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In Jim's Daily Opinion 12/22/2014

MONDAY, 12/22:

I think I might finally be done with cookies for this year.

After baking seven different kinds of Christmas cookies during the week last week I spent some quality time with my nieces yesterday and baked three other kinds at my parents' place, which means that over the past week I've put together either three or four dozen of ten different kind of cookies.  That's, like, 35 dozen cookies, which means I baked what—400 of 'em in the past five days?

And yes, insanity DOES run in my family.  What's your point?

8-)

It's a good thing the cookies are finished (and mostly delivered to family and friends), because not much else is.  I did get the fiber optic tree out from the basement, but it's not stuck up yet.  I'm not worried; that takes about 10 seconds.  But that doesn't hide the point that we don't have a tree up yet, and even seeing as how it's two days before Christmas Eve, I suppose I should get going on that.

Of course, I really don't have much to put under the tree yet.  I have all my gifts purchased, although none of them are wrapped yet.  I don't even know if Loraine has hers wrapped; what with her book coming out and everything else she has going on, it's been kinda hectic for her, too..  Of course, even if she did have them wrapped she wouldn't have anywhere to put them, seeing as how the tree isn't up yet, so maybe it's for the best.

At least, that's what I'm gonna keep telling myself.

Now, lest you worry that we'll be missing Christmas entirely, don't fret.  I have a feeling that a LOT of things will be taken care of tonight, at least after I get my hair cut (yes, I'm getting my hair cut three days before Christmas.  It's not like I have anything else going on).  Like I said, the tree takes 10 seconds to put up.  And while I'm not the world's greatest gift wrapper (or, perhaps, because of the fact that I'm not the world's greatest gift wrapper) I'm hoping to get most (if not all) of them done tonight.  The only ones I may not get wrapped would be Loraine's, and that would only be because she's around our apartment and I don't want her to see what I have.  So at the very least, I could do those in the morning, after she's left for work, and then I'll be done and ready for Christmas.

Except I just remembered something—I have my annual health maintenance checkup (i.e. a doctor's appointment) in the morning.  I can't wrap gifts then.

Hmmm...think my co-workers would mind if I brought Loraine's gifts to work and wrapped 'em while I'm on the air tomorrow?

Ah, I'm not worried.  At the very least, I'll get 'em done tomorrow night.  I'll lock myself in our bedroom and tell Loraine she can't come by the door until I say so.  Then, finally, I'll be ready for the holidays.

Only a mere 4 or so hours before the clock marks the start of Christmas Eve. 

Wish me luck!!

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 12/19:

Maybe I should start paying more attention to these things.

I went running yesterday morning, as I do many mornings a week.  And as I do many mornings a week, I was listening to music on my iPod while running.  It was actually nice listening to my iPod while running yesterday morning, as my iPod contains no Christmas music, and while it IS the season for tunes like that, it's just nice to get away from their omnipresent nature for a little while.

Anyway, one of the songs that popped up when I was running was Van Halen's “Beautiful Girls”.  I haven't heard the song for awhile, and the thing I first noticed was that, for a Van Halen song, the guitar is really buried in the mix.  I mean, you can barely hear it at some times, which is weird when you consider that the part is being played by one of the greatest guitar players ever.  There are times when the high hat (a cymbal) is louder than the guitar, and it just seems strange to me that the song was mixed that way.

I was still trying to figure out why the song was mixed that way when the song neared its end, and David Lee Roth sang a line.  Now, normally I don't listen to Van Halen songs for the lyrics—that would be like eating ice cream for calcium content—but this particular line stuck out at me.  The line?

“Get your cell phone down”.

Now, that line in and of itself isn't strange.  There have probably been many songs with lines like “Get your cell phone down”.  It only becomes weird when you realize the song was recorded in 1979, a full decade before cell phones became available to the general public.

Does that mean the member of Van Halen were psychic when they wrote the song?  That's what I was wondering when I went back and listened to Roth sing the phrase over and over.  I mean, was it possible?  Did the group's members have a wormhole into the future, and brought back the concept of cell phones a full decade before they came into use?  Did they plant that cryptic line in “Beautiful Girls” just so someone in the 21st century would notice it and and then start to obsess about it, all while running along the shores of Lake Superior on a gloomy morning?

Uhm, no.  Upon listening to the line for the 9th or 10th time I finally realized that David Lee Roth was NOT singing the line “Get your cell phone down”.  Nope; after listening to the line for the 9th or 10th time I realized that was David Lee Roth was singing was THIS line--

“Get your self on down”.

Go ahead, say it real fast to yourself.  See what I mean?  While it may sound like “get your cell phone down”, that's not what you're saying, and it's not what David Lee Roth was singing.  I, like people who have mis-heard lyrics for decades,  was hearing something that wasn't there.  The members of Van Halen weren't psychic.  They didn't have a wormhole to the future.  They weren't singing about cell phones.

Oops.  My bad.

Maybe I should just give into the holidays and listen to Christmas music while running this weekend.  After all, you can't misunderstand lyrics in Christmas tunes, right?  I mean, they're simple, like in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” when they sing about “Olive, the other reindeer”.  You can't mis-hear a line like that, right?

8-)

And with that, I'm outta here for the weekend.  Hope yours is productive and filled with music , hopefully music with lyrics you don't hear the wrong way!!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 12/18:

I have what seems like a thousand little things lying around I’ve been meaning to mention, but haven’t yet, because in some cases, the thoughts are no more than a sentence, and don’t really constitute a blog.  So with that in mind, how ‘bout if we call today’s edition. . .

“Jim’s Christmas Stocking Full of Useless Stuff”!

(One or two of these I may have mentioned before, but considering the season, they get mentioned again.  Just consider it a cyber version of re-gifting!)

***
Stocking item number one--did you know that, according to an online poll, Rudolph is the favorite reindeer of Americans? Vixen is in second place, while Dancer brings up the rear.

My question is this--why? Not the fact that Rudolph is the favorite reindeer, but the fact that Dancer is the least favorite. What did Dancer ever do to the people answering the poll--leave too many droppings on their roof one Christmas Eve? And why is Vixen so special that he (it?) gets three times as many votes as Dancer? Did Vixen buy more campaign ads, or something?

You have to wonder about these things, you know.

***

Stocking item number two--18 percent of my friends on Facebook have first names that start with the letter “J”. 

That’s right--15 percent.  Now, the letter “J’ itself makes up but 4 percent of the alphabet.  Yet 15 percent--almost 4 times that number--of my Facebook friends have first name starting with “J”, ranging from Jackie to Justine (including 8 “Johns” and 2 “Jons”).  Now, having a first name that starts with “J” myself, I do feel a certain pride in that statistic, but still...15 percent?

I’m not a mathematician, nor do I play one on TV, but that seems strange even to me.

15 percent, huh?

***

Stocking item number three--did you know that, in Minnesota, it’s illegal for a woman to dress up as Santa Claus?  In fact, the penalty for that is 90 days in jail.

I think the cold has permanently frozen a few of their 10,000 lakes, if you know what I mean.

***

Stocking item number four--finally, a joke courtesy of daily blog reader Julie in Ishpeming.  It was actually a visual joke sent via e-mail, so I’m paraphrasing it for the written word.

“Did you know that 99.98 percent of Americans are terrified of driving in a whiteout?  The other .02 percent, all living in Upper Michigan, will say ‘Here, hold on to the steering wheel while I open my beer’”.

And with that, I think I’ve pulled enough out of my stocking.  Have a great Thursday!!

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 12/17:

Some days my dear wife is in the media more than am I.  And seeing as how I work in the media, that's saying something!

I don't know if you saw yesterday's Mining Journal, but she was EVERYWHERE on there yesterday.  She took up most of the front page, all of page six, and you know what?  It doesn't stop.  More of her work will be on display today.  I'd like to be able to share a link to the story, but because the Mining Journal is behind a pay wall, I can't.  So I'll do my best to describe why she ruled the print world yesterday. 

Yesterday, of course, was the 70th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Bulge, Germany's last-gasp effort to salvage something out of World War II.  It didn't work, but it cost thousands of American lives in the process.  Ten of those lives were from Marquette and Alger Counties, including that of Elden Gjers, the subject of Loraine's new book.  So most of the front page dealt with her book, including a picture of her that was so big it embarrassed the living daylights her and made her loving husband comment that the picture was big enough to fit on a dartboard.  The rest of page one and all of page six was a follow-up not only on her book but on the information she's gathered about the local residents who were killed during the Bulge.

And I think that's why Loraine was embarrassed by the size of the picture and the article about her.  She thought the articles would feature more on those who died fighting.  Not that the articles didn't; in fact, Renee Prusi, who wrote all the stories, did a fantastic job of gleaming all sorts of interesting information out of Loraine's research and putting together some rather touching stories of people from Republic and Sundell and Eben and Ishpeming who died during the battle.  I just know that Loraine's not totally comfortable with being in the spotlight like this, and would much rather have that spotlight on her research subjects.

But seeing as how they devoted two entire newspaper pages to everything Bulge-related, I think she was able to share the spotlight with her “guys” quite nicely!

Tomorrow the stories continue, along with with Renee Prusi's tale of how HER father was also in the Bulge, but made it out alive.  I'm pretty sure there won't be pictures of Loraine that take up a  quarter of a newspaper page, and that means I'm pretty sure that she'll be a little more comfortable with a set up like that.  But still, she's helping bring to light the stories of people who died 70 years ago, and, while I may be quite biased in this matter, I think she deserves a little attention for that.

Even if she doesn't want it.

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 12/16:

Well...I suppose that if you're gonna rip off someone, you should rip off the best.

Six episodes of “High School Bowl” with me as host have now aired, and you may be interested to know that I have actually watched all of them.  Yes, I know I wrote in here before the first one aired about how I don't like to watch myself on TV, and you know what?:  I still don't.  But Loraine wants to see what I'm doing, and so I subject myself to watching myself on TV.  And since I haven't died yet doing so, I guess I'm getting better at it.

So yay for me.

I have noticed three things while watching the show.  The first is that I don't remember half of the things I say.  Tapings go by so quickly, with me always trying to juggle 18 different things at once, and because of that I say things I don't even remember saying.   For instance, a week ago one of the contestants, in a question about 19th century warships that referred to the slogan “Remember the _____”, answered “Alamo”, to which I said, and I quote, “No, I don't think the Alamo floated”.  And that, aside from being kind of funny (I thought) had the added benefit of being true.  The thing is I don't even remember saying it, so I laughed when I heard it, which made Loraine look at me kinda funny. 

After all, most people don't laugh at something they themselves said.  But then, I'm guessing most people actually remember saying things, and I don't.  So that's my excuse.

The second thing I've noticed watching the shows?  The students really whisper quite a bit when trying to answer questions.  The show has these things called bonus questions, where teams get to confer with each other about the answers.  Because I'm about 15 feet away from them while we're taping, I had no idea what they were saying while whispering.  But now that I'm watching the show, I can tell they're saying everything from a team captain going “I don't care, name ANY author” to, and this is my favorite, “Crap”, when a young lady couldn't figure out the answer.  Before this I had no idea what the kids were saying.  Now I'm glad I do.

Finally, I've started to grow a little more comfortable watching myself.  I still don't like doing it, but I've grown a little more comfortable doing it.  And as I watch myself, I've noticed that I've stolen one or two mannerisms and vocal inflections from what some may consider an unlikely source--

Phil Keoghan of “The Amazing Race”.

I'm serious.  While I don't do the eyebrow raise like Phil does, I notice that every once in a while I'll sound just like Phil does when he chastises a team for not following the rules or doing something like losing their passports.  I don't do it a lot, but I have noticed myself doing it a little.  But then, I guess if you're gonna steal from someone, you might as well steal from the best, right?

