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In Jim's Daily Opinion 10/22/2014


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.


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.


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?



MONDAY, 10/20:

Every time the song plays I have just the tiniest bit of a flashback.

One of the great things about driving around Europe is that you get to listen to radio in different countries.  Whenever we're in France we listen to Virgin Radio, which is a national station that would be described, if I can use a radio term, as a “Hot Hits” station.  They play the 20 or so biggest hits over & over again, which means two things—you hear the same songs over & over again, usually every 90 or so minutes.  But it also means that you get exposed to songs you never would've heard over & over, until they lodge themselves into your brain.

And that's what happened with Tove Low's “Habits (Stay High)”.

When we went to Europe I had never heard of the song; however, once there, I heard it quite a bit, usually while driving and usually (sadly) while stuck in traffic or while having to detour from our planned route.  Then a few weeks ago, I found out that the song has been released in the U.S.  It's doing quite well, in fact; it's been on iTunes' Top Ten list for a number of days now.  We're playing it, and every time it pops on the flashbacks start.

And it's like I'm stuck in traffic all over again.

It's weird how certain songs will always trigger specific memories when you hear them.  Mostly, they're good memories.  They'll remind you of falling in love, or birth of a child, or of a certain period of time when all was right in the world.  However, there are also songs that will remind you of bad memories, of a break-up or a death or an incident you'd rather forget.  And that's why the flashbacks triggered by this song are weird, because for me they trigger both kinds of memories.

Don't worry; many more good memories are triggered by the song than are bad memories.  And even the “bad” memories aren't that bad.  I mean, sure, I was stuck in traffic or trying to figure out detours, but I was stuck in traffic or trying to figure out detours in Belgium and Luxembourg and Germany and France.  I mean, if you're gonna get stuck in traffic or try to figure out detours, there ARE worse places to be, you know?

I have no idea if the song will continue to race up the charts.  If so, I'll probably hear it enough that the flashbacks start to fade away.  But if that's not the case, and I only hear it on certain occasions, then who knows what kind of memories will keep getting dredged up.  Hopefully, they won't be about traffic.  They'll be ones of all the chocolate I bought at the end of the traffic!

By the way, if you're not sure to which song I'm referring, here it is--


FRIDAY, 10/17:

I don't know if I like the pattern that's been developing.

When I went running the morning of Saturday, September 27th, the sun was just coming out and the temperature was already in the 60s.  It was a great day, if you remember, with temperatures eventually hitting the lower 80s.  I had a fantastic run that morning, a fine start to a fine day.

Since I went running that warm September morning I have gone running eight additional times.  I know this because I keep track of when I run and how far I go.  It's written down in a running log.  (Yes, I'm a dork, but we've all known that for many years now).  According to my running log, since September 27th I've sometimes gone running in the morning; sometimes I've gone running in the afternoon.  I've run on Saturdays, I've run on Mondays, I've run on Wednesdays, and I've run on Thursdays.  But on each of the eight days I've gone running since September 27th one thing has happened--

It has rained each and every time.

That's right; since that nice sunny run on September 27th I have had to go out and run in the rain.  Sometimes, like yesterday, it's just in a drizzle.  Sometimes, it's in a torrential downpour, like it was on October 6th.  All I know is that every time I've gone running this month (and once at the end of last month) there was no sun.  There was no warm.

There was just wet.

Now, I realize that we're in the wettest portion of the year.  And I also realize that we're in 2014, a year that will go down in the weather horror history books.  But to go running eight times in a row and then have to dry out every single thing I wear before I can go running again?

That's almost enough to make me give it up.

Don't worry; I'm not going to.  I enjoy it too much, and I've run through worse.  Heck; I ran (and skied) through January of 2014, and if I could survive that, you'd think I'd be okay with a little rain.  But running in the (extreme) cold and running in the rain are two very different things.  You can bundle up in the cold and use your body heat to keep you at a fair temperature.  Sure, your face might get cold, but that's it.  However, when you're running in the rain, that's a whole different thing.  Even if you have good rain gear—and I do—water still gets where it's not supposed to.  And the rain we've had recently is a really hypothermic rain—once you get wet, it sucks the heat right out of you.  Sure, you're generating your own internal heat by running, but thanks to the rain and the cold temperatures, that internal heat gets drawn right out of you and sent to...well, wherever
it is body heat  goes during a month like this.

It's ain't fun.

I mention this because I'm supposed to go running again tomorrow, my usual meandering Saturday morning run.  And the weather forecast calls for—you guessed it—more rain.  I guess I shouldn't complain too much; after all, if I were running in Ishpeming or Negaunee I might also have to deal with snow flakes in the air, as well.  But running in snow can sometimes be a little more comfortable than running in rain, perhaps the one thing that snow has going for it (and please don't tell anyone I said snow has something going for it).

So we'll have to see.  I guess I can hope I'm getting acclimated to running in the rain, and so tomorrow won't be as bad as the last eight times I went running.  I doubt it, though.  I'm sure tomorrow will just be as wet and as uncomfortable as it has been all this month.

Wish me luck.  I'll send it right back to you, as well.  Stay dry and stay warm this weekend!!


THURSDAY, 10/16:

It's all done but the printing.

I think I've mentioned in here before about how Loraine's been working on a new book, one dealing (mostly) with a young man from Republic who died during the Battle of the Bulge.  Well, after over a year of work on it (interrupted by things like bad gall bladders) she signed off on it last night, which means that sometime in the next ten business days she'll take possession of the first copies of “Elden's True Army Tales”.

Wow.  I live with an amazing woman, don't I?

She would probably joke that I don't think she should be amazing, especially after all the hiccups, layout changes, and last minute things that have driven her crazy the past few weeks.  But I do think she's amazing.  She's spent all this time and all this energy compiling not only the life story of one individual, but has also tried to uncover the details behind a World War II battle that even people who fought in it say it may never be fully detailed.

That battle is the battle of Chaumont, the battle in which Elden Gjers of Republic died.  Loraine knows a lot more about it than do I, but here's the gist of it.  American tanks were trying to get to Bastogne right after the Germans began their counter-offensive in December of 1944.  One particular tank battalion got bogged down in the (very) small town of Chaumont, just a few miles away from Bastogne.  They lost most of their tanks and much of their personnel on December 23rd.  After reinforcements arrived, the tide turned, but it was too late for Elden Gjers, among others.

There's a whole lot more to the story, which Loraine spends a large part of the book on.  The first part of the book tells the story of the young sports star (and from the sounds of it, he was quite the baseball and basketball player) as he grew up, and is also a bit of a love letter to the town of Republic, especially the parts of Republic that no longer exist (another story in and of itself).  It's chock-full of pictures and is a great local history lesson, if nothing else.

Speaking of pictures, up to a quarter (or so) of the 200+ in the book may have been taken by (ahem) me.  I don't say that to brag, or anything; I just wanted to point that out because, as I always say, I have three functions when we go to Europe.  I drive Loraine to where she needs to go, and I'm her official staff photographer (the third, of course, involves buying chocolate, something to talk about another day).  In fact, there are pictures from each of the trips we've taken to Belgium, including half a dozen or so from our journey over there last month.  That's how topical the book will be, and I guess it also points out just how recently the book's been in production mode.

The last part of the book deals with Loraine's “journey”, as it were.  She's gotten so many people asking how she got involved with this big project of hers, and has had so many people telling her she should write about it, that she did.  From the moment she saw “Saving Private Ryan” to us getting stuck in traffic in Belgium five weeks ago, it's all there.  So in total, there's a lot packed into 180 (or so) pages. 

You can see why she's been working so hard on it.

Now that this one is finished, several people have asked her what her next book's gonna be about, and she tells them that this is it.  She's done.  She's told the stories she wanted to tell.  I don't know what the future holds; I know she deserves a break, and I know that she'd like to have some time to do something different.  So we'll have to see.  All I know is that she has poured her heart and her soul into this project, and as with everything she does, I couldn't be prouder of her for doing it.

