Tales From Normal, Mn.--FICTION

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

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn.: " In Normal, Mn., all the kids are rated AAA by AM BEST----FICTION

Recently I was talking with an older gentleman and asked him to explain how a certain insurance company that got a massive bailout from the federal government, could at the same time be rated so highly by the rating agencies right up to....and throughout....the crisis.

He explained that that insurance company was broken up into twenty or so corporations that individually were mostly still rated at very high levels, and how this could persist was just a mystery.

Whenever I am mystified, which can be often...I simply call my old friend Herman, up in Normal, Mn., where he is a countryboylawyer, and also, and proudly, a member of the Normal, Mn. school board. Herman was a lawyer. He should know, I thought.

After I explained the situation, Herman just replied with a chuckle.

"Shucks, Wolman, (that's what he always called me.) those are just shell corporations. It's just a shell game so to speak. It takes imagination to get the concept."

Then he went on:

"Shell games are so popular up here in the North Country, that we in Normal, Mn. were determined to lead the nation. We individually rate each of the newborn kids AAA by AM BEST on the day they are born. It makes things real simple."

So. There it is. How to be AAA rated. How it is just natural in God's Country.

"Thanks Herman, " I said.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn.: "Realignment" is a time for Glee in Normal"----FICTION

Well it has been areal confusing time reading the newspapers from Normal, Mn. It seems that a simple football realignment in the northern tundra has resulted in a huge windfall for local teachers pay packages---and whatever happens, the teachers do not want to go back to the old NTWIAA conference---that's the Northern Tundra WIAA.

Ever since Billy Bob Jr., who coaches middle school wrestling got the brainstorm to petition to be added to the bigger Brainerd Athletic conference---a move most folks did not understand at the time---he argued that the increased competition would do the kids good, and be a real role model....or something like that. \

Anyway, when the school board met the following september, they discovered that in order to be competitive with the pay scales of their "peers" in the conference, they each would need a $4000 pay raise---and it was real urgent in order to be competitive.

When I called Herman in Normal---he just laughed.

"Shucks Wolfman---its just the tail wagging the dog----and it is about time you figured out who is wagging who. That was a real moxie move---the teachers just love it. The kids do have to bus a lot longer---but the teachers love the higher pay so much, they would never go back to the old conference. It's just progress. "

Then he let out a huge bellylaugh.

(Ed.note: Click on the post for the press release from Normal.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dateline Normal: Fear of Too much Government; Too many capital gains; And the Boogey man too---FICTION

Well it has been disconcerting. All the news of the financial markets. I have been reading (click on the post) that our outgoing President, President Bush, midst the financial crisis and the calls for regulation of our derivitaves market, otherwise known as the "gamblers"---our President has warned us of having too much regulation and also of the greatest of all evils---the fear of capital gains taxes.

As I always do, when questions arise, I give my old friend Herman a call ---he is a lawyer. He knows the law. He should know.

"Herman, what kind of a guy would be terrified of capital gains at this point of time, and also terrified of some market regulation?"

Herman let out a huge bellylaugh.

"Wolfman( that's what he always calls me.) You can always tell a guy who has had his finger on the nuclear trigger for too long. All the fears get mixed up. It clearly is time for our dear President to move along to another occupation....."

Nobody in American has capital gains except the short traders, and maybe some of those guys who got bonuses for driving their banks bankrupt----And nobody is really afraid of the coming regulation except those who have preyed on the innocent---let's hope they are afraid of some regulation---that is a good sign. "

It sure is good to be back in good old Wisconsin. Where the gains we are worried about are in football.....and the only changes in regulation are in the football conferences.....It is really kind of a world all its own.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn.: Fed urges banks to lend; Urges consumers to pay CASH; Lift up by bootstraps---FICTION

Well the headlines sure have been a bit bewildering. ( Click on the post for the recent story.)Banks being urged to lend...lend...lend.. when the excess lending to undocumented loan applicants was the problem in the first place---yet there are a few creditworthy loan applicants available now---and the fed is urging that the banks loan to those folks quickly---before they become uncreditworthy I suppose.

Still----the general public consumer is being urged to be prudent...to cut back...to pay cash. Somehow---the two messages conflict.

So--whenever I have questions such as this, I just pick up the phone and give my old friend Herman in Normal, Mn. a call----as folks will recall, Normal is that quiet fishing village just south of Garrison, and Herman is a down home real estate lawyer that also moolights as president of the local school board. Herman would know, I thought.

"Herman what is the deal. How can regular folks cut back and go to cash, while the banks resume lending---and lending to who?"

Herman let out a huge bellylaugh. "Wolfman (that's what he always called me), ya just need to decipher the lingo. When big corporations get in trouble, like GM for example, maybe even though they have been warned for 20 years or so since "The Reckoning" was written that small cars that were fuel efficient were the cars of the future, our government just assumes it was a hearing aid problem---and wishes to bail them out. The rule here is that when the rich need a bailout, it is "SAVING AMERICA"----

Then Herman took a deep breath.

"However---ya have to understand that if the regular tax paying folks need help---maybe they face foreclosure on a home that had an inflated valuation that busted----to help that person would be "SOCIALISM". "

Wow---that was sure a shocking comparison. After I got off the phone I just reflected. Yup. That seems to be the rule. Thank goodness we are back in good old Wisconsin.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn.: Why we Always hire "Entry Level"---employees who have not been corrupted by experience."----FICTION

Recently, I have experienced a lot of employers who just do not want to take a chance on hiring someone, whether it would be me, or well...anybody---that was over the age of 22. It seems that employers today want an employee that is enthusiastic, educated, in good health and not requiring any health care, and ....not handicapped by any knowledge of the world.

Let's face it. It is hard to impersonate a 22 year old these days. And ...it has been a bit bewildering. So I gave my old friend Herman, a country boy lawyer in Normal, Mn. a call---he should know I thought.

The weather was clear fall weather and the call went right through.

"Herman----what is the deal. It seems that innocence and ignorance has become real attractive in the work force---and oh yes....cheap wages too. What is the situation in Normal, Mn.?

Herman let out a huge bellylaugh----

"Wolfman,(that's what he always called me.) we have been there and done that. ALL of our hires in Normal, Mn. are restricted to persons who have had no employement experience whatsoever. It is an absolute requirement. We want entry level. We want NO experience. We want to have a TABULA RAZA so to speak.

I was simply dumstruck. How is this so?, " I asked.

"It is real simple, Wolfman. If a person was from a foreign land, they would say, "Yo no comprehendo"----which means "I do not understand. When one hires an entry level person, they simply say "That Was BEFORE my time, and I know nothing of it."----usually these are civil servants that have taken no history courses and have a short attention span."

So---what a shock. To hire entry level. Persons who have no experience... And persons who have no knowledge of the past---and are proud of it and in fact hired BECAUSE of it.---

The Herman went on:

"Sometimes, Wolfman, if there is an issue that everybody knows about, we do make an exception: We bring in a special speaker from a foreign town to speak on a subject, where that person does not have a clue.; It is important sometimes to go out and gather ignorance in a proactive way."

It sure is good to be back home.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn.: Normal Slashes Government Costs: Installs Fake DUI Units, Fake Government; --millions saved

Recently, I have been reading how in DeForest, Wisconsin, a group of policemen set up a fake DUI unit, and since using DUI units to organize stops is illegal in Wisconsin, and since the law did not prohibit FAKE DUI units, they felt it would be reasonably legal to try this method.

Presto---it appears that the acting worked---those FAKE DUI units did just great. (click on the post for the full story.)

I wondered. And----as I always do, I called my old friend, Herman, from Normal, Minnesota, that small fishing village just south of Garrison, Mn., and I just blurted it out:

"Herman, have you heard the news about the fake DUI units here in Deforest, Wisconsin?

"Shucks, Wolfman (thats what he always called me) we have been following this story very closely----we were so impressed, we moved to quickly fire all the local city staff, and have just hired fake city personnel---from a local temporary service----and presto, we have saved millions----and what is even better---the public does not seem to notice the difference----yup---we sure have some great actors in town?"

Wow!!!! what a concept. Who wudda thunk that fake could be so effective.

Do not worry. I stood right up and defended the dramatic talent in our fair city. After all---after recently viewing the Escanaba in da Moolight blockbuster at the JC Mckenna Auditorium, I knew that we have superb talent---and can do wonderful impersonations as needed sometimes when one goes undercover. I knew that they could do a wonderful job. Nobody does fake like we do.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn.: 'When Buffett bought millponds"-----FICTION

Recently while I was up in northern Minnesota at my favorite fishing village, Normal, Mn., the guys were gathered together for morning coffee at Betty Lou's---where the coffee was just very strong with lots of sugar and whipped cream, and where no mochas were served cause it was too weak and besides it was too complicated to make.

Right after the second round of coffee, one of the guys, appropriately dressed in a lumbermans flannel shirt, and sporting a Loon Lodge fishing cap, was reading the local shopper, the Normal Nugget, when he came across the following words of the revered local mayor:

"I have given a lot of thought to the lake restoration project in light of the current volatile economy. Last week, I listened to a television interview of financier Warren Buffett. He believes it is timely to make wise investments."

George read those words aloud to the whole cafe---the guys were just dumstruck. After all, Warren Buffett was the wisest man on the planet---as the head of Berkshire Hathaway, he had made wise investments over the past decades that had made him one of the richest men in the universe. So---quickly---the guys tried to understand the deeper meaning of Buffett's move to buy millponds. What did it mean for their portfolios.

There was a lot of shouting in Betty Lou's that morning. Some guys thought that Warren had just hit upon a strategy that was of the scope of President Lincoln's famous Illinois Waterway con....and a project that Abe had regretted till the day he died.