So that's what I've noticed in six weeks of watching some dork host “High School Bowl”.  I do know that some of the upcoming shows are looser and (if I remember correctly) have one or two really strange moments in each of them, including one where I do my best Blanche DuBois.  And I'm sure, there are more instances of me ripping off Phil Keoghan. 

I'll just be curious to see if there's anything else I don't remember saying!

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 12/15:

You can be I'll be glued to the TV those two days.

Even though the 2015 Tour de France is seven months away, they've already announced the Grand Depart, the “grand beginning”, of the 2016 race, and you know where it starts?  It starts in Normandy.  In fact, for the first two days of the race, it goes just about every place Loraine and I visit when we go over there.

For us, it'd be just like having the world's biggest bike race run through the streets of Marquette for two days.  THAT'S how big it is!

Even though it probably won't mean anything to you, here's where the course runs for the first of those two days--





It starts at Mont St. Michael, runs through my second favorite place in France, Avranches, and then heads up the Cotentin Peninsula to eventually end at Ste. Marie du Mont, which is right outside of Utah Beach, one of the two American landing beaches during World War II.  The route passes through many towns and villages we've visited multiple times, and it even runs near where daily blog reader Thierry of Auvers lives.

Lucky dude!

Studying the map in detail also makes me realize that the route passes within a kilometer of where two Marquette residents died during the war.  When the race passes through the town of La Haye de Puits, the peloton will ride right by the hill where Roy Chipman was killed in early July of 1944.  And as the riders are on a few hidden roads heading toward the town of Montebourg, they will (within a few feet, I think) be passing the field where Arthur Lemieux died on June 9th, three days after he parachuted into Ste. Mere Eglise on D-Day.  And wouldn't you know—the race passes right through Ste. Mere Eglise, as well.

The second day runs through some very pretty scenery before ending up in Cherbourg, where they'll be finishing up near the one thing in Normandy we've never been able to find—a fort that supposedly has a great view of the Atlantic.  It's not very well marked, we've looked for it a couple of times, and we're hoping to really visit the next time we're there.  And now that we'll see it on TV; well, maybe that'll help us find it!

Like I said, this is still a year and a half away.  But if I'm this excited now, think what I'll be like in July of 2016.  And yes, I know I'm a geek.  What's your point?

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 12/12:

Some days I wonder how the U.S. Congress even has an 11 percent approval rating.

It has been said by some pundits that the only bills that passed the current Congress were bills renaming Post Offices.  I'm not here to talk about politics, but I mention that because one of the things that Congress DID do was rename a lot of Post Offices, including the one in Munising.  That was named after Elizabeth Kinnunen, who had a son killed during World War II and another killed in Korea.  I think that, no matter what your political view, we can all agree that Mrs. Kinnunen deserved to have Congress name a Post office after her.

Here, though, is where the problem lies.  In the press release touting the renaming of the Munising Post Office, our U.S Representative’s office mentioned Mrs Kinnunen and how she lost two sons, and included a little information on them.  It said, and I quote directly--

“Two of Kinnunen's sons, Eiso Kinnunen and Raymond Kinnunen, were both killed defending America's freedom. Eiso was killed in action during the Battle of the Bulge in 1945, one of the most critical and decisive campaigns of World War II, while Raymond was killed during the Korean War in 1952. These two tragic deaths led to Kinnunen earning the unfortunate distinction as a two-gold star mother. In addition, Kinnunen had another son, Reino Kinnunen, who served this country in West Germany. Elizabeth died on April 5, 1974, at the age of 81.”

The problem?  The Kinnunen killed in Wortld War II was named Eino, not Eiso.  I know that because, well, I'm married to Loraine.  And because I went to Belgium and saw where he was killed.  And because I've shown pictures of that trip to members of the Kinnunen family.

His first name was Eino.

So I contacted our U.S. Representative’s office by e-mail and told them of their mistake.  Just so they knew I wasn't a kook and that I do know what I'm talking about, I sent them evidence that his name WAS Eino, including a copy of the telegram his parents were sent informing them of his death, and a copy of the paperwork the parents had to fill out to have his body brought back home.

Oh, and I stuck this picture in there, as well.





I waited several hours, and received no response.  I then called the press contact who sent out the release, and after getting transferred here and there (and back again) I finally reached a human being, who did get my e-mail and corroborating evidence, but didn't bother to tell me.  She then said that they'll correct it “when it goes up on the website”.  I don't know if that means they'll send out a correction to everyone who received it in the first place, but that's kind of why I did this whole thing. 

I did all this not to prove a point, but to make sure that the error wasn't perpetuated into the future.  You see, back in 1944, an error in the Mining Journal spelled the last name of Leo Robinson, killed in Bastogne, as “Robinjon”, and for the next 60 years that error was used as the mis-spelling of his name in everything from the wall of honor at Jacobetti and the Wall of Honor in the lakeside park in Munising.  And I think no matter what your political persuasion, whether you're one of the 11 percent of people who approve of Congress or one of the 89% who doesn't approve, you'll agree that someone like Eino Kinnunen deserves to name his name spelled correctly, not only in a press release, but in the Congressional Records, where the resolution honoring his mother has been entered.

And with that, I'll get off my soapbox.  You make sure you have yourself a great weekend!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 12/11:

Okay.  I'm hoping this doesn't turn into a big problem.

Those of you who've read this on an on-going basis know how there are three or four “Jims”--Radio Jim, History Jim, TV Jim, and, if we're being thorough, Finish Line Jim (which we're still deciding if it has full “Jim” value).  Those of you who've read this on an on-going basis also know that one of the many things I would change about myself is the fact that I have the worst problem trying to remember people; namely, if I've met them before, and in which context I met them.

Seriously.  I really wish I could be better at that.  But I'm not, and that sucks.

Anyway, I had to go to the Post Office to mail a book for Loraine yesterday.  While I was waiting in line, a couple said “hi” to me, a couple that I knew I had met before, but couldn't remember how.  They then started talking about a program that I have coming up.  That's when I do something I hardly do, and I froze for a second.  I mean, what kind of program were they talking about?  Radio program?  Episode of “High School Bowl”?  Program for the History Center?

In all honesty, I had no idea.

Thankfully, they mentioned something about getting an e-mail from the History Center, so I was able to figure out that I had met them when I was “History Jim”.  It was touch & go there for a second, but I was able to hold a conversation without sounding like an insensitive, forgetful fool.  I mean, you know that I actually a fool, and I know I actually am one, but the whole outside world doesn't need to know, right?

So I get out of the Post Office with my dignity intact.  Then as I'm heading back to work and crossing Third Street, I hear a guy's voice call out, “Hey Jim, how's it going”?  I turn to see a gentleman I know I've met before, but don't remember where.  He then says that he'll see me next week, and goes on his way.  I stand there, with a stupid look on my face (well, even more stupid than usual), wondering where I've met him and why I'll see him next week.  There isn't anything out of the ordinary on my schedule for then, so I really don't know.  I'm not doing anything for the History Center, so that part of me is clear.  I am taping an episode of “High School Bowl”, so maybe it's that.  And I have a couple of things going on in my radio life, so maybe I'm doing something with this vaguely familiar gentleman then.

I just have no idea.

This is really stupid.  There is no earthly reason why I shouldn't be able to remember people and in what context I've met them, but for some stupid reason, my brain just won't do it.  It's been happening most of my life, but I've always been able to compensate for it.  Now, though, there are so many different “me”s doing so many different things that it's starting to be a real problem.

And, like I said, that's not a good thing.

So let me issue a blanket apology in advance.  If you come up to me on the street, or at the Post Office, or in a TV studio, or at the History Center, or at the station, and it seems like I'm confused, there's a good chance that I am.  I don't wanna be, but I probably will be.  Hopefully, I'll figure it out quickly, but if not, just take pity on me.  I'll get it eventually, and then I'll apologize in person.

Many, many, many times...

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 12/10:

Tonight the project begins.

Tonight, I start the weeks-long process of trying to get all my Christmas cookies done.  For me (and this is just for me, because as we all know I'm kinda weird) it's a balancing act—getting cookies made close enough to the holidaze so they're still fresh and yet giving myself enough time to get them all made.  This year, thanks to the way the calendar sets up, I find myself with a deadline or two, which means that they need to be ready to give to certain people on December 20th.  And since today's the 10th of December...let me do a little math here...that means I have...allow me to carry the one...ten days to get them done.

Right?

That's not actually too bad a time frame; there have been years, after all, when I tried to make six kinds of cookies in a day.  And trust me when I say this—that is not something I recommend to ANYONE.  Sure, I was young & naïve then, but still—do not try that at home.  Just trust me on that.

As always, I'll be making six kinds of cookies to give away to family and friends this year.  There are the five kinds I usually make—my Grandma cookies, the cherry-chocolate explosions, the mint-chocolate mindblowers, the Nutella cookies, and the cookies that usually are in the shape of the U.P. but last year ended up in the shape of of East German walk/don't walk signals.  Then I always make one kind that I usually don't make, a wild card cookie.  And since it seems like I make so many really sweet cookies, I've decided to balance it out a little this year with spice, so I'll be trying a cookie with a nutmeg/cinnamon frosting.

That should fit into the holiday theme, right?

By the time I'm done, I'll have ended up with somewhere between 25 and 30 dozen cookies.  I eat maybe seven of them.  Not seven dozen, but seven total.  Loraine ends some, and the rest, like I said, go out to friends and family, and get brought over to holiday gatherings and the like.  I did the math once, and it's astounding—I'm gonna end up adding almost 25,000 calories into the lives of people I know and love, which (at 3,500 calories to gain a pound) means that I'll be personally responsible for eight pounds being added to the collective weight of people around Marquette. 

For that, I apologize in advance.

So I'll get those done by the 20th, and then you know what I'm doing on the 21st?  If you said “make more cookies”, you're one very smart person.  I'll head over to my parents that day and, along with my dear nieces, whip up three MORE kinds of cookies for family consumption.  So I'm either a glutton for punishment or the cause for gluttony.  You choose.

And you know what?  It all starts tonight!

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 12/9:

Bummer.  Miss Lorraine didn't win.

Those of you who followed along with our trip to Europe last September may recall that one of the many weird things we stumbled across was that of Miss Lorraine schmoozing with the public in Nancy's Place Stanislaus.  Remember this?





She was walking around, greeting the public, probably all in advance of the Miss France contest.  This past weekend, Miss Lorraine along with all the other regional winners in the country, got together for the national finals.  And when the dust cleared, it wasn't Miss Lorraine who walked away with the crown.  That honor went to Miss Nord Pas-de-Calais.

Miss Lorraine didn't even make the top five.

In all honesty, I had no idea that the Miss France competition was this past weekend, just as I had forgotten the fact that we ran into her in Nancy.  But as soon as I saw on a daily newsletter I get from a French TV network that Miss Nord Pas-de-Calais had won.  And now you guys know, because I'm guessing you were kind of curious as to how the whole thing turned out, right?

8-)

****

I have to run off and tape a few segments of “High School Bowl” now, but before I go I have to let you know about a phone call I received at work yesterday.  I had just asked a question about the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” when a gentleman called and informed me that I had forgotten to mention a reindeer named Olive.  “You know”, he said”, as in 'Olive the other reindeer'”.

Go ahead, and sing the line for yourself.  You'll then understand why I busted out laughing.

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 12/8:

Yay.  We survived the weekend.

As I mentioned Friday, Loraine and I both had a crap-load of stuff going on the past three days, and unless I'm missing something, I believe both of us made it through unscathed. And there was an added bonus, too.

I found a topic for today's blog.

Loraine had to use my laptop for her presentation in Republic Saturday, which is no big deal.  My laptop is eight years old, and has a (get ready for this) 32 gigabyte hard drive.  I know; there are flash drives these days that have more memory than my laptop hard drive, but like I said, my laptop is eight years old.  What do you expect?

