It's nice to know I was wrong about something.
Actually, I'm wrong about a lot of things; you just need to
listen to me on the air for a day to realize that. But
before we left for Europe I was sure about one thing. If
you recall, it was about a month ago that I posted this
This was a tree on my way home from work, and the leafs on
it were already beginning to change in mid-August. Because
of that, I was sure, I was certain, I was positive that by
the time we got back from Europe ALL of the trees around
here would be changing color. But you know what? I was
And I'm okay with that.
I was expecting to get off the plane and see no green
anywhere. Instead, I was pleasantly—very
pleasantly—surprised. In fact, here's a picture of the same
tree, only taken yesterday--
To me, it seems like tree is actually greener than it was a
month ago, but that's because most of the leafs that had
changed color fell off. And it's not just that one tree;
here are several right across the street from that first
Almost every single tree, at least here in Marquette, still
looks like these trees, and in a way that's amazing. After
all, because of the bitterly cold spring some tree leafs
didn't come out this year until the beginning of June, and
with some of them starting to turn early because of our
bitterly cold summer, I kind of figured they'd be gone by
now. But no; trees growing around here must be as resilient
as the people living around here. During a “normal” year
we'd be seeing a lot of color by now. We expect the leafs
to change by mid-September. But not this year. Whether
it's because of the late start the trees got or because it's
been so cool they've stayed well-preserved, we're lucky this
year. Despite early warning signs, we get to stay green a
little longer than usual.
And I'm okay with that, even if it means I was wrong.
Because if I'm gonna be wrong about something, I don't mind
if it leads to an outcome like this.
With that in mind, have yourself a great weekend. Try to
stay warm, if that's indeed possible in this weather. I
hope to get a little rest this weekend, and to finally
(ahem) finish unpacking. After all, that suitcase can't sit
on the living room floor forever, can it?
I need a vacation.
Oh, stop laughing. I know I just returned from 11 days in
Europe, but as I've said many times we don't take
“vacations” when we go to Europe, we take working “trips”.
We have people we need to see, things we need to do, and
places we need to go, and unless it's a rare day—like the
day we went hiking in the German Alps last year—we don't get
a lot of “vacation” time in.
And that's why I need a vacation!
After all, I drove over 2,200 kilometers over the past two
weeks, and that 1,600 miles is more than I drive back home
all year. Not only that, but a lot of the driving was in
situations—like on busy city streets and high-traffic
freeways—that don't exactly lead themselves to calm. So
when you combine the stress of those situations with the
fatigue that goes two overseas flights in 11 days...
Well, maybe you can see where I'm coming from.
Normally I'd recover from a “trip” by spending a little time
just walking along the beach at McCarty's Cove, listening to
the waves and feeling whatever sun happens to be shining on
my skin. That usually works wonders for me, and could
almost be considered the best “stay-cation” I could think
of. But when you consider the fact that it'll be rainy
and/or cold for, well, the next eight months, I guess that
option has pretty much been thrown out the window.
Don't worry; I will survive with no problem whatsoever.
After all, my body clock has pretty much readjusted, I'm
back to eating and working out like normal, and now I can
deal with all the nagging little things that seem to pop up
in my every day life, plus the one big thing that's looming
two weeks and a day from today—the first taping of “High
School Bowl” with me as host.
And I'm kind of thinking I need to be at the top of my game
So yes, I probably do need a vacation, but I also realize
that I'm not gonna be able to take one for a bit. I'll just
have to make sure that I steal a moment a here and there,
and use those moments to help me charge whatever internal
batteries need charging. After all, I have a feeling that
the foreseeable future is gonna be quite the wild ride!
How much chocolate is too much chocolate?
I mean, I don't know if you can EVER have too much
chocolate, but after looking at this picture of all the
chocolate I bought in Europe--
I started to think that maybe someone needs to organize an
intervention on my behalf. But then I realized something.
A bunch of the chocolate was purchased as gifts for other
people. I'm only gonna eat, like, 2/3rds of it. And that's
pretty much an amount a normal person would do, right?
One of the great things about a chocolate stash like this is
that it lasts a long, long, time. It's not like I eat it
all at once, or even in a week or a month. Nope; I might
eat one of these bars over the course of an entire week.
Some of the bigger ones (and I seem to have purchased a lot
of bigger ones this year) might even last a couple of
weeks. So the chocolate you see in the picture will
probably last me through the winter.
And if our winter this year is anything like last year's,
I'll really need that chocolate!
In all honesty, I couldn't eat that much chocolate in a
short span of time anyway. Over the last two weeks I have
eaten a lot of chocolate; a bar a day instead of a bar a
week. And as I'm scaling back my consumption I notice my
body is going through “withdrawal”, albeit in a very small
way. You know how, when some people quite coffee cold
turkey, their body goes into caffeine withdrawal? Well,
chocolate has caffeine in it, and going from a bar a day to
a bar a week does have an effect on a body. Sure, it;s not
like quitting caffeine cold turkey, but I can tell my
consumption has been cut back drastically.
Not only that, but I have to get back on the horse this
Saturday. I have to step on the scale for the first time
since I've returned and see how much damage has been done. I
don't blame the chocolate for whatever number I'll see;
baked goods and breakfast buffets are the main culprits in
that area. But, as much as I try to deny it, chocolate is
not calorie free, even if you buy it in Europe. So if
there's anything I can do to minimize the amount of weight
I'll have to lose, I'll do it.
So sure, I may have purchased a lot of chocolate while I was
in Europe, but that's one of the reasons I go, so judge me
too harshly. Some people smoke, some people drink, some
people stick needles in their veins. Me? I have a thing
for fine European chocolate. I guess we all have our
demons. I'm just lucky mine is sweet and, in moderation,
good for you.