After a short review of the guys at Betty Lou's cafe---the vote was unanimous---Warren Buffett had lost his mind. It was time to bail out of any of Warren's other favorite projects as well. The guys all broke for the phones to make calls to their stockbrokers.

Then one lone voice of reason stood in the midst-----"Guys....Guys.....listen up...it was just a fantasy of the local mayor...it is not real....After all, they are doing Escanabe in da Moonlight this weekend....cut them some slack."

I am so grateful. Even though I was not wearing my lumberman shirt with a Loon Lodge fishing cap---still they took a moment and regained their senses. I guess that is why I am called to join them once in a while.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn.: " Highschooler quadruples debt equation----solves world crisis"-----FICTION

Last week, right in the midst of the greatest financial crisis to hit our modern times, I was stuck way up in northern Minnesota----and felt by the way pretty helpless to give any instruction, which in fact turned out for the best.

Right in the middle of the frenzied discussion on Saturday morning at Betty Lou's Coffee Shop in Normal, Mn....right in the middle of quite a bit of hand ringing of the guys as to whether their cd's would be good at the local bank, one young high school freshman, smack dab in the middle of his algebra homework at one of the side tables, raised his hand in the middle of the discussion.

"Why not just quadrupple it? he shouted. Make it Debt to the 4th. Rather than cube the debt------ quadrupple it?

The crowd at Betty Lou's was just stunned. How come they had not thought of it. Just add another layer, just like they would clothes in the winter time. Kind of a layered look---not lawyered look---the layered look.

The guys were pretty wild and crazy about the idea. They all rushed to the phones to call their congressman.

Just then, the tv in the coffee shop in the upper corner flashed the latest news---it seems that their idea had travelled mysteriously all across the world and currently was being implemented in Spain...and then the total European Community. The guys were just speechless.

"This must be a miracle", Herman shouted.

Everybody went wild. And ordered another round of strong coffee, with extra sugar and whipped cream.

See. Just a little of good old common sense...from the downhome northern tundra...could go a long way to solve the handwringing of a few million worldwide. Ya just never know when a little algebra might help.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dateline Normal: "Jersey Joe Visits Normal----explains derivitaves"----FICTION

Well what a week that was last week. With all the fluctuations in the stock market and such, I thought it was a great time to get grounded-----like in fishing. So, right as the market opened on Friday, I was on the road, and during the worst trading moments, was right in down home country AM music territory and missed the whole thing. It was just great.

I had gotten a call from Herman, my old country boy lawyer friend from Normal, and he explained that 'Jersey Joe" was going to be in town---and that if I wanted a clear explanation to what the big tiff was on Wall Street, that "Jersey Joe" was sure to have it.

We just called him "Jersey" Joe ---he was not from Jersey. It was Joe's habit of always wearing a down home football jersey even in formal situations that had given him such a reputation up in the north country----and he had become quite a legend in the accounting profession in the securities business. We just all wondered what he would have to say about the current stock panic. What would be his take?

Just as soon as I got into Normal, I headed over to the Hideaway Lounge----Herman, my countryboylawyer friend had the manhattens ready----the guys were all lined up at the bench to hear the latest.

I decided to go first:

"Well, Jersey Joe, how does this all compute? Seems like the damage is just devastating---what is your take on it?

Jersey Joe looked suprised and a little angered:

"Shucks---there is no reason for the hubub at all. After all it is just natural accounting---and balanced too. Ya just debit world wealth .....and then credit traders short accounts....it is real neat. No reason for alarm at all. The loss is non-existent....everything is just perfectly balanced."

There he stood. In his jersey at the bar. Everybody was pretty flabergasted. To so simply explain the inner mysteries of the current crisis.

I guess that that's whey they called him Jersey Joe.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn.: Need Information; Dial 411. All the reporters are DEAD...or mostly dead.

(Ed.note; I found this little scrap of paper wrapped in a mayonaisse jar near the park in Normal, Mn.. Enjoy. )

all observing
what about
-we have so many
but so little
So many shopper ads,
but no articles in depth.
Even our politics has been
about the three little
and whether
any of them

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn."Why all the Riverboat Gamblers are Senior Seniors"----FICTION

Well. It has been an interesting week. With the meetings and such. I am always amazed when something happens that totally stuns me and I have to revise my thinking completely.

Last night, in the midst of a public meeting regarding the restoration of a very venerable pool of millpond in our fair city, a group of aging seniors, rose to vigorously promote the notion of "going for broke,", "betting the farm", going for the full monte long shot call or put option. And they added at the end that they would be most pleased if they would pay it back over at least 20 years, 30 would be perfect. I had to wonder about that. At 80 or so, some were being...well...somewhat optimistic....or was it just moxie?

When I have these questions...and I often do, I just get on the cell phone and call my old friend Herman, the countryboylawyer from Normal, Mn.. After all...he knew estates and trusts....he just loved to gamble. He must certainly know something about this.

"Herman," I blurted out, "I thought all the riverboat gamblers were young, with steel in their veins---how come it seems the boldest traders are over 70 or so and betting on the farm....or betting the farm or both. "

"Shucks, Wolfman,(that's what he always called me), it is about time you figured it out. Those old guys, with one foot in the grave, are the boldest---why do you think the busses to the casinos are so packed on Senior Day---to be a perfect gambler and lose all ones money in a day, one has to have the consolation that death is not too far off. The timing just works out. It is sheer moxie.

"What about the 30 year repayment they always ask for,?" I asked.

Herman let out a huge bellylaugh.

"That is the classic grandkids double debt con---the oldest trick in the book. Ya build it for your fame, and put the debt to your grandkids. It works even better when you can have your name on the memorial. Yup. Those seniors are the REAL STUFF. THEY are the REAL gamblers, not the youngins. "

What a shock. Now I know why my grandfather gave me two shalleighs from Ireland. I thought they were for the dogs on the prowl. Really. They are just to prop me up to make the final gamble.

"Thanks Herman."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn.: "All Public meetings during Monday Night Football"---FICTION

Last night at kickoff, I could not but help think of the folks of our local town who are on the local school board----their monthly meeting occurs on Monday night. How tough is that? Well the ultimate price is really when the Minnesota Vikings meet the Green Bay Packers. That is a severe hardship in the name of public service.

Right as the two teams were coming through the tunnel last night, I picked up my cellphone and gave my old friend Herman, the countryboylawyer from Normal, Mn. a call---yes I was going to see what his prediction was on the game, but I also was going to ask him what he thought about the Monday night meetings.

Then something unusual happened. Herman's voicemail came on and said, " I am at a meeting right now, but will be free shortly and give you a return call, if you leave your name and number."

When Herman called back in fifteen minutes, I asked him what meeting he was at.

"Shucks Wolfman. Up here in Normal, Mn., ALL our public meetings...for school board as well as the local city are on Monday night from 4:30PM to 7PM. It just has worked wonders for our efficiency. Nobody shows up from the public to ask questions...all of the regular committee members are amazingly efficient in approving everything that is requested. To make it real fun, we all stand up at the table.....and pretend it is kind of a pre-game huddle. The bottom line. It has cut government costs----all of the meetings get done before gametime. It sure works neat."

What a shock!! All meetings on Monday night. And for the efficiency. Who would have thought. An efficient thought coming out of Minnesota. Oh. There is my Packer prejudice coming out. But the positive is that they are nice folks, even when we beat them regularly. They are my relatives and I need to be generous. Amen.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Dateline Normal: "Order of the Loon Lodge"--FICTION

Dateline Normal, Mn.: On the order of the Loon Lodge: On the secrets of membership; On loons; On fish...and much more

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn.: Beer, Band, Bonding Time----FICTION

Well...It's homecoming in Normal, Mn. this weekend. The weather is changing up in the frozen tundra, and there is just nothing like the homecoming weekend for a great party----I was expecially looking forward to the football game between the Normal Nuggets and the Duluth Ducks---it was always a classic rivalry.

Years ago, the team had been called the Normal Warriors, but the name needed to be changed to not offend.

Over the years, little had changed except the name of the team. The coach was still George Thompson, the legend football great, who at the age of 80 pretty much still ran the old plays, with maybe a little of the complexity left off.

Anyway, the real important thing was the Normal High School Band----heavy on brass and percussion, it was downhome manly band indeed---maybe a clarinet or two, but only 1 flute. And they loved to march and perform. Well....it was not so much the music as it was the cheers and the animation----and come to think of it, most of the cheers were about beer......

Usually in the fourth quarter there was the "I can't wait ta get wasted Cheer"---the classic cheer that the University of Wisconsin got from the original Normal High School back in the 1930's. I know cause I heard it on ESPN the other night. There is just nothing like Beer, Band and bonding time. And fishing too. Up in Normal.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

"Swim With the Loons Harvest Festival" Comes to Normal, Mn."----FICTION

Last week, I had the pleasure of living in a boat house with a birds eye view of the beautiful lake near Normal, Mn... One the things that you notice, because it is so quiet, is that in the evening, the loons begin their calls--right about feeding time....and also in the morning. The first morning I slept in, and never heard the loons at all. After a couple days relaxation, I felt like meeting the sun in the morning and went for a morning dip. Lo and behold the loons were up too. And looking for breakfast.

Years ago, one of the famous books of salesmen nationwide was "Swiming With the Skarks," by Harvey McKay. Harvey was the owner of a printing firm that was near the University of Minnesota, and his book was for many years the textbook on selling skills---I think the book is still available. Using his sales techniques, according to the book, one could swim with the sharks, negotiate with the crooks, do almost anything and win, win, win......

These days, St. Paul--Minneapolis has come a long way. I think they do not have such simple ideas of great salesmanship---after all just think of the recent Republican National Convention, when all of the local press media decided to go to the lake and fish rather than cover the convention----so much for swiming with the sharks. Yes. Most of the press were really folks that just printed ad shoppers, and yes, if pressed they might admit they just went out to Byerlies and got tofu rather than fish...still....the Twin Cities has changed somehow.

