Thursday, March 29, 2007

One of These Reviews is Not Like The Others

I have had an account with for over five years. I have a subscription there that allows me do download two titles a month for a flat fee. My daily commute is long enough that I can go through two unabridged audio books a month without much problem.

I get to choose my two books after the same day of the month every month. For me that day came this week so I started looking through the titles to see what I wanted to grab.

I guess it is a nice thing that, after five years, I have already browsed through most of their library and now just have to poke through the "What's New" list every month.

Since I last looked through the list I noticed they had added a likely looking candidate for an in-car listen, a military thriller, with the title of "Catalyst."

I had never heard of the either of the authors, but it was read by Patrick Macnee whom I have enjoyed listening to with other titles.

Then I noticed the book had a one star reader review and 5 written reviews. So I went to look at the written reviews.

Four of them panned the book for nearly the same reason; it is difficult to listen to both because of the reader (who was no doubt not coached correctly judging from the comments... I work with voice talent at times, you don't just have people read a book aloud) and because of the generally poor production quality (the word "echo" sticks out in my mind from the negative reviews). I've run into audio issues before and am glad to be warned off of such titles. is not like, people do not write a lot of reviews. (And even on, books by these author's barely generate any reviews.)

A non-best seller title with five written reviews is an oddity. So if four people were worked up enough to go and submit negative reviews about this title, I am inclined to believe them.

The fifth review though.... Again, unlike, playing "spot the shill" is much easier. Five stars. The reviewer praises the book in what sounds like the publisher's marketing material and applauds the "European panache" that the reader brings to it while saying nothing about audio quality. It ends up with a statement about buying the rest of the books in the series.

So who wrote this last review? One of the authors? Friends or family? The publisher? The producer of the audio book (who sounds like they should be fired)? Even a rabid fan would have hedged on the auido quality I think.

And why do I say that? Because offers audio samples of their books. Listening to the sample for "Catalyst," confirms both that the four negative reviews were quite justified and that the fifth one has to be a shill.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Unintentionally Funny Comic Book Panels

A few of them are so-so in my opinion, but numbers 15 and 1 make the whole thing worthwhile.

Grass Valley Police Blotter vol. XXXXVIII

At 8:36 p.m., a caller from the 400 block of South Auburn Street reported a man known as "Cowboy Bill" was running in the street and talking loudly to himself. Police arrested the 71-year-old man on an outstanding warrant.

[Is this the end of the trail for Cowboy Bill?]

At 11:51 p.m., a man from the 100 block of Richardson Street reported a drunken man was causing trouble. Police contacted the caller, who was not listed on the apartment lease. The drunken man had permission to stay for the night and the caller said he would stop calling police.

[I'm not sure what happened here, but as long as our tax dollars aren't being used to support it any further.]

At 1:25 a.m., a man from a motel on the 400 block of South Auburn Street reported his belongings were in a woman's car and she would not give them back. She was in the motel parking lot with her vehicle running and a dog in her car. Police contacted the man and woman. They cited the man on suspicion of possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.
[Another case of the caller getting himself in trouble.]

At 11:28 a.m., a man was at the Sheriff's Office reporting his brother was using his identity.

[The question that springs immediately to my mind is, "Are they twins?"]

At 7:59 p.m., a caller from the 100 block of East Empire Street reported a man and a woman calling for help for the past 15 minutes. Officers contacted those looking for help and they were found searching for their dog. The pet was united with its owner.

[Was the dog's name "Help?"]

At 10:12 p.m., a caller from the 600 block of Kate Hayes Street reported a man fighting with his wife on the street and arguing about her having torn a phone out of a wall. Officers arrested the 50-year-old woman for removing a telephone line.

[My theory about this being a male-only crime is debunked at last.]

At 2:48 p.m., a man from the 10000 block of Granholm Lane reported medication sent to an address he previously lived at wasn't being returned to him by the new resident.

[And just try getting the online pharmacy to change your address.]

At 5:15 p.m., a woman from the 10000 block of Valley Drive reported her husband brought home a sandwich bag full of marijuana.

[And, what? Was that not on the shopping list?]

At 11:06 p.m., a woman from the 12000 block of Boundary Way reported that her boyfriend had knocked her around. She reported his name and then refused to give any further information, saying she made up the fight to get him into trouble. Officers contacted the parties involved, and booked the 45-year-old man into county jail for resisting arrest.

