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In Jim's Daily Opinion 11/25/2014

TUESDAY, 11/25:

It’s beginning to look a lot like, uhm, catalog season!

I don’t know how many trees around the planet are killed on a yearly basis to feed the appetite of companies that send out catalogs, but if the plethora of them in my mailbox recently is any indication, I would have to guess that number is somewhat bigger than 2 dozen and someone smaller than 17 billion.  Any number in between those two wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

Now I know the holidaze are coming up, and I know it’s the time of the year when companies send out a bunch of catalogs to anyone they can find on a mailing list, but if everyone receives the same number of them as have I, the US Postal Service has a lot of explaining to do on how they lost 5 billion bucks last year.  Since the beginning of November, 23 different catalogs have graced the Koski mailbox.  They’ve ranged from companies I’ve purchased things from before to companies I’ve never heard of; they range from products like food and books and toys to somewhat bizarre items like crystals for your aura or toys for your relationship, all often in the very same catalog.

It’s been quite the blast looking through them...trust me on that!

Therein lies a bit of a problem, as well.  For some strange reason, I’ve been trying to look through each catalog I’ve received.  I’ve been trying to get through at least one of them a day, but seeing as how we sometimes receive 3 or 4 in a day, the stack is starting to grow to alarming proportions.  It’s growing so fast, in fact, that if you don’t hear me on the air one afternoon in the near future, send someone to my apartment.  Odds are that the stack has fallen over, I was (unfortunately) nearby, and the sheer weight of the catalogs trapped me underneath, depriving me of everything you need to live; namely, water and dark chocolate.

Oh, by the way?  I’ve received catalogs featuring both fine bottled waters and fine European dark chocolates, if anyone was curious.

Hopefully, you’ve been enjoying your plethora of catalogs just as much as I have.  Just don’t think of the trees that apparently died for our reading pleasure!!

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 11/24:

Really, brain?  You chose “Throwing It All Away” out of all those songs you heard?

One of the things I did over the weekend was to watch a documentary that's been sitting in my DVR for a couple of months now.  The movie, which dealt with the history of the group Genesis, was called “The Sum of the Parts”.  It was actually quite good; all surviving members of the group, including Peter Gabriel, got together to talk about the early days, the fame, the break-ups, the relationships that caused the breakups, and the music.  It also featured a bunch of knowledgeable talking heads, including my new girlfriend, Kate Mossman, who's the arts editor of the New Standard magazine.  In between all the talk, clips of just about every song Genesis ever recorded were played, which is why I'm dismayed that “Throwing It All Away” is the one song—out of dozens I heard—that decided to lodge itself into my brain.

I mean...really?

Now, I don't have anything against “Throwing It All Away”.  It's a fine song, one of six top ten singles from “Invisible Touch”.  But it's not my favorite Genesis song; in fact, it's probably not even in the top 20 of my favorite Genesis songs.  So why is THAT the song that stuck in my brain?

I wish I knew.

I think I've written in here before about how my brain seems susceptible to the weirdest of songs.  I can be walking down the street and, for no reason at all, something like “Turning Japanese” pops into my mind and stays squatting there, no matter what I do.  And there was also that incident a couple of years ago when David Naughton's “Makin' It” was stuck in my brain for three straight days, including during an interview with Governor Snyder.  I don't know why it happens; it just does.

One of the joys of me being me, I guess.

So I guess I shouldn't be surprised that “Throwing It All Away” was the song I took away from the documentary.  I mean, sure...it's not “Abacab” or “Turn It On Again”, two songs that I would've loved to have stuck in my head, because they're my favorite by the group.  But as it turns out, my brain doesn't play favorites, which is why I've had “Throwing It All Away” on constant replay since Saturday.        I guess I'm just lucky that way.

Anyway, if you have the chance, check out the documentary.  It actually IS a good piece of work, and besides—I'd be curious to see which Genesis song then sticks in YOUR head!

No, that's okay.  You can thank me later...

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 11/21:

If you're not yet, you should go to Facebook and become a fan of the “Elwood's War/Elden's TRUE Army Tales” page.  Why?

Because you'd be giving Loraine a birthday present!

That's right; it's my favorite author's birthday today, and I know she would want nothing more than to spread the word about her latest endeavor.  It has hit stores (Snowbound, BookWorld, and Art U.P. Style in Marquette, among other places) in the past week, and her appearance schedule is filling up, as well, including a big presentation in Republic next month.  It's the place where Elden Gjers grew up and where, according to our joking estimates, every person who ever lived there is mentioned in one form or another in the book. 

So we should have a lot of fun with that!

I've probably mentioned this in here a thousand times before, but I'm gonna mention it again.  I am constantly in awe of Loraine; through the sheer force of her will, she has conjured up not one but two books, digging in every corner possible for stories, pictures, and themes to help bring to life the story of two young men who didn't get to live full lives.  Being her geeky sidekick, her chauffeur in Europe, and her loud voice when speaking with old people, I know how much work she put into each of those labors of love.  And I know that she'd appreciate another fan or two for Elden and Elwood.  So if you haven't yet, like the page on Facebook.

It'll probably be the easiest gift you give all year!

8-)

Not only is today Loraine's birthday, but it's also a big day for one of the two young men Loraine's written about.  One of the reasons she developed such an interest in Elwood Norr is that he died on November 21st, the same day on which Loraine was born, although several decades apart.  Well, today marks the 70th anniversary of his death in the skies over Weissenfels, Germany.  I'm sure the people in that city, who've come to know him through Loraine's work, are thinking of him today, and I certainly know that we're thinking of him as well.

So while it's a happy day in the Koski apartment, it's also a day of remembering, as well.

Now, on that note, before I head out to tape another “High School Bowl”, I do wanna, for what's probably the 100th time since last night, wish my sweetie a “Happy Birthday”.  I hope you enjoy your day off, I hope you enjoy what's left of your birthday pie, and I hope that you say “hey” to Elwood for me when go out and visit him.  Hopefully, the snow around his grave won't be too deep!

Lots of love from both Elwood and me...

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 11/20:

I guess it's the little things that mean the most.

I've had two examples of that the past few days, both of which delivered a little good news.  The first?

American Airlines finally came through.

Those of you who've read this at all the past few weeks may remember how I was charged a fee by American for not buying tickets on the airline's website despite the fact that the website wouldn't allow me to buy the tickets.  I had to buy them through one of their reservation agents, and was charged $70 for the phone call.  Well, after two weeks, a bunch of e-mails, and more hours on hold than I'd care to remember, American has said they'll refund that $70.

Thank you, American.  I appreciate it.

As it turns out, the fee was charged because the web support tech with whom I spoke was supposed to check a box on a computer screen when he sent me to the reservations specialist, indicating that I shouldn't be charged the fee.  It wasn't checked, and I was charged.  I understand that.  I'm not as understanding when it comes to wondering why it took two weeks to clear the situation up, but it's done, and that's the important thing.

Yay.

The second little thing?  Well, I have had a BUNCH of people come up to me, call me, or e-mail me, just to let me know that they know who George Gershwin was.

