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In Jim's Daily Opinion 09/02/2015

Wednesday, 9/2:

Jim is off on his yearly trip. Keep track of him HERE!


I can’t believe this will be the tenth trip over there.

Our grand adventure begins tomorrow, the trip we’re taking to Germany with both sets of our parents, and for me this’ll mark a bit of a milestone.  It’ll be the tenth trip I’ve taken to Europe, which means that, among other things, now I’ll NEVER be able to afford to retire!

(Inside joke between me and my long-time travel partner, if you’re curious).

We leave tomorrow morning from Marquette, spend four hours in Chicago before flying to Philadelphia, and then spend four more hours in Philadelphia before heading to Frankfurt, which is a marked change from what we usually do (fly to Chicago, spend 8 hours playing around  downtown there, and then fly to Europe).  I don’t know if it’s because we’re flying into Frankfurt or if because American’s merger with US Airways means that they feel like routing more traffic out of Philadelphia, but that’s what we’re stuck with.

And then, of course, once we get into Frankfurt around 10am local time Thursday (which would be 4 am over here) we meet up with Tony the Tour Guide and Loraine’s parents, who are actually flying over today, and get the whole thing started.  We then spend nine days doing whatever we darn well feel like (or at least what Loraine tells us to do) before we head back from Munich on the 13th.

If you’ve been following these trips before, you may remember what joy it is coming home from Munich.  We have to get up at 4 in the morning local time (which is actually 10 pm in Marquette), fly to London, then to Chicago, and then finally home, where we should arrive a mere 23 hours after waking up in Germany.

You know, I may make fun of airline travel and let the snark flow freely on occasion, but when you consider that less than a century ago it took months to do what we’ll be doing in 23 hours, I guess you can’t complain!

At least, not too much.

This will be the last “regular” blog before the trip.  If you come back here tomorrow through the end of our journeys, you’ll have to click on a link that sends you to our trip blog.  It’s funny; on the trip blog site, I can tell where the people who read it come from everyday, and you’d be amazed by the amount of people who visit here first.

So thanks!

The first trip blog should be up Thursday night German time, which will be Thursday afternoon U.S. time.  I’ll post a link to it on my Facebook page, so if we’re friends, you’ll find out about it there, as well.  It should be a fantastic trip, and a chance to spend some quality time with the people responsible for me actually being here to write these things, my mom & dad.

So wish us luck.  Next stop—Deutschland!


MONDAY, 8/31:

I think I'm gonna need a vacation from my vacation.

Actually, let me clarify that just a little bit.  I think I'm gonna need a vacation from preparing for my vacation.  After all, when I leave for a week and a half it's not like I can just leave for a week and a half.  Nope; I need to make sure that everything is set and ready to run while I'm gone, so I have to spend many weeks before I go just to make sure things are ready when I do go.  Add to that the fact that high school sports season has started on our ESPN station and everything needed to be set up for that—and new employees had to be trained  in on how to do it—and by the end of the weekend I was ready just to head to Germany a few days early.

Not that I would've actually been able to do it, but I would've been ready to do it.  Thankfully, there's a difference.

I'm not complaining, though.  Nope, if I'm gonna complain about anything, I'm gonna complain about the fact that, as seems to happen every time I go to Europe, the weather here is turning nice and hot.  Just as I'm getting ready to leave.

Happens every time.

No, seriously.  It does happen every time, or at least almost every time.  I've gone to Europe nine times now, and on at least seven of those occasions the weather here has turned nice and hot and sticky just as we leave.  And there have been several years, just like this year, when the summer up to that date had been kind of cold and/or wet and/or gloomy.  Then, as soon as we head across the Atlantic, it gets nice.

So there.  Don't say I never do anything nice for you!


I'm pretty sure that this is just a giant coincidence, much like the “Tuesday” weather phenomenon we've had in Marquette this summer (where Tuesday, for some strange reason, has been the coldest day of the week for eight out of the past nine weeks).  I'm pretty sure that it's just a giant coincidence that it heats up when we leave.  I'm pretty sure Mother Nature doesn't have it against me with some bizarre form of meteorological practical joke.

I'm pretty sure about that.

Oh well...I can't complain.  After all, I'm going to Germany in two days!  Once I'm there, all the work I had to do beforehand will be worth it, and (with any luck) the weather we have over there will be just as nice as the weather I've left for you.  And if it's not?  Well, I'm still in Germany!!  I'll just have to eat an extra piece of chocolate or strudel, and it won't even matter.

Now, back to getting ready to go.  Hope your Monday treats you well!


FRIDAY, 8/28:

I think I’ve figured out how to game the system.

I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but if you’re a business with a Facebook fan page, like we are, Facebook does not send your message out to all of your fans every time you post one.  Nope; messages that we send out are often only sent to four or five percent of the people who’ve “liked” us, and if you want to guarantee that more people see it, Facebook will be more than happy to accept scads of your money to make sure that happens.

Nice racket if you can set it up, apparently.

However, there are ways to get more people to see your posts, and one of them is by getting your fans to either “like” or “share” your posts (which, you must admit, is kind of hard to do if no one can see it in the first place).  Facebook then tells you that you have (and I’m not making this up) an “engaging post”, and makes sure that more people see it.  Who knows...if that happens, you might approach having almost ten percent of your total fan base getting your story on their news feed.

It’s like a Christmas miracle, only it’s not at Christmas and it’s not a miracle.

Anyway, I notice that every time I put a picture on our station Facebook site it seems to get a little more “engagement” that just text-only posts, like the ones we put up every Monday soliciting suggestions for that week’s upcoming “Throwback Thursday”.  So as an experiment this week, I added this picture—

on the usual Monday post, along with a little joke abut “Mr. Sunflower” looking forward to song suggestions.  And you know what?  When I checked the post the next day, it showed that it had been viewed by almost three times as many people as a normal “Throwback Thursday” post.  Wednesday, I did it again, this time letting people know what “Mr. Sunflower” was going to play the next day, and once again, news feed numbers almost tripled.

