Tales From Normal, Mn.--FICTION

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

Friday, February 23, 2007

Dateline Normal: Evansville Observer: Executive Session considers Expansion Plan

The Evansville Observer staff is meeting in executive session sometime this weekend to consider the requests of citizens of other communities for local news coverage that will be similar to Evansville.

These solicitations of interest have been most gratififying. Citizens have requested neither beer, bait, ammo, nor sports stories, but .....heaven forbid....just local news with colorful video and audio.

A lucrative architectual study is not necessary.

No HVAC and plumbing analysis is anticipated.

No seven year time delay is anticipated.

No bricks are required.

Action is anticipated shortly.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Dateline Normal: "The Phonebooth"-Fiction

The classic story of how Normal, Minnesota complied with the "Open meeting law" by creatively integrating "The Art of War" with "The Rules of Civil Procedure" by Billy Bob.

"The Phonebooth Meeting"------Fiction

(Ed. note. These tales can also be found on Itunes and can be downloaded free to your Ipod for your listening pleasure.)

Well ....it has been real hectic lately here in Evansville....with the school board election primary and all....and I was ready after the primary to just head out of town for a break. Yes. It is hard to believe. Sometimes one can just get too much of all those coffee klotches and Eagles meetings. Sometimes it is so right to just have a moment to commune with nature---.

After that long and winding road up Hwy 10 north of the Twin Cities, I settled in at the Spruce
Goose Motel, where all the comforters are premium down, and where all the beds pull down from the wall...and where there is always a mini dove bar in the ash tray to give a little hint of upscale country.

I headed over to the coffee shop to met my old friend, Herman, the country boy lawyer, who was also on the Normal School Board. I had spent a long time thinking on the drive and wasted no time in getting to the point.

"Herman," I asked, "How do you handle all those controversial meetings up here in Normal? In Evansville, we seem to have all of them in packed conference rooms with a capacity of 10. With 25 crammed in to the room, one can hardly breathe, must less ask questions."

"Shucks Wolfman", ( That's what he always called me) a conference room that seats 10 is HUGE compared to up here in Normal. That is the lap of luxury. Here we have the meetings in phone booths."

"Phone booths?" I replied in a shocked voice.

"How can that be?"

Herman went on. " I am a lawyer, Wolfman. Yes it is important to have "open" meetings, but there ain't no rule that they have to be BIG meetings---- Unless of course they are a BIG or "Building Improvement Grant meetings---then they are inherently big.

"Up here we just have the meeting and welcome everyone. Then we have the meeting in the local PHONE BOOTH. The chairman gets to sit in the chair of the phone booth, and then we just all kinda gather around."

"Wherever did you learn this technique," I asked.

"It's real simple, Wolfman. Years ago during law school, I was reading the "Art of War" and "The Rules of Civil Procedure" by Billy Bob---- that was always my favorite. I found Prosser on Torts to be very boring. Billy Bob had a real entertaining way of writing. Anyway.....I realized how to bring the two texts together in a creative way. The "Phonebooth meeting" was born. What could be MORE open. The guys just love it. Huddled around the booth with their architectual drawings and all. Real cozy.

Well. I could see that Herman was not going to be helpful. I just got in the car and headed back to good old Wisconsin....Where we have meetings in spacious rooms....where folks do not just gather around a semi-circle and hide their architectual drawings ....... Where we have meetings in large rooms with audio and video capability.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Dateline Normal: "The Catalog Caper"---Fiction

(Ed.note. This is one of a long series of fictional tales from the Land of Normal, Mn., just west of the Land of Lake Woebegon and south of Garrison, Mn. They are available for download from the Observer (right click the mp3 icon) and are also available FREE on the Itunes store. Any resemblance between these tales and reality is purely accidental.)

With the pace of everything picking up here, the election, the roadwork, the restoration, I thought I would just kick back and head out of town for a little R & R. Up that long winding road, Hwy 10 up north of the Twin Cities, to my favorite getaway---- Normal, Mn..

