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In Jim's Daily Opinion 02/27/2015

FRIDAY,. 2/27:

I don't have a lot of time to write today, as I have to go shoot my next-to-last (gasp!) set of shows for “High School Bowl” (and just as an aside, how did a whole season of the shows go by so quickly???) but I did want to mention a little something.

I've still been receiving compliments on the “Night Life” show I did for the History Center last Tuesday, and one of them made me laugh out loud.  You know how I write in here a lot about how there are different Jims—Radio Jim, History Jim, and TV Jim, and how sometimes people who know one of those “Jims” don't know about the others.  This compliment was a prime example.

The compliment came from someone who apparently just knows History Jim, because she said, and I quote--”If you ever decide to give up being a history teacher you could always go on the road as a comedian”.  Like I said, it made me laugh for a couple of reasons.  The first was that this sweet lady actually mistook me for someone who actually does something worthwhile with their life, like a real teacher.  I'm flattered.  But then I also had to chuckle because, once again, there are people who only know me from one aspect of my life, and not from the others.

And as much as I'm in the media—and we all know that's way too much—that surprises me.

She wasn't the only person who thought I'd make a good stand-up comedian; I actually had several people mention that.  And while that's another compliment I really do appreciate, I'm guessing it won't happen.  After all, unlike most professional comedians, I'm actually kind of emotionally stable (or at least think I am).  I'm lacking one of the primary requirements for the job—a shattered psyche!

So with that, I now have to go be TV Jim for a little while.  Have yourself a great weekend.  I'm still trying to decide how I'll spend MY weekend now that I'm no longer searching for stories about drunks, reprobates, and hookers!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 2/26:

I'll be glad when I don't have to walk the dog on a daily basis.

No; I haven't done anything totally out of character like go out and get an actual dog.  As you know, if you've been reading these at all, I would never do that.  Instead, “walking the dog” has become, between me & Loraine, synonymous with a daily chore neither of us wants to do yet still needs to be done--

Taking the car out for a spin.

As you may know, both of us now walk to work every day.  We've toyed with the idea of getting rid of our one remaining car, but we both realize that we DO need a vehicle on occasion.  So we've kept Loraine's car, which just sits in our driveway when not being used, which is basically six days a week.  And since we actually want it to start on the one day we use it, when we hit a cold snap like we've been in the past three weeks, one where the temperature stays below zero, one of us needs to get into the car, crank it up, and take it for a little spin.

And guess who that person usually is?

I don't mind doing it.  After all, I want the car to start when we need to go to the grocery store or if I need to go shoot an episode of “High School Bowl”.  Besides; over the years I've had enough car batteries killed off by extreme cold.  I don't need to it happen to a car of Loraine's.  So I'll carve out a few minutes of my day to make sure it doesn't happen.

But when you have to do it on a daily basis for a long period of time, like I've had to in February, it becomes a bit of a chore.  It's almost exactly like owning a dog—you know you have to get up in the morning, get dressed, and take it out for a walk.  The only difference is that I don't need a leash and I don't have to pick up any poop.

Other than that, it's exactly like walking a dog.

But like I said, that may soon be coming to an end.  If Laura is right, and she usually is, we'll be leaving the bitter cold behind for the season after today.  In fact, the extended forecast calls for temperatures in the 20s, which will only make it ten degrees below average.  But the temps won't be below zero, and that means that I won't have to walk the dog on a daily basis.

And that, I guess, is just one of many reasons to be happy for the eventual arrival of spring.  So let's hope the forecasts hold, the temperatures stay above zero, and the dog gets to stay in the driveway.

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 2/25:

It went very well.  Thanks for asking.

The Jim Koski ™ Marquette Regional History Center program on Marquette night life was a smashing success at the ore Dock last night.  Around 100 people showed up, and from what I heard had a very good time hearing about the, ahem, debauchery that has marked our fair city for the past 166 years.  I myself had a blast, and if the tales I heard from people after the show are any indication, there should be more than enough material out there for a sequel to the show.

Or even two sequels!

One of the things I heard involved the Brule Run, which is how I wrapped up the show last night.  The Brule Run is an annual tradition at NMU, where the gentlemen who live in Brule House run naked in the snow the first night it's on the ground.  Apparently the Brule Run in 2013 got just a little out of hand and police had to shut it down, which led to the fact that there was no Brule Run in 2014.  I don't know if it'll pick up again this upcoming fall, but I hope so.  From what I've heard it's become quite the tradition at NMU, even if university officials  don't like to acknowledge it.

And I hope it also continues if for no other reason that when I showed the picture of the streakers I got one of the biggest laughs of the evening!

Going through my notes afterward, I noticed that I also left a couple of stories out, one because I forgot about it and several because I was adjusting my performance on the fly.  That's not a bad thing, though.  After all, I've already had a bunch of people ask if I was gonna do it again, and having fresh stories never hurts.  Not only that, but I also have a list of (and I'm not kidding) 16 bars that people said I should look into that I didn't mention last night, so I have that going for me, too.

I guess people really like hearing about this kind of stuff.  In fact, one of the best compliments I received was, and I quote, “this is a show you should do a Kaufman”.  That, of course, means that the show should be upgrading to one of those big fund raising events the History Center does at Kaufman Auditorium, like the “Lost Buildings” thing Jack Deo and I did two years ago.  I take what this person said with high praise; after all, not every program is good enough for Kaufman, but apparently someone felt last night's was.

So thanks for that.

Now, I get to get to do two things—I get to relax for a day or so, and I then get to start going through the pieces of papers, the lists, and the suggestions that were given to me last night for the next time I do the show.  So if you have any bar or night life stories you wanna share, you know where to send them!

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 2/24:

Still no picture of The Alibi.  But you know what?  I don't think I'm gonna need one!

Tonight's the night of my “Marquette Night Life” program for the Marquette Regional History Center, and I now have the show locked & loaded.  I couldn't add anything to it if I wanted to (although, technically, if someone WERE to come up with a picture of The Alibi, I suppose I would break my own rule).  All the pictures are set, all the stories are set, and none of the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Oh, and the story of people running naked in the snow will be in there, too.

I hope that no one will be disappointed by one aspect of the show.  When I came up with the idea, and based on how the History Center is promoting it, the show was supposed to be a history of how Marquette residents have spent their evenings in bars.  But as I dug up more pictures and discovered more stories, I came to realize that there is so much more to the history of Marquette night life than just bars and taverns and saloons.  So while bars will be a common thread running through the show, I'll also be discussing everything on the cultural spectrum from poetry recitals to pool halls.

So, hopefully, even if I don't get to someone's favorite bar I'll have enough other entertaining stuff for everyone to go home happy.

I've also made sure that there are enough gags and punch lines throughout the program. Yes, I know not every history program people put together also includes stand-up comedy, but since when have I ever been normal?  Besides, that's one of the reasons I decided to do this program.  Marquette, like oh so many places, has a very interesting history to share, filled with lots of stories and events that people might have trouble believing ever occurred.  Well, trust me—those events did occur, and often with hilarious results.

And that's why you get the humor along with the history. 

Like I said, unless someone does come up with an actual real picture of The Alibi, I'm set for tonight.  If you're interested, it starts at 7 at the Ore Dock in Marquette (right down the street from the History Center).  There's a suggested $5 donation; beer, sad to say, not included.  But if you're in the mood, go ahead and enjoy yourself.  After all, we're celebrating night life, and the last time I checked there have been one or two nights in Marquette history where people have consumed beer.

Really.  I'm pretty sure that has happened.

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 2/23:

Why can't I find a picture of The Alibi?

Everything is set for my big Jim Koski ™ History Center program on Marquette Night Life tomorrow.  I have all the stories set.  I have all the context for the stories set.  And I have all the pictures I need to show when telling the stories.  Well, all the pictures except one.

A picture of The Alibi.

It's funny; when I did a Facebook post about the program and asked people about their favorite bars, The Alibi topped the list.  And I'm not surprised it did; after all, from the 70s through the 90s, it was THE bar frequented by NMU students (not surprising, perhaps, seeing as how it sat right across the street form NMU).  But for as beloved as the place was, no one seems to have a picture of it I can use.

No one.

That actually does surprise me a little.  After all, you'd think that people who spent a big chunk of their life in the building would have some kind of memento of it.  But then when you consider what people were doing in the building while they were there, you can also understand why there weren't any pictures.  I mean, it is kinda hard to hold a beer AND a camera at the same time, right?

All I've been able to come up with so far is a newspaper ad that talks about the bar, and (pardon the pun) barring anything else popping up by tomorrow I'll just use that.  It would be nice, though, to have a picture of the actual building, inside or out.  I have pictures of every other bar I'm talking about, including ones going all the way back to the 1870s.

But something from the 1970s?  Not so much.

I have feelers out to what seems like 100 groups and individuals regarding a picture, so maybe one of those feelers will pay off.  And if it doesn't?  Well, that's not necessarily a bad thing, I guess, because if nothing else, I can spend a few seconds during the show talking about the freaky fact that no one seems to have a picture of a bar a whole lot of people claim was their favorite.

So, I guess, keep your fingers crossed that I find a picture.  Or, if you want, keep your fingers crossed that I DON'T find the picture.  I guess I can work with whatever comes my way, no matter which way it comes.

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 2/20:

Okay.  It can stop any time now.

We've been rather fortunate this winter.  It's hasn't been really cold, and it hasn't been really snowy.  It certainly hasn't been much like the past two winters.  I thought we were gonna skate through the season relatively unscathed.

Shows what I know, right?

From last Saturday, which was one of the worst blizzards I can ever remember, to yesterday, which was one of the coldest days I ever remember, it's been a brutal week. So to put a hex on the weather, and to remind everyone that we do live in an area where we DO have warmth and we DO have color (if even for only five or six days a year, or so it seems), I offer these pieces of pictorial proof--

















See?  Better times ARE coming.  After all, pictures never lie, right?

8-)

Stay warm, everyone, and have a great weekend!!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 2/19:

How many of you out there are “lurkers”?

It’s not a bad thing being a “lurker”.  I don’t mean it like that you’re hiding in the shadows thinking nefarious thoughts or that you’re ready to pounce upon unsuspecting individuals who happen to walk by.  Nope; when I say “lurker”, I’m actually referring to the vast majority of you.  And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

I’ve been thinking about “lurkers” after recently receiving notes from several people who read this every day but who have never written in.  And that’s the kind of “lurker” I’m talking about--someone who reads a blog or checks a website every day, but doesn’t actively get involved in the message boards or comments section of the site.  If you are one of those “lurkers”, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  About 98% of the people who check out a web feature are “lurkers”, a badge that I myself wear proudly on just about every single site I check out.

It’s funny; whenever I get a note from someone who hasn’t written me before, there’s almost an apologetic tone to it, as if the person writing doesn’t want to intrude on my time or my personal space.  And while I imagine there are a lot of content posters who feel that way, I’m certainly not one of them.  If you have something to say, I’d love to hear what it is.  After all, I write these things for you guys, so if you think I’m spot-on when discussing a topic (a rare event) or think I don’t know what I’m talking about (a much more common occurrence) just let me know.  I promise I won’t bite.

