Isn’t She Loverly?

August 26, 2006

Jill said yes! We are now engaged! I’m extremely happy!

(And yes, I have pictures 🙂

Dude, Why Am I Awake?

August 23, 2006

It’s 4:46am as I write this. I’ve been playing Animal Crossing, but not that long. I just can’t sleep. So, I did a bit of work in the way too wee hours of the morning.

It’s my last day at home for the summer. Perhaps that plays into the insomnia thing? Or perhaps it’s clinical, as it tends to be happening more and more. I can go for a while without sleeping, but then when I try to readjust with a schedule, I get very little REM sleep, and end up “sleeping” for 13+ hours. It’s not very good, needless to say.

Today is also my last day as an intern with Flock. I may make a post devoted solely to that later on.

I must sleep now. I don’t know how, but I need to.

Less than a week til the party begins! Woohoo!

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Ah, Houghton

August 21, 2006

The colors of Copper Country
In the Keweenaw, beauty comes loded with history

By Alan Solomon
Tribune staff reporter
Published August 20, 2006

COPPER HARBOR, Mich. — The distinguished gentleman was standing a few yards south of what remains the largest mine hoist ever built, the steam-powered hoist at the shuttered Quincy Mine. The hoist, designed to carry rocks and men, is, to swipe a label from Esquire, a dubious achievement–events made it quickly obsolete–but that unfulfilled hope nuzzles at the heart of what makes the Keweenaw Peninsula fascinating.

Allan Johnson, a retired mining-engineering professor at Michigan Tech, just a few shafts down the road in Houghton, knows this territory.

“The first miners that came here, the experts, were the Cornishmen,” he said. “And then a lot of other nationalities came–Finns, Germans, Croatians, Italians.

“During the great potato famine, there were a lot of Irish that came here. The Cornish and the Irish never got along too well. They fought from the beginning …”

The Keweenaw Peninsula is gorgeous, especially in leaf-peeping season, which is why we stopped by in late September a year ago. Lots of maples, oaks, white birch and aspen among the pines, and that makes for dazzling stuff once the weather cools a little.

But what differentiates the Keweenaw from, say, Door County (aside from the lack of fish boils and two-seater Jacuzzis) is that this was never just a place for summer cottages and resorts and gentle farms.

Before seasonal visitors began making their claims, this was Copper Country. Dreams happened in this place: Some died here, some moved on, some adjusted to lessened expectations.

Copper. Native Americans discovered it, soldiers happened onto it centuries later, entrepreneurs financed searching for it, miners–predating California’s metallic migration–rushed to it, labor unrest accompanied it and then, after a hundred-plus years, the digging just wasn’t worth it anymore.

So, scattered among the summer-fall places, we have ghost towns and camera-ready ruins of copper installations, and grand architectural remnants that suggest prosperity once happened in the Keweenaw.

Today it is many things, though, frankly, prosperous isn’t one of them. When climatic conditions are friendly, the Keweenaw is a place to hike and bike, to hunt in season, and, it being flanked by Lake Superior, to sail and kayak. Fishing is good, in the big lake and the smaller ones inland. Just meandering its winding, hilly backroads–some paved, some not–by motorcar is a pleasure.

Of course, there’s also this: In winter the Keweenaw Peninsula is annually buried beneath about 250 inches of snow.

“That’s misleading,” notes Johnson. “Some people think the snow actually gets that deep.”

It doesn’t. Just a few feet, tops, at a time, and that’s heavenly for cross-country skiers and snowmobilists. But the big snows, well-plowed and well-managed as they are, have helped limit development in the Keweenaw.

So it has its isolation: It’s not really close to anything–even when you figure out where it actually is, which isn’t easy.

Look at your road atlas. (You have one, right?) The sprawling reality of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula means the entire U.P. can’t fit on the same page as the rest of Michigan. The Keweenaw, then, is typically a disconnected inset stuck onto a piece of Ontario.

So here, for everybody, is a word-picture: The Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which kind of floats in Lake Michigan and Lake Superior over Lower Michigan and Upper Wisconsin, is shaped like a decomposing westbound shark.

Got that?

The Keweenaw is the decomposing dorsal fin jutting into Lake Superior.

