Those of you who listen on the air may have noticed that we
haven't done “Stump Jim Day” like we normally do Fridays on
“Movie Trivia”. That's not the fault of your radio; the
long-time sponsor of the contest decided that they didn't
want to offer the weekly prize they had been for 15 years.
I understand that; it's the way things go, and we're very
happy for their continuing support of the contest.
I still miss it, though.
For those of you who don't listen on the air, “Stump Jim
Day” was the day when listeners were able to turn the table
on me. Instead of me asking them a question about a movie,
they would ask me one, and if I didn't get it right (which
happened on an almost weekly basis) they'd win. The reason
I miss it is two-fold—first of all, I got to see just how
unknowledgeable (if that's a word) I was about certain kinds
of movies or certain actors. I'd like to think that I'm
fairly literate as far as film goes, but over the years
listeners figured out that I did have certain Achilles
Heels—Disney cartoons or Nicolas Cage flicks among them. So
I'd often get asked questions about my “heels”, and
listeners would (usually) walk away happy.
Then, every so often, I'd get one of those questions right
(usually just by sheer luck), everyone thought I had studied
up on the subject, and they'd move on to something else. Of
course, I really hadn't studied up, but the people asking
the questions didn't need to know that, right?
The other thing I miss about not doing “Stump Jim Day”?
Well, the whole concept had kind of turned into a “thing”.
People had tried to get through for weeks or months or (in
some case) even a few years just to try and stump me, and
even if they weren't able to, even if I answered their
question correctly, they were just happy that they were able
to get through. That's the kind of thing that makes me
realize we were on to something, and that's a kind of
“something” that you don't easily come across in this
I hope we'll be able to start it up again, either because
the sponsor decides to offer the prize again or because we
figure out a way to do it ourselves. For now, though, while
we still have regular Movie Trivia at 3:25 eastern, it's
just not quite the same without me making an almost-weekly
fool out of myself.
Go figure, right?
On that note, have yourself a great weekend. Even though
it'll still be chilly, I hope you can at least get out and
enjoy some of the sun that's been forecast!!
This type of behavior is much more appreciated on December
22nd than on April 22nd. You might want to make note of that
for future reference.
Thank you in advance,
You pal, Jim“
When I got to work an hour later, 180 people had shared the
picture, thanks to a couple of U.P.-wide sites that had
picked up on it. By the end of the day, it had over 300
shares, and all kinds of people had said all kinds of things
So to everyone, thanks. I'm glad my little rant made you
smile for a few seconds. And it was kinda cool, too. I
think it's the first time I've ever gone viral.
One of the people who commented on it was
Laura, who joked that I
should be glad this happened in April and not in July. When
she said that I opened my mouth and make this comment--”If
that ever happens, I'm leaving the U.P. and never coming
back”. I never, ever thought I would say something like
that, but it just kind of poured out of my mouth before I
could think about it.
And now that I have thought about it, you know what? I'm
agreeing with myself.
I left the U.P. once and then came back by choice;
therefore, I don't think I'd ever consider leaving again.
But if it were to snow in July—and I know many older people
who claim that they did see snowflakes on July 4th, although
there's no record of it—I would have to seriously reconsider
it. After all, I suffer through an Upper Michigan winter,
in part, so I can enjoy an Upper Michigan summer. And if an
increasingly wacky climate were to make our winter intrude
upon our summer?
Well, then I would SERIOUSLY have to reconsider my reasons
for coming back here. If that were to happen, I'd have to
have a serious conversation with whoever runs the U.P., and
tell them, point-blank, “It's not me, it's you”. Then I'd
have to see if I still have maps of California or Hawaii
Hopefully, though, it won't come to that. Hopefully, I'll
never be like those older people who can make the claim that
they've seen snow on the Fourth of July. Hopefully, what I
said to Laura I said in jest.
(ps—thanks to “Upper Michigan Photo of the Day” and “Once a
Yooper, Always a Yooper”, among the many, for sharing my
picture on Facebook yesterday!)
Does this describe you?
90% of Americans say they recycle & turn their thermostats
85% of say they buy energy efficient cars & appliances, &
wash clothes in cold water when they can.
70% say they’re willing to walk, bike, or carpool to cut
down on their driving.
I bring this up because today is Earth Day, and what with a
rapidly changing global climate and various ways you can
help the environment in the news these days, it seemed an
apt time to share those interesting statistics.
Having grown up in the 70’s, when people actually seemed to
care about the environment and pollution, I’ve always tried
to live an environmentally friendly life. It's just
ingrained in my brain. As you know, I walk and bike almost
everywhere; when I do drive, it’s in a car that gets 40
miles per gallon. Cold water laundry? Check. Recycling?
Despite the occasional stupidity of Waste management, I put
out a plastics & glass & metals one week and a bin of paper
every other week. Air conditioning in the summer? Are you
kidding? Enjoy the heat while it’s here!
Major reports the last few months from the U.N. and from
researchers worldwide have backed up the fact that, as
humans, we’re having a severe impact on Earth’s
environmental systems, and most of the impact is NOT good.
In fact, the past three months have been the warmest
January, February, and March on the planet since records
have been kept. In fact, the only places on the planet
that's been below normal, temperature-wise this year, has
been a patch of Siberia and, believe it or not, the eastern
& central U.S. (aren't we lucky?) Not only that, but areas
of droughts and storms have been among the most severe in
recorded history. So if you find yourself getting a little
tired of all the information, dire warnings, threats, and
pleadings to cut back that you’ll hear over the next few
days, remember. . .
For now, at least, it’s the only planet we have!
So on that note, have a happy Earth Day, do what you can to
help stabilize and repair the environment, and think good
thoughts for Mother Nature. I'm sure she'd appreciate it.
In fact, if you're curious as to what your own personal
carbon footprint is, check that out
Saturday, when the weather was almost tolerable, Loraine and
I were out enjoying the sun when we found ourselves at our
neighborhood park, Williams Park. Williams Park is one of
the hidden gems of Marquette; it has tennis courts,
basketball courts, and a fully equipped (with new stuff!)
playground. Yet because it's not on a main street, because
it's tucked into the east side of Marquette, there's hardly
ever anyone there.
And that's usually a shame. A really big shame.
Saturday, though, was an exception. The city had just put
the tennis court nets up and people were playing. A group
of college students was hustling around the basketball
court. And several families of kids were enjoying
themselves on the playground. The park's not usually like
that, and it's probably what caused Loraine and me to stop
by and take it all in.
Oh, and to go on the swings, too.
You see, behind all the new playground equipment at the park
sits a few pieces of old equipment; an old slide, an old
merry-go-round, and an old set of swings. You can tell
they're old because they're made out of metal, and you can
also tell they're old because the kids on the playground
would have nothing to do with them. Of course, the seats of
the swings were up rather high off the ground, maybe too
high for the kids to play on them, but as Loraine soon
noticed, they weren't too high for adults to enjoy.
So that's why, for the first time in decades, we jumped on
It was during that five minutes that I discovered a couple
of things. I discovered that, if you do it right, swinging
can be quite the impressive aerobic activity. You use your
arms, you use your legs, and at the end of it you can get
your heart rate really up there if you so desire. So if I
ever twist an ankle or do something else that causes me to
be unable to run or bike or ski; well, at least I can always
go swinging. I also discovered that I've either matured or
become more cautious (or both) in my old age. When I was a
kid I would always get the swing going as high as I could
and then jump off. The “old” swings at Williams Park have a
really good set-up for doing that, too, with a bunch of sand
laid out in front of the swingers. But just as I was at
the apex of a swing, at a perfect point to jump, I decided
against it. I don't know why; I don't know if something in
pea-brain decided it wouldn't be a good idea or what, but I
waited until my momentum was almost killed, until I slowed
down, and THEN I jumped.
I'm sure the 11-year old me would be laughing at the current
me, but you know what 11-year old me? I use my legs too
much for one of them to be broken while jumping off a
swing. So shut up and go back to watching “Lost in Space”.
The one other thing I discovered (or, actually,
re-discovered) is that I'm married to an amazing woman.
After all, who else would point out the hidden swings, and
who else would jump on them with a gleeful smile on her
face? Yup; I think you know the answer to that question,
and that would be the amazing woman I married 26 years ago
So Loraine, happy anniversary. I'll be happy to go swinging
with you any time!
If I’m counting correctly, the media medium is at least
three generations old.
As a long-time fan of old time radio, I’ve collected a lot
of the shows over the years, especially favorites like “The
Jack Benny Show”, “The Shadow”, and “Yours Truly, Johnny
Dollar”. For some reason, I’ve started listening to a couple
of seasons of the multi-part “Dollar” from the mid 1950s
recently, and I realize that if I didn’t have an old piece
of equipment lying around, I actually wouldn’t be able to
listen to them at all any more.
The shows, you see, are all on cassette.
And that’s what I mean by the media medium being three
generations old. I purchased most of these shows in the mid
to late 90s, when you bought radio shows in cassette, as
opposed to CDs, which is how you listened to music back
them. And since that era oh-so-long ago, both formats have
now been supplanted by digital files, which make cassettes
as obsolete as the 78 discs on which many of the shows I
have were originally recorded back when they aired on radio
Like I said, it’s a good thing I had an old boom box lying
around, a boom box that plays several older “generations” of
media; namely cassettes and CDs. But that’s about as far
back as I go. If I needed to go back on further
generation--records--well, I think Loraine may have a
turntable lying around someone in the basement. Whether or
not it still works, I don’t know, but I think we have one
somewhere. Anything further back than that--everything from
8-tracks to wax discs--and I’m outta luck.
Now, it’s not that big of a deal. I have all the music I
want & need on up-to-date media (i.e. iPods and the like),
so I don’t have to worry about that. But after listening to
several seasons of “Johnny Dollar” and having to haul out a
15-year old boom box to do so, it makes me wonder--what am I
gonna do with all those old radio shows I have on cassette?
If my boom box dies, I won’t be able to listen to them any
more. I don’t have the time to transfer them all to an
up-to-date media, nor do I have the desire to spend a bunch
of money to get new versions of them.
So what’s to become of the old radio shows once I don’t have
a cassette player any more?
I’m sure it’s a problem many people who’ve collected some
form of media over the years have had to deal with, and a
problem we’ll also have to deal with in the future. After
all, I can foresee a time when we don’t play music off of
digital files like mp3s any more; instead, we’ll have
something along the lines of a chip implanted directly into
our brains that play all the music we like. And while that
means we won’t have to carry our iPods around any more, it
does mean that we’ll have to (once again) upgrade our
content collection to a new format.
But before we get to the chip in the brain, I still have to
figure out what to do with all the old radio shows that are
still on cassettes. After all, if that format is three
generations old, I’m thinking I may need to make one or two
intermediate steps before getting them installed directly
into my brain.
I wasn't kidding yesterday. I really shouldn't try to
function before 10am.
