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In Jim's Daily Opinion 09/12/2014

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.



Geez...just what were you guys up to while I was gone?

Don't worry; I know it wasn't anyone who reads this.  But I have to admit I was a bit surprised when I walked to work yesterday and saw this--

I mean, here I spend a week babbling about all the great sandstone architecture I checked out in Europe, and at the same time someone lacking any kind of basic driving skills puts a big dent in one of OUR impressive pieces of sandstone architecture, the Savings Bank Building in downtown Marquette. 

I don't know the whole story behind the accident; from what I read in a press release someone who was, shall we say, not in peak driving condition ran through a light and ran into the building.  I have to admit I'm kind of surprised that hasn't happened more over the years, considering the way that some people drive around here, but let's hope that it doesn't happen again, okay?


Speaking of alcohol-related behavior, I have to pass along something I saw at O'Hare while getting ready to fly home Sunday.  We were getting ready to board the plane to Marquette when the line in front of us stopped for a second while the gate agent had to admonish a young man trying to board.   Why was he being admonished?  Well, it because he had just been at one of the airport bars and was trying to bring a half-full glass of beer on the plane with him, which is a no-no.

And to be honest, the holdup wasn't necessarily because he was being admonished.  No, the hold-up was because he standing there finishing the rest of his beer before boarding the plane.  That was something I've never observed while waiting to fly home, but he was flying to the U.P.  I guess there needs to be no explanation other than that.


Not to be an attention whore or anything, but if you haven't checked out our trip blogs, including the one I wrote while waiting to board the Beer Flight Sunday, make sure you click here!


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TUESDAY, 8/26:

And tomorrow we leave for Europe.

As far as I can figure out everything is taken care of and everything is ready to go.  Loraine’s gone through her checklist twice, and everything that’s on the list—a list honed over a decade of these travels—is either packed & ready to go, or it sitting on top of a suitcase, waiting to get used one more time before it itself is then packed and ready to go.  Our passports are out, our Euros are counted, and there’s just one thing left to do—


I’ve been keeping an eye on the weather over there, if only because much of where we’ll be traveling has had a summer like we’ve had—a pretty much non-existent one.  And while it does look to be a little cool (and perhaps a little wet) the first few days we’re there, that’s not too much of a surprise.  We’ll be in Belgium then, and I think that with the exception of one day every day we’ve ever spent in Belgium has been a little cool & wet.  In fact, a friend of ours who lives there once claimed it rains 367 days a year in Belgium, and although he may be exaggerating a bit chronologically, he did so because, well, it’s probably true.

However, it looks like as we get into France next week things start to turn a little more temperate, with the long-range forecast calling for sun and temps in the 70s.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed, although I’m well aware that long-range forecasts are notoriously unreliable—that’s why they’re called “forecasts”, and not “this is what the weather will be like with 100% certainty”.  Still, after the (lack of) summer we’ve had here, ANY sun and warm(er) temperatures will be welcome.

(And just the thought that we’ll be getting back into Marquette on September 7th, probably just in time to see the leaves start to change and fall weather take hold, leaves me with a pang of regret that summer (or what there was of it) is now gone.  But that’s a story for another day).

Now to the important stuff—you keeping track of what we’re doing!  There will not be anything posted tomorrow; part of the day will be spent on airplanes, while the other will be spent traipsing through downtown Chicago.  We’ll get to Luxembourg (via London) around noon local time on Thursday, and then take off from there.  So, unless things go horribly awry, the first blog should be up mid-Thursday afternoon Marquette time, either through a link that’ll be posted on this page or through our Blogspot site.  If we’re Facebook friends, I may also be posting a few things as we’re waiting in Chicago and London.  If we’re not friends yet (and I hope it wasn’t something I said), click here and make it so.

Well, that’s it.  There doesn’t seem much left to do except get through this day, grab a few hours sleep, and then stay awake for 36 hours until we finally make it to Bastogne.  It should be quite the adventure, so wish us luck, and make sure you keep checking in!


MONDAY, 8/25:

T-minus two days until we leave, and I can now finally reveal my “secret”.

Over the past couple of months, I've mentioned that I'm taking on an additional gig starting this fall, a gig that will create a “TV Jim” to go along with the “Radio Jim” and the “History Jim” we all know and occasionally love.  However, because the contracts hadn't been signed and the details hadn't been totally formalized, I was asked not to make it public.  Well, now that the contracts HAVE been signed and the details HAVE been formalized, I can now say what my secret is.

I am the new host of “High School Bowl” on Public TV-13.

Most of you may already know this; for a secret, I've been approached by a LOT of people congratulating me on the gig.  I, however, had been asked to keep it hushed for a bit, and I did.  I think the people at Public TV were thinking of putting together some kind of teaser campaign announcing who their new host would be, but that didn't pan out.  So it looks like I get to tell you instead!

