Getting somethin’ done | December 1, 2021

My husband, Kyle, is a hockey agent.  My little sister, Erica, is a movie/television casting director.  Both of their jobs are about finding talented people and putting them in the right place(s) to maximize that talent.  As everyone in the world has talent in some shape or form (not just related to acting or men’s hockey), I am going to share the one piece of advice that they both regularly give because it basically works across the board.  And as my talent is stretching a story long beyond its necessity, I shall do that, as well.

Half of Kyle’s job is finding hockey players to represent in his agency.  He does this by going to a billion hockey games a year.  In the old days I would go with him and say, “I like that #21.  He’s zippy.”  To which Kyle would say, “He’s pretty good but isn’t watching the puck.  I like #9 because he’s smart and makes plays happen.”  And then I would say, “No, #9 takes too long to get off the ice on a shift change.”  Then we would fast-forward ten years into the future and #9 would be playing for the Boston Bruins and #21 would be happily and zippily living his life not in the NHL.

The other half of Kyle’s job is taking those #9’s of the world and developing them into professional players.  He does that through a billion phone calls a day to coaches, scouts, leagues, parents, and players.  Agents are usually lawyers because of contract negotiations and the NHL CBA, so sometimes those calls are the stereotypical business transactions that we all know and love.  Other times it’s the type of conversation you’d imagine you would have with a 17-year-old boy like this:

Player: Can you find out if I can get my girlfriend into the game?

Kyle: Sure.  What’s her name?

Player: [pause] Taylor something?

Like Kyle, Erica spends half of her day on the phone with agents, producers, directors, and other casting directors working to match up the exact right actor to a role so that you and I, the viewers, will be transformed into the virtual world provided by them.  If you’ve seen – I dunno, basically every story ever told about acting – you’ll know that actors will do whatever it takes to get those roles.  This means sometimes my sister will have conversations like this:

Erica: I’d love to use so-and-so for a part.  It says here that she lives full-time in North Carolina; is that correct?

Agent: Yes.

Erica: Great, because they need her on set at 9am on Wednesday.

Agent: Actually, she’s only in North Carolina over the lunch hour every-other week.  Can they postpone the shoot until next month?

The other half of Erica’s time is used for finding those actors.  You probably won’t be surprised to hear that she does this by watching a LOT of content.  Some of that content comes through casting sessions.  I once got to sit with her while she reviewed a bunch of very, very good-looking (and completely identical) men for a boy toy-type character for the series lead.  After about the twelfth super-hot guy did a bang-up job reading the three-sentence script, I said to her, “I don’t know how you’re going to pick the best one; I’d say hire them all and let them say one word each,” and she said, “The second actor is perfect for this role.”  The producers cast him, and he must have been perfect for other roles, too, because I see him on TV every once in a while.

Anyways, one of the most common questions both Erica and Kyle hear on a regular basis is this: “How can I get noticed?”  They both have the same answer: Go out and do good work and people will find you.

Their point is that you can’t make something happen for yourself if you’re not making things happen for yourself.  Or, in other words, get somethin’ done.

In Minneapolis, there are a few teams that get a lot of scout and agent attention, but not every good player has the resources to join them.  One of those players decided that he wouldn’t be held back by this fact, and (politely) called Kyle a bunch of times while we were on vacation (I was happy about this, as you can imagine) to ask if he would come watch his game when Kyle got home.   Over the next couple of years this kid had setback after setback – the hockey program was cut at the first college he committed to, for example – but he always kept his great attitude and work ethic and used every opportunity on the ice to get somethin’ done.  Now he’s the top scorer on his college team and on his way to a pro contract.

Here’s another one: Erica once saw a little hole-in-the-wall stage play in Los Angeles and liked one of the actors so much that two years later she recommended him to another casting director for a movie lead and now he’s such an actual, legit superstar that I don’t dare put any details or his name in this because I’m afraid his lawyers will get me.

