Monday, December 31, 2007

So Long 2007!

I don’t know how you feel, but I’m glad to see 2008 arrive. Of course covering the news is a little bit different than reading or hearing about it. Reporters have to be objective, but occasionally get to talk about the stories they cover or read to you on the radio.

In putting together an End of the Year Special (“Forged by Fire,” which you can hear on the homepage) I once again got to live through some of the stories I covered. Locally I think the St. Louis Church fire was tops. Although no one was killed in the fire it impacted a lot of people. Sadly a new use for the church was found and it would have been preserved. It was a story that touched the heart for many.

The continuing controversy over the Highway 151 bypass in Fond du Lac was another matter. When the state’s Department of Transportation decided to close four intersections to through traffic along the bypass it had implications for residents as well. Some were more than inconvenienced. They were hit in the pocket book. It left many asking why the state just didn’t do the project right in the first place.

There were others in the state that kept reporters busy and people followed them daily for weeks or months. That included the Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey murder trials. Hilbert freelance photographer Teresa Halbach deserved a long happy life. She didn’t get it. Neither did seven young adults killed in Crandon by an off-duty Sheriff’s officer.

Nationally my thoughts keep going back to the Virginia Tech shootings that left 33 people dead including the shooter. He was an alienated loner, big surprise. Unfortunately the shooting set a new benchmark for violence and school shootings. One I hope will never ever be closely approached.

In sports the Green Bay Packers and Milwaukee Brewers both gave me hope and hours of pleasure. Both teams are young and show promise. For nearly the entire season the Brewers were in the thick of it. The Packers story is still being written, but they surprised many and seeing Brett Favre return to MVP-like form brought smiles to many faces.

What does 2008 hold? For you and your family I hope a lot of promise, some dreams come true and mostly good news!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Naughty and Nice

In keeping with the situation Mr. Scrooge, I present my own Christmas naughty and nice list. I considered a celebrity list, but that would be too easy and way over done. So let’s narrow the focus a little.

Nice: Fond du Lac City Manager Tom Herre who accepted the responsibility of being Honorary Chair of the Fond du Lac Salvation Army’s 1st Annual Community Christmas Dinner. Also, a nod to all those table hosts, volunteers and businesses that will help stage the dinner at the Fond du Lac County Fairgrounds Recreation Building on Friday December 21st.

Naughty: Those who think it’s fun to vandalize outdoors Christmas displays. People put a lot of effort into creating and sharing them with the community. It takes a lot less imagination to destroy than to create.

Nice: The Christmas display in Fond du Lac’s Lakeside Park. Also the decorations area cities put up in their downtowns to brighten the holidays.

Naughty: The people who put their Christmas shopping too far ahead of others. Namely I’m speaking of those who don’t have a disability, but use handicap parking stalls to get closer to the store. Shame on you!

Nice: Those who take extra time to shovel out around fire hydrants next to their homes or the curb cuts on corners. You’re helping out those who already have obstacles or are trying to provide a protective service to others.

Naughty: Those who only look at the Christmas season as an excuse to drink too much or go from party to party. At least do us the favor of not driving drunk to the next party or on your way home.

Nice: Parents who take the time to attend their children’s Christmas functions or share traditions with them. These are life-sized ornaments you can’t hang on a Christmas tree.

Naughty: People who re-gift, giving gifts they received in the past. There are charities that would gladly take your donation.

Nice: Anyone who gives to charity during the holidays when times are tight for everyone. You never know when some day you may need the services of a Salvation Army or United Way agency or others.

Naughty: Christmas “Scrooges.” Those who just can’t get into the Christmas spirit, can’t stand it and don’t care how many people they share that opinion with.

No Christmas season is perfect. Snow doesn’t remain Lilly white. Bills for that gift giving come due. The donation you make to a charity might mean cutting corners elsewhere. The person who irritates you at holiday gatherings probably won’t be visited by three spirits. Take some time to enjoy the season and reflect on why it’s celebrated. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Yes Virginia

Yes Virginia there is a Santa Claus. No, this is not some lame attempt to mimic a classic Christmas editorial. The thought here is that occasionally we might be able catch a glimpse of Santa in a mirror at home.

I’m not saying I go out of way to be nice during the holidays, but did something Santa-like the other day. I was at the Post Office in Fond du Lac for some personal business when I spied an older gentleman in his car buried in a snow bank on 1st Street. He tried to pull a U-turn and paid for it when he couldn’t swing it and ended up wedging a wheel on the passenger side into the snow bank.

I’m ashamed to say that no one was stopping to help him, but they were getting their Christmas cards, letters and bills dropped off in the drive-up mailbox. I decided to stop and try and help him. Between the two of us we couldn’t accomplish it, but soon a kind woman stopped and she had a small shovel. We had her climb behind the wheel of the car and were able to lift the front end just enough so that she could rock it backwards and out. He thanked us and we left. It really wasn’t a big deal.

It does however remind me that we should probably help our neighbors more than we do and not assume that someone else is going to be good enough to stop and pitch in. Although the man that needed assistance didn’t bear any resemblance to Santa Claus except for his white hair, no doubt he’s played the kindly old elf to a number of people over the years. Just think how many people passed up the chance to be nice.

Although gifts and cards are great to give and receive during the holidays it’s those small opportunities we have to give something of ourselves that really can make someone’s Christmas special. Of course when it comes to being a better person, unlike the credit cards we use so much during this season, there’s no limit and no expiration date.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Christmas Tree

Why is it that every year we get dragged into a debate on whether the term “Christmas” is politically correct? The most recent foray is state legislators bickering over whether to call the giant tree put on display at the State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin a “Christmas Tree.” Since 1985 it’s been referred to as a “Holiday Tree.”

The folks with the Freedom from Religion Foundation say it is what it is and should be left that way. Others think its time to rethink the issue. I’m all for not offending people, but the term holiday is sooooh generic! Thanksgiving, the 4th of July, and Halloween are holidays as well. I didn’t include New Year’s in the mix because people often think of that as part of the Christmas season. Do those holidays have trees? You know the kind you put ornaments, tinsel and lights on?

It’s a dumb questions and do agree with the Freedom from Religion Foundation that legislators have more important things to talk about. I vote for using the term “Christmas Tree.” At least in my own home I don’t have to worry about offending someone with that term. If you’re religion free is it possible to “practice what you preach?”

On other Christmas topics:

When do we get to the point where we see an impact on crowded stores and malls from shopping online? I’m ashamed to say I’ve been doing more of that, but then again one of the persons I’m shopping for is very discriminating. Translation they want movies on DVD and other items you won’t find locally.

The TV networks can rerun episodes of newer television series over and over. Why can’t they run traditional Christmas programs like Charlie Brown’s Christmas more than once? And for heaven’s sake why not run them closer to Christmas.

Christmas traditions can be real odd. We have one in our family where someone takes a mildly offensive term and puts it on a post-it note on my mom’s refrigerator. Throughout the course of several days cruder fashions for that term start popping up on a make shift list. I didn’t say it was a nice tradition, but I think my mother actually enjoys the humor in it. This year I’m going to suggest the term “Christmas Tree.”
P.S. That's not the State Capitol's tree.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Deer Hunting

I’m not a deer hunter. I tried when I was younger and really enjoyed the experience especially the part of scouting out a place to hunt and then hunkering down and waiting for my opportunity. The problem is me and guns don’t have a working relationship. I could hit the broad side of a barn with a rifle, but only if I was close enough to throw the gun at it.

My deer hunting is now restricted to foraging through the freezer section of my fridge to see what venison my successful deer hunting brothers and sisters have donated to the cause. Last week I enjoyed some venison stroganoff and this week I’ll dip into some venison chili. People who say they can’t stand the taste of venison have never really tried it other than just fried up in a pan. Meat processors can do wonders.

The great thing about deer hunting is the bonding it can build with families. One of my fondest memories of my dad is of him taking me deer hunting with him when I was 4 or 5 years old. At least that’s how old I think I was. I remember my canteen had milk in it and I sat on a stump trying to be as quiet as possible. I don’t think we had any success that day, but the joy of being with my father was probably reward enough for the both of us.

That kind of bonding has been passed down from my brother John to his two sons Max and Derek. That’s Max pictured, who is 12-years-old, with the 5 pointer he shot on the opening day of Michigan’s gun-deer season Thursday, November 15th. My brother Matt and his wife Laurie also got their bucks early in the season. I count myself lucky to known that at least someone in the family can be successful at deer hunting.

This is probably where someone with PETA or another animal rights group would probably say it’s a barbaric practice. I once talked with a conservation warden who had worked with the Department of Natural Resources in northern Wisconsin for more than 30 years. I’ll never forget his words. Animals out in the wild don’t die of old age and rarely in their sleep.