Geez...just what were you guys up to while I was gone?
Don't worry; I know it wasn't anyone who reads this. But I
have to admit I was a bit surprised when I walked to work
yesterday and saw this--
I mean, here I spend a week babbling about all the great
sandstone architecture I checked out in Europe, and at the
same time someone lacking any kind of basic driving skills
puts a big dent in one of OUR impressive pieces of sandstone
architecture, the Savings Bank Building in downtown
I don't know the whole story behind the accident; from what
I read in a press release someone who was, shall we say, not
in peak driving condition ran through a light and ran into
the building. I have to admit I'm kind of surprised that
hasn't happened more over the years, considering the way
that some people drive around here, but let's hope that it
doesn't happen again, okay?
Speaking of alcohol-related behavior, I have to pass along
something I saw at O'Hare while getting ready to fly home
Sunday. We were getting ready to board the plane to
Marquette when the line in front of us stopped for a second
while the gate agent had to admonish a young man trying to
board. Why was he being admonished? Well, it because he
had just been at one of the airport bars and was trying to
bring a half-full glass of beer on the plane with him, which
is a no-no.
And to be honest, the holdup wasn't necessarily because he
was being admonished. No, the hold-up was because he
standing there finishing the rest of his beer before
boarding the plane. That was something I've never observed
while waiting to fly home, but he was flying to the U.P. I
guess there needs to be no explanation other than that.
Not to be an attention whore or anything, but if you haven't
checked out our trip blogs, including the one I wrote while
waiting to board the Beer Flight Sunday, make sure
you click here!
Jim's Blog Page
Jim's Facebook Page
And tomorrow we leave for Europe.
As far as I can figure out everything is taken care of and
everything is ready to go. Loraine’s gone through her
checklist twice, and everything that’s on the list—a list
honed over a decade of these travels—is either packed &
ready to go, or it sitting on top of a suitcase, waiting to
get used one more time before it itself is then packed and
ready to go. Our passports are out, our Euros are counted,
and there’s just one thing left to do—
I’ve been keeping an eye on the weather over there, if only
because much of where we’ll be traveling has had a summer
like we’ve had—a pretty much non-existent one. And while it
does look to be a little cool (and perhaps a little wet) the
first few days we’re there, that’s not too much of a
surprise. We’ll be in Belgium then, and I think that with
the exception of one day every day we’ve ever spent in
Belgium has been a little cool & wet. In fact, a friend of
ours who lives there once claimed it rains 367 days a year
in Belgium, and although he may be exaggerating a bit
chronologically, he did so because, well, it’s probably
However, it looks like as we get into France next week
things start to turn a little more temperate, with the
long-range forecast calling for sun and temps in the 70s.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed, although I’m well aware that
long-range forecasts are notoriously unreliable—that’s why
they’re called “forecasts”, and not “this is what the
weather will be like with 100% certainty”. Still, after the
(lack of) summer we’ve had here, ANY sun and warm(er)
temperatures will be welcome.
(And just the thought that we’ll be getting back into
Marquette on September 7th, probably just in time to see the
leaves start to change and fall weather take hold, leaves me
with a pang of regret that summer (or what there was of it)
is now gone. But that’s a story for another day).
Now to the important stuff—you keeping track of what we’re
doing! There will not be anything posted tomorrow; part of
the day will be spent on airplanes, while the other will be
spent traipsing through downtown Chicago. We’ll get to
Luxembourg (via London) around noon local time on Thursday,
and then take off from there. So, unless things go horribly
awry, the first blog should be up mid-Thursday afternoon
Marquette time, either through a link that’ll be posted on
this page or through
our Blogspot site. If
we’re Facebook friends, I may also be posting a few things
as we’re waiting in Chicago and London. If we’re not
friends yet (and I hope it wasn’t something I said),
click here and make it so.
Well, that’s it. There doesn’t seem much left to do except
get through this day, grab a few hours sleep, and then stay
awake for 36 hours until we finally make it to Bastogne. It
should be quite the adventure, so wish us luck, and make
sure you keep checking in!
T-minus two days until we leave, and I can now finally
reveal my “secret”.
Over the past couple of months, I've mentioned that I'm
taking on an additional gig starting this fall, a gig that
will create a “TV Jim” to go along with the “Radio Jim” and
the “History Jim” we all know and occasionally love.
However, because the contracts hadn't been signed and the
details hadn't been totally formalized, I was asked not to
make it public. Well, now that the contracts HAVE been
signed and the details HAVE been formalized, I can now say
what my secret is.
I am the new host of “High
School Bowl” on Public TV-13.
Most of you may already know this; for a secret, I've been
approached by a LOT of people congratulating me on the gig.
I, however, had been asked to keep it hushed for a bit, and
I did. I think the people at Public TV were thinking of
putting together some kind of teaser campaign announcing who
their new host would be, but that didn't pan out. So it
looks like I get to tell you instead!
The gig came about because of both “Radio Jim” and “History
Jim”. As “History Jim” I've spent the last four or five
years doing little program segments at Public TV. And as
“Radio Jim” I'm always spouting off all kinds of trivial
facts that no one else would seem to know (or, for that
matter, care about). You put the two together, and there
you have it--”TV Jim”.
We start taping the season at the end of September, and the
first shows air in either late October or early November.
And while I'm looking forward to it and I'm sure it'll be a
blast, I also have to confess my relief when I found out we
could tape a dummy show or two before actual production
begins. After all, while I don't think I'll have any
problem whatsoever hosting the show, I do wanna rehearse a
little. I don't want my first show as host to be an actual
show, then have me do something stupid that causes a team to
lose out on something.
