Posts filed under ‘Ali V’

Calibrating Happiness

With over thirty years left until retirement, I’m still at the early end of my career. But even at this stage in the game, I’ve gotten to visit a variety of industries– production facilities, dairy processing plants, food testing laboratories and even mine operations.

One thing each of those industries have to contend with is calibration. They need to routinely check and make sure their equipment and devices are measuring accurately. A way to check on calibration – measure something simple. For example, with a thermometer, one may confirm the temperature of ice water reads 0 degrees C. A scale you may reset when nothing is on it and then put on a fixed weight. A level you may check against a known flat surface.

On Thursday night, I drove down to rural Floyd, Virginia and joined a friend of mine and her family for supper. Our meal was not extravagant – beans, homemade coleslaw, shells and cheese, sliced tomatoes, sliced onions, cornbread and homemade grape jam. For entertainment, we had nothing but good conversation… and a golf cart.

When I first boarded the golf cart, I was under the impression our ride was for my friend’s twenty-two month old daughter. Little Ali was the one, afterall, who kept getting in the golf cart and repeating, “Ride. Ride.”

Ali wants a ride

But as we ventured through the property, I appreciated the fresh air and eyed the beautiful countryside. And when the golf cart barreled and bounced down hills, it was me shrieking and giggling more than anyone!

Family pond from the golf cart

Chestnut trees at dusk

When I left Floyd County that night, I had a belly full of delicious homemade food… and a big smile on my face. The evening was not just dinner anymore. By measuring something simple, I knew- my happiness was properly calibrated.

Thursday was a stressful day for me.  The next day I had an early customer meeting and then a drive to Pennsylvania.  I had test server updates to perform on Friday afternoon, production server updates for Sunday night and then a training session to conduct on Monday.  I could have easily declined the dinner invitation.  I could have easily declared that I was “too busy”.

But just how even the busiest organizations make time for calibration, so should we.  Amid stress and frustration, we should all remember to take a little time out and enjoy something simple.

Keep ourselves calibrated.

April 16, 2008 at 8:28 am 3 comments

Ali on Charlotte.Com

Check this out!  A picture from Ali’s 1st Birthday Party is on the front page of at the moment:

Does the shot look familiar?  It’s mine!  See Lessons From Birthday #1 blog post.

August 16, 2007 at 9:14 pm 2 comments

Lessons from Birthday #1

Back from our full weekend.  Saturday was Ali’s first birthday party.  We had a really good time, but the experience proved to be educational as well.  Time is scarce, so here a few of the lessons from the party.

Some Instincts Humans Are Born Without…
For example- the love of birthday cake.  My love of sweets is so ingrained, I just assumed it was innate.  Little Ali proved otherwise.  She didn’t realize what a wonderful treat cake was at first.

Ali scared of the mysterious object

Eventually Ali got the hang of it.

Eating with her mother

Before we know it, Ali will a full-blown sweet master like little Gwyn

Gwyn has long mastered the art of endulging on sweets

…But We Do Have Some Animal-Like Tendencies Afterall
When a pinata broke, the kids swarmed and looked very much like a pack of hyenas.

Children descend on the bounty

Bubbles Enchant Kids…
A bubble generating machine entertained the kids for hours.

Marissa closes in on a bubble

Gwyn enchanted by all the bubbles

Penn teaches an apprentice how to punch bubbles

…Adults Not So Much
Lud and Sean were able to carry on a seemingly somber conversation, despite being surrounded by bubbles.

Sean and Lud do not even acknowledge the magical bubbles around them.

Even Grandpas Love Turtles…
Ali’s paternal grandfather braved a sporadic stream of defensive pee for a picture of a turtle next to his turtle tattoo.
Chuck Vandervort’s turtle tattoo… and an actual turtle

…And Even Grownups Like Toys
Many of the adults could not resist playing with some of the toys set out for the kids.

Andy masters multi-tasking by bouncing a ball on a racquet and holding his beer

Being a Supervisor is Tough Work…
While Brian and Jodi struggled to move the swing for pinata play, Lud kept a watchful managerial eye.

