Letter from a Birmingham Jail

A couple of years ago, I decided to read Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” on the MLK Day, as I have the day off from work. The federal holiday was intended to be a day or service, but perhaps we can at least start with learning about the man and his beliefs through his most famous letter. I can’t imagine that anyone could read this letter and not come away changed. It is truly one of the finest writings I’ve ever read.

It is a rather long letter (as he even admits to near in its closing). So, if you prefer to spare the hour with a reading, then this video has you covered. The first four minutes are a reading of the letter by a group of clergymen that prompted King’s response. This embedded video starts after that.

I felt compelled to share this as during our parent’s Sunday school class yesterday, one person raised the question “Why does this person even have a holiday? He wasn’t the only civil rights leader.” I choose to give him the benefit of the doubt that he was raising the question in good faith (the talk immediately changed to a slightly different subject, as these group conversations often do). He stated that his children and others had asked it, and I believe he was saying this so he could justify that the MLK Day holiday was because Martin Luther King Jr was a great American and civil rights leader.

That is true, and even in his brief lifetime (I’m now two years older than he was when he was killed), he became a symbol for a movement much greater than himself1. He was a brilliant and courageous leader who believed in the best of the Christian church and of America. This letter is strong evidence of these things. So the holiday isn’t just a memorial to his service, but I believe to all of what he represented. Its to remind us of the ability of people in this nation to be able to move mountains. Its to remind us that complacency and the desire to maintain order is not an American virtue, but the antithesis of what America was founded on. America can always be a better place for all and no one else is going to come do that hard work for us. Some of us will have to give up some privilege. Some of us will lose time and money to the work. Some people have given so much more, as King risked and ultimate lost his life in doing his work.

So that’s why we have a holiday. Not because of what Kind did, or at least not entirely because of it. Also, to remind us of what we have left to do. We have to do it not because we owe it to King’s memory, but because we owe it to every last American. It’s precisely what it means to be American.

  1. I’m basing a great deal of this statement on Rep. John Lewis’ March graphic novels, which are an amazing read, too.

Korean-American Day

My mother-in-law is a Korean-American in the sense that she immigrated to this country from S. Korea as an adult. She’s a naturalized citizen and has now lived in the US longer than she lived in Korea (by a over a decade).

My wife is a Korean-American in the sense that, as you just read, one parent is Korean and the other was an American (of European descent, if that’s relevant).

So, it surprised my wife and I to learn that Saturday, Jan. 13th 2018 is the tenth Korean-American Day. This day was picked to honor the original group of immigrants who came from Korea to the US on this day in 1903. We learned about this day from a wonderful story told on Twitter by Gary Lee, who was a former staffer of Pres. Obama. On Lee’s last day at the White House, the president greeted him by saying “An-yeong haas-eh-yeo” (안녕하세요) which means “Hello” in Korean. More specifically, this is the form of hello that shows the level of respect for mutual peers. Though the most common form of hello used, it’s not quite the level of formality that the leader of the free world would use for one of his staffers. And yet it’s exactly the phrase used by Obama (I sincerely doubt this was lost on him, either, knowing his attention to details). If you check out the story, look at the shear joy on Lee’s face at that moment. Let’s appreciate that Obama values and respects other cultures and their contributions in the greatest American way.

So, to my wife, kids, mother-in-law, 해순, and to the 1.8 million immigrants from Korean and their descendants, happy Korean-American day. 감사합니다

My Favorite 9 Photos of 2017

My favorite 9 photos from 2017

A post shared by Jason Coleman (@super_structure) on

Ok, well, it was pretty much impossible to narrow this down to nine photos. These cover at least some of the highlights of the past year. They may not all be the best photos (even of mine), but they certainly cover a lot of what happened over the past 365 days in just nine pictures.

From left-to-right, top-to-bottom:

  • Ainsley looking out over the bow of a Disney Cruise ship last January as we left Miami.
  • Pagodas from an ancient temple in South Korea.
  • Harry and Maggie hanging out on our stairs.
  • Angela, Wyatt, & Ainsley watching the eclipse (well, what we could see of it through the clouds).
  • My finished guitar boost pedal.
  • Me sporting my first bow tie, which my family gave me for Father’s Day.
  • My finished Gundam kit.
  • Angela and the kids on one of several Fall hikes we did with our moms.
  • Hargie being ridiculously cute.

Learning to Weld

Something I had wanted to learn for many years is basic welding. I’m not planning on switching careers or anythingThough you can make an excellent living as a welder and I would encourage any young person interested to learn about that trade.; I just wanted to try it myself. As a structural engineer, I’ve spec’d countless welds on paper. I’ve only ever done very limited metal work (mostly just cutting, drilling, & bolting), and I wanted to get a feel for what it’s like to join metal with welds. I’ve learned from some of my engineering friends, as well as watching Grady at Practical Engineering, that I’m not alone in this interest.

