TechAlum News

February 16, 2004 (Vol. 10, No. 37)

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An award-winning weekly electronic newsletter for alumni and friends of Michigan Technological University. Written and distributed by Dean Woodbeck '78, Director of News and Information Services.

In this issue:

  • Husky Tales
  • At da Tech
  • Around Town
  • From the E-mailbag
  • E-mail Updates/Welcome to new subscribers
  • Alumni Chapter Events
  • Job Opportunities
  • Electronic Services for Alumni

Husqi Tales

And so the big day arrives on Saturday. This citizen skier will cinch up his boots, snap on the skis and depart on a 51-kilometer (30.6 miles for you Anglophiles) adventure up . . . and up . . . and up the hills and through the woods of northwestern Wisconsin. More than 4,000 will join me for the American Birkebeiner and another 1,500+ will do the 26-kilometer version, the Kortelopet. It is the largest ski marathon this side of the Atlantic.

The elite skiers, those of spandex suits and lung capacities of a whale, will take off at 8:20 a.m. My Wave 8 colleagues and I (and there are 10 waves) will begin the trek more than an hour later, at 9:40. Somewhere around 10:30, the crowds in downtown Hayward will cheer on the champion. I will still be climbing the largest hill on the course, well short of the halfway point. The Haywardites will have to wait just a bit longer for me (folks: don't get excited until about 3:15-3:30).

This always seems like a great idea in the fall, when the first flakes of snow meander through the sky and the grooming gurus start thinking about trail base. After the initial shock of the first ski ("have I *ever* done this before?") wears off and the hills at the Tech trails don't seem so Appalachian in stature, it still sounds good.

Anticipation builds for a few longer skis. Thursday, I strided around each of the Tech trail loops at least twice (and a couple loops--yes, the easy ones--three times). On the flat loops, I felt like my technique was the envy of even the Norwegians. On the hills, I felt like some clown had stacked bricks on the back of my skis and I was the envy only of those who use sandpaper instead of wax.

Then I worked at the state high school championships, sponsored by the Copper Country Ski Tigers and Michigan Tech. I saw those skiers come off 10-kilometers worth of hills with plenty of juice left to dash to the finish line. I was happy for them and depressed for me.

I thought about my quads and lungs burning after skiing three-and-a-half hours on the Tech trails, my body figuring my brain was unclear on the concept and even my brain saying, "What *were* you thinking?" We will soon find out.

Snow Watch '03-'04

As of February 12, 2004 

This week Last week Last year
Snowfall to date 197.5 186.0" 180.5"
On the ground 34" 31" 31"

See our snowfall chart, dating back to 1890, and day--by-day snowfall for this season.

At Da Tech

SENATE ENDORSES THREE PROGRAMS: The University Senate gave the go-ahead Feb. 11 to three new graduate degree programs. Building on its MS in Industrial Archeology and History, the Department of Social Sciences is proposing a doctoral degree in industrial heritage and archeology. Two spinoffs of the Master of Engineering program, an ME in Civil Engineering and an ME in Environmental Engineering, also got the senate’s nod. The programs would give students advanced education in their fields without the research requirements usually involved in an MS degree.

Michigan’s 15 public universities would avoid a cut in their state funding in the upcoming fiscal year under Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s budget proposal. The budget funds an agreement made with state universities during last year's budget cutting. Universities who keep tuition increases below the inflation rate will receive back a portion of the latest cut. That cut was 5 percent; universities that "sign the pledge" will receive 3 percent back. Michigan Tech has not yet made a decision, but eight other universities either have decided to "hold the line" or have recommendations pending before their boards.

Michigan Tech has retained Dickmeyer Consulting, of Upper Grandview, N.Y., to examine the university's budgeting process. Nathan Dickmeyer visited campus last week in a review of the university's budgeting software and processes. He is also expected to develop a timetable for implementing suggested changes. The project is scheduled to be completed by the next Board of Control meeting, on March 5.

