Saturday, March 21, 2009
Thousands of Dollars, Yen, Euros, Swiss Francs, etc pass through the hands of Samuel Secrets every year. He is a world expert in money laundering and repair. His clients are as varied as the colors of the bank notes he meticulously fusses over. Today he is cleaning bank notes from Germany’s Deutsche Bank. The bank received the notes from Columbia via steamship. The dirty and damaged notes were delivered to Samuel by armored Hummer. Each note is examined, cleaned, pressed, dried and sewn if needed to Samuel’s exacting standards.
Tomorrow Samuel is expecting a major shipment of American Dollars sent by a Cuban Syndicate of tulip bulb importers operating out of Miami. Cleaning and repairing dollars once bored Samuel. Dollars were green, dull and lifeless. The new dollars coming from the United States shows promise. Samuel enjoys the colors and design, although the large purple 5 in the corner of the five dollar bill seems out of place.
Samuel lost some of his interest in money laundering and repair when the European Union abandoned their individual currencies and adopted the Euro. Samuel considers Euro’s works of art but he misses several of the old national bank notes. He went through a long bout of depression when he cleaned his last briefcase of Italian Lira sent by the Julianio family of Sicily. The briefcase was labeled 'Government Favors'. Samuel was impressed this simple Italian family would dedicate so much money to purchase simple gifts for the humble public servents of Italy. He felt blessed to have such public minded clients.
The hardest part of Samuel Secrets’s business is money repair. A ripped bank note can be very difficult to sew back together. The quality of the stitches depends on the strength and thickness of the paper. Everyone in the business agrees the American Dollar is printed on the best paper. It is the standard all countries should follow.
Remember Samuel Secrets’s Money Laundering and Repair when you need your money cleaned. He is a true professional and very discreet with his clients. "Your Money is Treated Like My Money" is his slogan. Samuel prides himself on delivering virtually untraceable money. Your money is as clean as it was when it first came off the presses when you entrust it to Samuel Secrets.
Samuel interviews new prospective clients on the third Thursday of every month at The Kicking Donkey Pub. Look for him sitting at his specially reserved table near the emergency exit. Be sure your not followed.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
On March 18th all schools in Cloverdale celebrated Character Day. Character Day was a coordinated effort between Confederacy Elementary, Cloverdale Middle School and the Comprehensive School (St. Bartholomew's didn't participate. They claimed all their students read above grade level). Its purpose was to encourage reading. Reading scores in the Shire have been flat for the past several years. Teachers blame television, video games, and the internet for this lack of student interest.
The Shire’s Board of Governors called for a special conference of local educators to find solutions. The Board was under pressure from the Ministry of Education and Unemployment to take remedial action. If they didn’t, the Shire faced sanctions imposed by the Most Children Can Learn Act passed by Parliament two years ago to improve the Confederacy’s test scores.
The conference was held in The Hairy Lemon's party room at the beginning of the school year. Thirty minutes into the conference, after the first round of lemon drinks were served, a bloody debate erupted in the Party Room between two camps of teachers with opposing philosophies on reading rewards.
“Students must be rewarded to read,” Mr. Preffley said. That innocent comment caused the fire storm. Nearly half the teachers in the room believed any kind of external reward for student performance sent the wrong message. They preached that students should love to learn because of an inner drive for excellence. The reward should come from the subject matter learned and how it is applied in their lives. The majority of teachers believed in the burning house approach. Throw everything you can on the fire in hopes of putting it out. If a candy bar or an extra recess resulted in more books read then the external reward was worth it.
The bribery teachers reminded the inner reward teachers that they taught for a pay check. Take away the external reward of a pay check and most, if not all, of their motivation to stay in the classroom disappeared. The argument silenced the opposition and brought the room back to order. It also helped that lunch was being served.
After a delicious lunch and a few rounds of darts, the teachers reluctantly rejoined the conference. They were stuffed on good food and drowsiness was setting in.
“Listen, we can debate for hours on new techniques and get no where, or we can quickly agree on what’s been done before and claim research shows it works but hasn’t been applied properly. We do that and we get out of here early,” suggested Mr. Preffley. Mr. Preffley was chosen to be chairman because of his indifference to trends and his heavy use of rewards to motivate students. Mr. Preffley learned a long time ago to agree to everything said by your superiors in teacher training meetings and always leave the room by commenting that the time spent was the most productive training he'd attended in his thirty three years of teaching. Once said, he returned to his room and did his own thing.
Mr. Preffley's students did fine on their tests. He made sure of that by drowning them in incentives and rewards ranging from tootsie pops to the class’s famous Fishing Day on the Pond. It seemed his student’s were rewarded most of the school day and worked on their studies at home - thus giving them permission to be rewarded again the next day.
