Thursday, February 23, 2017

Thursday, 2/23

I guess they'd be in my top three. After all, they're the only three in my iPod.

Here's the deal—when I went running yesterday something weird happened to the music I was listening to on shuffle. Out of 1,400 songs on my iPod, three—a whole three—are orchestral works, what some people might call “classical” music. And in defiance of all laws of probability, two of those three songs played back-to-back. I was kind of hoping the third would play after the second, but alas—the laws of probability were obviously enforced after that first little act of defiance.

But that got me to thinking—if I only have three pieces of orchestral music on my iPod, those would have to be my three favorite, right? After all, I went out of my way to put them in there so I could listen to them, so they'd have to be the top three right? And as far as I can tell, they're the only symphonic works I've gone out of my way to hear performed live (thank you, Marquette Symphony Orchestra). So here they are—Jim's top three pieces of orchestral music of all time--

(And note, I'm not calling them “classical” because they're not that old. Two of them, in fact, are from the 20th century and the third is from the late 19th, so that's not really “classical”, it is?

Number 3—Tchaikovsky “1812 Overture”. I have a recording from the Montreal Symphony I listen to, only because it contains the two things that make this a great orchestral work—church bells and cannons. I've often thought it would be so cool to have the Marquette Symphony perform the piece live in front of, say, St Peter's Cathedral. It'd be even cooler if they'd let me fire the cannons.

Hint, hint.

Number 2—George Gershwin's “Rhapsody in Blue”. My recording is from the LA Philharmonic from 1999, although I loved hearing it performed by the Marquette Symphony a few years ago on a piano George Gershwin actually picked out for Kaufman Auditorium. I like the story behind the piece, too—Gershwin had promised Paul Whitman that he'd have a work that mixed jazz & symphonic music written for a big show in the early 1920s, didn't get it quite finished, and improvised most of the piano parts during the initial performance. Those improvised parts, by the way, now make up a large chunk of the symphony. But what I love about it is how one of those improvised piano parts kind of abruptly ends 10 minutes and 30 seconds into the work, and leads into one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written (even if it has been co-opted by airline TV commercials over the years). Call me strange or an old softy or whatever you'd like, but that one passage of music gets to me every time.

Number 1—Like there was ever any doubt as to my favorite piece of symphonic music ever written?

So, not that you care, there they are—my top three orchestral pieces of music. See what kind of weird things pop into my mind when the laws of probability are cast aside for a second?


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Wednesday, 2/22

Even if I did have a bad day, why would I bother anyone with it?

Over the past few years I've received comments from people regarding something I do on the air, and it happened again yesterday after talking about my sore post-dental visit mouth, a mouth that wasn't allowing me to speak with all its normal fluidity (not that I'm a very fluid speaker to begin with, but, you get the idea) Anyway, the comments are something I never really thought about, but it must make an impression on some people. The comments have to do with how I never seem to have a “bad day” when I'm on the air, how I always seem “to have a smile in (my) voice”. Apparently I always sound like I'm happy and having fun when I'm on the air, and people notice that.

And from the sound of it they appreciate it, as well.

Trust me, I do have bad days. Some days, I'm dealing with recalcitrant equipment, other days, it's dealing with a personal situation. So I do have bad days. But I don't let it affect my on-air performance. My job is to entertain people, to make sure they have a good time getting through their days. They may tune in to try and make their own bad day better; why would I add to their troubles with troubles of my own?

I mean, I'm really lucky. Being an optimist by nature I really don't have a lot of bad days, and even if something is weighing upon me I have this freakish ability to compartmentalize. I seem to be able to shove whatever's bothering me to the back of my head for a few minutes when I need to do something else. I don't know if I'm lucky in that respect or if it's a sign of some serious mental instabilities (neither would surprise me). All I know is that if people are tuning in for fun or to relieve their own troubles, it doesn't do much for them if I'm a major bummer.

And it's something, apparently, that people notice.

