Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Addiction is something that affects most people sometime in their lives. Last year I started to see the signs. Those signs were the odd catalog here or there, the secretly ordered packages arriving at the door and the trips taken on lazy Saturday afternoons with Sandy. I’m very observant, some of the people I’ve crossed paths with over the years have said I should’ve gone into intelligence. This year I realized those early signs last year were indeed the signs of addiction. Space kept the beast at bay though. I mean really! You can only plant so much in a 6’x20’ space. This year we are in an altogether place in our gardening frenzy. The 6’x20’ space was used for potatoes, about 40lbs of potatoes! What two people could eat that many spuds? We tried in vain, but lost some to time. This year we went all out planning and tilling the soil. We also have a 12’x30’ garden so space wasn’t going to be hard to come by, so I thought. Then it started, a catalog order here and there, a trip to Logans, and of course the Tomato Man. The Tomato Man is like a crack dealer to anyone (like Kate) who happens to be addicted to his “drugs”. We have 18 tomato plants in our garden! Since Kate has been in San Jose I’ve given away approxamtely 40lbs of tomatoes, and if you scroll down you’ll see what I’ve got left. They are taking over the Kitchen. Seriously tho, I’m just kidding. I am ecstatic about the tomatoes. In fact, I think I am more addicted to eating them than Kate. Kate is addicted to ordering, planting, caring for, and harvesting the little bits of heaven! Below you'll find the pictures of our harvest as of 8pm this evening.

Aren't they just amazing? I bet you wish this was scratch and sniff!

Independence Day

Friday, July 21st has gone down in my history as the day I resigned from Verizon Business. lists abandonment, abdication, departure, giving up, leaving, notice, quitting, renunciation, retirement, surrender, tendering, termination, vacating, and withdrawal as synonyms for resignation. I like to think I am vacating IT in order to be happy and to try something new. Over the last couple of years I have lost the feeling of fulfillment in my job. There hasn’t been any single catastrophic event that changed my overall view of network engineering it has been more of a snowball rolling downhill effect. During my eight year stint in the US Army I learned how important it was to feel satisfied. The Army wasn’t always fun but it was always worthwhile. I want to feel like I’m making a difference. I want to contribute to a common goal that doesn’t always serve the purpose of making money, or making sure someone is connected in order to make money. I want to help people again.

I cannot remember the first time Kate told me to quit my job and go to school but I do remember she said it over and over before I finally realized she was serious. We debated several different scenarios in the last year. First there was opening a new business, Kate going to school, me going to school, moving, staying in Tech jobs and about 50 other ideas. It has been a whirlwind, but we finally decided that it made more sense for me to go to school full time and exhaust my GI Bill benefits before they expire.

Our life is changing because of love. I realize we are very fortunate to be able to make this change. I am so lucky to have found Kate, I can’t imagine my life without her in it. I often struggle to find the words to describe my wife. She is an incredibly talented author (although she doesn’t believe it when I tell her that). She is smart, beautiful, compassionate, a great chef, my best friend. I love to say this one, she is my wife.

I will finish my AA degree in December and then we’re off to Nursing School (location undetermined at this time).

Monday, July 24, 2006

Baby Cooper

Gabriella Katherine Cooper

7/23/2006, 10:50 pm Eastern Time
7 pounds, 3 ounces
Mother and baby are doing well.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Not Yet

Those of you who were at the wedding will remember my lovely, but very pregnant, bridesmaid Nancy. She is pictured below on the far right.

Nancy was scheduled to be induced this morning at 6:30 am. The troops were rallied. Childcare for Isabella was arranged and Nancy's folks are in town from Canada to run support. I was scheduled to arrive at the hospital with breakfast for everyone. If this birth was to be anything like Isabella's, it would be over in an hour. When I arrived at the hospital at 7:00 am sharp, they couldn't locate her.

What is her name again? No, we don't have anyone by that name.

And it wouldn't be under any other name? (Umm, like whose? Her husband's? A pseudonym?)

Are you sure she was supposed to be at this hospital?

At that point, I called the house and lo and behold, Nancy answered the phone. Apparently, the hospital called Nan at 4:00 am and told her not to come because they didn't have a bed for her. Not having slept a wink all night, she promptly fell back asleep.

Needless to say, we had bagels at the house. Try again tomorrow...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Original Catherine Kerr

I have become the repository for all historical documents and photographs pertaining to my family. Below is a copy of my maternal grandmother's naturalization certificate (i.e. citizenship).

