Alaska Wildlife

We just got back from a 7 day cruise of the inside passage in Alaska. We were on a Celebrity ship, which started in Vancouver and stopped in  Ketchikan, Icy Straight, Junea, Skagway and Seward. The ship was great, the scenario awe-inspiring, and the animal life abundant. The only thing we missed out on was the salmon, which don’t start running until July.

One particular excursion (not booked through the cruise ship), on, took us from Junea to Tracy Arm Fjord and the Swayer Glacier. Not as famous as the Hubbard Glacier, but spectacular to see, especially on a 65 foot boat (only 50 people) which got within 1/2 mile of the glacier – any closer is not safe due to the glacier calving and ice floating around. But that is a story (and pictures) for another post…

Today is all animals, all the time!

We start with whales. Whales are hard to catch on film, as from the time you see the water spout to the time the tail dips into the water, it might only be a few seconds. But I did manage to get a few…

First you see a spout

First you see a spout

The the fin...

The the fin…

And finally, the tail

And finally, the tail

As we entered Tracy Arm Fjord, this is the sight that greeted us

As we entered Tracy Arm Fjord, this family of eagles were there to greet us

As we entered Tracy Arm Fjord, this family of eagles were there to greet us

June is the time when all the harbor seals are having their babies. They love the area around Sawyer Glacier, where all of these pictures were taken.

Here you can get a sense of how many seals were in this area.

Here you can get a sense of how many seals were in this area.

More cute babies

Baby harbor seal with its mom

Baby harbor seal and Mom

More cute babies and moms. Mostly they just looked at us with curiosity as we rode by


This one looked pregnant.

This one looked pregnant.

Mother harbor seal teaching her baby to swim

Mother harbor seal teaching her baby to swim

Sea Lions hanging out in the waters near Icy Strait

Sea Lions hanging out in the waters near Icy Strait



Since the salmon aren’t yet running, we did not see a lot of bears. However, we did find both a black bear and a brown bear with two cubs along the shoreline between Juneau and Tracy Arm Fjord.

This black bear was on the shore, eating barnacles.

This black bear was on the shore, eating barnacles.

He watched us for a while, before he decided to mosey back into the woods.

He watched us for a while, before he decided to mosey back into the woods.

This brown bear was at the water's edge- see her two cubs up on the rocks near the top of the picture.

This brown bear was at the water’s edge- see her two cubs up on the rocks near the top of the picture.

We also saw a large extended family of sea lions sunning and eating from the rocks.

Family of sea lions

Family of sea lions

We called him Big Daddy

We called him Big Daddy



Gotta show you just two pics of the actual glacier…


View of Sawyer Glacier, in Tracy Arm Fjord, near Juneau, Alaska

View of Sawyer Glacier, in Tracy Arm Fjord, near Juneau, Alaska

In Alaska, eagle are almost as common as seagulls- they were everywhere. The naturalist told us to just look for “ping pong balls” in the trees- their white heads, and he was right.

The welcoming committee in Ketchikan

The welcoming committee in Ketchikan

An eagle greeting us in Icy Strait

An eagle greeting us in Icy Strait

Mother loon, sitting on her eggs. As we got closer, she tried to hide herself with the brown grass in the water.

Mother loon, sitting on her eggs. As we got closer, she tried to hide herself with the brown grass in the water.

Loon's eggs. Unfortunately, she laid them too close to the water's edge, so they became submerged and likely won't hatch.

Loon’s eggs. Unfortunately, she laid them too close to the water’s edge, so they became submerged and likely won’t hatch. On a lake, in Misty Fjord

The sunset was beautiful on our last night at sea.


The moose and the reindeer were at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Girdwood, Alaska. They rehabilitate injured animals and are also working to breed endangered species and return them to the wild.

Hi Moose!

Hi Moose!



look at the racks on these beauties!

look at the racks on these beauties!