The teachers saw sense in Mr. Preffley’s suggestion as a way of getting home early and created a list of reward activities to encourage reading. Miss Pelgree agreed to find the necessary research on the internet to prove incentives worked far better than anything else, including those expensive new reading programs pushed by the textbook salesman that haunted the school’s halls at the start of every year. When the list of rewards and incentives reached the bottom of the portable white board everyone cheered, got up, and left the conference.
Character Day was the last item on the list from the conference. On Character Day, every student came to school dressed like a character from their favorite book. Each student was given a few minutes during class to talk about their book and the character they chose to represent. The teachers were excited. Character Day gave them ample time to sit in the back of their classrooms and grade papers, surf the internet or sleep with their eyes open while apparently taking notes. Yes, another skill teachers develop over the years in the classroom.
Pictured above is Leena Nancy. She is is one of the more popular students at Cloverdale Middle School and known school wide for her taste in fashion. Leena presented her 'favorite' book Magic in 3D (actually she only reads when her parents threaten to take her cell phone away). The book didn’t have characters, so for her presentation she wore the 3D glasses that came with the book and told the class they were seeing her in 3D. She spun around twice and curtsied. The room broke into thunderous applause. The students seemed amazed they could see her in 3D considering she was the one wearing the glasses. They didn’t get her humor. She didn’t care. Her teacher laughed at her cleverness and gave her an A.
“Hopeless,” he was heard mumbling under his breath - referring to his students. He was tempted to tell them that humans saw everything in 3D because of our two eyes but he couldn’t be bothered.
Leena was satisfied. She went back to her desk, chewed her gum and resumed a flurry of texts with her friend Nora. It would take a minimum of 50 lines of text back and forth for them to decide what to do after school.
Pictured above is Egbert Ellsworth Parker. He is a student in Confederacy Elementary’s Mildly Gifted First Grade. He read War and Peace by Tolstoy. He came to school dressed like a Russian General. He cried most of the day because everyone in his class kept mistaking him for George Washington.
Egbert won best costume of the day. The Head Mistress also mistook him for George Washington when she called him forward during the rewards assembly to receive his prize. He stabbed her in the thigh with his plastic sword and ran out of the gym crying.
Character Day is over. I enjoyed the day. Some of the students were very creative and others were - well, just there.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
March 18, 2009
Sir Jeffrey Foxworth Sterling
Minister of Labor, Wages and Disputes
Cloverdale in the Shire City Office.
Bookkeeper, Post Mistress and Part Time Traffic Warden
Quarterly Unemployment Report
With respect I submit my quarterly labor reports as required by regulations established by your Ministry.
I'm reporting layoffs in Cloverdale for this quarter. We hoped the recession the Outside World is experiencing wouldn't affect us, but sadly it is. Snelling Snow Removal Service reported the dismissal of its three shovellers last week. Lack of snow is the given reason. It is not surprising with the approaching Spring. We expect this every year. These layoffs bring Cloverdale’s quarterly numbers to five. The other two lay offs, if I may remind the Minister, were the result of another expected decline in Christmas baked good orders at Moss’s Wonderland Bakery.
I am happy to report that two of the dismissed shovellers found employment with the Shire Road Works. The department is preparing for new fair weather highway repair and construction. The third shoveller found work at GoodsPeeds Fishmongers. They are hiring for a busy summer fish season (yes, I remember your standing order for fresh oysters when I come to Capital City for training at month's end)
As required by regulation I certify this information is true and accurate and stamp my seal as village bookkeeper and notary public.
On an unrelated note, how is your daughter Wilma? We heard she was taken poorly several weeks ago. We are thinking of her and pray for a speedy recovery. My best to your wife as well.
On another unrelated note I want to thank you for your questions concerning my filing system. Your offer of a new computer to help me with my work if very kind but completely unnecessary. My system works well - so why change? Besides, if the machine breaks who in Cloverdale can fix it except for the boys at the Comprehensive School. Do you want me to trust a Shire computer to them?
Modern technology has its place but not in my office. I've got my account books at my fingertips, a good calculator, a reliable lamp and a push button dial phone. Honestly, what more do I need?
