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In Jim's Daily Opinion 08/26/2014

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TUESDAY, 8/26:

And tomorrow we leave for Europe.

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

Leave.

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

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

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

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

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

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 8/25:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8-)

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

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 8/22:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But what are you gonna do, right?

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

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

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 8/21:

T-minus six days and counting!

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

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

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

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

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

Well, I guess everyone needs a niche, right?

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

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

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

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 8/20:

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

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

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

8-)

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

Bummer.

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

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

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

Sounds like a typical Jim & Loraine trip, right?

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

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

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

So get ready!

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 8/19:

T minus eight days and counting!

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

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





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





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

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

So the Olympus it is.

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

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

*****

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

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 8/18:

T minus nine days and counting!

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

So keep your fingers crossed!

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

So once again, keep your fingers crossed!

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

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

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

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 8/15:

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

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

(jim@wmqt.com)

*****

( as originally posted August 17th, 2010)

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

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

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

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

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

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

There guys were REALLY uncomfortable being where they were.

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

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

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

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

I don’t think so.

Men.  Sometimes, they just make me laugh.

THURSDAY, 8/14:

I have to go to work today.

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

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

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





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

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

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

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

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

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

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY,8/13:

It all starts two weeks from today.

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

Wow.

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

We're really going back again.

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

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

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

At least I hope I will.

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

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

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 8/12:

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

You get a typical day in the Koski Komplex!

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

So way to go Loraine!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 8/11:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 8/8:

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





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

But that's just me.

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

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

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 8/7:

Look what I get to wear again!



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

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

It's the fault of my ring finger.

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

I actually missed wearing a wedding ring.

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

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

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

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 8/6:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yikes.

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

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

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 8/5:

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

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

I really couldn't find much anywhere.

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

Marquette's just too pretty there days!

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










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





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





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

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

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 8/4:

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

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





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

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

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

Geesh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sigh.

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

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 8/1:

Now that August has rolled around I've come to the stunning conclusion that, despite what I told my sister and brother when I was young, I really DON'T know everything.

You know how I found out?  Well, Loraine and I get these catalogs from a company that sells overstocked books.  They’re actually useful; you can often find yourself with $100 worth of books for something like $15 plus 3 bucks shipping.  In fact, we’ve ordered so many books that I have 15 or so lying around unread, while Loraine’s stack is more like 35 or 40 strong (and growing).

But we didn’t order anything out of the newest catalog.

The new catalog was one specializing in science.  And while both Loraine and I considered ourselves rather intelligent people, and I at one time had convinced my siblings that I really did know everything, two books and their descriptions just blew our minds.  The first was entitled “Bose-Einstein Condensation of Excitons and Biexcitons: Coherent Nonlinear Optics with Excitons”.  It’s described with these wonderful words—“After setting out the relevant basic physics of excitons, the authors discuss exciton-photon interactions as well as behavior of biexcitons.  They cover exciton phase transitions and give particular cover to nonlinear optical effects including the optical Stark effect and chaos in excitonic systems.  The thermodynamics of equilibrium, quasi-equilibrium, and non-equilibrium systems are examined in detail”.

And no, I’m not making that up.  The title and description are straight from the catalog, as is the other title and description—

“Nonlinear Statistical Modeling”—Brings together important contributions by leading econometricians on parametric approaches to qualitative and sample selection models, nonparametric and semiparametirc approaches to qualitative and sample selection models, and nonlinear estimation of cross-sectional and times-series models.

Once again, gulp.

Now, me being me, I’m thinking two things—the first being “just who reads these books, anyway?”  Physicists and mathematicians, of course, being the obvious answer.  And who knows—they may find them a hoot.  And that then leads into the second thing. . .

What are those books titles—punch lines for jokes on “The Big Bang Theory”?

Of course, I’m sure that the people for whom these books are intended would look at two of the books I just received from the company—“Great Comedy Teams of the 30s & 40s” and “Living Abroad in France”—and have the letters “WTF?” pop into their heads.  Of course, knowing them, the letters would probably pop up in Latin or Sanskrit or Klingon or something, but they’d still pop up.

To each their own, I guess.

But if ever find yourself thinking that, at least in your own little corner of the world, you know everything, walk into the science section of a bookstore or check out a catalog like the one I just described.  You’ll find out just how much there is left for you to learn!

And on that note, go have yourself a great weekend.  Heck, even go ahead and read a science book, if you'd like!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 7/31:

It may take some time, but the ripples eventually hit the shore.

Loraine has this theory, developed over her 13 or 14 years of doing research on World War II, and she calls it “The Ripple Theory”.  The theory is this—that you “throw” stuff out there into the big pond of the world, stuff like questions, information, or contacts, and like throwing a rock into the water, the ripples from your “stuff” may eventually hit the shore.  You never know when it may hit the shore; heck, you never know IF the ripples will hit the shore.  But over the years we've had enough “ripples” come back to us that I think the theory is a valid one.

And it was proven true again earlier this week.

Tuesday morning I received an e-mail from an 86-year old woman in The Netherlands.  This woman, for over 60 years, has been tending the grave of a fighter pilot from Marquette named John Hascall.  All these years she's not known much about Hascall, but for Christmas she received a iPad, and has been using it to see if she could dig up some information on him.  Well, if your type the named “John Hascall” into Google, one of the items that pops up is the blog I wrote for the trip Loraine and I took to Europe in 2008, the trip that saw us stopping at the Margraten American Cemetery in Holland and visiting the grave of Lt. Hascall.

So when you look at it that way, the blog I wrote was an example of one of Loraine's “ripples”, and it took a mere six years to reach the shore.

Like I said before, we've had this happen on a number of occasions the past decade.  Most of the times, though, it occurs right after I write a blog about one of her dudes or the newspaper writes a story about Loraine.  But this instance is by far the longest it's take a “ripple” to reach the shore; heck, until I received the e-mail, I had kind of forgotten I had written blogs about our 2008 trip.  As it turns out, it was the first time I wrote the blogs, and they're on the station site instead of our usual Blogspot site, which kind of led me to forget about them.  However, while Loraine was trying to answer the e-mail last night I had a chance to re-read what I wrote, and you know what?

