TechAlum News

June 14, 2004 (Vol. 11, No. 6)

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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

Until last week, I ruled the computer domain in our basement. I could sit with my trusty Compaq 300 MHz
machine, at a desk that I built, and churn out words to my heart's content. I had no competition, since everyone else
preferred the upstairs machine, with that 1.5-gig processor and the ultra-fast cable broadband

That was OK with me. Except for the craving. I needed some quick information. Websites beckoned. Upstairs, the
offspring could open more windows open than you can count, Instant Messaging four people at once and e-mailing some others.

I struggled with dial-up, busy signals and a squirrelly modem.

Thus came the wireless Woodbecks--a router upstairs and a wireless card downstairs and I had broadband at *my*
fingertips, too. But then . . .

XP started to express its unhappiness at my below-spec processor. The CD-ROM would no longer work. Programs froze.

Then one night, my daughter browsed Dell's outlet website for refurbished machines. There sat a 2.5-gig
processor with an 80-gig hard drive at a phenomenal price -- oh, baby, what P-O-W-E-R! A few mouse clicks and four
days later, Dude, I Got a Dell.

What I also got was competition. With a fast machine and broadband available, the basement computer became much more alluring. On Saturday, with my daughter occupying the upstairs computer, I started to slip downstairs. Until she said, "Hey Dad, I'm Instant Messaging Jay."

"I thought Jay was home," I said. "He is," she answered. "He's in the basement." About two dozen steps

Sometimes I feel like an error message on the flat screen of life.

ALUMNI BULLETIN BOARD: Remember the alumni bulletin board for you to use for discussions related to this newsletter, Tech sports, or anything else:

At Da Tech

FORESTRY PROF LAUNCHES ASH BORER ATTACK: Andrew Storer, assistant professor in Forest Resources and Environmental Science, is leading a US Forest Service-funded project to determine the range of the emerald ash borer. The tree-killing insect is devastating southeastern Michigan. Storer is setting up trap trees throughout Michigan, from the Indiana border to the western U.P., to provide baseline data about the range of the insect. More:

YOUTH PROGRAMS WIN NATIONAL AWARD: The Society of Manufacturing Engineers Education Foundation has selected Michigan Tech's Youth Programs to receive its national Building the Future Award. The award recognizes
organizations dedicated to increasing the number of middle school children, particularly girls and minorities,
choosing careers in manufacturing, engineering, science and technology. More:

MIKESCH NAMED ASSISTANT COACH: Pat Mikesch, who was a standout forward for the Michigan Tech hockey team from 1992-96, has been named assistant men's ice hockey coach, according to Head Coach Jamie Russell. Mikesch has spent the eight years since graduating from Michigan Tech playing professional hockey in the East Coast, American, and International hockey leagues. He has spend the last five years in German professional hockey leagues. More:

LOAN RATES DOWN: Borrowers who used federal programs for student loans may save money by merging their loans. Rates for a federal consolidation program will drop beginning July 1, 2004. For more information, go to

TECH FUND YEAR-END REMINDER: The end of the Michigan Tech Fund's fiscal year (June) is rapidly approaching. If you plan to make a gift to the Michigan Tech Fund, please consider doing so before that time. Credit card gifts can be phoned in or made through the web site (

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

Around Town

received preliminary approval for a $1.3 million grant-loan
package from the USDA Rural Development program. The funds
would support a $2.5 million winterization and expansion of
the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, including construction of a
two-story conference center and upgrading the 68-year-old
lodge, golf pro shop, 24 rental units and water and sewer

Laurium-Keweenaw (CLK) School District announced three
finalists for the soon-to-be-vacant superintendent
position. Both the Houghton-Portage Township district and
Dollar Bay-Tamarack City Area Schools are searching for new
superintendents, as well.

Contractors have prepared the
way for heavy equipment to access the timber dam in
Redridge. Once the Department of Environmental Quality
issues permits, workers will remove the top portion of the
timber crib dam, which has started to fail. Construction is
slated to begin July 15 and will last through the end of

taken ownership of the Manitou Island lighthouse, off the
tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. The Trust received the
lighthouse and 93 surrounding acres as part of the National
Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, which allows the
government to select a not-for-profit historical society to
obtain a lighthouse for no cost. The light station includes
an 80-foot-high iron tower and wooden two-story
lightkeeper_s building (dating from 1862), a concrete fog
signal building erected in 1930 and a brick oil storage
house dating back to 1895.

FUEL BARGE READY TO ROLL: Isle Royale National Park_s new
fuel barge will soon alleviate a fuel shortage at the Rock
Harbor area of the island. The Greenstone II will first
travel to the fueling station at Rock Harbor on the
island_s east end, which has not been filled since the end
of 2002. Last summer, the previous barge failed a Coast
Guard inspection.

