Tales From Normal, Mn.--FICTION

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Tales from Normal, Mn. Headline News---FICTION

Monday, December 18, 2006

Dateline Normal: Police Squads with Kiddie Car Seats--Fiction

Dateline Normal: " Police Squads with Kiddie Car Seats"-----Fiction

(Ed. note. This is one of a series of FICTIONAL sketches from Normal, Mn., a town near the famous Lake Woebegon up near Garrison, Mn.. These sketches are available on CD and are mailed to purchasers wrapped in a brown paper wrapper, clearly marked FICTION. Enjoy.)

Last week I turned the heavy Lincoln up north on Hwy 10 for a little getaway from the hussle and bussle of breaking news here in Evansville. I needed to get the little cabin in the woods ready for the winter months of the frozen tundra.Just before I entered the city limits of Normal, something unusual happened. An older black Chevy Caprice roared by me in the passing lane, and then sped on. As I slowed down to enter the city limits, I noticed the police cruiser with the flashing lights and the black Chevy with the driver spread eagle over the trunk. I did not think there was much law up there in the north country, so I was very shocked.I was also shocked at what I saw in that police cruiser.

The police officer was a real large bruiser type, which was normal for Normal, but----- in the back seat of the police cruiser was a CHILD SEAT. That totally took me by surprise.

When I slipped into my usual seat in the coffee shop, just kiddie corner from the bait shop, I asked Herman:"What's with the baby seat in the squad cars?"

"That's just Normal," he replied. Up here several years ago they intalled a full day 5k kindergarten program, and eliminated the half day option. They also of course have 4k, 3k and are considering implementing a 2K program. Up here, it's all full day. If a parent pulls the kid from school, the kid is considered "truant."

"TRUANT?" I asked in disbelief."Yup," Herman replied, "TRUANT.""Up here we take education REAL SERIOUS LIKE. We have a real strong TRUANT policy in our schools, and folks are fired if they exceed the standard truancy rate. The police are real vigalent to enforce full attendance. So---if a kid goes astray, the squads need to have the child seat.

Thanks goodness I am back in good old Wisconisn. Where we don't have baby seats in squad cars. Where we know the difference between truancy and normal livin. Alleluia.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Dateline Normal School District: "Reduced Lunch--the tale"--FICTION

Dateline Normal: Reduced Lunch---the tale--fiction

(Ed. note. The following is one of a long series of fictional sketches from a city up in northern Minnesota, called Normal. It is just south of Garrison. These stories are available on cd. They come in a brown paper wrapper and are clearly marked--FICTION)

It has been a real hectic week. I just felt it necessary to head on up Hwy 10 north of the Twin Cities, and try out the new car. It just was not that old Lincoln ride. But is was a whole lot more relaxin. I just didn't have to worry all the time about breakdowns. Maybe this year I could stay within my three AAA calls. Alleluia.

Anyway, I arrived ahead of schedule, and met Herman at the little diner. Yes, it did look a lot like the Mickey's diner in the movie, "The Prairie Home Companion." It was an old railroad car conversion thing. Right across from the Spruce Good Motel. And the coffee was so dependably good. Very rare in northern parts.

I mentioned to Herman cause he was on the Normal School Board, that I just did not understand how Normal could get the full measure of educational benefit of diversity as we know it in the larger cities of America.

"Shucks--that is real simple. Up here in God's country, we are totally diverse. It just comes with the territory."

"How could that be? I asked.

"It's real simple. Up here, we just have EVERYBODY sign up for reduced lunches. If they need some help, we just help em with the numbers."


"Even the kids that go home at 11:30AM?" I asked."Even the kids who do not eat lunch at school?"

"Yep----EVERYBODY," Herman laughed.

"It's all a matter of gettin your data sets in order. This ain't no sliderule stuff up here, Wolfman,(that's what he always called me). We just keep it real simple.

Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin. Where AAA has fast response times. And where data sets are real and not just played with.

Alleluia.

Dateline Normal: "The Saga of Control Data II"---FICTION

Dateline Normal: The Saga of Control Data II----Fiction

(Ed. note. Control Data (click on the post for the history) was a historic corporation that grew out of the cryptographers of WWII into the new computers. It had as its first employees, Seymour Cray, inventer of the Cray Computer, as well as the founder, William Norris. As a young gradeschooler, my father invested my piggybank in Control Data stock at $1. per share. Thanks, Dad. My wife also has a history with Control Data, working on the lawsuit that Control Data won against IBM that broke up the monopoly. I dedicate this story to this strong family tradition---controlling the data.)

I had been listening to all the speeches, reading all the graphs, and doing all the research surrounding the budget stuff of our locale, and got data overload----so I headed up to the Northern tundra, up Hwy 10 to my favorite town, Normal, Mn.