Anyway, I often have to look through my laptop for things to delete.  After all, 32 gigabytes holds Windows and, uhm, six pictures, and that's about it.  I just put everything else on flash drives, and I've now gotten to the point where the total cumulative memory of my flash drives is almost 3 times the memory of the hard drive. 

One of the things I found in the memory was a link to a newspaper article, an article I had entirely forgotten about.  But I'm glad I found it, because this is the perfect time of the year to discuss everyone's favorite gateway drug.  No; I'm not talking about a gateway drug that's either pharmaceutical or alcoholic.
 
I'm talking about “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.

That link I found was from a  newspaper article from back in 2011 or 2012.  In the article, the jazz critic for the Los Angeles Times made the argument, while talking about Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack to the show, that for a large chunk of American kids the music in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was their first exposure to jazz, that it was their “gateway’ drug to the musical form.

And you know what?  I think he may be right.

Just speaking from personal experience, I’m quite certain that the first jazz music I ever heard was from the TV special.  I’m sure that I didn’t know at the time I was listening to jazz; the music, however, imprinted itself onto my brain so strongly that even 40-some years later it’s still a disc I have to listen to at least once a holiday season.  And the rhythms and phrasing of the music must not have been totally alien, as even when I was a kid I was drawn to pop music with jazz influences.  The older I became, the more jazz I listened to, even being part of a jazz band in high school.  And while I listen to all kinds of music these days, jazz still has a special place in my musical consciousness.

And though I had never thought about until reading the LA Times article, I can now say that it’s all Charlie Brown’s fault.  Good grief!!!

I don’t believe that’s the only way “A Charlie Brown Christmas” affected those of us born in the 60s or the 70s, either.  I mean, how many times have we referred to a “Charlie Brown tree” when we see a particularly pitiful holiday tree, or a “Snoopy’s doghouse” when we see an incredibly gaudy display of Christmas lights?  And speaking from personal experience, I know that at least a few times in my life I’ve given the answer “Cash, preferably in tens and twenties” when asked what I want for Christmas.  None of that, of course, would’ve been possible without the influence of that one holiday cartoon.

So when you think about it, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is more than just a gateway drug to jazz.  You could almost make the argument that’s a gateway drug to how an entire generation of Americans celebrates the holiday season.  I wonder if, back in 1965, Charles Schulz and Bill Melendez and Vince Guaraldi had any idea that the little cartoon they put together would have such an influence?

Hmm.  It's amazing what you find when you're trying to clean up a hard drive, isn't it?

(jim@wmqt.com)


(p.s.—speaking of newspaper articles, Marquette's been mentioned in a slew of stories across the nation about fat tire biking.  Here's one of the best, from the Washington Post!)

FRIDAY, 12/5:

As soon as I finish shooting the TV show I host this morning, Loraine then gets to shoot one.  And then she's slated for an interview with a newspaper reporter.

Just another typical day in the Koski household, I guess!

Actually, today (and this entire weekend) is shaping up to be anything but typical.  In fact, the only typical thing about the whole weekend is that I'm shooting two episodes of  “High School Bowl” this morning, and I'm pretty sure most people wouldn't consider shooting two episodes of a TV game show as “typical”.  Loraine's doing all of her media today because of what she's doing tomorrow—a program and a book signing in Republic, the setting of her new book, “Elden's True Army Tales”.

And if Loraine normally gets treated like a rock star in Republic, I can't wait to see how she's treated tomorrow, when everyone gets to see her book!

So we have the media today, Loraine's book signing (plus the return of the Greek Orthodox Church bake sale!!!!) Saturday, and then a couple of things on Sunday.  First, we have to head over to Peter White Library for the open house of their “Winter Wonderland” Christmas tree display, which features, for the third year in a row, Loraine's Gold Star Tree--





Then afterward I have to join my three dear nieces in a super-secret multimedia project, details of which I can NOT divulge, if only because it's the holiday season and someone will be seeing the end results of the project on Christmas.

So that's OUR weekend.  I hope yours is just a little less hectic but just as much fun!

****

By the way, I had several of you write and ask why I didn't mention it was my birthday yesterday.  I didn't think it was that big of a deal.  All I did was survive another year of living.  My only hope is that the next year isn't quite as...weird as the previous year, what with dead transmitters and bitter cold for months on end and gall bladders on the fritz and whatever the heck else happened (that I've mercifully blocked out of my memory).

And that's why I didn't write about it yesterday.  But for those of you who knew and who wrote to wish me a happy birthday, thanks.  I appreciate it!

Now, I'm off to do TV, so then Loraine can go and do her TV.  And yup—that's a sentence I never thought I would write.

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 12/4:

Okay, I think Laura can stop thinking I'm weird now.

Several times, my favorite radio meteorologist and I have been discussing my outdoor recreation habits, and she has thought them weird.  Well, actually, she finds one more painful than weird, and can't quite understand why I keep doing it.  I've tried to explain to her that by doing it during the summer I'm actually getting ready to do something related in the winter, but she still thinks it's either masochistic or weird.

But now I can say that it has paid off.

The activity Laura thinks is so masochistic and/or weird is how I will run on the beach during the summer.  For some reason, she seems to think it's painful, but I would have to respectfully disagree with her on that.  After all, when it's warm out, why WOULDN'T I run on the beach a little?  I mean, c'mon—it's the beach.  It's the place where I would live year-round if I could.  So why wouldn't I run on it?

Actually, I have an idea why she thinks it's a bit masochistic.  Even I will admit that it's hard running on a beach.  It's not like running on a smooth surface; you definitely have to work harder, and you definitely end up hurting a lot more than you would during a “normal” run.  But that's a good thing for two reasons.  One, by having to work that much harder, you torch a LOT more calories than you would during a “normal” run.  And isn't that why most people run in the first place?  And since running on sand is a whole lot different than running on pavement, you develop different muscles.  That's a good thing, too.

The second reason is something that a lot of people wouldn't even think of, but at least for me, it may be more important than the calories you burn while running on the beach.  You see, once the snow falls and you go out running, you often find yourself trudging through a quagmire of snow, sometimes mushy, and as well as all the sand thrown down by road crews.  You may think I'm weird for running on a beach during summer, but you know what?

It gets me in shape for running on city streets during the winter.

Yes, I'm actually a rather serious about this.  If you've ever tried to run down a city street in December or January—heck, if you're ever tried to even walk down a city street in December or January—you know that it can be a lot like walking on a beach, or at least walking on a beach minus the sun and the heat and the water and all the things that make walking on a beach so much fun.  The composition of the crap on a Marquette city street in the middle of winter is very similar to what you find on a beach.  You find sand mixed with water on a beach, right?  Well, what do you find on a city street in the middle of winter?  You find water mixed with sand.  Maybe it's not the exact same proportions, and it may be 60 or 70 degrees cooler, but it's pretty much the same stuff you run on on a beach.

I rest my case.

So, Laura, the next time you think me weird or masochistic for running on a beach, remember two things.  Remember that I'm running on one of the most beautiful cold water beaches on the planet.  And also remember that the four or five months I run on a beach is getting me ready for the seven or eight months that I may have to run on snowy Marquette city streets.  You see, there IS a method to my madness!

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 12/3:

Although it may not appear to be a match made in heaven, I actually kind of like going to Big Lots.

I know; I'm just as shocked as you.  I usually don't spend a lot of time going to discount stores.  However, once or twice a year, I find myself going to the Big Lots store in Marquette, and walking out with a bag full of stuff that I didn't intend on buying.  Why, you ask?  Well, I answer, it's all the fault of their international foods shelf.

Darn them, anyway!

I find it very interesting that a store like Big Lots has one of the best collection of weird foods from around the world.  The image people have of the store and the foods they carry do not go together like pears and carrots.  Peas & baklava, maybe, but definitely not peas & carrots.  Yet you can go into the store and, if you're like me this past weekend, walk out with jam from Turkey, pasta from Italy, chocolate from Germany, and cookies from Poland, among other things.  Of course, the sad thing is that I didn't NEED to walk out of the store with all that food, but let's face it—how often do you get to walk out of a store with jam from Turkey, pasta from Italy, chocolate from Germany, and cookies from Poland?

Not that often, at least from one single store.

That's what I find kind of amazing about Big Lots' foreign foods selection.  All throughout the store you see a large collection of off-brand merchandise, everything from picture frames to, I dunno, rubber gloves.  But not in the foreign foods section.  Everything I bought Saturday was from a big and/or gourmet label in its respective country.  In fact, the Polish cookies were from the same chocolate company that produced one of, if not the best, cherry laced chocolate bar I've ever tasted--





Now, they just need to start stocking the chocolate bar pictured above, and we'll be all set!

So if you ever find yourself curious about any of the above foods, or, say, honey from Macedonia, cake mix from Ecuador, or canned shrimp straight from Thailand, you know where to go.  It might not be the first place you think of for weird food from around the world, and from the outside it may not look like the place to go for pancake mix from Latvia, but trust me—it's a great place to go in, look around, and see what you can come out with.

And if you're like me, you come out with something you never expected to find!

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 12/2:

I wonder—does anyone even remember Melvin the Christmas Elf?

We're in the middle of our “25 Days of Christmas” contest on the air, a contest where we give away a gift certificate to a local business each and every day.  I'm the one who actually calls the winner and lets them know they've won, and I do so by shouting out “ho ho ho” in an elf-like voice.

Specifically, the voice of Melvin the Christmas Elf.

Now, if you have no idea as to who or what Melvin the Christmas Elf is, don't worry.  The vast majority of people on the planet have no idea who Melvin the Christmas Elf is, or even WHAT Melvin the Christmas Elf was.  In fact, I may be the only person on the planet who knows about Melvin, if only because I created him for the first version of this “25 Days” contest, which was, if I remember, 22 or 23 years ago.

That's who Melvin is.

If I remember correctly (and since it was 22 or 23 years ago, my memory may be, well, foggy) I created Melvin because people were supposed to call in and qualify when they heard him.  I don't know why we did it that way; we just did.  And he was named Melvin after one of our part-time workers at the time, who just happened to me by sister Melanie.  Melanie, Melvin.  Get it?

Anyway, as the contest evolved, the use of Melvin, both in name and in voice, slowly disappeared.  Yet every year we've done the “25 Days” contest I've used the voice when calling the winners.  I don't know why.  I just have.  I don't know if it's tradition or laziness on my part or what, but every time a winner in our “25 Days” contest is contacted, they're met with Melvin's greeting, even if they have no idea who Melvin is.

So if YOU happen to qualify some time before December 23rd, and you happen to find your name drawn as the winner, you'll receive a call from me.  And sometime in our conversation, you'll be given a “ho ho ho” in a very strange voice.  You'll probably think I'm having a seizure, or something.  But I'm not.  I'm just carrying on a holiday tradition that has been part of Upper Michigan radio for over twenty years now.

Even if I'm the only one who knows about it.

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 12/1:

Who would you rather have been--Chubby Checker, or Bobby Helms?

No, I haven’t gone off my rocker, and no, this isn’t just some bizarrely random question.  It may be bizarre, but it’s not random.  It’s probably not a question you would think of any other time of the year, but it’s certainly not random.  Now that it's December, (yikes!) it's the perfect time to ask the question.  And, if it’s okay with you, I’ll explain why.

Both Chubby Checker and Bobby Helms were singers as the 1960s rolled into existence.  Now, they were both popular before I was born, but I do have an understanding of what they did and the impact they had in the world of music.  For about a year and a half, Chubby Checker was the biggest thing in pop music.  He had three number one songs, including one that topped the charts twice (“The Twist”), and was mobbed everywhere he went.  If I had to make an analogy, he was kind of like the Lady Gaga of his day, minus the outrageous costumes.  For that year and a half, he was a S-U-P-E-R-S-T-A-R under any definition of the word.  Bobby Helms, on the other hand, was never really that famous.  He had a few semi-popular country songs, made it onto the pop charts once, was never mobbed, and just kind of disappeared quietly.  His stardom certainly wasn’t anywhere near the magnitude of Chubby
Checker, but you know what?