Case in point—8:44 am, as I'm standing in our bathroom
brushing my teeth. For some idiotic reason, I left the
medicine cabinet door open. I bent over to wash the
toothpaste out of my mouth, and when I lean back up again,
my back makes contact with the medicine cabinet door.
Because I don't quite realize what's going on, I keep moving
until the pain actually travels from my back to my not-yet
And by the time that happens, I have this huge scrape
between my shoulder blades. In fact, it looks much like
what happens when you slice a piece off of a big block of
As always, I have no one to blame but myself. I should've
known better that to leave the cabinet door open. I
should've known better than to lean over when I knew the
door is open. Heck, I shouldn't known better than to even
try brushing my teeth that early in the morning.
I really need to do something about functioning that early
in the morning. I really do.
On that note, make sure you have yourself a great weekend.
I know it'll be a little colder than it has been recently,
so if you don't feel like going outside, check this out.
I've only watched it about 200 times in the past days.
And yes, I need help in more ways than one. What's your
I don't know if it was the early hour, or if my eyesight is
going, or if my brain is just giving up (or any combination
thereof), but yesterday morning none of the words looked
Let me explain. Yesterday morning I woke up early and went
to work. I did it for a couple of reasons; I did it so I
could leave around noon and go running when it was nice &
sunny & warm out (which it was), and I did it because I had
to get some promo copy off to our announcer. The copy's for
a new contest we're doing with Fox UP about their show “The
Following”, and someone (i.e. me) decided that it might be
fun to call the contest “Better With Bacon”, one because
I've probably been watching too many cooking shows recently
(and as we all know, every chef on TV says that anything
tastes “Better with Bacon”. Really, chef? What about
something like grapefruit?) and two because the star of “The
Following” is Kevin Bacon.
Hence the title “Better With Bacon”.
Anyway, I was sitting in my office right after 8am typing
away when I was overcome with the strangest mental feeling.
You know now, every so often, you'll write or type out a
word and it just doesn't look right? Well, I was having
that problem with three words, and it was driving me
insane. Those three words?
“Better”, “With”, and (wait for it) “Bacon”. Every time I
typed each of those words, and I typed them quite a bit,
they did not look right to me at all.
I don't know why each of the words looked wrong every time I
typed them, but they did. “Better” was the worst example;
not only did it not look right to me, but I also kept
thinking that “better” was not even a word, that it was
somehow grammatically incorrect. Yet my Word program,
stupid as it can be at times, didn't underline anything or
tell me that I was doing anything wrong. My fingers
obviously knew what they were doing; it's just too bad my
brain couldn't stay on the same page.
I think I've written in here many times about how I am not a
morning person, about how I don't seem to be able to
function like a semi-normal human being right after waking
up. So I can see how one word might look weird to me, but
all three words that I was typing over and over? Even
“with”, which is one of the most commonly used prepositions
in the English language? I think this might be reaching new
heights (or depths, depending upon how you look at it), even
All I can say is that it's a good thing I'm not, say, a
brain surgeon, or someone who has to be at peak skill early
in the morning. Because if that were the case; well, let's
just say that I would be losing a license quite quickly.
Assuming, of course, I was ever given a license in the first
And seeing as how the word “license” is now starting to look
to me like I'm spelling it incorrectly, I think perhaps I
should start wrapping it up for today. I'm sure my brain
and my eyes will thank me.
I wonder what downtown Marquette will look like in three
Sunday when it was sunny and in the 70s Loraine and I were
out doing what we do when a day is sunny and in the 70s. We
were out walking. And part of our walk took us from
Marquette's lake shore up the bike path that heads west from
downtown, past 7th Street and the old roundhouse property.
That's when it hit me—because of those two locations, the
lake shore and the round house property—downtown Marquette
is gonna look quite different by this time in 2018.
Why? Well, those are the two points where some rather large
buildings are being constructed. Right on the lake shore,
right at the entrance to Founder's Landing, is where the new
Marquette Place project is being built, a 5-story commercial
& residential complex sitting right on the shore of Lake
Superior. And at the other end of downtown, on the old
round house property, is where U.P. Health Systems is
building the new hospital, which, according to which rumor
you believe, will either be four, seven or 13 stories in
It won't matter if you're standing on the lake shore or
driving in on the bypass...in a few years, downtown
Marquette's gonna look a lot different than it does now.
Of course, those are only two of the big projects. There
are a lot of other, smaller projects being tackled, the
Delft among them, and then there are the projects that will
spin off. I mean, once Marquette Place and the hospital are
open, that's gonna bring a LOT of people into downtown
Marquette who normally aren't in downtown Marquette. And
those people might need places to shop and to play and,
perhaps, even to live. I mean, there is a quite a healthy
selection of things to do here already, but is it enough to
handle the coming crowds?
I'm kind of curious about that myself.
It's funny. If I remember correctly, thirty years ago
downtown Marquette was dying. Most of the shops had moved
west out to Marquette Township, and the downtown area was
filled with empty storefronts and confusing one-way
streets. But then something great happened. The people of
Marquette discovered, slowly but surely, that their downtown
really wasn't so bad after all. When you get rid of all the
old industrial sites, tear out the railroads. clean up the
lake front, make the whole area accessible to pedestrians
and vehicles alike, and then realize the history that you
have in things like sandstone buildings...
Well, all of a sudden downtown Marquette began a
renaissance. A renaissance that should hit yet another peak
in, oh, two or three years.
I think we're very lucky in what we have. We're lucky we
have a downtown that's thriving. I also think that we're
very lucky in that we have a community full of people who
care about their downtown, who want to see it grow and
thrive and still retain the charm of its past. That's why
I'll be curious to see how things change over the next three
Because from one end of downtown Marquette to the other,
you'll see the changes take place before your very eyes.
(p.s.--in what may be an amazing piece of serendipity, right
about the time I sent off yesterday's blog about the
potholes on Front Street the city of Marquette came and
filled in said potholes. So, I guess, great minds (or at
least my mind and the great minds in the city's Department
of Public Works) think alike!)
Welcome to the Third World country otherwise known as the
street on which I live--
Over the course of this winter the thaw/freeze cycles have
taken their toll on the street in front of my apartment, and
the past few days, what with the snow and then the 73 degree
temperatures, have really finished it off. The street's
been in bad shape for the past couple of years; now, though,
it's almost impassable. But, then, it's not like it's a
major north-south artery in Marquette, one on which fire
trucks and ambulances travel on an almost hourly basis.
Oh, wait...it is. Never mind.
I know budgets for road repairs are pretty much non-existent
these days, and, depending upon which side you believe, may
get even worse should the upcoming state-wide vote pass or
fail, but when even people in pickup trucks with great
shocks and high clearances have to swerve to avoid getting
sucked into what used to be Front Street in Marquette; well,
you know it's getting pretty bad.
I realize why the city of Marquette hasn't fixed it yet;
after all, why fix all the dents in a street when the
weather may cause a few more in the next week or two? I
just hope, though, that when the road repair season DOES
start in earnest that my block of Front Street is among the
first to be fixed. Like I said, it's an ambulance route,
and can you imagine being transported to U.P. Health
System/Marquette with some kind of injury, only to be tossed
up in the air, perhaps even hitting the ceiling, when the
rig in which you're driving runs over over all the potholes
in the street?
If you thought you hurt before, think what it would be like
So if you at all can, take my advice and avoid driving on
north Front Street in Marquette. I thank you, your car's
suspension thanks you, and any loose fillings you may have
in your teeth thank you, as well.
While out taking the picture of the potholes I also happened
to stroll past my favorite lilac tree, and it looks like the
fantastic weather of the past few days has caused the buds
to pop out a little more since last week--
And yes, I know. I promise not to take any more pictures of
the budding lilac buds until they're actually budded.
Now, I have no idea if that says what it's supposed to say,
but it's supposed to say “Greetings from the United States”
in Dutch, and it's going out to daily blog reader Jeanne,
who lives in The Netherlands and who checks this out every
day to practice her English. Now, the reason I have no idea
if it actually translated it correctly is that I used
Google Translate, and
according to Jeanne, the way Google Translate translated my
April Fools' Day blog (the one with ““The day of the
gelukkige scatterbrains of April”) was, and I quote,
Jeanne, I just hope it worked a little better this time!
Still, I shouldn't complain too much. Google Translate has
been a godsend to me, whether it's for joking purposes like
trying to translate a blog, or for more practical purposes
like trying to translate a website or directions to get from
one place to another. I mean, I have enough trouble with
the one extra language in which I know more than a dozen
words—French--and I'd hate to think what my brain would be
like if I had to remember not only French but German, Dutch,
and Polish, three extra languages on which I've recently
used a translation program.
It would not be pretty.
In a way, I wish I would've been smarter when I was
younger. I wish I would've made a point to study one
foreign language and one foreign language only when I was in
school, when my brain was a little more open to learning
something new like an extra language. Instead, I flitted
from German to French to Finnish to Spanish, not really
learning much of any of those languages and turning my
rather pliable mind into a mish-mash of Romance and
Indo-European babble. Now that I'm older and, as studies
show, less likely to learn a language, it's a little harder.
Of course, it might help me stick to just one language if I
wasn't so stupid. I retain just enough of those “other”
languages, like German and Spanish, so that if someone asks
me a simple question I'd know what they're asking.
Unfortunately, when I answer them, I answer them in French,
which is my default “other” language. Fortunately, most
people in Europe can speak another language (English)
fluently, and when they realize I'm a dumb American
answering a German question in French (which has actually
happened several times), they take pity on me and answer in
the one language in which I'm occasionally fluent.
You know, English.
So anyway, I'm thankful for things like Google Translate,
because while it's not perfect, it's available, and that's
better than not having it at all. I'm also thankful for
blog readers like Jeanne in The Netherlands and everyone
else from around the planet who checks in on a regular
I’ll either live forever, or I’ll kill myself in the next
couple of weeks. I don’t think there’s any happy medium.
I’ve written in here before about how I’ll occasionally use
downtown Marquette as my own personal jungle gym; I only
mention that now because I’ve started a new workout regime
using one of the greatest natural assets of downtown--the
hills--as a basis for it. Here’s what I’m doing--I’ll run
down Front Street, then run back up the hill, from Main to
Ridge. I’ll then run over to Third, down the street to
Main, and once again back up to Ridge. I’ll then do the
same on by Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh (although just
running down to Washington on those two streets). Then I’ll
work my way back to Front Street, doing the exact same
thing. Then for good measure, I’ll run down Ridge Street
and back up its massive hill, until my body can take no more
and I have to stop for the day.
I know...but when was the last time you saw me show even a
shred of sanity?
The way I figure it, I’m covering about 40 blocks of uphill
territory, three blocks at a time, with a couple blocks of
rest in between. Not only does it make my legs scream in
pure terror, but I’m thinking it throws my cardiovascular
system so far into the red that my heart & lungs will thank
me well into my 90s. Either that, or they’ll give up
tomorrow, but I’m really banking on the former happening.
Really, I am.