I met Herman, as usual, at the little railroad car diner, kiddy corner from the bait shop, the one with the colored stones on it, and settled into the leather booth seating and launched right into a very strong coffee, lots of sugar and whipped cream.

I told Herman that I had been thinking about all the good times and the days of Control Data and how it had changed Minnesota.

"Shucks, Wolfman (that's what he always called me,) I know you get sentimental about controlling the data, but up here in God's country we have a little bit of Control Data II----It's quite the scandal.

"Whatever are you talking about, Herman, I asked?

"Well, it seems that the local prison warden, Willie Schwartz, was pacing in the local prison cafeteria a few months ago. He was deeply dissatisfied with the size of his office and the general sad state of funding for projects that he loved. Most folks would have given up. Not Willie. He had the tenacity of the American Way. He had creativity. He had determination. And he loved numbers and -----yes--- controlling data.

It seems that the major problem was the data. The prison population had been very static up here in Normal County for at least a decade. That did not stop Willie. He knew all about data and how to use it. He talked to the local Normal sheriff's association, and the guys all agreed. If it was data that Willie needed----that is what they would provide."

"What possibly could they do," I asked.

"It's just real simple, Wolfman. You are just so naive an all---they had a little roundup----a real no holds barred clean up in all of the local counties. The arrest citations just soared. Everone was shocked that it could have happened up here in God's country. All those arrested folks were given some generous time for court appearances. A little compassion------- as Willie described it. The statistics on arrest were noted. They were soaring.

Then Willie got out his Applied Population Model and prepared the Willie Planning Model which showed that at the current rate of arrest, all of Normal was headed for a catastrophe in corrections. It was clear that they needed a new, large correctional facility---he wanted to call it "The Rock". The stunned voters----- deep in fear mode----- approved the referendum that was rushed through.

Then, months after the referendum, those arrested folk with the delayed appearances were seen in court. And their cases dismissed.

Willie just smiled.

"It's all about the numbers," he said. "I'm just a numbers guy."

Well. Thank goodness I'm back in good old Wisconsin. Where we don't just gather the data and make the numbers work out for our grandiose plans. Where we serve the community interest and even listen occasionally. And where we work on the freedom model and not the prison model.

Dateline Normal School District: "Option #3---The Leaseback School"

(Ed. note. This fictional tale is one of a series about Normal, Mn., a fictional town in northern Minnesota. Any resemblance to reality is pure accident. These tales are available on cd and are clearly marked FICTION so as not to be confused with reality.)

With all the hubub of street reconstruction and ruminations of politics in Evansville recently, I felt it necessary to head the old Lincoln up Hwy 10 north of the Twin Cities for a little breakaway. My brother in law, Mark, had agreed to go ahead of me in his brand new Lexis, in case the tranny failed on the old Lincoln. The Lincoln seemed to love the clean air up north and performed well. What a relief.

We stopped for coffee, straight, lots of sugar and whipped cream, in the Minnesota Viking mugs at the coffee shop as we arrived in Normal, just short of Garrison. Mark was the CEO of a prominent Twin City company---he had gone to see Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate some years back, and had got the message. Plastics. Yes-- he started his own plastics business. He had done well.

I always asked Mark those intricate questions about accounting that were mysteries to me. Up here in Normal, Mn., they had gone to an innovative "leaseback school system" that provided unique taxpayer benefits and was considered a role model for America. I frankly was mystified as to how they did it.

I simply asked him, "Mark, how do these guys deliver such low cost education up here? I just do not understand!"

"Well, Wolfman (that's what he always called me). It is REAL simple. The school district builds the buildings to their specifications. Then they sell the buildings to Wal Mart, who leases them back to the district on a "full list" basis. The lease amount includes everything, staff, heat, light, transportation. ...all benefits etc. There is a "shared arrangement" of employee selection, but the bottom line is that all the employees are employees of WalMart. The State of Minnesota then allows the costs of the full lease amount as reimbursable. It is real magic.

He then went on, "The real magic is with medical benefits. There are no post employment medical benefits or anything like that. WalMart just uses Medicaid up here in God's Country. It is real simple. Anyway, it saves a cool half million dollars in post retirement benefits on an annual accrual basis."

I glanced down at Mark's coffee napkin which was spread out on the table with a diagram of how the leaseback worked.

"Shucks," I said, "how in the world can anyone understand how this works?"

"That is the whole point," Mark said. If they do catch on, we make it more complicated by making something called a "Blended leaseback," which is even worse. That really baffels them!

Then he let out a loud bellylaugh.

Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin, where things are straightforward, and where I can go buy some things at WalMart and not go to school there.