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In Jim's Daily Opinion 05/22/2015

FRIDAY, 5/22:

If for no other reason than the weather, it’s hard to believe that Memorial Day weekend in here, but it is, and that means three things--

The first is that it’s the beginning of “summer”.  This year, I’ll believe that when (and if) I see it, but I’m hoping that summer does join us SOME month soon; if not, that may be my sanity that you’re scraping off the wall. 

Secondly, it means Loraine's parents will be visiting for a few days, and that's always a fun thing, especially because we get to show them all the Marquette restaurants that have opened since they've last been here two years ago.  So if I look two or three pounds heavier next week, you'll know why!

Finally, the fact that it’s the Memorial Day weekend means that we’re s’posed to devote a little thought to those people for whom this weekend was designed, the people who paid the ultimate price so we can live the way we live.

Here’s the story of one of them.  It's a story I've probably told before, but I think it's perfect for this weekend.

Buried under a birch tree in Marquette’s Park Cemetery, not far from the Kaufman Mausoleum, lies a young man named Ralph Ellis.  Ralph was a native of L’Anse who came to Marquette in the late 1930’s to attend classes at Northern Michigan College of Education (now, of course, NMU).  While at Northern, Ralph played on the football team and joined a fraternity, and fell in love with a local girl named Margaret Kepler.

Just before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, Ralph was drafted into the U.S. Navy, and became an aircraft test pilot stationed in California.  Every chance he could, he came back to Marquette to visit Margaret and her family.  They became engaged in late 1942, and in June of 1943, Margaret and her mother took the train out to the West Coast, where Ralph was still test-flying new Navy planes.  On July 1st, 1943, Ralph and Margaret were married, and took off on a week-long honeymoon to Yosemite.  After their return, Ralph returned to duty as a test pilot.  His first day back, July 9th, 1943, he was killed when the plane in which he was flying crashed.

He and Margaret had been married 8 days.

Margaret and her mother, who were still in California, had Ralph’s body brought back to Marquette with them, and buried in Park Cemetery.  In fact, if you ever find Ralph Ellis’ headstone, you’ll find he’s buried right next to his in-laws, Mr. & Mrs. F.J. Kepler.  For her part, Margaret was married—and widowed—twice more before passing away in 2001.

There are many stories like that in cemeteries across Upper Michigan; if you have a few moments this weekend, and it’s actually nice outside, maybe go for a stroll in one of them, and say “thanks” to all those we’re supposed to honor this weekend.  I have feeling I'll be doing just that.

So have yourself a great 3-day weekend.  I'll be back again on Tuesday after having eaten the best Marquette restaurants have to offer and with the story of how I'm going to jail.

Seriously.  I'm going to “jail” Wednesday.  I'll tell you why Tuesday!



I have Phil's seal of approval.  And some days, that's all I need.

I've written in here many times about Phil Niemisto, Marquette's man-about-town, downtown window washer and gardener, all around interesting individual, and one of the “107 Reasons to Love Marquette County” (more on that in a bit).  If you know Phil, you know he's always well dressed, sporting a shirt and tie even on those 90 degree days when he really doesn't need to sport a shirt or tie.

Phil, in fact, is always nattily attired, unlike some of us who some days just grab whatever's handy in our closet and throw it on.

However, there are days when I actually feel like dressing up and throwing on real clothes.  In fact, there are even days when I'll try to live up to Phil's standards and throw on a jacket & tie.  And as you well know, the ties I pick aren't sober, boring work ties; nope, when I wear a tie, I like to wear a tie with color, or a tie that makes a statement.  You know—a tie that gets its own fan mail when I host a TV show.

And on the days when I'm wearing a tie and run into Phil, I always get his opinion on it.  I don't ask him his opinion; because he sees me in a tie, he just offers his thoughts on it.  Almost always—not every time, but most times—he'll look it over, maybe feel the fabric, and then offer the two words that means he approves--

“That's sharp”.

I don't know if he does that with other people, or if he just does it with me because he often sees me dressed like a slob, but it's something that he does.  He'll then ask about it—where I got it, or why I chose it, and we'll talk about clothes for a bit.  Over the years we've had dozens of conversations about ties; almost as many as we've had about local history or the “drunk kids” who on occasion dig up one of his flower beds.  All I can say is that he has a sharp eye for color and for contrast, just like, well, I'd like to think I have.  And that's why if I get the Phil seal of approval, I know that I've chosen well.

Speaking of “The 107 Reasons to Love Marquette County”, I do realize that I've been promising to update the list for almost two years now.  And I'm happy to say that I'm finally starting to get off my butt & do it!  I've been mulling over what to put on, what to take off, and what needs replacing because it's no longer around.  So give me a week or two to do that and to take some new pictures, and with any luck...

It'll be updated soon!!



Seeing as how I've lived my entire adult life with him on TV, things will certainly be different starting tomorrow.

As I'm sure you've heard a zillion times in the past few weeks, tonight is David Letterman's last night on the air after 33 years and a handful of months.  And for 32 of those years, I've been watching his show.  Oh sure, I haven't watched it every night like many die-hards, but his was one of the few shows that I would actively seek out the past three decades, either just to see who was on or what kind of strange, slightly surreal activity would be taking place.

And I sure will miss it.

Like many people, President Obama included (as he himself mentioned on the show last week), I discovered the original “Late Night with David Letterman” back in college.  I was a night owl, his show didn't start until 1230, and there was something just so...weird about it that I was hooked.  I remember many an evening coming back from studying or working on a project and throwing the show on.  In fact, I even still have a souvenir from those days--

A book that still sits on one of my bookshelves and, as Loraine joked last night, a book that could probably fetch quite the price should I try to sell it on e-Bay today.  But I won't, if only because the book is a link to those days, when I would come home and watch a show like the episode done entirely from his apartment, done that way because he was waiting for the cable installers to show up and they had just told him it would be sometime that day, like cable installers did back then.

I laughed at the absurdity of the “fight” over who would replace Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show”, and then switched channels like everyone else when he went over to CBS and continued the surrealism, just at an earlier hour and with a lot more money to spend.  In fact, when I watched a retrospective CBS ran a week or two ago, I had forgotten just how strange some of those early years were at “The Late Show with David Letterman”.

