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In Jim's Daily Opinion 07/31/2014

THURSDAY, 7/31:

It may take some time, but the ripples eventually hit the shore.

Loraine has this theory, developed over her 13 or 14 years of doing research on World War II, and she calls it “The Ripple Theory”.  The theory is this—that you “throw” stuff out there into the big pond of the world, stuff like questions, information, or contacts, and like throwing a rock into the water, the ripples from your “stuff” may eventually hit the shore.  You never know when it may hit the shore; heck, you never know IF the ripples will hit the shore.  But over the years we've had enough “ripples” come back to us that I think the theory is a valid one.

And it was proven true again earlier this week.

Tuesday morning I received an e-mail from an 86-year old woman in The Netherlands.  This woman, for over 60 years, has been tending the grave of a fighter pilot from Marquette named John Hascall.  All these years she's not known much about Hascall, but for Christmas she received a iPad, and has been using it to see if she could dig up some information on him.  Well, if your type the named “John Hascall” into Google, one of the items that pops up is the blog I wrote for the trip Loraine and I took to Europe in 2008, the trip that saw us stopping at the Margraten American Cemetery in Holland and visiting the grave of Lt. Hascall.

So when you look at it that way, the blog I wrote was an example of one of Loraine's “ripples”, and it took a mere six years to reach the shore.

Like I said before, we've had this happen on a number of occasions the past decade.  Most of the times, though, it occurs right after I write a blog about one of her dudes or the newspaper writes a story about Loraine.  But this instance is by far the longest it's take a “ripple” to reach the shore; heck, until I received the e-mail, I had kind of forgotten I had written blogs about our 2008 trip.  As it turns out, it was the first time I wrote the blogs, and they're on the station site instead of our usual Blogspot site, which kind of led me to forget about them.  However, while Loraine was trying to answer the e-mail last night I had a chance to re-read what I wrote, and you know what?

I don't suck, as least as far as writing about trips go!

I don't know what will come of this latest “ripple”.  Loraine's in the process of making contact with the van der Venne-Habets  family.  If it's like most of the ones we've run across in the past, though, it could be quite interesting.  It just makes me what OTHER “ripples” are still out there, lurking about and yet to reach the shore.

After all, you never know!

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 7/30:

And four weeks to the day until we leave for Europe!

For whatever reason, I’m actually farther ahead at work than I normally am.  I don’t know if it’s because I’ve finally figured out what I’m doing, or if it’s because this year has sucked so much weather-wise that I couldn’t go outside and play, forcing me to stay inside and work, but I’m at a very comfortable point in working ahead to leave.

But that’s a good thing. 

I think I may have mentioned in here before about how when I go on vacation, I have to work ahead to be able to go on vacation.  Because I have such a specialized job, I can’t just slough it off on my coworkers, or wait until I‘m back from vacation to deal with it.  It has to be done before I leave, and it has to be done by me.  So every year we go overseas, I know that starting in May, I have to begin working ahead. 

And it looks like it’s working out.

Aside from the stuff I need to do here, I still have a list of things that needs to be accomplished outside of work, and one of those is getting our trip Blogspot site back up to speed and ready to go.  I also have to confirm hotel reservations, get directions for all them (since we're going to places in which I've not yet driven, I'd kinda like to know where I'm going), and take care of a bunch of little things that range from getting an International Driving Permit to checking out the location of grocery stores where we can stock up on chocolate.

Finally, I’m also starting to review my French.  I learn just enough to be useful before we go on one of these trips, and then (invariably) forget what I've learned, especially if it's been a couple of years since we were last in French-speaking territory.  And since our entire trip this time IS in French speaking territory, I'd better get cracking.  One of the things I'm leafing through when I have the chance is the huge 800 page French-English dictionary we bought a few years ago.  It’s a cool book, if only because it has a section in the middle with phrases that English-speaking people going to France or French-speaking people going to the U.S. or the U.K. can use.  And it’s there that I made an interesting discovery, one that probably speaks to a major difference between French people and Americans--

Did you know that, in French, there is not an equivalent to the phrase “All you can eat”?  Nope, there’s not a French translation for that.  They actually use the English words “All you can eat” because, apparently, the French and their language can’t fathom the concept of “All you can eat”.  And if THAT doesn’t speak to a major difference between the two cultures, I don’t know what does.

Amazing what you can learn while you’re getting ready for something, isn’t it?

Four weeks to go!

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 7/29:

The skunks are back.

Those of you who’ve been reading these ramblings since the days of the dinosaurs may remember that when Loraine and I moved into our current apartment we discovered two things—that drunk college students can make a lot of noise, and that, for some strange reasons, skunks seem to like our tightly packed little urban neighborhood.  At least once a week for the first few years we lived here we would be treated to that olfactory wonder known as skunk spray wafting through the buildings, not a very nice treat when it’s warm out and you want to leave your windows open to let in a little air.  Then a couple of years ago when road construction tore apart our neighborhood, the skunks seem to disappear.  We had hoped it would be for good...

Unfortunately, it was not.

Several nights ago I awoke around 3 am, and for a second wasn't sure I was awake.  After getting up, going over to an open window, and inhaling, I then knew WHY I was awake.  Needless to say, the windows were shut quickly, but the stench lingered in the air waaaaay too long to get back to sleep.  I don’t know where the skunk was, or if it emptied its entire, uhm, bomb bay, but that smell was strong, and it wasn’t going away.  Thankfully, by the next morning, it had disappeared, but in the few days since it happened again.  I guess the one good thing about the current cold snap is that our windows were closed and the smell didn't penetrate too far into our apartment, but it was still strong enough to wake me up.

I have no idea why (or how) skunks like our neighborhood.  Like I said before, it’s a very tightly packed urban neighborhood; the houses are right next to each other, there aren’t a lot of big yards or trees, and there’s more concrete than grass & dirt.  If I had to pick out one residential section of Marquette where I would guess skunks wouldn’t like to go it’d be ours.  But apparently there’s something magical in our little section of the city, and it keeps drawing those wonders of nature back time and time again.

Aren’t we lucky?

I have no idea if this was a one-time incident, or if some kind of skunk real estate agent is telling the little creatures that our neighborhood is the new “must move into” neighborhood for hip skunks.  I’m certainly hoping it’s the former; after all, I don’t want to have to deal with this on a nightly basis.  You can shut noisy college students out with earplugs.  I have yet to figure out anything that keeps the smell of skunk out of your nose.

Yum.  Or yuck, depending up on your point of view.

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 7/28:

I can finally check my Facebook news feed whenever I want again.

Over the past three weeks I've had to avoid any sort of social media between the hours of 8am and, say, 10pm, the time I finished watching the Tour de France race from that particular day.  I avoided social media because, well, I didn't want to know who won that day's race.  Call me old fashioned, but on occasion I actually enjoy watching a movie or a sporting event and NOT knowing how it's gonna end.

I know; freaky, isn't it?

At first I thought I could just turn off a few news sources, such as BBC News or any of the French TV networks that I follow, but after being burned on two of the stages by people I know talking about what happened during the race that I DVR'd while I was at work, I just decided not to pay any attention to Facebook until I had watched that day's leg and could safely venture back into the real world.  And you know what I discovered?

I really didn't miss it that much!

I don't know if that says something about me or something about Facebook (or both), but my life didn't implode because I wasn't staring at my news feed.  I don't think I missed out on anything important, and even if I did miss out on something it couldn't have been THAT important, right?  So surprise, surprise...you CAN live a life without social media.

Especially if you have something like not knowing who won that day's leg of the Tour de France to look forward to!

*****

Two quick follow-ups from stuff we discussed last week.  First of all, I promised I'd let you know just how many different license plates I saw during the week last week.  Well, you'll be happy to know that for the first tie ever the total hit 40!  Yup; 37 states, the District of Columbia, and two Canadian provinces.  If you ever needed proof that Marquette's becoming more and more of a tourist destination, there it is.

Case sealed and shut.

Finally, I think it's kind of funny that not one, not two, but three of you sent me notes about gray hair and all mentioned the same example I should follow!  Last Thursday, of course, I joked about “TV Jim” wondering if he should color his hair to get rid of the growing patches of gray, which prompted a lot of mail, three pieces of which pointed to the same example about going gray, and saying that if it's good enough for George Clooney, it's good enough for me.

You know, that may be the first time I've been compared to George Clooney, and I'm guessing it may be the last, as well.  But thanks for the notes and the comments.  As always, I appreciate them, and as always, I do take them to heart!

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 7/25:

I wonder if I could make a living at it?

Earlier this week when I was out on one of my usual half-days and wandering around Marquette 5 different people stopped to ask me directions or to ask where something was.  That’s not unusual; when Loraine and I are out walking, we get that quite a bit.  I don’t if we just look approachable or like we know what we’re talking about or what, but it happens quite a bit.  Not only that, but if we happen to be passing a tourist commenting on a local sight, we’ll give them a little local color, fill them in on what they’re seeing, and usually walk away with “thanks” and seeing a big smile on their faces.  Add into all the tours I’ve given this summer (with more to come), and it has gotten me to think--

Could I make a living doing that?

Don’t worry; I’m not quitting any time soon.  It’s just that every once in a while I think to myself about how great it would be to spend my days walking around Marquette, helping people who are visiting the area, and educating anyone who wants to be educated about what they see in front of them.  I could take them on walking tours, biking tours, and any other kind of tour they’d like.  Aside from beach bum, if I could have a dream job, that might be it.  Of course, I realize that, as with being a beach bum, there’s probably not much money in being friendly to tourists, but a boy can always dream, right?

And besides...it wouldn't matter if I had gray hair for that job, would it?

8-)

Speaking of tourists, I’m doing that dorky thing I do every year during the week leading up to Art on the Rocks.  I’m seeing how many license plates from different states I can see in Marquette in that one week.  So far, in just four days I’ve seen plates from 38 different states, which is more than all but one year I've been doing this (something like 15 years, believe it or not).  I don't know if that's a sign (along with things like unemployment figures and the like) that the U.S. Economy has FINALLY recovered from The Great Recession, or if Pat and the gang at the Marquette Country Convention & Visitors Bureau have just been doing a bang-up job this year (or both), but it's nice to see.

Another weird thing I've noticed so far?  There seems to be a nice mix of plates from both “blue” states and “red” states.  During an average year, I see more plates from “blue” states, but not this year.  It's a nice mix, and maybe it's a sign that outside of the political world we all get along just fine...especially if we're reveling in the beauty of Marquette!

Speaking of Art on the Rocks, I’ll be there broadcasting Saturday, so if you’re around, say “hey”.  And Monday I'll update the final number of state license plates I see, because I KNOW you're dying to find out what it is, right?  Otherwise, have yourself a glorious U.P. (or wherever you are) weekend.  And try not to let the weather forecast for Sunday scare you off!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 7/24:

I'm self-aware enough to know that I don't really have much of an ego.  So then why am I thinking about coloring my hair?