However, that is in no way a requirement.  If you want to be a “lurker”, go ahead and be a “lurker”.  Like I said, I’m a “lurker” on every web site I visit.  But if you ever want to say something, I’d love to hear what that something is!  My e-mail, address, in case you’ve never noticed it?  It’s this one--

(jim@wmqt.com) !!

WEDNESDAY, 2/18:

I think I finally know what the Bittner Block looks like.

Being (and this is a joke here) Marquette's greatest living authority on old buildings means that I'm familiar with almost every old sandstone building that's every stood in the city. You can show me a picture of a building, and I can tell you where it was and when it was torn down. I've done research on buildings that most (living) people have never heard of, and I've pictures of almost all of them.

There has been, though, one exception, and that's the Bittner Block.

For those of you who don't know, and I'm guessing that's pretty much everyone under the age of 55 with a life, the Bittner Block was a sandstone & brick building that sat on the southeast corner of the intersection of Third & Baraga, where the parking lot next to Fire Station #1 now sits. The building was up from the late 1890s to around 1960, and has been described to me as a “nice looking” structure that had a storefront on street level and offices on the upper levels. Unlike almost every other sandstone building in Marquette's history, though, there seems a distinct lack of pictorial evidence surrounding the very existence of the block.

No one ever seems to have taken a picture of it.

I had pretty much given up on seeing what the building looked like. Then Monday evening Turner Classic Movies aired “Anatomy of a Murder”, a movie that I've seen a dozen times, but not in the past few years. This was also the first time I've seen it on an HDTV with a DVR to pause the picture. About 45 minutes into the film there's a shot where Jimmy Stewart comes out of the Baraga entrance to the courthouse, to be greeted by Lee Remick and her dog. In the background for most of the shot you can see the 100 block of west Baraga, the block that contains the Children's Museum. However, right at the end of the scene, the camera pans to the right, following the characters as they walk to a car, and if you're watching on an HDTV and can freeze at the exact frame, you know what you can see?

The Bittner Block.

Now, I realize I'm probably the only person who would actually freeze frame a movie just to look at something that appears in the background for three or four frames, but that's what I did. The picture quality during most of the frames wasn't the best; after all, the camera was panning rather quickly. But there was one frame where you could almost clearly see the building that once sat at the corner of Third & Baraga. And while I couldn't see the whole building, only the street level floor of it, I think I may have finally captured a view of the mythical Bittner Block.

So thank you, Otto Preminger, for framing that one particular shot the way you did. I bet you never realized that 57 years after you filmed it a dork would be using digital technology to try and see something that no longer exists, but that dork did. And I would know because that dork is me!

I keep telling people they need to watch “Anatomy”, just so they can see what Marquette and Ishpeming used to look like, but I never thought that I would get something out of it in that way, as well. But look what I found--

I found (part of) the Bittner Block!

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 2/17:

One week from tonight!  One week from tonight!

In case you haven't realized it yet, the latest Jim Koski ™ program for the Marquette Regional History Center is one week from tonight, when we invade the Ore Dock Brewery for a evening of wackiness on the history of night life in Marquette.

Believe me when I say this—the more I study about what has gone on after dark in this city over the past 165 years, the more amazed I am.  And the more, well, disbelieving I become.  I tell ya-- Marquette certainly has seen it's share of stuff you wouldn't think has gone on here.  But hopefully that's what'll make the program that much more fun!

I often joke that for a program to be a Jim Koski ™ program (and for those of you who haven't been reading these for months or years, when we refer to a Jim Koski ™ History Center program we're being snarky.  We're not being serious) it has to have three things in it—it has to have hookers, it has to have bootleggers, and it has to have murders.  This program has all three and a whole lot more—it has musicians, it has professional boxers, it has elephants, and it has flying bowling balls.  It has famous people, it has infamous people, and it has been people running naked through the streets.

In the snow.  Seriously, running naked through the streets in the snow.

When I came up with the idea for the program last year it was mostly because people ask me about two certain bars every time I give a downtown tour.  So I thought it would be nice to put together a program on bars, which makes up a large chunk of what people consider “night life” around here.  But as I've done more and more digging and I've discovered more and more stories, I've come to realize that residents in Marquette have done so much more with their nights than just drinking to excess at bars.  Oh, sure, bars will play a big part of the story I'm telling, but I've found stories about so many other things—some legal, a lot not—that bars are just gonna be part of the whole tale.

I thought I had finished my research, but every day finds me coming across something else, or hearing a new story from someone I'd not yet heard from.  So I have no idea when I'll actually be “done”.  And since this IS a “history” program and not just tales of debauchery (well, at least theoretically it's a history program and not just a bunch of tales of debauchery), I do need to put it in some kind of context, to somehow explain why people did what they did and how they were able to do it.

Yes, I'm at the point in my life where I'm putting hookers and bootleggers in “context”.  Who knew that would ever happen?

Anyway, that context (and all the tales of debauchery) should be unveiled one week from tonight at the Ore Dock.  Hope you can check it out with, of course, this caveat—parental discretion should probably be advised.

Because, if nothing else, I do have a picture of the people running naked through the snow.  And I'm not afraid to show it!

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 2/16:

So...didja survive?

I'm not quite sure what was worse about the weather system we dealt with this weekend—the build-up to it on Friday or the actual wind/snow/cold on Saturday.  I thought the National Weather Service might've been jumping the gun when they issued a Blizzard Warning Thursday; some people, after all, take stuff like that as an invitation to over-react.  And some people did, thinking it was the end of the world.  The rest of us, though, reacted like people who live in the U.P. Should react--

We went skiing!

I mentioned in here a couple of weeks ago that I hadn't been cross-country skiing yet, a situation that has now been remedied.  I hiked over to the Fit Strip yesterday, and since either the trails hadn't been groomed or the wind blew a crap-load of snow over the trails, I broke my own.  It was actually kind of nice, at least after the first go-around when I had to ski through a few drifts just to break that trail.  While it was cold, at least it was quiet, or as quiet as you can get on a trail system stuck within the heart of a city.

So in a strange way I'm glad the storm came.  It got me out on the trails!!

Of course, cross-country skiing is a physically demanding form of exercise, especially when you're breaking your own trail, so I shouldn't be surprised that I now have a very sore right elbow.  I'm not quite sure what I did to it, nor am I quite sure why only one of my elbows is sore (after all, you use both arms when skiing), but I've replaced a sore left butt cheek with a sore right elbow.

But then, are you really that surprised?

Hopefully, now that things are calming down, I'll be able to get out and enjoy the trails a few more times, sore elbow or not.  It's kind of hard to believe, but we're now in the last half of February, which means that there's a distinct possibility that this weather event may be the last major one of the year.  I'm mean, I'm not a meteorologist, nor do I play one on TV, but two weeks from today it's March, a month in which we've been known to have temperatures hits the 60s or even 70s.  I'm not saying that's what's gonna happen this year, but it has happened in the past, so who's to say?

Anyway, hope you survived the weekend weather.  And if you survived with anything less than a sore elbow, you have my hearty congratulations on being a lot smarter than me!!

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 2/13 (!):

This is weird.  I don't have to shoot a TV show this morning.

Almost every Friday morning since the end of September I've hauled my (now healed, thank you very much) butt over to TV-13 to tape a game or two of “High School Bowl”.  But seeing as how there are only two shows left to shoot, I have a two-week break, two Fridays where I don't have to get up early, get dressed up, and play TV host.

And I kinda miss it.

When I started this whole thing over four months ago I had no idea what to expect.  I've been amazed by the experience, not only by the fact that I'm the host of a TV show, but more by the people I've been able to meet while hosting that TV show.  One of the things I say at the beginning of every show is that everyone watching gets the chance to spend an hour with some of the brightest young people on the planet, and I'm not kidding when I say that.  Some of the kids I've met and had the chance to get to know really are smart...scary smart, in fact, with one of the seniors going to Harvard, and another to MIT.

And while all the students are bright and deserve to be on the show, there are a couple of teams that are a hoot to be with.  They wear their hearts on their sleeves, and the emotion and excitement they show when taping is contagious.  I can't tell you details, but one of the quarter-final matches involves an exciting ending to the game, and the reaction of the team that won was just priceless.  As a host of a show like this, I'll be the first to admit that you're only as good as the people on screen with you.  And in that regard, I've been really lucky.

I've joked in here before about how my ties get more fan mail than I do, and I'm fine with that.  But one nice compliment that I did get on my performance was from a woman I've never met before.  She had to stop me on the street just to tell me she enjoys watching the program because, and I quote, “you (me, the host) seem to be having fun doing it, and it shows”.  To me, that's the best kind of compliment, because I AM having fun with the show, and when I started that's the feeling I hoped to get across.

It's nice to know that every so often things go the way you plan then.

I have to tape the semi-finals on the 27th, and the finals next month, and then we're done for the year.  I'll actually miss it, and it wouldn't surprise me if I start looking forward to September when the next season starts to tape.  It's funny; when I took the gig, the previous host told me that I'd have the experience of a lifetime, and you know what?

She was right!

On that note, I suppose I should put some of my free Friday morning to good use and get ready for work.  Have yourself a great weekend, and don't forget--”High School Bowl” tomorrow night at 8!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 2/12:

No, Jon Stewart, no.  You can't go.

I've now had a day to process the fact that someone with whom I've spent, as he puts it, “22 minutes four days a week 44 weeks of the year” for 16 years now is stepping down in a few months.  I'm shocked, I'm saddened, and if I'm being totally honest, I'm a bit selfish, too, if only because I'd like to see him keep doing something he says he no longer wants to do.

But I understand.  Really, I do.

This may sound funny from someone who's been doing the same job for a quarter-century, but I understand how hard it is to do a job and do it well for even 16 years.  Especially a job like his, a job that requires intelligence and passion and a commitment to excellence, all while there is a sizable chunk of people watching who think you're the Antichrist.  I'm surprised he actually lasted 16 years.  I'm mean, I'm grateful, but I would also understand why anyone would leave a job like his after just a few years.

This has not been a very good few months for a TV fan, at least a TV fan like me.  Kari Byron gets fired from “Mythbusters”, “How I Met Your Mother” ends on a very weird note, Craig Ferguson quits, David Letterman's about to retire, and now Jon Stewart says “goodbye”.  Is it any wonder, I tell you, that I'm reduced to watching “Return to the Planet of the Apes” on DVD?  I mean, is it?

8-)

But like I said, I understand why he's leaving.  In fact, I've always promised myself that if I ever felt like I wasn't giving 100% in what I do, that I'd find a way to gracefully bow out.  Fortunately, I've been lucky enough to be in a job that is constantly changing, and in a job that''s constantly giving me new and exciting opportunities outside of what I do inside these walls.  And I hope that's what Jon Stewart finds once he's left the walls of his studio—something that challenges him, something that he finds stimulating.

Something that makes him happy.

I've often joked in here that I'll be fine in life as long as I have chocolate and someone to tell me when “The Daily Show” is on.  So thanks for everything this decade and a half, Mr. Stewart.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna make sure I still have some chocolate lying around.

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 2/11:

And now, it's time for Jim's “Pick 'O the Flix”!