But it’s not necessarily easy to find a teacher for a curious person rather as opposed to a student who is seeking a career. I don’t have a lot of friends that weld, either. But, maker spaces often have introductory courses. So, I found a great “Intro to Metals” course at Fort Houston here in Nashville.

For better or worse, I was the only person who signed up that Saturday, so I got a three hour, one-on-one course from Courtney Daily, who is a local artist who happens to work & teach at Fort Houston. I really recommend checking out Fort Houston for all sorts of classes. Courtney, especially is a great teacher (and, from what I saw of her work, a talented artist and damn fine welder).

Welder (noun): a person who fixes or makes shit you can’t 😋❤️🔥

A post shared by Courtney Daily (@courtdaily) on

Fort Houston Metal Shop

I first made a bunch of really ugly test welds to practice on some scrap. We also practiced cutting & drilling, which though not new to me was (is) still something I had a lot to learn about.

Ugly welds

My little beginner project was to make a frame. I made a rectangle out of 1″ angles. Since we had the extra time, I also got to spend some time grinding it down (which probably took longer than actually welding did, given my work). It ended up looking better than I would have expected for the my first project. I’ll probably find a way to mount some art in it (or maybe use it for a guitar pedal board, though it weighs a lot for that).

Ready to grind
Finished frame
Ground to the core

So, as I was finishing up grinding I made the comment that it looked shiny now, but it’d probably rust over by the next day. Courtney corrected me that the steel would stay fairly polished where I ground it for a long time. Well, it’s over three months later and it hasn’t rusted a bit.

  • Smart welder lady: 1
  • Know-it-all dude: 0

Reminds me I always need to listen & learn.

Berry Smoothie

I really dislike bananas.

I’m not bragging or anything; just stating a fact. I truly dislike bananas. I always have. I know they’re very good for me and I wish I could eat one. I honestly don’t think I have ever managed to eat an entire banana by itself (that is, not in some other food).

The 2006 Richmond Marathon was the third (and last) marathon I ran. It was exceptionally hot that day, with temps around 80° in November. The last 10k was really rough on me and I knew I was in desperate need of some nutrition after the race. I sat down on a curb in Shockoe Bottom with a banana and a bagel, thinking that the banana was exactly what I needed. I managed to get about half way through it, forcing every bite.

Then it occurred to me: I’d rather risk serious injury or death rather than eat an entire banana.

Like I said, I really dislike bananas. Always have.

Berry Smoothie

None of this changes the fact that bananas are excellent to eat after strenuous workouts or runs. I still know this and I’m quite pleased that I finally found an easy recipe that I enjoy to have after working out. It does have quite a lot of sugar, but you can substitute water/ice for the juice to reduce that by about half.


  • 8 oz Apple Juice (substitute with same of ice water or ice or other juice to taste)
  • Medium Banana, frozen
  • 1 cup Mixed Berries, frozen
  • 1/2 cup Vanilla Yogurt


  1. Pour the juice, berries, and yogurt in your blender cup.
  2. Use a butter knife to slice the skin off a couple of sides of the frozen banana. It comes off very easily, even when frozen & you can just cut off slices into the blender while holding the two remaining sides.
  3. Pulse the blender 5-6 times to chop up the frozen bits.
  4. Blend on high for 40 seconds.

Serves 2 (who am I kidding, I drink the whole thing. So should you).

The best part: The frozen banana is almost undetectable in terms of flavor, smell, and texture. I mean if you get nose right down into the cup, you’ll detect banana; but that’s what straws are for. For people who really hate bananas.

Remembering Maggie

I was talking to my dad last week and I hadn’t realized until he asked about Maggie that I hadn’t written about her here. I guess I don’t write here very often anymore, and it wasn’t the sort of thing I was really looking forward to. As Harry had lived longer and also had a longer, slower decline, I had sort of mentally prepared for some time for his death. Maggie, on the other hand, had been the picture of health up until June, when she started showing signs of what we thought was arthritis. A visit to the vet and some x-rays revealed that it was actually osteosarcoma (bone cancer) on her right, front wrist joint. There’s no treatment for that in dogs, short of amputation. However, for a thirteen year old dog that had already lived past her life expectancy by nearly two years, that seemed like a cruel way to make her live out her days.

So, we gave her medication and tried to spoil her. She continued to manage ok but the last couple of weeks of her life she had extreme difficulty moving about. Her tumor had then grown to softball size and she could bear no weight at all on her left front leg. She did get to enjoy several pounds of deli turkey in order to get her to take her medicine along with canned chicken in her dog food. That dog was always crazy for poultry.