Those of you who've read this for a long time know that there are two public “Jims” out there.  There's “Radio Jim”, and then there's “History Jim”.  And as I've been insinuating the past few months, there will soon be a third “Jim”, this one “TV Jim” (and as an aside, one day I'll be able to tell you all about this...I promise!).  And that's the “Jim” that's made me think, however fleetingly, about coloring my hair.

For someone my age (and you may now make a snide comment along the lines of “You mean there actually IS someone your age?”, because I know you want to) I'm really lucky.  I still have most of my hair, and I can thank my mom for that.  After all, while my dad starting losing his hair in his 20s, my mom has incredibly thick hair, and thankfully her genes dominated in that particular area.

However, my hair has not totally escaped the ravages of time.  I do have gray popping out around my ears, and if you were to pull back the top layer of black (ish) hair anywhere else on my head you'd see nothing but gray.  That was readily apparent last night when I got my hair cut and saw nothing BUT gray (mixed with a little black) lying on the floor.  It was also apparent when I went to a funeral over the weekend and the first thing someone said to me was, and I quote, “It looks like the color gray is taking over your head”.

Why, yes it it.  Thanks oh so much for noticing!

Normally I wouldn't give a rat's behind about whether or not I have gray hair on my head.  If I was at all bothered by the fact that I have gray hair, I would've colored it a long time ago.  However, that's before I found out I was going to be on TV each and every week, on a show that apparently quite a few people watch.  And while I still don't give a rat's behind about whether or not I have gray hair on my head, “TV Jim” just has to wonder a little bit—in a strictly professional sense, of course—whether or not coloring would be a good thing.  After all, “TV Jim” doesn't want people staring at his very tiny head, noticing that gray hair is sticking out everywhere.

For purely professional reasons, you understand.

I have no idea what I'm gonna do.  I suppose it might come down to those days when we do camera tests and show run-throughs and I actually have to look at myself on a TV monitor (something I'm usually not big on).  So starting in October, if you see me with gray in my hair, you'll know that the “real” Jim won out.  However, if you don't notice much (if any) gray, then you’ll know that “TV Jim” had the upper hand this particular time.

(jim@wmqt.com)...you know—the real one!

WEDNESDAY, 7/23:

The boxes arrived four years ago today.

Yup; it was four years ago today that I drove out to Negaunee, picked up Loraine (where she worked at the time) and then went on to Ishpeming, where we ended up at Globe Printing and picked up the first press run of Loraine's book “Elwood's War".

It's hard to believe it was four years ago.

Since then, the book's been through three printings, it's made us a load of new friends and acquaintances, and has been read throughout the world, including at least three different countries in Europe.  It's also opened doors for us in those countries, mostly famously last summer when we spent the day as the honored guests of the people and city government of Weissenfels, Germany.

I've written in here many times about how proud I was of Loraine, and how the book was nothing more than a labor of love for her, and that still stands.  And now she's going through the exact same thing as she races to finish her next epic, “Elden's True Army Tales” (coming soon to a local bookstore near you).  In fact, when Dennis Whitley and I did the Story Corps thing Monday and talked about history, a big chunk of what we talked about was Loraine and her books.

In case you couldn't tell, I kinda like bragging about her and what she's done!

The life cycle of a book like “Elwood's War” is kind of funny.  When it first came out, she sold a bunch of them.  Then when the first holiday season after publication rolled around, she sold another ton.  It slacked off since then, but it still has these little “runs”, and we have no idea why.  A couple of months ago she brought nine copies down to Bookworld in Marquette, where they sat for a few weeks.  We then went in, and found that five of the copies had been sold within another few weeks.  I don't know anything about how the publishing or book selling world works, but that sounds strange even to me.

And that's saying something!

I have a feeling that the few copies of “Elwood” that remain (and that's about 10 in total) will be gone once “Elden” comes out, but that'll be a good thing.  Because that means every single copy of Loraine's first labor of love will have good homes, where they will be appreciated and read.  And for a book like hers, that's all you can ask.

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 7/22:

I will soon be wearing a wedding ring.

Oh, don’t worry; there’s nothing nefarious afoot.  Loraine and I haven’t really NOT been married these 25 years, nor was there been some kind of mix up in the paperwork back in 1989 that didn’t allow me to wear a ring.  In fact, for the first 23 and a half years of our marriage, I did wear a wedding ring.

And then came my little bike accident.

As you may recall, one of the many victims of my little crash last year (along with a front tooth, a bunch of my skin, and most of my pride) was my wedding ring.  It had to get cut off the day after the accident, when my finger swelled so much that it had to come off lest I do some major damage to the finger (I still bear quite the scar on the finger where the ring cut into it, in fact).  Of course, by then the ring wasn’t really in good shape; it had been scratched beyond belief by the accident, plus it had been bent, mangled, and otherwise abused during the 23 and a half years I did wear it.

So the loss of the ring was more sentimental than practical.

In the 15 months since the accident I’ve not worn a wedding ring, and I’ve noticed two things about it.  One is that I’ve gotten used to not wearing one, which I guess isn’t a big deal.  After all, I know other married people who don’t wear them.  But whenever I see Loraine fiddle with hers, or take it off for whatever reason, I get reminded that I don’t have one.  And while I always thought things like that didn’t matter to me; well, I guess that in this instance they do.

The second thing I’ve noticed?  Not one person in those 15 months has commented that I’m not wearing a wedding ring.  And I find that strange.  In the 23 and a half years I wore a wedding ring, I had many people ask why I was wearing it on my right hand instead of my left hand.  But not once in the 15 months that I wasn’t wearing one did anyone ask why I was without it.

That’s no big deal.  I just thought it strange.

So while we were out & about Saturday Loraine and I stopped into Wattsson and Wattsson  so she could buy me a new ring.  She had wanted to buy me a new one since the old one was cut off, and this past weekend e finally got around to it.  She had very specific instructions for the person helping us out—it had to be tough & durable (apparently she thinks I might abuse it; I have no idea why she thinks that 8-)) and it had to be something I like.  After spending just a few seconds looking we found it—a titanium ring in silver that works in many different ways.  It’s tough, it’s durable, and it looks to me like it’s the gravity ring from a fictional space station.  Not only that, but I can go around and, like Lt. Dan in “Forrest Gump” when showing off his prosthetic leg, I can say, “It’s made from the same material as the space shuttle”.

Because it is.  Even if the space shuttle’s (sadly) not around any more.

Since I have such girly-sized fingers, we had to special order the ring.  It should, though, be here in a week or so. Then I can then slip my new wedding ring on, and, like for the first 23 and a half years of my life, abuse the heck out of it, should I choose.  But this time, it’ll endure.

Just like me & Loraine.

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 7/21:

The suitcases came out over the weekend.

With the countdown standing at T-minus five weeks and four days before we leave for our latest little adventure, we figured it was time to go down into the basement, brush aside all the dust and cobwebs, and pull out our luggage, safely encased in plastic to keep them clean of all the dust and cobwebs that seem to inhabit basements.  We hauled them up to our living room and left them sitting there, where over the next month and seven days we’ll stumble into them many times, and they’ll slowly be filled with everything needed for a week and a half in Luxembourg and Belgium and France.

Actually, if you want to be technical, the suitcases are already kind of filled with many things needed for a week and a half in Luxembourg and Belgium and France.  When I opened my suitcase, I was amazed by the stuff I had just left in there from the last trip.  There were several plastic containers (used to safely transport chocolate and cereal), half a roll of bubble wrap (to safely wrap the chocolate before it gets put into the aforementioned plastic containers), various other non-plastic containers, a roll of duct tape, two unused washcloths, and an unopened package of socks.

Throw in a few shirts, some shorts, and a toothbrush, and I’m already packed. 38 days before we leave!

Well, okay, maybe not TOTALLY packed, but with the stuff we picked up at Target last weekend, I’m way ahead of schedule.  We usually go to Target the week before we bring the suitcases up and raid their section of travel-sized items.  We pick up whatever toiletries, medicines, and personal care items we need and pack them in the plastic containers.  Then the last night of the trip we toss whatever we haven’t used and/or won’t need, clean out the containers, and repack them with chocolate and other goodies.  That way, we don’t go over our suitcase weight limit and have to pay a zillion dollars, and we get all of our stuff safely home.

Of course, that’s actually worked too well on several occasions.  More than once I’ve had to buy several rolls of paper towels to fill my suitcase.  It serves a couple of purposes, though--the paper towels act as a great, lightweight filler, and once we get home, we have the joy of being perhaps the only people in the U.S. who are using Zumda brand paper towels.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be tossing pieces of clothing and other items we’ll be needing into the suitcases in our living room.  A day or two before the trip, we’ll rearrange everything, pack it all neatly, and then put our TSA approved locks on them, where the suitcases then won’t be opened until we get to Luxembourg City (unless, of course, US or EU security gets bored and feels the need to go through them).

So now when we look at our checklist of things to do, “bring suitcases up from the basement” can now be checked off.  That only leaves, what. . .28 or 29 things left to go!

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 7/18:

How about a bunch of little things to wrap the week up?

First of all, project “International Reader” has turned up a few interesting results.  As you may recall, Monday I asked people who read this outside of the U.S. to send me a note in private,  just so I'd know the reach of these ramblings.  In just four days, I've received replies from Canada, Mexico, and Germany (plus one reader in France I didn't know about), and I won't be surprised if I hear from more people over the weekend.  After all, I know many of you binge-read a week of these in one sitting, so I'll be curious to see what pops up after that!

Secondly, I had mentioned a couple of weeks ago, in posting the blog about Charlie Pong, that the story was brought up because of an interview I did for a Marquette Monthly article due in next month's edition.  Well, sadly, I received a call from the writer a few days ago, and she told me she had to cut 2,000 words out of the stories.  Guess whose words were among the 2,000 cut?

Yup; mine.  But what are you gonna do about it, right?

Finally, I have to note with glee that an old neighbor of ours is still around.  One of the many ways in which Loraine and I have been fortunate is that we get to meet a lot of fascinating older people, and usually, a couple of years after we meet them, we wonder if they're still around.  Well, while we were out on a walk last weekend we were happy to notice a sign on Marquette's Ramada Inn mentioning they were hosting a 90th birthday party of Al Trudgeon, one of those fascinating older people.

Al used to live across the street from us when we lived on High Street, and as a World War II Navy vet he shared his stories with Loraine.  We lost track of him when we moved out of the neighborhood nine years ago, but it's great to see he's still around and kicking.  He was a nice guy.

On that note, I need to get to work for a bit so I can then sneak out and go to the beach, seeing as how it might actually be warm enough for that.  Have yourself a great weekend, and if you live in an area where there might be a little heat,. Enjoy it!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 7/17:

I'm thinking I can probably stop using the phrase “seedy underbelly” for a while.