On the way to Anchorage at the end of our trip, we stopped at the Potter Marsh Bird Sanctuary. Much of the marsh is along the side of Seward Highway, with car pullouts where you can park and watch the action. We saw this gull standing at the edge of the parking lot, and didn’t think much of it. But then my husband spotted her babies-

Mama gull

Mama gull


Gull babies!

Gull babies!

IMG_5382 IMG_5348

Still trying to figure out what kind of bird this is!

Still trying to figure out what kind of bird this is!




In the beginning, I mentioned the glaciers- they were spectacular, and I will write about them soon. One thing I have done already is to create a mix of video, and series of photos I shot of calving glaciers- both beautiful and humbling to watch. Also shot aboard the Captain Cook in Tracy Arm fjord. Here is a link to the video on youtube –


Want to see more pictures? Check out my book on Shutterfly


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I ate beets last night, and now I found out I could be dying

My husband loves beets. I have never been a big fan, but, on the advice of a couple of girl friends, I went to Publix and bought beets, so I could roast them for dinner last night. They were messy, but pretty easy to peel after roasting, and they tasted delicious- although  my ungrateful husband said they tasted as good as, but not better than, the canned ones. I should have anticipated that- he also likes canned cranberry sauce better than homemade.

Later that night when I went to the bathroom my pee was pink! At first I was a little freaked out, thinking it was blood in my urine, but then I thought about the beets. So of course, I went to the best medical source I know- the Internets! And they told me-

  • I probably have low stomach acid.
  • Or maybe pernicious anemia which is a chronic condition caused by gastric atrophy which leads to deficient intrinsic factors to process B12.
  • Or maybe an Iron deficiency which can lead to anemia, headaches, feeling weak or passing out, pale skin, lips, and fingernails!
  • And, low stomach acid is linked to other diseases like stomach cancer, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.

OMG!!! All this from a little pink pish!! Who knew?

Tonight I did an experiment. I drank some lemonade (lemon juice and water) before I ate the beets. Want to see if the increased acidity in my stomach helps me digest the beet dye. By tomorrow I could be dead from pernicious anemia. And this is why I should never get medical advice from strangers on the internet. Or maybe it is why I should never eat beets again.

Update: The experiment worked- no pink pee! Final experiment- ate beets (yes, I had a lot of them!) last night without lemonade- pink pee in the morning!


PS- Did I mention that my poop was purple?


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Dear Amazon, Dispose of it myself? WTF??

Last week, my husband ordered a toilet on Amazon. On my account. Because it is Prime and he can get the shipping for free. Two days later (thanks, Amazon Prime!) the toilet showed up. It was supposed to be two boxes, but there were three. and one was 12 feet long and weighed 30-something pounds. Assuming, that my husband had done something terribly wrong, I copied down the info on the shipping label, and another label on the package – which said “12′ tan sectional” and got on Amazon. I found nothing odd in the actual order, so I searched for “12′ tan sectional”. And I found out what we had received… a 12 foot long balance beam. So I called Amazon’s help center. The conversation went something like this:

Me- “Hi- I seem to have gotten someone else’s order, in addition to my toilet. As near as I can tell it is a 12 foot long tan balance beam”

“Does it have your name on it”

Me-“Yes” “Does it have your address”

Me- “Yes” “Can you give me the tracking number”– gave them the number … “Yes I can see this order was shipped. It was probably a gift for you”

Me-“No, I am pretty sure no one sent me a 12 foot balance beam as a gift. Can’t you see that the order was for a toilet, not a balance beam?”

“Ok. hold on please…” Comes back 2 min later… “It sounds like it was sent in error. But no problem- you do not have to return it to us. You can keep it, or donate it to charity or just dispose of it yourself”

Me-“Sorry, but I have no way to dispose of a 12 foot balance beam. I want to send it back to you”

“Hold on please”…. “OK. I have sent you a label. You can put it on the box and take it to your local UPS office”

Me- “You don’t seem to understand. This is 12 feet long and weighs around 30 pounds. I am not taking it anywhere”

“Hold on please”… “OK I have arranged to have UPS come pick up the package at your house. You can explain to them the situation”

Me- “I do not want to have to explain anything to them. I just want them to come pick it up- can you confirm they will have a label so they know where to send it to?”

