Tales From Normal, Mn.--FICTION

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

Friday, May 25, 2007

Dateline Normal: "The Normal Bell Curve"----FICTION

Well it's graduation time again. Time to pencil in all the graduation parties into the schedule. Time to cut back on the normal eating so as to fit in all those goodies, like cake and ice cream, chips and etc.....

I've been getting a lot of announcements lately, and frankly....I am a little confused. One graduate is a valedictorian. But there four in a class of 125. Something has changed over the years. Just to do a reality check, I picked up the phone and called my old friend, Herman, the countryboy lawyer in Normal, Mn.. As you will recall, Normal is up North on Hwy 10 in Minnesota and just south of Garrison. A small fishing village.

I was running out of cell phone minutes, so I just blurted it out:

"Herman, how in the heck could one get 4 valedictorians out of a class of 125? What is goin on? What is your experience up there in Normal?

Herman just let out a big bellylaugh.

"Shucks, Wolfman, (that's what he always called me) we solved that problem 30 years ago. That was 1977 I recall, and that year we had 30 valedictorians out of a class of 90. It was real messy. The state scholarship came down to a tardy pass. It was a real small difference between them all!

What happened to change things, Herman?, I asked.

"Shucks, Wolfman, that was real easy. We just got fed up with buying all those plaques. It simply blew the budget category. So we came up with a real simple solution.

"What?", I asked.

"Well, in our town square, we have a bell. We just put all the graduates test scores down on a piece of paper, and put the bell on them. That way there is no fooling around. Just a perfect bell curve. Just the natural way. It is real simple!

"Do you mean you have only ONE valedictorian?"

"Exactly", Herman replied.

Wow. Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin. Where we do NOT have a bell in the center of town. Where we do NOT have just one valedictorian. And where we can have as many valedictorians as can fit on the stage!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Dateline Normal: The New Normal "Unified "Municipal Code---Simplified---FICTION

Recently I have been browsing through Chapter 130 of the municipal code and the proposed additions to make this legal code a "Unified Land Development Code."-----At first I thought if it was "Unified" it might be simpler or shorter. No so.

I picked up the phone and called my old friend, Herman, the countryboy lawyer from Normal, Mn., who in addition to being a lawyer, also sits on the Normal School Board.

"Herman, I just do not get this. What is the whole unified code about?, I asked."

"First of all, Wolfman, (that's what he always called me,) when they say "Uniform" you must understand that they DO NOT mean "simpler"----the uniform they are referring to is "Armani suits." "Uniform" code is always very much longer and more complicated than "simple" code. Up here in Normal, Mn., we have just 5 municipal codes. Now THAT is simple. It is just a mathematical thing. Pure beauty."


I don't get how math comes into it, Herman. How come?"

"It's all about Probability. When you have just 5 municipal codes, the number of variations is 5times 4 times 3 times 2 times 1======24. See. Anybody can handle that number of combinations. BUT.

"But the new "UNIFIED" code has 100 sections, " I said.

"That's a problem-----or a blessing, depending on who you are, Wolfman. The number of combinations would be 100 times 99 times 98 etc....and it would be a huge number.....In short, Wolfman, a town would need 10 or twenty lawyers to just handle routine business. "

"Do you mean to say that the folks that are "UNIFIED" are just the lawyers?"

"That's EXACTLY correct, Wolfman." Up here in Normal, we do not have another lawyer besides myself. In fact, everything is so simple------- a notary could handle it."

"WOW." I exclaimed.

"Thank goodness we are back in good old Wisconsin. Where we can have hundreds of codes and have hundreds of folks that look after everything and not just a notary.

Alleluia.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Dateline Normal, Mn.: "Can't We All Be in Charge?"--or "Shared Governance" Shines in Normal, Mn. ----FICTION

Monday, September 25, 2006


Dateline Normal, Mn. : "Can't We all be in Charge?"; Or "Shared Governance" Shines In Normal, Mn.--fiction
(Ed. note. The following story from Normal is dedicated to one of my daughters who has been debating issues of "power" and "shared governance" with The Observer. Any resemblance to the real world is purely coincidental.)


It's been a pretty quiet week here in good Old Evansville, so I thought I would head the road up on Hwy 10 north of the Twin Cities, and spend a night or two in one of my favorite getaway towns--- Normal, Mn.. I stopped in late at the Spruce Goose Motel and rose in the morn and met my old friend, Herman, the country boy lawyer, for a spot of coffee, as usual, in the deep blue Viking mugs. It felt good. The Vikings were losing on T.V. The Packers were victorious. What could be better. I could at least be tolerant of the differences within the frozen tundra and sip from a Viking mug. I was tolerant and compassionate and benevolent. I could listen. After all, the Packers were in the win column.