Its port of entry, Houghton, is 400-plus miles from Chicago. Chicagoans, using the fastest route, zip past Green Bay and still have four more hours of driving to do. It’s more than 500 miles from Detroit–which is actually closer to Washington than it is to Michigan Tech.

And there are curious things about the Keweenaw Peninsula. For one, it’s an island, not a peninsula. Canals that extended Portage Lake into a waterway to save time for shippers cut the dorsal from the rest of the fish; the only umbilical is a lift bridge.

For another, it is the beginning (or the end) of U.S. Highway 41, which ends (or begins) 1,990 miles away in Miami.

For another, the locally popular claim that Horace Greeley was talking about the Keweenaw when he urged eastern young men to “go west” and share in the copper boom is evidently wishful promotionalism. One scholar found Greeley’s first suggestion that young men “go to the Great West” was published in 1837–seven years before the discovery of copper here. (Greeley later bought into Keweenaw’s Delaware Mine, which, the business being labor-intensive, might have influenced follow-up urgings.)

For yet another, in an area that’s intensely proud of its residual Finnishness (Hancock, across the bridge from Houghton, is home to Finlandia University and lots of Finnish flags), there are as many surviving Finnish restaurants as there are synagogues: one. The restaurant, the Suomi in downtown Houghton, is an everyday cafe with two token Finnish breakfast entrees. That’s it.

Explained a waitress in an Italian restaurant in Hancock: “I don’t eat Finnish, and I’m Finn. And my mother was a good cook.” Added another local, a Norwegian: “It’s too bland. The only seasoning they use is ketchup.”

As for the lonely synagogue, here’s one more curiosity: Opened in Hancock in 1912, it is Temple Jacob–named not for the patriarch, the common practice, but for a local storekeeper named … Jacob.

Back to the natural beauty, which remains the primary reason anyone would consider driving 7 1/2 hours to get to this frontier: It’s certainly here to be enjoyed.

Everyone who knows the Keweenaw has a favorite drive. Here are a few:

U.S. 41 from the Portage Lake Lift Bridge to Copper Harbor. Just added last fall to the list of National Scenic Byways by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the designation, to be sure, is linked to the picturesque scraps of the copper industry accessible from the highway; those scattered sites (mines, museums, buildings) that comprise Keweenaw National Historic Park. But the last 10 miles or so of the 50-mile route either wind through a tree tunnel (mostly hardwoods, colors ablaze if you time it right) or along water (Lake Medford or Superior). Cars slow out of respect for what nature has given us.

Michigan Highway 26, from Copper Harbor to Eagle Harbor. This one glides about 14 miles along the edge of Lake Superior, with some short stretches where forest and private homes cut off the view and access. It’s crazy to compare the rocky shoreline of the Mother Lake to California’s Big Sur, but there are hints here, and there will be places where you will want to get out of the car, get close to the water and enjoy the moment. With luck, the only sounds will be the quiet ripple of water and the call of a loon.

Brockway Mountain Drive. The 10-mile-long high road above Michigan 26, and not at all what anyone would expect of a Midwest drive, this truly is a mountain road with stunning views of the valley below. Catch this in color season and you’ll think you’re on Cape Breton in Nova Scotia–mountainsides full of puffs of reds and oranges.

The Covered Road. A little tricky to find, narrow and unpaved, the entry (there is a sign) is off the Canal Road in Houghton. For almost its entire 3-mile length, you drive beneath a canopy of impossibly tall maples. I missed the peak color, but I can imagine–and something else: This must be pure magic after a fresh snow …

There are diversions.

There is Calumet, much of the town on the National Register. Like so much of the Keweenaw, it has struggled economically (its lifeblood, the Calumet & Hecla Mine, last of the area’s major copper operations, closed in 1968), and its architecturally significant core is pocked with empty storefronts. But there’s something interesting happening in Calumet–yes, dreams continue in the Keweenaw–and it’s happening in an 1889 red sandstone building that once housed the Vertin Bros. Department Store.

The main floor is galleries. The upper floors are artists’ studios. What they are creating is not rural/homespun junk.

“One of our nicest compliments,” says Abbey Green, who creates in stained glass, “is, `You can’t find a gallery like this in the city.’ Well, you can–but they’re surprised because it’s here.”

The century-old Calumet Theatre, a grand and lovingly maintained reminder of the boom times, regularly hosts plays and concerts. (During my visit, the community players presented the musical “Pajama Game,” which was–well, it was enthusiastic.)