They say you’re supposed to change up your workout routine
every couple of months, if only so your body doesn’t become
so used to what you’re doing that it does it on autopilot,
depriving you of the chance to build upon whatever base you
have. That’s why I decided to try running the hills once a
week; it’s a lot different than my usual run, it makes my
body work a whole lot harder, and it takes advantage of the
hills around here, an advantage that very few people in this
country could enjoy.
Once again, just let me say this--Marquette (and its hills)
I’m not planning on doing anything with any physical
benefits I may derive from doing the hills; I’m not gonna
run a trail race, and I’m not planning on hiking up all 101
floors of the Empire State building any time soon. I just
figure that as long as it’s borderline nice outside, and as
long as the streets are (hopefully) free of snow, sand, and
ice, I might as well take advantage of it, and see how long
and how hard I can drive myself.
And hope my body thanks me for it before it throws in the
On that note, have yourself a great weekend. And keep your
fingers crossed that the weather is as nice tomorrow &
Sunday (which it's forecast to be) as it wasn't this
Tuesday on “What's Up U.P.” I asked a question based on an
article I had read over the weekend. The
article talked about the
number of reported UFO sightings per U.S. county, and even
came with a nice handy chart on the subject, a chart that
allowed me to find out that Alger County is the U.P.'s UFO
capital and a chart that allowed me to talk about it on the
air. And while on the air, I mentioned that when this study
used the phrase “UFO”, they weren't talking about seeing
little green in big silver spacecraft; they were talking
about anything weird noticed in the sky, which includes
meteorites and, apparently, northern lights.
But as I've found, whenever you use the phrase “UFO” on the
air some people's minds lock onto the concept of little
green men in big sliver spacecraft, at least based on some
of the e-mails I've received. I mean, the e-mails weren't
strange, or anything (okay, not THAT strange) but it made me
realize that there are people out there with some very
strong, very definite opinions on what are apparently the
many sides of the subject.
And it also made me laugh a little, as the people who
e-mailed thought that I was on their side of the subject.
Those who believe little green men have visited our planet
think I agree with them, while people who think aliens are
hogwash believe I share their view. That's actually a
compliment; it means that I don't put my personal feelings
on the subject out there, which is what I was trying to do.
And it's kind of funny, too, because at least in this
situation I go both ways.
First of all, I don’t think we’re the only intelligent life
in the universe. I think there is a lot of life throughout
the galaxy, throughout the universe, and throughout the
multi-verse. I base my belief on both personal hope and on
simple math. After all, if you take the most conservative
guess of the number of galaxies in our universe (130
billion) and multiply that by the very conservative estimate
of stars in each galaxy (a billion or so), you come up with
a number that has a LOT of zeros after it. Now, not all of
these stars have planets circling them. But as we’ve found
in our own little cosmic neighborhood, a lot of them
probably DO have planets, and you’ve have to guess that some
of those planets might be the size of our own, with a makeup
like our own, in an orbit around their star like our own.
And if life evolved here...
Why not everywhere?
It's funny; NASA's chief scientist, on the very day I asked
the question about UFOs, made the statement that we'll
probably discover life (most probably microbial life) on
another planet or moon within our solar system some time in
the next 20 years. It won't be little green men, but it
will be alien life. So there. I have important people on
But I still believe that there is more than just microbial
life out there. There has to be a lot of intelligent life,
even in just our little corner of the time/space continuum.
Like I said, it's just simple math. However, here's the
other side to it--I don’t believe that aliens are living
among us, nor do I believe that aliens have come to Earth
and have kidnapped humans for things like rectal probes. I
don’t believe that aliens will come to attack us or steal
our resources, if only because any civilization that has
mastered interstellar travel will probably have evolved
beyond any kind of war-like impulses. I simply believe that
one day, probably a bit in the future, we’ll pick up a radio
signal that’s not natural in phenomena, and know that we’re
not alone in the cosmos.
And that will be the biggest day in the history of OUR
So now you know. Yes, I believe there's alien life out
there. No, I don't believe they live among us. And remind
me to think twice before I ask a question about UFOs on the
It's been twenty years. I wonder how much longer it'll take
before people stop referring to K.I. Sawyer as “The Base”?
It's funny, but three times in the past few weeks I've had
people on the air tell me they're either at “The Base” or at
“KI Sawyer Air Force Base” when I've asked them from where
they're calling. And that's not unusual. In fact, it
probably happens every week or two. Oh sure; many people
who call say they're either from “Sawyer” or “K.I. Sawyer”,
but over 20 years after the base closed, some people still
refer to by its old name.
I can see why there are some people, especially old-timers,
who still call it that. After all, if you've grew up saying
“K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base” it's probably ingrained in your
brain that way. But at least one of the people who called
it “The Base” last week was younger. In fact, they were
probably just a kid when “The Base” closed and K.I. Sawyer
became just “K.I. Sawyer”, minus “Air Force Base”, so I'm
pretty sure they didn't grow up calling it “K.I. Sawyer Air
Force Base”. Yet, 20 years after the fact, they're still
referring to it that way.
Like I said...curious.
Of course, it's not just K.I. Sawyer that falls into this
category. Just a couple of days ago I heard someone talking
about “the new school” in Harvey. The school they're
talking about is, of course, Cherry Creek School, a building
that opened over 25 years ago. But because it was built
AFTER Silver Creek, which is actually no longer a school,
it's still referred to as the “new” school.
Now, if we could only get individuals to start doing that to
people, and not just buildings or communities. That way,
people who know my parents might start referring to me as
the “new” Koski. And trust me—that's something about which,
at my age, I would not complain!
Anyway, if you happen to find yourself innocently referring
to K.I. Sawyer by using any phrase which includes the word
“Base” in it, you're in good company. And, the way it's
going, you'll probably be in that good company for another
20 or so years!
This is an idea that actually popped into Loraine's head
yesterday as she was eating one of the cream-filled
chocolate Easter eggs the company makes. The two of us have
this tradition—right after Halloween we head to to
Walgreen's and see what kind of chocolate the company is
putting out for that Christmas. Usually, this will consist
of all kinds of chocolaty goodness filled with all kinds of
interesting flavors, molded into the shapes of the
season—reindeer, Santas, and the like. It's actually one of
the ways we know Christmas is coming.
Then the day or two after Christmas, Walgreen's takes down
the holiday Russell Stover chocolates and replaces them with
the Valentine's Day Russell Stover chocolates, which are
actually the same as the Christmas chocolates except they're
the shape of hearts and whatever else you associate with the
February holiday, things like, oh, I dunno, bitter
breakups. Then the day after Cupid pays a visit Walgreen's
takes down the Valentine's Day chocolates and replaces them
with Easter Chocolates, which are the same as both the
Christmas and Valentine's Day chocolates except there are in
the shapes of eggs and bunnies.
Not one bitter breakup in the bunch.
It's a glorious four or five month span, a time when we get
to sample all kinds of quality American chocolate, as well
as a time when Walgreen's gets to separate us from a
good-sized chunk of our money. But once Easter wraps up,
we're kind of stuck. There's not another chocolate-giving
holiday that rolls around until the Christmas stuff gets put
out right after Halloween. As far as I can tell, Russell
Stover doesn't make Arbor Day chocolates in the shape of
trees, or Memorial Day chocolates in the shape of
headstones, or Fourth of July chocolates in the shape of
fireworks, or Labor Day chocolates in the shape of people
slaving away for minimum wage. Nope; between Easter and
Christmas we just have to make do with the chocolate we have
You know, the stuff we buy in Europe. So don't think you
have to shed a tear for us or anything.
It's probably a good thing Russell Stover doesn't make
chocolate for all those summer holidays. After all,
chocolate doesn't always hold up as well as you'd like it to
during warm weather months. And if we were to eat it
year-round, it would lose a little of the special feeling
you get when you bite into one. Besides, I'm sure our
waistlines appreciate it, as well.
So now that Easter's come and gone we're left with what
we've not yet eaten, which in my case are a couple of
caramel-filled dark chocolate eggs and one lemon-filled dark
chocolate thing, which, believe it or not, has a simply
amazing taste. In fact, if you happen to see one next year,
I highly recommend you try it. But just because the Stover
season is over is not a cause for concern; after all,
Halloween's a mere six and a half months away, and, sad to
say, it'll be here before we know it, thereby letting us
know one simple thing--
It's time to ring in the 2015-2016 Russell Stover season!
Sometimes people make me laugh. And not necessarily in a
I’ve caught a commercial on TV several times now, and the
tag line for the product made me sit up and take notice.
The product is for something called Four Seasons Sunrooms;
it’s basically a big, enclosed patio room (with lots of
windows) that you build onto the side of your house. I have
no beef with the product, and like I said, that’s not what
made me laugh. It was this line, used twice in the
commercial that, had I any food in my mouth when I first
heard it, would’ve caused a spit-take that would’ve put the
Three Stooges to shame.
The tagline? “It lets you enjoy the outdoors inside”.
I don’t know about you, but the logic, for lack of a better
word, of that tagline astounds me. First of all, if you’re
indoors, you CAN’T enjoy the outdoors. It’s simple quantum
physics--you can’t be in two places at once. You’re either
indoors, or you’re outdoors. Unless you’re standing in an
open doorway, with an arm inside and an arm outside, you
can’t enjoy the outdoors from the indoors. Don’t the people
who wrote that tag line understand that? And don’t they
know that to enjoy something fully, it has to envelope all
your senses? You have to see it, hear it, smell it, and
feel it? And you can’t do that to the outdoors if you’re
sitting in an enclosed room. You can see it, but you can’t
hear it, smell it, or feel it.
DON’T THESE PEOPLE GET IT???
(Yes, I know I need help. What’s your point? 8-))
Now, aside from the absurdity of the tagline, I think the
commercial also pointed out something that’s, well, weird
with people these days, or at least seems weird to me. It’s
something I notice whenever I’m out for a walk on a warm
summer day, and I see people driving by me with their
windows rolled up, air conditioning cranked to the max.
People these days don’t seem to want to enjoy the outdoors.
They prefer living in an artificial environment. And this
sunroom is a perfect example--the commercial shows people
sitting in the room, drinking coffee and gazing out at the
sunshine and the green grass. Why not just go outside and
feel the sunshine and smell the green grass? It’s nature;
it’s something we’re genetically pre-programmed to enjoy.
Go out in it...experience it. Sitting in a sunroom and
looking at the sun is like, I dunno, hiring two people,
film them getting married, and then showing it off as “your”
It’s not real, no matter how much it looks like it is.
I don’t know why people seem allergic to the outdoors these
days. I know I’m not; you all know how much I dislike cold
& snow, yet I’m outside, even on those days when both cold &
snow are at their maximum. If nothing else, it makes being
outside on sunny, warm summer days that much more
satisfying. But maybe I’m weird that way; maybe I’m not as
evolved as some people. Maybe the next step in human
evolution is toward beings who can only survive in
artificial environments. Maybe I’m part of a dying breed.