And that's a good thing.

This comes from the episode of “High School Bowl” that aired last Saturday.  There was a set of three questions that dealt with Gershwin, “Rhapsody in Blue”, and “I've Got Rhythm”, and none of the kids knew anything about the composer or two of his famous pieces of work.  In fact, no one in the audience did, either, which caused me to go in a tongue-in-cheek little rant about it before moving on to the next question.  And while the “rant” was something I forgot about soon as I did it, it sure seems to have made an impression on the people who were watching Saturday night.

I'm not surprised the kids didn't know the answer; even though I seem to write about George Gershwin once or twice a year in here, he apparently isn't that well known to contemporary audiences.  I'm not surprised; a little disappointed,  perhaps, but not surprised.  And the rant, like I said, was humorous, with me almost pleading with people watching to know what the right answer was.  I like Gershwin; I was just trying to spread the word about his work.

While it didn't work with the people in the studio, it does seem to have worked with the people watching on TV, and I'm happy to find that out.  I'm happy that people DO know about George Gershwin, and I'm happy to know that my little “rant” had its desired effect  Now, if something like this pops up again (and I'm sure it will) I know how to deal with it, right?

Like I said, it's sometimes the little things that mean the most.  And those two things are proof.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'm gonna go listen to “Rhapsody in Blue”.  I think I deserve it, right?

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 11/19:

Wow.  That one really struck a nerve.

Every Tuesday on the air we do this thing called our 'Tuesday Topic”, where we ask a question and, hopefully, get a few people to answer it.  We also post it on our station Facebook page, and I have to admit I was surprised when, no more than an hour after sticking it up there, we had a ton of responses. 

And almost all of them agreed with each other.

Here's the question as we asked it--”(D)o you think stores should be open for sales on Thanksgiving, or do you think they should give their workers the day off?”  I decided to ask that because, as I'm sure you know, “Black Friday” sales have, over the past few years, begun to creep into Thanksgiving Day itself.  And this year, there are a couple of chains who will be open the entirety of Thanksgiving Day, much to the chagrin of their workers.  Conversely, there are other chains who are actually advertising that they're closed on Turkey Day.

Hence, the question.

What really surprised me as how lopsided the responses were.  While I'm not very good at math (something we all know), I figure that 95% of the people who answered said that stores should stay closed.  A few said they appreciate them being open on the holiday (as one woman said, it's a “great excuse to get away from her nutjob family for a few hours”), but almost everyone thought that stores should be closed on Thanksgiving, if only to allow the people who work there to spend time with their own families (who, presumably, aren't nutjobs). 

Ninety-five percent.

Seeing as how I don't think 95% of people agree on anything these days, including if the sky is blue, I have to admit I'm stunned by the one-sidedness of the answers.  There are obviously some strong feelings about the subject out there, and it makes me wonder a little.  Now, admittedly, our responses don't in any way constitute a scientific survey or a valid sample size.  But if even two-thirds of people in a scientific survey were to answer that stores should stay closed, shouldn't the corporations that own stores take that into account?  If 67% or 95% of people say they shouldn't be open, should they actually be open?

Well, obviously, the corporations that own stores open them earlier and earlier for a reason.  They open their stores earlier and earlier because it's profitable for them to do so.  Even though a vast majority of people say they should be closed on Thanksgiving, enough people, perhaps even some who think they should be closed, head out and spend enough money to justify having those stores open for business.  It doesn't make sense; it's like people who vote to legalize something while at the same time voting for a candidate who's against what they just voted to legalize, but it happens.

It doesn't make sense, but it happens.

That's why stores open earlier and earlier for “Black Friday”--because no matter what people say, enough of them actually go out and spend money on Thanksgiving, turning the holiday into “Black Thursday” instead of “Black Friday”.  Of course, if things keep going the way they are, pretty soon “Black Friday” could morph into “Black  Wednesday “ or even “Black Tuesday”.

No matter what 95% of people think.

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 11/18:

Whaddya think?  Should I start shaving my legs?

Believe it or not, it's something I'm seriously considering.  You see, ever since our weather totally fell apart a month or so ago I've had to start wear socks that rise above my ankles, at least if I want to stay warm.  Normally, I'll just wear socks that go up to my ankle, but once it gets as cold as it's been recently, it's no fun having a draft shoot up your pants leg.  So I haul out my longer socks.

And that's when the scratching starts.

Like most men, I have some hair on my lower legs.  I”m not ape-like in the amount down there, but I do have hair there.  And the one thing I notice when I wear socks that go up past my ankle—like in the last month or so—is that when I take off the socks that go above my ankle, the hair on my lower legs itches.  In fact, it itches so much that I sit around for a few minute scratching every single millimeter of skin area that I can reach.

THAT'S how much my legs itch.

Don't worry; it's not like I'm allergic to socks or to whatever the socks are made of.  I know why my legs itch—they itch because the socks pushes the hair on my legs into my legs, and the hair is demanding to be set free.  THAT'S why my legs itch, and that's why I spend several minutes each day scratching the hair free.  Therefore, my dear wife—wise woman that she is—jokes (at least I think she's joking) that I should just shave my legs up to where my socks go, thereby relieving myself of any hair that would be made itchy by my wearing of socks.

Normally, I'd just laugh a suggestion like that off, but this year it may have some merit.  The fact that our temperatures dropped so far so fast in the past few weeks means that there wasn't a chance for my legs to get used to being bound up, and has meant there haven't been any days where I could actually go sock-free (or even just wear socks that go up to my ankles) and give the hair on my legs a chance to be, well, not itchy.  As a result, I've been scratching more than ever, and as a result, I've been giving serious consideration to getting rid of all that hair.

Yes, I know that shaving the hair on my lower legs means that I'd be trading one kind of itchy—in this case, from socks—for another kind of itchy when the hair starts to grow back.  But it is so bad right now that I'd seriously consider trading one kind of itchy for another.  Sure, I might regret it, but I'd seriously consider it.

So if we get an abnormally warm day in the next month, so warm that I can actually wear shorts outside, and you notice my legs look just a little different that they usually do, you'll know why.  I just couldn't take the itching and the scratching any more.

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY 11/17:

I’m gonna go full sci-fi nerd on you today, so if the phrase “full sci-fi nerd” has already caused your eyes to roll back in your head, you have my permission to skip today’s blog.

Just don’t forget to come back tomorrow.

Anyway, a couple of days ago I was watching the original “Star Wars” for probably the 200th time.  It wasn’t my fault; it was on one of the cable channels when I was flipping through, and, sadly, it hooked me in with its tractor beams just like the giant Imperial war cruiser does with Captain Antilles’ freighter at the beginning of the film.  By the time the film was almost over (and I had wasted yet another couple of hours of my life) Loraine came into the room and watched the final scene, the one where Leia gives Luke and Han their medals for helping destroy the Death Star.  It was then she brought up a very good point--

Why were Luke & Han getting medals from Princess Leia and Chewbacca was not?  Why did he have to stand off at the side during the ceremony without being honored for his contribution to destroying the Death Star?  After all, he was in the Millennium Falcon with Han when they destroyed the Tie fighters chasing Luke’s X-wing fighter.  If Han received a medal, shouldn’t Chewy have gotten one, as well?  After all, he was in just as much danger as Han.  Why didn’t he get a medal, as well????????