I don't suck, as least as far as writing about trips go!

I don't know what will come of this latest “ripple”.  Loraine's in the process of making contact with the van der Venne-Habets  family.  If it's like most of the ones we've run across in the past, though, it could be quite interesting.  It just makes me what OTHER “ripples” are still out there, lurking about and yet to reach the shore.

After all, you never know!

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 7/30:

And four weeks to the day until we leave for Europe!

For whatever reason, I’m actually farther ahead at work than I normally am.  I don’t know if it’s because I’ve finally figured out what I’m doing, or if it’s because this year has sucked so much weather-wise that I couldn’t go outside and play, forcing me to stay inside and work, but I’m at a very comfortable point in working ahead to leave.

But that’s a good thing. 

I think I may have mentioned in here before about how when I go on vacation, I have to work ahead to be able to go on vacation.  Because I have such a specialized job, I can’t just slough it off on my coworkers, or wait until I‘m back from vacation to deal with it.  It has to be done before I leave, and it has to be done by me.  So every year we go overseas, I know that starting in May, I have to begin working ahead. 

And it looks like it’s working out.

Aside from the stuff I need to do here, I still have a list of things that needs to be accomplished outside of work, and one of those is getting our trip Blogspot site back up to speed and ready to go.  I also have to confirm hotel reservations, get directions for all them (since we're going to places in which I've not yet driven, I'd kinda like to know where I'm going), and take care of a bunch of little things that range from getting an International Driving Permit to checking out the location of grocery stores where we can stock up on chocolate.

Finally, I’m also starting to review my French.  I learn just enough to be useful before we go on one of these trips, and then (invariably) forget what I've learned, especially if it's been a couple of years since we were last in French-speaking territory.  And since our entire trip this time IS in French speaking territory, I'd better get cracking.  One of the things I'm leafing through when I have the chance is the huge 800 page French-English dictionary we bought a few years ago.  It’s a cool book, if only because it has a section in the middle with phrases that English-speaking people going to France or French-speaking people going to the U.S. or the U.K. can use.  And it’s there that I made an interesting discovery, one that probably speaks to a major difference between French people and Americans--

Did you know that, in French, there is not an equivalent to the phrase “All you can eat”?  Nope, there’s not a French translation for that.  They actually use the English words “All you can eat” because, apparently, the French and their language can’t fathom the concept of “All you can eat”.  And if THAT doesn’t speak to a major difference between the two cultures, I don’t know what does.

Amazing what you can learn while you’re getting ready for something, isn’t it?

Four weeks to go!

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 7/29:

The skunks are back.

Those of you who’ve been reading these ramblings since the days of the dinosaurs may remember that when Loraine and I moved into our current apartment we discovered two things—that drunk college students can make a lot of noise, and that, for some strange reasons, skunks seem to like our tightly packed little urban neighborhood.  At least once a week for the first few years we lived here we would be treated to that olfactory wonder known as skunk spray wafting through the buildings, not a very nice treat when it’s warm out and you want to leave your windows open to let in a little air.  Then a couple of years ago when road construction tore apart our neighborhood, the skunks seem to disappear.  We had hoped it would be for good...

Unfortunately, it was not.

Several nights ago I awoke around 3 am, and for a second wasn't sure I was awake.  After getting up, going over to an open window, and inhaling, I then knew WHY I was awake.  Needless to say, the windows were shut quickly, but the stench lingered in the air waaaaay too long to get back to sleep.  I don’t know where the skunk was, or if it emptied its entire, uhm, bomb bay, but that smell was strong, and it wasn’t going away.  Thankfully, by the next morning, it had disappeared, but in the few days since it happened again.  I guess the one good thing about the current cold snap is that our windows were closed and the smell didn't penetrate too far into our apartment, but it was still strong enough to wake me up.

I have no idea why (or how) skunks like our neighborhood.  Like I said before, it’s a very tightly packed urban neighborhood; the houses are right next to each other, there aren’t a lot of big yards or trees, and there’s more concrete than grass & dirt.  If I had to pick out one residential section of Marquette where I would guess skunks wouldn’t like to go it’d be ours.  But apparently there’s something magical in our little section of the city, and it keeps drawing those wonders of nature back time and time again.

Aren’t we lucky?

I have no idea if this was a one-time incident, or if some kind of skunk real estate agent is telling the little creatures that our neighborhood is the new “must move into” neighborhood for hip skunks.  I’m certainly hoping it’s the former; after all, I don’t want to have to deal with this on a nightly basis.  You can shut noisy college students out with earplugs.  I have yet to figure out anything that keeps the smell of skunk out of your nose.

Yum.  Or yuck, depending up on your point of view.

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 7/28:

I can finally check my Facebook news feed whenever I want again.

Over the past three weeks I've had to avoid any sort of social media between the hours of 8am and, say, 10pm, the time I finished watching the Tour de France race from that particular day.  I avoided social media because, well, I didn't want to know who won that day's race.  Call me old fashioned, but on occasion I actually enjoy watching a movie or a sporting event and NOT knowing how it's gonna end.

I know; freaky, isn't it?

At first I thought I could just turn off a few news sources, such as BBC News or any of the French TV networks that I follow, but after being burned on two of the stages by people I know talking about what happened during the race that I DVR'd while I was at work, I just decided not to pay any attention to Facebook until I had watched that day's leg and could safely venture back into the real world.  And you know what I discovered?

I really didn't miss it that much!

I don't know if that says something about me or something about Facebook (or both), but my life didn't implode because I wasn't staring at my news feed.  I don't think I missed out on anything important, and even if I did miss out on something it couldn't have been THAT important, right?  So surprise, surprise...you CAN live a life without social media.

Especially if you have something like not knowing who won that day's leg of the Tour de France to look forward to!

