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In Jim's Daily Opinion 10/09/2015

FRIDAY, 10/9:

The note was short and to the point.

I received it from daily blog reader Connie in Marquette, who wondered if I was actually correct when I mentioned yesterday that a daisy was one of the ingredients in the teas I was drinking from Germany.  After all, daisies are not that popular of a tea ingredient, and as even I'll admit I don't know that much about flowers.  But I still think I saw a daisy on the tea label.

What do YOU think?

While I don't know much about flowers, I thought I knew what a daisy looks like, and the flower sure looks like a daisy to me.  Like I said yesterday, I'm assuming that everything on the label is in the tea; I could really taste the cinnamon, the mint, and the basil.  But I have no idea what a daisy tastes like, so I'm just assuming that if it's in the picture, it's in the tea.

After all, if you can have a tea with caraway seeds, why not one with daisies in it?

So that's what I was looking at, Connie (and everyone).  You'll have to tell me if it is indeed a daisy, or if I'm drinking a tea with something even stranger in it.  And while you're looking, another thing to notice about the tea bag?  It's half in German and half in English, like almost everything you see over there.  It's just too bad that the ingredients of the tea aren't listed, in either language, because it would sure answer the question as to what I've been drinking recently.

And I'm referring to tea, not drinking anything else!

On that note, I have to go play TV Jim in a few minutes, so just let me thank Connie for the note, wish the rest of you a great weekend (especially if it hits the 70s on Sunday), and pass along my hope that your teas have ingredients in them that you can identify without a picture!




It was the weirdest flavor combinations that turned out to be the best.

As you may recall, near the end of our Germany trip my mom, noticing that I would “borrow” a bag or two of green tea from every breakfast room, started a collection of all kinds of different teas, not just green tea, for me to try.  I think I ended up with 14 or 15 different kinds, and as of yesterday I had sampled them all.  Some were good, some weren't, and some were just, well, surprising.

A bit of background—I drink a lot of green tea.  It's good for you, it has some (but not a lot) of caffeine in it, and it gives me a leg up on the eight (or whatever it is) glasses of water you're supposed to drink each day.  I'm not really that big into black tea, which is waaaaay too strong for my tastes, or herbal teas.  Green tea seems just about right, at least to me.

So it's probably not too much of a surprise that, of the teas my mom collected for me, the herbal ones were among my least favorite.  Several of them actually surprised me in that regard.  Several of them had strawberries (or strawberry flavoring) in them, and seeing as how a strawberry is among my favorite foods in the world, I was looking forward to trying the strawberry teas.

Guess I learned my lesson.  Strawberries, while great raw or in ice cream or over shortcake, are amazing.  In teas?  Not so much.

There were a couple of herbal teas that didn't really float my boat, either.  The teas either had no taste, or the taste was a little too bitter for me.  And that's not surprising; after all, the teas were from Germany, and Germans have a taste for bitter things (see the popularity of black currant jelly over there if you don't believe me).

So that left me with five or six of the teas that were really, really good.  One of them was a peppermint tea, which really wasn't that much of a surprise.  I love green tea with peppermint, but my usual traveling companion doesn't like the smell of it, at least for breakfast, so I usually forego it while on the road.  I'm glad I got to drink a little of it during this taste test, though.

Two others that were really good contained cinnamon, one of my favorite flavors on the planet.  One was a rum-raisin-orange-cinnamon tea, while the other was a mix of cinnamon, mint, and, if I'm identifying the plants on the package correctly, basil and daisy.    Seriously—the package has a cinnamon stick, a mint leaf, a basil leaf, and a daisy pictured on it.  It was amazing; thankfully, my mom liberated two packages of that particular tea for me, and I'm looking forward to drinking the remaining bag soon.

The final two blew my mind.  Now, like I said, I'm not a big fan of black tea, but the one black tea I did like was black tea with caramel and peach flavoring.  I would not have, under any foreseeable circumstance, thought to have put those three flavors together, but for some bizarre reason, they work.

If I ever have to drink black tea, I just hope it has caramel and a dash of peach in it.

The other tea flavor combination that blew my mind?  It was an herbal tea flavored with (and don't laugh here) fennel, anise, and caraway seed.  I'm not kidding; three ingredients that would make a great bread also make up perhaps my favorite tea of the whole trip.

Who knew?  And the best thing?  As with the cinnamon/daisy tea, I still have a bag left!

So, Mom, thanks for noticing my little habit of grabbing tea bags every morning, and carrying it to the extreme.  My taste buds, and my blown mind, appreciate it!



Well.  It looks like I got lucky on this one!

I had to make cookies yesterday, and decided that I wanted to cash in on pumpkin mania by making pumpkin chocolate-chip cookies.  I mean, think of it this way—it's fall, so pumpkins are in season right now, and it's chocolate, which is, you know, CHOCOLATE, so I figured I couldn't go wrong.  And with two small exceptions, I didn't.

The first occurred when I bought the first can of pumpkin for the cookies last weekend at a local grocery store.  Somehow, the can of pumpkin didn't make it into my grocery bag, a fact I didn't notice until I got home and was unloading the bag.  The pumpkin was on the receipt; it just didn't make it into my bag.  I then scooted over to the Marquette Food Co-op, where, as it turns out, pumpkin was on sale and the Co-op was sold out of it.  Bummer.  Thankfully, the third time was the charm, and thanks to Valle's Village Market, I had my pumpkin.