I reflected to Herman that I had a few concerns about power these days and .....wondered how power operated in God's country. After all, Herman had recently been elected to the Normal School Board and also was a big activist in Normal, Mn. politics. I figured he should know.

"Shucks, Wolfman," (that's what he always called me) up here, we don't have any power."

"What?", I exclaimed.

"Yup", Herman went on. " Many years ago, we figured out that we could declare a budget crisis and just lay it on the line. We did not have the money to pay for supervisors, so we let every employee take a day as "Shift supervisor." The best part was, though, that we told everyone that normally we would cut wages, because of the budget crisis, but if they took the "in charge" for the day assigned, they could keep their normal pay."

"I cannot believe they fell for that," I said.

"They grew to love it, " Herman explained.

"Even when they were not "in charge", they were always looking over everyone's shoulder and in fact, they became a total auditing department. It is just wonderful!."

"So in fact everyone and noone is in charge?." I asked.

"Exactly" Herman exclaimed. "I know it is hard for you to understand, Wolfman, being as you like those chain of command charts, and being old fashioned as you are, but these are new fangled times, and .....besides.....it's a whole lot cheaper lettin everyone be in charge."

I had heard a lot about this new fangled "empowerment" and "Shared governance" but I never though it could have happened in God's country. What a shock.

Thank God I'm back in good ol Wisconsin. Where we have a structure to our lives. Where we have someone to report to. Where folks are accountable. Where it's not just some web of everybody ...and nobody....that decides.

Alleluia.

Posted by Evansville Observer at 4:54 PM

Dateline Normal: "The Rational Business Model, RBM"---FICTION

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Dateline Normal: The Rational Business Model, RBM----FICTION
(Ed. note. The following is one of a series of fictional tales from Normal, Mn.. These tales are available on CD and mailed in a brown paper wrapper, clearly marked, FICTION)

The news has been real confusing lately, with all the political ads----and to make it worse, I have been sorting though all the audio from local school board meetings, trying to make rational sense of all the pronouncements.

So---I decided to head up Hwy 10 north to my favorite city, Normal, Mn., to see whether the brisk cold air could clear my mind. It is tough gettin old. Tough to get all the facts straight. Tough to make heads or tails of what the rational folk are saying.

After a good night's sleep at the Spruce Goose Motel, where all the comforters are down, and the beds are pulled from the wall, economy style, I met Herman at the local diner. Yes, it is just like the old Mickey's Diner in Downtown St. Paul, which is featured on "The Prairie Home Companion," the movie.

I explained to Herman, over a tall, black, no sugar, but lots of whipped cream coffee, served in the blue Minnesota Viking mugs, that it was real hard to compare apples and oranges like I was trained to do, back in grade school. How could one analyze anything if the cagetories kept changing?

Herman just laughed. "Wolfman," (that's what he always called me) the problem is you are not familiar with the "RBM."

"Whatever could the RBM be?", I asked.

"Well, it's real simple. It stands for the "Rational Business Method."

"I still do not understand, " I said, in amazement.

"Well," Herman said, "Remember when Pres. Bush said that we got attacked by the terrorists, and then........ attacked Iraq?"

"Yup," I said. "I remember that real well."

"That was the RBM," The Rational Business Method. If you are attacked by A, it is always best to retaliate against C. It is the classic move. It is sheer moxie.

"It looks different locally," Herman went on. "Up here in Normal, some years back we had a huge crisis in space needs for the elementary school. Man was there division! It was real tense."

"Whatever did you do?" I asked.

'It is real SIMPLE," Herman replied. "We built a new high school." That is the RBM way.

"But how did that solve the problem?", I asked.

"It did NOT solve the problem," Herman went on, "but it did create a real award winnin high school, and besides, we got some real neat athletic stuff."

"What did you do with the elementary school? " I asked innocently.

"Nothing," Herman replied. " We just did away with early childhood education. After all, we are all late bloomers and ..well....sports...and booze...and well....cheese are real big up here in the north country."

Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin. Where they do not use the Rational Business Method. Where we do not start wars that do not make sense. And where we do not cut early childhood resources and add soccer lights in the same motion.

And where RBM stands for Real Bunch of Malarkey and not Rational Business Method. Alleluia.

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Posted by Evansville Observer at 1:07 PM 0 comments



Thursday, October 26, 2006

Dateline Normal: "In Loco Parentis:" The Doctrine of the Crazy Parents---FICTION

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Dateline Normal: "In Loco Parentis;" Doctrine of the Crazy Parents---Fiction
(Ed. note. This story is one of a long series of fictional stories from Normal, Mn., a fictional town in just south of Garrison, Mn., near the famous land of Lake Woebegon. These stories have been recorded and are available on cd, and are shipped to readers in a brown paper wrapper, clearly marked---FICTION." Readers do have the permission to download the audio directly from the Observer site. Relax while running, and driving and listen to a land so unlike our own----- the land of Normal.)

