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In Jim's Daily Opinion 04/24/2015

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?

8-)

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!!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 4/23:

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.

Hopefully.

(jim@wmqt.com)

(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!)

WEDNESDAY, 4/22:

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!

(jim@wmqt.com)

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”.

8-)

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!

Love,

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 4/20:

If I’m counting correctly, the media medium is at least three generations old.

As a long-time fan of old time radio, I’ve collected a lot of the shows over the years, especially favorites like “The Jack Benny Show”, “The Shadow”, and “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar”. For some reason, I’ve started listening to a couple of seasons of the multi-part “Dollar” from the mid 1950s recently, and I realize that if I didn’t have an old piece of equipment lying around, I actually wouldn’t be able to listen to them at all any more.

The shows, you see, are all on cassette.

And that’s what I mean by the media medium being three generations old. I purchased most of these shows in the mid to late 90s, when you bought radio shows in cassette, as opposed to CDs, which is how you listened to music back them. And since that era oh-so-long ago, both formats have now been supplanted by digital files, which make cassettes as obsolete as the 78 discs on which many of the shows I have were originally recorded back when they aired on radio live.

Yikes!

Like I said, it’s a good thing I had an old boom box lying around, a boom box that plays several older “generations” of media; namely cassettes and CDs. But that’s about as far back as I go. If I needed to go back on further generation--records--well, I think Loraine may have a turntable lying around someone in the basement. Whether or not it still works, I don’t know, but I think we have one somewhere. Anything further back than that--everything from 8-tracks to wax discs--and I’m outta luck.

Now, it’s not that big of a deal. I have all the music I want & need on up-to-date media (i.e. iPods and the like), so I don’t have to worry about that. But after listening to several seasons of “Johnny Dollar” and having to haul out a 15-year old boom box to do so, it makes me wonder--what am I gonna do with all those old radio shows I have on cassette? If my boom box dies, I won’t be able to listen to them any more. I don’t have the time to transfer them all to an up-to-date media, nor do I have the desire to spend a bunch of money to get new versions of them.

So what’s to become of the old radio shows once I don’t have a cassette player any more?

I’m sure it’s a problem many people who’ve collected some form of media over the years have had to deal with, and a problem we’ll also have to deal with in the future. After all, I can foresee a time when we don’t play music off of digital files like mp3s any more; instead, we’ll have something along the lines of a chip implanted directly into our brains that play all the music we like. And while that means we won’t have to carry our iPods around any more, it does mean that we’ll have to (once again) upgrade our content collection to a new format.

But before we get to the chip in the brain, I still have to figure out what to do with all the old radio shows that are still on cassettes. After all, if that format is three generations old, I’m thinking I may need to make one or two intermediate steps before getting them installed directly into my brain.

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 4/17:

I wasn't kidding yesterday.  I really shouldn't try to function before 10am.

Case in point—8:44 am, as I'm standing in our bathroom brushing my teeth.  For some idiotic reason, I left the medicine cabinet door open.  I bent over to wash the toothpaste out of my mouth, and when I lean back up again, my back makes contact with the medicine cabinet door.  Because I don't quite realize what's going on, I keep moving until the pain actually travels from my back to my not-yet awake brain.

And by the time that happens, I have this huge scrape between my shoulder blades.  In fact, it looks much like what happens when you slice a piece off of a big block of cheese.

Ouch.

As always, I have no one to blame but myself.  I should've known better that to leave the cabinet door open.  I should've known better than to lean over when I knew the door is open.  Heck, I shouldn't known better than to even try brushing my teeth that early in the morning.

I really need to do something about functioning that early in the morning.  I really do.

***

On that note, make sure you have yourself a great weekend.  I know it'll be a little colder than it has been recently, so if you don't feel like going outside, check this out.  I've only watched it about 200 times in the past days.

And yes, I need help in more ways than one.  What's your point?

8-)




(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 4/16:

I don't know if it was the early hour, or if my eyesight is going, or if my brain is just giving up (or any combination thereof), but yesterday morning none of the words looked right.

Let me explain.  Yesterday morning I woke up early and went to work.  I did it for a couple of reasons; I did it so I could leave around noon and go running when it was nice & sunny & warm out (which it was), and I did it because I had to get some promo copy off to our announcer.  The copy's for a new contest we're doing with Fox UP about their show “The Following”, and someone (i.e. me) decided that it might be fun to call the contest “Better With Bacon”, one because I've probably been watching too many cooking shows recently (and as we all know, every chef on TV says that anything tastes “Better with Bacon”.  Really, chef?  What about something like grapefruit?) and two because the star of “The Following” is Kevin Bacon.

Hence the title “Better With Bacon”.

Anyway, I was sitting in my office right after 8am typing away when I was overcome with the strangest mental feeling.  You know now, every so often, you'll write or type out a word and it just doesn't look right?  Well, I was having that problem with three words, and it was driving me insane.  Those three words?

“Better”, “With”, and (wait for it) “Bacon”.  Every time I typed each of those words, and I typed them quite a bit, they did not look right to me at all.

I don't know why each of the words looked wrong every time I typed them, but they did.  “Better” was the worst example; not only did it not look right to me, but I also kept thinking that “better” was not even a word, that it was somehow grammatically incorrect.  Yet my Word program, stupid as it can be at times, didn't underline anything or tell me that I was doing anything wrong.  My fingers obviously knew what they were doing; it's just too bad my brain couldn't stay on the same page.

I think I've written in here many times about how I am not a morning person, about how I don't seem to be able to function like a semi-normal human being right after waking up.  So I can see how one word might look weird to me, but all three words that I was typing over and over?  Even “with”, which is one of the most commonly used prepositions in the English language?  I think this might be reaching new heights (or depths, depending upon how you look at it), even for me.

All I can say is that it's a good thing I'm not, say, a brain surgeon, or someone who has to be at peak skill early in the morning.  Because if that were the case; well, let's just say that I would be losing a license quite quickly.  Assuming, of course, I was ever given a license in the first place.

And seeing as how the word “license” is now starting to look to me like I'm spelling it incorrectly, I think perhaps I should start wrapping it up for today.  I'm sure my brain and my eyes will thank me.

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 4/15:

I wonder what downtown Marquette will look like in three years.

Sunday when it was sunny and in the 70s Loraine and I were out doing what we do when a day is sunny and in the 70s.  We were out walking.  And part of our walk took us from Marquette's lake shore up the bike path that heads west from downtown, past 7th Street and the old roundhouse property.  That's when it hit me—because of those two locations, the lake shore and the round house property—downtown Marquette is gonna look quite different by this time in 2018.

Why?  Well, those are the two points where some rather large buildings are being constructed. Right on the lake shore, right at the entrance to Founder's Landing, is where the new Marquette Place project is being built, a 5-story commercial & residential complex sitting right on the shore of Lake Superior.  And at the other end of downtown, on the old round house property, is where U.P. Health Systems is building the new hospital, which, according to which rumor you believe, will either be four, seven or 13 stories in height.

It won't matter if you're standing on the lake shore or driving in on the bypass...in a few years, downtown Marquette's gonna look a lot different than it does now.

Of course, those are only two of the big projects.  There are a lot of other, smaller projects being tackled, the Delft among them, and then there are the projects that will spin off.  I mean, once Marquette Place and the hospital are open, that's gonna bring a LOT of people into downtown Marquette who normally aren't in downtown Marquette.  And those people might need places to shop and to play and, perhaps, even to live.  I mean, there is a quite a healthy selection of things to do here already, but is it enough to handle the coming crowds?

I'm kind of curious about that myself.

It's funny.  If I remember correctly, thirty years ago downtown Marquette was dying.  Most of the shops had moved west out to Marquette Township, and the downtown area was filled with empty storefronts and confusing one-way streets.  But then something great happened.  The people of Marquette discovered, slowly but surely, that their downtown really wasn't so bad after all.  When you get rid of all the old industrial sites, tear out the railroads. clean up the lake front, make the whole area accessible to pedestrians and vehicles alike, and then realize the history that you have in things like sandstone buildings...

Well, all of a sudden downtown Marquette began a renaissance.  A renaissance that should hit yet another peak in, oh, two or three years.

I think we're very lucky in what we have.  We're lucky we have a downtown that's thriving.  I also think that we're very lucky in that we have a community full of people who care about their downtown, who want to see it grow and thrive and still retain the charm of its past.  That's why I'll be curious to see how things change over the next three years.

Because from one end of downtown Marquette to the other, you'll see the changes take place before your very eyes.

(jim@wmqt.com)

(p.s.--in what may be an amazing piece of serendipity, right about the time I sent off yesterday's blog about the potholes on Front Street the city of Marquette came and filled in said potholes.  So, I guess, great minds (or at least my mind and the great minds in the city's Department of Public Works) think alike!)

TUESDAY, 4/14:

Welcome to the Third World country otherwise known as the street on which I live--





Over the course of this winter the thaw/freeze cycles have taken their toll on the street in front of my apartment, and the past few days, what with the snow and then the 73 degree temperatures, have really finished it off.  The street's been in bad shape for the past couple of years; now, though, it's almost impassable.  But, then, it's not like it's a major north-south artery in Marquette, one on which fire trucks and ambulances travel on an almost hourly basis.

Oh, wait...it is.  Never mind.

I know budgets for road repairs are pretty much non-existent these days, and, depending upon which side you believe, may get even worse should the upcoming state-wide vote pass or fail, but when even people in pickup trucks with great shocks and high clearances have to swerve to avoid getting sucked into what used to be Front Street in Marquette; well, you know it's getting pretty bad.

I realize why the city of Marquette hasn't fixed it yet; after all, why fix all the dents in a street when the weather may cause a few more in the next week or two?  I just hope, though, that when the road repair season DOES start in earnest that my block of Front Street is among the first to be fixed.  Like I said, it's an ambulance route, and can you imagine being transported to U.P. Health System/Marquette with some kind of injury, only to be tossed up in the air, perhaps even hitting the ceiling, when the rig in which you're driving runs over over all the potholes in the street?

