Tales From Normal, Mn.--FICTION

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

Monday, January 28, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn.: " 250 Who Count"----FICTION


Last week with hardly any meetings to attend, now that the Economic Summit was wrapped up, I just thought it was a good time to head up north and do some ice fishing. Yes...I did stop by briefly at the dogsled race in Duluth, but after giving some pointers to my stringer reporters who were covering the event, I headed on over to Normal, Mn..

After getting comfortable at the Hideaway Lounge, where all the walls are filled with 30 point bucks, and where coffee and non-alcoholic drinks are not even served, I simply asked Herman right out:

"Herman we have a program back in Wisconsin parts called the "50 who Count" where distinguished persons get their name in the paper and their biographies and such....it is a real positive thing back in our home town. Do you have anything like that up here in Normal, Mn.?

Herman let out a huge bellylaugh.

'Shucks, Wolfman,(that's what he always called me.) Up here in Normal,Mn. , we have a program like that, but we call it the "250 That Count".!!!!!!!

" But Herman, there are only 245 people in all of Normal. How do you come up with 250?"

"That's the exciting part. This past year we were 5 people short....and the young folks got involved and stepped forward in a leadership capacity and ....well....the first five newborns made the list. It was a real competition. Up here in Normal, we have the saying, "In Normal, Mn., EVERYONE counts."

I was just stunned. To think that young couples would take it upon themselves to get pregnant just to meet a deadline of 250 population for the year...was surprising.

It sure is good to get back home....where we don't get in such foolish competitions...and where even though we might say that Everyone counts, we would not make a citywide contest about it.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Dateline Normal: Four Sport Athletes the Norm in Normal

Well it was a long weekend getaway for me last weekend----I took Friday off and headed up to Normal to enjoy a little ice fishing. After the second round at the Hideaway Lounge, I started to brag a bit. I went over the fact that in our local high school we have a ton of four sport athletes---something that I never remembered happening much in the big Twin Cities. To be a four sport athlete was a rare thing in my day. That is how I know that Wisconsin is God's country....cause we are blessed with such an abundance of talent.

Finally I could tell that I was getting a bit too enthusiastic cause Herman cut me off.

"Wolfman,(that's what he always called me.) up here in Normal, Mn., ALL our students are FOUR sport athletes. Things have changed since you were a youngin. Now days all our students are four sport athletes. Of course more things are considered sports now, like Debate, Chess, Pep, and Dance. It is a different world."

I was just shocked. I had thought we were the only ones. Who wudda thunk.

Then Herman went on: "It is really nice to have everyone required to be four sport athletes, cause then if someone is suspended, they have a "throwaway sport."

"Huh?", I asked.

"Sure, Wolfman----- it is a little like poker. If a guy got disqualified for an infraction during the football season, he could simply sit on the bench during "Chess" season."

Herman then let out a loud bellylaugh. "Aint't that neat."

"But the football guy probably would not play chess anyway. How does that make sense?," I chimed in.

"Trust me it works up here in Normal, Mn. "

Thank goodness I am back in good old Wisconsin. Where we don't sit on the bench for the "throwaway" sports, where we do NOT have a chess team.....Still....it did sound like it might be a way of getting those athletes involved in at least watching some good chess....something to think about.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Dateline Normal: "The Case of "DO" and "DUE PROCESS"-------the mystery

Well it has been a real news saga here---with the hot sports story that when one policeman interjected his input that maybe the WIAA should apply some pressure so that local school codes of conduct should be enforced ....that policeman was fired. What a firestorm of controversy. Sometimes when I get these kind of stories, I just pick up my trusty cell phone and call Normal, Mn., where my old friend, Herman, the countryboy lawyer, and veteran member of the Normal, Mn. School Board, is sure to have some fatherly advice for me. Even though he specialized in real estate law, he is the famous author of the textbook, now out of print, although maybe some rare copies are still available from Paul's Book Store on State Street...the classic text titled "Billy Bob on Civil Procedure." I was sure he would be of some help in this matter.

I wasted no time in pleasantries.

"Herman, what is the deal with those "internal investigations" that seem always to last till the athletic season in question is over and done, and the athletes seem to go scott free. What is the deal?"