I dunno. All I do know for certain is if that’s the case;
I’m fine with being part of a dying breed. Unlike most
people these days, I guess, I want to enjoy my outdoors FROM
the outdoors. Not from the indoors...
If nothing else, the above average temperatures (and above
average rain) the past few days have done two things—they've
gotten rid of whatever snow cover we had here in Marquette,
and it's also allowed the buds to start popping out on my
favorite lilac tree! Now, I realize that they're a month or
more from sprouting, but seeing how how last year our brutal
winter didn't allow them to come out until almost June (and
then only stay out for a day or two) I'm hoping this year is
a little kinder to them.
So, for my freakish lilac obsession, if nothing else, please
keep your fingers crossed!
Other than that, I don't have too much more to say today. I
have to skip over to Public TV-13 and shoot a few interview
clips for the season finale of “High School Bowl” (which
airs next weekend, btw), and then make sure everything at
work is ready so that everyone can enjoy an Easter weekend
away from the station, me included..
For one person, though, it's more than an Easter
weekend...it's also a birthday weekend! That's right; one
of the two people responsible for my being here (and you'll
have to decide if that's for better or for worse) is
celebrating her birthday on Easter Sunday, and that's my
mom. This year, she'll have a little more company than
usual down in Florida for her big day, as two of my nieces
are there visiting for spring break. So Mallory & Sydney,
this is for you--
Make sure you make a nice cake for your grandmother's
birthday/Easter celebration. Make sure you toss a bunch of
jellybeans on it, and then eat a big piece for me.
And as for the birthday girl herself, have a great birthday,
Mom. And I hope everyone's Easter weekend, whether in
Florida or wherever in the world you happen to be, is quite
Some of you may be aware of my system for keeping track of
things, which basically consists of writing down thoughts
and ideas when I get them on scraps of paper and then
tossing said scraps of paper onto my desk or on top of my
backpack. Well, yesterday afternoon, in the midst of being
on the air and dealing with Instant Requests and putting
together a contest for
our ESPN station I had a
GREAT idea for today’s blog. I wrote it down on a scrap of
paper, tossed it on my backpack, and then took a look at it
this morning when it came time to write.
Only, when I looked at the note on the scrap of paper, it
“blog—bl.spn 419” (or bl.son, depending how quickly I wrote
Now, I’m sure that this was a great idea, one that would
just flow out of my brain, make you laugh for days and share
it with your friends for months, and win me a Pulitzer for
Best Blog Entry EVER.
The only problem? I don’t exactly remember what “bl.spn
I remember writing it down, I remember throwing it on my
desk, I even remember getting ready for bed last night sure
I had a great blog topic set for today. And I’m sure, at
one time, that I did. It’s just that, uhm, it seems to have
slipped through the ever-increasing cracks in my brain.
I then did everything you’re supposed to do--I mentally
retraced my steps when I got the idea and wrote it down. I
tried to recreate the mindset of what I was doing when I
wrote it down. I tried thinking of everything that popped
through my mind yesterday afternoon (and, in the process,
discovered that I need to hold a rummage sale in my brain
some day). No luck.
It hasn’t come to me while I’m writing about the fact that I
can’t remember it, and it’s slowly dawning on me that,
unless a creative thunderbolt comes down from Blog Heaven, I
may never figure out what “bl.spn 419” means.
Some days, I amaze even myself. And usually not in a good
Darn. I still haven't found an English to Klingon
For several years in a row, as an April Fools' day joke I
would write a blog, use an online translator to turn it into
another language, and then post the blog in the strange
language. And trust me—the stranger the language into which
it was translated, the better. I'd also include a little
Easter Egg in the blog, a link to the site where you could
translate the day's entry back into English, should you be
interested. Then the next day I'd post the original blog in
its original language.
For instance, using the paragraph I just wrote as an
example, here's what it would look like in Dutch--
“Sinds een aantal jaren op rij, als April Fools 'dag grap
zou ik een blog te schrijven, gebruik maken van een online
vertaler om te zetten in een andere taal, en dan post de
blog in de vreemde taal. En geloof me, de vreemdeling de
taal waarin het werd vertaald, hoe beter. Ik zou ook een
beetje Easter Egg in de blog, een link naar de site waar je
de dag van binnenkomst kunnen vertalen, mocht het je
interesseren. Dan is de volgende dag zou ik de originele
blog in de oorspronkelijke taal, Engels te posten.”
“Í nokkur ár í röð, sem Aprílgabb brandari ég myndi skrifa
blogg, nota á netinu þýðandi að snúa það inn í annað
tungumál, og þá eftir bloggið í undarlega tungumáli. Og
treystu mér-útlendingurinn tungumál inn sem það var þýtt,
því betra. Ég myndi einnig fela smá Páskaegg í blogginu,
tengil á síðuna þar sem þú getur þýða færslu dagsins, ættir
þú áhuga. Svo næsta dag ég vil senda upprunalegu blogg í
frummálinu þess, ensku.”
And in Czech--
„Již několik let po sobě, jako aprílový den vtip, já bych
napsat blog, použijte on-line překladač otočit do jiného
jazyka, a pak po blog v podivném jazyce. A věř mi, cizinec
jazyk, do kterého byl přeložen, tím lépe. Já bych patří malý
velikonoční vajíčko v blogu, odkaz na web, kde jste mohli
přeložit denní záznam, měli byste mít zájem. Pak druhý den
jsem psát původní blog v původním jazyce, angličtině.“
Part of the joy was when I re-translated the blog from its
translated language back into English. Sometimes, you'd end
up with something strange. For instance, when you translate
“April's Fools Day” from English to Dutch you'd get “ En de
Dag van de gelukkige Dwazen van April”. And then when you
translated “En de Dag van de gelukkige Dwazen van April“
back into Enlgish, you wouldn't get “April Fools Day”,
instead you'd get “the day of the gelukkige scatterbrains of
I mean, I can kind of see how the two phrases are similar,
but still. “The day of the gelukkige scatterbrains of
Anyway, one of the languages into which I always wanted to
translate a blog is Klingon. I mean, I know it's not a
“real” language”, but it is a language nonetheless, a
language in which quite a few people are fluent. And I
always figured that the kind of people who might be fluent
in Klingon would be the same kind of people who do things
like write online translation programs. But you know what?
Apparently they make much better use of their time than,
say, me. Because I've spent hours looking for a Klingon
translator online, but have never found one.
Hopefully, one day, I will find one, because that'll mean
that the next April Fools Day following that momentous
occasion you'll see as blog in Klingon. And if the phrase
“April Fools' Day” translate so strangely from English to
Dutch and back, imagine what it'll be like when you change
it from English to Klingon and back.
If nothing else, it'll be a good day to translate!!
Think they'll take my diploma back once my alma mater
realizes I don't care if they make it to some basketball
I know...bad alumni, right? I guess I just can't help
myself. After all, it's only college basketball. And it's
not like Michigan State hasn't been in the Final Four for
seven of the past 12 years, or whatever it is. Because they
I guess I'm just not a good Spartan.
You'd think I'd be happy they're back in the Final Four once
again; after all, not only did I graduate from the place,
but their coach just happens to be one of the most famous
people ever to come out of the U.P. But because it's
basketball, a subject in which I have absolutely no
interest, college or other-wise, I just kind of shrug my
shoulders while the rest of the world goes crazy filling out
their brackets and losing their mind when Elba squeaks past
Waterloo in the greatest first round upset in the history of
Don't get me wrong—I enjoyed my three years at Michigan
State,. My time there helped make me into the person that I
am today, and I wouldn't have traded it for the world. But
unlike a lot of people, I don't consider myself a part of
the Spartan “family”. I don't go back for homecoming, I
don't belong to any kind of alumni association, and I'm
really not interested in whether their sports teams are
good, bad, or on probation. My life is where I am now and
what I'm doing today, not what I was, who I was, or where I
was back in the 1980s.
So sorry, Michigan State. It's not you, it's me.
However, that's not to say it's not a great place to grow
and learn. It is. In fact, if you have a young person
trying to decide where to go to college, tell them Michigan
State is one of the best. In fact, I highly recommend going
there. And if you do go there, and if you graduate, and if
you wanna be a part of the Spartan “family” for many years
afterward, I'm sure you'll have a lot of fun, and I'm sure
they'd love to have you. In fact, based on the amount of
mail I get asking me to donate to the school, I can
guarantee they'd love to have you. So if you wanna do it,
You just won't be seeing me at any Final Four viewing
parties. Now, I suppose I should find where I buried my
diploma, just in case they ask for it back.
Now, I realize that celebrating a hair cut may not be the
biggest cause for joy in the world, but because things have
been so hectic and because schedules haven't coincided it's
been a bit since I've had a haircut. As it turns out, a
little longer than normal. And because of that, if you know
what you're looking for, you can really tell I need a trim.
You can really, really tell.
I can't speak for anyone else in the world, because as we
ALL know I'm not like anyone else in the world. But for a
certain window in the hair growing process—say five or six
weeks after I get a cut—my hair starts to get really weird.
For the next two or three weeks it starts to get curly.
Really, really curly. Whatever natural wave my hair has to
it gets really exaggerated. For those two or three weeks I
can look like I'm a human mop, a human mop that just stuck a
finger in an electrical socket. And then, if I keep growing
my hair, it starts to look normal again.
But for those two or three weeks—the two or three weeks I'm
in right now—I can, on occasion, look like Carrot Top,
expect my hair's brown (& gray) instead of red. Yikes!
Normally, I'll get it cut before that happens, but like I
said, the last month or so has been kinda hectic. And since
I'm done shooting “High School Bowl” for the season, I don't
necessarily have to have the best looking hair. So for the
past four or five mornings, when I get up for work or to
lounge around, I look at the mass of hair sticking here and
poking out there and just chuckle. It'd be easier if I wore
hats, because I could just throw one on and be done with
it. But since I don't (another story in itself) I try to
The operative word, of course, being “try”. Because when
we're in that little hair growth window, like we are now, my
hair pretty much has a mind of its own.
I really don't care if my hair is long or if it's short; as
long as it hasn't totally fallen out (yet) I'm happy. So I
suppose I could try to live through the next few weeks and
let it grow out to the point that it looks normal again.
But that means I'd have to spend the next few weeks looking
at it in its present state and trying to make it
presentable. And that, in all honesty, just takes too much
of my (rapidly diminishing) brainpower. So by getting it
cut tonight, I can now spend the next four or five weeks not
even thinking about it.
And I'm fine with that.
Now, we just have to make sure that my next hair cut happens
on schedule. Otherwise, I'll be right back at the same
place, looking at the same curls and the waves that are
currently invading my head, and starting the process over
again. Either that, or I could just start shaving my head
and be done with that.
That, however, would probably open up a whole 'nother can or
worms, a can I'd rather not deal with at the moment!