From the E-mailbag

E-mail from Pete Rankin '59 (prankin(at)


During my nearly 40 years in radar and communications
R&D, I was around for most of the computer development
circus. I recall a "mini-computer" with about the
capabilities of the NASA machine described by Cass
Andary in your last edition. It was contained in two
racks and mounted on wheels so it was sort of

With its punched paper tape program entry via a
teletype machine, one could be independent from the
giant mainframe down the hall. Of course you couldn't
do much but at least you could have more than two runs
a day of your little program - a restriction most
engineers over 50 might remember. At some point,
terminals were connected to the mainframe and you
could be much more interactive as long as your program
didn't hold up the machine for everyone else or, even
worse, crash the system.

Now, of course, we network processors instead of
terminals. One event I particularly remember is when
we replaced our huge mainframe and its air conditioner
with a workstation on a desk.

As far as the NASA computers go, they always were a
generation or two behind. Far too much time spent in
qualifying new technology but they are nervous about
the environment--especially the vibration and

At the Syracuse Research Corp where I spent a big
chunk of my engineer life, we managed to obtain
samples of virtually all of the PC's as they came
along in their development. Anyone remember Commodore
or Kaypro or Superbrains? I also find it interesting
to compare capabilities then and now. In addition to
clock speed increase by a factor of 1000 or so since
1970, the most amazing thing to me is data storage.
Factors of 40,000 improvement in PC hard drive storage
capacity boggles my mind--especially when the package
is one-quarter the size.

In the PC world, one could suspect a conspiracy
between the software and hardware guys. If you didn't
have such a glitzy (but buggy) operating system that
does far more than 90 percent of the people want or
need, the hardware wouldn't need water cooled
processors and the system would still operate at a
reasonable processing speed. But it is fun to watch
the grandchildren play their games on my new Dell.
(3GHz clock, 512M memory and 120GB disk)

E-mail from Stacey Morrison '88

I worked for Jack Garman who wrote the software for
the Lunar Lander computer. When they were having
problems with the landing, the flight director asked
if there was a problem. The flight controller then
called Jack Garman in the back room and Jack said that
they can ignore the warning on that particular alarm.
They almost aborted the landing because of that, but
went ahead since Jack said they could ignore the
warning. I think it was hard to put in error messages
in those days compared to now. They didn't have
monitors then like we do now.

One would think that NASA has the latest and greatest
technology, but that is not true. Many of the
computers on the shuttle and space station run with
386 processors because processors newer than that
would get zapped by cosmic rays and create errors in
the programs. So far we have not developed adequate
shielding that is light enough to keep the processors
from getting zapped.

Most of the laptops on board are also older technology
because when an object is flight tested, they have to
burn it up and do all kinds of things to it to see how
it would react in space. That takes a lot of money
and time to do. Once something is flight approved, we
use it until we can't use it any longer because of the
cost of flight testing new hardware. Also when you
are dealing with human lives, you want to go with what
you know works as opposed to introducing new
technology all the time.

We are currently working on designing a new vehicle to
replace the shuttle. We are hoping to return to flight
next year around April time frame. We are still
putting people on the International Space Station
using Soyuz vehicles. You can always go to to get more information about what is
going on in NASA. If you have questions, you can send
to me directly and I will try to answer them. NASA
has 10 Centers and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, so
it covers a lot of ground. I work at the Johnson
Space Center which is responsible for human space
flight. I am a computer scientist who works with the
scientists here on-site. It is amazing what NASA has
been able to do with older technology.

E-mail from Richard Passavant '93


Through a random twist of fates (and the miracle of
the World Wide Web), I was goofing off on the computer
and ended up at the BBC's "Hitch Hikers Guide to the
Galaxy" Project (
Lo and behold, right there on their main page is the

"Premier Pasty

Everyone knows about the traditional Cornish pasty
(yum!) - but have you heard about the varieties made
in Michigan? Read today's potato-filled intro to the
Pasties of Cornwall and Michigan's Upper Peninsula to
Find out more... "

The link ( was
posted today and contains an interesting history of
the pasty. The pasty goes big time.

E-mail from Pete Schierloh '96 (pschierloh(at)


I would like to thank you and the Tech alumni that
helped the Mid-Continent Railway Museum successfully
acquire the former Copper Range Railroad steam
locomotive #29 from remains of the Quincy Smelter. As
you may already know, the locomotive was moved in late
May and was safely transported and unloaded in North
Freedom, WI. It is hoped that the cosmetic restoration
of the locomotive will begin soon. Thank you,
everyone, that helped make this possible.