[I always wonder how somebody can get brought in with "resisting arrest" as the only charge.]

At 1:12 a.m., a caller from the 17000 block of Norlene Way reported an unknown subject pushing vehicles and other miscellaneous items into the road.

[Superman, what hath thou wrought?]

At 2:46 p.m., a caller from the 14000 block of Gas Canyon Road reported unknown subjects had entered the gates of a wastewater treatment facility. The subjects had thrown mud all over the building and it also appeared as if they attempted to hit golf balls into the water tanks. The caller said the incident occurred on Thursday and requested a log entry only.

[It has to be somebody making a music video.]

At 7:53 p.m., it was reported that a male subject was making repeated threatening phone calls to the Sheriff dispatch.

[That's efficiency, cutting out the middleman and just going straight to the police to make his threats.]

At 7:56 p.m., a caller from the 200 block of Broad Street reported juveniles breaking duct work on the roof of a Nevada City business. All the subjects were wearing Yankee baseball uniforms.

[I think there is a lesson here for all of us.]

At 7:40 a.m., a nurse called from the 600 block of Freeman Lane to report a man lying in a nearby field. The woman called back to say she was wrong and what she thought was a man was really a pile of concrete.

[If this woman takes my pulse, I am asking for a second opinion.]

At 12:25 p.m., a woman from the 100 block of McKnight Way called to report a middle-aged man with a goatee picked up her keys by mistake at a local laundromat. The woman wanted the incident recorded because she felt he was acting suspicious.

[A middle-aged man with a goatee, that is suspicious right there! Him and his so-called "mistake."]

Source: The Union (

End of Fiscal Year

The end of the quarter is almost here. It just so happens that this is also the end of our fiscal year.

This means that everybody in the company is getting email about making sure our project time tracking entries are up to date, our vacation time has all been submitted, and that things like expense reports are all signed, approved, and turned in.

Being a large and modern company, all of this is done through software that is maintained by the IT department. SAP is the software of choice at our company. Feel free to speculate on what the acronym SAP really stands for, but I will guarantee it isn't "Solves All Problems."

Still, we know the drill. We have received the bare minimal training to use the horrible interface on must navigate to accomplish all of these tasks before the end of the quarter.

Only there is a problem. Among the email flying about was one from IT. With a week to go in the quarter, they decided they needed to upgrade SAP.

This upgrade... you know where I am going, don't you... yes, this upgrade managed to kill all of the data entry applications we use to update our project time sheets, vacation time, expense reports, and what not. The system is up, end users can log in, but the applications are not there.


In real companies, these sorts of systems are locked down around end of quarter, usually two weeks before and a week after such an event, and longer at fiscal year end, to prevent just such fiascoes.

To be fair, I do not know why the upgrade was required. It might have been something that had to be done to close out the fiscal year. But to wait until the week before the end of fiscal year to do it....

We get what we deserve.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A Different Type of Web Security

Or an inadvertent security measure.

We have a mission critical system that every project has to access before it can ship. No project is complete until this system has been updated.

It is a web based system. You can do all the work you need to do in a browser.

But only if you have the right browser.

IE is not the right browser. Firefox won't work either. Opera? Forget about it. And don't even bring up Safari.

No, you need Netscape to use the system. A specific version of Netscape. A nine year old version of Netscape.

Unless you have that version, the application will not display correctly, your inputs will not be accepted, and you will get errors every time you try to go through the prescribed process required for each project.

It is a rite of passage at our company that every new manager finishing up his first project must learn this the hard way. The browser requirement is not documented anywhere. That information is part of what I call "the great oral tradition" of our company where the way things really work is only transmitted by the elders around the campfire, and only when they deem you ready.

So a new manager will be pointed at this application, told to follow the instructions in the ISO compliant document, and sent on his merry way.

A merry way to frustration and despair.

The application will appear to work in IE or any other browser, but key elements will be missing from the page. The new manager will be sure that he just isn't reading the document right. He will try to enter the data in the fields that have the right name, some of which seem to be missing. He will try to submit that data only to get an unhelpful error stating that data from a field he does not see is incorrect.

Eventually the new manager will break down and cry out for help. Impatient weenies like myself do it right away. But other more stoic types will labor on trying to make the instructions work with the application they see. The pain can last for days in that situation.

Eventually the manager will end up on the phone with somebody who has been indoctrinated into the secrets of the application. That person will send the manager to the special location on the network where this special version of Netscape is kept.