I took a year off of college and worked with the U.S. Forest Service on a timber crew. We marked trees for cutting in the woods. From that experience I learned to appreciate nature and wildlife. I can definitely get the appeal of hunting. Those who’ve never done it really shouldn’t criticize. The timing of Wisconsin’s season also prepares us for another, the Christmas shopping season when survival of the fittest is truly tested.

Deer hunting season is great. Besides I’d rather see a deer carcass strapped across someone’s car or truck hood than part of my dashboard.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Homeboy Dropped His Cell Phone! -Full - Ghost Hunters Live!

My nephews who are wrestling fans really enjoyed this video taken from a live Ghost Hunters episode on Scifi channel Halloween. ECW's Elijah Burke freaked out while ghost hunting with the programs investigators! He lived up to his "Express" nickname!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Jury Duty

There’s a whole different kind of jury duty than the one people try to get out of. That’s the one prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, witnesses and interested parties like the press are involved in. Namely waiting for a jury to come back with verdicts in a case.

Witness for example the recent Ben Mercer case involving the former Fond du Lac City Human Resources Director accused of viewing child porn on a work computer. As a reporter you can try and sweet talk your way into getting someone to call you to let you know when the jury has decided and is returning. That can be risky business.

Most of the time you just sit and wait swapping stories. Some of these might be termed war stories. The question arises, “What’s the longest jury trial you ever worked?” A cameraman from Channel 26 won this time talking about a trial in the mid-80s that went more than five months. The Ben Mercer trial is the longest of my particular time as a reporter. The nine days it lasted edged out an eight-day trial I covered in Dodge County for a baby-shaking case. The infant died and the jury acquitted the veteran baby sitter who was charged in the baby girl’s death.

We also talked about a jury trial in Outagamie County that was running parallel to the Mercer case involving a former teacher who was accused of sexually assaulting a student and former student. He was acquitted and earned mention in USA Today by fainting during the course of the trial.

Most of us starved in the lobby of the second floor of the City-County Government Center while the jury was treated to fresh pizza brought in no doubt just in time to reenergize them during their deliberations. One reporter munched on a homemade sandwich she claimed wasn’t tasty at all and was only outdone by the stale all-natural boxed snack she switched off on. I starved and settled for water.

I actually got a break during the seven hours of deliberation to go to a doctor’s appointment that went longer than I’d hoped. Good old reliable Wade Bates of our sports department sat in and swapped stories with the Assistant State Attorney General and two others during that time. The Channel 26 reporter and cameraman left to cover some white powder found in an envelope in Oshkosh and severe weather. The weather never materialized, but did set a dramatic scene outside that second floor window.

Although the future of a person hinges on the jury’s decision it almost seems anti-climatic after a long trial and deliberation. Unlike television and the movies there’s no music to heighten the mood or quick quip to go with the announcement of the decision. For the jury however there is a little bonding with other jury members during the trial and a sense of relief. Unlike others they were chosen to serve and did the job very well.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

State Budget

Even when you report the news sometimes you get a little frustrated with a story. That’s how I feel about the impasse over Wisconsin’s state budget. Insiders say they aren’t that far apart except for on a few key issues. Both sides are blaming each other for not being willing to compromise. It’s like an old-fashioned duel in which the two participants are given single-shot pistols and miss each other.

It is costing people already as property tax levies are being set for December tax bills and state employees realize they may soon be unemployed. My sister Kathy works for the state of Michigan’s Correction Department. At the end of last month she was informed that she was being laid off and not to bother filing for unemployment because there wasn’t any money for that either. Fortunately Michigan passed a 30-day extension of their budget and she and other state employees went back to work.

I’m told that couldn’t happen in Wisconsin because the state’s old budget just continues in such cases. However something has got to give. This morning we got a report from the Associated Press the eight state legislators working on the budget compromise committee had earned $34,000 in per diem payments and travel money since July first. That’s simply not fair. If there were any justice no state legislator would be paid including the Governor, one of those budget proposals is his, until the budget were passed.

My first radio job out of college an automobile repair shop owner held my car hostage because he didn’t think I could pay my tab. When he found out who my boss was, she had a reputation for robbing Peter and paying Paul, he took pity on me. He got half my paycheck anyway and I had to go without some things for a few months.

I don’t blame state employees for gathering at the State Capitol to protest the budget impasse. In the end that old boss of mine spent five years in prison because she shorted the wrong person. Chances are nobody’s going to prison for failing to pass the state budget. Then again if they did imagine the wonderful treatment they’d get from those state employees. Provided of course there’s money available to man the prison.

Monday, October 08, 2007

We Are Marshall

When it comes to sports movies I guess I’m a real sap. I enjoyed “We are Marshall.” Part of that was due to the fact that it was based on a real incident. To tell you the truth I thought Matthew McConaughey’s performance as the new head coach of the Marshall University football team in the wake of a tragic plane crash was a little over the top, but it seemed to fit in with the role. What was eerie was seeing the players in their letter jackets. Honest to goodness they look just like mine when I was playing high school football. I recommended the movie to one of the women in our front office and she liked it. She is a family-oriented “happy ending” person. It has a good cast. I’m not going to say anything more about it in case you wanted to see a football movie that demonstrates how life and death is so much more important than a game and yet how important a game can be to help us cope with loss.

As a kid I read a number of biographies, autobiographies and some ghostwritten autobiographies. Lately I’ve gone through a period of watching DVDs and movies based on real life events. “Zodiac,” about the Zodiac killer of the late 1960s was disturbing in more ways than one. It’s about the obsession both police investigating the killings and those writing or reporting about them get caught up in. For some it cost them their jobs, health and marriages. Officially the killer wasn’t caught, but the film points toward a likely suspect.

I recently picked up a copy of “World Trade Center.” I watched it the weekend after the 6th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. I have to give credit to Oliver Stone that he didn’t go overboard as he is apt to do, but am convinced from watching it that the 9/11 attacks are something I will never be able to fully think about without feeling a sense of loss. It tells the story of two of the New York Port Authority policemen who were trapped in the rubble at Ground Zero and survived. Usually I’ll watch a movie several times to see if I like it. I haven’t been able to watch it a second time yet, even though for the officers it had a happy ending.

On television sometime over the last few months I watched Spike Lee’s “Summer of Sam,” a take on the Son of Sam murders. Not really a fan of Brooklyn or the Bronx I found some of the 1999 film downright stupid and or funny. Like when the dog talks to David Berkowitz. Then there’s Spike Lee playing a reporter. I’m not sure if he was going for the best wooden performance award or if he was poking fun at himself, but there was a funny bit where some of the bystanders verbally attack him (the reporter) for the job he is doing.

Sadly Hollywood at its best can’t substitute for real-life drama or tragedy. Witness for example the shootings in Crandon, Wisconsin early Sunday morning A 20-year-old off-duty Forest County Sheriff’s Deputy shot and killed six people, another person is in critical condition. I lived and worked in Northern Wisconsin for six years. I’d travel through Crandon at least three times each year and back to go see family in Michigan’s U.P. I always thought of it as a nice quiet community. Residents living there now probably wish it still were.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Customer Service

Customer service sure isn’t what it used to be. I think part of that is due to the fact that a lot is no longer done face-to-face. The words convenient, new, and automated phone service should never be used together. Take for example my recent efforts to just find out if my doctor is covered under our new insurance carrier.

I spent the better part of an hour going through their automated toll-free number before by shear luck I got a hold of a real person who gave me a short cut through the new convenient system. Yes my doctor is part of the plan, which I thought I could easily find out through their website. Alas my insurance card had two types of plans listed on it. That’s why I was trying to reach a real person in the first place. I found out one shouldn’t have been listed and actually creates a lot of questions for them. I wonder how many of those questions are as easily answered.

Many businesses go with automated phone service now. I’ve run into that with the State Patrol, school districts, businesses, etc. We even have one at our radio stations offices. It’s on after hours. Granted that’s not an easy system for some people. In checking for weather cancellations one morning I stumbled across messages from a man who wanted to get a birthday on the air. Of course we do that live on KFIZ six mornings a week and take them ahead of time during business hours as well. Still it was inconvenient for him.

With the Internet a lot more inquiries are being done on line. I sometimes do that, but still prefer doing it over the phone or in person. Shopping is still a feel good experience for me although every once in a while you are going to have a bad experience. How mad does it make you to see an item in a flyer and then be told when you get to the store that they were only allowed to carry a certain number or that their particular store wasn’t allowed to stock that item? Buyer beware!