Catherine Henderson Bell emigrated from Scotland when she was in her teens, first to Canada and then to America. She later married James Kerr and they lived in Detroit, Michigan, where my grandfather worked for Ford Motor Company.

A few interesting points about this naturalization document which you probably can't see.

1) My grandmother signed her name 'Catherine Henderson Kerr' in one area and 'Katherine Kerr' in another. The latter must have been a mistake. I assume she started to sign Kate, which is what she was often called.

2) Her physical description reads:

Date of birth July 22, 1912; sex female; complexion fair; color of eyes blue; color of hair dk. brown; height 5 feet 5 inches; weight 118 pounds; visible distinctive marks; little finger l. hand off

Both Grandma Kate and Papa Jimmy were missing digits. Papa Jimmy chopped his off with an axe when he was a boy--I think it was the first two knuckles of an index finger but I would have to consult pictures to be sure. Grandma Kate got her pinky caught in a washing machine ringer. It wasn't until I was an adult that I learned she was missing a finger because she hid it so well!

Grandma Kate's birthday is this Saturday. She will be 94 (ninety-four) years old. She now lives with my parents in Florida and they are throwing her a birthday party.

Happy birthday Grandma Kate!

Cute Tucker Photo

Cute Jon Photo

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Putting up

We recently had a camera emergency. To my dismay, the viewfinder for the digital camera went blank so we could not see what we were photographing until the camera was plugged into the computer. What a major hassle. This was an improvement, however, from the time when the camera also stopped taking pictures. This resolved intself without intervention. I mentioned the viewfinder issue to Jon, and here is how the conversation went:

Me: "We need to buy a new camera."
Jon: "How come?"
Me: "It's not working."
Jon (with an implied "DUH"): "Did you do the drop test on it?"
Me: "The what?"
Jon: "The drop test. When something stops working, you drop it, and it starts working again."
Me (dubious): "Huh. No, I didn't."

Later that evening...
Jon: "The camera is working again."
Me: "It is?!?! How did you fix it?"
Jon: "Duh, I dropped it."
Me: "No way."
Jon: "Way."

I should mention that both Jon and I are engineers with Fortune 100 technology companies which makes this methodology seem rather simpleton to me. Or is it? If we apply the principles of
Occam's Razor, it is really the obvious solution.

Go Big

It was really hot here this past weekend. Temperatures in the 90s, felt like they were in the 100s with the added humidity, so we spent most of the days indoors. We stayed largely in our gender-defined spheres of influence, me in the kitchen and Jon working on the bathroom renovation.

I put up 5 pints and 5 half pints of salsa.

This is how many tomatoes we had left after canning the salsa (we hadn't gotten around to picking that day).

I also made a few loaves of zuchini walnut bread and cheddar dill beer bread (one large loaf was still in the oven).

I'll post the recipes here soon. For now, I am off to slice a hunk of bread and slather it with lightly salted organic cream butter. Yum.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Fire, Fire

Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home.
Your house is on fire and your children all gone.
All except one, and that's little Ann,
For she crept under the frying pan.

Montana is burning, have you heard? Probably not. You might, however, have heard about the 39,000 acre fire (actually two fires that combined) raging in California's San Bernadino Valley. There are currently seven different fires actively burning in the southeastern portion of Montana, ranging in size from 200 acres to 30,000 acres for a combined total of 65,000 acres. Do you know how much land that is? Consider this: the average home lot in the US is less than 1/4 of an acre. The Billings Gazette reports of one couple alone that lost 6,000 acres.

Why do we learn of wildfires in some states and not others? Not sure. Maybe because of population density, since the endangerment of homes and human lives make a better human interest story. What human interest strikes me about the fires in Montana are the stories of entire communities moving from one ranch or farm to the next to move cattle, shovel and plow fire lines, douse flames with truck mounted water tanks, and light back burns around homes and other structures. The size of your community is not about your proximity to your neighbor, but rather it is as big or as small as your heart and mind will stretch.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Hate and Homophobia around the Homestead

We live in a very diverse community. Longview Gardens is an older Raleigh neighborhood dating back to the 1940s and 1950s, when it was originally conceived as an upscale white Christian neighborhood. Ironic this, because the downtown area where the neighborhood is situated is largely considered the "black" side of town. The expansive lots, long views, rolling hills, area lake, and large houses are part of what became one of the first Raleigh neighborhoods to be racially integrated when white-only covenants became illegal in the 1960s.

Today, we are considered a bit of an oasis in a larger, poorer area. Our neighborhood is battling, and winning, a fight to change that perception.

