Archive for May, 2006

1914 Train Tunnel

Today my co-worker, Bill C, and I went hiking through the Golden Hills Disc Golf Course and the Montgomery County Park to go look at an old train tunnel that was built in 1914.


On either side of the tracks near the tunnel, there were some old buildings, which nature was already starting to reclaim.  In the below picture you can see weeds growing on the concrete steps.

Old Building

This building and its stair garden reminded me of the article Earth Without People from the February 2005 issue of Discover magazine.  In that article, they describe how the DMZ in Korea has changed with just 50 years without people and they speculate how long it would take our cities to fall apart if humans suddenly disappeared.  When I originally read the article, there were two things that made me… well, I guess, slightly sad:

“Few domestic animals would remain after a couple of hundred years. Dogs would go feral, but they wouldn’t last long: They’d never be able to compete.”

Aww, poor dogs.  (I suspect Clint won't share my sentiment!)

Unless an earthquake strikes New York first, bridges spared yearly applications of road salt would last a few hundred years before their stays and bolts gave way (last to fall would be Hell Gate Arch, built for railroads and easily good for another thousand years).

Why do the demise of the bridges make me sad?  My grandfather, Gerard Ivanhoe Sawyer, built bridges! 🙂

It was a very interesting article.  Ignoring my personal attachment to dogs and bridges, it was surprisingly uplifting to know that:

In a few thousand years, "the world would mostly look as it did before humanity came along—like a wilderness."

Go Nature!

May 29, 2006 at 1:49 pm 2 comments

Generosity to and from the Herbst Family

Fundraising for Ian Herbst is really making great progress.  On Tuesday, WSLS Channel 10 did a story on him.  We started selling Domino's Pizza Coupon Cards, Raffle Tickets for a Used Car, homemade Ian Hope beaded bracelets as well as delicious Candy Bars to support the cause.  Earlier this week, a family who had heard about Ian stopped by the office and may a very generous donation!  It really warms my heart to see all the community support, because Elaine, Brett and Ian are the most deserving family I could think of. 

I recalled this evening that I had a journal entry that would demonstrate the every day kindness that is prevalent in the Herbst family:


Last Thursday we had a pretty bad ice storm …

Since it had been icing all day I had quite a collection of ice on my windshield and windows.  I started the ardous task of scraping the ice away.

Suddenly I heard some other scraping, very nearby.  I looked to see which one of my colleagues was parked next to me, suffering the same predictament as I.

Lo and behold– it wasn't someone scraping their car.  Brett Herbst was on the other side of my X-Terra, scraping it!

What a nice thing to do– especially in crummy weather.

I never asked for that man's help, but he helped scrape my car… as well as the cars of our remaining co-workers!   

That's the kind of people we are helping.

May 28, 2006 at 10:13 pm Leave a comment

RATC-Maintained Trail – DONE!

Yesterday, Mike E, Jimmie and I hiked the Appalachian Trail from it’s crossing with the Blueridge Parkway at milepost 97, past Blackhorse Gap and on to VA-652.

With the completion of the 11.5 miles from Blackhorse Gap to VA-652, I have now hiked all of the Appalachian Trail miles maintained by the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club! I believe it is Newsweek which does a little numbers blurb in their issues. Here’s my own little rendition with numbers regarding my RATC hikes:

119 Number of Appalachian Trail Miles maintained by the RATC
238.5 Actual miles hiked including repeats, round trips and connector trails
4 Number of seasons I’ve seen the trail during
13 Number of people who hiked sections with me
(Mike E, Meredith Webber, Ryan Schutt, Seth Powers, Jennie (Shields) Jones, Cory Herrala, Erin Foote, Mike Newman, Sean Herrala, Jay Sawyer, Alex Moskwa, Ann Bowman Jones and Penn Jones)
6 Number of dogs who hiked sections with me
(Jimmie, Henry, Lily, Zanz, Oliver and Maggie)
13.1 Longest section hike
(VA-779 to Scorched Earth Gap to VA-220)
3 Number of people who helped me set up cars or drop me off at trailheads
(Sean Herrala, Larry Bowman and Bill C)
$1100 Damage to my car when I hit a tree off Craig Creek Road
1 Number of cars that got stuck in a creek
(Mike E’s car the creek VA-620 crosses)
1 Number of bee stings suffered
(Mike E on the suspension bridge near VA-606)
8 Number of inches of deepest snow I hiked through
(Big Horse Gap to VA-634)
4 Number of donkeys encountered on the trail
(spotted on VA-42 to Kelly’s Knob section with Mike E)
1 Number of times a cow was mistaken for a black bear
(on VA-624 to VA-311, Mike Newman and I stumbled on a cow in the middle of the woods and snapped a number of pictures of it before we realized it was bovine)
1 Number of times a dead black bear was spotted
(Meredith and I ran into some hunters and their recent bounty near Wind Rocks)
1 Number of times a snake tried to attack Henry
(on VA-624 to Dragon’s Tooth. The snake missed.)
3 Number of blisters I sustained
(On Pine Swamp Shelter to VA-635, see Right Shoes for the Job)
2 Number of times I ran out of water
(VA-620 to Dragon’s Tooth and Scorched Earth Gap to VA-220, the latter Mike E helped me out with his water)
5 Number of days I took off work specifically to go hiking
(VA-42 to VA-621, VA-621 to Dragon’s Tooth, Big Horse Gap to VA-634, VA-601 to Kelly’s Knob, VA-220 to VA-652)
1 Number of times I left work early specifically to go hiking
(VA-621 to VA-620)
19 Number of outings with just myself, Jimmie and Henry
4 Number of hikes where Henry injured his paw pads
4 Age of youngest hiking partner
(Penn Jones)