So there.  I guess we now know what you need to do it you’re a business that wants to get your Facebook stories out to more of your fans.  Use “Mr. Sunflower” as your, uhm, “spokesflower”.

Seemed to work for least until Facebook finds out and finds some other way to make sure people don’t hear what we have to say!


On that note, I hope you have yourself a fantastic weekend.  Looks like the weather won’t suck, so I may have to put off final packing for the trip just long enough to play out in the sun.  After all, by the time we get back, snow may be on the ground (at least the way this year has been going).  So I’m hoping to take advantage of it as much as I can!



Because I have to go to a funeral and go meet with the police this morning (two entirely unrelated things, by the way.  And no, Mom, I'm not in trouble!)  I'm gonna leave you with something I wrote five and half years ago, but something that I'll be doing again in two and a half weeks on the way home from Germany.

Tomorrow, nothing to do with funerals and cops.  Promise!



(as originally posted January 5th, 2010)

The first sign of life is the algae.

Now, I mention this because Loraine and I just bought the tickets for our next trip to France, the one scheduled for this October.  And, of course, if you’re flying to or from France, you spend a LOT of time staring out of airplane windows...nine hours, in fact, on the trip back.

And that’s how I know about the algae.

When you leave France, you have about 45 minutes to look out the window and see land; England and Ireland, to be specific.  Then for four, four and a half hours...nothing.  You can look down and see the north Atlantic.  Sometimes you might see icebergs, sometime you might see waves so big that, at 35,000 feet, they appear as little white dots, but mostly you see nothing but water.

Until, that is, you hit Canada.

When you enter Canadian airspace, you first fly over the Labrador Peninsula, which is nothing but desolate, barren rock.  For half an hour, you stare down at a vast landscape of nothing-ness; if you were an alien being exploring the planet for the first time, you’d probably assume that the planet was devoid of life.

And then you see the green.

The first few times I flew back from Europe, I was intrigued when I noticed that, about half an hour after crossing over land,  the ponds and lakes sitting on top of the Labrador rocks looked a little green around the edges.  Then I figured out what it was. . .it was algae building up around the shores, much like algae builds up on lakes around here. 

After over 5 hours of seeing nothing, it’s the first sign that there’s still life on the planet.

A few minutes later, some of the rocks appear green, as well, indicating either moss or algae has started to cling to the rocks.  The green increases over time, until you see something you thought you might never see again--

A road.

As with the algae, I had no idea where the roads led during my first few flights.  Then on the last few flights, I began to notice the roads leading to complexes, complexes that I’m guessing are mines, or research facilities, or military facilities.  Soon, the roads begin to branch off into other roads, and along those roads you soon notice more green.

The roads are cutting through grass.  And soon, the roads begin to cut through trees.  And then a small town or two.  And before you know it, you see more roads, more trees, more towns, and then the pilot says you’re crossing over Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, and entering the U.S.

All a mere 8 or so hours after leaving France, and just an hour and a half after you thought you’d never see a sign of life again.

If you’ve ever wondered how you kill those 9 hours on a plane, that’s how I do it.  And that’s how I’ll be doing it again in a mere 9 months.


Wow.  I was actually funny once!

With a week to go before we leave for Germany, I've been spending a lot of time putting together the things that need to air while I'm gone.  And because the program director in me refuses to allow my afternoon personality to be off the air for a week and a half, we usually air “best of”s that I've recorded and saved throughout the years.  The past few trips they've been phone calls with listeners; after all, that's mostly what we do around here.  But this year, I've dig really deep to see what I could find.

And I found some comedy bits.

The bits are what are know in the biz as “blackout bits”; just little 20 or 30 second items to run going into or out of a commercial break.  And what with humor being a VERY subjective thing, I'm sure that there are many people out there who would take exception with my referring to them as “comedy” bits.  But I've found nine or ten “comedy” bits that I put together somewhere between 10 and 15 years ago, back when I was doing “comedy” bits, and you know what?

I, at least, don't think they're half bad!

I was in my phase of doing “comedy” bits while I was also in my phase of listening to a lot of old-time radio.  A lot of the radio I was listening to at the time were the master comedians, people like Jack Benny and Fred Allen and Jim Jordan in his character of Fibber McGee.  The one thing all of these master comedians had was impeccable timing.  They knew how to tell a joke, and they REALLY knew how to sell a joke.  And while I've always thought my sense of comedic timing was a little better than the average person, it was nowhere near that of Benny or Allen or Jordan.  So while I was listening to all of these classic comedians, I was also trying to see if I could preach what they were practicing.

Hence, the “comedy” bits.

Most (but not all) of them revolved around the fictional “Yooper TV Network”, and some of the, well, Yooper-centric shows the network might air.  The shows might be Yooper reality shows, or Yooper dramas, but it was a way to make fun of what was going on in pop culture at the time while still making it relatable to people who live up here.

At least, that's what I tried.

As with everything in life, I kind of got away from doing the “comedy” bits as the years went by.  I don't know if they were too much work or if I just had a limited amount of ideas and used them up, but from what I can tell the last one was put together in 2007.  So it was interesting to dig them out and listen to them again, a reflection of where my mind was almost a decade ago.  For some, I remembered them like they were yesterday.  For others, I'd totally forgotten about them.  And one of them, in particular, actually made me laugh when I listened to it again. 

Wanna hear it?

As I've written in here many times before, humor is a very subjective thing.  All I know is that it made me laugh when I listened to it.  Your results may vary.

So for the week and a half I'm gone (actually, just seven days on the air, thanks to Labor Day).  You may be hearing things like that on the air.  And even if you don't make you laugh, think of it this way—it'll at least be a window into my brain, at least they way it was a decade ago.