So, if you don't mind, I'll just continue being me on the air. In all honesty, I wouldn't know how to do it any differently, anyway, so I guess you're stuck with an optimist with a smile in his voice.

Even if my jaw aches or I'm having a bad day.


For whatever reason this event hasn't received a lot of publicity, but my (much) better half is doing a program tomorrow night! That's right; Loraine will be doing a presentation for the Northern Center for Lifelong Learning on the writing of her two books. It gets underway tomorrow (Thursday) night at 7 at Peter White Public Library. I know I'll be there!

(p.s.--the episode of “Bizarre Foods” that The Travel Channel shot in Marquette County last summer? It airs Tuesday night at 9, if you're curious)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tuesday, 2/21

Quick question--what do YOU do with your tax refund?

You mean, you DON’T buy a bunch of European chocolate with it? Isn’t that what tax refunds are for? Well...shows what I know, I guess.

I know I write about chocolate quite a bit , but I have to mention it again today. We’ve received our refund a couple of weeks ago and like every year immediately paid a visit to a couple of our favorite web sites to stock up on our collection of Galler, Callebaut, and Cote D’Or. Sure, we’ll be able to buy them in person in Belgium in a few months, but what are we supposed to do until then? Go without?

Yeah, I know. One of these days we’ll turn in to responsible adults. But don’t hold your breath waiting.

Actually, we use a very small percentage of our tax refund for chocolate. Most of it goes to mundane things, like car rental or travel insurance and Euros for our trips, but we always manage to set aside a little for a small taste of decadent goodness. After all, isn’t this the time of the year that you need a little something like that? It sometimes seems like we haven’t seen the sun for several months, and I can’t think of anything that would serve as good of a remedy for that as would chocolate.

Well, okay, maybe a trip to Aruba would. But our tax refund isn’t THAT big!

It’s always a joyous day in our apartment when the Belgian Shop or the German Shop box arrives, and yesterday was no exception. Yesterday's shipment from German Shop 24 was greeted with much joy in the Koski household. We tore open (carefully, mind you) the box and out popped chocolate from Ritter and Milka and Schoegetten, all meticulously wrapped in that way that Germans are meticulous about everything. We now have all of our favorites, plus Loraine has some espresso bars that are a little too strong for me and I have some marzipan bars that I first found in Leipzig a few years ago, bars where the chocolate and marzipan are actually soaked in alcohol, something we both find quite funny seeing as how I don't drink.

But they taste GREAT!

Also in the packages were two boxes of cereal, both from Kolln, which would be the German equal to Kelloggs or to Post. Both Loraine and I had to get a box of perhaps the best cereal on the planet, Kolln's Schoko-Kirsch Muesli--

This is a cereal with granola, little chocolate puffy bits, shaved pieces of dark chocolate, and dried cherries in it. I discovered it one of the first times we stayed in Germany, and I've always made a point of bringing back a box or two of it, even if I hafta toss some underwear or an old tube of toothpaste to make room.

After all, I know what's REALLY important!

I know a lot of people complain about having to do their taxes, but when you use part of your refund for goodies like that, you actually look forward to filing them. Trust me--it helps!!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Monday, 2/20

Happy President’s Day. Or, as most people consider it, another day where we keep staring out the window, eventually asking each other, “How come the mail hasn’t shown up yet”?

You know--one of those days!

Instead of spending the day celebrating the achievements (or lack thereof) from everyone from Millard Fillmore to Gerald Ford, most people will simply shrug and wonder, if you were to ask them, just who the heck Millard Fillmore and Gerald Ford were. And that’s kind of sad. I mean, I know I’m a history geek, and knew who all the Presidents in this country’s history were at a young age, but I’d like to think that names like James K. Polk, James Buchanan, and Rutherford B. Hayes should at least spark a tiny flame of memory in most people. I mean, I know they don’t, but I’d like to dream that they would.

And as long as I’m dreaming, can we have beach weather tomorrow, too?

