Why's That? | WMUK

Why's That?

Second Friday of the month at 6:45 am, 8:45 am and 5:44 pm

Why's That? explores the things in Southwest Michigan – people, places, names  – that spark your curiosity. We want to know what makes you wonder when you're out and about. 

Maybe it's a question you've had for years, or maybe it's just come up. Perhaps it rests on a subtle observation, like this one about ABC streets in Kalamazoo. Or maybe you just saw something, found it strange, and wanted to know more about it. That's what happened in "A Tiny Park with a Tragic Story."

From train signals to watersheds, from unusual houses to water hardness, we hope you'll let us know what in Southwest Michigan makes you ask "Why's That?" It could be the start of a great radio story.

Photo provided by forestryimages.org / USDA APHIS PPQ

Andrew Conkling lives in Kalamazoo, in a house with a big oak tree in the middle of the backyard. He and his four kids like to observe the insect life out there.

“We have ground bees this year, and we’ve had wasps before that we had to get rid of. The ground bees apparently are gentle so we don’t have to do anything about those. We don’t really like to kill stuff,” he added.

But he’s wondering what he should do about gypsy moths. Or more specifically, the fuzzy, spotted gypsy moth caterpillars he finds on his oak tree in the summer.

A view of a vaulted brick tunnel with steam pipes and wires on the left side. The space is dimly lit by low-slung bulbs.
Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

This story originally aired in Aug. 2019. When Jon Stradinger was in a medical ethics class, a fact about the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital, previously known as the State Hospital, got his attention.



Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

Arthur Riley of Kalamazoo has a fond memory from Charlevoix, where he lived years ago. He said winters Up North started out snowy and gray. “But then the Lake froze,” – Lake Michigan – “And then we had a lot of sun. It was absolutely beautiful." (When the Lake freezes it cuts down on lake effect snow – more on that soon.)

a closeup view of a pile of old wood ties, which are heaped up like matchsticks and covered in snow
Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

If you’ve seen a railroad, you’ve seen railroad ties, the beams that brace the track crosswise from underneath. In the US they’re usually made of wood. But when listener Gordon Stewart went abroad, he noticed concrete ties on railroads.

This got him thinking. “Why don’t we use concrete ties in the states, having seen them in Europe and a number of other places and thinking it would be a lot of advantages to them?” he asked.

A wide view of a busy intersection under a gray sky. A black car, white van and white truck are passing by on the busier road. The traffic lights are strung on a wire across the road. You can see the green and red lights.
Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

Like many of us, Western Michigan University English professor Nic Witschi is working remotely during the pandemic. But normally he commutes on foot, walking up busy Stadium Drive from Rambling Road. In the 20 years since he started making the trek, he’s noticed something odd about the surface.