She really is one amazing woman.



The change of one word seems to make all the difference.

“High School Bowl” seems to be going quite well, thanks for asking.  We've now taped eight games (four shows), and you'll get to see the results beginning Saturday, November 1st.  In fact, we taped a pair of shows yesterday, and I think I finally hit my groove.  I didn't make any major verbal stumbles, I kept things moving along smoothly, and I made a couple of jokes that people seemed to enjoy.  So we'll see how it turns out.

There is one little misconception I'd like to clear up, though, and it involves a matter of semantics.  In all honesty, I may be the only one who thinks it's a big deal, but it's still something I would like to clear up.  Several times, now, I've been referred to (by various people) as the “star” of “High School Bowl”, and I don't think that's right.  I'm the host of the show.  The kids who are up on the chairs with the buzzers in their hands?  Those are the stars of the show.

I'm just the host, making sure that they get their time in the spotlight.

If there's one thing that I've noticed during the shows I've taped, it's that these kids are bright.  And some of them are more than bright; some of them are scary smart, something you'll notice if you watch any of the episodes.  I mean, I can come off as someone who seems to know everything, but we're all aware that that's just a really good facade.  Some of these kids, on the other hand, really DO seem to know everything.  I've asked questions ranging from hard math to Greek mythology to ancient history to pop culture, and they have it down cold.

THAT'S why they're the stars of the show.

This may sound strange, but my favorite part of hosting so far has been the part of the show where I get to spend a couple of minutes talking to the kids and asking them a question about themselves.  Before they show up they fill out a sheet with a couple of standard questions, and from their answers I figure out what to ask them.  Occasionally, their answers are on the serious side, but I've been able to get enough from the questionnaires to be able to have some fun with them.  Everyone who's been at the tapings so far seems to think that segment's been a highlight, and I'm glad.

I've had a lot of fun with it, too.  And that's why I think the kids are the star of the show.  I'm just the dork who shows up every week and makes sure they look good, a result you can see for yourself starting in a few weeks!


TUESDAY, 10/14:

Okay.  That didn't last very long.

Yesterday I wrote a blog about not having anything to write about.  I sent it off to be posted and then jumped into the shower, whereupon three different new ideas lodged themselves into my brain, ready to be written.

Doncha just love when that happens?

First of all, thanks for the notes several of you sent after reading yesterday's entry.  All of you suggested topics I could write about, and all of you had some pretty good ideas.  So if I ever think I'm running out of things to say, I may take your suggestions.  I appreciate you making them.

Second of all, I knew I just should've stared at my keyboard a few more minutes.  After all, that's about how much longer it took for those ideas to come to me after writing that I had nothing to write about.  Sure, the shower I jumped into could've had something to do with it—there is scientific evidence, after all, that your mind wanders when you do things like shower or run—but it's just one of those things.  Either your brain works or it doesn't work, and while I tend much more toward the latter, I'm glad that, at least in this case, it was the former. 

As it turns out, it was something my (much) better half had said (off-handedly) that got my mind to thinking.  She mentioned that there were two marathons held on the same day, one in Chicago and one in Munich.  Chicago, of course, is my second favorite place in the U.S., while Munich is one of my favorite in Germany.  So I started to think--if I could run one of the marathons (with the caveat that I'm not in shape for a marathon (a 10K maybe, a half-marathon, if my life depended upon it, but not a full marathon)) in which city would I run—Chicago or Munich?

Hard choice, right?  But that's what got my brain to spewing out all those ideas.

I don't know in which city I'd run; after all, Chicago has all that great architecture, and Grant and Millennium Parks.  But Munich has great streets, and lots of history, and it has the Englischer Garten, which is one of the best parks I've ever been in.  Plus Munich has German chocolate.  On the other hand, Chicago's an hour away (assuming air traffic control is working at O'Hare), while Munich's a day away.  Both places are fairly flat, both have huge crowds cheering on the runners, and both have great public transportation systems to get the runners where they need to go.

See why it'd be hard to choose?

But that's the great thing.  I don't need to choose, if only because I'll probably never be able to run a marathon, no matter how much I run or how hard I train.  It's nothing more than a mental exercise, a choice in wishful thinking.  And it gave me an idea for a blog, which then gave me two more ideas, which (since then) have led to even more.  So it's nice that I don't have to choose.

And it's even nicer that I now have a bunch more stuff to write about.


Before I go I do need to note the fact that my favorite 16-year old in the whole wide world is now my favorite 17-year old in the whole wide world!  That's right, it's my niece Mallory's birthday today.  Mallory, of course, goes with me to Europe every time I go (in the form of her bookmark), so I have an idea which of those two cities she would choose in which to run a marathon.  Besides, there would be another factor in play.  Mallory's much like her uncle in one way, in that she has become quite the devotee of chocolate, and one of those cities is more famous for chocolate than the other.  So I think I know how she would choose.  (And as a side note, how could you not be proud of a young lady like Mallory who loves chocolate that much?)

So happy (real) birthday, Mallory.  Don't forget to let me know which of your birthday presents tasted the best!


MONDAY, 10/13:

Okay, I've been sitting here, staring at a computer screen for half an hour now.  I think my laptop is starting to laugh at me.

There aren't many days like this, because I usually do have something to write about.  But every once in a great while, usually on a Monday, I try to come up with something to write about, and horribly fail at it.  Either there's nothing going on, or I haven't fully developed something I'm working on (hello, “107 Things to Love About Marquette County”), or I don't have any pictures to share, or I am just totally without inspiration,  It doesn't happen very often, but it does happen.

And it's not the greatest of days when that occurs.

I actually started to write two different blogs today, but neither of them panned out.  In the first, I was channeling the spirit of Andy Rooney in complaining that Vongfong is a weird name for a typhoon.  That didn't go anywhere after the first paragraph.  And then I started to muse about why people call chocolate bars “candy” bars.  That's not a bad idea, and you may see something about that in the future.

However, it wasn't ready for today.

So I guess I'm stuck with the old trope—writing about not having anything to write about.  I know it's a cheap thing to do, and I know that it's a trope that every writer falls back on at least once in their life, but it was either that or give you a “best of”, and while that would've been easier than staring at a laptop screen for half an hour (and having it laugh at me), I didn't want to take that route.

So instead I'm writing about not having anything to write about.

I hope you'll forgive me.  I hope you'll realize that this is a one-time only event.  And I hope that you'll believe me when I say that (with any luck) this will never happen again.  And I'm pretty sure it shouldn't.  After all, with all the crap that's going on in my life you'd think I'd have SOMETHING interesting to write about, right?  Or maybe that's the problem.  Maybe there is so much stuff going on that I'm having trouble concentrating on getting one simple thing (like a blog entry) together.

It wouldn't be the first time my brain bailed on me like that, after all.

Okay; I've been staring at this screen long enough.  Time for me to get up, get my stuff together, and face the world.  Hopefully, THAT goes a little better than writing this has.  Wish me luck!!


FRIDAY, 10/10:

It would be a nice birthday present.  Too bad I'll have to turn it down.

Back when NASA was actually in the business of launching humans into Earth orbit I was on a press list for the agency.  Before every shuttle flight I'd receive a packet of info, which, while not as detailed as the mission sheets I'd receive from my Texas grandmother (whose husband worked in Mission Control) when I was a little kid, was still enough to satisfy my inner space geek.  Since the last shuttle flight was three and a half years ago, I haven't received anything from NASA since then.  In fact, I had even forgotten that I once received stuff from NASA.