Eventually the manager's eyes will be opened. The application will work. All will be right with the world.

Thus the process to ship a project at our company is completely secure. No outsider could possibly do it.

At least that is what I tell myself. It is a much better answer than the one a new manager will get from IT should he call them to complain about the application.

It seems that the guy who wrote it years ago was an ardent Netscape supporter. Only he does not work here any more. He hasn't for years. But the application works and IT, in a seeming reversal of their standard policy, is not inclined to fix something that works.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Grass Valley Police Blotter vol. XXXXVII

At 6:37 p.m., a woman called from the 100 block of Grove Street to report her neighbor was painting her yard fluorescent orange so the caller could see the yard from her kitchen window. The woman requested contact from an officer. An officer responded.

[Silly to paint your yard that color, but is there some ordinance against florescent orange? It can get foggy up there.]

At 12:43 p.m., a caller reported a man wearing a turban was panhandling in a drugstore parking lot on the 1000 block of Sutton Way. Police contacted the man and advised him of a city ordinance.

[No turbans allowed.]

At 1:37 p.m., a woman called from the 300 block of Railroad Avenue to report semi-trucks were in her lot and she wanted them removed. Police contacted everyone involved and the vehicles were to be moved. A man called to report a "hostage situation." Police determined his car was blocked in, and he was not a hostage. He was counseled on the proper use of 911.

[The claim of "Stockholm Syndrome" when caught chatting up a female driver was discounted by his wife.]

At 2:55 p.m., a man called from the roundabout on Sierra College drive to report a white minivan stopped in front of him and he fell over on his bike. Police contacted the man, and determined there was no injury. He did not need medical attention.

[Cue Laugh-In clip of that guy falling off of his tricycle.]

At 8:24 p.m., a man called from East Bennett Street to report suspicious circumstances. A dark blue Chevrolet Tahoe showed up in his driveway and dropped off a girl who asked the caller to take her shopping. She said she was from Sacramento. She was with two young men who were quite a bit older than she was. They said they did not know who the girl was. When the caller said he wanted to contact the girl's parents, all three got back into the car and headed toward downtown. Police checked the area extensively and were unable to locate the girl, the men or the vehicle.

[Suspicious... but "take me shopping?" ]

At 8:28 a.m., a man called from a hotel on the 600 block of South Auburn Street to report he was being harassed by police officers. He said officers should not return without a warrant. The man asked to talk to a sergeant, but hung up before he was connected.

[Calling the police to complain about the police?]

At 8:47 a.m., a caller from a hotel on the 600 block of South Auburn Street said he requested officers 20 minutes ago. A dispatcher transferred the call to an officer.

[Clarity is the essence of communication.]

At 7:02 p.m., a caller from the 13000 block of Wood Rose Way reported an unwanted person, then the line was disconnected. Deputies responded and arrested a man on suspicion of damaging a telephone line, assault and violation of a court order.

[Just keeping up on the telephone damage score.]

At 8:40 p.m., a caller from Broad Street reported a tour bus was driving down the street with a sign flashing "emergency call 911" on the side. Police were unable to locate the bus.

[Always good for that "lighter side of the news" segment.]

At 5:03 p.m. a caller from the 200 block of East Main Street reported three men tried to sell her perfume that didn't seem like perfume. She told officers she smelled some and "felt funny." She denied medical attention. Police checked the area but did not locate the alleged suspects.

[Frankly, I feel that way just walking through the cosmetics department at Macy's.]

At 6:14 p.m., a caller from the 23000 block of Wayfarer Court reported that a neighbor had threatened her and her husband while they were outside. At 7:33 p.m., the same caller reported that the neighbor had pulled down some yellow caution tape on her property and threatened to kill her.

[Another one for the annals of neighbor relations.]

At 6:17 p.m., a caller from Bubbling Wells Road reported that the neighbors had been riding dirt bikes in the area all day.


A 9:17 a.m. caller from the 12000 block of Gayle Lane reported finding dynamite in her front yard. Responding deputies said it was a road flare.

[That got some adrenalin pumping I bet.]

A 5:46 p.m. caller from the 300 block of Auburn Street reported her husband was drunk and shooting at a bird with a pellet gun. Officers responded and the man left for the evening.

[And went where drunk and armed?]

A 2:55 p.m. caller from the 300 block of School Street wanted to make a citizen's arrest of a school traffic guard who was refusing to let him make a turn. Officers responded and resolved the issue.