“Yes, I will make sure they have a return label. Everything is taken care of.”

Me- “Thanks for your help”…

Feeling like the situation is now in hand, I hang up the phone. I click the link in the email which I was sent, so I can print the return authorization. The description on the label is as follows:

The UPS is sure going to be surprised when he sees the package for the 8 oz bottle he is supposed to pick up.

The UPS guy is sure going to be surprised when he sees the package for the 8 oz bottle he is supposed to pick up.

Another item that my dear, sweet husband had ordered on my Amazon account. Back on the phone with Amazon. I am connected with another nice lady in India.

Me “Hi- I just called about a 12 foot balance beam delivered to me – along with my toilet – in error. Are you the one I talked to?”


Me- “Excellent! I printed out the label that I was sent, and it says I am returning an 8 oz bottle of algaecide. Do you think UPS will pick up a 12 foot balance beam instead?”

At this point, it becomes clear to me that there is no way for them to provide a return label for something I did not order in the first place. So we agree that she will send me a label for returning a toilet- at least the weight is closer.

Dispose of it myself? Bring it to the closest UPS location? What part of “this is a 12 foot balance beam that I did not order” did she not understand? Of course, I blame this all on Bill, since he ordered the toilet on my Amazon account. And on top of that, now, all the ads I see are for toilets.

Anyone want a 12 foot balance beam?

Day 2 Update- UPS came and went. Let me a note. It said “Need to bring a label with me. Will come back”.

Day 3 Update- So far, no sign of the UPS man.

My new balance beam!

My new balance beam!

Day 4

Update 1: I started to call a local gym to see if they wanted to take this off my hands, but I discovered that I actually only have 2/3rd of a balance beam- the rest of it in in box #2, which was not delivered to us, so I can’t even give this thing away!

Update 2: UPS has been to the house twice to pick up the balance beam. However, both times they left without it. Why? Because it isn’t a toilet…

Update 3: Amazon told me that UPS won’t pick the package up because it is an unusual size- which makes no sense, since UPS was the one who left it here in the first place. Amazon is now making arrangements with CEVA – some top secret group which is responsible for finding homes for lost balance beams and other unwanted and unusually sized packages.



Note from Amazon

Day 5

Update 4: A friend of a friend agreed to take the balance beam off my hands. She will pick it up on this weekend.
Update 5: UPS just showed up at my house looking for two packages to be picked up- a one pound package (the first return label Amazon generated) and an “unusually shaped large package” weighing 94 pounds (the weight of the toilet which they used to generate the second return label). Took some explaining, but I convinced her to leave the label for the large package with me, just in case the donation doesn’t work out, so I can call her to come get the package. She was very confused as to why Amazon thought UPS wouldn’t take the package return- after all, she said, they were the ones who delivered it…


An awesome end to this story- My friend Judy has a friend named Lisa. Lisa’s daughter is a competitive gymnast, and is now the proud owner of… yes, you guessed it… a new balance beam! Here she is trying it out-

Finally, the balance beam has found a home!!

Finally, the balance beam has found a home!!

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Torah Stitch by Stitch: My Journey

Panel 0232, Genesis 31:47-50

Torah Stitch by Stitch is an international project, the vision of artist Temma Gentles, to give ordinary people (like me) the experience of producing the text of the Torah- in cross-stitch instead of with a quill, ink and parchment. In addition to committing to complete the portion assigned to you, participants were asked to keep a log of their experience. Here is mine.