Until yesterday, when I received an e-mail from the Agency asking if I'd like to be credentialed for the upcoming test flight of the new Orion capsule.  Orion, in case you don't know, is NASA's new manned spacecraft, kind of an Apollo capsule on steroids, which will hold up to 6 people on flights away from Earth, either to asteroids or Mars (the Agency is leaving the launching of astronauts to the ISS to private companies and concentrating on Orion).  The first (unmanned) flight of the capsule is coming up soon, where they'll send it 30,000 miles out into space and then bring it back, seeing how it handles a high-speed re-entry into the atmosphere, among other things.

When's the flight coming up?  Well, it's just a couple of months away.  December 4th, to be exact, which also just happens to be my birthday.

And wouldn't THAT be a gift??

I have to admit that for the first second or so after receiving the e-mail I considered actually applying and going down there.  I really considered it.  However, after the second and third second, I realized that it wouldn't be happening.  The first reason is kind of dull—I have to shoot a couple of “High School Bowl”s the day after, and I don't know if I could make it back to Marquette in time.  The second, while also kind of dull, is also rooted in reality--

How often does a spacecraft actually launch on time, especially one that's never flown before?  Knowing my luck, I'd get down there for December 4th, only to have the launch scrubbed until the next day.  Or the next week.  Or the next month.

Still, I think it's kinda cool that the first test flight of a new spacecraft is scheduled for my birthday, even if it probably won't happen then.  I know that it's probably just a coincidence it's launching on my birthday; it's not like NASA pulled up my records and decided to give me a present by sending the Orion capsule up on that day, after all.  But still...

How often does something that cool happen on a birthday?  It's just too bad I'll have to turn it down.


On that note, have yourself a great weekend.  And stay warm, too.  At least here, it looks like we'll hafta work hard at it!



Some people just don’t understand how hard it is to wake up by 8 in the morning.

Believe it or not, whenever I utter that statement to someone, I often get a look that I imagine I’d also get if I were to walk up to that someone, stick out my hand, and say something along the lines of “Hi, I’m Jim, and I’m from Mars”.  It’s often accompanied by a snort of derision and a rolling of eyes, and then the person to whom I’m saying it responding with the time at which they have to wake up, a time that is usually several hours before mine.

All that being said, though, it IS hard to wake up by 8am.  At least it is for me.

You know how everyone has an internal body clock, a clock that regulates when they’re at their peak and when it’s time to shut down for the night?  Well, for as long as I can remember, mine’s been set on, oh, Hawaii Standard Time.  For whatever reason (and this goes back to when I was a teenager) I’ve always had trouble waking up in the morning.  Even if I get to bed at a reasonable hour (and living with someone who has to get up around 7am or so, I usually DO get to bed at a reasonable hour) I’ll just stagger out from under the covers in the morning, stare limply at the wall for several hours, and go about my business with the lowest expenditure of energy possible.  Believe it or not, this can last until noon or so, until something kicks in (probably sunrise in Hawaii), my batteries finally turn on, and I join the land of the living.

It’s weird.

Even if I’m out running or skiing in the morning, it always starts off as a listless crawl until the endorphins (or whatever they are) kick in and I actually seem to develop a burst of energy.  But even then there have been a few mornings where, when I’m finished, I don’t remember a thing about the run (or the ski).  Like many people, my mind tends to wander when exercising; unlike many people, my mind doesn’t always come back from its meanderings when I’m done.

Luckily, I work at a time of the day when I can take advantage of the fact that my batteries kick in later than for most people.  On those rare occasions when I’ve had to do something on the air early, it just hasn’t worked out.  Oh, I’ve tried, but after several instances of going home after an early morning, taking a nap, and waking up in total disorientation, not knowing where I was or when I was, I gave that up.  I’ll stick to afternoons, thank you very much.

So if you ever see me early in the morning, and happen to notice I’m not my usual manic self, you now know why.  And remember, it's now my fault.  Or it's only my fault because I haven't yet moved to Hawaii.



Hmm.  I'm thinking this could be kind of fun.

As I mentioned a month or so ago I was trying to come up with ideas for programming I would do for the Marquette Regional History Center next year.  Even though I'm not on the board any more I still do a few programs for them every year; after all, who else would do a Jim Koski ™ walking tour or program if I didn't, right?  Well, we've had our meeting about who's doing what next year, and I'm happy to say--

It'll okay if you get drunk during one of mine.

I'm doing two programs next year, and one of them is an encore performance from this past year, the walking tour about the Great Marquette Fire of 1868 (I'm even doing it again on June 11th, the anniversary of the day the city burned).  We had somewhere between 100 and 150 on the tour this year, and heard from a LOT of people who asked if we were ever gonna do it again.

Well, you know what?  I think we are.  But that's not the one at which you can get drunk, at least until Marquette repeals its open intoxicant laws.

Nope; the one at which you can get drunk will be my other program.  While coming up with ideas that would, you know, be something that I would do, I came up with doing a program on the history of nightlife in Marquette.  That would include everything from the music societies and (ahem) brothels of the 1800s to the dance clubs of the 30s and discos of the 70s to the rowdy college bars of today.  Whenever I give a downtown tour (at least to adults), I'm always asked about a few certain bars or nightclubs that, while they don't physically exist any more, still live on quite vividly in the minds of the people who were there.

Hence, sometime next year, I'll be doing a program entitled “Marquette After Dark”.

My first thought was to actually hold this outside of the History Center after dark on a warm summer night, much like Jack Deo & I did one of our “Lost Buildings” extravaganzas last year.  But with the unpredictability of the weather and the lateness of the hour, the people at the History Center had an even better idea.  There are over a dozen night spots within a block or two of the History Center.  Why not hold it in one of them?  That way, we could hold it almost any night of the year, without having to worry about the weather, and anyone who shows up (assuming they're over 21) can enjoy an adult beverage or two during the program.

So that's what we're gonna do.

I don't know the date of the program yet, and while I do know at which establishment it'll be held, I can't announce it.  Just let me say that I think it'll be a lot of fun, and certainly something out of the ordinary, at least for me.  As far as I can remember, I've never put on a show where alcohol was involved (or at least a show where alcohol was openly served).  But considering the topic involved (and considering, I'm sure, that tales of bootleggers will be involved), it seems like the perfect setting for what I'm hoping will be a really fun program.

Once I get the okay to announce the locale, and once the date is set, you guys will me among the first to know.  And if you'll excuse me, I hafta go brush up on everything from hookers to bar fights.

This should be fun...



TUESDAY, 10/7:

Ah, kids these days.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that I have two nieces.  Let's say, for the sake of argument, that one's in her early 20s and named, oh, “Courtney”.  Let's then say, for the sake of argument, that the other's 15 and is named, well, “Sydney”.  Then let's say that, for the sake of argument, the two of them are discussing music and “Courtney” mentions the boy band N*Sync.  “Sydney” says she's never heard of them, which prompts “Courtney” to go off on an epic rant about how “I'm so old” and that “my best days are behind me”.

Like I said—kids these days.

When the discussion took place between my two nieces (who, just coincidentally, may have actually been named Courtney and Sydney), I had to laugh.  Courtney is eight years older than Syd, and I'm sure that they have more cultural references they commonly share than ones that don't (such as N*Sync, and even then, Syd does know who Justin Timberlake is).  But the fact that a 23-year old feels old & out of touch because someone a bit younger than her doesn't understand one of her cultural references?

Well, just let me say this, Court—welcome to the club!!  But trust me—you are in no way old, and there is no way in heck that your best days are behind you.

That honor falls to your mom.

(And if you'll excuse me for a second, I do believe my sister wants to beat the crap out of me.  I'll be back momentarily).

If Courtney wants to see someone try to get teenagers to understand outdated cultural references, she should see her (favorite) uncle hosting “High School Bowl”.  After all, I'm the one who, when the kids answered a question about Mozart, threw in the phrase “Rock me Amadeus”, which caused all eight kids—the one who answered the question, his three teammates, and the four members of the opposing team—to look at me as if I was some kind of weird alien time traveler.  And I guess they were right, at least if you take out the “alien time-traveler” bit out of the equation.  The joke I made was perfectly valid for someone of my generation.  But for kids who've probably never even heard of Falco (or, for that matter, the movie “Amadeus”)?  Not so much.  In fact, in one other episode, I made so many of those comments that one of the kids said she's throw me a little “pity
laughter” the next time I made a reference she didn't understand.