The gig came about because of both “Radio Jim” and “History Jim”.  As “History Jim” I've spent the last four or five years doing little program segments at Public TV.  And as “Radio Jim” I'm always spouting off all kinds of trivial facts that no one else would seem to know (or, for that matter, care about).  You put the two together, and there you have it--”TV Jim”.

We start taping the season at the end of September, and the first shows air in either late October or early November.  And while I'm looking forward to it and I'm sure it'll be a blast, I also have to confess my relief when I found out we could tape a dummy show or two before actual production begins.  After all, while I don't think I'll have any problem whatsoever hosting the show, I do wanna rehearse a little.  I don't want my first show as host to be an actual show, then have me do something stupid that causes a team to lose out on something.

I have no problem making a fool out of myself, but if I do that at someone else's expense...well, not so col.

Besides, the dummy shows will allow me to look at myself and decide upon the great question we've all been pondering this past month—whether or not I should cover up the gray in my hair.  This is kind of funny; after I wrote the blog about it a month or so ago, every single person but one has advised me to leave my hair like it is and not to be vain about my age.  The one person who wants me to color it?

My mom.  And she probably just doesn't want to have anyone know she's old enough to have a son with gray hair.


So that's the “secret” I've been carrying around for five months now.  All I can say is that it should be a blast!


FRIDAY, 8/22:

T-minus five days until we leave for Luxembourg, and tomorrow's the big weigh-in.

It's actually not a “big” weigh-in; I check my weight every Saturday morning to see if I've gone up or down a few ounces (or quite a few ounces) the previous week.  The reason it's a “big” weigh-in is because it's the last time I'll weigh myself before we leave, so whatever I weigh tomorrow provides the baseline to see  how much weight I gain while we're in Europe.

And if past experience means anything, I'll gain three pounds.

I'm not quite sure how I can gain three pounds in ten days.  I don't know if it's what we eat or the lack of strenuous exercise (or both), but on each of, I think, our last five trips I've come back three pounds heavier.  It doesn't matter if we do nothing but eat a lot of fresh baked goods (like in Normandy in 2012) or if we do a lot of hiking & climbing (like we did last year in Germany) but every time I come back from Europe I come back three pounds heavier.

It's like a souvenir I don't have to pack!

Long-time readers of this know that two of those three pounds aren't a problem.  I always seem to lose the first pound in the first few days, probably because I'm not eating seventeen different kinds of fresh baked goods every day.  The second pound always seems to come off a week or two later, probably because I'm back to my old exercise routine.  It's the third pound that's always a problem, because for several of the years I've brought three extra pounds back from Europe I've had a bear of a time getting rid of that final pound.

It doesn't matter what I eat or how hard I exercise, that third pound just hangs around.  Several years, it's taken until just before Christmas to lose it, which means that I'm back at my average weight for a whole week or two until I gain that extra pound back by eating too many Christmas cookies and too much fudge.  That's why I wish I could lose that third pound earlier, if only to have more than a week when I'm back at my fighting weight.

But what are you gonna do, right?

So I'll step on the scale tomorrow and I'll weigh either 156 or 157.  I'll take a good long look at that number, because if past experience holds, I may not see it again until my birthday.  You birthday three weeks to the day before Christmas.

On that note, have yourself a great weekend.  Hope your scale's kind to you if you step on it!



T-minus six days and counting!

I'm not gonna write about our upcoming excursion today; I'm guessing that you're getting kinda bored about that, and bored rather quickly.  Instead, I'll just offer this public service announcement--

Look for your favorite dork in this Sunday's edition of the Mining Journal!

I don't know how this happens; one day, I talk about old sandstone structures, and pretty soon people think I'm an expert on old buildings.  Or at least enough of an expert on old buildings to stick in a newspaper article.  Yet that's what's happening.  There'll be a front page story in Sunday's paper about old buildings in the U.P. and some of the historical efforts to save them, and one of the “experts” involved in the discussion will be me.

Yeah, I know.  I'm laughing right now, too.

It's amazing how things like this work, but apparently it's how they DO work.  Ever since both incarnations of the “Lost Buildings” show Jack Deo & I did for the History Center last year I've had people use me as a resource on Marquette buildings that are both old and new, still standing and long destroyed.  I apparently learned enough about old buildings, and seem passionate enough about them, for me to be considered (to paraphrase the movie “You've Got Mail”) “Marquette's greatest living expert on old destroyed sandstone buildings”.

Well, I guess everyone needs a niche, right?

I don't personally notice it, but every time I talk about old sandstone buildings I get people telling me how passionate and animated I get.  And if I start talking about “The Great Sandstone Purge” of the 60s and the 70s around here; well, let's just say it's best you starting running for the hills.  I gave a downtown tour to several coworkers of Loraine's a few weeks ago, and when I got to what used to be where their current building now sits (a gorgeous old sandstone structure)...I guess I can see how I might've gotten a little passionate and carried away.

But it's sandstone?  Why WOULDN'T I get a little passionate and carried away?