But as strange as it was, it was a brilliant strange, which comes to an official end tonight.  It's been a big year as far as my favorite talk show hosts ago.  Craig Ferguson left in December, Dave's leaving tonight, and once Jon Stewart calls it quits in August every single talk show I've watched over the past 15 or 20 years will be gone.  I haven't gotten into either of the Jimmys (or the James), and I'm not quite sure about getting hooked on Stephen Colbert when he takes over “The Late Show”, although I'm sure he'll be spectacular at it.

It just won't be the same.  I mean, when you think of it, two-thirds of my life—my entire “adult” life (assuming, of course, you consider me an “adult”)—has been spent as a fan of David Letterman and his shows.  And now, after tonight, the curtain falls.  It just won't be the same.  But at least we have over 6,000 shows, a whole bunch of memories, and, at least in my case, one beat up old book.

Thanks, Dave.  It won't be the same without you.


TUESDAY, 5/19:

Two years ago today I had an awful lot of fun, at least if you define “fun” as losing a tooth, getting six stitches on my face, and scraping up half of my body.

That's “fun”, right?

Yup; two years ago today I had my little (well, “big”, actually) bike accident, when I wasn't looking where I was going, ran the front tire of my bike into the rear tire of Loraine's bike, and watched physics take over.  Five seconds later, I was bruised, battered, bloodied, and bewildered, not unlike many people who do stupid things to themselves.

So “yay” for me!

I did, thankfully, heal quite quickly.  My tooth was replaced (thanks to Dr. Belpedio, who still rightly admires his handiwork every time I go in for a check-up), the scar left by the stitches is only visible if you know where under my right eye to look, and my fingers, torn to shreds by the pavement and cut up by my wedding ring, are as good as new.  In fact, the only (literal) scars that are left are on my left knee, and those were scars I thought I'd carry with me forever.  However, they too are fading, so one day the only physical reminder I may have of the accident is my new wedding ring, which replaced the one that tore up my fingers and had to be cut off once said fingers started to swell.

I don't recommend anyone do what I did.  I don't recommend that anyone get into a bike accident, and I don't recommend that anyone have to go through what I went though.  But in a strange way, having gone through that experience made me realize that I'm surrounded by some pretty amazing people, everyone from Loraine (who helped me right after the accident) to the people at Superior Walk-In Center who patched me up to my parents who drove us (and our bikes) home to, as I mentioned, Dr. Belpedio, who gave me my new tooth.  They all have my thanks, for now and forever.

Until you go through an experience like that, you just don't know how many talented and caring people are around you, both personally and professionally.  I mean, I hope that you never have to go through what I went through (and since most of you are much more careful than am I, you probably never will), but if you do, I hope you're able to be surrounded with the same quality of caring individuals as was I.  It's not a very fun experience, but it IS made much more tolerable when you know you're in good hands.

Last year, on the first anniversary of my accident, I went for a bike ride (just to thumb my nose at fate).  Because of the cold & the rain and/or snow forecast for today, I probably won't do it again, but rest assured, my bike and I are still on great terms.  About the only time I even think of the accident is when I'm riding past the place on  Marquette's west-side bike path where the accident occurred.  There, and only there, I slow down just a little, and make sure that I'm not about to run into anyone else's bike.

After all, I don't want to do it again.


MONDAY, 5/18:

I just realized I could never be a hipster.  My beard would be too gray.

I know that the stereotype of a “hipster” these days  is that of a young man with a big bushy beard (and usually glasses), doing something like brewing his own beer or making products like artisinal mustard.  And it's true, especially around Marquette, where there are actually people who do those two things I just mentioned, oftentimes just after pushing their young children around in strollers. 

In my younger days I suppose that I could've been considered a candidate for hipster status, but not any more.  Believe it or not, I'm not as young as I used to be (a big shock, I know), and even if I was young enough, my beard wouldn't cut it.  There's even more gray in my facial hair than there is on my head, and as we all know, there's too much of it on my head to begin with!

I noticed it during the last week, when I let my facial scruff get really scruffy over a few days.  As it grew in, the gray really started showing itself, not so much on my cheeks as on my chin and my neck.  In those areas, that facial hair is all gray.  In fact, I have what might be considered to be a white stripe going down from my mouth to my Adams' Apple, which when surrounded by the dark hair I have on the sides of that stripe make it appear as if I'm wearing a skunk-colored turtleneck.

And I'm pretty sure I'd get kicked out of hipster school for that.

It seems like I can get away with one day of not shaving, maybe two, if I'm lucky, before the skunk stripe starts to appear.  I suppose I could cover for it by just growing a goatee; then, my facial hair would be just one color.  Sure, that color would be white, but at least it would be one color.  But goatees were so 90s and 00s; if you're gonna be a hipster and have facial hair these days, it needs to be a full, bushy beard.  And since I'd look like a skunk (or a weirdly made-up space alien from “Star Trek: Voyager”), I'm thinking I'll pass on it.

Sorry.  I've made up my mind.

So I guess I can't be a modern day hipster.  And I guess I'm okay with that; while I won't get to brew my own beer, make my own mustard, or push my kid around in a stroller, I can at least walk around in public and not get laughed at for my pitiful facial hair.  Instead, I can get laughed at for every other reason on the face of the Earth.

You know...just like any other normal day.

(, clean shaven.

FRIDAY, 5/15:

A few random things to wrap up the week, the first being that this headache can go away any time soon.

I've had a really bad sinus headache the past few days, and it doesn't seem to show any signs of letting up.  It's kind of surprising; when I was younger, I used to get a bad case of hay fever every spring which would invariably be accompanied by a bad sinus headache.  Well, I've found that one of the few things that's good about getting older is that my hay fever seems to have diminished each year.

Except, of course, for this year.

I don't know why it's so bad this year.  I don't know if it's the very warm weather followed by the very cold weather, or if it's just all the plants & trees sprouting at once (and as an entirely unrelated side note to daily blog reader Betsy in Reese—the lilacs should be in full bloom when you're up here next weekend!).  All I know is that my head is full of gunk, so much gunk that I can almost feel it slosh around when I turn said head.

So I just hope it goes away soon.

Secondly, I don't know if you've seen this yet, but Time magazine has a cute little feature on their website that allows you to see what your name would be if you were born today. 