TUESDAY, 8/25:

I wonder who the trombone player is.

One of the things I love about living in Marquette is that you never know what you’ll see, what you’ll hear, or what you’ll come across.  When you live in a city full of artsy, creative individuals, that artsy-ness and that creativity quite often bubbles to the surface.  And over the past few weeks, what has bubbled to the surface is one really good trombone player.

I don’t know who the trombone player is; I don’t know where he or she lives, and I don’t know if she or he is a professional at the instrument or just dabbles.  But what I do know is this—every few days, especially when it’s nice out and our windows are open, and always with no warning at all, we’ll hear someone play a trombone.  There’s no other music and no other musicians; there’s just the trombone and its player, serenading our neighborhood with a soulful rendition of Magic’s “Rude” or their take on a jazz classic.  They’ll play the one song, and then stop, leaving me to think two things—

One, that trombone player is really, really good.  Their tone is great, they’re obviously well practiced in their technique, and their style really lends something to some of the works they perform.  Like I said, they’re really, really good.

The second thing I wonder about when I hear them?  Who are they, why are they playing outside, and why do they stop after only one song?  Okay; technically those would be the second, third, and fourth things I think, but still, I believe you get the idea.  I mean, has the person playing been practicing indoors, and just wants a little fresh air before they call it a night?  Do they enjoy serenading the neighborhood, and have spent all day practicing the one piece to get it just right?  Or do they just get bored, and in between social media status updates or chapters of a book decide to give their lungs a workout?

Inquiring minds want to know!

I am in no way complaining; after all, like I said, the trombone player is quite good, and it’s much better than some of the other sounds you get to hear in our neighborhood when the windows are open (and I’m thinking of you, guy who lives a couple of houses behind us and loves his leaf blower just a little too much).  It just makes me wonder what’s behind the impromptu performances, and whether they’re for our benefit, or if our enjoyment of it is just a byproduct of whatever the mystery trombone player happens to be doing at the moment.

Alas, I may never know.  And with winter soon to come, our windows will be permanently closed, and the trombone concerts will be replaced by the sound of snow blowers and ice scrapers.  So I guess I’ll enjoy the performances while I can.

Even if I don’t know who’s giving them, or why.


MONDAY, 8/24:

In a way, it's kind of like we lost our grandmother.

Loraine and I received some sad news over the weekend; our friend Jeanne Fletcher passed away at thee age of 94.  Jeanne was the sister of Elwood Norr, the subject of Loraine's first book, and over the years we'd visit Jeanne and just chat abut everything under the sun.  It's like we were part of her extended family, and we'll miss that.

Not only did Jeanne loan Loraine the letters and pictures that her brother had sent home from the Army before he died, but she helped me study Marquette history from a first hand point of view.  She  grew up in both the Piqua Location in Marquette, the area that's now centered around McClellan Avenue, but, for a time, with aunts who lived in Ishpeming, as well.  Then when she married Al, the love of her life, she raised her family in South Marquette, where they owned Fletcher's Market for many years.

If you've ever been on tours I've given in the Piqua or in South Marquette, some of the stories you've heard were Jeanne's.

In fact, right before I gave my Piqua neighborhood tour a couple of years ago, we convinced Jeanne to hop into our car and drive around the area, where she regaled us for over an hour with tales of what the area was like when she was growing up, and just how much things have changed in the 80 or 90 years since.  She was an invaluable resource, and I'll miss picking her brain about stuff like that.

Of course I'll also miss her bread, too.  Every Christmas I'd bring over a huge plate of those cookies I make, and in return she'd give us a loaf of whatever she'd made for the holiday, be it saffron bread or almond bread or one of the other breads she knew how to expertly whip up.  The past few years she wasn't able to get around well enough to bake, but that's okay.  The loaves she had given us over the years are things I hope to one day try.  I'm sure they won't be as good as hers, but I'll give them a try.

And in a way, Marquette radio has lost a comrade, too.  You see, when Jeanne was a child, she was a “star”.  The aunts she lived with in Ishpeming had her take singing lessons, and she had her own weekly show on Marquette first radio station, WBEO (which eventually became WDMJ).  Because everything on radio back then was live, and there were a lot of hours in a day to fill, radio looked everywhere for entertainment.  And one of the places they found it was in the form of Jeanne.  In fact, even all these years later, she still has a cutout of a newspaper ad from the early 30s mentioning that “Little Jeanne Norr” would be on the air the next Sunday afternoon for the listening pleasure of the community.

After all my years in radio, even I'VE never received anything like that!

I think, though, the biggest way in which she'll be missed is the soft spot she had in her heart for Loraine.  When Loraine was writing her book, I don't think Jeanne fully grasped what was going on, because when Loraine presented her with the first copy, hot off the presses, Jeanne said, and I quote, “I didn't know you were writing a real book”!    While I think it was hard to read the whole book, especially the parts about her brother's end, I know she cherished the fact that Elwood's memory was being kept alive and now shared with the world.  And when Loraine had a book signing right after the release, she invited Jeanne, featured prominently in the book in her own right, to the signing, where she was a more popular draw than even the author, and where she signed copies the book as “Fatty”, the nickname given to her by her brother while she was pregnant.

She was a cool lady.  And she will be missed.  So thanks for being part of our lives, Jeanne, and sharing everything that you shared with us over the years.  The world won't be the same without you.


FRIDAY, 8/21:

Because I'm hoping to sneak in one last half day today, I'm gonna re-purpose something I wrote for our upcoming trip blog.  It'll probably actually be new to most (if not all) of you, so I don't feel TOO guilty about doing it.  A little guilty...sure.

But not too guilty.

Have a great weekend...and I hope YOU get to enjoy the sun a little yourself!



Another year, another adventure.  But at least this time, we’re not going alone!