(And as an aside, how can you not love a woman who watches “Star Wars” and thinks of stuff like that?)

8-)

In my 200 (give or take a few) viewings of “Star Wars”, I had never thought about that point.  I mean, sure, I’ve noticed Chewy standing off to the side during the ceremony, but I guess I never thought about the fact that he wasn’t being awarded a medal.  During that scene I usually think of a couple of things--that Princess Leia’s hair no longer looks like cinnamon rolls glued to the side of her head, and that when George Lucas originally shot the movie in 1976, he sure was able to squeeze a LOT of production value out of the 9 million bucks the film cost, especially when you consider both the set they needed to build and the extras they needed to populate the set, all for just one 60 second scene at the end of the film.

Nowadays, you can’t even make a “Star Wars” movie trailer for 9 million bucks.

So until Loraine had pointed it out, I had never considered that Chewbacca was being denied a medal that he deserved to be awarded.  I can only hope that Disney, who now owns the film, follows in George Lucas’ footsteps and tinkers with the movie just a little, to in the future allow Chewy to be given the honor he so greatly deserves. Or that they give it to him retroactively in “Star Wars Chapter VII: The Force Awakens”, or whatever they're gonna call it.

There.  That’s my sci-fi nerd rant for today.  Tomorrow, back to reality.  And if you’re still reading this despite everything, thanks for hanging in there!!

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 11/14:

Because I have to go shoot a couple of “High School Bowl's" in a few minutes, and because it's been a couple of years since I last posted the poem, I am going to leave you with something I first wrote and performed on the air 15 years ago.

Wow.  A decade and a half?  Geez...

But nonetheless, it's appropriate for a day like today, a day to which I know many in Upper Michigan look forward to with breathless anticipation.  So on that note, have yourself a great weekend, good luck if you're going out, and if you're not, stay warm!!

(jim@wmqt.com)

******


“’Twas the Night Before Deer Camp”,
by Jimmy Koski, grade 3.

TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE DEER SEASON
AND ALL THROUGH THE CAMP
HUNTERS WERE UNLOADED BEER CRATES
AND LIGHTING UP LAMPS

THE RIFLES THEY HUNG
IN THE PICKUP WITH CARE
IN HOPES THAT A 10-POINTER
SOON WOULD BE THERE

I IN MY ORANGE
MY BUDDY IN GREEN
SAT DOWN TO A CRIBBAGE GAME
THE BIGGEST EVER SEEN

WE PLAYED THROUGH THE NIGHT
AND EMPTIED THOSE CRATES
BUT MORNING SOON CAME
WE DIDN’T WANT TO BE LATE

WE SET OUT AT SUNRISE
AT DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT
PUT DOWN A BIG BAIT PILE
IN HOPES THAT BAMBI WOULD BITE

WE SAT AND WE WAITED
AND WAITED SOME MORE
I KEPT MY EYES OPEN
MY BUDDY STARTED TO SNORE

WHEN TO MY SURPRISE
STANDING RIGHT BY A TREE
WAS A BIG 12-POINT BUCK
MY PANTS I  DID...WELL, NEVER MIND ABOUT THAT

I BROUGHT UP MY RIFLE
I LINED UP THE DEER
THEN MY BUDDY WOKE UP AND YELLED
“HEY--WHERE’S THE BEER?”

THE BUCK RAN AWAY
I LOWERED MY GUN
MY BUDDY JUST LAUGHED
SAID “LET’S HAVE SOME FUN”

WE WENT BACK TO DEER CAMP
AND HAD US A BALL
SO LET ME SAY THIS--
GOOD LUCK DEER HUNTING TO ALL...

(copyright 1999)

THURSDAY, 11/13:

A whole bunch of things today, the first being this--

One of the issues we discussed last week has finally been resolved—we have to wait no longer for Loraine's books.  They're in!  In fact, when I get done writing this, I have to brave US-41 out to Ishpeming (which I HOPE would be cleaned off by now) to pick up the first printing.  Like I mentioned almost two weeks ago, the waiting has been the hardest part.  Her first “due date”, as it were, was back on October 29th, which now seems like forever ago.  And now, a mere two weeks later, they're finally ready, and soon to appear at a bookstore/author signing/whatever else she has planned near you.

So that's one good thing that's done.

The news isn't so good on something else we've discussed, mainly whether or not American Airlines will refund the $70 they charged me to book tickets on the phone instead of online, even though their own tech support people tried over and over to buy the same tickets online and couldn't.  I first contacted their Customer Relations Department a week ago, and received assurances then that the “situation” was being looked into.  So far, though?  Nothing's been “resolved”.  I mean, c'mon.  How hard can it be?  Just say it was a stupid fee for you to charge and move on.

But so far, nothing.  I wasn't confident heading into the whole thing, and let's just say that I'm even less so now.

Sigh.

Finally (because I DO have to get going to pick up Loraine's book) there was one upside, I guess, to the 87 feet of snow we've received—cross country ski trails are being groomed!  That's right; groomers are out all around the area whipping trails into shape.  Whether to not they get to “mine”--the Fit Strip in Marquette—in time for me to ski this weekend is problematic, if only because it received a lot less snow that the Noque and Blueberry Ridge trails, and is also usually skied on by fewer people.  But if there has to be an upside to the snow (and there SHOULD be an upside to all that crap, right?)  it's that I'll get to ski soon.

And that's not even counting the interviews I did with downstate radio stations yesterday, describing how we're a hardy folk and how 3 feet of snow just makes us laugh.  Okay; I MAY have stretched the truth there just a little, but like I said—there does need to be an upside to all the snow, right?

With that, I'm off to Ishpeming!

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 11/12:

I'm jealous of my wife.

Loraine, like all of her co-workers, got to enjoy something yesterday that I haven't been able to do for a looooong time (just how long in a moment).  Yesterday, Loraine and her co-workers were given a snow day.  Technically, they were given half a snow day, as the bank at which she works closed up at noon, but because of the horrid weather and the inability of just about anyone to drive in it, Loraine was given that time off.

Good for her!

Actually, almost all of Marquette County had a snow day yesterday.  We were receiving calls almost every minute from one business or another closing up for the day, and I can't blame them.  I really don't remember such a ferocious storm, especially this early in the year.  It was horrid outside, and every business should have been closed, if only for the safety of their employees and their customers.

Of course, there's one type of business that can't close on such a horrid day, and that would be the one in which I work.  Like I said, we were getting a call a minute from other places shutting down for the day, and if we were shut down as well, who would tell everyone that every business (except ours) was closed?

I guess, if nothing else, it shows that we have a purpose in life, right?

8-)

And that brings me to the reason I'm jealous of Loraine.  She got to enjoy a snow day yesterday.  I had to do some serious thinking, and the last time I was able to enjoy a snow day was, if I remember correctly, on a day with a serious ice storm back when I was in college.