*****

Two quick follow-ups from stuff we discussed last week.  First of all, I promised I'd let you know just how many different license plates I saw during the week last week.  Well, you'll be happy to know that for the first tie ever the total hit 40!  Yup; 37 states, the District of Columbia, and two Canadian provinces.  If you ever needed proof that Marquette's becoming more and more of a tourist destination, there it is.

Case sealed and shut.

Finally, I think it's kind of funny that not one, not two, but three of you sent me notes about gray hair and all mentioned the same example I should follow!  Last Thursday, of course, I joked about “TV Jim” wondering if he should color his hair to get rid of the growing patches of gray, which prompted a lot of mail, three pieces of which pointed to the same example about going gray, and saying that if it's good enough for George Clooney, it's good enough for me.

You know, that may be the first time I've been compared to George Clooney, and I'm guessing it may be the last, as well.  But thanks for the notes and the comments.  As always, I appreciate them, and as always, I do take them to heart!

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 7/25:

I wonder if I could make a living at it?

Earlier this week when I was out on one of my usual half-days and wandering around Marquette 5 different people stopped to ask me directions or to ask where something was.  That’s not unusual; when Loraine and I are out walking, we get that quite a bit.  I don’t if we just look approachable or like we know what we’re talking about or what, but it happens quite a bit.  Not only that, but if we happen to be passing a tourist commenting on a local sight, we’ll give them a little local color, fill them in on what they’re seeing, and usually walk away with “thanks” and seeing a big smile on their faces.  Add into all the tours I’ve given this summer (with more to come), and it has gotten me to think--

Could I make a living doing that?

Don’t worry; I’m not quitting any time soon.  It’s just that every once in a while I think to myself about how great it would be to spend my days walking around Marquette, helping people who are visiting the area, and educating anyone who wants to be educated about what they see in front of them.  I could take them on walking tours, biking tours, and any other kind of tour they’d like.  Aside from beach bum, if I could have a dream job, that might be it.  Of course, I realize that, as with being a beach bum, there’s probably not much money in being friendly to tourists, but a boy can always dream, right?

And besides...it wouldn't matter if I had gray hair for that job, would it?

8-)

Speaking of tourists, I’m doing that dorky thing I do every year during the week leading up to Art on the Rocks.  I’m seeing how many license plates from different states I can see in Marquette in that one week.  So far, in just four days I’ve seen plates from 38 different states, which is more than all but one year I've been doing this (something like 15 years, believe it or not).  I don't know if that's a sign (along with things like unemployment figures and the like) that the U.S. Economy has FINALLY recovered from The Great Recession, or if Pat and the gang at the Marquette Country Convention & Visitors Bureau have just been doing a bang-up job this year (or both), but it's nice to see.

Another weird thing I've noticed so far?  There seems to be a nice mix of plates from both “blue” states and “red” states.  During an average year, I see more plates from “blue” states, but not this year.  It's a nice mix, and maybe it's a sign that outside of the political world we all get along just fine...especially if we're reveling in the beauty of Marquette!

Speaking of Art on the Rocks, I’ll be there broadcasting Saturday, so if you’re around, say “hey”.  And Monday I'll update the final number of state license plates I see, because I KNOW you're dying to find out what it is, right?  Otherwise, have yourself a glorious U.P. (or wherever you are) weekend.  And try not to let the weather forecast for Sunday scare you off!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 7/24:

I'm self-aware enough to know that I don't really have much of an ego.  So then why am I thinking about coloring my hair?

Those of you who've read this for a long time know that there are two public “Jims” out there.  There's “Radio Jim”, and then there's “History Jim”.  And as I've been insinuating the past few months, there will soon be a third “Jim”, this one “TV Jim” (and as an aside, one day I'll be able to tell you all about this...I promise!).  And that's the “Jim” that's made me think, however fleetingly, about coloring my hair.

For someone my age (and you may now make a snide comment along the lines of “You mean there actually IS someone your age?”, because I know you want to) I'm really lucky.  I still have most of my hair, and I can thank my mom for that.  After all, while my dad starting losing his hair in his 20s, my mom has incredibly thick hair, and thankfully her genes dominated in that particular area.

However, my hair has not totally escaped the ravages of time.  I do have gray popping out around my ears, and if you were to pull back the top layer of black (ish) hair anywhere else on my head you'd see nothing but gray.  That was readily apparent last night when I got my hair cut and saw nothing BUT gray (mixed with a little black) lying on the floor.  It was also apparent when I went to a funeral over the weekend and the first thing someone said to me was, and I quote, “It looks like the color gray is taking over your head”.

Why, yes it it.  Thanks oh so much for noticing!

Normally I wouldn't give a rat's behind about whether or not I have gray hair on my head.  If I was at all bothered by the fact that I have gray hair, I would've colored it a long time ago.  However, that's before I found out I was going to be on TV each and every week, on a show that apparently quite a few people watch.  And while I still don't give a rat's behind about whether or not I have gray hair on my head, “TV Jim” just has to wonder a little bit—in a strictly professional sense, of course—whether or not coloring would be a good thing.  After all, “TV Jim” doesn't want people staring at his very tiny head, noticing that gray hair is sticking out everywhere.

For purely professional reasons, you understand.

I have no idea what I'm gonna do.  I suppose it might come down to those days when we do camera tests and show run-throughs and I actually have to look at myself on a TV monitor (something I'm usually not big on).  So starting in October, if you see me with gray in my hair, you'll know that the “real” Jim won out.  However, if you don't notice much (if any) gray, then you’ll know that “TV Jim” had the upper hand this particular time.

(jim@wmqt.com)...you know—the real one!

WEDNESDAY, 7/23:

The boxes arrived four years ago today.

Yup; it was four years ago today that I drove out to Negaunee, picked up Loraine (where she worked at the time) and then went on to Ishpeming, where we ended up at Globe Printing and picked up the first press run of Loraine's book “Elwood's War".

It's hard to believe it was four years ago.