Last week, toward the end, while I was learning how to edit video, I had reached the instruction manual breaking point. There is a rule in our family, now that we parents are over 40, a rule that is even stronger among my brothers in law, that we never read the instruction manuals----we just wing it. Anything that can't be seen as "user friendly" or understandable in 15 minutes is simply returned as defective.
So---I decided to take a break and head up that long and winding road, Hwy. 10, north of the Twin Cities to Normal, Mn.

It was great to get back to the Spruce Goose Motel, right kiddy corner from the bait shop, and the only motel in Normal that had stuffed animals on the wall as standard, and yes of course, the fold down beds that lowered down from the wall, and of course the standard comforters---the highest down quality. After a relaxing sleep, I headed over to the coffee shop to meet Herman, my old college chum, now a country boy lawyer, and member of tbe Normal School Board.

I remarked to Herman that schools sure have come a long way. I just could not understand how the United States was able to survive until 1850 when our schools were organized in the territories. How ever did we produce folks like Thomas Jefferson or Alexander Hamilton?

The other thing I wondered was how schools in the northern Tundra handled the doctrine of "In loco parentis", in the place of the parents, the traditional doctrine that public education was founded on. How did it work up in God's Country.

Herman just let our a huge belly laugh.

"Wolfman, it is real simple, " he laughed. Up here we use a real straightforward interpretation of "in loco parentis. I never did learn no Latin, so I just call it the "LOCO PARENTS Rule"----It is just so easy to read Latin. It's just real strightforward. "

"But Herman," I exclaimed, "The role of the schools is just a partial one under the traditional definition."

"NOT UP HERE!" Herman laughed.

"Up here, we simply take charge. We do it our way. The parents are crazy and we have to take over. That's just the way it is. That's our role. It's real simple."

Herman was such a good friend. I just wish he had taken some Latin.

It sure is good to be back in good old Wisconsin. Where "In LOCO Parentis" does not mean "The Crazy Parent Rule," and where we have choice as parents as to the role that schools play in optional areas of instruction.

Alleluia.

Posted by Evansville Observer at 10:10 AM 0 comments



Thursday, November 02, 2006

Dateline Normal: Criminal Complaint Wins National Fiction Award--FICTION

Dateline Normal: Criminal Complaint Wins National Fiction Award---FICTION


(Ed. note: This is one of a long series of fictional stories from Normal, Mn., a town just south of Garrison in northern Minnesota. Where fish are fish and bait are bait. Where seasoned anglers are trained to know the difference. Where it's always daylight saving time. Just to keep things simple. )


This morning in the North American Writers Quarterly Newsletter, there was a startling headline------"Normal District Attorney wins National Fiction Award for Criminal Complaint."
Stunned, I picked up the phone and called my old countryboy lawyer friend, Herman, who has a law office in Normal. I was lucky. I caught him just as he was about to head out to lunch at the Hideaway Lounge.

"What's goin on up there, Herman!", I asked. Since when are district attorney's winning awards for great fiction?"

It's real simple, Wolfman, (that's what he always called me.) Up here we do not have a separate category of school for "Fiction Writing." That's for English Majors. Up here---It is a down home part of real life. Just the natural way. "

"We just go over the recent criminal complaints and----well-----then we review which "over" or "under" charge was the most creative.....which complaint showed the best....best.....fictional content. We have real high standards. This is a real competitive category. After all. We gotta get recognition somehow up here. It is in the FICTIONAL category that we really shine. "

I was stunned. "Can you tell me the details of the winning criminal complaint?, I asked.

"Sure, Wolfman. It was the case of a real popular local up in these here parts. He was originally charged with attempted murder, but then he was finally ticketed with jaywalking. The rumble happened in an uncontrolled crosswalk right next to the Hideway Lounge. Up in these here parts----- we have a real tight jaywalking ordinance. "

"That's just outrageous," I exclaimed. And that criminal complaint won a national award? "

"Yup," Herman chortled. "Aint that something." We won a $5000 cash prize for it. It won "Best Under Charge Award."

"Wow. Now you got my attention. We can do better than that right here in Wisconsin. Where do I send the entry. Then Herman gave me the address.

Thank goodness I am back here in good old Wisconsin. Where we can compete with anyone! Even Normal, Mn. Where we have a high quality of fiction. And where our criminal complaints are the best fiction around. And we will show up Herman. I can't wait to win that award.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Dateline Normal: The Case of the Trellis Manager; Or," The Code Breakers"-----Fiction

Recently I attended a long Planning Commission meeting where the new "Fence Ordinance" was discussed. It covers everything. It seems that the biggest problem in our fair city is that we just do not have enough ordinances, or at least ordinances that are specific enough to address the fine details of current life.