I just wondered about all this. And as usual, I picked up the phone and called my old friend Herman, the country boy lawyer from Normal, Mn. and got right to the point:

"Herman, what is the deal. Everything has changed. Is nobody swimming with the sharks any more. Are there no more journalists that will report the news? Is everybody just part of the syndicate or the good old boys"

"YUP", Herman replied. "It has all changed. However look on the good side. We now celebrate the "Swim with the Loons Fall Harvest Festival"----we teach the youngsters how to recognize a "loon call" and even have a circular device that makes a loon call, and in a deeper sense we become a loon in spirit----yes we also do all the other things that these festivals do as earth friendly celebrations----we drink wine, eat lots of cheese, and after a lot of wine and cheese, we might even talk a bit about recycling.....it's a real role model celebration. A real teaching experience even if one is under age.

Wow. Swimming with the Loons. I was totally stunned. Still. I liked the idea. I just wondered what Harvey McKay thought about all this. I wondered if the loons would be easier to swim with.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Boat House; Welcome to Normal, Mn.

Welcome to the Boathouse---and the Peace of Normal, Mn.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn.: "There are NO jails in Normal, Mn."----FICTION

Well we are in the budget season. After a long Saturday of listening, listening, and listening to departments that were calmly planning on spending more money next year for projects designed to edify my lifestyle, I just needed a getaway----so after loading the video and audio, I headed the car up that long and lonely road to Normal, Mn., up Hwy 10 north of the Twin Cities, just south of Garrison to my favorite fishing spot.

After making sure that there was a room at the Spruce Goose Motel, the only motel in town with a 30 point buck on each wall, I headed over to the Hideaway Lounge---where they were having an "Over 35 male fisherman night" where all the drinks were half price, and the ladies had to pay full price. Every year there was just one night that men had the special price, and I got there for the occasion. It was special.

Anyway, I quickly found my old friend, Herman, the countryboy lawyer, and after ordering a double manhatten, with the special whiskey, I just blurted it out to Herman:

"Herman, how do deal with the budget up here in Normal, Mn. It seems like the cost of everything, food, utilities, gas, travel, etc is just skyrocketing. For cities, it seems that the costs of administration is high too, and the costs of municipal courts and police are rising too. How do you deal with it?"

Herman let out a huge belly laugh: "It's real simple, Wolfman( that's what he always called me.). It is all the inner secrets of the accounting categories. Up here we just use CONSOLIDATED ACCOUNTING."

"What do you mean,?" I asked.

"It's real simple, Wolfman" we merged the jail expense with the municipal court. That way, if a guy goes to jail, it comes out of the salary of the court staff. Shucks. We haven't had a person jailed in years. It just works wonders."

"Something about that does not sound right", I retorted. Isn't that conflict of interest?"

Herman replied, "Nope. It's just normal here."

Then Herman went on: " We also combined the police automotive expense with the salary expense ---there is just one CONSOLIDATED category. That way, the bigger the cars the police drive, the more it comes out of their salary---It has worked WONDERS. We used to have all SUV's here. Nowdays, our police chief rides a moped."

WoW. I never had heard about CONSOLIDATED accounting. Sounded pretty odd to me. Still. I could just see our police staff riding mopeds.

It sure is good to be back in good old Wisconsin. Where we have separate categories for stuff. Where folks occasionally do go to jail. And where mopeds might not work.

It sure is good to be back home.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Tales from Normal, Mn.: "Courage and Collegiality BOTH begin with "C".

Well. What a news day today!!! Outgoing Chancellor Wiley of the University of Wisconsin has written a blockbuster article on how "Wisconsin Has Lost It's Way"----and the article in NOT about the Packers. Imagine.

It seems that even though the Wisconsin Badgers have been selling tons of sweatshirts and other decal stuff for the royalty income that helps students---still actual teaching at the University has been dismal----and that has been the Legislators fault for not providing enough funds. Despite the heroic drinking efforts of Wisconsin students to help local business in the tavern industry, it appears that local crime has been about three times the rate of our neighbor Minnesota. If those backward legislators had just provided the funds needed for more research, and buildings, it might all have been different. And the WMC, the Wisconsin Manufacturing Council, has been the culprit because it is them that has made rural legislators, and Republican legislators at that, concentrated on petty, partisan concerns.

It was just a blockbuster tirade. And it seems to have been building over the past seven years of his leadership. I took the time to drive down Regent Street today, wistfully picturing in my mind what game day has become. The development has been pretty breathtaking. Years ago, back in 1969, all the students had to cramp into the Copper Grid and the few other establishments in town, and it was virtually impossible to even order a beer....much less get to a rest room.

As I gazed down Regent Street, I understood in a flash why all the dispair. There really was not any extra space where more party areas for designated beer drinking could be franchised. The University has done such a heroic job covering every block with porta potties and beverage areas, that only the Arboreteum was left for expansion. And that area was certainly open for development.

I just wondered. And when I wonder, I tend to just pick up the phone and call my old friend from Normal, Mn., Herman, the countryboylawyer and see what he thinks: It was clear and hot weather. The call went right through.

"What do you make of the Retirement Rant of Chancellor Wiley, Herman?"

"It's all real simple, Wolfman.(That's what he always called me) The big picture to remember, Wolfman, is that COURAGE and COLLEGIALITY both begin with "C".

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Everybody has CHEAP COURAGE, or the courage to rant after the pension has been vested, the money put in the bank, and no risk at hand. Everyone can raise a hand and rant at that time. It however, takes COURAGE for a leader to SPEAK UP in the middle of a career on the issues that make a difference----and ALL of the issues that Chancellow Wiley spoke of were KEY issues that confront the University of Wisconsin. Imagine what would have happened if he had just told parents "Do Not send your child here for undergraduate education---we cannot afford to do it right---It is not our focus as a research university.....and it is not the prudent thing to do." WOW. That would have caused some action. The same speech after the retirement check has been cut...results in nothing. "

I was totally shocked. Herman must not appreciate a good rant as much as I do. Still. I could see his point.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

"No" means "NO" in Normal, Mn.----FICTION

Well. It has been just a hubub of political activity locally. With all the budget talks. One of the things that just picqued my interest was the series of video where the discussion was about what would happen if a certain referendum would go down to defeat in November. What would happen if the public said "NO."

The answer was that the politicians would still "work it" and bring it back to the voters in a year. Maybe they would change their mind. Maybe if they were asked more nicely, maybe with a "pretty please" they would agree.

Just that morning I had been reviewing the early elementary school anti bullying campaign curriculum, and something struck me as unusual. The same kind of behavior that schools on a daily basis are teaching our kids to avoid, is the exact type of behavior that our government celebrates.

Whenever I wonder about things, I just pick up a cellphone and give my friend Herman, the countryboy lawyers from Normal, Mn. a call. He knows the law. He should know.

"Herman, how does it work up in Normal, Mn? Does "NO" mean "NO" in Normal?

Herman just laughed. "Wolfman,"(that's what he always called me), "NO" always means "Maybe" in politics. That is because there is no morals in politics, just opportunism. Hence, "NO" is just a relative term for a point in time.

Then Herman went on: "In love and war, however, "NO" might mean different things. The President might say "NO" to Russia invading Georgia---and then keep saying "NO" hoping that it would be believed. Still. Ya have to have some force to back it up. So also in love. The girl can say "NO" but always keep her hand on the phone to call 911 to make sure. It is just "trust but verify," in love and war.

"What about a Lake referendum?" I asked.

Herman laughed.

"That's real easy, Wolfman. NO means NO. A No would mean its settled. "

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn.: Sales of Apparel, Misc. Skyrocket; Taxes Plunge

(Ed.note; Click on the post for the recent article regarding the Wisconsin Badgers apparel sales.)

Today was a special day in news----the news broke that the Wisconsin Badgers have such an increase in apparel sales of its liscensed apparel that it has been able to increase the number of scholarships for needy students. I was impressed. So impressed that I called my old friend in Normal, Mn, Herman to share the news.

Right in the middle of my news, Herman cut me off:

"Been there and done that, Wolfman." (That's what he always called me.) Up here in Normal, Mn., we not only liscense sweatshirts, we cover everything, including bait, fishing poles, ammo, as well as all alcohol beverages, on sale and off sale. The revenue cut for the schools has led the nation. Up here we have the real "Dare" program---we dare people to drink an unapproved beverage. That new attitude has worked wondors. We have completely eliminated student hardship. "

"But Herman," I objected, "that was not the idea of the "Dare Program"---the Dare program was to eliminate drugs and alcohol."

Herman interjected: "Wolfman, the Dare program was a joke. It was a program to put nice signs over the entrance at grade schools and early childhood centers, and then ignore the whole problem in middle school and high school. The Dare program and the co-curricular code are a joke generally----Up here in Normal, Mn., our citizens really enforce the "Dare program for approved apparel cause it means lower tuition and fees for all students.

Yup. It kinda makes one wonder what else one could liscense.

Dateline Normal, Mn.: "FEMA Track and Field"------FICTION

Well. It's been a stressful weekend. With the launching of our youngest to college. I thought it best right after dropping her off at Spat Camp, or Marching Band Training Camp, to just head on up Hwy 10 to Normal, Mn. I never was too lucky with the bass during August as I recall, but I thought I would try anyway.

As I was driving into Normal, Mn., I noticed the large banner----Red Background with roman bold lettering-----FEMA Track and Field Days----Welcome Marching Bands"--- That made me wonder. After stopping at Betty Lou's Coffee Shop, the one named after the old "Betty Lou's got a new Pair of Shoes" and the one where they never really made a mocha or expresso, but made everything real strong, I cornered Herman and asked him:

"What the heck is going on up here? What is with the FEMA Track and Field Days?