As you can tell by the latest title of the blog page Loraine and I are heading back to Germany this year.  This time, though, it’ll be a little different.  It won’t be a research trip so much as it’ll be a vacation, and we’re bringing a cast of characters along with us, a cast where you’ve already met some of the members and a cast where other members come from a galaxy far, far away.

Well, kinda.

This is a trip that we’re taking with both sets of our parents, a trip very similar to the one we undertook way back in 2006 (before, apparently, trip blogging was invented).  We’re going all throughout Southern Germany, Bavaria, and even into Austria, all in the capable hands of Tony the Tour Guide.

Big round of applause for Tony who, if you remember the last time we were in Germany, had to translate for Loraine during a news conference with the mayor of Weissenfels.  I don’t think he’ll have to worry about that this time.

Anyway, aside from Tony, here’s your cast of characters, in a picture from that trip nine years ago—

You know Loraine, and you know me.  Next to me are my parents, Chicky-Poo and Dar (or, to those of you slightly more respectful than their oldest child, Chick & Darlene).  They’re both retired after a career running several successful auto repair facilities.  My mom has taken up water coloring check out her work HERE, while my dad does whatever my mom tells him to do.  Oh, and he’s a monster at pickle ball, too.  Then on the far right-hand side of the picture are Loraine’s parents, Betsy & Floyd, who live downstate in a little place called Reese (sadly, not the home of the world famous peanut butter cup).  They do a lot of traveling themselves; in fact, once we’re done with our trip in Germany they’re staying on to take a cruise through the Adriatic Sea.

So watch out, Zagreb!

Like I said, we’re also taking along two passengers from a galaxy far, far away.  You may recognize them in their plastic form—

But they’re representing two members of Loraine’s family who’ve been going through some tough times recently.  Boba Fett is the stand in for Loraine’s nephew Jeremy, a “Star Wars” fanatic who’s been waging a very good fight against a form of childhood leukemia the past year and a half.  And Chewy?  Well, he’s a stand-in for Loraine’s brother Joe, who unexpectedly lost his wife at the end of May.  We figure that both of them deserve the chance to get away and deal with something other than the things with which they’ve been dealing, so we’ll be taking pictures of their stand-ins at some of the places we visit.

And where will we be visiting this time around?  Well, the first part of the trip consists of seeing places we’ve never been before, and the second part going to places we’ve enjoyed in the past and now want to share with our parents (and Boba Fett and Chewy).  We’ll start by flying into Frankfurt, where we’ll then spend the first few days of the trip tooling around the Black Forest, staying in places like Heidelberg and Tubingen.  We’ll follow that up by driving through the Alps, seeing a few castles and a whole lot of mountains.  We’ll then zig in to Austria, spending a day in Zell-am-See, before zagging back into Germany for a few days in this place—

This, of course, is Berchtesgaden, home of amazing views, wonderful places to hike, the greatest Rewe store on the face of the Earth, and, well, Adolph Hitler’s summer getaway.  But we won’t hold that against the place; after all, it’s become a large part of the tourist trade there.  From Berchtesgaden we spend a day in Seebruck, which is on this lake—

Lake Chiemsee, also known as “The Bavarian Sea”, before heading to Munich for a day or two in, among other places, The Englischer Garten. 

All this is before we and my parents fly back to the U.S., Loraine’s parents prepare for their invasion of Croatia and Bosnia, and Tony tries to recover from everything we’re bound to put him through.

Why are we going this time?  Well, it’s Germany.  It’s a chance to travel with Tony again.  And it’s a chance to not only spend a lot of quality time with our parents, but to also show them some of our favorite places over there.  And who knows—in the places we haven’t been yet, maybe we’ll discover a few new favorites!

The adventure starts September 2nd, so if you haven’t yet, make sure your virtual passport is up to date and ready to go.  Because, after all, time (and tooling around Germany) waits for no one!


They're flowers.  Can't you just leave them alone?

When Loraine & I were out Sunday taking the pictures that graced this blog yesterday, we were shooting a few outside of a home on Fourth Street in Marquette.  While shooting, the lady who owns the home came out, and thanked us for just taking pictures of the flowers.  Why?  Well, because a few people who've walked by don't take pictures of the flowers.

They take the flowers themselves.

I don't know why she came out to talk to us.  I don't know if she wanted to keep an eye on us to make sure we weren't stealing her flowers, or if she honestly wanted to thank us for photographing them.  But what I do know is that the activity at her home is just one in a string of pieces of flower “vandalism”, for lack of a better word, that's been spreading across Marquette this year.  From the doofus who destroyed Phil's flowers in the downtown Pocket Park to the people who were caught digging up entire plants in front of the condos across from Lower Harbor Park, it seems like no plant in Marquette is 100% safe these days.

And that's just not right.

After hearing this latest story of vandalism, Loraine was reminded of a comment a Marquette cop once made on an episode of “Campus PD”, something along the lines of “if it's not chained down someone's gonna take it”.  And while the officer was referring a drunk college student walking away with a  traffic cone, he spoke the truth.  My landlords have had to (literally) chain down the patio furniture on their front porch, lest someone walk away with it.  A few years ago I had an ex-neighbor give me a call to tell me that someone had walked off with an 8-foot long, 100 pound plaster panther that was on her front porch.  And, of course, it seems like if you have a flower bed in your front yard, you may wake up one morning to find it gone, with whoever took the plants just leaving a big hole in the dirt as a “thank you”.

I don't wanna go on in here once again about respecting other people and their property; I've done it enough in the past that if I do it again I might be veering a little too close to Cranky Old Man ™  territory.  But if anyone who's ever stolen something from someone's yard or is thinking of stealing something from someone's yard is reading this—which I highly doubt, because you guys are WAY too nice to do anything like that—just think of it this way.  How would YOU act if someone took something from YOUR yard?

Then don't do it.

Okay; I'm off my soapbox for today.  And since the lady who spoke with us was nice enough to allow us to take pictures of her flowers (a great display, by the way), the least I can do is show you a picture from it!