Since then, the book's been through three printings, it's made us a load of new friends and acquaintances, and has been read throughout the world, including at least three different countries in Europe.  It's also opened doors for us in those countries, mostly famously last summer when we spent the day as the honored guests of the people and city government of Weissenfels, Germany.

I've written in here many times about how proud I was of Loraine, and how the book was nothing more than a labor of love for her, and that still stands.  And now she's going through the exact same thing as she races to finish her next epic, “Elden's True Army Tales” (coming soon to a local bookstore near you).  In fact, when Dennis Whitley and I did the Story Corps thing Monday and talked about history, a big chunk of what we talked about was Loraine and her books.

In case you couldn't tell, I kinda like bragging about her and what she's done!

The life cycle of a book like “Elwood's War” is kind of funny.  When it first came out, she sold a bunch of them.  Then when the first holiday season after publication rolled around, she sold another ton.  It slacked off since then, but it still has these little “runs”, and we have no idea why.  A couple of months ago she brought nine copies down to Bookworld in Marquette, where they sat for a few weeks.  We then went in, and found that five of the copies had been sold within another few weeks.  I don't know anything about how the publishing or book selling world works, but that sounds strange even to me.

And that's saying something!

I have a feeling that the few copies of “Elwood” that remain (and that's about 10 in total) will be gone once “Elden” comes out, but that'll be a good thing.  Because that means every single copy of Loraine's first labor of love will have good homes, where they will be appreciated and read.  And for a book like hers, that's all you can ask.

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 7/22:

I will soon be wearing a wedding ring.

Oh, don’t worry; there’s nothing nefarious afoot.  Loraine and I haven’t really NOT been married these 25 years, nor was there been some kind of mix up in the paperwork back in 1989 that didn’t allow me to wear a ring.  In fact, for the first 23 and a half years of our marriage, I did wear a wedding ring.

And then came my little bike accident.

As you may recall, one of the many victims of my little crash last year (along with a front tooth, a bunch of my skin, and most of my pride) was my wedding ring.  It had to get cut off the day after the accident, when my finger swelled so much that it had to come off lest I do some major damage to the finger (I still bear quite the scar on the finger where the ring cut into it, in fact).  Of course, by then the ring wasn’t really in good shape; it had been scratched beyond belief by the accident, plus it had been bent, mangled, and otherwise abused during the 23 and a half years I did wear it.

So the loss of the ring was more sentimental than practical.

In the 15 months since the accident I’ve not worn a wedding ring, and I’ve noticed two things about it.  One is that I’ve gotten used to not wearing one, which I guess isn’t a big deal.  After all, I know other married people who don’t wear them.  But whenever I see Loraine fiddle with hers, or take it off for whatever reason, I get reminded that I don’t have one.  And while I always thought things like that didn’t matter to me; well, I guess that in this instance they do.

The second thing I’ve noticed?  Not one person in those 15 months has commented that I’m not wearing a wedding ring.  And I find that strange.  In the 23 and a half years I wore a wedding ring, I had many people ask why I was wearing it on my right hand instead of my left hand.  But not once in the 15 months that I wasn’t wearing one did anyone ask why I was without it.

That’s no big deal.  I just thought it strange.

So while we were out & about Saturday Loraine and I stopped into Wattsson and Wattsson  so she could buy me a new ring.  She had wanted to buy me a new one since the old one was cut off, and this past weekend e finally got around to it.  She had very specific instructions for the person helping us out—it had to be tough & durable (apparently she thinks I might abuse it; I have no idea why she thinks that 8-)) and it had to be something I like.  After spending just a few seconds looking we found it—a titanium ring in silver that works in many different ways.  It’s tough, it’s durable, and it looks to me like it’s the gravity ring from a fictional space station.  Not only that, but I can go around and, like Lt. Dan in “Forrest Gump” when showing off his prosthetic leg, I can say, “It’s made from the same material as the space shuttle”.

Because it is.  Even if the space shuttle’s (sadly) not around any more.

Since I have such girly-sized fingers, we had to special order the ring.  It should, though, be here in a week or so. Then I can then slip my new wedding ring on, and, like for the first 23 and a half years of my life, abuse the heck out of it, should I choose.  But this time, it’ll endure.

Just like me & Loraine.

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 7/21:

The suitcases came out over the weekend.

With the countdown standing at T-minus five weeks and four days before we leave for our latest little adventure, we figured it was time to go down into the basement, brush aside all the dust and cobwebs, and pull out our luggage, safely encased in plastic to keep them clean of all the dust and cobwebs that seem to inhabit basements.  We hauled them up to our living room and left them sitting there, where over the next month and seven days we’ll stumble into them many times, and they’ll slowly be filled with everything needed for a week and a half in Luxembourg and Belgium and France.

Actually, if you want to be technical, the suitcases are already kind of filled with many things needed for a week and a half in Luxembourg and Belgium and France.  When I opened my suitcase, I was amazed by the stuff I had just left in there from the last trip.  There were several plastic containers (used to safely transport chocolate and cereal), half a roll of bubble wrap (to safely wrap the chocolate before it gets put into the aforementioned plastic containers), various other non-plastic containers, a roll of duct tape, two unused washcloths, and an unopened package of socks.

Throw in a few shirts, some shorts, and a toothbrush, and I’m already packed. 38 days before we leave!

Well, okay, maybe not TOTALLY packed, but with the stuff we picked up at Target last weekend, I’m way ahead of schedule.  We usually go to Target the week before we bring the suitcases up and raid their section of travel-sized items.  We pick up whatever toiletries, medicines, and personal care items we need and pack them in the plastic containers.  Then the last night of the trip we toss whatever we haven’t used and/or won’t need, clean out the containers, and repack them with chocolate and other goodies.  That way, we don’t go over our suitcase weight limit and have to pay a zillion dollars, and we get all of our stuff safely home.