Associate Professor Gregg Bluth (geological and mining engineering) recently returned from his volcanology research in Guatemala to learn that he is the fifth recipient of the Graduate School's Enhanced Faculty Research Mentoring Award. Bluth will use his $1,000 award to support graduate student research on volcanic activity in Guatemala. This research gives students experience in various types of geophysical methods used in ongoing investigations, and it helps them develop their own research ideas and directions.

Michigan Tech and Whirlpool Corporation will host 100 high school students and their parents in a program to investigate careers in math, science, engineering and technology. The event will take place March 6 at the Whirlpool headquarters in Benton Harbor. Whirlpool engineers will provide hands-on demonstrations and representatives from Tech's admissions and financial aid offices will answer students' and parents' questions.

Keweenaw Pride, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Ally organization of Michigan Tech, seeks contributions from Michigan Tech alumni and friends for the spring issue of their Queerzine. The submissions, along with statistics, GLBTA related news and media will be combined into a magazine, that is supportive of GLBT issues, educational for the campus/community, and that can be used as a resource
for all. More information about the project and what is needed can be found at or by e-mailing pride at

The Michigan Tech Enterprise Corporation (MTEC), the operating body of the Michigan Tech Enterprise SmartZone, has appointed three new members to its Board of Directors. The appointments include alumnus Joe Dancy, who manages the LSGI Technology Venture Fund, a private mutual/hedge fund located in Texas. Joe also serves as a trustee with the Michigan Tech Fund and as an advisor to the business school's Applied Portfolio Management Program.

FOR MORE INFORMATION from Tech, see the weekly newsletter
Tech Topics:

Around Town

MORE POWER! The Houghton County Memorial Airport has a new dream toy for a man's man" a snowblower that will throw the white stuff more than 100 feet. The machine's has two diesel engines--the 650-horse engine runs the snowblower and the 350-horse drives the truck. The $376,000 machine can move 5,000 tons of snow per hour. The airport paid for the new machine mostly through a grant from the federal Airport Improvement Program.

GAZETTE EARNS AWARDS: The Daily Mining Gazette received seven awards--the most of any newspaper in the Upper Peninsula--in the 2003 Michigan Press Association Better Newspaper Contest. The Gazette competes in a division for dailies up to 15,000 circulation and took firsts in three categories: news story, lifestyles pages and editorial writing.

The new home of the Keweenaw Peninsula Chamber of Commerce will be funded by William Hodge, retired owner of Surplus Outlet. Hodge donated $150,000 to the building's owner, the city of Houghton, for the purchase. The city purchased the former Peninsula Travel building, on the east end of Houghton, in November.

CHARTER SERVICE TAKING OFF: Michigan Tech alumnus Roger Bentlage was in town last week to discuss his new scheduled charter service to Pontiac-Oakland International Airport. Four days a week, a flight would leave Houghton at 7:30 a.m. with a return flight leaving Pontiac at 5:30 p.m. Bentlage estimated flights will take about an hour and 45 minutes. There also will be a Friday evening departure from Houghton to return Sunday night. The air service will use a pressurized, all-weather Cessna 421 aircraft that can accommodate five passengers. Bentlage said larger aircraft are available if there’s a need. A round-trip flight will cost $520.

Sports Results

Hockey (7-19-4 Overall, 5-15-2 WCHA)
2/13 -- Michigan Tech 3, Alaska Anchorage 2
2/14 -- Michigan Tech 9, Alaska Anchorage 4

Men's Basketball (16-4 Overall, 10-3 GLIAC)
2/12 -- Northwood 63, at #13 Michigan Tech 61

Women's Basketball (13-8 Overall, 8-5 GLIAC)
2/12 -- at Michigan Tech 74, Northwood 40

Men's and Women's Nordic Skiing
2/14 -- Men 6th, Women 7th in Freestyle Race
at SCSU Invitational
2/15 -- Men 4th, Women 6th In Classic Race
at SCSU Invitational

From the E-mailbag

E-mail from Don Johnson '53 (donald.johnson8 at


If I ever received less than 2 copies of the Tech Alum
News from you, I would worry for a week that there was
something amiss at da tech.