Most of you probably don't remember this, but for many years in the 90s I used to do on-air reviews of movies that no one else would even think about watching.  I used to go into a video store and find the VHS tapes that were among the dustiest and most untouched; those were the ones that I reviewed. (And then I would wrap it up with something really stupid like “Check it out--'Wrestling Women vs the Aztec Mummy', starring, in alphabetical order, the Aztec Mummy and the Wrestling Women”).  While I don't go to a video store any more (or even, for that matter, have a VHS player that works well) I've still watched two things recently that bear reviewing.

(And yes, I HAVE been watching things other that the complete series of “WKRP”.  I'm in the middle of season two and enjoying every second of it.  But that's neither here nor there, so...)

The first review covers a documentary Loraine and I watched over the weekend called “KZ”.  We've always wondered what it was like for people who live and work in a town that housed a former German concentration camp, so imagine our surprise when we came a film that deals with that very same subject matter.  It was shot in Mauthausen, Austria, site of a very big (and, apparently, quite well preserved) camp, and focuses on several of the guides who take tourists around the grounds.  I don't wanna give much away, but let's just say that working at a place like that isn't very good for your health, both mental and physical

Now, I guess, Loraine and I have the answer to our question!

The other thing I wanna mention is something else I bought at the same time as “WKRP”, and that's the  complete series of a Saturday morning cartoon from the 70s called “Return to the Planet of the Apes”.  Now, when I say it's a “complete series” it's only 13 episodes, and it's so ploddingly paced that you can scan through large chunks of it without missing any dialogue or plot (including, I might add, one 94 second shot of people walking across a desert.  Ninety four seconds!!).

I only wanted to check it out because I was a kid when I saw it, and I was curious as to if it was any good.  And it's really not; it's like most cartoons of the 70s.  But there are two things to recommend to it—almost every episode has a germ of a good idea behind it.  Sure, it's a small germ and sure, that germ never gets to grow amidst the really bad animation and the horrendous voice acting, but there is a germ there nonetheless.

The other thing?  Well, I didn't even give it a second thought until 10 or 11 episodes in, but the show revolves around three astronauts who get caught up in all the ape-foolery.  That's something you'd expect in a Saturday morning cartoon from the 70s.  What you might not expect is that one of the astronauts was African-American and another was a woman.  These days we don't give that a second thought.  But forty years ago?

Well, maybe there was something to “Return of the Planet of the Apes” after all.

Anyway, if you ever find yourself in a store, staring at a discount bin, and notice either of those dvds on sale for a buck, go ahead and pick 'em up.  You might actually enjoy 'em!

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 2/10:

You know, at least the spammers could put a little effort into it.

I don't know about you, but I've seen a marked increase in the amount of spam reaching my e-mail inbox the past month or so.  It's actually getting to the point where I have to spend five or ten minutes a day weeding out everything from offers for magazines I've never heard of to promises that I can make “(my) partner scream for hours”, which is something Loraine already does, at least when it comes to reading some of the subject lines in the spam that she herself gets.

I never actually open any of the spam I get; I just click “delete” and it's all gone.  But someone, somewhere, must click on the spam and then actually reply to it.  I mean, all it takes is for one sucker to justify sending out 10 zillion pieces of junk, right?  However, I received one piece yesterday that made me laugh, and I had to open it, if only because it seems like whoever put it together wasn't even trying.

Now, I know almost all spam comes from a country other than the U.S.  But it seems to me that the more savvy spammers make it sound like they know where you are and what they're talking about.  After all, they're trying to reel in a sucker or two, and it's usually easier to do that when you look and sound like you know what you're talking about.  Not the e-mail I received yesterday, though.  First of all, it came from a company that called itself “Tax Releif” (spelled that way), and had as its subject line this--

“Taxes is our business”.

Like I said, I don't expect much out of spam (aside from the occasional laugh) but anyone in their right mind would know that, based on spelling and grammatical errors, this ISN'T a company that's legit.  However, the errors were so egregious that I just had to see from where the e-mail came.  So I opened the e-mail, which promised to get me “maximun (sic) savings on my taxes” sent directly to my bank account.  And all I'd have to do is send my Social Security and bank account numbers (nothing else) to a website that ends with a “.ru”.  What does that all mean?  Well, it means two things—that someone promised to do my taxes without needing to see any W2 forms.

And that “.ru” means the company is located in Russia.

Needless to say, I don't think I'll be having that particular company do my taxes this year.  And I would hope that no one—absolutely no one--would get suckered in by such a low-rent, low-quality, obvious sham of a scam.  But then that's the thing about spammers and scammers—it only takes one.  Like I said before, it doesn't cost anything (aside from server time, which is usually pirated) to send out ten zillion e-mails, and if even ONE person decides that sending their Social Security and bank account numbers to a Russian company that promises them a little “tax releif”, then they've succeeded without even putting much effort into it.

I know you're all smart and that you'd never fall for anything promised by spam, but just let me say this—if you ever DO fall for a spam scam, at least make sure you fall for one where everything's spelled right, okay?

Thanks.

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 2/9:

I had a great time at SAIL's annual Chocolate Festival yesterday, but I'm wondering if it had a weird side effect on me.  I'm wondering if my massive consumption of chocolate led to a dream I had last night that Regis Philbin was teaching me orbital mechanics.

And no, I’m not making that up.  I don’t think anyone actually could make that up!

It was one of those dreams that was actually part of a bigger dream morphing into completely different items before I woke up.  Those dreams are usually the most fun, even if they may reveal something strange about your psyche.  The thing about the Regis dream is that I don’t remember anything about what came before or what came after his “segment”.  And that’s strange; usually, if I remember a dream, I remember it all.  But not in this case.

If I had to guess, I’d say Regis’ personality just overwhelmed everything else!

That’s a bit of a bummer, too, because I’d kind of like to know why Regis was trying to teach me orbital mechanics.  I know what he was trying to teach me--that if you launch something from the surface that has to rendezvous with something in orbit, you have to launch it at a precise time and at a precise inclination--but I don’t know WHY he was trying to teach me.  Was he just wandering around post-retirement, looking for something to do?  Was he trying to prep me for a game show?  Or does he know that I’d like to go into space someday and was, in his own mystical way, trying to get me ready for it.

And if that’s the case, would that make Regis Philbin my own personal version of Obi-Wan Kenobi?  The mind kinda reels at that thought, doesn’t it?

I can’t remember the last time I read or saw something about Regis Philbin.  In fact, I can’t recall the last time I even thought about him, which also leads me to wonder why it was he trying to teach me about orbital mechanics.  I mean, I can understand other random TV personalities trying to teach me about orbital mechanics--everyone from Jon Stewart to Rachel Maddow to Jim Parsons, who plays Sheldon on “The Big Bang Theory”.  I’ve watched them all recently; therefore, they should be stuck in one of the nooks or crannies of my brain.  I would understand that.  But Regis Philbin? 

I just don’t understand it.  Unless, of course, he really IS my own personal version of Obi-Wan Kenobi.  That’s the only explanation I can come up with at the moment.  And I’ll know it’s true if, when I’m sleeping tonight, he starts in with his second lesson on orbital mechanics, perhaps dealing with rendezvous techniques, or something along those lines.

It almost makes me wonder if I should even try shutting my eyes tonight!

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

(ps—I don't know if you've had the chance to read this column that was in last week's North Wind, but I highly recommend it!)

FRIDAY, 2/6:

I don't have a lot of time to write this morning, as the (very) bright lights of a TV soundstage beckon, but I do have to mention one thing--

Tomorrow marks a big day in the history of our little planet.  Tomorrow, one of the two people without whom I would not be possible is having a birthday.    That's right; my dad managed to survive another year on Earth without falling off his bike or having a tree he was cutting down crash upon him, and for that we're very very VERY thankful!

I mean, I don't want to give you the impression my dad can be a klutz, but you know how I occasionally, for some unknown reason, do stupid things like smash up my face riding on my bike, walk into weights lying on the floor and bruise a toe, or break my butt while sitting in a motor home?  Well, I suppose I have to get those tendencies from somewhere, and since I don't believe my mom ever did anything stupid like that...

You can fill in the blanks from there.

So happy birthday, Dad.  Have fun playing pickleball or going for a bike ride tomorrow, enjoy wherever it is you guys go out to eat, and tell Mom to let you eat as much ice cream as you want with your cake.  Oh, and, as always, have yourself an injury-free day!

Okay, I'll stop now...

8-)

Love,

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 2/5:

It would be a shame if it gets turned off.

I'm gonna go full-mode space geek on you for a moment, so if your eyes just glazed over reading the line “full-mode space geek” feel free to skip down to the end of the blog.  I won't hold it against you.  But if you're deciding to stick it out, I have what could be some bad news--

Opportunity may soon be turned off.  Shut down.  Put to death.  And that would be a sad thing.

For those of you who don't know (and I'm guessing that's all of you, with the possible exception of daily blog ready Kate in Marquette) Opportunity was one of two rovers that landed on Mars waaaaaaaay back in 2004 and was then supposed to spend the next 90 days exploring the surface of the planet.  Well, that 90 days has now extended to eleven YEARS, and Opportunity, despite a few problems with its memory and its joints (problems just like any old being faces) is still going strong.  In fact, this past summer, it set a record for distance traveled by a spacecraft on another world.

But now it may be turned off.

NASA's proposed budget for the next fiscal year is going up, and includes a lot of neat stuff, including funding for the planning to a trip to Europa, a moon of Jupiter that's basically made of water and one of the other places in the solar system that could very well harbor life.  However, one of the things the budget does is cut funding for Opportunity, which would mean shutting it down after 11 years.  While part of me understands the cut, there's also another (very big) part of me that's bummed by it.

I mean, think of it.  Opportunity was sent to Mars 11 years ago on a mission that was supposed to last 90 days.  It's now lasted over 4,000 days, which means that if Opportunity were a human and it's 90 days were a full lifetime, Opportunity would now be something along the lines of 3,500 years old.  And you wouldn't pull the plug on a 3,500 year old just to save a few bucks, would you?

Besides, how many times have you purchased something that's lasted 44 times past its warranty date?  If the computer upon which I'm writing this has a two-year warranty, that means it would have to be 88 years old to last as long as Opportunity has.  And in a time when everything—and I mean everything—we buy is designed to fall apart (so we can buy another one) Opportunity stands out as something very exceptional indeed.

Of course, I know all good things must come to an end, and I'm know Opportunity will itself one day stop working.  But it just doesn't seem right to pull its plug on an arbitrary date, a date dictated by budgetary reasons.  The rover has served so long and led to the discovery of so much information that it just deserves better. 

Yes, I know it's a machine.  But it does deserve better.

Since NASA's budget has to go through the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate, I highly doubt that it will sail through as planned.  In fact, I can almost guarantee that it'll be changed and changed dramatically.  So maybe my worries are premature.  But it would still be nice to have the little rover that could be given the (ahem) opportunity to continue to live.

And with that, I'll shut up now.