The “Other Side of the Tracks” tour went well last night; the weather cooperated, and everyone who showed up (a lot more than I thought would show up, in fact), had a great time.  Not only that, but I got to use the phrase “seedy underbelly” at least two dozen times.

And that was probably two dozen more times than I ever used it in my life.

I'm sure it makes more sense if you were on the tour and you heard it in context, but I used the phrase to describe all the illegal and/or tragic events that occurred just out of sight in the southern part of downtown Marquette over the past 165 years, and trust me—there have been a LOT of illegal and/or tragic events that have occurred in that part of downtown Marquette over the past 165.

In fact, that's why we did the tour last night.

One of the stories I told is a story I think no one knows about, and that's kind of sad, since it involved what is perhaps Marquette's deadliest fire, at least as far as victims go.  Back in the late 1940s, the Stensrud building on the 300 south block of Front Street—a building that's still there, in fact-- had what can only be described as an illegal rooming house on its third floor.  In fact, it was so illegal that the city didn't know about it, the fire department didn't know about it, and even the merchant who rented out the store space on the ground floor of the building didn't know about it.

Who was living in this illegal rooming house?  Well, it was a mix of pensioners and drifters, and it was late in the evening of February 6th 1946 when one of those drifters fell asleep with a lit cigarette.  Soon, the entire floor of the building—a floor with few windows and only one stairway—was engulfed in flames.  Several of the tenants managed to escape, but when the fire was finally put out, seven men had lost their lives.

The city at large was stunned, not only by the loss of life, but by the fact that that there were so many people living in a space where they weren't supposed to be.  A coroner's inquest was held, where the drifter who started the fire admitted to falling asleep with a cigarette.  Charges were filed, ordinances were toughened, and soon the whole incident slipped from the minds of area residents.

At least until we brought it up again last night.

That's just one of the tales from the “seedy underbelly” that we shared during the tour; yell if you'd like to hear more.  However, don't be surprised if we excise that two-word phrase from any future writings.  After all, after last night, I don't think I need to use it for a while...

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 7/16:

I really dislike doing this, but because I have to run around and gather a few things for tonight's “Other Side of the Tracks” walking tour (don't forget—you're all invited!) I think I'm gonna have to leave you with something I wrote a couple of years ago.

Well, it's either that, or leave you with nothing at all.  And I really couldn't do that!

Anyway, the tour gets underway tonight at 630 at the Marquette Regional History Center.  Hope to see you there; details on how it went tomorrow!

(jim@wmqt.com)

***

(as originally posted June 22nd, 2011):

She’d better not throw them away!

I was at my parent’s condo a couple of days ago when my mom was going through a box of stuff that had been buried deep in a closet.  Inside the box were several books from my childhood, books that had made the cut when they moved a few years ago and tossed out everything else they owned.  These are books that made me the adult I am today, for better or worse (and that’s okay...go ahead and shout out the word “worse” right now.  I know you’re dying to!).

The books to which I’m referring?  My old “How & Why Wonder Books”.

Those of you who weren’t nerdy kids in the late 60s & early 70s probably don’t remember these books, but they were certainly among my favorites growing up.  Each “How & Why Wonder Book” dealt with a different topic; mostly science, but with subjects ranging from history to famous people.  Looking through a list, I see about over a dozen of the books that I at one time had; the ones my mom kept were probably among my favorites--Dinosaurs, Weather, Stars, and Planets & Interplanetary Travel.  I mean, think about it--I’m a self-professed space nerd who at one time had a collection of plastic dinosaurs and who now complains about the weather when it’s not nice out.

See?  Those books DID warp me for life!

As I remember them, these books were probably the closet thing kids in the late 60s had to Google or Wikipedia.  They were arranged as a series of questions about a subject; the answers would then follow, along with a hand-drawn illustration of what the answer was talking about.  So instead of typing, I dunno, “Triceratops” into a search engine, you’d grab your “How & Why Wonder Book” on dinosaurs, look at the page with the question about Triceratops, and find your answer there.  Yes, it was incredibly low tech, but in the years before information on demand, that’s how you learned.

And yes, by writing that last paragraph, I proved I’m old.  What’s your point?

8-)

Anyway, I’m glad my mom held onto those books, and I’m glad she now has instructions to never ever get rid of them.  The books may not be worth much and the information in them may be dated, but you know what?  They were part of the vast mosaic that become the adult “me”, and for that, I’d like to think they deserve to stick around just a while longer.

TUESDAY, 7/15:

There's no way it's half over, is there?

Sigh.

If you consider “summer” (and this year, of course, we must use the quotes around “summer”) to be the months of June, July, and August, then today, July 15th, the middle day of the middle month of “summer”, marks the halfway point of the season.

Yup.  “Summer” is half way over already.

I don't mention it to bum you out, nor do I mention it to set myself up for an epic session of whining about the unfairness of it all.  I just brought it up because my mind is blown by the simple fact that today marks the halfway point of a season for which I live but, because of whatever, I've yet to even start enjoying.

“Summer”, we hardly knew ye.

This actually all came up while I was off on my meandering Saturday morning run, one of the only meandering Saturday morning runs this “Summer” when it was warm enough for me to be sweating like a pig.  Now setting aside the question of whether or not pigs can actually sweat (can they?), it was one of those runs about which I (literally) dream.  And as I was running and sweating like a pig, it occurred to me that this was perhaps the first time all year I was doing both—running & sweating, at the same time—and it had taken all the way to July 12th for that to occur.  Once I realized it was July 12th, which is only three days before July 15th, the mid point of “Summer”...

Well, that's when the whole thing spiraled out of control.

The first part of this year speeding by I can understand.  I don't have to once again list everything that happened; if you read this even one time between January and May, you know what I'm talking about.  But I thought—naively, perhaps—that once things returned to “normal” that I'd get some sort of “normalcy” back in both my life and in the way in which I perceive time.

Looks like I was wrong on both counts.

I know there's nothing I can do about it, and I feel like I'm starting to venture into whining territory, so I'll shut up about it now.  But if you happen to see grey matter splattered here or there on Front Street in Marquette the next few days, don't worry.  It's nothing serious.

It's just what's left over after my mind gets blown.

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 7/14:

And happy Bastille Day!

Yeah; I know the French version of our Fourth of July probably doesn't ring many bells with the vast majority of you, but I do know that we have a couple of people who read this everyday who live in France (bonjour, Thierry, bonjour, Nathalie!) so I figure we might as well mark the day, right?

That got me to thinking.  And that, as we all know, can be a dangerous thing.  I've been writing these little...whatever you wanna call thems for 13 years now, since 2001.  Over those 13 years, I wonder how many other countries we've touched?  I know that when I write my trip blogs on the Blogspot site there's a little thing you can click on to tell you what countries readers are from (or, at least, in which countries the servers they're using to connect to you are located), but I've never had that for this little thing.

Looking at the statistics for the Blogspot site makes me laugh, on occasion, if only because of some of the, uhm, interesting places from which we get hits.  The U.S., of course, always pops up first, followed by the countries in which we have friends we're visiting—France, or Belgium or Germany.  But then it gets weird.  One year, India provided us a large chunk of readers—in fact, we even received a few nice notes from several of them—another time, it was South Africa.  Another, Russia.

How people from those countries stumbled across a blog from two Americans traveling in Europe (or how their spiders or search engines robots did so), I do not know.  But apparently it happens, and apparently it happens quite a bit.

So here's the deal—if you read this regularly, or have even just stumbled on it by accident, and you're from a country outside of the U.S., please let me know.  My e-mail address is always at the end of each post, and don't worry—I won't mention you in any way.  I know almost everyone who reads this does so as a “lurker”, and I'm cool with that.  I don't want to “unlurk” you.  But I'm curious, so let me know, and we'll see how many people in how many different countries read this.

Who knows...I may then have to start wishing people happy holidays OTHER that Bastille Day.  And that would be one of the coolest things that I could do

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 7/11:

What is it with some people?

I ask that question because of this--there is a three-foot gap between the building in which I work and the building next door, the Elks club.  Over the years I’ve worked here, I’ve noticed all kinds of garbage thrown in the gap between the two buildings, necessitating the occasional cleaning out of it by the people who own this building.  In order to stop the garbage from being thrown in there, the owners of the building in which I work have constructed several wooden fences between the two buildings.  They look nice, serve their purpose, and the newest version of the fence lasted a whole four months before this happened--



We can’t get you kids anything nice without you wrecking it, can we?

Sigh.

Don’t worry; I know YOU didn’t have anything to do with it.  I’m sure you’re just as...saddened by it as I am.  It just makes me wonder what it is with some people these days.  I mean, I know why the fence is wrecked.  Someone--or several someones--had way too much to drink, were walking up Front Street, saw a nice new fence just sitting there harmlessly out of the way, and decided to teach the fence a lesson for, I dunno, being a fence.  Or for being brown.  Or both.

Because I don’t drink and because I actually believe in respecting other people’s property, perhaps I’m not the best person to ask this question, but what IS it about certain individuals that compels them, once inebriated, to destroy things?  Living and walking through downtown Marquette means that this isn’t the first time I’ve seen something like this.  I’ve seen broken windows, dented doors, smashed hanging planters, puddles of blood, and more piles of puke than you can shake a two dollar pitcher of beer at.  And the question I always ask is this--

Why?

I know; excessive alcohol consumption does different things to different people.  Some people turn all mushy.  Some people turn all friendly.  Some people turn all spacey.  And some people, apparently, turn all testosterone-y, feeling the need to let out that testosterone by picking a fight with the nearest bouncer, flower planter, or brown wooden wall, no matter to whom it belongs or who put it up.  I mean, how would one of those people feel if they woke up one morning and found their car window had smashed in the previous night by someone just letting off a little testosterone?

Like I said before, I just don’t understand.  I’m sure if I had a PhD in human psychology or in addiction science I’d get it a little better, but I don’t understand why people do things like that.  Don’t’ they know what they’re doing?  Don’t they CARE about what they’re doing?  I just don’t get it.  I always prefer to focus on the good side of human beings, but when I see things like this, I certainly understand that there’s a bad side to substantial subset of human beings, as well.

If you don’t believe me, just ask the brown fence next door. 

And on that note, have yourself a great weekend; hopefully, all of your fences will stay in one piece!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 7/10:

You know, I really need to stop forgetting about these tours.

Yup, I've done it again.  I have another Jim Koski ™ tour for the Marquette Regional History Center a mere six days from today, and do you think I've lifted a finger about it?  I know; I have no excuse other than the excuses I usually use.  But at least this time it's a little different--

I really don't have much work to do for this tour.

Six days from today, next Wednesday, I'm giving the “Other Side of the Tracks” tour, and the reason I don't have much work to do on it is that I gave it last year after putting it together at the last minute.  No, I wasn’t procrastinating back then; I was a very last minute replacement for another program that had to be canceled when the person presenting it passed away.