Of course, that’s actually worked too well on several occasions.  More than once I’ve had to buy several rolls of paper towels to fill my suitcase.  It serves a couple of purposes, though--the paper towels act as a great, lightweight filler, and once we get home, we have the joy of being perhaps the only people in the U.S. who are using Zumda brand paper towels.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be tossing pieces of clothing and other items we’ll be needing into the suitcases in our living room.  A day or two before the trip, we’ll rearrange everything, pack it all neatly, and then put our TSA approved locks on them, where the suitcases then won’t be opened until we get to Luxembourg City (unless, of course, US or EU security gets bored and feels the need to go through them).

So now when we look at our checklist of things to do, “bring suitcases up from the basement” can now be checked off.  That only leaves, what. . .28 or 29 things left to go!

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 7/18:

How about a bunch of little things to wrap the week up?

First of all, project “International Reader” has turned up a few interesting results.  As you may recall, Monday I asked people who read this outside of the U.S. to send me a note in private,  just so I'd know the reach of these ramblings.  In just four days, I've received replies from Canada, Mexico, and Germany (plus one reader in France I didn't know about), and I won't be surprised if I hear from more people over the weekend.  After all, I know many of you binge-read a week of these in one sitting, so I'll be curious to see what pops up after that!

Secondly, I had mentioned a couple of weeks ago, in posting the blog about Charlie Pong, that the story was brought up because of an interview I did for a Marquette Monthly article due in next month's edition.  Well, sadly, I received a call from the writer a few days ago, and she told me she had to cut 2,000 words out of the stories.  Guess whose words were among the 2,000 cut?

Yup; mine.  But what are you gonna do about it, right?

Finally, I have to note with glee that an old neighbor of ours is still around.  One of the many ways in which Loraine and I have been fortunate is that we get to meet a lot of fascinating older people, and usually, a couple of years after we meet them, we wonder if they're still around.  Well, while we were out on a walk last weekend we were happy to notice a sign on Marquette's Ramada Inn mentioning they were hosting a 90th birthday party of Al Trudgeon, one of those fascinating older people.

Al used to live across the street from us when we lived on High Street, and as a World War II Navy vet he shared his stories with Loraine.  We lost track of him when we moved out of the neighborhood nine years ago, but it's great to see he's still around and kicking.  He was a nice guy.

On that note, I need to get to work for a bit so I can then sneak out and go to the beach, seeing as how it might actually be warm enough for that.  Have yourself a great weekend, and if you live in an area where there might be a little heat,. Enjoy it!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 7/17:

I'm thinking I can probably stop using the phrase “seedy underbelly” for a while.

The “Other Side of the Tracks” tour went well last night; the weather cooperated, and everyone who showed up (a lot more than I thought would show up, in fact), had a great time.  Not only that, but I got to use the phrase “seedy underbelly” at least two dozen times.

And that was probably two dozen more times than I ever used it in my life.

I'm sure it makes more sense if you were on the tour and you heard it in context, but I used the phrase to describe all the illegal and/or tragic events that occurred just out of sight in the southern part of downtown Marquette over the past 165 years, and trust me—there have been a LOT of illegal and/or tragic events that have occurred in that part of downtown Marquette over the past 165.

In fact, that's why we did the tour last night.

One of the stories I told is a story I think no one knows about, and that's kind of sad, since it involved what is perhaps Marquette's deadliest fire, at least as far as victims go.  Back in the late 1940s, the Stensrud building on the 300 south block of Front Street—a building that's still there, in fact-- had what can only be described as an illegal rooming house on its third floor.  In fact, it was so illegal that the city didn't know about it, the fire department didn't know about it, and even the merchant who rented out the store space on the ground floor of the building didn't know about it.

Who was living in this illegal rooming house?  Well, it was a mix of pensioners and drifters, and it was late in the evening of February 6th 1946 when one of those drifters fell asleep with a lit cigarette.  Soon, the entire floor of the building—a floor with few windows and only one stairway—was engulfed in flames.  Several of the tenants managed to escape, but when the fire was finally put out, seven men had lost their lives.

The city at large was stunned, not only by the loss of life, but by the fact that that there were so many people living in a space where they weren't supposed to be.  A coroner's inquest was held, where the drifter who started the fire admitted to falling asleep with a cigarette.  Charges were filed, ordinances were toughened, and soon the whole incident slipped from the minds of area residents.

At least until we brought it up again last night.

That's just one of the tales from the “seedy underbelly” that we shared during the tour; yell if you'd like to hear more.  However, don't be surprised if we excise that two-word phrase from any future writings.  After all, after last night, I don't think I need to use it for a while...

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 7/16:

I really dislike doing this, but because I have to run around and gather a few things for tonight's “Other Side of the Tracks” walking tour (don't forget—you're all invited!) I think I'm gonna have to leave you with something I wrote a couple of years ago.

Well, it's either that, or leave you with nothing at all.  And I really couldn't do that!

Anyway, the tour gets underway tonight at 630 at the Marquette Regional History Center.  Hope to see you there; details on how it went tomorrow!

(jim@wmqt.com)

***

(as originally posted June 22nd, 2011):

She’d better not throw them away!

I was at my parent’s condo a couple of days ago when my mom was going through a box of stuff that had been buried deep in a closet.  Inside the box were several books from my childhood, books that had made the cut when they moved a few years ago and tossed out everything else they owned.  These are books that made me the adult I am today, for better or worse (and that’s okay...go ahead and shout out the word “worse” right now.  I know you’re dying to!).

The books to which I’m referring?  My old “How & Why Wonder Books”.

Those of you who weren’t nerdy kids in the late 60s & early 70s probably don’t remember these books, but they were certainly among my favorites growing up.  Each “How & Why Wonder Book” dealt with a different topic; mostly science, but with subjects ranging from history to famous people.  Looking through a list, I see about over a dozen of the books that I at one time had; the ones my mom kept were probably among my favorites--Dinosaurs, Weather, Stars, and Planets & Interplanetary Travel.  I mean, think about it--I’m a self-professed space nerd who at one time had a collection of plastic dinosaurs and who now complains about the weather when it’s not nice out.

See?  Those books DID warp me for life!