How does it do it?  Well, it determines the popularity of your name the year you were born.  For instance, the year I was born, “James” was the third most popular name for a baby boy.  So it takes where your name ranked in popularity and then extrapolates to 2014, because the Social Security people just released their list of the most popular baby names of the year.  So, if I was born last year and still had been given the third most popular name of the year, I would no longer be “Jim”.

Nope.  My name would be Mason.  You know—like the jar.

Of course, Loraine had a much bigger laugh than did I.  The year she was born her name was the 607th most popular girl's name, so if she had been born last year and was still given the girl's name that ranked 607, her name would've been Averi.  Yes, with an “i” on the end.

Mason & Averi.  Well, I guess we now know our names if we ever need to go undercover or something!

Speaking of the two of us, “Averi” will be in Republic tomorrow at the Park City Art Gallery from 1 until 3, reading sections of her book “Elden's True Army Tales”.  She's also bringing along her geeky sidekick (you know, “Mason”) to read a few rather snarky letters written by the subject of her first book, Elwood Norr.  So if you're in the neighborhood, check it out.  Otherwise, have a great weekend, and I hope that YOUR baby name from last year is just as good as ours!


Mason, aka (


Sure, it was a highly unscientific survey.  But the results back up a theory I have, and that's okay with me.

I'm often surprised when I come across people smoking on the streets of Marquette.  As a county, we have the lowest percentage of people who smoke in the state (14%, I believe), but that probably goes along with the fact that we have huge groups of people living here who love exercising and spending time outdoors.  Smoking usually doesn't go along with activities such as those.  Therefore, it always comes as a shock to me when I'm outdoors exercising and I come across one or more people puffing away on cancer sticks, usually exhaling right before I pass them.  On occasion, the number of people I see smoking doesn't jibe with the small percentage of county residents who say they light up tobacco.

Hence, my theory, and the highly unscientific survey I used to prove it..

I've noticed that when I'm out and about and come across smokers that they tend to be younger, and they often tend to be in groups.  So for two weeks before NMU ended for the year I counted the numbers of smokers I came across.  And then for the two weeks after NMU ended (a period that ended yesterday) I once again counted the number of smokers whose paths I cross.  And you know what?

Once NMU students left, the number of smokers I came across dropped by half.

Now like I said, it was a HIGHLY unscientific survey.  I didn't have a control group, I wasn't in the same places for both legs of the survey, and I didn't have any kind of proper sample size.  And the whole premise—that NMU students smoke—could have been totally, 100% wrong and could have been based on some kind of “bias” that exists only in my brain.  So my little survey doesn't prove anything scientifically.  But I, at least, chose to infer this fact from the “survey”.  It's NMU students who make up, well, half of the smokers in Marquette.

I guess I find that kind of funny, especially because it seems smoking rates have been going down for younger generations for several generations now.  But who knows—maybe these are kids, on their own for the first time, who want to experience all the forbidden fruits they can.  Lord knows I see enough piles of vomit on the sidewalks while out running to prove that.  Maybe it's just a rite of passage for them.  Or maybe these students come from a place where smoking is a more accepted part of the culture than it is here.  I don't have the answer for that.  All I know is that there seem to be more smokers on the streets when NMU is in session.  And maybe that's just because college students tend to use their feet and their bikes more than adults, and I share that space with them.  Maybe the full-time Marquette County residents who smoke do so in the in their cars, and I just don't
notice them that much.

I don't know.

Like I said, it was a highly unscientific survey that probably left more questions unanswered than answered.  I just found the information that it did provide interesting.  Very, very interesting.

(, who, for whatever reason, notices weird stuff when he's out & about.


I shudder to think what I'll need—or even what the world will be like—in 2023.

I'm thinking of replacing of replacing my 8-year old laptop.  There's nothing really wrong with my current machine, other than the fact that it only has a 32-gigabyte hard drive and I now have flash drives that are bigger than my laptop's main hard drive.  In fact, if I do get a new one I'm still planning on taking my current laptop with me to Germany in a few months so I can do the usual blogging thing while we're there.  But, sad to say, it's time.  I really think I may need a new machine.

I'm approaching this thinking that whatever laptop I get will (hopefully) last just as long as the one I'm currently using—eight years.  I don't use it for much more than writing, storing pictures, and doing a little web surfing, which makes me think that I CAN use it for eight years, like my old one, without a problem.  Because of that I'd want to make sure that it has everything it'll need to fully function up to 2023 in terms of memory and processing power, but then that leads me to wonder--

Just what WILL computers be doing by 2023?

I'm sure I'm overthinking this.  After all, the world hasn't technologically changed that much since 2007, when I bought my last laptop.  It's still fully functional after eight years.  And I'm pretty sure that whatever laptop I buy now will be just as fully functional in 2023.  But there's a small part of me—a very small part, admittedly—that still thinks of a year like 2023 as “the future”, a time when cars fly, robots walk the dog, and you plug a jack into your brain to get the day's news.

Even though I know better than that.

I know computer (and all) technology will advance in the next eight years, but not so much that a laptop I get now will be obsolete by then.  If anything, whatever technological advances do come will probably be most felt in the mobile area.  That's where things are changing the fastest.  Case in point—I'm using an eight year old laptop with no problem.  My four year old phone?  Not so much.  I can't get many apps for it because it's “old”, I can't update the phone's web browser (once again, because the phone's so “old”) and the current browser can't handle some mobile websites, and it needs to get rebooted every few days to make sure that everything it can do is done properly.

So that's where I think technology will be changing the most by 2023.  I'm sure whatever laptop I get now, especially because I don't spend 24 hours a day glued to it, will work just fine for the next eight years, and probably beyond.  I'll be happy with it, I'll take good care of it and use it to its capabilities, and I'll forget all about the fact that I wondered if it would work that far into the future.

In fact, I'll probably forget all about everything like that until, in 2023 or 2024, I decide to get a new laptop/mobile computer/plug into my brain, and then start to wonder if THAT will last eight more years.

You know, until 2031 or 2032.  And just think what things will be like THEN!


TUESDAY, 5/12:

I keep forgetting to tell you guys about a TV show you should check out.  My bad.

The show in question is called “Time Traveling with Brian Unger”, and it's a show that combines bizarre history facts and comedy in a manner that's somehow vaguely familiar to me.  I can't tell why; I'm not sure where I've run in to someone who combines bizarre history facts and weird humor, but I'm sure I've come across someone like that before.

Really, I have.

