC up 17-7 at the half.

The Eagles would go on to romp in the second half, including Andre Williams TD runs of 65 and 34 yards respectively as the Eagles would go on to steamroll the Wolfpack by a 38-21. The win gives the Eagles a 6-4 record, including a 3-3 record within the ACC. The two remaining games for Boston College are on the road against Maryland on Saturday and Syracuse on Nov 30th at the Carrier Dome.

Kickoff for Saturday's game against the Terrapins is scheduled for 3:30 PM ET- the game will be streamed on ESPN3 and can be heard on XM satellite radio on channel 190.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

At Least 23 Reported Killed In Twin Bombings of Iran's Embassy in Lebanon

Hussein Mala/ AP

More islamist-on-islamist violence; almost certainly a spillover from the Syrian civil war.

Iran's cultural attaché to Lebanon was among more than 20 people reported killed in a terrorist attack targeting Iran's Embassy in the Lebanese capital of Beirut. Beirut is considered a stronghold of the Iranian-backed Islamic militia Hezbollah and their political arm collapsed the Lebanese government as recently as 2011.

A lesser-known Al Qaeda affiliated group called the Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming the bombings were retaliation for Hezbollah and Iran's support for the government of Bashr Al-Assad in Syria. Forces loyal to Assad have been fighting deserters from the Syrian army and Al Qaeda-aligned militants in a grinding, prolonged insurgency that has dragged on for nearly two years.

A Lebanese security official said the first suicide attacker was on a motorcycle that carried two kilograms (4.4lbs) of explosives. He blew himself up at the large black main gate of the Iranian mission, damaging the three-story facility, the official said.

Less than two minutes later, a second suicide attacker driving a car rigged with 50 kilograms (110lbs) of explosives struck about 10 metres away, the official said.

Iranian Ambassador Ghazanfar Roknabadi identified the dead diplomat as Sheikh Ibrahim Ansari. Speaking to Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV, he said Ansari took his post in Lebanon a month ago and was overseeing all regional cultural activities.

Lebanese Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said 23 people were killed and 146 wounded in the blasts.

Syrian officials indirectly blamed Saudi Arabia.

'Each of the terrorist attacks that strike in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq reek of petrodollars,' a Syrian government statement said, in a clear reference to oil-rich Gulf Arab countries that have sided with the Syrian rebels.

'People aren't sacred anymore. We aren't safe,' said a mechanic whose store windows were shattered by the blasts.

He declined to be identified because he did not want to be seen as involved in sectarian tensions that have split the Lebanese over Syria's conflict.

'People fight outside (Lebanon), but send their messages through Lebanon. With bombs. It's their SMS service,' he added.

Lebanese security officials confirmed the two bombings were both suicide attacks. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Earlier this year, a car bombing in a Hezbollah-controlled suburb of Beirut killed 27 people and injured more than 300. Syrian troops had occupied Lebanon as recently as 2005 until the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri triggered a wave of mass protests dubbed the Cedar Revolution that ultimately put pressure on the Assad to withdraw his army from Lebanon.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Today's Train of Thought- The Scab Cabs, November 18, 2013

Today's Train of Thought takes us north of the border and features an unusual aspect of Canadian National's operation.

What appears to be a regular mixed freight is actually a special train operated on the Canadian National for the sole purpose of familiarizing management personnel with hands on operation of freight trains. At first blush, the eventual purpose of such a train would be to press management into duty as train service crews in the event of any sort of labor disruption. This somewhat unusual train has been dubbed by some as 'the scab train' or 'manager's special'. On astute observer pointed out that the scab train primarily operates hauling ballast cars and empty flatcars, not 9000 foot freight trains loaded with hazardous or bulky materials.

Here, contributor Dan Tweedle caught one such train- officially designated Train 908- coming off the Dundas subdivision in southern Ontario as it approaches the yard in Hamilton, ON on November 4th, 2011 with the trees behind the tracks still displaying some fairly late color.

Friday, November 15, 2013

No Jackets Required Sports Chowdah Update- Boston College Cruises in Las Cruces; Check Your Jackets- Bruins Need OT to Get Past Columbus

NCAA FOOTBALL- Saturday's matchup between the Boston College Eagles and New Mexico State Aggies was a little unusual on a couple of different levels. For starters, unless it's Notre Dame or one of the Military academies, it's a quite unusual for Boston College to be playing an out of conference game this late in the season.