A bunch of little things today to wrap up the week--
First of all is a weird thought that popped into my head
yesterday afternoon while eating an apple—do you leave the
stem in when eating an apple, or do you twist it out? I
don't know why the thought popped into my head; it just
did. I personally twist the stem out. I don't know why; I
mean, I could eat an apple with the stem in it. It wouldn't
bother me at all. But for whatever reason, I always twist
the stem out.
I guess I'm just weird like that.
And in regard to twisting the stem out of an apple—is/was
there some kind of weird thing that goes along with how many
twists it takes to get the stem out of the apple? You know;
like if it takes four twists you'll kiss four people this
year, or something strange like that? I seem to remember
something along those lines from when I was a kid, but I
don't remember any of the details. So if YOU know if I'm
remembering this correctly or if I've just moved myself one
step closer to heading off the deep end (a distinct
possibility), let me know.
Secondly, I would like you to read this paragraph--
“In this paper, we develop a cascadic multigrid algorithm
for fast computation of the Fiedler vector of a graph
Laplacian, namely, the eigenvector corresponding to the
second smallest eigenvalue. This vector has been found to
have applications in ﬁelds such as graph partitioning and
graph drawing. The algorithm is a purely algebraic approach
based on a heavy edge coarsening scheme and pointwise
smoothing for reﬁnement. To gain theoretical insight, we
also consider the related cascadic multigrid method in the
geometric setting for elliptic eigenvalue problems and show
its uniform convergence under certain assumptions. Numerical
tests are presented for computing the Fiedler vector of
several practical graphs, and numerical results show the
efficiency and optimality of our proposed cascadic multigrid
My question is this—did you understand it? Please say no.
Please say that only a genius (or, in the case of the person
who wrote it, a lineman for the Baltimore Ravens who's a
math scholar) can understand it. Because, you know, if
that's something most people understand and I don't; well,
then, I even dumber than I thought I was.
And that's quite dumb!
Finally, daily blog reader Kim of Marquette had dropped me a
note asking if I knew anything about a petition to sign to
ask the Michigan Legislature to take up closing the “Black
Box” loophole that big stores are using to cut their taxes,
much to the detriment of local governments and institutions
like the Peter White Public Library. I shared it with her,
and if you're interested in checking it out,
here's the LINK.
Okay; I think that takes care of everything I wanted to take
care of today. You have yourself a great weekend;
hopefully, if there's any snow left after Wednesday and
Thursday the sun we've been promised will melt it off. Keep
your fingers crossed!
I guess I'll never look like I have actual real muscles.
But I'm okay with that.
Those of you who've been reading these ramblings for a long
time know that for the past decade and a half I've been
trying to add muscle to my scrawny frame. I didn't do it to
end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger; instead, I just
wanted to look like I had definition to my body. And while
I have managed to not look like the proverbial 98-pound
weakling, I haven't been able to get anywhere near the look
I wanted when I started.
And now it seems like it's not gonna happen.
I was at a History Center event last night and was speaking
beforehand with a woman who happens to be a personal
trainer. She asked if I was a runner, because she says I
look like one. I told her yes, and we eventually ended up
talking about trying to add muscle and my fruitless quest to
do so. She told me I was going about it all wrong, and I
would never build up my musculature unless I gave up one
That's not something I'm gonna do.
Apparently the fact that I look like a runner is a good
thing for my health but a bad thing for trying to add
muscle. I mean, think of it—have you ever noticed a long
distance runner with big arms? Nope. They—we--are all
skinny little critters, especially above the waist. They
way we work out is actually anathema to putting on muscle.
Even if you do work with weights a lot, hard long distance
aerobic activities like running (and biking and skiing)
don't lead to muscle formation. They actually hinder it.
By indulging in my three favorite physical activities I'm
sabotaging my fourth physical goal.
I mean, I kind of always known that running and adding
muscle, especially above your waist, aren't mutually
compatible. You can either do one or you can do the other,
and while I would like to add a little muscle, I'm not gonna
give up running and biking and skiing. I'm just not. So I
guess I'm stuck being a skinny little runt for the rest of
But I'm okay with that.
Even with that news I'm not going to stop working out with
weights; after all, not only do I want to keep whatever
muscle I've added in the past decade and a half, but I also
wanna make sure I have the strength to continue pushing
myself while running, biking, and skiing. I guess I'll just
have to give up the hope that one day I'd have biceps and
abs and shoulders that you actually notice.
Because, apparently, that's not gonna happen. But you know
what? I'm okay with that. Especially now that I know why.
I guess for some people it's news to be shouted from the
I got a call from a listener yesterday, a very nice lady who
says she loves our station. I love getting phone calls like
that; after all, we do what we do for people like the lady
who was on the other end of the phone. She did have a bone
to pick, though, and it kind of made me think.
Her bone to pick was this—every time she hears the promo we
run about being “embarrassed' for once again being nominated
as one of the eight best pop radio stations in the country,
she says she wants to throw something at her radio. She
says we should not be “embarrassed' about it; in fact, she
think we should be strutting around and making sure everyone
knows “just how good (we) are”. She heard the promo
yesterday and decided it was time to call & let me know.
So she did, with a big smile and laugh in her voice. She
says we're being waaaaaaaay too modest.
I suppose we are. Or, more to the point, I suppose I am.
After all, I'm the one who writes the promos and is
responsible for everything that goes on the air here, so
it's all on me. Call it a personality quirk or a
personality disorder or whatever, but I just don't feel
comfortable bragging. There's just something...untoward
about it for me, I guess. I just do what I do to the best
of my abilities, and I hope that whoever's on the other end
of what I'm doing notices that I tried my best. I shouldn't
have to go out and tell them just how “good” I am.
Of course, if that's the case, I probably picked the wrong
field to be in. Working in radio and in TV and in the
public eye probably requires a certain amount of shameless
self-promotion; at least, that what it seems everyone else
does. But me, and by extension the station at which I work?
Nope. Not us.
However, I can see the point of the lady who called. Since
it's because of people like her that we're nominated as one
of the “best” stations in the country almost every year, we
should unashamedly be sharing that honor with as loud of a
voice as we can. It's not (all) about us, after all. She's
right; I should put aside whatever personal discomfort I
feel about bragging and make sure each and every single
person that listens for even a few seconds realizes just
what we're able to do around here.
Because, despite my discomfort talking about it, it is
actually kind of a big thing. And the caller was
right—people SHOULD be shouting it from the rooftops.
So, to whomever called, thanks for bringing it up!
I don't know if you saw
the story going around
about how a particular rule of writing is rapidly changing,
but it's made me realize that I'm on one side of the fence
on this subject, and it's probably, in the long run, the
wrong side. Because of the way in which texting has
insinuated itself into American society, there's now a way
that writing experts can separate “old” people from “young”
people, and that's by this--
If, while typing, you leave two spaces after ending a
sentence, you're “old”. If you leave one (or none), you're
“young”. If you leave two spaces after ending a sentence,
you learned how to write in the 20th century. If you leave
one (or none), you learned how to write in the age of
160-character text messages or 140-character Tweets; i.e.
this century. Now go back to the lines I just wrote, and
count how many spaces I left after finishing a sentence.
Yup. I AM apparently a dinosaur.
I knew this day would come. I knew that, at a certain point
in my life, I'd be faced with something that told me time
was moving on and leaving me behind. I had no idea what
that “something” would be. I figured it would be something
like having my leg break while trying to stand up or
wondering who the heck this Miley Cyrus person was and why
she enjoys riding inflatable things in concert. But nope;
I'm fine as far as stuff like that goes.
I'm a dinosaur because of the way I type.
And when you think about it, it's funny. I never took a
typing class. I never learned how to type “correctly”, a
fact that drives my properly-educated-in-typing wife mad. I
just learned how to type by doing. I started with one
finger, added another, and have sailed through life slowly
adding fingers to my typing repertoire. Over the years, my
right thumb became quite adept at hitting the space bar
twice when finishing a sentence.
Now, as I find out, that skill is becoming about as relevant
as getting up off the couch, walking over to TV, and using a
dial to change the channel.
You DO remember what a TV dial is, right?
One of the reasons “the kids” only use one space after a
sentence is that when you send a text you only have 160
characters to use, and a space counts as a character. So
when it comes to texting, I can understand why you would
only want to leave one space after a sentence. But when
you're typing a note or a letter or an e-mail or (even) a
blog, you're not constrained by the amount of spaces you
leave after a sentence. Heck, if you wanted to, you could
even leave THIS many spaces after a
sentence. Of course, your
paragraph structure would all weird if you did it that way,
but unlike a text message, there's nothing to stop you from
I guess I just find it funny that one particular form of
writing is making all other kinds of writing conform to its
particular quirks. I”m not surprised; after all, I've
studied the English language enough to know that it's a very
elastic, living type of creature. It's constantly evolving
(much, I'm sure, to the detriment of William Shakespeare and
those who've study him the past 400 years). But to change
just because of a 160-character limit imposed by technology,
and then to claim that anyone who doesn't use the change is
out of date?
Well...I guess I now know how those Tyrannosaurus Rexs felt,
just before the meteor hit 65 million years ago and sent
them all into oblivion.
I'm sure I've written about this before, and if it seems
familiar and/or boring, I apologize. But now that the
streets & sidewalks of Marquette are snow-free, I've gotten
to break out a new pair of running shoes. In fact, I did so
for my long, meandering run Saturday. Why is that a big
Well, around this time of the year, or at least this time of
the year when the snow begins to melt, I do that. You’re
supposed to change your running shoes every 500 or so miles,
and if you figure that I run 10 or so miles a week
(sometimes more, sometimes less) then I need a new pair
approximately once every year. And since I don’t want to
take brand-new running shoes out in the snow and the muck
(you know, like the months of October through March or April
around here), I usually wait until the snow & the gunk is
gone and then switch the shoes out. And that's what I did
But that’s really neither here nor there. Here’s actually
what here or there--I started running when I moved back to
Marquette in 1988. That’s been 27 (yikes!) years. If I run
on average 10 miles a week, that’s 520 (or so) miles a
year. And if I’ve been doing that for over 27 years now,
you know what that means?
I have run, in my life, over 14, 000 miles. I have no run
over halfway around the Earth.
My feet hurt just typing that!
14,040 (to be specific) miles in 27 years. Wow. And you
know what’s scary? There are SO many people who’ve run
further than I in the last two and a half (and counting)
decades that it boggles the mind. I mean, I’m just a
recreational runner. There are people out there who’ll do
500 miles in a month, and don’t even break a sweat. I don’t
think I’ll ever be able to do that.
I don’t remember most of the 14, 040 miles I’ve run, mostly
because my mind is occupied with thoughts other than running
while I’m out running, but there are several jaunts that
definitely stick in my head, and probably will forever. One
would be the three miles I ran by myself, early one Saturday
morning, in September, 2004, through the winding and narrow
streets of Bayeux, France. Another would be a VERY sticky &
sweaty 8 miles in Marquette back in ’08 or ’09, one of my
long, meandering Saturday runs when it was 80 degrees at 8
in the morning. I just loved the thought of it being that
warm that early. And a third might be a couple of years ago
when we were visiting Loraine's parents, I went out running,
and found myself getting caught in a massive thunderstorm
that almost turned into a tornado.