So anyway, if you're glancing at Sunday's edition of the Mining Journal and notice an article about old buildings, don't be surprised if you see me quoted in there.  And don't be surprised if the quotes that get used involve, in some way, sandstone.  Apparently I can't help myself.



T minus one week and counting, and today we have a lesson in how to re-purpose material!

As you're well aware, every time we head over to Europe I write daily blogs about our adventures, complete with pictures, that allow everyone who cares to see what's going on. Before every trip I also write something explaining what we plan on doing and what we hope to accomplish, and stick it on the site

Well, I've written this year's, and before I stick it up I'm gonna post it here!  I mean, I've already written it, so why not use it; after all, it's that what re-purposing is all about?  Or, at the very least, laziness?


Anyway, you get to read it first.  It's goes up on the trip site later today.  So enjoy!


This was the trip to Europe where we were going to Normandy to get remarried.  Unfortunately, several thousand horses got in the way.

Welcome to another “Jim & Loraine European Adventure”, a journey that marks several milestones for us.  For me (Jim) it’s the tenth anniversary of my first trip to Europe, while for Loraine, it’s her tenth journey to one of our favorite places in the world.  And seeing as how this year also marks our 25th wedding anniversary, Loraine had come up with a cool idea—that we’d go to visit all of our friends in Normandy and renew our vows.  We even had the mayor of St. Georges-de-Bohon looking into all the legalities of it.

And that’s when the horses got in the way.

Those of you who’ve followed along on these journeys know that we have a limited window of time in which we can travel every year, and that window usually falls around the Labor Day weekend in the U.S.  So as we were setting out to plan our “Euroversary” trip we ran smack dab into something going on at the exact same time in Normandy, the World Equestrian Championships, a three-week long gathering of thousands of horses (and their riders, and support staff).

Every single hotel we tried to book was either full or charging several hundred Euros a night.  Even the fine staff at our usual home-away-from-home, the Bayeux Novotel, couldn’t make it work.


So with those plans (and Loraine’s great idea of getting re-married) thrown out the equestrian window, we (or should I say mostly she) put together the excursion on which we are about to embark.  It’s chock full of WWII research projects, rendezvous with old friends (along with the meeting of several new ones) and a chance to buy chocolate in not one, not two, but FOUR different countries.

And I’m thinking that ALMOST makes up for the fact that the horses got in the way of our original plans!

Our journey starts in Luxembourg (where we’re arriving this time around) and consists of several days in Bastogne, Belgium, several in the wonderful town of Colmar, France (Click HERE ) to read what I wrote the one day we were there in 2011), and then a few nights here and there as we slowly make our way toward Paris, from where we’ll heading back to the States.  Throw in a day trip to the Black Forest of Germany, and there you have it—four countries (and four different places to buy chocolate) in eleven days.

Sounds like a typical Jim & Loraine trip, right?

In Belgium, we’ll be focusing on several of Loraine’s research subjects, including Elden Gjers, who’s the “co-author” of her soon-to-be-released book “Elden’s True Army Tales”. We’ll also meet up with Carl Wouters to see what happened to Carl Swanson of Ishpeming during the Battle of the Bulge.  And we’ll be spending one of our days around Colmar with our friends Olivier and Marie Rose Pernot; if you read the Mining Journal about a year ago, you know that Loraine and Olivier helped the Ritola family of Republic find out where their brother and uncle George was killed in 1945. 

That’s the war related stuff.  We’re also planning on visiting parks and recreation areas, strolling through the beautiful streets of places like Colmar and Nancy and Troyes, and (hopefully) will get to visit to the factory where they make Jacques and Callebaut chocolates, among the best in the world (yum).  And just so the folks at home don’t think we’re forgetting them, we’re also planning on checking out Pont-a-Mousson, where a young French missionary named Jacques Marquette was educated four and a half centuries ago, and where a school (complete with statue) named after him still exists.

Those are just the highlights.  If this is like every other one of journeys to Europe I’m sure many wonderful, whimsical, and occasionally downright strange things will also be happening.  This will be your front-row seat for each and every one of them.  And who knows—maybe one or two will even involve horses.

So get ready!


TUESDAY, 8/19:

T minus eight days and counting!

Believe it or not, one of the weird decisions that you have to make before heading to Europe (or at least one of the weird decisions you have to make before heading to Europe if you're me) is trying to figure out which camera to bring.  Yes, I realize it's a severely first world problem, but it's always a problem nonetheless.

Here's the deal—I have two really nice cameras.  One's an Olympus digital camera with a 20x zoom on it, while the other's a Nikon DSLR with extra lenses.  The Olympus is a smaller camera, which means that I can lug it around with less effort than the Nikon.  The Nikon, however, takes amazing pictures, especially when I have the longest lens attached to it.  I mean, it's not like the Olympus takes bad pictures; after all, here's just one of the amazing shots I was able to get in Germany last year--

But I can do amazing things with focus and framing with the Nikon that the Olympus just wasn't designed for--

So you can see why I have to make a choice.  The good thing is that I really can't go wrong either way.  The bad thing is that I actually have to make a choice.

