April 4th, 2007


Ten random things: April 4

Ten U2 songs:

  1. All Because of You (from the album How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb)
  2. Bad (The Unforgettable Fire)
  3. Mysterious Ways (Achtung Baby)
  4. Where the Streets Have No Name (The Joshua Tree)
  5. Beautiful Day (All That You Can’t Leave Behind)
  6. I Will Follow (Boy)
  7. New Year’s Day (War)
  8. Angel of Harlem (Rattle and Hum)
  9. Zooropa (Zooropa)
  10. Wake Up, Dead Man (Pop)
  • Current Music
    U2 - Vertigo

Book dump: March 2007

These are the books I read in March:

Storm Over Texas: The Annexation Crisis and the Road to Civil War by Joel H. Silbey
The theory here is that the annexation of Texas caused the American political system to shift from one based on partisan differences to one based on sectional differences. I've no doubt that the annexation crisis contributed to the change, but it seems to me that it at best accelerated a trend that was already well underway as early as 1840.
The Watchman by Robert Crais
Elvis Cole's partner Joe Pike is hired to protect a flighty heiress from danger. A decent read, but for my nickel it only came to life in the sequences featuring Cole and LAPD criminalist John Chen.
The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz
The wacky adventures of a family of private investigators in San Francisco, who spend as much time investigating one another as they do their clients. Very funny.
Tyrannosaur Canyon by Douglas Preston
Unexceptional paleontologic thriller.
1632 by Eric Flint
An alternative history yarn about a 20th century West Virginia mining town and its inhabitants being thrust back in time to 17th century Germany. Entertaining, but many of the characters are a bit too perfect.
The Thieves of Heaven by Richard Doetsch
I was expecting a light Da Vinci Code-style heist novel, but it turned out to be a supernatural thriller with a clever premise and morally complex characters. Better than I expected.
Cinderella: Inside the Rise of Mid-Major College Basketball by Michael Litos
You have to *really* love college basketball to fully appreciate this book, which frequently gets bogged down in the minutae of individual games. It was interesting to learn just how lucrative it is to reach the Final Four of the NCAA Mens Division I Basketball tournament, though.
Bobbie Faye's Very (very, very, very) Bad Day by Toni McGee Causey
An interesting cross between a chick-lit novel and a Donald E. Westlake-style comic caper. Funny, but perhaps just a bit too over-the-top.
Land of Mist and Snow by Debra Doyle and James Macdonald
An alternative history novel set during the American Civil War. I appreciated the firm anti-Confederate stance, and the cover is gorgeous, but ultimately it left me feeling a little underwhelmed.
Burn the Town and Sack the Banks: Confederates Attack Vermont! by Cathryn J. Prince
Did you know that Confederate soldiers operating out of Canada mounted a guerilla attack on the Vermont town of St. Albans in 1864? I didn't, and I was an American history major in college. An interesting, well written story, but a little skimpy on the details.
Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
I never read this as a kid because it was a horse book, and I had the idea that I didn't like books about horses. (Not that I remember reading any...) Having now read it, I can say that I wouldn't have thought particularly highly of it had I read it back in the day. It wasn't bad, but it certainly wouldn't make my list of beloved children's classics.

Weird work situation

Interesting, albeit nerve-wracking, day at work yesterday.

One of the duties of a Books-A-Million manager -- possibly the most important duty, from the corporate perspective -- is depositing each day's receipts in the bank. It's a three stage process: preparing the deposit, which includes counting the money, sealing it in a deposit bag, and recording information about the deposit in the deposit log; dropping the deposit, either in person or via the night depository; and verifying the deposit by comparing the deposit slip from the slip from the bank to the information in the deposit log. Deposits are prepared twice a day, at the end of the day shift and after the store closes. The "day" deposit is supposed to be taken to the bank that same day; the night deposit, the following morning. In practice, this doesn't always happen; sometimes we take both over at the end of the day, or both in the morning. A lot of it depends on who the manager-on-duty is, and what time the day deposit is prepared.

A few weeks ago when I was verifying several days worth of deposits, I noticed a pair of deposits that were processed by the bank almost a full week after being prepared. I brought it to the attention of the AGM, who noted that both deposits had been prepared by the same manager, RS, and that the date they were processed just happened to be one day after a payday. Hm.

Yesterday, I was again verifying deposits, and when I got to the bottom of the stack I saw that there was one deposit from earlier in the week for which I did not have a deposit slip from the bank. That's not necessarily suspicious in and of itself -- we've been known to lose track of bank slips in the past -- but given the incident from a few weeks prior, I thought it needed to be checked out. I went back to the bank and got a printed statement of all our transactions over the last month. When I checked it against the deposit log, it wa s clear that the deposit in question -- a day deposit, totalling about $440 in cash -- had never been made at all. So again, I took it to the AGM.

The manager who prepared the missing deposit, JG, had the day off, so the AGM called him and asked him what he knew about it. He said that he had prepared the deposit after the opening manager (me, as it happened) had gone home. According to policy, deposits have to be taken to the bank by two people, one of whom must be a manager, but since he was the only manager on duty, he left it in the safe, which for him is standard operating procedure. (If I close, I'll take the day deposit over to the bank after we close, but he doesn't feel comfortable doing that, and from a loss prevention standpoint, his method is probably preferable.)

The AGM then called RS, who had opened the following day. He said he had made only one deposit that day, and that he had gone into the bank to do so, since he also needed a change order. (The associate who accompanied him that morning verified that they had gone into the bank.) After that conversation, she took everything out of the safe to make sure it hadn't been overlooked somehow, and I went back to the bank and asked the branch manager to see if the deposit had gotten overlooked or stuck in the chute of the night depository. She also checked their depository log, to see if a deposit in that amount had been pulled out of the depository but accidentally credited to a different account. It hadn't, which supported JG's version of events (i.e., that he had not taken the deposit to the bank). What evidence we had suggested that RS had taken the money, probably intending to replace it at the next payday.

It was at this point the AGM and I started agonizing over what to do next. Policy dictated that at the very least we should call the District Manager to report the shortage. On the other hand, we didn't want to get RS in trouble. My nice-guy instincts said we should wait one day before calling the DM, to give RS an opportunity to replace the money now that he knew he was under suspicion. But the AGM pointed out that if someone at the home office noticed the account imbalance and it came out that we had known about it and not reported it, we would also be in a lot of trouble. So we called the DM, who showed up at the store a couple hours later to talk with me and the AGM about our deposit procedures and what we'd done before calling her, and to wait around to have a similar converation with RS, who was scheduled to close. And I susect she was back at the store today to talk to JG.

Let me tell you, this is not a comfortable situation to be in. I know that I'm blameless in this affair, since I was off duty when the money went missing. (And even if they suspect someone of entering the store after hours, I'm still in the clear, because I didn't have a key to the store at the time. (We have four managers but only three sets of keys. The AGM had forgotten to leave her keys behind when she left town for a long weekend, so before I left the store on Friday I gave my keys to JG.) But I like RS, and it's weird knowing that he might end up getting fired because I happened to notice a suspicious pattern of events. Of course, he might not get fired -- the evidence against him is circumstantial -- but he's almost certain to be disciplined in some way, and I don't want him feeling resentful toward me because of that.