Archive for July, 2006

Week of Whirlwind Trips

So much happened this past week, I am unsure I’ll be able to cover it in a post before my bed time.  But I’ll try.

Peak 10 and Ali V
On Thursday afternoon, Larry Bowman and I traveled down to Charlotte to go to a customer BBQ at Peak 10, the company that hosts one of our Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) installations.  The BBQ didn’t feature sweet tea (which I expected in North Carolina)– but the food was delicious.  The pork alone made it easy to forgive the abscence of sweet tea.  🙂

The event also featured a tour of Peak 10’s new data center in Charlotte.  I was extremely impressed with the entire facility– the enormity of it, all the biometrics and security measures, the attention to environmental factors, the 24×7 support team and the geo-redundancy they can offer to customers. 

Here’s another thing that was impressive.  We’re taking this tour and seeing giant rooms filled with machine after machine after machine.  Some customers had so many servers they warranted their own room.  Larry and I are only involved in one little server among all their other business– just a tiny, tiny blip, really.  Yet, during the festivities, members of the executive team enthusiastically greeted us and took the time to chat with us.  They made us feel just as important and just as big of a customer as anyone else in attendence.  I thought that was really nice.  We are certainly in capable and caring hands.

Just a couple of hours later, Larry and I started our trek back home.  On our way, we stopped off to meet baby Ali!  It was also the very first time I saw Brian and Jodi’s new house.  Both the home and the baby (not to mention the mother) were absolutely beautiful.  Jodi even let my unseasoned hands hold her first child.  I suppose if she let Brian change diapers, her standards were already dampened a bit.  🙂

Christian and Nosheen’s Wedding
So Saturday morning, I was back on the road.  This time I traveled up to Herndon, Virginia to attend the wedding reception of Christian Geyer.  Christian is the youngest brother of Christina, one of my best friends from high school.  I was Christina’s date and apparently, I also served as a convenient excuse on why Christina could not eat “on display” at the head table.

Christian was marrying a gorgeous Iranian woman named Nosheen, so the wedding was rich in a culture that was new to me.  The buffet featured Persian food and Thai food– both delicious.  In some cases, I was unsure of what exactly I was ingesting, but boy, whatever it was, it was great.  I also discovered, I’m quite a fan of Thai Tea and cream.

Now for me the highlights of any wedding are 1) The Dancing and 2) The Cake

This wedding did not disappoint.  The cake was great– light, not overbearingly sweet, and it featured fruit and nuts in it. 

And the dancing!  The dancing was downright amazing.  Not a single drop of alcohol was served at this event and yet— it featured more dancing than even the most inebriated nuptials!  The music was foreign to me.  I couldn’t understand any of the lyrics (Well except for when they played a Black Eyed Peas song), but it did not matter– the beat of the music and the energy of the dancers was enthralling, intoxicating.

At one point, one of the many beautiful cousins of the bride paused as a new song started to play and she said to me, “I don’t know what this is.  I’ve never heard this song.”

“Me neither!” I told her with a smile.  She seemed to get a kick out of that.

A number of years ago, my cousin Adam looked down at a wedding dance floor and shook his head.  “You can always tell the Sawyers,” he said, “Because they are the ones that can’t dance, but always do.”

I think Adam’s statement would hold true for Christian’s wedding.  The Iranian woman were impecable dancers.  They were seductive and beautiful and quick on their feet.  The grace of their arms and the expressiveness of their hands and wrists were especially impressive.  And not a single spec of self-consciousness could be found amoung them!  Everyone was confident in their abilities and seemed so free and at peace. 

Christina and I were not familiar with their dancing techniques, but we participated and we did our very best to learn…or at least mimick.  Throughout the evening, the bride and her relatives would encourage the two of us.

“You’re okay!”
“You’re doing good!”
“Keep it up!”

I was touched by their encouragement.  Then Christina had an observation.  All their statements meant…they had been watching us all along! 🙂

Regardless, I had a wonderful, invigorating time. 

Here’s another testament to how captivating the music and the dancing was.  Across the hall was a Class of 1991 High School Reunion.  Over there, their DJ was playing contemporary American music.  Well at one point, we were dancing away at the wedding and suddenly we look up and see a small group of the high school alumni on the floor with us.  They ditched their own music to come join our side!