Kids these days...

So Court, do not in any way worry about begin old or outdated.  You are many, many years (and many outdated cultural references away) from even having to start to worry about that.  After all, that's a job for which some of us are much better suited that you!



MONDAY, 10/6:

I guess the clothes really do make the person!

Twice in the past three days I’ve worn pieces of clothing that, for one reason or another, have caught the attention of people’s eyes.  One I’ve worn before, so I had a feeling I’d get a comment or two.  The other took me quite by surprise, especially when you consider who it was whose attention was caught.

The first piece was a tie I wore while shooting a couple of episodes of “High School Bowl” Friday morning.  I’ve written in here before about my Beatles tie; in fact, I even stuck a picture up of it once.  It’s a colorful blue tie with a drawing of two stylized people whispering on it, a design commissioned by the group when they formed Apple Corps in 1967 and decided they wanted to blow all the money they had made up to that point.  To that end, one of the things they did was to have an artist design ties based on their songs, and the one I wear—the one that always gets a lot of comments—is “Do You Want To Know a Secret” (hence, the stylized people on the tie whispering to each other).

The other piece of clothing was something I wore while broadcasting at the grand opening of the Marquette Food Co-op Saturday morning.  A couple of months ago Loraine had noticed a hoodie in the window of a downtown store, one she thought would look great on me, so I ended up buying it.  And you know what?  It DOES look sharp on me.  It’s black with neon yellow-ish green drawstrings and the same neon color on the inside of the hood.  The fact that it has a drawing of the U.P. on it, along with the word “Marquette”, doesn’t hurt.

I wore the hoodie on Saturday because it was so fricking cold & wet outside, and since I walked to the remote I needed to stay warm.  I hadn’t even given it a second thought, but after I received two or three comments I started to notice that it was out of the ordinary.  I thought only my Beatles tie ever drew remarks from strangers, and not some hoodie I wore because it was cold out.  But the weirdest thing was from whom the comments came.  Whenever I wear my Beatles tie, women are the ones who notice it and say something about it.  That happened again Friday.  But the hoodie?

All the comments came from guys.

When I bought the hoodie, the lady who owns Country Charm mentioned how it was popular with men, but she thought that’s because it’s a piece of clothing that’s actually made in the U.S.  But as it turns out, each of the guys who commented on it Saturday commented on the color scheme, the black with the neon, which is what originally drew my eyes to it.  I really didn’t think many men were that into neon, and they may not be, because as I was thinking about it later, I may have stumbled upon why so many guys were drawn to what I wore.

If you substitute the black for a very dark blue, and then keep the neon yellow-ish green, you get the same colors as the uniforms of the Seattle Seahawks, the team that won the Super Bowl this past year.  Maybe that’s why the eyes of those men were drawn to it.  There was something familiar about the colors, and subconsciously they picked up on it.   I mean, I can’t say for sure if that’s the case, but in a tangential way it kinda makes sense.

I just found it curious that I could wear two different pieces of clothes on two different days and have each of them commented on by a different gender.  I can’t say that’s happened before, and I’m thinking it’s highly unlikely it’ll happen again.  Unless, of course, I do something like wear the tie WITH the hoodie.

That would probably cause more comments by both genders, but probably not comments that would be a complimentary as the ones I received Friday and Saturday.


FRIDAY, 10/3:

I don't know what I'd do without the calendar on my wall.

Now that there are three Jims (Radio Jim, History Jim, and TV Jim) I find myself doing a lot of different, unrelated things, often at different, unrelated times.  I might have to go from a TV shooting to work to a tour, all in the course of a few hours, and what with me not being the most, well, organized person in the world, I have come to rely on the calendar to tell me where I have to be and when I have to be there.

I realize I'm decidedly old school in my approach to this; most people will just shove all the info into their phone and be done with it.  But the big calendar on my wall covers all twelve months of the year at a glance.  And since many of the things I have to do (or things for which I get “volunteered”) are weeks or months away, it's nice to have the whole year laid out at a glance without having to swipe from screen to screen, so if any conflicts pop up they're noted right away.

Did I ever think my life would get to the point where I'd come to depend upon looking at a calendar to see what I have coming up?  Certainly not.  And in my naivete I thought that once I was no longer on the board of the History Center that I'd have more time to do nothing at all.  But you know that saying about nature abhorring a vacuum?   Well, it's apparently true.  I have no idea how it's true, but it is true.  I now find myself busier than I've ever been, and trust me—those of you who've been reading this for a long time know I was kind of  busy to start with.

I'm not complaining, mind you, I just find it...interesting.  Very, very interesting.

Now before I leave this morning, my calendar is telling me two things (well, three if you count the fact that I have to go shoot a TV show in a few minutes).  My calendar is telling me that I keep promising to get you guys the updated list of “107 Things To Love About Marquette County”.  In fact, my calendar says I've been promising this since, oh, March, and I believe the calendar thinks I should really get off my butt and do this.  So with any week.  My calendar says I have to!

The other thing my calendar is telling me?  That it's my (ahem) little sister's birthday today!  That's right; Mel's, uhm, a year older, but seeing as how I'm actually a few years older than she is, I can't bug her about it too much.  I think I've written in here before about how she's gone back to school to get a degree in hospitality management, a field in which she should excel, and about how proud I am of her for doing that.

So I hope her classmates make her a cake today; after all, what's the good of being in a bunch of classes dealing with hospitality management if you can't have a student in one of the cooking classes make you a cake??

Happy birthday, Melanie.  And everyone else, have yourself a great weekend!



I’m doing it again.  I’m watching one of those movies that I know I shouldn’t, and I keep watching it over and over.

Long-time readers of this blog may remember the little, uhm, “addiction” I seem to have to the movie “Smokey and the Bandit”.  Whenever it’s on, I feel compelled to watch it all the way through, even though I know I’ve seen it dozens of times before and even though I know I’m probably killing off dozens of brain cells watching it again.

I just can’t help it.

Well, it now looks like there may be another movie that’s on its way to joining “Smokey and the Bandit” in the Jim Hall of Shame.  I watched it several times over the past weekend, compelled not to run away from the TV screaming in horror, but instead compelled to sit and revel in the total insanity of it all.

That’s right--over the course of three different days, I’ve watched three different parts of “Urban Cowboy”.

Oh, the horror!  The horror!!!

Like with “Smokey and the Bandit”, I don’t know WHY I do it, I just do it.  Maybe it’s the over-the-top characters and dialogue; maybe it was the fact that I was in Texas for a couple of days right around the time they filmed the movie and I saw people like Bud & Cissy and the neighborhoods in which they live.  Or maybe it’s the fact that Debra Winger was a babe in the movie.  I’m not quite sure; all I know is that I’ve felt compelled to watch parts of it three times over the past five days.

Why me?!?!?!?!?!?

Actually, I think that two good things HAVE come out of this whole “Urban Cowboy” situation.  The first is that I’ve never ever worn a cowboy hat, and now realize I never ever will.  The second is that I listened to Boz Scaggs again.

One of the few non-country songs on the movie’s soundtrack is the Boz Scaggs’ ballad “Look What You’ve Done To Me”, and hearing it in the movie reminded me that I really used to like the R&B-ish stylings of the 3-time Grammy winner.  So Tuesday, while I was lifting weights, I pulled out his greatest hits CD and listened to tracks like “Lowdown”, “Breakdown Dead Ahead”, and “Lido Shuffle”.

That was nice; much nicer, in fact, than seeing a mechanical bull for the fourth time in six days.