Luckily, I already had the concept for the tour in my head, and was able to throw it together in a couple of days.  And that's why I'm not stressing about the fact that this tour is only six days away.  The tour's basically done, and when I add to that several stories I've discovered since giving it the first time last year, it should be a lot of fun, even if you took the tour last year.

Of course, how could the tour NOT be fun, when it contains the trifecta of Jim Koski ™ tours—bootleggers, hookers, and killers!

One of the reasons I was allowed to leave the History Center board earlier this year was because I agreed to keep doing programs and tours, something I really enjoy doing.  In fact, I'm already looking ahead to next year, yet aside from one, I don't have any concrete ideas on what I want to do.  Due to numerous requests, I'll be doing the Great Fire Tour again on June 11th, 2015, but that leaves a winter indoor program and a summer walking tour still to be determined.

At this point, I'm wide open to suggestions, so if you have anything you've ever wanted to know about, or an old tour or program I gave five or six years ago that you'd like to see again, let me know.  The final decision isn't up to me; there's a History Center committee that decides what to do.  But since I'm still the chair of the committee; well, let's just say that I have a little sway.

However, I'm not gonna get too ahead of myself right now.  After all, I need to first pull put the notes and pictures from last year's tour and get them read to go again Wednesday.  Then MAYBE I can start thinking about next year.

If nothing else, that'll give me plenty of time to forget about it all, right?

(jim@wmqt.com)

(p.s.--I also must stand corrected on something I wrote yesterday, about how I had to obsess over strawberries now that the lilacs are all gone.  Well, daily blog reader Cyndy in Au Train pointed out that while the lilacs are gone in Marquette, they aren't gone in Au Train.  In fact, she sent photographic evidence--





She says she's sniffing them for me, and for that, Cyndy, I say thanks.  Too bad you couldn't bottle up the scent and sent it this way!)

WEDNESDAY, 7/9:

Hi, my name is Jim, and I'm a strawberry-holic.

This time of the year, my “addiction” becomes readily apparent.  Since last week, I've had strawberries for breakfast on some days, for lunch a couple of those days, and during dinner (or for an evening snack) every single day since, I believe, last Wednesday.  Some of the strawberries I've eaten came from Farmer Q's, while the best of them came after my dad spent Sunday morning living through a thunderstorm while picking 16 or 20 quarts (I don't remember which) in Traunik.

And seeing as how my dad picked all those strawberries by himself, maybe I'm not the ONLY strawberry-holic in the family!

I can't explain my addiction to strawberries, other than to say I've had it for as long as I can remember.  Unlike my dad, who loves picking any kind of berries, I've only been out gathering strawberries once, and that's when I was a young kid and my parents took me out to pick.  I don't believe I did a very good job; in fact, if I remember correctly, I ate more than I actually put in the containers. 

Of course, the best part of that story is the fact that after I spent the entire morning eating strawberries instead of picking them, we went out to lunch where the only thing I ordered, if I remember correctly, was a strawberry shake.

What can I say?  Even as a kid, I guess I was kind of, uhm, special.

I think the reason I go so gaga for strawberries this time of the year is that they're fresh.  They taste like strawberries.  You know they've just been ripped from the ground, and they taste that way, unlike some of the packaged strawberries you can get during the winter.  I mean, sure, I'll eat those, because they're the only strawberries available, but I know that they're not as good as the strawberries you get in June (or, this year, July).  I look forward to them every year, and often find myself binging on them, as I'm doing this year.  After all, strawberries have one of the shortest shelf lives of any fruit or vegetable, so it's either use 'em or lose 'em, right?

And I know which side of the eating equation I'd rather be on!

So if you happen to see me in the next week or so and my lips are redder than usual or I have seeds stuck in my teeth, just remember I'm feeding my addiction to strawberries.  After all, I need something to fixate on now that the lilacs are gone, right?

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 7/8:

I'm sad to say that the French mayor who once insisted we crash a wedding reception has died.

Of all the possible sentences one could write in one's life, that sentence is one that very few people could write, at least in English.  However, it looks like I'm one of the few who could, and that's why I'm a bit sad at the passing of Mayor Michel Lepourry of Sainteny, Manche, France.

We met Mayor Lepourry back in 2009, through our friend Jean-Paul Pitou.  Jean-Paul lives near Sainteny, and at the end of spending the day with him driving all around Normandy to look at war-related stuff for Loraine, we wound up at the Sainteny town hall, where Mayor Lepourry regaled us with tales of life under Nazi occupation.  He was only a child then, but those tales had stuck with him over those 60+ years.

Once we were done we thought we were done and figured we would be on our way, but Mayor Lepourry had other ideas.  You see, the town's butcher had been married a few weeks earlier, was having his reception that afternoon, and the Mayor had been invited.  Apparently, he didn't want to drive, so he took it upon himself to invite both us and Jean Paul, and since you apparently can't say “no” to a French mayor, Loraine and I ended up—uninvited--at a French wedding reception.





I've often said that we get into the strangest adventures when we're in Europe, and if it's not Loraine's fault then it's because of people like Mayor Lepourry.  I can't complain; after all, how many times do you get to meet a French mayor, and then find yourself driving him up the road to crash a wedding reception?

Nope; not often.

So au revoir, Mayor Lepourry.  Thanks for giving us a couple of hours we'll never forget!

(That's Mayor Lepourry on the left, showing off part of his town's collection of 51 American state (and District of Columbia) flags)





(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 7/7:

“Run, Jim, run”!

I can’t tell you how many times I heard that during the Marquette and Ishpeming parades Friday, as I was madly sprinting from one side of the street to the other or as I was running a 100 meter dash in order to catch up with the Pedal Cruiser we were using as our parade entry.  You see, I was trying to take as many pictures as possible of the people who had made up signs for our little “Parades of Cash” contest, and as it turned out a LOT of people made up signs for our little “Parades of Cash” contest.

That’s why I was running the entire time.

I’ve often joked that the one day of the year when I really don’t need any kind of workout is parade day, if only because I move so much during both events.  This year was no exception; in fact, I think I may have moved more during these parades than in most recent years.  I don’t know why; I don’t know if the signs were spread apart more than usual, or if Marquette and Ishpeming streets have all of a sudden become wider and longer, but I sure was on my feet a lot and moving quite rapidly.

And, of course, hearing several different people yell out “Run, Jim, run” while I was doing my best Forrest Gump impression!

As you may have inferred, I took a BUNCH of pictures of people holding up signs, all of which you can see on our Facebook fan page.  However, I do need to point out two of them, the first of which just blew me away with its sheer beauty—





That was painted by Lori Keto, who just did an amazing job with her sign.  In fact, I’m trying to see if I can snag her art from her, because I really think it deserves to be framed and hung inside of the station.  I really do!

The other picture I need to point out?  This one—





I see pictures like this many times a year during a parade, mostly because people just want my attention and know I’ll laugh when I see it.  However, this one deserves special attention, if only because it’s being held up by the one & only Dennis Whitley!  I think his daughter Lane has a picture of the two of us laughing at the sign.  If that is the case, Lane, I want a copy!

Now the parades are over and I get to move on to one of the other big July events in my life—watching the Tour de France!  And seeing as how Mark Cavendish is out of the race after causing an accident and separating his shoulder, it means that different people will win different legs.

And that’s always makes watching the race even more fun!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 7/3:

Do you have your signs ready yet?

I’m talking, of course, about the signs you need to have ready for our “July Parades of Ca$h” tomorrow in Ishpeming and Marquette.  It’s always one of my favorite days of the year, not only because I get to give away my boss’s money, but because of the signs.

Every year, I’m constantly amazed by the work some people put into their signs. I mean, sure. . .there are some people who just scribble “Q107” on a paper plate, and that’s fine.  That’s all you need to do.  And this year, we’re making it even easier on you.  Go to the front page of this website, scroll down a little, do a little clicking, and download a sign that’s already to be printed out. (Or Click Here)  See?  Absolutely no work on your part at all!

But then. . .there are people who obviously put a lot of time and talent into what they do.  I’ve seen works of art out on the street.  I’ve seen families who’ve obviously spent an evening putting signs together, and I’ve seen some very unique interpretations of our call letters.

And I enjoy each and every one of them.

Every year during the parades, I’ll take pictures of a bunch of the signs and post them on our Facebook fan page.  After all, if you guys put that much work into them, they deserve to be seen by the public, right?  So get those signs made up, and bring them with you to the parades tomorrow in Marquette and Ishpeming.  Who knows—they could not only win you cash, but they could be stuck up on the Interweb for everyone on the planet to see!

*****

By the way, there won’t be a blog entry tomorrow; even though we’re in the parades that day, it’s still a “holiday”.  So have yourself a great 3-day (or 4-day, or however long it is) holiday weekend; enjoy the sun while it’s here.  And, of course, yell loudly (and show us your signs) when we pass in the parades tomorrow!

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 7/2:

I'm glad someone asked the question.

I posted a couple of pictures on my Facebook page Sunday, and I did it for a particular reason.  I went to Park Cemetery and, like I do every year, cleaned off a couple of headstones.  I then posted pictures of them, these pictures--









And mentioned that they belonged to two Marquette icons.  Now, I was pretty sure everyone knows who George Shiras III is, but I was hoping someone would bite on Charles Pong.

Thanks for biting, Doug Garrison!

Charlie Pong was born in China and came to Marquette right around 1900.  He opened a laundry, which he operated until his death in 1949.  The interesting thing about Charlie?  He sent every single cent of money he earned back to his family in China, so when he passed away he was penniless.  Since he had no money, the city was just going to bury him in Potter's Field.  However, Charlie was so beloved by his fellow business owners and the community at large that they all chipped in so that he could have his own burial plot and headstone.

You know, the headstone I cleaned off Sunday.

I wanted to bring this up because I was interviewed for a forthcoming Marquette Monthly piece about Park Cemetery, and one of the stories I told was about Charlie Pong.  His headstone is under a pine tree that leaks an awful lot of pine tree gunk, so that's why I clean it every year or two.  And I'm not the only one who seems to know about Mr. Pong; every year, usually after I clean off the headstone, someone—and I have no idea who—leaves flowers at his grave.

There are great stories like that all through Park Cemetery; in fact, I could spend hours (if not days) wandering around and sharing them.  But I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Charlie Pong's story, which is why I make sure his is one of the headstones I clean off every year.

And now you know, too!

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 7/1:

Please try not to hate me, but I’ve just noticed that even though I’ve gained two pounds none of my pants seem to fit any more.

Okay...go ahead and hate me a little, if you’d like, but I’m just as surprised as you are.  Over the past two weeks, I’ve noticed that I’ve put on one pound each of those weeks, and it’s surprised me a little bit. I mean, I think I look the same as I always do, and I can’t see where two pounds of extra blubber might be hiding.  I have, though, put on two pounds, and as we all know, scales are NEVER wrong, right?