So thanks, Valle's!!

I found a recipe that I could (hopefully) adapt to become a pumpkin chocolate-chip cookie, and mixed everything up.  When I finished, the dough looked a little...thin, for the lack of a better word.  So I kept adding small amounts of flower and oatmeal, hoping that it would work out.  And it eventually did.  The only problem?  Well, as I found out when baking, a recipe that should've made three dozen cookies ended up making four dozen.  Although now that I think about it, that really isn't as problem so much as it was a hidden treasure.

I guess not all problems are bad problems!

Someone once told me that I need to post more recipes of my little “experiments” in here, so without further ado...

Mix a cup of butter, 3/4ths of a cup of white sugar, and 3/4ths of a cup of brown sugar.  Add a teaspoon of vanilla, a cup of pumpkin, and an egg.  In a separate bowl, mix two and a half cups of flour, a cup of oatmeal, a teaspoon of baking soda, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and a teaspoon of nutmeg.  Throw it in the wet mixture and, well, mix.  When done, add as many chocolate chips as you'd like (I used most of a bag, but that's just me).,  Heat your oven to 350, bake for 12 minutes until brown, then cool and eat.

And eat as many as you'd like, because they're really, really good.  Just don't forget your pumpkin at the grocery store!



TUESDAY, 10/6:

I don't think my routine's routine any more.

I've been back from Germany for three weeks now, and I'm fully back into the groove of things.  But for some reason, my old “routine” doesn't seem routine any more, and I'm trying to figure out if it's a good thing or not.  I'm sure it;s good in that you really should shake things up every so often, just as I'm sure that it's bad that I can't get readjusted to it.


Let me explain.  As those of you who read this on a regular basis may know, the three months (or so) before I head to Europe are rather hectic.  I'm trying to work ahead while at the same time trying as much time off during sunny days as I can.  So, on a daily basis during the summer, I'm never quite sure what I'm going to be doing or when I'm going to be doing it.

Then there's the rest of the year, like now.  I'm not rushing around, I'm not trying to work ahead, and I can settle in to a “routine”, doing not only what needs to get done, but also what's been put off.  And you'd think that'd be a good thing, right?  I know what I need to do, and I know when I'll have the time to accomplish it.  You'd think that'd be a good thing, right?

Well, apparently not.

Nope; instead, now that I'm back to “normal”, nothing feels quite right.  Everything feels “off”, like (and this will probably sound strange) I'm 10 or 15 seconds out of phase with reality.  It feels like the world's moving at one speed, while I'm moving at another, and I don't know why.  Every other time I've returned from Europe and have slid back into a “routine”, it's been a lot easier than this.

But for some reason, not this time.

As far as I can tell, I haven't done anything differently than in years past, nor has the world around me changed that much.  Things are pretty much how they have been every fall; nothing's seriously changed.  Yet, I still feel like there's something amiss.  But maybe that's a good thing.  After all, a “routine” can easily turn into a “rut”, and that's something with which I'm not comfortable.  Maybe my feeling out of “phase” is just my brain's way of telling me that I need to change something up.  Maybe my brain feels more comfortable in the hectic insanity of my summer schedule, as opposed whatever I'm doing now.

That wouldn't surprise me .  My brain, after all, does (pardon the pun) have a mind of its own on many occasions.  Maybe it's just trying to take the right fork while the rest of me is taking the left fork.  Wouldn't be the first time that happened, and it would explain quite a bit.

We'll just have to see...


MONDAY, 10/5:

You know what?  I don’t have a favorite number.

I don’t know if it’s a big deal that I don’t have a favorite number, just as I have no idea how many people actually DO have a favorite number.  All I know is that I don’t have one, and this came to light after reading an article or an essay or something that talked about people’s favorite numbers and how a large majority of them are even numbers.

Maybe, just to level the playing field, I should get myself a favorite number, and make sure it’s odd.  Besides, how apt would it be that my favorite number is odd?  Certainly would fit, wouldn’t it?

The article (and I wish I remember where I read it, so I could give the author credit) posited that most people’s favorite numbers are even numbers because, for whatever reason, people perceive even numbers as “nice” and odd numbers as “bad”.  I’m not quite sure why; I think the article pointed out that, with one exception, all prime numbers are odd and, for some reason, people don’t like prime numbers.  That could be a reason.  But there’s also something I’ve kind of noticed over the years--even numbers look friendlier.

No, I’m not strange.  Well, yes, I suppose I AM strange, but think about it--when you look at an even number like “8”, it just looks friendlier than, say a “15”, which just looks more severe.  Or at least it does to me; after all, this theory has absolutely no basis in scientific fact.  It’s just how I perceive the way the numbers look.  But, according to the article I read, maybe there IS some basis in it.  Maybe I’m not the only person who feels that even numbers look “friendlier” than odd numbers. 

That might explain why most people have a favorite number that’s even, right?