I have no problem making a fool out of myself, but if I do
that at someone else's expense...well, not so col.
Besides, the dummy shows will allow me to look at myself and
decide upon the great question we've all been pondering this
past month—whether or not I should cover up the gray in my
hair. This is kind of funny; after I wrote the blog about
it a month or so ago, every single person but one has
advised me to leave my hair like it is and not to be vain
about my age. The one person who wants me to color it?
My mom. And she probably just doesn't want to have anyone
know she's old enough to have a son with gray hair.
So that's the “secret” I've been carrying around for five
months now. All I can say is that it should be a blast!
T-minus five days until we leave for Luxembourg, and
tomorrow's the big weigh-in.
It's actually not a “big” weigh-in; I check my weight every
Saturday morning to see if I've gone up or down a few ounces
(or quite a few ounces) the previous week. The reason it's
a “big” weigh-in is because it's the last time I'll weigh
myself before we leave, so whatever I weigh tomorrow
provides the baseline to see how much weight I gain while
we're in Europe.
And if past experience means anything, I'll gain three
I'm not quite sure how I can gain three pounds in ten days.
I don't know if it's what we eat or the lack of strenuous
exercise (or both), but on each of, I think, our last five
trips I've come back three pounds heavier. It doesn't
matter if we do nothing but eat a lot of fresh baked goods
(like in Normandy in 2012) or if we do a lot of hiking &
climbing (like we did last year in Germany) but every time I
come back from Europe I come back three pounds heavier.
It's like a souvenir I don't have to pack!
Long-time readers of this know that two of those three
pounds aren't a problem. I always seem to lose the first
pound in the first few days, probably because I'm not eating
seventeen different kinds of fresh baked goods every day.
The second pound always seems to come off a week or two
later, probably because I'm back to my old exercise
routine. It's the third pound that's always a problem,
because for several of the years I've brought three extra
pounds back from Europe I've had a bear of a time getting
rid of that final pound.
It doesn't matter what I eat or how hard I exercise, that
third pound just hangs around. Several years, it's taken
until just before Christmas to lose it, which means that I'm
back at my average weight for a whole week or two until I
gain that extra pound back by eating too many Christmas
cookies and too much fudge. That's why I wish I could lose
that third pound earlier, if only to have more than a week
when I'm back at my fighting weight.
But what are you gonna do, right?
So I'll step on the scale tomorrow and I'll weigh either 156
or 157. I'll take a good long look at that number, because
if past experience holds, I may not see it again until my
birthday. You know...my birthday three weeks to the day
On that note, have yourself a great weekend. Hope your
scale's kind to you if you step on it!
T-minus six days and counting!
I'm not gonna write about our upcoming excursion today; I'm
guessing that you're getting kinda bored about that, and
bored rather quickly. Instead, I'll just offer this public
Look for your favorite dork in this Sunday's edition of the
I don't know how this happens; one day, I talk about old
sandstone structures, and pretty soon people think I'm an
expert on old buildings. Or at least enough of an expert on
old buildings to stick in a newspaper article. Yet that's
what's happening. There'll be a front page story in
Sunday's paper about old buildings in the U.P. and some of
the historical efforts to save them, and one of the
“experts” involved in the discussion will be me.
Yeah, I know. I'm laughing right now, too.
It's amazing how things like this work, but apparently it's
how they DO work. Ever since both incarnations of the “Lost
Buildings” show Jack Deo & I did for the History Center last
year I've had people use me as a resource on Marquette
buildings that are both old and new, still standing and long
destroyed. I apparently learned enough about old buildings,
and seem passionate enough about them, for me to be
considered (to paraphrase the movie “You've Got Mail”)
“Marquette's greatest living expert on old destroyed
Well, I guess everyone needs a niche, right?
I don't personally notice it, but every time I talk about
old sandstone buildings I get people telling me how
passionate and animated I get. And if I start talking about
“The Great Sandstone Purge” of the 60s and the 70s around
here; well, let's just say it's best you starting running
for the hills. I gave a downtown tour to several coworkers
of Loraine's a few weeks ago, and when I got to what used to
be where their current building now sits (a gorgeous old
sandstone structure)...I guess I can see how I might've
gotten a little passionate and carried away.
But it's sandstone? Why WOULDN'T I get a little passionate
and carried away?
So anyway, if you're glancing at Sunday's edition of the
Mining Journal and notice an article about old buildings,
don't be surprised if you see me quoted in there. And don't
be surprised if the quotes that get used involve, in some
way, sandstone. Apparently I can't help myself.
T minus one week and counting, and today we have a lesson in
how to re-purpose material!
As you're well aware, every time we head over to Europe I
write daily blogs about our adventures, complete with
pictures, that allow everyone who cares to see what's going
on. Before every trip I also write something explaining what
we plan on doing and what we hope to accomplish, and
stick it on the site.
Well, I've written this year's, and before I stick it up I'm
gonna post it here! I mean, I've already written it, so why
not use it; after all, it's that what re-purposing is all
about? Or, at the very least, laziness?
Anyway, you get to read it first. It's goes up on the trip
site later today. So enjoy!
This was the trip to Europe where we were going to Normandy
to get remarried. Unfortunately, several thousand horses
got in the way.
Welcome to another “Jim & Loraine European Adventure”, a
journey that marks several milestones for us. For me (Jim)
it’s the tenth anniversary of my first trip to Europe, while
for Loraine, it’s her tenth journey to one of our favorite
places in the world. And seeing as how this year also marks
our 25th wedding anniversary, Loraine had come up with a
cool idea—that we’d go to visit all of our friends in
Normandy and renew our vows. We even had the mayor of St.