If I had to choose between having been Chubby Checker or Bobby Helms, I would’ve chosen Bobby Helms.

While Chubby Checker was the biggest thing in music for a year and a half, we don’t think about him much any more.  People don’t listen to his music on a regular basis, and  people (like me) born after his reign on the top of the charts probably couldn’t tell any of his songs from any other recorded during that span of time.  While Chubby Checker was the biggest star in pop music for a year and a half, nowadays he’s, basically, forgotten.

Not so Bobby Helms.  While he was never a superstar in the musical world, and while he never had a number one song, the one song of his that DID make the pop charts was a little Christmas ditty called “Jingle Bell Rock”.  The song actually charted three years in a row in the sixties, has been featured in everything from TV commercials to the movie “Lethal Weapon”, and is instantly recognizable to anyone born after it was released.  Bobby Helms may not have been a huge star in his time, and people may not even know who he is today, but unlike any song by Chubby Checker, we sure do know one of his songs.

And THAT’S why, if I had to choose an answer to that bizarrely random question I asked at the beginning of this blog, I’d choose Bobby Helms.  How about you?

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 11/26:

I am REALLY looking forward to turkey tomorrow.

Now, I know that if you read this anytime after, say, Thursday night that you’ll be thinking to yourself, “Turkey?  TURKEY?  I hope I never see one of those perpetual leftover machines AGAIN”.  But not me.  For some reason, cold, leftover turkey is one of my favorite foods of all time.  It’s low in fat and high in protein, and for some reason, I think the taste of cold turkey on whole wheat bread (with just a touch of Dijon mustard) is one of the best things on the face of the Earth.

But like I said, I know that YOU may not feel the same way about leftover turkey, especially in the next few days, when you may have been dealing with said leftovers for most of the weekend.  So, in light of that, and knowing that you may soon be running out of ideas on what to do with the eight pounds of it still sitting in your fridge, here’s a list I came up with a couple of years ago, a list of everything you may not have tried yet with your leftovers (or, at least, everything I could think of a span of about 15 seconds).  Here we go--

Turkey chili

Turkey tacos

Turkey pot pies

Turkey pasties

Turkey casserole

Turkey croquets

Turkey canapés

Turkey jerky

Turkey latte

Turkey nog

Turkey & cranberry smoothies

Turkey bread

Turkey granola

German turkey cake

Turkey and dark chocolate cookies

Turkey & sweet potato jam

Home-made turkey Pop Tarts

And...

Frozen turkey doorstops.

There.  Now don’t say I never do anything for you.

Have yourself a GREAT Thanksgiving (or weekend, depending upon when you read this).  I’ll be on the air Friday if you get bored, with day one of our “25 Days of Christmas” contest; otherwise, have fun shopping or just doing nothing!

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 11/25:

It’s beginning to look a lot like, uhm, catalog season!

I don’t know how many trees around the planet are killed on a yearly basis to feed the appetite of companies that send out catalogs, but if the plethora of them in my mailbox recently is any indication, I would have to guess that number is somewhat bigger than 2 dozen and someone smaller than 17 billion.  Any number in between those two wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

Now I know the holidaze are coming up, and I know it’s the time of the year when companies send out a bunch of catalogs to anyone they can find on a mailing list, but if everyone receives the same number of them as have I, the US Postal Service has a lot of explaining to do on how they lost 5 billion bucks last year.  Since the beginning of November, 23 different catalogs have graced the Koski mailbox.  They’ve ranged from companies I’ve purchased things from before to companies I’ve never heard of; they range from products like food and books and toys to somewhat bizarre items like crystals for your aura or toys for your relationship, all often in the very same catalog.

It’s been quite the blast looking through them...trust me on that!

Therein lies a bit of a problem, as well.  For some strange reason, I’ve been trying to look through each catalog I’ve received.  I’ve been trying to get through at least one of them a day, but seeing as how we sometimes receive 3 or 4 in a day, the stack is starting to grow to alarming proportions.  It’s growing so fast, in fact, that if you don’t hear me on the air one afternoon in the near future, send someone to my apartment.  Odds are that the stack has fallen over, I was (unfortunately) nearby, and the sheer weight of the catalogs trapped me underneath, depriving me of everything you need to live; namely, water and dark chocolate.

Oh, by the way?  I’ve received catalogs featuring both fine bottled waters and fine European dark chocolates, if anyone was curious.

Hopefully, you’ve been enjoying your plethora of catalogs just as much as I have.  Just don’t think of the trees that apparently died for our reading pleasure!!

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 11/24:

Really, brain?  You chose “Throwing It All Away” out of all those songs you heard?

One of the things I did over the weekend was to watch a documentary that's been sitting in my DVR for a couple of months now.  The movie, which dealt with the history of the group Genesis, was called “The Sum of the Parts”.  It was actually quite good; all surviving members of the group, including Peter Gabriel, got together to talk about the early days, the fame, the break-ups, the relationships that caused the breakups, and the music.  It also featured a bunch of knowledgeable talking heads, including my new girlfriend, Kate Mossman, who's the arts editor of the New Standard magazine.  In between all the talk, clips of just about every song Genesis ever recorded were played, which is why I'm dismayed that “Throwing It All Away” is the one song—out of dozens I heard—that decided to lodge itself into my brain.

I mean...really?

Now, I don't have anything against “Throwing It All Away”.  It's a fine song, one of six top ten singles from “Invisible Touch”.  But it's not my favorite Genesis song; in fact, it's probably not even in the top 20 of my favorite Genesis songs.  So why is THAT the song that stuck in my brain?

I wish I knew.

I think I've written in here before about how my brain seems susceptible to the weirdest of songs.  I can be walking down the street and, for no reason at all, something like “Turning Japanese” pops into my mind and stays squatting there, no matter what I do.  And there was also that incident a couple of years ago when David Naughton's “Makin' It” was stuck in my brain for three straight days, including during an interview with Governor Snyder.  I don't know why it happens; it just does.

One of the joys of me being me, I guess.

So I guess I shouldn't be surprised that “Throwing It All Away” was the song I took away from the documentary.  I mean, sure...it's not “Abacab” or “Turn It On Again”, two songs that I would've loved to have stuck in my head, because they're my favorite by the group.  But as it turns out, my brain doesn't play favorites, which is why I've had “Throwing It All Away” on constant replay since Saturday.        I guess I'm just lucky that way.

Anyway, if you have the chance, check out the documentary.  It actually IS a good piece of work, and besides—I'd be curious to see which Genesis song then sticks in YOUR head!

No, that's okay.  You can thank me later...

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 11/21:

If you're not yet, you should go to Facebook and become a fan of the “Elwood's War/Elden's TRUE Army Tales” page.  Why?

Because you'd be giving Loraine a birthday present!

That's right; it's my favorite author's birthday today, and I know she would want nothing more than to spread the word about her latest endeavor.  It has hit stores (Snowbound, BookWorld, and Art U.P. Style in Marquette, among other places) in the past week, and her appearance schedule is filling up, as well, including a big presentation in Republic next month.  It's the place where Elden Gjers grew up and where, according to our joking estimates, every person who ever lived there is mentioned in one form or another in the book. 

So we should have a lot of fun with that!

I've probably mentioned this in here a thousand times before, but I'm gonna mention it again.  I am constantly in awe of Loraine; through the sheer force of her will, she has conjured up not one but two books, digging in every corner possible for stories, pictures, and themes to help bring to life the story of two young men who didn't get to live full lives.  Being her geeky sidekick, her chauffeur in Europe, and her loud voice when speaking with old people, I know how much work she put into each of those labors of love.  And I know that she'd appreciate another fan or two for Elden and Elwood.  So if you haven't yet, like the page on Facebook.

It'll probably be the easiest gift you give all year!

8-)

Not only is today Loraine's birthday, but it's also a big day for one of the two young men Loraine's written about.  One of the reasons she developed such an interest in Elwood Norr is that he died on November 21st, the same day on which Loraine was born, although several decades apart.  Well, today marks the 70th anniversary of his death in the skies over Weissenfels, Germany.  I'm sure the people in that city, who've come to know him through Loraine's work, are thinking of him today, and I certainly know that we're thinking of him as well.

So while it's a happy day in the Koski apartment, it's also a day of remembering, as well.

Now, on that note, before I head out to tape another “High School Bowl”, I do wanna, for what's probably the 100th time since last night, wish my sweetie a “Happy Birthday”.  I hope you enjoy your day off, I hope you enjoy what's left of your birthday pie, and I hope that you say “hey” to Elwood for me when go out and visit him.  Hopefully, the snow around his grave won't be too deep!

Lots of love from both Elwood and me...

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 11/20:

I guess it's the little things that mean the most.

I've had two examples of that the past few days, both of which delivered a little good news.  The first?

American Airlines finally came through.

Those of you who've read this at all the past few weeks may remember how I was charged a fee by American for not buying tickets on the airline's website despite the fact that the website wouldn't allow me to buy the tickets.  I had to buy them through one of their reservation agents, and was charged $70 for the phone call.  Well, after two weeks, a bunch of e-mails, and more hours on hold than I'd care to remember, American has said they'll refund that $70.

Thank you, American.  I appreciate it.

As it turns out, the fee was charged because the web support tech with whom I spoke was supposed to check a box on a computer screen when he sent me to the reservations specialist, indicating that I shouldn't be charged the fee.  It wasn't checked, and I was charged.  I understand that.  I'm not as understanding when it comes to wondering why it took two weeks to clear the situation up, but it's done, and that's the important thing.

Yay.

The second little thing?  Well, I have had a BUNCH of people come up to me, call me, or e-mail me, just to let me know that they know who George Gershwin was.

And that's a good thing.

This comes from the episode of “High School Bowl” that aired last Saturday.  There was a set of three questions that dealt with Gershwin, “Rhapsody in Blue”, and “I've Got Rhythm”, and none of the kids knew anything about the composer or two of his famous pieces of work.  In fact, no one in the audience did, either, which caused me to go in a tongue-in-cheek little rant about it before moving on to the next question.  And while the “rant” was something I forgot about soon as I did it, it sure seems to have made an impression on the people who were watching Saturday night.

I'm not surprised the kids didn't know the answer; even though I seem to write about George Gershwin once or twice a year in here, he apparently isn't that well known to contemporary audiences.  I'm not surprised; a little disappointed,  perhaps, but not surprised.  And the rant, like I said, was humorous, with me almost pleading with people watching to know what the right answer was.  I like Gershwin; I was just trying to spread the word about his work.

While it didn't work with the people in the studio, it does seem to have worked with the people watching on TV, and I'm happy to find that out.  I'm happy that people DO know about George Gershwin, and I'm happy to know that my little “rant” had its desired effect  Now, if something like this pops up again (and I'm sure it will) I know how to deal with it, right?

Like I said, it's sometimes the little things that mean the most.  And those two things are proof.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'm gonna go listen to “Rhapsody in Blue”.  I think I deserve it, right?

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 11/19:

Wow.  That one really struck a nerve.

Every Tuesday on the air we do this thing called our 'Tuesday Topic”, where we ask a question and, hopefully, get a few people to answer it.  We also post it on our station Facebook page, and I have to admit I was surprised when, no more than an hour after sticking it up there, we had a ton of responses. 

And almost all of them agreed with each other.

Here's the question as we asked it--”(D)o you think stores should be open for sales on Thanksgiving, or do you think they should give their workers the day off?”  I decided to ask that because, as I'm sure you know, “Black Friday” sales have, over the past few years, begun to creep into Thanksgiving Day itself.  And this year, there are a couple of chains who will be open the entirety of Thanksgiving Day, much to the chagrin of their workers.  Conversely, there are other chains who are actually advertising that they're closed on Turkey Day.