So like I said, if I ever do picture out a favorite number, I’ll have to make sure that it’s an odd number, perhaps even a prime odd number, just so I can be a contrarian.  Right now, I’m thinking 29, although that could change depending upon my whims.

I’ll let you know.


FRIDAY, 10/2:

Two quick things before I head over to shoot “High School Bowl” this morning, the first of which is that my left hand is one of the newest celebrities on Facebook!

Lonely Planet is a series of travel guides published in the U.K.; they're quite good and, well, quite quirky, which probably explains why I have a couple of them lying about.  One of the things the company does is ask their readers to take pictures of their guide books in, as they put it, “the wild”.  You know; pictures of the guidebooks in their “natural habitat”.  They then take the best ones and stick them on their Facebook page.

Since I had the book on Munich and Bavaria for our trip, Loraine thought it might be fun if I were to take a picture of the book near something it talks about, so when we were in Munich a few weeks ago I snapped the picture of it in front of the Marienplatz, which is Munich's big old city center.  Loraine sent it in a few days ago, and received an e-mail yesterday that our picture was gonna be used.

And here is it.

It's funny; I kept hauling the book around with us to various locales, but always left it forgotten in my backpack.  Then on the last day of the trip, I remembered it was there, hauled it out, snapped a shot, and a few weeks later, it's on Facebook.

Interesting world we live in, isn't it?

Anyway, if you're ever heading anywhere you've never been, and need a good (and quirky) guidebook, check and see if Lonely Planet has one.  You won't be disappointed. 

Just remember to take a picture of it and send it in!


Before I head out, I have to make sure the world knows it's my sister's birthday tomorrow.  I know I've written about Melanie in here before, especially how amazed I am that she decided to go back to school after raising three amazing daughters pretty much on her own.  Well, she graduates in December, which means that this her final birthday without her college degree. 

That's cause for celebration, right?

So happy birthday, Mel.  We'll see you at lunch tomorrow!



Wow.  That was cold.

I went running this morning, and I think it may have been the first time I’ve gone running in temperatures below freezing since the last time temperatures were below freezing--you know, mid May.  I don’t think my body was quite ready for the shock, and I’m guessing I’ll be sitting around work all day shivering and wondering if there’s a way I can turn up the heat in the station without anyone noticing.

That’s how cold I seem to be now!

Of course, part of the problem is self-inflicted.  I went out to run wearing shorts this morning, and although the sting of frigid air hitting bare legs was, uhm, bracing at first, I thought they (my legs) would warm up as my body temperature itself warmed from the exercise.  Shows what I know; my legs became frozen even as my core, draped in two shirts and a jacket, started to sweat.

 Those of you who know me know that I often joke that as long as it’s above freezing it’s warm enough to wear shorts, and that’s especially true when you’re running in temperatures above freezing.  But following my experience this morning, I’m guessing there has to be a DRASTIC drop off in comfort from running in shorts when it’s, say, 33 degrees, as opposed to running in shorts when it was 30 degrees, or whatever it was here in Marquette.  I normally don’t notice the cold on my legs when it’s 33, but when it was 30 this morning, that was a whole ‘nother story.  Maybe it was because my legs aren’t used to the cold yet; heck, when I go running in February and it’s 30 degrees I’ve often just run in shorts and a t-shirt.  But this morning, when it was 30 degrees?

I probably couldn’t have been wearing enough layers of clothing, especially on my legs,
to stay warm.

Hopefully, my body will adapt to its new, colder, surroundings soon.  I mean, I probably won’t be going out running in shorts any time in the near future, but it would still be nice if my body acclimates to the cold (and the dark, and the frigid wind) quickly.  Either that, or the next time you come into the station you’ll see my sitting in the studio with 14 sweaters on, complaining that the campfire I’ve built in the corner isn’t big enough.

Ah, fall and the approach of winter.  You gotta (sarcasm alert) love it.

(, lover of warmth.


I think I'll be okay tomorrow.

As you may recall, I was a bit nervous about stepping on a scale after returning from Germany, not because of any weight I have have gained while eating over there, but because I had the amazing foresight to schedule a doctor's appointment just two weeks after getting back.  And, of course, I was hoping to avoid the whole “it looks like you've gained a few pounds in the past year” chat while sitting in my doctor's office.

But you know what?  As of right now, two weeks and three days after returning from the food fest that was our trip, I weight a half a pound less than I did before leaving.

No, I don't get it, either.

I did step on the scale the weekend after getting back, and was happy to notice that I only gained a pound and a half while in Germany.  I attribute that to trying to eat as moderately as possible while in a country known for great food (and insanely huge portions), all while not running or working out, and I guess I succeeded in that aspect.  As you may recall, I usually gain three pounds while in Europe, so a pound and a half was at the very least a moral victory on my part.

Then this past weekend I stepped on the scale again, and to my surprise and amazement found I had lost two pounds in the seven days since last stepping on the scale.  I lost the pound and a half I “gained” in Germany, plus another half that just, apparently, decided to take a hike.  I don't know how, and I don't know why, but that's what happened.