Georges-de-Bohon looking into all the legalities of it.
And that’s when the horses got in the way.
Those of you who’ve followed along on these journeys know
that we have a limited window of time in which we can travel
every year, and that window usually falls around the Labor
Day weekend in the U.S. So as we were setting out to plan
our “Euroversary” trip we ran smack dab into something going
on at the exact same time in Normandy, the World Equestrian
Championships, a three-week long gathering of thousands of
horses (and their riders, and support staff).
Every single hotel we tried to book was either full or
charging several hundred Euros a night. Even the fine staff
at our usual home-away-from-home, the Bayeux Novotel,
couldn’t make it work.
So with those plans (and Loraine’s great idea of getting
re-married) thrown out the equestrian window, we (or should
I say mostly she) put together the excursion on which we are
about to embark. It’s chock full of WWII research projects,
rendezvous with old friends (along with the meeting of
several new ones) and a chance to buy chocolate in not one,
not two, but FOUR different countries.
And I’m thinking that ALMOST makes up for the fact that the
horses got in the way of our original plans!
Our journey starts in Luxembourg (where we’re arriving this
time around) and consists of several days in Bastogne,
Belgium, several in the wonderful town of Colmar, France (Click
HERE ) to read what I wrote the one day we were
there in 2011), and then a few nights here and there as we
slowly make our way toward Paris, from where we’ll heading
back to the States. Throw in a day trip to the Black Forest
of Germany, and there you have it—four countries (and four
different places to buy chocolate) in eleven days.
Sounds like a typical Jim & Loraine trip, right?
In Belgium, we’ll be focusing on several of Loraine’s
research subjects, including Elden Gjers, who’s the
“co-author” of her soon-to-be-released book “Elden’s True
Army Tales”. We’ll also meet up with Carl Wouters to see
what happened to Carl Swanson of Ishpeming during the Battle
of the Bulge. And we’ll be spending one of our days around
Colmar with our friends Olivier and Marie Rose Pernot; if
you read the Mining Journal about a year ago, you know that
Loraine and Olivier helped the Ritola family of Republic
find out where their brother and uncle George was killed in
That’s the war related stuff. We’re also planning on
visiting parks and recreation areas, strolling through the
beautiful streets of places like Colmar and Nancy and Troyes,
and (hopefully) will get to visit to the factory where they
make Jacques and Callebaut chocolates, among the best in the
world (yum). And just so the folks at home don’t think
we’re forgetting them, we’re also planning on checking out
Pont-a-Mousson, where a young French missionary named
Jacques Marquette was educated four and a half centuries
ago, and where a school (complete with statue) named after
him still exists.
Those are just the highlights. If this is like every other
one of journeys to Europe I’m sure many wonderful,
whimsical, and occasionally downright strange things will
also be happening. This will be your front-row seat for
each and every one of them. And who knows—maybe one or two
will even involve horses.
So get ready!
T minus eight days and counting!
Believe it or not, one of the weird decisions that you have
to make before heading to Europe (or at least one of the
weird decisions you have to make before heading to Europe if
you're me) is trying to figure out which camera to bring.
Yes, I realize it's a severely first world problem, but it's
always a problem nonetheless.
Here's the deal—I have two really nice cameras. One's an
Olympus digital camera with a 20x zoom on it, while the
other's a Nikon DSLR with extra lenses. The Olympus is a
smaller camera, which means that I can lug it around with
less effort than the Nikon. The Nikon, however, takes
amazing pictures, especially when I have the longest lens
attached to it. I mean, it's not like the Olympus takes bad
pictures; after all, here's just one of the amazing shots I
was able to get in Germany last year--
But I can do amazing things with focus and framing with the
Nikon that the Olympus just wasn't designed for--
So you can see why I have to make a choice. The good thing
is that I really can't go wrong either way. The bad thing
is that I actually have to make a choice.
And this year's choice is the smaller Olympus. Sure, I
might be sacrificing a little in the way of picture quality
and shooting versatility, but this is one of those trips
where I'll be doing the driving. That means I'll be hopping
in and out of cars to take pictures, and I'll be tossing
camera bags into the back seat once I've taken the picture.
I really don't want to do that with my big Nikon; heck I
really CAN'T do that with my big Nikon. But the Olympus is
small enough, and the bag in which I carry it padded enough,
that it makes perfect sense for a trip like this.
So the Olympus it is.
The Nikon, though, will get a workout next year when we head
back to Germany (with both sets of our parents) for trip
that's nothing but sight-seeing for 10 days. I won't have
to drive (Tony
the Tour Guide will be taking care of that) so I
can just sit back and do whatever I want with whichever
camera I want.
That, of course, is unlike this year, when it'll be jump
out, shoot and jump back in. Or jump out, shoot and toss
into the back seat, depending up the situation.
By the way, I don't know if you've read
THIS yet, but it's the
interesting tale of two Canadians stuck in Marquette over a
weekend. Check it out if you have the chance!
T minus nine days and counting!
I've had several people ask if I'm on track to get
everything done before we leave, and I'm happy to report
that I THINK I am, unless I'm forgetting something. Having
to fill in for our appendix-free office manager at work
hasn't helped, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I think
everything in radio-land should be finished by next Tuesday
evening, while I'm almost positive that everything at home
will be finished by the time that day ends.
So keep your fingers crossed!
In between everything else that's been going on, I've been
trying to brush up on my French, and it's with heavy heart
that I must report it's not going too well. I mean, I seem
to be retaining everything I retained before (at least in a
fashion), but I had hoped to learn a few new works and
phrases, and that's been the problem. I suppose trying to
sit down after a long day at work or trying to squeeze in a
few minutes before bed isn't the best way to brush up on a
foreign language, but that's all I've been left with
recently. Hopefully, all that French is actually sticking
somewhere in my brain, even if I don't realize it, and if I
need that word or phrase, it'll just pop out of my mouth.
