Friday, December 31, 2004

2004 and 2005

I am really looking forward to 2005. I think some pretty amazing things are going to happen next year.

2004 had one really amazing event and two not so great events. The really amazing event was January 14, 2004 when our little girl, Samantha, was born. She's such a happy kid and such an explorer. She wants to get into everything. And she really seems to like Shadow, our black lab. He is a very patient dog.

The two big not so great events were the appearance of Celiac for Sharon and the re-appearance of Meniere's for me. At least the kids are perfectly healthy. I know both Sharon and I are glad it's the two of us who have to deal with special diets and frustrating physical ailments and not the kids.

We had a nice vacation in the summer, just the four of us, followed by a big family party for the summer birthdays. That weekend was almost perfect and the one negative thing that did happen I am choosing to ignore.

My Appalachian Trail hike, while not as long or as satisfying as I might have liked, was still an amazing adventure. And I got to spend it with two of my brothers and my sister. I can't think of the last time I did something with just my siblings. Hopefully, my other brother will join us next year.

Dreamwell had an incredibly successful season. All three shows were wonderful, both artistically and financially. We have a strong board who is committed to taking us to the next step. I see good things ahead for us in 2005.

In terms of the internet, I am much happier now than I was six months ago. Internet used to equal drama for me and I am glad that's over. I discovered blogging which has become a great outlet for my writing and a way to communicate to family as well as old friends. I've met some new friends, too.

I spent Christmas with my family for the first time in years. It was just perfect. Homemade ravioli!

And I have a regular game of Texas Hold 'Em, which has been my most fun leisure time activity. I'm up $65 for the year! Woo hoo!

Plans for 2005:

Taking care of Rachel and Sami and helping them grow. Rachel is a year and a half away from kintergarten. Lots of stuff to do to get her ready for that big step. Sami should be hitting some important milestones this coming year, like walking and starting to talk.

After eight years, I know that marriages are a lot of work. I plan to make sure Sharon knows how important she is to me.

I am going to really focus on Dreamwell. We're very close to turning a corner.

We are going to hike for longer than three days next year. Even if it is raining. Dammit.

I am sure there are a lot more things that will come up, but those are the four big ones, I think. We'll see how it goes.


Top 40 Bad Songs

So we're cleaning the house tonight and I heard an old song coming from the TV that took me back to my high school days. It's sung with angst and heartache; you could see the emotional pain wafting through the house.

Whatever it takes... or how my heart breaks... I'll be right here waiting for you...

Ah, Richard Marx. With that hair and those pained expressions. There was a countdown on VH1. I wasn't sure what the criteria was. Best love songs, maybe? Sharon said to me gently, "I don't think it's a best of countdown..."

And how right she was. I was watching VH1's 40 Most Awesomely Bad #1 Songs.

Ouch. Now, I am willing to admit that Right Here Waiting is not a great song. But Awesomely Bad? I don't know about that. A little while later, they had Billy Ocean's Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car on. Yeah, that one is pretty bad. Although I admit to singing it loudly way back when.

But then. Then. Those bastards at VH1 showed their stupidity.


That's a great song. Morons. Well, they can get one wrong, I guess. But the insanity didn't end there. In short order, they proclaimed Wild, Wild West by Escape Club, Owner of a Lonely Heart by Yes, and The Look by Roxette awesomely bad. I am sorry, but those are damn good songs. Especially Owner of a Lonely Heart. Come on, it's Yes!

I should have turned off the TV when they had the gall to suggest that I Want to Know What Love Is by Foreigner is not the best power ballad of all time.

You want to know who was left off the list? New Kids on the Block. N Sync. Backstreet Boys. Brittney Spears. Yeah, all their stuff is classic, right? Give me a break.

I admit I did agree with their top pick for Most Awesomely Bad #1 Song - Macarena. There is no redeeming musical aspect to that song. (We got married in 1996. For some reason, the Macarena was played not once, but twice at our reception. Amazingly, huge numbers of guests got up and danced the damn thing. Twice.)