If you thought you hurt before, think what it would be like afterward!

So if you at all can, take my advice and avoid driving on north Front Street in Marquette.  I thank you, your car's suspension thanks you, and any loose fillings you may have in your teeth thank you, as well.

8-)

*****

While out taking the picture of the potholes I also happened to stroll past my favorite lilac tree, and it looks like the fantastic weather of the past few days has caused the buds to pop out a little more since last week--





And yes, I know.  I promise not to take any more pictures of the budding lilac buds until they're actually budded.  Promise!

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 4/13:

Groeten uit de Verenigde Staten!

Now, I have no idea if that says what it's supposed to say, but it's supposed to say “Greetings from the United States” in Dutch, and it's going out to daily blog reader Jeanne, who lives in The Netherlands and who checks this out every day to practice her English.  Now, the reason I have no idea if it actually translated it correctly is that I used Google Translate, and according to Jeanne, the way Google Translate translated my April Fools' Day blog (the one with ““The day of the gelukkige scatterbrains of April”) was, and I quote, “horrible”.

Jeanne, I just hope it worked a little better this time!

Still, I shouldn't complain too much.  Google Translate has been a godsend to me, whether it's for joking purposes like trying to translate a blog, or for more practical purposes like trying to translate a website or directions to get from one place to another.  I mean, I have enough trouble with the one extra language in which I know more than a dozen words—French--and I'd hate to think what my brain would be like if I had to remember not only French but German, Dutch, and Polish, three extra languages on which I've recently used a translation program.

It would not be pretty.

In a way, I wish I would've been smarter when I was younger.  I wish I would've made a point to study one foreign language and one foreign language only when I was in school, when my brain was a little more open to learning something new like an extra language.  Instead, I flitted from German to French to Finnish to Spanish, not really learning much of any of those languages and turning my rather pliable mind into a mish-mash of Romance and Indo-European babble.  Now that I'm older and, as studies show, less likely to learn a language, it's a little harder.

Shucks.

Of course, it might help me stick to just one language if I wasn't so stupid.  I retain just enough of those “other” languages, like German and Spanish, so that if someone asks me a simple question I'd know what they're asking.  Unfortunately, when I answer them, I answer them in French, which is my default “other” language.  Fortunately, most people in Europe can speak another language (English) fluently, and when they realize I'm a dumb American answering a German question in French (which has actually happened several times), they take pity on me and answer in the one language in which I'm occasionally fluent.

You know, English.

So anyway, I'm thankful for things like Google Translate, because while it's not perfect, it's available, and that's better than not having it at all.  I'm also thankful for blog readers like Jeanne in The Netherlands and everyone else from around the planet who checks in on a regular basis. 

I appreciate it!

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 4/10:

I’ll either live forever, or I’ll kill myself in the next couple of weeks.  I don’t think there’s any happy medium.

I’ve written in here before about how I’ll occasionally use downtown Marquette as my own personal jungle gym; I only mention that now because I’ve started a new workout regime using one of the greatest natural assets of downtown--the hills--as a basis for it.  Here’s what I’m doing--I’ll run down Front Street, then run back up the hill, from Main to Ridge.  I’ll then run over to Third, down the street to Main, and once again back up to Ridge.  I’ll then do the same on by Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh (although just running down to Washington on those two streets).  Then I’ll work my way back to Front Street, doing the exact same thing.  Then for good measure, I’ll run down Ridge Street and back up its massive hill, until my body can take no more and I have to stop for the day.

I know...but when was the last time you saw me show even a shred of sanity?

The way I figure it, I’m covering about 40 blocks of uphill territory, three blocks at a time, with a couple blocks of rest in between.  Not only does it make my legs scream in pure terror, but I’m thinking it throws my cardiovascular system so far into the red that my heart & lungs will thank me well into my 90s.  Either that, or they’ll give up tomorrow, but I’m really banking on the former happening.

Really, I am.

They say you’re supposed to change up your workout routine every couple of months, if only so your body doesn’t become so used to what you’re doing that it does it on autopilot, depriving you of the chance to build upon whatever base you have.  That’s why I decided to try running the hills once a week; it’s a lot different than my usual run, it makes my body work a whole lot harder, and it takes advantage of the hills around here, an advantage that very few people in this country could enjoy.

Once again, just let me say this--Marquette (and its hills) rocks!!

I’m not planning on doing anything with any physical benefits I may derive from doing the hills; I’m not gonna run a trail race, and I’m not planning on hiking up all 101 floors of the Empire State building any time soon.  I just figure that as long as it’s borderline nice outside, and as long as the streets are (hopefully) free of snow, sand, and ice, I might as well take advantage of it, and see how long and how hard I can drive myself.

And hope my body thanks me for it before it throws in the towel.

On that note, have yourself a great weekend.  And keep your fingers crossed that the weather is as nice tomorrow & Sunday (which it's forecast to be) as it wasn't this morning!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 4/9:

I'm still hearing about the UFOs.

Tuesday on “What's Up U.P.” I asked a question based on an article I had read over the weekend.  The article talked about the number of reported UFO sightings per U.S. county, and even came with a nice handy chart on the subject, a chart that allowed me to find out that Alger County is the U.P.'s UFO capital and a chart that allowed  me to talk about it on the air.  And while on the air, I mentioned that when this study used the phrase “UFO”, they weren't talking about seeing little green in big silver spacecraft; they were talking about anything weird noticed in the sky, which includes meteorites and, apparently, northern lights.

But as I've found, whenever you use the phrase “UFO” on the air some people's minds lock onto the concept of little green men in big sliver spacecraft, at least based on some of the e-mails I've received.  I mean, the e-mails weren't strange, or anything (okay, not THAT strange) but it made me realize that there are people out there with some very strong, very definite opinions on what are apparently the many sides of the subject.

And it also made me laugh a little, as the people who e-mailed thought that I was on their side of the subject.  Those who believe little green men have visited our planet think I agree with them, while people who think aliens are hogwash believe I share their view.  That's actually a compliment; it means that I don't put my personal feelings on the subject out there, which is what I was trying to do.  And it's kind of funny, too, because at least in this situation I go both ways.

First of all, I don’t think we’re the only intelligent life in the universe.  I think there is a lot of life throughout the galaxy, throughout the universe, and throughout the multi-verse.  I base my belief on both personal hope and on simple math.  After all, if you take the most conservative guess of the number of galaxies in our universe (130 billion) and multiply that by the very conservative estimate of stars in each galaxy (a billion or so), you come up with a number that has a LOT of zeros after it.  Now, not all of these stars have planets circling them.  But as we’ve found in our own little cosmic neighborhood, a lot of them probably DO have planets, and you’ve have to guess that some of those planets might be the size of our own, with a makeup like our own, in an orbit around their star like our own.  And if life evolved here...

Why not everywhere?

It's funny; NASA's chief scientist, on the very day I asked the question about UFOs, made the statement that we'll probably discover life (most probably microbial life) on another planet or moon within our solar system some time in the next 20 years.  It won't be little green men, but it will be alien life.  So there.  I have important people on my side!

But I still believe that there is more than just microbial life out there.  There has to be a lot of intelligent life, even in just our little corner of the time/space continuum.  Like I said, it's just simple math.  However, here's the other side to it--I don’t believe that aliens are living among us, nor do I believe that aliens have come to Earth and have kidnapped humans for things like rectal probes.  I don’t believe that aliens will come to attack us or steal our resources, if only because any civilization that has mastered interstellar travel will probably have evolved beyond any kind of war-like impulses.  I simply believe that one day, probably a bit in the future, we’ll pick up a radio signal that’s not natural in phenomena, and know that we’re not alone in the cosmos.

And that will be the biggest day in the history of OUR planet.

So now you know.  Yes, I believe there's alien life out there.  No, I don't believe they live among us.  And remind me to think twice before I ask a question about UFOs on the air again!

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 4/8:

It's been twenty years.  I wonder how much longer it'll take before people stop referring to K.I. Sawyer as “The Base”?

It's funny, but three times in the past few weeks I've had people on the air tell me they're either at “The Base” or at “KI Sawyer Air Force Base” when I've asked them from where they're calling.  And that's not unusual.  In fact, it probably happens every week or two.  Oh sure; many people who call say they're either from “Sawyer” or “K.I. Sawyer”, but over 20 years after the base closed, some people still refer to by its old name.

Curious.

I can see why there are some people, especially old-timers, who still call it that.  After all, if you've grew up saying “K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base” it's probably ingrained in your brain that way.  But at least one of the people who called it “The Base” last week was younger.  In fact, they were probably just a kid when “The Base” closed and K.I. Sawyer became just “K.I. Sawyer”, minus “Air Force Base”, so I'm pretty sure they didn't grow up calling it “K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base”.  Yet, 20 years after the fact, they're still referring to it that way.

Like I said...curious.

Of course, it's not just K.I. Sawyer that falls into this category.  Just a couple of days ago I heard someone talking about “the new school” in Harvey.  The school they're talking about is, of course, Cherry Creek School, a building that opened over 25 years ago.  But because it was built AFTER Silver Creek, which is actually no longer a school, it's still referred to as the “new” school.

Now, if we could only get individuals to start doing that to people, and not just buildings or communities.  That way, people who know my parents might start referring to me as the “new” Koski.  And trust me—that's something about which, at my age, I would not complain!

8-)

Anyway, if you happen to find yourself innocently referring to K.I. Sawyer by using any phrase which includes the word “Base” in it, you're in good company.  And, the way it's going, you'll probably be in that good company for another 20 or so years!

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 4/7:

Sad to say, I think Russell Stover season is over.

This is an idea that actually popped into Loraine's head yesterday as she was eating one of the cream-filled chocolate Easter eggs the company makes.  The two of us have this tradition—right after Halloween we head to to Walgreen's and see what kind of chocolate the company is putting out for that  Christmas.  Usually, this will consist of all kinds of chocolaty goodness filled with all kinds of interesting flavors, molded into the shapes of the season—reindeer, Santas, and the like.  It's actually one of the ways we know Christmas is coming.