You know--last century.

I'm not complaining (okay, not complaining too much).  After all, I had an idea of what I was getting into, snow-day wise, when I decided to get into broadcasting.  I know that broadcasters work when no one else can, if only to make sure that people have all the information they need to get through whatever is happening at the moment.  And I usually don't give it a second thought.  But then every so often, when the (local) world shuts down, I realize that I don't get to shut down, as well.

That's just the life I chose, I guess.

Besides, there's a flip side to all of this.  You know how everyone else gets snow days?  Well, because I work in broadcasting, where snow days don't exist, I get to arrange it so I get something I've taken to calling “sun days”.  You know how everyone else goes home when the weather's really crappy?  Well, when the weather's really nice, and there aren't any cancellations to announce, I can give myself a “sun day”.  I can take a few hours to play on the beach, or enjoy the sun, or just relax.  Everyone else?  They have to work if it's nice out, like I have to when it's bad out.  Me?  I don't have to if I don't want to.

And in the end, even though I'm jealous of everyone else right now, that's a trade I wouldn't make for anything.  Work in the snow, and then take time off when it's warm & sunny?  Seems like a no-brainer to me!

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 11/11:

Okay, I'm not gonna say anything about the weather. 

ANYTHING.

I'm gonna keep my mouth shut.  After all, I'm sure you're feeling each and every single negative thought I'm feeling, and it would be a bit redundant for me to write about what you're thinking.  So instead, I'm gonna not think about the horrid weather at all.  Instead, I'm gonna gaze at these pictures and think warm thoughts--














The last picture is one that Loraine's actually using as the desktop picture on her new computer at home.  It's a picture I took when we were in Savannah earlier this year, and unlike me, she doesn't put her desktop pictures up for a vote.  She just wanted a picture that, as she put it, looked “warm”, and I guess that one does quite a bit.  Hopefully, in fact, ALL of these pictures look “warm”.

All I know is that they look much better than it looks out any Upper Michigan window right now, and that's the important thing.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go look for my boots.  I have a feeling that running shoes or dress shoes just aren't going to cut it today.  Or tomorrow.  Or any time for the next six months.

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 11/10:

I saw a squirrel look both ways before crossing the street this weekend.

No; I'm serious.  When I was out running errands yesterday I was heading down Front Street in Marquette.  When I got to the intersection of Front and Arch there was a big bushy gray squirrel in front of me getting ready to cross Front.  As soon as it got to the curb, it stopped, and I swear—I SWEAR—it looked both ways before running across the street and then climbing up a tree on the other side.

I swear.

Okay; I admit that there's the possibility that the squirrel wasn't looking both ways when it crossed the street.  I may have just noticed it twitching and then anthropomorphized the whole situation.  But it would also not surprise me if the squirrel DID look both ways; if nothing else, if would be a prime example of urban evolution, where an animal has to adapt to its human-created surroundings or die.  Think of it this way—only the squirrels that can cross a street without getting squished get to pass on their genes to the next generation of squirrels.

Maybe, then, it WAS looking both ways!

Of course, if the squirrel had evolved beyond other squirrels, perhaps it was because of the intersection it was trying to cross.  I've written in here quite often about the intersection of Front & Arch Streets in Marquette, an intersection with a four-way stop where you can see multiple cars ignore the four-way stop in any given hour.  Or, perhaps, maybe I should say you USED to be able to see multiple cars ignore the four-way stop in any given hour.  Over the past few months I've noticed a marked decrease in the number of cars that blow through the stop sign.

And that's a good thing.

Now, I don't know why drivers are all of a sudden stopping at the stop sign.  I mean, nothing's physically changed.  The sign didn't suddenly grow so people would see it better, nor were there extra lights placed to call attention to the sign.  I'm also smart enough to know that all the whining I did about the situation had little if any effect on people finally paying attention to the four-way stop.

Nope.  I'm actually wondering if it's just not another example of urban evolution. 

Think about it—if squirrels have to adapt or die, couldn't the same be said about careless drivers?  Maybe, just maybe, so many people blew through the stop signs and realized their mistake that they've now adapted to stopping at the intersections.  Or maybe so many people blew through the stop sign and, as a result, had a fender bender, that they have now adapted to stopping at the intersection. 

All I know is that there is a much smaller number of drivers who ignore the four-way stop at the corner of Front & Arch Streets in Marquette.  And who know—maybe urban evolution is the reason.  After all, it's helping squirrels look both ways before crossing the street, right?  So why wouldn't it work on humans, as well?

Okay.  I'll stop now...

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 11/7:

I’ve been banished to the back hallway.

No, I haven’t been a bad boy, and no, I haven’t picked up any kind of communicable disease.  Instead, I’m trying to be a good boy and trying to stay healthy, and what do I get for it?

I’ve been banished to the back hallway of the station.

Actually, I’m only banished to the back hallway a few days a week, and even then only for a couple of minutes.  And I hafta admit--it’s a self-banishment.  I’m the one who heads into the back hallway of work of my own according, because what I do during those few minutes a few days a week apparently grosses out several of my co-workers so much that I’ve taken pity on them and don’t want to gross them out any more.

The reason I’ve self-banished myself to the back hallway at work several times a week?  I eat tuna.

Go figure, right?  Here I am, eating one of the best foods around in an attempt to stay healthy.  Tuna’s low in fat, high in protein, and is full of those little Omega-3 acids that protect your heart from, well, bad things.  And yet because some people look past tuna’s many healthy properties and focus only on the fact that it smells like “tuna”, I’m stuck eating my tuna in the back hallway or out on the sidewalk, treated like I’m a nicotine fiend about to kill everyone with second-hand smoke instead of someone who’s causing no one harm to anyone (and, in fact, trying to stay healthy myself).

There’s something weird about that.  I just haven’t figured it out what it is yet.

The one irony I do find delicious in this situation is that the co-workers who are grossed out by the smell of my tuna are cat owners themselves, and I’m sure feed their cats dishes that smell very much like the tuna I’m trying to eat.  I’m sure they don’t complain when feeding their cats, but when I eat tuna?  Well, not so much.  And it’s not like the smell from tuna lingers in the air or anything.  You can smell it when I open the bag and when I spend a minute or two wolfing it down.  That’s it.  But since I don’t want to make my co-workers uncomfortable or gross them out any more than need be, I head to the back hallway (or outside) to eat the same food that causes the same smell when they feed their cats.

Ah, the things we do for our co-workers, right?

So if you ever happen to see me in the back hallway of the station, or see me next spring or summer standing outside of the station, holding a bag of tuna and a fork, you’ll know why.  It’s because I’m trying to stay healthy, and I’m apparently quite the considerate co-worker, as well.

8-)

On that note, have yourself a great weekend, and feel free to eat some tuna, if you want.  I won’t mind!!

(jim@wmqt.com)

(p.s.--still no word from American Airlines on that whole $70 charge for not using their website to book tickets when, in fact, their website wouldn't let me book the tickets.  I  (sarcasm alert) can't wait to see how that turns out .  And if you happen to watch “High School Bowl” tomorrow night, just let me say one thing in advance—I didn't mean to make her cry.  Really, I didn't!!)