I am sometimes asked for marketing advice by friends who are in the early stages of building a business.  As both a marketing director and someone who loves telling people what to do, I will give them said advice.  Roughly 80% of the time, my friends will say, “Oh, no, I can’t do that.  I have this excuse and that excuse and this very good excuse and this REALLY good excuse.”  To which I’ll say, “Get somethin’ done.”

If you’ve been feeling held back, use this last month of the year to go out and do good work for yourself.  Baby steps are still steps, hole-in-the-wall theaters are still opportunities, and one setback does not equal failure.  Then email me and tell me what you did; I look forward to sending you my favorite thumbs-up meme.

As I noted, it’s Kyle (and Erica)’s job to find people, which means that I have spent many date nights and vacations “just popping in for a period” of a hockey game to check out the players.  The photo above is one of such pop-ins.  (By the way, if you’re ever looking for a scout or an agent in a crowd, their unofficial uniform is usually a black wool coat.)

This week’s news has a daily story, 5,000 pounds of sneakers, and somethin’ for the singles ladies (and men).  Read on.

Fargo’s Amanda Grant reads a children’s book online every day at 2pm. (Fargo Forum)

Concordia Lutheran Church in Jamestown handed out 742 Thanksgiving meals this year. (Jamestown Sun)

Minot’s Melissa Maasjo has been redistributing used clothing and household items to 20-30 families weekly. (Minot Daily News)

WalletHub has named Fargo and Bismarck on the top 100 “Best Cities in Which to be Single.” (KX Net)

White Shield’s Monte Yellow Bird Sr., a member of the Mandan, Arikara, and Hidatsa nation, recently participated in the Dubai Art Expo with a piece “that spoke specifically to the spirit of peace and conversation shared by the native peoples of North America and the Arab World.” (Minot Daily News)

The Lake Region Figure Skating Club is holding a “no-purchase” fundraiser in order to collect 5,000 pounds of athletic shoes. (Devils Lake Journal)

Odometer Watching | by Steve Silverman

(A note from Amanda: My dad, Steve, was inspired to write a few words on one of his favorite pastimes, and then I was inspired to force him to let me publish it here. For the rest of you, you don’t actually need to be related to me to share a story with the readers of North Dakota Nice. You just need to contact me by clicking here.)

I’m one of those people that watches automobile odometers. Yep. One of…those people. Sure, there are bird watchers, armed with super-duper binoculars and expensive scopes with cameras built right in them, birder books in their backpacks, trooping through field and forest looking for that one bird. There are also people watchers. You know the ones: They go to the mall or to Vegas, not so much for the shopping or the gambling, but to sit in front of the M&M’s Store or in the lobby of the Bellagio and just watch the people go by. Turning their heads from side to side. Watching. All. Those. People.

If you’re an odometer watcher, you don’t have to go anywhere like a bird watcher does. You just sit in your car. You don’t have to go to the mall or to Vegas, for that matter, and turn your head back and forth. You just get in your vehicle and look straight ahead and slightly down. I am acutely aware of my automobile’s odometer every single solitary second I’m driving. I’m not kidding. My goal: be present, paying attention, taking note, and commenting when the odometer reaches a milestone.


These moments can be little moments. Like when your odometer goes from 9299.9 to 9300.0. It can also be big moments. I was traveling Highway 75 near Halstad, Minnesota, when I stopped twice to take a picture of my odometer. I pulled onto the shoulder the first time when my odometer hit 99,999. I took a picture of my odometer. Then I crawled down the road with grain trucks whizzing by and honking until it flipped to 100,000. I stopped and took another picture. Twice, in two different vehicles I owned, I’ve stopped to take a picture of my odometer at precisely 111,111. Other notable moments include 012345, 123456, 151515, and 33333. I could list more but you might think I was a little eccentric. When I posted one of those photos to social media I mostly got a bunch of derisive comments like, “Who does that?” Sheepishly, one of my contacts wrote, “Ya, I do that too. My family thinks I’m nuts.”