Additional pictures from this Blackhorse Gap to VA-635 section are available on my website.

May 28, 2006 at 9:16 pm 8 comments

New Twist on SQL Server does not exist or access denied.

In my day, I've had more than one encounter of the error message:

[Microsoft][ODBC SQL Server Driver][Shared Memory]SQL Server does not exist or access denied.

More often than not the cause has stems from one of the following scenarios:

  • Bad login information
  • If using SQL Server Authentication, they were once using good login information but someone changed the account password.
  • If using Windows Authentication, the account making the request (can certainly be tricky for web applications) did not have permissions to the SQL Server.
  • The IP / Server Name specified was incorrect (ie they are trying to connect to instead of
  • The SQL Server Services were simply stopped on the server– sometimes for legitimate causes such as server maintenance or a reboot.

Well this year through QualTrax work, my colleague Derek and I ran into a new twist on that error message.  After a preliminary discussion with the customer, it sounded like login information was correct.  So we took a peak at the server where SQL Server was being hosted. 

Sure enough in the System Tray, we could see the SQL Server Service Manager was showing the SQL Server as being stopped:

Here's the twist, when we right clicked on the icon and tried to start the service, we got an error message:

The service did not start due to a login failure.

Followed by another error message:

An error 1069 – (The service did not start due to a logon failure. ) occurred while performing this service operation on the MSSQLServer service.

The issue turned out to be related to the Log On Identity of the actual MSSQLServer service.  This particular MSSQLServer service was not set up to run as the Local System– it was running under a specific account and apparently that account's password had changed recently.  It is very easy to correct:

  1. Open the Administrative Tools section of the Control Panel
  2. Open the Services option (you can also get to this through the Computer Management Console)
  3. Scroll down to and right click on the MSSQLServer service and select Properties.
  4. Click on the Log On tab.
  5. Update the credentials as needed and hit apply.

Once we keyed in the correct password, we were able to start SQL Server.  Once SQL Server was started, the applications and users could resume their connections.

A happy ending for all.

May 24, 2006 at 7:00 pm 2 comments

Corrective Action Without Root Cause Analysis: Air Conditioning

In my work with QualTrax, I often deal with concepts such as "Corrective Action", "Preventative Action" and "Root Cause Analysis".  And during my tenure here, I've come across plenty of examples of how moving forward with corrective action when you don't understand the root cause can be dangerous.  Here's one that stemmed from my personal life!

Air Conditioning
Last summer, our downstairs air conditioning broke.  The damage was such that unit had to be completely replaced.  This month (yes over a year later), Sean and I finally got a quote and scheduled the install.  The quote was for $1700 which was workable within our budget. 

Yesterday, the worker came and spent a few hours installing the unit.  When he was done, the worker came in the house and bid his farewell.  And then he said:

Oh yeah, I figured out why that other unit broke to begin with.

It turns out, another unit in the basement (I believe he said "air distributor") isn't functioning properly– and it is sending flow back to the air conditioning units outside.  The worker told me:

You're going to need to get that replaced, or else it is just going to break that new $1700 machine you got out there.

Now, let's ignore the fact that this company missed this little tidbit in the five other times they visited our house since the unit broke.  And let's ignore the fact that now we have to spend more money then we were expecting.

What we are left with is a great example of the necessary teamwork between correction action and root cause analysis.  If this worker was not savvy enough to notice the other failing unit, then Sean and I would have invested our time and money into a corrective action ("Installing a new air conditioning unit")— but the source of the problem would have remained and it would have cursed us with issues in the future.  In the end, we would have not fixed a darn thing.

Instead, we would have paid good money to be just as irritable and just as hot and sweaty as before.