Then the day or two after Christmas, Walgreen's takes down the holiday Russell Stover chocolates and replaces them with the Valentine's Day Russell Stover chocolates, which are actually the same as the Christmas chocolates except they're the shape of hearts and whatever else you associate with the February holiday, things like, oh, I dunno, bitter breakups.  Then the day after Cupid pays a visit Walgreen's takes down the Valentine's Day chocolates and replaces them with Easter Chocolates, which are the same as both the Christmas and Valentine's Day chocolates except there are in the shapes of eggs and bunnies.

Not one bitter breakup in the bunch.

It's a glorious four or five month span, a time when we get to sample all kinds of quality American chocolate, as well as a time when Walgreen's gets to separate us from a good-sized chunk of our money.  But once Easter wraps up, we're kind of stuck.  There's not another chocolate-giving holiday that rolls around until the Christmas stuff gets put out right after Halloween.  As far as I can tell, Russell Stover doesn't make Arbor Day chocolates in the shape of trees, or Memorial Day chocolates in the shape of headstones, or Fourth of July chocolates in the shape of fireworks, or Labor Day chocolates in the shape of people slaving away for minimum wage.  Nope; between Easter and Christmas we just have to make do with the chocolate we have on hand.

You know, the stuff we buy in Europe.  So don't think you have to shed a tear for us or anything.

It's probably a good thing Russell Stover doesn't make chocolate for all those summer holidays.  After all, chocolate doesn't always hold up as well as you'd like it to during warm weather months.  And if we were to eat it year-round, it would lose a little of the special feeling you get when you bite into one.  Besides, I'm sure our waistlines appreciate it, as well.

So now that Easter's come and gone we're left with what we've not yet eaten, which in my case are a couple of caramel-filled dark chocolate eggs and one lemon-filled dark chocolate thing, which, believe it or not, has a simply amazing taste. In fact, if you happen to see one next year, I highly recommend you try it.  But just because the Stover season is over is not a cause for concern; after all, Halloween's a mere six and a half months away, and, sad to say, it'll be here before we know it, thereby letting us know one simple thing--

It's time to ring in the 2015-2016 Russell Stover season!

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 4/6:

Sometimes people make me laugh.  And not necessarily in a good way.

I’ve caught a commercial on TV several times now, and the tag line for the product made me sit up and take notice.  The product is for something called Four Seasons Sunrooms; it’s basically a big, enclosed patio room (with lots of windows) that you build onto the side of your house.  I have no beef with the product, and like I said, that’s not what made me laugh.  It was this line, used twice in the commercial that, had I any food in my mouth when I first heard it, would’ve caused a spit-take that would’ve put the Three Stooges to shame. 

The tagline?  “It lets you enjoy the outdoors inside”.

I don’t know about you, but the logic, for lack of a better word, of that tagline astounds me.  First of all, if you’re indoors, you CAN’T enjoy the outdoors.  It’s simple quantum physics--you can’t be in two places at once.  You’re either indoors, or you’re outdoors.  Unless you’re standing in an open doorway, with an arm inside and an arm outside, you can’t enjoy the outdoors from the indoors.  Don’t the people who wrote that tag line understand that?  And don’t they know that to enjoy something fully, it has to envelope all your senses?  You have to see it, hear it, smell it, and feel it?  And you can’t do that to the outdoors if you’re sitting in an enclosed room.  You can see it, but you can’t hear it, smell it, or feel it.

DON’T THESE PEOPLE GET IT???

(Yes, I know I need help.  What’s your point?  8-))

Now, aside from the absurdity of the tagline, I think the commercial also pointed out something that’s, well, weird with people these days, or at least seems weird to me.  It’s something I notice whenever I’m out for a walk on a warm summer day, and I see people driving by me with their windows rolled up, air conditioning cranked to the max.  People these days don’t seem to want to enjoy the outdoors.  They prefer living in an artificial environment.  And this sunroom is a perfect example--the commercial shows people sitting in the room, drinking coffee and gazing out at the sunshine and the green grass.  Why not just go outside and feel the sunshine and smell the green grass?  It’s nature; it’s something we’re genetically pre-programmed to enjoy.  Go out in it...experience it.  Sitting in a sunroom and looking at the sun is like, I dunno, hiring two people, having someone
film them getting married, and then showing it off as “your” wedding video.

It’s not real, no matter how much it looks like it is.

I don’t know why people seem allergic to the outdoors these days.  I know I’m not; you all know how much I dislike cold & snow, yet I’m outside, even on those days when both cold & snow are at their maximum.  If nothing else, it makes being outside on sunny, warm summer days that much more satisfying.  But maybe I’m weird that way; maybe I’m not as evolved as some people.  Maybe the next step in human evolution is toward beings who can only survive in artificial environments.  Maybe I’m part of a dying breed.

I dunno.  All I do know for certain is if that’s the case; I’m fine with being part of a dying breed.  Unlike most people these days, I guess, I want to enjoy my outdoors FROM the outdoors.  Not from the indoors...

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 4/3:

Look what I saw!





If nothing else, the above average temperatures (and above average rain) the past few days have done two things—they've gotten rid of whatever snow cover we had here in Marquette, and it's also allowed the buds to start popping out on my favorite lilac tree!  Now, I realize that they're a month or more from sprouting, but seeing how how last year our brutal winter didn't allow them to come out until almost June (and then only stay out for a day or two) I'm hoping this year is a little kinder to them.

So, for my freakish lilac obsession, if nothing else, please keep your fingers crossed!

Other than that, I don't have too much more to say today.  I have to skip over to Public TV-13 and shoot a few interview clips for the season finale of “High School Bowl” (which airs next weekend, btw), and then make sure everything at work is ready so that everyone can enjoy an Easter weekend away from the station, me included..

For one person, though, it's more than an Easter weekend...it's also a birthday weekend!  That's right; one of the two people responsible for my being here (and you'll have to decide if that's for better or for worse) is celebrating her birthday on Easter Sunday, and that's my mom.  This year, she'll have a little more company than usual down in Florida for her big day, as two of my nieces are there visiting for spring break.  So Mallory & Sydney, this is for you--

Make sure you make a nice cake for your grandmother's birthday/Easter celebration.  Make sure you toss a bunch of jellybeans on it, and then eat a big piece for me.

And as for the birthday girl herself, have a great birthday, Mom.  And I hope everyone's Easter weekend, whether in Florida or wherever in the world you happen to be, is quite spectacular!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 4/2:

This is not what I was gonna write about today.

Some of you may be aware of my system for keeping track of things, which basically consists of writing down thoughts and ideas when I get them on scraps of paper and then tossing said scraps of paper onto my desk or on top of my backpack.  Well, yesterday afternoon, in the midst of being on the air and dealing with Instant Requests and putting together a contest for our ESPN station I had a GREAT idea for today’s blog.  I wrote it down on a scrap of paper, tossed it on my backpack, and then took a look at it this morning when it came time to write.

Only, when I looked at the note on the scrap of paper, it said this--

“blog—bl.spn 419” (or bl.son, depending how quickly I wrote it).

Now, I’m sure that this was a great idea, one that would just flow out of my brain, make you laugh for days and share it with your friends for months, and win me a Pulitzer for Best Blog Entry EVER.

The only problem?  I don’t exactly remember what “bl.spn 419” means.

I remember writing it down, I remember throwing it on my desk, I even remember getting ready for bed last night sure I had a great blog topic set for today.  And I’m sure, at one time, that I did.  It’s just that, uhm, it seems to have slipped through the ever-increasing cracks in my brain.

I then did everything you’re supposed to do--I mentally retraced my steps when I got the idea and wrote it down.  I tried to recreate the mindset of what I was doing when I wrote it down.  I tried thinking of everything that popped through my mind yesterday afternoon (and, in the process, discovered that I need to hold a rummage sale in my brain some day).  No luck.

It hasn’t come to me while I’m writing about the fact that I can’t remember it, and it’s slowly dawning on me that, unless a creative thunderbolt comes down from Blog Heaven, I may never figure out what “bl.spn 419” means.

Some days, I amaze even myself.  And usually not in a good way.

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 4/1:

Darn.  I still haven't found an English to Klingon translator.

For several years in a row, as an April Fools' day joke I would write a blog, use an online translator to turn it into another language, and then post the blog in the strange language. And trust me—the stranger the language into which it was translated, the better.  I'd also include a little Easter Egg in the blog, a link to the site where you could translate the day's entry back into English, should you be interested.  Then the next day I'd post the original blog in its original language. 

For instance, using the paragraph I just wrote as an example, here's what it would look like in Dutch--

“Sinds een aantal jaren op rij, als April Fools 'dag grap zou ik een blog te schrijven, gebruik maken van een online vertaler om te zetten in een andere taal, en dan post de blog in de vreemde taal. En geloof me, de vreemdeling de taal waarin het werd vertaald, hoe beter. Ik zou ook een beetje Easter Egg in de blog, een link naar de site waar je de dag van binnenkomst kunnen vertalen, mocht het je interesseren. Dan is de volgende dag zou ik de originele blog in de oorspronkelijke taal, Engels te posten.”

In Icelandic--

“Í nokkur ár í röð, sem Aprílgabb brandari ég myndi skrifa blogg, nota á netinu þýðandi að snúa það inn í annað tungumál, og þá eftir bloggið í undarlega tungumáli. Og treystu mér-útlendingurinn tungumál inn sem það var þýtt, því betra. Ég myndi einnig fela smá Páskaegg í blogginu, tengil á síðuna þar sem þú getur þýða færslu dagsins, ættir þú áhuga. Svo næsta dag ég vil senda upprunalegu blogg í frummálinu þess, ensku.”