As I remember them, these books were probably the closet thing kids in the late 60s had to Google or Wikipedia.  They were arranged as a series of questions about a subject; the answers would then follow, along with a hand-drawn illustration of what the answer was talking about.  So instead of typing, I dunno, “Triceratops” into a search engine, you’d grab your “How & Why Wonder Book” on dinosaurs, look at the page with the question about Triceratops, and find your answer there.  Yes, it was incredibly low tech, but in the years before information on demand, that’s how you learned.

And yes, by writing that last paragraph, I proved I’m old.  What’s your point?

8-)

Anyway, I’m glad my mom held onto those books, and I’m glad she now has instructions to never ever get rid of them.  The books may not be worth much and the information in them may be dated, but you know what?  They were part of the vast mosaic that become the adult “me”, and for that, I’d like to think they deserve to stick around just a while longer.

TUESDAY, 7/15:

There's no way it's half over, is there?

Sigh.

If you consider “summer” (and this year, of course, we must use the quotes around “summer”) to be the months of June, July, and August, then today, July 15th, the middle day of the middle month of “summer”, marks the halfway point of the season.

Yup.  “Summer” is half way over already.

I don't mention it to bum you out, nor do I mention it to set myself up for an epic session of whining about the unfairness of it all.  I just brought it up because my mind is blown by the simple fact that today marks the halfway point of a season for which I live but, because of whatever, I've yet to even start enjoying.

“Summer”, we hardly knew ye.

This actually all came up while I was off on my meandering Saturday morning run, one of the only meandering Saturday morning runs this “Summer” when it was warm enough for me to be sweating like a pig.  Now setting aside the question of whether or not pigs can actually sweat (can they?), it was one of those runs about which I (literally) dream.  And as I was running and sweating like a pig, it occurred to me that this was perhaps the first time all year I was doing both—running & sweating, at the same time—and it had taken all the way to July 12th for that to occur.  Once I realized it was July 12th, which is only three days before July 15th, the mid point of “Summer”...

Well, that's when the whole thing spiraled out of control.

The first part of this year speeding by I can understand.  I don't have to once again list everything that happened; if you read this even one time between January and May, you know what I'm talking about.  But I thought—naively, perhaps—that once things returned to “normal” that I'd get some sort of “normalcy” back in both my life and in the way in which I perceive time.

Looks like I was wrong on both counts.

I know there's nothing I can do about it, and I feel like I'm starting to venture into whining territory, so I'll shut up about it now.  But if you happen to see grey matter splattered here or there on Front Street in Marquette the next few days, don't worry.  It's nothing serious.

It's just what's left over after my mind gets blown.

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 7/14:

And happy Bastille Day!

Yeah; I know the French version of our Fourth of July probably doesn't ring many bells with the vast majority of you, but I do know that we have a couple of people who read this everyday who live in France (bonjour, Thierry, bonjour, Nathalie!) so I figure we might as well mark the day, right?

That got me to thinking.  And that, as we all know, can be a dangerous thing.  I've been writing these little...whatever you wanna call thems for 13 years now, since 2001.  Over those 13 years, I wonder how many other countries we've touched?  I know that when I write my trip blogs on the Blogspot site there's a little thing you can click on to tell you what countries readers are from (or, at least, in which countries the servers they're using to connect to you are located), but I've never had that for this little thing.

Looking at the statistics for the Blogspot site makes me laugh, on occasion, if only because of some of the, uhm, interesting places from which we get hits.  The U.S., of course, always pops up first, followed by the countries in which we have friends we're visiting—France, or Belgium or Germany.  But then it gets weird.  One year, India provided us a large chunk of readers—in fact, we even received a few nice notes from several of them—another time, it was South Africa.  Another, Russia.

How people from those countries stumbled across a blog from two Americans traveling in Europe (or how their spiders or search engines robots did so), I do not know.  But apparently it happens, and apparently it happens quite a bit.

So here's the deal—if you read this regularly, or have even just stumbled on it by accident, and you're from a country outside of the U.S., please let me know.  My e-mail address is always at the end of each post, and don't worry—I won't mention you in any way.  I know almost everyone who reads this does so as a “lurker”, and I'm cool with that.  I don't want to “unlurk” you.  But I'm curious, so let me know, and we'll see how many people in how many different countries read this.

Who knows...I may then have to start wishing people happy holidays OTHER that Bastille Day.  And that would be one of the coolest things that I could do

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 7/11:

What is it with some people?

I ask that question because of this--there is a three-foot gap between the building in which I work and the building next door, the Elks club.  Over the years I’ve worked here, I’ve noticed all kinds of garbage thrown in the gap between the two buildings, necessitating the occasional cleaning out of it by the people who own this building.  In order to stop the garbage from being thrown in there, the owners of the building in which I work have constructed several wooden fences between the two buildings.  They look nice, serve their purpose, and the newest version of the fence lasted a whole four months before this happened--



We can’t get you kids anything nice without you wrecking it, can we?

Sigh.

Don’t worry; I know YOU didn’t have anything to do with it.  I’m sure you’re just as...saddened by it as I am.  It just makes me wonder what it is with some people these days.  I mean, I know why the fence is wrecked.  Someone--or several someones--had way too much to drink, were walking up Front Street, saw a nice new fence just sitting there harmlessly out of the way, and decided to teach the fence a lesson for, I dunno, being a fence.  Or for being brown.  Or both.

Because I don’t drink and because I actually believe in respecting other people’s property, perhaps I’m not the best person to ask this question, but what IS it about certain individuals that compels them, once inebriated, to destroy things?  Living and walking through downtown Marquette means that this isn’t the first time I’ve seen something like this.  I’ve seen broken windows, dented doors, smashed hanging planters, puddles of blood, and more piles of puke than you can shake a two dollar pitcher of beer at.  And the question I always ask is this--

Why?

I know; excessive alcohol consumption does different things to different people.  Some people turn all mushy.  Some people turn all friendly.  Some people turn all spacey.  And some people, apparently, turn all testosterone-y, feeling the need to let out that testosterone by picking a fight with the nearest bouncer, flower planter, or brown wooden wall, no matter to whom it belongs or who put it up.  I mean, how would one of those people feel if they woke up one morning and found their car window had smashed in the previous night by someone just letting off a little testosterone?