Lud looks skeptical of Jodi and Brian’s strategy

…But Elmo Takes the Cake (Somewhat Literally)
A stuffed Elmo appeared to have the toughest job of the day.  Here he poses at the end of the event, littered with icing.

This Elmo has seen better days.

Everyone else, including Brian and Jodi, made it through the day without looking nearly as frazzled as Elmo.  It proved to be a wonderful party and quite a treat to attend. 

All my pictures from Ali’s First Birthday Party are available on my Flickr site.

June 3, 2007 at 10:41 pm 2 comments

Weekend – Deerfield, Floyd, Cassell

I did a couple of things this weekend, besides avoiding cheese:

Deerfield Bike Path
I took the dogs over to Deerfield Bike Path in Blacksburg for a stroll.  I also took along our new digital camera and snagged some pictures.  Deerfield Bike Path is not well known and as a result is pretty secluded.  If you take away the sentimental value of the Huckleberry Trail (lots of rollerblading memories) that would make Deerfield Bike Path my favorite of the bike paths in the area.  Here’s how I described it for a geocache placed in July 2003:

The bike trail offers a variety of views– a man-made pond, a babbling stream, deep forests of sycamore and locusts, a hillside of dry grass, collections of honeysuckle and wildflowers. This trail feels like you are walking right through a virgin forest– only with the comfort of a paved path!

In the winter, the forest doesn’t seem as thick and there is an abscene of wildflowers, but the sights and sounds are still great.  In fact, as I was walking back with my camera, I saw a group of people walking up carrying microphones.  Here are a few of my pictures from the outing:

Deerfield Bike Path and some reflections

Some of the tall grass with the man-made pond in the background

Jimmie next to the babbling stream

Silhouttes of some of the many trees off the path

Jodi and Ali
On Saturday, I drove to Floyd to visit Jodi and her daughter, Ali.  Floyd is such a beautiful county.  I really enjoyed the views I encountered.  I will definitely have to return there again shortly to do some hiking. 

This time around, I spent most of my camera efforts trying to get pictures of Ali.   In July, the Vandervorts did a blog post called “The Many Faces…” and it shared thirteen pictures of Ali and her different facial expressions from a single day.  When I saw it, I thought, “Wow, they take a lot of pictures” and I thought the quantity was solely a reflection of their affection for their new daughter. 

Now I wonder if there is another reason behind the quantity of pictures!  It turns out it is lot easier to get photographs of dogs than it is of a baby.  It seemed whenever Ali was happy and smiling and actually looking my way she was also very animated.  With my limited experience with the new camera, that left a lot of blurry hands and unfocused facial features.  I also had a series of pictures where I was a split second too late and missed the smile.  So I took picture after picture after picture.  When it was all said and done I think I ended up with a 3% satisfaction rate of my pictures.  The good news is when everything clicked in place, little Ali is very photogenic!  So through quantity, I was able to salvage quality.

Ali has a tongue

Clemson vs. Virginia Tech
On Sunday, Larry gave me and Sean his men’s basketball tickets, so we went to watch Virginia Tech take on Clemson.  I think this is the first basketball game Sean and I attended together in at least nine years.  I very much enjoy the basketball environment.  I like how concentrated the experience is– you are closer to the action of the game, closer to the refs you want to yell at, closer to the sidelines, closer to the cheerleaders, closer to the band, closer to the dance team and the Hokie Bird.  No matter what is going on, you are in the thick of it.  But…I will report the intimacy of Cassell Colliseum does not do the “Enter Sandman” hysteria justice.  With that, you really need to sheer magnitude of frenzied fans that only Lane Stadium can provide.

We ended up losing the game and the seemingly reserved old man next to me lost his temper and threw down his water in anger.  I got splattered by plenty of his water and hopefully not very much of his backwash.  Nonetheless, I had a good time (I think Sean’s experience was still dampened by the loss, though).

March 5, 2007 at 10:31 am 1 comment

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

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