Two weeks until we leave for Germany!

That, however, is neither here nor there today.  Nope; today, we take care of the request from daily blog reader Linda in Marquette, who last week wondered why I hadn’t posted many flower pictures in here so far this summer.  As I explained to Linda last week, it was because I hadn’t actually taken many flower pictures so far this summer.  I did, however, promise that if it was nice out this past weekend that I’d try to snap a few.

And Linda (and everyone else), just for you, Loraine and I forced ourselves to head out in the sun on Sunday to take those pictures, Loraine scouting the flowers and me taking the pictures.

Don’t worry; it wasn’t too much of a sacrifice on our part.  Really, it wasn’t!


One thing I really noticed while shooting the flowers, though, backed up an observation I think I made last week.  The weather this summer, cold & wet, then hot & dry, then cold & wet again, seems to have wrecked havoc on many people’s flower beds.  Everywhere we went we saw dead or dying flowers, pedals falling to the ground way too early, or leaves & stems drooping under the weight of the weird weather.

For the most part, it was not a pretty sight.  However, the other part of the most part WAS quite a pretty sight, so for everyone who asked, here you go!

I especially like the bee on the last one.  Like I said, while we couldn’t find as many flowers as usual, we tried our best.  And I do have to thank Loraine for getting into the spirit of it.  She doesn’t like hot weather nearly as much as I do, but she was a trooper in walking up & down the streets of Marquette, looking for nice flowers.  Just how hot was it?

THAT’S how hot it was!


(ps—if you’d like to see larger size versions of these pictures, I put them (and a few more) up on a Facebook photo album.  Just click HERE and you should be able to check them out, whether you’re my Facebook friend or not.  And if you’re not...

Was it something I said??  8-))

(pps—Tomorrow, something we discovered while shooting these flowers.  And it’s not a good something at all.)

(ppps—I apologize for all of these PSs in the past few blogs.  I don’t know what’s gotten into me!)

TUESDAY, 8/18:

Oh well.  I guess we’ll just call it an experiment that failed.

Those of you who’ve been reading this even occasionally the past few years know that I like to take my vacation a half day at a time, on days when it’s nice & sunny & warm.  But because May was so cold this year, and because June was filled with unexpected events like having to go downstate for a funeral, I’ve been forced to use up my vacation during the 10-week span between the Fourth of July and this week.  And in order to fit things in, I had to go against my usual habit and schedule full vacation days ahead of time, ostensibly to give myself a few three-day weekends, but without knowing what the weather was like.

And that’s where I failed.

Well, I shouldn’t say that I failed, so much as Mother Nature failed me.  There’s a reason I usually wait until a day or two beforehand before choosing when to take time off, and that’s because more than a day or two beforehand you don’t know what the weather’s gonna be like.  Scheduling vacation days a week or a month or even months ahead of time means you’re at the mercy of whatever happens.  And in my case, three of the four Mondays I took off were cloudy, rainy, cool, foggy, and/or any combination thereof.

Not exactly ideal vacation weather, at least for me.

Oh sure, I enjoyed having a couple of three day weekends.  Those are always nice.  But to take days off during the summer and not be able to play outside in the sun...well, that just doesn’t seem right.  It probably says something about me and my strange psyche, but part of my brain thinks that taking a day off when the weather’s yucky is just as bad as being at work.  Of course, the other part of my brain is telling that part to shut up and enjoy the time away from the station, but the first part of my brain keeps looking out the window, wondering if the sky will ever clear.

Sometimes, it’s not easy being me.  Really, it isn’t.

Now, though, that’s pretty much over.  Aside from (perhaps) one more half day, a half day that hopefully will appear when the sun is out and the heat is plentiful, I now have to hunker down and get ready for a couple of things—high school sports season on our ESPN station, and making sure everything is ready to go when WE go to Germany in 15 days.

Those days when we’re in Germany are also vacation days that I scheduled ahead of time.  Only, in that case, I won’t consider them a failed matter what the weather is like.  But I don’t think I have to worry about that too much.  Germany’s been a lot warmer and a lot sunnier than usual this summer, and it looks like it could stay that way while we’re there.  Who know...maybe it’s Mother Nature’s way of making it up to me for the Mondays I’ve taken off here!


(p.s.—good news from my sister Melanie.  After almost a week of being away from home, her cat Magoo, the one I wrote about last week, returned home in the middle of the night Sunday night.  They’re now one big happy family again!)

(pps—for daily blog reader Linda in Marquette and everyone else wondering if I did take a few flower pictures over the weekend, guess what?  You’ll see them tomorrow!)

FRIDAY, 8/14:

Today, the weird restaurant story.

We took Loraine's sister Melanie to one of our favorite restaurants last night, one of the “107 Things to Love About Marquette County”, Sol Azteca.  The food is great, the people are great, the view is unparalleled, and we have a soft spot in our hearts for it, if only because Loraine & I were the restaurant's first ever paying customers.

No, seriously.  We were.  They took our picture and had us sign a dollar bill and everything!

Obviously, we've been there a lot.  We've been there as a couple, we've been there with friends, we've been there with people from out of town...basically, we've been there a lot.  And in all the times we've eaten at Sol Azteca, and that's probably in the dozens, one weird thing has occurred.

We have never seen anyone we know there.

I'm not kidding.  Between me and Loraine, we know a lot of people, especially if you count the nodding “hey, I know you from somewhere, right?” type of acquaintances you make if you're in the public eye.  So it's not like we're hermits; we DO know a lot of people.  Yet every time we've been in Sol Azteca, when we look around, every single face is unfamiliar.

Go figure.

And it's not just us.  We've been there multiple times with my friend Deanna who, I swear, knows everyone who's ever lived in Marquette.  Yet even she will look around and comment that she doesn't recognize a soul (excepting, of course, us).  And if SHE has gone in there without seeing someone; well, then, I don't feel so bad.

