Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday, 7/21

Wait. You can use the Internet to say NICE things about people, too?

If you've ever wanted to find out just how mean human beings can be, just read the comments section of an Internet post. If you've ever thought humanity could sink no lower than it already has, just log onto a Twitter feed. It seems like the anonymity of Internet allows people whose comments would wither in the sunlight of decent society to have those comments flourish without a second thought like the mold on two-year old cheese.

It's not a nice place.

So imagine my surprise in the 36 hours since I wrapped up my “Docks of Iron Bay” tour, my surprise (and astonishment) that people have used the Internet to thank me for showing them a great time, for teaching them a few trivial facts, and for sharing my geeky love for this place we call home. It's almost like there's a shred of humanity in humanity these days.

Who knew?

First of all, thanks for the kind comments. You really didn't need to make them; I was just doing what I do, this time in the company of 190 people. But I'm glad you enjoyed yourselves. Secondly, thanks for raising 900 or so dollars for the Marquette Regional History Center. That was the whole purpose of the outing. And finally, thanks for restoring my faith in humanity. I'll admit that it's crumbled a bit in the past year or two, what with the virus-like spread of hate and cynicism that seems to have overtaken our daily lives. But you'd be amazed at how one or two small acts of kindness from people who actually care can overcome hundreds or thousands large acts of hate from people whose lives consist of nothing but large acts of hate.

It was cool to see.

Like I said, thanks to those people who actually took a few seconds out of their day to post kind words or to send me a note of appreciation. You really didn't need to; I'm just glad you enjoyed yourselves. And thanks for giving me hope, too, that one day—maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but hopefully one day in my lifetime—we can all read the comments section of an Internet post and not feel like you need to take a shower of Lysol when you're done.

Have a fantastic and hate-free weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Thursday, 7/20

For those of you who aren't aware (and since most people AREN'T aware, which is why I believe most people wouldn't agree that today should be a national holiday), today is the 48th anniversary of one of the pinnacle achievements of humanity, the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon. It marked a time when people worked together to achieve a singularly unique goal, a goal that was not easy to reach, and then all cheered en masse when that goal was accomplished. It proved what humans could go when they actually worked together on a project, and didn't devolve into partisan sniping, bickering, or a “what's in it for me” mentality.

And if for no other reason, maybe THAT'S why it should declared a national holiday.

After all, it's not like we've done anything similar in the 48 years since. I sometimes stand, jaw agape, at the wonder of the situation—almost half a century ago we went people to another celestial body, and then gave up. You wouldn't think it'd be hard to do it again—after all, the technology worked the first time—but it is. We're too busy fighting with each other over every single stupid little thing to step back and realize what our mothers and fathers and grandparents did almost 50 years ago, and to realize that, if we had the desire and daring to do it again, we could.

If they were able to do it with the technology they had, imagine what we could do with the tech we have today. But over the past five decades, even though plans have been put forth to replicate that amazing achievement—or, god forbid, even surpass it—nothing has ever happen. Nothing.

And since it may be another 48 years before we even try to once again attempt what occurred 48 years ago today, maybe we should just declare the day a national holiday, if for no other reason to remind people what CAN be accomplished if we put our minds and our collective will behind it.


By the way, if you're curious as to how last night's “Docks of Iron Bay” tour went...

We're guessing almost 200 (!)  people showed up, aided by the fact that the weather was almost perfect. Hopefully, everyone learned a few things AND had a good time, all at the same time. Like I said yesterday, three down, one to go, and that would be “21 Pictures” Friday, August 18th at 10pm outside of the History Center.

And if you wanna know a secret, at the moment there's actually 68 pictures in the show. So anyone who attends will really be getting their money's worth!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wednesday, 7/19

After tonight, it's three down, one to go.

Those of you who've been reading these with any regularity recently know that I've had a busy summer vis-a-vis the Marquette Regional History Center. I gave a bike tour last month, I turned in the article I wrote for their Harlow's Wooden Man newsletter last week, and in a few hours I'll be leading a gaggle of humans around Lower Harbor in the “Docks of Iron Bay” tour.

I think I've mentioned this, but if I haven't I should. When the Programming Committee of the History Center met last year, someone made the suggestion that there should be a “dock tour” and that I should be the one to host it. Normally, I just do the tours & programs that I come up with myself; in this instance, I begrudgingly agreed to go alone with the suggestion, and you know what?

I'm really glad I did.

While doing all the research on the program this past spring I found out all kinds of cool trivia about which I had not been aware. And then when I strolled around the waterfront in April and May while trying to figure out where to go, I discovered all kinds of little things that were hidden in plain sight, little things that I could point out to a crowd. And, to top it all off, I came across one of the most amazing pictures I've ever seen of Marquette.

And I thought that I had seen them all.

So to whomever thought it'd be a good idea for me to do this tour, just let me apologized for whatever grumbling I may have done under my breath when first given this assignment. It's become one tour I wish that I had thought of doing myself, and one that I wish I had done years ago. And if you wanna see everything I'm talking about, you can join us. It's gets underway at 6 at the History Center.

Hope to see you there!