Then I went to put on a pair of shorts I hadn’t worn in those two weeks, and noticed that as soon as I put them on they started to slide down my waist a little.  That got me to thinking; I’ve also had to tighten my belt one notch more than usual when I put it on every morning.  And yet, I’ve gained two pounds over the two past weeks.  Should my shorts not slide down?  Shouldn’t I have to let my belt out a notch instead of making it tighter?

And that‘s when it hit me. I may finally be adding a little muscle to my body.

Those of you who’ve read this forever know that I’ve been trying to add a little muscle to my body for as long as you’ve been reading this.  I work out, I eat lots of protein, but I’ve never succeeded, thanks mostly to my genetic makeup and thanks in a smaller way to the fact that I run, and you hardly ever see a bulked up runner, right?  I mean, I’m not (in any way) trying to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger; I just don’t wanna be the skinniest dork on the block.

However, the fact that I’ve put on weight while shedding an inch or two from my waistline means that I must be adding muscle somewhere, even if I can’t see it.  Muscle weighs a lot more than fat; that why they’re always telling people who are trying to lose weight and get in shape not to look at the scale but to look at your clothes instead.  When you replace fat with muscle you don’t necessarily lose weight, but you will lose inches.

Apparently, that’s what I’ve finally succeeded in doing.

I have no idea where this muscle is; like I said, to me, at least, I look pretty much like I always have.  But it must be lurking in there somewhere, the same way that the fat it replaced was floating around.  Hopefully, I’ll start adding more muscle, and then you may even be able to notice it.  Of course, I’ve been trying to add bulk for 13 or 14 years now, and if it’s taken this long to add a couple of pounds, I’ll probably be in my 70s or 80s before I add enough that you can actually see.

Oh well; by then I’ll be old, but at least I’ll be the buffest guy at the Senior Center, right?

I’d be curious to know what finally prompted my muscles to start growing.  I know that I’m always changing up my workout routine to trying and fool my body into thinking it’s working hard.  Maybe that’s what caused it.  Maybe it’s caused by those isometric exercises from Women’s Health magazine, the ones that still make my body sore on a weekly basis.  I don’t know; I’m just happy that it’s working.

Even if it does mean that someday soon I may have to go out and buy new shorts.  And maybe a belt, while I’m at it.

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 6/30:

At least the last month of the first half of the year didn’t suck as much as the rest of the first half of the year.

Those of you who’ve been reading this on an on-going basis know just of what I speak—the ongoing trials and tribulations of a radio station gone “poof” (and a complete air staff turnover, except for me), a nasty, prolonged streak of cold weather taking over our lives, three months of construction to the house where we live, Loraine’s illnesses, hospitalization, surgery, and recovery, and several other matters I’ve not brought up in here.

Needless to say, the first half of 2014 hasn’t been the best of times.  However, I’m glad to say that things are looking up.

Just in June, this little radio gig got back to normal, our landlords have finally finished rebuilding whatever it is they were rebuilding, there have been three whole days where the temperature approached (or surpassed) 80, and Loraine has now been able to eat every single food she couldn’t before her gall bladder surgery, and eat it without any sort of problems.

That’s why I’m hopeful things are looking up.

I think I’ve mentioned in here before that I’m okay with a certain amount of chaos and surrealism.  I realize that life is a constantly changing series of events, and that any routines and patterns in which you become comfortable will not always be there.  I understand that, and I try to go with the flow of events as much as possible.  But given every single thing that went on during the first half of the year, and how sometimes events would just start piling on one another; well, sometimes I think that even I was pushed to my limits.

And I’d like to think that that’s saying something.

Thankfully, my eternal sense of optimism was not totally shoved under the rug during the first half of 2014, which leads me to hope that the second half of 2014 is everything its predecessor wasn’t.  I’m hopeful nothing breaks, I’m hopeful we have wonderful weather, I’m hopeful I can live in an apartment with as much peace & quiet as you can get living right near downtown Marquette, and I’m hopeful that good health reigns over everyone with whom I come in contact, including everyone who reads this.

So on that note, farewell first half of 2014.  Don’t let the door hit you in the calendar on the way out!

(jim@wmqt.com)

(ps—thanks to daily blog reader Cyndy of Au Train for taking pictures of the lilacs JUST SPROUTED in her yard and posting them on Facebook.  Cyndy, give them a sniff or six for me!)

FRIDAY, 6/27:

Wow.  This week sure flew by, didn't it?

Because today could be the first nice sunny warm day here in Marquette in, like, forever, I'm gonna take a half day today, which means that I have to get down to work early so I can leave for a bit.  But I couldn't do that without first having to apologize to my dear wife, even if it's a retroactive apology.

Loraine, I'm sorry.

Here's the deal—over the years we've been together Loraine has often commented on how I tend to talk back to the TV while watching football, especially if the team for which I'm cheering isn't doing too well.  I'm sure it's a bit annoying to her, and I've tried to tone it down over the years, but only to middling success.

Yesterday, I was at work when Ryan (the host of “The Sportspen” on our ESPN station  was watching the US lose to Germany in the World Cup.  After Germany scored its goal, and every time the US failed to capitalize on a scoring chance, Ryan let out groans of misery and cries following lost opportunities.  He even started talking to the players on the TV, apparently not aware that they could hear him.

Seeing as how I do the exact same thing, especially when The Colts aren't playing up to their potential, I know what he's going through.  And I also now know what Loraine goes through every time I do it.  And THAT”S why I'm apologizing to her, even if it's retroactively.

My dear, I had no idea.  I'll try not to do it again!

8-)

On that note, I do have to get going.  Have yourself a great weekend; from the sounds of it, we may even have a day tomorrow that may help in that cause!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 6/26:

I wonder.  How many people do you think have actually watched it?

As you know, I've been doing the “On The Town” segments for Fox UP's Thursday night news for four weeks now.  Usually when I do TV, I have people come up to me (quite often on the street) and mention they've seen me.  Well, in the month I've been doing these little bits, I have yet to have anyone come up to me.  I mean, I'm not really looking to have people come up to me on the street and talk to me.  I just find it...interesting.

Of course, now that I've mentioned it, and now that I've been doing them for a month, I'm sure people WILL start to come up and say they've seen me on TV.  And I have the feeling that most of them will have watched the segment that I taped Tuesday and that airs tonight, a segment that went very well except for one glaring problem--

I shot it when I had, for some strange reason, a big zit on my upper lip.

I was always under the assumption that one of the few good things about getting older is that you don't have to deal with things like zits.  However, I've found that not to be true.  And they (the zits) usually pop up at the worst of times, like when I need to shoot something for TV, such as this past Tuesday.  When she was shooting it Kelsey said it wasn't noticeable, and since it wasn't shot in HD it probably isn't, but I'll know it's there, and now if you watch tonight, YOU'LL be able to notice it, as well.

Is there any wonder I don't like to watch myself on TV?

8-)

Hopefully, I won't have a problem like this pop up when my other TV project (the one I still can't tell you about) starts this fall.  If it does, I'll have to make sure there IS a makeup artist standing by, because I don't know if all of Upper Michigan wants to see a show host (at least one who'll never see 40 again) with zits popping up here and there.  I'm enough of a dork as it is, you know?

Of course, it could be worse.  My voice could be cracking at the same time my zits are popping out.  And that is a concern; for many years, and for some reason I've yet to figure out, my voice would crack at odd times like a 13-year old while I was doing my radio stuff.  Thankfully (or not thankfully, depending upon which medium I'm doing) the voice cracking has been replaced by odd zit that pops up every few months.  Yes, I know it's a First World problem, and yes, I know it makes no difference in the grand scheme of things.  I guess, despite my best efforts, there is still a  little vanity lurking in me somewhere.

Dang it all anyway.

So, like I said, watch the Fox UP newscast tonight, and see if YOU can notice the zit on my face.  I know I won't be watching.

(jim@wmqt.com), the dork.

WEDNESDAY, 6/25:

Since we're in the middle of some really ugly weather (and just as an aside, when hasn't the weather been ugly this year?), I figure I'll try & brighten everyone's day with some pictures of flowers, pictures I took Sunday when the sun actually was out and the rain actually was not as omnipresent as it has been the past few days.

I don't know why I like to go around shooting pictures of flowers; I mean, it's not like I grow them, or even know anything about them.  There's just something about them that appeals to my eye.  I'm not sure if it's the delicate-ness (if that's a word) of them--





But I do think a lot of it has to do with the colors of the flowers, and the color contrast you can get between the flowers and whatever's behind them.  At least, that's the impression I got when I was looking at what I shot--








Even if all those colors are purple!





Of course, I'm sure the way the flowers smell has something to do with it, even if you can't photograph smells (and trust, me I've tried with lilacs.  I've really tried!)  Anyway, just think how nice THIS will be smelling in a couple of days--





Finally, this picture  has nothing to do with flowers, but I took it because the scene just seemed so... European, when in reality it was smack dab in the middle of Marquette--





Like I said, I figured I'd put the pictures up to try and counteract some of the gloom we've been experiencing recently (or all year, if you prefer).  Hope it worked!

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 6/24:

A couple of things today, the first of which is a sentence I never thought I'd write--

I actually almost agree with the Mining Journal on something.

I know; who thought that would ever be possible, right?  What's next—hell freezes over?  The Lions go to the Super Bowl?  The mind just boggles!!

Anyway, as some of you may know, the Mining Journal has restricted access to their website to only paid subscribers of their newspaper.  If you don't subscribe, you just get to read the first paragraph of the story.  And being a content provider myself, that's the part I can agree with.  I mean, the Mining Journal has to pay reporters to go and cover stories, so if the paper were just to throw everything on the web without getting any money for it, I'm guessing they wouldn't be around for long.  I mean, I don't know much about business, but I do think you need to have some money coming in to balance the money going out, right?  Unless you're independently wealthy, you probably can't afford to give stuff away for free.

So that's why I understand what the Mining Journal did.  Now, do I think they rolled it out properly?  No.  They only gave readers a few days notice, they don't have access to back issues that used to be on the web, and perhaps most importantly, they don't (unless I'm missing something that's right in front of my face) have a “digital only” subscription option.  If you want to access their content, you have to pay for a print edition, even if you're in in someplace exotic, like Europe.  Or Wisconsin.

And that just doesn't make sense, at least to me. 

But like I said, I understand why they're doing it.  Just posting everything online for free would be like allowing people to walk into Burger King, pick up a Whopper, and then leave without paying.  So mark this day on your calender—the Mining Journal and I agree on something.

Now go place your bets on the Lions making the Super Bowl!

*****

Secondly, I have to share a note I received from daily blog reader Heather in Marquette, who said, and I quote--

“When I read your line in this morning’s blog about checking my watch before shooting you in case of a zombie apocalypse, I spent the next ten minutes laughing my you-know-what off.  Just what kind of mind comes up with a scenario like that?”