We are coming up on that time of year when Christmas shopping has us scrutinizing our purchases a little more carefully. I can’t tell you how much I agonize about the amount of time I want to spend in a crowded store. Add a little short temperedness of some shoppers and overworked clerks and you have the recipe for Bah Humbug. Remembering the reason for the season helps me get through it.

Generally the bigger the company the more lax the customer service seems to be. Recently a part in our central printer broke down. One of our ladies in the front office spent an hour and eight minutes on hold waiting for a real person to help her out. A couple more such calls and the better part of a week later our printer, which everyones' computers in the building are linked to, was up and running again. And you wonder why the corporate company that makes that printer went through a boardroom scandal in the past year?

Now for something nice to say! My experiences with local companies have been first rate. I call quite a few in connection with news stories. So my thanks to Mercury Marine, G & L, BCI Burke, Quad Graphics, Mid States Aluminum and a host of others. I don’t know how they treat their customers, but if they are as kind and courteous to them as they have been to this reporter, they’re being treated like royalty.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Freedom of speech or free publicity?

I’m all for peaceful student protests and the right to say your piece, but the incident involving 21-year-old Andrew Meyer of the University of Florida was shameful for all involved. In case you missed the tidal wave of publicity that followed his persistent and somewhat angry questioning of Senator John Kerry during the Senator’s appearance on campus that led to a confrontation with police. They tried to remove him from in front of a microphone when his time limit was up and he began to put up a struggle.

Police had to use a Taser on him during his pleas of “No bro don’t tase, me.” The officers in question are now under scrutiny while Meyer after his release from jail Tuesday morning decided not to talk with the press. That’s interesting given that he has his own website, which displays material that some would call stupid, others glory-seeking, and yet others would say makes some interesting points. He’s also known as a practical joker. He’s a communications major and knows how to get attention. He’s gotten that in spades.

Somewhat removed from my college days I do remember some hot button issues of the day we protested. I usually chose the written word, the student newspaper or through peaceful means. I believe a student should be able to express his or her opinion, especially if they have no ulterior motive. I’m not so sure Meyer didn’t have one.

As for the use of tasers or stun guns, I think it’s an option for police officers I’d rather see than someone being shot. Pepper spray doesn’t always work, but when an officer threatens the use of a stun gun the person causing the problem usually shows some hesitancy.

A Fond du Lac police officer had to use a taser on a man at the Fond du Lac County jail this week. The man caused a disturbance in front of a downtown bar after being kicked out for trying to pick fights. An officer gave him every chance advising him to just walk home, but he then decided to tease a police dog in the officer’s squad car by barking loudly at it. The officer advised him to stop because that’s a crime, but the man continued calling the dog profane names. Finally the officer said he was going to arrest the man and the man took off on foot. He was caught. Several times during his arrest he was told he would be tased when he wouldn’t get into a squad car. That didn’t happen, but later at the jail as the man was struggling with six officers, a taser was used not once but twice when he wouldn’t calm down.

I’m not sure how other departments handle it, but when a Fond du Lac police officer uses a taser the incident is reviewed to see if it was a necessary use of force. In this case it seemed it was. By the way because the man was struggling with six officers the officer had to look for a large muscle group to use the taser on. The only one open that fit that description for the first stun was the buttocks.

It’s unfortunate that civil disobedience and freedom of speech has evolved on campus in this particular instance into a national forum and political issue. Freedom of speech or free publicity, which was Andrew Meyer really seeking?

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Parent's Responsibility Never Ends!

I’m now convinced that no matter how old a parent gets they will always be responsible for a child. That’s a hard lesson for both parent and child to learn and unfortunately I recently saw examples of that in the Fond du Lac County court system.

I won’t use any names, but if you follow the news you’ll at least be able to figure out one case I’m referring to. Both were in court the same day before Judge Peter Grimm for initial hearings. A 30-year-old woman was there because she failed to make an appearance and was wanted on a warrant. She’d actually reached some type of agreement to pay a fine on a bad check writing charge. She told the judge she’d moved in with a man and didn’t have any way of getting to court from the part of the state she was living in. She also had no job and if I had to guess I’d say she either is very ditsy or has some type of substance abuse problem. Her grandmother was in court to pay her fine and get her out of hot water.

The other case was more serious. Another 30-year-old woman made her appearance via video from the jail. She’s been charged with drunken driving homicide for running into another car, which resulted in injuries to three others in the other vehicle including the death of a 7-month old child. Her parents were sitting in front of me and you could tell by their reaction that they were going to have a hard time making the $15,000 cash bond the judge set for her. After the hearing they both were out in a parking lot working cell phones to try and scrape together bail money. Apparently they were successful because she was out before the weekend was over.

Listening to a little of her history you could gather that she’d been through a divorce a few years ago and was trying to do her best as a single mom for her 11-year-old son. This is the sad thing about some drunken driving accidents that result in fatal injuries. It may be someone’s first mistake and you may be a good person, but you can’t take back what happened.

I’m not really picking on women here. A few years ago I was in court for a hearing involving a 55-year-old man. His elderly father, with portable oxygen tank by his side, sat and listened waiting to do what he had to so his son could get out of jail. While covering hearings in Dodge County court a few years back I heard about the worst decision by a young man in his 20’s. He’d driven drunk and hit a van containing a family on their way to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The mother of the family was instantly killed; others were injured including a teenage girl who was left a paraplegic. His family put up their farm to make a half a million dollars cash bond. While he was out on bail he and his younger brother went to an underage drinking party violating his bail and he was caught. His parents forfeited their farm. I’m not sure if they got it back, but I know he was sent to prison.

Not all examples are restricted to courtrooms. One of my younger sisters ended up living at home the past year when she hit a rough patch. She got tired of hitting her head on the glass ceiling and decided to go out on her own, which worked for awhile. She’s bounced back since then, but again a parent chips in when they have to. Though my Mom complained about it I think she liked the company.

Sports briefs:

Being from Michigan I’m taking shots on how bad the Wolverines are playing this year. You have to take the bad with the good. I was happy to see the Green Bay Packers beat the Eagles on Sunday. It was far from a stunning success, but after five straight losses to Philadelphia it was nice to see the Packers win. And it’s nice to see the Milwaukee Brewers still in a pennant race this late in the season.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Labor Day is Memorial Day

I’ll explain the picture in a moment. There’s still a little kid inside of me that dreads Labor Day. That’s because it always meant the start of another school year. However now it signals the end of summer, which is far too brief.

For years I always got my holidays confused, Labor Day and Memorial Day, not sure which unofficially started and ended summer. I’d actually like to see them switched. It doesn’t’ seem right that we pay tribute to our workers with a day off and then send them back, to begin the final leg of the year. I do enjoy the tribute to our veterans on Memorial Day, but some how feel it would be more appropriate towards the end of summer.

This year it feels a little more like Memorial Day around Labor Day because we recently lost a Fond du Lac area soldier in the war in Iraq. Captain Derek Dobogai was one of 14 soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in northern Iraq. I didn’t know him, but have spoken to a couple of his acquaintances including one of his best friends Adam Mueller. He has my sympathy.

No matter how you feel about the war you have to admire those who are willing to put their lives on the line. You know it’s interesting how we view war and how those who serve in wars do.

One of my first jobs out of college was as a dispatcher for the public safety department in my hometown of Manistique, Michigan. A majority of the police officers I worked with had military service. Most had served in Vietnam, one in Korea. They didn’t talk openly about their experiences. If they did it was in passing. One of the officers, who doubled as an EMT, was a medic in the Korean War. Another, who served in Vietnam, tried to make a joke of it when he talked about his experiences. It usually came off as nervous and awkward. If they wanted to talk about it they would.

A couple of my friends went into the military. One drowned in a training accident. Another became a first-rate soldier. I didn’t lose any friends or relatives that I know of to war. I’m lucky that way, so far. My two nephews are 9 and 12 years old this year. I hope if they ever have to serve in the military they come through unscathed.

For Derek Dobogai’s family Labor Day is Memorial Day. His funeral service is on Monday.

If you’d like to sign his guest book here’s the address:

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Barney's Grocery

We recently ran a poll on the website asking people how the closing of the Pick ‘N Save grocery store on West Scott Street in Fond du Lac would affect them. One of those who saw the poll e-mailed and suggested that we should have included an option that the question was stupid. Fair enough, I’m one of those who will be impacted by the decision to close the store. That’s not the reason for the poll however. Quite a few people commented to me that they too will now have to shop elsewhere. Roundy’s closed the Copps Foods store a couple years ago and I enjoyed shopping there as well. A lot of people are anticipating the opening of Festival Foods.

When I was a teenager two of the first three jobs I had involved working at grocery stores in my hometown of Manistique, Michigan. One was at the A & P store, which had a line of stores across the country that has since closed. Their store brand was the Ann Page line of groceries. The other job was at a Mom and Pop store known as Barney’s Grocery.