Trust me--you DON’T forget runs like that, even after
racking up over 14,000 miles.
I supposed I should set a goal of running at least 25,000
miles in my life, so I can say (at least in jest) that I’ve
run around the world. So far, it’s taken me 27 years to get
over halfway there. I still plan on running for another 27
years, so I suppose the goal is possible. We’ll just have
to see if my feet, my knees, and the new shoes I’m about to
use for the first time hold out.
Loraine was glancing through one of those weird book
catalogs that we get on a seemingly daily basis, and one of
the titles popped out at her. It's a book that's over 100
years old, and was described in the catalog as a “cautionary
tale for children aged 8 and up with an ironic sense of
humor”. I'm certainly a child aged 8 and up, and I
certainly have quite the ironic sense of humor, so why
shouldn't the book appeal to me? Well, maybe it's because
of the title--
“Jim, Who Ran Away From His Nurse And Was Eaten By A Lion”.
Seriously; that's the title of the book. It was written by
Hilaire Belloc in 1907, and was supposed to teach children
the importance of listening to their elders. However, Mr.
Belloc didn't take his assignment totally seriously, which
is why the book is recommended for kids with an ironic sense
of humor (you know; kids that grow up to be like me).
Apparently, young Jim does NOT follow the advice he's given,
wanders into a zoo, and (spoiler alert) does get eaten by a
lion, with only his head remaining as evidence.
Yup. They had some really good methods of teaching kids
lessons back then, didn't they? And is it just me, or does
that book sounds like a movie Tim Burton's been waiting his
entire life to direct?
Like I said, I have no idea if I'll buy the book and check
it out. It's a mere 22 pages, most of them filled with
Edward Gorey-inspired drawings, and I'm sure it would be a
fun & quick read. But still...
It's a about a boy named Jim who sometime has trouble with
authority and gets eaten by a lion because of it. You don't
think THAT would cause nightmares???????
I'll spend a few seconds this weekend thinking about it.
Not too many seconds, because I'm sure I'll be devoting more
of my time to wondering why the first weekend of Spring has
temperatures more like late winter, but I'll think about it
And with that in mind, I hope YOU enjoy your weekend just as
I know people use their tax refunds for all kinds of
different things. Loraine and I, for instance, use a small
chunk of ours to buy chocolate from Europe. We ordered from
three different countries this year, and now that all the
boxes have arrived (within four days of each other, in a
very Christmas-like flurry), there's nothing left to do but
eat what was in them.
It'll be hard, but somehow I think we'll make it through.
Really, I do.
It's funny; our trip to Europe last August actually found us
in each of the countries from which we purchased goodies.
Normally, we'll only be in one or two of the countries,
which means that we're usually looking forward to getting
chocolate from the place we didn't visit. This year,
though, it's kinda weird. It's like we're basically
resupplying the stock we had on hand. Admittedly, it's a
stock that was running low, but it's not like we hadn't
eaten any of the goodies recently.
Now we just get to eat them again.
Next year, though, I'm sure will be different. This
upcoming year we'll just be in Germany, and not France or
Belgium, which means that in March of 2016 when we receive
French Feast or
Belgian Shop we'll be
really, really excited, perhaps to the point of tearing open
the shipping containers with our bare teeth.
But that's next year. For now, we eat!
By the way, many of you seem to be amused by The Great
Toilet Paper Controversy (scroll down to Tuesday's entry if
you don't know what I'm talking about). Most of the mail
I've received comes from people who, like me, really don't
seem to care which way your toilet paper rolls. Several of
you, though, have noticed a plethora of stories about The
Great Toilet Paper Controversy on the internet. Daily blog
reader Kate of Marquette sent me a link to a
story about the patent for
the first roll of toilet paper (and which way it should go
), while another daily blog reader form Marquette, Jody,
website that's devoted to
the whole controversy.
And just as a side thought to Jody's website, isn't
“www.professortoilet.com” perhaps the greatest web domain
name in history? If nothing else, it certainly describes a
large chunk of what you'll find on the Internet.
I'm just sayin'!
who's fine if you're an over. And is just as equally fine
if you're an under.
Apparently, I'm not who I thought I was.
As you may recall, I've been meaning to do a little research
into the German side of my family, to see if we'd be
anywhere near the area from which they came during our
upcoming trip to the country. It's taken me a bit, but
prodded on by the fact that St. Urho's Day and St. Patrick's
Day made me think of my ethnic makeup, I did a little
digging, and you know what?
I was surprised by what I found.
My grandfather—my mom's dad—was a Marquette Township
Schwemin. In fact, he grew up on the farm where Walmart now
stands. He was the grandson of Andrew Schwemin, one of
three Schwemin brothers who came to this country in the
1860s. I had always assumed that he came to the U.S. from
Bavaria, the now southernmost state in Germany. I assumed
it for a couple of reasons, but you know what they say about
assuming things, right? As it turns out, my great-great
grandfather did not come to the U.S. from Bavaria. Nope; he
came to the U.S. from Prussia, quite possibly from the area
around Berlin, where Loraine and I were on our LAST visit to
Actually, at the time my great-great grandfather left
Prussia it was quite the kingdom; in fact, it stretched from
what is now Poland all the way to what it now the
German-Belgian border. I'm just guessing he came from
somewhere around Berlin based on religious and occupational
demographics. Of course, that's also how I thought he came
from Bavaria, and look how correct I was about that, right?
Anyway, he left Prussia right before it managed to, either
by force or diplomacy, convince other kingdoms to band
together into a new country to be called Germany.
But that's neither here nor there. I'm apparently a
Prussian German, and not a Bavarian German. But that's not
the biggest thing I've been taking away from this research.
As you know, I'm a mutt. I have many countries making up
who I am ethnically. But I always thought my grandfather
was 100% German, which would make me a quarter German, which
would make that the biggest chunk of who I am. But looking
into the records I found out, from what it looks like, that
my grandfather was only half German. Although I haven't
confirmed it yet, it appears as if his mother was actually
English, making him half English. Now my grandmother, his
wife, was also half English, which means that if you take
the eighth I get from my grandfather and the eighth I get
from my grandmother, that I'm one quarter English.
The biggest chunk of who I am is no longer German. The
biggest chunk of who I am is now English.
I'm neither disappointed nor surprised; after all, I seem to
favor British music & TV shows over just about anything
else. And I'm hoping one day to master the language,
although some might say I still have a long way to go. I'm
just...surprised by the news. I always thought I was a
quarter German. But I'm not. I'm a quarter English. Like
I said Monday, because I am a mutt, I've never identified
with any single one of the countries in my ethnic
background. As it turns out, though, maybe I have. Maybe
the years of listening to The Beatles and watching Monty
Python was actually my DNA sending me back to the old
Maybe all the time I subconsciously knew I was a quarter
English, even if the conscious part of my brain had no idea
I'll be doing some more research on the matter, to find out
a couple of things. I wanna narrow down the area of Prussia
from where my great-great grandfather hailed, and I wanna
see if there are any more skeletons hanging in my genetic
closet. After all, for someone who's a quarter English
(plus Swedish and Finnish and Scottish and Irish, among
others) I do have an awfully dark skin tone.
I ask this because, unbeknownst to me, there's apparently a
huge controversy regarding which way your toilet paper roll
is “supposed” to hang once you put it up. There's a large,
vocal group of people who are adamant that the tube must
hang with the paper coming over the top of the roll.
There's another large, vocal group of people who insist that
the tube must hang with the paper coming from the bottom of
the roll. And as far as I can tell, a member of one of
those very vocal groups will never, ever agree that the
other group is correct.
You thought politics in this country was splitting the
nation in two? Heck, that's child's play compared to how
you hang your toilet paper!
This came to my attention because of something that's
apparently going on at work. One of my co-workers, when she
puts a new roll of paper up, pays no attention to the way
she hangs it. However it comes out of the wrapping is the
way that it goes on the roll. However, she's started to
notice something—whenever she puts the roll on one certain
way, with the paper coming off the bottom of the roll, it's
not long before the same roll she put on is changed. It's
flipped over, so the paper comes off the top instead of the
So either another of my co-workers has very strong feelings
about which way the roll should be hung, or there's a Toilet
Paper Fairy out there who feels the need to change things of
which she/he/it does not approve!
I myself could not care less which way the roll is hung. If
the paper comes off the top, fine. If the paper comes off
the bottom, that's equally as fine. After all, it's just
toilet paper. There are way too many problems in the world
on which people should be concentrating and devoting their
time and energy to solving. But which way the toilet paper
Probably not so much.
Of course, and as usual, I seem to be the oddball out in
this situation. I didn't realize this was a major problem
for many individuals. I didn't realize people had such
strong feelings about the subject. I didn't realize that
this was a situation that's tearing at the very fabric of
our country. But apparently it is. In fact, there are
a ton of websites devoted
to which way is “right” and which way is “wrong”. So in the
future, when you sit down with your extended family at a
holiday dinner, here are the topics you should NOT bring up
That's okay. You can thank me later.
who, as someone with an Irish great-grandfather, wishes YOU
a Happy St. Patrick's Day!
You know, if I were a party animal, I would probably be dead
Well, maybe “dead” isn’t the right word, but “in serious
pain” would probably fit in quite easily. Because I’m a
typical American “mutt”, I have seven or eight nationalities
in my ethnic makeup, two of which are Finnish and Irish.
And since today is St. Urho’s Day, and tomorrow is St.
Patrick’s Day, and since both of those holidays
traditionally involve, among other things, drinking. . .
You see where I’m going with this, right? So maybe it’s a
good thing I’m NOT a party animal!
I’ve never really been into any of the traditional
celebrations from cultures that make up my ethnic heritage.
Oh, I enjoy wearing green and purple (especially purple),
even on days that aren’t celebratory, so I don’t have any
problem doing that, but I’ve never been one to go out and
drink green beer or eat whatever it is you eat on St. Urho’s
Day. In fact, until a couple of years ago, I hadn’t really
sat down to figure out who I was, in terms of ethnicity.
But maybe that’s one of those things you actually get
interested in as you get older, because as I’ve gotten
older, I’ve discovered more of who I am, and where my
ancestors came from.