But it's still weird.

Now that I've written about it, of course, we'll be bombarded with friendly faces the next time we're in there.  And that's okay; much like the string of cold & wet Tuesdays we've been having this summer, it's just one of those strange things I notice.  It doesn't mean anything in the scheme of things, and it's probably just a very long string of coincidences, but still it struck me a weird.

Who knew, right?


I'm taking another long weekend, so there won't be anything new here Monday.  Back Tuesday with more; hope you're able to make the most of out what, at least here in Marquette, promises to be a warm summer weekend!



Here's your Jim & Loraine Fun Fact ™ for today—we both have sisters named Melanie. 

Okay, it's not THAT much of a Fun Fact ™ so much as it's an interesting coincidence.  And it's also an interesting coincidence that we're dealing with them in different ways this week.  I've written about my sister Melanie in here many times before, whether it's about her going back to college after raising her daughters, or about those very same daughters and their occasionally exasperated mom.  Well, my sister's household also consists of a bunch of cats, and, sad to say, one of them is missing.

Here's Magoo--

Magoo seems to have slipped out of my sister's house on the west side of Marquette a couple of days ago, and hasn't yet been found.   Posters have been put out, Facebook posts have been shared, and the Lost Pet Network has been utilized, but as of this writing, no luck yet.  So if you'd send a few good thoughts the way of my sister, her kids, and her cats, I'm sure they appreciate them.

That's one Melanie.  The other Melanie, Loraine's sister, is up visiting for a couple of days, taking some much deserved time off from the job she loves so much (and it's a pity sarcasm doesn't travel through the written word very well).  She'll be up for a few days to see the sights, and spend some time with her husband.

Even though she's never been married.

Okay; let me explain.  When we were downstate for the funeral of Loraine's sister-in-law a couple of months ago Melanie and I were sitting near each other in the funeral home while she talking with someone who'd shown up to share their regrets.  This someone, a friend of Loraine's brother Joe, knew that one of Joe's sisters was married to a guy from Marquette.  When she found out that I was from Marquette and sitting near one of Joe's sisters, she just assumed that we—Melanie and I--were married.  We did eventually set her straight (and I took it as a compliment that she thought I was young enough to be married to someone who's almost 20 younger than I am), and still laugh about it.  And that's why Loraine's never-married sister is up here to, among other things, see her “husband”.

Tomorrow, the story of a local restaurant to which we're taking Loraine's sister, and the very weird thing we've noticed about it.



Going there and coming back are two entirely different things.

Three weeks from today Loraine, my parents, and I will leave for our little getaway in Germany, meeting her parents and Tony the Tour Guide in Frankfurt for a week and a half of fun.  We're looking forward to it, they're looking forward to it, and it should be a grand time all around.

Of course, to get to Europe and back you have to fly.  You, in fact, have to do a LOT of flying.  And as I've been getting ready to go I've come to realize that the flight there is a whole lot different than the flight back.  And here's why.

On the flight over, you're excited.  You're full of adrenaline.  You're ready to start a new adventure.  And because it's an overnight trip, you try to sleep a little.  It doesn't always work, but even if you lay there for a few hours with your eyes closed, that's most of the flight over.

But on the way back, not so much.  Your trip's over, and you just want the flight to go as quickly as possible.  But because of the way the schedule goes, it's a daytime flight.  You can try to sleep, but it really doesn't work.  It's just one very long flight in the middle of one very long day with several flight.  This year, for instance, we'll leave London around 11am and get into Chicago at 2pm, which makes it an 8-hour flight.  This is AFTER flying from Munich to London, and before we fly from Chicago to Marquette.

See?  Not quite as exciting as flying into Frankfurt to start a new adventure, is it?

Over the years, I've developed a system to try & get me through the long flight to the U.S.  You know how you have to pack a lot of toys for kids on a car trip?  Well, for the flight home, I basically do the same for myself.  I always take the newest Vanity Fair magazine and save it for the flight home.  I get a bunch of logic puzzles from a great website so I can do them during the flight (and this year, I even remembered the answers for them, too, unlike (ahem) last year).  I also stick a couple of 5-part episodes of the old radio show “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar” into my iPod.  All that is shoved into my backpack before we leave, and isn't touched until our flight home is in the air.  Between all that, a few meals, whatever magazines the airline has in the seat, getting up to stretch a few times, and (assuming the person in front of me doesn't lower their
seat) writing the final blog of the trip, I can usually make it through a loooooong day.

Of course, then once we're in Chicago (and through Customs) we have five hours to kill before our flight to Marquette, but at least you can wander around an airport and kill a little time that way.

However, I'd prefer not to think of the flight home just yet.  I'm ready for it and my backpack is packed for it; I'd just rather not think about it yet.  That's a month and a day away.  It's the flight over that's the important thing right now, and that's a mere three weeks from today!


TUESDAY, 8/11:

Ask, and ye shall receive.

I received a note from daily blog reader Linda in Marquette, who noted that I haven't done something  that I usually do every year.  Says Linda--

“Hey Jim:  How come you haven't put up your annual album of flower pictures yet?  I always look forward to seeing what you come up with”.

First of all, thanks for the note Linda.  As always, I enjoy hearing from each and every one of you, so keep those e-mails coming!  Second of all, looking back I notice that I really haven't taken that many pictures of flowers this summer.  In all honesty, I don''t think I've taken many pictures at all, flowers or not, this summer, which is something I really do need to rectify.  And third, and perhaps most importantly--

You guys aren't sick of flower pictures yet?


Well, Linda, while I haven't shot a lot of flower pictures (yet) this summer, I hope these make up for that fact.  There are only three, because (believe it or not) I think that's all I've taken this year.  Yes, me, who usually takes hundreds too many pictures of flowers during any one year, has only taken three non-lilac flower pictures this summer.   But what I lack in quantity...