Working at Barney’s is still one of my fondest memories. It was a small store on Oak Street a stone’s throw from a Catholic School and only a couple blocks down from an Elementary School. Barney Johnson was the proprietor. He was probably in his late 60s to early 70s when I worked a couple days a week for him stocking shelves.

Barney’s was a good old-fashioned neighborhood grocery store. For the kids it was where you could pick up penny candies, though by that time most candy bars and candies ran you more. He had all the latest candy. I remember going through a caramel candy bar phase. Remember the Marathon Bar? Of course Barney was no fool he carried a line of grocery products and beer and wine for adults.

Somewhere along the line Barney got his 15 minutes of fame. He was written up in the local weekly paper (The Pioneer Tribune) because he’d been offering penny candies for more than 40 years and served generations of children. Imagine the patience needed for those momentous decisions kids with a few pennies and dimes agonized over in his store?

Eventually time marched on and Barney passed away. Thankfully the store fell into the hands of Jim Sangraw, another nice guy, who for years was also connected with the local golf course as well. I went to school with one of his kids. He kept Barney’s name on the sign outside the store.

Sadly the store went the way of many Mom and Pop operations and is no longer doing business. We lived a block down from Barney’s and it was part of my tween and teen years. I asked about it a few years back and some one told me that the people who owned it were basically using it for storage. A sad end to a sweet story!

8/26/07-P.S. Since originally writing this blog. I've found out through relatives and the Pioneer Tribune that the old Barney's Grocery store has been remodeled and is now being used as the local headquarters for Habitat for Humanity.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Oh Blog!

I probably will live to regret this, but here goes any way. During a recent blog I wrote that I have to start writing them on more of a regular basis. Of course by comparison I’m leagues ahead of my colleagues at KFIZ. One likes the Internet so much he hasn’t written one in over a year. Another who pushed us to write blogs to show listeners more of our personalities hasn’t penned one in nearly a year.

I like reading their thoughts, but haven’t been treated to any fresh ones in about three months, at the very least. I think this blogging thing is a good thing. It’s like buying a DVD of a movie, enjoying the film, and then finding out the cheapskates didn’t include any extras except the trailers you’d see in the movie theater any way.

Okay I got that out of my system now on to something different. There’s a benefit coming up for Kellan Henning this Saturday (August 18) at Taylor Park in Rosendale. There are activities for kids and adults from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Kellan was bicycling last month when he was hit by a car. He’s undergone a number of surgeries and his folks could use the help with medical bills. There are a lot of deserving benefits out there and I hate to just shed light on one, but there you go.

I liked Tommy Thompson as a Governor and felt some pride when he got a cabinet post in the Bush Administration, but to tell you the truth couldn’t really see him as a presidential candidate. The teflon coating isn’t holding up as well as it did years ago and I was fearful that as the campaign trail wore on we’d find out more about him than we really wanted to know.

As a reporter and fellow human being I’ve been disappointed with the way press conferences have been staged in the Utah Mine disaster. By the time they get up to the mikes and cameras officials have already informed the families of the progress they’ve made. So why prolong their agony and everybody elses with technical mumbo jumbo. Is there any sign of life, any thread of hope, have our prayers been answered?

Last, but not least. Ashland, Kentucky’s “Duct Tape Bandit.” What was he thinking?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Candles In a Coal Mine

One tragedy seems to replace another in a week-by-week succession this year. Okay that’s a shoot from the hip generality, but something that was brought up by a young lady just getting her feet wet in my profession.

After hearing about the I-35W Bridge collapse in Minnesota she wondered if we were reaching an apocalyptic stage in the world given similar collapses and steam venting over the last few months. I told her no it’s just that a lot of our nation’s infrastructure went through a building boom in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s and now it’s aging. Little did I know from talking to local officials how right I was.

Still it gets you to thinking about the collection of tragedies during the past few years. As I write there’s a search for six missing coal miners in Utah. We can hope and pray that turns out okay.

During the first day I was reporting on the bridge collapse my mind kept wondering back to a movie I saw a few months ago on television “The Mothman Prophecies.” It’s a sci-fi movie about a reporter investigating Mothman sightings and visions. Richard Gere is the reporter who has visions about a disaster along a river. It turns out to be a bridge collapse in which 37 people are killed. It was based in part on the real-life 1967 collapse of the Silver Bridge that claimed 46 lives. Isn’t it ironic that the Minnesota I-35W Bridge was built that same year?

I talked about bridges in one of my earlier blogs. One I didn’t mention is the Siphon Bridge in Manistique, Michigan. That’s my hometown. Supposedly the bridge was once in a Ripley’s Believe It or Not newspaper segment. It’s supposedly engineered so that water helps support the weight of the bridge. You can look it up: .

We’ve got a little less than five months left in 2007. I’m wondering what catastrophe is next. That’s sort of like tempting fate asking and hopefully the answer can wait until 2008. I think we’ve seen enough this year. Meanwhile let’s light a collective candle for the families of those missing miners.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Writer's Blog

I really should be writing more in my blog. It's not as if I don't have enough ideas. Time is the key. Most work days are about 12 to 13 hours long. Writing something after that becomes a matter of mush mindedness. So I'll try to do better.

Some short thoughts. The next time Lindsay Lohan's family points fingers at why she's going through what she is, they should look up the name Barrymore. Drew survived being a child star, although she had some rough spots. However she overcame the family history of alcoholism to form her own production company and make some entertaining movies.

Barry Bonds. I don't know how to feel about him breaking Hank Aaron's record. The steroid allegations bother me. I admire Hank's record because while he was building toward it, the color of his skin and not the size of his muscles was the biggest obstacle to get around.

It's a shame that the usual reason someone breaks into a home or sticks up a gas station is no longer because they can't make ends meet, but because they can't feed their drug habit fast enough.

Would it be such a sacrifice for state lawmakers to do what's best for the residents of Wisconsin and not what's best for their party when it comes to putting together a two-year budget. A lot more people didn't vote than did when it came to elections and they need representation too!

Are the Milwaukee Brewer's playoff hopes sinking? Hit hard, run fast, score early and fade in the late innings is a habit they need to break.

I've been told outside actual news and sports stories that we can no longer refer to that professional football team from Green Bay solely as the ****ers without adding the line to go to for more information. All I can say is I love my Green Bay ****ers. Remember that on Family Night.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Happy Anniversary KFIZ

It’s really hard to appreciate the magnitude of KFIZ’s 85th Anniversary. At least it was for me. It was great to hear from some of those who worked at the station way back when like Joe Gaeser, Max Showalter and a host of others. I’ve met some like John Pappenheim, Rob Cutter and a few more at other functions.

I’ve been at KFIZ for five years now. I was telling Fond du Lac City Councilman Jim Sabel the other night, it’s like spending a few years playing for the Green Bay Packers and trying to appreciate the history and tradition of that storied franchise. I’m happy just to wear the uniform and hope what I do is more Brett Favre or Bart Starr-like than Jerry Tagge or Scott Hunter-like.

Of course thanks to generous business supporters we have some nice prizes to give away, but still aren’t sure about a cake. It’s a question of how to do it, how to serve it, etc. Since it’s a year long celebration the cake could come later.

Eight-five, it’s something to ponder. Commercial AM radio has survived television, FM radio, satellite radio, the computer and the iPhone! Probably missed a few, but when I’m traveling I grow tired of listening to CDs and spend most time listening to what others in my game are up to.

I’ve had a great time this week helping celebrate the anniversary, that is until on my way home Friday afternoon.

Pulling out onto Winnebago Drive I encountered a string of traffic while heading west. Coming up on the corner near Kwik Trip I stopped because a city street sweeper and the traffic in front of it in that lane I wanted to be in was narrowing. The city worker stopped for me and I waived a hand in my rear view mirror to let him know I appreciated it.

I’m guessing now that it was a bad move because the SUV now behind me tailgated all the way up to the lights at Scott and North Main, weaving back and forth so I wouldn’t know if the driver intended to pass me on the right or left in traffic. Problem was the truck in front of me hadn’t picked a lane yet either.

I’m thinking now that when I waived my hand the SUV’s driver thought I was giving a one finger salute. That was not the case. The driver made a sudden stop in the middle lane at the lights, a car-length ahead of me. Not quite figuring out the finger thing yet I wanted to get a look at the moron driving the SUV. That’s when I spotted the blonde-haired blue-eyed heart breaker riding shotgun in the backseat.