Anyway, it's the first show I've watched on the Travel Channel forever, ever since they stopped being a channel that's about travel and became a channel about going places to eat food (perhaps not a surprise, seeing as how they're owned by the same media conglomerate that owns the Food Network and the Cooking Channel).  The host, a stand-up comedian/history enthusiast named Brian Unger, goes to a town and takes four residents on a tour of a well-known historical site (like the O.K. Corral or Liberty Bell) and tells then what REALLY happened, as opposed to what the standard story about the site is.  It's fun, it's educational, and it seems to talk a lot about things like killers & bootleggers & hookers.

Once again...where have I come across someone who gives history tours like that?  I still can't remember.

Brian Unger's a great host for the show, especially when the people on his tour ask him a question and he knows the answer to it right off the top of his head.  I can't tell if that's because he's a history geek and actually knows it or whether it's through the magic of video editing.  I'm guessing it's the latter, but I'd like to think that there are people out there who can be both a history geek and someone who's funny, much like other mythical beings along the lines of a unicorn or, say, a Detroit Lion winning the Super Bowl.

We'll just have to see.

If you have the time and/or the interest, the show has new episodes Monday nights at 10 on the Travel Channel, followed at 1030 by a repeat of a previous show.  I think it's a blast, and I think it's a great way to learn about history while having fun at the same time.  Now, if I could only remember where it was I met someone else who combines history & humor...

Well, I'm sure I'll figure it out some day.



Before I go, a little birdie told me it's a birthday for one of you today.  So, daily blog reader Kate in Marquette, have a great birthday!


MONDAY, 5/11:

I still don't think I've recovered from the change in the weather.

My body’s still in physical shock from enjoying 80 degree temperatures on Thursday, them plummeting temps & a monsoon on Friday, and then through whatever it was we had over the weekend.  Over the past couple of days the howling north wind howled so much that something was triggered over the weekend at The Weather Channel, causing them to pop up a graphic informing us that the wind chill was below 30.

A wind chill.  Of below 30.  In the middle of May.  Two days after the high temperature hit 80.  Ah, life in the U.P.  It’s a treat, isn’t it?

I’m sure there’s a small subset of you thinking this to yourself right about now--“Jim, you idiot.  You grew up here.  You KNOW that it can get this cold at the snap of a finger, even as June’s just a few weeks away.  Heck, it can even get that cold IN June”.  And you know what?  You’d be right.  I’m well aware of the fact that our weather is fickle any time of the year, and I’m certainly aware that this past weekend wasn’t unprecedented in weather history.  After all, a couple of years ago it snowed on May 18th.  But still...

Can you tell my teeth to stop chattering?

We’ve had some wild swings in temperatures the past couple of months; I think the past 10 days may have been among the wildest.  I checked back, and at least here in the city, there were two days with highs in the 80s, two days in the 70s, two days in the 60s, two in the 50s, and one in the 40s.  At timer, it feels like Mother Nature’s playing a weird version of weather roulette; she just spins the wheel, and where it lands is what the temperature will be for that day.  If nothing else, it keeps us on our toes.  If nothing else, it teaches us the values of layering clothes.  If nothing else, it keeps us from getting bored.

Although I’m not quite sure if that’s a good thing or not.

Hopefully, the eventual arrival of summer will start to mellow out our weather a little bit.  If not, I’m fairly certain a couple of things may happen--that one day in in the next month our temperature could approach 100, that two days after that, it’ll be snowing, and that the day after that, I’ll be running down the street, sobbing with the pain and illogic of it all and  pulling what’s left of my hair out.


FRIDAY, 5/8:

I find myself getting woken up earlier and earlier every morning.  But I've decided I'm not gonna complain about it.

I usually sleep pretty soundly in the morning.  In fact, it's when it seems I get my best REM sleep, which may account for why I have trouble functioning during the first part of the day.  I'm still trying to rouse my body from a very deep level of unconsciousness.  But I notice that I seem to be sleeping less soundly in the morning recently, and it's not because of people or sounds or the rumbling of street sweepers.

Nope.  The sun is waking me up.

It's not a jolting wakeup like you get from 3am phone call or a 7am alarm going off.  Nope, it's a gentle wakeup call.  It's a wake-up call where your mind gradually becomes aware that there’s something out there, and it keeps nudging you closer and closer to consciousness to find out what that something is, until you eventually wake up, and realize that for the first time in so long you can’t remember you’ve been welcomed into your day by sun bouncing off of nearby houses, sun that for the past few months hasn't even risen when you wake up.

And since it would be anathema to everything for which I stand to complain about the sun, I'm not gonna!

I usually don't get back to sleep after the sun wakes me up, and for some strange reason my body and my mind don't seem to care.  I don’t know if it was because my body's just naturally adapting to the circadian rhythms of the sun or if was the way in which my alarm clock for the day was so gentle in doing its job, but I seem to bound into my days in a very strange way, at least for me—not dead.  In fact, on a couple of days, I've actually had energy and a willingness to face whatever's coming my day.  There's no lethargic wandering around, trying not to bump into things.  There was no sitting on the couch, staring at the wall for two hours while trying to summon enough energy to actually get off the couch.  Nope...the sun, while waking me up early, also apparently provided me with the unique manner in which everyone should start the day.

Too bad it only works that way for a few months each year, right?

On that note, since we probably won't be seeing the sun the next few days, I suppose I should get going and take advantage of what we have.  I hope you stay warm & dry this weekend, and that the transition back into Spring isn't too harsh on you!



Because some idiot (and that would be me) scheduled a 9am appointment for me in Ishpeming this morning, I'm gonna have to leave you with something old.  The random date I picked?  April 30th, 2010.

So enjoy...I'll be back tomorrow with something new about how I get woken up every morning. 

Not that I'm complaining (too much), though...



(as originally posted April 30th, 2010):

I just realized that only once in my life have I turned up the radio when a song came on.

This thought came about a couple of days ago when I was talking with a listener who thanked me for playing a song she hadn’t heard in a couple of years.  As she put it, a smile hit her face when she heard the beginning of the song, and she cranked the radio up so loud that, and I quote, “I think my car started to shake”.

Cool!  I’m glad someone enjoyed something that we did so much.  I get calls like that every so often, calls from people who have songs they love so much that they turn them up and cause their cars (or workspace, or homes, or whatever) to shake.   It’s comments like that that put a smile on MY face.