*****

For those of you who skipped over the space nerd rant, here's where you should start reading again.  I just wanna make note of the fact that my favorite 15-year old in the world today becomes my favorite 16-year old in the world!  That's right; my niece Sydney turns old enough to drive today, which really kind of blows my mind, seeing as how it seems like it was just a year or two ago that she was four years old and asking me to come up with addition and subtraction problems for her to try and do.  Now she's grown into an amazing young woman with quite the talent for dancing and an unlimited future ahead of her.

I just can't believe she's 16.

So happy birthday, Syd.  I'll see you at your birthday dinner tonight!

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 2/4:

First of all, I'm glad Escanaba has power again.

Not only am I glad for the citizens of Escanaba; after all, trying to live without electricity, especially during the middle of winter, is almost impossible.  No one should have to deal with that, so I'm glad for them.  And I'm also glad Escanaba has power again for another reason--so that I no longer have to deal with questions from people who assume that because one city in the U.P. is without power every city in the U.P. is without power.

Just how do they think we live up here?

I'm serious.  I received several phone calls at work from media outlets in other parts of the state (or from outside the state) wondering how we were “coping” without electricity.  I had to inform them that I was coping just fine.  In fact, I was speaking with them in an office with a bunch of computers, monitors, lights, and radios turned on because our power wasn't out.  In fact, our power was working just fine, thank you very much (and thank you Marquette Board of Light & Power). 

What were these people thinking?  That just because we and Escanaba are on the same peninsula of land that what affects one of us affects the other?  Do they not know that 65 miles of trees separate us?  Do they assume that we live in conditions so primitive that if one (small) part of our electrical grid goes down that all 301,000 of us in the U.P. go down, as well?

Or is it something just slightly on another track?  Could it be that those media individuals, upon hearing that a U.P, town lost power, immediately thought of Marquette because Marquette's the only place most of them have ever heard of in the U.P.?  I mean, I've noted in here before about how Marquette seems to generate its share of national news and publicity far above what other cities of its size do.  Maybe “Marquette” is so ingrained in people's minds that when they hear of a “city in Michigan's Upper Peninsula” that Marquette is the first (and perhaps only) thing that pops into their head.

I mean, I don't know, but that could be one of the reasons that people thought we had lost all of our power on Monday.  I'd be curious to know what you think about it.  But like I said, I'm glad Escanaba has power again, both for their sake, and for ours.

*****

FYI, my butt is doing just fine, thank you very much.  After writing about it Monday I had several people express concern about my derriere, and while it's not at 100% quite yet, it is on the mend.  I even went running on it this morning and didn't have any problems, aside from a slight twinge while running up hills.  I sure that was nothing more than my rear end reminding me that it's on the mend and to not push it too hard.  So I didn't.

But (no pun intended) thanks for asking.  I'm sure that by the weekend my rear end and I will be up to 100%!

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 2/3:

I guess I have seven months to figure it out.

In seven months (seven months from yesterday, in fact), Loraine and I are going back to Europe.  As always, you're more than welcome to join us, at least virtually.  And this will be a trip different than almost every other one we've taken, because along with Tony the Tour Guide we'll be joined by both sets of our parents.

That's right; this'll be a vacation, and not a trip!

I think I've mentioned it in here before, but our parents will be joining us because we'll be spending 10 or so days in Germany, heading from the Black Forest into the Alps, with a side trip into Austria.  We've been to some of these places before, thought they were beautiful and thought our parents would enjoy them, and then got them to agree.  Tony's coming along because, well, he's Tony & it's Germany and we need someone who can speak the language.

And since he acted as the translator last time we were in Germany (you remember, when Loraine had a press conference with the mayor of Weissenfels), I think he's up to it!

Now, aside from seeing a lot of beautiful scenery in the forms of hills, trees, and mountains, (hopefully) giving my mom enough material to paint for the next decade or so, and, of course, buying as much chocolate as we can all carry home, there's another task we may tackle, and that's only if I can figure something out in the seven months before we leave.  You see, my mom's dad—my grandfather—was a Schwemin.  His parents (or grandparents) were among the Schwemins who came from Germany and settled in Marquette Township 130 or 140 years ago.

My task is to figure out from where in Germany they came, and whether or not we'll be anywhere near it during our trip.

I don't have much to go on at the moment, aside from the fact that the family left Germany from Hamburg, which is in an entirely different part of Germany.  Of course, seeing as how Hamburg is the only major German port of any kind, almost everyone who emigrated from the country in the 19th century left from Hamburg.  My task will be to find out where in Germany they lived before shipping out via Hamburg.

Based on what I know about Germany and the people who call it home, there's a good chance my distant relatives came from Bavaria, the region we'll be visiting.  That's based on everything from the fact that they were skilled farmers to their religious beliefs.  However, Bavaria, which was its own country before Germany became a nation right around the time my ancestors left, is the biggest German state.  In fact, it's bigger than a lot of American states, which is saying something when you consider that a lot of European countries aren't as big as American states.  That'll be a lot of territory from which my ancestors could've come.  Hopefully, if I can get it narrowed down, the part of Bavaria from which they came will be a part in which (or near) we'll be visiting.

I just need to figure it out sometime in the next seven months.  So wish me luck!

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 2/2:

I think I broke my butt.

Well, actually, I'm sure my butt is fine, but the past few times I've gone running I've noticed a twinge in my left, uhm, cheek.  It wasn't too serious until I went running on Saturday, and  then it was bad enough that it made me cut my run a little short.

Bad butt!!

It's actually been acting up for a week or so now, and I think I know the reason why.  Last Saturday when I spent the day announcing at the Noque I was sitting in a nice warm motor home.  To look out the window of the of motor home and see who was coming across the line I had to sit on a bed and scrunch down just a little.  When I finished, six hours later, I noticed my lower back was a little sore, but didn't think too much of it.  Since then my back's still been a little stiff, and I'm wondering if that's what made the muscles in my left butt cheek act up.  After all, my lower back and my butt aren't too far apart, and I'm sure the muscles are on some way connected, so while I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, if I had to guess, I'd guess that would be the cause of it all.

But that's just a guess.

Now, this is normally the time of the year when I cut back on my running and spend a lot of exercise time cross-country skiing instead.  However (and I hope this doesn't shock you) I have not yet been skiing so far this season.  I know; it's quite out of the ordinary, considering that skiing is the one thing that keeps me sane during winter.  However, because of a busy schedule, some wickedly cold weekends, and the lack of a lot of new snow, I just haven't gotten out to the Fit Strip yet.  I'm sure other trails are in better shape that the one in middle of the city; however, that's the one I don't have to drive to, which means I can go anytime I want, without having to get in a car.

And it turns out, I just haven't been able to get over there yet.  Besides, there's no guaranteeing that my butt would be any better if I were skiing instead of running.  In fact, because I know what muscles get used in both sports, I'm thinking that skiing might even be worse for my butt than running.  I know the smart thing to do would be to just lay off on exercise for a couple of days to let everything get back to normal, but c'mon—when do I ever do the “smart” thing, right?

8-)

With any luck, things will get better despite my best efforts, and I'll be able to return to a normal schedule of body-bruising exercises soon.  However, if you see me walking funny up a hill (or walking up a hill even funnier than usual), just be aware it's not me.  It's my butt that's at fault.

*****

I don't know if you had the chance to check out the “High School Bowl” that aired Saturday, and were able to hear the surreal conversation I had with members of the Ironwood team about how they crochet afghans and make bowls of out of spaghetti, but when they returned to tape another show last Friday they  gave me a few gifts they made by hand—namely, a crocheted afghan and, well, a bowl made out of dried spaghetti.  The afghan now keeps Loraine warm, and the bowl will be sitting in my office holding something.  I'm not quite sure what, but it'll be holding something, that's for sure.

So thanks a bunch, guys!!

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 1/30:

This should be a really, really good weekend.  After all, I don't have to do ANYTHING, except watch the New England Patriots get their butts handed to them.

After everything that's gone on the past few weekends this weekend will be a welcome change.  No presentations, no ski race announcing, no appearances, no nothing.  The highlight of my weekend, in fact, aside from watching the Stupor Bowl, may be doing a couple of loads of laundry.  Oh, although if I do get ambitious I might walk down to the library for a couple of minutes and look through a couple of old city directories as part of the “After Dark” program I'm putting together.

But that's only if I feel ambitious.

It's gonna be a weird feeling, this not having anything to do for two days.  I mean I had a three-day weekend the first weekend of the year, and since then it's been pretty much non-stop.  Hopefully, I won't have to remember to learn how to relax.  Hopefully, buried deep inside my somewhat bizarre psyche I have the mental muscle memory to remember how to do it.  If not, I'll just be wandering around our apartment all weekend, thinking I'm supposed to be doing something and driving Loraine insane in the process.  And since I don't wanna get beat up by my dear wife, I'm hoping I'll remember how to relax.

So keep your fingers crossed about that!

In fact, the last thing I have to do (aside from work later today) before the weekend beckons is the shooting of two more episodes of “High School Bowl” in a few minutes.  These will be the final games in the “Cerebral Sixteen” and should be a lot of fun to do.  Speaking of fun, the shows on tomorrow night are the final games of the first round, and you know how I've mentioned that the interviews I do with the students are my favorite part of the game?  Well, let's just say that one of the teams you'll see Saturday—Ironwood--figured out that my questions sometimes come out of left field, and they came prepared.  Really, really prepared.

It's a hoot.  Trust me on that!

So with that, I supposed I should head over to NMU and get ready to go.  Have yourself a great weekend; I hope you have a few minutes in it to relax, as well.  And even though I'm not a fan and I don't know much about the team, go Seahawks!

(jim@wmqt.com), Colts fan and, therefore, despiser of the Patriots.

THURSDAY, 1/29:

I now know what’s wrong with me.

(And I’ll pause here for a second while you say “You mean there’s only one thing”?  Go ahead; I know you want to do it!)

I've finally finished my stretch of 7 or 8 days of non-stop work, one highlight of which was a weird conversation with someone.  The gist of the conversation was this--I never get some time to myself not because of an inability to say “no” as I always thought.  Nope; I’m always busy and always on the move because I, apparently, never stop to ask one simple question whenever someone asks me to help out or to do something.

That question?  “What’s in it for me?”

Seriously; the person to whom I was speaking said that the reason I do what I do is because I never stop to ask “What’s in it for me”?  Apparently, this person always asks that question when asked to do something, and unless they get an affirmative answer from their brain, they utter “no” and they walk away.  It doesn’t matter if it would help someone out, nor does it matter if it would do some good for the community as a whole.  Unless there’s something in it for them, they just say no, which I think explains why this person has a lot of free time.

I was flabbergasted by the (short) conversation.  I mean, and I hope this doesn’t sound bad, I don’t think I have ever once even had that thought pop into my head.  I’ve never once asked myself that question.  I don’t even know WHY I would ask myself that question.  After all, if there’s something I could do to help someone out or make someone’s life better, or to make the community a better place to live, why wouldn’t I do it.  If someone’s life is better, isn’t that what’s in it for me?  Helping someone?

Or do I just not get it?  It, after all, wouldn’t be the first time that happened.  Who knows...maybe my parents raised me funny, or something.

(And to daily blog reader Darlene in Florida; Mom, that’s a joke!)