E-mail from Tom Fisher (TomF at

Shish kabobs and hot chocolate?& Guess that's no worse
than fresh hot cinnamon rolls out of a wood fired
stove and cold beer. Anyone remember the owner of The
Library sending 'round his steaming hot chili out of
the back of a Bronco during late night statue
building? Anyone have the correct recipe for that
chili ?

E-mail from Allen Scott (scott.allen at


I am surprised that in all of the on-going discussions
regarding tire chains that no one has yet to mention
automatic tire chain systems (such as the on-spot
system: ). Having the ability
to get traction assistance at the flip of a switch is
extremely valuable--particularly for vehicles that
have to travel regardless of the weather. Many of the
vehicles at my local volunteer fire department are
equipped with this system and I have used it
successfully several times during emergency responses
in the middle of a winter storm.

E-mail from Daniel Ulep (ulepathome at


Here's another type of tire chain:

E-mail from Kaet (Collins) Johnson '92
(kaet at

Hey Dean!

I have many fond memories of driving at 'da Tech.
My third year there, my father sent an old orange, 4x4
(all the time) suburban to school with me. He felt I
needed transportation home from work late at night
(Los Dos Amigos) and a way to get to the hill (ski
patrol). My friends called it the tank. It served
its purposes well although it had a few quirks. The
crank shaft would slip causing some concern among my
passengers whenever we were climbing any of the hills
in Houghton. She never did let go fully and always
got me to where I needed to go. I also had to be
careful where and how I parked her, wheels definitely
needed to be turned TOWARD the curve--she liked to
pop out of park sometimes.

I used her to bring the new (now old) Mont Ripley sign
from Negaunee to Houghton (it was tied to the top-
made an interesting site. My father, Becky Knuutilla
and I made that sign for our beloved hill. The tank
was also a good "chair lift"! It would transport us
from the bottom of Agate street to the top before
Ripley had opened for the winter. When a good snow
hit, we would (Becky and I) enlist the help of an able
bodied and skilled driver (who did not ski) and they
would transport us to the top, we would ski down, the
tank and driver would be waiting at the bottom and
then we would get a ride to the top again, repeat as
long as legs and edges could take it! It was
certainly warmer than the T-Bar!

That vehicle had two gas tanks, took the old leaded
Gas--only one station in Houghton sold it, and guzzled
fuel. The best part about her is that I did not need
chains nor did I need to shovel my allotted part of
the driveway. I just barreled!

I had one very memorable night cruising campus
(literally) with her right after winter carnival (all
the walkways had been widened nicely) but that is a
story for another time. Suffice it to say that they
put metal railings on the cement steps in Coed's
courtyard after that night. Thank goodness for low

E-mail from Ned Aldridge (nja at


Interesting to read of all the different experiences
with tire chains. When I was a kid living in Laurium
(mid forties to mid fifties), it was common for people
to run tire chains all winter. The villages and the
county did not use any salt so a very thick mat would
build up on the street which would lead to a big mess
in the spring when it melted. But any way, the snow
pack on the streets had marks worn in it from all of
the tire chains (called skid chains in those days).
Very often a car would go by with one or more broken
cross links banging away at the fenders. The only type
of snow tires available then were called "knobbies"
and they were not much good.

Houghton County Road Commission plowed the Florida
Location (suburb of Laurium) and Lake Linden Avenue
with big (at least they looked big to me) Walters four
wheel drive trucks that had a "vee" plow on the front
and wings on both sides so they could clear the rural
roads with one pass. They were quite an imposing site
coming down the road. Anyway, they used tire chains
on all four wheel all winter long. I just wonder what
the county must have paid to maintain those chains.

When I was at Michigan Tech (1969 till the winter of 1973),
we had a Volkswagen Beetle. My wife taught at Charles
Briggs all the time we were there. There were many
times she was ahead of the plows in the mornings
going to Laurium so I had studded radial snow tires
(legal then) on all four wheels. That little car could
both go though the snow and stop very well thanks
to those tires.