THURSDAY, 11/6:

Well, I hope this turns out better than it started.

Loraine and I have already begun our preparations for our next jaunt to Europe, the trip we're taking to Germany with both sets of our parents.  I'm really looking forward to it; I get to spent time with my parents in a beautiful place, and I don't have to worry at all about driving, thanks to the presence of Tony the Tour Guide.

It'll be a lot of fun.  I'm really looking forward to it.

A couple of weeks ago we sat down to buy our tickets to Frankfurt, with a return trip from Munich.  While we were bummed that, because of American Airlines' merger with US Airways, we won't be able to spend part of a day playing in downtown Chicago, we were happy to know we'd get to Germany at 7 in the morning, which means that we have an extra half day to play with over there.  So that was the good part.

The bad part?  Well, that was when we actually tried to buy the tickets.

Every time we got to a certain page on American's website, the process would stop.  We'd get a weird error message, and would be sent back to the previous page.  Basically, we stuck in the internet version of a feedback loop, and there was nothing we could do about it.  So last Saturday, when we had a little time, I got on the phone with American's web support department, where they were just as confused as we were.  They had the same problems we did—they couldn't get past that page.  It wasn't just us; American couldn't buy tickets on their own website.  After trying many times, the people at web support realized they couldn't do anything about it, and they transferred us to American's reservations department, where we were able to buy the tickets in a flash.

Now, before I say anything else, I want to give credit to both the tech support and the reservations people with whom we spoke.  They were all helpful and courteous, and did their jobs with great professionalism  They were fantastic.

I checked my credit card bill yesterday, where I noticed that the tickets had finally shown up.  And along with the tickets, I noticed I had also been charged an extra $70 by American Airlines.  As it turns out, I was charged that $70 as a “fee” for booking our tickets over the phone, as opposed to doing it on their website.  This, of course, was despite the fact that I couldn't book the tickets on their website because, as their own web support team found out, THE WEBSITE DIDN'T WORK.

I'm getting charged $70 by American Airlines because they screwed up.  Is it any wonder customer service surveys constantly show airlines rank among least customer friendly and most annoying companies to deal with?

After discovering this I sent an e-mail off to American's Customer Service department, and received both an e-mail and a phone call saying they're looking into the situation.  I don't know how it's gonna turn out.  I know how it should turn out, but I don't know how it WILL turn out.  I hope that the customer service department is as helpful and courteous as their web support and reservations people were, and will recognize the absurdity of both the charge and the technical foul-up that led to the charge.  But I don't know.  I do know that airlines nickel & dime you to death with fees these days, and I can just see this being one of those situations, albeit taken to the extreme.

However, I shouldn't have to pay a $70 fee for something that was their fault.  I did nothing wrong; they did.  And I hope they realize that.

Keeping my fingers crossed...

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 11/5:

I can't believe it's that time of the year again.  I can't believe I have to start thinking about Christmas cookies.

It seems to me like I was just passing out all of the cookies I made last holiday season.  Of course, it also seems to me like I was just graduating from college, but seeing as how that was last century (whimper), it gives you a pretty good idea of how I handle the passing of time.  And since I've been so busy recently, and have had so many things I'm trying to keep up with, I figure I should probably get my butt in gear regarding this year's batch of cookies.

After all, I don't want to be passing them out next February or next March.  I have a feeling they wouldn't be appreciated quite the same as they would be in December.

As you may recall, Christmas cookies are the big holiday tradition in the small Koski apartment.  I always make five or six kinds, which we then pass out to family, friends, co-workers, and, in a tradition that's been going for a decade now, to several old neighbors.  Seeing as how I end up making four or five hundred cookies in total, and seeing as how I know there's no way Loraine and I want to eat them all ourselves, they get handed out for the holidays.

We might as well spread the caloric catastrophe out amongst as many people as possible, right?

There are several major steps to the whole production, the first of which is deciding what the “new” cookie will be.  Like most things that have to do with the holidays, tradition abounds in my making of Christmas cookies.  There are several kinds I have to make year in and year out—the Grandma cookie, the cherry one with the dark chocolate stuck on top, the Nutella cookie, and the Yooper cookie, among others.  Now, I know those aren't the actual names of the cookies; that's just how they're referred to on the assembly line.

Along with those cookies, I always make a cookie I've not made before.  Last year, it was Polish cookie called (if I remember correctly) a kolachke; the year before, it was a mint/chocolate cookie that's now made the jump up to “make this every year” status.  So picking the “new” cookie is always a serious task, and one that demands some thought.  After all, not only does it have to be something I've never made before, but it also has to balance out the rest of the cookies.  Am I making too many with chocolate?  Then maybe the “new” cookie should be something that's a little spicy.  Do I have too many cookies that are green and/or red?  Then maybe I should make a white cookie, or a yellow cookie, or even, I dunno, a black cookie.  These are all things that a normal person, when deciding which cookies to make for the holidays, wouldn't even think about.  But me?

Well, who ever said I was normal, right?

So I guess I should make that first step and decide—quite soon—what this year's “new” cookie should be.  Then I can make up a shopping list, and hope I find some time to throw them all together in time for delivery BY Christmas.  Otherwise, we'll have to call them New Year's Cookies.  Or Valentine's Day Cookies.  Or St. Patrick’s Day Cookies.  Or even Arbor Day Cookies.

Wish me luck!

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 11/4:

I wonder if there's a new “Gerko” lingering out there in the shadows of Marquette?

“Gerko” as you may recall, was the nom de graffiti of a Marquette resident who spray painted his way through the city a couple of years ago, until his arrest, subsequent plea bargain, and agreement to clean up his mess.  Well, just as all the “Gerko”s are starting to disappear, I've started to notice these popping up--





I have no idea who “Ogee” is, or if this person wants to follow in Gerko's footsteps, but there are several spots in Marquette, most notably on the Washington Street bike path between 7th Street and McDonald's, where you get to see several examples of this individual's work.  Sometimes, it's just the artist's tag, while on a few other occasions there's a little art work to go along with the tag.  Slowly but surely, though, “Ogee” is making him or herself known around the city.

And I'm guessing city officials aren't very happy about it.

Now I don't have anything against street art per se.  And I understand the outlaw aspect of it, the railing against the establishment.  But when you start spray-painting property that really doesn't need spray-painting, especially property that everyone in the city should be able to enjoy, you kinda cross the line.  I wouldn't take a spray can to something you enjoy; why should you take a spray can to my favorite bike path?  Maybe I'm weird in that respect, but that's just what I think.

I have no idea if this “Ogee” will attain the heights of infamy that Gerko achieved a couple of years ago.  I hope not; after all, after a year of cleaning his work up, you can still see “Gerko” pasted just about everywhere in the city.  And I don't know if it'd be cool to still see “Ogee” spray painted everywhere in Marquette in 2017 or 2018.  I'm sure the artist wouldn't mind.  The rest of us, I'm not so convinced.