Once we had admitted to ourselves that Harry couldn’t go on and put him to rest, we of course had to then acknowledge the level of pain Maggie had to be in. Could she last a couple of more weeks? We went back-and-forth but after just a couple of days after Harry was gone, she seemed to grow very depressed. Though Maggie and Harry were never quite what you’d call close buddies (they never laid next to one another or showed much dog-sibling affection), I truly thing it upset her when he didn’t come back after a couple of days. They’d never been separated in over 13 years for more than a day (when Harry had a surgery and stayed at the vet overnight). She had just become used to him in the pack, I guess.

She wouldn’t eat much, if anything (not even chicken). She moved about very little. The skin over her tumor began to rupture, either like a bed sore or from the ever-growing tissue destroying her bone. The question very quickly became, can she stay another day?

We decided that though she would hang on as long as we insisted, it would only be making her miserable to do so. So, only four days after Harry died, we took Maggie to the vet to have her put to rest as well. I wish I could tell you it was easier the second time, but I was completely unprepared for how difficult that was. I’d been mentally readying myself for a couple of years to accept Harry’s death but had never really given myself the time to consider losing Maggie so soon, too. You can know something as a fact (such as, “my dog won’t live forever”) but having to face that fact in reality is something entirely different. She passed with us petting her and telling her that she’d been a good dog.

Of course, Maggie maybe wasn’t the best dog when she first came to live with us. She was big and crazy. Imagine a hyper little terrier dog that runs around barking. Now imagine that becoming over 50 lbs. She’d attach the mail and the only reason she passed obedience training is because Pet Smart really won’t fail a dog. She outweighed Harry by two times, so playing tug of war was really more dragging him around until his neck got too tired to play.

But Maggie grew into being a great dog. She got a lot calmer, which comes later to terriers but it does eventually happen. She enjoyed going for walks and became my evening walking buddy. She’d let Angela pet her and would paw at Angela should the petting cease for even a few seconds. And on her last day, despite all the pain of her cancer and bones, she hobbled out our front door and followed the kids to the bus stop to give them a goodbye. She’d never done that before, but was determined to get into one last piece of mischief, I guess. They gave her a big hug each before they got on the bus.

So, now, a few weeks later, we’re still learning how to deal with a house that is a bit quieter than we’ve really ever known it. The boxes containing their ashes sit beside one another, by their collars, on a low shelf. Not really touching one another, but close enough they’d know they weren’t alone. Just like our two dogs spent most every day.

How Maggie Plays Fetch

In Memory of Harry

It is with sadness that I write that today our good friend & dog, Harry, died. He had begun to decline more rapidly over the past couple of weeks. Angela and I were on either side of Harry when our vet put him to sleep, just as he had slept in the middle of our bed for so many years. There comes a point when our love of keeping our pet near us is overcome by the desire to let him have the rest he deserved.

Our children had been able to say goodbye this morning before getting on the school bus. Harry spent part of his last night back in our bed sleeping, albeit restlessly, between us. I finally gave in to spoiling him with treats of human food. Even I couldn’t resist that begging face forever, I suppose.

So, to my friend who has slept at my feet everyday at work for nearly a decade now:

Harry, you were as loyal and wonderful of a friend as we could have ever hoped for. You were a giant personality in a small size; without fear but friendly to everyone you met. Especially when they happened to be a lady. You really liked the ladies, you old dog. You were a good dog, though, and I honestly cannot think of a better thing to say about anyone.

Where ever you are now, there aren’t any vacuum cleaners, thunderstorms, or smoke detectors with dead batteries to bother you. And there are many wonderful things to sniff and pee on. Sometimes those are the same things. And, if it is true that all dogs go to heaven, then surely you can see Angela at every moment of the day which will make your short nub of a tail wiggle with joy. She always was your favorite human or anything, right pal? Being able to watch her all day would truly be your greatest wish, I’m sure.

I want to say thank you again for all the years of companionship and love you showed Angela, me, and our family. It is a mystery to me how such a large heart fit into your little body. But thank you for being our dog and our friend through everything. It’s just hard to grasp that your life spanned most of the time Angela and I have been together. You’ve been there since near the beginning and were such a huge part of our building a life together. We’re better off for having had your in our lives. I think you would feel the same way.

Harry Scouts Out The Backyard Scene

Harry is survived by his adoring human family, Angela, Jason, Ainsley, & Wyatt along with this big/little sister, Maggie, the Airedale. If I’m being honest, though, part of what makes this post even more difficult is knowing that Maggie isn’t really in good health, either. Knowing that today was just the first part of losing our pets is particularly heartbreaking. But I’ll write about Maggie another day.