After checking in at the Spruce Goose Motel, where all the comforters are down, and all the walls have stuffed game, I headed over to the local diner for my usual coffee, lots of sugar and whipped cream, to chat with my old friend Herman, the country boy lawyer, and member of the Normal School Board.I reflected to Herman that I just could not understand how he and the whole town of Normal seemed to be so calm and all, whereas, I seemed to be caught in a flurry of change. And to be more specific, I mentioned that whereas we seemed to be in a flurry of change in schools in Wisconsin, he seemed to be the picture of tranquility up there in Normal.

"How do you achieve such perfect tranquility up here, Herman?, I asked.

"I understand how you feel, Wolfman. Some of my best friends down in the big Cities feel the same way. I used to feel that way until I went through the "big change."

"What BIG CHANGE?" I asked.

"Well," Herman went on, " years ago at the Normal School District, there was lots of stress and all. It was real exhausting. Then, one December, Louise, the administrative secretary for the Normal School system, was in the process of ordering the course catalog. The usual order was 250.""Well, to make a long story short, she made a slight decimal point error, and ordered 25,000 catalogs. Yes, the local printer was her boyfriend, but.....well...it was a real prediciment.""In the end, we all recognized that this was the Lord's will. To waste would be unthinkable. So, for the past 10 years we have made not one change in the course offering.

""What does the School Board talk about then, Herman?"

"We go over all the options, Wolfman, (that's what he always called me) a real democratic process and all, with lots of tolerance to difference in feelings and such, but ......in the end.....nothing changes."Over time we have grown to love the peace. Love the stability. Love the nothing ever changing. It's become the natural law up here in God's country."

I was just speechless. "You mean that everything----all the decisions are driven by the catalog order error?"

"Yup," Herman replied.

Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin. Where we have school boards that make decisions on course offerings and where the catalogs are printed after the decisions.... and not before. Where our peace of mind is based on something else....anything else....rather than an ordering error. Alleluia.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Rational Business Model--RBM

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Dateline Normal: Homecoming

"Reflections on Homecoming"

Dateline Normal: "Shared Governance"

A short tale of shared governance from Normal, Mn. "Can't we all be in charge"

Dateline Normal: The Pearl Harbor Strategy

On Modern Management of School Districts

"Reduced Lunch"--the tale

On Diversity Made Simple in Normal, Mn.

"Field Exercise Days in Normal"

Execise made simple in the Normal Police Dept.

"The Leaseback School"

New Age Accounting Gimmicks for cost effective education

Dateline Normal: School Election Looms--SOS

School Election in Normal faces crisis

Dateline Normal: "Superbowl Punk"

A classic tale from Normal, Mn., on "Superbowl Punk," the classic 1985 Chicago Bears and the global impact of punk on financial affairs, and even on the Normal School District

Dateline Normal School District: "The Marathon Man"--Fiction

(Ed. Note. This is one of a long series of tales from the land of Normal, Mn., just west of the Land of Lake Woebegon and south of Garrison, Mn. Any resemblence between these tales and reality is purely an accident. These tales are available from ITunes in the comedy section under "Tales from Normal" and also can be downloaded from the Observer site. When shipped in CD format, they are shipped in a brown paper wrapper clearly marked "FICTION." )

It has been quite a hectic week here with the pace of the school board election picking up, so I decided to brave the cold of Northern Minn and head up HWY 10 to my favorite town, Normal, Mn.. The roads were pretty slick, but after I stopped at Osseo at the Norske Nook cafe and had a little of their good home cooking, I was powered up for the long drive.

I got to Normal and quickly checked in at the Spruce Goose Motel, the only motel with all goose down comforters, and a trophy game on every wall, and where you get a little mini-dove bar in the ash tray as a little up-scale treat.

I headed over to the local diner and met up with Herman, my old country boy lawyer friend. I remarked to Herman that the drive had just been very tiring, with the weather and all. I asked him what he had been up to."Well," Herman smiled, " I have been gettin in shape with some marathon training. It is REQUIRED if you are on the school board in NORMAL. It looks like you might benefit from some fitness training, Wolfman (that's what he always called me), cause ya really need it."