I've noticed that purple seems to be a dominant color in flowers in Marquette this year, for whatever reason.  If nothing else, these (few) pictures seem to back that up.

There you go, Linda...sorry I haven't gotten to them yet this year, and sorry there are so few of them.  I tell ya what—if the forecast holds and it's really nice out this weekend, I'll grab a camera and shoot a few more.  After all, I can't be a flower-slacker, can I?


MONDAY, 8/10:

Well, I guess I'm gonna do it again.

I had an uneventful weekend; aside from watching hundreds of mountain bike riders come across the finish line at the Ore To Shore covered in mud, I just chilled and complained a little about the clouds.  So, I guess, it was a typical weekend in that respect.

However, two things occurred that were anything but typical, the first being that I signed a couple of papers guaranteeing that I'll once again be the host of “High School Bowl” on Public TV 13.  I mean, there was never any question about the matter—I want to do it, and the station, amazingly, wanted me back—but until the “I”s are crossed and the “T”s are dotted it's not official.

Well, I can now say that it's official.  Taping starts at the end of September, and the first new show airs at the beginning of November.  So you have until then to break your TV!


The other thing that was anything but typical?  Well, just one of those dinner table conversation between me and my (much) better half.  Unlike me, Loraine grew up exposed to classic country music.  She's a Top 40/rock girl through and through, but she does know a little about old country music.  She told me about a song from the early 70s with one of those stereotypical early 70s song names, and, of course, me being me, I got it all wrong, so much so that I was walking around our apartment convinced that the name of the song was this--

“You Ain't Women Enough To Be My Man”.

Now, you'd think that I'd be intelligent enough to realize that my version of the song title doesn't make a lot of sense; at least, it wouldn't have mad a lot of sense when the song came out in the early 70s.  But no...I just wandered throughout the house repeating the title over and over, driving my dear wife insane to the point that she had to pull a reference book out to show me that the title of the song is NOT “You Ain't Women Enough To Be My Man” but is instead what she told me it was originally--

“You Ain't Women Enough To Steal My Man”

Well, that's pretty much the same, isn't it?

I have no idea why I heard it as “You Ain't Women Enough To Be My Man”; of course, I have no idea why I hear half the things I hear and think half the things I think.  And in my (pitiful) defense, I don't know much (if anything) about country music from the early 70s.  The song title probably COULD'VE been “You Ain't Women Enough To Be My Man”.  It's almost as good as something along the lines of “You Don't Have a License (To Drive Me Up The Wall)”.  But, as often happens, I was mistaken.  I was highly mistaken.  Fortunately, I have Loraine around to set me straight.

Even if I do think that “You Ain't Women Enough To Be My Man” would be a pretty good country music song title.


So with apologies to Loretta Lynn and to my dear wife, here's the song in its original form and with its correct title, if you're curious--

Hopefully, one of these days I'll actually get something like this right!


FRIDAY, 8/7:

I wonder how many names I'll butcher tomorrow?

That's a thought that always pops into my head anytime Finish-Line Announcer Jim makes an appearance, as he will tomorrow at the Ore-To-Shore.  I mean, there are people coming across the line all the time, usually in groups of three or four.  Their names pop up on a computer screen and then are replaced by names from new people coming across the line right after the first group.  That only gives me a second or two look at the name, decide how I'm gonna pronounce it, and then spit it out.

So to whomever gets their name mispronounced tomorrow, I apologize in advance.  I really do!

Actually, after 15 years of finish line announcing at both the Noque and the O2S, I feel fairly confident that I'll get many more names correct than I'll screw up.  Practice, after all, does help, and I've had plenty of practice over the years.  But I think I've also had good training in the matter in another way.  After all, I used to host a telethon on TV, a telethon where I'd have to read pledges from people throughout the U.P.  And if you can correctly read names from throughout the U.P., I'm guessing you can read names from anywhere in the world.

So wish me luck!

If you have the chance, you should make sure you get to one of the mass starts for the race tomorrow in Negaunee.  They're like nothing you've ever seen; each has over 1,000 riders getting their race underway at the sound of a gun and a trumpet.  It takes over five minutes for all of them to go by, and it's just an amazing sight.  The Soft Race race (with, ahem, a dork announcing the start) begins at 9 at Lakeview School, while the Hard Rock gets underway at 945 in downtown Negaunee.

Trust me—you won't be disappointed!

And with that, I have to head to work to put together a couple of CDs of music to play during the festivities.  Have yourself a great weekend, and like I said, if you have the chance, check out part of the race!



Wow. It really is the end of an era.

Over the past few years I have made it a point to record & watch part or all of four TV “talk” shows. There were days when I would watch the first two or three minutes of the program, and there were days when I watched the whole show. But after tonight, I guess I won't have to worry about that any more.

The four shows were “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson”, “Late Night with David Letterman”, “Olbermann” and “The Daily Show”. Ferguson went off the air in December, Letterman in May, Olbermann last month, and now tonight is Jon Stewart's final “Daily Show”. Every single “talk” show in which I've been a fan over the past decade has now, over the span of eight months, disappeared.

In a strange way, I'm thinking Jimmy Fallon is glad I've never watched his version of “The Tonight Show”!

Actually, I'm pretty sure I had nothing to do with the shows going off the air. I'm pretty sure that Ferguson, Letterman, and Stewart didn't get together and decide to retire just because I was a fan, nor do I think that ESPN decided to not renew Olbermann's contract just to get back at me for not watching anything other ESPN show. Nope; it's just one of those weird coincidences...four really smart shows all going off the air with a year of each other.

Oh well.

I guess the thing that I'm missing (or will miss) about the shows is that they took for granted you knew something. Watching them required that you read something other than People magazine or had twice daily visits to TMZ. With Stewart, it required a knowledge of politics to get all the jokes; with Olbermann, it was old-time football, while with Ferguson you had to know everything from obscure 18th century literature to “Foyle's War” (a great British TV show of the past decade). Most talk shows are mindless, and while all of my favorites have been from time to time, they more often than not assumed that you'd done a little intellectual heavy lifting.