"It's real simple, Wolfman. (That's what he always called me.) It is called "DUE PROCESS" and it is not spelled with a DO, but with a DUE. These are very reflective folks. They need to spend their time during the academic year meditating and meditating and meditating on all the possible aspects of review possible------why up here in Normal, we have a specific policy that all these matters are handled efficiently on June 15th each school year. "

"But Herman, that is after school is done for the school year."

"YUP". It is real efficient. After all that meditating we are ready to "DO."

Well. I was totally shocked. I had never heard of such a thing. It sure is good to be back in good old Wisconsin. Where we do not make such niceties of DO and DUE process, and where we promptly handle investigations that need to be acted on.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Dateline Normal: " Development Summit Comes to Normal"----FICTION

(Ed.note: The "Tales from Normal"---FICTION are also available in book form and are on podcast in the ITunes directory. To those of you that have emailed me from all over the world, in order to promptly respond to all, I will just say, "Yes...it might be about you.")

Click on the post for the latest.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Dateline Normal: "Fear of Handcuffs"---FICTION

Recently, after a busy week of writing, I felt the need to do a little ice fishing, and headed out of town, up that long and winding road, up north of the Twin Cities, just south of Garrison, Mn., to my favorite fishing town, Normal, Mn.

After a long drive, and all those cheap gas stations on the way with the coffee that was just a little overcooked, I felt the need for some good old strong fresh coffee...yes served in the tall Minnesota Viking Mugs. I met Herman at the little coffee shop, just kiddy corner to the famous bait shop, the one with the colored stones---the coffee shop was called "Betty Lou's"....after that famous song "Betty Lou's got a new pair of shoes," one of my favorite riffs of the 50's.

After I had a couple of swigs of the strong stuff, I asked Herman something that I have been wondering about for at least 48 hours:

"Herman, "what is the fear of handcuffs called. I never heard of this fear before. Our local town government has a real fear of being handcuffed. What is your take on this?"

Herman let out a huge bellylaugh.

"Shucks, Wolfman..(that's what he always called me ) This is God's country....and up here, where the lakes are clean, and the air is fresh....the only folks that have a fear of handcuffs....are...well....confined. Might be in a hospital or prison of some sort. In fact....up here....we celebrate handcuffs....and handcuffs of ALL sorts. We even sell em in the bait shop----Well it is technically the Beer, Bait and Ammo Shop, but we also carry handcuffs....of all kinds too. It is what we call diversity up here.

Then he let out another huge bellylaugh.

I guess I just don't understand. About the handcuff thing. About the fear. Handcuffphobia so to speak. In fact, I cannot even find the fear on Google. It must be something very rare.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Dateline Normal, Mn.: Colleges Eliminate Student Financial Aid

Recently I have been hearing all sorts of wonderful stories in the press...about how institutions such as Harvard, and Yale .....have decided to simply eliminate student financial aid entirely. They plan on making this move to make their schools affordable to the middle class. Of course, if someone has a family income of $500,000 they would be required to pay the full tuition of $50,000. After all...they could afford it.

Still...it seemed so radical....and such a wonderful idea. No student loans....No families having to get a Countrywide Loan Combo and then going through foreclosure a few years later when the special mumbo jumbo legal clauses that made the loan accelerate beyond the capability of any consumer invited disaster for sure.

Meditating on these things....as I often do.....I simply picked up the cellphone and called my old country boy lawyer friend in Normal, Mn., ...yes Herman. Herman was on the Normal School Board, and a big wig up in those parts. Even though he did specialize in real estate law, he was a whizz at civil procedure----in fact, he even published a treatise on civil procedure for small towns across the United States. It was a blockbuster that had made him quite a bit of money. It was ghost written, so he could remain anonymous. I trust that you can be confidential because few really know about this. The title of the book...one of my favorites....is called "Billy Bob on Civil Procedure."

It was a cold day ...and the cell phone call when right through:

"Herman....what is your take on the move of some colleges to eliminate student loans?"

"Shucks, Wolfman.(that's what he always called me.) Up here in God's country, we have made student loans and financing of colleges illegal."

His words hit me like a sledgehammer.

"WHAT?"