Given the choice between being me and being the person with whom I had that conversation yesterday, I know which choice I’d make.  In fact, I’d make it every time.  And not once would I ask myself the fateful question of “What’s in it for me?”

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 1/28:

I think that night is gonna be a lot of fun.

Four weeks from yesterday—Tuesday, February 24th—I get to do my latest Jim Koski ™ program for the Marquette Regional History Center entitled “Marquette Night Life”.  (It was originally called “Marquette After Dark”, a much catchier name, but that was too close to another annual History Center event and it was changed).  This is the one that we're holding at the Ore Dock, for a couple of reasons—the program deals with what people did after dark, like go to bars, so holding at a brew pub is a perfect choice.

And it will also give me a chance to work in front of people who may have enjoyed an adult beverage or two.  I've never done that before!

I'm currently in my favorite part of doing a program, and that's the research part.  I get to speak with people about what they know, and in this case, it's a lot of fun.  I've been checking out stories from older citizens about their experiences at the dance halls of the 40s, and speaking with people my age about what their favorite bar may have been when they were young.  And just let me say one thing about that--

You people should be ashamed of yourselves for some of the stories you've told me!

8-)

No; actually, the stories are quite fun.  I don't know if I can share all of them with the general public, but it's certainly given me an appreciation of how little things have changed, night life-wise, over the years.  I mean, sure, the names have changed and the bars have changed, but I guess as long as alcohol is involved there will always be shameful stories to tell.  And for a program like this, that's a good thing!

The program should actually veer between the things I find interesting about night life—drunks and hookers and bootleggers—and what the “refined” class did for entertainment.  As I've found, what people did at night mirrors what they did during the day.  You had your white collar entertainment, and your blue collar entertainment, much like you had your business owners and civic leaders living in one part of the city while your laborers and railroad workers lived in another part.  It's just the way things were, and it's one of the things I'll be talking about.

I've also been trying to collect all the pictures I need, and trust me when I say that there will some WEIRD pictures being shown.  I don't know what was in the water in Marquette back in, say, the 1890s, but there are a couple of shots that (I hope) should make everyone break out in raucous laughter, even before I explain the stories behind them.  You literally have to see them to believe them...trust me on that!

So that's 27 days from now at the Ore Dock.  If you have the chance, check it out.  I'm hoping you won't be disappointed!

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 1/27:

I think I owe Chocolay Township an apology.

Loraine and I went to Munising this past Sunday to visit a few people and to do a little research. Of course, to get to Munising from Marquette, you have to drive through Harvey and other sections of Chocolay Township. And it was when we were heading through that area on the way to Munising that we made an horrific discovery--

It's been almost two years since we've been to Harvey.

I mean, how can that be, right? It's the suburb that sits right to the south of Marquette. It's home to 5,000 of our friendliest neighbors. It's the gateway to the eastern and southern U.P.. And yet, if we recall correctly, we haven't been there since June of 2013, the last time we went downstate to visit Loraine's parents.

And that's just not right.

We spent most of the trip to Munising wondering if we were just forgetting something, if we had been in the area or through the area and had just forgotten. But nope; as far as we can remember (and recall that unlike me, Loraine DOES remember things), we went through Harvey four times in the early part of 2013—twice to get her new car, once to visit a relative, and once on the way to visit her parents. And we know it was 2013 because the latter two times were right after my bike accident, and stuff like that sticks in your head. But since then?

Bupkus.

Since the last time we went through Chocolay Township, I can't count the number of times we went through Marquette Township heading west, or through Sands Township to get to Sawyer International. Heck, we've even been to the Copper Country more in the last two years than we've been in Chocolay Township. We've made it as far as the Carl Pellonpaa Memorial Toilets (right on the line between Marquette and Chocolay Township) on occasion, almost always on bike, but never further than that.

Go figure, right? I mean, I personally, blame my sister, who moved from Harvey to Marquette a couple of years ago. Maybe she's the reason we haven't been there.

(And Mel, if you're reading this—that's a joke).

We'll have to remedy this situation in the near future. It just doesn't seem right that we've been in the Copper Country more than we've been in a place that I can see with my own eyes from work. In the meantime, Chocolay Township, if there's anything I can do to make it up, let me know. It might be two years before I get out there to do it, but if there IS anything, just let me know.

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com), bad Marquette County resident.

MONDAY, 1/26:

Maybe I should just stop talking.  Maybe THAT will help.

Those of you who read this last week may remember how biting my tounge made it a little difficult speaking for a day or two.  Well, a weekend spent shooting TV, announcing a couple of thousand names at a ski race, and taking care of a bunch of other stuff, I now find myself with a very sore throat, probably thanks to vocal chords that have been pushed beyond their limits of tolerance. 

My tounge's now fine; everything else in there, though, probably needs a little help.

Thankfully, I haven't actually lost my voice.  It juts hurts a little when I speak, and that makes me think of two things.  The first is what athletic trainers tell you—if something really hurts when you're working it, you might wanna stop doing it lest you risk injuring it further.  And the second?

I'm not really in the right career field to stop talking for a day or two to let my voice rest.

It's funny; I'm probably in one of the few jobs where it's worse to lose your voice than it would be to lose your mind.  I mean, think about it—without a voice in radio, you're nothing.  You're dead air.  You're like a mime with no one to annoy.  But if you lose your mind; well, that's a different matter.  You can still speak.  What you say may no make much sense, and you might now be on the air very long (especially if you boss is listening), but you could still be on the air.

Unlike, say, someone without a voice.

Like I said, though, I'm lucky in that regard.  I can still speak.  It's just a little uncomfortable when I do it, especially when I speak with any kind of volume.  So if I in any way sound weird on the air today (and I don't think that I will), you now have the reason why.

I just really need to stop talking for a day or two.

****

Speaking of the ski race I announced on Saturday, I had a great time as usual at the Noquemanon.  The thing, though, that blows my mind?  I have now announced at the race finish line for each of the 17 years it's been around.  I have done all of them.  How the heck did THAT happen?

You discover weird things (and start marveling about them) as you get old(er), I guess...

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 1/23:

It snuck up without me even noticing it.

We all have periods in our lives when it seems like we're overloaded with things to do. In fact, I usually write about them when they happen, if only to explain why I may not be posting for a day or two. But without any warning or (apparently) without me having any control over it I'm now in a span of a week where I don't even think I have time to breathe.

How the heck did THAT happen? And is there any way I can blame the fact that I bit my tongue on it?

It looks like it started this past Wednesday, when I had to shoot a couple of episodes of “High School Bowl”, continued yesterday when I had to make an impromptu early-morning road trip for my favorite author, keeps going in a few minutes with MORE “High School Bowl”, kicks into high gear tomorrow when I spend the entire day announcing at the finish line of the Noquemanon, picks up even more speed Sunday when I have to be in Munising, and extends Monday and Tuesday with meetings, research trips, and more TV.

I think I really need to talk to the person in charge of my scheduling and clear up a thing or two.

I'm normally okay with stretches like this, especially when I know they're coming and I can either work ahead or re-arrange things to make sure everything gets done. But this time around, with me either not paying attention to what's going on or me not realizing what's going on, I'm stuck trying to do all my usual crap at the same time I'm doing all this extra crap. And that, of course, just adds to the chaos and confusion of the whole situation. I wish I knew why I wasn't aware that the situation was developing; that, apparently, is my fault.

Now, I just have to deal with it. And sitting here writing about it probably isn't helping, right? So on that note, I'm off to play TV Jim for a bit before I play Radio Jim later on. If you're in the neighborhood of the Superior Dome tomorrow and have the chance, check out Finish Line Jim and the real attraction of the Noque—several thousand of the best (and those who just give it their best shot) cross-country skiers in the country. It's always a great spectacle to see, and this year's there will be an added benefit—it'll actually be warm out, unlike some years when the temperature's a couple of hundred degrees below zero!

Have a great weekend...

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 1/22:

I’ve bitten my tongue and, as a result, can’t say certain letters.  But that’s okay; it’s not like I have speak clearly for a living, or anything.

Oh, wait...

Shucks.

The latest entry in the never-ending parade of my own self-abuse came courtesy of dinner last night.  I was trying to hurry through it so I could start making the cookies for Loraine's co-workers.  As I am wont to do, I was chewing on whatever it was I was eating when I, uhm, missed the food and instead formed a nice little hole at the end of my tongue with what are apparently my vampire-like teeth.  Sad to say, it’s something I do on occasion; after many decades of feeding myself you’d think I’d know what I’m doing, but on those occasions when I bite my tongue, apparently I don't.

Anyway, my tongue has started to heel like my tongue usually does.  But because of the position of this bite--right on the lower left tip of my tongue--I’ve found myself with the inability to properly say a couple of letters, mostly notably “d” and “s”.  Well, I shouldn’t say that I can’t properly say the letters; I can, but when I do, the bite that’s slowly healing on my tongue hits my teeth and sends spasms of pain throughout the rest of my mouth, and probably slows down the healing process, to boot.

I don’t know about you, but a lot of the words I say in the course of an average day contain either “d” or “s” or both, and it’s not like I could leave them out of my vocabulary.  Well, I suppose I could leave all words that contain a “d” or an “s” out of my everyday speech patterns, but then I’d ended up using mostly words like “Tomato”, “Anxiety”, and “Iowa”, and if you think I’m occasionally incoherent to being with, imagine what I’d be like with a vocabulary that consisted mostly of words like “Tomato”, “Anxiety”, and “Iowa”.

Although it would be kind of an interesting mental exercise, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, my friend Deanna, upon hearing that I was having trouble talking, sent me a list of long songs that I could play on the air to avoid speaking.  Let’s just say that I’ll deal with a little pain and forego some of the suggestions she made, including a 48 minute and 53 second version of Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” and a 22+ minute version of “Chariots of Fire”.  I mean, it hurts me to say the letters “d” and “s”, but it would hurt you guys a lot more to sit through songs like that.

That’s okay; you can thank me later.

 So if in the next couple of days you throw on your radio and I sound strange (well, okay, stranger than usual), know that it’s not the fault of either your ears or your radio.  It’s my fault entirely, and because of that, you can rest assured--one of these years, I WILL learn how to eat.  If nothing else, I’m sure my tongue would appreciate it.

(jim@wmqt.com)

(p.s.--TV Jim is now online!  If you weren't able to catch the first seven or eight episodes of “High School Bowl”, you can watch 'em now right HERE.  Any episode that starts with the number “37” is an episode hosted by me.  So if you wanna subject yourself to them...go for it.  And let me know what you think!)

WEDNESDAY, 1/21:

I have to make cookies tonight, this so one of Loraine's co-workers can celebrate a birthday on Friday, and that has made me remember I have to unleash a rant about something.  So if you don’t mind (or even if you do), here we go--

How come they still insist putting flour in paper containers, especially containers that allow holes to be torn in them way too easily?  Last time I checked, it’s the 21st century...can’t they come up with something a little more high-tech than easily torn paper?

Okay, I’m done complaining.  And yes, I know that I could put flour into a plastic container the next time I open a bag, but that’s not the point.  Why does flour come in a flimsy bag to begin with?  Especially a bag that could explode into a big mushroom cloud of white powder, something that MAY have happened in a certain Marquette kitchen a month or so ago when a certain Marquette resident may have had to open a new bag of flour to make Christmas cookies.