May 23, 2006 at 5:47 pm 8 comments

Ian Herbst

At a family reunion in 1996, I hit a milestone.  I was actually able to hold a baby (my cousin Allison) without it crying

Last December, at the CCS-Inc Children's Christmas Party, I repeated that feat.  I held young Ian Herbst for a good 15-20 minutes, the whole while he stayed content and happy and never cried.  Only this time there was an explanation.

"With all the nurses and doctors, he's really used to strangers," Ian's father and my co-worker, Brett, said.

Ian was born with Biliary Atresia and is in need of a life-saving liver transplant.  Needless to say, he has had many doctor visits, including exploratory surgery, already in his young life.  The Children's Organ Transplant Association (COTA), along with friends, family and volunteers are trying to raise money to help offset the $100,000 cost of the transplant.

Ian Herbst

More Info On Ian:

If You'd Like To Help:

  • Make a Donation Through COTA or Wachovia
    Tax-deductible donations may be made in person at any Wachovia Bank branch location using account number 3000025425609 or mailed to the

    Children’s Organ Transplant Association
    2501 COTA Drive
    Bloomington, IN 47403.Checks or money orders should be made payable to “COTA for Ian H.

    Secure credit card donations are also accepted online at

  • Attend One of Our Fundraisers
    There are a number of upcoming fundraisers currently planned, including:

  • Put Your Old Cellphones to Use
    For each used cell phone we collect, $3.00 is getting donated directly to the campaign.  So if you have any old cell phones hanging around– recycle them AND help a child in need in one gesture!  For more information on where drop boxes are located in the Southwest Virginia area, contact Jaime Clemmer at

May 20, 2006 at 6:39 pm Leave a comment

Single Sided Stories

General Store
A few years ago, my car broke down at a very inopportune place and time.  I was in the middle of a small rural town, during an ice storm …after dark.  While I waited for my hero (aka Sean) to brave the icy roads in his dinky Audi TT, I sought refuge at the only place that was open– the General Store.  The couple who owned the store were nice and pleasant and very hospitable to let me wait inside.

They did not, however, let me use the restroom and they had quite a tale for why not.  Being near the Appalachian Trail, they come in contact with a lot of thru-hikers.  In fact, they used to let the hikers camp out in their backyard.

"The whole field would be filled with tents and sleeping bags," the man had said.

Well, one year, the hikers got dreadfully ill and as can be expected, made quite a mess.  The couple even described vomit on their walls.  As if that hoopla wasn't bad enough, the hikers then turned around and blamed the couple for their illness.

"The authorities even came and investigated us.  They didn't find a single thing wrong," the woman had said, "What they don't realize is hikers always get sick.  It's normal.  [she named some virus].  It's from lack of hygiene."

Because of that horrible experience and how ungrateful the hikers were, the couple no longer let thru-hikers camp in their backyard and they wouldn't permit anyone, including me, use their restroom.

The next day, warm and safe and sound in my own home, I did a web search so I could get the couple's names and address and send them a thank you card.  It was then I discovered, the couple left out a key piece of information:

During the investigation– the authorities found FECAL MATTER IN THEIR DRINKING WATER!!!!

A convenient tidbit to leave out, huh? 

Bloodhound Hero
Well, today I had a similiar discovery.  Last week at the Brookfield, Wisconsin Farmer's Market I was drawn to a booth that featured a live bloodhound.  I pet the dog and then listen to the handler, a woman named Penny Bell, talk about the dog's capabilities and all the wonderful finds and victories her other bloodhound has done.  She bragged at how her dog was the only K-9 unit authorized to go to 9/11.  Then she went on a rant for sometime about how the police refuse to use her dog. 

"They would rather get their overtime pay knocking door to door than find a lost child," she said.

I have to admit, it really was infuriating to hear her tales of how the police would rather fill their wallets than to let a dog (whose services are free) help local families.

Anyway, I didn't have any cash to contribute last week at the booth, but it did seem like a worthwhile cause.  So today, I did a quick Google search so I could send this dedicated dog handler a donation.

Lo and behold, the top results are affiliated with FRAUD.  

Mystery River

Bloodhound Handler's Credentials Questioned in Search for Local Men

Fradulent Use of Canines in Police Work

In Penny Bell's rants she left out a couple of details– including how she was witnessed dragging the dog in the direction she wanted it to go, how for one of the dog's key "finds" they were actually nowhere near the body and how experts agree bloodhounds can't pick up scents that are over two years old.  Also– it sounds like she wasn't the only K-9 unit at 9/11 either.

I suppose it is possible this is a smear campaign by those who feel threatened by Penny and her dog (I'm skeptical though).  Either way it does serve as a good reminder to me that there are two sides to every story. 