Hence, the question.

What really surprised me as how lopsided the responses were.  While I'm not very good at math (something we all know), I figure that 95% of the people who answered said that stores should stay closed.  A few said they appreciate them being open on the holiday (as one woman said, it's a “great excuse to get away from her nutjob family for a few hours”), but almost everyone thought that stores should be closed on Thanksgiving, if only to allow the people who work there to spend time with their own families (who, presumably, aren't nutjobs). 

Ninety-five percent.

Seeing as how I don't think 95% of people agree on anything these days, including if the sky is blue, I have to admit I'm stunned by the one-sidedness of the answers.  There are obviously some strong feelings about the subject out there, and it makes me wonder a little.  Now, admittedly, our responses don't in any way constitute a scientific survey or a valid sample size.  But if even two-thirds of people in a scientific survey were to answer that stores should stay closed, shouldn't the corporations that own stores take that into account?  If 67% or 95% of people say they shouldn't be open, should they actually be open?

Well, obviously, the corporations that own stores open them earlier and earlier for a reason.  They open their stores earlier and earlier because it's profitable for them to do so.  Even though a vast majority of people say they should be closed on Thanksgiving, enough people, perhaps even some who think they should be closed, head out and spend enough money to justify having those stores open for business.  It doesn't make sense; it's like people who vote to legalize something while at the same time voting for a candidate who's against what they just voted to legalize, but it happens.

It doesn't make sense, but it happens.

That's why stores open earlier and earlier for “Black Friday”--because no matter what people say, enough of them actually go out and spend money on Thanksgiving, turning the holiday into “Black Thursday” instead of “Black Friday”.  Of course, if things keep going the way they are, pretty soon “Black Friday” could morph into “Black  Wednesday “ or even “Black Tuesday”.

No matter what 95% of people think.

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 11/18:

Whaddya think?  Should I start shaving my legs?

Believe it or not, it's something I'm seriously considering.  You see, ever since our weather totally fell apart a month or so ago I've had to start wear socks that rise above my ankles, at least if I want to stay warm.  Normally, I'll just wear socks that go up to my ankle, but once it gets as cold as it's been recently, it's no fun having a draft shoot up your pants leg.  So I haul out my longer socks.

And that's when the scratching starts.

Like most men, I have some hair on my lower legs.  I”m not ape-like in the amount down there, but I do have hair there.  And the one thing I notice when I wear socks that go up past my ankle—like in the last month or so—is that when I take off the socks that go above my ankle, the hair on my lower legs itches.  In fact, it itches so much that I sit around for a few minute scratching every single millimeter of skin area that I can reach.

THAT'S how much my legs itch.

Don't worry; it's not like I'm allergic to socks or to whatever the socks are made of.  I know why my legs itch—they itch because the socks pushes the hair on my legs into my legs, and the hair is demanding to be set free.  THAT'S why my legs itch, and that's why I spend several minutes each day scratching the hair free.  Therefore, my dear wife—wise woman that she is—jokes (at least I think she's joking) that I should just shave my legs up to where my socks go, thereby relieving myself of any hair that would be made itchy by my wearing of socks.

Normally, I'd just laugh a suggestion like that off, but this year it may have some merit.  The fact that our temperatures dropped so far so fast in the past few weeks means that there wasn't a chance for my legs to get used to being bound up, and has meant there haven't been any days where I could actually go sock-free (or even just wear socks that go up to my ankles) and give the hair on my legs a chance to be, well, not itchy.  As a result, I've been scratching more than ever, and as a result, I've been giving serious consideration to getting rid of all that hair.

Yes, I know that shaving the hair on my lower legs means that I'd be trading one kind of itchy—in this case, from socks—for another kind of itchy when the hair starts to grow back.  But it is so bad right now that I'd seriously consider trading one kind of itchy for another.  Sure, I might regret it, but I'd seriously consider it.

So if we get an abnormally warm day in the next month, so warm that I can actually wear shorts outside, and you notice my legs look just a little different that they usually do, you'll know why.  I just couldn't take the itching and the scratching any more.

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY 11/17:

I’m gonna go full sci-fi nerd on you today, so if the phrase “full sci-fi nerd” has already caused your eyes to roll back in your head, you have my permission to skip today’s blog.

Just don’t forget to come back tomorrow.

Anyway, a couple of days ago I was watching the original “Star Wars” for probably the 200th time.  It wasn’t my fault; it was on one of the cable channels when I was flipping through, and, sadly, it hooked me in with its tractor beams just like the giant Imperial war cruiser does with Captain Antilles’ freighter at the beginning of the film.  By the time the film was almost over (and I had wasted yet another couple of hours of my life) Loraine came into the room and watched the final scene, the one where Leia gives Luke and Han their medals for helping destroy the Death Star.  It was then she brought up a very good point--

Why were Luke & Han getting medals from Princess Leia and Chewbacca was not?  Why did he have to stand off at the side during the ceremony without being honored for his contribution to destroying the Death Star?  After all, he was in the Millennium Falcon with Han when they destroyed the Tie fighters chasing Luke’s X-wing fighter.  If Han received a medal, shouldn’t Chewy have gotten one, as well?  After all, he was in just as much danger as Han.  Why didn’t he get a medal, as well????????

(And as an aside, how can you not love a woman who watches “Star Wars” and thinks of stuff like that?)

8-)

In my 200 (give or take a few) viewings of “Star Wars”, I had never thought about that point.  I mean, sure, I’ve noticed Chewy standing off to the side during the ceremony, but I guess I never thought about the fact that he wasn’t being awarded a medal.  During that scene I usually think of a couple of things--that Princess Leia’s hair no longer looks like cinnamon rolls glued to the side of her head, and that when George Lucas originally shot the movie in 1976, he sure was able to squeeze a LOT of production value out of the 9 million bucks the film cost, especially when you consider both the set they needed to build and the extras they needed to populate the set, all for just one 60 second scene at the end of the film.

Nowadays, you can’t even make a “Star Wars” movie trailer for 9 million bucks.

So until Loraine had pointed it out, I had never considered that Chewbacca was being denied a medal that he deserved to be awarded.  I can only hope that Disney, who now owns the film, follows in George Lucas’ footsteps and tinkers with the movie just a little, to in the future allow Chewy to be given the honor he so greatly deserves. Or that they give it to him retroactively in “Star Wars Chapter VII: The Force Awakens”, or whatever they're gonna call it.

There.  That’s my sci-fi nerd rant for today.  Tomorrow, back to reality.  And if you’re still reading this despite everything, thanks for hanging in there!!

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 11/14:

Because I have to go shoot a couple of “High School Bowl's" in a few minutes, and because it's been a couple of years since I last posted the poem, I am going to leave you with something I first wrote and performed on the air 15 years ago.

Wow.  A decade and a half?  Geez...

But nonetheless, it's appropriate for a day like today, a day to which I know many in Upper Michigan look forward to with breathless anticipation.  So on that note, have yourself a great weekend, good luck if you're going out, and if you're not, stay warm!!

(jim@wmqt.com)

******


“’Twas the Night Before Deer Camp”,
by Jimmy Koski, grade 3.

TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE DEER SEASON
AND ALL THROUGH THE CAMP
HUNTERS WERE UNLOADED BEER CRATES
AND LIGHTING UP LAMPS

THE RIFLES THEY HUNG
IN THE PICKUP WITH CARE
IN HOPES THAT A 10-POINTER
SOON WOULD BE THERE

I IN MY ORANGE
MY BUDDY IN GREEN
SAT DOWN TO A CRIBBAGE GAME
THE BIGGEST EVER SEEN

WE PLAYED THROUGH THE NIGHT
AND EMPTIED THOSE CRATES
BUT MORNING SOON CAME
WE DIDN’T WANT TO BE LATE

WE SET OUT AT SUNRISE
AT DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT
PUT DOWN A BIG BAIT PILE
IN HOPES THAT BAMBI WOULD BITE

WE SAT AND WE WAITED
AND WAITED SOME MORE
I KEPT MY EYES OPEN
MY BUDDY STARTED TO SNORE

WHEN TO MY SURPRISE
STANDING RIGHT BY A TREE
WAS A BIG 12-POINT BUCK
MY PANTS I  DID...WELL, NEVER MIND ABOUT THAT

I BROUGHT UP MY RIFLE
I LINED UP THE DEER
THEN MY BUDDY WOKE UP AND YELLED
“HEY--WHERE’S THE BEER?”

THE BUCK RAN AWAY
I LOWERED MY GUN
MY BUDDY JUST LAUGHED
SAID “LET’S HAVE SOME FUN”

WE WENT BACK TO DEER CAMP
AND HAD US A BALL
SO LET ME SAY THIS--
GOOD LUCK DEER HUNTING TO ALL...

(copyright 1999)

THURSDAY, 11/13:

A whole bunch of things today, the first being this--

One of the issues we discussed last week has finally been resolved—we have to wait no longer for Loraine's books.  They're in!  In fact, when I get done writing this, I have to brave US-41 out to Ishpeming (which I HOPE would be cleaned off by now) to pick up the first printing.  Like I mentioned almost two weeks ago, the waiting has been the hardest part.  Her first “due date”, as it were, was back on October 29th, which now seems like forever ago.  And now, a mere two weeks later, they're finally ready, and soon to appear at a bookstore/author signing/whatever else she has planned near you.

So that's one good thing that's done.

The news isn't so good on something else we've discussed, mainly whether or not American Airlines will refund the $70 they charged me to book tickets on the phone instead of online, even though their own tech support people tried over and over to buy the same tickets online and couldn't.  I first contacted their Customer Relations Department a week ago, and received assurances then that the “situation” was being looked into.  So far, though?  Nothing's been “resolved”.  I mean, c'mon.  How hard can it be?  Just say it was a stupid fee for you to charge and move on.

But so far, nothing.  I wasn't confident heading into the whole thing, and let's just say that I'm even less so now.

Sigh.

Finally (because I DO have to get going to pick up Loraine's book) there was one upside, I guess, to the 87 feet of snow we've received—cross country ski trails are being groomed!  That's right; groomers are out all around the area whipping trails into shape.  Whether to not they get to “mine”--the Fit Strip in Marquette—in time for me to ski this weekend is problematic, if only because it received a lot less snow that the Noque and Blueberry Ridge trails, and is also usually skied on by fewer people.  But if there has to be an upside to the snow (and there SHOULD be an upside to all that crap, right?)  it's that I'll get to ski soon.

And that's not even counting the interviews I did with downstate radio stations yesterday, describing how we're a hardy folk and how 3 feet of snow just makes us laugh.  Okay; I MAY have stretched the truth there just a little, but like I said—there does need to be an upside to all the snow, right?

With that, I'm off to Ishpeming!

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 11/12:

I'm jealous of my wife.

Loraine, like all of her co-workers, got to enjoy something yesterday that I haven't been able to do for a looooong time (just how long in a moment).  Yesterday, Loraine and her co-workers were given a snow day.  Technically, they were given half a snow day, as the bank at which she works closed up at noon, but because of the horrid weather and the inability of just about anyone to drive in it, Loraine was given that time off.

Good for her!

Actually, almost all of Marquette County had a snow day yesterday.  We were receiving calls almost every minute from one business or another closing up for the day, and I can't blame them.  I really don't remember such a ferocious storm, especially this early in the year.  It was horrid outside, and every business should have been closed, if only for the safety of their employees and their customers.

Of course, there's one type of business that can't close on such a horrid day, and that would be the one in which I work.  Like I said, we were getting a call a minute from other places shutting down for the day, and if we were shut down as well, who would tell everyone that every business (except ours) was closed?

I guess, if nothing else, it shows that we have a purpose in life, right?