Well it is definitely past my bedtime now—I’ll end with one quick note.   There was so much happiness and joy and enthusiasm at that wedding last night.  I feel honored that I was able to share in it. 

I’m also starting to suspect–  I married into the wrong culture! 🙂

July 30, 2006 at 11:49 pm 1 comment

Dad Story: “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!”

My sister has a very good post on the state of Sawyer cars.  In the comments she recounts another one of my favorite Dad stories.  I’m going to elaborate a bit:

In December 2000, my cousin Adam and his beautiful wife Chrystie got married.  They had a lovely ceremony which really included the family and friends who attended.  At the point where Adam and Chrysties were taking their vows, the priest instructed the congregation (paraphrased):

“For those of you who are already married, please take your partner’s hand and while Adam and Chrystie take their vows, silently renew yours.”

Mom was paying attention, so she grabbed Dad’s hand.  My father, however, was zoning out and was taken aback by my mother suddenly grabbing his hand.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!” Dad said. 

Now, my father never says anything softly, not even in a church.  Needless to say, his words echoed throughout the building.  To the innocent bystander, it could easily seem that Dad was absolutely and utterly terrified of renewing his vow of matrimony.

Our whole pew was already on the edge of laughter thanks to the condition of Jay’s suit, so we all started some awkward suppression of our amusement.  I believe I shed tears. 

Not a fitting picture– but here is one of me and my Dad dancing at the reception later that night.  My Uncle mailed it to me along with a blackmail note saying it was proof that I “associate with known misfits.”

Vicky Dad Dance

July 24, 2006 at 7:58 pm 1 comment

Busted by Bowmans x 2

I’m having some bad luck with Bowmans this week. 

Busted by Ann 
On Saturday night, I went over to Ann Bowman Jones‘ house to watch a movie (Prime).  We started fairly late– especially for a mother of two young children who spent the day at the pool.  So it wasn’t surprising when Ann fell asleep in the middle of the film.  In fact, I knew the odds of that outcome were high coming over.  Pleased with my own prediction, I quietly grabbed my cell phone and composed a text message to Sean:

“And now Ann is sound asleep!”

Suddenly Ann’s cell phone starts beeping loudly.  All the original noise is amplified by the phone vibrating and causing a rapid chattering on the coffee table.  Ann sits up adbruptly and in a groggy daze, she collects her phone.

“That’s weird,” she said, “It’s from you.” 

I was momentarily as confused as she was until the message was read aloud.  I had inadvertantly addressed my message to Ann!  Not only was I busted– but the whole act disproved my statement. 

Ann was, in fact, not sound asleep.

Busted By Larry
Often when I’m shopping around for third party components, I’ll use my Management Solutions of Virginia persona.  I fill in my Management Solutions email and I’ll leave Management Solutions’ address and phone number (aka Larry’s address and phone number).  If the company calls, Larry deals with them accordingly.  Last week, I was sort of scoping out a competitor (Nothing sinister– I was just curious to see a quick screenshot).  Under the circumstances, I felt weird putting my own name in the form (a quick Google search would make me look suspicious– more suspicious than I think my quick peak was worth), so I borrowed just a tad extra from Larry.  Like usual I let Larry know the company and that I filled out an inquiry form.  Unfortunately I only thought to share the usual amount of details.

So this afternoon I get a call from Larry.

“YES, I WOULD LIKE TO SPEAK TO VICKY BOWMAN!!” He said, already laughing.

Turns out– the company did call Larry.  When they asked for me, he had a quick answer, “I don’t know a Vicky Bowman!”

When they told him who was calling, he made the connection …and helpfully told them my real last name.

Welp, I think it’s pretty much a given, if I didn’t look suspicious before, I certainly look that way now!

July 24, 2006 at 7:36 pm Leave a comment

PDF Open Parameters

A couple of weeks ago, a customer asked me if it was possible to create a link that forces a PDF document to open in 100% zoom mode.  I told them I would look into but “I’m not optimistic.”  Turns out my instincts were WRONG!  Adobe provides a whole slew of Open Parameters for their PDFs– including one that allows you to specify the zoom level.  The full documentation for Adobe 7’s Open Parameters is below.