[And to think that I saw it on School Street.]

A 6:42 p.m. caller from the 100 block of Mohawk Street said it appeared a female was sleeping in the bushes across the street. Police contacted a 46-year-old man there, who was arrested on an outstanding warrant.

[Excuse me, Miss? What do you mean "Miss?" Sorry, I've got a cold.]

Source: The Union (

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Grass Valley Police Blotter vol. XXXXVI

At 10:37 p.m., a woman called from the 11000 block of Sierra Circle to report a missing antique Barbie doll. The woman thought her adult son took it from her home. Police took a report for petty theft.

[Barbie is now old enough to be an antique.]

At 4:26 p.m., a caller reported an overweight woman was smoking marijuana in a tan van while she was in the drive-through at a fast food restaurant on the 10000 block of Olympia Park Road. Police contacted the woman, who had a prescription for medical marijuana.

[And we're all okay with her driving and smoking it?]

At 3:49 p.m., a caller from the 10000 block of Combie Road reported a 2-year-old boy was lying in the gravel and crying. A deputy contacted the child's mother, who said the child was throwing a fit because he was not getting a new toy at a nearby store.

[Oh, I've been there. My wife usually waits patiently until I get up and start acting like an adult again.]

At 6:11 p.m., a caller from the 100 block of West Berryhill Drive reported his girlfriend was verbally attacked by her mother. The caller did not give the mother's name and wanted to make a log entry only.

[Big red warning flag there son. Do you want to be part of this family?]

At 10:33 a.m., a caller from the 700 block of Zion Street reported a man was huffing paint in a room at an inn. Other guest could hear the man and they were complaining. The caller said the man took a taxi to the hardware store to huff more paint. Police arrested the 42-year-old man for possession of a toxic substance for intoxication.

[First, I just like the term "huffing." Second, I like that he was huffing so loudly it was disturbing other guests. Third, he went out for more!]

At 12:40 p.m., a caller from Grass Valley reported a man in a vehicle had been following an armored vehicle from stop to stop. The vehicle was a 1986-1989 Ram Charger. The man was parking so the armored truck driver had to walk past him. The man was also seen in Auburn following the armored vehicle yesterday. Officers were advised, and the caller was told to call again whenever he saw the man.

[I'll be watching the headlines to see how this plays out.]

At 2:34 p.m., a caller from a restaurant on Freeman Lane reported three men were asked to pick up garbage they had thrown on the ground, and they became very threatening to the caller. The men were all wearing baggy shorts and one wore a red and white baseball cap worn sideways. The manager of the restaurant came outside and advised the caller to leave, using abusive language. Police met with the caller outside the restaurant.

[It just doesn't pay to get involved some days.]

At 6:40 p.m. a caller reported a verbal argument involving "Cowboy Bill." He was wearing a cowboy hat and walking toward a bar. Police contacted the caller. No arrests were made.

[Cowboy Bill rides again! And of course he was wearing a cowboy hat! And of course he was walking toward a bar!]

At 9:13 p.m. a caller from the 500 block of St. Patrick's Drive said he hit an animal on northbound Highway 49 near McKnight Way. He just found out his bumper fell off at the scene and might be a traffic hazard. The CHP was notified.

[Lesser men might have stopped to see what they hit and assess the damage.]

At 11:10 a.m., a woman called from the 10000 block of Alta Street to report someone dumped some type of chemicals in her car. A soda can and a soda bottle were dumped on the front and back seats of the car. She said the chemicals smelled acidic and they appeared to be eating the seat material.

[I am betting on Mountain Dew or Dr. Pepper.]

At 3:08 p.m. a caller from the 200 block of Commercial Street reported a grizzly man wearing suspenders and no shirt growled at people who passed by. An officer contacted the man and he moved along.

[Of course he was growling at people. He is a grizzly man!]

Source: The Union (

Friday, March 02, 2007

Grass Valley Police Blotter vol. XXXXV

10:18 a.m., a caller from a liquor store reported a skinny man with long hair was sniffing gold paint. Police arrested the man on suspicion of probation violation and possession of a toxic substance with the intent to inhale for intoxication.

[FARK fans only, you know what picture I have in my mind right now, don't you?]

At 1:38 p.m., a caller from the 12000 block of Enterprise Mine Road reported the theft of 500 pounds of petrified wood.

[It is decorative I suppose.]