Every day, I am reminded of the social, economic, and racial divisions that coexist in my neighborhood. I drive to work, passing the bus stops with folks waiting to board, enroute to their jobs in service industries. At the local Kroger grocery, I see single moms loading their groceries and their toddlers into a cab. We answer the door and politely decline the occassional request for spare change.

In small ways, I try to tug at the divisions. In our neighborhood, I think alot of the division is created by folks that choose not to frequent the neighborhood, it's facilities, and it's businesses. Jon and I walk around alot and we make a point to say hello to just about everyone, including the folks that are passing through on foot that others might consider suspicious. We use the area greenways and parks. We also make a point to spend money in the neighborhood. When I went to one particular convenience store for the first time, I was asked if I live in the area because "we don't get many white folks in here." Frank's Pizza is a restaurant within walking distance of our house that has some of the best service and definitely the best pizza I've had outside of New York City.

Despite these efforts, I sometimes forget what an insulated world I still live in. For the most part, I am able to choose who I associate with and so I just don't usually encounter people who are hateful.

Last week, a neighbor I'd met while walking to the Longview Pool sent down some fresh string beans by way of another neighbor. To return the favor, Jon and I walked down to her house last night with cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes. We chatted for a while at her front door, when Jon commented on the beautiful deck next door. "Yeah, I guess it's nice," she replied, "but I don't spend time with 'em. They're queer."

I was shocked. Speechless and utterly stunned. Jon recovered his composure more quickly than I did with an excuse about dinner. We left, disheartened. Disheartened that she thought that way, and aghast that she felt comfortable verbalizing it to us. Perhaps we look like liberals and she was just trying to let these gay-sympathizers know that she wasn't. No amount or variety of hatred is acceptable, but I never expected the first act of bigotry I would witness in my neighborhood to be about sexual orientation, when the potential for race, class, and income is so much more obvious. At any rate, someone should tell her that she is surrounded.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Holiday weekend

Our original plans for the four-day fourth of July weekend involved driving to the North Carolina mountains for our kayaking club's annual Week of Rivers celebration. This weeklong + festival is held every year from the weekend prior to the weekend following the fourth of July. It is nonstop paddling. Or hiking. Or biking. Or partying. It's just plain fun with folks we really enjoy. Because of the roof damage, we decided the responsible thing for these homeowners to do was to stay home and (have Jon) repair it. So the weekend unfurled as follows.

Friday night: roof repair.

Saturday: yardwork during the day, dinner at Humble Pie with our neighbors Jer and Selina (Jer used to be a chef at the Pie) and Horniblows Tavern for pool, ping pong, and frosty beverages made on the premises.

Sunday: preparations for Jer and Selina's 2nd annual Bocce Ball tournament. My contribution was salsa and guacamole with homegrown tomatoes. Jer's preparations involved research, painstaking measurements, the setting of goal posts, and mowing the grass Bocce course.

Given Jer's inclination towards the epicurean and his latest penchant for the grill, he also spent the entire day nursing two port butts. The little box in the upper right corner is full of wood chips he soaked in beer and other secret ingredients. This guy takes his butts and his balls seriously.

Behold the butts

The crowd waited patiently

Patience was rewarded

*Hopefully, this little tribute will render forgiveness for the day I walked into Jer's kitchen and asked, "Are you making Lipton's chicken noodle soup?" He wasn't--I'm pretty sure that a packet of unconstituted Lipton's chicken noodle soup has no place in Jer's pantry.

Monday: poolside recovery

Tuesday: Jon and I woke up at 6am to ride in the Spin Cycle's 14th annual Firecracker 50K. That is 32 miles. The race proceeds benefited the MS Society, although coming in at 2 hours and 8 minutes won me no trophy. Exhausted, we spent the remainder of the day relaxing and eating our way through the garden produce we had accumulated.

Burgers and caprese salad

Chipotle-cinnamon roasted vegetables with black beans, cheese, avocado, and salsa served on toasted tortillas

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Roof repair and latest harvest

Roofing monkey
Jon has done it again. Remember the roof leak we discovered during Tropical Storm Alberto? Last night he fixed the roof in 3 hours, including a trip to Home Depot.

Behold the finished product.

So how do I show my appreciation for these gifts? Well, it's 10:36am on Saturday morning and Jon is still in bed. When he's really good, he gets to sleep in.

Garden gettin' is good

It's almost 11am. I think I'll go wake Jon up now. He's not that good.