Shall we agree to leave that topic then.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Hello Fellow Irish and Irish For the Day,
How do I describe a St. Patrick’s Day in Cloverdale? The word Crusade comes to mind. St. Patrick’s Day provides the backdrop for a modern crusade waged by the Catholics of Cloverdale against the wolfs that have infiltrated their ranks and stolen good Catholic lambs away from salvation. The wolfs in the flock are identified as the Protestants, Evangelicals, Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses and of course Mormons. Just like St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland, the Catholics of Cloverdale seek to use this Irish holiday to reestablish the Universal Church in Cloverdale and to remind the community that the road to heaven lies through Rome. This battle for the hearts and souls of our village is fought gently, behind green banners, bagpipes, a parade and a church fair at St. Bartholomew's School. The goal is to lure the former Catholics into the sanctuary with food and drink and then remind them of what they rish by not returning to the fold. Another goal of the St. Patrick’s Day Festival is to communicate to the heathen (never been Catholic). They hope to present a faith rich in history and tradition as an alternative to the informal Christianity introduced in the Reformation.
Green banners are hung up and down the High Street at the beginning of March announcing the St. Patrick’s Day Festival. Poster are placed in shop windows listing the day’s events, times and locations. The children of St. Bartholomew’s School canvas their neighbors with flyers. Tickets to the Irish Feast in the school’s gym are sold at a very nominal price easily affordable to those with large families.
On St. Patrick’s Day the events begin with an all you can eat Irish breakfast of sausage, potato, and egg (beans on toast is an optional menu choice for those that find chewing difficult) held in Cloverdale’s Park Pavilion. The Parish Priest blesses the food and the hands that prepared it. He also consecrates the village for missionary work and conversion. At 9:00 A.M. the parade begins at St. Bartholomew’s School. The Bishop is traditionally the Grand Marshall, leading the parade in a green car. His Grace is followed by the Lord Mayor. The teaching nuns of the Holy Order of the Sisters of Ever Increasing Hope come next dancing an Irish jig with a few of their more more talented students. Irish dancing requires some athletic ability with the flexibility in the legs for nearly impossible kicks. The older nuns, to feeble to walk, sit in the back of a pick up truck and toss green salt water taffy wrapped in bible verses into the crowd. The older students walk alongside the cars passing out missionary pamphlets written by the Jesuits. The back of each pamphlet is stamped with the local Priest’s name and the daily times for Mass.
After the parade, the village is invited to the church fair and indoor carnival. Admission is free to anyone wearing green. The fair is good for an hour or so’s entertainment. Usually once you’ve played a few rounds of Bingo, dunked for apples, eaten enough cotton candy to turn your stomach pink and dunked a priest ot two you’ve hand enough for the afternoon.
The Music for the St. Patrick's Feast is Provided by the Leprechauns.Later in the evening many villagers return to St. Bartholomew’s for the St. Patrick’s Feast. Admittance is granted to those that purchased tickets from the door to door sales carried out by the school’s primary school children. The menu is kept simple consisting of fresh rolls, Irish Stew, an assortment of Irish desserts and of course to wash it all down - the Irish Ale, which never stops flowing. By the end of the night your seeing green - a sort of sea sick green - but green nevertheless.
They play well when they're sober.
They play well when they're sober.
Friends, St. Patrick’s Day in Cloverdale is something not to be missed. You get to sample an Irish breakfast, enjoy a nearly forgettable parade, stomach the screeching of the bagpipes, and consume an Irish Stew of green gravy dotted with green food colored mystery meat, carrots, potatoes and everything else found in the school’s freezer that was past its sell by date. The Catholics get you for one day of the year. That seems to please them and for that, St. Patrick’s Day serves its purpose.
Have A Great Day,
Monday, March 16, 2009
Cloverdale residents enjoy many festivals, fairs, bake sales, garage sales, and pig roasts because, as we all know, life in a small village can be boring at times. One highlight of the calendar is the Lord Mayor’s Annual Founder’s Day Barbecue and Turkey Shoot. We also have the spectacular Bingo Blowout sponsored by the Holy Order of the Sisters of Ever Increasing Hope at Saint Bartholomew's. Cloverdale's list of events goes on and on so I won’t bore you with, well boredom. Let me tell you about one event in debth.
Cloverdale's Fashion on Parade is the one event you can’t miss if you want to associate with those 'In the Pudding' as the locals say. Fashion on Parade is sponsored by Miss Turley’s Senior Home Economics Class at Cloverdale’s Comprehensive School. It is held in March every year bringing to an end Miss Turley's curriculum unit on color, fabric, sewing and design.
This year’s Fashion on Parade was held on Friday evening. The school’s gym was a sea of faces. Those who sponsored the event, along with their family and friends, were given the best seats near the cat walk. Those who contributed prizes for the winners were given the bleachers in the gym’s first tier. Parents of the students and the general public were given the above concourse, second tier bleacher seats.