Until the Lion Learns to Speak 
So I'll wrap this all up with another K'naan Quote:

Until the Lion Learns to Speak, Tales of the Hunt Will Be Weak

It's a paraphrase of a Muslim saying reminding us that history is often written by the victor, the conqueror, the hunter.  Until we hear the stories of the "loser", we really won't know the full story– We won't know the lion's side.

Recently Clint posted an article about the Baltimore Police arresting a couple for merely asking directions.  I was just as outraged as Clint at the story (especially knowing how many times I've been lost in Baltimore and D.C.) and also wondered what kind of horrible, unreasonable people are being staffed by the Baltimore Police.  But after this morning's Bloodhound discovery, I think I'll hold back for now.  Maybe…. just maybe, there is another side to this story as well. 


May 20, 2006 at 5:42 pm 1 comment

System.IO.File.Delete with Wildcards

I came across this earlier in the week, working on QualTrax code.  In our application, we have a class for all our file handling operations.  The class is pretty much a wrapper for standard System.IO.File calls  (Copy, Delete, FileExists, etc).  The wrapper class has been working quite well until this week, when I came across a need to delete a whole group of files.  Without a second thought, I passed in wildcards in with my filename.  For example:


Lo and Behold, when I unsuspectingly ran the System.IO.File.Delete method, I got an error:

{"Illegal characters in path."}

It is fairly easy to workaround.  The System.IO.Directory.GetFiles command does support wildcards in its searchPattern parameter.  GetFiles returns an array of strings with the full paths to all the matching files.  Instead of doing a straight File.Delete call, we want to get all the matching files, iterate through those and delete them. 

There are a lot of examples floating around.  However, all the sample code I found was in VB.NET, so I thought I'd go ahead and share C# code in case it is of value to anyone.

Note: You'll want to access the differences between System.IO.File/System.IO.FileInfo and System.IO.Directory/System.IO.DirectoryInfo and determine which one is best for your needs.

  1. I kept the parameters to our wrapper function the same.  We are still passing in a full path that includes our file name such as C:\MyFolder\Prefix*.PDF
  2. In my wrapper function, I check our parameter (fullPath) for the presence of an astericks.  If I find one, then I'm not going to do a straight File.Delete call. 
  3. Before I use the System.IO.Directory.GetFiles command I want to seperate out the directory path from the actual file name.  So some quick substring action takes place.
  4. Finally I call the System.IO.Directory.GetFiles command– passing in my filename (with the wildcards) as the second parameter. 
  5. If my array has no items– then there were no matching files.  Hooray for that– we achieved the desired result without any work at all.  Otherwise, we cycle through the array and now we call our friend File.Delete.
  6. I surrounded the File.Delete calls with a try/catch clause so we can be meticulous with logging the details of the transaction (that code not pictured).


May 19, 2006 at 7:36 pm 12 comments

Milwaukee Pictures

This past weekend, I went with my Grandmother and my brother, Jay, to my cousin's wedding in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  It was a pretty long weekend with a lot of driving and travel.  The weather wasn't quite optimal, especially considering all my packed dress clothes were sleeveless.  But– it was an absolute great time with wonderful visits with family, story swappage and another solid opportunity to dance to Outkast's "Heya".

One of my favorite moments was when a drunk guy at the reception seemed to take a particular liking to my ninety-one year old Grandmother.  He talked to her for quite some time and kissed her hand a couple of times as well as her forehead.  He kept telling her how great she looks (which she does– she certainly does not look or act like 91) and how amazing she is (which she certainly is).

Grandma and a Drunk Guy

"Is that guy hitting on Grandma?!?" I asked Jay.

"I think so!" He said.

The next morning as I was driving to the airport, Grandma brought that incident up.

"[That man]," she asked, "Is he mentally retarded?" 

I found it hard to not laugh as I explained he was just drunk.  I'm guessing it has been a while since my grandmother has encountered someone that intoxicated…. though Uncle Mark at Adam's wedding was pretty darn close.  🙂

Anyway, my pictures from my trip to Milwaukee are available on my website.

May 16, 2006 at 10:53 pm 5 comments

Best Mother’s Day Card Ever

Last week, some co-workers and I went to Target to fetch some Mother's Day cards.  The second card I picked up, I was completely sold on.

"I'm getting this one!"  I announced, "It says 'Dog Crap!'"

"Public place," one of my co-workers tried to delicately remind me and out of the corner of my eye I saw a child pass by.

"It's a public card," I protested.

"Oh come on, it doesn't really say dog crap," he said.

I showed him the card.

"I stand corrected."

And that is how I found the best Mother's Day Card ever.  In fact– it uses the phrase "dog crap" twice:

Best Mother's Day Card

And for those skeptics out there—  I'll have you know I spoke to my mother yesterday and she got a kick out of the card as well.  🙂

May 15, 2006 at 10:39 pm 16 comments

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