I’m not naming names, but it MAY have happened.  Hence, my complaint about the bags in which they still sell flour.  While I’m all for using environmentally friendly packaging, and paper’s about the most environmentally friendly container you can get, why is it the paper and glue they use is so hard to tear apart?  Maybe I’m doing this wrong--it wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened--but I try to be very careful when opening a bag of flour.  I mean, it does no good to tear open a bag of flour recklessly and leave a huge gaping hole in the side of it; after all, have you ever tried to pour flour out of a bag with a huge gaping hole in the side of it?

If that’s the case, then why are tops of bags of flour so tightly wound and tightly glued?  I know they have to be strong sealed enough so they don’t burst open in the store or in transit--I get that--but why are they sealed so tightly that it could take either an incredibly sharp knife or a laser cutter just to get the bag open without traumatic injury to it?  Or to you?  Like I said, maybe I’m doing it wrong.  Maybe I still haven’t discovered the secret to opening a bag of flour properly.  But it just seems to be that there should be a better way of selling flour than in a paper bag that’s prone to explosion.  It really does.

And that, to quote a great American, is all I’m gonna say about that.  After all, I don't wanna start approaching my quota of crankiness for the month.  There are still ten days left!  So with that...

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 1/20:

I think I've stumped even myself with this one.

I was going through old “What's Up, U.P.?” questions, seeing if there were any from 6 or 7 years ago that could be updated for use again.  I found a bunch that can be re purposed, and then I found a piece of paper that had the following written on it--

Delta 81.8
Menominee 81.7
Marquette 81.5
Luce 81
Alger 80.9
Baraga 80.7

And on and on like that, listing every U.P. county except Iron.  I also had a notation that I had asked questions about longest and shortest, which makes sense, if only because I like to keep track of what I ask.  There's only one problem with the whole thing--

I have no ideas what the numbers mean. 

For some reason, I didn't write down what I was asking; I didn't write down what the numbers actually signified.  I assume that I didn't think I needed to write it down, that I'd remember what those numbers meant, but as with most assumptions, all I did was made a heinie out of myself.  I mean, I'm sure the numbers mean something—in fact, I KNOW the numbers mean something.  I just have no idea what that “something” is.

My first thought was that it had something to do with Great Lakes shore frontage; you know, how many miles of each county touches a Great Lake.  But seeing as how Dickinson County is on the list, and Dickinson County doesn't even touch a Great Lake, that theory was pretty well shot.  I then tried typing “Delta County 81.8” into Google, but nothing popped up, aside from a very weird ad claiming that Delta Airlines could fly me somewhere for 81 dollars.

Where's that?  Negaunee?

I'll have to do a little more research into what that list actually meant.  Total mileage of each county's roads?  Length of snowmobile trails?  Longest and shortest piece of twine in each county?  At this moment, I really have no idea.  I just know that I asked questions about the longest and shortest of those numbers.  Now I just have to figure out the “longest” and “shortest” of what.

And, of course, remember to write it down somewhere so that I don't repeat this whole thing in another six or seven years.

Sigh.  Some days, it's not easy being me.  Really, it isn't!

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 1/19:

Do you think you make a difference?

On a day like today, on this particular holiday, I always wonder if I’ve made enough of a difference.  The individual who we honor today once said, and I quote, “We must work unceasingly to uplift this nation that we love to a higher destiny, to a higher plateau of compassion, to a more noble expression of humanness".  I’ve always tried to do my part; I don’t know whether or not I’ve succeeded, but I’ve always tried to do my part.

When I look back at everything I’ve done in the past year, I know that I’ve done a lot of different things, but part of me always wonders if they’re things that make a difference.  Sure, I give a lot of tours and do a lot of programs and help with a lot of other things, but is that really making a “difference”?  I mean, when I think of people who make a “difference”, I think of the people who’ve moved to other countries to help with victims of natural disasters.  I think of people who selflessly take in homeless children.  I think of people who put their lives on the line every day so their fellow human beings can live in some semblance of peace.

Those are people who really make a difference, who work unceasingly to uplift this nation—this planet—to a higher destiny.  Sometimes, I feel like I’m just falling a bit short in that respect, you know?

When I was young, I wanted to make a name for myself.  But like most people, as I’ve aged I’ve come to understand that it’s just not in my destiny to change the world single-handedly.  I’ll probably never be written up in history books, I’ll probably never have a memorial built to me, and my name won’t be mentioned by generations to come.  As I’ve grown, I’ve become okay with that.

But in my own way, I still want to make a difference.  I want to do whatever I can to make the place in which I live a better place in which to live, to help my neighbors, and to leave whatever little mark I can in the time I have on this planet.  I may not be able to change the planet, but I DO want to make a difference, at least as much of a difference as possible.  And that’s why, on a day like today, I wonder if I’m doing just that, living up to the challenge of one particular man who DID make a difference.

And on that note, happy King Day.  Watch this!!

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 1/16:

I like the scent.  What can I say?

One of my many jobs around our apartment is the washing of dishes.  It's something I do every day except one, when Loraine takes over and makes sure that it's actually done right.  When she did it this week I was in the other room watching one of my episodes of “WKRP”.  She came into the room with the latest bottle of dishwashing liquid I purchased, held it up, and said, and I quote, “Here's another example of why you are so not a man”.

What?  Real men don't use lotus blossom and lavender dishwashing liquid?

First of all, just so you know, a very long-running running joke between Loraine and me is that I basically do nothing like a “man” would do, and we're both okay with that.  So I wasn't shocked by what she said; in fact, it made me laugh.  After all, what real “man” would buy his dishwashing liquid because it smelled like lotus blossom & lavender?  What real “man” would buy his dishwashing liquid just because it was purple and he liked the color?

Heck—do “real” men even pay attention to things like dishwashing liquid?  Do they even know what dishwashing liquid is?

I like washing dishes; I really do.  It's a couple of minutes of mindless activity in a day filled with activities where I have to overtax my brain.  Sure, often times my brain fails me, but even if it did screw up while washing dishes no one would notice.  That's why I like doing things like washing dishes and doing the laundry.  And if I'm going to spend a few minutes each day washing the dishes, shouldn't I be using dishwashing liquid that smells good and makes my hands soft all at the same time?

It's like aromatherapy, with the added benefit of giving us clean dishes!

So if you're in the market for a new dishwashing liquid (assuming, of course, you still do dishes by hand), I highly recommend picking up a bottle of Palmolive's Lotus Blossom & Lavender.  Not only does it clean your dishes well, but it smells nice, too.  And isn't that what everyone looks for in a dishwashing liquid...even a “man”?

Yes, I know I'm hopeless.  What's your point?

8-)

On that note, have yourself a great weekend.  And I hope all your dishes come out clean!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 1/15:

Some days I think my ties are more popular than I am!

Since the “High School Bowl”s I host have started to air I've received a lot of compliments on the job I've been doing.  And while I appreciate those comments, I also know that a trained monkey could probably do it just as well (and probably wouldn't have trouble saying some of the technical terms in those pesky questions about math).  But what does surprise me is the amount of people who, after complimenting me, start to gush about what they really like when they watch the show--

My ties.

Seriously...the ties I wear on the show seem to get almost as many comments as do my hosting duties.  In fact, my ties have received their own fan mail, a couple of e-mails that made no mention of me other than the fact that I was the guy wearing them.  And I think that's very cool.  I didn't think it would happen, but I think it's very cool.

The plan wasn't originally for me to wear ties much on the show.  When we started, I figured I'd just wear an open shirt with a sport coat, which is a semi-respectable way to appear on TV.  But to make a good impression on the first few shows we taped I figured I'd wear a tie.  Admittedly, it's not always tied right and sometimes it's worn rather loosely, but I figured I'd start off wearing ties just to prove that I was a responsible adult (of course, I'm really not, but that's just a secret between you & me).  However, as the weeks wore on and people started to take notice of the ties I was wearing (and when I wasn't wearing one) I figured I'd just keep on wearing them while taping.

And now it looks like they're the most popular thing I do on the show!

Of course, I can kind of understand why.  I've always felt that ties shouldn't be boring, that they shouldn't just blend into whatever else you wear.  After all, then it's just a piece of cloth that spends most of the day choking you.  I like ties with color—ties with lots of color (especially a splash or two of purple).  I like the contrast you get between a solid-colored shirt and a multi-colored tie.  And I'm lucky enough to have a skin tone that works well with lots of colors and with lots of color contrasts.  So instead of wearing a boring shirt with a boring tie, like many people on TV, I get to have fun with what I wear.  I get to play with colors and contrasts, and, well, people seem to notice. 

Or, at the very least, they're noticing my ties.

Now, when I started this gig, I had no idea that a splash of color would be such a big deal, but it apparently has become such.  Who knew, right?  And because of that, I'll be curious to see what new comments I get on my neckwear, especially on a few of the shows coming up in the next couple of weeks.  For my birthday my parents said to go out and buy myself a few new ties, and I did.  They should start showing up on the air by the end of the month, and we'll hafta see if they get more comments than the ties I wore when the show first started.

Because of they get MORE, I may have to get my ties their own agent!

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 1/14:

They're here!  They're here!

A week or so ago I wrote about how I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of the complete series collection of “WKRP in Cincinnati” on DVD, and I can finally say that yesterday my waiting came to an end.  The package arrived at work, I brought it home, popped in the first disc, and in the span of the first four episodes saw two scenes that had been cut out of existing prints of the show.  When the people who put the collection together said they were trying to restore the show to its original broadcast  versions they weren't kidding.  I'm looking forward to seeing what else I haven't seen before (or at least haven't seen since the show first aired when I was a teenager).

Sure, it was a long wait, but in the end, I think it's a wait that's gonna be worth it!

The DVD set was a Christmas gift to myself, and I just finished reading another gift given to me over the holidays.  That's Billy Idol's autobiography “Dancing With Myself”.  While I've never been a huge Billy Idol fan, I have enjoyed his music over the past few decades, so I figured that the book might be a fun read.  And it was.  But more than that, it was one of those cautionary tales that everyone who's ever thought about getting into the music biz should read.  Because you know what?

Whoever coined the phrase “sex, drugs, & roll and roll” was probably thinking of Mr. Idol when they came up with it!

The book starts with a motorcycle crash that almost killed him, a motorcycle crash that was caused by his on-going substance abuse problems.  He had been using various chemicals for a decade and a half at that point, sometimes using one drug to wean himself off another, and by 1990, the time of the crash, it had finally all caught up with him.  He's quite open about his problems, and that's one of the things that makes the book such an interesting read.  Throw in tales of how some of the more iconic rock songs of the 80s were recorded, and you have yourself a fun read.

And a primer on what NOT to do if you ever make it big!

Okay.  I have to run out and tape a make-good for the “High School Bowl”s postponed last week because of the cold, so if you don't mind...

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 1/13:

Sometime soon, someone in downtown Marquette could be saying “the sky is falling”.  And you know what?

They’ll be right!

