Your Government (Not) At Work.

Let Me Eat Cake!

I cannot imagine what makes people think that Excess Government can ever make anything any better. Have they never dealt with Government? Consider my lunch today:

After listening to a dizzying array of menu options for Camden County court, I finally tracked down the family court option. The phone then rang for a solid 11 minutes and 45 seconds. Not answered. No voicemail. Not disconnected. Just ringing and ringing and ringing. I eventually gave up and hung up, which I am pretty sure is what the Court employees wanted me to do in the first place.

Call The FCC!

Next up: Riverside, NJ. There, I got voicemail – on the first call! And to their credit I did get a call back within an hour. I was then interrogated as to why I was calling there. I said I thought this was where I could get the information I needed. This went on for about 10 minutes when, finally, the caller relented, and just looked up the records – turns out, “not found.” Which we could have not found about 10 minutes earlier had we simply looked it up in the first place. But, I guess policy is policy, and policy dictated that I needed to call Delanco.

So I called Delanco. My first 3 calls ended when I pressed “0” – as instructed – for the operator. A recorded voice nicely said “Please wait while I transfer you,” and promptly hung up on me.

The system had provided me with an option to dial by name, apparently under the assumption that I know the name, extension,  title and responsibilities of every municipal employee of Delanco. In fact I knew only roughly what department I thought I might need: Vital Statistics.

Rather than simply type in names at random, which as far as I could tell is what the phone system wanted me to do, I returned to Google. I got a name and an extension and dialed again and … of course got a voice mail recording. Is the Delanco Statistics Bureau even now, at 1:57pm on a December Wednesday, so overrun by requests for marriage certificates that no one can get to the phone?

The next time you think you want the government to do Something Big, like launch an FCC investigation into Bristol Palin’s appearance on Dancing with the Stars, think twice.

Or at least once.

Google Spreadsheets API Row Counts Discrepancy


I am integrating a Google Spreadsheet with an online equipment rental package called “Rentventory.” The spreadsheet was already in use by the time I got to the project, and it proved handy. There aren’t a ton of items to be managed, a hundred or so, and the users have done all sorts of nice things to make the important bits of information stand out.

The biggest problem, however, is that it’s way tricky to reserve equipment and make sure you don’t collide with someone else. That’s where the rentventory package comes in. However, I really don’t want to have to manually enter – ever – my rental inventory, especially when it’s small, manageable, and very easy to manipulate with a Google Spreadsheet. Enter the Google API.

Java seemed a natural choice since it’s a language I can use across all my platforms: Business Basic (in the form of BBj), Web-based, and MySQL. Oh, and credit card authorizations. Can’t forget that.

The Problem

Long story short for this post is that the Google Spreadsheet API gave me a fit. Using the WorksheetEntry class, I was told my sheet had 173 rows. However, when I went to retrieve those rows via a ListFeed, I only got 2 back! First, here’s the code that got the worksheet information. (j is just me looping through the sheets; ignore for now).

	WorksheetEntry worksheet = worksheets.get(j);
	String title = worksheet.getTitle().getPlainText();
	int rowCount = worksheet.getRowCount();
	int colCount = worksheet.getColCount();
	System.out.println("\t" + title + "- rows:" + rowCount + " cols: " + colCount);

Result: 173 rows. Perfect. Now, I want to parse through the rows. But here, rows.size() came back as 2!

	URL listFeedUrl = worksheet.getListFeedUrl();
	ListFeed rowFeed = myService.getFeed(listFeedUrl, ListFeed.class);
	List<ListEntry>rows = rowFeed.getEntries();
	System.out.println("Rows: "+rows.size()+"\n");

The Fix

Guess what? The problem was empty spreadsheet rows. A-yep. Nothing was entered in row 3 of the sheet, so the ListFeed was just done. Poof. I put in “__” (2 underscores) in each of the empty lines, and presto! I got through all the rows. Go Ahead, Try To Cancel, I Dare You

Actual Transcript of a “conversation” I had when I clicked on “Chat with a Virtual Agent” at

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And that was it. Nothing else. I ended up calling them : .  Although I got through to what I believe was a human being within 30 seconds, it took 3 minutes and 30 seconds to actually cancel. At least I think canceled it.

Why It Takes So Long … to Scan Items In

Ready to scan items in.

  • Can’t. Don’t have a scanner.
  • Steal one from a Cash Register in the store.
  • Try to plug in. Can’t see back of PC. Jump up on Desk.
  • Won’t work. PS/2 Scanner, USB PC.
  • Have PC with PS/2 port in Spare Office. Luckily it’s already got everything we need for the job.
  • Person not quite trained yet. Finishing today, we’ll start Monday.
  • Have Weekend.
  • Other important PC Crashes. Steal the scanner PC.
  • Person trained and ready to scan items in.
  • Can’t. Don’t have a scanner.
  • Have Dave order one.
  • Receive it. Plug it in.

Ready to scan items in.