I got over my anger, sort of. So there are a couple things I have to say to Mr. or Mrs. dark blue-colored, Dodge Durango, Wisconsin license plate number RZD 981 tailgating me at 2:10 p.m. on Friday, July 13th. First of all the wave wasn’t for you, all the digits were fully extended. Your erratic driving endangered me, the cars in front of me, and the 4, 5, or 6-year old girl who was half hanging out the back passenger side window. The girl is the aforementioned blonde. By the way doesn’t the state have a child safety seat law in place now? Oh yeah, one more thing. I’m a news reporter Mr. or Mrs. SUV.

In any event thanks to all our great listeners for helping us celebrate our 85th Anniversary!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Highway 151 Bypass

I'm ashamed. There are so many good things about the Fond du Lac community to be proud of. However the way some people expressed themselves at a public meeting on the Highway 151 Bypass in Fond du Lac isn't one of them.

I know that feelings run deep especially if you own a business or a home and cutting crossover access is going to directly affect you. Just the same people were given the opportunity to write out their questions and have them addressed or directly give their opinion.

Why then did some feel the need to yell out their objections, not giving others the chance to finish what they had to say? Yes I know for many the Department of Transportation officials at the meeting were the enemy. What they had to say wasn't going to be popular. What they had to say was how they were going to address safety concerns expressed by a different crowd at a different meeting in Fond du Lac in February.

There was one ugly moment when Kim Rudat of the DOT tried to cut off former Fond du Lac City Councilman and Wildlife Acres co-owner Mark Weber. He'd hit a time limit, but others willingly gave up their time to allow him to finish what he had to say. Another speaker who lives in that area called for DOT Northeast Region Director Mike Berg's resignation. That took guts, but Berg's keeping quiet during that time took more.

I'm not sure what the answer is for the Bypass, but I know from time spent living in other communities people are always able to adjust and adapt. Someone once told me that when the Johnson Street overpass was first proposed in Fond du Lac there were quite a few who objected to that.

I'm happy area residents had a chance to have their say. Now here's someone else's I'd like to share with you. Following the meeting a few people I've come to know and trust said they were disappointed at the way some spoke out. One said they felt it wasn't Fond du Lac's finest moment! If that upsets you, just remember they are entitled to express their opinion too and it was barely above a whisper.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Letter To Paris

Dear Paris:

First of all let us say how fab you looked in your mug shot. Much better than Mel's, bet he's green with envy.

Since some of us have had to go through the booking process, under much less flattering conditions, we wanted to offer you a few words of support. Keep that perfect chin up.

We certainly understand why you weren't at your best in the courtroom. First they offer you a ray of hope and send you home, then they yank you back into court and send you off to jail. Who does that? The Sheriff was right, the Judge was wrong. By the way it was your best performance yet.

Time will fly by while you suffer for being the best you that you can be. To express our support in a more practical way we've fashioned a golden broach shaped like your perky puppy. Each of us will wear one whenever we attend an awards ceremony or any type of "red carpet" function to let those celebrity hounding creeps know that in your "time out," we are thinking of you.

When you do get released we'll all get together for a debriefing. You have to spill about what you went through. You know, just in case some of us ever find ourselves going through it too. Yeah, like that's going to happen.

Good news Barbara Walters called. She wants you to appear on "The View" when you get out to talk about misunderstood celebrities. We're even thinking about starting a celebrity support group. We kicked around the name MisUnderstood Celebrities Know, but the MUCK acronym just wouldn't go over in Hollywood. By the way we accepted the invitation from Barbara for you, but told her you'd only do it when Elizabeth, HATE HER, goes on maternity leave.


Britney, Lindsay, Nicole and Rosie

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Duke Dies

Steve "Axle" Hinkley sent me this, which I use now to correct some info in my previous blog on "John Wayne." It mentioned the "Duke" and how many films he died in, but gave the wrong number as the following entry shows. Thanks Steve. Bob Nelson

Bob Tuttle, a big John Wayne fan, offered some more information about Duke Wayne's career: "With regards to Duke's film deaths, he did die in eight films, they were: Central Airport (1933)--He drowns in an airplane crash (this was an uncredited role); Reap The Wild Wind (1942)--He drowns battling a giant squid; The Fighting Seabees (1944)--He is shot by a Japanese soldier; Wake of the Red Witch (1949)--He drowns; Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)--Shot by a sniper; The Alamo (1960)--killed with a soldier's lance; The Cowboys (1972)--Shot in the back, and his last film, The Shootist (1976)--Shot in the back by the Metropole bartender.... Wayne also appeared as a corpse in 1931's The Deceiver, and his character died in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). "

Thursday, May 24, 2007

John Wayne

I didn't grow up a John Wayne fan, but somehow over the years have become one. Some of that may have rubbed off because my Mom is a big "Duke" fan. If there's a Wayne movie on television you'll have to pry her away from it.

I mention this because his 100th birthday would have been this weekend and you'll be seeing scores of his films on the old glitter box.

My parents grew up at a time when Hollywood had the star system and a movie star was the real deal. Their pictures got you through the Great Depression, WW II and you could escape from real life. It was before TV, VHS and DVD's would bring their movies right into your living room.

My folks tried to teach me a little about the classic stars and appreciation for their films. I guess some of that sunk through because now when I watch an old film I appreciate the movie and the performances a little more.

When did I become a John Wayne fan. You know that's a funny thing. It kind of slipped over me. My Dad liked Jimmy Stewart and I am a Jimmy Stewart fan as a result. It must have happened while I was watching "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance." I've seen it a number of times, but it wasn't until recently that I came to realize that it wasn't Jimmy Stewart who was giving the great performance.

Other Wayne movies I enjoy are "The Searchers," "Rio Bravo," "The Quiet Man," "True Grit," and "The Shootist." "The Shootist" was his last film and ironically about a gunfighter dying from cancer. It's fun to see Ron Howard, the actor, playing a gunfighter wannabe.

Until recently I'd never seen "Stagecoach" the film generally regarded as the movie that put John Wayne on the map. Watch the first scene when the camera focuses on him and it's definitely a star making moment. He only had to toil in movies for nine years to get that point.

Fellow KFIZ Breakfast Clubber Jerry St. John tells me there are certain Wayne films he'll watch whenever they are on like "The Quiet Man" or "McClintock." So I guess I'm not alone in that regard.

I sort of understand why I became a "Duke" fan, but don't quite get why he's such an enduring star now 28 years after his death. Some of the stars I enjoy watching now, I'm wondering if the same can be said. Maybe when Bruce Willis hits his sixties he'll win an Oscar too!

Watching the "Duke" die on film is tough. It only happened in four of his films. If you can name them you're probably a Wayne fan too. For me the death he suffered in "The Cowboys" not only drove the plot, but showed that even in one of his last films he still had it. Like Stewart and Cary Grant, Errol Flynn and a few others; Wayne could act, but made it look like he was having too much of a good time to be taken seriously. Maybe that's the point. He was entertaining us and 100 years after his birth still is.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Candlelight Vigil

Unfortunately it's become all to common place to hear about candlelight vigils in Wisconsin. Specifically over the last several weeks in Fond du Lac. Four high school students have lost their lives in two seperate traffic accidents. One continues battling for her life and another was seriously injured.

I attended the candlelight vigil for 16-year-old Candy Holstein at Fond du Lac's Veterans Park. Several hundred area residents were there, mostly in Candy's age bracket. At first a few pictures were propped up on a large planter in the middle of the park. Soon there were mementos and flowers piling up. It really stinks that these are the kind of tributes her family will have to remember instead of the other milestones that accumulate over a regular lifetime.

So it also goes for the lives of Peng Thao, Fue Vang and Jerry Vang who were killed in an accident several weeks before. I didn't attend that vigil, but thanks to the church where it was held got an audio copy and was able to hear the stories and grief that friends and relatives shared at that vigil. Really when your 16 or even 18 years old a funny story about working at KFC or McDonald's is the kind of story you should be sharing with friends at school or just hanging out. Certainly not at a candlelight vigil, visitation or a funeral.

The stories I've heard behind the scenes about how close other kids were to grabbing rides with the victims in those two accidents would make your hair curl. Or how about returning to school after one funeral to sit next to an empty seat that should be occupied by a 16-year-old girl who can't be there because she was killed in another car accident that weekend. And how would you feel to be sharing a locker with one of those unfortunate four?

I was lucky when I was in high school. The closest I came to losing a classmate in a car crash was a guy I played football with. One of my sisters had a crush on him. He sported scars at graduation. My Mom on the other hand was not as lucky. A car load of kids ran her older and youngest brother off a rural road one night. My Uncle Jack, who I never knew, was killed. My Uncle Jimmy was left with a permanent hearing disability. He walked a long ways to get help. My Mom suspects she probably has seen those responsible hundred of times over the years, but they never owned up to it. My Dad's older brother was walking along a road when he was hit and killed by a hit and run driver. One of his shoes ended up in the rain gutter of an adjacent home.