*****

If you're actually reading this on Tuesday, November 4th, make sure you get out and vote today.  And just think—starting tonight, no more political commercials on TV and no more fund-raising e-mails clogging up your inbox. 

That may be the sweetest part of any election!

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 11/3:

To quote a great American philosopher, the waiting is the hardest part.

Loraine's new book, “Elden's True Army Tales”, the book into which she's poured her heart and soul these past twelve months, was supposed to be back from the printers and in readers' hands by now.  To be specific, it was supposed to be back from the printers last Wednesday, but, as with anything, you might expect a delay or two.  And that's why she's still waiting for it to arrive.

We haven't gone through it ourselves, but I'm guessing the waiting is akin to having a kid, especially a kid who's a day or two (or a month, like I was) past their due date.  You're sitting around, waiting for this monumental, perhaps life changing event to occur, and there's nothing you can do about it.  You've made plans, you're anxious to get those plans in motion, and you're just waiting for one small thing to arrive to kick it all into gear.

And Loraine's books, like those kids who won't pop out, seem to have a mind of their own.

Of course, it's not really Loraine's book with a mind of its own; books, despite the great thoughts contained in some of them, books aren't sentient.  It's either a delay at the printers or a delay in shipping (or both).  But when you're sitting around waiting...and waiting...and waiting, sometimes your brain assigns personality traits to inanimate objects like books.  We realize it's not the book's fault; it, however, is the thing that's behind schedule, so it's the thing that gets “blamed”, for better or worse.

I don't remember if Loraine's first book arrived late.  I don't think it did, because the thing I remember most about its “delivery' is that our apartment was filled with cardboard boxes.  But if “Elwood's War” was late we've erased that fact from our memories, much like parents going for a second child forget all the problems their first kid gave them.  Hopefully, though, I'll get a phone call today saying that the books are in and I can pick them up for her  After that, I'm sure, all will be forgiven.

It's just the waiting that's the hardest part.

****

Finally, thanks for all the kind words regarding the season premiere of “High School Bowl” this past Saturday.  It's nice to know that you guys enjoyed watching it, and that (at least as far as I know) not one TV in the U.P. cracked, exploded, or gave up the ghost by being forced to show the program.  And for those of you outside the U.P. who've asked when the show will be posted on TV-13's website for online viewing, I don't know.  As soon as I find out, I'll let you know.

And once again, thanks!

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 10/31:

Well, tomorrow night's the night the world gets to find out if I suck or not.

That's right; tomorrow night marks the season premiere of “High School Bowl” on Public TV 13, the first episode with the show's dorky new host, me.  While we've now taped five episodes (or 10 total games) and will tape the sixth in a few minutes, no one has had the chance to check them out yet.  And that all changes tomorrow night.

I've had a lot of people ask me the same two questions this week—am I getting excited about the premiere, and will I be having a party so everyone can watch?  And I think they're a little disappointed when I answer “no” to both of those questions.  I mean, sure, I'm excited for everyone else to see what we've done so far, because I think it works.  It may be a little different than it's been in the past, but it works.  However, am I personally excited?  Probably not.  I think I was personally much more excited about taping the first shows back at the end of September, if only because then it was new and uncharted territory for me.  But that's just me, personally.  I really am excited that everyone else finally gets to see what we've been up to.

Do I plan on watching it tomorrow?  Well, you guys may have heard me whine in here before about how I don't really like watching myself on TV, if only because I see all the things I could've done better and I fixate on all my weird little personality (and gray hair and way-too-small head) quirks.  Besides, I know which teams won.  But if Loraine wants to check it out, if only to see if the stories I tell her about taping the show are true, I suppose I won't leave the room.

I'll just make fun—a lot of fun—of the host.

If you do end up watching, see if you can catch the differences between the two games in the first episode.  They were taped a couple of days apart, and in between taping the segments I had something done to me.  I'm kind of curious to see if anyone notices.  And be aware that the first game that airs is actually the second game we taped; the second game is actually the first one we ever taped.  Hopefully, I'm not spilling any secrets by telling you that, but that's just the way TV works on occasion.

So I'm off now to tape the sixth segment of the show.  We'll have to see what everyone thinks of the first segment when it airs tomorrow night.  Keep your fingers crossed that TVs all over Upper Michigan don't blow up!!

8-)

*****

And before I go, I do need to wish my favorite brother in the whole world a happy birthday!  Sure, he's my only brother, so he wins that title by default, but still, I hope he does have a great day Sunday.  At least he won't have to sweat through a Lions games, wondering if they'll win or lose.  So happy birthday, Marc!!!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 10/30:

Is it the end of the world this weekend?

Sorry to be so melodramatic; the world in which we live and the lifestyle to which we’ve become so accustomed will in no way be ending today or tomorrow.  However, our little part of it may be experiencing a little cataclysm, as least as far as some of us are concerned.

Some people in the U.P. may be seeing their first measurable snowfall of the year Saturday.

That’s right; Laura has begun uttering that most ugly of four-letter words.  And while I know that we usually DO see our first snow sometime during the middle of October (heck, some years we’ve even had September snowstorms) it still boggles my mind that it's only been a little more than five months since we saw the last snowflakes from the previous season.

So that means that, if we do see snow over the next 36 hours, that we’ll have gone a whole five months and four weeks without snow.  That's less than half the year.  Or, if you look at it another way, it can snow here more than half the year.

Ooh.  Aren’t WE lucky???

It’s a pity sarcasm doesn’t travel well with just the written word, because that last sentence was delivered with as much of it as I can muster (and trust me, I can muster a LOT).  I know we’ve all complained about the weather a lot this year (perhaps no one more so than me), but it seems to have been justified.  I mean, if it was still cold (with a few flakes in the air) in May, and was cold and rainy through most of June & July, that left us with a whole month and a half--mid August through the end of September—where it wasn't cold, rainy, snowy, or any combination thereof.

That’s it.

 I’m sure you guys are sick of me writing about the weather; heck, sometimes I get sick of me writing about the weather.  There’s nothing I can do about it, so I should just shut up and live with it, right?

It’s just that...a whole five months without snow?  Even for the U.P., that’s just not right.

I’ll shut up about it now.

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 10/29:

We're not in the phone book any more.

In all honesty, I can not remember the last time I actually looked at a phone book.  I don't have one in my office, and while I think Loraine may have one buried somewhere in her desk at home, I couldn't tell you, for the life of me, where it actually is.  Like most people, I now just look online if I need a number.  After all, I DO usually know where my computer is.

But like many of you, we received a copy of the latest Yellow Pages phone book, and upon getting it I had two thoughts, the first being the usual snarky “Wait, they still make phone books?”  The second was the actual observation that phone books are much smaller than they used to be, due to the fact that the print is a lot smaller and, well, there are a lot of us who just aren't in there any more.

Of course, the reason that many of us are no longer listed in the phone book is that we no longer have a land line.  So many people, Loraine and me included, have ditched a phone that plugs into the wall and have gone wireless that, if I had to guess, the phone book we just received contains half of the numbers it contained a decade ago.