At 11:26 a.m., a caller from Condon Park reported a person wearing a blue jacket near the 14th hole of a disc-golf course was throwing golf clubs and saying he didn't want to live anymore. Police checked the area and were unable to locate the person.

[Pretty much my feeling after golfing most days. But what was he doing with clubs on a disc-gold course?]

At 2:41 p.m., a caller from Dolores Drive near Alta Street reported people in three or four vehicles parked on the grass were shooting off fireworks. Police checked the area and were unable to locate the vehicles, people or fireworks.

[The grass, however, was right where the caller said it was.]

At 12:44 p.m., a caller from the 11000 block of Newtown Road reported a neighbor was beating up his son, who had been videotaping people setting off fireworks. Deputies responded and discovered no physical violence had taken place. The neighbor stated he and his son were playing with snap caps on their porch and the neighbor came to the fence line with a camera and started yelling obscenities at him.

[More for neighbor relations.]

At 2:08 p.m., a caller from the 10000 block of Combie Road reported the theft of a Nubian goat, valued at $450. There was no evidence of theft or predation.

[How often does a Nubian goat make it into the blotter?]

At 6:24 p.m., a woman in the police lobby reported a pizza was delivered to her apartment on the 100 block of West Berryhill Drive but she did not order it and the delivery person had all of her information.

[And so she called the police because it was, you know, weird.]

At 7:31 p.m., a man called from the 100 block of West Berryhill Drive to report a woman hit and scratched him while he was trying to leave in his vehicle. The man was advised to go to the police station so police could get pictures of the injuries and take a report. The man said he would think about filing a report. By 10:30 p.m., the man still had not arrived at the station.

[Great moments in apathy!]

At 8:39 p.m., a caller from the 700 block of Zion Street reported a person in front of a grocery store was bothering customers about buying spray paint. Police contacted the man and he would be moving on.

[Again, FARK readers....]

At 12:55 a.m., a caller from the 100 block of Mainhart Drive reported children were sledding down the middle of the road.

[When you live some place where it does not snow regularly....]

At 1:39 a.m., a caller from the 300 block of North Church Street reported a person was throwing snowballs. Police contacted five people who were having a snowball fight.

[Scoff laws and ragamuffins!]

At 6:20 p.m., a woman called from the 10000 block of Barde Court to report juveniles were throwing snowballs at her residence and refusing to stop. She was very irate and demanded a deputy respond. The woman was advised that the deputy could not make it for a while due to traffic hazards.

[Did you notice that it was snowing?]

At 11:50 a.m., a caller from the 11000 block of Highway 174 reported children were throwing snowballs at passing cars.

[It is a snow-based crime spree!]

At 9:41 a.m., a woman from the 200 block of Sutton Way reported her son was pelted by snowballs and was verbally assaulted by a teen neighbor.

[Society is coming unglued.]

At 11:57 a.m., a man came into the police station to talk to an officer about abuse in general.

[He then moved on to the state of the novel in 21st century literature.]

At 12:06 p.m., a woman reported two juveniles threw snowballs at her vehicle on Sutton Way.

[It just goes on and on.]

At 12:46 p.m., an officer contacted two juveniles on Sutton Way and counseled them on the dangers of throwing snowballs.

[Ah, the heavy hand of the law comes down on the snow criminals!]

At 3:20 p.m., a caller from the 200 block of Arcadia Drive reported juveniles were shouting obscenities and throwing snowballs from a roof. An officer contacted the juveniles, who would be conducting indoor activities.

[Go back inside and play video games already!]

At 8:54 p.m., a caller from the 300 block of Pleasant Street reported hearing a single gunshot. The caller was unsure of where the sound came from. Police contacted tenants in a nearby apartment who had a very large sound system and were watching a movie that had a loud explosion. Police also contacted juveniles who were throwing snowballs at cars. It was unknown if the juveniles or movie caused the sound.

[Good home theater or snowballs, you make the call!]

At 4:52 p.m., a caller from the 11000 block of Ridge Road requested a deputy respond for three juveniles who set up a ski jump by the wrestling gym at Nevada Union. They left at a high rate of speed in a white vehicle. A deputy located the jump. There was no damage. The deputy was unable to locate the caller.

[No snowballs were found at the scene.]

At 6:55 p.m., a woman called from the 14000 block of Anchor Lane to report a person had a paycheck that belonged to her and the person was refusing to give it her or her mother-in-law unless she returned the person's pajama pants.

[The solution seems clear enough to me.]

Source: The Union (