Also, like the Military academies or Notre Dame, Saturday's opponent was independent- along with the University of Idaho Vandals, the NMSU Aggies football program was abruptly 'orphaned' when the Western Athletic Conference pulled out of football altogether at the end of the 2012 season. This left both Idaho and NMSU without a conference as other WAC members such as Nevada, Fresno State, Hawaii, Utah State and San Jose State had jumped ship to the Mountain West conference and Louisiana Tech to Conference USA in recent years.

The fact that Saturday's game in Las Cruces, NM was officiated by a Sun Belt Conference officiating crew seemed to provide an indicator of the NMSU Aggies eventual new home. Coming into the Veteran's Day weekend game, the Aggies had won exactly one game- a 34-29 over FCS Abilene Christian on Octbober 26th while the Eagles were still giddy from their win over Virginia Tech at Chestnut Hill the week before.

That giddiness and overconfidence led to some sloppy early on in the game, however. After the Boston College defense forged the Aggies to go three and out on their first possession, the Eagle's David Dudeck fumbles the Aggie's punt, giving NMSU the ball at the Eagles' 29. After holding the Aggies on 3rd and 7, NMSU got on the board first with a 43 yard FG to make it 3-0.

Starting on their own 25, the Eagles would manage to tie the score up on their next possession when Nate Freese split the uprights from 51 yards. Boston College would then take the a 6-3 lead on their next possession when Freese connected on a 39 yarder.

The Eagles got their first TD of the day when QB Chase Rettig connected with TE Mike Naples for a 69 yard catch and run late in the first to make it 13-3.

However, the Aggies began chipping away at the Boston College lead with their first possession of the 2nd quarter, which was capped by a 14 yard TD pass from QB Andrew McDonald to WR Austin Franklin to make it a 3 point game at 13-10.

With under 4 minutes to go in the first half, Boston College took a 10 point lead on a 6 yard TD pass from Rettig to WR Harrison Jackson, but a game NMSU offense was able to move the ball 75 yards down the field in less than three minutes and hit paydirt with 30 seconds left in the half thanks to a 6 yard Xavier Hall TD run to once again make it a 3 point lead.

The second half started out looking as though it would be all Boston College with Chase Rettig connecting with WR Alex Amidon for a 30 yard TD pass to make it a 27-17 game. But the Eagles defense would have a hard time bottling up RB Xavier Hall as he ran for 42 yards before the Aggies once again closed to within 3 points thanks to another McDonald TD pass- this time to WR Jerrell Brown.

In the early going of the 4th quarter, Boston College managed to stop the NMSU in the Eagles' 12 yard line and limit the Aggies drive to a game-tying FG. The tie didn't long as Myles Willis returned the Aggies punt 98 yards to give Boston College the lead back, making it a 34-27 contest.

However, NMSU would manage to knot the game back up less than 2 minutes thanks to a 48 yard TD pass from McDonald to Franklin. With 5:33 left in the game, the Aggies special teams managed to pin the Eagles inside their own 3 yard line before the field got a little bit shorter thanks to a 5 yard penalty against NMSU and then an 80 yard TD run from RB Andre Williams to give Boston College the lead for good.

For good measure, Eagles LB Steven Daniels would pick off McDonald at mid-field and once again, Andre Williams would run for the TD to put Boston College up by a 48-34.

Although it was too close to comfort for awhile, Boston College goes on to win by a 48-34 final. This is Boston College's first road win since November 25th, 2011 when the Eagles beat Miami 24-17. Chase Rettig went 17 for 25 with 230 yards and 3 TD passes while Andre Williams had 30 carries for 295 yards- a BC record- as well as two late, pivotal touchdowns in the 4th quarter to put the Eagles up for good.

The remainder of the Eagles schedule has them playing against ACC teams, hosting the NC State Wolfpack at Chestnut Hill on Saturday Nov 16th. The season wraps up on Nov 30th at Syracuse's Carrier Dome against the Orangemen- who joined the ACC this season after jumping ship from the Big East last season.

NFL- No Patriots last week, but they'll come out of the bye week for their only Monday night game of the season- a road game against the 6-3 Carolina Panthers slated to kick off at 8:40 ET on ESPN.