And in Czech--

„Již několik let po sobě, jako aprílový den vtip, já bych napsat blog, použijte on-line překladač otočit do jiného jazyka, a pak po blog v podivném jazyce. A věř mi, cizinec jazyk, do kterého byl přeložen, tím lépe. Já bych patří malý velikonoční vajíčko v blogu, odkaz na web, kde jste mohli přeložit denní záznam, měli byste mít zájem. Pak druhý den jsem psát původní blog v původním jazyce, angličtině.“

Part of the joy was when I re-translated the blog from its translated language back into English.  Sometimes, you'd end up with something strange.  For instance, when you translate “April's Fools Day” from English to Dutch you'd get “ En de Dag van de gelukkige Dwazen van April”.  And then when you translated “En de Dag van de gelukkige Dwazen van April“ back into Enlgish, you wouldn't get “April Fools Day”, instead you'd get “the day of the gelukkige scatterbrains of April”.

I mean, I can kind of see how the two phrases are similar, but still.  “The day of the gelukkige scatterbrains of April”?

Anyway, one of the languages into which I always wanted to translate a blog is Klingon.  I mean, I know it's not a “real” language”, but it is a language nonetheless, a language in which quite a few people are fluent.  And I always figured that the kind of people who might be fluent in Klingon would be the same kind of people who do things like write online translation programs.  But you know what?

Apparently they make much better use of their time than, say, me.  Because I've spent hours looking for a Klingon translator online, but have never found one.

Hopefully, one day, I will find one, because that'll mean that the next April Fools Day following that momentous occasion you'll see as blog in Klingon.  And if the phrase “April Fools' Day” translate so strangely from English to Dutch and back, imagine what it'll be like when you change it from English to Klingon and back.

If nothing else, it'll be a good day to translate!!

(jim@wmqt.com), geek in sheep's clothing.

TUESDAY, 3/31:

Think they'll take my diploma back once my alma mater realizes I don't care if they make it to some basketball playoff?

I know...bad alumni, right?  I guess I just can't help myself.  After all, it's only college basketball.  And it's not like Michigan State hasn't been in the Final Four for seven of the past 12 years, or whatever it is. Because they have.

I guess I'm just not a good Spartan.

You'd think I'd be happy they're back in the Final Four once again; after all, not only did I graduate from the place, but their coach just happens to be one of the most famous people ever to come out of the U.P.  But because it's basketball, a subject in which I have absolutely no interest, college or other-wise, I just kind of shrug my shoulders while the rest of the world goes crazy filling out their brackets and losing their mind when Elba squeaks past Waterloo in the greatest first round upset in the history of March Madness.

Whatever.

Don't get me wrong—I enjoyed my three years at Michigan State,.  My time there helped make me into the person that I am today, and I wouldn't have traded it for the world.  But unlike a lot of people, I don't consider myself a part of the Spartan “family”.  I don't go back for homecoming, I don't belong to any kind of alumni association, and I'm really not interested in whether their sports teams are good, bad, or on probation.  My life is where I am now and what I'm doing today, not what I was, who I was,  or where I was back in the 1980s.

So sorry, Michigan State.  It's not you, it's me.

However, that's not to say it's not a great place to grow and learn.  It is.  In fact, if you have a young person trying to decide where to go to college, tell them Michigan State is one of the best.  In fact, I highly recommend going there.  And if you do go there, and if you graduate, and if you wanna be a part of the Spartan “family” for many years afterward, I'm sure you'll have a lot of fun, and I'm sure they'd love to have you.  In fact, based on the amount of mail I get asking me to donate to the school, I can guarantee they'd love to have you.  So if you wanna do it, that's cool.

You just won't be seeing me at any Final Four viewing parties.  Now, I suppose I should find where I buried my diploma, just in case they ask for it back.

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 3/30:

Yay.  I get my hair cut tonight!

Now, I realize that celebrating a hair cut may not be the biggest cause for joy in the world, but because things have been so hectic and because schedules haven't coincided it's been a bit since I've had a haircut.  As it turns out, a little longer than normal.  And because of that, if you know what you're looking for, you can really tell I need a trim.

You can really, really tell.

I can't speak for anyone else in the world, because as we ALL know I'm not like anyone else in the world.  But for a certain window in the hair growing process—say five or six weeks after I get a cut—my hair starts to get really weird. For the next two or three weeks it starts to get curly.  Really, really curly.  Whatever natural wave my hair has to it gets really exaggerated.  For those two or three weeks I can look like I'm a human mop, a human mop that just stuck a finger in an electrical socket.  And then, if I keep growing my hair, it starts to look normal again.

But for those two or three weeks—the two or three weeks I'm in right now—I can, on occasion, look like Carrot Top, expect my hair's brown (& gray) instead of red.  Yikes!

Normally, I'll get it cut before that happens, but like I said, the last month or so has been kinda hectic.  And since I'm done shooting “High School Bowl” for the season, I don't necessarily have to have the best looking hair.  So for the past four or five mornings, when I get up for work or to lounge around, I look at the mass of hair sticking here and poking out there and just chuckle.  It'd be easier if I wore hats, because I could just throw one on and be done with it.  But since I don't (another story in itself) I try to tame it.

The operative word, of course, being “try”.  Because when we're in that little hair growth window, like we are now, my hair pretty much has a mind of its own.

I really don't care if my hair is long or if it's short; as long as it hasn't totally fallen out (yet) I'm happy.  So I suppose I could try to live through the next few weeks and let it grow out to the point that it looks normal again.  But that means I'd have to spend the next few weeks looking at it in its present state and trying to make it presentable.  And that, in all honesty, just takes too much of my (rapidly diminishing) brainpower.  So by getting it cut tonight, I can now spend the next four or five weeks not even thinking about it.

And I'm fine with that.

Now, we just have to make sure that my next hair cut happens on schedule.  Otherwise, I'll be right back at the same place, looking at the same curls and the waves that are currently invading my head, and starting the process over again.  Either that, or I could just start shaving my head and be done with that.

That, however, would probably open up a whole 'nother can or worms, a can I'd rather not deal with at the moment!

Okay; that's enough about hair for today...

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 3/27:

A bunch of little things today to wrap up the week--

First of all is a weird thought that popped into my head yesterday afternoon while eating an apple—do you leave the stem in when eating an apple, or do you twist it out?  I don't know why the thought popped into my head; it just did.  I personally twist the stem out.  I don't know why; I mean, I could eat an apple with the stem in it.  It wouldn't bother me at all.  But for whatever reason, I always twist the stem out.

I guess I'm just weird like that.

And in regard to twisting the stem out of an apple—is/was there some kind of weird thing that goes along with how many twists it takes to get the stem out of the apple?  You know; like if it takes four twists you'll kiss four people this year, or something strange like that?  I seem to remember something along those lines from when I was a kid, but I don't remember any of the details.  So if YOU know if I'm remembering this correctly or if I've just moved myself one step closer to heading off the deep end (a distinct possibility), let me know.

And thanks.

Secondly, I would like you to read this paragraph--

“In this paper, we develop a cascadic multigrid algorithm for fast computation of the Fiedler vector of a graph Laplacian, namely, the eigenvector corresponding to the second smallest eigenvalue. This vector has been found to have applications in fields such as graph partitioning and graph drawing. The algorithm is a purely algebraic approach based on a heavy edge coarsening scheme and pointwise smoothing for refinement. To gain theoretical insight, we also consider the related cascadic multigrid method in the geometric setting for elliptic eigenvalue problems and show its uniform convergence under certain assumptions. Numerical tests are presented for computing the Fiedler vector of several practical graphs, and numerical results show the efficiency and optimality of our proposed cascadic multigrid algorithm.”

My question is this—did you understand it?  Please say no.  Please say that only a genius (or, in the case of the person who wrote it, a lineman for the Baltimore Ravens who's a math scholar) can understand it.  Because, you know, if that's something most people understand and I don't; well, then, I even dumber than I thought I was.

And that's quite dumb!

8-)

Finally, daily blog reader Kim of Marquette had dropped me a note asking if I knew anything about a petition to sign to ask the Michigan Legislature to take up closing the “Black Box” loophole that big stores are using to cut their taxes, much to the detriment of local governments and institutions like the Peter White Public Library.  I shared it with her, and if you're interested in checking it out, here's the LINK.

Okay; I think that takes care of everything I wanted to take care of today.  You have yourself a great weekend; hopefully, if there's any snow left after Wednesday and Thursday the sun we've been promised will melt it off.  Keep your fingers crossed!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 3/26:

I guess I'll never look like I have actual real muscles.  But I'm okay with that.

Those of you who've been reading these ramblings for a long time know that for the past decade and a half I've been trying to add muscle to my scrawny frame.  I didn't do it to end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger; instead, I just wanted to look like I had definition to my body.  And while I have managed to not look like the proverbial 98-pound weakling, I haven't been able to get anywhere near the look I wanted when I started.

And now it seems like it's not gonna happen.

I was at a History Center event last night and was speaking beforehand with a woman who happens to be a personal trainer.  She asked if I was a runner, because she says I look like one.  I told her yes, and we eventually ended up talking about trying to add muscle and my fruitless quest to do so.  She told me I was going about it all wrong, and I would never build up my musculature unless I gave up one thing—running.

That's not something I'm gonna do.

Apparently the fact that I look like a runner is a good thing for my health but a bad thing for trying to add muscle.  I mean, think of it—have you ever noticed a long distance runner with big arms?  Nope.  They—we--are all skinny little critters, especially above the waist.  They way we work out is actually anathema to putting on muscle.  Even if you do work with weights a lot, hard long distance aerobic activities like running (and biking and skiing) don't lead to muscle formation.  They actually hinder it.  By indulging in my three favorite physical activities I'm sabotaging my fourth physical goal.

Oh well.

I mean, I kind of always known that running and adding muscle, especially above your waist, aren't mutually compatible.  You can either do one or you can do the other, and while I would like to add a little muscle, I'm not gonna give up running and biking and skiing.  I'm just not.  So I guess I'm stuck being a skinny little runt for the rest of my life.

But I'm okay with that.

Even with that news I'm not going to stop working out with weights; after all, not only do I want to keep whatever muscle I've added in the past decade and a half, but I also wanna make sure I have the strength to continue pushing myself while running, biking, and skiing.  I guess I'll just have to give up the hope that one day I'd have biceps and abs and shoulders that you actually notice.