It's happened before; hopefully, it could happen again.
So once again, keep your fingers crossed!
Finally, those of you who've read this over the years know
that one of my pet peeves about traveling is people who
shove their seat backs into my knees without even looking
back to see if my knees have room. Well, Conde Naste
Traveler magazine had an article
about how not to be an annoying flight passenger, and guess
what number four was!!!
<<Look behind you before reclining. We know you have the
right to recline, but sometimes, especially in smaller
planes, we’ve wanted to knife the person sitting in front of
us. If you're on the tall side—say, 6'2"—you may have had
situations where one minute you're working on your laptop,
and the next the laptop is under your chin; you couldn’t
type a word comfortably even if you had Tyrannosaurus arms.
Take a peek behind you and just make sure you’re not making
someone more uncomfortable than the comfort those few extra
inches will provide. That’s not too much to ask, right? By
the way, if someone does it to you, all bets are off. We
would feel no hesitation or guilt pushing on the seat to
access the bag at our feet. We hate to say fight fire with
fire, but sometimes it’s the only way.
Thank you, Conde Naste. I couldn't have said it better
myself, except to say that you don't have to be 6'2” to be
bothered by seat back reclining. Trust me when I say it's
bad when you're 5'10 1/2”, too!
You know, I really don't like doing this, but because I'm
(literally) the only person who'll be running two radio
stations later today, I have to get a bunch of stuff done
quite quickly (stuff I was hoping to do on another scheduled
half day today). So if you don't mind, I'm gonna leave you
with something I wrote four years ago. And you may be happy
to know that Loraine & I went back to Kohl's this past
weekend, and things really haven't changed much since then!
Have a great weekend; hopefully, one day soon, I'll be able
to join you in a few minutes of rest!
( as originally posted August 17th, 2010)
I don’t think I’ve ever seen two men more uncomfortable in
my whole life.
Saturday after Ore to Shore I went with Loraine out to
Kohl’s for one of our occasional epic shopping trips. She
needed jeans and tops for our upcoming trip to France, and
since I actually happen to like shopping for clothes
(especially women’s clothes, because I get to stand there
and be jealous of the colors, many of which I would look
great in but none of which ever seem to pop up in men’s
clothing) I was more than happy to tag along and play pack
And that’s how I noticed the two uncomfortable men.
Loraine found eight pair of jeans she wanted to try on. She
was also lucky enough to have found several tank tops and
t-shirts which she knew would fit, which means that while
she was trying the eight pair of jeans on, I stood outside
the dressing room holding the tank tops and t-shirts. I’m
fine with that; in fact, I was trying to see if I could fine
another top or two that would go with the tanks.
But not so with the two other guys, guys whose female
companions were also in the dressing room trying on clothes.
I first noticed them because they were, well, squirming a
lot. You could tell they didn’t want to be there in the
worst way. I’m guessing they probably would rather have
been getting a root canal from an unlicensed dentist than
standing outside a dressing room in the women’s department,
holding clothes their significant others were looking to
buy. As I watched them a little, I noticed their uncomfort
(if that’s a word) was so extreme that when they
accidentally made eye contact with each other, it wasn’t the
eye contact of brothers-in-arms. No, it was the eye contact
of shame, as one of them pretended he needed to check his
phone while the other turned and stared at the picture of
Lauren Conrad above some clothes she designed.
There guys were REALLY uncomfortable being where they were.
The “agony” of one of the guys was prolonged when his
shopping partner came out of the dressing room quite often
to ask his opinion on what she was wearing. Three times—and
I’m not making this up—he just mumbled “it’s fine”, and was
met by an exasperated glare on the part of the woman asking
I’m guessing they had a serious discussion about his
attitude when the shopping trip was done.
Uncomfortable Guy #2 just had to wait while holding a dress,
and I noticed that he did his best to try and minimize the
dress in several ways. He folded it over several times,
trying to hide it under his arm, and then stuck it up on a
rack so he wouldn’t have to actually physically hold it. It
was a good plan, until a store associate came by, noticed
the dress wasn’t where it was supposed to be, and tried to
put it back in the correct rack. That’s when Uncomfortable
Guy #2 finally had to ‘fess up and once again stand in the
women’s clothing section holding the dress.
There were both finally put out of their misery when their
significant others came out of the dressing rooms, freeing
them from the horror of being in a place where they didn’t
want to be, didn’t know how to act, and just plain didn’t
get. I just had to chuckle to myself; after all, would the
women they were with act so strangely if the guys spend some
time in a hardware store looking at hammers?
I don’t think so.
Men. Sometimes, they just make me laugh.
I have to go to work today.
Now, there's nothing really apocalyptic in that; after all,
I have to go to work most days. I was, however, planning on
taking the day off to take care of a bunch of pre-trip
chores. Unfortunately, our office manager is now minus one
appendix as of last night, which means that the day off
today will have to become a day off some time next week.
It's just been that kind of year, I guess.
And then, walking to work this morning, I did see something
that really may BE apocalyptic--
It's only mid-August, and the leaves of this tree—located
right behind my favorite lilac tree in all the world—are
turning red. The leaves didn't actually come out until late
May this year and now, less than three months later, they're
turning red and dying.
It's just been that kind of year, I guess.
I'm not a big believer in fate. I don't think that the
world is conspiring against me in some unseen way. I know
that matters both big & small ebb and flow; some days are
good, some days are bad. Some months are good, some months
are bad. I know that. Yet with everything weird that has
gone on so far in 2014, matters both big & small, a part of
me—admittedly, a very small part—is standing on the
precipice yelling “What the heck's going on?”