After I finished speaking with the listener, I realized that because I’ve heard (& played) so much different music in 21 years, I don’t have that same reaction when I hear a song I haven’t heard in ages, if only because I don’t think there ARE any songs I haven’t heard in ages.

Like I said, I know of only one time in my life where I heard a song I hadn’t for a long time, and cranked the car radio up.  More on what it was in a second.  But I guess the conversation made me discover a heretofore unknown occupational hazard of working in radio; namely, with access to almost every popular song of the past 35 years at my fingertips, I can listen to whatever I want whenever I want.

I can no longer be surprised or amazed or delighted when I hear a song I haven’t heard in a long time, because there don’t seem to be any songs I haven’t heard for a long time.  And it’s something I wouldn’t even have noticed, had it not been for the conversation I had Tuesday with a young lady named Kelly in Marquette.  So you’re welcome, Kelly.  I’m glad you enjoyed the song.  And thanks, Kelly, too, for making me realize that, at least in one small way, you miss out on something by being exposed to it on a daily basis.

It’s amazing what you learn when you least expect it, isn’t it?

Now, onto the one time I can remember cranking my car radio up in a blast of joyous surprise.  It was quite a while ago; the late 90s or early 00’s, if I remember correctly.  I was downstate and listening to a rock radio station when all of a sudden a song came on, a song that had somehow escaped my attention over the years of my working in radio and having access to any song I wanted.  I recognized the first few notes, realized that I hadn’t heard the song in ages, and cranked it up LOUD.  I also went out and bought the CD that contained the song, and have listened to it many times since.  It’s in my iPod, and while I’m no longer surprised and delighted when it comes on, I still recall now it blasted its way back into my brain.

The song?  Eddie Money’s “Two Tickets To Paradise”.  No, I don’t know how it had escaped my attention over all the years, and no, I don’t know why that particular song made me crank the car radio up.  It just did, and it just gave me the chance to be a radio listener for once, instead of a radio creator.

At least for 3 and a half minutes, I got to be just like Kelly of Marquette.


81,250, give or take a thousand.  That's how far I haven't driven in the past 12 and a half years.

I don't know why this popped into my head; it was probably because I was running and strange things pop into my head while I'm running.  Or maybe it was the fact that I won't be hearing or seeing any more commercials about voting for road repairs.  But either way, while I was running this morning I started thinking about how little I've driven (and used the roads) in the 12 and a half years since my place of employment moved from Ishpeming to a location within walking distance of where I live in Marquette.  If I was still working out there and making the 25-mile round trip once a day (and I usually did it more than that) I would've driven those 81,000+ miles I mentioned at the beginning of this.

I would've driven the equivalent of going around the planet three times, and then adding on the length of Africa just for extra kicks.

That would've been a lot of driving.

There are two other ways I could look at those 81,250 miles.  If all of those miles were driven at 50 miles per hour (because they were a mix of city & highway), I've been spared 1,625 hours of sitting in a car.  That's almost 68 days.  That's over 2 months of my life that would've otherwise been spent driving back & forth.


And, of course, you could also look at it from a financial point of view.  Assuming I had to drive those 81,250 (give or take a thousand) miles in a car that got 35 miles to the gallon, I would've had to buy 2,321 gallons of gas.  Now, let's assume that the average gas price over the past 12 years was $2.50 a gallon, about where it is now (and that's just a rough assumption on my part).  That means that by not driving over the past 12 and a half years I've saved over $5,800 in gas.  And that's not counting car repairs, new batteries when it got so cold out my old one would've died, or the fact that I haven't had to buy a new car since, uhm, 1997, and well...

Let's just I've come out on the good end of this whole deal.

I don't actually have a point in writing this (like most of these ramblings), other than the fact that weird thoughts pop into my head while I'm running.  But it's amazing what those weird thoughts can lead to, especially when you sit down and do the math behind them.

Now, if you don't mind, I have to go walk to work, so until tomorrow...



Okay, I'm gonna start rambling on and on about cheese.  Feel free to leave and come back tomorrow.

You still here?  Well, that's good, because while I know I've written in here probably too often about great cheeses I find at the Marquette Food Co-op, I have had one that, hands-down, is the best cheese I've ever eaten, and as you all know, I've eaten a lot of cheese in a lot of different countries.

What's the latest version of the best cheese I've ever eaten.  Well, it's it's a white cheese from Spain called Romao.  It's a mild white sheep's milk cheese, which in and of itself doesn't make it the best cheese I've ever eaten.  Nope; what makes Romao the best cheese I've ever eaten is the fact that it doesn't have a regular rind.  Instead, Romao is covered with dried rosemary leaves, and the combination of the sheep's milk cheese and the rosemary is just something that, the first time I ate it, blew my mind.

And my taste buds.  It REALLY blew my taste buds.

Now I know I've gone on in here at great length about a sublime goat's milk cheese or a cow's milk cheese that's been soaked in raspberry vinaigrette (which used to be my all time favorite).  And I realize that weird cheese flavors aren't for everyone.  First, you actually have to like cheese and second, you actually have to like weird cheese flavors.  But in the case of the Romao, stepping outside of the usual cheese box is really worth it.  The cheese itself is mild, and the addition of the rosemary, while quite simple and unassuming, just does something that I've never tasted in another cheese.  Admittedly, rosemary is one of my favorite herbs (I make a mean rosemary-thyme pork chop), but even I never considered sticking it on a cheese.

Trust me—I'm glad someone actually did!

So if you're curious, head over to the Co-op and try it out.  Assuming, that it, that someone else (ahem) hasn't bought it all before you get there!


Finally, look what's popping out!

Yes, I know I promised not to post any more pictures of my favorite lilac tree this year.  And I didn't.  Really, I didn't.  This is one of the trees at Lakeside Park, right behind the Lake Superior Community Partnership.

So you see?  I really DID keep my word!



MONDAY, 5/4:

I got my bike out over the weekend.

Ever since I was a kid, the freeing of my bike from its winter storage has always been a really big thing.  It's always been a sure sign of spring, and one to which I've always looked forward.  Some years, it's been easy and early; some years, not.  I even recall one year when my bike was in a storage shed in my parents backyard, a back yard full of snow, and in order to liberate my bike I shoveled a path about fifty feet long through two or three feet of snow.