PDF Open Parameters – In Full Zoom

PDF Open Parameters – 50 Percent Zoom

July 24, 2006 at 6:38 pm 18 comments

Blacksburg Restaurant Recommendation: Maxwell’s

Quick note for the Blacksburg, Virginia residents/visitors–

On Friday night, Larry Bowman, Lindsay Jones, Ann Bowman Jones, Gwyn Jones and I ate at Maxwell’s (1204 North Main Street).  It is the second time this summer Larry and I visited Maxwell’s.  The meals are more upscale (Entrees range from $17 – $22), but they are absolutely delicious.  One time I got the Horseradish and Parmesan Encrusted Salmon and one time I had the Stuffed Filet Mignon.  Both dishes were very satisfying meals with a solid supporting cast of vegetables (something I’m always on the lookout for).  The desserts are pretty darn fine as well.  Friday, we sampled the Crème Brûlée (really creamy and light!) and the Chocolate Mousse.

Another thing that stuck out about Maxwell’s is how both times we’ve gone, it’s been completely empty!  Here we are getting a meal on a Friday night.  Usually an endeavor like that is accompanied by crowds and waits and lines and noise.  Last Friday, literally our fivesome were the only people in the restaurant.  So during what is usually a madhouse meal, Maxwell’s provided us a little oasis of calm and quiet. Granted, if there were other people in the restaurant they wouldn’t quite classify our party (with a cranky toddler) as “quiet”.  🙂

Anyway, if you are in town and looking for a good meal without a hectic dinner rush and your budget permits– I say give Maxwell’s a whirl.

July 23, 2006 at 11:45 am Leave a comment

Forgotten Dishes

A year or so ago, Sean and I were waiting for Larry Bowman to meet us at one of the many Mexican restaurants in the New River Valley.  Sean and I were just about to order when Larry arrived at the table. 

“Do you know what you want?” I asked Larry.

“I always get the same thing, but I can never remember the number,” Larry said.  He grabbed a menu, opened it and then looked up at the waiter, “Two.”

Sean and I always laugh at how Larry’s forgotten number could be so simple.

Anyway, I ran into a similiar story in my journal entry from January 18, 1999:

Ryan Schutt is sick today.  He has strep throat.  I felt bad for him being ill and decided to pick up food for him.  Sean & I were meeting Brian & Jodi @ Hokie House.  Sean and I left at 8:15 PM.  I was certain I’d be back in time for Ally McBeal.  Ryan wanted a chicken fillet sandwich, no tomato.

I didn’t get back until 10 PM!!! The service at Hokie House was horrid.  It took them at least 10 minutes to get me my water. 

When I went up to order Ryan’s sandwich I told the waitress, “I want to order a sandwich.  I’m not sure what it’s called, but it’s a chicken fillet.”

The waitress looked at me blankly and muttered an “um…” before getting a menu to look it up.  She pulled the menu on the counter and guess what the sandwich was called:


How could she, an employee, not remember that sandwich name?!? Hehehe.

Note to self: Stop giving Larry such a hard time.

July 22, 2006 at 4:28 pm Leave a comment

The Art Will Go On

Earlier this week, CNN had an article on Dennis Hwang.  He’s the artist who does all the specialized Google logos for holidays and special events.  Like many others, for years I’ve been looking at his work and never really thought about the artist behind it. 

To me, there is something very captivating, almost romantic, about art where the artist’s identity is not readily attached.  For all I know the artist could be dead or forgotten and it’s exactly that notion that makes the concept so appealing to me!  The artist, regardless of whereabouts, still possesses a tiny bit of immortality because his/her work lives on. 

I thought about that a lot in Mrs. Plaut’s Humanties classes, particularly when we were looking at pieces of Ancient Greek pottery.  The artists’ identities are no longer (and may have never been) known.  But thousands of years after their deaths, we know they were once on this great earth.  We know because we’re looking at (not to mention studying) their handiwork!