It's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

In all honesty, I've never understood my body's relationship with a scale.  I can gain or drop two pounds in any given week, and I KNOW I haven't consumed (or not consumed) the extra 7,000 calories that would, in a normal person, account for that.  I blame both an active lifestyle and a diet that's filled with lots of fruit and vegetables and whole grain.  I think that if I were to stay the same weight every week; well, it'd be boring.  Instead, I look at my weight the same way a financial analyst tells you to look at the stock market—long term, year to year.  So if I weight the same at one doctor's appointment that I did at the previous one...

Well, that's all that matters.

And that's why I was a little “concerned” that I might gain a little too much weight while in Germany.  Of course, that worry was all for naught, as I can go in tomorrow secure with the knowledge that I won't get the “it looks like you've gained a few pounds since last year” talk.


P.S.--One final thing about weight gain while on vacation, too.  Both my parents—both of them—came back from Germany having lost a half pound each.  Yup; they both lost weight while eating chocolate and schnitzel and baked goods and sampling the beer for which Germany is famous.  I mean...who does that?

My mom & dad, apparently.  So good for them!

TUESDAY, 9/29:

There have been two huge pieces of space-related things the past few days.  There was the lunar eclipse Sunday night, and the announcement yesterday from NASA that there may be flowing water on the surface of Mars (and everywhere there's flowing water on Earth, there's life).  Then, you have the recent New Horizons fly-by of Pluto, the ongoing presence of two astronauts spending an entire year in the International Space Station, and even Matt Damon's flick “The Martian” coming out.  So it's not like space hasn't been getting good press recently.  Yet with all that that my mind goes back to a statistic I saw a few years ago--

Only one out of every three Americans would want to travel into space, even if the trip were free.


Excuse my shouting there, but consider that I grew up wanting to be an astronaut, and that I just read an entire article (nerd alert) on the heat shield for the new Orion spacecraft, and you can kinda understand why I was shouting.  I’ve dreamed of going into space my entire life, and I would jump at the chance to spend even just a few minutes on the edge of that blackness.  Yet only third of the people in this country would do the same.

Once again, I guess, I’m an oddball among my own people.

I don’t know why two thirds of all Americans would pass up a chance to do what less than 400 people in the entire history of humankind have done.  I don’t know if it’s fear of the unknown or a lack of adventure or what, but a majority of people say they’d be content never to try something that, according to every book I’ve ever read by people who’ve been there, has called a life-changing experience

One of the great stories in a book about Skylab (“Homesteading Space”) that I've read deals with what some of the astronauts would do when they couldn’t sleep--they’d float over to a window and spend time watching the planet pass before their eyes every 90 minutes, thunderstruck by what they were doing and what they were experiencing.  That’s exactly the kind of thing I would do if I were ever lucky enough spend a night in space, and that’s why, I guess, it blows my mind that most people would never want to even consider trying it.

It’s funny; Loraine and I have heard from a lot of people about how they could never travel to Europe like we do, and we always have the same answer—why not?  It’s not hard; in fact, after you’ve done it once, it seems to keep drawing you back again and again (we’re the perfect examples).  Sure, traveling to Europe—or to space—gets you out of your comfort zone, but isn’t worth it to see how other people live?  Isn’t it worth it to see how you react and adapt to differing situations?  Isn’t it worth it to see a different part of the world—or to see the whole world unroll before you in a mere 90 minutes?

I guess that’s why the statistic blew my mind a little.  I would jump at the chance for a life-altering experience like heading into space.  I was just shocked that more people wouldn’t feel the same.  But like I said, once again, I’m an oddball among my own kind.

An oddball who wants to go into space.


MONDAY, 9/28:

Well, I didn't foresee THAT possibility happening!

Show number one of the 38th season of “High School Bowl” is in the can and ready to air in a month.  Like I wrote last Thursday, I thought that it might be a little rough, both because it was the first show of the season and because we had a new crew and hadn't run any technical rehearsals.  Well, I'm happy to say that the crew performed flawlessly, and aside from a stupid mistake or two on my part, the show itself went off well.

We just didn't count on the power going out right before we taped.

Let me tell you—there's nothing quite like the experience of being in a basement TV studio with a bunch of people and having the power go out.  That first moment of pitch blackness, before the emergency lights kick in, was quite cool.  It was like being in a sensory deprivation tank with a gaggle of strangers.  Then not only did the emergency lights come back on, but several people grabbed their phones and used the lights on them to add a little illumination to the scene.

It was kind of like being on-stage at a concert, without having, you know, the stage or any musical equipment.

The four teams were sent to wait upstairs in the Learning Resources Center, where they were able to at least see themselves, thanks to sunlight coming through the windows.  The rest of us just sat in a few dark rooms and just waited.  And waited.  And waited.  We waited for 25 minutes, in fact, before the power came on, and then had to wait another half an hour or so while a bunch of equipment rebooted and had to be checked out before use.

And all this, of course, because of a squirrel.

That's right.  A outage that caused almost half of the city of Marquette to lose power Friday morning was thanks to a squirrel who, apparently, became a little too curious and decided to explore a power substation.  You know the old saying about how curiosity killed the cat?  Well, substitute “squirrel” for “cat” and add 12,000 people having to reset the clocks on their microwave ovens when they got home that night, and you can see exactly what happened Friday morning.