The world’s largest steam hoist may have been something of a boondoggle (it only ran from 1920-1931), but it’s still in the old No. 2 Hoist House, and a visit is part of the Quincy Mine Tour. Yes, they take you down there–but on a tram, not the hoist.

There’s a second mine tour, of the Delaware Mine, literally a mom & pop operation. Tom and Lani Poynter are the pop & mom who bought the site in 1977 (it had been closed for 90 years), added a few bits of stuff (llamas, miniature trains) and answer questions.

“People think the life was very hard, and it was,” Tom Poynter said as he stroked his pet skunk, Oreo. “A few cents an hour doesn’t seem like much, but it was enough to bring them from everywhere, and they made a living wage and had a better house.”

Up past Copper Harbor is Ft. Wilkins State Park. The fort, in operation from 1844-46 and again briefly after the Civil War, is as much a tribute to the art of restoration as it is a museum of its time.

And there are pasties, the meat pies introduced by the Cornish miners (or, more accurately, their wives) and now an integral part of Upper Peninsula culture.

“It was basically a poor man’s dish,” said Eric Frimodig, owner of Toni’s Country Kitchen in Laurium, who makes them the way his mother did in Copper Harbor. “When the other miners came over, they all seemed to adopt the pasties.”

Made, here, with rutabaga.

“In Wisconsin, most places have carrots in them,” he said. “That’s all right. It gives them a little sweeter flavor. I just prefer the rutabaga.”

And more things: lighthouses (don’t miss Eagle Harbor’s), waterfalls (“More than any other place in Michigan,” says Johnson.), beaches. The Keweenaw is the jump-off point for Isle Royale National Park ferries, but if you’re among those who needs to get lost to find themselves, there’s wilderness right here.

What’s missing: water parks (indoor or outdoor), go-karts, mini-golf, luxury resorts and spas, restaurants with goats grazing on the roof and, north of the lift bridge, very few franchise anythings.

Instead, there’s a sense of history, of dreams, and if you time it right in this land of copper, gold–and reds and rusts and ochers set against water than can be astonishingly blue.

It’s a lode.

– – –



Drive north on Interstate Highway 94 to I-43 at Milwaukee, continue north on I-43, then ease onto U.S. Highway 41/141 past Green Bay; stay on U.S. 141 into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, reconnect with U.S. 41 near Covington and continue into the Keweenaw. It’s about 415 miles to Houghton; figure 7 1/2 to 8 hours, much of it pleasant. Copper Harbor is another 50 miles north of Houghton.

Alternative: It’s possible to fly into Hancock (Houghton’s sister city–they’re effectively side by side); or into Marquette, where you can rent a car and drive the 90 miles to Houghton. But at the fare you’d have to pay (at least $500 round-trip, per person, with stops), you won’t.


Expect steaks and chops, Lake Superior whitefish, walleye, burgers and pizza, and you won’t be disappointed. Pilgrim River Steakhouse (906-482-8595), just south of Michigan Tech in Houghton, is a step above the norm. In downtown Hancock, try the homemade ravioli at Gino’s (906-482-3020). If you like history with your meal, find the village of Lake Linden, then discover the Lindell Chocolate Shoppe (906-296-0793), open early for breakfast (plus lunch and dinner) and better than a place on the National Register of Historic Places has to be.

For the inevitable pasty, you won’t do better than Toni’s Country Kitchen (906-337-0611) in Laurium or, in downtown Houghton, the Suomi Home Bakery and Restaurant (906-482-3220). There are options in Copper Harbor, but by clear consensus the best in town (and on the peninsula): Harbor Haus–fine dining, plus familiar German specials, right on the water (906-289-4502; there also are B&B rooms at $125).


The main concentrations of lodgings are in Houghton/Hancock and Copper Harbor near the peninsula’s tip. The franchises (two Best Westerns, a Ramada, Super 8, Holiday Inn Express, others), along with some independents, are in Houghton/Hancock. Expect to pay about $55-$95/night (subject to change). The Copper Harbor lodgings are almost all mom & pop operations, modest and well-maintained and generally less expensive; expect to pay about $50-$85, mostly toward the lower end. A little spiffier near Copper Harbor, for a price, is Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, born in the 1930s as a WPA project and a short drive (or bike ride) from town, with motel rooms, cabins and a golf course (from $90; 888-685-6343; Similar category but right in town, the Mariner North has motel rooms and a tight cluster of housekeeping cabins (from $78; 888-626-6784;

Between Houghton/Hancock and Copper Harbor are scattered lodgings, most of them seasonal (open roughly Memorial Day into October, some reopening for snowmobile season), ranging from rustic motels to cabins to restaurants with a couple of rooms upstairs. Use the Web sites below, call ahead and ask specific questions to avoid disappointment.