Ink Sketch on Paper Napkin
My favorite example of anonymous art was stumbled upon in Savannah, Georgia.  Excerpt from my journal entry on December 31, 1998:

In March while visiting Savannah, I was waiting alone [in a bar] for Sean and Ryan [Schutt].  I saw something yellow and wrinkled hanging on the bar wall.  Upon further investigation I realized it was a napkin with a city scape drawn on it.  It’s caption read, “Pre-War Dresden, Germany.”  The picture was dated nearly 25 years ago!  Not only did someone remember a beautiful city that was later destroyed during WWII, but someone saw beauty in this napkin and saved it nearly a quarter of a century.  It was a drawing on a napkin, nearly a doodle, and someone preserved it all these years.  The artist did not leave his/her name on the napkin– nonetheless the artist left a mark.

It’s been 8 years since I saw that napkin in Savannah and here I am still thinking about it!  In fact, it has made more than one appearence in my journals.  Even though I’ll never know the artist’s name, that seemingly trivial doodle continues to live on in my mind.  Through that napkin, the artist lives on… as well as his/her memory of pre-war Dresden.

“Hire Vicky” Cheerleader
As it turns out, I may have my own little subtle legacy living in cyberspace.  Oddly, that legacy may not lie in my years of hard work with QualTrax.  Instead– it may lie in a simple, animated GIF I did in a single afternoon in college!

In preparing to land my first real summer job, I added a simple little animated GIF (emphasis on simple– I made the frames in an application kin to Paint) to my personal web site.  It was a little cheerleader who’d jump up and down and hold up a sign that said “HIRE VICKY!”  She even had a little green V on her chest.  Green for my favorite color and V for Vicky.  It seemed to do the trick– I got an absolutely, inspiring job at a Web Development firm in Reston which sent me on my way to the career I have now. 

Anyway, somewhere along the line the cheerleader got added to an animated GIF gallery.  Then at some point a school emailed me and asked if I could make a version without the “HIRE VICKY!” sign so they could use it.  I cut out the last frame and sent it along.  All of a sudden, my cheerleader was popping up in unexpected places… like Brian Nenninger’s grandfather’s personal webpage!

The cheerleader is over a decade old now, but I still run across her.  A lot of people change the colors.   Some people have made her a still shot.  Some people have shrunk her and others have made her larger.  I am surprised, however, how few people remove the “V” from her chest.

Here’s a sampling of the different variations:

Red Bay High School
Valley High Athletics
Homer Stallions
Diana Flick’s Harrisonburg High Page
New York State Education Department
Clinton Elementary School
Not sure this one stays true to my original vision– they erased part of her mouth!
Miracle League of El Paso
Vaughan Road Alumni Association
The yellow smile is a nice touch.
Faubion Middle School Calendar
Mid River Eagles Football
I like this one because they use DHTML to have the cheerleader go all over the page. I also like how the cheerleader is apparently celebrating the Eagles losing 30 to 0.

The Hire Vicky Cheerleader certainly isn’t as moving as the “Pre-War Dresden” cityscape and it doesn’t have the high visibility of Dennis Hwang’s work, that’s for sure. 

But in the arena of leaving your mark, I think you should take whatever you can get!

July 22, 2006 at 4:00 pm 7 comments

Out of State Ian Fund Efforts

Quick note— Ian Fund was not forgotten while I was away!  I picked up pine cones for the wreath project in Colorado (I bet they looked interesting when TSA X-rayed my luggage) and in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Plus, I made it a point to wear my Ian’s Hope bracelet (available for a $10 donation to COTA for Ian H) on my Mt. Bierstadt hike.  The bracelet is pictured below on the rim of my Appalachian Trail Conservancy hat (I was showing my east coast pride).

Ian Hope Bracelet

Wearing that bracelet is a derivative of a practice I inherited from my family’s Catholism.  My grandfather would “offer up” his trials, his suffering, and even his workplace frustrations for others.  It seems he had a high threshold of what he’d offer up.  When he first started going blind, my Aunt Julie asked him if he was offering that up.  My grandfather thought for a second and replied that his pain wasn’t bad enough for that. 

My father carries on that practice.  To this day, I’ll hear him mention it now and then.  There is also a story from his childhood.  My father was outside chopping wood all day.  When he returned indoors and was asked what he was doing, he did not reply that he was chopping wood.  Instead he explained he was helping get a distant relative out of purgatory.

Unlike my grandfather, I have a low threshold of what I offer up.  Most frequently, when I’m jogging with the dogs up a hill, I’ll think with each exhale and stride, “For Ian, For Ian, For Ian” or of others I know who are such good, genuine people but who face such hardships and sadnesses.  Sometimes the queue seems too big for my piddly jogs to sustain.