Because, apparently, that's not gonna happen.  But you know what?  I'm okay with that.  Especially now that I know why.

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY 3/25:

I guess for some people it's news to be shouted from the rooftops.

I got a call from a listener yesterday, a very nice lady who says she loves our station.  I love getting phone calls like that; after all, we do what we do for people like the lady who was on the other end of the phone.  She did have a bone to pick, though, and it kind of made me think.

Her bone to pick was this—every time she hears the promo we run about being “embarrassed' for once again being nominated as one of the eight best pop radio stations in the country, she says she wants to throw something at her radio.  She says we should not be “embarrassed' about it; in fact, she think we should be strutting around and making sure everyone knows “just how good (we) are”.  She heard the promo yesterday and decided it was time to call & let me know.

So she did, with a big smile and laugh in her voice.  She says we're being waaaaaaaay too modest.

I suppose we are.  Or, more to the point, I suppose I am.  After all, I'm the one who writes the promos and is responsible for everything that goes on the air here, so it's all on me.  Call it a personality quirk or a personality disorder or whatever, but I just don't feel comfortable bragging.  There's just something...untoward about it for me, I guess.  I just do what I do to the best of my abilities, and I hope that whoever's on the other end of what I'm doing notices that I tried my best.  I shouldn't have to go out and tell them just how “good” I am.

Of course, if that's the case, I probably picked the wrong field to be in.  Working in radio and in TV and in the public eye probably requires a certain amount of shameless self-promotion; at least, that what it seems everyone else does.  But me, and by extension the station at which I work?

Nope.  Not us.

However, I can see the point of the lady who called.  Since it's because of people like her that we're nominated as one of the “best” stations in the country almost every year, we should unashamedly be sharing that honor with as loud of a voice as we can.  It's not (all) about us, after all.  She's right; I should put aside whatever personal discomfort I feel about bragging and make sure each and every single person that listens for even a few seconds realizes just what we're able to do around here.

Because, despite my discomfort talking about it, it is actually kind of a big thing.  And the caller was right—people SHOULD be shouting it from the rooftops.

So, to whomever called, thanks for bringing it up!

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 3/24:

Apparently I am now a dinosaur.

I don't know if you saw the story going around about how a particular rule of writing is rapidly changing, but it's made me realize that I'm on one side of the fence on this subject, and it's probably, in the long run, the wrong side.  Because of the way in which texting has insinuated itself into American society, there's now a way that writing experts can separate “old” people from “young” people, and that's by this--

If, while typing, you leave two spaces after ending a sentence, you're “old”.  If you leave one (or none), you're “young”.  If you leave two spaces after ending a sentence, you learned how to write in the 20th century.  If you leave one (or none), you learned how to write in the age of 160-character text messages or 140-character Tweets; i.e. this century.  Now go back to the lines I just wrote, and count how many spaces I left after finishing a sentence.

Yup.  I AM apparently a dinosaur.

I knew this day would come.  I knew that, at a certain point in my life, I'd be faced with something that told me time was moving on and leaving me behind.  I had no idea what that “something” would be.  I figured it would be something like having my leg break while trying to stand up or wondering who the heck this Miley Cyrus person was and why she enjoys riding inflatable things in concert.  But nope; I'm fine as far as stuff like that goes.

I'm a dinosaur because of the way I type.

And when you think about it, it's funny.  I never took a typing class.  I never learned how to type “correctly”, a fact that drives my properly-educated-in-typing wife mad.  I just learned how to type by doing.  I started with one finger, added another, and have sailed through life slowly adding fingers to my typing repertoire.  Over the years, my right thumb became quite adept at hitting the space bar twice when finishing a sentence.

Now, as I find out, that skill is becoming about as relevant as getting up off the couch, walking over to TV, and using a dial to change the channel.

You DO remember what a TV dial is, right?

One of the reasons “the kids” only use one space after a sentence is that when you send a text you only have 160 characters to use, and a space counts as a character.  So when it comes to texting, I can understand why you would only want to leave one space after a sentence.  But when you're typing a note or a letter or an e-mail or (even) a blog, you're not constrained by the amount of spaces you leave after a sentence.  Heck, if you wanted to, you could even leave THIS many spaces after a sentence.                                  Of course, your paragraph structure would all weird if you did it that way, but unlike a text message, there's nothing to stop you from doing it.

I guess I just find it funny that one particular form of writing is making all other kinds of writing conform to its particular quirks.  I”m not surprised; after all, I've studied the English language enough to know that it's a very elastic, living type of creature.  It's constantly evolving (much, I'm sure, to the detriment of William Shakespeare and those who've study him the past 400 years).  But to change just because of a 160-character limit imposed by technology, and then to claim that anyone who doesn't use the change is out of date?

Well...I guess I now know how those Tyrannosaurus Rexs felt, just before the meteor hit 65 million years ago and sent them all into oblivion.

(jim@wmqt.com), typing dinosaur.

MONDAY, 3/23:

It’s been HOW many miles??

I'm sure I've written about this before, and if it seems familiar and/or boring, I apologize.  But now that the streets & sidewalks of Marquette are snow-free, I've gotten to break out a new pair of running shoes.  In fact, I did so for my long, meandering run Saturday.  Why is that a big deal?

Well, around this time of the year, or at least this time of the year when the snow begins to melt, I do that.  You’re supposed to change your running shoes every 500 or so miles, and if you figure that I run 10 or so miles a week (sometimes more, sometimes less) then I need a new pair approximately once every year.  And since I don’t want to take brand-new running shoes out in the snow and the muck (you know, like the months of October through March or April around here), I usually wait until the snow & the gunk is gone and then switch the shoes out.  And that's what I did this weekend.

But that’s really neither here nor there.  Here’s actually what here or there--I started running when I moved back to Marquette in 1988.  That’s been 27 (yikes!) years.  If I run on average 10 miles a week, that’s 520 (or so) miles a year.  And if I’ve been doing that for over 27 years now, you know what that means?

I have run, in my life, over 14, 000 miles.  I have no run over halfway around the Earth.

My feet hurt just typing that!

14,040 (to be specific) miles in 27 years.  Wow.  And you know what’s scary?  There are SO many people who’ve run further than I in the last two and a half (and counting) decades that it boggles the mind.  I mean, I’m just a recreational runner.  There are people out there who’ll do 500 miles in a month, and don’t even break a sweat.  I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do that.

I don’t remember most of the 14, 040 miles I’ve run, mostly because my mind is occupied with thoughts other than running while I’m out running, but there are several jaunts that definitely stick in my head, and probably will forever.  One would be the three miles I ran by myself, early one Saturday morning, in September, 2004, through the winding and narrow streets of Bayeux, France.  Another would be a VERY sticky & sweaty 8 miles in Marquette back in ’08 or ’09, one of my long, meandering Saturday runs when it was 80 degrees at 8 in the morning.  I just loved the thought of it being that warm that early.  And a third might be a couple of years ago when we were visiting Loraine's parents, I went out running, and found myself getting caught in a massive thunderstorm that almost turned into a tornado.

Trust me--you DON’T forget runs like that, even after racking up over 14,000 miles.

I supposed I should set a goal of running at least 25,000 miles in my life, so I can say (at least in jest) that I’ve run around the world.  So far, it’s taken me 27 years to get over halfway there.  I still plan on running for another 27 years, so I suppose the goal is possible.  We’ll just have to see if my feet, my knees, and the new shoes I’m about to use for the first time hold out.

Wish me luck!!

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 3/20:

The book almost seems too strange to read.

Loraine was glancing through one of those weird book catalogs that we get on a seemingly daily basis, and one of the titles popped out at her.  It's a book that's over 100 years old, and was described in the catalog as a “cautionary tale for children aged 8 and up with an ironic sense of humor”.  I'm certainly a child aged 8 and up, and I certainly have quite the ironic sense of humor, so why shouldn't the book appeal to me?  Well, maybe it's because of the title--

“Jim, Who Ran Away From His Nurse And Was Eaten By A Lion”.

Seriously; that's the title of the book.  It was written by Hilaire Belloc in 1907, and was supposed to teach children the importance of listening to their elders.  However, Mr. Belloc didn't take his assignment totally seriously, which is why the book is recommended for kids with an ironic sense of humor (you know; kids that grow up to be like me).  Apparently, young Jim does NOT follow the advice he's given, wanders into a zoo, and (spoiler alert) does get eaten by a lion, with only his head remaining as evidence.

Yup.  They had some really good methods of teaching kids lessons back then, didn't they?  And is it just me, or does that book sounds like a movie Tim Burton's been waiting his entire life to direct?

Like I said, I have no idea if I'll buy the book and check it out.  It's a mere 22 pages, most of them filled with Edward Gorey-inspired drawings, and I'm sure it would be a fun & quick read.  But still...

It's a about a boy named Jim who sometime has trouble with authority and gets eaten by a lion because of it.  You don't think THAT would cause nightmares???????

8-)

I'll spend a few seconds this weekend thinking about it.  Not too many seconds, because I'm sure I'll be devoting more of my time to wondering why the first weekend of Spring has temperatures more like late winter, but I'll think about it nonetheless.

And with that in mind, I hope YOU enjoy your weekend just as much!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 3/18:

All the chocolate has arrived.

I know people use their tax refunds for all kinds of different things.  Loraine and I, for instance, use a small chunk of ours to buy chocolate from Europe.  We ordered from three different countries this year, and now that all the boxes have arrived (within four days of each other, in a very Christmas-like flurry), there's nothing left to do but eat what was in them.

It'll be hard, but somehow I think we'll make it through.  Really, I do.

It's funny; our trip to Europe last August actually found us in each of the countries from which we purchased goodies.  Normally, we'll only be in one or two of the countries, which means that we're usually looking forward to getting chocolate from the place we didn't visit.  This year, though, it's kinda weird.  It's like we're basically resupplying the stock we had on hand.  Admittedly, it's a stock that was running low, but it's not like we hadn't eaten any of the goodies recently.

Now we just get to eat them again.