"Wolfman--ya got to understand. How could knowledge be WISDOM if everyone goes bankrupt getting it?" We aim in our educational institutions to lead by example. And being a PREDATOR is not setting a good example. Thus....all of our buildings are PAID FOR. We are very frugal up here. What really makes a difference is that we provide housing for all the professors and the students alike. They differ in their needs of course. And...it is INCLUDED in their salary.

What a shock!!!!!!

It sure is good to get back to good old Wisconsin. Where we can get knee deep in debt chasing the dream of education that bankrupts the student and the family. It is just the American way. It sure beats living on a cash basis.

It sure is good to be back home.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Dateline Normal: "Forest and Trees" Program comes to Normal Schools-----FICTION

(Ed.note: This is a portion of the formal press release from the Normal School District, Normal, Mn., sent to me by Herman this afternoon. I have edited it for brevity."---FICTION


A little like chutes and ladders, the key element of this groundbreaking awareness program for elementary students, is the essential skill of distinguishing a forest from a tree. As all adults know, this early predictor skill leads to the ability to distinguish a little lie from a big lie, a little truth from a little lie, and then the ultimate, the ability to distinguish an email generated news story from an unknown remote source from a story that has been really written and investigated.

One of the problems, of course, is that young students, being small and short, think that trees of only small height----- are in fact big trees------ and a real forest. They look big. They seem big. But in fact they are little. That is the real difficulty. How to allow kids to be kids, and yet to gradually improve the skill set so that they can clearly see ------ this is just a little tree......and not the forest.

The most innovative part of this computer program, is the use of candy. When the elementary student correctly identifies the small tree as a tree and not the forest, they are rewarded with candy. This innovative approach has led to a tremendous acceleration of learning. In fact, there has been advanced discussion that this approach might be used in the political sphere in Normal, Mn., in distinguishing "Beef" from "Baloney" in local political contests. The only snag may be a rare Minnesota statute that prohibits any giving of candy in order to influence a vote, or even learning of any kind. Some pundits have suggested that the statute was really referencing "candy bar" and not the small types of candy that will be used.

It is hard to believe that groundbreaking educational policy could come out of Normal, Mn.. Still, it is important to have an open perspective. Stay tuned. One must NEVER underestimate the power of candy.

Dateline Normal: Development Summit comes to Normal"---FICTION

Last week, right in the middle, I got an anxious cell phone call from Herman, my old countryboy lawyer friend from Normal, Mn., a land just south of Garrison, Mn., and a little west of the Land of Lake Woebegone in northern Minnesota.

"I need some help up here," Herman whispered. I am putting together a booklet for the first ever Normal Development Summit, and would like some help......."

"What kind of help?", I asked.

"I don't need any advice," Herman rushed on, "I just need some packaging of historical documents of Normal in preparation for the conference."

"No problem," I responded. " I will drive up if you can handle the "usual" expenses. Herman well understood that I only operated if the expenses, the same standard that the Rockford files had many years ago, $500 a day plus any extra expenses. ...were covered fully in advance. "

"No problem." Herman replied.

I was a little mystified in thought as I made the long drive. Normal was a fishing town, and had not added a business in 50 years. I just could not imagine what the whole crisis was about.

"What is this all about, Herman", I asked over an extra strong coffee, heavy on the sugar and whipped cream, and filled fully to the brim of a dark blue Minnesota Viking mug.

"It is real simple, Wolfman.(that's what he always called me). This is a battle between the OLD and the NEW."

"What Ever do you mean? I asked.

Herman went on: "Well, some new fangled contractor wants to build some condos on the lake and make a upscale marina and upscale living area just south of town. "

"What could be better?" I responded. At least they will be building by the Minnesota construction code....that should be a real move up for these parts."

"Ya. That is true. But the downside is that the local contractors will probably not get the business. And that is a deal killer. In fact. As we see it. It is OUR WAY......or the HIGHWAY."

"How do I fit in with your plans, Herman?, I asked.

"Well, Herman said. We need to package a seminar brochure that will look real progressive and all, real high tech and professional....... that will be so complicated and elaborate that it will kill the deal. We will call it "The UNIFIED Code"---as in it is US against THEM. "

Well it was a mad rush of publication, but I got the deadlines handled. Lots of small print and arcane language. Lots of legal mumbo jumbo, but I think I created the perfect gift.

It sure is good to be back home. Where things are a lot simpler. Alleluia.