I am an Accidental Cross-Stitcher

My mom did cross stitch and embroidery for many years. I have a large piece hanging in my home office that she created. It is a girl on a swing, facing backwards, her braids (yes, there are real little braids) swinging in the breeze. My mom always told me it was a picture of me, so when she passed away, my dad gave me that piece. She has been gone 8 years, but I think about her every day, thanks to that piece.

Girl on Swing, Dolores Harris

Girl on Swing, Dolores Harris

However, I am an accidental cross-stitcher. Or perhaps I should say, I am a cross-stitcher with a purpose. In 1980, I started working for IBM and met a women who would become my friend. Her name was Wendy. Wendy was so talented in many ways- smart, a great cook, famous for her holiday desserts, and a stitcher. As our friends began to get married and have children, Wendy’s gift was usually a beautiful embroidered or cross-stitched piece. I have two of her masterpieces- one she created for our wedding, one for the birth of our son. When our son was around eight years old, Wendy was diagnosed with melanoma. She died 5 months later at the age of 44. Life went on around us, and more of our mutual friends were having children. So, in her memory, I took up the task of celebrating those births with cross-stitched pieces. I created about a half a dozen pieces- nothing nearly as elaborate as what Wendy was able to do, but created with the same loving care (I hoped), and appreciated by all. The flow of new babies stopped, and so did my cross-stitching. Fast forward to last summer. Wendy is long gone, our son is is 24, and I am retired. Reading Hadassah magazine one day, I came across a short article about the Torah Stitch by Stitch project. Memories of my friend, her talent, and the feeling of joy and accomplishment from cross-stitching flooded back. I signed up the next day. I shared the article with a group of friends from my shul (Etz Chaim in Atlanta, GA), and got three more takers – Nancy, Pam  and Debbie (Debbie not shown!).







Getting Started

As the saying goes, the first step is always the biggest. As I sat there looking at the pattern and the blank piece of canvas, my first thought was “what have I gotten myself into”. As with construction projects, you measure twice, sew once. In my case, I must have counted those little squares (and boy are they small!), a dozen times before I put in the first stitch. Just take a deep breath and stitch…

There is Always an Oops

Right before I got started, a note came from the community. It suggested using two strands vs three for a cleaner look on the taggim. I read it wrong, and started my piece with two strands versus three for the lettering… and got my friend Nancy started down the wrong path, too. Nancy figured it out soon enough and told me of the error of my ways, but not before I had already completed the first line and a half. Back to the beginning, to add a strand to the existing lettering. Luckily, this worked out, and I did not have to take out all of completed stitches!

Finishing the second line

It took a while to come up with an approach for making sure all the letters were properly aligned, and the space between letters was always correct. Around three quarters of the way through the second line, I started freaking out, as it did not look like it was going to end in the right place (looked like it was going to be a shorter length line). I counted and recounted to see where I had gone wrong, but could not find an error. So I decided to have a little faith- I just kept going and finished the line. It lined up perfectly! Whew.

Getting into a Rhythm

After the first two rows were done, I came up with a technique that worked (for me) of making sure every letter was starting in the right place. I took the paper with the pattern, folded it so that the bottom half of the row I had just completed was visible, along with the row I was working on, and pinned it to the cloth. That way, I could see the pattern for the current letter, and also eyeball the position relative to the letters above it.

Approach for making sure letters are aligned.

Approach for making sure letters are aligned.

These Old Eyes Ain’t What They Used to Be

I am at that unfortunate in-between stage where my eyes are not bad enough for reading glasses, but I have trouble in low light with small letters, ah, should I say stitches! Most of my stitching was being done in the evenings, sitting in the living room while my husband watched TV. I tried putting on all the lights in the living room- too far away to help. I moved a lamp closer to the couch- still no go. And then, I found the ultimate solution- a Costco LED Headlamp- actually three of them for $9.99, including batteries! Does my husband laugh at me every time I put this on? Yes! Do I care? No!! I found I can actually wear it around my neck and adjust the angle so I don’t look quite so silly, but I have to say, it it the perfect solution. Now I can stitch anywhere!