Next year, though, I'm sure will be different.  This upcoming year we'll just be in Germany, and not France or Belgium, which means that in March of 2016 when we receive packages from French Feast or Belgian Shop we'll be really, really excited, perhaps to the point of tearing open the shipping containers with our bare teeth.

But that's next year.  For now, we eat!

*****

By the way, many of you seem to be amused by The Great Toilet Paper Controversy (scroll down to Tuesday's entry if you don't know what I'm talking about).  Most of the mail I've received comes from people who, like me, really don't seem to care which way your toilet paper rolls.  Several of you, though, have noticed a plethora of stories about The Great Toilet Paper Controversy on the internet.  Daily blog reader Kate of Marquette sent me a link to a story about the patent for the first roll of toilet paper (and which way it should go ), while another daily blog reader form Marquette, Jody, found a website that's devoted to the whole controversy.

And just as a side thought to Jody's website, isn't “www.professortoilet.com” perhaps the greatest web domain name in history?  If nothing else, it certainly describes a large chunk of what you'll find on the Internet.

I'm just sayin'!

(jim@wmqt.com), who's fine if you're an over.  And is just as equally fine if you're an under.

WEDNESDAY, 3/18:

Apparently, I'm not who I thought I was.

As you may recall, I've been meaning to do a little research into the German side of my family, to see if we'd be anywhere near the area from which they came during our upcoming trip to the country.  It's taken me a bit, but prodded on by the fact that St. Urho's Day and St. Patrick's Day made me think of my ethnic makeup, I did a little digging, and you know what?

I was surprised by what I found.

My grandfather—my mom's dad—was a Marquette Township Schwemin.  In fact, he grew up on the farm where Walmart now stands.  He was the grandson of Andrew Schwemin, one of three Schwemin brothers who came to this country in the 1860s.  I had always assumed that he came to the U.S. from Bavaria, the now southernmost state in Germany.  I assumed it for a couple of reasons, but you know what they say about assuming things, right?  As it turns out, my great-great grandfather did not come to the U.S. from Bavaria.  Nope; he came to the U.S. from Prussia, quite possibly from the area around Berlin, where Loraine and I were on our LAST visit to Germany.

Oops.

Actually, at the time my great-great grandfather left Prussia it was quite the kingdom; in fact, it stretched from what is now Poland all the way to what it now the German-Belgian border.  I'm just guessing he came from somewhere around Berlin based on religious and occupational demographics.  Of course, that's also how I thought he came from Bavaria, and look how correct I was about that, right?  Anyway, he left Prussia right before it managed to, either by force or diplomacy, convince other kingdoms to band together into a new country to be called Germany.

But that's neither here nor there.  I'm apparently a Prussian German, and not a Bavarian German.  But that's not the biggest thing I've been taking away from this research.  As you know, I'm a mutt.  I have many countries making up who I am ethnically.  But I always thought my grandfather was 100% German, which would make me a quarter German, which would make that the biggest chunk of who I am.  But looking into the records I found out, from what it looks like, that my grandfather was only half German.  Although I haven't confirmed it yet, it appears as if his mother was actually English, making him half English.  Now my grandmother, his wife, was also half English, which means that if you take the eighth I get from my grandfather and the eighth I get from my grandmother, that I'm one quarter English.

The biggest chunk of who I am is no longer German.  The biggest chunk of who I am is now English. 

Blimey!

I'm neither disappointed nor surprised; after all, I seem to favor British music & TV shows over just about anything else.  And I'm hoping one day to master the language, although some might say I still have a long way to go.  I'm just...surprised by the news.  I always thought I was a quarter German.  But I'm not.  I'm a quarter English.  Like I said Monday, because I am a mutt, I've never identified with any single one of the countries in my ethnic background.  As it turns out, though, maybe I have.  Maybe the years of listening to The Beatles and watching Monty Python was actually my DNA sending me back to the old country.

Maybe all the time I subconsciously knew I was a quarter English, even if the conscious part of my brain had no idea at all.

I'll be doing some more research on the matter, to find out a couple of things.  I wanna narrow down the area of Prussia from where my great-great grandfather hailed, and I wanna see if there are any more skeletons hanging in my genetic closet.  After all, for someone who's a quarter English (plus Swedish and Finnish and Scottish and Irish, among others) I do have an awfully dark skin tone.

Who knows what other surprises I'll find, right?

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 3/17:

Which way does your toilet paper hang?

I ask this because, unbeknownst to me, there's apparently a huge controversy regarding which way your toilet paper roll is “supposed” to hang once you put it up.  There's a large, vocal group of people who are adamant that the tube must hang with the paper coming over the top of the roll.  There's another large, vocal group of people who insist that the tube must hang with the paper coming from the bottom of the roll.  And as far as I can tell, a member of one of those very vocal groups will never, ever agree that the other group is correct.

You thought politics in this country was splitting the nation in two?  Heck, that's child's play compared to how you hang your toilet paper!

This came to my attention because of something that's apparently going on at work.  One of my co-workers, when she puts a new roll of paper up, pays no attention to the way she hangs it.  However it comes out of the wrapping is the way that it goes on the roll.  However, she's started to notice something—whenever she puts the roll on one certain way, with the paper coming off the bottom of the roll, it's not long before the same roll she put on is changed.  It's flipped over, so the paper comes off the top instead of the bottom.

So either another of my co-workers has very strong feelings about which way the roll should be hung, or there's a Toilet Paper Fairy out there who feels the need to change things of which she/he/it does not approve!

I myself could not care less which way the roll is hung.  If the paper comes off the top, fine.  If the paper comes off the bottom, that's equally as fine.  After all, it's just toilet paper.  There are way too many problems in the world on which people should be concentrating and devoting their time and energy to solving.  But which way the toilet paper hangs?

Probably not so much.

Of course, and as usual, I seem to be the oddball out in this situation.  I didn't realize this was a major problem for many individuals.  I didn't realize people had such strong feelings about the subject.  I didn't realize that this was a situation that's tearing at the very fabric of our country.  But apparently it is. In fact, there are a ton of websites devoted to which way is “right” and which way is “wrong”.  So in the future, when you sit down with your extended family at a holiday dinner, here are the topics you should NOT bring up while eating--

Religion.
Politics.
Toilet paper.

That's okay.  You can thank me later.

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com), who, as someone with an Irish great-grandfather, wishes YOU a Happy St. Patrick's Day!

MONDAY, 3/16:

You know, if I were a party animal, I would probably be dead by tomorrow.

Well, maybe “dead” isn’t the right word, but “in serious pain” would probably fit in quite easily.  Because I’m a typical American “mutt”, I have seven or eight nationalities in my ethnic makeup, two of which are Finnish and Irish.  And since today is St. Urho’s Day, and tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, and since both of those holidays traditionally involve, among other things, drinking. . .

You see where I’m going with this, right?  So maybe it’s a good thing I’m NOT a party animal!

I’ve never really been into any of the traditional celebrations from cultures that make up my ethnic heritage.  Oh, I enjoy wearing green and purple (especially purple), even on days that aren’t celebratory, so I don’t have any problem doing that, but I’ve never been one to go out and drink green beer or eat whatever it is you eat on St. Urho’s Day.  In fact, until a couple of years ago, I hadn’t really sat down to figure out who I was, in terms of ethnicity.  But maybe that’s one of those things you actually get interested in as you get older, because as I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered more of who I am, and where my ancestors came from.

Maybe it’s because I have seven or eight different nationalities in my background that I’ve never seemed to care much about ethnicity.  I supposed if I had come from a strong Finnish or a strong Irish background, I’d have more knowledge of “the old country” and its traditions.  But because I’m Irish-Finnish-German-Swedish-English-Scottish-French (and most likely some Mediterranean country, because the Irish were apparently QUITE friendly with the Spanish and Portuguese in the past, which would account for my skin coloring), I never gave it a second thought.  I was just, you know, me.  I wasn’t aware I was a melting pot; in fact, I kind of thought everyone was like me.  But as I’ve spoken with many other people, people who do have a strong ethnic background, I’ve come to realize that maybe I should at least be aware of, if not actively celebrate, who I am and where I
come from.

Now, that doesn’t mean I need to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day or St. Urho’s Day any more than I should celebrate Bastille Day or the Queen’s Birthday, or, uhm, Abba Day and Bratwurst Day, or whatever it is they celebrate in Sweden and Germany.  But it does means that I should realize that my great-or great-great grandparents came from countries like Ireland or Sweden or Finland, and made a life in a new and strange land, so that 120 or 140 years later one of their descendants could sit in a chair, and in his uniquely American way, ponder the things that went into making him “him”.

So instead of celebrating with beer and food the next two days, how about if I instead give a short and heartfelt “thanks” to people from generations long ago, people who left Ireland and Finland and Germany and Sweden and England and France and Scotland and (probably) someplace in the Mediterranean and came to North America.  It’s because of them that I can sit here and think of myself as a “mutt” (in the best sense of the word) and just wonder what I’ll discover about my past as the future rolls on.

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 3/13 (!):

I don't have a lot of time to write this morning, because I'm off to tape the final episodes of “High School Bowl” for the season.

Yikes!!!!!

It seems like I just started hosting the show; now, my first year has comes to an end.  The shows won't air for a few weeks yet, but with the exception of appearing on Public TV-13 tomorrow while the last quarterfinal airs, I'm done for the year.

And it blows my mind.

If you've been reading these since September, you know I've had a blast doing the show.  The kids are amazing, the staff at TV-13 is great, and the audience each and every week is really good at “pity laughter” during my lame attempts at humor, so as a first time host, I probably couldn't ask for more.

So thank you, everyone involved.

I've had a couple of people ask; yes, I will be doing this again next year.  In fact, when we last taped two weeks ago I was asked by the people running the show if I'd be returning next year.  Well, I really wasn't asked so much as I was the object of this statement--”You ARE coming back next year, right?”  So I guess I can't turn that down, especially when someone else chimed in “shoot for 10 years”!  After all, if I make it 10 years I can probably then be replaced by a robot host.  But we'll see.