8-)

And that brings me to the reason I'm jealous of Loraine.  She got to enjoy a snow day yesterday.  I had to do some serious thinking, and the last time I was able to enjoy a snow day was, if I remember correctly, on a day with a serious ice storm back when I was in college.

You know--last century.

I'm not complaining (okay, not complaining too much).  After all, I had an idea of what I was getting into, snow-day wise, when I decided to get into broadcasting.  I know that broadcasters work when no one else can, if only to make sure that people have all the information they need to get through whatever is happening at the moment.  And I usually don't give it a second thought.  But then every so often, when the (local) world shuts down, I realize that I don't get to shut down, as well.

That's just the life I chose, I guess.

Besides, there's a flip side to all of this.  You know how everyone else gets snow days?  Well, because I work in broadcasting, where snow days don't exist, I get to arrange it so I get something I've taken to calling “sun days”.  You know how everyone else goes home when the weather's really crappy?  Well, when the weather's really nice, and there aren't any cancellations to announce, I can give myself a “sun day”.  I can take a few hours to play on the beach, or enjoy the sun, or just relax.  Everyone else?  They have to work if it's nice out, like I have to when it's bad out.  Me?  I don't have to if I don't want to.

And in the end, even though I'm jealous of everyone else right now, that's a trade I wouldn't make for anything.  Work in the snow, and then take time off when it's warm & sunny?  Seems like a no-brainer to me!

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 11/11:

Okay, I'm not gonna say anything about the weather. 

ANYTHING.

I'm gonna keep my mouth shut.  After all, I'm sure you're feeling each and every single negative thought I'm feeling, and it would be a bit redundant for me to write about what you're thinking.  So instead, I'm gonna not think about the horrid weather at all.  Instead, I'm gonna gaze at these pictures and think warm thoughts--














The last picture is one that Loraine's actually using as the desktop picture on her new computer at home.  It's a picture I took when we were in Savannah earlier this year, and unlike me, she doesn't put her desktop pictures up for a vote.  She just wanted a picture that, as she put it, looked “warm”, and I guess that one does quite a bit.  Hopefully, in fact, ALL of these pictures look “warm”.

All I know is that they look much better than it looks out any Upper Michigan window right now, and that's the important thing.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go look for my boots.  I have a feeling that running shoes or dress shoes just aren't going to cut it today.  Or tomorrow.  Or any time for the next six months.

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 11/10:

I saw a squirrel look both ways before crossing the street this weekend.

No; I'm serious.  When I was out running errands yesterday I was heading down Front Street in Marquette.  When I got to the intersection of Front and Arch there was a big bushy gray squirrel in front of me getting ready to cross Front.  As soon as it got to the curb, it stopped, and I swear—I SWEAR—it looked both ways before running across the street and then climbing up a tree on the other side.

I swear.

Okay; I admit that there's the possibility that the squirrel wasn't looking both ways when it crossed the street.  I may have just noticed it twitching and then anthropomorphized the whole situation.  But it would also not surprise me if the squirrel DID look both ways; if nothing else, if would be a prime example of urban evolution, where an animal has to adapt to its human-created surroundings or die.  Think of it this way—only the squirrels that can cross a street without getting squished get to pass on their genes to the next generation of squirrels.

Maybe, then, it WAS looking both ways!

Of course, if the squirrel had evolved beyond other squirrels, perhaps it was because of the intersection it was trying to cross.  I've written in here quite often about the intersection of Front & Arch Streets in Marquette, an intersection with a four-way stop where you can see multiple cars ignore the four-way stop in any given hour.  Or, perhaps, maybe I should say you USED to be able to see multiple cars ignore the four-way stop in any given hour.  Over the past few months I've noticed a marked decrease in the number of cars that blow through the stop sign.

And that's a good thing.

Now, I don't know why drivers are all of a sudden stopping at the stop sign.  I mean, nothing's physically changed.  The sign didn't suddenly grow so people would see it better, nor were there extra lights placed to call attention to the sign.  I'm also smart enough to know that all the whining I did about the situation had little if any effect on people finally paying attention to the four-way stop.

Nope.  I'm actually wondering if it's just not another example of urban evolution. 

Think about it—if squirrels have to adapt or die, couldn't the same be said about careless drivers?  Maybe, just maybe, so many people blew through the stop signs and realized their mistake that they've now adapted to stopping at the intersections.  Or maybe so many people blew through the stop sign and, as a result, had a fender bender, that they have now adapted to stopping at the intersection. 

All I know is that there is a much smaller number of drivers who ignore the four-way stop at the corner of Front & Arch Streets in Marquette.  And who know—maybe urban evolution is the reason.  After all, it's helping squirrels look both ways before crossing the street, right?  So why wouldn't it work on humans, as well?

Okay.  I'll stop now...

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 11/7:

I’ve been banished to the back hallway.

No, I haven’t been a bad boy, and no, I haven’t picked up any kind of communicable disease.  Instead, I’m trying to be a good boy and trying to stay healthy, and what do I get for it?

I’ve been banished to the back hallway of the station.

Actually, I’m only banished to the back hallway a few days a week, and even then only for a couple of minutes.  And I hafta admit--it’s a self-banishment.  I’m the one who heads into the back hallway of work of my own according, because what I do during those few minutes a few days a week apparently grosses out several of my co-workers so much that I’ve taken pity on them and don’t want to gross them out any more.

The reason I’ve self-banished myself to the back hallway at work several times a week?  I eat tuna.

Go figure, right?  Here I am, eating one of the best foods around in an attempt to stay healthy.  Tuna’s low in fat, high in protein, and is full of those little Omega-3 acids that protect your heart from, well, bad things.  And yet because some people look past tuna’s many healthy properties and focus only on the fact that it smells like “tuna”, I’m stuck eating my tuna in the back hallway or out on the sidewalk, treated like I’m a nicotine fiend about to kill everyone with second-hand smoke instead of someone who’s causing no one harm to anyone (and, in fact, trying to stay healthy myself).

There’s something weird about that.  I just haven’t figured it out what it is yet.

The one irony I do find delicious in this situation is that the co-workers who are grossed out by the smell of my tuna are cat owners themselves, and I’m sure feed their cats dishes that smell very much like the tuna I’m trying to eat.  I’m sure they don’t complain when feeding their cats, but when I eat tuna?  Well, not so much.  And it’s not like the smell from tuna lingers in the air or anything.  You can smell it when I open the bag and when I spend a minute or two wolfing it down.  That’s it.  But since I don’t want to make my co-workers uncomfortable or gross them out any more than need be, I head to the back hallway (or outside) to eat the same food that causes the same smell when they feed their cats.

Ah, the things we do for our co-workers, right?

So if you ever happen to see me in the back hallway of the station, or see me next spring or summer standing outside of the station, holding a bag of tuna and a fork, you’ll know why.  It’s because I’m trying to stay healthy, and I’m apparently quite the considerate co-worker, as well.

8-)

On that note, have yourself a great weekend, and feel free to eat some tuna, if you want.  I won’t mind!!

(jim@wmqt.com)

(p.s.--still no word from American Airlines on that whole $70 charge for not using their website to book tickets when, in fact, their website wouldn't let me book the tickets.  I  (sarcasm alert) can't wait to see how that turns out .  And if you happen to watch “High School Bowl” tomorrow night, just let me say one thing in advance—I didn't mean to make her cry.  Really, I didn't!!)

THURSDAY, 11/6:

Well, I hope this turns out better than it started.

Loraine and I have already begun our preparations for our next jaunt to Europe, the trip we're taking to Germany with both sets of our parents.  I'm really looking forward to it; I get to spent time with my parents in a beautiful place, and I don't have to worry at all about driving, thanks to the presence of Tony the Tour Guide.

It'll be a lot of fun.  I'm really looking forward to it.

A couple of weeks ago we sat down to buy our tickets to Frankfurt, with a return trip from Munich.  While we were bummed that, because of American Airlines' merger with US Airways, we won't be able to spend part of a day playing in downtown Chicago, we were happy to know we'd get to Germany at 7 in the morning, which means that we have an extra half day to play with over there.  So that was the good part.

The bad part?  Well, that was when we actually tried to buy the tickets.

Every time we got to a certain page on American's website, the process would stop.  We'd get a weird error message, and would be sent back to the previous page.  Basically, we stuck in the internet version of a feedback loop, and there was nothing we could do about it.  So last Saturday, when we had a little time, I got on the phone with American's web support department, where they were just as confused as we were.  They had the same problems we did—they couldn't get past that page.  It wasn't just us; American couldn't buy tickets on their own website.  After trying many times, the people at web support realized they couldn't do anything about it, and they transferred us to American's reservations department, where we were able to buy the tickets in a flash.

Now, before I say anything else, I want to give credit to both the tech support and the reservations people with whom we spoke.  They were all helpful and courteous, and did their jobs with great professionalism  They were fantastic.

I checked my credit card bill yesterday, where I noticed that the tickets had finally shown up.  And along with the tickets, I noticed I had also been charged an extra $70 by American Airlines.  As it turns out, I was charged that $70 as a “fee” for booking our tickets over the phone, as opposed to doing it on their website.  This, of course, was despite the fact that I couldn't book the tickets on their website because, as their own web support team found out, THE WEBSITE DIDN'T WORK.

I'm getting charged $70 by American Airlines because they screwed up.  Is it any wonder customer service surveys constantly show airlines rank among least customer friendly and most annoying companies to deal with?

After discovering this I sent an e-mail off to American's Customer Service department, and received both an e-mail and a phone call saying they're looking into the situation.  I don't know how it's gonna turn out.  I know how it should turn out, but I don't know how it WILL turn out.  I hope that the customer service department is as helpful and courteous as their web support and reservations people were, and will recognize the absurdity of both the charge and the technical foul-up that led to the charge.  But I don't know.  I do know that airlines nickel & dime you to death with fees these days, and I can just see this being one of those situations, albeit taken to the extreme.

However, I shouldn't have to pay a $70 fee for something that was their fault.  I did nothing wrong; they did.  And I hope they realize that.

Keeping my fingers crossed...

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 11/5:

I can't believe it's that time of the year again.  I can't believe I have to start thinking about Christmas cookies.

It seems to me like I was just passing out all of the cookies I made last holiday season.  Of course, it also seems to me like I was just graduating from college, but seeing as how that was last century (whimper), it gives you a pretty good idea of how I handle the passing of time.  And since I've been so busy recently, and have had so many things I'm trying to keep up with, I figure I should probably get my butt in gear regarding this year's batch of cookies.

After all, I don't want to be passing them out next February or next March.  I have a feeling they wouldn't be appreciated quite the same as they would be in December.

As you may recall, Christmas cookies are the big holiday tradition in the small Koski apartment.  I always make five or six kinds, which we then pass out to family, friends, co-workers, and, in a tradition that's been going for a decade now, to several old neighbors.  Seeing as how I end up making four or five hundred cookies in total, and seeing as how I know there's no way Loraine and I want to eat them all ourselves, they get handed out for the holidays.

We might as well spread the caloric catastrophe out amongst as many people as possible, right?

There are several major steps to the whole production, the first of which is deciding what the “new” cookie will be.  Like most things that have to do with the holidays, tradition abounds in my making of Christmas cookies.  There are several kinds I have to make year in and year out—the Grandma cookie, the cherry one with the dark chocolate stuck on top, the Nutella cookie, and the Yooper cookie, among others.  Now, I know those aren't the actual names of the cookies; that's just how they're referred to on the assembly line.

Along with those cookies, I always make a cookie I've not made before.  Last year, it was Polish cookie called (if I remember correctly) a kolachke; the year before, it was a mint/chocolate cookie that's now made the jump up to “make this every year” status.  So picking the “new” cookie is always a serious task, and one that demands some thought.  After all, not only does it have to be something I've never made before, but it also has to balance out the rest of the cookies.  Am I making too many with chocolate?  Then maybe the “new” cookie should be something that's a little spicy.  Do I have too many cookies that are green and/or red?  Then maybe I should make a white cookie, or a yellow cookie, or even, I dunno, a black cookie.  These are all things that a normal person, when deciding which cookies to make for the holidays, wouldn't even think about.  But me?