Miss Turley’s students spent the year designing the fashions. They painstakingly went through the process of design, from the basic drawing of the dress to the fabric selection. Once the designs were approved, the students approached local businesses hoping to find someone willing to fund the costs associated with the construction of a fine Miss Turley approved garment. The students took their drawings to each potential sponsor and sold the dress’s concept. If they did their homework, and had all their ducks in a row, they’d walk away with the money needed to create their senior year masterpiece.
Friends, may I present Lorella Lumpkin, the winner of Cloverdale's Fashion on Parade for 2009. In the picture, you see her wearing her beautiful Dress of Many Colors. Lorella's dress was sponsored by Moss’s Wonderland Bakery on the High Street. The crowd gasped when Lorella walked out on the cat walk from behind the concession stand. She stopped as flashbulbs enveloped her in light. Once she regained her eyesight, she walked carefully through the course marked on the gym floor with masking tape. At the end of the runway she stopped, turned, and shot a few winks to her parents and Mr. Moss. Flower pedals were tossed before her as she returned to the Concession Stand. It is the audience’s way of praising the achievement in the fabric arts.
Lorella Lumpkin was victorious. She owned the night. Miss Turley was pleased. I personally thought the dress was an abomination of the creative arts but I’m no judge of fashion. I went to the Fashion on Parade in hopes of gathering a few more interesting stories for my letters. I’m happy to report my mixing paid off. I got the stories I was looking for - stories about life in our Cloverdale in the Shire.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Herbert Herring in his new Confirmation Suit. He is Not a Happy Boy.Hello Folks,
Apparently Water and Tight Collars are Not His Thing.
Apparently Water and Tight Collars are Not His Thing.
Another letter from Cloverdale. I’m hoping this finds all of you well and in good spirits this Sunday. The weather here in Cloverdale is good. Temperatures are what you’d expect for a mid March day.
I’d like to tell you about a young LDS boy here in our small Branch in the Confederacy of Dunces. His name is Herbert Herring, son of Kyle and Harriot Herring, good neighbors and new converts to the Church.
Herbert Herring is the eight year old older brother of six year old Hal Herring (remember Hal, the cronic runaway - see my letter postmarked January 25, 2009). Herbert turned eight three weeks ago. Herbert, like all other Mormon eight year olds, was expected to be baptized into our little Branch. His baptism was schedule for the Sunday after his birthday at Cloverdale’s Seventh Day Adventist Church but was postponed until last night because of an odd quirk in Herbert’s personality. Herbert is afraid of water. You can see how that could affect a baptism. Yes.......... Houston, we have a problem!
I should explain, our LDS branch meets in the Seventh Day Assembly Church because we are too small to have a building of our own. The Adventists go to church on Saturdays, leaving their building empty on Sundays. It works nicely for them because we pay a fee to use the building. The only problem we have with the Adventist building is the large cross hanging in the chapel. There are also anti-Mormon pamphlets outside the Pastor’s Office but we hide them during our meetings. No one is the wiser.
I spoke to Kyle and Harriot about Herbert's problem before his birthday. Kyle asked if we could avoid the immersion part of baptism and do a quick sprinkle on the forehead. “It works for the Catholics,” he said. Kyle is still pretty green when it comes to Mormonism. I do my best to explain but he is the kind of man that listens and then hears only what he wants to hear. After a small debate I convinced him that immersion was one of those things the Church wouldn’t compromise. Herbert needed to go under. It was as simple as that.
“How does he bathe,” I asked his mother one Sunday after church.
“Herbert takes showers. He is OK with showers. Herbert’s problem is getting into water, not water pouring over him,” she clarified.
The Herrings invited me over for supper to help them explain the necessity of immersion to Herbert. After supper we sat in the parlor to talk. Hal ran around the room making a nuisance of himself. Hal was jealous of the attention Herbert was getting and sought ways to insert himself into the conversation.
“Hal!” Harriot Shouted. “Stop that at once.”
“No,” he shouted back. I cringed. Hal was one stubborn boy. Spankings didn’t seem have any affect on him. Time out worked as long as you locked him in his room.
“Im getting the key to your room,” Harriot said rising from the sofa. Hal knew his mother was serious and ran out the front door and into the front yard.
“Is he running away again?” I asked watching him run around the hedge, onto the sidewalk, and down the street.
“Yes, he does that.,” Harriot said, seemingly unconcerned about the distance Hal was putting between her and himself. “He won’t go far. He’ll run to the end of the sidewalk and stop at the street. Hal is afraid to cross the street without one of us thanks to a new DVD we ordered from the Ministry of Health and Asylums on how to prevent your child from running away.”