Maybe it’s because I have seven or eight different
nationalities in my background that I’ve never seemed to
care much about ethnicity. I supposed if I had come from a
strong Finnish or a strong Irish background, I’d have more
knowledge of “the old country” and its traditions. But
most likely some Mediterranean country, because the Irish
were apparently QUITE friendly with the Spanish and
Portuguese in the past, which would account for my skin
coloring), I never gave it a second thought. I was just,
you know, me. I wasn’t aware I was a melting pot; in fact,
I kind of thought everyone was like me. But as I’ve spoken
with many other people, people who do have a strong ethnic
background, I’ve come to realize that maybe I should at
least be aware of, if not actively celebrate, who I am and
Now, that doesn’t mean I need to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day
or St. Urho’s Day any more than I should celebrate Bastille
Day or the Queen’s Birthday, or, uhm, Abba Day and Bratwurst
Day, or whatever it is they celebrate in Sweden and
Germany. But it does means that I should realize that my
great-or great-great grandparents came from countries like
Ireland or Sweden or Finland, and made a life in a new and
strange land, so that 120 or 140 years later one of their
descendants could sit in a chair, and in his uniquely
American way, ponder the things that went into making him
So instead of celebrating with beer and food the next two
days, how about if I instead give a short and heartfelt
“thanks” to people from generations long ago, people who
left Ireland and Finland and Germany and Sweden and England
and France and Scotland and (probably) someplace in the
Mediterranean and came to North America. It’s because of
them that I can sit here and think of myself as a “mutt” (in
the best sense of the word) and just wonder what I’ll
discover about my past as the future rolls on.
I don't have a lot of time to write this morning, because
I'm off to tape the final episodes of “High School Bowl” for
It seems like I just started hosting the show; now, my first
year has comes to an end. The shows won't air for a few
weeks yet, but with the exception of appearing on Public
TV-13 tomorrow while the last quarterfinal airs, I'm done
for the year.
And it blows my mind.
If you've been reading these since September, you know I've
had a blast doing the show. The kids are amazing, the staff
at TV-13 is great, and the audience each and every week is
really good at “pity laughter” during my lame attempts at
humor, so as a first time host, I probably couldn't ask for
So thank you, everyone involved.
I've had a couple of people ask; yes, I will be doing this
again next year. In fact, when we last taped two weeks ago
I was asked by the people running the show if I'd be
returning next year. Well, I really wasn't asked so much as
I was the object of this statement--”You ARE coming back
next year, right?” So I guess I can't turn that down,
especially when someone else chimed in “shoot for 10
years”! After all, if I make it 10 years I can probably
then be replaced by a robot host. But we'll see.
With that, I'm off. Have yourself a great weekend. If you
really ARE bored tomorrow night, watch a 90-minute “High
School Bowl”, complete with pledge break segments featuring
the person who'll probably one day be replaced by a robot
For many years, every March (or whenever the snow started to
melt) I would re-post a blog I wrote back in 2003 about a
problem I've noticed in our fair city. I stopped doing it a
couple of years ago, because I figured you guys were
starting to get sick of it. But after being outside running
& walking the past two days, after the snow has melted and
started to reveal what lies underneath, I figured I'd post
it once again.
You don't have to agree with it if you want; heck, you don't
even have to read it, if you want. But it's something
that's been bugging me forever, so I figured I'd bring it up
once more. Then, I'll keep my mouth shut for another couple
Here it is, as originally written March 24th, 2003 (back,
apparently, when I felt I needed to capitalize almost
everything for emphasis):
I’ve discovered the one bad thing about snow melting in
Piles of dog crap EVERYWHERE.
You know, if I ever run for Marquette City Commission, I
know I may be the biggest loser in the city’s electoral
history. Why? Because some days, I feel like one of the
main platforms of my campaign would be to ban dogs in the
Now, I know MANY people will not agree with that sentence,
but it’s the truth—a city really IS no place for a bounding,
fun-loving, full of energy animal like that. Farms are
GREAT for animals like that. Suburbs with big back yards
are GREAT for animals like dogs. And I really do think dogs
can be a valued member of a family, especially with a single
person looking for companionship or a family with kids. But
to try and keep them cooped up in houses or chained up in a
yard…that’s really not fair to the animals, is it?
Marquette has three specific laws regarding dogs, and while
90% of the people follow them to the letter, it’s the 10
percent that DOESN’T that made we want to write this column.
First of all, let’s specifically address the dog poop
issue. There is a pooper-scooper law in Marquette. If you
dog goes, you have to clean it up. However, just look
around any sidewalk in Marquette where the snow has melted.
You see piles of the stuff EVERYWHERE. You have to jump
over it, walk around it, detour by it…and all because some
people refuse to follow that law. And if you point that out
to someone whose dog does their natural business and doesn’t
clean it up, they get defensive, like you’re persecuting
their poor pet for no reason at all.
Maybe we should just put mounds of bacteria-breeding
material on every street corner and be done with it.
There’s also a leash law in Marquette, one that states you
must keep your dog on a 6-foot (or shorter) leash. Yet
every time I go running or walking (especially in the
summer, near a park) there ALWAYS seems to be a loose dog
running toward me, fangs bared, often times nipping at my
heels or jumping on my leg. When I yell at it or push it
out of the way, the owner once again gets defensive and says
“my dog won’t hurt you”. Well, how do I know that? It’s an
animal showing its teeth and running at me. What do you
THINK goes through my mind at a time like that?
Finally, there’s also a law that says your dog isn’t s’posed
to be outside between, I believe, 11pm and 7am. That way,
your animal won’t bark, whine, or whimper, and keep everyone
in the neighborhood up. Now, I may be a little sensitive on
this issue, seeing as how I have a neighbor who keeps TWO
dogs out and vocal every night, but isn’t common courtesy an
issue in this matter? If your backyard (or wherever you
keep your dog) connects with 6 or 7 other backyards,
SHOULDN’T you think about others before putting your dog
out? My neighbor has said they put the dogs out because
they bark inside the house and keep THEM awake.
After hearing THAT, I just kept thinking “HELLO…if they’re
loud in your house, whaddya think they’re like OUTSIDE”?
I know that I’m in a VERY small minority on this issue. I
know that no one wants to get rid of their dogs, and I know
that no one wants to see more restrictive laws placed on
them. Maybe if that 10% of people I mentioned at the
beginning of this column would just realize that their pets
can be and sometimes ARE a problem, and would do something
about it, maybe we could ALL live in peace.
I've written in here a couple of times about how I haven't
been able to do much in the way of cross-country skiing this
year. Between the lack of suitable snow, the bitter cold,
and the general condition of the trails to which I can walk,
I haven't been able to get out there much this year. There
was a lot of joy in Mudville when I finally made it out for
the first time at the beginning of February. There was even
more joy when I made it out two more times in the following
week and a half. But since then?
Part of me is disappointed; after all, cross country skiing
is one of my favorite activities, and it's perhaps the only
thing that keeps me sane during winter. But then another
part of me doesn't care if I can't go skiing any more,
especially if the reason is because it's 60 degrees out
(like it was yesterday) and all the snow is melting. And
given the choice between skiing and heat, you know which I'd
But like I said, I am a little disappointed that I only went
skiing three times this year. I went just enough to get in
good skiing shape, but then I couldn't put that shape to
good use. I basically lived through all the kinks and aches
that skiing the first few times inflicts on a body, and then
didn't get to enjoy any ache-free skiing.
I'm sure my muscles won't forgive me for that.
Next year I may have to re-examine how I approach skiing.
If I want to ski more, maybe I'll have to actually drive to
places where there's enough snow to properly groom the
trails. Either that, or I'll have to become a better skier,
with the ability to move over icy and crusty surfaces while
not falling down and breaking anything. After all, I've
been skiing long enough; you'd think I'd be able to do that
Oh well; there's not much I can do about it any more, unless
we get a huge storm dumping a foot and a half of white stuff
on the ground. And trust me—I'd rather not live through
something like THAT, even if it meant skiing once or twice.
I guess it's time to put the skis away and pull out my bike,
getting that ready for another season of fun.
A season, hopefully, that'll include going out on the bike
more than three times!
Even if I did have a bad day, why would I bother anyone with
Over the past few years I've received comments from people
regarding something I do on the air, and it happened again
this past weekend. It's something I never really thought
about, but it must make an impression on some people. The
comments have to do with how I never seem to have a “bad
day” when I'm on the air, how I always seem “to have a smile
in (my) voice”. Apparently I always sound like I'm happy
and having fun when I'm on the air, and people notice that.
And from the sound of it they appreciate it, as well.
Trust me, I do have bad days. Some days, I'm dealing with
recalcitrant equipment, other days, it's dealing with a
personal situation. So I do have bad days. But I don't let
it affect my on-air performance. My job is to entertain
people, to make sure they have a good time getting through
their days. They may tune in to try and make their own bad
day better; why would I add to their troubles with troubles
of my own?
I mean, I'm really lucky. Being an optimist by nature I
really don't have a lot of bad days, and even if something
is weighing upon me I have this freakish ability to
compartmentalize. I seem to be able to shove whatever's
bothering me to the back of my head for a few minutes when I
need to do something else. I don't know if I'm lucky in
that respect or if it's a sign of some serious mental
instabilities (neither would surprise me). All I know is
that if people are tuning in for fun or to relieve their own
troubles, it doesn't do much for them if I'm a major bummer.
And it's something, apparently, that people notice.
So, if you don't mind, I'll just continue being me on the
air. In all honesty, I wouldn't know how to do it any
differently, anyway, so I guess you're stuck with an
optimist with a smile in his voice.
Even if I am having a bad day.
By the way, the person who mentioned this to me over the
weekend is a guy I met who also has the greatest name in the
world, Jim. And in the course of our discussion Jim
mentioned that he turns 65 today. So Jim, if you're reading
this, have yourself a great birthday. I hope you get to
celebrate 65 more!
The TV show’s been on the air longer than I can remember,
yet I’ve never actually sat down and watched an entire
episode of it.
Now that it's going off the air, maybe I should.
The show to which I’m referring is “Finland Calling”. I
don't know if you've heard, but Carl Pellonpaa will be
wrapping it up at the end of the month following 53 (53!)
years on the air. And despite the fact that I’ve been on
the show three times (more on that later), I’ve never
actually sat down and watched one of the programs from start
That’s not good, is it?
Yes, I know I’m only one-eighth Finnish, but it does mean
that I do have Finnish blood running through my veins, and I
suppose I really should make the effort, right? After all,
I’m sure some long-lost relative of mine watches it
religiously to find a connection back to the old country; I
suppose the least I could do is to sit down for an hour, see
the people dance, listen to the music, and watch the films,
That’s not to say I’ve never seen parts of the show. I have
seen chunks of it here and there, mostly when I was young
and searching the 7 or 8 channels on Marquette’s nascent
early 1970s cable system in a vain search for Sunday morning
cartoons. But it wasn’t a weekly ritual for me. For
others, though, I know it’s part of their life. One of the
times I was on the show was when Carl taped his 50th
anniversary program at the Marquette Regional History Center
a few years back, and I was speaking with one of the people
attending the show. She was geeked by everything that was
going on, even dressing up in the colors of Finland and
getting pictures taken of her and Carl so she could post
them on her Facebook page. She grew up watching the show
every week; she and her grandmother had a tradition of Carl
and crossword puzzles on Sunday mornings.