Over the weekend, when Loraine and I were walking up Front Street in front of the building that houses the station, we happened to notice this, perched 3 floors above the street--



It’s a piece of snow that’s hanging over the edge of the top of our building.  It’s weird;  I’m not quite sure how it’s hanging up there, physics-wise, but it is.  And in the two weeks since we first noticed it, it’s grown even bigger.



Like I said, the physics don’t make too much sense.  Unless it’s being held up by a solid bed of ice, it should’ve fallen before it formed.  Yet there it is, just hanging 35 feet above the street, dangling over our heads.  Now, if there’s one thing we’ve learned from Mother Nature this winter, it’s that she’s not messing with us.  You can’t go around and violate one her basic laws--the law of gravity--without expecting payback.

I just hope that when that payback comes, there’s no one standing underneath it.

Just eyeballing the snow pack, it looks like it’s 8 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet.  That’s...uhm...let me think here...72 square feet of snow.  That means that if someone is standing underneath it when it finally decides to let go, it would be like being buried under a pickup truck bed full of snow.

A pickup truck bed of snow dropped from 3 stories above the ground.

Now, hopefully, one of two things will happen.  Either it’ll fall when there’s no one around and the sidewalk plow will take it away, or it’ll slowly melt away, being forgotten until someone looks up in the sky and says, with a little curiosity, “Whatever happened to that strange wall of snow up on the building last winter”?

I’m hoping for the latter, but would be happy with the former, as well.  Because the only other option would be for someone to be walking up Front Street and uttering those immortal words--

“No, really.  The sky IS falling”!

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 1/12:

For the first time in almost eight years I got to shovel a driveway Friday.  And boy, could I feel it on Saturday.

Those of you who've been reading this forever—and by forever, I mean since I started writing this on a regular basis back in 2002—may remember that I used to enjoy shoveling my driveway.  No, I wasn't a freak (or, at least, any more of a freak than I usually am).  Instead, I would look at a shoveling as a way to get a great aerobic workout that used muscles in almost every single part of my body.  And from 1998 to 2007 I would get that high-intensity (at least high-intensity the way I did it) workout on a regular basis each and every winter.  But when we moved into our current apartment in 2007, an apartment that has our landlord and his snow blower on site, I got rid of my snow scoop and haven't shoveled since.

That is, until last Friday.

Our landlords decided to make a much-deserved three week cruise to the Caribbean, and when Loraine woke up Friday to go to work she noticed that entrance to our driveway was plowed in.  And since no on else seemed to have the time to dig it out, I got up and went to work.  Believe it or not, I actually enjoyed it, although it took a long time—an hour and a half—because our driveway is quite a bit bigger than the ones we've had at previous houses.  At the end of it, though, I was able to look at a vast expanse of land that I had cleared by hand, and felt happy.

It was actually one of those rare times when I felt like a “guy”.  Just don't tell anyone about it, okay?  It'll be our little secret.

I was sitting in my office that afternoon when I went to stretch and noticed that a few muscles in my back were a little sore, and it was then that I kind of had an inkling that my first attempt at shoveling in eight years might've exacted a small toll on my body.  Now, it's not like I'm out of shape—in fact, I'd like to think that I'm in very good shape, especially for (snort) someone my age.  But shoveling uses a few different muscles than I usually put to use during my regular workout routines.  In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if there was a muscle or two in there that hasn't been used since the last time I shoveled.  And those are the muscles I noticed when I did that stretch.

Saturday, when I woke up to go running, I REALLY knew that I'd had a workout.  Aside from my back my arms were a little stiff, my legs were groaning (assuming, of course, a non-mouth body part can “groan”), and even one of my feet was sore.  Not both my feet, but just one, the right one, which is apparently the wimpier of the two.  Things loosened up after I ran for a bit, but throughout the day I could still tell that my body was getting its revenge.  I didn't mind; at least this time I knew what was causing my aches and pains, as opposed to the times when they pop up for unknown reasons.  But still my body was getting its revenge.

And I was fine with that.

I have no idea if I'll be shoveling again before my landlords return.  But seeing as how it IS January in Upper Michigan, I have an inkling that I may need to move snow once or twice more before they return.  I'm cool with that, and I have the feeling that, as it gets used to doing it again after eight years, my body will be cool with that.

But I tell you what—keep your fingers crossed, just the same.  After all, with me, you never, never know!

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 1/9:

I hope it gets here soon.

There are very few things that I have wished for in life other than health and happiness for my loved ones and for peace on Earth.  I'm one for two so far; maybe some day I'll get lucky on the second, as well.  But for me I really don't actively want for things, especially material things.  Therefore, on that rare occasion when something pops up that I really DO want, it becomes a big deal.

And when it gets delayed, it then becomes a really REALLY big deal.

One of the few material things I ever wanted was released to the general public in time for the holidays, and that's a complete series DVD collection of one of my favorite TV shows of all time, “WKKP in Cincinnati”.  Because of some really complicated issues involving all the music used in the show, the complete series has never been released.  The first season was, with most of the music taken out, but nothing ever happened beyond that.  However, this fall, Shout Factory released the whole series, with most of the music and all of the scenes cut because of the music they contained intact.  For someone like me it's the holy grail of releases, and one of those few material items to which I've looked forward.

So guess what's on back order??

Yup, I ordered it before Christmas, thinking it would be a very nice holiday gift for myself.  And I'm sure it will be; at least I'm sure it will be when it gets here.  But it hasn't arrived yet.  I guess there are a lot of people like me out there, and we all ordered the series at once.  So every day when the mail carrier shows up at work I stick my head out in the lobby, probably looking very much like a puppy awaiting its human, but so far...

Nothing.  Nada, zip, zilch.

When it does show up I'm sure I'll probably go just slightly insane, just because of the fact that I'll actually be able to hold the holy grail in my hands.  It's not like I'll sit down and watch all 90 episodes at once.  Although, come to think of it, that WOULD be an interesting way to spend a weekend, wouldn't it?  Nope; I'll just be happy to know that I have it, and any time I want I can view an episode or two the way I haven't since they first aired 30 years ago—unedited, the way they first shown on TV, the way the producers intended them to be.

So for now, I wait.  I've always joked that one of my greatest strengths is the fact that I have almost unlimited patience.  This may drive Loraine crazy on occasion, but it's an ability I have.  Unfortunately, it's an ability that being stretched to the limit at the moment.  Oh, don't worry.  I'll be fine.  It's just that until it arrives I'll have to keep up my impression of that little puppy, and I hope it 's something not a lot of people see.  After all, I DO need to keep a little shred of dignity in my life, correct?

Oh, who am I kidding, right?  Let's just hope the DVDs get here soon!

Have yourself a great weekend!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 1/8:

Wow.  It is STILL butt-numbingly cold!!

Admittedly, it's not quite as cold as it was yesterday (temperatures are actually forecast above zero today), but it's still a joy to be here.  Really, it is.  And I feel for people who live away from Lake Superior, where it was apparently even colder than here in the city.  It looks as if—finally--we get a break this weekend, and temps should be in the 20s by next week.

This week has been like the evil twin, weather-wise, of one of those balmy stretches of 80 degree days in July.  No, the cold hasn’t driven me over the edge, at least not yet.  Just think about it--if July is the summer equivalent of January (both are months following the change of seasons), then I guess this week is the ying to a nice July week’s yang.  But at least when it’s 80 or 90 degrees you can still venture outside without worrying about losing a body part or two, and at least when it’s 80 or 90 degrees out you don’t have to spend close to an hour putting on enough clothing just to venture outside to then worry about losing those aforementioned body parts.

Given a choice between good twin and evil twin, and at least when it comes to weather, I’ll take the good twin every single time.

So with that in mind, here’s a picture taken on a 80+ degree July day last year.



Six more months. . .six more months. . .six more months!!

****

Finally, I know we have several people in France who read this on a daily basis, so in light of the horrific shooting in Paris yesterday--





You have our thoughts and best wishes.

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 1/7:

If, when everything thaws this Spring, you happen to see a right ear and part of a lower lip lying somewhere on the street, would you please pick them up?

They're probably mine.

I can't believe how cold it was when I went out running this morning.  Of course, I can't believe that I actually went out running this morning in a windchill of about 150 below, but I did.  In a concession to the weather I did actually wear long pants (several layers of long pants, in fact), but I did go out running.  Call me crazy, if you'd like.  You wouldn't be the first person to do so.

The cold has also forced the cancellation of my TV job, at least for today.  So many schools have closed every single day this week that it didn't make sense for half the teams taking part in the taping for “High School Bowl” to show up and the other half not to.  Because of that, I won't be taping today.  I'll probably get to do four shows next week instead of two.

And that got me to thinking.  I really do not wanna sound like one of those people who start off every sentence with the phrase “Back when I was a kid”, but (ahem) back when I was a kid, I don't remember having school canceled because of bitter cold, especially having some schools closed three days in a row (and counting) because of bitter cold.  I remember being at school on days when the air is frigid and the wind chills were extreme.  In all honesty, I don't recall if the conditions were as harsh as they are now, but it seems to me like they were, and yet I was still in school.

Now, though?  Not so much.

I realize that there are legitimate (and very good) excuses for keeping schools closed for most of a week (and counting) because of the cold.  I mean, the fact that seem to have lost two parts of my body while out running today is basically the best reason for closing schools.  Still, though, it just seems (at least to me) that they close and cancel things quite a bit more than they did (ahem) back when I was a kid.  I don't know if it's true, I don't know if my perceptions are just askew.  But all through my life—when I was a kid, and now that I'm what passes for an adult—I just seem to think that many more things went on as normal despite the bad weather.

Like I said, I don't know if that's actually the case or if my perceptions have been warped by whatever's been warping my brain since I was young.  But I tend to think that it might actually be the case.  After all, if I'm stupid enough to go out running on a day so cold that you lose body parts, I must've picked up the habit somewhere, right?  There must be something in my brain that tells me it's okay to go out on a day when the wind chill's around 150 below.

Well, it's just a thought.  Hopefully, some day soon, kids will get to go back to school, TV shows will return to their normal taping schedules, and I'll be able to run without losing parts of my face.  After all, with only one ear and no more than one and half lips left, I'm rapidly running out of body parts left to fall off.

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 1/6:

I don't even wanna think about what happened one year ago this past Saturday.

A windy snowstorm moved in on January 3 rd, 2014, ushering in a cold snap that lasted, on and off, and almost two months.  But that's not why I don't wanna think about what happened a year ago this past Saturday.  Nope; the reason I don't wanna think about what happened a year ago this past Saturday is what occurred at 9:03 pm, most likely caused by the wind and the snow and the cold, although, in all honesty, we may never know the exact cause.

What happened at 9:03 pm one year ago this past Saturday?  That's when our antenna array blew up, ushering in a five month period of us being, well, not much of a radio station.

Those of you who tried to listen on the air or who read my daily bouts of whining about the situation know that it was not fun.  Something happened 600 feet above the ground that caused metal to melt and things to fall apart.  Instead of our usual 100,000 watts of power, we were broadcasting at 100 watts—and that's if we were lucky.  Because of the extreme cold the first three months of the year, our engineers couldn't climb up on the tower to find out what was wrong.  And on the days that they could climb, they had to trace every single inch of feed line, radomes, and antenna couplings to try and find out what the problem was.  Once they found all of the problems (and there were multiple problems) we then had to order a whole new antenna array, wait for it to be built, wait for it to be delivered, and then wait for the winds to die down enough for the engineers to haul it up 600 feet
above the ground, install it, plug it in, and hope that it worked.