It's sudden, it's violent and then it's over. Unlike the gear shift in your car, there is no reverse.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Monday Moanin'

Growing up in Michigan I always loved reading Bob Talbert's (right) column in the Detroit Free Press. Especially on Mondays when he would trot out random thoughts and odd bits and pieces in what he called "Monday Moanin'." With all kinds of thoughts on my mind I thought I'd pay homage to that.

The memorial ceremony for the St. Louis Church held at Marian College Sunday was nice. It was like a Sunday social with cake and lemonade after and for some a chance to share the memories of a lifetime.

Sitting in court last Friday for the preliminary hearings of four people accused of drug transactions that lead to the overdose death of a Campbellsport man, it struck me how much his death could affect the lives of others. One young woman hugged a baby shortly after her hearing and another looks like she's on the verge of starting her own family. Should the law prosecute others for a drug death when the victim makes a decision to take drugs?

Why is it that the guys who egg you the most about being folliclely challenged (bald or going bald) choose to wear a toupee they think you're not smart enough to spot?

I think most women look pleasant or even beautiful whether they're 18 or 80. That being said why can't some be happy with the way they appear? I saw a woman in her late 40's or early 50's the other day trying to pull off a mini-skirt look that someone half her age would have had a tough time managing.

Did you second guess the Packers on their draft this past weekend? I don't recognize any of the names, but who ever heard of Donald Driver or Aaron Kampman before they blossomed into All-Pros?

I saw a couple good movies on DVD over the weekend. Night at the Museum and Deja Vu. Night stars Ben Stiller who can be funny without mugging for the camera and Deja Vu stars Denzel Washington as an ATF agent looking into a ferry explosion. If you watch Vu look out for the beginning. If you're like me you may be thinking your DVD player is on the fritz.

Why is it I can never sleep on Sunday nights? Mondays are tough enough as it is. Especially if you worked every day the previous week. Starting out Monday morning talking about a house fire that left a family homeless and a traffic accident in Washington County that claimed two teens lives, it didn't seem things could get much worse. Unfortunately they did when three teens lost their lives in a fatal Fond du Lac County accident. Sadly Monday Moanin' turned to just mourning.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Monday, April 16th. I was actually home sick when I flipped on Court TV and saw a "Breaking News" headline and a caption about 30 some people being killed by a gunman at Virginia Tech. My first though was that it was some kind of fictional drama. That's a newsman's skepticism. To make sure I flipped over to CNN and was automatically hooked.

Although I was actually sick, the real life tragedy made me feel heartsick. Once again America was center stage for a tragedy that as the Tech President said was of "monumental proportions." I watched him talk about it in a live press conference. I know my media colleagues were focusing on getting the story and every bit of detail, but I felt as though they should be concentrating on the more than 30 families that were going through an unimaginable moment.

United again in tragedy we gleaned details from radio, television, newspapers, the Internet. Students were e-mailed on the Virginia Tech campus about a shooter, but not until after the damage had been done. Another Columbine, another disgruntled student, another national debate on campus security and gun control. Another nationwide wound that will eventually heal over, but leave a permanent scar.

If you went to college you'll know what I'm talking about. Even if you're years removed from being a student, when you step on a college campus memories flood back. A sense of optimism, a feeling that all you aspire to, the key to having what you want in life is within your grasp. Bang, it's gone!

One student caught the sounds of gunshots on his cell phone and became an instant correspondent for CNN. I won't forget that. Let's hope there are not any moments ahead like it. Columbine has been replaced by a new national tragedy. One that's put across by cell phones and text messaging and silent loudspeakers on the Virginia Tech campus.

We're learning more about the shooter, but let's take time to learn more about the victims and their families. Their lives meant nothing to him, they should mean something to the rest of us.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Judge Not

$7.25 Remember that number and think about what you can buy for that much money these days.

I'm not sure how you feel, but the recent Wisconsin Supreme Court race made me sick. The barage of attack ads both on the radio and television, mailers and computerized phone calls at home from Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and others. Come on!

I interviewed both candidates during the primary and leading up to the spring election. During the primary both focused on their records and talked about what they thought the role of a Supreme Court justice should be. They differed on that somewhat.

In the days before the election it was a different matter. I had to ask Washington County Judge Annette Ziegler (pictured) about the accusations made against her by her opponent Madison lawyer Linda Clifford. You know conflict of interest, ethics, etc. Most of it boiled down to cases involving West Bend Savings Bank, a bank whose Board of Directors her husband sits on. She spent about half of the interview talking about that and her record on sentencing sex offenders.

Linda Clifford spent more than half the interview pushing the public records search of Ziegler's cases. She then talked about her own experience, which covers many areas of the law but not criminal law. I mentioned it would have been nice to spend more time talking about Linda Clifford the candidate. She agreed, but the interview had to be kept to a certain time length due to programming constraints.

I spoke to Judge Ziegler again on election night to congratulate her and talk about what's next. She said she hoped to put the campaign negatives behind her and concentrate on more positives like being sworn in this August to take the seat retiring Justice Jon Wilcox is leaving. At 42 years of age she could be on the Supreme Court a long time, like another woman that sits there now. Shirley Abrahamson.

As for the $7.25 According to my shaky math skills there were 828,707 people combined that voted for either Ziegler or Clifford. There was also more than $6 million spent on the campaign, by the candidates and other interests. That comes pretty close to $7.25 spent for each vote. Political experts say it may be the first of many Supreme Court campaigns to come in which we will see more and more money spent by the candidates and political interests.

I talked to a local election official after the Supreme Court race and mentioned it was supposed to be nonpartisan. She said tell that to the talk show hosts who characterized Ziegler as the Republican candidate and Clifford as the Democratic candidate. To me that comment was just..supreme!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

St. Louis Church Fire

It's really difficult to describe some pictures even if they say a picture is worth a thousand words. I'd venture to guess that there are some who witnessed the St. Louis Church fire in Fond du Lac who would have more than enough words to describe what they witnessed. If you're not a religious person you probably wouldn't understand that for a lot of people your church is part of the backbone of your community.

Most of my formative years were spent growing up in a house that was a block down from the church that we went to. In fact there were two other churches right across the street from our house. Ironically the house still stands on a site that was originally a stable for one of the churches.

I didn't get down to the St. Louis Church until about 2:30 on Tuesday, March 20th. By then the church was still burning, but not as bad as it had earlier in the night. I'm actually glad I didn't have to see the worst of it. I understand that it was almost like a social gathering. People took pictures of the church. Watched as generations of hopes, prayers and family history floated up into the evening sky with the embers. I've seen it before.

Of course I was eighteen at the time, my senior year in high school. Someone had left left a space heater on at the Schoolcraft County Courthouse in Manistique, Michigan when they went home one weekend. It heated up a wall behind it and that Saturday night most of the County showed up to watch the 100 year old or so Courthouse go up in smoke. People were heartsick. It was a time when birth certificates, death certificates, deeds and all manner of records were still kept on paper. In other words, thousands of lives were affected by that fire.

I'm not sure how many lives were touched by the St. Louis Church. Like the Courthouse it was a unique structure. You could rebuild on the site, you could try and save pieces of it, but there are some things that bricks and mortar can't replace.

If you're lucky you'll be witness to one really memorable fire in your lifetime. If you're even luckier you'll never have one that touches your life personally. It saddens me that I sometimes have to report on fires like the one at the St. Louis Church. However I'm glad that unlike house fires in the Markesan and Random Lake areas I didn't have to report that children lost their lives in the fire. Buildings can be replaced or restored.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

In The Line of Duty

A Leadership Fond du Lac group wants to place a police and fire fighters memorial in Hamilton Park. It seems like a simple enough request, but there's been some criticism.

Fond du Lac City Councilwoman Lindee Kimball mentioned during a meeting that one resident had contacted her saying they can't see doing the project, that if you are going to do it for the police and fire fighters...why not teachers? After all they put their lives on the line every day too.

You know I can see the point, but you could argue that for just about everyone who works. Farmers, factory workers, highway crews,etc. Even newsguys sometimes put it on the line.

Okay the last is a bit extreme. I'm not Bob Woodruff and I'll never be covering a war on foreign soil, but there have been a few stories I've covered over the years that could have put me in harms way. A couple standoff incidents where I trusted law enforcement officials to know that we were out of the line of fire. In Dodge County I sat outside a farmhouse once while authorities searched it for booby traps and weapons. It belonged to the Oswalds, the father and son who killed a Waukesha police captain after a bank robbery. There was another time I was at the scene of a huge chemical fire, not knowing where safe exactly was.