NHL- Although it took overtime on Thursday night, the Bruins kept a 4-game winning streak going thanks to an unassisted Milan Lucic tally in OT against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Both teams were shut out on the power play with Boston going 0-1 and Columbus going 0-4. Tukka Rask had the night off and former Coyotes netminder Chad Johnson was between the pipes for the B's, stopping 32 of 34 shots faced while Sergei Bobrovsky turned aside 28 of the 31 shots he faced.

The Bruins will look to continue their winning streak against the Ottawa Senators on Friday night from the Scotiabank Centre.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

At Least 4400 Killed, Thousands More Missing After Typhoon Haiyan Plows Through Philippines

Ted Aljibe- AFP
While ships from the US and Royal Navy have moved into the region to support relief efforts, officials from the United Nations are saying that at least 4,460 people have been killed in the wake of last week's Typhoon Haiyan [also referred to as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines- NANESB!].

Local officials claim the death toll is much higher- as many as 10,000 on the island of Leyte alone- and while that can't be confirmed yet, the death toll is expected to rise. Hundreds of victims of the typhoon were reportedly buried in mass graves near the city of Tacloban with DNA samples being taken prior to burial so that Philippine authorities could eventually identify the dead.

As relief work and attempts to reach the hardest hit areas got underway, it's believed that more than 11 million Filipinos have been affected by Haiyan's rampage- this includes loss of a home or business or loss of electric power. With aid slow to arrive due to debris clogging roads in and around Tacloban and damage to the airport, there were reports of widespread looting in the area.

Crews are also working to restore power on Leyte. The city of Tacloban was down to one hospital with no power and most of the roof torn off to treat those injured by the typhoon.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Veteran's Day

Tom Story- photo

It is the soldier, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to assemble.

It is the soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the soldier, not the politician, Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the soldier who salutes the Flag, who serves under the flag.

And whose coffin is draped by the flag, Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Today's Train of Thought- The Wind In The Willow (City), November 7th, 2013


Today's Train of Thought Takes us to the northern Great Plains right around harvest time where a strategically placed stand of cottonwood trees could technically count as 'fall foliage'.

Before oil drilling in western North Dakota's Bakken shale took off and provided class 1 carriers such as BNSF or Canadian Pacific with exponential increases in traffic, wheat and grain were still big business for rail carriers in the Roughrider State.

Although Class 1 carriers like the BNSF have been experimenting with expedited 'shuttle' trains, by and large the grain has been gathered and shipped the same way for the last century or so with the harvested grain from nearby farms being shipped a short distance to a relatively centrally located elevator where they await further shipment in railcars. These small elevators were the Raison d'être for numerous branchlines throughout the US Great Plains and Canada's prairie provinces.

Here, contributor Mitch Wahlsten caught BNSF GP39M #2872 leading orange and Pullman green GP38AC #2161 past a stand of cottonwood trees changing colors on their way to pick up a cut of cars at the elevator in September 2007. This image is an increasingly rare example of a Class 1 providing branchline service- starting in the late 1970s, many marginal lines were abandoned or sold off to shortlines operators across the USA.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Fall Back Sports Chowdah Upate- Red Sox Love A Parade, Lose the Beards; Steelers Buckle In Foxborough; Hokies Experience Technical Difficulties At Chestnut Hill

WORLD SERIES- Several days after announcing that the Red Sox had won the 2013, I should probably get into some of the details on exactly HOW it all went down in Game 6.

If the Red Sox were to clinch their first World Series title at home since 1918, the had the somewhat daunting task of getting past Cardinals rookie sensation Michael Wacha- the phenom who was previously undefeated in the 2013 postseason. Wacha would go up against John Lackey, who had earned similar accolades with the Angels in the World Series 11 years ago.

Intent on taking a quick lead, the Cardinals came out swinging against Lackey in the top of the first. Although Carpenter, Beltran and Holliday hit the ball hard, they went in order with a flyball to left and two groundouts up the first base side of the infield.

Meanwhile, Wacha made quick work of the first two batters he faced before walking David Ortiz. Mike Napoli would then strike out to end the inning. In the top of the second, Lackey gave up back to back singles to Allen Craig and Yadier Molina, putting runners on first and second before getting matt Adams to fly out to left and Freese to fly out to right field. Craig and Molina would advance to second and third on a wild pitch with two away before Lackey got Jon Jay to strike out and end the Cardinals threat.

In the bottom of the second, the Red Sox would also get the first two batters on base thanks to a single from Johnny Gomes and a walk to Shane Victorino before getting Bogaerts and Drew to pop out and David Ross to strike out swinging to end the Red Sox threat.