Here's the whole list (with asteriks by the songs I don't think belong):

Macarena [River Remix 103 BPM] Los Del Rio
Ice Ice Baby Vanilla Ice
That's What Friends Are For Dionne Warwick
Physical Olivia Newton-John
*Eye of the Tiger Survivor
*Believe Cher
Blame It on the Rain Milli Vanilli
Kokomo The Beach Boys
The Sign Ace of Base
*Hello Lionel Richie
Wannabe Spice Girls
*Stuck With You Huey Lewis
I'm Too Sexy Right Said Fred
I Think We're Alone Now Tiffany
*I Want to Know What Love Is Foreigner
*Got My Mind Set on You George Harrison
It Wasn't Me [Punch Mix] Shaggy
*More Than Words Extreme
Rock Me Amadeus Falco
Good Vibrations Marky Mark
Opposites Attract Paula Abdul
*Abracadabra Steve Miller
MMMBop Hanson
*Owner of a Lonely Heart Yes
*The Look Roxette
*The Next Time I Fall Peter Cetera
Together Forever Rick Astley
*Wild, Wild West Escape Club
All 4 Love Color Me Badd
*Invisible Touch Genesis
Lost in Your Eyes Deborah Gibson
Goodies Ciara
*Maneater Hall & Oates
Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car Billy Ocean
Unbelievable EMF
*Right Here Waiting Richard Marx
Informer Snow
*Celebration Kool & the Gang
(Can't Live Without Your) Love and Affection Nelson
Can't Nobody Hold Me Down Puff Daddy

Thursday, December 30, 2004


I just can't wrap my brain around that number.

Iowa City and Coralville's population together is only about 77,000. To equal the tsunami deaths, both of those cities gone plus a lot more. Cedar Rapids has about 120,000 people living there. Think you'd be one of the lucky 4,000 to survive? I wouldn't take those odds.

It's just overwhelming to think that all at once, 116,000 people were suddenly gone from the world.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Get the axe

I feel somewhat ashamed, but I signed up for the Dead Pool. It's the most morbid game imaginable. Basically, you pick 15 celebrities you think will die in 2005. Younger people are worth more, but I couldn't bring myself to pick anyone born before 1967. The whole thing gives me an ookey feeling, but by sending in my registration, I said Kris sent me so maybe she'll win some gift certificates for most referrals or something. If you play, say Kris at randommentality sent you. I'll post my list after the new year. Frankly, I don't think I have a chance of winning and that's okay with me. Who thinks this stuff up?

Gimme some fresh barramundi!

This website lists the Top 50 Things You Should Eat Before You Die.

1. Fresh fish - I have eaten fresh fish caught in a little lake in Michigan. My dad or brother (can't remember) cleaned it and cooked it over an open flame.
2. Lobster - I love lobster. One of my favorites.
3. Steak - I am not a huge steak fan, but I enjoy it if it's bloody.
4. Thai food - Nope.
5. Chinese food - Not really.
6. Ice cream - Chocolate is my favorite.
7. Pizza - I lived on pizza in college. Jesus, didn't everyone? (Name the movie reference!)
8. Crab - Never had it.
9. Curry - I have had curry. It's not bad.
10. Prawns - Nope.
11. Moreton Bay Bugs
- Never heard of 'em.
12. Clam chowder - Never had it and don't think I'd like it. It has hot milk involved, right? That's gross to me.
13. Barbecues - I love BBQ. LOVE IT.
14. Pancakes - My mom makes great pancakes. They're actually better if you let the batter sit for a day. Then the pancakes are thinner and to my mouth, more tasty.
15. Pasta - I live on pasta. I had homemade ravioli for Christmas this year and I have decided I need to make my own pasta more often. And more often won't be hard, since I've never done it before.
16. Mussels - Nope. They look gross to me.
17. Cheesecake - I love cheesecake. My friend Paycjeck ate Eli's Cheesecake with Arby's sauce once. He said it was good. I think he was just saying that.
18. Lamb - I don't think I've ever had lamb.
19. Cream tea - Never had it.
20. Alligator - I think we had this New Orleans. Sharon, remind me, would you?
21. Oysters - see mussels.
22. Kangaroo - I have had kangaroo and despite the guilty feelings (Baby Roo!), I loved it.
23. Chocolate - Um. Come on. Who doesn't like chocolate?
24. Sandwiches - I eat a sandwich almost every day.
25. Greek food - Flaming cheese!
26. Burgers - Burgers are a staple in my diet.
27. Mexican food - It's okay. Not my favorite. I love fajitas, though.
28. Squid - I love calamari, which is fried squid.
29. American diner breakfast - I think I've had what qualifies as that.
30. Salmon - I love salmon.
31. Venison - I don't think so.
32. Guinea pig - Um, no. People eat guinea pigs? I thought they were furry little pets.
33. Shark - Nope.
34. Sushi - No, I refuse. Please apply flame to my food.
35. Paella - Nope.
36. Barramundi - Nope.
37. Reindeer - Ack! No!
38. Kebab - as in shish? Sure.
39. Scallops - No.
40. Australian meat pie - No, and it doesn't sound appetizing.
41. Mango - No.
42. Durian fruit - No.
43. Octopus - No
44. Ribs - Love ribs.
45. Roast beef - One of my all time favorites. Think Arbys.
46. Tapas - Nope.
47. Jerk chicken/pork - Maybe. Not sure.
48. Haggis - No!
49. Caviar - Yes, not sure what the big deal is. Tastes salty.
50. Cornish pasty - Nope.