I know you guys are among the smartest people in the world, so here are two tests for you. First of all, who was the only U.S. President to be elected to non-consecutive terms? In other words, he was President, then he wasn’t, then he was elected again? The answer to that comes at the end of this.

Secondly, going backwards from our current President, how many in a row can you name until you stump yourself? Go ahead, give it a try. I’ll wait for you.

(By the way, this is just me, waiting until you stump yourself).

(Stump yourself yet? Good. Keep going).

(Now are you stumped?)

From a statistic I saw, the average person can only go back FIVE Presidents before failing. FIVE. That means that they have no idea who was President before the first George Bush. I mean, they may know the names of Nixon and Kennedy and at least one of the Roosevelts, but they don’t know where they fall in that order. And that’s kind of a shame. I don’t expect everyone to be able to name all 45 Presidents in reverse order--heck, even I can’t do that--but it is kind of nice to know who falls where and what effect that had on the growth and the history of this country.

And for the record--I can go back 19 Presidents. I always forget who came before William McKinley. I know; dorky, right?

So have yourself a great President’s Day. If you wanna impress the people around you, slip into conversation how interesting you believe it to be that Grover Cleveland was the only President to be elected to non-consecutive terms. And if you REALLY wanna impress the people around you, add to the conversation the fact that during his second non-consecutive term Cleveland asked Peter White to head what would now be the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but that White turned him down because he was too busy being, well, Peter White.

President’s Day. More than just another day you don’t get mail!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday, 2/17

I wonder how many people will be at the dog sled races this weekend wearing shorts?

I remember UP 200 weekends where it was so cold that your fingers fell off. I remember UP 200 weekends where it was so snowy that you could barely see the spectators standing across Washington Street from you. But I don't think I ever remember a UP 200 weekend where the forecast was for sun and 50 degrees.

You know---February shorts weather.

It should be an interesting weekend here in Marquette with the “heat”. All the races (including the UP 200, Jackpine 30, and Midnight Run) are still scheduled to run as usual, although organizers say they make take precautions to ensure the dogs don't get overheated. And for once, some of the other outdoor events going on, like Glacier Glide, should be events where you might actually find yourself removing clothing instead of piling on more layers.

Not that I'm complaining.

We've had another wacky winter this year, veering from extreme cold to extreme warmth, from no snow to a bunch of it in one day. But it seems to be coming to a premature end. The long range forecast calls for temperatures in the 40s or 50s for at least the next week, and it wouldn't surprise me if whatever snow we have now is gone by the end of the month. That might be good for those of us who are eagerly awaiting summer, but for those people looking to partake in winter events, like the UP 200, it looks like those opportunities may be few and far between.

So on that note, have yourself a great February weekend. It might be the last of “winter”. And it is, for sure, one of the busiest of the year in Marquette, with all kinds of things to do, so make sure you get out and enjoy them. And feel free to wear shorts, if you'd like. After all, how often do you get to do that in February?


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Thursday, 2/16

You know, at least the spammers could put a little effort into it.

I don't know about you, but I've seen a marked increase in the amount of spam reaching my e-mail inbox the past month or so. It's actually getting to the point where I have to spend five minutes a day weeding out everything from offers for magazines I've never heard of to promises that I can make “(my) partner scream for hours”, which is something Loraine already does, at least when it comes to reading some of the subject lines in the spam that she herself gets.

I never actually open any of the spam I get; I just click “delete” and it's all gone. But someone, somewhere, must click on the spam and then actually reply to it. I mean, all it takes is for one sucker to justify sending out 10 zillion pieces of junk, right? However, I received one piece yesterday that made me laugh, and I had to open it, if only because it seems like whoever put it together wasn't even trying.