And this year's choice is the smaller Olympus.  Sure, I might be sacrificing a little in the way of picture quality and shooting versatility, but this is one of those trips where I'll be doing the driving.  That means I'll be hopping in and out of cars to take pictures, and I'll be tossing camera bags into the back seat once I've taken the picture.  I really don't want to do that with my big Nikon; heck I really CAN'T do that with my big Nikon.  But the Olympus is small enough, and the bag in which I carry it padded enough, that it makes perfect sense for a trip like this.

So the Olympus it is.

The Nikon, though, will get a workout next year when we head back to Germany (with both sets of our parents) for trip that's nothing but sight-seeing for 10 days.  I won't have to drive (Tony the Tour Guide will be taking care of that) so I can just sit back and do whatever I want with whichever camera I want.

That, of course, is unlike this year, when it'll be jump out, shoot and jump back in.  Or jump out, shoot and toss into the back seat, depending up the situation.


By the way, I don't know if you've read THIS yet, but it's the interesting tale of two Canadians stuck in Marquette over a weekend.  Check it out if you have the chance!


MONDAY, 8/18:

T minus nine days and counting!

I've had several people ask if I'm on track to get everything done before we leave, and I'm happy to report that I THINK I am, unless I'm forgetting something.  Having to fill in for our appendix-free office manager at work hasn't helped, but you gotta do what you gotta do.  I think everything in radio-land should be finished by next Tuesday evening, while I'm almost positive that everything at home will be finished by the time that day ends.

So keep your fingers crossed!

In between everything else that's been going on, I've been trying to brush up on my French, and it's with heavy heart that I must report it's not going too well.  I mean, I seem to be retaining everything I retained before (at least in a fashion), but I had hoped to learn a few new works and phrases, and that's been the problem.  I suppose trying to sit down after a long day at work or trying to squeeze in a few minutes before bed isn't the best way to brush up on a foreign language, but that's all I've been left with recently.  Hopefully, all that French is actually sticking somewhere in my brain, even if I don't realize it, and if I need that word or phrase, it'll just pop out of my mouth.  It's happened before; hopefully, it could happen again.

So once again, keep your fingers crossed!

Finally, those of you who've read this over the years know that one of my pet peeves about traveling is people who shove their seat backs into my knees without even looking back to see if my knees have room.  Well, Conde Naste Traveler magazine had an article about how not to be an annoying flight passenger, and guess what number four was!!!

<<Look behind you before reclining. We know you have the right to recline, but sometimes, especially in smaller planes, we’ve wanted to knife the person sitting in front of us. If you're on the tall side—say, 6'2"—you may have had situations where one minute you're working on your laptop, and the next the laptop is under your chin; you couldn’t type a word comfortably even if you had Tyrannosaurus arms. Take a peek behind you and just make sure you’re not making someone more uncomfortable than the comfort those few extra inches will provide. That’s not too much to ask, right? By the way, if someone does it to you, all bets are off. We would feel no hesitation or guilt pushing on the seat to access the bag at our feet. We hate to say fight fire with fire, but sometimes it’s the only way.

Thank you, Conde Naste.  I couldn't have said it better myself, except to say that you don't have to be 6'2” to be bothered by seat back reclining.  Trust me when I say it's bad when you're 5'10 1/2”, too!


FRIDAY, 8/15:

You know, I really don't like doing this, but because I'm (literally) the only person who'll be running two radio stations later today, I have to get a bunch of stuff done quite quickly (stuff I was hoping to do on another scheduled half day today).  So if you don't mind, I'm gonna leave you with something I wrote four years ago.  And you may be happy to know that Loraine & I went back to Kohl's this past weekend, and things really haven't changed much since then!

Have a great weekend; hopefully, one day soon, I'll be able to join you in a few minutes of rest!



( as originally posted August 17th, 2010)

I don’t think I’ve ever seen two men more uncomfortable in my whole life.

Saturday after Ore to Shore I went with Loraine out to Kohl’s for one of our occasional epic shopping trips.  She needed jeans and tops for our upcoming trip to France, and since I actually happen to like shopping for clothes (especially women’s clothes, because I get to stand there and be jealous of the colors, many of which I would look great in but none of which ever seem to pop up in men’s clothing) I was more than happy to tag along and play pack mule. 

And that’s how I noticed the two uncomfortable men.

Loraine found eight pair of jeans she wanted to try on.  She was also lucky enough to have found several tank tops and t-shirts which she knew would fit, which means that while she was trying the eight pair of jeans on, I stood outside the dressing room holding the tank tops and t-shirts.  I’m fine with that; in fact, I was trying to see if I could fine another top or two that would go with the tanks.

But not so with the two other guys, guys whose female companions were also in the dressing room trying on clothes.

