Friday, September 23, 2016

LENDING A PAW by Laurie Cass [Book recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library e-book [2013]

Description: Minerva “Minnie” Hamilton and Eddie, the cat that followed her home one day and wouldn't leave, drive a bookmobile and solve a murder.

Plot:  Eddie sneaks aboard the bookmobile on its first day of service, delighting the patrons.  At their last stop of the day, he leads Minnie to a body.  Unfortunately, Minnie knows the victim, and it appears many of her friends are suspected of killing him.  So Minnie “helps” investigate the crime.

Characterization:  The characters could have been more developed.  I had a sense of who they were, but none of the “jumped out at me”, except for Eddie who was cute and funny and well-done.  Sometimes I lost track of who was who, but oddly it didn't seem to matter much.  I still enjoyed the story.

Setting:  Southwestern Michigan.  Nicely described, I was able to picture every scene.

Other:  The main character pondered the clues so much, and gave their specific significance, that there were none that the reader could miss.

Overall:  This was a cute cozy mystery, very good for readers who don't really want to think too much, they just want a cute story with a well-stated conclusion.

Grade: B

Monday, September 19, 2016

One man's trash is another man's ... evidence

In California v Greenwood, 486 US 35 (1988), the US Supreme Court ruled that under the Fourth Amendment, once a person puts his trash at curbside for collection [which in that case included evidence of drug use and trafficking], no warrant is necessary to search that trash because the person leaving it has no reasonable expectation of privacy in it.

This is the federal interpretation of the Fourth Amendment. Individual states are always free to enact laws that give greater protections to their citizens.

The Supreme Court of Washington has ruled that a provision in its own state constitution does extend privacy protections to its citizens beyond the federal guarantee.  In Washington, the police need a warrant to snoop through your trash.

Therefore, in some states you have an expectation of privacy in your garbage, and in other states [and/or on federal land], you don't.

Unfortunately, unless your neighbors are police officers or similar, neither of these philosophies can protect your trash from neighborhood busy-bodies and snoops.

Friday, September 16, 2016

NYPD RED 4 by James Patterson and Marshall Karp [Book recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library New Books shelf, audio book

Description: This is book #4 in this series by James Patterson and Marshall Karp.  This specialized unit of the NYPD is an elite task force which investigates cases involving the rich and famous.

Plot:  A famous actress is murdered at her movie premiere.  Zach Jordan and Kylie MacDonald, the NYPD Red team, must find the killer, without upsetting other famous people or NY politicians in the process.  There are several subplots, including a series of thefts at hospitals which must be solved but also kept “quiet” and the personal lives of the two main characters, all of which are interesting in their own right.

Characterization: All the characters are reasonably well-developed, and they were portrayed as real people with real personalities.  The point of view switches between the main characters and is done well.

Setting:  New York City.  Nicely described.

Other:  This book was narrated by Edoardo Ballerini and he did an excellent job, definitely added to the characterization and the story.

Overall:  Good story.  Sub-plots were interesting and I thought they added to the story.

Grade: A-

Monday, September 12, 2016

Texting while walking can be lucrative

Imagine this scenario:

In February 2011, in the great state of Georgia, you park your car behind a bucket truck surrounded by orange cones.

You duck under the extended arm of the truck, walk to an ATM machine, realize you forgot something, and duck under the arm again as you walk back to your car.  You retrieve the forgotten item, again duck under the arm and walk back to the ATM machine, transact your business, and head back to your car.

While you return to your car, you are engrossed in a text conversation and don't notice (1) the ladder/arm you've ducked under three times so far, and (2) that the bucket at the end of the arm has been lowered closer to the sidewalk.

You bonk your head on the ladder/arm, which results in a trip to the hospital and a slight concussion.

You do the American thing,  You sue the construction company.

In March 2016 [wow that case took a long time to get to verdict, five whole years!], a Georgia jury determines you were only 8% at fault, and awards $175,000.  Your take, after reducing the award by 8%, is $161,000.

Our take-away lesson:  texting while driving may be frowned upon [and illegal in many jurisdictions], but texting while walking can be very lucrative, albeit somewhat painful.

Friday, September 9, 2016

THE CROSSING by Michael Connelly [Book recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library New Books shelf, audio book

Description: Author Michael Connelly has both of his main characters, Harry Bosch [LAPD detective] and Mickey Haller [criminal defense attorney], together in this book.  Most of the chapters are in Bosch's POV but some are in the POV of the “bad guys”.  The book starts with the bad guys so the reader knows up front who they are.

Plot:  Bosch has retired from the LAPD.  His half-brother, Mickey Haller, asks for Bosch's help with investigating a case for his client, a former gang member who has gone straight but is charged with the particularly brutal murder of an assistant city manager.  As Bosch gets closer to the truth, the bad guys go after him.

Characterization:  There really isn't much character development in this book, possibly because these characters are reasonably well-known to most readers.  But if I hadn't read any of the previous books, the characters would have felt kind of flat to me.  The personal story line had a good start, but really didn't go anywhere.

Setting:  Los Angeles.  Nicely described.

Other:  This is a very good police procedural, even tho Bosch is no longer an active police detective.  The story details his thought processes in the investigation.  Michael Connelly is also VERY GOOD at dramatizing an attorney cross-examining a witness at trial.  There are two places where this occurs, one at the beginning and one at the end.  Both excellent.

Overall:  I really enjoyed this story, probably because I know these characters from previous books, and I am an attorney who frequently works in Los Angeles.  For new readers tho, there wasn't enough character development.  The book is narrated by Titus Welliver who also plays Bosch in the new series from Amazon Studios.

Grade: A-

Friday, August 26, 2016

Happy end of summer / vacation / beginning of school year

I am on vacation through September 6.

I hope all of my blog readers have a great end of summer [or winter for those of you at the bottom of the Earth] and/or a great beginning of the school year, or whatever you are celebrating at this time of year.

Please tell me in the comments what you did for your vacation in 2016.

See you in September!


Monday, August 22, 2016

First world problems

A small farmhouse in central Kansas, occupied by tenants, was a hotbed of a digital age horror story.

"... the little house in the center of the country became the crossroads of the Internet, with unimaginable consequences ..."

The first hint occurred in 2011 when the home's owner received a call from a small business owner in Connecticut who angrily blamed her for his customers' email problems.

In May 2011, law enforcement officers knocked on the door, looking for a stolen truck.

Over the next five years, officers would show up to rescue potential suicidal persons, or accusing the tenants of harboring runaway children or keeping girls in the house to make pornographic films.  FBI agents, federal marshals, and IRS collectors have all appeared on their doorstep. So have angry Internet users.

At least once, hackers posted the tenants' names and personal details across the Internet.

One day, a broken toilet was left in the driveway without explanation.

Neither the tenants nor the owner had any idea what was happening.

What actually happened -- in 2002, a company called MaxMind was founded to map IP addresses. Many could not be directly linked to a physical address, only a state or sometimes only a country.

Many times, MaxMind could only determine that an IP address was in the U.S.  In those cases, the company mapped that address to 38°N 97°W, the rounded-off coordinates of the geographic center of the U.S.

Which just happens to be the front yard of the small farmhouse in Kansas.

More than 600 million IP addresses were mapped to that yard.

After this "problem" was discovered, MaxMind shifted its default United States location to the center of a lake, west of Wichita Kansas.

That wasn't quite enough for the tenants, though, who filed a lawsuit seeking compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $75,000, plus their costs.

I wish them much success in that lawsuit.
Digital age horror story