I base that guess on my opening the phone book to the “Koski” page.  In years past, there would be a page and a half or even two pages of phone numbers belonging to people named Koski; however, when  I checked in the new book to make sure we weren't in there, I noticed only a few columns of “Koskis”.  Now sure, as I mentioned before, the type is a lot smaller, so you can shove more people named Koski into a column, but there was no longer pages and pages of people with whom I share a last name.  Heck, even my parents aren't in there any more.

THAT'S now many people are no longer in the phone book.

And seeing the very small type made me think something else.  If I had to guess, most people my age and younger actually no longer use a phone book to find a number.  If it's not stuck in our phone we just look online for it.  That would then mean that the only people who actually use a phone book on a regular basis would be people older than me, people who may have trouble seeing the names & numbers shrunk into teeny-tiny type on a page.  I mean I know the publishers of the phone book are trying to save money by cutting down on the number of pages they print, but shouldn't they think of their target demographic?  Shouldn't the remaining names and numbers be printed as large as possible?

It does make a certain amount of sense, you know.

Of course, this may be a moot point in a few years.  With the way people are ditching their land lines there may soon be no use for phone books, and they'll go the way of the pet rock and the VCR.  But for now, fewer and fewer of us find our names listed in them.  Or, in my case, even know where those phone books are.

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 10/28:

And happy National Chocolate Day, the most wonderful time of the year!!

I had no idea that there actually WAS a National Chocolate Day or that it was being celebrated today, but thanks to the keen observational powers of my Dad, who noticed it on a calendar, I'm now all set to go.  So thanks, Dad!!

How does one actually celebrate National Chocolate Day?  Well, I'm sure eating some is a big part of it, and I'll make sure I celebrate in that way.  But what else do you do?  Sing chocolate carols?  Send out chocolate cards?  Build a chocolate man out in the front yard?  If that's the case, I'm ill prepared for the holiday. 

Let's just hope that my overall love for the food is enough to carry the day.

It's funny; I've always loved chocolate, but I can't pinpoint an exact reason why.  All I know is that even when I was a kid, I was a bit...particular about the kinds of chocolate I would eat.  When I was really young, I had a fondness for Milk Shake chocolate bars.  I don't know if any of you actually remember Milk Shake bars or if they were even available to people outside of Michigan, but they were kind of like a slightly less sweet version of a Milky Way bar.  Or at least that's how I remember them; I haven't eaten one, or even laid eyes upon one, for almost 30 years now.

As I grew up, my tastes in chocolate (and chocolate bars) evolved, but it wasn't until I went to Europe for the first time that my tastes became what they are today.  I don't wanna sound like a chocolate “snob” or anything, but for the most part there really isn't a comparison between what you can get here and what you can get there.  Heck, some “chocolate” bars in the US don't even have chocolate in them (which is why you'll notice the phrase “chocolate-flavored” or “chocolate-flavored candy” on much of your Halloween or Christmas chocolate), but in Europe, especially Belgium, chocolate is a fine art.  And once I experienced what you could taste over there, I was spoiled for life.

However, I do have to give credit to the burgeoning American artisinal chocolate market.  Some chocolatiers like Endangered Species are doing amazing things with chocolate, especially dark chocolate.  And as the health benefits of darker chocolate are becoming better known, I have a feeling that that trend will continue.

I, for one, can not wait!

So I hope you have a great National Chocolate Day.  Grab your favorite kind of bar and bite off a big hunk; after all, if you eat chocolate on National Chocolate Day, the calories don't count, right?  I think I read that somewhere on the Internet, and as we all know, everything on the Internet is true, right?  Or celebrate it the way I'll celebrate it, by trying a chocolate you've never tried before (in my case, a dark chocolate lemon-ginger bar I picked up at the Marquette Food Co-op).  Either way, just make sure you celebrate.

After all, it's not National Chocolate Day every day, is it?

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 10/27:

For a few minutes it felt like an entirely different world out there.

For many years, Loraine and I were but one small part of a very significant trend in the city of Marquette—DINKs.  The acronym, which actually stands for “Dual Income No Kids”, is the way demographers refer to couples without children.  And for the past twenty years, Marquette was filled with DINKs.  I think I've written in here before about how I'm friends with and/or work with many couples without kids, and it's because of people like us that the student base for Marquette Area Public Schools continued to shrink even while the population of the city itself was growing.

But our day, for better or worse, looks like it's over.

Over the past few years I've noticed a lot more very young children in Marquette, something that was underscored last Friday when I snuck outside the station a couple of times to enjoy the fairly mild weather.  During the time it took to eat a bag of tuna, and then again during the time that it took to eat an apple, I noticed not one, not two, not three, but FOUR people in their 20s or early 30s—three women and a man—pushing baby strollers up Front Street.  Ten years ago in Marquette, that number would've caused jaws to drop.  But today?

It's just life in the 2010s.

My observations are backed up by facts, too.  For the first time in many years the Marquette Area Public Schools actually has more students than they thought they would, an increase driven almost exclusively by a greater number of kids enrolled in kindergarten and first grade.  That bodes well for the future of the system, and also confirms that the trend toward younger people in Marquette having families has been going on for, oh, five or six years now.

And yet some of us just noticed.  Guess we need to pay better attention, right?

I wish I was more of a social scientist so I could determine just why we're having a baby boom.  I mean, is it a generational thing, meaning that my generation just didn't have kids, but that younger adults do?  Does it mean that Marquette is experiencing an influx of people in their 20s and 30s who, unlike those of us who were here before, decided to start a family?  Is it because Marquette's won so many awards in the past decades that people are either moving here to raise a family or decide to stay here for that same purpose?

I'd be curious as to the reason or reasons.  But like I said, it sure is a change from the past couple of decades, and I'm guessing it's probably a change for the good.  It's good for the community, and it's good for the future of the schools.  I'll be very curious to see how it all unfolds over the next decade or so.

It just sure is a difference from the past decade or two.

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 10/24:

Oops.  I guess that was my bad.

After writing yesterday's blog abut Fougeres, I received notes from two of you (hi Pam, and hi Michelle) wondering why I didn't include pictures of the city.  After all, I had compared it in several ways to Marquette,  and they were curious as to whether or not the comparison extended to how the two towns look.

Looking back on it, I have NO idea why I didn't include pictures.  After all, it's not like I don't have a bunch of them, and looking back on it, I guess it would have been nice to see what it looks like and what I was talking about.  So Pam & Michelle (and anyone else who wondered) I apologize.  I are a moron.  But at least now I can do something with the pictures!

Like I mentioned yesterday, Fougeres and Marquette are similar in size and in things you find around them.  However, because one's American and the other's French, their main streets do look somewhat different--





They both do, however, have impressive performing arts venues.  We have Kaufman Auditorium, while Fougeres has the Salon Victor Hugo--





I find it interesting that both venues hold almost the same number of people, around 800.  Guess that must be standard size for places like this! 

Both cities have great parks and recreation areas.  Here's Fougeres' Public Gardens, located right next to their 500-year old cathedral--





And both places are also filled with artistic people and funky shops.  Here's the door to a shoe store--





So there's your sneak peak of the one stop on next year's Tour de France that I've visited.  And like I said before...sorry for not putting a picture or two up yesterday.  My mind (or what's left of it) was obviously somewhere else!