I’ve checked the TV listings, and I don’t see where “Urban Cowboy” is scheduled anytime in the near future.  With any luck, this whole thing will NOT turn into another “Smokey and the Bandit”-type situation.  Because if it did. . .

Well, then I’d be staring at the screen, shouting out “Look What You’ve Done To Me” to the characters on screen.  And that would not be a pretty sight!




Loraine thinks I sound like her grandmother.

I don't swear an awful lot.  I try to keep my language clean, and I try to keep my discourse elevated.  That's just the kind of person I am.  Plus, having worked in radio all these years, I've learned not to use language that might be problematic should there ever be an open microphone nearby.  Yet there are times when something stupid happens or I'm so shocked by an event that I have a reaction that causes certain words to come out of my mouth.  And what are those words, at least usually?

Words along the lines of “Jeez 'o Pete”, “Gosh Darn it”, or, if it's really bad, “Crap”.

Shocking language, isn't it?  But sometimes you just have to say things you have to say, if only to express your true feelings about a matter.  And sometimes the words “Jeez 'o Pete” are the only words that get across those feelings.  Even if Loraine does think I sound like her grandmother when I say them.

I don't know why I started using a phrase like “Jeez 'o Pete”; it's certainly not something a normal person my age would use.  Maybe Loraine's right.  After all, she's right about a lot of things.  Maybe I heard my own grandmother (or someone like her) use the phrase so much that it stuck itself into my brain.  Or maybe I subconsciously picked it up from one of those old radio shows I listen to.

Or maybe, just maybe, I'm weird.  Don't discount that theory.

I've been reading a book about euphemisms (called, imaginatively enough, “Euphemisms”) recently, and it talks all about how we tend to use substitute words when the subject about which we're talking makes us uncomfortable.  The writer actually goes through hundreds of euphemisms and discusses how they came about.  “Jeez 'o Pete”, however, was not one of them.  I'd be curious, though, to know from where it came, and why it's so associated with women of a certain era.

And, apparently, me.

So if you happen to see me doing something stupid, like dropping a can of soup on my bare foot or walking into a cupboard door, both of which actually prompted use of that phrase, be aware that the words “Jeez 'O Pete” will be probably be coming out of my mouth.  Sure, I could use a different word or phrase, but that wouldn't be as much fun, would it?  And it would also be so much more predictable, too.

And that's something I'd never want to be.  So “Jeez 'o Pete” it is!


TUESDAY, 9/30:

Wow.  Even for here, the turnaround was stunning.

As I write this it's 43 degrees, windy, and misting.  Less than 48 hours ago it was sunny, 83, and glorious.  I mean, I know it's the end of September and everything, and the weather we're experiencing now is much more typical for this time of the year than the weather we had this weekend, but wow.  Talk about a (cold) blast of reality.

However, fret not.  Because it was so atypical this weekend, and because I knew it wouldn't last, I spent as much time as possible outdoors, and as you know, whenever I'm outdoors I usually have a camera.  So even though the bottom has fallen out, meteorologically speaking, we can still have fond memories of “Summer in September”.

Mostly, I wanted to get shots of color contrast, but you know what?  At least here in Marquette, the leafs have not changed their colors much.  However, don't tell the statue of Jacques Marquette that--

Nor these people enjoying a bike ride--

Nor these flowers on Spring Street--

What I saw, though, mostly were people just out enjoying the amazing weather--

Even with occasional mixed messages--

And I also saw that despite the lateness of the year and the decreasing length of the days that things still  wanna grow!!

I have to wonder if those roses are still growing.  I'm almost afraid to look.

Stay warm!!


MONDAY, 9/29:

Yay!!  No one died and nothing exploded!!

I survived my first “High School Bowl” taping Friday.  I mean, there wasn't any doubt that I'd survive.  I was pretty confident that no one would actually die and that nothing would actually explode, but since I hadn't done it for real yet, I had to hold the possibility open.  Sure, that possibility was .000000000000000000000000000000001%, but you never know.

It's me we're talking about, after all.

I, of course, can not tell you who won; you'll have to wait until November 1st to find out.  But I will let you in on a little secret about the wacky world of TV—the show we taped Friday will actually be the second one to air this year.  So when the season starts, my “first” show will actually be the second one that airs while the first one that airs will actually be my “second” show.

That makes sense, right?

I can already tell you what my favorite part of the show is.  Between rounds of the game I get to step out from behind the podium and chat with each participant for a few seconds.  And you know what?  Those kids are interesting!  Before the show they answer a couple of questions on a sheet of paper, and then I get to use one of those questions to start a conversation.  Friday, I had a couple of very thoughtful answers, while I learned a big thing about L'Anse High School--

They love them their Marx Brothers up there.  They all seem to love a certain Marx brother, and no, it's not the one you're thinking of.  You'll hafta watch November 1st to find out which one and why.

If the first show was any indication, I have no doubt that I'll get to meet many fascinating young people through the year.  And that's gonna be the best part of hosting the show.  I mean, I just do what I do.  It's no big deal.  These kids, after all, are the stars of the show, and I think that as the year goes on, we'll get introduced to many very interesting young people.  It's gonna be a blast.

We tape the next show (the actual “first” show you'll see on the air) tomorrow, and then get into a regular schedule of taping two a week, which you then get to see five weeks later.  I'll try not to babble too much about it in here; after all, I'm sure you'll get sick of it soon enough.  But every once and awhile I may mention something, something along these lines--

Check out the kids.  After all, they're the stars of the show!!


FRIDAY, 9/26:

Well, I have an early call at TV-13 for my first “High School Bowl” taping (which I wrote about yesterday), so I'm just gonna leave you with this--


I mean, think about it—only two other times this year (I checked) did we have a span of 5 days where the temperature hit at least 70.  And with highs expected in the mid to upper 70s this weekend, this might actually be the longest span of the year.

I guess if September has to leave, this is the way for it to go!

Anyway, enjoy the weekend and enjoy getting out and playing in the “summer”.  I know that's what I plan on doing!!



Well, tomorrow’s the big day.

Tomorrow, as you know, is the first day we tape actual programs for “High School Bowl”.  Kids from four U.P. schools (among them Escanaba and L’Anse) will be heading to Marquette bright & early so they can appear on TV, testing their knowledge against each other with hopes of moving on in the competition.

And, of course, they also get to deal with a first-time host on the show.  Let’s just hope he doesn’t screw up too much, right?

I think I’m ready to go.  I mean, I have no worries at all about the performance part of the job, and I’m pretty confident in my abilities to handle the technical part of the gig.  After all, I have a ton of 3x5 cards telling me which thing to do next written out, and between those and the test show we did last week, I think I’m ready to go.

So keep your fingers crossed.

The shows we tape tomorrow won’t actually air until Saturday, November 1st.  In fact, we’ll have taped ten or 12 shows before the first one actually airs (standard practice in the TV world, unlike radio, where everything I do goes out live).  It’s a good thing I don’t like watching myself on TV, because by the time the first show airs I’ll have done a bunch of them and found whatever groove I’m gonna find, and I’m sure that looking back on the first show, after I’ve done ten or 12 of them, will be really, really painful.

I mean, REALLY painful.

I also think I’ve settled on my “look” for the show.  Being in radio, I can get away with anything I want, from wearing a shirt & tie (which I do once a week, just to remind myself I’m an “adult”) to wearing a T-shirt and jeans (which I do the rest of the week).  And while I was told to “be myself” when hosting the show, I really don’t think they’d appreciate me wearing a T-shirt and jeans (or, more to myself a T-shirt and shorts).  So I think I’ve found a look that’ll be true to both TV and to me.  Yes, I will still be wearing jeans (very dressy jeans, but jeans nonetheless), but I will be dressed up on top, sometimes with a jacket & tie, sometimes with just a shirt & jacket, but it’s a look with which I’m comfortable, and a look that does work on TV.  And, of course, with me being me, there will always be a splash of color—in a tie or a shirt—to make
sure things don’t get too boring.

