October 2007

Sometimes you’ve got to look more than once to find an interesting tidbit in the Morrison County Record. On first glance, I missed the full article on the meeting of elected officials called together by Little Falls Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem in the October 28, 2007, issue of the paper. When I flipped back to reread it, I noticed there was quite the discussion of the Northstar Corridor, a population/transportation corridor that runs from the Twin Cities north along the Mississippi River. The corridor is expected to see a population explosion of an extra 200,000 people by 2025.

In order to ease traffic congestion along the corridor, a commuter train has been proposed, with the first leg running from Big Lake to the Twin Cities and a potential second leg running from Rice/St. Cloud down to Big Lake. The Big Lake section is already under construction, with work being done on a Minneapolis Light Rail Transit connection and a Vehicle Maintenance Facility in Big Lake. This portion of the commuter rail is due to be completed by late 2009.

There are many people in Morrison County who would like to see it run up here as far as Camp Ripley. Carol Anderson, director of Morrison County Community Development, is all for it, according to the Record article. You go, girl!

In the same article, Randy Winscher of Royalton argues, “The big problem evolves around the fact that people are hauling boats, campers and 4-wheelers. Northstar won’t help that.” He’s right. Sorry to say, but you won’t be able to load your boat, camper or 4-wheeler onto the train. You will, however, be able to bring your bicycle. Here’s the point Randy might be missing. If we can get all the non-boat, non-camper and non-4-wheeler toting vehicles off the road, we might have more room for all of the heavy equipment toters.

A thought that wasn’t expressed in the article was that the Northstar Commuter train would make long-distance travel available to people who don’t own cars. I know several people who live along the corridor who are in this situation and they have great difficulty arranging for rides to other cities along the route. It makes me wonder if this particular population was overlooked when they were crunching the projected ridership numbers for the Hiawatha Light Rail line in the Twin Cities. Ridership exceeded expectations beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. In fact, as of 2005, ridership had exceeded those expectations by 58.2 percent, according to the Metropolitan Council’s Annual Report.

As one of those unexpected riders (albeit I do own a car), I love the Hiawatha line and have taken it numerous times into downtown Minneapolis so that I can avoid traffic congestion that occurs after events. It’s a breeze to ride and eliminates the headaches of finding your way through the maze of one-way (or is that two-way?) streets of Minneapolis. Parking is easier as well, although, if we had a commuter train available from Little Falls to the Twin Cities, we wouldn’t have to worry about parking at all. We could leave the car home.

Frances “Babe” Brisk wasn’t too thrilled about the thought of that traffic becoming two-way. According to the Record article, she said, “Yes, and Mr. and Mrs. Twin Cities then want to change how we live.” Too late! Unfortunately, Mr. and Mrs. Twin Cities have already changed the way we live by building their McMansions all around our lake shores. They’ve brought the boat, camper and 4-wheeler traffic mentioned by Mr. Winscher. We’re already dealing with the effects of the population boom along the corridor. We may as well get something good out of the deal, like the ability to travel easily along the corridor for shopping, health care, and employment opportunities. Maybe with the commuter rail we can encourage Mr. and Mrs. Twin Cities to assist us in producing more higher-paying job opportunities in the central and northern parts of the state.

When it comes to the Northstar Commuter Rail, I’m all for it.

For more information, check out the Northstar Commuter Rail website.

Itching for a speedy swim,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel


The search for a Little Falls City Administrator is getting to be a regular saga – it may unfold for decades at the rate it’s going.  In the October 28, 2007, issue of the Morrison County Record, Joyce Moran reported on the results of four candidate interviews conducted recently.  An unnamed candidate, the lone female in the field, was called “strong-headed” and hacked for not wanting to leave her farm and move into the city if she got the position.

Is this not calling the kettle black?  This City Council is so strong-headed that it’s willing to pass ordinances that go against state law (i.e. the ordinance that requires that the city admin live in the city).  The Council better realize that it’s going to take a strong-headed person to deal with all of their conflicting personalities and petty bickering.

Turning into a hammer-headed shark,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

I’ve been absent from Fish Wrap for several weeks, my small school of fish and I have been busy relocating to a larger aquarium. I’ve been moving from dawn till until well into the nighttime hours, my Darwinesque feet are so sore that they scream when I stand on them… I should have stuck with the tail. What can I say, evolution, it happens.

The reason the move was so tough was because we own an on-line bookstore called Madeline West Online which has a library of about 3,000 books. We own a second library of about 1,500 books that are unappraised and not yet listed for sale. When I move it’s like having to move twice because there’s the entire household that has to be transplanted then their is a fully operational bookstore complete with our own little post office operation that has to be transported as well.

During our transition from Little Falls to Royalton our little website suddenly saw an increase in the number of orders coming through. We also noticed something else; a host of fraudulent transactions that prompted conversations with the FBI and the Secret Service … gulp. Here’s what I learned.

Those who steal credit cards numbers don’t need your personal information…although it probably helps. They have computer programs that “tumble numbers” changing a couple numbers in the sequence until that hit a legitimate credit card number and BINGO!

Essentially, they’ve been using my website by adding books to their shopping cart then running potential card number sequences until they find one that makes it through processing.  To date they haven’t found one that works…  they’ve struck pay-dirt on at least 12 different Visa credit cards. The only reason I knew they weren’t legitimate orders was because the name and shipping addresses consisted of the letters sfd sdf. The country of origin on 11 transactions was Australia the other was from somewhere in Denmark.