Herman let out a huge chuckle. "Wolfman (that's what he always called me) that is real simple. Last year, we had a huge residential subdivision flood out with torrential rains. At the same time, the local school district in Normal, Mn. was running out of space, and needed more land because they were crowded. One of the FEMA inspectors came upon a brainstorm----Why not convert the whole residential subdivision of lots into into a giant sports complex and have FEMA pay for it because they erred in mapping the flood plain, and at the same time, move the sports fields from the overcrowded school campus to make room for additional construction. Then they simply had electric trollies take the kids from the main campus to the sports fields after class each day. It cost the taxpayer absolutely nothing for the land. "

"That really is a brainstorm," I said. But how come you called it "FEMA field" and not after some local athletic celebrity.

"Funny you should ask that," Herman chuckled. At first we were going to name these beautiful fields after FOUR prominent athletic achievers---and WOW was there stiff competition for the naming---Imagine your name in lights, Wolfman. "XXXXXXX-----XXXXXX------" There was a frenzy of competition. There were even some heated arguments at local watering holes over whose name was going to be on the fields."

"Well what happened?" I asked.

Herman went on: " Well every thing was going smoothly with the excitment building, when all of those athletic gurus were named in a Federal Lawsuit---and after all the publicity and all, and what is even worse, with all the legal bills for those high priced armani suited lawyers of the Federal Courts,,,,the guys just lost their appetite for fame. In the end, they just named it after FEMA."

WOW. I was pretty stunned.

Still. I think our locals could think of four individuals to name the Field and Stadium after. There might be some argument. I think that.....YOUR NAME....would fit on the stadium real nice.

Still. I do wonder. A federal lawsuit might still put a wrench in the works.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn: "Financial Feelings---the Sacred Trust of Normal"------FICTION

Recently I have been going to meetings where the detailed financial transations of our fair City have been aired----and have been listening a lot. Well...Yes. I did ask a question or two, but usually have gotten the "That's just the natural way. That's just the way it is....or the normal, "We are not staffed for that."

These responses have been pretty amazing since we have had two profound studies done by consultants in the past year that have totalled over $50,000 that have resulted in nothing but blue sky. Don't get me wrong. I love blue sky. But a little reality is good too. And accounting is part of that reality. Our auditors had said that a policy and procedure manual that covered the following items was necessary:

Purchasing procedures
Treasury functions including an investment policy
Fund accounting
Utility billing procedures
Cash receipts procedures
Journal entry approval
Fraud risk management
Disaster recovery plan
Chart of accounts manual
Work order processing
Utility collection and write-off procedures
Interest and reconciliation of customer deposits."

After the auditor had prounced this, the governmental gurus were silent. After all, they had ignored this advice in the past and had paid the accounting audit fee, and well...thank you for the advice.

So---I just wondered. And as I often do, I picked up the cell phone and called my old friend Herman from Normal, Mn., a resort fishing town just South of Garrison. Whenever I had questions, a quick telephone call or a down home fishing session with the guys put the whole matter in perspective. So...I just blurted out:

"Herman, how do you handle financial policies and procedures up there in Normal, Mn.?

Herman let out a huge bellylaugh:

"Shucks, Wolfman,(that's what he always called me) up here in Normal, we do not allow any policy and procedures manual for ...well...anything. We try to just go with our FEELINGS,,,,and live in a natural state. "

"But Herman," I replied, "a regular method of accounting is really just a matter of what we call "professional conduct" and it is really commonplace in banks and insurance companies and well...even some businesses all across the country nowdays."

"Up here we just do it our way," Herman replied. We read Darwin; We read Einstein; We learned how to add and subtract. What could be more than that? The first of our principles is that everything is "relative" and clearly if the expense follows in the family line, it is approved. It's just that simple. And if it is not clear what is to be done, we just put the expense out to the "black hole"----

"Whatever is the "black hole" account?, I asked.

"Well" Herman went on, " whenever there is an expense that is kinda uncomfortable, we just make it a payable with a really long payoff period and for only maybe 1% interest rate. That makes sure that everybody currently living will be dead by the time the issue comes up again. It works wonders."

Well Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin!! Where most cities actually have charts of accounts. And where expenses are paid not just to relatives, but to actual vendors. And where we do not delay payment from preferred folks till everybody is dead.

It sure is good to be back home.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tales from Normal: "Legend of the Sit Pipe"--Fiction

It is not a "Stand Pipe" but rather a "Sit Pipe' and it is, or might be a matter of historical registry--in a land of fiction.

Dateline Normal: "Schools eliminate reading..and math too"--

Normal Mn: Schools eliminate math as well as reading to save money----

Daleline Normal;" Police and School District Merge"--FICTION

Tales From Normal: To be Green, The Normal Police and the Normal School District Merge:

Tales from Normal: On Arbor Day; On Cutting trees---FICTION

Arbor Day with a new twist---a green twist and one with energy saving--

Dateline Normal: "Perfect Attendance"--FICTION

How every school child in Normal, Mn. has perfect attendence; On civic pride; On win-win and much more.

Dateline Normal: "Sheriff Shocks Normal-FICTION

Dateline Normal: How Herman rescues residents of Normal when half the town is arrested for drunken driving. On how it would have been nice to get a little notice that the law was goin to be enforced.

Dateline Normal: "Public-Private Partnership"--Fiction

Tales From Normal: On the Public Private Partenership or PPP---and how Regular Folks and the PPP differ. How to determine which you are.

Dateline Normal: "The First Hour is Free"---FICTION

A little tale of why the first hour of legal consulatation is FREE in Normal, Mn.; On FEAR; On GREED; On Legal Process;

Dateline Normal: 'Walleye Days"---FICTION

"Walleye Days Come to Normal, Mn.---FICTION: A little reflection on the BIG fish; On the theory of the leisure class. On how it does or does not add up. Or should it?

Tales From Normal: "Good Help is Hard to Find"--FICTION

A Tale from Normal, Mn. about where all the "good help " went. And a theory on how to regain it.

Dateline Normal, Mn.: "Me Love You Long Time"--FICTION

A short tale of the theory of oriental love; The lost Newton law of reverse distance.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn.: " Capital costs allocated in relation to the allocation of debt proceeds. "----FICTION

Well it has been a long week. Friday night when I got home, my beloved spouse informed me that I needed to review our checking account because it appeared that "capital costs allocated in relation to the allocation of debt proceeds, " needed reassessment. I was totally confused. I always get that way when she talks that way, and goes into her accounting lingo. So, I just do what I always do when I wonder, I gave my friend Herman, the countryboylawyer from Normal, Mn., a call on my trusty cellphone and asked him: "Herman, what does this lingo mean?"

Herman just let out a large bellylaugh: "Wolfman, you need to come up to speed on all the recent technobabble----that just means that your borrowing did not match your spending---and there is a "GAP"----the elongated phrasing of them accounting folks just makes it seem a lot more palatable. The bottom line, Wolfman, is that you should check your checking account---I would guess that you are short."

"Thanks, Herman"-----

Monday, August 4, 2008

Dateline Normal: "Me Love you Long Time"-----FICTION

A simple story of why people who love people are always at least 4000 miles away from one's residence, and usually one never gets to meet them.

Well the excitement of the Beijing Olympics has been building for months---and the opening ceremony is only days away. The Olympics might just put China on the map in many ways....if the smog clears so we can even see the map that is. And if the Chinese can clean up their human rights abuses in time....it seems that they have been watching us in our conduct of the Guantanomo prisons and the Abu Ghirab affair, and they have used us as a role model and it is hard to get out of their mind. They need to learn that we never do what we say and to follow what we say till we tell them otherwise. Everybody knows that.

One myth is that the fascination with China is something new---not really so in our home. The oriental thing. The interest in the mystery....the religion...the customs and yes costumes has been long standing. One daughter has studied Japanese, and the manga movies outnumber the heavy dose of violent action movies that once had graced our libraries. Now romantic manga movies are the story of the day. I cannot understand Japanese or Chinese so I do not understand what the girls are giggling about in these movies. There is just not enough action for me.

What has it come to. Where is the young Jesse the body Ventura or Schwartzeneger when we need them? I just wondered. And as I always do, I picked up the cell phone and called my old friend Herman from Normal, Mn..

I wasted no time in with pleasantries.

"Herman, what is the deal with all this oriental obsession----the anime on the girls side, and yes the myth of oriental love on the guy side. How does this all add up?

Herman just laughed.

It is pretty simple, Wolfman( that's what he always called me.) This thing has been going on for eternity. It is called now the "Me Love You Long Time Myth" or the "Distance Love Equation" in Algebra.

"I never learned that equation, Herman. It must have been in the appendix."

Then Herman went on: "The Distance Love equation states that the object of love has an intensity of love that is directly proportional to the distance from the beholder." This was one of Newton's laws that was lost in translation."

"What this means is that one always, as a matter of human nature, yearns most for "love" that is farthest from one, usually at least 3000 miles away, and usually which will never be found because of the extensive travel expenses. The secondary rule is that it is usually required that the person not speak your same language. That is the key for making the love intense.

"The bottom line, Wolfman, is that we never value love that is close. It is too easy and too difficult at the same time. We need it far off and unattractive and unintelligble to be really desirable."

"Does this rule even apply in Wisconsin?", I asked.

"Well I think so," Herman replied. "Still, the cheese could interfere with the rule maybe."

So there it is. The "Me Love You Long Time Rule," one of the lost Newton Laws. Even in Wisconsin. Now it all makes sense.

"Dateline Normal,Mn.: "Good Help is Hard to Find"----FICTION

Recently in the newspaper, and yes even locally, I have heard that there is an intense crisis of employment----and that "Good Help is Hard to Find." I have heard this described as a need for more "Workforce development." I have also heard from some folks of the conservative persuasion that describe an intense need for free borders so that their domestic needs can be met by folks that are priced...well...at precisely where all good help is priced it seems....very low....and the lower the better....and of course always cash...no checks and receipts please.