I guess I really wanted my bike that year!

There are always two things I can be sure of when I get my bike out for the year.  I can always be sure that the tires will need air, and that the gears will need a little oil.  That was the case again this year.  Thankfully, though, everything else seems to be in working condition.  The other thing of which I can be sure?  That my legs will be sore after the first day because I invariably ride longer than I planned, just because of the joy it brings me.

If you see me looking a little weird while walking down the street today or tomorrow, you now know why.

I'm riding the same Shogun mountain bike I've been riding for over 20 years now.  It's a big, heavy metal thing; I'm sure if I got a new one that did everything this one does it would now be about half the weight.  But you know what?  That doesn't matter to me.  When I'm out on my bike for exercise, I want the weight.  I want to work as hard as I can.  And if I'm hauling around an extra five or ten pounds of metal; well, you can trust me.  That IS hard work.

So now that it's biking season, all is well in the world.  Well, okay, all is well in my little corner of the world.  All I have to do now is make sure that my tires stay inflated, my legs get into biking shape, and I don't do anything stupid like two years ago when I ran into the back of Loraine bike and re-arranged my face.

Wish me luck.


Speaking of my favorite author, she's at it again.  If you're out and about grab a copy of the May issue of Marquette Monthly and turn to page 32, where her book “Elden's True Army Tales” gets a rave review!  Not only that, but if you happen to be in Republic on May 16th she'll be doing a book reading at the Park City Art Gallery.  She'll be reading some of the letters Elden wrote back home, and she'll also bringing along some doofus to read a couple of the letters Elwood Norr, the subject of her previous book, wrote to his mother.

So if you're in the neighborhood, check it out!


FRIDAY, 5/1 (it's May already?!?!?):

Have you noticed the change?

I first noticed it while walking to work this morning; you see moving trucks wherever you go, and the strangely parked cars are fewer in numbers, as well.  And over the past few nights, I’ve noticed less ruckus from noisy parties up & down my normally noisy block.

Guess that means most NMU students are leaving for the summer, huh?

I’m always a little bummed when that happens; nothing seems to amp up the energy quotient of a city more than having thousands of college-age residents swell its population.  It’s one of the things that makes Marquette Marquette, after all.  I mean, can you imagine the city without all the students around?  It’d be quiet, it’d be dead...

It’d be Flint, but without the crack houses!

I know I’ve written in here before about some of the noises I’ve heard late at night, some of the college parties, and some of the just BIZARRE activities I’ve witnessed, all thanks to NMU students.  But I (and don’t tell anyone this) actually do kinda miss them when they’re gone.  You know how residents of places like New York or Chicago say they have trouble sleeping without the sounds of sirens in the air?  It’s kinda like that with me and college students, I guess.  It’s like it’s part of the area’s background noise; it just doesn’t sound “right” without it.

That being said, there will now be something about the next month or so that also makes Marquette a special place.  We’re in those few “transition” weeks, the weeks between when the college students leave and the tourists start descending on our fair city en masse.  It’s a few weeks for us to enjoy the fact that we have city just to ourselves.  It’s a few weeks for us to do what we want when we want, and to know the only people we have to clean up after is, well, “us”.

Before you know it, it’ll be Memorial Day, when one set of our guests start showing up again.  Then, in another blink of an eye, it’ll be the end of August, when our OTHER set of guests return for another year.  So enjoy these few weeks.  They may be fleeting, but they’re ours.

And on that note, it's supposed to be an almost “summer” like weekend.  So I hope you can get out and enjoy this transitional period!



I think Josh Groban is stalking me.

Now, I don't actually believe that the singer is following me around in person,  Nope; instead Josh Groban has teamed up with Amazon to make sure that everywhere I go online he's there to greet me, specifically in the form of this web ad for his new album--

It doesn't matter if I'm on a political site--

A space website--

Or a weather website--

Josh Groban is there.

Okay, now that I think about it, maybe he really IS stalking me!

Don't worry; I haven't gone over the edge.  I know it's not Josh Groban stalking me.  I know that it's caused by tracking cookies in my computer.  But what I'm curious about is this—what made Amazon and those tracking cookies think I would be interested in Josh Groban on at least SEVEN different websites (I didn't actually do screen caps of the first four).  I don't own any Josh Groban music.  I don't have any interest in Josh Groban music.  I actually really don't like any Josh Groban music (with apologies, of course, to anyone who does).  And I certainly haven't visited any websites that have anything to do with Josh Groban.  In fact, the only time I've devoted ANY thought to Josh Groban music at all in the past year was last night, when Loraine was telling me about the album.

So does that mean that computer cookies no longer just track what websites you go to?  Does that mean that computer cookies can now read your mind?  Because if that's the case, maybe I really SHOULD start going over the edge!

There have been many times recently when I've been amazed by what technology can do.  I'm stunned when I hear about robots performing surgery, or about an app reuniting long-lost relatives.  But then there are times like this, when for some bizarre reason Josh Groban appears to be stalking me.  I just don't get it.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I may have to look into getting a virtual restraining order against the singer.  After all, being stalked is not very fun.



(p.s.--as an aside to all the computer geeks out there wondering if perhaps Loraine's browsing may have triggered the ads, nope.  We use entirely different machines).


Just how many people out there, people I don't even know, are more aware of my background than am I?

Loraine received an e-mail over the weekend from a friend who's also into World War II research, asking for information on a woman from Marquette who died while in service (died while getting her tonsils out, actually).  In his note he mentioned he had been speaking with a member of her extended family, who knew that she was the daughter of one of the siblings of the south Marquette Hogan clan.  He also mentioned that the person to whom he was speaking knew that my paternal grandmother was also the daughter of another of the siblings of the south Marquette Hogan clan, which means that the guy to whom Loraine's friend was speaking is aware of the fact that he and I are, like, sixth or seventh cousins.

And now I feel bad, because I have no idea who the person Loraine's friend was speaking to is.

As I've written about before, until a few years ago I really had no interest in finding out who came before me, about who my ancestors were, where they came from, and what they did.  But once I started digging into the history of various Marquette neighborhoods, including south Marquette, I began to discover little bits of my past littered around the city.  Apparently, though, I came late to the party, as many “shirt-tale” relatives have discovered their branches of the family tree and how I, for some reason, sit on those branches, as well.