" I just don't see what marathon training has to do with serving the public on the school board," I said.

"Just wait and see," Herman replied.

"Up here in God's country, It's just survival of the fittest. Our leaders on the school board schedule marathon meetings that can last as long as 12 hours. Only the very fittest can survive to vote on the finance matters at the very end of the meeting. "

"How could they last 12 hours," I asked.

"Well, it is real tough to cut off the sharing that folks want to enlighten the board with. In fact, it is the real plan to wear down the opposition till only a minimum of board members is still not sleeping in their chairs. Then the approval of bills and the motion to adjourn are lumped in one final motion."

"You mean the meeting is not adjourned till the bills are approved as presented.""Yup," Herman said. "It is sheer moxie.""So, I have been in marathon training so I can say awake longer without takin any of that no doze stuff. "

I was pretty tired just thinking about those long meetings. I headed out early to head back to good Old Wisconsin----where we don't have to be marathon athletes to compete for the school boards. Where the bills are a separate motion from the motion to adjourn....and where meetings are not deliberately lengthened to avoid unpleasant topics at the very end.Alleluia.
posted by Evansville Observer @ 8:57 PM 0 comments

Dateline Normal: -----"Twisting By the Pool"--Fiction

(Ed.note. This is one of a long series of tales about a town in Northern Minnesota, just south of Garrison and west of the Land of Lake Woebegon. These tales are available for FREE from the Itunes store and can be downloaded for your mp3 player from the Observer (click on the mp3 icon). When they are mailed via cd, they are wrapped in a brown paper wrapper, clearly marked FICTION.)

With all the stress of the school board race building, the coffee and tea parties, the meeting voters and, yes, even kissing babies, that make up the very essence of every political campaign, I felt it necessary to head on out of town for the weekend.

There was a slight problem with a car however. My wife needed ours, so I made a very rare move---I rented a car. After all, one of our family friends worked at a Nissan dealership, so I asked for a rental----- loaded with all the extras.I downloaded from The Observer web site the Plunkett Raysich audio, as well as some of the other audio minutes of school board meetings. It would be a long drive...but then it would be kinda doing my homework in preparation for the big SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATE FORUM------- happening on February 3rd, at 10:00 AM sharp at the EHS media room, where all the school board candidates would square off to answer questions. Just the chance to appear in the same room with the legendary "Grumps", the famous politico blogger, was a real thrill.

I was cruising along just this side of Osseo, when the soft voice from the navigation system said, " Warm blueberry muffins are now on special at the "Norske Nook" just a mile off the interstate at the next exit. The muffins will be out of the oven in 4 minutes just in time for your eating pleasure."

I immediately turned on my blinker. Boy. That was pretty impressive. I am just helpless when it comes to blueberry muffins. And the timing was just perfect. I had not bargained for this navigation feature when I asked for a Nissan "loaded." I did like it though. After I had a great breakfast at the Norske Nook, the rest of the trip was pretty routine.

Yes, the colder weather met me at the border, but I adjusted nicely. As I cruised into Normal, I headed immediately to the Hideaway Lounge, where Herman, my old country boy lawyer friend was waiting for me. He had called me on the cell phone and said that a special rock and roll band was playing, and even though there was a cover charge, they were well worth it.

As I entered the lounge, I heard one of my favorite songs, "Twisting by the Pool." It was one of the "Traveling Wilburies" tracks and I especially liked it cause Roy Orbison sang with the group. I mentioned to Herman that "Twisting by the Pool" was one of my favorite songs. Over the loud music he agreed. "Shucks, Wolfman, (that's what he always called me), this town has never been the same since the Traveling Wilburies came here in person a decade ago."

"Whatever do you mean, Herman?," I asked.

"Well," he went on, "It was one of the coldest winters in memory up here, and everyone in town was here at the lounge that night. After hearing the song "Twisting by the Pool," everyone was just TOTALLY sold. We just HAD to have a pool------ right NOW.

The rest is just history."

"What happened next?," I asked.