I’m relieved that there was no real name or address because I may have never realized that the transactions weren’t legitimate and would have shipped the books out only to end up having the payment for the books reversed by the credit card company. I would have lost my inventory and found my self repaying Visa for the fraudulent charges. Who ever is running the scam wasn’t processing small orders either, they were placing orders for rare books purchasing 200.00 dollars worth of inventory per transaction. The grand total of fraudulent credit card transactions rests at about 1,200.00. 

Following yesterdays conversations with the Secret Service, I have since contacted my website company and requested that they block the thief’s IP addresses to prevent them from using my website to try and come up with additional card numbers. I am sure they will have no problem locating a new host who will jump through the same learning curve of hoops I did in an effort to figure out how to respond and who to talk to.

What I’ve learned from the whole experience is that, as a consumer, it helps to be careful with your credit card information but ultimately our attempts at credit card security may not even be a factor. The Secret Service said that number tumbling isn’t done by someone sitting a computer, rather it is a computer program that runs number sequences. Which means that stealing for these individuals is like playing a game of Bingo or the lottery. Based on the ratio of failed processing attempts on my website, their odd of hitting a legitimate card number appears to be about 5 to 1.

That having been said, check your credit card statement every month …like clock work.

Splashing on Sunday,

Olive Rockfish

In the October 14, 2007, edition of the Morrison County Record, Kelly Larson of Bowlus, MN, asked a very good question in her letter to the editor complaining about the smoking ban. She said, “This is just one right they have taken from us – come on people how many more are you going to let them have?”

Larson also invoked the “soldiers fighting and dying for our freedom every day” in her argument.

I have news and it isn’t good. The soldiers in Iraq are not fighting for our freedoms or rights, although they’ve been told this and we’ve been told this and many of us, soldiers and civilians alike, now know better. They are fighting for an imperialist White House administration that is deciding which rights and freedoms we will have.

Let’s take just one example of a major right we have lost due to the current administration – that of habeas corpus. Habeas corpus was our right to ask why we were being held if arrested and jailed. We had a right to challenge those who jailed us. Think about this. Now, if you’ve been labeled a terrorist or enemy combatant or any other anti-American term the administration dreams up, you can be detained without any chance of defending yourself. Detained indefinitely. And you merely have to do something this administration doesn’t like. (Like writing this blog post, maybe?)

We lost habeas corpus with the Military Commission’s Act of 2006. We almost got it back just recently, but the Senate was four votes short of reinstating it. Four votes. Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman can be thanked for that. He voted against restoring habeas corpus. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar voted for restoring habeas corpus.

Want to know more about habeas corpus? Just google the term. You can also check out this link to Keith Olbermann’s special commentary on the loss of this fundamental right.

How many more rights and freedoms are we going to let them have, indeed?

Fighting for air,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

This just in. – – A nice visual of rights lost in the U.S. and around the world since September 11, 2001.

In the October 21, 2007, issue of the Morrison County Record, a couple of articles touched upon the smoking ban.  One was the Little Falls City Council’s discussion of what it would take to get ash urns outside in front of businesses that smokers frequent, so they can put out their cigs before entering.  Another article discussed the ramifications of the smoking ban on charitable gambling, seeing as how so many tabs are pulled in bars and clubs where smoking used to be allowed.

Of course, part of the uproar around the smoking ban is that bar owners are worried about losing business because people can’t smoke.  The tenor of the discussion has turned to blaming non-smokers for this loss of business.  “Darn you, you non-smokers.  You’re making it so we can’t smoke in the bars!”  As my fellow new poster, Suckerlip Blenny pointed out, why are the non-smokers getting blamed for the loss of business?  The non-smokers in many cases (this fish, for one) didn’t frequent establishments that allowed smoking because we wanted to be able to breathe.  We weren’t part of the revenue stream.  If smokers want to see who is to blame for the loss of bar business, they need look no further than their own bathroom mirrors.  If they decide to stay home and smoke, rather than go to their favorite watering hole, that is certainly their choice – just as it has been the choice of non-smokers for years, but the feared crumbling of the bar business certainly isn’t the fault of non-smokers.  Non-smokers may even start contributing to bar revenue, now that they can breathe.   (Now, if we could just get bars to turn the music down a few decibels so we can hear each other speak, that’d really be something.)

Deaf, but breathing fine,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

The new addition of St. Gabriel’s Hospital in Little Falls, MN, has officially been dedicated, now that the ribbon has been snipped.  Lots of community money has been thrown at the addition.  And for what?  That’s a question that has passed over these fishy lips and the fishy lips of several acquaintances.  If I remember correctly, not so many years ago, the hospital was remodeled, also using lots of community money.  Since that remodeling, which was ostensibly done to attract more patients, it seems that the patient population decreased, rather than increased.  Many hospital beds remained empty.  So why do we need a newer and bigger addition?  To remain competitive with the other newer and bigger hospitals in neighboring communities?  Even though insurance companies will no longer cover long hospital stays?

And we wonder why the cost of health care is so high.

Oh, my aching fish belly,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

It’s official.  Pumpkins have been carved over the Morrison County Record.

Do you think our site needs a name change?

Pumpkin Goo Wrap, perhaps?

Doesn’t have quite the same ring as Fish Wrap.

Orange around the gills,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

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