While Wacha appeared to be laboring, the veteran Lackey was settling in, getting Descalso to strike out followed by a single to Matt Carpenter before Carlos Beltran grounded into a double play.

Unlike Game 2, the Red Sox would finally break through in the bottom of the 3rd. Jacoby Ellsbury led of the inning with a single before advancing to second on a Pedroia groundout. Erring on the side of caution, the Cardinals decided to intentionally walk David Ortiz and it appeared to pay immediate dividends as Wacha struck Napoli out. With two away, Gomes kept the inning alive for Boston after getting hit by a pitch- the first batter Wacha hit by a pitch in the entire playoffs.

With no score and two away, this loaded the bases for Victorino. The inning could end with one swing of the bat.....

....or clear the bases and put the Red Sox up 3-0. The inning ended when Bogaerts lined out to 3rd base, but that damage had been done and the Sox batters had rattled Wacha. The Cardinals would threaten with one away in the top of the 4th with an Allen Craig single and Molina reaching base safely on a rare Pedroia error before getting Adams to line out and David Freese to strike out to end the inning. Earlier in the day, President Obama was in town giving a pep rally to try and sell wavering supporters on the merits of the Affordable Care Act after a disastrous rollout. However, a slumping Stephen Drew would provide insurance in a much more tangible and useful form by leading off the bottom of the 4th with a solo homer that soared into the Red Sox bullpen to give Boston a 4-0 lead. David Ross would then strike out before Ellsbury doubled to deep right field, advancing to 3rd on a flyout by Pedroia.

Once again, the Cardinals intentionally walked David Ortiz before Wacha was pulled for Lance Lynn. Napoli brought Ellsbury home with an RBI single before walking Gomes. Victornio then singled to shallow left, bringing Big Papi home to make it a 6-0 game. After failing to get a single out, Cards maanger Mike Matheney brought Seth Manness out of the bullpen where he got Xander Bogaerts to strike out swinging to end the Red Sox rally. Lackey, meanwhile, looked as though he was cruising until the bottom of the 7th inning with two away before giving up a single to Descalso, followed by a Carpenter double to left before Carlos Beltran go the Cards on the board with an RBI single before Beltran advanced to second. After some back and forth between Lackey and Farrell in which the Red Sox manager wanted to pull the starter, Lackey stayed in against Matt Holliday before walking him. That was enough for Farrell and he brought Junichi Tazawa out of the bullpen to face Allen Craig- with one swing of the bat, Craig could've made it a 1-run game, but instead Craig grounded out to first to end the Cardinals threat.

Red Sox fans old enough to remember the 1986 World Series know the folly out counting down the remaining outs in the World Series, but Workman came out in the top of the 8th and got all three batters he faced out before Koji Uehara came out in the 9th. Jay and Descalso flied out to left, bringing up Matt Carpenter as the Cardinals last hope to prolong the series.

With Uehara's strikeout of Carpenter, the Red Sox won their first World Series at Fenway Park since 1918 [the two most recent titles were clinched at Colorado's Coors Field and the old Busch Stadium in St Louis- NANESB!]. The Red Sox win the World Series, besting the St Louis Cardinals 4 games to two- their third World Series title since 2004.

Meanwhile, Big Papi was named the World Series MVP with 2 homers, 6 RBI and 8 walks in the world series, reaching safely in nine consecutive plate appearances at one point while boasting a .688 BA and .760 OBP. Big Papi is also the only player on the current Red Sox roster who was on the team for the three most recent Red Sox WS titles.

Charles Krupa- AP

The Red Sox were honored with a parade featuring the Duck Boats over the weekend- the parade route [or 'rolling rally' if you prefer the scientific term- NANESB!] took the Red Sox past the Boston Marathon finish line- site of the terrorist bombings back in April that killed three and injured hundreds.

As the weekend continued, David Ortiz and Shane Victorino had their beards shaved off during a promotion at Gillette headquarters [shades of the 2004 'idiots'- NANESB] along with Boston police officer Steve Horgan who gained a degree of stardom when he was stationed in the Red Sox bullpen during Game 2 of the ALCS and was shown triumphantly pumping both fists in the air as Detroit outfielder Torii Hunter tumbled over the wall attempting to run down a Big Papi grand slam in Game 2 of the ALCS.