I first noticed them because they were, well, squirming a lot.  You could tell they didn’t want to be there in the worst way.  I’m guessing they probably would rather have been getting a root canal from an unlicensed dentist than standing outside a dressing room in the women’s department, holding clothes their significant others were looking to buy.  As I watched them a little, I noticed their uncomfort (if that’s a word) was so extreme that when they accidentally made eye contact with each other, it wasn’t the eye contact of brothers-in-arms.  No, it was the eye contact of shame, as one of them pretended he needed to check his phone while the other turned and stared at the picture of Lauren Conrad above some clothes she designed.

There guys were REALLY uncomfortable being where they were.

The “agony” of one of the guys was prolonged when his shopping partner came out of the dressing room quite often to ask his opinion on what she was wearing.  Three times—and I’m not making this up—he just mumbled “it’s fine”, and was met by an exasperated glare on the part of the woman asking his opinion.

I’m guessing they had a serious discussion about his attitude when the shopping trip was done.

Uncomfortable Guy #2 just had to wait while holding a dress, and I noticed that he did his best to try and minimize the dress in several ways.  He folded it over several times, trying to hide it under his arm, and then stuck it up on a rack so he wouldn’t have to actually physically hold it.  It was a good plan, until a store associate came by, noticed the dress wasn’t where it was supposed to be, and tried to put it back in the correct rack.  That’s when Uncomfortable Guy #2 finally had to ‘fess up and once again stand in the women’s clothing section holding the dress.

There were both finally put out of their misery when their significant others came out of the dressing rooms, freeing them from the horror of being in a place where they didn’t want to be, didn’t know how to act, and just plain didn’t get.  I just had to chuckle to myself; after all, would the women they were with act so strangely if the guys spend some time in a hardware store looking at hammers? 

I don’t think so.

Men.  Sometimes, they just make me laugh.


I have to go to work today.

Now, there's nothing really apocalyptic in that; after all, I have to go to work most days.  I was, however, planning on taking the day off to take care of a bunch of pre-trip chores.  Unfortunately, our office manager is now minus one appendix as of last night, which means that the day off today will have to become a day off some time next week.

It's just been that kind of year, I guess.

And then, walking to work this morning, I did see something that really may BE apocalyptic--

It's only mid-August, and the leaves of this tree—located right behind my favorite lilac tree in all the world—are turning red.  The leaves didn't actually come out until late May this year and now, less than three months later, they're turning red and dying.

It's just been that kind of year, I guess.

I'm not a big believer in fate.  I don't think that the world is conspiring against me in some unseen way.  I know that matters both big & small ebb and flow; some days are good, some days are bad.  Some months are good, some months are bad.  I know that.  Yet with everything weird that has gone on so far in 2014, matters both big & small, a part of me—admittedly, a very small part—is standing on the precipice yelling “What the heck's going on?”

It's just been that kind of year, I guess.

So instead of focusing on everything weird that's happened this year, I prefer to look ahead to signs that the natural flow of things are trending more positive than negative.  After all, I'm going to Europe in 13 days.  I'm wearing a wedding ring again.  Reggie Wayne is back playing with the Colts.  And an El Nino is forecast for this fall, which means we should have a warmer (and dryer) than average winter, which means that next summer might be an actual “summer”. 

Then, I won't have to use the phrase “It's just been that kind of year, I guess”, any more.  Keep your fingers crossed.  And try not to look at any tree leaves the next few weeks.



It all starts two weeks from today.

Two weeks from today Loraine and I begin our latest journey to Europe, and it's a journey that has a couple pieces of significance to it—it's the tenth anniversary of my first trip over there, while it's Loraine's tenth time making the journey.


If you had told me the first time I went over that I'd be going back, or that my dear wife would be making ten trips (and counting) I would've thought that you'd eaten too much of the blood sausage that's so popular across the Continent (especially in Germany).  But you know what?  You've NOT eaten too much of that sausage.

We're really going back again.

I've has several people ask me recently if I'm starting to get excited about leaving, and almost to a person they're disappointed when I say that it really hasn't registered yet.  And, in all honesty, it hasn't.  I think I've been so busy trying to get ready to go that the fact that I AM going hasn't sunk in yet.  It's been like this the past few years, and I think it's just because we've gotten into this routine.  We know what we have to do and when we have to do it, and that's how it rolls.  I mean, I hope that's it.

Because I really dislike thinking that I've become blasé about traveling to Europe.

This trip is more of a research trip than it is a “vacation”, and it's gonna present a few things I've not done yet, including driving in Belgium & Luxembourg.  I'm not too worried about it, although Belgium has this infamous “priorite a droite” rule, which basically means that unless a road sign tells you otherwise people coming from the right have the right-of way.  You could be driving on a modern highway and if someone comes barreling up an intersecting right-hand dirt road on a moped you have to stop for them.  That could be fun, although if it's like everything else over there, I'll get used to it rather quickly.

At least I hope I will.