With that, I'm off.  Have yourself a great weekend.  If you really ARE bored tomorrow night, watch a 90-minute “High School Bowl”, complete with pledge break segments featuring the person who'll probably one day be replaced by a robot host, me.

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 3/12:

For many years, every March (or whenever the snow started to melt) I would re-post a blog I wrote back in 2003 about a problem I've noticed in our fair city.  I stopped doing it a couple of years ago, because I figured you guys were starting to get sick of it.  But after being outside running & walking the past two days, after the snow has melted and started to reveal what lies underneath, I figured I'd post it once again.

You don't have to agree with it if you want; heck, you don't even have to read it, if you want.  But it's something that's been bugging me forever, so I figured I'd bring it up once more.  Then, I'll keep my mouth shut for another couple of years.

I promise.

Here it is, as originally written March 24th, 2003 (back, apparently, when I felt I needed to capitalize almost everything for emphasis):

****

I’ve discovered the one bad thing about snow melting in Marquette—dog crap.

Piles of dog crap EVERYWHERE.

You know, if I ever run for Marquette City Commission, I know I may be the biggest loser in the city’s electoral history.  Why?  Because some days, I feel like one of the main platforms of my campaign would be to ban dogs in the city.

Now, I know MANY people will not agree with that sentence, but it’s the truth—a city really IS no place for a bounding, fun-loving, full of energy animal like that.  Farms are GREAT for animals like that.  Suburbs with big back yards are GREAT for animals like dogs.  And I really do think dogs can be a valued member of a family, especially with a single person looking for companionship or a family with kids.  But to try and keep them cooped up in houses or chained up in a yard…that’s really not fair to the animals, is it?

Marquette has three specific laws regarding dogs, and while 90% of the people follow them to the letter, it’s the 10 percent that DOESN’T that made we want to write this column.

First of all, let’s specifically address the dog poop issue.  There is a pooper-scooper law in Marquette.  If you dog goes, you have to clean it up.  However, just look around any sidewalk in Marquette where the snow has melted.  You see piles of the stuff EVERYWHERE.  You have to jump over it, walk around it, detour by it…and all because some people refuse to follow that law.  And if you point that out to someone whose dog does their natural business and doesn’t clean it up, they get defensive, like you’re persecuting their poor pet for no reason at all.

Maybe we should just put mounds of bacteria-breeding material on every street corner and be done with it.

There’s also a leash law in Marquette, one that states you must keep your dog on a 6-foot (or shorter) leash.  Yet every time I go running or walking (especially in the summer, near a park) there ALWAYS seems to be a loose dog running toward me, fangs bared, often times nipping at my heels or jumping on my leg.  When I yell at it or push it out of the way, the owner once again gets defensive and says “my dog won’t hurt you”.  Well, how do I know that?  It’s an animal showing its teeth and running at me.  What do you THINK goes through my mind at a time like that?

Finally, there’s also a law that says your dog isn’t s’posed to be outside between, I believe, 11pm and 7am.  That way, your animal won’t bark, whine, or whimper, and keep everyone in the neighborhood up.  Now, I may be a little sensitive on this issue, seeing as how I have a neighbor who keeps TWO dogs out and vocal every night, but isn’t common courtesy an issue in this matter?  If your backyard (or wherever you keep your dog) connects with 6 or 7 other backyards, SHOULDN’T you think about others before putting your dog out?  My neighbor has said they put the dogs out because they bark inside the house and keep THEM awake.

After hearing THAT, I just kept thinking “HELLO…if they’re loud in your house, whaddya think they’re like OUTSIDE”?

I know that I’m in a VERY small minority on this issue.  I know that no one wants to get rid of their dogs, and I know that no one wants to see more restrictive laws placed on them.  Maybe if that 10% of people I mentioned at the beginning of this column would just realize that their pets can be and sometimes ARE a problem, and would do something about it, maybe we could ALL live in peace.

jim@wmqt.com

WEDNESDAY, 3/11:

I guess the third time will have to be the charm.

I've written in here a couple of times about how I haven't been able to do much in the way of cross-country skiing this year.  Between the lack of suitable snow, the bitter cold, and the general condition of the trails to which I can walk, I haven't been able to get out there much this year.  There was a lot of joy in Mudville when I finally made it out for the first time at the beginning of February.  There was even more joy when I made it out two more times in the following  week and a half.  But since then?

Bupkus.

Part of me is disappointed; after all, cross country skiing is one of my favorite activities, and it's perhaps the only thing that keeps me sane during winter.  But then another part of me doesn't care if I can't go skiing any more, especially if the reason is because it's 60 degrees out (like it was yesterday) and all the snow is melting.  And given the choice between skiing and heat, you know which I'd choose, right?

But like I said, I am a little disappointed that I only went skiing three times this year.  I went just enough to get in good skiing shape, but then I couldn't put that shape to good use.  I basically lived through all the kinks and aches that skiing the first few times inflicts on a body, and then didn't get to enjoy any ache-free skiing.

I'm sure my muscles won't forgive me for that.

Next year I may have to re-examine how I approach skiing.  If I want to ski more, maybe I'll have to actually drive to places where there's enough snow to properly groom the trails.  Either that, or I'll have to become a better skier, with the ability to move over icy and crusty surfaces while not falling down and breaking anything.  After all, I've been skiing long enough; you'd think I'd be able to do that already.

You'd think.

Oh well; there's not much I can do about it any more, unless we get a huge storm dumping a foot and a half of white stuff on the ground.  And trust me—I'd rather not live through something like THAT, even if it meant skiing once or twice.  I guess it's time to put the skis away and pull out my bike, getting that ready for another season of fun.

A season, hopefully, that'll include going out on the bike more than three times!

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 3/10:

Even if I did have a bad day, why would I bother anyone with it?

Over the past few years I've received comments from people regarding something I do on the air, and it happened again this past weekend.  It's something I never really thought about, but it must make an impression on some people.  The comments have to do with how I never seem to have a “bad day” when I'm on the air, how I always seem “to have a smile in (my) voice”.  Apparently I always sound like I'm happy and having fun when I'm on the air, and people notice that.

And from the sound of it they appreciate it, as well.

Trust me, I do have bad days.  Some days, I'm dealing with recalcitrant equipment, other days, it's dealing with a personal situation.  So I do have bad days.  But I don't let it affect my on-air performance.  My job is to entertain people, to make sure they have a good time getting through their days.  They may tune in to try and make their own bad day better; why would I add to their troubles with troubles of my own?

I mean, I'm really lucky.  Being an optimist by nature I really don't have a lot of bad days, and even if something is weighing upon me I have this freakish ability to compartmentalize.  I seem to be able to shove whatever's bothering me to the back of my head for a few minutes when I need to do something else.  I don't know if I'm lucky in that respect or if it's a sign of some serious mental instabilities (neither would surprise me).  All I know is that if people are tuning in for fun or to relieve their own troubles, it doesn't do much for them if I'm a major bummer.

And it's something, apparently, that people notice.

So, if you don't mind, I'll just continue being me on the air.  In all honesty, I wouldn't know how to do it any differently, anyway, so I guess you're stuck with an optimist with a smile in his voice.

Even if I am having a bad day.

*****

By the way, the person who mentioned this to me over the weekend is a guy I met who also has the greatest name in the world, Jim.  And in the course of our discussion Jim mentioned that he turns 65 today.  So Jim, if you're reading this, have yourself a great birthday.  I hope you get to celebrate 65 more!

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 3/9:

The TV show’s been on the air longer than I can remember, yet I’ve never actually sat down and watched an entire episode of it.

Now that it's going off the air, maybe I should.

The show to which I’m referring is “Finland Calling”.  I don't know if you've heard, but Carl Pellonpaa will be wrapping it up at the end of the month following 53 (53!) years on the air.  And despite the fact that I’ve been on the show three times (more on that later), I’ve never actually sat down and watched one of the programs from start to finish.

That’s not good, is it?

Yes, I know I’m only one-eighth Finnish, but it does mean that I do have Finnish blood running through my veins, and I suppose I really should make the effort, right?  After all, I’m sure some long-lost relative of mine watches it religiously to find a connection back to the old country; I suppose the least I could do is to sit down for an hour, see the people dance, listen to the music, and watch the films, right?

That’s not to say I’ve never seen parts of the show.  I have seen chunks of it here and there, mostly when I was young and searching the 7 or 8 channels on Marquette’s nascent early 1970s cable system in a vain search for Sunday morning cartoons.  But it wasn’t a weekly ritual for me.  For others, though, I know it’s part of their life.  One of the times I was on the show was when Carl taped his 50th anniversary program at the Marquette Regional History Center a few years back, and I was speaking with one of the people attending the show.  She was geeked by everything that was going on, even dressing up in the colors of Finland and getting pictures taken of her and Carl so she could post them on her Facebook page.  She grew up watching the show every week; she and her grandmother had a tradition of Carl and crossword puzzles on Sunday mornings.

A lot of U.P. families have traditions like that, and I think that one of the cool things that makes growing up in this area so unique.  A lot of that is, I’m sure, a testament to the power of Carl.  At that taping three years ago I saw the hold he had over the crowd assembled to watch.  He had a real connection to the people who watch the show. And after seeing the connection, I can’t say I’m surprised he’s been on the air as long as he has.  I’m sure that if he wanted to and if his health held up, he'd do the show for another 53 years.

Unfortunately, he won't be.  He'll do one last show at the end of the month, and then call it a career.  So if there's anyone else out there who, like me, has never watched “Finland Calling” but has always meant to, you'd better do it then.  Because after that, an Upper Michigan institution will be no more.

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 3/6:

Is Spring finally here?

Now that we've left the coldest month in the history of the city of Marquette, we're looking at moderate temperatures the next few days.  So moderate, in fact, that we may even see sun and in the 40s by Tuesday, which around here is cause for wearing shorts and running around without a shirt.  And for those of you who don't live here and think we're weird?  We're not.

We're just happy that it's above freezing!