Before I go, I do really need to note that in another way it's a sad day here in Marquette, as Gopher's Bakery is closing. No more cupcakes, no more dreamsicle cookies, and no more of that amazing key lime pie they cooked up on occasion. The worst part about it, though? Well, I feel bad for Gemma & Eric, the couple that ran it. They're genuinely fine people, and I'll miss chatting with them as I peruse the yummy stuff on the shelves.

Good luck, guys. Loraine & I will miss stopping by!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tuesday, 7/18

Let's call it the tale of two bike stores.

Loraine decided she needed a new bike. She's been using her current one for thirty years now, and while it's in pristine condition (and while she can kick my butt when we're out riding, even though I use a bike a lot more than she does), she decided it was time for an upgrade, for a bike that would kick my butt even more. So she went online, did her research, and found the perfect model. She also found that there were two stores in Marquette that sold them.

And that's when the fun started.

We went into store “A”, and asked about the model for which she was looking. At first, the guy working there wasn't sure they even carried the particular model; after consulting a co-worker, they figured that they did, but not with some of the stuff she wanted. They then proceeded to tell her why she shouldn't want the bike she wanted, even pointing out that her preferred choice was a “man's” bike, and “wouldn't she rather have a model designed for women”? And in describing the features she SHOULD be looking for they were very condescending, as if they didn't think she knew anything about bikes at all. I tried to hint that she's a monster on two wheels and knows of what she speaks, but it didn't seem like they were buying it.

Finally, they said that the model year was changing over, and she might be able to get her bike of choice when the new ones come out this fall. We left store “A”, quite disappointed with both the news and the way she was treated.

Now, if you know Loraine, you may know that once she sets her sights on something it gets done. So we decided to head to store “B” and see if things would be different. And trust me—they were.

First of all, we were waited on at store “B” by a young woman who listened to what Loraine wanted, and found the exact bike. She quickly figured out Loraine knew what she was talking about, let her take it for a little ride, and then had the bike quickly tuned up before Loraine wheeled it out the door and back to our apartment. No hemming, no hawing, no excuses, no nothing. As frustrating as shop “A” was the experience she had at shop “B” was smooth and enjoyable.

The difference between the two bike stores was amazing.

So now Loraine has her new bike, and with any luck it'll serve her for as long as her old one. I already know that she can now kick my butt on a bike even more than she did before, but I'm okay with that. And more than anything, I'm glad there's at least one place in town that got her what she wanted and made the whole experience something for which she's grateful.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Monday, 7/17

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


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

Yup. “Summer” is half way over already.

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

“Summer”, we hardly knew ye.

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

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

The sad thing about that observation is that it really doesn’t SEEM like summer’s been with us long enough to be half over. Most of June (and July) was so cold, and so many of us spent the month complaining about it, that it really doesn’t seem like we’ve used up half of our allotment of summer. It just feels like April spilled into May, which then spilled into June, and that, well, summer just started. Not that it’s halfway over.

But since I don’t seem to have the capability to be a pessimist for long, let me share a very interesting weather fact. According to records, Marquette gets an average of four 90+ degree days a year. That means that since we’ve only had one so far, the second half of summer promises at least three more.

Whether that's a promise that'll be kept, I have no idea.

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

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

Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday, 7/14

And happy Bastille Day!

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

That got me to thinking. And that, as we all know, can be a dangerous thing. I've been writing these little...whatever you wanna call thems for 16 years now, since 2001. Over those 16 years, I wonder how many other countries we've touched? I know that when I write my trip blogs there's a little thing you can click on to tell you what countries readers are from (or, at least, in which countries the servers they're using to connect to you are located), but I've never actually set anything up for this little thing.

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

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

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

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

On that note, have yourself a great weekend, whether you celebrated Bastille Day or not!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Thursday, 7/13

The word is itself amazing. The fact that means what it means makes it even better.

I've just finished reading a book called “A People's History of the Peculiar” which, as you can imagine, is filled with all sorts of weird & wonderful facts. Among the many bizarre things was a section on phobias—some of the things that people are afraid of. And it was in that section that I came across what might be one of the greatest words ever--


Seriously, that's the word—hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, 36 letters of English language awesomeness. And while any 36-letter word would be rather awesome in and of itself, it's what hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia means that's the icing on the cake. And just what DOES hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia mean, you ask? Well, I answer, hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is the fear of long words.

I kid you not.

Go ahead; copy and paste “ hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia” into Google and you'll find out it's legit. You'll find out that someone, somewhere, came up with a very long word to describe the fear of very long words. I don't know if they did it ironically, or if it just worked out that way, but the word and the fear it describes could not have been a better match.

You, in fact, could not have come up with a better word to describe the fear of long words.

Not only that, but if you put “ hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia” in Google it also pops up a song called “ Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (The Long Word Song)”, put together by someone who not only had an inkling that the word existed but also wrote a song about it.

Don't believe me?

I'm always amazed by some of the weird things I come across in my everyday life, and this 36-letter word may be one of the best. Now, all I need to do is find a way to work it into normal conversation. Or to figure out how to actually pronounce it. Either one of those would work.

(, obviously NOT suffering from hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia!