Wheat fields, fraudsters and the Dark Thing from a Wrinkle In Time

So… today is my first day with day care in quite a while as the day care manager is back from vacation, and I can explain to my thousands of loyal followers why I haven’t been posting in a while…

I took a class.

It was a very interesting class called the Summer Fraud Institute at North Seattle Community College, which I highly recommend. It had absolutely nothing to do with preemies or bioethics, which are the usual topics of this blog, but then the usual topics of this blog have thus far generated no money at all this year or last, and I would like to go back to the workforce and make money again. As you may know, I have a background as a non-profit financial administrator of small and medium-sized non-profit organizations. I wrote their budgets, monitored monthly spending, and made reports to their boards of directors. I was drawn to non-profits because of the mission-oriented work they do, wanting to make a difference and such, still making me feel like the Peace Corps isn’t really over. (I finished my term in the Peace Corps 13 years ago.) However, recent years have taught me that being the finance person for a non-profit is not a good long-term plan if I want job security or enjoyable work. I needed to branch out, and I was kind of done with the mission-oriented jobs.

This program was a combination of three courses, introduction to criminology, fraud examination and forensic accounting. We learned about fraud schemes, corruption schemes, detection methods, and money laundering. This kind of accounting is more project-oriented because you’re trying to figure out what happened during a particular time period rather than having a set of books be “your books” for several years, which means you get to move from one project to the next and feel renewed.

The final project for the class was a fun “whodunit” in which we were asked to look in to the possibility of fraud at a minor-league baseball team. We were given 30 pages of financial reports that looked correct and then allowed to ask the professor for any additional documents or to ask what we would hear if we interviewed certain employees. The reports all looked correct because the fraudster knew how to produce believable false documentation to support the fraud. It turned out the fraudster was the office manager, who was running three schemes — a ticket-revenue-skimming scheme, a purchasing-kickback scheme in collusion with a corrupt salesman, and a ghost-employee payroll scheme, all totaling about $9,000 over four months.

So now the task is to find my first job in this field. There’s jobs working for accounting firms, working for detectives, working for the government, or working as an internal investigator at a corporation. I’m also allowed to take a test given by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, that, if I pass, would permit me to put “CFE” after my name on business cards after I’ve worked in the fraud field for two years.

This class was fun, but it did take up all of my library time, thus no blogging about preemie stuff for a while.

In addition, I got to go on two fun trips, the Ride Around Washington, a six-day, 410-mile bicycling adventure through the wheat fields of Eastern Washington state. It started in Walla Walla and worked its way north to Metalline Falls.

The Spiral Highway climbing out of Clarkston, Wash. You have to ride on all those funny squiggles (all the same road) to climb out of the Snake River Canyon.

My lovely wife stayed home with Gabriel so I could go on this trip. Two weeks later was a church camping trip to the Cougar Rock Campground at Mt. Rainier National Park, and Gabriel and I spent three nights in a tent and this time Miri got a few days off from parenthood. Gabriel was quite a trooper, and we went on two hikes. He and a 3-year-old friend started a game called “boing” in which they shouted “boing” every time they hopped over a step in the trail. And they liked to run down the trail so fast that I and an 8-year-old had to take turns chasing them down and telling them to slow down. I wasn’t expecting to get left behind and made to feel old this early.


While camping on this trip, I read Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time to put him to sleep at night. The third night there, he demanded that I read “the shadow page” again. That is, the pages when the children see the shadowy Dark Thing for the first time. And I’m like “No, this stuff gave me nightmares when I was 8!” and I also thought, “What kind of 4-year-old are you that you’re picking up on this much plot? Who are you, Charles Wallace?” I re-read it once, but then refused to do that again.

And then there’s the business of writing and publishing. My class and my trips kept me from sending proposals to agents. The last proposals I sent were at the beginning of July. And now I’m not even getting rejections any more. So I’m assuming that means they’ve all “timed out” and I’m free to pitch the idea to anyone, even office mates of the agents who have ignored me.

And I have gotten a little bit of creative writing done. That is, a science-fiction novella that I’m working on about an academy for young people in which it’s supposedly a great honor to be sent there, but none of the students can figure out what makes them special enough to be sent there except that they’re tall. Ok, so maybe that’s not the most riveting premise, but I’m not thinking about the audience yet — it’s my draft, darn it. 🙂


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