I have no tangible evidence this tradition has any effect.  However, if all else fails, I will continue my practice for purely selfish reasons.

It reminds me that the ache in my legs is nothing compared to the aches of others’ hearts. 

It keeps me focused and driven.

It gets me up those hills.

July 16, 2006 at 11:41 pm 1 comment

Electric Car

Colorado was not the first state I rollerbladed in, the first state I geocached in or the first state I hiked in. However, Colorado will hold one distinction in my book:

  • The first time I ever drove an electric car (note: not a hybrid– purely electric)

On Thursday, my uncle lent me his electric RAV4 to drive around Boulder. It was obvious to all that I was driving an electric vehicle. Nothing to do with performance. Rather, there were big stickers on all sides of the vehicle:

Electric Vehicle

On a side note, a number of years ago, Barrett A implemented a hilarious satire of the frat boys who liked to put stickers on their suped up cars to advertise the make of their vehicle and subsequently, their perceived prowess. Barrett put huge, giant white stickers that covered both sides of his grey, beat-up mini-van that read:

Powered By

Anyway, I have to say I rather enjoyed the electric vehicle. It was great for commuting through town, seeing the University of Colorado and shopping at Pearl Street Mall. I also enjoyed being able to tell my uncle, “I would offer you gas money, but…” 🙂

Electric RAV4

The only thing I found unnerving was the lack of noise when I was starting the vehicle. Everytime I turned the key, my pulse would momentarily rise when I did not hear the engine turn over. I’d have to be reassured by the green “Ready” light on the dash that everything was in fact normal and that I did not break my uncle’s car.

Other than that, I didn’t notice slow acceleration or any other kind of negative aspect of the vehicle. And with it being powered by my Uncle’s solar panels, I was in one of the most (if not the most) ecologically friendly vehicles in Boulder. It was a little, tiny, tiny bit of penance for the fleet of SUVs I’ve manned the last decade.

P.S. In Colorado, because of their high altitude– they sell 85 octane gas!

July 16, 2006 at 10:54 pm 1 comment

Rocky Mountain National Park and Denver Botanic Gardens

On Saturday, Sean finally got to enjoy some free time in Colorado!  We woke up early and headed over to Rocky Mountain National Park.  We didn’t catch glimpses of any Big Horn Sheep, but saw a lot of beautiful sites, especially along the Old Fall River Road.  My favorite picture of the park came at Farview Curve:

Cloud Shadow 

We drove through the park, visited Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain Lake and Lake Granby.  Finally we took a scenic route home via Route 40, passing through the gorgeous towns of Fraser and Winter Park.  I always wanted to see what Showshoe Ski Resort would look like in the summer.  Driving through Winter Park gave me a very good idea of what it might look like — beautiful!

I did have one regret.  Along that Route 40, I believe between Fraser and Winter Park, we drove by a train in the foreground with a field and snow-capped mountains behind it.  I wish I had snagged a picture.  It was very picturesque.

Since we got back to Boulder so early, Sean and I also made a trip out to the Denver Botanic Gardens.  Despite Ryan Somma‘s recommendation, we just could not muster up the desire to visit the famous Bodies exhibit at the Denver Musuem of Nature and Science.

As we were paying our entrance fee at the Botanic Gardens, an exiting guest yelled at us, “Don’t do it!  The inside sucks and the outside is too hot!”

Sean and I did not heed her advice and we did not regret it at all.  Although it was 100 in Denver that day, there was little humidity.  Sean and I could feel the heat, but without the mugginess we are used to in Virginia, the outside was very bearable to us.

The inside section, I thought was beautiful but there was definitely humidity.  In fact, it was so thick you could see it in the light.

Sean in Humidity

There were multiple levels in the indoor facility.  It was absolutely amazing to feel the temperature difference between the top and the bottom.  When we descended, Sean and I could feel a dramatic temperature drop with each flight of stairs.

Outside, I really enjoyed the Monet Garden section with its lily pads, fountains and bronze statues.

Monet Garden

As usual, more pictures from our Colorado trip are available on my website.

July 16, 2006 at 10:21 pm Leave a comment

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