I know this probably won't happen, but I'm hoping that this March will be much like March three or four years ago, when it was 80 degrees on St. Patrick's Day and everyone kind of lost their mind, but in a good way.  Like I said, I know it's probably not gonna happen, but a boy can dream, right?  Especially since all of the Marches since then have been brutal and wicked and sick and whatever other negative adjective you'd like to use.

As long, of course, as that adjective is suitable for a semi-family friendly blog.

Now that (most of) winter is in the rear-view mirror, I'm kind of surprised by a couple of things.  First of all, I'm surprised that it didn't seem to be as long as it normally is.  I don't know if that's because your perception of the passage of time increases the older you get, and despite my best efforts I AM getting older, or if it's because after last winter ANY winter would seem to be shorter, but that's what it seems like to me.  Winter just didn't seem to be as long as usual.

And I don't know if that led into the second thing that surprised me, but I seem to have mentally handled this winter better than most.  Like just about everyone, by the time March rolls around I usually just feel a little strung out, a little tired and in need of more than a little sun.  But for whatever reason, not this year.  I mean, sure, I'm not at my mid-summer peak.  But then I'm also not curled up in the fetal position in a corner, softly whimpering every 6.2 seconds.  I don't know if it's because winter “seemed” shorter this year, or if I was just too busy to notice, or if it was something entirely different, but there actually seems to be a little left in the tank this year.

A strange feeling, to be sure, but a nice one nonetheless.

So on that note, enjoy your weekend of temperatures at or near freezing, and keep your fingers crossed that we do hit 40 soon.  After all, a bunch of us have our shorts out and ready to go!!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 3/5:

The word made my head hurt.

After spending probably way too much time reading about local hookers and killers and bootleggers recently, I decided to needed to do something a little more intellectually stimulating.  So I began reading a book entitled “The Last Lost World” by Lyda and Stephen Pyne.  It's a book about the Pleistocene Era, the period in time from 2 ½ million to 10,000 years ago, a geologic period that was flipped on its head around 100,000 years ago by the arrival of a species called Homo Sapiens.

You know—modern humans.  Us.

Anyway, the book talks about how the first species in the Homo genus—Homo Habilis—showed the first faint signs of conscious intelligence by decorating the teeth and bones of the animals they hunted.  The authors, PhDs both, used a word to describe the practice, and that's the word that made my head explode.  What did they call it?

Well, how about osteodontokeratic.

No, I'm not kidding.  Osteodontokeratic was the word they used to describe the practice.  Now, I'm not an anthropologist, nor do I play one on TV, so I'm assuming it actually is a word and not just something they made up to grab a high score during a game of Scrabble.  And if you break it down, you can see they probably DID use it correctly—“osteo”, after all, it the Latin root for “bone”, while “donto” sounds enough like “dental” to make you think of teeth.  Since they were describing the practice of decorating bones and teeth; well, let's just give them the benefit of the doubt.

And the 58 points (or whatever it is) you'd get for using it during Scrabble.

Aside from learning a new word, which I hope to someday sneak into a casual conversation (assuming, of course, I can ever remember how to pronounce it), the book is also fascinating from an intellectual point of view.  It talks about how Homo Habilis gave way to Homo Erectus and then Homo Heidelbergenis and then to us.  And it also points out how intertwined we and our ancestors have been with the Elephas genus; how we both began migrating out of Africa at the same time, and how we (humans and our forebearers) have pretty much wiped out all species of the genus Elephas (like mastodons and mammoths) except for the modern African elephant (and how we're currently doing a pretty good job on that species, too).

See?  Just a bit different that reading about brothels on Lake Street, right?

Anyway, the book ends at the finish of Pleistocene Era 10,000 years ago, when Homo Sapiens settled down to become farmers and, eventually, kings of the world.  So if you're curious about how we as a species evolved to the point we are today, it's an interesting book, albeit one that takes a little concentration.  But if nothing else, you'll learn a bunch of new words.

Even ones that might make your head hurt!

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 3-4:

The Billy Bob Thornton comparisons keep coming.

I think I've written in here before about how some people seem to think that I bear a vague resemblance to the actor/singer/Academy Award winning writer.  It's usually an attractive college-aged woman who makes the remark, and when they say it they usually mean it in a good way, such as “he was married to Angelina Jolie so he must have SOMETHING going for him”.  I'm still kind of ambivalent about the comparison; however, if it's cool to attractive college-aged women, I guess I'll deal with it.

After all, I'm not stupid!

8-)

Aside from the fact that we both seem to have bizarrely small heads (at least as compared to the rest of our bodies) I personally don't see the resemblance between Mr. Thornton and myself.  That, however, doesn't mean anything.  After all, I see me in a way much different than most people.  So even though I don't think I look like him, I'm willing to give other people the benefit of the doubt.  And that's a good thing, because three more people in the past two weeks have made the comparison.

One of those people was Loraine's older brother, who noticed the similarity while watching “High School Bowl” online.  Another was a parent of one of the students at a “High School Bowl” taping.  The third was someone attending my “Night Life” program for the History Center last Tuesday.  Three people, seeing me in three different settings, and they all made the same comparison.

And yet I don't get it.

I mean, part of me is actually flattered by the comparison.  After all, the gentleman to whom I'm being compared won an Oscar for writing a movie, and has been in the company of some of the most important people on the planet.  So who wouldn't want to be compared to someone like that?  The other part of me, though, keeps thinking of THIS Billy Bob Thornton--





For some bizarre reason, whenever someone (especially an attractive college-aged woman) says I look like Billy Bob Thornton, THAT is the Billy Bob Thornton to whom I think I'm being compared.  I know that's not what the person telling me is thinking, but that's what pops into my head.  Call it a personality quirk on my part; heck, call it a major mental deficiency on my part.  But whenever someone says I look like Billy Bob Thornton, THAT'S the Billy Bob Thornton I think I'm being compared to.

Even if/when it's not.

I'm sure that if the years wear on and I'm still being compared to him, I'll learn to deal with it a little better than I currently am.  For now, it still seems weird, and I still don't quite understand.  But that's just me.  As we all know, you guys are much smarter than I, so if you say I look like Billy Bob Thornton, then I guess I look like Billy Bob Thornton!

And that's that.

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 3/3:

Spring break?  What’s that?  Isn’t it something mythical, like a unicorn, or a Wall Street banker with ethics?

I know many people, at least here in the U.P (especially college students), are in the middle of their spring break.  But that’s one of those things like snow days that I just (with one exception) don’t get to do.  While everyone else gets a week off from work to go south and play or stay home and clean, I get to go to work.

And I don’t think that technically qualifies as a “break”, does it?

I’m not complaining; even when I was in college and COULD take a spring break, I usually just came home and slept for three or four days, trying to recover from the insanity of finals week.  I was never one to head down to Florida and see how many body shots I could do off of people I’ve never met.  I knew a lot of people like that, and they usually needed another spring break to recover from their first spring break.  So I’m not really that sad I don’t get a “spring break”.

I get summer days on a beach whenever it’s nice out, and that’s a whole lot better than a spring break.  Trust me on that!

The one time I did go what might be considered a spring getaway was 13 (wow...) years ago, and I don’t know that it actually qualifies as a “spring” break.  I went down to Florida to see my parents and to watch a space shuttle take off. 

This shuttle launch, in fact--




(It was the last fully successful flight of Columbia, if you're curious)

Of course, the trip was only for three days, and consisted of two missed flights, lost luggage, and the total shutdown of Sawyer International due to snow on my way back, but that qualifies as a “break”, right?

Right??

Anyway, if you’re in the middle of your week off, have a great time.  You deserve it.  On your way back I hope it’s missed flight- and lost luggage-free; if you’re just hanging around home, I hope you get to sleep late and get done whatever it is you hope to get done.  And just remember--if you’re staying here we’ll be around as usual, and if you’re going somewhere; well, we’ll be here when you get back.

After all, that’s why WE don’t take a spring break!!

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 3/2:

It appears as if I'm Venus Flytrap.

I'm not LITERALLY the character from “WKRP in Cincinnati”.  I'm not an African-American radio announcer of the late 70s and early 80s played by Tim Reid, a character who once skipped out of the Vietnam War following the death of a friend.  Instead, I'm a mostly Caucasian radio announcer of the 90s and 00s not played by Tim Reid who hasn't (yet) been to Vietnam.  But after watching one episode of the show, I do see a lot of parallels.

As you know, I'm making my way through the “WKRP” complete series DVD set.  I'm at the end of the second season, which featured an episode entitled “Venus Rising”, where Venus was offered a job with a competing radio station.  That's where the similarities came into play, because we find out--

-Venus was hired at WKRP to do late afternoons and early evenings (like me) and was soon thereafter named assistant program director (like me).

-The station that wanted to hire Venus away from WKRP wanted him to run a station (in a brilliant example of foresight by whoever wrote the episode) automated by computer.  Venus would be the only live member of the air staff, something I've been for months at a time when we've been been between other announcers.

-Finally, and this is what made me realize I AM Venus Flytrap, WKRP has a dance studio right above the station.  You know what I have right above my air studio (and my office)?  Dawn Dott Dance, to be specific.

So you see?  I'm not strange (well, not much).  I really am the reincarnation of Venus Flytrap.

8-)

Okay, I know I'm not.  I know it's just a strange coincidence.  But it does point out how much I've enjoyed watching the shows again, uncut, for the first time since they originally aired.  And I keep noticing things I didn't pick up back then, especially things that have to do with the radio business. The people who wrote the show really knew radio.  They knew the business, how things work (or at least how they worked back then) and the personalities involved.  I guess I didn't have enough experience in the biz to understand that back when it was first on.  Now, I bow down before the writers.

They knew what they were writing about.

I'm now halfway through the series, and I can't wait to see what seasons three and four have to hold.  One of the things that I do remember is that the show did evolve in those two seasons; in fact, that's one of the reasons I liked it so much.  The characters grew, some of the plots became a little more serious, and the station itself became more successful.  That's what I'll be interested to see—if the writers dealt with that as realistically as they dealt with the coincidence between Venus Flytrap and me.

You know--the one that's probably completely in my mind.

(jim@wmqt.com)

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