Of course, now that we've had a power failure while taping the show, that hopefully means there will be no more bad mojo, and the rest of the season will sail along just fine.

Keep your fingers crossed.



FRIDAY, 9/25:

I have to be at Public TV 13 in a few minutes for “High School Bowl”, but I wanted to share two pictures with you today.  The first?

The winner of  the “Jim's Desktop For The Next Year” contest!

It was a close vote, but “Nighttime on the Neckar” slipped past “Alpine Majesty—Morning” for the win.  In all honesty, I would've been happy with either—heck, I would've been happy with any of the choices—but I look forward to spending the next year with my first-ever night-time desk top picture.

Thanks for voting!

The second picture was one that I had hoped to include in a trip blog, but I wasn't able to access it until we arrived back in the U.S.  You know how one of the desktop picture choices you had was a shot of a cow (a picture that's now my laptop desktop picture at home)?  Well, while I was running around trying to shoot that very picture, my dad snapped a shot of me doing just that--

If you ever wondered just how dorky I look while doing certain things in Europe; well, now you know.  And thanks, Dad, for letting me use the show!

On that note, have yourself a great weekend.  Get out and enjoy the summery temps and the sun, because you never know when you'll see them again, right?




It starts all over again tomorrow. 

“It”, of course, is another season of “High School Bowl” on Public TV 13.  While the show won't actually start airing new episodes for another month and a half, tomorrow's the day the first new shows of the season are taped; hopefully, this year, with a host who knows what he's doing.


I say that as a joke, of course.  After hosting the show for an entire season, I'd HOPE I know what I'm doing.  That theory will actually be put to the test when first Gwinn & Dollar Bay and then Republic-Michigamme and Dollar Bay take their place on the set.  We've not done any technical rehearsals or practice sessions; we're just hoping to pick up where we left off a long six and a half months ago.

There's no danger in that, right?

That was, I think, one of the great things about stepping into a TV show that's been on for 37 years now.  Everyone behind the scenes has been doing their job for so long that they can just get right back into it without even giving it a second thought.  I'm hoping I can do that, as well.  I don't think it'll be a problem, as for me, at least, it does NOT seem like it's been six and a half months since we taped last year's championship match.  Six and a half days, maybe, but not six and a half months.

But we'll see.

I don't know if you'll notice them—in fact, I'm hoping you won't notice them—but there will be several rather subtle changes to the show.  I've been encouraged to put my “stamp” on things, and in that respect I have done and will be doing a couple of items differently.  Like I said, it's my hope that no one notices; after all, why tamper with a show that's been a success for 37 years?  But there will be things done slightly differently, mostly behind the camera, that I think may both help make the show better and make what I do easier.

Not, of course, that what I do is difficult.  I stand up there, read things, and crack bad jokes.  Trust's not that hard!

I think the show we tape tomorrow airs November 7th, so you won't have too long to see the result.  I know that, until then, Public TV is re-running the final episodes of last year's competition.  So if you want to (spoiler alert) re-live Bessemer's run to the title, you're all ready to go.

Just like we will be tomorrow morning!


There's one more day to get your vote in for my desktop picture for next year.  It's a close battle between the Neckar River at night and Alpine Majesty in morning; scroll down to Monday's entry to see all the nominees, and then let me know by midnight or so tonight.




I like summers.  In fact, I live for summers.  But I can also see the some of the beauty of autumn, as well.

Happy first day of fall.  I feel kind of funny saying that, seeing as how September has been our second warmest month of the year (so far), but despite Mother Nature's screwiest efforts, there's not much you can do to fool the calendar.  It's the autumnal equinox today, and it would be whether it's 80 degrees or whether it's snowing (and according to National Weather Service records, it's done both on this day).  This is always one of those “iffy” days for me, what with the “official' end of summer, my (by far) favorite season of the year, but I'm a little more okay with it than I used to be.

And that's thanks to the flowers.

I don't know if I had never noticed, or if I had been so traumatized by the end of summer that I couldn't notice, but September, at least here in Marquette, seems to bring out a lot of late blooming flowers out in the community.  And as Loraine and I were out enjoying the sun & the heat Sunday, I saw more of them than I think I've ever seen.  Like I said, maybe they've always been here and I just didn't notice, or maybe this year's weird & wacky weather has led to them blooming in greater numbers, but everywhere you walk in Marquette you see displays of late-season color.

Don't believe me?  Well, you can see fresh flowers in red--

Or in purple--

Or in pink---

Or in orange--

Or even in yellow, with a bee photo-bombing the whole picture--

So while I'm not really looking forward to today (and the days that follow), and while I wish that we had had more of a “summer” this year, at least the transition into whatever's coming is made a little easier when you get to look at things like this.

Now, if we could just get them to stick around when the snow starts to fly!



Thanks for the votes so far for which picture I should use as my computer desktop for the upcoming year.  Don't forget that you have until Friday morning to cast your ballot; scroll down to Monday's entry for the nominees.

And speaking of pictures, you know how there are benches all up & down Third Street in Marquette, benches that have pictures of things for Marquette is known, things like ore docks, bikes, & musicians?  Well, can someone explain THIS bench to me?