"Well, the seniors had been saving for 20 years for a senior center, but when they heard that song.....that was a REAL deal breaker. They made the decision in "closed executive session"---after all, it was concerning acquisition of property etc......." and after all, they were all here at the lounge....they had a quorum....even though most had been drinking most of the night....---they made the decision to build a pool, and leave the senior center to be built right next door ---LATER."

I just do not get it, Herman." What could be the problem. It sounds pretty good to me., I said. After all, I was on my second round, and after a couple of drinks, a little pooling sounded pretty great to me.

"The seniors built their pool. And the city got so excited that they built one too. In fact, EVERYONE was so excited---even the BOY SCOUTS built a pool! The excitement was real catchy."

"What's the problem?" I asked. It seems you were" building it so that they could come."

Then Herman went on. "Well, Wolfman. Here is the problem.

In the summer, with all the fishing and all, the population surges to 2000 folks or so. But in the winter......it dwindles to .......42. Needless to say, we have plenty of space for everyone.

"Whatever happened to the Senior Center?" I asked.

"It was never built," Herman replied. In fact, that is one subject that is never mentioned up here. Not even with a whisper. In fact the city fathers have outlawed talking about it."Now we have all our meetings at the pool.

It is very nice. Very warm. Real downhome. And there is nothing like talking about finances right in the middle of water aerobics. There is a starbucks poolside so it is real upscale and all."

You mean you have all civic meetings IN the pool?"

"Yes," Herman replied.

Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin. Where we discuss finances in regular meetings and not during water aerobics. Where everyone can share our large civic venues and not each civic entity have a separate pool of its own. And where our seniors build a senior center they can afford and not a pool and nothing else.I do have to admit it has been an adjustment though. Each time I attend a finance committee meeting, I just wonder how it might all look if the meeting was in a pool.

A serious examination of the civic process in Normal, Mn. , where all business is conducted in the local pool.MP3 File
posted by Evansville Observer @ 9:28 AM 0 comments

Dateline Normal: The Candidate Forum---Fiction

(Ed. note: This is one of a long series of tales from the land of Normal, Mn., up just south of Garrison, Mn., and west of the Land of Lake Woebegon. It is not on the Google Earth map, but then neither is Evansville. These tales are on ITunes for FREE and can also be downloaded from this site onto your Ipod. When shipped on cd, they are shipped in a brown paper wrapper clearly marked FICTION.)

This week, with the cold weather alert and all, I thought I would just call Herman, my old country boy lawyer friend in Normal, Mn., rather than making the long trip. It would save lots of time, and besides, I had called for reservations at the Spruce Goose Motel, the only motel in Normal where the premium down comforters were standard. All the rooms were taken. They were fully rented all weekend. In the midgst of the cold spell.

"What's goin on up there, Herman? I asked."It's real simple, Wolfman, Herman replied. "It is Candidate Forum Weekend up here in Normal."

"Tell me more. I still do not understand, " I replied.

"Well---we are deeply committed to democracy up here. Our community has over 20 school board candidates. In fact,....we recruit candidates.

We have a pre-function at the Hideaway Lounge on Friday night, the Forum on Saturday morn, along with the bake sale, and then the ice fishing contest all day Sunday.

"Why would you recruit candidates?, I asked.

"It's real simple, Herman replied. Each year we have a candidate forum bake sale on Saturday morn. The proceeds from this event are the main source of revenue for the Daughters of the American Constitituion, the big political social group up here. All the ladies belong. In order to ensure that we have enough attendance at the bake sale, folks are actually recruited to run for office so that their relatives will all come to the candidate forum---which is held on Saturday morning DURING the bake sale."

"During the bake sale?", I asked."Yes," Herman went on."We begin the candidate forum and break for intermission. Then when ALL the baked goods are sold we resume the rest of the program. Sometimes it takes ALL DAY till all the baked goods are sold. "

"Do you mean that the candidates are held hostage to the baked goods?""I never thought of it that way, Wolfman,(that's what he always called me.) In the format of the forum, each candidate is asked why he/she is running for school board. Most say in a loud confident voice that they are running to ensure the success of the bake sale. The crowd goes wild. They just love the loyalty of them folks." "Then, right after all the baked goods are sold, the candidates that are just running for the bake sale success can withdraw--but not before. It's a real firm rule."

