I'm hoping this will be of some help to individuals who, like myself, have encountered several issues with tests not working and other minor bugs:
If the code in the book doesn't work, and the code in the "chapterXX" directories of the code archive doesn't work, check the "shovell" directory in the code archive.
I never even noticed that the finished product was stored in the code archive because i was too busy pulling my hair out when the chapter-specific files failed to work (to sitepoint's credit, i had very little hair to start with, so the book's errors are not completely to blame). However, upon copying the archive 'shovell' dir into my 'rails_app' dir, i was able to fire up mongrel and witness (for the first time) the success of every single unit and functional test.
To those who don't own the book, i will repeat what others have said: the application you develop over the course of the book is solid, and i would still recommend the book to anyone looking for a good intro to ruby & rails.
I can only assume that some of corrections sitepoint made based on the testing referred to on page 278* were included in the archive's 'shovell' dir, but accidentally omitted from the chapter specific code-archive and the book's text.
Now, off to run a difference check between all the files i created and those in the archive 'shovell' dir!
* "And before you pull your hair out, remember that you can double-check your code against the code archive for this book--it went through considerable testing before release, so you can count on the code in it to work!"