Well, who ever said I was normal, right?

So I guess I should make that first step and decide—quite soon—what this year's “new” cookie should be.  Then I can make up a shopping list, and hope I find some time to throw them all together in time for delivery BY Christmas.  Otherwise, we'll have to call them New Year's Cookies.  Or Valentine's Day Cookies.  Or St. Patrick’s Day Cookies.  Or even Arbor Day Cookies.

Wish me luck!

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 11/4:

I wonder if there's a new “Gerko” lingering out there in the shadows of Marquette?

“Gerko” as you may recall, was the nom de graffiti of a Marquette resident who spray painted his way through the city a couple of years ago, until his arrest, subsequent plea bargain, and agreement to clean up his mess.  Well, just as all the “Gerko”s are starting to disappear, I've started to notice these popping up--





I have no idea who “Ogee” is, or if this person wants to follow in Gerko's footsteps, but there are several spots in Marquette, most notably on the Washington Street bike path between 7th Street and McDonald's, where you get to see several examples of this individual's work.  Sometimes, it's just the artist's tag, while on a few other occasions there's a little art work to go along with the tag.  Slowly but surely, though, “Ogee” is making him or herself known around the city.

And I'm guessing city officials aren't very happy about it.

Now I don't have anything against street art per se.  And I understand the outlaw aspect of it, the railing against the establishment.  But when you start spray-painting property that really doesn't need spray-painting, especially property that everyone in the city should be able to enjoy, you kinda cross the line.  I wouldn't take a spray can to something you enjoy; why should you take a spray can to my favorite bike path?  Maybe I'm weird in that respect, but that's just what I think.

I have no idea if this “Ogee” will attain the heights of infamy that Gerko achieved a couple of years ago.  I hope not; after all, after a year of cleaning his work up, you can still see “Gerko” pasted just about everywhere in the city.  And I don't know if it'd be cool to still see “Ogee” spray painted everywhere in Marquette in 2017 or 2018.  I'm sure the artist wouldn't mind.  The rest of us, I'm not so convinced.

*****

If you're actually reading this on Tuesday, November 4th, make sure you get out and vote today.  And just think—starting tonight, no more political commercials on TV and no more fund-raising e-mails clogging up your inbox. 

That may be the sweetest part of any election!

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 11/3:

To quote a great American philosopher, the waiting is the hardest part.

Loraine's new book, “Elden's True Army Tales”, the book into which she's poured her heart and soul these past twelve months, was supposed to be back from the printers and in readers' hands by now.  To be specific, it was supposed to be back from the printers last Wednesday, but, as with anything, you might expect a delay or two.  And that's why she's still waiting for it to arrive.

We haven't gone through it ourselves, but I'm guessing the waiting is akin to having a kid, especially a kid who's a day or two (or a month, like I was) past their due date.  You're sitting around, waiting for this monumental, perhaps life changing event to occur, and there's nothing you can do about it.  You've made plans, you're anxious to get those plans in motion, and you're just waiting for one small thing to arrive to kick it all into gear.

And Loraine's books, like those kids who won't pop out, seem to have a mind of their own.

Of course, it's not really Loraine's book with a mind of its own; books, despite the great thoughts contained in some of them, books aren't sentient.  It's either a delay at the printers or a delay in shipping (or both).  But when you're sitting around waiting...and waiting...and waiting, sometimes your brain assigns personality traits to inanimate objects like books.  We realize it's not the book's fault; it, however, is the thing that's behind schedule, so it's the thing that gets “blamed”, for better or worse.

I don't remember if Loraine's first book arrived late.  I don't think it did, because the thing I remember most about its “delivery' is that our apartment was filled with cardboard boxes.  But if “Elwood's War” was late we've erased that fact from our memories, much like parents going for a second child forget all the problems their first kid gave them.  Hopefully, though, I'll get a phone call today saying that the books are in and I can pick them up for her  After that, I'm sure, all will be forgiven.

It's just the waiting that's the hardest part.

****

Finally, thanks for all the kind words regarding the season premiere of “High School Bowl” this past Saturday.  It's nice to know that you guys enjoyed watching it, and that (at least as far as I know) not one TV in the U.P. cracked, exploded, or gave up the ghost by being forced to show the program.  And for those of you outside the U.P. who've asked when the show will be posted on TV-13's website for online viewing, I don't know.  As soon as I find out, I'll let you know.

And once again, thanks!

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 10/31:

Well, tomorrow night's the night the world gets to find out if I suck or not.

That's right; tomorrow night marks the season premiere of “High School Bowl” on Public TV 13, the first episode with the show's dorky new host, me.  While we've now taped five episodes (or 10 total games) and will tape the sixth in a few minutes, no one has had the chance to check them out yet.  And that all changes tomorrow night.

I've had a lot of people ask me the same two questions this week—am I getting excited about the premiere, and will I be having a party so everyone can watch?  And I think they're a little disappointed when I answer “no” to both of those questions.  I mean, sure, I'm excited for everyone else to see what we've done so far, because I think it works.  It may be a little different than it's been in the past, but it works.  However, am I personally excited?  Probably not.  I think I was personally much more excited about taping the first shows back at the end of September, if only because then it was new and uncharted territory for me.  But that's just me, personally.  I really am excited that everyone else finally gets to see what we've been up to.

Do I plan on watching it tomorrow?  Well, you guys may have heard me whine in here before about how I don't really like watching myself on TV, if only because I see all the things I could've done better and I fixate on all my weird little personality (and gray hair and way-too-small head) quirks.  Besides, I know which teams won.  But if Loraine wants to check it out, if only to see if the stories I tell her about taping the show are true, I suppose I won't leave the room.

I'll just make fun—a lot of fun—of the host.

If you do end up watching, see if you can catch the differences between the two games in the first episode.  They were taped a couple of days apart, and in between taping the segments I had something done to me.  I'm kind of curious to see if anyone notices.  And be aware that the first game that airs is actually the second game we taped; the second game is actually the first one we ever taped.  Hopefully, I'm not spilling any secrets by telling you that, but that's just the way TV works on occasion.

So I'm off now to tape the sixth segment of the show.  We'll have to see what everyone thinks of the first segment when it airs tomorrow night.  Keep your fingers crossed that TVs all over Upper Michigan don't blow up!!

8-)

*****

And before I go, I do need to wish my favorite brother in the whole world a happy birthday!  Sure, he's my only brother, so he wins that title by default, but still, I hope he does have a great day Sunday.  At least he won't have to sweat through a Lions games, wondering if they'll win or lose.  So happy birthday, Marc!!!

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 10/30:

Is it the end of the world this weekend?

Sorry to be so melodramatic; the world in which we live and the lifestyle to which we’ve become so accustomed will in no way be ending today or tomorrow.  However, our little part of it may be experiencing a little cataclysm, as least as far as some of us are concerned.

Some people in the U.P. may be seeing their first measurable snowfall of the year Saturday.

That’s right; Laura has begun uttering that most ugly of four-letter words.  And while I know that we usually DO see our first snow sometime during the middle of October (heck, some years we’ve even had September snowstorms) it still boggles my mind that it's only been a little more than five months since we saw the last snowflakes from the previous season.

So that means that, if we do see snow over the next 36 hours, that we’ll have gone a whole five months and four weeks without snow.  That's less than half the year.  Or, if you look at it another way, it can snow here more than half the year.

Ooh.  Aren’t WE lucky???

It’s a pity sarcasm doesn’t travel well with just the written word, because that last sentence was delivered with as much of it as I can muster (and trust me, I can muster a LOT).  I know we’ve all complained about the weather a lot this year (perhaps no one more so than me), but it seems to have been justified.  I mean, if it was still cold (with a few flakes in the air) in May, and was cold and rainy through most of June & July, that left us with a whole month and a half--mid August through the end of September—where it wasn't cold, rainy, snowy, or any combination thereof.

That’s it.

 I’m sure you guys are sick of me writing about the weather; heck, sometimes I get sick of me writing about the weather.  There’s nothing I can do about it, so I should just shut up and live with it, right?

It’s just that...a whole five months without snow?  Even for the U.P., that’s just not right.

I’ll shut up about it now.

(jim@wmqt.com)

WEDNESDAY, 10/29:

We're not in the phone book any more.

In all honesty, I can not remember the last time I actually looked at a phone book.  I don't have one in my office, and while I think Loraine may have one buried somewhere in her desk at home, I couldn't tell you, for the life of me, where it actually is.  Like most people, I now just look online if I need a number.  After all, I DO usually know where my computer is.

But like many of you, we received a copy of the latest Yellow Pages phone book, and upon getting it I had two thoughts, the first being the usual snarky “Wait, they still make phone books?”  The second was the actual observation that phone books are much smaller than they used to be, due to the fact that the print is a lot smaller and, well, there are a lot of us who just aren't in there any more.

Of course, the reason that many of us are no longer listed in the phone book is that we no longer have a land line.  So many people, Loraine and me included, have ditched a phone that plugs into the wall and have gone wireless that, if I had to guess, the phone book we just received contains half of the numbers it contained a decade ago.

I base that guess on my opening the phone book to the “Koski” page.  In years past, there would be a page and a half or even two pages of phone numbers belonging to people named Koski; however, when  I checked in the new book to make sure we weren't in there, I noticed only a few columns of “Koskis”.  Now sure, as I mentioned before, the type is a lot smaller, so you can shove more people named Koski into a column, but there was no longer pages and pages of people with whom I share a last name.  Heck, even my parents aren't in there any more.

THAT'S now many people are no longer in the phone book.

And seeing the very small type made me think something else.  If I had to guess, most people my age and younger actually no longer use a phone book to find a number.  If it's not stuck in our phone we just look online for it.  That would then mean that the only people who actually use a phone book on a regular basis would be people older than me, people who may have trouble seeing the names & numbers shrunk into teeny-tiny type on a page.  I mean I know the publishers of the phone book are trying to save money by cutting down on the number of pages they print, but shouldn't they think of their target demographic?  Shouldn't the remaining names and numbers be printed as large as possible?

It does make a certain amount of sense, you know.

Of course, this may be a moot point in a few years.  With the way people are ditching their land lines there may soon be no use for phone books, and they'll go the way of the pet rock and the VCR.  But for now, fewer and fewer of us find our names listed in them.  Or, in my case, even know where those phone books are.

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 10/28:

And happy National Chocolate Day, the most wonderful time of the year!!

I had no idea that there actually WAS a National Chocolate Day or that it was being celebrated today, but thanks to the keen observational powers of my Dad, who noticed it on a calendar, I'm now all set to go.  So thanks, Dad!!

How does one actually celebrate National Chocolate Day?  Well, I'm sure eating some is a big part of it, and I'll make sure I celebrate in that way.  But what else do you do?  Sing chocolate carols?  Send out chocolate cards?  Build a chocolate man out in the front yard?  If that's the case, I'm ill prepared for the holiday. 

Let's just hope that my overall love for the food is enough to carry the day.

It's funny; I've always loved chocolate, but I can't pinpoint an exact reason why.  All I know is that even when I was a kid, I was a bit...particular about the kinds of chocolate I would eat.  When I was really young, I had a fondness for Milk Shake chocolate bars.  I don't know if any of you actually remember Milk Shake bars or if they were even available to people outside of Michigan, but they were kind of like a slightly less sweet version of a Milky Way bar.  Or at least that's how I remember them; I haven't eaten one, or even laid eyes upon one, for almost 30 years now.