I was just stunned. You mean that candidates just run to raise the attendance at the forum in Normal. And some withdraw after the baked goods are sold?"

"Exactly" Herman replied. "In fact, Wolfman, you might consider trying that format in your town."The battery on my cell phone was starting to run low, so I had to get off the line.

Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin.

Where we don't just hold candiate forums for baked goods revenue.

Where candidates are serious and do not just withdraw after the baked goods are sold.

Still. I could understand why someone that was just running for the baked goods might want to withdraw. In fact. I had to agree with Herman. It might be best.
posted by Evansville Observer @ 6:52 AM

Dateline Normal: WWW Wrestling comes to Normal

(Ed. note. This is one of a long series of fiction.)

As I slowed down at the city limits of Normal, Mn., a small fishing village just south of Garrison, and west of Lake Woebegon, I just looked up and sure enough---across the street---Main Street---was the banner in large red letters on white background that proclaimed----"Welcome WWW----World Wrestling Federation. "

I thought I knew wrestling. After all, the Blue Devils had some great wrestling teams. How could these dudes in the northern tundra teach me anything once I had seen Big Blue in action.

After a quick cocktail at the Hideway Lounge where I met Herman, we headed over to the gym where the big doins were bein held. I could hear the loud music a block away. As I entered the dimly lit auditorium, filled with a haze of smoke, I noticed the spotlights and the sound of the announcer heralding the entrance of "Gentleman Jim." "WOW", I exclaimed to Herman. " This sure is different from high school wrestling. "

"This is the BIG TIME," Herman exclaimed. "These are PROS."Just then a guy with a feather boa came down the entrance ramp. It was none other than 'Jesse "the body" Ventura, the former governor of Minnesota, and a still active wrestler on the pro circuit. He and "Gentleman Jim" were taking on "The Crusher" and the "Deadly Dude"----a real dark haired tall dude.

"Pro Wrestling is a combination of Theatre, Violence and Psychodrama" Herman explained to me. It is all about good and evil. In fact, it is all about following ones lines. The guy that does not follow the script can get hurt.""I do not understand, Herman. I just cannot imagine the combination of violence and psychodrama. How can this be?, I asked.

"It is real simple Wolfman. Out of the frustrations of real life, folks just assume another identity for wrestling purposes. It is REAL drama. Now take that "Gentleman Jim" dude. He is a lawyer from Bemidji. Not too good on his feet though. Got a C in Civil Procedure back in Law School. Lost it in the "Thrust and Parries.""Whatever are you talking about?", I asked.

"Well," It's real simple. The thrusts and parries are part of Civil Procedure and Statuetory Construction. "Gentleman Jim" never was too fast with the counter, and....well....he just turned to wrestling.....out of frustration. Still....as you can see....he is still slow on his feet. This should be no contest."

"The real talent is "Jesse Ventura"----he has real acting ability. Just when you think he is about to make a point,,....he distracts you with the feather boa. That is real acting skill."

Then there were all the nice little old ladies at the edge of the ring. They were pretty quiet till the match began. Then as things heated up, and there was a violent tag team switch, the little ladies just rose and started screaming all at once, " KILL em Gentleman Jim," .....xxxxxxxx"

What a shock. Such violent emotion from the supportive crowd in the front seats. It was just like politics, I thought.

Wow. After a night of all that screaming and such, I had a fitfull sleep. I kept hearing the ladies in the upper seats screaming for blood. So. I just checked out early from the Spruce Goose Motel and headed back to good old Wisconsin. Where we don't have any contests with the screaming ladies in the upper bleachers yelling for blood. Where we never combine psychology and drama. And where most of the violence is in the dart games in bars and such.Sure is good to be back home.
posted by Evansville Observer @ 7:29 PM 0 comments