Overall, though, the whole trip should be a blast, between seeing new places, getting together with a bunch of old friends, and buying chocolate and cereal in four different countries.  I'm sure we'll come back with lots of new stories, some great pictures, and suitcases bulging to the limit with goodies.  As always, you'll be able to follow along; assuming, of course, I get our Blogspot site up to date.  I guess that's next on the “to-do” list!

T minus fourteen days and counting.  Get ready to go!!


TUESDAY, 8/12:

What do you get when you combine my dear wife, a great new cheese, a mind-blowing book, and Juice Newton?

You get a typical day in the Koski Komplex!

First of all, Loraine's finished the hardest part of her new book—writing it!  Sure, she needs to edit “Elden's True Army Tales”, then get all the pictures together and the layout set, but she's finished the writing part of it.  Over the past five or six weeks, she's been working very hard on a final chapter, a chapter she hopes explains the reason behind what she's doing.  I KNOW how much effort she's put into this, if only because sometimes I have trouble coming up with one page of these things a day.  Imagine what it's like trying to put together an 80-page chapter in only 40 or so days. 

So way to go Loraine!!

We celebrated the milestone in a couple of different ways—by going to Donckers to load up on chocolates (yum) and by going to the Marquette Food Co-op  to load up on cheese, and there's one cheese we tried that I really have to recommend, their Lavender Jack Cheese.  It's a semi-creamy goat cheese with flecks of Lavender in it.  Yeah, I know.  I had the same thought as you're probably having right now.  But you know what?

It works, and it works deliciously.  If you have the chance, definitely check it out!

Now, how does Juice Newton play into all of this?  Well, while we were enjoying the cheese, Loraine was also thumbing through one of our Billboard music chart books and came across the name Juice Newton.  Since we had no idea if she was even still alive (spoiler alert—she is, and is still touring) we had to dig a little deeper, and that's when the song “Queen of Hearts” got stuck in my head, and would not leave.

Trust me—I've had MANY stupid songs stuck in my head over the decades, songs that take up residence in my brain and won't let go.  But having Juice Newton's “Queen of Hearts” stuck on auto-repeat in my sub-conscious?

No human being should have to go through that.  Unless, of course, you're Juice Newton (available to play your private corporate gig, according to her website !)

Finally, the book that blew my mind?  It's called “Deep Future: The Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth”, written by paleo-climitologist Curt Stager.  It's a fascinating read about how climate change is re-shaping life and land on the planet, and it had a concept that blew my (Juice Newton-infected) mind.  Stager says we should stop burning fossil fuels by the year 2100 for two reasons, the first being that if we keep burning them at the rate we're burning them, we'll irreparably change the climate for the next 50,000 years.  The other reason we should stop burning fossil fuels by 2100?

To save some for future humans to start climate change all over again.

According to Stager, 50,000 years from now, the planet's climate will shake off the damage we've done to it and get back to “normal”.  Unfortunately, “normal” means things like an occasional ice age or two.  And in 60 or 70 or 100,000 years, what can humans (or our robot overlords, or whatever replaces us) do to stave off the ice age?  Take whatever fossil fuels we've left them, start burning them like we've been doing the past 200 years, and make the climate warm enough to keep the ice at the poles.

Weird, right?  But it makes sense, if only in a very counter-intuitive way.  Do what we're doing now, but do it for good, instead of evil.  I'm surprised no one's came up with that idea before, if only for a big-budget Hollywood disaster-thon.

But wow.  Between that concept, lavender goat cheese, and Juice Newton, it's amazing I'm even able to write today.



MONDAY, 8/11:

I think one of the ways in which I run has people a little confused, but that's okay.

It took me a while to get used to it myself.

As you all know, I run three or four times a week, and each time I go out I do something differently.  One day, I may go out and run up & down the hills of downtown Marquette.  Another time, usually on a Saturday morning, I'll go out and run until I can't run any more.  And then another day every week, usually on Monday, I do something I've only been doing for a year or so—intervals.

It may actually be the hardest run I have all week.

For someone who's run for 25 years now, intervals are a little counter-intuitive, but they work.  Here's the deal—you either start out with a walk or a slow run.  You then run as fast and as hard as you can for 60 seconds.  You walk or slowly run for another 60 seconds, and repeat until you drop dead.  By doing that you really crank up your metabolism, you build muscle (which is probably why I've gained those two pounds of muscle recently), and you get weird looks from people while doing it.

I do my intervals on various bike paths around Marquette, just because I want to worry about stopping 40 or 45 seconds into the interval for traffic.  However, because I do my intervals on various bike paths around Marquette, I find myself running past other people who are walking, running, or biking.  And whenever they see me running as hard as I can and then stopping, they get this “what the ___?” look on their face.  And that look is even worse when I pass them while running, have them pass me while I'm walking, and then I pass them again while I'm, uh, interval-ing.

And that's why I think one of the ways in which I run gets people a little confused.