After all, it IS television, and unlike radio, you actually can see me. It’s the one day a week I suppose I should actually make an effort to look somewhat respectable.

I know there are many of you who read this from outside the Marquette area who might be interested in seeing how this whole grand experiment works out, and as November rolls along you will be able to.  Public TV 13 does put the shows up on their website for streaming after they air, so when the first ones are available for consumption I’ll share the link.  No, I won’t be watching them myself, but if you guys want a good laugh, go ahead.  Who knows; maybe I’ll be doing something so dumb on a continuing basis that you can make a drinking game out of it.

It’s me we’re talking about, after all.  You never do know!

Anyway, wish me luck.  I’m sure it’ll be fine; heck I’m sure it’ll be better than fine.  I know we’ll find out for sure tomorrow.



Remind me never to eat Surströmming .

As I’ve traveled to Europe, and as I’ve come to realize that I am a true American “mutt”, born of many different nationalities, I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the history, culture, and lifestyles of other countries, especially countries from which one of my ancestors came.  I’ve done so with the help of a great series of books called “Culture Shock”, which are a fantastic guide to cities and countries around the world.  While the books are designed mostly for people who are thinking of moving to another country, they’re also a great resource for those of us just curious about where our roots lie.

I’m currently reading the “Culture Shock” edition on Sweden.  I’m one-eighth Swedish; my dad’s grandmother (which would make her my great-grandmother, right?) was born in Sweden, and came to the U.S. as a young girl where she married an Irish guy who was actually born in Canada.  She died many years before I was born, and all of her kids (especially my grandmother) were American kids through and through, so I never knew anything about Sweden other than what every other American knows about Sweden—namely, Abba.  Oh, and the word “smorgasbord”.

But that was it.

But as Loraine was researching her book on Elwood Norr, we spent a lot of time with Elwood’s sister Jeanne, whose grandparents also came from Sweden.  Jeanne actually did know a little about the culture—in fact, she still speaks a little Swedish—and was able to whet my appetite just enough that I knew I’d like to explore the country from which my great-grandmother came just a little more.

And so when I saw that “Culture Shock” had an edition on a country that gave me one-eighth of my genetic makeup, I pounced.

Being a geography nerd, I actually know a bit about the country and its history and its economic system; however, the book is quite fascinating about the people who call Sweden home.  Apparently, they’re not a lot like people from other Scandinavian or Nordic countries; they’re much more reserved & thoughtful & orderly.  In fact, the book has a joke that many Swedish residents themselves tell—two Danes, two Norwegians, two Finns, and two Swedes each land on different islands. By the end of the day, the Danes have set up a commune on their island, the Norwegians have gone fishing, the Finns have cut down all the trees, and the Swedes are still waiting to be introduced to each other.

Ah, Nordic humor.  You gotta love it.

I also found the chapter on Swedish food interesting.  For instance, did you know that there really is no such thing in Sweden as Swedish meatballs?  And that while younger generations of Swedes prefer a much more worldly and sophisticated palette, some of the very old, traditional Swedish dishes are still hauled out for holidays and special occasions.  Those, of course, include a lot of fish and root vegetables, including the aforementioned Surströmming, which is basically rotten herring that’s been allowed to ferment in its own juices. 

Sounds appetizing, doesn’t it?

It’s a dish from the northern part of the country; the herring used to be allowed to ferment because salt was rare and couldn’t be used to preserve a lot of food.  It sounds like there were a lot of traditional Swedish dishes like that; Surströmming , however, is one that’s still eaten, if only by a small group of people in the country.

I think I’ll pass, though. 

So if you’re ever curious about some of the countries from which your ancestors hailed, I highly recommend books in the “Culture Shock” series.  They have volumes on 50 different countries (as well as over 20 large cities), so you’ll probably find handy information on most of your background.  Next to actually going to your ancestral lands (something I hope to do one day, at least to Sweden and Finland) the books are a great way to see how some very distant cousins, aunts, and uncles still live their daily lives.

Especially if it involves eating dishes like Surströmming .


TUESDAY, 9/23:

Wow.  It’s over.  It’s really over.

Today marks the first full day of the Autumnal Equinox, or as a normal person would put it, the first full day of Fall.  Summer’s over, and while we (once again) really didn’t have much of a summer this year, the door has been officially slammed on it.


Every Tuesday on the air we do something we call out “Tuesday Topic”, in which we ask a question on the air and also throw it on our station Facebook page in hopes of getting a little discussion going.  Today’s question, written knowing this is the first full day of Fall, asks if everyone is ready for another Upper Michigan winter.

I know what my answer is.

I’ve always thought of Summer as a time to recharge your batteries, a time to (literally) soak up enough sun to wash away the memories of the winter you’ve just lived through and to charge your psyche up enough to face the onslaught of the next, upcoming cold season.  I mean, that’s just how I perceive it, but in talking with other people it seems like I’m not alone in that area.

This year, though, was something special.  We had a brutally cold and brutally long-lasting winter, one that I know drained my batteries far more than they’ve ever been drained.  We didn’t have much a spring at all, and then “summer” this year consisted of a nice Memorial Day weekend, a few nice days here and there, a cold & wet July, and a few more okay days in August before all heck broke loose.  Sure, it’s not too bad today, and might it be nice the rest of the week, but did we really have enough of a “summer” this year to erase memories of what we lived through a few months ago, and what we may have to live through a few months hence?

Don’t answer; it’s mostly a rhetorical question.  After all, we each handle weather (and what it does to us) in different ways.  But I have a feeling that if you were to ask 100 different U.P. residents that question that a majority—maybe even a large majority—of them would answer the same way I did. 

And I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.

Maybe we’ll get lucky this winter.  Maybe there will be a strong El Nino in the Pacific this year, and we’ll have warmer than average temperatures.  I don’t care about snowfall; heck, let it snow all it wants.  But maybe we’ll get lucky and have few (if any days) where the temperature falls below zero.  Maybe Lake Superior won’t freeze this year, which means that we’ll have a warmer Spring, which might lead to us having a “normal” summer next year.


Living up here, you gotta have hope, especially as far as the weather goes.  After all, there’s nothing you can do about it; you just have to live through it, and keep your fingers crossed that it turns out for the best.

So on this first full day of Fall, perhaps the best thing I can say is “good luck, everyone”.  We may need it.


MONDAY, 9/22:

Well, I guess I don't totally suck at hosting a TV game show.

Friday's test taping of “High School Bowl” seemed to go well.  I didn't swear, I didn't fall down, and I showed up on time, which I guess are the most important qualifications for the job.  Of course, the show we did wasn't actually taped, and it won't actually be seen by anyone, so I don't know if it really counts.  But I do know for sure that the next ones we do—this Friday morning—will be taped, and will be seen, hopefully by a lot of people.

So I'm thinking I can't swear or fall down during the taping of those ones, right?

I actually kind of figured I wouldn't have much of a problem hosting the show, but I am glad we did this run-through.  After all, the show has a format, and the only episodes I've watched were a couple of them online just to get an idea what what goes where.  And now that I've done an episode (albeit a fake one) I  think I now know what goes where.  So hopefully, I'll be as mistake-free as possible starting Friday.

Of course, knowing me, it won't be totally mistake-free, but I'll take what I can get.

The shows that we tape this Friday won't actually air until November 1st, but that doesn't mean you won't get sick of me if you watch Public TV-13 before then.  Nope; before the test show we taped (for real) promos for the the show, and then an open for the repeats that air during the month of October.  So I have a feeling that no matter when you're watching, I'll be popping up and intruding upon your reality.

And for that, I apologize in advance.



The other thing we need to reveal today?  The picture I will be looking at for the next year on my computer desktop, and here it is!