As I grew up, my tastes in chocolate (and chocolate bars) evolved, but it wasn't until I went to Europe for the first time that my tastes became what they are today.  I don't wanna sound like a chocolate “snob” or anything, but for the most part there really isn't a comparison between what you can get here and what you can get there.  Heck, some “chocolate” bars in the US don't even have chocolate in them (which is why you'll notice the phrase “chocolate-flavored” or “chocolate-flavored candy” on much of your Halloween or Christmas chocolate), but in Europe, especially Belgium, chocolate is a fine art.  And once I experienced what you could taste over there, I was spoiled for life.

However, I do have to give credit to the burgeoning American artisinal chocolate market.  Some chocolatiers like Endangered Species are doing amazing things with chocolate, especially dark chocolate.  And as the health benefits of darker chocolate are becoming better known, I have a feeling that that trend will continue.

I, for one, can not wait!

So I hope you have a great National Chocolate Day.  Grab your favorite kind of bar and bite off a big hunk; after all, if you eat chocolate on National Chocolate Day, the calories don't count, right?  I think I read that somewhere on the Internet, and as we all know, everything on the Internet is true, right?  Or celebrate it the way I'll celebrate it, by trying a chocolate you've never tried before (in my case, a dark chocolate lemon-ginger bar I picked up at the Marquette Food Co-op).  Either way, just make sure you celebrate.

After all, it's not National Chocolate Day every day, is it?

(jim@wmqt.com)

MONDAY, 10/27:

For a few minutes it felt like an entirely different world out there.

For many years, Loraine and I were but one small part of a very significant trend in the city of Marquette—DINKs.  The acronym, which actually stands for “Dual Income No Kids”, is the way demographers refer to couples without children.  And for the past twenty years, Marquette was filled with DINKs.  I think I've written in here before about how I'm friends with and/or work with many couples without kids, and it's because of people like us that the student base for Marquette Area Public Schools continued to shrink even while the population of the city itself was growing.

But our day, for better or worse, looks like it's over.

Over the past few years I've noticed a lot more very young children in Marquette, something that was underscored last Friday when I snuck outside the station a couple of times to enjoy the fairly mild weather.  During the time it took to eat a bag of tuna, and then again during the time that it took to eat an apple, I noticed not one, not two, not three, but FOUR people in their 20s or early 30s—three women and a man—pushing baby strollers up Front Street.  Ten years ago in Marquette, that number would've caused jaws to drop.  But today?

It's just life in the 2010s.

My observations are backed up by facts, too.  For the first time in many years the Marquette Area Public Schools actually has more students than they thought they would, an increase driven almost exclusively by a greater number of kids enrolled in kindergarten and first grade.  That bodes well for the future of the system, and also confirms that the trend toward younger people in Marquette having families has been going on for, oh, five or six years now.

And yet some of us just noticed.  Guess we need to pay better attention, right?

I wish I was more of a social scientist so I could determine just why we're having a baby boom.  I mean, is it a generational thing, meaning that my generation just didn't have kids, but that younger adults do?  Does it mean that Marquette is experiencing an influx of people in their 20s and 30s who, unlike those of us who were here before, decided to start a family?  Is it because Marquette's won so many awards in the past decades that people are either moving here to raise a family or decide to stay here for that same purpose?

I'd be curious as to the reason or reasons.  But like I said, it sure is a change from the past couple of decades, and I'm guessing it's probably a change for the good.  It's good for the community, and it's good for the future of the schools.  I'll be very curious to see how it all unfolds over the next decade or so.

It just sure is a difference from the past decade or two.

(jim@wmqt.com)

FRIDAY, 10/24:

Oops.  I guess that was my bad.

After writing yesterday's blog abut Fougeres, I received notes from two of you (hi Pam, and hi Michelle) wondering why I didn't include pictures of the city.  After all, I had compared it in several ways to Marquette,  and they were curious as to whether or not the comparison extended to how the two towns look.

Looking back on it, I have NO idea why I didn't include pictures.  After all, it's not like I don't have a bunch of them, and looking back on it, I guess it would have been nice to see what it looks like and what I was talking about.  So Pam & Michelle (and anyone else who wondered) I apologize.  I are a moron.  But at least now I can do something with the pictures!

Like I mentioned yesterday, Fougeres and Marquette are similar in size and in things you find around them.  However, because one's American and the other's French, their main streets do look somewhat different--





They both do, however, have impressive performing arts venues.  We have Kaufman Auditorium, while Fougeres has the Salon Victor Hugo--





I find it interesting that both venues hold almost the same number of people, around 800.  Guess that must be standard size for places like this! 

Both cities have great parks and recreation areas.  Here's Fougeres' Public Gardens, located right next to their 500-year old cathedral--





And both places are also filled with artistic people and funky shops.  Here's the door to a shoe store--





So there's your sneak peak of the one stop on next year's Tour de France that I've visited.  And like I said before...sorry for not putting a picture or two up yesterday.  My mind (or what's left of it) was obviously somewhere else!

Have a great weekend, and enjoy the slight sun and warmth we've been promised.

(jim@wmqt.com)

THURSDAY, 10/23:

The race is gonna stop in Fougeres.  I bet you're excited, right?

Now, if you're a normal person (and almost all of you reading this are), right about now you're saying two things to yourself—you're wondering what race I'm talking about and where the heck Fougeres is.  Well, you'd be right to ask yourself those questions.  Like I said, you're a normal person.  Only the weird among us get excited because one of the finish line cities in next year Tour de France is a place we once visited in that country.

That's right; yesterday, they announced the course for next year's Tour, and I was kind of disappointed.  Normally, the Tour goes through or stops at two or three places we've visited.  However, next year's race mostly concentrates itself in the southern part of the country.  The race is totally bypassing the regions we visited this year, and when it's in Belgium for its first few days it's in parts of Belgium we haven't (yet) visited.  The only leg of the race that goes through places we have been will be the stage that runs through part of Normandy and ends up in the Brittany town of Fougeres.

So you can guess what I'll be watching intently on July 10th!

Fougeres is a very cool place; in fact, it's very similar to Marquette in the amount of people living there, the hills in the area, the amazing gardens and parks, and the very cool old churches and theaters.  Of course, Fougeres also has a thousand year old castle sitting right in the middle of town, something that Marquette doesn't have, but other than that, it's quite similar to where we live.

Like I said, aside from Fougeres there won't be many familiar places during next year's race.  But that's okay; I'll be watching it anyway, especially because it runs through Belgium and France and because we won't be visiting Belgium or France next year.  So the only exposure I'll get to two of my favorite countries in 2015 is by watching the race.  And that's better than getting no exposure at all. 

I'll understand if you're not excited by the fact that a bike race goes through a certain town next year.  after all, you're normal.  You're not supposed to be excited.  Me, on the other hand...

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

(p.s.--I don't know if you're heard this yet, but Marquette has been named as one of the happiest cities in Michigan, number 8 on the list of 20, in fact.  Don't laugh; we've topped a lot of lists before, so why not this one, right?  Anyway, check it out HERE!

WEDNESDAY, 10/22:

Now, I wonder, is there a fourth “Jim” lurking out there?

Those of you who read this on even an occasional basis know there are three different “Jims” hanging around.  There's “Radio Jim”, there's “History Jim”, and there's “TV Jim”, each of which could be used to describe me depending upon whatever I'm doing at any given moment.  The funny thing, of course, is that people who know me from the radio don't realize I'm a history dork, the people who know me as a history dork don't know I work in radio, and the people who are now beginning to see me on TV don't often know about the other two.  So it's like I inhabit three distinct worlds.

Only now there may be a fourth--”Finish Line Jim”.

This isn't actually a new “world”, and it's kind of a subset of “Radio Jim”, because that's how I started doing finish line announcing.  But recently I've had a couple of people come up to me and mention my work announcing at the finish lines of both the Noquemanon and the Ore-To-Shore.  The funny thing is, I don't believe either of the people who came up to me and talked about my work at the finish line know that I'm also “Radio Jim” and “History Jim” and “TV Jim”.  To them, I'm just “Finish Line Jim”.

The two times a year I'm “Finish Line Jim” I act very much like any of the other three “Jims”.  I joke, I cheerlead, and I have fun with the people who are wrapping up a very strenuous athletic event.  One of the people who came up to me complimented me on how I make sure I mention competitors from out of state, often saying things like they're “the first finisher from California” or “the best mountain biker in Tennessee”.  And the other person who came up to me was actually an object of my cheerleading; apparently,  I told him when he crossed the finish line of the Noque last year at age 79, that he had to come back and race at the age of 80.    Well, he is coming back to race next year, and wanted me to know that he's just doing what I told him to do.

Wow!

I really enjoy what I do those two days, even if by the end of each day my voice is shot.  I get caught up in the drama of the first finishers, and really enjoy the people who come in near the end of the race, people who aren't there for the glory but are there just for the thrill of completing a very hard day on their skis or bikes.  Those are the people with whom I have the most fun, and those are the people who, over the years, have said just how much they appreciate what I do at the finish line.  Of course, all I'm doing is talking; that's nothing compared to what they're just finished.  But if I can help even just a little, cool.

I'm glad to do it.  And while living three different lives is usually more than enough for me, having a fourth Jim—and having people appreciate it—is just a nice little bonus.

(jim@wmqt.com)

TUESDAY, 10/21:

There's a clump of hair sticking out of the back of my head, and nothing I do seems to make it go away.

One of the big changes I've had to deal with in becoming the host of “High School Bowl” is that I really do need to pay attention to how I look.  In radio, you can just roll out of bed, throw on some clothes, and go to work.  No one, aside from your co-workers, can see what you look like, and they're often dressed the same way you are.  But you know what?  On TV, people can see you.  You just can't show up looking like a slob.

Who knew?

That's actually not a big problem for me.  I actually do (usually) care about my appearance.  I very rarely roll out of bed, throw whatever's lying on the floor back on, and then cruise down to work.  I usually make sure I look good; heck, before I started doing TV I would even dress up in a jacket and tie every Monday just because, well, it was Monday.  But now that I have started doing TV on a weekly basis, I have to make sure I'm entirely presentable before stepping in front of the cameras.

And that's where my hair, and the clump of it sticking out of the back of my head, comes in.

First of all, I'm mad at my hair anyway.  Being under the bright lights in the studio means that you, on occasion, can see where over the years I've started to lose a little of it.  Normally, in person, you can't tell, but under those lights, you can.  I'm sure it's one of those things no one else will notice, but I do.

Is it any wonder I don't like watching myself on TV?

However, it's the back of my head that causes the biggest problems.  Ever since I was a kid I've had a...growth of hair on the back right side of my head.  It's kind of like someone put a bunch of hair fertilizer there, causing me to have twice as much hair on that patch of my head than I do anywhere else.  The woman who's been cutting my hair tries to do what she can, but I'm apparently a freak of nature in that regard.  And as we all know, there's not much you can do with a freak of nature.

Trust me.  I'm walking proof.

While taping the first shows I noticed that if I'm shot at a certain angle it looks like I have a hair “tumor” sticking out of the back of my head.  Since then, I've used a bunch of different products & methods to try to get it to lie flat, but with only middling success.  I don't know what I did this morning, but the clump now doesn't look like a tumor, it looks more like a stumpy carrot sticking out of my head.

And I have to go shoot a show in a few minutes.

I'm tempted just to hack the whole thing off with scissors.  However, I know that would make things even worse by doing that.  I mean, a stumpy carrot sticking out of my head?  Maybe.  A big hole where hair used to be?  Nope.  However, I have faith, if not in my own hands, that someone on set will have an idea what to do.  However, if you watch the show that airs on (I think) December 6th and notice there's something weird sticking out of my head, know that it's not the fault of your TV set.

It's the fault of my stupid head.

And with that in mind, I should get going.  Who knew working in TV could be so complicated?

8-)

(jim@wmqt.com)

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