I have in summary been just a litle bewildered by all the discussion---is there really a shortage of character in our workforce, a shortage that might necessitate more extensive curriculum development in "character education" that would follow a complicated curriculum course....of course only after we could all agree on what "character" consisted of?

Whenever I get a little bewildered....and I have been bewildered a lot lately, I just give my old friend Herman, the countryboylawyer a call in Normal, Mn. . Herman is a real estate attorney who also serves on the Normal Minnesota School Board. I just wondered what he thought of this difficult problem that we were having.

"Herman what do you do about the crisis of "Good help?"

Herman let out a huge bellylaugh. 'Shucks, Wolfman (that's what he always called me) up here in Normal, Mn., we live the natural life. All employment is good, and both employees and employer understand what is required. It is just a lot simpler here. There is just fishing, and cutting bait. Usually, you fish and then eat the fish fresh, which is best, and then in the natural process of things, if ya want to eat, ya have to clean the fish. That's just the way it is. And there is a real dignity in controlling all the elements of production from catch to eating.

Herman went on: "The problem that I see in the big city situation is that over the years we have been cut off from all that is a whole, all that is a unified circle of production and consumption---and whenever that happens, people feel unhappy---vaguely unsatisfied. That is what I call the "Widget Problem." They feel out of sorts when they are just in a little part of the widget production. Oh yes. You can sugarcoat it and pump em up and tell them they are part of a team....rah....rah...rah,, but in the end, they know. "

Then Herman laughed. "It's kinda like just breathing, Wolfman. Ya breathe in and then ya breathe out. Ya don't delegate the exhale. The contractor might screw up the project and you would die. That is why the Lord put you in charge of both the inhale and exhale. "

In short, Wolfman, "Good help" is what people call help that is cheap. Really....good help is like good employers, it respects the total cycle of production and gives to dignity to all. And---it is pretty rare. I guess that is why I love fishing. "

Well. That was not the answer that I was hoping for. And it was most distressing that I did not have a boat and motor other than the rentals, but ....I guess it did describe why I always needed the getaway to Normal, Mn. I had thought it was the Hideaway Lounge....and the great coffee at Betty Lou's...but I guess it was all the "good help" that I fished with that was special.

Dateline Normal, Mn.: "Seniors Swamp College Job Fair"----FICTION

Well it's been a pretty bleak news environment lately---with the massive layoffs at auto manufacturing plants and all the other related firms that supply them. Add to that the steep decline in retail sales and the closing of hundreds if not thousands of retail stores all across America---still midst all the gloom is the announcement that college recruiters were still expecting to recruit new college grads---and even HIRE some in the Wall Street firms----something about that story just did not add up. How could thousands of investment professionals be summarily fired and yet at the same time entry level college grads hired---who for all practical purposes had no street smarts at all. How did this all add up.

When I wonder about these things, and I have been wondering a lot lately, I just pick up the cell phone and give my old friend Herman, the countryboylawyer from Normal, Mn. a call. Herman is a prominent lawyer....well he is the only lawyer...in Normal, Mn., a small fishing resort town just south of Garrison, Mn.---and he is also a member of the Normal School Board. I just wondered what he knew about employment law.

I just blurted it out:

"Herman, this all just does not make sense to me. How can there be college recruiting when all the rest of America is being laid off?'

Herman just let out a huge bellylaugh:

"Shucks, Wolfman( that's what he always called me), that is easy to explain. Dumb youthful beauty has always trumped old, wise, experience. ...with ONE exception."

"What do you mean ONE exception, Herman. There seems to be NO exception to me.?"

Herman went on: "Years ago we faced this same problem in Normal, Mn. The Seniors, or what we call a senior in America---an employee older than 28 years old....just got sick and tired of being discriminated against in employment and they went about it in two unique ways. First, they picketed all the retail stores in neighboring towns that did not have a fair share of seniors working for them. And secondly, they began bussing to college job fairs and swamping the application pools. The hip metro employeers made the mistake of hiring the hip, young, and dumb applicants, the seniors sued and won a mutimillion dollar settlement. They are on easy street now. What a wonderful revenue stream. Why even today, the busses leave every Monday morning from the center of town to the local colleges that are having the job fairs.

Wow. What a solution. I was pretty stunned.

Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin. Where we do not have problems like this. Where students just leave the state to go elsewhere to be hired anyway. Where even seniors head out for better climates where their pension funds are not stolen from them by high taxation. We have our own ways in Wisconsin.

"Does Underwear Stink in Normal, Mn."----FICTION

Recently I have been examining my wardrobe, and planning purchases for the usual needed areas----work pants, underwear, socks, etc. I was honored to get on the mailing list of several national catalogs lately, and have been browsing----and hardly believing my eyes. It seems that there is "new" underwear that costs almost $20 each that simply does not "stink"---yes. That is what the sales lingo promises. Some new fangled microbial formula, sealed in a mayonaisse jar that was overlooked for centuries and now discovered. Seemed to me that this was quite a move up from the old prices...so I thought I should call my old friend, Herman, the countryboy lawyer from Normal, Mn.----after all. He was a lawyer, and also served on the Normal, Mn. school board. He should know all about stink and such.

The weather was rainy but thank goodness the call went through.

"Herman, What is with the new underwear that is in all them catalogs and selling for about $20 a pair that promises "NO STINK"---Guaranteed.?"

Herman let out a huge belly laugh.

"Shucks, Wolfman (that's what he always called me), that marketing machine has reached new heights---folks are always lookin to reach the promised land where we can be odor free---and believe me they will pay anything to think their poop does not stink---and the next best thing is if their underwear does not stink!!!!!!

Then Herman went on:

"Up here in Normal, Mn, we are too moxie for all that. We just buy the simple cotton briefs like we always have, and wash frequently. Nothing beats washing ones clothes to avoid the stink. "

Well. What a setback. Just when I thought there might be the chance to eliminate stink forever.

"Thanks Herman."

"Walleye Days Come to Normal, Mn."----FICTION

Time to focus on the big fish

I wondered aloud when I met Herman about why there was a "Walleye Days"---whenever I had gone fishing for walleyes, it was always a rented pontoon, a guide, etc....in short a very expensive outing that resulted in very few walleyes indeed. The way I calculated it, the cost per pound was about $300 per pound. How did this make any sense at all? I much rather just fish for sunnies and be done with it.

Herman however roundly objected to my analysis: He said: "Wolfman---you have missed the whole idea of wealth itself. The theory was proposed by Thornstein Veblen, who even taught at Carlton College in Northfield, Mn.,...until he had an affair with the President's daughter. Here is what Thornstein taught about wealth:

The ultimate of status is spending large amounts of cash investing in things that make no economic sense. Do not do the math. Of course it does not come out. It never was supposed to.

One of the key ideas of the Theory of the "Theory of the Leisure Class" by Thornstein Veblen, was that when one is of the super rich, the idea is to show off that wealth in a consistent manner and yes...in an outrageous manner....so that people get the idea that you have so much wealth that it bothers you not a wit if you waste a little of it....or a lot of it. The wasting of wealth then is a badge of honor. The more wasting....the more honor and status. Waste Away.

Drinking to excess, spending to excess, travelling to excess etc were all part of the game to make one stand out-----yes this was kind of a pre-Paris Hilton thing. In the matter of drinking, the drinking to excess was intended to show that since one had so many excess brain cells, that the destruction of tons of cells through alcoholism was really no problem for the super talented. yo. In some parts of the United States, we still have the tradition of drinking to excess, and yes...even cheap beer...but the theory of why this is done has been long lost....it is just a drunken tradition.

One of the corollary ideas that was all of a rage and fashion for government---it was the notion that governments or municipalities got high status by wasting money on restorations, and other items of infrastructure that were really just wasteful---and they were proud of it. After all. It was their heritage. It was for the grandkids. It was a badge of honor. Gradually, over the years, these large infrastructure projects became more important than citizens or governance itself. Accounting? heavens no....too boring. No need for policies and proceeures...boring...no need for oversight....just go with the flow....That is exciting. ---"

Do not worry. I spoke right out in defense of good old Wisconsin. I told Herman in no uncertain terms that we in Wisconsin did not have any high and fancy theories why we drank or spent to excess .....it was just our natural way and we never did read the " Theory of the Leisure Class."

Now to relax wih a good Bud Light. Heaven. It sure is good to be back home.

"Debt Lust"-----FICTION

Recently there has been a spate of stories from the markets describing how soon, or how long it is going to take before all the excess homes for sale in America can be sold ---one pundit has said that it would be either a flat market remaining steady for 10 years or else a plunge of 25% in pricing in order to kick start the real estate market.

That would be some kick start. It seems to me that a plunge of that sort would put 75% of all homeowners in America in foreclosure, and the Federal Reserve to boot. Ten years of flat prices seems more attractive. Not too attractive for building contractors however.

Last night on a tv program there was an author who has written a
book on "Debt" and I think the title may be "Debt Lust"-----I wondered about the term. I never knew that debt and lust were related. Yet....we certainly are surrounded by folks that are suggesting all sorts of civic improvements that need to be financed on the public trough in order to "enrich the grandkids". How could that be bad when we would be helping the unborn and such, and even if the unborn might never be born because of so much debt discouraging couples from getting married. Everybody might just decide to remain single and adopt....just like the movie stars, and to be economical. Those extra spouses can be expensive. We all know that.

I just picked up the cellphone and gave my old friend Herman, the countryboylawyer from Normal, Mn. a call. He should know. I know he knows about debt. I wonder if he has heard the term "debtlust".

I just blurted it right out: "Herman have you ever heard of "debtlust"?