Shiny Bowie

My kids love the Moana soundtrack and who can blame them? Lin-Manuel Miranda is amazing. So back in February I introduced them to the Hamilton soundtrack. Turns out, there are a lot of kids who love Hamilton (despite the not-at-all-age-appropriate material in many of the songs).

So, given that music linking success (I’m getting burned out listening to Hamilton every day), I decided to try my luck with some other music. My son loves the Moana song Shiny which is sung by Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords fame.

The song has a definite David Bowie feel, somewhat influenced I think by Flight of the Conchords Bowies in Space.

So, anyway, I figured he might be interested in some classic David Bowie. So, I let him listen to both Changes and Fame on the way back home this evening. He seemed to enjoy them (well, at least he didn’t ask to listen to anything else), so who knows maybe I can get them interested into a lot of different kinds of music. That will definitely save me from getting burned out on just a small handful of songs.

What I Told Our Kids

I’ve been interested in politics for most of my life and Angela is much the same. So we of course discuss politics quite a bit around the house. I do my best to follow my parents’ lead and 1) not get overly emotionally or upset about politics and 2) not present my opinion as the only one that matters. This is important so the kids can grow up forming their own opinions and also so they will be less likely to get in an unnecessary argument with other kids. Kids at school should focus on learning and being kids, not arguing with someone else over who’s parents voted for who. Though I’m adamant our children understand how our country is governed, it’s not really important for them to have strong opinions in grade school on matters of national policy.

But kids do talk about current events and even politics, to a lesser extent, at school. So I wasn’t too shocked when my son told me last Tuesday night after I turned out his lights “I sure hope Trump doesn’t win or I’ll have to move to Canada! He wants to build a wall around the entire country.”

I assured him that we wouldn’t have to move no matter who won and that there wasn’t going to be any wall1. The next morning Angela and I discussed the outcome of the election before the kids got up. But once they did wake up, it was a typical weekday rush to get ready for school and work, so there wasn’t any time to talk about the results of the election. After school, though, while I was making dinner, my daughter called out “So did Trump really win last night?”

“What!?” my son shouted with a look of genuine horror on his face.

So I told them that, yes, Trump did win and that one of the greatest parts of being an American is that we have free elections for our leaders. And even though mommy and I may have both voted for Sec. Clinton, we don’t have to leave or lose anything just because she lost. I explained that this is just how we pick a leader but it has nothing to do with who gets to be American.

Now, to a certain point, that is true. However, there are plenty of people who Trump has promised shouldn’t get to enter or even stay in America. And even if Trump hasn’t directly expressed it, plenty of his supporters have some very strong and disgusting opinions about just who should or should not get to be an American at all. But I really didn’t want to have to burden a nine- and seven-year-old with that, so I figured that would be the end of my two-minute reassurance talk with them.

Then my daughter asked what the KKK was and why were some kids saying the KKK were happy Trump won? That’s right: my innocent little kid was asking about the goddamn Klu Klux Klan2. I explained that they were a very racist group who felt that white people like me were somehow better than other people but that I am most definitely not better than anyone else, no matter what they look like, where they come from, or for any other reason. That God loves everyone just the same and that, without question, anyone who contradicts that is wrong.

As horrified as I was that I was having to hold this conversation with my children as a direct result of a U.S. presidential election, I decided now was the time to start righting the ship. I explained that even though we weren’t better than anyone, there are racist and prejudiced people in this country who wrongly believe that. Further, that our family probably already has it better than most people and are likely to experience far less difficulties and prejudices than other people in our country already do and will under President Trump and many of his supporters. And that as a result of that, it was our duty to help speak up on the behalf of others. That if we ran away or even just looked the other way, it would make the bullies stronger and their victims’ pain even worse. I asked them both to promise me that if they ever heard or saw anyone else being mistreated because of how they look, the color of their skin, or what they believe, that they would tell the person doing so to stop. Tell them that they were wrong. And to tell a responsible adult immediately.

They both gladly promised that they would. So if two kids are brave enough to make that promise, I know I will be, too. There was never a time in this country’s history that we didn’t need to look out for one another, but maybe it took something like this election to remind us of that.

Please note that any hurtful or derogatory comments will be deleted with extreme prejudice.

  1. I’m equally confident about both. President-elect Trump has already stated that the wall may just be a fence in some places. I doubt even that will get built, but feel free to re-check me on that statement over the next four years.
  2. Let’s be very clear bout something right here: If you feel the need to say something in defense of the Klan, you need to leave this site and never come back. If you are somehow offended or upset that I despise the KKK, just as much as I do any white nationalist, white supremacy, or other racist group, you and I can call it quits right here. I may not think I’m superior to you, but I know you are wrong and I have zero need to tolerate you. Full stop.