That would be a bouquet of flowers from the regular Saturday market in Chartres, and it was the one I had an inkling would win.  However, it did face some fierce competition from the shot of the water in Colmar's Petit Venice, but in the end, the flowers came out on top.  And that's not a bad thing; after all, during those long dreary (and many) cold days of winter an explosion of color might be a good thing to see first thing in the morning, right?

As always, thanks for the votes.  And thanks for making the decision!


FRIDAY, 9/19:

I'd like to say this is extraordinary, but I have a feeling that this is what my life is gonna be like from now on.

I'm starting the morning writing this.  Then I have to go shoot a few things for TV.  Then I have to go be on the radio.  Then I have to make an on-stage appearance at a play.  Then, and only then, do I get to be a normal person.

Oh well, it's Friday.  What did I expect?

By the time I got to college I kinda figured that I wanted to do something creative with my life.  I figured I could work in radio, or maybe in TV, or maybe write, or maybe just do something involving performance in some kind of way.   I never thought that I'd end up doing all of them, and doing all of them in the span of one day, but that's now my life turned out.

Glad to see that particular dream came true!

What's funny is that every day of my life now consists of at least one, and usually two, of those four things listed above.  If it's a particularly hectic day, it might involve three, but I don't think I've had a “pick four” like I have today, but between my usual stuff, my new TV gig, and making an appearance at “Willpower” for the Marquette Regional History Center, that's my jackpot for today.  You know, all I would need is for a newspaper reporter to call up and ask me a few questions for an upcoming story, and then something in my head would explode and send me into a new dimension heretofore unknown to humanity.

And the way things are going to today, it wouldn't surprise me if that happened.

Just so you know, I'm not complaining about this in any way.  I think it's kinda cool, in fact.  I'm just not sure how it's happened to me, of all people.  George Clooney, sure.  Katy Perry, I would understand perfectly.  But me?

The mind just boggles.

So with that in mind I supposed I should wrap up the first of my media adventures for today (writing this) and go on to the second, which involves shooting promos and a practice show for “High School Bowl” (you know, the one that gives me a chance to see just how gray my hair looks on camera!).  If you have the chance, check out “Willpower” tonight, too.  I was there last night, and all I have to say is WOW.

But go see for yourself tonight at 7 a Kaufman.


One more note before I go...I need to wish a happy anniversary to the two people without whom I wouldn't be here!  It's my parents anniversary, and because I'm so busy today I took 'em out to lunch yesterday.  So if you see either Dar or Chicky-Poo, make sure you wish 'em a happy day, because they sure do deserve it!

Love to them both,



Okay.  My eyes can stop watering any day now.

When I was younger I used to suffer from rather severe hay fever twice a year (spring & fall).  But one of the (very) few good things about getting older, I've discovered, is that allergy problems, at least for me, have fallen way off.  I no longer have any sort of problems each Spring, and for the past few Autumns I haven't noticed anything happening at all.

And then there's this Fall.  For the past week or so, my eyes have been watering like a fire hydrant left on during a hot Summer's day.  And also for the past week or so, I've had a non-stop low-grade headache centered right behind my eyeballs.  My nose hasn't in any way been stuffy, but Monday you could actually hear all kinds of roughness in my voice.  In total it's not quite as bad as what I suffered through as a younger person, but it's not that far off, either.

I have no idea why it's hit me with a vengeance this year.  I don't know if it's the fact I was cooped up in airplanes and in different countries the past few weeks, or if the (and I say this generously) weird weather we've had this year kick-started something in my head that's been laying dormant for a couple of decades now.  All I can say is...


I really hope that it's just an anomaly brought on by travel.  I really hope that our increasingly screwed up climate hasn't caused my annual bouts of hay fever to return.  But I always travel during this time of the year and have not have the allergy problems that I do right now.  So if the problems HAVE been caused by the weather, let's hope they've just been caused by our weird weather year, and not by our increasingly weird weather patterns.

After all, I suffered enough when I was young.  I'd really dislike having to do it again.  So if you see me walking down the street in the next few days with tears running down my face, realize that I'm not weeping in joy at seeing you (although I probably AM weeping in joy, at least inside).  It's just my stupid sinuses getting their revenge for some inexplicable reason.


Here's one final reminder from me that I need your vote on which picture occupies my computer desktop for the next year.  It's close so far between two of the pictures; to see all the qualifiers just scroll down to this past Monday's entry and then let me know.

The winner gets announced in four days Monday!




Okay.  The dreams can stop any time now.

As most of you know I drove over 2,200 kilometers (1,600 or so miles) during our European getaway.  For me, that's somewhere between 65 and 75 percent of the total mileage I drive all year, compacted into a 9 or so day span.  And I'm guessing that's the reason why, every night since we've gotten back, I've had dreams about driving.

Some dreams I'm just driving around like a normal person does.  Some dreams, I'm driving around in circles, not knowing where I'm going (much like several days we experienced in Europe).  And in some dreams I think I'm driving but, as it turns out, I'm actually doing something else (like running) when I'm supposed to be driving.

The human brain is weird, isn't it?

This is the first time I've had dreams about driving after returning from a trip.  Normally, at least as far as I've noticed, I've NEVER had dreams about driving, especially for 10 days in a row (and counting).  I don't know what caused it; sure, all the construction and detours that we rain into this time were a hassle, but nothing that (I thought) would've scarred my psyche to the extent that I'd have dreams about driving for a week and a half straight.  And if that were the case, wouldn't you think that all of my dreams would tend toward the bizarre and/or nightmarish?  Nope; a large chunk of the dreams just involve me driving without getting lost or me driving with all my clothes on.

I don't get it.

But then, that's kind of the point of dreams, right?  It's your subconscious trying to work out whatever issues it's dealing with at the moment.  You're not supposed to entirely understand them.  You're just supposed to wake from them feeling refreshed.  Or, in this case, with a weird feeling that your brain's not doing what it's supposed to do.

Maybe, deep down, my brain is telling me that it misses driving.  After all, I never had dreams like this when I drove to work all the time.  And I didn't have any dreams about driving while I was actually driving every day in Europe.  The dreams didn't start until I came back and stopped driving.  So maybe that does have something to do with it.  The only thing come I didn't have these dreams after coming back from Europe in 2009, or 2010, or 2012, trips where I also drove everywhere?

I don't get it.

Hopefully, one night soon I'll have normal dreams, dreams of Loraine or of chocolate or of flying on a dragon while wearing a kilt ( don't have dreams like that?).  Either that, or pretty soon I'll start having dreams about entering an around the world driving rally, or something like that.

With my brain, you never know.


TUESDAY, 9/16:

It's a nice thought.  It's just too bad the facts are flipped around.

Over the past couple of years you've probably noticed the same bumper sticker I've noticed, one that shows the U.P. done up in red, white, & blue, and with this line surrounding the artwork--

“American by Choice, Yooper by the Grace of God”.

It's a nice thought, and it's a nice way for whoever put the bumper sticker together to show their pride in being from the U.P.  Good for them.  And it's nice to see that many people have purchased the stickers to share in their pride, as well.

Too bad the bumper sticker is wrong.

Now, I don't mean to harp on the bumper sticker or the person who put it together.  Like I said, it's a nice thought and a nice way to show a little Yooper pride.  But from the first time I saw it my little pea-brain went into overdrive at the bad civics lesson the sticker is teaching.  You are NOT American by choice and Yooper by the grace of God.  Nope; you're American by the grace of a God and Yooper by choice.  After all, unless you change it yourself your national citizenship is determined by the country in which you're born.  For 99.99999 percent of all the people on this planet, their citizenship is “By the Grace of God” (i.e.—the luck of the draw as to where they were born).. 

