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It Takes a Disaster to Unite a Village [Mar. 30th, 2009|07:34 am]
I awoke Wednesday morning around 5am to the sound of someone banging on my front door. It was Al, our neighbor, telling us to evacuate while we still can. Still in a tired stupor, it took me precisely three seconds for my brain to boot up and realize what he was so frantic about. Behind him was Santa Barbara, the street I live on in Bismarck, two blocks north of Cottonwood Lake and half a block east of the Wachter Draining Canal. The entire street was submerged under a foot and a half of water with ice chunks floating everywhere.

We quickly packed our things and somehow managed to fjord my brother’s Chrysler Sebring across the flooded streets. As we turned north on Bridgeport Drive we noticed one of the neighbors spray painting a message across the snow on his lawn. Despite being in a very precarious position at the moment I had to chuckle as I read the completed sign.


I won’t bore you all with the details about how we spent the next two days sandbagging our house, how I frantically tried to find a safe route for a Fargo friend to her home in Thief River Falls, or how I stupidly fell into the flood waters while trying to retrieve the mail (I forgot the day before and the communal mailbox was about to be submerged), but I do feel compelled to break character in order to discuss the matter of community involvement during a disaster.

I remember the days immediately following Hurricane Katrina when private citizens were seemingly organizing faster than FEMA, sending care packages or going down as volunteers to assist in rescue, cleanup, or to rebuild. It was a seemingly unifying theme for not just Americans but for members of the world community as aid, volunteers, and well wishes poured in from all around.

The same occurred on Wednesday as thousands of volunteers poured into Bismarck, Grand Forks, and Fargo to help fill sandbags and set up barricades. Volunteers poured in from the Twin Cities in Minnesota, Rapid City South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, hell I even met one from that drove all the way from Canada to help. The Red Cross in Bismarck was so overwhelmed with volunteers that they sent several dozen of them home. When we pulled our truck to the Bismarck Civic Center, or “Sandbag Ave,” to get our free sandbags it took less than two minutes to load over one ton due to the hundreds of volunteers loading. I received a text message from a friend of mine in the United Kingdom, saying her church has heard of our situation and offered their thoughts and prayers.

This is beyond amazing. People are dropping their routines, trekking long distances, and risk catching acute bronchitis (which I unfortunately contracted in the process) to help complete strangers. For once we were not separated by any lines whether racial, geographic origins, or hockey affiliations, but by the shared trait of being fellow members of humanity.

Now, I’m not one to talk like a Marxist (although I like to dress up as a Soviet soldier and have Red Dawn parties) but why can’t we do this all the time? Why do we stop helping? Is volunteering a novelty that wears off when we realize we must initiate the political blame game? Did we even do our volunteer work with genuine intentions or did we just do it for the community service hours to pad our resumes and college applications?

Perhaps Adrian Veidt was correct in his assessment of humanity (see or read Watchmen for details). It seems as though a disaster has to occur for the village to unite and work together under a common banner. Fortunately, for humanity, there are many who are far less cynical than Alan Moore, who helps their fellow man in need. Many of us were spared the fate of Fargo and should be grateful for that by helping out in any way we can. So this article is a rally call to many at UND and others in the world reading this online; people in Fargo need your help. Volunteer what you can. I heard they still need sandbaggers as well as people at the Red Cross and Salvation Army. For those outside the ND area, that cannot travel, I won’t be so naïve to suggest financial donations but thoughts and prayers are always welcome. Such things may not have an exchange rate at the bank but being remembered and thought of holds back more emotional water than a sandbag ever could and it’s gonna be a while for the waters to recede.
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Your Period and Mine (A Guy's Perspective) [Jan. 29th, 2009|05:54 pm]
Now, if at any time you ladies think I’m being too lenient on men… they’ll get their turn in the hot seat next week.

Ladies, has a guy ever made you sick by burping out loud, still wearing the same t-shirt you met him in five years ago, or using generic soap instead of the real shampoo you got him? Does a male's inability to verbally communicate messages other than “uh huh” send you into a conniption fit that would nullify Chuck Norris’ roundhouse kick? Does the movie Red Dawn make no sense to you? If you have answered “yes” to any of these then this article is for you!!Read more...Collapse )
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A Time of Regret or Hope (And Change!)™? [Jan. 9th, 2009|10:49 am]
Something I have noticed about people this time of year is that they are obsessed with the past. There is something about the resetting of the Roman calendar that makes us reflect upon what we have done during our last rotation around the sun. It is around this time that people look back on past events, and then laugh, smile, or feel regret. Unfortunately, what we usually do is regret.

We, as people, typically regret the previous year because of past mistakes. Maybe we missed a vital opportunity, screwed up a relationship, bought Britney Spear’s Circus album or, in my case, developed a genuine affection for a woman that wasn’t a 1968 Dodge Charger R/T and did not AT ALL share my feelings. To make matters worse that Hallmark holiday of love where we celebrate the death of a saint by getting our significant other chocolate and diamonds is right around the corner.

What should be a time of celebration and new beginnings has become a time of regret and depression, especially if you’re a McCain or Vikings fan.

What we forget in our selfishness and despair is that the atomic clock is still ticking and life is going on without you. We fail to see any opportunity when we lament over missing previous ones and until Doc Brown invents a hybrid that can generate 1.21 gigawatts and actually attain a speed of 88 mph (Yeah, right) we cannot change the past. Unless you’re a paid or aspiring historian, or you can’t get enough of The History Channel, living in the past serves no practical purpose. If you have not learned from your mistake and moved on you’re only wasting time that cannot be regained.

Furthermore, we fail to realize how our not-so pleasant experiences build our character and make us stronger. While my attempt to court a beautiful women resulted in a Top Gun-esque crash and burn that WILL require a few more beers to douse the flames out (it’s a good excuse to go to a bar anyway), I feel very proud that I mustered the courage to give it all I had. It has made me a stronger person knowing I can do it again and probably get rejected at least once more. There is always a hidden opportunity or lesson in every hardship; we just have to find them.

We cannot get caught up in the winds of collective myspace misery no matter how appealing My Chemical Romance makes it look. Sure it feels nice to have a bunch of random people express charity but does pity really make us feel happy and, more importantly, does it last? Expressions of commiseration is a pain killer and, as such, is a controlled substance that gives only a temporary buzz and demands more and more as time goes on. While attaining solace from friends during times of hardship is essential to recovery, it is not meant to be taken after said recuperation for fear of addiction… and clinginess tends to annoy others.

In conclusion, avoid regret when reflecting upon the past year. As humans it is our nature to be flawed and otherwise royally screw up. We all do it so learn from your own mistakes or, better yet, learn from the mistakes of others and emulate the lessons learned in your own life. World history is often seen as one big regret but it is also contains a long list of success stories. With however many billion people there are in the world, chances are someone made the same mistakes you did but they moved on and made something of themselves. I can go on and on about how much potential every person has but A) it gets repetitive, B) I do not know you, and C) that’s Rick Warren’s job. All I can say is that every person has the means and the possibility to ascend to greatness regardless if you see it or not. Whether you succeed or fail is entirely up to you.

To quote the great fictional Master Oogway, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.”

Don’t waste it.
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The Gift of the Magi (Made in China) [Jan. 5th, 2009|11:24 am]
The Gift of the Magi (Made in China)
Tim Rodenberger

While watching Futurama on Comedy Central a few days before Christmas I witnessed a commercial for Kmart where two parents were happily watching their children open up several lavish gifts including Lego Star Wars kits, miniaturized vehicles you can ride in, and Hannah Montana clothes. The father then has a brief dose of reality and leans over to the mother to ask how much it all costs, establishing the gender role of the male as the money maker and the female as the money spender. Looking at the father as if he just asked her if he was still the king of the castle, the mother gleefully whispered, “Don’t worry, I bought them at Kmart.” The father then resumed his buzz as the family looked richer but became poorer.

I had to laugh at the commercial. What kind of superficial ad was this? It was so cheesy and corny that I couldn’t believe any respectful retailer would run such an ad. While my employer, Wal-Mart, does employ some cliché ads appealing to the inner cheap patriotism in us all, they would never stoop THAT low now would they?

As if on cue, a Wal-Mart ad appeared with some kids sneaking past their parent’s room to get to see Santa Claus and, more importantly, get their presents early. Their covert operation into friendly territory is blown when mother appears through her door with a smile, ruining their reconnaissance and sending the children in a full French advance (retreat). The mother then contemplates that she got them everything and got it cheap because she got the presents at Wal-Mart.

OK, so maybe all retailers resort to such corny appeals to our wallets… that and copy each others advertisements.

While the cheesiness of the ads and the potential copyright issues made me cringe, what disturbed me more was how both box stores portray gift giving. While the parents were happy that their children were gleeful at the gifts they’ll play with for one day and get bored of the next, they seemed more proud of the fact that they bought them cheaper than the rest of who shop at the same store (“NO ONE CAN ESCAPE THE WAL-MART!! Mwu’hahahahahahaha!!”).

This is somewhat true of us as a society. Many of us are more concerned with how much we spent than how our loved ones feel about the presents we got them; however, most people brag about how much they spent and not how little. Let’s face it, does anyone honestly think an 11-year-old girl goes to school sporting the newest Hannah Montana backpack and matching shirt, then brags that her parents spent $5 less than the others? Or perhaps a wife goes to her inner-circle of ‘friends’, shows off the diamond jewelry the husband bought her and then brags he got them 25% off at Zales on Christmas Eve? Yeah, right.

And if you think I’m being misogynistic, guys do this too although we never graduated to jewelry and clothes, our toys just graduated into more electrical and motorized ones. Men love neat things and stuff that they can show off, especially if it came from Sharper Image, Best Buy, or from some random website from Japan they had translated. Men will take their newest toys to the office and wait for most opportune moment to show it off whether it is an automatic back massaging office chair, a self-heated coffee mug, or an ink pen that also has an LED so you can find all the cheek marks on the copy machine. Let us not forget the global positioning satellite (GPS). That’s the device that tells the user where they are at all times despite the fact that not only do males know their current location (regardless if they do or not) but refuse to take directions from a box whose female voice resembles that of another nagging one husbands are all-too familiar with.

So both genders have immersed themselves into the gift receiving and not the gift giving. We all have heard this notion before almost as much as we’ve heard of the dangers of smoking, drinking and trans-fatty acids; however, like that we ignore it all the same and perpetuate the trend further. This year on the Day After Thanksgiving Sale, which we notoriously labeled “Black Friday,” one of our own was killed in New York because customers trampled him to get to a plasma screen. This is what we have reduced ourselves to, all in the name of gift giving during our treasured season of thanks and rejoicing.

Even so, I am not here to lecture you all any further than that. As stated in the previous paragraph, we’ve all heard the same message of give because it is nice lesson from just about everyone. We’ve all read the editorials, seen the pundits on television shriek at what happened to that one Wal-Mart employee, and heard the criticism from ‘proletariats’ Sean Penn, Hugo Chavez and other rich people saying giving more is “patriotic” but won’t give any more themselves. What I am typing for you today is a radical idea that my Mom and I came up with this morning that I’d like to market to everyone.

Some say gift giving came from the original nativity scene where the three (we assume three) wise men gave baby Jesus and his parents three practical gifts to assist him with his upbringing. Theological and historical discourse aside, the presents from the wise men, or the “gift of the magi” as coined by O. Henry in 1906, represents one of the most fundamental and morally pure examples of gift giving. The wise men traveled far, their origins unknown although historians and theologians suspect Persia, to give someone they barely knew, expensive gifts that he would need and got nothing in return for their kindness other than the thanks of Mary and Joseph.

Now, the three gifts remind me of a famous book written by Catherine Ryan Hyde in 2000 called “Pay it Forward.” In Ryan’s novel, a boy named Trevor did amazing things for three different people and only asked that they pass the kindness on to three other people, who in turn would pass it on to three others and so forth. The whole premise is to pass on kindness for the sake of doing so and hoping it will become contagious. Similar to the message of gift giving, we love the story (especially the film adaptation with Kevin Spacey), but do not emulate the lesson in our own lives. As Jimmy Carter said during his Malaise Speech, we cherish the ideals like a dusty book of patriotism that we only bring out to read on the Fourth of July. Carter also said that we need to stop talking and stop walking but, like the crisis of confidence in the 1970s we, as a people, did not. There is always no time like the present to begin starting anew but we do not. To quote the fictional anchor Howard Beale from “Network,” people cry out, “'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone!” Change always seems so easy until you have to get off the lazy-boy.

So perhaps it is time that I advocate a radical change in gift giving. No, I won’t suggest we all start making gifts because I would be the first to fail since I have the dexterity of a lobster wearing oven mitts. I also will not demand we stop giving… I’d be the biggest victim. I not only work at a store that would be hit the hardest but I’m also one of the largest recipients of gifts and darn it, I still want Tales of Vesperia for the Xbox360!!

What we need to do is to regulate our gift giving and make it matter. We need to make it more personal again so it’s not the time of year that kids can get their toys or where us college students can get our yearly re-supply of Hot Pockets and Axe Body Spray.

Perhaps restraint is the best course of action; however, if there is one thing watching humanity’s response to a disaster or a single episode of Deal or No Deal will teach you, is that restraint is hardly in our nature. By nature we are impulsive and vane, the same characteristics that scientologists look for in potential candidates.

To counter all this, my editor (Mom) and I came up with a fairly revolutionary idea of combining the Pay it Forward method of doing a great deed for three people and the Gift of the Magi, where you give a gift that matters. We would advocate that you give three people one great gift that they need or give them three gifts that they need. It sounded great… at first, but then I realized that I was doing nothing of the sort. I got my little brother Dead Space on DVD, my Dad The Dark Knight on DVD, and my Mom a Wii Fit (although she really wanted this one). My gifts were always of the entertainment variety and I really did not feel like changing this routine.

OK, so perhaps I am just as pathetic, if not as hypocritical, as everyone else. HOWEVER, upon further examination there is one fundamental difference between me and the shotgun gift-givers. I think long and hard about what piece of entertainment to get each person to ensure they will like it and, traditionally, people have loved the gifts I have bestowed upon them. Granted they are shallow gifts like the time I got my little brother a Steyr TMP air soft gun, but he loved it and still harasses the local jack rabbits with it. It’s the simple things in life you treasure.

Now, I know what you’re thinking!

“Good gosh Tim! Britney Spears made another album and it’s called the ‘Circus album?!’”

I know, off point but I had to throw in some horror. What many of you are probably thinking is that even though you shower your loved ones with gifts, you do it with love. This is probably more true than the horrific nature of the Circus album, but basic psychology states that when one is immersed in a sea of many things even the most unique becomes common to the whole.

For instance, I always wanted to get a tattoo. It was nothing flashy or suggestive but a Christian cross with a Templar insignia on my right forearm. It was just the right size, color and price. I planned on getting it when I arrived in North Dakota, almost three years ago, but when I arrived I realized that everyone had a tattoo and I do mean EVERYONE. Almost everyone I encountered, save for us “foreigners” from out of state, sported some kind of tattoo and for just about everything. I even met a nerd couple that each had a matching Transformers tattoo; one had an Autobot symbol while the other had the Decepticon. I’m dead serious.

The abundance in uniqueness in tattoos in North Dakota became so common that it all became white noise, indistinguishable against the whole as it had become tradition instead of exceptional. It also took the fun right out of it.

The same applies to gift giving. We shower our loved ones, or those we wish to suck up to, with gifts and the meaning becomes lost when we do not cherish each gift as an exceptional one. I can remember the Christmas of 1994, the only time I was ever showered with gifts. My parents scrounged and found EVERY Star Trek action figure available, which was at least a few dozen. They found Q, Riker, Picard, Geordi, Kirk, Lore, Locutus, Sela, Morn, Bashir, Guinan, and many more that I cannot remember the spelling of. I found myself surrounded in a fortress wall, built by the very action figure boxes that were now mine… all miiiiine!!!!

