Andrew Thor Wallen
Birth: September 4, 1967
Death: September 19, 2009
Andrew Thor Wallen, born to Robert and Susan Wallen on September 4, 1967 in Madison, WI, died on September 19, 2009 after a heroic battle with gastric cancer. He attended DeForest High School, Ripon College, UW-Stevens Point, and UW-Madison where he was a member of AXE Fraternity. He married Kirstie K. Danielson on July 31, 1999, and lived in Madison pursuing his passions for life, art, photography, food, and knowledge until their move to Chicago in 2006.
“Eventually I made peace with the fact that cancer might kill me at some point. I was diligently working the best plan I could find to fight it, so if it killed me, it killed me. At least I could say I fought the good fight and gave it my all.” ATW, July 2009.
A Brief History of the Life of Andrew T. Wallen
written by Andrew in 2005 as part of a resume to volunteer at Wisconsin Public Radio
I was born during the summer of 1967 in Madison, WI. We lived in a two flat near campus. My mother said I woke up and cried when Sterling Hall blew up. My father got me up to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon.
After my sister came we moved to the burbs. There I spent the next twelve years under the tutelage of the De Forest School District. I grew up amongst Catholics, cows and corn, Friday fish fries and football. During High School, evening and weekends were filled with Debate, Forensics, and Drama. I graduated in 1985.
I enrolled in Ripon College. Those three semesters were a revelation. Whole areas of Knowledge that I never imagined existed were there for the learning. I fell in love with the “A’s” in the course catalog—Art History and Anthropology. The appeal of these subjects was then and still is now the search for meaning deeper than the literal: Certainly the cave paintings at Lascaux have more meaning than a scrapbook of animals. Were they mystical/ecstatic images of worship or stone and paint hunting tutorials? Is there any transcendent meaning there relevant to us today? I have often wondered how my life would be different if the course catalog also contained Accounting.
After three semesters, financially broke, I was forced to withdraw. I was able to afford UW Stevens Point though. Among other subjects there, I studied Beer Drinking. With the rigorous demands of that program, my other studies soon lagged. Ducking academic shame I returned to the family homestead. There I flipped burgers and fell in love with a waitress. When she moved to Galveston, TX to be closer to her family, I followed. Alas, it was merely infatuation. Licking my wounds, a year later, I was back at the homestead.
I enrolled in UW Madison and rambled through biology and chemistry. I joined a chemistry fraternity (coed). There I met the woman who later became my wife. I lived in the frat house at the end of Lake Street. (Ironically, one of the Sterling Hall bombing conspirators had lived in the house twenty years before.) The third try at calculus was not charmed. Somewhere between Population Genetics and Organic Chemistry, I decided I would be happier as a Plumber.
I was accepted into the plumbers union as a Pre-Apprentice, a glorified title that actually meant Shovel Monkey. I was taken on by a large firm and was their Concrete Commando—a plumber would spray paint lines on the floor and say, “Call me when you find the pipes.” With a diamond saw, jack hammer, pick axe and shovel, I found the pipes. Once inside of a large factory where we couldn’t bring large equipment, I dug a whole so deep I needed an extension ladder to get down into it. During a hiccup in the economy, being the least senior, I was laid off.
Needing to pay the rent, I returned to flipping, only this time it was hand-cut steaks. During the fall of 1996, needing extra Christmas money and noticing the falling leaves, I passed out flyers saying I would rake leaves for cash. Soon I was swamped with customers. “Will you shovel my snow?” “Will you mow my lawn in the spring?” In the spring I did. I mowed grass and planted Impatiens by day and continued flipping by night.
The math was simpler than calculus; I could make more working for myself in one day than I could flipping all week. I traded in my apron and ran Wallen Lawn Service full-time. I dumped my profits into the company, advertised, and worked harder than I ever did in my life.
In the summer of 1999 I married. In 2000 we bought a house. In 2001 my wife started her Ph.D. in Epidemiology and we adopted two dogs. After eight years as a sole proprietor, in the spring of 2003 I sold my company and took a job as a Field Manager of a small construction company. Over extended by other financial obligations the company went bankrupt in the spring of 2005. I am currently working for the person I sold my landscaping company to.
I have changed hats many times in my life. One of the things that has remained constant, though, has been an intellectual curiosity. Libraries, the internet, and the radio—Public Radio—have nourished that curiosity.
I am good digging stuff out of the internet. I have excellent people skills. I have an uncanny ability to meet people and draw them out. I am a self-starting person and like to tackle things head on.
Below is a list of ideas and subject areas that I am interested and might be useable on your show, either as a segment or a whole episode.
- Has our social evolution out-paced our biological evolution? If so, what are the consequences?
- Persuasion: How it works, how it doesn’t work. Advertising. The brass tacks of high level negotiations. How to learn to be a better persuader. Notable persuasion successes and failures.
- Unexplored fundamental assumptions: The ever-expanding economy on a finite planet.
- Undervalued inventions and how they changed our lives: pencils, toilet paper, mirrors, tin cans.
- Pet Peeves: Are there cultural differences beyond the obvious? What do they say about us?
- Fire: Forrest, Cooking, Heating (furnace), Spiritual Fire, Fusion.
- Different Stories of the End of the World.
- The effects of increasing population.
- Privacy: What is it? How have notions of privacy changed historically? Cultural differences in views about privacy.
- Popular/Unpopular/Popular again: Ideas once in vogue, that faded from social consciousness, then came back again.
- Predictions about the future.
- Attraction: scientific basis of attraction. Historical trends in attraction. Cultural differences in what is attractive. What’s up with all of this online dating? Are we really this lonely? Or has greater “marketing potential” increased our expectations?
- The impact of the death of the Baby Boomers.
- People who don’t want kids.
- Lesser known sports and the people who play them.
- In translation: How languages are translated. How to tell if your Balzac or Pushkin is a good translation. Good jokes that only make sense in Braille or Sign Language. Translation blunders. Comedians telling jokes to different cultures.
- What’s with all this stuff: I have a hunch that Americans are addicted to stuff. We fill our garages, basements with it—we even rent storage units for more stuff. What is going on here?
- “Self-Help”: Is it actually helping? Historical trends in self-help. Do we actually need help? Is the advice good? Are we more needy now than in the past? In a media/marketing saturated environment do we have more “reference points” to show us how needy we should be?