While I do know that there have been occasional bear sightings in Marquette, I don't think there have been that many octopus sightings in town.  And aside from the occasional Japanese monster movie, do bears & octopuses (octopi?) even fight?

Like I said yesterday, inquiring minds want to know!


TUESDAY, 9/22:

If I was a guy, I know where I would've been Sunday afternoon.

Okay; that didn't sound quite right, if only because, the last time I checked, I AM a guy.  Let me put it this way—if I was young, single guy, I know where I would've been Sunday afternoon--

The beach.  Specifically, the beach at McCarty's Cove

Let me explain.  Because it was a gorgeous, 77 degree day (at the end of September!) Loraine and I found ourselves out walking around a bunch of bike paths, the one near McCarty's Cove included.  I was surprised by a couple of things—first of all, the beach wasn't all that full, despite the absolute perfection of the day, and secondly, the vast majority of people that were there were women.  I was kind of surprised by that; after all, it's usually split 50-50 among the genders.  But then I started to think (which, as we all know, can be a very dangerous thing), and I suddenly realized why the beach may have filled with nothing but women.

All the guys were inside watching football.

I mean, that's the only reason I can think of why the beaches were virtually empty of men on Sunday.  Every other Sunday we've walked past that locale there have been men on the beach; the only thing different this past Sunday was the fact that pro football (oh, and the Lions, too) was being shown on TV.  So that's the only reason I can think of.  And it's a shame the guys missed it, too.  It was a gorgeous day, and they missed it for what—a chance to see the Lions lose?

It's not like you won't have 14 more chances to see that this season.

Loraine also joked about how, by not being at the beach, the guys were missing out on a chance to perhaps meet all those women who were being smart and enjoying the sun and the warmth.  And that got us to talking...where exactly DO single people go to meet now?  I mean, we've been together forever, and haven't exactly had to worry about meeting other people.  But where DO single people go to meet now; assuming, of course, that they actually go somewhere to meet in person, and just don't do it online.  Do you still go to bars to meet people?  Do you still see who's cruising the produce aisles of a grocery store?  Or do you go outside, on a nice sunny day, and meet someone that way?

Inquiring (married) minds want to know!

So if you're a young man and it's nice outside next Sunday (which the extended forecast says it should be), take it from someone who has seen it first hand.  Don't spend the entire afternoon glued to a TV set or a computer screen.  Go to the beach instead.

You're welcome.


By the way, thanks for those of you who have already cast your vote for my computer desktop for the next year.  For those of you who haven't or those of you who are wondering what I'm talking about, scroll down to yesterday's entry and find out!


MONDAY, 9/21:

Once again, it’s time for you to decide.

As you may recall, every year when I get back from Europe I let you guys decide on which picture I took there gets to be my work computer desktop photo for the year.  So far, you’ve chosen trees, markets, village scenes, and last year, these flowers from France--

I always pick out a couple of semi-finalists from which you get to choose, and I base the choice on this criteria--that I like it enough to be able to stare at it every day for the next year.  After all, it would make no sense for me to, say, have to look at a picture of snow or something grungy for an entire year, which is the reason why you may notice all the pictures have a little sun or something cheery about them.  Oh, and there should be enough room for a dozen or so icons to appear without disrupting the flow of the picture.

Okay, with that out of the way, here are your choices for this year--

The Neckar River at dusk in Heidelberg--

The alpine majesty of Garmish-Partenkirchen--

The Alpine majesty of a late evening near Berchtesgaden--

The Alpine majesty of an early morning near Berchtesgaden--

And, lest you think that all of your choices have to do with “Alpine majesty”, the final contestant is a cow.  One very, very cool cow--

Take a look at the pictures, and by this Friday morning please let me know which you think should be on my computer desktop.  I’ll announce the winner then, and for the next year, that’ll be the picture that greets me every morning when I come into work.  You guys have shown great taste in the past; I look forward to seeing what you choose this year!


FRIDAY, 9/18:

You know what I'm gonna do this weekend?  I'm gonna not write.

Don't get me wrong.  I love writing.  It's the favorite part of my job, and when I talk to classes about what I do for a living, I always call myself a writer before anything else.  After all, I write stuff for me to use on air.  I write promos.  I write copy.  And I write these little things.  So above anything else, I consider myself a writer.

That being said, I'm looking forward to not having to write anything this weekend.  After all, I've been writing a blog every single day since before the end of August.  I've also had to write a turdload of other stuff for work since returning Monday.  So I hope the world understands if I take a day or two off, if for no other reason than to let my fingers recover from having to make so many keyboard strokes over the past three weeks.

After all, it wouldn't do any of us any good if I ended up with carpal tunnel, right?


I'm still hearing from people who are going through all the blogs I wrote while in Germany, and I do have to thank everyone for all the kind words.  When I started writing the daily reports from the road seven or eight trips ago I never thought it would end up like it has, but it has, and I'm a bit humbled by it all.  It seems like a lot of people enjoy virtually “traveling” with us.  And it's not just people we know or people from the U.P.  According to the statistics, I've wrangled up multiple pages views—sometimes in the triple digits—from The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, France, & Ireland. 