I played with them for a day and was back to begging for more the very next day.

So maybe restraint is the best method to bring back the real meaning of gift giving but, as humans, this is near impossible as we refuse to change our ways. I fear that the only real way to force us to change is the impending economic crisis. With jobs scarce and money tight, perhaps people will appreciate when they get more but this is a bad line of thinking.

Either way the Christmas season is over and I wanted to impart some degree of wisdom upon you all during my long and enforced absence. We have another 350 + days until Christmas returns and we should really think about what we give and why as I wonder if this next Christmas will be as cheery as the last. We are about to hit some hard times and I genuinely hope that we can still enjoy our season of holiday cheer.

Be excellent to each other and until next time, party on Wayne!
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What We've Become [Oct. 20th, 2008|12:27 am]
I apologize for lacking articles in the last few weeks but something has been bothering me.

Originally I had written an article satirizing both presidential candidates as they provided me with plenty of material to work with. I then criticized both sides for being nothing but downright dirty and underhanded by conjuring up any allegations they could come up, exaggerate and spin their voting records, and even go after the candidate's families. All this for political gain.

As I proofread my work I came to a shocking realization. In my efforts to satirize those who use dirty tricks and insults to further their candidate, I was using the same tactics to further my article. I even went as far as to facetiously refer to Obama as the “messiah” and mock the events surrounding McCain's POW status. It's one thing to make light of Amy Winehouse or use defecating similes to describe Uwe Boll films (I just finished “In the Name of the King”) for the sake of humor and good fun, but it's another thing entirely to go after someone for the sole purpose of hurting them. It's vindictive, disrespectful, and highly unprofessional.

I am ashamed that I fell into this trap and I fear it is a symptom of a much larger problem in our society.

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You Might Be a Redneck If You get a DUI While Riding a... Cooler? [Sep. 27th, 2008|12:15 pm]

Jeff Foxworthy always said "you might be a redneck if you ever got a DUI while riding the lawnmower."  However, I don't think he anticipated anyone pulling a Tim Taylor and putting a motor in a color.


Course, you also might be a redneck if...

Ah, good times here in the US!
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Professional Update: We're Moving!! [Sep. 26th, 2008|03:01 pm]
[mood |optimisticoptimistic]

It's been a while since I last posted one of these but they are long overdo.

Last Tuesday I convened in a meeting with my thesis committee and we set a completion date for October 14th 2008 on my masters thesis. So far we are at 120 pages and counting along with three completed chapters and only three to go.

As such, I have already placed my two months notice to Housing Services on campus signifying my desire to move out by November 3rd. November 2nd is the Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert and they're only appearing here in Grand Forks so I'd like to stay for that before I move. I will be moving to Bismarck temporarily until I get a job offer from most likely the Air Force.

The USAF job openings close in just a matter of days but the selection process takes weeks, if not months, so I'll have plenty of time to finish up the thesis and be ready to move anywhere in the world at a moments notice.

What this means for you!

We'll still put out weekly articles until November since I will no longer be working for the Dakota Student by then. So keep tuning in around Tuesday as more articles are coming you way. It also means the Writer's Circle will no longer be meeting as of October 25th... in Grand Forks at least.

So a lot is going on. I better get back to my thesis and, at least, get a large chunk out of the chapter I'm working on now.

Peace out!
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One Man's Treasure is Another Student's Loan [Sep. 24th, 2008|03:42 pm]
So now that you have some spare money from the second job to help pay off the first job so you can get a third job (I swear, this is the last flow chart reference), you're wondering what to spend that hard-earned currency on. Will it be Star Wars: Force Unleashed on the XBox360? Season 4 of The Office on DVD? A shopping spree of no limitations at Happy Harry's? Perhaps you'd rather invest that leftover gross in Fannie Mae stock or the Barack Obama presidential campaign (assuming there's a difference)? No matter what you decide to go for that extra money, like gonorrhea, is burning a hole in your pocket and you must spend it! Problem is you're living literally paycheck to paycheck or, in most cases whenever the family decides to send money, leaving no room to maneuver in the event an unexpected bill, emergency party, noise ordinance fine, pregnancy, or STD that comes your way. College easily produces more poor money managers than the Bush Administration or the former housing bubble.