It's just been that kind of year, I guess.
So instead of focusing on everything weird that's happened
this year, I prefer to look ahead to signs that the natural
flow of things are trending more positive than negative.
After all, I'm going to Europe in 13 days. I'm wearing a
wedding ring again. Reggie Wayne is back playing with the
Colts. And an El Nino is forecast for this fall, which
means we should have a warmer (and dryer) than average
winter, which means that next summer might be an actual
Then, I won't have to use the phrase “It's just been that
kind of year, I guess”, any more. Keep your fingers
crossed. And try not to look at any tree leaves the next
It all starts two weeks from today.
Two weeks from today Loraine and I begin our latest journey
to Europe, and it's a journey that has a couple pieces of
significance to it—it's the tenth anniversary of my first
trip over there, while it's Loraine's tenth time making the
If you had told me the first time I went over that I'd be
going back, or that my dear wife would be making ten trips
(and counting) I would've thought that you'd eaten too much
of the blood sausage that's so popular across the Continent
(especially in Germany). But you know what? You've NOT
eaten too much of that sausage.
We're really going back again.
I've has several people ask me recently if I'm starting to
get excited about leaving, and almost to a person they're
disappointed when I say that it really hasn't registered
yet. And, in all honesty, it hasn't. I think I've been so
busy trying to get ready to go that the fact that I AM going
hasn't sunk in yet. It's been like this the past few years,
and I think it's just because we've gotten into this
routine. We know what we have to do and when we have to do
it, and that's how it rolls. I mean, I hope that's it.
Because I really dislike thinking that I've become blasé
about traveling to Europe.
This trip is more of a research trip than it is a
“vacation”, and it's gonna present a few things I've not
done yet, including driving in Belgium & Luxembourg. I'm
not too worried about it, although Belgium has this infamous
“priorite a droite” rule, which basically means that unless
a road sign tells you otherwise people coming from the right
have the right-of way. You could be driving on a modern
highway and if someone comes barreling up an intersecting
right-hand dirt road on a moped you have to stop for them.
That could be fun, although if it's like everything else
over there, I'll get used to it rather quickly.
At least I hope I will.
Overall, though, the whole trip should be a blast, between
seeing new places, getting together with a bunch of old
friends, and buying chocolate and cereal in four different
countries. I'm sure we'll come back with lots of new
stories, some great pictures, and suitcases bulging to the
limit with goodies. As always, you'll be able to follow
along; assuming, of course, I get our
Blogspot site up to date.
I guess that's next on the “to-do” list!
T minus fourteen days and counting. Get ready to go!!
What do you get when you combine my dear wife, a great new
cheese, a mind-blowing book, and Juice Newton?
You get a typical day in the Koski Komplex!
First of all, Loraine's finished the hardest part of her new
book—writing it! Sure, she needs to edit “Elden's True Army
Tales”, then get all the pictures together and the layout
set, but she's finished the writing part of it. Over the
past five or six weeks, she's been working very hard on a
final chapter, a chapter she hopes explains the reason
behind what she's doing. I KNOW how much effort she's put
into this, if only because sometimes I have trouble coming
up with one page of these things a day. Imagine what it's
like trying to put together an 80-page chapter in only 40 or
So way to go Loraine!!
We celebrated the milestone in a couple of different ways—by
Donckers to load up on
chocolates (yum) and by going to the
Marquette Food Co-op
to load up on cheese, and there's one cheese we tried that I
really have to recommend, their Lavender Jack Cheese. It's
a semi-creamy goat cheese with flecks of Lavender in it.
Yeah, I know. I had the same thought as you're probably
having right now. But you know what?
It works, and it works deliciously. If you have the chance,
definitely check it out!
Now, how does Juice Newton play into all of this? Well,
while we were enjoying the cheese, Loraine was also thumbing
through one of our Billboard music chart books and came
across the name Juice Newton. Since we had no idea if she
was even still alive (spoiler alert—she is, and is still
touring) we had to dig a little deeper, and that's when the
song “Queen of Hearts” got stuck in my head, and would not
Trust me—I've had MANY stupid songs stuck in my head over
the decades, songs that take up residence in my brain and
won't let go. But having Juice Newton's “Queen of Hearts”
stuck on auto-repeat in my sub-conscious?
No human being should have to go through that. Unless, of
course, you're Juice Newton (available to play your private
corporate gig, according to
her website !)
Finally, the book that blew my mind? It's called “Deep
Future: The Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth”, written by
paleo-climitologist Curt Stager. It's a fascinating read
about how climate change is re-shaping life and land on the
planet, and it had a concept that blew my (Juice
Newton-infected) mind. Stager says we should stop burning
fossil fuels by the year 2100 for two reasons, the first
being that if we keep burning them at the rate we're burning
them, we'll irreparably change the climate for the next
50,000 years. The other reason we should stop burning
fossil fuels by 2100?
To save some for future humans to start climate change all
According to Stager, 50,000 years from now, the planet's
climate will shake off the damage we've done to it and get
back to “normal”. Unfortunately, “normal” means things like
an occasional ice age or two. And in 60 or 70 or 100,000
years, what can humans (or our robot overlords, or whatever
replaces us) do to stave off the ice age? Take whatever
fossil fuels we've left them, start burning them like we've
been doing the past 200 years, and make the climate warm
enough to keep the ice at the poles.
Weird, right? But it makes sense, if only in a very
counter-intuitive way. Do what we're doing now, but do it
for good, instead of evil. I'm surprised no one's came up
with that idea before, if only for a big-budget Hollywood
But wow. Between that concept, lavender goat cheese, and
Juice Newton, it's amazing I'm even able to write today.