Herman let out a huge bellylaugh. "Shucks Wolfman, there never was any lust or even love associated with debt. Only death and depression. Trust me. Up here in Normal, Mn. we just pay cash for everything. That way, we have some money left over to be creative. With tons of debt. Nobody gets married. Nobody has kids. And shucks, Wolfman, I think there ain't much love with debt at all. All the companies up here are on a cash accounting basis. Accrual is just too complicated--and besides ya have to hire an accountant. This way, the guys can just use the box method. We keep it real simple up here."

It sure is good to be back home. Where we can have long discussions about debt....and accrual classifications...and accounting audits...and where even if debt destroys....it sure is kinda complicated and ...well...worldly.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn.: "The First Hour of Consultation is FREE"-----FICTION

Well it has been a long week of extensive public meetings about conditional use permits of local businesses---where because of the long standing countryboy tradition of not having any written policies about anything, irregularities develop that one could drive a semi through, and indeed, the red blooded true born independent harley riding residents of these here parts obligingly drive a semi through them to the dismay of the regular folk.

Having heard some vague rumblings about how extensive the legal bills might be regarding these matters, I did what I always do when I wonder...and I have been wondering a lot lately.....I headed up that long and winding road to Normal, Mn., up 94 to the Twin Cities and then up Hwy 10 to just south of Garrison, Mn..

My car's air conditioner was on the fritz, and it was a long and hot drive indeed. By the time I got into town, I was ready for a cold, iced coffee at Betty Lou's and I called Herman to meet me there. Pronto.

Just as soon as Herman slipped into the traditonal booth, the ones with the red cracked vinyl covering, with the little record box on the wall with all the favorites of the 50's and the 60's still in it---the distributor had long ago gone out of business so it was real profitable now that the restaurant could keep all of the money.

I just blurted it out:

"Herman, how can it be that defiant, deviant, business owners that are flaunting the terms and conditions of a conditional use permit, can plead in the midst of their defiance, and in the alternative, for "equitable defences" and like a little dog on the ground with its paws waving in the air, plead for mercy from the benevolent court. It just makes no sense to me."

Herman let out a loud bellylaugh.

"I think I can help in this matter, Wolfman.(That's what he always called me.) Do you know why the first hour of consultation is FREE for lawyers?"

"NO," I replied. "What has that got to do with it?"

"It's real simple," Herman explained. "Up here in Normal, Mn., we have fishing and the natural life, and then on the other hand, we have the life of the "law". The law is where I make my money. You need to understand how these two worlds differ in order to be ready..... and prepared ....for the real world."

"Explain" I said.

"These two worlds, the natural world of fishing and the codified world of the law, are very different. From the instant of birth, we have a natural desire for the sound of the birds, the call of the loons, and the love of the peace of the lake. Add the peace of fishing for some. For others it is the love of sailing. You get my drift-----"

"The LAW however is different. There is no natural market. There is no natural thirst to pay the large fees for services like this. SO......the FIRST HOUR of VISITATION with a prospective client is always FREE----because that is precisely the hour that the counsel fills the client with FEAR or GREED or any of several other emotions that might nurture a fire of emotions so strong that a little thing like large fees are a small matter, expecial considering that they might be spread over the tax base for payment by the taxpayers, or even the grandchildren of the taxpayers. The reason that this hour is free is that the least the counsel could do when inflicting FEAR is not to charge the victim for it!!!! DITTO for Greed. "

After reflecting on his thoughts over the weekend, and after fishing for bass and catching quite a few, I gradually relaxed----and yes even got the air conditioner fixed on the car---it just had a leaky hose connection.

Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin. Where the first hour of consultation, or the hour of FEAR may or may not be FREE, depending. I guess I now understand.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn.: "Public-Private Partnership Explained"----FICTION

Recently in our fair city, almost 8 months has been spent reviewing our economic development plan. It has been a little bewildering. One major employer has closed. Many small businesses have been forced out of business due to reconstruction of our downtown. Home prices have been falling. Home construction has been plumetting. Prices on everything have been skyrocketing. It has seemed to me that the more meetings I attend about economic development....the worse things get. How could this be? There appeared to be a reverse equation between the legal mumbo jumbo and the economic progress. I just began to wonder.

I knew just what to do. Whenever I get in a funk of sorts, I just head up Hwy 94 to the Twin Cities and then up north to my favorite getaway fishing town, Normal, Mn. Something about the clean fresh air. The quiet sound of the loons. Well. Sometimes even in our fair city, I think I hear the loons, but somehow up in Normal, the sound is so much stronger. Anyway, I checked in to my favorite motel, the Spruce Goose Motel, the one with the large 30 point bucks on the wall, and with the single king size pull down bed....and yes the small mini-dove bars in the ash tray to add just a hint of "upscale cashe" as my brother calls it. Something about those mini-dove bars that with just one mouthful, all my cares were gone---presto. Even before a manhatten at the Hideaway Lounge...imagine.

Anyway, after a long drive, I met my old freind Herman, the countryboy lawyer, at the Hideaway Lounge-----it was a special night. The Tex-mex band, the "Longhorns" were playing and the place was packed.

It was just the first set, and I knew that if I had any questions for my buddy that they would have to be asked quickly----once the last set started, the place went wild.

I have to admit. The question just jumbled out of my mouth:

"Herman, What's the deal with the "public-private partnerships" that all the head honchos are talking about? They all seem to know. Few of the regular folks even attend the meetings. They seem to care less. What is this all about? I am trying to be a reporter on the subject and cannot seem to make sense of it all. Can you help me?"

Herman let out a huge bellylaugh.

"Shucks, Wolfman (that's what he always called me) this is real simple stuff. Up here in Normal,Mn. we keep it real simple---and I think our approach will help your understanding."

Then in one deft move, he whipped out one of those long yellow legal pads out of his satchel and called to the bartender to bring two double manhattens---and with the special whiskey.

Then Herman drew a long line right down the center of the legal pad. After pausing to compose himself like a river about to burst, Herman launched on his topic. I could tell it was one he had made a lifetime of exploring.

"Think of this legal pad as "Civics". We will put that right at the top. On the left side of the legal pad, he wrote the words, "Regular folks", and then on the right side of the ledger he wrote the words or Letters "PPP" Public, Private, Partnership. "

"Ya got to understand, Wolfman, that the regular folks on the left side of this ledger cannot afford to to go to all those meetings---they have jobs to do, kids to raise, wives to be husbands to...and real life to live.. etc. etc. Ya cannot be frustrated with these folks. They will watch the news. They will respond to an emergency. However....they have no time for billybob. They have a life. That's why they are called "regular" folk. These are the people that go to the "windows" at city hall--to pay fines, to get building permits, to pay water bills....in short, to take care of paying the bills. That is what they do."

On the other side of the ledger are the "PPP" or the Public Private Partnership." These are the folks that go to the meetings. Their primary mission is to convince the leaders of your community that they are so special that they deserve to have some of the money that the folks on the left side of the ledger have left at city hall in those windows downstairs.

"Sometimes these PPP folks are called "special." Sometimes these folks are called the pillars of the community. Sometimes they are called those who just "want to give back to the community in appreciation for all that the community has given them." The bottom line is that they want money from the folks on the left side of the ledger----and they do not care what they have to say....or do....to get it. Back in the days of the famous "Trust busters" and Teddy Roosevelt, the term "sucking at the public trough" was the phrase. Each generation has to choose the phrase that fits them-----and this generation has chosen the phrase "Public--Private--Prtnership."

Wow. What a shock. "Are you sure that it is all that SIMPLE?" I asked Herman.

"YUP", herman replied. The "suits" will try to make you think it is just very complicated, kinda like a bundled mortgage security or a fancy traded option in the stock market---do not believe it. It's SIMPLE."

Just then the band started the third set......and that double manhatten started to kick in. Herman put away the legal pad. The party was about to begin.

Well....Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin. Where we do not have such a simple life as the peaceful fishing life of Normal. ...Where we have plenty of "suits" that go over and over how complicated things are and how much we all need their services to deliver the money from the regular folks to the "PPP".

It sure is good to be back home.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Normal, Mn.: "The Tale of Loon Lodge"----FICTION

Last week while I was recovering from the recent spate of high school graduations, I spent a long week fishing in my favorite location, Normal, Mn.. It has been almost ten years that I have been making the trek to Normal, and while sitting in Betty Lou's Cafe, sipping a extra strong Mocha with almond flavoring, heaped with lots of whipped cream, Herman mentioned to me that now that I have passed the "decade test" I am elegible to be inducted into the Order of the Loon Lodge.

As I gazed around Betty Lou's, it was filled with other fisherman, and they all seemed to know that I had passed the ten year mark, and was elegible. So---wanting to be excited and yet wanting also to know some details, I asked Herman to explain what was involved.

'Shucks, Wolfman (that's what he always called me), it's real simple. Years ago the Order of the Loon Lodge was just bunch of guys that went fishing and looked at the occasional loon that was in them parts.(click on the post to hear the loons). The whole area is zoned recreational, so we were fine with the boats and the small shack that we stored the bait in.

Over the years we got tired of bringing the beer in each time, so we upgraded the facility to merely adapt to the modern times, and ...well...after twenty years or so, it became a two story A frame facility with kitchen area, liquor storage, an area to change clothes and lockers and such. During the off season, the facility was perfect for graduation parties and alumni gatherings. Some guys used to love to use it for bachelor parties. ....and more recently some graduation parties. "

"Is there some sort of charter or code that one has to be inducted into before one can belong,"? I asked.

"Nope"--Herman replied. "Everything is on a need to know basis. When you join, you are told the rules. It's just that simple."

"How much does it cost,?", I asked.

"It costs $450 a year for the full membership. It includes two catered events a year plus extras."

"What extras?, I asked.

"I can't tell you about them until you join. That's just the rules."