Like I said before, I just don’t understand.  I’m sure if I had a PhD in human psychology or in addiction science I’d get it a little better, but I don’t understand why people do things like that.  Don’t’ they know what they’re doing?  Don’t they CARE about what they’re doing?  I just don’t get it.  I always prefer to focus on the good side of human beings, but when I see things like this, I certainly understand that there’s a bad side to substantial subset of human beings, as well.

If you don’t believe me, just ask the brown fence next door. 

And on that note, have yourself a great weekend; hopefully, all of your fences will stay in one piece!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 7/10:

You know, I really need to stop forgetting about these tours.

Yup, I've done it again.  I have another Jim Koski ™ tour for the Marquette Regional History Center a mere six days from today, and do you think I've lifted a finger about it?  I know; I have no excuse other than the excuses I usually use.  But at least this time it's a little different--

I really don't have much work to do for this tour.

Six days from today, next Wednesday, I'm giving the “Other Side of the Tracks” tour, and the reason I don't have much work to do on it is that I gave it last year after putting it together at the last minute.  No, I wasn’t procrastinating back then; I was a very last minute replacement for another program that had to be canceled when the person presenting it passed away.

Luckily, I already had the concept for the tour in my head, and was able to throw it together in a couple of days.  And that's why I'm not stressing about the fact that this tour is only six days away.  The tour's basically done, and when I add to that several stories I've discovered since giving it the first time last year, it should be a lot of fun, even if you took the tour last year.

Of course, how could the tour NOT be fun, when it contains the trifecta of Jim Koski ™ tours—bootleggers, hookers, and killers!

One of the reasons I was allowed to leave the History Center board earlier this year was because I agreed to keep doing programs and tours, something I really enjoy doing.  In fact, I'm already looking ahead to next year, yet aside from one, I don't have any concrete ideas on what I want to do.  Due to numerous requests, I'll be doing the Great Fire Tour again on June 11th, 2015, but that leaves a winter indoor program and a summer walking tour still to be determined.

At this point, I'm wide open to suggestions, so if you have anything you've ever wanted to know about, or an old tour or program I gave five or six years ago that you'd like to see again, let me know.  The final decision isn't up to me; there's a History Center committee that decides what to do.  But since I'm still the chair of the committee; well, let's just say that I have a little sway.

However, I'm not gonna get too ahead of myself right now.  After all, I need to first pull put the notes and pictures from last year's tour and get them read to go again Wednesday.  Then MAYBE I can start thinking about next year.

If nothing else, that'll give me plenty of time to forget about it all, right?

(jim@wmqt.com)

(p.s.--I also must stand corrected on something I wrote yesterday, about how I had to obsess over strawberries now that the lilacs are all gone.  Well, daily blog reader Cyndy in Au Train pointed out that while the lilacs are gone in Marquette, they aren't gone in Au Train.  In fact, she sent photographic evidence--





She says she's sniffing them for me, and for that, Cyndy, I say thanks.  Too bad you couldn't bottle up the scent and sent it this way!)

WEDNESDAY, 7/9:

Hi, my name is Jim, and I'm a strawberry-holic.

This time of the year, my “addiction” becomes readily apparent.  Since last week, I've had strawberries for breakfast on some days, for lunch a couple of those days, and during dinner (or for an evening snack) every single day since, I believe, last Wednesday.  Some of the strawberries I've eaten came from Farmer Q's, while the best of them came after my dad spent Sunday morning living through a thunderstorm while picking 16 or 20 quarts (I don't remember which) in Traunik.

And seeing as how my dad picked all those strawberries by himself, maybe I'm not the ONLY strawberry-holic in the family!

I can't explain my addiction to strawberries, other than to say I've had it for as long as I can remember.  Unlike my dad, who loves picking any kind of berries, I've only been out gathering strawberries once, and that's when I was a young kid and my parents took me out to pick.  I don't believe I did a very good job; in fact, if I remember correctly, I ate more than I actually put in the containers. 

Of course, the best part of that story is the fact that after I spent the entire morning eating strawberries instead of picking them, we went out to lunch where the only thing I ordered, if I remember correctly, was a strawberry shake.

What can I say?  Even as a kid, I guess I was kind of, uhm, special.

I think the reason I go so gaga for strawberries this time of the year is that they're fresh.  They taste like strawberries.  You know they've just been ripped from the ground, and they taste that way, unlike some of the packaged strawberries you can get during the winter.  I mean, sure, I'll eat those, because they're the only strawberries available, but I know that they're not as good as the strawberries you get in June (or, this year, July).  I look forward to them every year, and often find myself binging on them, as I'm doing this year.  After all, strawberries have one of the shortest shelf lives of any fruit or vegetable, so it's either use 'em or lose 'em, right?

And I know which side of the eating equation I'd rather be on!

So if you happen to see me in the next week or so and my lips are redder than usual or I have seeds stuck in my teeth, just remember I'm feeding my addiction to strawberries.  After all, I need something to fixate on now that the lilacs are gone, right?

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 7/8:

I'm sad to say that the French mayor who once insisted we crash a wedding reception has died.

Of all the possible sentences one could write in one's life, that sentence is one that very few people could write, at least in English.  However, it looks like I'm one of the few who could, and that's why I'm a bit sad at the passing of Mayor Michel Lepourry of Sainteny, Manche, France.

We met Mayor Lepourry back in 2009, through our friend Jean-Paul Pitou.  Jean-Paul lives near Sainteny, and at the end of spending the day with him driving all around Normandy to look at war-related stuff for Loraine, we wound up at the Sainteny town hall, where Mayor Lepourry regaled us with tales of life under Nazi occupation.  He was only a child then, but those tales had stuck with him over those 60+ years.