Peak leaf season everywhere varies from year to year and depends mainly on local weather factors. In the Keweenaw, that’s further confused by the warming effect of the surrounding Lake Superior waters and by inland variations in elevation–which makes the whole place a succession of microclimates. In general, leaf color on the peninsula comes a couple of weeks later than it does south of Baraga in the U.P.; and the changes come still later right along the coastline. In general, there will be color somewhere in the Keweenaw from the last week in September through the first two weeks of October.


Two excellent sources for stuff on the Keweenaw: The Keweenaw Peninsula Chamber of Commerce (866-304-5722; and the Keweenaw Convention and Visitors Bureau (906-337-4579; For Copper Harbor specifics, check the Copper Harbor Improvement Association Web site,

–Alan Solomon


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Let’s pretend we’re in Antarctica…

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I got skills?

August 17, 2006 has added a picture of mine to their list of pictures for the Detroit guide. It’s not final yet, but I think it’s pretty cool.

Which picture did they choose?

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Good read

August 16, 2006

Is It Really All That Bad?
At Christian Music Today, we’re often applauded for being objective, critical, and fair when it comes to opining about new music. After all, it can’t all be great. And one of my pet peeves is how some people insist that all Christian music is “good” because of its intentions—to glorify God, to witness to others, and so forth.

Conversely, it’s equally frustrating to hear people declare that “all CCM sucks.” There’s certainly nothing new about this mindset—it’s long been fashionable to bash Christian music for lack of quality or creativity. But over time, secular culture has learned to ignore CCM or accept it, if not occasionally embrace it. Today, it’s Christians that do most of the bashing.

Some bashers would say they only want to push Christian music to do a better job at being relevant to secular culture. Others are frustrated that CCM only succeeds in capturing part of the total Christian culture. I’m certainly with those who feel that Christian music doesn’t adequately embrace Christians who find success in the mainstream, like U2 and Sufjan Stevens. And I’m the first to admit that in recent years, the narrow scope of Christian music radio has me flummoxed.

But it’s shortsighted to proclaim all Christian music “bad” based on limited playlists and a few top sellers. How many are giving knee-jerk responses based on their limited exposure to the broad spectrum of CCM? Some even criticize the genre based on musical styles they never liked to begin with. Some readers rip into pop artists, only to cite hard rock bands as their preferred style of music. Some complain about a band sounding too emo-rock, using them as another example of bad Christian music, only to admit they don’t like emo-rock to begin with.

Friends, nowhere is it written that all Christians must appreciate all Christian music. We all have different tastes and opinions as to what is truly “good.” Growing up in the ’80s, I seem to remember enjoying as much as 20 percent of what was played on Top 40 radio. But I also appreciated being exposed to a broad range of musical expression, and that’s what’s missing in today’s compartmentalized culture.

Nearly half of the music we cover at Christian Music Today is ignored by much of the industry, or else lost in the shuffle—radio, media coverage, promotion, etc. Unfortunately, it’s often the good half that’s ignored or underplayed in a market that already has limited channels of exposure. Thankfully, it’s easier today than ever before to try out new music online. Rather than condemn an entire genre, music enthusiasts should do a little more digging and use media outlets like us as a guide. Odds are there’s a struggling artist or band out there you’ve never heard of before that’s right up your alley.

One of those artists might be in this week’s review coverage: Leigh Nash (formerly of Sixpence None the Richer), Sarah Kelly, Leeland, Jimmy Needham, Men of Standard, and the latest Hip Hope Hits compilation. You also won’t want to miss our deeply felt discussion with Sarah Kelly about her abusive past, or the poignant excerpt from Mark Hall’s new book, Lifestories, about Casting Crowns’ hit “Praise You in This Storm.”