Now, I know almost all spam comes from a country other than the U.S. But it seems to me that the more savvy spammers make it sound like they know what they're talking about. After all, they're trying to reel in a sucker or two, and it's usually easier to do that when you look and sound like you know what you're talking about. Not the e-mail I received yesterday, though. First of all, it came from a company that called itself “Tax Releif” (spelled that way), and had as its subject line this--

“Taxes is our business”.

Like I said, I don't expect much out of spam (aside from the occasional laugh) but anyone in their right mind would know that, based on spelling and grammatical errors, this ISN'T a company that's legit. However, the errors were so egregious that I just had to see from where the e-mail came. So I opened the e-mail, which promised to get me “maximun (sic) savings on my taxes” sent directly to my bank account. And all I'd have to do is sent my Social Security and bank account numbers (nothing else) to a website that ends with a “.ru”. What does that all mean? Well, it means two things—that someone promised to do my taxes without needing to see any W2 forms.

And that “.ru” means the company is located in Russia.

Needless to say, I don't think I'll be having that particular company do my taxes this year. And I would hope that no one—absolutely no one--would get suckered in by such a low-rent, low-quality, obvious sham of a scam. But then that's the thing about spammers and scammers—it only takes one. Like I said before, it doesn't cost anything (aside from server time, which is usually pirated) to send out ten zillion e-mails, and if even ONE person decides that sending their Social Security and bank account numbers to a Russian company will give them a little “tax releif”, then they've succeeded without even putting much effort into it.

I know you're all smart and that you'd never fall for anything promised by spam, but just let me say this—if you ever DO fall for a spam scam, at least make sure you fall for one where everything's spelled right, okay?


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wednesday, 2/15

The scales have now been tipped.

As you know, I've been doing this job for a long time now. A long, long time. But today marks a turning point in that long, long time. I'm probably the only one who would even think to mark it; after all, I'm sure a normal person wouldn't even notice. But it's something that made me sit down & do math to mark the occasion, so mark it I shall.

When I walk in the door to go to work today, I will have worked one day longer in Marquette than I did in Ishpeming.

Let me explain—when I started doing this job way back last century (1988, to be specific), the studios were located in Ishpeming. I would have to drive up once (or twice) a day to go to work, and to take care of whatever issues needed taking care of. The studios were in a dusty warehouse of a building, a building where the only view was of a cemetery or a parking lot, a building where the air conditioning didn't work well during the summer and the heating didn't work well in winter. Computers would break down because of the dust, heat, or cold, and things were starting to get untenable. Our fearless leader at the time, Joe Blake, decided we needed to move to place where both the computers and the people would be happy, and the day before Thanksgiving, 2002, we finished a big project and started broadcasting from here in downtown Marquette, a moment I marked by playing U2's “Beautiful Day” as the first song from our new place.

And yes, I did it on purpose.

Late last year, I started wonder how long I had worked in Ishpeming, and realized that I was coming up on pretty much the same length of time as I've worked here in Marquette. So I sat down, did the math, and realized that today is the day the scales tip. After today, I can now say that I've worked longer in Marquette that I did in Ishpeming. And those 14 years, two months, and a couple of weeks have been a blast; our location here in the middle of everything has allowed us to do all kinds of fun broadcast events (everything from New Year's Eve Ball Drops to cooking S'mores & grilled cheese sandwiches on a 95 degree sidewalk). It's also made our computer equipment happy; instead of replacing parts or machines every few months, we've gone over a decade using mostly the same equipment. And on those rare occasions when things do break, I can walk three blocks to fix whatever needs fixing, as opposed to having to get into a car, clean it off if it's winter, and spending 20 minutes getting to where I need to go

In fact, I did one other piece of math. By walking seven minutes to work & back every day, instead of spending 45 minutes driving, I've been given an extra two thousand hours back in my life that I didn't have to spend commuting. That's over 90 days of my life not spent in a car, and instead spent in the fresh air.

That might be the best thing about this whole day.

So, like I said, today's kind of an important day. I mean, it's important to no one but me, but's a turning point. From here on in, the scale starts tipping the other way.