Wow. This was pretty stunning. To pay $450 a year to just watch loons just drove my curiousity wild. Click on the post for the sound of the loons. Seem pretty normal to me. There must be something extra. For me. It might be worth $450 just to find out what it was.

I know that lot of folks give me a lot of grief about why I always write about my favorite getaway in Normal, Mn. The fact is that Loon Lodge is just one of those unique historical traditions that is so unique that it makes life, and fishing so special. It is just a shame that we do not have any such tradition back here in Wisconsin.

Monday, June 16, 2008

"Sheriff Shocks Normal"----Fiction

Well it sure is good to have school over. Time to head on up for a little quiet fishing up in northern Minnesota at my favorite fishing hole, Normal, Mn. My in laws just bought a place near Lake Sylvia, so I combined a little moving of furniture with a chance to fish.

As soon as I drove into Normal, I stopped at Betty Lou's for a strong black, extra sugar coffee in those classic Minnesota dark purple Minnesota Viking mugs----Betty Lou never did learn how to make a mocha, so she just made it all extra strong.

As soon as I had settled in the booth, I was joined by my old friend Herman, the countryboylawyer, who also served on the Normal Minnesota school board. Herman started right in:

"Wolfman, we've had a real shock up here. Have you heard?"

"Nope" I said. What is up?"

"Last Friday night, with no warning, Sheriff Bob of the Normal County police force conducted one of them traffic stops at the only entrance to Normal, Mn. there is, and he ticketed almost half the town for drunken driving."

"Wow." I exclaimed. What is shocking about that?, I asked.

"Well," Herman went on, "it was just totally unjustified legally. We had just no warning at all. It came right out of the blue. I am just swamped representing half the town for the defense. I'm working 7 days a week with all the fact finding and such."

'What is going to be the theory of the defense?" I wondered.

"It's pretty slick, Herman exclaimed. I am going to plead that because everyone knows we have been competing for the highest drinking state with Wisconsin, and therefore we have had it in our civic pride to drink as much as humanly possible, it is just unfair to convict us on a crime even if everyone was sloshed."

"But Herman, ignorance never is a defense---what else do you have?

"O.K. Herman went on, I have pled a theory of "estoppel" in the alternative. Since the law has not been enforced in these parts since Prohibition, the civil authorities are "estopped " from enforcing them."

"Wow", I exclaimed. that is turning the law against itself. I wonder."

Well. It sure is good to be back in good old Wisconsin. Where after competing with Minnesota for 75 years, at least we would put out a press release that suddenly the law would be enforced----that would be the gentlemanly thing to do.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn.: " Perfect Attendence"------FICTION

Recently with my youngest graduating from high school, I have been reliving, as parents are so apt to do, my younger days of glory. In fact, just yesterday it was 45 years since that fateful awards ceremony in 1963-----I was dreaming or dozing after a week of stressful exams and right in the middle of the ceremony, in the midst of a wonderful dream about someone who was going to give me a ton of money to attend college, I heard my name called.....I woke and stood up.

It seems that unknownst to me, I had received the perfect attendence award---one of 4 from the class of 220. Anyway----what a jolting disappointment after my wonderful dream.

I called my old friend Herman, the countryboylawyer in Normal, Mn. this morning, and was laughing about the good old days and told him about the award incident. There was just a pause ......then Herman responded:

"I hate to burst your bubble, Wolfman (that's what he always called me.) Up here in Normal, Mn., every student gets a perfect attendence award. It's just normal."

"What!!!! I exclaimed. How could this be? What is the secret to your success?"

With giddy delight, Herman went on-----"It's real simple Wolfman. It's a real WIN-WIN transaction. Each year at the end of the year, we submit all the daily and habitual truancy violations to the local court----and lo and behold because we don't follow the State of Minnesota procedure for these, the cases are thrown out.....and the students records are wiped clean."

"Do you mean to tell me that EVERYONE in Normal, Mn. has perfect attendence officially?"

"YES" he replied.

"And,"Herman went on," Everyone is happy with the result. The parents get good kids, the school gets a perfect record.....and what is even better,....the school gets national awards as being a role model for civic responsibility."

"WOW," I gasped. "That is pretty amazing."

It sure is good to be back in good old Wisconsin. Those folks in northern Minnesota sure do have some strange customs-----those purple Viking sweatshirts, the 30 below weather, and most of all, the ......perfect attendence.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn.: Graduation Held Early--April 30th---May Interim Begins---FICTION

Well the graduation season has officially begun. Yesterday I got my first graduation notice. For April 30th. It seems that in Normal, Mn., all the schools are dismissed on April 30th. I simply could not believe it!!!!

I picked up the cell phone and quickly dialed by countryboylawyer friend, Herman, in Normal---he was on the school board as well as being a real estate guru---and yes he was the author of the famous legal text, "Billy Bob on Civil Procedure"---a best seller all across America. It was even more popular in South America where it was recited verse by verse, in Spanish of course.

I could tell once the discussion began that Herman and I were not going to see eye to eye on this.

"Herman, how in the heck can you dismiss the schools right in the peak of drama productions, and most of all the popular sports of baseball, soccer and golf. It is one of the richest cultural parts of the school year. What is the deal?"

"Straighten around, Wolfman,(that's what he always called me)----it is precisely BECAUSE these spring activities were so RICH that we decided to simply end the class work---the real truth is that very little was happening in the classroom anyway--why the kids were so sleepy from staying out all night at games and rehearsals that...well...we decided years ago to add Saturday classes during the school year, and simply end the formal classroom work on April 30th. It was just the honest thing to do."

Then he went on:

"Then for May---we have the "INTERIM"---for some it is the drama workshop, for others it is the soccer project, or for others it is "Work study Activity"----The early graduation allows our students from Normal, Mn. to get the very best jobs statewide---it is really something....why those high falutin schools that graduate June 10th or later just do not have a chance---our students have a month head start---Our students average $3000 more per summer than many other students....

And besides, he went on.....after May 1 the fishing season begins....and that is what we do up here...fish. It all makes sense."

It sure is good to be back in good old Wisconsin. ...and besides....May 1st is just too early to start fishing anyway.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn.: Arbor Day Celebration Brings New Twist---FICTION

Well. There is just nothing like May and the celebration of Arbor Day. It just happens every year that it occurs on the week that I regularly head on up to Normal, Mn. to get the boat launched for the summer season of fishing.

I just happened to stop in the local gas station to pick up a copy of the Garrison Times, and right there on the cover was the official proclamation of the Mayor of Normal, Mn. of the legal declaration of Arbor Day 2008. No sooner had I put the paper down on the passenger seat that I noticed while driving through the downtown of Normal....well it was only by the bait shop and the coffee shop....but still it was striking....all the beautiful trees of downtown Normal had been cut down to the ground. I was totally stunned.

When I sat down in the little coffee shop, Betty Lou's Coffee Shop, named for the famous 50's song, "Betty Lou's Got a New Pair of Shoes," I asked Herman, my old countryboylawyer friend, who in addition to being a local real estate attorney, was also a member of the Normal School Board, what the heck the deal was with all the trees being cut down.

I held up the paper and proceeded to quote verse by verse.

Herman, I said, "It says right here: "Whereas trees are a renewable resource.....etc. " Is it not pretty clear that as the proclamation says we are to take care of our trees....not cut them down?"

"Settle down Wolfman"----(that's what he always called me.). Normally it is true that I am a strict constructionist in legal matters, but there is just one area that I prefer to have a more living...... breathing..... interpretation of legal lingo----and it is in the matter of Arbor Day. Let's face it. We are all getting older up here. After each winter is over, with all the raking, cutting, etc of trees, well.....it got to be simply exhausting. Too much. It is fine for you visitors to come to town to simply view all the trees, but it was us locals that had to care for them----and frankly we do not have the ENERGY any more to do so. As a matter of ENERGY CONSERVATION....we cut em all down. We are an "Energy Star" City. And proud of it. " Then he went on.....

In the text portion of the proclamation it simply says that we are a tree loving community AND where consistent, also a Energy Star community. And not in that order. So---we simply decided to cut down all the old, big trees downtown....and replace them with little trees. We will leave it to the next generation to worry about the trees...kind of a legacy thing. It has been a real energy saver. AND the best part----the city council person that cuts down the most trees gets to wear the annual ARBOR DAY BASEBALL CAP----trust me---we all fight for that high honor.

It was hard to believe. A loyal conservative yes Republican lawyer like Herman. Normally a hangin type judge so to speak----here he wanted a liberal construction of the Arbor Day Proclamation so all the old trees could be cut for kindling. I wondered about his state of mind.

Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin. Where we follow the letter and the spirit of the law of Arbor Day-----where we do NOT cut down all the trees downtown and where we most surely do not give the honored ARBOR DAY CAP to someone who loves to cut down trees.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn.: Cost of "cowchips"skyrockets: Herman Explains:----FICTION

Recently after browsing the local Sunday papers, I was just stunned by the rise of commodity prices worldwide----I knew that locally grocery prices had skyrocketed but was not fully aware of the global increase in ...well...everything. Many press pundits were saying that it was all the ethanol producers that were causing the rise of prices because of all the corn diverted from food to fuel.

I just wondered---- about that corn that I was burning---so I took out some and tried to cook it to see what happened. Trust me. Maybe it could be ground....but it is not edible as I see it for humans. It is strictly for cattle.

Sometimes when I read the Sunday paper and ponder these things, I just pick up the phone and call my old friend, Herman, in Normal, Mn., who as a countryboylawyer and member of the Normal School Board, always has a unique perspective.

I tried to explain to Herman that the rise in the price of rice that was causing a panic worldwide was caused by those ethanol folks and such.

Herman just laughed:

"That is just bull, Wolfman (that is what he always called me. Nobody burns rice and yet that has skyrocked 50 percent the last week. You must understand that this is all the work of speculators, pure and simple."