The genesis of odometer watching goes back well before digital instrument panels. In the good old days of V-8 engines and Ethyl gasoline, odometers were mechanical. They rolled from one number to the next. With a sense of anticipation, we would watch the odometer slowly roll from .9 to .0. When it was partially there, the numbers next to it, nines or whatever, would also start to roll. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen 09999.9 roll to 10000.0. Six columns all moving at once! A moment later (or moments later depending on how fast you were driving), the number would slowly advance from 0 to 1. Life just became so ordinary after that.

Besides that guy whose family thinks he’s nuts, many others have been known to odometer watch. When she was a teenager, a friend of mine and her brother, along with some friends, drove their 1967 Chevy Nova around town for over two hours until the odometer slowly rolled over to 100,000.

In those days, a lot of odometers didn’t go past 99,999. After all, cars were ready to be traded in or sent to the junk yard by the time they hit 50,000 miles. What happened when one of those cars went over 99,999 miles? It started over at zero, of course! I remember being in a New York cab once. Naturally, I checked the odometer when I got in the back seat. It read 346 miles. “So,” I asked the cabby, “Did your cab just turn over 100,000 miles?” “No!” he replied. It just turned over 300,000 miles!”

finalToday, one of the worst things happened to me that can ever happen to a dedicated odometer watcher. I got in my car and noticed the odometer sitting at 12999.7. That was going to be an easy one. Drive just 2 blocks and I’ll be the sole witness to 13000.0! Ten minutes later, my eyes dropped to the odometer: 13004.0! No-o-o-o! I missed it! Shrugging my shoulders, I thought: well there’s always 13499.9. If I miss that, I can wait for 13,999.9, or…

North Dakota Nice News of the Week | September 3, 2020

Happy 115th birthday to Northwood’s Iris Westman, who continues to be North Dakota’s oldest living resident!

And Happy September to all of you!  In celebration, check out this week’s news – which has a new roof, new street signs, and new backpacks.  Read on.

Thank you to the wonderful Chuck Haga for featuring North Dakota Nice in the Grand Forks Herald! (Grand Forks Herald)

In a meaningful and permanent way to remember the fallen, fourteen streets in Bismarck have been named after North Dakota National Guard soldiers who were killed in action in the Global War on Terror. (Bismarck Tribune)

Friends of Grand Forks teacher Lindsey Johnson have united the community in support of Lindsey’s 4-year-old daughter’s recovery after an accident. (Fargo Forum)

The Minot Quilters Guild have made hundreds of free masks for school children across the city – and they were supported with bolts and bolts of free fabric.  Bonus niceness: when they aren’t making masks, the Guild is making free quilts. (Minot Daily News)

If you’re passing through Hillsboro, you can take a trip down memory lane in Bloomfield No. 1, one of Traill County’s oldest schools – which was built in 1920 for $4,000 and is now preserved as a museum. (Grand Forks Herald)

The Fargo “Lunch Ladies” have been providing free “happy meals” for dozens of families since the beginning of the pandemic. (Grand Forks Herald)

The Social Workers of Dickinson Public Schools set up an open school supply pantry for families who need help filling their backpacks. (Dickinson Press)

Watford City has a beautiful new mural, thanks to Jessie Veeder and artist Linda Roesch.  (As a side note, as a person who is also afraid of heights, I never thought about the fact that muralists need to be pretty far off the ground.  Linda’s bravery is much-appreciated!) (McKenzie County Farmer)

Grand Forks’ Aubrey McNary is one of 70 Americans selected for the Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms program. (Grand Forks Herald)

Seventy-four people stepped forward (and got a cookie) for a Jamestown blood drive. (Jamestown Sun)

Minot’s Burt Wilhelm has spent all of his money ($26,000 in medication alone every month) on his cancer fight, leaving little for home improvements – and so a local construction company offered up a free roof. (KX Net)

Regardless of income level, every student enrolled in Fargo Public Schools will get free lunch through the end of this year. (Fargo Forum)