My biggest issue with this list is that they lump all the pasta together. Lasagna and ravioli both deserved spots on this list. Or, if you don't want to go with individual dishes, how about ricotta cheese? It deserves a spot.

Goodbye, Jerry

Aw, man. I liked Jerry Orbach. Rest in Peace.

Biography from Yahoo.

New York native and Northwestern University alumnus Jerry Orbach has often commented, without false modesty, that he is fortunate indeed to have been a steadily working actor since the age of 20. After training with Herbert Berghof and Lee Strasberg, the lanky, deep-voiced Orbach received his first off-Broadway job as an understudy in the popular 1955 revival of The Threepenny Opera, eventually playing the lead role of MacHeath. During the Threepenny run, Orbach made his first film appearance in the Manhattan-filmed low budgeter Cop Killer (1958). In 1960, Orbach created the role of flamboyant interlocutor El Gallo in the off-Broadway smash The Fantasticks. That musical is still running, but Orbach has since starred in such Broadway productions as Carnival (1961), Promises Promises (1966), Chicago (1975) and 42nd Street (1983). By day, Orbach made early-1960s appearances in several New York-based TV series, notably The Shari Lewis Show. At first, Orbach's film assignments were infrequent, but starting with 1985's Brewster's Millions, the actor managed to show up in at least one movie per year. His more fondly remembered screen roles include the part of Jennifer Grey's father in Dirty Dancing (1987), the voice of the Chevalieresque candellabra in the Disney cartoon feature Beauty and the Beast (1990), and Billy Crystal's easily amused agent in Mr. Saturday Night (1992). On TV, Jerry Orbach has starred in the 1985 Murder She Wrote spinoff The Law and Harry McGraw, and was one of the many revolving-door regulars on the 1990s cop series Law and Order.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The tsunami

I've always thought the word "tsunami" sounded pretty funny. Not so much anymore. I can't believe we lost over 33,000 people in no time at all. I have heard that huge numbers of the victims were children, which just makes it more heartbreaking.

Look at this kid's face. He's one of the lucky ones. His name is Karl Nilsson of Lulo, Sweden and he's holding a sign saying his parent and brothers are missing. Breaks your heart.

I will say this, though. The internet proved again how well connected this world is. Read this story about the two year old Swedish boy whose uncle saw his picture on the internet and flew to him. The boy's mother and grandmother are missing.

I have a friend who lives in Thailand. I was really worried about him, but it turns out he was here in the United States visiting family for the holidays when the tsunami hit. Still, he has to head back into that devastation and help pick up the pieces.

If you want to help, you can go here or here.

Like greenman, I am:

What Pulp Fiction Character Are You?

You talk fast, you think fast, you act fast. Stop. Calm Down. Drink some decaf and go back to hitting up liquor stores.

Take the What Pulp Fiction Character Are You? quiz.

Thanks, Dweeze.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Ahh, Christmas

We had a wonderful Christmas. Watching Rachel open Christmas presents was probably my favorite event of the year. Well, okay after Sami's birth. She was so excited about Santa Claus and practically pushed me out of the room on Christmas Eve so she could go right to sleep and wake up and see her presents. I remember as a kid thinking how unlucky my parents were because they didn't get lots of cool presents like I did. Slippers, golf balls, and the like. But I realize now, as a parent, that the real gift of Christmas is basking in the joy of my kids on Christmas morning. That's far better than any present I could get.

However, I did get an absolutely killer gift from my wonderful wife. It's a game controller that hooks into your TV. Inside the controller are over 200 old video games! Pac Man, Galaga, Dig Dug, Mario Brothers, Super Mario Brothers, Tetris, and best of all....