Even your own office isn't completely safe. While working in Munising, Michigan our radio station used to allow people to come in and make copies on our copy machine for a small charge. One guy the community had nicknamed "Rambo," because of the army camoflague pants he always wore and the headband, would constantly come in to make copies. He was always involved in some kind of civil litigation with the city or county and everyone gave him a wide berth. Calling him strange would have been an understatement. One night "Rambo" was at a bar where he turned to another patron and bragged that he'd just killed his mother. He had butchered her in fact. He's serving a life term in a Michigan prison.

Of course every day life can be scary. Take the Waupun woman who gave up a job she enjoyed at a Fond du Lac insurance company because her husband kept badgering her at work. Ultimately he chased her into a municipal building in Fox Lake and killed her. She gets the same memorial we all will eventually, a small marker with a way too brief summary of our life here on earth.

Monday, March 12, 2007

You May Be From Wisconsin

I'm never going to be able to say with confidence that I'm from Wisconsin. Mostly because even though I've lived here for 20 years now, I'll always have my roots in the U.P.

Still there are some things that I do, say, think that could fit in as punchlines to a joke that starts "You may be from Wisconsin if.." For instance last week we had our first 40 degree day of the season. I'm riding in my car and my first instinct is to turn on the air conditioner. I settled for cranking down a window instead. And by cranking I mean electronically lowering it.

I enjoyed a bowl of chili the other day and found myself putting small chunks of cheddar cheese in it. That's something I never used to do until just the last few years when I told someoneI can't see putting macaroni noodles in chili and they suggested putting cheese in it instead. My U.P. upbringing does have me using venison when I can to make chili.

One thing I did get right from the start is being a Packer fan. I've was brought up that way by my father, who started life out as a fan of Da' Bears. For him that changed during the Lombardi years. The rest of my brothers and sisters are Packer fans too, except for my sister Diana the long-suffering Lions fan. I told her one weekend that ESPN Classic Channel was airing reruns of highlights from NFL Championship games and she asked me to tape the last one the Lions won. Shucks I missed it.

I have gotten to the point where I also take it personally when I hear a disparaging remark about Wisconsin or the area. That Lions fan sister of mine sometimes puts in a slam, especially when I'm visiting and we're watching a Packer's game. Most times she just leaves the room.

A couple weeks ago I was at a press conference in North Fond du Lac waiting on police to arrive and took offense to some things I overheard being said about North Fond du Lac and Fond du Lac. I know it was supposed to be good natured fun by some of my TV colleagues, but a few things sounded spiteful. The Village and City have a lot of things to be proud of and if I were living and working in Milwaukee I might watch the size rock I'm throwing...otherwise I'll have to e-mail Jeff Foxworthy for some good "You may be from Milwaukee if..." jokes.

All of that being said I do take pride in the fact that I live in Wisconsin and love all of its cities and burgs. Not a native, but not naive either.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

And the Winner is..

My love of movies probably came from my Dad. At one time I actually served as a movie critic for one of the radio stations I worked for. The problem is I'm more of a popcorn movie type of guy. You know favoring movies that are entertaining versus those that wow real critics.

I actually looked forward to this year's Oscars. Because of the early morning hours I work I couldn't stay up for the whole thing, but tried to stick around for at least one major award. That came 90 minutes into the telecast. Because the Academy wants to appeal to an international audience we have to sit through every minor category. Many people have remarked to me that they simply just hate that. I agree if you watched the Barbara Walters special, the red carpet preview and the Oscars you put in more than 5 hours.

I'm actually looking forward to seeing some of this year's winners. However I never buy all the critical hype instead preferring the praise of someone I know in idle conversation as the best thumbnail description of a movie.

I recently picked up some movies on DVD after getting a little Oscar fever. Putting on my old critic's hat here are some brief descriptions. Peter Jackson's "King Kong" is one long film, which probably could have been broken up into two smaller films. Yes it's visually stunning and the special effects are very good, but unlike his Lord of the Rings films as action-packed as a film can get it's hard to get worked up about a movie when you already know the sad conclusion, the monkey dies!

Our morning show's Bob Hoffmaster recommended the Spike Lee film "Inside Man." It's a caper film starring Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster and Clive Owen. I never thought I'd say I enjoyed a Spike Lee film, but there it is. The bank robbers aren't the real villains. If you like smart films with a Law & Order type twist you might like this one.

Finally last, but not least a movie I haven't been able to get out of my head "Hollywoodland." It bombed at the box office and might not appeal to everyone, but if you like a good conspiracy theory this might do it for you. It's about the mystery surrounding the death of 1950's TV Superman, George Reeves. In it a fictional detective, based on a real detective, looks into the suicide of Reeves. It paints a sad portrait of Reeves who couldn't get a good acting job once he donned the famous cape.

Ben Affleck plays Reeves. Adrien Brody is the detective. There's a marvelous scene where Reeves is watching a screening of the film "From Here to Eternity" in a packed movie house. He's morphed into a real scene from that film with the film's star Burt Lancaster. I won't give it away. The movie shows three possible ways Reeves took his own life or was shot and killed by another. A warning though that this is not the kind of Superman film you want your children to see.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The New Love Boat

What is it with the Geico television ads? I just don't know whether to love them or hate them. For me they are becoming the new Love Boat. It's a place older celebrities and stars can go to still get their face in the public.

I'm trying to decide which of them is the absolute worst. Several people I've talked to think Little Richard's spot is awful. I kind of think it's Little Richard being Little Richard. Peter Graves, well did you see Airplane the Movie? Burt Bacharach's singing is terrible. He should have retired after the Austin Power's cameo. Charo, well whatever happened to her spot any way? The announcer guy, I always wondered who was connected to that voice.

I think they should have extended the older celebrity shtick to their caveman ads too. Can you imagine Don Rickles with one eyebrow or how about Phyllis Diller? If Mel Blanc was still around they could have gotten him to voice the surly lizard.

A friend of mine mentioned the ad he can't stand is the one featuring Robert Goulet crawling around on the ceiling and being very uncrooner-like. I think that one is for Emerald Nuts. That one I don't really find any problem with other than it's just weird.

One current spot I do like is the Taco Bell ads with the Lions where they are arguing about Ricardo Montalban and he's doing the voice over. I know he has severe back problems and it's good to know he has a talent that can be utilized.

The real shame of it is that some of these celebrities should be getting guest spots on television series because they do have talent. Some of the best dramatic performances I've seen in recent years have been from older stars making guest appearances in tv series. But for some you have to have insurance against getting older and fleeting fame and for others sometimes you just got to sell insurance.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Be My Valentine

The things my radio coworkers say on the air about me sometimes result in interesting results. For some reason the day before Valentine's Day Wade Bates said I needed a valentine and people should send cards, e-mails, drop off cookies etc. You can't see a guy blush over the radio, but I was a little lighter shade of rose red.

Thanks to our lady listeners the joke kind of backfired. I did get e-mails, a nice homemade card, a couple of stuffed animals including a singing teddy-bear that crooned Elvis's "Only Fools Fall In Love, " and some interesting comments. Most were very kind. One asked simply "Why are those guys picking on you?" I really didn't mind and most people know getting Valentine's cards and gifts will pick anyone up.

Here's a nice poem we shared on air from Rhonda Gurno at Wells Manufacturing:

KFIZ-the morning radio show,
Says Bob Nelson has no sweetheart in toe.

Don't worry Bob as you are truly not alone,
There are lots of single folks in the area just waiting by the phone.

No floral delivery, no candy and of course, not even a little pink card,
Can make the deal of Feb. 14, just a little bit hard.

Stand up, rejoice and get yourself a special treat,
Cuz' your fans out here think that you are really pretty neat!

I told Wade that payback can be a little awful, so here goes. It has a St. Patrick's Day theme to it. You can drop off cans of beef stew (do they come in Irish?) for Wade at KFIZ at 254 Winnebago Drive in Fond du Lac or maybe just send him a good luck message. His email address is If we do get some stew maybe we can donate it to one of our local food pantries, they can all use some good luck this time of year.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Rebel Without A Cause

This is Anna Nicole Smith when she was in High School in 1985. Sometimes we forget that most people do have humble beginnings. To tell you the truth I never really cared for her, but seeing tabloid TV picking her life apart less than 24 hours after her death sickened me.

She grew up idolizing Marilyn Monroe and like Marilyn died young. Like Marilyn she began as a small town girl too. I'm not so sure 45 years from now that people will still care about the sad life of Anna Nicole Smith the way they still do for Marilyn.

I guess when I started thinking about Anna's death it reminded me of the sad ending for former Saturday Night Live comic and movie star Chris Farley. He idolized John Belushi and like Belushi died young and had the same problems with drugs and alcohol.