Oh, and let's not forget Poland, India, and Ukraine, as well.  Although how we picked up readers from Poland, India, and Ukraine, I have no idea.  But it's neat!

The statistics page on the site also shows which report has been the most popular of the trip, and it would be the one I called “Oops, I Ate It Again”, which was put up the third day we were over and dealt with, among other things, one of those massive meals that led me to believe I gained a few pounds on the road.  Right behind it is “Sundays With Ludwig”, which has lots of pictures of castles and the like.

So I'll have to remember that.  Food and castles, at least in travel blogs, really sell!

Like said, thanks for all the kind words and comments.  It really does mean the world to me to know that people appreciate what I've been doing.  And trust me—I'll keep doing it, no matter where we go.

Have yourself a great weekend.  And you know what?  If YOU feel like writing, go ahead and do it!



If you're one of the three people I yelled at at the top of my lungs yesterday, I'm sorry.  It wasn't personal.

Let me explain.  I did not, in fact, yell at anyone to their face.  I did not get mad, I did not fly off the handle, and I did not hurt anyone's feelings.  Yet I still feel a little bad at what I did.

My “Pop Culture” question yesterday had to do with what the letters “NBC” stand for.  I thought it was a fairly straight-forward question; after all, NBC was the country's first broadcast network, about to celebrate its 90th anniversary next year, so I figured everyone would know what those three letters stand for.

I was wrong.  Just not in the way I figured.

The first three answers I received mirrored each other.  Each of the callers had the first two letters correctly identified.  They knew that the “N” stands for “National”, and that the “B” stands for “Broadcasting”.  It's what happened after that that blew my mind.  The three callers said that the “C”in NBC stands for either “System” or “Service”.  And that's a good guess, expect for the fact that if either of those were the correct answer, the company's initials would be “NBS”, and not “NBC”.

And that's when I had my little meltdown.

Well, it wasn't really a meltdown.  It was mostly me yelling at the top of my lungs “Doesn't anyone know how to spell any more?” loud enough to travel through a supposedly soundproof window.  I know it was loud enough because our office manager, who sits on the other side of the supposedly soundproof window, turned to look at me to make sure I wasn't losing my mind.

Oops.  My bad.

Thankfully, when I asked the question again, someone did get the answer right (the “C” stands for “Company”, if you're curious), restoring my faith in humanity.  And maybe I can kind of understand the  confusion; after all, the “S” in CBS stands for “System”, not that anyone would know that.  So maybe all three callers just mixed their metaphors, in a way.  Maybe it was an innocent mistake on the part of all three callers.


So if you were one of those three callers, I'm sorry.  I didn't mean to yell at you, if even just to myself.

It's just one of those things...




Wish me luck.  I have a feeling I'll be tearing what's left of my hair out before it's done.

I am getting all the paperwork and receipts ready to submit to U.S. Airways, in order to get reimbursed for everything we had to buy following our lost luggage fiasco in Germany.  If you read my trip blog for that day, you may recall that while my parents, traveling with Loraine and me, got their luggage okay, we didn't.  We had to buy a bunch of stuff, things like toothpaste and clean shirts, with the promise that U.S. Airways would pay us back.

But sadly, based on every dealing we've had with them, from the moment we bought our tickets last year, I'm not very hopeful.  Maybe I'll be surprised.  Heck, I WANT to be surprised.  But I'm not counting on it.

We were told by a very nice lady in Frankfurt (and, to give U.S. Airways credit for something, they did have a very nice lady working at the lost luggage counter in Frankfurt) that she didn't know when our luggage would get in, and when it did eventually get in, they'd be shipping it to us at one of our hotels via DHL, and didn't know which day it would get to us.  So she advised us to get several days worth of clothing and toiletries, keeping the receipts for reimbursement.  We did that, wasting a big chunk of our first day in Europe.

Then the second day of our trip, we received a phone call from U.S. Airways telling us that our luggage was in, and we would probably see it in a day or two.  But because we didn't want to wait a “day or two” for our luggage (assuming, of course, it got to sent to whichever hotel at which we were staying, and not the hotel at which we'd stayed the night before), we tanked most of the second day of our trip to drive back to Frankfurt to get the luggage.  That way, we were assured of getting our stuff.  We only had to sacrifice the second day of our trip, including a trip to the Black Forest, to get it.

Thanks, U.S. Airways.

I feel very tempted to bill the airline for our lost day and a half; however, I have a feeling that they wouldn't look upon that very sympathetically.  I will, however, include among the receipts the parking fee we had to pay for our return trip to Frankfurt, plus the foreign conversion fees charged to my credit cards for having to buy the clothes & toiletries.  I mean, we wouldn't have had to pay those fees if it wasn't for the airline losing our luggage, so that's fair, right?

It's funny; we had to fly that leg of our trip on U.S. Airways because of their recent merger with American.  As long time American customers, we had even received a letter from the airline assuring us that there would be no disruptions or problems because of the merger, and that flights and connections on both airlines would be “seamless”.  As it turns out, that was just a load of corporate bullcrap.  If I never have to set foot on another U.S. Airways plane (and if they've merged with American, why is U.S. Airways even still an airline?), that'll be fine with me.

Keep your fingers crossed.  Like I said before, this should be an interesting exercise.