I think one of the ways in which I run has people a little
confused, but that's okay.
It took me a while to get used to it myself.
As you all know, I run three or four times a week, and each
time I go out I do something differently. One day, I may go
out and run up & down the hills of downtown Marquette.
Another time, usually on a Saturday morning, I'll go out and
run until I can't run any more. And then another day every
week, usually on Monday, I do something I've only been doing
for a year or so—intervals.
It may actually be the hardest run I have all week.
For someone who's run for 25 years now, intervals are a
little counter-intuitive, but they work. Here's the
deal—you either start out with a walk or a slow run. You
then run as fast and as hard as you can for 60 seconds. You
walk or slowly run for another 60 seconds, and repeat until
you drop dead. By doing that you really crank up your
metabolism, you build muscle (which is probably why I've
gained those two pounds of muscle recently), and you get
weird looks from people while doing it.
I do my intervals on various bike paths around Marquette,
just because I want to worry about stopping 40 or 45 seconds
into the interval for traffic. However, because I do my
intervals on various bike paths around Marquette, I find
myself running past other people who are walking, running,
or biking. And whenever they see me running as hard as I
can and then stopping, they get this “what the ___?” look on
their face. And that look is even worse when I pass them
while running, have them pass me while I'm walking, and then
I pass them again while I'm, uh, interval-ing.
And that's why I think one of the ways in which I run gets
people a little confused.
If I could, I'd stop and explain what I'm doing, if only
because enough people think I'm weird as it is. But because
you're supposed to do intervals one minute on and one minute
off, and because I really don't wanna end up in the Mining
Journal's Police Log (at least not for running), I just let
it go. Maybe by writing this someone will realize that I'm
NOT weird; I'm just trying to kill myself by running.
Okay; maybe that means I AM weird. But if you ever see me
run as fast as I can and then stop, and then do it all over
again, now you know why!
Because I'll be busy tomorrow at Ore-To-Shore I'm taking a
half day today, which means that I'll be at the beach in a
bit, which reminds me about a picture I took with my phone
while at McCarty's Cove yesterday--
I have no idea why someone built this little diorama-type
thingee of a tropical beach hut, but I found it quite
charming. I'm also thinking that if they built a few more
huts, added some palm trees, a wrecked ship, and a telephone
system made out of coconuts, they could make a miniature
version of “Gilligan's Island”.
But that's just me.
Okay; sorry to cut this short, but like I said the beach
awaits. If you have the chance tomorrow, check out one of
the mass starts of the Ore-To-Shore. I'll be announcing the
start of the Soft Rock race at Lakeview School in Negaunee,
and I HIGHLY recommend it. After all, when do you get to
see almost 1,000 bike riders in a mass race start. There
are so many riders, in fact, that it takes about five
minutes for all of them to ride past. It's an amazing
moment, and one that I think everyone in Marquette County
should experience at least once in their life.
So check it out if you have the chance. Otherwise, have
yourself a great weekend. I'm off to the beach!
Look what I get to wear again!
First of all, don't spend too much time gazing at the
freakishly small hands with its very girly-like fingers.
Instead, glance at just one of the girly-like fingers, the
ring finger, and you'll notice that after one year, two
months, two weeks, and five days, I get to wear a wedding
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how Loraine and I
figured out that my fingers had sufficiently healed from my
bike accident to get a new ring, and a couple of weeks after
ordering it it came in yesterday. The reason it took so
long? As I mentioned, I don't have very manly fingers, and
the great people at
Wattsson & Wattsson had to special order
it in the smallest size possible. So if it looks a bit
strange, it's not the fault of the ring. The ring is
great. The ring is, to my eyes, perfect.
It's the fault of my ring finger.
In the weeks since Loraine bought me the ring I had
mentioned it to a couple of (married) women I know, both of
whom lamented the fact that their husbands don't often seem
very keen (for whatever reason) on wearing their rings. A
couple of years ago, I probably wouldn't have thought much
about that; however, in the one year, two months, two weeks,
and five days that I didn't get to wear a ring I found out
something I never would've thought.
I actually missed wearing a wedding ring.
Oh, it wasn't anything that kept me up at nights, nor was it
anything I devoted more than a few fleeting seconds of
thought to. But there are times when I did miss it, and
that really came to the fore when Loraine was checking in
the hospital for her little gall bladder adventure and gave
me her wedding ring to take care of. Because I have such
girly fingers and didn't have anywhere else to put it, I
just stuck it on my finger.
And that's when it hit me. I missed wearing my wedding
Now, I have my new ring, and since Loraine knew what she
wanted to buy me (specifically, something I couldn't bend,
break, or otherwise abuse) I'm hoping it'll last me a long,
long time. After all, I kinda missed wearing it, and in the
words of a wise old sage (or, at least, the members of
Motley Crue), “you don't know what you got 'til it's gone”.
I wonder if I'm starting to run out of ideas.
No, seriously, I think I may be running out of ideas. Three
times in the past two weeks I’ve sat down to write one of
these things, and as I was in the midst of doing it, I
started to get this creeping sensation in the back of my
head that I’d written about this very same topic before.
When a quick search of past blogs turned up key words
showing that I had written about the same topic before,
sometimes just a few months ago; well, that’s when I started
to think that I’ve started to run out of ideas.
And I’m thinking THAT’S not a good thing.
I’ve written over 2,600 of these things now. And in the
course of writing over 2,600 little essays, you’re bound to
cover one or two topics twice. After all, when you’re
writing about your life, people you know, and things you
see, the same topics and themes will pop up over and over
again. But to have it happen three times in two weeks, and
not even be aware of it until this nagging little thought in
the back of your head tells you to check on it...well,
that’s cause for concern.