Have a great weekend, and enjoy the slight sun and warmth we've been promised.

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 10/23:

The race is gonna stop in Fougeres.  I bet you're excited, right?

Now, if you're a normal person (and almost all of you reading this are), right about now you're saying two things to yourself—you're wondering what race I'm talking about and where the heck Fougeres is.  Well, you'd be right to ask yourself those questions.  Like I said, you're a normal person.  Only the weird among us get excited because one of the finish line cities in next year Tour de France is a place we once visited in that country.

That's right; yesterday, they announced the course for next year's Tour, and I was kind of disappointed.  Normally, the Tour goes through or stops at two or three places we've visited.  However, next year's race mostly concentrates itself in the southern part of the country.  The race is totally bypassing the regions we visited this year, and when it's in Belgium for its first few days it's in parts of Belgium we haven't (yet) visited.  The only leg of the race that goes through places we have been will be the stage that runs through part of Normandy and ends up in the Brittany town of Fougeres.

So you can guess what I'll be watching intently on July 10th!

Fougeres is a very cool place; in fact, it's very similar to Marquette in the amount of people living there, the hills in the area, the amazing gardens and parks, and the very cool old churches and theaters.  Of course, Fougeres also has a thousand year old castle sitting right in the middle of town, something that Marquette doesn't have, but other than that, it's quite similar to where we live.

Like I said, aside from Fougeres there won't be many familiar places during next year's race.  But that's okay; I'll be watching it anyway, especially because it runs through Belgium and France and because we won't be visiting Belgium or France next year.  So the only exposure I'll get to two of my favorite countries in 2015 is by watching the race.  And that's better than getting no exposure at all. 

I'll understand if you're not excited by the fact that a bike race goes through a certain town next year.  after all, you're normal.  You're not supposed to be excited.  Me, on the other hand...

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

(p.s.--I don't know if you're heard this yet, but Marquette has been named as one of the happiest cities in Michigan, number 8 on the list of 20, in fact.  Don't laugh; we've topped a lot of lists before, so why not this one, right?  Anyway, check it out HERE!

WEDNESDAY, 10/22:

Now, I wonder, is there a fourth “Jim” lurking out there?

Those of you who read this on even an occasional basis know there are three different “Jims” hanging around.  There's “Radio Jim”, there's “History Jim”, and there's “TV Jim”, each of which could be used to describe me depending upon whatever I'm doing at any given moment.  The funny thing, of course, is that people who know me from the radio don't realize I'm a history dork, the people who know me as a history dork don't know I work in radio, and the people who are now beginning to see me on TV don't often know about the other two.  So it's like I inhabit three distinct worlds.

Only now there may be a fourth--”Finish Line Jim”.

This isn't actually a new “world”, and it's kind of a subset of “Radio Jim”, because that's how I started doing finish line announcing.  But recently I've had a couple of people come up to me and mention my work announcing at the finish lines of both the Noquemanon and the Ore-To-Shore.  The funny thing is, I don't believe either of the people who came up to me and talked about my work at the finish line know that I'm also “Radio Jim” and “History Jim” and “TV Jim”.  To them, I'm just “Finish Line Jim”.

The two times a year I'm “Finish Line Jim” I act very much like any of the other three “Jims”.  I joke, I cheerlead, and I have fun with the people who are wrapping up a very strenuous athletic event.  One of the people who came up to me complimented me on how I make sure I mention competitors from out of state, often saying things like they're “the first finisher from California” or “the best mountain biker in Tennessee”.  And the other person who came up to me was actually an object of my cheerleading; apparently,  I told him when he crossed the finish line of the Noque last year at age 79, that he had to come back and race at the age of 80.    Well, he is coming back to race next year, and wanted me to know that he's just doing what I told him to do.

Wow!

I really enjoy what I do those two days, even if by the end of each day my voice is shot.  I get caught up in the drama of the first finishers, and really enjoy the people who come in near the end of the race, people who aren't there for the glory but are there just for the thrill of completing a very hard day on their skis or bikes.  Those are the people with whom I have the most fun, and those are the people who, over the years, have said just how much they appreciate what I do at the finish line.  Of course, all I'm doing is talking; that's nothing compared to what they're just finished.  But if I can help even just a little, cool.

I'm glad to do it.  And while living three different lives is usually more than enough for me, having a fourth Jim—and having people appreciate it—is just a nice little bonus.

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 10/21:

There's a clump of hair sticking out of the back of my head, and nothing I do seems to make it go away.

One of the big changes I've had to deal with in becoming the host of “High School Bowl” is that I really do need to pay attention to how I look.  In radio, you can just roll out of bed, throw on some clothes, and go to work.  No one, aside from your co-workers, can see what you look like, and they're often dressed the same way you are.  But you know what?  On TV, people can see you.  You just can't show up looking like a slob.

Who knew?

That's actually not a big problem for me.  I actually do (usually) care about my appearance.  I very rarely roll out of bed, throw whatever's lying on the floor back on, and then cruise down to work.  I usually make sure I look good; heck, before I started doing TV I would even dress up in a jacket and tie every Monday just because, well, it was Monday.  But now that I have started doing TV on a weekly basis, I have to make sure I'm entirely presentable before stepping in front of the cameras.

And that's where my hair, and the clump of it sticking out of the back of my head, comes in.

First of all, I'm mad at my hair anyway.  Being under the bright lights in the studio means that you, on occasion, can see where over the years I've started to lose a little of it.  Normally, in person, you can't tell, but under those lights, you can.  I'm sure it's one of those things no one else will notice, but I do.

Is it any wonder I don't like watching myself on TV?

However, it's the back of my head that causes the biggest problems.  Ever since I was a kid I've had a...growth of hair on the back right side of my head.  It's kind of like someone put a bunch of hair fertilizer there, causing me to have twice as much hair on that patch of my head than I do anywhere else.  The woman who's been cutting my hair tries to do what she can, but I'm apparently a freak of nature in that regard.  And as we all know, there's not much you can do with a freak of nature.

Trust me.  I'm walking proof.

While taping the first shows I noticed that if I'm shot at a certain angle it looks like I have a hair “tumor” sticking out of the back of my head.  Since then, I've used a bunch of different products & methods to try to get it to lie flat, but with only middling success.  I don't know what I did this morning, but the clump now doesn't look like a tumor, it looks more like a stumpy carrot sticking out of my head.

And I have to go shoot a show in a few minutes.

I'm tempted just to hack the whole thing off with scissors.  However, I know that would make things even worse by doing that.  I mean, a stumpy carrot sticking out of my head?  Maybe.  A big hole where hair used to be?  Nope.  However, I have faith, if not in my own hands, that someone on set will have an idea what to do.  However, if you watch the show that airs on (I think) December 6th and notice there's something weird sticking out of my head, know that it's not the fault of your TV set.

It's the fault of my stupid head.

And with that in mind, I should get going.  Who knew working in TV could be so complicated?

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

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