Uhm...mine, apparently.  It’s a gift.  Or a curse.  I haven’t quite figured out which one yet.

*****

Finally, you know how I keep saying I really have to update the “107 Things” list?  Well, I REALLY have to update the “107 Things” list, as another individual who made it up has passed away.  I don't know if you're heard, but Don Curto died over the weekend.  Don, who probably would've been the first person to admit he had a larger-than-life personality, was one of my favorite area raconteurs.  For a history buff, he was a never-ending source of tales, some of them probably actually true!

RIP, Don.  You will be missed.

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 6/23

Some days, I wonder how I ever make it out the front door with all my clothes on.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not really a morning person.  If I can help it, I’m not up before the sun (especially these days when the sun comes out (assuming there are no clouds) before 6 a.m.).  I don’t greet the day with joy and a burst of energy.  And I certainly don’t do more before dawn than most people do all day.  There’s a reason I’ve never done morning radio, and it all boils down to this--

I am NOT a morning person.

In fact, my dear wife claims, with a fair amount of truth, that I am a “zombie” in the morning.  I’m not gonna deny that; I find myself wandering around aimlessly and silently, bumping into things that get into my way, even if they’re cabinets and even if they’ve been in the same exact place for 20 or 30 years.  So if there ever is a zombie apocalypse and you’re one of the lucky survivors, you may see me moving slowly and haltingly down the street.  If that happens, do me a favor, and check the time before you shoot me. 

If it’s before noon, there’s a good chance I’m NOT a zombie.  I’m just not awake yet.

I don’t know what it is; there’s just something about my physical makeup that doesn’t allow me to function very well early in the day.   I can’t just pop out of bed and be at 100%, either physically or mentally.  I’ve always been like that, and I doubt it’s ever gonna change.  I need to sit around for awhile, to try and get my bearings while not walking into any furniture.  I also need to let out a few grunts & groans, to make sure that I’m actually awake, and not still in the middle of some kind of really warped dream. 

After all that, I’m still only at, if I had to guess, 20 or 30 percent, tops.  I’ll still stumble around the house, bashing into things.  I’ll head out the door, hoping I have everything I need for the day and that I didn’t forget my socks or underwear.  I’ll go in to work, and my coworkers will make fun of my low-energy silence.  I’ve tried caffeine, and it really doesn’t help.  Even working out or running in the morning, something that’s guaranteed to provide an energy burst, may only boost me up to 40 or 50 percent.

Sure, it’s something, but it’s not a fully functioning brain.  Not that I’ve ever been accused of having a fully functioning brain, but you know what I mean.

Luckily, something in my system seems to click into gear around noon, and I’m ready to go by the time I hit the air at 2.  I’m then at 100 percent (or more) for the rest of the day, sometimes with a burst of energy extending far into the evening.  I then go to bed, and the whole cycle starts over again, with the grunting and the groaning and the walking into things.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again--some days, it’s not easy being me.  Especially if it’s in the morning.

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com), who wants you to remember--if it’s before noon, he’s NOT a zombie.  He just looks that way.

FRIDAY, 6/20:

And happy almost first day of summer (or what's passing for it around here this year)!

Laura and I were talking about the longest and shortest days of the year on the air a couple of days ago, focusing on the first day of winter people can leave their home, go to work, and then go home, and not see a lick of sun because of the shortness of the day.  Well, last night, for some bizarre reason, I was jolted awake in the middle of the night by the thought that the exact opposite of that will occur on Saturday.

And then, of course, I couldn't get back to sleep.

But when you think of it, it's true.  Say someone goes to bed at 10pm and wakes up at 6am.  If they were to do that tomorrow in Marquette, they'd be going to bed just after the sun had set and the sky was still light.  They'd then be waking several minutes after sunrise, when the sky was filled with light.  They'd go to bed when it was light and wake up when it was light, not seeing a lick of darkness, just like some people don't see a lick of sun on the first day of winter.

Nah; I don't think it's a concept worth getting up for in the middle of the night, but what does my sub-conscious know, right?

Back in the days when I Roller-bladed (back before I cracked a rib after wiping out and Loraine told me I couldn't Roller-blade any more) I used to go out at 10pm on the first day of summer and blade around a bit, just because I could.  I mean, there aren't a lot of places in the U.S. where you can do that.  But because we're on the far western edge of a time zone and because we're quite far north, we get to do stuff like that.  I always felt that I should do just because we could, just because no one else could.

Maybe THAT'S why I wake up in the middle of the night with weird ideas.

Anyway, now that we're (almost) at the first day of summer, I hope I won't be awoken with ideas such as those.  Of course, tomorrow probably won't seem like the first day of summer, what with the rain and cool temperatures that are forecast, but as Laura and I joke all the time, it's 2014, and we should expect the unexpected.

So on that not, have yourself a great first day of summer tomorrow, no matter what happens.  Who knows...maybe YOU won't see a lick of darkness all day yourself!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 6/19:

I'm gonna have to start bringing my empties back to the store.  I just found out you can now make a deposit for a flight to the moon.

And all it costs is $150 million.

I'm serious (well, not about the empties, but about the story)--Space Adventures, the company that sells seats up to the International Space Station, has announced that they've started to take deposits for a trip to the moon (and back).  You won't land on the moon; instead, you'll just swing around the backside and then head back to Earth, just like they did in “Apollo 13”, except without the exploding spacecraft and Tom Hanks.

(As an aside, Mom & Dad, there will only be one thing on my Christmas list this year!)

Right now, the only way for Americans to get into space is aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.  But, if all goes to plan, in a couple of years several private firms (Space X and Boeing, among them) will be launching private spacecraft into low Earth orbit, which means that there will be extra Soyuz capsules lying around.  Space Adventure, along with the Russian Space Agency (Roskosmos) has come up with a plan to modify a Soyuz for a trans-lunar trip.  For your $150 million, you'd fly up to the International Space Station in one Soyuz, spend a day or two there, and then board another  modified Soyuz for your trip to the moon.  You'd get back home two weeks after you left with a lifetime full of memories and a very empty bank account.

But it'd be worth it, wouldn't it?

Even though the Soyuz has been around for over 45 years, it's a very sturdy spacecraft.  It was actually designed to fly to the moon, although once the U.S. landed there in 1969 the (then) Soviet Union gave up on the idea of using it for that purpose.  Since then, hundreds of the craft have been launched into low Earth orbit with very few problems.  Designers say they'd just have to add a module for more living space and make sure the heart shield was sturdy enough to enter the atmosphere at an accelerated speed , and then they'd be all set.

The earliest one of these flights could be made is 2018, although it probably won't happen by then.  Even with all that, two people have already put down deposits for the first flight, which means a couple of things—one, it'll probably happen sooner rather than later, and two, there are some people with WAAAAAAY too much money out there.

If only I was one of those people, right?  Oh well...

It'll be interesting to see how this all plays out.  If it doesn't happen with Space Adventures, I would be shocked if someone else didn't give it a try.  As long as there are people willing to fork over the Gross National Product of a small nation for a two week vacation where no one else has gone before, I'm sure there will be a company out there to fulfill that wish.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I hafta go see if I can find any loose change in my couch.

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 6/19:

I was walking down Third Street Sunday afternoon when I saw someone break the law. 

It wasn't a big deal, and the only reason I bring it up is that I'm still trying to decide if I should've said something to the person violating the law.  It wasn't a gross violation of any civic code, unless you consider illegal parking a gross violation of a civic code, but I'm still wondering if I should have brought it up.

I was walking down Third right by The Pasta Shoppe when I noticed a guy in a car pulling up to park.  There were two empty parking spaces and a sign that said “No Parking Here To Corner” before you get to the corner of the street.  Well, the guy in the car skipped over the two empty parking spaces, went passed the sign that said not to park anywhere else, and parked his car between the “No Parking Here To Corner” sign and the corner.

Clearly, he was illegally parked.

As he got out of his car, I thought about mentioning his illegal parking to him, if only to make sure that he didn't come back from wherever he went to find a ticket on his windshield.  I know that if I was parked like that, I'd want someone to point out my mistake to me.  After all, if given a choice between someone pointing out a mistake I made and me having to pay a fine, I'd take the mistake any day of the week.

So like I said, I was going to point out the mistake to him.  The only thing is, he wa  getting out of the car with a woman.  That in itself would've have stopped me from pointing out his mistake.  But as he and the woman were getting out of the car they were having some rather pointed words with each other, and I got the feeling that they didn't want to me interrupted, especially by someone telling them they had done something wrong.  They walked over to Stuckos, I continued down the street, and that was the last I saw of them.

Now, I have no idea why they were having pointed words with each other.  I have no idea if, when they walked out of Stuckos, there was a parking ticket on their car.  And I have no idea how a parking ticket would've impacted on upon the mood they were both in when they left the car.  Like I said, I didn't want to interrupt that “mood” and make it worse by telling them they had made a mistake.  But then, maybe if I had, I would've spared that “mood” from becoming even worse when they left the restaurant to find a parking ticket on their car.

See why I'm still wondering if I should've said something?

I really don't like getting involved with other people's business; after all, I enjoy my privacy as much as anyone else, and do appreciate it when others keep to themselves.  But as I mentioned, I would like to know if I had done something that could lead to a ticket or some other bout of trouble, no matter what mood I was in.  After all, even if you're bummed about something, you'll probably be even more bummed if you walk out to find a parking ticket on your car.

You know, people are always joking that they see me (and Loraine) walking everywhere, commenting about how we must get a lot of exercise that way.  It's true; we do.  But as you see, walking everyone can also bring up a situation or two you'd never get yourself into by staying off the sidewalk.

Ah, the things that happen on streets of Marquette, I tall ya!

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 6/18:

Me?  Cheering for a crappy weather day in summer?  Seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?  Yet that’s what almost happened yesterday

As always, there is a story behind this.  As you know, we’ve suffered through some cold weather recently.  And as you know, we have a forecast of some rather cold weather coming up.  Yesterday, though, was gorgeous—lots of sun, and temps around 80, the kind of day where I would usually take off for a couple of hours and just play in the sun, like nature intended.

So why was I almost cheering for crappy weather yesterday instead of the warmth and the sun?  Probably because I had to be an adult and actually work (inside) all day.  Sometimes, it just sucks having to be responsible, doesn’t it?

8-)

Between several long-scheduled appointments and the much-needed (and last minute) visit of an engineer to fine tune our new antenna array, I had to be at work yesterday.  There were no if, ands, or buts about it.  I needed to be there.  So when I looked at the forecast and noticed that the one & only nice day in almost two weeks would fall on the one & only day I couldn’t take off; well, let’s just say that didn’t sit very well.  Let’s just say that, for a brief and somewhat painful moment, I almost hoped that the forecast would be wrong and that we wouldn’t have a nice summer day.

Almost.