Studded tires did a lot damage to the roads and one
place it was very noticeable was on the Houghton
approaches to the bridge where grooves were worn in
the concrete pavement surfaces.

E-mail from Ole Kristensen (ole at

Hi Dean,

Please note that I have a number of high-quality
photos from this year's statues on my web site. If you
wish, you are welcome to link to the page in question:

E-mail from Shannon Hancock '99 (Shannon_Hancock at


American Spoon Foods, a company out of Petoskey, MI
produces wild thimbleberry jam for mass consumption.
Admittedly, I don't know where they get their
thimbleberries, but Jason's quote was "As far as I
know, the Keweenaw is the only place that makes
thimbleberries into jam commercially." I would
consider a simple Google search well within the
research scope of a graduate thesis. See their website

As a side note, I have tasted Wild Thimbleberry Jam
from both American Spoon and the Jam Pot in Eagle
Harbor. The monks have got it right, it's much better
than the stuff from Petoskey.

E-mail from Barry Robbins (barry.robbins at

Sounds like a hammer (or 50 bucks for a new one) would
solve the problem... but I guess you don't HAVE a
problem if you have an enthusiastic 12 year old!

You must be the only one in the Keweenaw to see the
brick of your driveway after December. I live in
Minneapolis, where we've had only about 50-60" this
year, and nobody here (except one that I know) can see
their driveway. When the 12 year old gets to be 20 and
is gone, you might want to install heat under it. I
have a friend with a heated driveway; boy, is that
nice! I just don't want to pay his power bill.

E-mail from Eric Klammer '94 (Eric_Klammer at

The Michigan Tech Classic and Performance Automobile club
sponsored the winter driving video in Fisher for a few
years in the early 90's. To my knowledge, the
organization folded after most of the founding members
graduated. They were mostly interested in older muscle
cars and drag racing, but never recognized that more
of the people around were more interested in newer
and/or front drive performance.

I think that some other groups (SAE maybe?) have
sponsored some actual driving clinics up at Gates
Tennis center since then.

Dean sez: I know there are always informal driving instructions going on at the SDC parking lots. However, Tech's Keweenaw Research Center sponsors a winter driving school many weekends each winter at its test track by the airport.

E-mail from Mike Bahrman (mike.p.bahrman at


Why the two shovels? Whatever happened to the snow
scoop for the lighter accumulations? I suppose the
problem is getting it up and over the snow banks. If
you don't use the scoop on a regular basis, it is
hard to develop and maintain the inclined plane.

For some reason, nostalgia I guess, I kept my snow
scoop but sold my snowblower when moving to North
Carolina 12 years ago. A few years back when we got
24 inches overnight in Raleigh, I was the object of
much curiosity on our cul-de-sac when I pulled out
the scoop and had my driveway clear before anyone else
had made any dent in theirs. The rest of the day was
spent giving scooping lessons to my neighbors.
Southerners with snow scoops can be pretty amusing.
Technique is everything.

E-mail from Sandy Easley (Sandy.Easley at

Hi Dean,

Jon Wennerberg is right - a properly ballasted rear
wheel drive will run circles around front wheel drive
in the winter. My recent winter traction comparison
was based on the "average" (ie, Non-Tech type) person
who doesn't have clue one as to what ballast is or how
to apply it, let alone know how to really "drive".
The key is to get the right amount of ballast - too
little is as bad as not enough (yup, been there, done
that too!).

Here is a good mental picture: An AMC Gremlin (gotta
be one of the most nose heavy rear wheel drive cars
ever) properly ballasted and snow tired, motoring past
the front wheel drivers spinning in 6-8" of fresh

I also fully agree with his other comments about rear
wheel drive. Front wheel drive is for other people!

The part about wood-chip snow tires was a new one,
though. Very interesting.

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CHAPTER EVENTS: For more information on alumni chapter events,
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Job Opportunities This Week

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  • Internship at Sleeping Bear Dunes Nat'l Park

See you next week

TechAlum is a weekly electronic newsletter published by the Michigan Tech Alumni Association. For more information, contact Dean Woodbeck at techalum at