Now take the problem of "TRELLISES." Not a big problem for some of you. O.K. 99.9% of you. But to a professional planner.....they are a BIG problem. Solving it might take a year or two...maybe even longer when you consider commute time.

Trellises are plants that grow on top of--- or around--- fences. They seem just like a plant. Well. They are a plant. But symbolically...and this is where the planner comes in, they are a sign of deep lo down lawbreaking....and the worst threat to civilization faced by civilized folks in these here parts in ages.

Our fair city hopes to solve that menace by the following language: " Trellises: A trellis may be incorporated into the overall design of a fence provided no part is taller than 8 feet and does not extend for more than 10 percent of the length of the side on which it is located." (sec. 130-538 Proposed)

What a stunning accomplishment. What precision. Still....as I thought about the problem of TRELLISES, I pondered that I might need a second opinion. Yes. I needed to call my old countryboy lawyer friend, Herman, in Normal, Mn., and see what he thought. He was always so down to earth. Downhome. I just knew he had some experience with this problem.

It was pretty clear weather, and I easily got him on the cellphone.

"Herman", what do you know about fences and trellises up there in Normal, Mn.? I need some of your wisdom about this matter."

"Shucks, Wolfman, (that's what he always called me) you are going AT the problem ALL wrong. You are focused just way too narrow. Think about this. VISUALIZE the community you wish to become. Then look to the code of THAT community that you visualize. It is just REAL simple."

"We would like to be a renaissance community where folks can come from all over and walk up and down, shopping in little shops and sipping a latte at the same time. Later they would sit outside and sip cocktails and eat elegant roast beef au jus or maybe specially baked salmon."

"O.K. Wolfman. That is a good beginning. Now you need to go further. If you think real hard you can see what to do. We did in Normal. You want the CODE of a renaissance city-----PRESTO you simply get the municipal code of Rome, Italy---it is on the internet for free. Then you just use a computer translator and you have an instant municipal code that has a PROVEN record of high achievement. AND the history of ENFORCEMENT to prove it."

"Do you mean, Herman, that if we get this code of ordinances of Rome, Italy, we will produce such masters as DaVinci? Will the code of Rome solve everything?

"Not EVERYTHING Wolfman. We had to add parts of the code of VENICE for more watery areas of Normal. A little experience with water comes in REAL handy."

"What ever happened to your city planner, Herman?"

"We have NONE in Normal. We spent $25 for the translation from Italian to English---wudda been cheaper except that there was some Sicilian dialect thrown into parts of the code for the enforcement section. All we have is a part time seasonal trellis manager that cuts grass, inspects porta potties and trellises in the summer. We keep it real simple."

WOW. I got off the phone. Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin. Where we can spend years developing code that was discovered centuries ago and is available for no charge with just a simple language translation. After all, we need it home grown.

Alleluia.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

----"Hell Week"---- from Tales from Normal---FICTION

Well...It's that time of year again. Yes. It's Hell Week----that special week when the kids in our town are totally dedicated to the annual musical performance coming this weekend. This week the musical is "Beauty and the Beast."

Everything just kinda runs togther this week....the salads, desserts...the kids leaving for school early to some function and then staying after each night till eleven pm or so.

It might be more hell for the parents than the kids, and maybe it is just that after two have gone and finished college, the third seems to be staying out way past my bedtime. Yes. Maybe that is it.

I wondered about it all. And as I always do...I picked up the cell phone and called Herman, in Normal, Mn.. Normal is that famous getaway town north on HWY 10 north of the Twin Cities, and just south of Garrison, Mn.. It is a just a little west of the Land of Lake Woebegone. I just knew Herman could give me a sense of perspective.

"Herman," do you have a Hell Week up there in Normal?, I asked.

"Shucks, Wolfman"( that's what he always called me) about a decade ago we used to have Hell Week. It was awful. Not any more though."

"Whatever happend?" I asked.

"It's real simple. About a decade ago, a man came to town and suggested that we do a musical......"Music Man" I think it was called. Shucks....every man woman and child in town wanted to be in that musical. "

"That sounds wonderful, Herman. What happened?"

"It was awful," Herman exclaimed. "Ya gotta realize that we only have 200 people in town and it took everyone to make it happen. So----when it came for baseball, golf, track and EVERY sport....nobody could participate."

"Whatever did you do?" I asked.

"It's real SIMPLE'------The Athletic Director cancelled all the sports. And they stayed cancelled. Ever since, we have done "Music Man" every year. It has been just WONDERFUL."

I was just stunned. What a simple choice! No stuggle to do everything. WOW.

I got off the cell phone and thought a bit. We sure are lucky to be back here in Wonderful Wisconsinn. Where we can go from morning to night and do EVERYTHING.....even if the bands are asleep and can hardly play....and even if half the sports teams can't show up for events......

After all. It ain't Hell if ya aint makin it so.


Alleluia.