If I could, I'd stop and explain what I'm doing, if only because enough people think I'm weird as it is.  But because you're supposed to do intervals one minute on and one minute off, and because I really don't wanna end up in the Mining Journal's Police Log (at least not for running), I just let it go.  Maybe by writing this someone will realize that I'm NOT weird; I'm just trying to kill myself by running.

Okay; maybe that means I AM weird.  But if you ever see me run as fast as I can and then stop, and then do it all over again, now you know why!


FRIDAY, 8/8:

Because I'll be busy tomorrow at Ore-To-Shore I'm taking a half day today, which means that I'll be at the beach in a bit, which reminds me about a picture I took with my phone while at McCarty's Cove yesterday--

I have no idea why someone built this little diorama-type thingee of a tropical beach hut, but I found it quite charming.  I'm also thinking that if they built a few more huts, added some palm trees, a wrecked ship, and a telephone system made out of coconuts, they could make a miniature version of “Gilligan's Island”.

But that's just me.

Okay; sorry to cut this short, but like I said the beach awaits.  If you have the chance tomorrow, check out one of the mass starts of the Ore-To-Shore.  I'll be announcing the start of the Soft Rock race at Lakeview School in Negaunee, and I HIGHLY recommend it.  After all, when do you get to see almost 1,000 bike riders in a mass race start.  There are so many riders, in fact, that it takes about five minutes for all of them to ride past.  It's an amazing moment, and one that I think everyone in Marquette County should experience at least once in their life.

So check it out if you have the chance.  Otherwise, have yourself a great weekend.  I'm off to the beach!



Look what I get to wear again!

First of all, don't spend too much time gazing at the freakishly small hands with its very girly-like fingers.  Instead, glance at just one of the girly-like fingers, the ring finger, and you'll notice that after one year, two months, two weeks, and five days, I get to wear a wedding ring again!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how Loraine and I figured out that my fingers had sufficiently healed from my bike accident to get a new ring, and a couple of weeks after ordering it it came in yesterday.  The reason it took so long?  As I mentioned, I don't have very manly fingers, and the great people at Wattsson & Wattsson had to special order it in the smallest size possible.  So if it looks a bit strange, it's not the fault of the ring.  The ring is great.  The ring is, to my eyes, perfect.

It's the fault of my ring finger.

In the weeks since Loraine bought me the ring I had mentioned it to a couple of (married) women I know, both of whom lamented the fact that their husbands don't often seem very keen (for whatever reason) on wearing their rings.  A couple of years ago, I probably wouldn't have thought much about that; however, in the one year, two months, two weeks, and five days that I didn't get to wear a ring I found out something I never would've thought.

I actually missed wearing a wedding ring.

Oh, it wasn't anything that kept me up at nights, nor was it anything I devoted more than a few fleeting seconds of thought to.  But there are times when I did miss it, and that really came to the fore when Loraine was checking in the hospital for her little gall bladder adventure and gave me her wedding ring to take care of.  Because I have such girly fingers and didn't have anywhere else to put it, I just stuck it on my finger.

And that's when it hit me.  I missed wearing my wedding ring.

Now, I have my new ring, and since Loraine knew what she wanted to buy me (specifically, something I couldn't bend, break, or otherwise abuse) I'm hoping it'll last me a long, long time.  After all, I kinda missed wearing it, and in the words of a wise old sage (or, at least, the members of Motley Crue), “you don't know what you got 'til it's gone”.



I wonder if I'm starting to run out of ideas.

No, seriously, I think I may be running out of ideas.  Three times in the past two weeks I’ve sat down to write one of these things, and as I was in the midst of doing it, I started to get this creeping sensation in the back of my head that I’d written about this very same topic before.  When a quick search of past blogs turned up key words showing that I had written about the same topic before, sometimes just a few months ago; well, that’s when I started to think that I’ve started to run out of ideas.

And I’m thinking THAT’S not a good thing.

I’ve written over 2,600 of these things now.  And in the course of writing over 2,600 little essays, you’re bound to cover one or two topics twice.  After all, when you’re writing about your life, people you know, and things you see, the same topics and themes will pop up over and over again.  But to have it happen three times in two weeks, and not even be aware of it until this nagging little thought in the back of your head tells you to check on it...well, that’s cause for concern.

Or, at the very least, a long hard stare of curiosity.

I try not to write about the same things over and over again; after all, I don’t want you (or my typing fingers) to get bored.  I’m always on the lookout for something new about which to write, and I’m fortunate in that respect because I seem to have this bizarre talent for noticing strange things that most people just pass by.  And I’m also fortunate in that respect because I live and work in a place that presents many opportunities for noticing strange things.  Yet, apparently, I’ve either noticed everything there is to be noticed or I’ve stopped noticing really strange things, because when you find yourself repeating yourself as often as I have recently...