Shining a little light on the subject (from left, Karen, Pam)

Shining a little light on the subject (from left, Karen, Pam)

Seeing the Light at the End of the Tunnel

One row turned into two, then four, then six, and before I knew it, I was rounding the final bend. As I finished the last few stitches, I laid the piece out to admire my handiwork. It looked beautiful! But, at the same time, it needed a little something. I went to the discussion on the web site to check out the birds, borders and other ideas. The birds were beautiful, the borders were amazing (although a little intimidating), but I wanted something that would capture something more personal to myself and the rest of the stitchers from our shul. I needed some inspiration…

The Tree of Life

I read a little more about the designs being discussed on the site, and checked out some of the links. There was mention of turning images into cross stitch. And then, it hit me. Our shul is called Etz Chaim- the tree of life. Our logo is a stylized tree where the branches of the tree spell out “etz chaim”. A quick google search led me to . I uploaded a high resolution version of our logo (as a volunteer on our web site committee, I knew who to call for that!), and two minutes later I had a pattern!

Etz Chaim logo, in cross stitch form

Etz Chaim logo, in cross stitch form

Stitching the etz chaim turned out to be more challenging than the lettering, as it was hard to come up with a plan of attack (do I go across or down? What about the places with large gaps?). I ended up doing a combination of horizontal and vertical, but I did manage to do it without losing my place on the pattern!

Lunch and Learn: Stitch by Stitch Style

In February, Nancy, Pam and I had a “lunch and learn” – delicious chicken salad and homemade bread (thanks Nancy) and my favorite fruit salad recipe. Nancy is making great progress (four rows down, 8 to go!). However, Pam needed help just getting started- she has been struggling to make that first step, ah, I mean stitch. With a little encouragement from her friends, Pam is now on her way!

Our Lunch and Learn: From left: Nancy, Karen and Pam

Our Lunch and Learn: From left: Nancy, Karen and Pam

The End is Near

Thanks to several “ice days” in Atlanta (we don’t do snow here, we do ice, and the city is paralyzed until it melts), I finished my piece.

My final piece!

My final piece!

As I stitched the last stitch, I thought again of my friend Wendy, and how proud she would be of me for doing this. I posted it to Facebook, and tagged my friends Lisa, Nancy and Pam. I am still contemplating a small border, but as I look at it now, it might be best to leave well enough alone. Sometimes, less is more. And I might- just might – sign up to do one more section… Thanks to Temma for bringing this vision to life, and for the old and new memories it brought forth for me. I can’t wait to see how my friends’ completed pieces look, and here’s hoping that the vision of the completed masterpiece becomes a reality for us all- bringing together people from all over the world to create a living legacy.

Karen Keeter Atlanta, Georgia

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Seasonal – DPS Week;y Photography Challenge

Seasonal - DPS Week;y Photography Challenge

This week your photographic challenge is to take and share an image based on the theme of ‘Seasonal’ (

I wanted to focus on the red flowers behind the bush in the foreground- gave an interesting effect.

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The end and the beginning of a new chapter

In 1985, I started working at 4111 Northside Parkway in Atlanta, Ga, fondly known as “Hillside”- not to be confused with Lakeside (yes, one was on the hill, the other over the lake). Those days were different. You went to an office every day. You had lunch with your colleagues, and talked about more than just work. You had a VM ID and a dumb terminal, and on a snow day, you got to play hooky with the kids and the neighbors.

On Oct 27, 2012, the building was imploded to make room for a new high school. As the charges began to go off, I could feel the concussions against my chest, in my heart, and with each one came memories of those days. I thought of friends who are no longer with us (Wendy- I still think of you after all these years), and of those who I am lucky enough to still have. And of course, of my husband- who convinced me to move to Atlanta (for work), and then convinced me to marry him (in this very building) – both excellent decisions for both of us!