Like I said, I feel a little bad that there are many people out there with whom I share a relative several generations back, yet I have no idea who they are.  Because of who I am and whatever “fame” I seem to have garnered around here, I suppose my name might stick out on a list of people descended from one individual.  But if I were to look at the same list, I probably wouldn't recognize the names of the people who recognize mine.  And I feel bad about that.  I'm no better than anyone else.  My name shouldn't stand out from any other on a list of people who share common DNA.

Yet because my name did stand out to someone on a list, I know now that I'm tangentially (VERY tangentially) related to someone Loraine's been researching for years.  So I guess the next time we're at the cemetery and happen to walk past her grave, I'll have to drop off a flower or say a kind word or two.  After all, five or six generations back, we shared a common relative, something I didn't know until this past weekend.  And that makes me wonder--

Just what (or who) else might I find if I dig as deep as some other people in Marquette have?


TUESDAY, 4/28:

If you know where to look, you can see the signs that the changes, they are a-comin'.

I've always been of the opinion that Spring (or at least what passes for it around here) is the one season where Marquette does not look its best.  Think of it; in March, the snow's melting, leaving piles of dirt and dog crap everywhere.  No one likes to see that.  And then in April and early May, there's no color.  The grass is brown, the leaves haven't popped out, and everything is just kinda “blah”.  But there is hope, as I noticed over the weekend when I took one of my cameras and went out for a walk.

Everywhere you looked, Marquette was still Marquette, but without any color--

While the snow's gone in the city, it's still sitting on Marquette Mountain--

And even the robins notice there's not much color out there--

But like I said, if you know where to look and you look close enough, you can see signs that things are changing.  You can see purples--

You can see yellows--

And you can see light blues--

Hopefully, the colors continue to keep popping out, and the grays and the browns slowly disappear.  Long-range forecasts for this weekend are calling for temperatures in the 60s and 70s; if the flowers above have popped out when it's been in the 40s and 50s, can you imagine what things would look like after a few days of almost summer-like weather?

It's almost enough to make one giddy.  So keep you fingers crossed, if you would.  The days of Marquette looking less than world-class may be over quickly this year!


MONDAY, 4/27:

So...didja survive your weekend?

No damage done around here, although, as always, Loraine & I were joking we could use another weekend to recover from our weekend.  Between everything we want to do, everything we need to do, and everything we hope to do but never quite get around to, ours was packed.

Eventful and packed. 

Recently, I’ve read status updates from a few of my Facebook friends, updates where they complained about waking up in the morning and having absolutely nothing to do.  Now, I have a feeling that this may be a case of “the grass is always greener”, but all I can usually say when I see something like that is this--

What the what?

I would KILL for a day with nothing to do (well, okay, not literally kill, but you get the idea).  I can’t remember the last day I had (even on weekends) when I woke up in the morning, and had absolutely nothing on my schedule.  College, maybe?  I seem to remember having a few weekend days back then when I just lazed around, but that was so long ago that my memory may just be playing tricks on me.

After all, it’s hard to remember things that happened back in the 1880s, isn’t it?

Anyway, back to a day with nothing to do.  I think it would be interesting to wake up to a day with nothing scheduled.  Right now, I can’t even imagine what that would be like, but I’d like to think that it’d be glorious.  You’d wake up to a day of endless possibilities; you could do whatever you wanted to do whenever you wanted to do it, and not have to worry about deadlines or schedules or anything.

That would just be amazing.

Now like I mentioned before, part of me wonders how much of a “the grass is greener” effect is in play.  I mean, if I woke up with nothing to do every day, I can imagine that it would get old rather soon.  I can imagine that I would be jealous of someone whose plate is full, instead of the other way around.  I can imagine that a day of endless possibilities would soon become a day of endless time, time just dragging on and on and on.

For now, though, that’s not something I have to worry about, and I have a feeling that’s something about which I won’t have to worry for the foreseeable future.  For now, I guess I just get to feel a little amazement when I read that someone gets to wake up and has nothing planned all day.  If that’s you, enjoy it.  Enjoy it for those of us who can’t. 


FRIDAY, 4/24:

I miss “Stump Jim Day”.

Those of you who listen on the air may have noticed that we haven't done “Stump Jim Day” like we normally do Fridays on “Movie Trivia”. That's not the fault of your radio; the long-time sponsor of the contest decided that they didn't want to offer the weekly prize they had been for 15 years.  I understand that; it's the way things go, and we're very happy for their continuing support of the contest.

I still miss it, though.

For those of you who don't listen on the air, “Stump Jim Day” was the day when listeners were able to turn the table on me.  Instead of me asking them a question about a movie, they would ask me one, and if I didn't get it right (which happened on an almost weekly basis) they'd win.  The reason I miss it is two-fold—first of all, I got to see just how unknowledgeable (if that's a word) I was about certain kinds of movies or certain actors.  I'd like to think that I'm fairly literate as far as film goes, but over the years listeners figured out that I did have certain Achilles Heels—Disney cartoons or Nicolas Cage flicks among them.  So I'd often get asked questions about my “heels”, and listeners would (usually) walk away happy.

Then, every so often, I'd get one of those questions right (usually just by sheer luck), everyone thought I had studied up on the subject, and they'd move on to something else.  Of course, I really hadn't studied up, but the people asking the questions didn't need to know that, right?


The other thing I miss about not doing “Stump Jim Day”?  Well, the whole concept had kind of turned into a “thing”.  People had tried to get through for weeks or months or (in some case) even a few years just to try and stump me, and even if they weren't able to, even if I answered their question correctly, they were just happy that they were able to get through.  That's the kind of thing that makes me realize we were on to something, and that's a kind of “something” that you don't easily come across in this business.

I hope we'll be able to start it up again, either because the sponsor decides to offer the prize again or because we figure out a way to do it ourselves.  For now, though, while we still have regular Movie Trivia at 3:25 eastern, it's just not quite the same without me making an almost-weekly fool out of myself.

Go figure, right?

On that note, have yourself a great weekend.  Even though it'll still be chilly, I hope you can at least get out and enjoy some of the sun that's been forecast!!



I hope I never have to follow through on my threat.

It all began yesterday morning when I went out running in a blizzard.  Yes, a blizzard on Earth Day, April 22nd.  After I finished, I grabbed a camera and took this picture--

I stuck in on Facebook with this message--

“Dear Mother Nature:

This type of behavior is much more appreciated on December 22nd than on April 22nd. You might want to make note of that for future reference.