Or, at the very least, a long hard stare of curiosity.
I try not to write about the same things over and over
again; after all, I don’t want you (or my typing fingers) to
get bored. I’m always on the lookout for something new
about which to write, and I’m fortunate in that respect
because I seem to have this bizarre talent for noticing
strange things that most people just pass by. And I’m also
fortunate in that respect because I live and work in a place
that presents many opportunities for noticing strange
things. Yet, apparently, I’ve either noticed everything
there is to be noticed or I’ve stopped noticing really
strange things, because when you find yourself repeating
yourself as often as I have recently...
In one way, I’m glad I’ve noticed this problem, because I’m
now aware of it, and I can take whatever steps are necessary
to minimize the situation. I’ll just have to take a little
more care, and with any luck, we can get through another
2,600+ blogs with a minimum of repetition.
Of course, now that I’ve said that, I also have to say
this--tomorrow, I write about something I’ve written about
before. But with a new twist. So stay tuned!!
I failed in my task, and it's all because Marquette is too
Since I'm leaving for Europe in just over three weeks, and
because I really haven't been taking many pictures during
(what passes for) the summer this year, this past weekend I
figured I'd grab a camera and go shoot stuff. And for some
bizarre reason, I had a theme in mind. I wanted to shoot
“Post Industrial Urban Grunge”; you know, old stuff that's
left over from what a neighborhood or a city was like 50 or
70 or 90 years ago. I figured it wouldn't be too hard to
find, especially around downtown Marquette, because I know
what used to be where. I know the history and the layout of
downtown Marquette like the back of my hand. But you know
I really couldn't find much anywhere.
And it wasn't for lack of trying. Like I said, I know where
the bodies were buried (literally) but over the past 10 or
so years so much of downtown Marquette has been, well,
gentrified that there aren't many examples of Post-Urban
Industrial Grunge left any more.
Marquette's just too pretty there days!
I mean, I DID come away with a few examples of what I was
looking for, but I had to do things like climb fire escapes,
crawl around in the dirt, and get REALLY friendly with a
couple of dumpsters. So what did I come up with?
I actually had to head west from downtown to find what I was
looking for. The first was one of my favorite
Post-Industrial places in Marquette, the 1948 train station
and the 800-foot long slab of cement that was once the
passenger platform for boarding and unboarding; that's what
you see below--
However, it took another quarter mile to find what I was
looking for , about the only REAL piece of Post-Industrial
Urban Grunge that I could find—the remnants of the old
For some reason, this really reminds me of World War II
ruins we see all across Europe. And we may not be able to
see it much longer. If Duke Lifepoint chooses the
Roundhouse property as the new site for Marquette General,
I'm sure the one remaining real piece of Post-Industrial
Urban Grunge will soon be gone.
Like I said, it's not necessarily a bad thing. It just
means, I guess, that Marquette cleans up after itself. And
that I need to have different targets of things to shoot
next time I wanna go out and take some pictures!
With a nod to the late Bob Talbert of the Detroit Free
Press, I'm gonna moan a little on this Monday!
First of all, a picture of a sign at Marquette's South
There's nothing really ambiguous about the sign, right?
Especially about how dogs must stay on a leash? I mean,
it's underlined in red, so you'd think it's kind of
important, wouldn't you? So if that's the case, how come
almost every time I go to South Beach I either get run into
by a dog on the loose or I'm lucky enough to be walking on
the very part of the beach where a dog comes running out of
water and shakes itself dry, depositing all of the water
formerly on its body onto me?
I know I complain about dog owners in here a lot, but I also
know that about 95% of dog owners follow the city's laws to
a “t”. And I certainly do appreciate that. If I could
thank each and every one of them in person, I would. It's
the other 5% about whom I'm complaining. In fact, when I
pointed out the sign to a lady who let her dog jump out of
an SUV and onto the beach unleashed, all she said was, and I
quote, “oh, that's okay”.
No, it's not. It's the law. Try following it every once
Speaking of the people who make the laws some of us try to
follow, I had to laugh the laugh of the ironic when watching
the three-ring circus that the current U.S. Congress has
become last week. Actually, I only had to laugh that laugh
at one half of the current Congress, as one day the U.S.
House sues the President for using Executive Orders, and
then the next day, when they can't pass a bill dealing with
the current refugee crisis along the Mexican border, tell
the President that he should deal with it himself using
I mean, I realize politics and the politicians who practice
the “art” are hardly ever logical, but even for politics
that's over the top. It's no wonder the current Congress
has an 11% approval rate
(And just as an aside, how can 11% of Americans think the
current Congress is doing anything worthy of approval,
especially after stunts like that?)
Finally, I have to mention Charter, who's in the middle of
conversion to an all-digital system. Good for them, and
good for their customers, of whom I'm one. I look forward
to seeing all the new things they have to offer. Here's
what I don't get, though--
To get the new digital Charter cable, you'll need a digital
set-top box. I've had it in one form or another for, I
dunno, 10 or 12 years now. And I'm guessing Charter is
aware of that, seeing as how I pay a fee for it every
month. So then how come, every evening when I turn my
digital box on, it has been redirected to a channel running
a video telling me I need a digital box? No, I DON'T need a
digital box, because I already have one, the very same
digital box Charter keeps redirecting to the channel telling
me I need a digital box.
Sigh. If only humans were more, you know, logical.
Okay; I'm done moaning now. I'll save the rant about the
license plate I keep seeing for another day. Bet you can't
Jim & Loraine's Trip To France 2012
to Belgium, France, and Germany,