However, you can be a Yooper by choice.  You can choose to live here and be a Yooper, or you can choose to move away and not be a Yooper.  That matter, unlike your citizenship, is your CHOICE.  So if you're being a stickler for things, and it looks like that's what I'm doing here, the bumper sticker should say this--

“American by the Grace of God, Yooper by Choice”

But therein lies the problem, doesn't it?  That saying doesn't express any sort of pride in where you live; it's just a civics lesson on a bumper sticker.  It says (and I'm paraphrasing here)  “You're lucky to have been born in this country, and if you feel like living up here, cool”.  It doesn't in any way express the feelings the person who put the sticker together must've had when they first wrote the phrase.  So I guess it's one of those things—you can either be “correct”, or you can be “right”.  And the person who put the sticker together was “right”.

Even if there are some of us who notice they weren't totally “correct”. 


By the way, don't forger to vote for which picture will be on my work computer desktop for the next year.  Your choice are listed in yesterday's blog, so scroll down and let me know what you think.



MONDAY, 9/15:

Once again, it’s time for you to decide.

As you may recall, every year when I get back from Europe I let you guys decide which picture I took there over there gets to be my work computer desktop photo for the year.  So far, you’ve chosen trees, markets, village scenes, French roses, and last year, this eerie hiking trail in Germany--

I always pick out a couple of semi-finalists from which you get to choose, and I base the choice on this criteria--that I like it enough to be able to stare at it every day for the next year.  After all, it would make no sense for me to, say, have to look at a picture of snow or something grungy for an entire year, which is the reason why you may notice all the pictures have a little sun or something cheery about them.  Oh, and there should be enough room for a dozen or so icons to appear without disrupting the flow of the picture.

Okay, with that out of the way, here are your choices for this year, presented in the order in which I shot them--

First, one of the many cows we came across.  It's been a couple of years since I've been able to photograph cows, so I went hog-wild this year.  This might be the best of them--

Next, this shot of the headstone of Palmer's Theodore Swanson at the Lorraine American cemetery in St. Avold, France.  And  by the way, this picture is NOT digitally manipulated in any way at all.  This is how the cemetery looks in real life!

Next, two townscapes, the first being part of the Petit Venice section of Colmar--

As well as a street scene in nearby Bergheim--

Finally, there's this bunch of flowers that were for sale at the weekly market in Chartres--

Take a look at the pictures, think it over, and by this Friday morning please let me know which you think should be on my computer desktop.  I’ll announce the winner then, and for the next year, that’ll be the picture that greets me every morning when I come into work.  You guys have shown great taste in the past; I look forward to seeing what you choose this year!


FRIDAY, 9/12:

It's nice to know I was wrong about something.

Actually, I'm wrong about a lot of things; you just need to listen to me on the air for a day to realize that.  But before we left for Europe I was sure about one thing.  If you recall, it was about a month ago that I posted this picture-

This was a tree on my way home from work, and the leafs on it were already beginning to change in mid-August.  Because of that, I was sure, I was certain, I was positive that by the time we got back from Europe ALL of the trees around here would be changing color.  But you know what?  I was wrong.

And I'm okay with that.

I was expecting to get off the plane and see no green anywhere.  Instead, I was pleasantly—very pleasantly—surprised.  In fact, here's a picture of the same tree, only taken yesterday--

To me, it seems like tree is actually greener than it was a month ago, but that's because most of the leafs that had changed color fell off.  And it's not just that one tree; here are several right across the street from that first tree.

Almost every single tree, at least here in Marquette, still looks like these trees, and in a way that's amazing.  After all, because of the bitterly cold spring some tree leafs didn't come out this year until the beginning of June, and with some of them starting to turn early because of our bitterly cold summer, I kind of figured they'd be gone by now.  But no; trees growing around here must be as resilient as the people living around here.  During a “normal” year we'd be seeing a lot of color by now.  We expect the leafs to change by mid-September.  But not this year.  Whether it's because of the late start the trees got or because it's been so cool they've stayed well-preserved, we're lucky this year.  Despite early warning signs, we get to stay green a little longer than usual.

And I'm okay with that, even if it means I was wrong.  Because if I'm gonna be wrong about something, I don't mind if it leads to an outcome like this.

With that in mind, have yourself a great weekend.  Try to stay warm, if that's indeed possible in this weather.  I hope to get a little rest this weekend, and to finally (ahem) finish unpacking.  After all, that suitcase can't sit on the living room floor forever, can it?



I need a vacation.

Oh, stop laughing.  I know I just returned from 11 days in Europe, but as I've said many times we don't take “vacations” when we go to Europe, we take working “trips”.  We have people we need to see, things we need to do, and places we need to go, and unless it's a rare day—like the day we went hiking in the German Alps last year—we don't get a lot of “vacation” time in.

And that's why I need a vacation!

After all, I drove over 2,200 kilometers over the past two weeks, and that 1,600 miles is more than I drive back home all year.  Not only that, but a lot of the driving was in situations—like on busy city streets and high-traffic freeways—that don't exactly lead themselves to calm.  So when you combine the stress of those situations with the fatigue that goes two overseas flights in 11 days...

Well, maybe you can see where I'm coming from.

Normally I'd recover from a “trip” by spending a little time just walking along the beach at McCarty's Cove, listening to the waves and feeling whatever sun happens to be shining on my skin.  That usually works wonders for me, and could almost be considered the best “stay-cation” I could think of.  But when you consider the fact that it'll be rainy and/or cold for, well, the next eight months, I guess that option has pretty much been thrown out the window.

Don't worry; I will survive with no problem whatsoever.  After all, my body clock has pretty much readjusted, I'm back to eating and working out like normal, and now I can deal with all the nagging little things that seem to pop up in my every day life, plus the one big thing that's looming two weeks and a day from today—the first taping of “High School Bowl” with me as host.

And I'm kind of thinking I need to be at the top of my game for that.

So yes, I probably do need a vacation, but I also realize that I'm not gonna be able to take one for a bit.  I'll just have to make sure that I steal a moment a here and there, and use those moments to help me charge whatever internal batteries need charging.  After all, I have a feeling that the foreseeable future is gonna be quite the wild ride!



How much chocolate is too much chocolate?

I mean, I don't know if you can EVER have too much chocolate, but after looking at this picture of all the chocolate I bought in Europe--

I started to think that maybe someone needs to organize an intervention on my behalf.  But then I realized something.  A bunch of the chocolate was purchased as gifts for other people.  I'm only gonna eat, like, 2/3rds of it.  And that's pretty much an amount a normal person would do, right?


One of the great things about a chocolate stash like this is that it lasts a long, long, time.  It's not like I eat it all at once, or even in a week or a month.  Nope; I might eat one of these bars over the course of an entire  week.  Some of the bigger ones (and I seem to have purchased a lot of bigger ones this year) might even last a couple of weeks.  So the chocolate you see in the picture will probably last me through the winter.

And if our winter this year is anything like last year's, I'll really need that chocolate!

In all honesty, I couldn't eat that much chocolate in a short span of time anyway.  Over the last two weeks I have eaten a lot of chocolate; a bar a day instead of a bar a week.  And as I'm scaling back my consumption I notice my body is going through “withdrawal”, albeit in a very small way.  You know how, when some people quite coffee cold turkey, their body goes into caffeine withdrawal?  Well, chocolate has caffeine in it, and going from a bar a day to a bar a week does have an effect on a body.  Sure, it;s not like quitting caffeine cold turkey, but I can tell my consumption has been cut back drastically.

Not only that, but I have to get back on the horse this Saturday.  I have to step on the scale for the first time since I've returned and see how much damage has been done. I don't blame the chocolate for whatever number I'll see; baked goods and breakfast buffets are the main culprits in that area.  But, as much as I try to deny it, chocolate is not calorie free, even if you buy it in Europe.  So if there's anything I can do to minimize the amount of weight I'll have to lose, I'll do it.

So sure, I may have purchased a lot of chocolate while I was in Europe, but that's one of the reasons I go, so judge me too harshly.  Some people smoke, some people drink, some people stick needles in their veins.  Me?  I have a thing for fine European chocolate.  I guess we all have our demons.  I'm just lucky mine is sweet and, in moderation, good for you.


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