On Sunday, Victorino, Matt Thornton, Jon Lester, Will Middlebrooks, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, Stephen Drew, John McDonald and Johnny Gomes paid a visit to Gillette stadium in Foxboro for a pregame ceremony before the Patriots took on the Steelers- continuing a rich tradition of championship Boston teams visiting other sporting venues as part of the celebration.

Before the Ducks were even fired up, the hot stove talk began when Jacoby Ellsbury's agent Scott Boras said that at least 11 teams had expressed an interest in signing the free agent outfielder. Fox Sports baseball writer Ken Rosenthal reported last month that the Seattle Mariners and Texas Ranger were among Ellsbury's potential free-agent suitors- Seattle making sense if the 2011 gold glove winning outfielder and Oregon native wanted to be close to home in any way. Shortstop Stephen Drew is also a Boras client- Boras has a fairly long and acrimonious history with the Red Sox front office, particularly during the 2005 offseason when then-free agent client Johnny Damon went from the Red Sox to the Yankees, despite multiple offers by Boston.

On Monday, the Red Sox made qualifying offers of $14.1 million for one year to Ellsbury, Stephen Drew and Mike Napoli.

Charles Krupa- AP
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS- Any other year and this would've been the marquee matchup of the week, but the Pittsburgh Steelers came into Sunday afternoon's game at Foxborough sporting an underwhelming 2-5 record.

After taking a 24-10 lead into halftime, it appeared as though the Patriots would romp to a fairly east win, but the Steelers were able to tie the game pretty quickly in the 4th quarter thanks to two TD passes from QB Ben Roethlisberger to make it a 24-24 game. With just over 2 and a half minutes to go, New England retook the lead thanks to a 32 yard Gostkowski FG.

The Patriots wrapped up the 3rd quarter with excellent field position thanks to a 43 yard punt return by Julian Edelman, giving New England the ball on the Steelers 34 and five plays later, Brady connected with WR Aaron Dobson for a 17 yard TD pass to put New England up 34-24.

After forcing the Steelers to go 3 and out, the Patriots got the ball back on their own 39 yard line and the Patriots were once again able to move the ball deep into Pittsburgh territory [thanks to a penalty that cost Pittsburgh 20+ yards as well- NANESB!] before Stevan Ridley was able to punch it in on a 5 yard TD run to make it 41-24.

Although the Steelers pulled back to within 10 on their next possession- a 3 minute TD Drive that started from their own 20, the Patriots struck back quickly from inside their own 20 with just over 5 minutes left in the ballgame when Brady connected with Dobson on an 81 yard TD pass to make it 48-31. Patriots safety Duron Harmon would then pick off Roethlisberger at midfield with 3:19 left in the game, setting up a TD run for RB LeGarrette Blount to open up a 55-31 lead on Pittsburgh.

After the Steelers managed to tied the contest coming out of halftime, the Patriots open up a 23 point lead on them and never looked back- going on to win by a 55-31 final. Tom Brady goes 23-33 with 4 TDs and 432 yards on the day while Roethlisberger went 28-48 with 400 yards, 4 TDs and 2 interceptions in the losing effort.

The Patriots wrap up week 9 with a 7-2 record and head into the bye week in first place in the AFC East before facing the 5-3 Carolina Panthers on Monday night football on November 18th.

ELSEWHERE IN THE AFC EAST- The Miami Dolphins are in the news once again, but for all the wrong reasons. Dolphins offensive tackle Jonathan Martin abruptly left the team for unspecified reasons before their October 31st game against Cincinnati. The Miami Herald then reported that Martin left due to ongoing harassment and threats from teammates- led primarily by veteran guard Richie Incognito.

The word 'bullying' gets used way too much in this hypersensitive epoch, but if the allegations against Incognito are true [and some of these texts and phone messages have been documented- NANESB!] then Incognito's conduct clearly crosses the line from hazing the rookie to borderline extortion.

Not only did Incognito send the bi-racial Martin text and voicemail messages threatening his mother and making copious use of racial slurs [reportedly in jest- NANESB!], but Martin was reportedly pressured into shelling out $15,000 to his teammates for an unofficial junket to Las Vegas- a trip that Martin didn't even take.

While veteran players sticking rookies with the bill is a time-honored tradition [usually a one-time deal- NANESB!] the Miami Herald is reporting that veteran Dolphins players have been sticking rookies with bills for team dinners that run in excess of $30,000. The NFL minimum salary for a rookie is right around $400,000.