I’ve gotten in to and it’s a bit addicting at first. Check out my profile page to see what it’s all about.

I’m really worn out for some reason. Like, the “I just want to sleep so I can get to the next day” kind of worn out. Albeit, part of the problem is my lack of physical activity lately (one benefit of living off campus: walking to classes. Same benefit is also a downfall). So, tomorrow I will commit to running 20 minutes or so and doing a full workout. Aren’t you glad you know that? Just wait….

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GLF Wisdom

August 15, 2006

My boss is checkin out and moving on up. To Canada. It was news to me, and I honestly didn’t see it coming. Lloyd has been in a key role as far as my involvement with Flock and my transition to a more open source computing lifestyle, so seeing him leave will be pretty, well, strange. It’s all for the best for him and his wife Julia though. They’ll be living in a place they love, and they will be able to develop their careers in new ways.

All of this kind of got me thinking, what will my role at the next company be (along with “Who will I work for next?”)? How many jobs will I jump around before I finally find the one I can work with for more than a few years? Then end result will ultimately be missions (this year is gonna be filled with preparations for the two years after Tech that I will spend in seminary), because working with people is something I love, construction is something I love, and witnessing is something I love. But where will my life take me?

Sometimes though, you just gotta let it ride…

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Camera Woes

August 13, 2006

I signed up for a photo submission service where I get paid for each time my photos are downloaded by companies. Problem is, to be accepted in to the program, my images have to be 4mpx or larger, not to mention they have to be reviewed by critics (well, that’s not so much a problem). My camera is only 3mpx. That said, I know I can start getting some extra money with my photography hobby (especially with the beautiful Keeweenaw as a subject) I just need a new camera.

According to Daryl (Flock web guy, mentioned him a few posts back), everybody at Flock got new cameras thanks to the lovely folks at Flickr. 7mpx Canon Powershots too, which are very nice. Sadly, though I’m part of the Flock team, I’m not technically a staff member, and therefore don’t get this benefit. Dang. It’s been happening to us a lot lately. My dad writes for CGW, which is being renamed by ZiffDavis to “Games for Windows” or something dumb like that (why isn’t Computer Gaming World good enough?). In this change, all the writers get a brand new, screaming fast gaming machine (OK, so they are middle upper range machines, but far better than what we have). But, as fate would have it, my dad doesn’t write often enough to be considered a writer, only a contributor. Therefore, no new computer.

So what now? I guess I have to save up for a camera, or wait for someone to gift me with one. If I were to buy one, I’d be going Canon EOS. I already have the lens from an older EOS, so I could save a bit there (assuming compatibility). If the lens isn’t compatible, Nikon D series, all the way. Yes it would be expensive (EOS or Dxx), but it would be a camera I could use for decades (maybe, technology is funky).

Speaking of photos, check out my latest. They are pretty self explanatory. It only took 5 hours to do a 20 minute job.

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August 12, 2006

Wow. I learned things…

  • Dr. Demento is a devil. So is Art Bell and Stephen King
  • Dr. Demento wrote the Necronomicon
  • Cherios encourage gluttony because they have sugar in them. Apparently, potatoes do not, and therefore we should live on potatoes and boiled cabbage. And nothing else.
  • Women shouldn’t be on airplanes. They should be in the kitchen cooking
  • Episcopalians are evil. They are all going to hell
  • God is punishing America with terrorism because our women are working and have carreers
  • George Bush is a devil. So is everyone in the Democratic party, and everyone in the Republican party. I guess the Green party dudes are cool.
  • To take over as a host of a radio show, all you have to do is call up the station and tell the host that his position is now yours.
  • We shouldn’t allow any food on planes. Ever. It’s sinful.
  • We also shouldn’t ever drink a drop of alcohol.That’s sinful too. Never mind the entire “Jesus turning water in to wine” thing.
  • Some dude in Kansas has a revelation straight from God. God is helping him write a book, called the Second Revelation. God’s book titler guy is on vacation.

That’s why I listen to Coast to Coast AM. The wackos. Listen, I’m a Christian, I believe in a strict set of moral codes that I believe everybody should live by. I don’t subscribe to the entire moral relativism crap that our society has settled down with. But I’m not going to go on National Radio and start calling down hellfire and brimstone on everyone who doesn’t believe what I believe. It may come as a shock, but that isn’t the best approach to discussion.

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