Once we were done we thought we were done and figured we would be on our way, but Mayor Lepourry had other ideas.  You see, the town's butcher had been married a few weeks earlier, was having his reception that afternoon, and the Mayor had been invited.  Apparently, he didn't want to drive, so he took it upon himself to invite both us and Jean Paul, and since you apparently can't say “no” to a French mayor, Loraine and I ended up—uninvited--at a French wedding reception.





I've often said that we get into the strangest adventures when we're in Europe, and if it's not Loraine's fault then it's because of people like Mayor Lepourry.  I can't complain; after all, how many times do you get to meet a French mayor, and then find yourself driving him up the road to crash a wedding reception?

Nope; not often.

So au revoir, Mayor Lepourry.  Thanks for giving us a couple of hours we'll never forget!

(That's Mayor Lepourry on the left, showing off part of his town's collection of 51 American state (and District of Columbia) flags)





(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 7/7:

“Run, Jim, run”!

I can’t tell you how many times I heard that during the Marquette and Ishpeming parades Friday, as I was madly sprinting from one side of the street to the other or as I was running a 100 meter dash in order to catch up with the Pedal Cruiser we were using as our parade entry.  You see, I was trying to take as many pictures as possible of the people who had made up signs for our little “Parades of Cash” contest, and as it turned out a LOT of people made up signs for our little “Parades of Cash” contest.

That’s why I was running the entire time.

I’ve often joked that the one day of the year when I really don’t need any kind of workout is parade day, if only because I move so much during both events.  This year was no exception; in fact, I think I may have moved more during these parades than in most recent years.  I don’t know why; I don’t know if the signs were spread apart more than usual, or if Marquette and Ishpeming streets have all of a sudden become wider and longer, but I sure was on my feet a lot and moving quite rapidly.

And, of course, hearing several different people yell out “Run, Jim, run” while I was doing my best Forrest Gump impression!

As you may have inferred, I took a BUNCH of pictures of people holding up signs, all of which you can see on our Facebook fan page.  However, I do need to point out two of them, the first of which just blew me away with its sheer beauty—





That was painted by Lori Keto, who just did an amazing job with her sign.  In fact, I’m trying to see if I can snag her art from her, because I really think it deserves to be framed and hung inside of the station.  I really do!

The other picture I need to point out?  This one—





I see pictures like this many times a year during a parade, mostly because people just want my attention and know I’ll laugh when I see it.  However, this one deserves special attention, if only because it’s being held up by the one & only Dennis Whitley!  I think his daughter Lane has a picture of the two of us laughing at the sign.  If that is the case, Lane, I want a copy!

Now the parades are over and I get to move on to one of the other big July events in my life—watching the Tour de France!  And seeing as how Mark Cavendish is out of the race after causing an accident and separating his shoulder, it means that different people will win different legs.

And that’s always makes watching the race even more fun!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 7/3:

Do you have your signs ready yet?

I’m talking, of course, about the signs you need to have ready for our “July Parades of Ca$h” tomorrow in Ishpeming and Marquette.  It’s always one of my favorite days of the year, not only because I get to give away my boss’s money, but because of the signs.

Every year, I’m constantly amazed by the work some people put into their signs. I mean, sure. . .there are some people who just scribble “Q107” on a paper plate, and that’s fine.  That’s all you need to do.  And this year, we’re making it even easier on you.  Go to the front page of this website, scroll down a little, do a little clicking, and download a sign that’s already to be printed out. (Or Click Here)  See?  Absolutely no work on your part at all!

But then. . .there are people who obviously put a lot of time and talent into what they do.  I’ve seen works of art out on the street.  I’ve seen families who’ve obviously spent an evening putting signs together, and I’ve seen some very unique interpretations of our call letters.

And I enjoy each and every one of them.

Every year during the parades, I’ll take pictures of a bunch of the signs and post them on our Facebook fan page.  After all, if you guys put that much work into them, they deserve to be seen by the public, right?  So get those signs made up, and bring them with you to the parades tomorrow in Marquette and Ishpeming.  Who knows—they could not only win you cash, but they could be stuck up on the Interweb for everyone on the planet to see!

*****

By the way, there won’t be a blog entry tomorrow; even though we’re in the parades that day, it’s still a “holiday”.  So have yourself a great 3-day (or 4-day, or however long it is) holiday weekend; enjoy the sun while it’s here.  And, of course, yell loudly (and show us your signs) when we pass in the parades tomorrow!

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 7/2:

I'm glad someone asked the question.

I posted a couple of pictures on my Facebook page Sunday, and I did it for a particular reason.  I went to Park Cemetery and, like I do every year, cleaned off a couple of headstones.  I then posted pictures of them, these pictures--









And mentioned that they belonged to two Marquette icons.  Now, I was pretty sure everyone knows who George Shiras III is, but I was hoping someone would bite on Charles Pong.

Thanks for biting, Doug Garrison!

Charlie Pong was born in China and came to Marquette right around 1900.  He opened a laundry, which he operated until his death in 1949.  The interesting thing about Charlie?  He sent every single cent of money he earned back to his family in China, so when he passed away he was penniless.  Since he had no money, the city was just going to bury him in Potter's Field.  However, Charlie was so beloved by his fellow business owners and the community at large that they all chipped in so that he could have his own burial plot and headstone.

You know, the headstone I cleaned off Sunday.

I wanted to bring this up because I was interviewed for a forthcoming Marquette Monthly piece about Park Cemetery, and one of the stories I told was about Charlie Pong.  His headstone is under a pine tree that leaks an awful lot of pine tree gunk, so that's why I clean it every year or two.  And I'm not the only one who seems to know about Mr. Pong; every year, usually after I clean off the headstone, someone—and I have no idea who—leaves flowers at his grave.

There are great stories like that all through Park Cemetery; in fact, I could spend hours (if not days) wandering around and sharing them.  But I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Charlie Pong's story, which is why I make sure his is one of the headstones I clean off every year.

And now you know, too!

(jim@wmqt.com)

Jim & Loraine's Trip To France 2012

Jim's Blog

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

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