Now, I could never actually cheer for bad weather during the summer.  That’s just not in my DNA.  And just because I myself couldn’t enjoy it doesn’t mean that other people shouldn’t get maximum pleasure out of it.  I mean, days like yesterday, especially during a year like this, don’t pop up too often, and we should cheer them on, whether we can personally enjoy them or not.  It would’ve been selfish and mean and very out of character for me to cheer against a nice day just because I couldn’t enjoy it.

So I didn’t.  But I will admit that, when I first saw the forecast, for at least a second I had to laugh at the irony of the situation, the irony of the one nice day in a two week span falling on the one day on which I could not enjoy it.  I don’t begrudge (and will never complain about) one nice day showing up in a span of blah weather, but did the one nice day have to show up yesterday?  Really???????

So I spent the day indoors, in meetings, and answering a bunch of technical questions I just barely comprehended, all while part of my brain kept wondering how much the sun was shining, or what the conditions were like at McCarty’s Cove. I’m pretty sure it was not the most efficient way of utilizing my time yesterday, but at least I got through everything scheduled with the minimum amount of psychic pain I could inflict upon myself, knowing that today (Tuesday) and the rest of the week will be a lot cooler, a lot cloudier, and a lot less friendly to spending the day playing outside.

Sigh.  Sometimes it sucks being an adult, doesn’t it?

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 6/16:

Oww.  I hurt, and it's all because of a woman's magazine.

Here's the deal—every since Loraine bought her new car a year and a half ago she's been receiving all kinds of magazines in the mail.  She never ordered them, never paid for them, but they keep coming in the mail every month since she purchased her car.  And it's a rather eclectic groups of magazines, too, ranging from Prevention (health tips for old people) to Parenting (baby tips for young people). 

(And just as an aside, do the target demographics for Prevention and Parenting even overlap at all?  Just curious).

Anyway, Loraine's been getting all these mystery magazines, and most of them just get brought to work with her, much to the eternal delight of everyone at Range Bank.  There's one that doesn't make the trip down the street, though, and that's Women's Health.  I've been reading Men's Health for years now, and it's been quite interesting getting a glimpse of the “mirror universe”, as it were.  Both magazines are put out by the same publisher, so they follow the same format, and like I said it's interesting seeing the same topics covered from a different perspective.

As an example?  One of the things both magazines focus on is fitness.  Men's Health is full of articles on how to make your biceps pop or make your abs rock hard, while Women's Health focuses more on overall strength.  In their newest issue they had an article dealing with isometrics, which is basically holding an athletic position for a certain amount of time and letting your muscles build from that, instead of building your muscles by moving weights up & down.  It sounded interesting, so I figured I'd give it a try.

Now, I'd like to think I'm in fairly good shape, especially for someone who'll never be young(er) again.  I run, I bike, I ski, and yes, I also move weights up & down.  I'm not in perfect shape, but I certainly feel like I'm doing okay.  However, after doing just one of those isometric exercises in this month's edition of Women's Health I feel more like a weak little wimpy person, someone who's sole existence in life is to get sand kicked in their face by someone who CAN do those exercises.

Yikes!

Here's what kicked my butt--an exercise designed to build your upper arms, back, and core.  Assume a push-up position, lower yourself halfway to the floor, and then hold it for one minute.  Rest a second, and do it again for a total of four times.

Seems simple, right?  Well, after barely making it through the first of four times, and then collapsing during the second time, let me tell you this—it is NOT as easy as it looks.  I thought I had somewhat strong arms and a good back, but as it turns out, they're nowhere near good enough to get through even half of that exercise.  And if the embarrassment of not even getting through half of the exercise was enough, I woke up the next morning and could barely move my arms.

That's how sore I was.

I'm a little better today, but I can still really feel it.  Don't worry; I'll keep doing the exercises until I can finish the whole set of four, and do so without losing all strength in my arms for the next few days.  After all, if they're that hard, and they make me that sore, they must be really good for you, right?.  And who knew I have Women's Health—and Loraine's car—to thank for that?

Speaking of Loraine's car, remind me to tell you some day about neither of us can seem to park that little bugger straight!

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 6/13 (!):

I really need to change something about myself.

Well, to be honest, there are probably a lot of things I need to change about myself, but there's one that I really really think I need to work on.  I really need to work on remembering people's names a whole lot better than I do now.

This happens to me on a regular basis.  I get introduced to a lot of people in my life, and then when I next see them, a few months or a few years later, I can't remember their name.  I try, but I can't.  And it's not just with people who I've just met; after the Fire tour Wednesday, I rain into someone I'd gone to school with but mixed up his name with the name of someone else.  After this happens, I feel horrid about it, but there doesn't seem to be anything I can do to make my problem better.

It's just a skill I don't seem to have.

I'm usually pretty upfront about it.  If someone comes up to me and starts talking like they know me, I'll usually make an apology and then ask them to remind me of their name.  I don't know if it makes my faux pas any less faux pas-ier, but at least I try to be honest about it.  And when I see that particular person again, I'll usually remember who they are.

Unless, of course, it's been several months or several years, in which case all bets are off.

I understand part of why this happens.  I'm not trying to make excuses (at all), but like I said, I meet a lot of people, sometimes four or five at a time, and I have to try and remember all those names.  Each of the people I meet only has to remember one name, mine.  And since mine is (for better or worse) a recognizable name in some circles...

It'd be like me, along with 10 other people, meeting President Obama, and then hoping he'd remember my name three months later.

Like I said, I'm not trying to make excuses.  I really REALLY need to work on remembering people's names better.  Out of the many things I'd like to change about myself, that's one of, if not the, biggest.  So if you have any tips on how to better remember names, please pass them along.  If nothing else, people I meet in the future, people I knew years ago, and almost everyone else I run into on the street will thank you.

And so will I!

On that note, have yourself a great weekend.  Hopefully, YOU'LL remember the names of anyone you happen to meet!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 6/12:

If you saw about 100 people standing on a downtown Marquette street corner last night, it wasn’t a riot.  It wasn’t a protest.  It wasn’t a flash mob.

It was me.

That’s right; “The Great Marquette Fire Tour” was a rousing success last night.  Like I said, 100 or so people showed up to hear the story of a fire almost snuffed our fair city out of existence in 1868.  I have to admit that I was a little shocked by how many people showed up; apparently, though, they were as curious as I had been putting the tour together to see what happened on that fateful night 146 years ago yesterday.

In a way, I have to be thankful that not more people showed up.  Walking around a busy downtown with a group of 100 people probably isn’t the safest thing (for them) to do in the world, and I know that with all the street noise there were people who couldn’t hear me, even with an amplification system.  I also had to revise the tour on the fly; there was no way I was gonna ask that many people to try & cross certain busy streets.  But we muddled through, and in the end everyone seemed to have a good time.

And it sounds like everyone there learned a little something, too, so that’s a bonus!

Because the people at the History Center are always bugging me to do this, and because, like I said yesterday, it’s a story with a definite beginning, middle, and end, I’m thinking I should probably write down everything I said last night.  That way, the History Center has a document to share with people on an event that hasn’t been well-chronicled, and I can probably get a few blogs out of it.

So it’s a win-win for everyone involved!

I had several people ask last night if I would be doing the tour again, because they wanted to bring friends or family members to see it, and while I don’t know for sure, I always say that if people wanna learn about Marquette history, I’m more than happy to walk around downtown & talk about it.  I also had someone ask if this was going to become an annual event for every June 11th.  And while I hadn’t even considered that possibility; well, you never know.

I have to thank Blaine Betts for holding part of my portable sound system above his head so people could hear a little better; I should also thank my dad for taking over when Blaine’s arm started to wear out.  And, of course, I have to thank Loraine for helping to pass out pictures.  They all made the tour go a lot smoother than it otherwise could’ve.

I now have five weeks until the next Jim Koski ™ event; which is a turbo-charging of one I put together in a few days last year after another program presenter died.  This one should be fun, if only because it hits the mythical trifeca of historical tours—it has bootleggers, it has killers, and it has hookers.

Oh, it’s gonna be a fun one!

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 6/11:

146 years ago today Marquette was changed forever.

One hundred and forty six years ago tonight, what most people refer to as “The Great Marquette Fire of 1868” ripped through what was then a frontier town, destroying the entire business district and coming perilously close to wiping out the entire city.  And that's why tonight I'm leading a Jim Koski ™ tour about the fire for the Marquette Regional History Center.

(I'm calling it a Jim Koski ™ tour despite the lack of killers or hookers or bootleggers; those all come in the tour I'm giving next month!)

I've now done interviews about the tour for every single TV station in Marquette, and one question actually stood out—Danielle Davis from TV-10 asked me why I was doing the tour, and I had to answer honestly.

I'm doing the tour because I wanted to learn about the fire!

Like most people, I'm aware of the fire, and how it shaped the downtown Marquette we all know and love.  But I didn't know too many of the details, and I figured that by putting a tour together I'd get to learn a lot of stuff I didn't know.  And while it doesn't happen very often, I'm proud to report that this time I was right.  I actually DID learn a lot of stuff!

I'm not gonna give away many of the details here; after all, I know that some of you who read this usually show up for the tours, and I don't wanna spoil your surprises.  But I will say that more than any other tour I've given this one plays out like a movie or a good suspense novel.  It has a set-up, a tragedy, episodes of suspense, valiant efforts, and a definite ending.  Most of the tours I give meander throughout the years without a pinpoint plot line—after all, that's usually how history moves—but this tour definitely will have a plot.  After all, it covers a mere four hours in the history of Marquette, but it's four hours that changed the city forever.

If you're interested in checking it out, it gets underway at 630 at the Firefighter's Memorial at Lower Harbor Park.  It should take a little over an hour, and there's a $5 suggested donation to allow the History Center to do more programs like this. 

Hope to see you there; details on how it went tomorrow!

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 6/10:

For those of you wondering—yes, I HAVE been sniffing lilacs to the exclusion of almost everything else.

Did you expect anything different?

Not only have I been sniffing the greatest flowers (or, more technically, the greatest tree blossoms) on the face of the Earth, I've also been snapping a few pictures of them.  After all, they're only around for a week, week and a half at most; it's really a shame (at least in my weird opinion) if you don't take advantage of them while they're here.  It is, after all, one of those classic “use it or lose it” situations, and I know on which side of that equation I would much rather err.

So here we go, starting with what some people might consider to be paradise--





That tree wasn't even at perhaps my favorite place to sniff, Lakeside Park in Marquette.  Not only are the trees there abundantly filled with lilacs, but you get a nice view, as well.





I wasn't the only creature interested in the lilacs--





That's not the only insect I captured.  While I was just spinning around shooting every lilac I could find, I took this shot.  Now, I don;'t know if it'll show up in the small (425 pixel) picture I'm posting here, but look at the upper left hand corner.  See the blur?





That's another insect, a wasp or something, coming in for a landing!