E-mail from Eric Klammer '94 (Eric_Klammer(at)


For web address links that go over one line, try out
this website: You can put in your own
text for the link, and it eliminates the problem of
defective links from word wrap - which happened in my
copy of the newsletter for the Apollo computer link.

so now it's....

and doesn't wrap around, like the original did.

E-mail from Mike Olson (MOlson(at)

Dear Dean,

You are right in your observation that, for a number
of reasons (like the economy, to name one,) the number
of stores here at the Copper Country Mall has
declined. But did you know that this Mall remains
the only enclosed shopping center within 100 miles,
and the only shopping center in the Western U.P. with
25 stores? This "little" Mall has over 150,000 sft of
active and occupied retail space, and provides more
than 160 jobs in our local economy (that's more than
Wal-Mart or Shokpo on both counts.)

Yes, we may not have the vast numbers of stores you'd
find at a big college-town mall -- like the South
Plains Mall in Lubbock, or the Briarwood Mall in Ann
Arbor, or Arizona Mills in Tempe -- but we have do
have a great mix of stores. This small mall does have
quality stores like Gliks, Maurices, Sam Goody, JC
Penney, Footlocker, B Dalton, Joann Fabrics and
Dunhams Sporting Goods that carry a wide and varied
selection of merchandise for the whole family.

At this mall, for instance, you can get your hair
styled, do your banking, buy a dvd, get a Carhart
jacket, Doc Martens, a Polo Shirt, flip-flops,
ginseng, buttons, bows, arrows, Nike, Reebok, contact
lenses, baseball bats, soccer cleats, bath salts, The
DaVinci Code, diamonds, pearls, and even see Shrek 2,
get your ears pierced and have your nails manicured.

It's no wonder that the vast majority of merchants
here are reporting sales increases in 2004--with some
stores are reporting double digit growth.


Mike Olson
Mall Coordinator
Copper Country Mall
Developers Diversified Realty

E-mail from Bill Savela '70 (pnwyooper(at)


I'm sending an update of our annual offer for cottage
availability. I think I may have deleted several email
inquiries from alumni in April/May. Got caught in my
mail spam catcher. For those families who may be
looking for a lakefront cottage vacation week, there
are five prime summer rental weeks still available at
our Twin Lakes cottage near Houghton, in the Upper
Peninsula. For more information email
mswordweaver(at) or pnwyooper(at)

TechAlum Subscriber Stats

We're at 6,970 subscribers.

Here are the new e-mail addresses from the past week. Please note, we are
using the word "at" instead of the at sign to guard against spambots.

1975 Robin Hubert (Bayer) m_rhubert(at)

1980 Timothy Brock brockengineering(at)
1985 Sarah Woolcock heartt99(at)

1991 Thomas Kreucher t.c.kreucher(at)
1997 Kyle Gardenour krgarden(at)
1997 David Stagray david.a.stagray(at)
1999 Abraham Anderson abe.anderson(at)

2000 Heather Penzenstadler (Rebo)
2000 Laura Hivala lmhivala(at)
2001 Mara Carlton maracarlton(at)
2001 Heath Anderson heath__anderson(at)
2002 Brianna Yeager (Hamilton) bryeager(at)
2003 Danielle Walsh deedubbs(at)

You can update your information at:

Alumni Association Programs

CHAPTER EVENTS: For more information on alumni chapter events,
e-mail mtu_alumni at or see the alumni chapter site on the web.


12 -- Detroit Chapter Golf Outing, Fox Creek, Livonia
Contact Jerry Philo (jkphilo(at) by May 21.

19 - African-American Alumni Association seventh annual
picnic--Belle Isle, Detroit. (Pavilion #1; noon-6)
Contact Betty Chavis (ythbetty(at)


16 -- Mid-Michigan Golf Outing -- Sawmill Golf Club
Contact the alumni office (906-487-2400 or

31 -- West Michigan Chapter -- Whitecaps Baseball Outing
and BBQ Picnic, Fifth Third Park

5 -7 -- Alumni Reunion--Houghton

Job Opportunities This Week

ON CAMPUS: Complete job descriptions for these positions are available by e-mailing jobs at

  • Academic Advisor_Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Associate Coordinator, Special Academic Programs -- Educational Opportunity
  • Career Advisor_University Career Center (Regular, full-time, 10-month position)
  • Senior Research Engineer II -- ME-EM

OFF CAMPUS: For complete descriptions, jump to our jobs web site.

  • Environmental Engineer
  • Manager of Drilling and Testing Services
  • Geotechnical Engineer
  • Mining Engineer
  • Intern--America Coming Together
  • Technical Writer
  • Manufacturing Engineer
  • Automotive Service full-time faculty
  • Automotive Service temporary faculty
  • Construction Technology/Management faculty
  • HVACR faculty
  • Metallurgical Engineer
  • Supplier Quality--semiconductor

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