Thank you in advance,

You pal, Jim“

When I got to work an hour later, 180 people had shared the picture, thanks to a couple of U.P.-wide sites that had picked up on it.  By the end of the day, it had over 300 shares, and all kinds of people had said all kinds of things about it.

So to everyone, thanks.  I'm glad my little rant made you smile for a few seconds.  And it was kinda cool, too.  I think it's the first time I've ever gone viral.

One of the people who commented on it was Laura, who joked that I should be glad this happened in April and not in July.  When she said that I opened my mouth and make this comment--”If that ever happens, I'm leaving the U.P. and never coming back”. I never, ever thought I would say something like that, but it just kind of poured out of my mouth before I could think about it.

And now that I have thought about it, you know what?  I'm agreeing with myself.

I left the U.P. once and then came back by choice; therefore, I don't think I'd ever consider leaving again.  But if it were to snow in July—and I know many older people who claim that they did see snowflakes on July 4th, although there's no record of it—I would have to seriously reconsider it.  After all, I suffer through an Upper Michigan winter, in part, so I can enjoy an Upper Michigan summer.  And if an increasingly wacky climate were to make our winter intrude upon our summer?

Well, then I would SERIOUSLY have to reconsider my reasons for coming back here.  If that were to happen, I'd have to have a serious conversation with whoever runs the U.P., and tell them, point-blank, “It's not me, it's you”.  Then I'd have to see if I still have maps of California or Hawaii somewhere handy.

Hopefully, though, it won't come to that.  Hopefully, I'll never be like those older people who can make the claim that they've seen snow on the Fourth of July.  Hopefully, what I said to Laura I said in jest.



(ps—thanks to “Upper Michigan Photo of the Day” and “Once a Yooper, Always a Yooper”, among the many, for sharing my picture on Facebook yesterday!)


Does this describe you? 

90% of Americans say they recycle & turn their thermostats down.

85% of say they buy energy efficient cars & appliances, & wash clothes in cold water when they can.

70% say they’re willing to walk, bike, or carpool to cut down on their driving.

I bring this up because today is Earth Day, and what with a rapidly changing global climate and various ways you can help the environment in the news these days, it seemed an apt time to share those interesting statistics.

Having grown up in the 70’s, when people actually seemed to care about the environment and pollution, I’ve always tried to live an environmentally friendly life.  It's just ingrained in my brain.  As you know, I walk and bike almost everywhere; when I do drive, it’s in a car that gets 40 miles per gallon.  Cold water laundry?  Check.  Recycling?  Despite the occasional stupidity of Waste management, I put out a plastics & glass & metals one week and a bin of paper every other week.  Air conditioning in the summer?  Are you kidding?  Enjoy the heat while it’s here!

Major reports the last few months from the U.N. and from researchers worldwide have backed up the fact that, as humans, we’re having a severe impact on Earth’s environmental systems, and most of the impact is NOT good.  In fact, the past three months have been the warmest January, February, and March on the planet since records have been kept.  In fact, the only places on the planet that's been below normal, temperature-wise this year, has been a patch of  Siberia and, believe it or not, the eastern & central U.S. (aren't we lucky?)  Not only that, but areas of droughts and storms have been among the most severe in recorded history.  So if you find yourself getting a little tired of all the information, dire warnings, threats, and pleadings to cut back that you’ll hear over the next few days, remember. . .

For now, at least, it’s the only planet we have!

So on that note, have a happy Earth Day, do what you can to help stabilize and repair the environment, and think good thoughts for Mother Nature.  I'm sure she'd appreciate it.  In fact, if you're curious as to what your own personal carbon footprint is, check that out HERE!


TUESDAY, 4/21:

Who knew that a swing could be so much fun?

Saturday, when the weather was almost tolerable, Loraine and I were out enjoying the sun when we found ourselves at our neighborhood park, Williams Park.  Williams Park is one of the hidden gems of Marquette; it has tennis courts, basketball courts, and a fully equipped (with new stuff!) playground.  Yet because it's not on a main street, because it's tucked into the east side of Marquette, there's hardly ever anyone there.

And that's usually a shame.  A really big shame.

Saturday, though, was an exception.  The city had just put the tennis court nets up and people were playing.  A group of college students was hustling around the basketball court.  And several families of kids were enjoying themselves on the playground.  The park's not usually like that, and it's probably what caused Loraine and me to stop by and take it all in.

Oh, and to go on the swings, too.

You see, behind all the new playground equipment at the park sits a few pieces of old equipment; an old slide, an old merry-go-round, and an old set of swings.  You can tell they're old because they're made out of metal, and you can also tell they're old because the kids on the playground would have nothing to do with them.  Of course, the seats of the swings were up rather high off the ground, maybe too high for the kids to play on them, but as Loraine soon noticed, they weren't too high for adults to enjoy.

So that's why, for the first time in decades, we jumped on playground swings.

It was during that five minutes that I discovered a couple of things.  I discovered that, if you do it right, swinging can be quite the impressive aerobic activity.  You use your arms, you use your legs, and at the end of it you can get your heart rate really up there if you so desire.  So if I ever twist an ankle or do something else that causes me to be unable to run or bike or ski; well, at least I can always go swinging.  I also discovered that I've either matured or become more cautious (or both) in my old age.  When I was a kid I would always get the swing going as high as I could and then jump off.  The “old” swings at Williams Park have a really good set-up for doing that, too, with a bunch of sand laid out in front of the swingers.    But just as I was at the apex of a swing, at a perfect point to jump, I decided against it.  I don't know why; I don't know if something in my
pea-brain decided it wouldn't be a good idea or what, but I waited until my momentum was almost killed, until I slowed down, and THEN I jumped.

I'm sure the 11-year old me would be laughing at the current me, but you know what 11-year old me?  I use my legs too much for one of them to be broken while jumping off a swing.  So shut up and go back to watching “Lost in Space”.


The one other thing I discovered (or, actually, re-discovered) is that I'm married to an amazing woman.  After all, who else would point out the hidden swings, and who else would jump on them with a gleeful smile on her face?  Yup; I think you know the answer to that question, and that would be the amazing woman I married 26 years ago today.

So Loraine, happy anniversary.  I'll be happy to go swinging with you any time!



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