And now, they're all gone.

But that's the nature of life, right? Things change, time marches on, and the world into which we enter is a whole lot different than the world we eventually leave. So thank you, Jon Stewart, for being a part of the nature of my life for 16 years. As with the others, it won't be the same without you on my DVR every night.



I have come across two very strange facts, facts that don't necessarily make any sense, at least when you look at them together.  Here they are--

90 percent of people say that reclining seats should be banned on airplanes because of the discomfort they cause when someone in front of you slams their seat into your knees.  Yet 70 percent of people say they recline their seats.


I’m certainly in the 90%.  I’ve certainly complained enough about the morons who sit in front of me and then, with no warning, slam their seat back into my knees, causing me much wincing in pain and causing everything that may have been on my tray table to go flying (including, once the very laptop upon which I’m writing this).  Because of the discomfort it causes other people I’m fully in favor of banning reclining seats.  And that’s why I never recline a seat in which I’m sitting.

Unlike, apparently, 70 percent of people who fly.

I don’t get the disconnect.  I don’t get how 90 percent of people can be in favor of something 70 percent of them actually do.  I’ve never claimed to know much about math, and I’m sure some old high school teachers of mine can back that up, but even I know that 90 percent doesn’t go into 70 percent in any sane, rational way.

But then, we ARE talking about air travel, and when have the words ‘sane” and “rational” ever been used to describe modern air travel?

Another number the survey tossed out was that 33 percent of air travelers said someone’s reclined seat caused them major physical discomfort during a flight.  I’m certainly in that 33 percent, and that’s why I will never recline my seat during a flight.  I don’t want to cause someone else to be uncomfortable.  I mean, I know what it’s like when someone does it to me.  Why would I want to do it to someone else?  And that meshes pretty closely with the 30 percent of people who say they don’t recline their seats.  So why do 90 percent of air travelers think it should be banned?

Once again, I don’t get it.

This is also another one of those areas in which I prove that I’m not really a man, despite what my DNA seems to think.  Almost all of the people who say they don’t recline their seats are women; men, on the other hand, have no compunction about whamming a piece of hard plastic into someone else’s very soft knee.  And after having devoted a (very small) amount of time in thinking back on the matter, I believe almost every occasion on which I’ve been inconvenienced by a reclining seat back it’s been by a guy.  Not every time, but a large majority of the times.  Men. . .what are you gonna do with them?

I don’t pretend to have a solution to all of this, except for airlines to give everyone enough legroom to safely lower seat backs, and we all know THAT’S never gonna happen.  I just found it interesting that 90 percent of people are in favor of banning a problem that 70 percent of them contribute to.  To paraphrase a great philosopher, humans are on occasion, illogical, this being one of those occasions, I guess.



Never in a million years did I think I would find 600 years of history.

I was doing some research online over the weekend for an ongoing project of mine when I took a little detour. I don’t quite remember how I became detoured, I just know that I was. And once I was on the detour I realized it was something kinda special, and just kept clicking on links, and clicking on links, and clicking on links.

This is what I found.

In 1440, a guy named Thomas Bosworth was born in Cottesbrooke, England. He had a son named Robert in 1470. Robert had a son named William, born in 1500 in Leicestershire, England. William had a son named John, born in 1530. John had a son named Edward, born in 1565. Edward had a son, also named Edward and also born in Leicestershire, born in 1589. Edward had a son named Jonathon, born in 1613, who went to a strange land called “America” and ended up in the Plymouth Colony.

Yes, THAT Plymouth Colony.

Jonathon had a son also named Jonathon, who was born in the Plymouth Colony in 1636. Jonathon Jr. had a son named Ichabod, born in Swansea, Massachusetts in 1676. Ichabod had a son named Henry, born in 1710. Henry had a daughter named Sarah, born in 1746. Sarah married a guy named Daniel Jones, and they had a son they named Daniel, born in New Milford, Connecticut, in 1769.

I realize this story is getting biblical in its naming of names. But hang in there.

Daniel Jones had a son named Cyrus, born in Plattsburg, New York, in 1802. Daniel and his wife Phoebe had a daughter named Helen, who was born in 1829. Helen married a guy named Augustus Niles, and they moved to Michigan, where they had a son named Arthur, born in 1855. Arthur had a son named Lew, born in 1884. Lew had a daughter named Dorothy, born in 1915. Dorothy had a daughter named Darlene, who married a guy named Chick, who had a son named Jim.

You That Jim.

Somehow I managed to stumble onto an almost 600-year history of one branch of my family tree. Lew Niles was my great-grandfather, a piano tuner who died when I was barely out of diapers. While in Park Cemetery a few days ago I wandered past his grave and noticed that there are two other Niles buried near him. That’s what I was looking for on my “detour” Sunday; trying to find out if I was related to those two Niles buried near my great-grandfather.

I had no idea I’d be going all the way back to my (deep breath here) great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather in the process.

Aside from the names, of course, I know nothing about the people who kept popping up on the site I found, a list that had been put together by a descendant of the Bosworth family. I think the fact that this branch of the family tree came from England was lucky; after all, I haven’t come across much about the German or Irish or Swedish or Finnish or any of the other nationalities that went into make me. Also lucky was the fact that someone had gone through all kinds of work to find this out, and had then stuck it on a site that allowed you to keep clicking on links without asking you to sign up and pay a king’s ransom to find out if you are, indeed, related to a king.

The fact that I had a relative born at Plymouth Colony? Just a bonus. A cool bonus, but a bonus nonetheless.

So the next time you’re doing something on the web, and all of a sudden find yourself taking a little detour you didn’t plan to take, you know what? Follow it for a link or two. After all, you never where—or when—you’ll end up!


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