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Whistle While Your Slave [Sep. 16th, 2008|09:36 pm]
We're almost one month into the semester and with three, possibly four football victories later (can you tell we wrote this on Monday?) the initial college culture shock consisting of your emo roommate and professor, who is only five years older than you, is coming to a close. However, you now have another problem as the Ministry of Plenty (aka Financial Aid) has already dispersed all remaining funding leftover from more critical programs like Division I and the parking garage; after all, if we can't park in an enclosed structure, we can't study. You didn't get the financial aid because FAFSA, in all it's infinite bureaucratic wisdom, decreed that since you're parents make enough money to barely afford the house payments that they are perfectly capable to dish out $11,269 a year for tuition. Adding insult to financial injury, if you're like me and other Norwegians, who couldn't use our ethnicity to gain scholarships or financial aid, you've probably had to resort to the unthinkable by offering your services to retail and/or fast food.

It's bad enough that you're taking on a second job to help pay off the first job, that is being a student, to help you get a third job to pay off the loans on the first job (don't make me get out the flow chart), but now you're serving the very people who DID get the financial aid. Such customers include a wide variety of human prodigy who either want a cheeseburger with no cheese and a 44oz McVodka (drink VERY responsibly, Captain's orders) or think the express lane means the cashiers work faster. You would rather A) sell both your kidneys, B) be a mannequin at the Plain Brown Wrapper, or C) work for Parking Services, than sell your soul for $6.55 per hour pawning trans-fatty acids and products made in China. No matter how much you loath it, like paying taxes, tuition, and being stuck with the UND Pride Card you don't have to like it, you just have to do it.

However, as Captain Kirk always said, “There... is... always... hope (Unless you're wearing a red shirt).”

There are several benefits to working while in college as well as survival tips. The most obvious benefit is you get paid real money and not some BS about how volunteering your time on campus or your community is “investing in your future.” If community service hours were actual legal tender Mother Teresa could buy out Google and the Dalai Lama could buy his country back. This is not to negate the importance of community service or selflessness, but Student Account Service does not accept goodwill... or Visa for that matter.

The next benefit is building your resume. Yeah, it sucks to serve people who order a double quarter-pounder meal super-sized with a diet coke or think Velveeta Cheese is worth it's weight in gold, but the fact that you did all that while successfully maintaining a decent GPA and graduated on time speaks volumes about your character and abilities as a professional in your field. Not to mention hard work builds character as Amazon.com Chairman and CEO Jeff Bezos started as a cook at McDonald's and Sam Walton of Wal-Mart waited tables to pay his way through college at the University of Missouri.

The last, and probably the most critical, tip on working your way through college is paid internships that don't involve working in the White House. If you play your cards right you can get paid while gaining college credit instead of paying to learn through regular credits.

In conclusion, be aware of balancing your time... *gets out flow chart* you don't want the second job to interfere with the first job in the first place as this will affect your ability to get a third job when you're done with your first job or you might get fired from your second job for placing too much priority on your first job or getting thrown out from the first job for working too much with the second job thereby not securing a third job to pay for the first job. Now who can argue with that?
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Samuel L. Jackson in Titanic: The Lost Screen Tests *Quickie* [Sep. 12th, 2008|10:24 pm]
Just when I thought the movie Titanic couldn't get any worse, I just found out that they denied Samuel L. Jackson the role of Jack and gave it to Leonardo DiCaprio! They didn't even give him the common courtesy of putting the screen tests in the DVD extras... assuming they didn't since I do not own the DVD.

However, thanks to our friends at MiniMovie Channel we can now show you the screen tests of Samuel L. Jackson auditioning for the role of Jack on Titanic.


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