A lot of U.P. families have traditions like that, and I
think that one of the cool things that makes growing up in
this area so unique. A lot of that is, I’m sure, a
testament to the power of Carl. At that taping three years
ago I saw the hold he had over the crowd assembled to
watch. He had a real connection to the people who watch the
show. And after seeing the connection, I can’t say I’m
surprised he’s been on the air as long as he has. I’m sure
that if he wanted to and if his health held up, he'd do the
show for another 53 years.
Unfortunately, he won't be. He'll do one last show at the
end of the month, and then call it a career. So if there's
anyone else out there who, like me, has never watched
“Finland Calling” but has always meant to, you'd better do
it then. Because after that, an Upper Michigan institution
will be no more.
Now that we've left the coldest month in the history of the
city of Marquette, we're looking at moderate temperatures
the next few days. So moderate, in fact, that we may even
see sun and in the 40s by Tuesday, which around here is
cause for wearing shorts and running around without a
shirt. And for those of you who don't live here and think
we're weird? We're not.
We're just happy that it's above freezing!
I know this probably won't happen, but I'm hoping that this
March will be much like March three or four years ago, when
it was 80 degrees on St. Patrick's Day and everyone kind of
lost their mind, but in a good way. Like I said, I know
it's probably not gonna happen, but a boy can dream, right?
Especially since all of the Marches since then have been
brutal and wicked and sick and whatever other negative
adjective you'd like to use.
As long, of course, as that adjective is suitable for a
semi-family friendly blog.
Now that (most of) winter is in the rear-view mirror, I'm
kind of surprised by a couple of things. First of all, I'm
surprised that it didn't seem to be as long as it normally
is. I don't know if that's because your perception of the
passage of time increases the older you get, and despite my
best efforts I AM getting older, or if it's because after
last winter ANY winter would seem to be shorter, but that's
what it seems like to me. Winter just didn't seem to be as
long as usual.
And I don't know if that led into the second thing that
surprised me, but I seem to have mentally handled this
winter better than most. Like just about everyone, by the
time March rolls around I usually just feel a little strung
out, a little tired and in need of more than a little sun.
But for whatever reason, not this year. I mean, sure, I'm
not at my mid-summer peak. But then I'm also not curled up
in the fetal position in a corner, softly whimpering every
6.2 seconds. I don't know if it's because winter “seemed”
shorter this year, or if I was just too busy to notice, or
if it was something entirely different, but there actually
seems to be a little left in the tank this year.
A strange feeling, to be sure, but a nice one nonetheless.
So on that note, enjoy your weekend of temperatures at or
near freezing, and keep your fingers crossed that we do hit
40 soon. After all, a bunch of us have our shorts out and
ready to go!!
After spending probably way too much time reading about
local hookers and killers and bootleggers recently, I
decided to needed to do something a little more
intellectually stimulating. So I began reading a book
entitled “The Last Lost World” by Lyda and Stephen Pyne.
It's a book about the Pleistocene Era, the period in time
from 2 ½ million to 10,000 years ago, a geologic period that
was flipped on its head around 100,000 years ago by the
arrival of a species called Homo Sapiens.
You know—modern humans. Us.
Anyway, the book talks about how the first species in the
Homo genus—Homo Habilis—showed the first faint signs of
conscious intelligence by decorating the teeth and bones of
the animals they hunted. The authors, PhDs both, used a
word to describe the practice, and that's the word that made
my head explode. What did they call it?
Well, how about osteodontokeratic.
No, I'm not kidding. Osteodontokeratic was the word they
used to describe the practice. Now, I'm not an
anthropologist, nor do I play one on TV, so I'm assuming it
actually is a word and not just something they made up to
grab a high score during a game of Scrabble. And if you
break it down, you can see they probably DID use it
correctly—“osteo”, after all, it the Latin root for “bone”,
while “donto” sounds enough like “dental” to make you think
of teeth. Since they were describing the practice of
decorating bones and teeth; well, let's just give them the
benefit of the doubt.
And the 58 points (or whatever it is) you'd get for using it
Aside from learning a new word, which I hope to someday
sneak into a casual conversation (assuming, of course, I can
ever remember how to pronounce it), the book is also
fascinating from an intellectual point of view. It talks
about how Homo Habilis gave way to Homo Erectus and then
Homo Heidelbergenis and then to us. And it also points out
how intertwined we and our ancestors have been with the
Elephas genus; how we both began migrating out of Africa at
the same time, and how we (humans and our forebearers) have
pretty much wiped out all species of the genus Elephas (like
mastodons and mammoths) except for the modern African
elephant (and how we're currently doing a pretty good job on
that species, too).
See? Just a bit different that reading about brothels on
Lake Street, right?
Anyway, the book ends at the finish of Pleistocene Era
10,000 years ago, when Homo Sapiens settled down to become
farmers and, eventually, kings of the world. So if you're
curious about how we as a species evolved to the point we
are today, it's an interesting book, albeit one that takes a
little concentration. But if nothing else, you'll learn a
bunch of new words.
I think I've written in here before about how some people
seem to think that I bear a vague resemblance to the
actor/singer/Academy Award winning writer. It's usually an
attractive college-aged woman who makes the remark, and when
they say it they usually mean it in a good way, such as “he
was married to Angelina Jolie so he must have SOMETHING
going for him”. I'm still kind of ambivalent about the
comparison; however, if it's cool to attractive college-aged
women, I guess I'll deal with it.
After all, I'm not stupid!
Aside from the fact that we both seem to have bizarrely
small heads (at least as compared to the rest of our bodies)
I personally don't see the resemblance between Mr. Thornton
and myself. That, however, doesn't mean anything. After
all, I see me in a way much different than most people. So
even though I don't think I look like him, I'm willing to
give other people the benefit of the doubt. And that's a
good thing, because three more people in the past two weeks
have made the comparison.
One of those people was Loraine's older brother, who noticed
the similarity while watching “High School Bowl” online.
Another was a parent of one of the students at a “High
School Bowl” taping. The third was someone attending my
“Night Life” program for the History Center last Tuesday.
Three people, seeing me in three different settings, and
they all made the same comparison.
And yet I don't get it.
I mean, part of me is actually flattered by the comparison.
After all, the gentleman to whom I'm being compared won an
Oscar for writing a movie, and has been in the company of
some of the most important people on the planet. So who
wouldn't want to be compared to someone like that? The
other part of me, though, keeps thinking of THIS Billy Bob
For some bizarre reason, whenever someone (especially an
attractive college-aged woman) says I look like Billy Bob
Thornton, THAT is the Billy Bob Thornton to whom I think I'm
being compared. I know that's not what the person telling
me is thinking, but that's what pops into my head. Call it
a personality quirk on my part; heck, call it a major mental
deficiency on my part. But whenever someone says I look
like Billy Bob Thornton, THAT'S the Billy Bob Thornton I
think I'm being compared to.
Even if/when it's not.
I'm sure that if the years wear on and I'm still being
compared to him, I'll learn to deal with it a little better
than I currently am. For now, it still seems weird, and I
still don't quite understand. But that's just me. As we
all know, you guys are much smarter than I, so if you say I
look like Billy Bob Thornton, then I guess I look like Billy
Spring break? What’s that? Isn’t it something mythical,
like a unicorn, or a Wall Street banker with ethics?
I know many people, at least here in the U.P (especially
college students), are in the middle of their spring break.
But that’s one of those things like snow days that I just
(with one exception) don’t get to do. While everyone else
gets a week off from work to go south and play or stay home
and clean, I get to go to work.
And I don’t think that technically qualifies as a “break”,
I’m not complaining; even when I was in college and COULD
take a spring break, I usually just came home and slept for
three or four days, trying to recover from the insanity of
finals week. I was never one to head down to Florida and
see how many body shots I could do off of people I’ve never
met. I knew a lot of people like that, and they usually
needed another spring break to recover from their first
spring break. So I’m not really that sad I don’t get a
I get summer days on a beach whenever it’s nice out, and
that’s a whole lot better than a spring break. Trust me on
The one time I did go what might be considered a spring
getaway was 13 (wow...) years ago, and I don’t know that it
actually qualifies as a “spring” break. I went down to
Florida to see my parents and to watch a space shuttle take
This shuttle launch, in fact--
(It was the last fully successful flight of Columbia, if
Of course, the trip was only for three days, and consisted
of two missed flights, lost luggage, and the total shutdown
of Sawyer International due to snow on my way back, but that
qualifies as a “break”, right?
Anyway, if you’re in the middle of your week off, have a
great time. You deserve it. On your way back I hope it’s
missed flight- and lost luggage-free; if you’re just hanging
around home, I hope you get to sleep late and get done
whatever it is you hope to get done. And just remember--if
you’re staying here we’ll be around as usual, and if you’re
going somewhere; well, we’ll be here when you get back.
After all, that’s why WE don’t take a spring break!!
I'm not LITERALLY the character from “WKRP in Cincinnati”.
I'm not an African-American radio announcer of the late 70s
and early 80s played by Tim Reid, a character who once
skipped out of the Vietnam War following the death of a
friend. Instead, I'm a mostly Caucasian radio announcer of
the 90s and 00s not played by Tim Reid who hasn't (yet) been
to Vietnam. But after watching one episode of the show, I
do see a lot of parallels.
As you know, I'm making my way through the “WKRP” complete
series DVD set. I'm at the end of the second season, which
featured an episode entitled “Venus Rising”, where Venus was
offered a job with a competing radio station. That's where
the similarities came into play, because we find out--
-Venus was hired at WKRP to do late afternoons and early
evenings (like me) and was soon thereafter named assistant
program director (like me).
-The station that wanted to hire Venus away from WKRP wanted
him to run a station (in a brilliant example of foresight by
whoever wrote the episode) automated by computer. Venus
would be the only live member of the air staff, something
I've been for months at a time when we've been been between
-Finally, and this is what made me realize I AM Venus
Flytrap, WKRP has a dance studio right above the station.
You know what I have right above my air studio (and my
office)? Dawn Dott Dance, to be specific.
So you see? I'm not strange (well, not much). I really am
the reincarnation of Venus Flytrap.
Okay, I know I'm not. I know it's just a strange
coincidence. But it does point out how much I've enjoyed
watching the shows again, uncut, for the first time since
they originally aired. And I keep noticing things I didn't
pick up back then, especially things that have to do with
the radio business. The people who wrote the show really
knew radio. They knew the business, how things work (or at
least how they worked back then) and the personalities
involved. I guess I didn't have enough experience in the
biz to understand that back when it was first on. Now, I
bow down before the writers.
They knew what they were writing about.
I'm now halfway through the series, and I can't wait to see
what seasons three and four have to hold. One of the things
that I do remember is that the show did evolve in those two
seasons; in fact, that's one of the reasons I liked it so
much. The characters grew, some of the plots became a
little more serious, and the station itself became more
successful. That's what I'll be interested to see—if the
writers dealt with that as realistically as they dealt with
the coincidence between Venus Flytrap and me.
You know--the one that's probably completely in my mind.