"Remember that the gasoline prices are skyrocketing even though consumption is down as Americans drive less and the economy is going into recession. Even the AAA is mystified. We have allowed the speculators to rule the world, Wolfman."

I could not believe that indeed the speculators could cause such a thing. Then Herman went on:

"The reason I know all this, Wolfman, is that some years ago we constructed a special high tech plant to burn cow manure to produce energy. It was pure state of the art."

"What happened," I asked.

Herman went on: " It was amazing. Within 24 hours the price of cow manure skyrocketed three times and all because there was just a severe shortage of cow manure in Minnesota."

That got me wondering. " I think we have a lot more cow manure in Wisconsin than you have in Minnesota. In fact, we are just full of it. I think we would be o.k. "

Herman went on: "YES----- there is a lot more BULL in Wisconsin, but that is not the point, Wolfman. No matter HOW MUCH, it is NOT enough. The speculators will make the economy of recycling vanish."

I was pretty stunned by the whole discussion. I still thought that there was enough in Wisconsin to burn it to solve all our problems. Still. I would defer to my neighbors to see what they thought.

What do you think?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn.: School District and Police MERGE to save Energy----FICTION

It has been one of those rainey days. It seems that Northern Minnesota has gotten snow to make it even worse. I felt relieved I had not attempted to head on up to Normal, Mn., my favorite getaway town, just south of Garrison, and West of the Land of Lake Woebegone. Still. I needed some advice from my old friend Herman, the countryboylawyer who served on the Normal, Mn. School Board and had a very thriving law practice. I gave him a quick call on my cell phone.

I began by going over what what was happening in our fair city. The latest from the school, the courts, and the city. I explained how green we had become with the electric cars and all. I also mentioned the upcoming fuss about the truancy problem, and the fact that our police spend a fair amount of time at our schools doing ticket kind of stuff.

I could tell Herman was getting impatient with me because he was clearing his throat all the time.

"Shucks Wolfman, we have been there and done that!!!!!!!! We are way ahead of you guys in the energy stuff. We were spending so much time with the police force up here in Normal, Mn. at the schools, that the gas costs were enourmous-----so we just MERGED the two. Now we have the "Normal Police and Schools". They are ALL in the same building complex. It is real efficient. They all drive electric cars up here---and what is best is that only students that drive ELECTRIC cars to school can park in the school parking lot. That has been a brainstorm idea----simply out of the box. We eliminated the parking problem altogether!!!!"

Well. I was just stunned.

Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin. Where we don't want to solve the problems so literally. We might want to save a little energy and put up a good face, but yo....we don't really mean it. It's just style points. We still buy matching SUV's to go along with the electric cars. Just to balance it out.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn.: Schools Eliminate Reading.....and Math too----FICTION

Well it sure has been wonderful with the warmer weather having arrived....I always like to give my old friend Herman in Normal, Mn. a call about this time of the year because it still is winter up in those parts. Normal is just south of Garrison, Mn., and just west of the land of Lake Woebegone..... A quiet fishing resort village where folks like me can escape to. ..... A place where if there is electricity at night at the motel, it is considered five star.

Herman answered my call on the first ring. "What's up, wolfman,(that's what he always used to call me.)? I quickly replied:

"It has been pretty quiet here in good old Wisconsin, but the big news is that a city near here, Edgerton, has decided to eliminate Reading and simply incorporate it into other courses. I mentioned that some schools were so gifted athletically that it was just a "no brainer" to eliminate an academic course rather than tamper with cutting the costs of athletics."

Herman cut me off in my explanation:

"Shucks, Wolfman, we eliminated BOTH Reading and Math years ago. We simply consolidated them and teach them as part of World History. We go over all the diverse types of counting that have been used over the ages, from the abacus to the latest calculators. As far as the READING course, we teach that as a part of history too-----as in "years ago people actually read something called "BOOKS" that they paid money for, but after the prices got high, audio books that were abridged became popular, and these could be placed on i-pods. Pretty soon, folks who loved reading were considered kinda "BACKWARD." And---cutting math and reading was great cause we could eliminate those salaries. Now we just use an audio library that we download for a set subscription fee. It works neat."

I was just stunned.

It sure is good to be back in good old Wisconsin----where we know the value of READING and MATH and not just as an element of a history course.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

"The Sit Pipe" enters Historic Registry----FICTION

Recently in reading a local tabloid, I was stunned to see that there was a naming of a "SIT PIPE" as a historical landmark in our fair city. I just was totally ignorant of any mention of these in American History, even though I had majored in History in college. So, being dumbfounded, I decided to simply pick up the phone and call my old friend Herman, the countryboylawyer from Normal, Mn. and get some info.

"Herman, have you ever heard of anything called a "SIT pipe?"

Herman let out a loud bellylaugh. "Shucks Wolfman,(that's what he always called me) a "SIT pipe" is similar to a "STAND pipe" and there are usually a couple of them surrounding it. Really, it used to be called a "BENCH", but the term "SIT pipe" makes it sound so much more historical. Ain't that something. Anyway, once it gets the larger name officially, it can be listed on the National Historic Register and be treasured forever."

Wow what a surprise. It never ceases to surprise me what there is to learn from history.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Dateline Normal: LifeSkills Curriculum Success; Regular Curriculum Scrapped"---FICTION

Well. With the new daylight saving time beginning, I suddenly got all sorts of energy and just could not resist the urge to head out of town, and yes you guessed it, up that long road-HWY94-to Normal, Mn., the classic fishing village, just south of Garrison, and west of the land of Lake Woebegone.

I just could not wait to chat with my old friend, Herman, the countryboylawyer, who in addition to being on the Normal School Board, was the biggest resident author in town, having ghost written the famous legal text, "Billy Bob on Civil Procedure." As more and more towns became familiar with this down home text, the demand overtook supply, and ....well...the book was in its 3rd reprinting in just two years.

After I sat down in the booth at "Betty Lou's", the famous coffee shop in town, I wasted no time in asking what was on my mind:

"Herman, back in my fair city, we have had a real emphasis on "Life Skills Curriculum" as the method of preparing students for the day of reckoning---graduation. "

Herman let out a huge bellylaugh. "Shucks, Wolfman, (that's what he always called me), it just gets down to real common sense. If a student cannot say "yes sir" when told to do something, who cares whether he/she can add or subtract. Who cares furthermore whether they can read or write. Without the proper attitude, one of total submission, academic subjects are pure bunk. Up here in Normal, Mn., we have simply junked the regular subjects and now just concentrate on the "Yes Sir Curriculum. It has worked wonders. "

I was just totally shocked.

"Do you mean to say that you have simply given up on the regular curriculum?"

"YUP", Herman replied. "Truthfully, we were doing so poorly with the test scores and all, that it actually did us good to simply "opt out" of the testing. It made us look a whole lot better. '"

Well. It sure is good to be back home. Where we do not give up challenging curriculum and substitute "Life Skills" instead. We insist on excellence..... and we have as our motto that every kid can be valedictorian, and in fact are well on our way.

Sure is good to be back in good old Wisconsin.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn: "Pres. Bush did not have 4K"----FICTION

Ed.note: Click on the post for the full article in the Janesville Gazette.)

Recently I read in the local paper that Janesville is going to implement 4K beginning with the next school year, and will be having these at private sites--17 of them to be exact.

In the article, they note that;

" The fact that so many children were not ready for school at age 5 was a major argument that led to school-board approval of the new program.

Officials believe that when parents can’t afford to give their children a quality preschool experience, those children fall behind, and many never catch up, leading to behavior problems, truancy and other problems during their school years and poverty, crime and other social ills when they reach adulthood.

Some say quality preschool for all could be key in removing the student achievement gap between the “haves” and “have-nots.”

However, both “haves” and “have-nots” are welcome to join P4J."

I just did not know what to make of all this. It is right in the middle of the political season, and there is a record low of truth per column inch in the newspapers, and for that matter one gets so many robo calls from candidates who do not even let me interject a question that one just does not know what to think of it all. So....I just picked up my cell phone and called Herman, my friendly countryboy lawyer in Normal,Mn., a small fishing village just south of Garrison, and west of Lake Woebegone.

I got right to the point with Herman: "Herman, what do you make of all the 4K stuff. What do you folks do up in Normal, Mn.?"

"Shucks, Wolfman( that's what he always called me) years ago we had a kid who was a little unprepared for kindergarden and just could not handle a green crayon for the life of him. It was real serious. It is real important to have play based instruction that can prevent criminality in the later years. So----We have "the works" up here in Normal---4k,3k,2k---. And you can really see the difference. Why look at all those politicians like President Bush and VP Chaney----those guys would have been "on the level" if they had been on a level playing field in 4K. It really could have been the difference. One of the first things the kids learn in 4K is that when you are attacked by one kid, you do not hit another. It is real simple. Clearly Bush never learned it and thus he goes and starts the Iraq War. See. 4K. It could have been a real moral compass so to speak."

I admit. This was a hard argument to beat. I still wondered about the costs.

"Where do you get all the space for the program up there?"

"Shucks, Wolfman, it is no problem. We have such a wonderful program that folks simply converted old gas stations into daycare centers. Works real neat. Ya just open the doors when they go out to play. "

"But what about the crime,?" I asked.

"Herman replied, "Shucks, crime is virtually non-existant up here. Well. Besides, with the shortage of funds, we did have to eliminate the police force. It sure works wonders though. The chart for arrests just plunged....just like they predicted."

"Thanks, Herman."

Well it sure is good to be back home. Where we are good with the green grayola. Where we have gas stations and not convert em into daycare centers. And where everyone knows just after birth that when you are attacked by A one does not attack B. I wonder though whether 4K could have been the difference for Pres. Bush. With Cheney, I know that if you have an irregular heart beat, it might cause irregular thinking so 4K might not have helped. Still. I wonder.