All that was done, and we were finally back up and running at full power on June 3rd, five months to the day after storm that started the whole thing.

It was not a five months that I'd recommend anyone go through.  It's certainly a five months that I never want to have to experience again.  It was bad enough not being able to do what we usually do and have everyone listen who usually listens.  The worst part of it was the not knowing—the now knowing what the problem was, and the not knowing when it would be fixed.  It was okay the first few weeks; we figured the weather would break soon and we'd get things fixed.  But as the weeks stretched into months and as we were all of a sudden looking the the real possibility that a half a year would pass before things returned to normal; well, that's when the absurdity of the situation hit its extreme.

Thankfully, though, things DID return to normal.  We found out what the problem was, we had a new system built, and on the afternoon of June 3rd a button was pushed and our long national nightmare was over.  If anything good comes out of a situation like this it's what happened after we returned to full power, and had people from all across the U.P. tell us how much they missed us and how glad they were that we were back.  It was nice to know we were missed.  And trust me—we missed each and every person who couldn't hear as much as they missed us!

In the seven months (and three days) since life returned to normal there hasn't been a day when I haven't been thankful for the fact that it is normal.  It's amazing what you can take for granted, and it's something that I promise never to do again.  Hopefully, though, we won't ever have to go through that again.

After all, five months is more than enough.

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 1 /5:  No blog, 'cuz I'm off Today.

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 1 /2:

It's been a fun 27 years.  Good luck, Dennis.

Hope you guys had a good New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.  My New Year's Eve was as hectic as it usually is, what with broadcasting from the ball drop and spending time with 4,000 of my closest drunk friends, this time in freezing temperatures.  And for one final time, I was also there with the individual who, for a big chunk of this century, was my standing “date” for the New Year--

Dennis Whitley.

From the time we moved the station to Marquette—2002--and I started broadcasting from the ball drop, Dennis helped.  Even for a couple of years after he left the station and joined 8-18 Media, he would stop by and ring in the New Year.  That's why it was nice he did so again Wednesday, especially because it'll be our last New Year's Eve together.  Dennis, you see, is moving to Florida on Monday.

It was actually 27 years ago today that Dennis & I first met .  I had just moved back to Marquette from Flint and started the job (not this one) that brought me back here.  I was not the only new employee at that station; Dennis, who was still in college at the time, also started that same day, and that's when our friendship began.  On and off for the next 19 and a half  years we would be working together, sometimes in the same office, sometimes right across the hall from each other.  And even since he left to join 8-18 Media we've still been working “together”, as we're one of the stations airing the young people's reports.

That's why I was glad the two of us were able to spend a little time together before he left.  We didn't know if it was gonna happen; we were having trouble getting our schedules to match up.  So when he suggested that he pop down for the ball drop; well, let's just say that it fits.  It fitted quite well, in fact.

If you're curious, the next step in Dennis' life should be quite interesting.  He and his wife Joanne are literally building a new life in Florida by purchasing what could be charitably called a “fixer-upper” and trying to get it, well, fixed-up.  I have no doubt they'll succeed; after all, they did the same thing with their home here in Marquette, and that project turned out quite well.  This time, though, they're blogging while they're doing it, so check it out if you have the chance!

Assuming he gets his U-Haul trailer Dennis is leaving the cold Monday, so keep your fingers crossed that he gets his trailer and has a safe trip down.  After all, he has quite the project ahead of him.  And on a personal note, thanks for hanging around for those 27 years, Dennis.  Even though you're just a computer keyboard away, you will be missed.

******

Speaking of Monday, things did work out, and that means I get a three-day weekend!  I'll be back Tuesday, so make sure you have yourself a great weekend, even if it isn't three days long.

(jim@wmqt.com)


Then afterward I have to join my three dear nieces in a super-secret multimedia project, details of which I can NOT divulge, if only because it's the holiday season and someone will be seeing the end results of the project on Christmas.

So that's OUR weekend.  I hope yours is just a little less hectic but just as much fun!

****

By the way, I had several of you write and ask why I didn't mention it was my birthday yesterday.  I didn't think it was that big of a deal.  All I did was survive another year of living.  My only hope is that the next year isn't quite as...weird as the previous year, what with dead transmitters and bitter cold for months on end and gall bladders on the fritz and whatever the heck else happened (that I've mercifully blocked out of my memory).

And that's why I didn't write about it yesterday.  But for those of you who knew and who wrote to wish me a happy birthday, thanks.  I appreciate it!

Now, I'm off to do TV, so then Loraine can go and do her TV.  And yup—that's a sentence I never thought I would write.

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 12/4:

Okay, I think Laura can stop thinking I'm weird now.

Several times, my favorite radio meteorologist and I have been discussing my outdoor recreation habits, and she has thought them weird.  Well, actually, she finds one more painful than weird, and can't quite understand why I keep doing it.  I've tried to explain to her that by doing it during the summer I'm actually getting ready to do something related in the winter, but she still thinks it's either masochistic or weird.

But now I can say that it has paid off.

The activity Laura thinks is so masochistic and/or weird is how I will run on the beach during the summer.  For some reason, she seems to think it's painful, but I would have to respectfully disagree with her on that.  After all, when it's warm out, why WOULDN'T I run on the beach a little?  I mean, c'mon—it's the beach.  It's the place where I would live year-round if I could.  So why wouldn't I run on it?

Actually, I have an idea why she thinks it's a bit masochistic.  Even I will admit that it's hard running on a beach.  It's not like running on a smooth surface; you definitely have to work harder, and you definitely end up hurting a lot more than you would during a “normal” run.  But that's a good thing for two reasons.  One, by having to work that much harder, you torch a LOT more calories than you would during a “normal” run.  And isn't that why most people run in the first place?  And since running on sand is a whole lot different than running on pavement, you develop different muscles.  That's a good thing, too.

The second reason is something that a lot of people wouldn't even think of, but at least for me, it may be more important than the calories you burn while running on the beach.  You see, once the snow falls and you go out running, you often find yourself trudging through a quagmire of snow, sometimes mushy, and as well as all the sand thrown down by road crews.  You may think I'm weird for running on a beach during summer, but you know what?

It gets me in shape for running on city streets during the winter.

Yes, I'm actually a rather serious about this.  If you've ever tried to run down a city street in December or January—heck, if you're ever tried to even walk down a city street in December or January—you know that it can be a lot like walking on a beach, or at least walking on a beach minus the sun and the heat and the water and all the things that make walking on a beach so much fun.  The composition of the crap on a Marquette city street in the middle of winter is very similar to what you find on a beach.  You find sand mixed with water on a beach, right?  Well, what do you find on a city street in the middle of winter?  You find water mixed with sand.  Maybe it's not the exact same proportions, and it may be 60 or 70 degrees cooler, but it's pretty much the same stuff you run on on a beach.

I rest my case.

So, Laura, the next time you think me weird or masochistic for running on a beach, remember two things.  Remember that I'm running on one of the most beautiful cold water beaches on the planet.  And also remember that the four or five months I run on a beach is getting me ready for the seven or eight months that I may have to run on snowy Marquette city streets.  You see, there IS a method to my madness!

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 12/3:

Although it may not appear to be a match made in heaven, I actually kind of like going to Big Lots.

I know; I'm just as shocked as you.  I usually don't spend a lot of time going to discount stores.  However, once or twice a year, I find myself going to the Big Lots store in Marquette, and walking out with a bag full of stuff that I didn't intend on buying.  Why, you ask?  Well, I answer, it's all the fault of their international foods shelf.

Darn them, anyway!

I find it very interesting that a store like Big Lots has one of the best collection of weird foods from around the world.  The image people have of the store and the foods they carry do not go together like pears and carrots.  Peas & baklava, maybe, but definitely not peas & carrots.  Yet you can go into the store and, if you're like me this past weekend, walk out with jam from Turkey, pasta from Italy, chocolate from Germany, and cookies from Poland, among other things.  Of course, the sad thing is that I didn't NEED to walk out of the store with all that food, but let's face it—how often do you get to walk out of a store with jam from Turkey, pasta from Italy, chocolate from Germany, and cookies from Poland?

Not that often, at least from one single store.

That's what I find kind of amazing about Big Lots' foreign foods selection.  All throughout the store you see a large collection of off-brand merchandise, everything from picture frames to, I dunno, rubber gloves.  But not in the foreign foods section.  Everything I bought Saturday was from a big and/or gourmet label in its respective country.  In fact, the Polish cookies were from the same chocolate company that produced one of, if not the best, cherry laced chocolate bar I've ever tasted--





Now, they just need to start stocking the chocolate bar pictured above, and we'll be all set!

So if you ever find yourself curious about any of the above foods, or, say, honey from Macedonia, cake mix from Ecuador, or canned shrimp straight from Thailand, you know where to go.  It might not be the first place you think of for weird food from around the world, and from the outside it may not look like the place to go for pancake mix from Latvia, but trust me—it's a great place to go in, look around, and see what you can come out with.

And if you're like me, you come out with something you never expected to find!

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 12/2:

I wonder—does anyone even remember Melvin the Christmas Elf?

We're in the middle of our “25 Days of Christmas” contest on the air, a contest where we give away a gift certificate to a local business each and every day.  I'm the one who actually calls the winner and lets them know they've won, and I do so by shouting out “ho ho ho” in an elf-like voice.

Specifically, the voice of Melvin the Christmas Elf.

Now, if you have no idea as to who or what Melvin the Christmas Elf is, don't worry.  The vast majority of people on the planet have no idea who Melvin the Christmas Elf is, or even WHAT Melvin the Christmas Elf was.  In fact, I may be the only person on the planet who knows about Melvin, if only because I created him for the first version of this “25 Days” contest, which was, if I remember, 22 or 23 years ago.

That's who Melvin is.

If I remember correctly (and since it was 22 or 23 years ago, my memory may be, well, foggy) I created Melvin because people were supposed to call in and qualify when they heard him.  I don't know why we did it that way; we just did.  And he was named Melvin after one of our part-time workers at the time, who just happened to me by sister Melanie.  Melanie, Melvin.  Get it?

Anyway, as the contest evolved, the use of Melvin, both in name and in voice, slowly disappeared.  Yet every year we've done the “25 Days” contest I've used the voice when calling the winners.  I don't know why.  I just have.  I don't know if it's tradition or laziness on my part or what, but every time a winner in our “25 Days” contest is contacted, they're met with Melvin's greeting, even if they have no idea who Melvin is.

So if YOU happen to qualify some time before December 23rd, and you happen to find your name drawn as the winner, you'll receive a call from me.  And sometime in our conversation, you'll be given a “ho ho ho” in a very strange voice.  You'll probably think I'm having a seizure, or something.  But I'm not.  I'm just carrying on a holiday tradition that has been part of Upper Michigan radio for over twenty years now.

Even if I'm the only one who knows about it.

(jim@wmqt.com)

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