By the way, before I leave the subject of lilacs, I really have to thank my enabler, the one person in the world who indulges my little, uhm, addiction.  Sunday Loraine and I did a walk-through of the Fire tour I'm giving for the History Center tomorrow night, and since we ended right near Lakeside Park, she looked at me and said those words that every man longs to hear--

“You wanna go look at lilacs?”

Does she know me or what?

8-)

*****

Speak of the Fire tour I'm giving for the History Center, much more on that tomorrow!

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 6/9:

I’ve started thinking in French again.

Three months (give or take a few days) from today we’ll (hopefully) be returning from our latest European trip, which has reminded me that I need to brush up on my French language skills.  Those of you who read this on a regular basis know that, over the last six or seven years, I’ve managed to teach myself enough of the language to get by, thanks to Rosetta Stone and my handy dandy “French is Easy; Don't be a Coward” book (a book, as they note, geared for seventh graders, but good for adults, too).  While I’m nowhere near fluent in being able to speak or listen to the language with someone who grew up speaking and listening to it, I’m pretty good at reading it, and I can hold my own in a two or three sentence conversation with a native French speaker.

As I’ve found every time I’ve been in Europe, as long as you make the effort to speak the language in whichever country you’re visiting, people will meet you halfway.  After all, students in Europe learn several different languages, and most choose English as one of them.  So between my self-taught French and their school-taught English, Loraine and I have managed to got around France & Belgium with no problem whatsoever.  In fact, the only problem is in the few months before we leave, when I realize I’ve forgotten half of what I learned before the previous trip, and need to brush up.

Which is why I’m trying to think in French these days.

And even the phrase “thinking in French” is misleading.  After all, it’s not like I’m thinking about what I’m typing in this blog in French; like I said, I’m not fluent enough in the language to do that (some people, of course, would say that I’m not fluent enough in English to write a blog, either, but that’s a conversation for another day).  When I say I’m “thinking in French”, I do it in small ways.  When someone asks me a question, I’ll answer it verbally in English, but mentally in French.  My head will be filled with “ouis” and “nons” and “mercis” and “je nais sais pas”.  It seems to work for me, although the checkout lady at the grocery store last weekend gave me a funny look when I answered “papier, s’il vous plait” when asked if I preferred paper or plastic.

Oops.  My bad.

So with any luck, by the time late August rolls around I’ll be ready to roll through France with enough French at my disposal to let us do whatever we need to do whenever we want to do it.  It’s worked before, and hopefully, it’ll work again.

As always, wish me luck!!

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 6/6:

You're gonna be hearing a lot about the place today.

“The place” is, of course, the Normandy beaches in France where 70 years ago today what is still the largest amphibian military invasion in human history took place.  No matter you look, you see a lot of stories about that big day; in fact, look for one in today's Mining Journal about the one man from Marquette County who died on those beaches, Major William Richards.  Loraine helped put it together.  You'll also be seeing a lot of pictures from the area, most of them dealing with death and mayhem and almost all of them in black & white.

And that's not necessarily fair to those beaches.  I've come to know and like them.  I mean, sure, they were a really bad place 70 years ago, but except for the people who live there, no one ever seems to think about what they are today—beaches, and rather nice beaches, at that.  Instead of bloody battles photographed in black & white, you'll now see this--





You'll see school kids practicing for the big game--





You'll see harness racers getting ready for the next big event--





And, like on every beach, you'll see birds.  Lots & lots of birds--





Sure, you'll still, 70 years later, see signs of that bloody day--





But most importantly, you'll see families just out enjoying themselves--





And I have the feeling that, if you were able to talk to the over 3,000 Allied soldiers who died on the beaches 70 years ago today, that's what they would want to see more than anything.  To know that their sacrifices have allowed generations of French families—and American tourists—to enjoy the beaches upon which they died AS beaches, and not as some fortified stronghold of an invading power led by a madman.

I know that every single person I've met in Normandy certainly thanks them for what they did, and appreciates their sacrifice every single day.  Especially on those days when they can take their kids to the beach, enjoy the sun, play in the water, and (I'm sure) to remind them never to forget WHY they're able to play on that sand.

******

On that note, have yourself a great weekend.  I have but one task for the next few days—to go out and sniff as many lilacs as I can before passing out!!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 6/5:

I think Waste Management has gone mad with power.

We are now four weeks into Marquette's new recycling system.  It's pretty much like it was before, except for the fact that you can't recycle every thing every week.  The way it's set up now, you recycle paper and fibers one week, and plastic/metal/glass the next.  It's a fairly easy system, and this is the second week of plastic/metal/glass.

The first week of plastic/metal/glass I put all of my recyclables into two paper bags, and then put those paper bags into a plastic bin.  The recyclables were taken away, I was left with my plastic bin, and the environment breathed a little easier.  This week, as before, I put my recyclables into two paper bags, and like I did two weeks ago, put those two bags into a plastic bin.  I noticed the paper bags were overflowing just a little, so I took a couple of pieces of plastic out of each and put them into the bin next to the bags.

When I woke up yesterday, the bin was sitting on my curb, the two paper bags full of recyclables still sitting there, and each of the bags had this sticker on them--





However, the separate items I had taken out of the paper bags, because the bags were too full, had been taken away for recycling.  So what Waste Management did was this—any pieces of recyclables that were in paper bags, they left.  Any pieces of recyclables that were not in paper bags, they took away.

Huh?

There are two big things to consider here, and probably a lot of little ones, but I won't even think about  those.  The two big ones—they leave recyclables that are in paper bags (just because it's not paper week) but they reach down into the bins and take recyclables that are just lying free?  Wouldn't it have been just as easy to take all the plastic and leave the paper?  I mean, in a way I get it—it's not paper week.  It's plastic/metal/glass week.  But to take some and not all of it?

That just seems petty.

But the worst part of it, at least to me, is the inconsistency.  I put my recyclables out the exact same way two weeks ago, and they took them away, no problem, no questions, no stickers.  So I because of that I had the audacity to expect that's how it's always supposed to be done.  Apparently, Waste Management has other ideas.  Apparently the rules change from week to week.  This week, they didn't take my plastic because it was in paper bags.  What's gonna happen in two weeks—I put everything in a bin, with no paper, but they still don't pick them up because all of the jug openings aren't pointing north?  If the rules change from week to week, what's to say that won't happen?

It just wasn't me, either.  Here's a picture I took of recyclables they left lying around for my next door neighbor--





Now, the paper bin I can understand.  It wasn't paper week.  But look at the bin on the right.  It's all plastic/glass/metal, in a plastic bin, with no paper anywhere, exactly as their rules say to do.  Yet because they stuck that bin next to a bin with paper, the bin with the plastic, placed out just like they were supposed to, got slapped with a sticker as well.  My next door neighbors put out the plastics just like they were supposed to, and yet were turned away by the collectors just because it was next to something that shouldn't have been there.

I understand that there need to be rules in a society; I really do.  And I understand that the people at Waste Management have to collect a lot of refuse and don't have a lot of time to do it.  But this?  Well, it just seems petty, for lack of a better word.  And it doesn't seem logical, either.  After all, doesn't it take more time to look through recyclables and slap a sticker on it than it does to just pick them up & recycle them?

I dunno.  It just seems to me like there's something wrong with this whole system.  At the very least, some of us are trying.  Some, apparently, are not.

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 6/4:

Today's a great day. 

How could it not be?  We're finally back up to 100% power (after five long months, to the day) and when I woke up and started to go running this morning, this is what greeted me a block away from home--





Say what you want, but it doesn't take a lot to make me happy some days.  But after the 2014 we've been through (at least so far) the little things really DO mean a lot!

*****

Yesterday I shot the first of those “On The Towns” for Fox UP, and I had written in here that I don't plan on watching them when they air.  Why, you ask?  Well, I answer, it's simple.

I think I look weird on TV

I also don’t like looking at pictures of myself in the newspaper, another thing which I’ve had the opportunity to do recently.  I think I look like one of two things--a dork, or a space alien.  Or, I guess, I’d also accept looking like a dorky space alien.  That would work, too.

When watching myself on TV or seeing myself in the newspaper, all I can think is something I've written in here before, that something being “God, I have a lot of gray hair on the side of my head”.  And when I looked at myself on TV, it occurs to me that I always have the strangest expressions on my face when I’m talking, and also that I actually “talk” with my hands, gesturing and pointing for emphasis.

I really have to stop doing that!

Now, I realize that you guys would look at the video, or look at the picture, and probably see nothing wrong.  We are, after all, most critical of that which we know best, which is why MOST people look at pictures of people other than themselves and see a nice smile, then look at a picture of themselves and start to gag.

See?  I’m not the only one!

I think I have the answer to my problem, too.  I just have to stop being in the public eye so much.  After all, if I don’t do any TV, don’t do any newspaper, and don’t do any radio, I’ll never have to look at myself again, right?

I’m sure there’s a flaw with that plan somewhere.  I just haven’t figured it out yet.

I have a feeling the problem is only gonna get worse, too.  Not only am I doing these “On The Town” segments every week for the foreseeable future, but I've also alluded to another project here over the past couple of months, a project that I can't specifically mention yet, but I can say will have me on TV every single week (because, you know, I'm not on TV enough as it is).

Don't worry, though.  I won't complain about looking like a dork TOO much in here.  After all, I don't wanna start sounding like one, too!

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 6/3:

Oh, so many little things today!

First of all, it's been five months to the day since our little antenna problems started.  Yesterday, for the first time since January 3rd, we tried turning our big transmitter on, and you know what happened?

Nothing.  Zip, zilch, nada.  It didn't work.  From the sounds of it, a switch that hasn't been used for those five months either didn't work or couldn't work.  And since the switch isn't something that most people carry around in their pockets (if only because it's like a foot wide), our engineers have to get a new one.  They should have it today, which means that they can try it again, but I've learned over the past half-year that I probably shouldn't get my hopes up.

After all, I did that yesterday, and look how that turned out.

Oops.  But keep your fingers crossed, because one day the universe HAS to run out of problems to cause and things will work again like they're supposed to, right?

RIGHT???

Next, today's the day I shoot the first of those “On The Towns” for Fox U.P.  It'll air Thursday night on their newscast, if you're interested in checking it out.  I'm not interested in watching it myself; details on why coming up tomorrow.

Finally, two pictures I thought I'd share.  The first is from Saturday, when an 88 degree day didn't stop people from looking at the ice!





And for the following picture, I only have three words--

Oh.  So.  Close.!!





By the time I walk home tonight, I'm hoping I can stick my nose into those and just inhale, inhale, inhale.  So if you see me lying on or near Front Street in Marquette around 7pm tonight, just know that I inhaled a little too hard and caused myself to pass out.

Oh, but what a glorious way to pass out, right?

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

Jim & Loraine's Trip To France 2012

Jim's Blog

 Jim’s 2011 trip to Belgium, France, and Germany, click here

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