On Sunday, the Dolphins announced that Incognito was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team. The suspension comes after a Ft Lauderdale paper reported that Miami coaches asked Incognito to 'toughen up' Martin after the younger player missed a voluntary practice on the offseason.

EVEN MORE AFC EAST NEWS- The Kansas City Chiefs remain the NFL's only undefeated team after Week 9. The Chiefs faced the Bills in Orchard Park, NY on Sunday and after the Bills kicked a game-tying field goal late in the 3rd, the Chiefs pulled ahead for good on a Tamba Hali fumble recovery that was run back for 6 points early in the 4th to make it a 20-13 win. Kansas City kicker Ryan Succop made it a 10-point game late in the 4th with a FG, ultimately giving the Chiefs the 23-13 win.

HOUSTON TEXANS- Houston head coach Gary Kubiak was released from the hospital on Tuesday after a series of tests determined he suffered a transient ischemic attack- or 'mini-stroke'- on Sunday.

Kubiak collapsed on the Texans sideline at halftime during Sunday night's nationally televised game against the Indianapolis Colts at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Although responsive, Kubiak was wheeled into an ambulance and hospitalized. In the second half, the Colts would rally from a 21-3 deficit to win by a 27-24 final.

With Kubiak out indefinitely, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was named interim coach this week. The Texans will travel to Arizona to take on the 4-4 Cardinals this weekend.

Ed Wolfstein- USA Today
NCAA FOOTBALL- With much of Boston basking in yet another Boston championship parade on Saturday, it seemed as though many had forgotten that there was some football to be played in Chestnut Hill. The Eagles had come into Saturday's home game against Virginia Tech having dropped two out of their last three games, including two against ACC opponents. Meanwhile, the Hokies were showing up after a 13-10 loss to Duke at home but had won the last five of their contests against Boston College.

RB Andre Williams got the Eagles on the board with two and a half minutes remaining in the first thanks to a 19 yard TD run before Virginia Tech tied it up on a Trey Edmunds TD run with 6:21 to go in the first half. The Hokies would then head into the locker room with a 10-7 lead.

For the Hokies first possession of the second half, QB Logan Thomas was picked off at midfield by Eagles CB Manny Asparilla and returned inside the Virginia Tech red zone. Despite starting out at the Hokies 15 yard line, the Eagles were only able to come away with 3 points- Nate Freese's FG tied the game at 10-10. The game headed into the 4th with the Hokies and Eagles knotted up at 20-20 when turnovers would once again cost Virginia Tech.

Logan Thomas ends up throwing a pick 6 to Kevin Pierre Louis, putting Boston College up 27-20. On their next drive, Virginia Tech got as far as the Boston College 38 before turning it over on an incomplete pass on 4th and 6. From their own 38, Andre Williams ran 62 yards to put the Eagles up 34-20 with 4:51 left.

It seemed like a fairly secure lead, but after a 49 yard kickoff return the Hokies took all of 90 seconds to come back within a touchdown when the drive was capped with a 22 yard TD catch from Logan Thomas to Trey Edmunds with 3 minutes to go in regulation to cut the Eagles lead to 34-27. Boston College didn't help out their own cause when they went three and out from their own 25, kicking off on 4th and 3. After burning their timeouts, Freese kicked off and the Hokies got the ball back on their own 28. However, on 4th and 4, Logan Thomas would fumble the ball and Boston College would recover and run out the clock.

Boston College goes on to win by the final of 34-27, their second ACC win of the season. Next week, the Eagles will travel to southern New Mexico to take on the New Mexico State Aggies. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 PM at Las Cruces, NM.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Today's Train of Thought- Attention All Shoppers, November, 2013

Today's Train of Thought takes us to Little Rhody and features one of the few freight carriers for America's smallest state- although in this instance, it isn't hauling freight.

In addition to coal, aggregates, ethanol or construction debris [not to mention ingredients for that yummy Polar Birch Beer- NANESB!], the Providence & Worcester also frequently hauls excursions on its mainline between its two namesake cities. These include the Christmas-themed 'Polar Express' excursions as well as trips to the Roger Williams Park and Zoo in Providence and fall foliage runs.

Here, contributor Alan Jenks caught P&W B39-8 #3908 heading southbound with a fall Shopper's Special returning from Putnam, CT on October 20, 2012. The train is on the last leg of its return journey to Cumberland, RI as the leaves on the trees trackside showcase an almost prototypical New England fall afternoon.