I enjoyed watching Chris Farley and John Belushi. They made me laugh. Animal House, The Blues Brothers I still enjoy watching. Tommy Boy is one of my guilty pleasures. Not so much a fan of Marilyn's, but she did a pretty good job holding her own in Some Like It Hot with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon.

In talking about Anna Nicole Smith with friends at KFIZ we somehow got on the subject of movies that seemed to feature casts that went on to tragic endings. Rebel Without a Cause. The three lead actors in that 1955 film all died of tragic circumstances. James Dean in a car wreck, Natalie Wood of a suspicious drowning, and Sal Mineo was stabbed to death.

Marilyn Monroe starred in one of those movies too. The Misfits cast her with Clark Gable and Montgomery Clift. All three stars would die within a few short years of its filming. Gable the same year. Marilyn gave a good performance in that too. She was a bonafide movie star. Anna Nicole Smith's best role was as Anna Nicole Smith. Hopefully some young girl out there will carefully consider wanting to grow up to be like Anna Nicole Smith.

Live hard, die young and leave a good-looking corpse! It's attributed to James Dean, but too many try to live up to the saying.

Friday, February 02, 2007

That Hollow Feeling

My boss is a Bear's fan and he hasn't been too bad about rubbing it in this season. He sent this through the station pipeline the other day. It was titled the "Chicago Public School System."

To tell you the truth I know how that little Packer fan feels. I get that same feeling every Super Bowl since Green Bay's last appearance. You choose a team to cheer on, but don't really have a stake in the game.

Sometime Super Bowl weekend I'll trot out the video highlights from the 1996 season and possibly the postgame tape. It makes me long for just one more taste. I hope it's not another 29 years between Super Bowl appearances for Packer fans. Then again the Bears waited 21 seasons and the Colts, well they weren't in Indianapolis in 1971 were they?

Brett Favre announced today he's returning for another season. Yeah I know what you're thinking if you're a Packer fan. Wouldn't it be great if he could quarterback them back to the Super Bowl and ride out into the sunset with another win like John Elway did. Did Green Bay fans feel the same way when Lombardi left and Bart Starr toiled for a few more seasons? Bet they did.

Even when the Packers were in the Super Bowl in the late 1990's I never really cared for all the trappings that went along with the game itself. I enjoy the game, every thing else is a distraction. If you want music superstars performing, wait for the Grammys. Pregame could be a few hours shorter and post game goes on too long. Let the winners enjoy themselves.

Of course it could be worse. In case your keeping track the Packers have won 3 Super Bowls, the Bears 1 (pending Sunday), the Minnesota Vikings have lost four, and the Detroit Lions (sorry, Sis) have never been.

Either way I'm an NFL fan and enjoy watching almost any game, except of course for the Pro Bowl.

Monday, January 29, 2007

I Got a Name

As the Jim Croce song was titled "I Got a Name." During the last couple of weeks I've been reminded about how important our name is to us, especially if you share it with someone.

Bob Nelson is a more common name than you might think or in this particular case Robert Nelson. You see there's a Robert Nelson who got cited for his 5th drunken driving offense in Dodge County recently. That led to questions about whether I was that Robert, most of them goshingly. No that wasn't me, but it did bring up a good point.

When I use a name in a news story good or bad there is bound to be someone out there with the same name. We don't always use street addresses instead distinguishing a person by their town, village or city, age and whatever the accomplishment or misdeed they did. I get calls about that sometimes. Usually I have a good explanation and like me regarding the drunken driving incident my namesake is accused of, somebody is going to have a joke at your expense.

I can't tell you how many times over the last few years I've been asked if I were related to the Green Bay weather man named Bob Nelson who used to pour beer on TV. Nope sorry, but it is interesting to know that so many people remember the guy so many years later.

I also keep getting calls from a guy who wants to do rewiring for me. Problem is he doesn't have the right Bob. I called his company to clarify, but I got another message several weeks later. Wonder if he's still waiting for my order on the Internet?

Last week I got a call from a woman who was upset about a story I did. No one's name was used in the story only the tragic circumstances. She did give me her name though, which I'd seen in connection with several stories I'd done. She was upset and rude. A couple days later we had a guest on the Breakfast Club by the same name. Nope not the same woman.

A friend of mine used to introduce himself as Pat Sullivan, just like the Heisman Trophy winner of the early 1970's. Maybe I'm doing it wrong. Then again maybe I should tell them about my childhood friend Michael Jackson. No he ain't no thriller!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Change we're told is a good thing, but I got to tell you I'm having a hard time getting used to 2007. Maybe it's something you have to work into gradually.

The New Year is underway and I'm trying to get used to the changes in leadership at the local level that are already being made. For example Mick Fink as Fond du Lac County Sheriff, Mark Strand as his new Chief Deputy. Tom Storm is leaving as District Attorney. The Democrats control Congress and the Senate. At the State level they control the Senate.

I really have no problem with political changes. Granted I'm kind of curious how Nancy Pelosi will work out as the new Speaker of the House, but it's good to see checks and balances actually do work. Jim Doyle has a new term as Governor and everyone managed to make it through his first term. What I'm not really ready for yet is people announcing they are going to run for President already. 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue is one address I wouldn't want to call home.

Being a football fan I do love this time of year for change though. So the Packers aren't in the playoffs, but you got to love all the talk about coaching changes. I found it interesting the other day to hear someone talking about whether "Marty Ball" should be axed from the San Diego Charges after going 14 and 2 in the regular season. On the other hand Mike Sherman can't get a head coaching gig while James Lofton is being mentioned for the Oakland Raiders job.

The Hollywood awards season has started. I'm not sure I really want to see any of the movies that were favorites at the Golden Globes, but am curious which will get Oscar nods. I don't think I saw any of last year's winners even on DVD. I enjoy popular films, but critically praised films often leave me wondering what the critics credentials are.

I expect to go through a few changes myself this year. It's unaviodable. Hopefully I'll come out of the year a little lighter than the airline patron pictured in this blog. Now if you pardon me it's time to change the checks in my checkbook, batteries in my clocks and my socks.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New Year's Resolutions

I resolve this year to lose weight. There, that's my one and only resolution for 2007. I don't generally like to make resolutions because most of them sound like hollow promises to myself. It's a form of goal setting, which isn't bad but just not for me.

What I'd rather do is see what I have accomplished at the end of the year and hope for something more in the coming year. Here are some things I managed to accomplish or thanks to my job witness during 2006.

I finally made it to Lambeau Field for a Packers game and on one of only three occasions they beat the other team at home (the Detroit Lions).

The following two are accomplishments quite a few of year shared with me in 2006. I got to be on a television show set for the filming of a hit show. Okay I'm talking about the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition build for the Koepke family in Dundee. I partied with 100 Powerball jackpot winners on Fond du Lac's South Main Street.

I witnessed a colleague successfully battle prostate cancer and help others in the process. On the flip side of that another colleague had to quit because of health problems. Universal karma. In other KFIZ business our newsroom went totally digital this year and we added podcasts to our lineup of options on the homepage.

Several times during the year I was treated to the passion County residents have for issues. That included the closing of the Rolling Meadows Nursing Home, closing of the Waupun County Park Pool, debate over the use of ATVs on County recreation trails, debate over Fond du Lac water issues, the downsizing of the County Board and more.

There was plenty of change to watch as well including new School District Administrators in North Fond du Lac and Waupun. A new President of the Fond du Lac County Economic Development Corporation. A new Fond du Lac City Council President and County Board Chairperson.

In sports the Barry Alvarez Era ended and the Brett Bielema Era began. In High School football we saw the resurrection of the North Fond du Lac football program and a new coach at Fondy High. The Packers seemed to improve over the course of the season, while the Brewers tanked.

I also found it ironic that one of the World's kindest leaders, President Gerald Ford, and one of its dictators Saddam Hussein died within days of each other. Hussein not by his choice. Again universal karma.

There are a few things I'd like to see in 2007. The end of the caveman tv commercials. There are real minorities that are discriminated against. Fewer stories about cute celebrity couples whose marriages run about the length of a football season. More looking out for the other guy. The NFL recognizing that Thursday games tick off fans who don't pick up the NFL Network and tire players who only have three days to recover from a game that usually takes them a whole week to mend from. Brett Favre make a decision soon.

I'm going to give in and make one more resolution. I will watch an hour of "American Idol" this year. I'm the worst when it comes to super popular tv shows and movies. I finally watched the James Cameron version of "Titanic" this past fall, what some 7 or 8 years after it first came out.

I hope you have a good year, realize your goals and celebrate your accomplishments.