As the building started to fall, I found myself thinking of another day, two other buildings falling in a tragedy from which many will never recover. This time, at least for me, was just another chapter in the story of my life. And it seemed fitting that it came a few days before my retirement from IBM. As my boss said – the official signal of the next chapter of my life beginning. Well said, Janis.

IBM Hillside Building Implosion – YouTube

Some pictures-

A view from the viewing gallery, before sunrise.

Charges were placed all around the building. We heard around a dozen explosions, starting the front and going to the back. Then there was a second set of explosions in the front, and that was when the building started to fall.

The building started to collapse at the front, and went towards the back. At first it looked like the last section was not going to fall, and then it slowly disappeared behind the trees. It took around 7 seconds in total to fall.

Nice job, boys!

A view of the building right after the implosion




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Inside the “20 yard” line: Looking back and looking forward- my retirement

As happens a lot in life, things- well life-  got in the way of my 2011 photo blogging objective. However, I hope to be back on it later this month- when I have a lot more free time to pursue my various interests! I posted this blog entry to an internal IBM blog I have been writing (called “Occasionally Ramblings”, as I only write when the mood strikes me!), but also wanted to share it with friends and colleagues outside of IBM.


With my final day with IBM less than 20 10 days away, it seems like the right time for a little reflection…

It seems like only yesterday I received that letter from IBM offering me a job in a small independent business unit called IBM Biomedical Systems, starting salary $19.6k- which was more than most of my professors in college were making! I still have that letter in my file. A couple of months later I was headed to Plainsboro NJ, with all my worldly possessions packed in my ’64 Chevy II- a car that was almost as old as I was- and wondering how I had gone from nursing to a job selling medical devices for IBM.

Flash forward- Four years in Biomedical Systems. Fifteen years in IBM healthcare industry. Eight years in GBS marketing which started with a manager asking me to “go do some thought leadership”. A couple of years in IBM Research playing working with virtual worlds. A few years in the CIO Lab creating the Innovation Fund and Innovation Hubs. And finally, the biggest challenge of my career, as the global leader for  Secure Workplace of the Future and Mobility. A long way from my healthcare roots, with no regrets. I could never have imagined I would have ended up here, 32 years later, after a move to Atlanta, marriage to the man (an IBMer!) who convinced me to take the job in Atlanta, and five very different careers.

For those who have asked me these questions- and those who weren’t sure they should ask – here are the answers to the  “top 5” questions-

  1. Was it your choice?  yes, Yes, YES!
  2. What made you decide to do it now? In a word, perspective. While on vacation with Bill and some time to reflect on our past and our future, I realized that I still had a long list of things I wanted to do- and work started to feel like it was getting in the way. So it was time to start working on my “things I will do when I have more time” list.
  3. Do you have another job? No, unless padding my resume with travel, photography, tennis, volunteer work and learning how to sleep past 6AM count as a job.
  4. What are you going to do? See #3! My husband Bill and I are also considering options for where to retire to, and right now Hilton Head, SC is at the top of our list. Of course, cleaning out 24 years worth of “memories” from our current home is a precursor to any move…
  5. Aren’t you too young to retire? Well, since I was only 12 years old when I joined IBM in 1980, I can’t argue with you on that one

So what have I learned? Follow your passions, but don’t be afraid to try something new. Work hard to become an expert in your “field”, but be willing to start all over to expand your expertise and your value to the company. Take what you learn in one job, but figure out how to apply those skills to each new challenge set before you. You’d be surprised how much healthcare industry experience can help you in figuring out how to develop and promote marketing thought leadership, and how both of those skills can be applied to virtual world research, and how all of that experience can help you survive and thrive in a company like the IBM ! And finally, don’t rely on someone else to make things happen for you- your success is up to you. Or not.

To all my friends and colleagues who will carry on without me- good luck, and may you be as lucky as I have been to have a long and fascinating career, doing things you love to do, and then retire when the time is right for you, feeling satisfied with a job well done.

Yep, this is how I feel…


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