TUESDAY, 9/15:

I should probably lose three or four pounds in the next two weeks.  Anybody have any ideas out there?

I've written in here before about how I tend to gain anywhere from two to four pounds when I'm in Europe.  It goes with the territory; after all, while on vacation I don't have time to run or work out, and when you're in the land of some of the best food in the world, it wouldn't be polite not to sample it, right?  So think of it this way—by gaining those few pounds, I'm making sure than international relations don't come crawling to a haul.

No, that's okay.  You don't need to thank me.


I had hoped it would be different this time.  I had hoped I wouldn't gain a lot of weight, if only because I have my annual doctor's appointment in two weeks and I was hoping not to hear the phrase “I see you've gained a few pounds since last year” too much.  It's my fault for scheduling a doctor's appointment two weeks after getting back from Germany, but it was the only time I could do it.  So I went to Germany with the intent of not eating a lot of baked goods, of (slightly) scaling back my chocolate intake, and of making sure that I didn't over-stuff myself at those fabulous breakfasts hotels over there serve you each morning.

And part of it worked.  I didn't eat a lot for breakfast, I bought just as much chocolate as usual but brought it home to eat after my appointment, and I limited myself to one or two baked goods a day.  So everything worked out well there.  However, there was one factor that I had not counted on--

My mom.

First of all, let me say that my mom bears no blame in this at all.  The fault, if any, lies entirely with me.  You see, because our parents were traveling with us, we went out to a great deal more full-blown German restaurant dinners than we normally would.  Because those dinners are so huge, we only try to fit one or two into our usual schedule.  But since my mom & dad and Loraine's mom & dad were with us, we wanted them to have the full German experience.

Hence, all the restaurants dinners.

Like I said, those restaurant dinners are HUGE, and among the best you'll ever eat.  And my mom isn't a big woman, so while working her way through her dinner she would hit her limit, just like any sane person would.  Since she didn't want to waste the great food on her plate, and it would be a crime to waste all of that great food, she would invariably lean over and say “Jim, would you like the rest of my (fill in the blank of the German food of the night)”?  Me, NOT being a sane person, would then say “sure”, and I would down the rest of her schnitzel or apple strudel or whatever else she was eating.

And there, right out the restaurant window, went my best intentions.

Now, as I write this I've not yet stepped on the scale, so I have no idea how much (if any) weight I've gained in the past two weeks.  Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.  Maybe everything I cut back on made up for the extra dinners I ate.  I have no idea; all I know is that I'm a bit nervous about stepping on the scale, if only because I know how much I ate while over there, and how many extra miles and lifts I'll have to do in the next two weeks to make sure my doctor doesn't think I'm trying to join the land of the super-sized.

If need be, I'm sure I can get a handle on it.  Maybe, though, I won't have to.  I'm just keeping my fingers crossed.  So wish me luck!


Wednesday, 9/2:

Jim is off on his yearly trip. Keep track of him HERE!


I can’t believe this will be the tenth trip over there.

Our grand adventure begins tomorrow, the trip we’re taking to Germany with both sets of our parents, and for me this’ll mark a bit of a milestone.  It’ll be the tenth trip I’ve taken to Europe, which means that, among other things, now I’ll NEVER be able to afford to retire!

(Inside joke between me and my long-time travel partner, if you’re curious).

We leave tomorrow morning from Marquette, spend four hours in Chicago before flying to Philadelphia, and then spend four more hours in Philadelphia before heading to Frankfurt, which is a marked change from what we usually do (fly to Chicago, spend 8 hours playing around  downtown there, and then fly to Europe).  I don’t know if it’s because we’re flying into Frankfurt or if because American’s merger with US Airways means that they feel like routing more traffic out of Philadelphia, but that’s what we’re stuck with.

And then, of course, once we get into Frankfurt around 10am local time Thursday (which would be 4 am over here) we meet up with Tony the Tour Guide and Loraine’s parents, who are actually flying over today, and get the whole thing started.  We then spend nine days doing whatever we darn well feel like (or at least what Loraine tells us to do) before we head back from Munich on the 13th.

If you’ve been following these trips before, you may remember what joy it is coming home from Munich.  We have to get up at 4 in the morning local time (which is actually 10 pm in Marquette), fly to London, then to Chicago, and then finally home, where we should arrive a mere 23 hours after waking up in Germany.

You know, I may make fun of airline travel and let the snark flow freely on occasion, but when you consider that less than a century ago it took months to do what we’ll be doing in 23 hours, I guess you can’t complain!

At least, not too much.

This will be the last “regular” blog before the trip.  If you come back here tomorrow through the end of our journeys, you’ll have to click on a link that sends you to our trip blog.  It’s funny; on the trip blog site, I can tell where the people who read it come from everyday, and you’d be amazed by the amount of people who visit here first.

So thanks!

The first trip blog should be up Thursday night German time, which will be Thursday afternoon U.S. time.  I’ll post a link to it on my Facebook page, so if we’re friends, you’ll find out about it there, as well.  It should be a fantastic trip, and a chance to spend some quality time with the people responsible for me actually being here to write these things, my mom & dad.

So wish us luck.  Next stop—Deutschland!


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