In one way, I’m glad I’ve noticed this problem, because I’m now aware of it, and I can take whatever steps are necessary to minimize the situation.  I’ll just have to take a little more care, and with any luck, we can get through another 2,600+ blogs with a minimum of repetition.

Of course, now that I’ve said that, I also have to say this--tomorrow, I write about something I’ve written about before.  But with a new twist.  So stay tuned!!



I failed in my task, and it's all because Marquette is too pretty.

Since I'm leaving for Europe in just over three weeks, and because I really haven't been taking many pictures during (what passes for) the summer this year, this past weekend I figured I'd grab a camera and go shoot stuff.  And for some bizarre reason, I had a theme in mind.  I wanted to shoot “Post Industrial Urban Grunge”; you know, old stuff that's left over from what a neighborhood or a city was like 50 or 70 or 90 years ago.  I figured it wouldn't be too hard to find, especially around downtown Marquette, because I know what used to be where.  I know the history and the layout of downtown Marquette like the back of my hand.  But you know what?

I really couldn't find much anywhere.

And it wasn't for lack of trying.  Like I said, I know where the bodies were buried (literally) but over the past 10 or so years so much of downtown Marquette has been, well, gentrified that there aren't many examples of Post-Urban Industrial Grunge left any more.

Marquette's just too pretty there days!

I mean, I DID come away with a few examples of what I was looking for, but I had to do things like climb fire escapes, crawl around in the dirt, and get REALLY friendly with a couple of dumpsters.  So what did I come up with?

I actually had to head west from downtown to find what I was looking for.  The first was one of my favorite Post-Industrial places in Marquette, the 1948 train station and the 800-foot long slab of cement that was once the passenger platform for boarding and unboarding; that's what you see below--

However, it took another quarter mile to find what I was looking for , about the only REAL piece of Post-Industrial Urban Grunge that I could find—the remnants of the old railroad roundhouse--

For some reason, this really reminds me of World War II ruins we see all across Europe.  And we may not be able to see it much longer.  If Duke Lifepoint chooses the Roundhouse property as the new site for Marquette General, I'm sure the one remaining real piece of Post-Industrial Urban Grunge will soon be gone.

Like I said, it's not necessarily a bad thing.  It just means, I guess, that Marquette cleans up after itself.  And that I need to have different targets of things to shoot next time I wanna go out and take some pictures!


MONDAY, 8/4:

With a nod to the late Bob Talbert of the Detroit Free Press, I'm gonna moan a little on this Monday!

First of all, a picture of a sign at Marquette's South Beach--

There's nothing really ambiguous about the sign, right?  Especially about how dogs must stay on a leash?  I mean, it's underlined in red, so you'd think it's kind of important, wouldn't you?  So if that's the case, how come almost every time I go to South Beach I either get run into by a dog on the loose or I'm lucky enough to be walking on the very part of the beach where a dog comes running out of water and shakes itself dry, depositing all of the water formerly on its body onto me?

I know I complain about dog owners in here a lot, but I also know that about 95% of dog owners follow the city's laws to a “t”.  And I certainly do appreciate that.  If I could thank each and every one of them in person, I would.  It's the other 5% about whom I'm complaining.  In fact, when I pointed out the sign to a lady who let her dog jump out of an SUV and onto the beach unleashed, all she said was, and I quote, “oh, that's okay”.

No, it's not.  It's the law.  Try following it every once and awhile!


Speaking of the people who make the laws some of us try to follow, I had to laugh the laugh of the ironic when watching the three-ring circus that the current U.S. Congress has become last week.  Actually, I only had to laugh that laugh at one half of the current Congress, as one day the U.S. House sues the President for using Executive Orders, and then the next day, when they can't pass a bill dealing with the current refugee crisis along the Mexican border, tell the President that he should deal with it himself using Executive Orders.

I mean, I realize politics and the politicians who practice the “art” are hardly ever logical, but even for politics that's over the top.  It's no wonder the current Congress has an 11% approval rate

(And just as an aside, how can 11% of Americans think the current Congress is doing anything worthy of approval, especially after stunts like that?)

Finally, I have to mention Charter, who's in the middle of conversion to an all-digital system.  Good for them, and good for their customers, of whom I'm one.  I look forward to seeing all the new things they have to offer.  Here's what I don't get, though--

To get the new digital Charter cable, you'll need a digital set-top box.  I've had it in one form or another for, I dunno, 10 or 12 years now.  And I'm guessing Charter is aware of that, seeing as how I pay a fee for it every month.  So then how come, every evening when I turn my digital box on, it has been redirected to a channel running a video telling me I need a digital box?  No, I DON'T need a digital box, because I already have one, the very same digital box Charter keeps redirecting to the channel telling me I need a digital box.

Sigh.  If only humans were more, you know, logical.


Okay; I'm done moaning now.  I'll save the rant about the license plate I keep seeing for another day.  Bet you can't wait, huh?



Jim & Loraine's Trip To France 2012

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 Jim’s 2011 trip to Belgium, France, and Germany, click here

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