“Interesting,” I replied. “Is it intended for parents?”
“Well, you’re suppose to watch it as a family. We all sat down together to watch it for Home Evening. One viewing and Hal was cured of his running problem.”
“Remarkable,” I said. “What educational approach did it take?”
“ It’s graphic but the experts say tough love is the cure for a disobedient child. The DVD starts by showing a runaway child laying in a hospital bed. You see tubes inserted everywhere in his body. Then a doctor comes in with this enormous needle. He smiles as he walks toward the poor child. Then you see the child’s face as the needle finds its mark in his arm. The boy’s screams were so loud we had to mute the sound.” Harriot seemed excited to describe this unique educational film put out by the Ministry.
“Oh, that wasn’t the best part,” Kyle inserted into the graphic description Harriot was providing. “Before you see the child in the hospital you see a reenactment of the accident done with computer graphics. The boy is running away from home. The mother is crying in her front yard begging him to return. The dad gets into his car to chase the boy down. Suddenly the boy runs into the street. A car comes out of nowhere and hits the boy. The boy flies through the air for several feet and lands on his head. Blood starts flowing from his nose, ears and eyes. Oh, I almost forgot the broken legs all twisted up behind him.”
I was ready to request a conversation adjustment but was cut off in mid sentence as Kyle continued the blow by blow description of the film. “The car that hit the boy is driven by an old grandma. She gets out of the car and faints dead away with a heart attack. You see, the kids watching the DVD see the consequences of running away.”
“Hal was so upset after seeing it that he stayed home from school for three days. I drive him now. It’s the only way we can get him to go.” Harriot added.
A few minutes later I was able to redirect the conversation to Herbert and his approaching baptism.
“Herbert,” I asked. “Do you see why you must be dunked under the water to be baptized?”
“Because Jesus was dunked,” he answered.
“That’s right. If Jesus was dunked then so should we,” I said in what I thought was an iron clad defense of baptism by immersion.
“Was Jesus scared of water?” Herbert blurted out. I felt defeat coming on. That eight year old was clever in his reasoning. He smiled. He knew the argument was his.
“Herbert, we are all afraid of something. You must learn to face your fears. You must learn to trust water. Water is good. Your body is made mostly of water. You drink water. Water is everywhere. Why are you afraid of WATER!?” I was shouting at the end. My blood pressure was reaching dangerous levels.
“Our teacher showed us a movie about the dangers of water. We saw a girl drown. She was floating down a river with her face in the water, then she went over a waterfall and hit the rocks. Water isn’t always a good thing,” Herbert countered.
“Don’t tell me,” I asked Kyle and Harriot. “That was another Ministry of Health and Asylum educational film?” They both nodded their heads.
After an hour of debate both sides went to their respective corners for deliberation. Herbert was in the kitchen making himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Kyle, Harriot and I were in the parlor discussing our next move. Ten minutes later the battle was engaged. We would use our heavier guns.
“Herbert,” Kyle said to his son. “What would it take to get you to be baptized in the water?” Herbert’s eyes grew large when he realized they had reached the point in the debate when parents resort to bribes to get their kids to do things they don't want to do. Thirty minutes later the list of toys was finished. Herbert went to bed after placing his signature on the baptismal contract. Kyle and Harriot were exhausted. I stood to go home, got in my car and drove away.
As I rounded the corner to pull into Elm Avenue I saw Hal standing on the corner staring blanking to the other side of the street remembering the days when he once roamed free. He looked at me with the eyes of a caged animal. I waved and accelerated toward home.
Herbert was baptized last night in a nearly dignified ceremony. He was good until he reached the top of the stairs leading down into the water. Kyle had his hand and starting pulling him toward the water. He resisted. Kyle pulled. Each step was an exercise in patience. Herbert's tears flowed down his face. His nose was running profusely.
Herbert stopped and would go no further when the water reached his knees.
“I’ll pee in the water. I’ll pee in the water!” Herbert shouted. It was his last argument to stop the proceedings. Half the congregation laughed. The other half were appalled at the disrespect this young boy was giving such a sacred ceremony.
Kyle made a quick decision. He grabbed Herbert by both hands, quickly said the prayer, and pulled the boy from the steps into the water. The boy lost his footing and went straight in. Both witnesses quickly nodded their heads in agreement that he had gone completely under. Herbert came out of the water without sin. His pure state lasted until he caught his breath and let his father know what he thought of him. The curtain was drawn to to shield those gathered from Herbert’s displeasure.
Herbert’s confirmation was postponed until Today. We are all hoping Herbert is in a forgiving mood.
Well, that’s all from me today. The show must go on.