Remember that game? Where you rode an ostrich and hand to lance the bad guys and turn them into eggs? I think I talked about in a post a while back but a quick search shows nothing!

Here's a screen shot to help your memory:

I love Joust. I am terrible at it, but I love it! And I also love Mario Brothers, the original, not the super version. I used to play that in game at a little place called Nino's Pizza with my brother John and my friend, Paycjeck. In the two player version, you worked as a team to clear the sewers of the lobsters and turtles and whatnot. I've always liked the team games more than the competitive ones.

Here's a screenshot from that game:

There are a million other games too. I've been spending far too much time in front of the TV the last couple of days.

The perfect gift for me! Thanks, love!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Phantom versus Cats

This post was inspired by greenman's recent postings about Phantom of the Opera. I suggested that Phantom of the Opera, the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, is the most overrated musical ever created. I found a list of the top ten longest running Broadway shows of all time (all are musicals). They are:

1) Cats
Winter Garden Theater
Previewed September 23, 1982
Opened October 7, 1982
Closed September 10, 2000
Total Performances: 7,485

2) Phantom of the Opera
Majestic Theater
Previewed January 9, 1988
Opened January 26, 1988
Still running
Total Performances: 6917 as of August 29, 2004

3) Les Miserables
Broadway Theater (through 10/14/1990)
Imperial Theater (through closing)
Previewed February 28, 1987
Opened March 12, 1987
Closed May 18, 2003
Total Performances: 6,680

4) A Chorus Line
Schubert Theater
Opened July 25, 1975
Closed April 28, 1990
Total Performances: 6,137

5) Oh! Calcutta! (1976 revival)
Edison Theater
Opened September 24 1976
Closed August 6, 1989
Total Performances: 5,959

6) Beauty and the Beast
Palace Theater (through 9/5/1999)
Lunt-Fontane Theater
Previewed March 9,1994
Opened April 18, 1994
Still running
Total Performances: 4244 as of August 29, 2004

7) Miss Saigon
Broadway Theater
Previewed March 23, 1991
Opened April 11, 1991
Closed January 28, 2001
Total Performances: 4,092

8)42nd Street
Winter Garden Theater(through 3/29/1981) Majestic Theater (through 4/5/1987)
St. James Theater
Previewed August 18, 1980
Opened August 25, 1980
Closed January 8, 1989
Total Performances: 3,486

9) Grease
Eden Theater (through 6/5/1972)
Broadhurst Theater (through 11/21/1972)
Royale Theatre (through 1/27/1980)
Majestic Theater
Opened February 14, 1972
Closed April 13, 1980
Total Performances: 3,388

10) Rent
Nederlander Theater
Previewed April 16, 1996
Opened April 29, 1996
Still playing
Total Performances: 3472 as of August 29, 2004

I have never seen Oh! Calcutta! or 42nd Street so I can't offer an opinion about those two. Every other musical on this list I've seen. Cats and Phantom are, in my opinion, easily the worst two musicals on this list. Cats has no story. It's simply a collection of songs, some of which are good and some which are god awful. Most don't stick with you. As a storyteller, I can't abide going to the theater and seeing undeveloped characters walking through a makeshift plot that has no meaningful resolution.

Phantom does have a story, but it's a tired, cliche-ridden one. The Phantom is not a sympathetic character. Compare the Phantom character to the Javert character in Les Miz. You understand Javert, and while you may not root for him, why he is the way he is makes sense. You know he is doomed, but you care, and when he sings "Stars", you empathize with his struggle. And when Javert's black and white world falls apart because Val Jean smears it into grey by saving his enemy's life, you know there's only one way it's going to go. That's tragedy. That's gripping. That's what makes a good story. Phantom takes a great character idea - a man who feels ostracized because of his hideous visage - and has him fall in love for no apparent reason and end up a kidnapper. He chooses to let Raoul and Christine go at the end because she makes it clear she doesn't love him. As if that weren't clear twenty minutes into the show. The other problem with the show is the music. It's not very interesting music to begin with and the lyrics are ridiculous.

And these are the two longest running shows on Broadway! Ugh.

Just for completeness, I will post my list of the top ten musicals of all time, with the caveat that I haven't seen: The Lion King, Wicked, and Moving Out, all of which I think I'd like a great deal.

1) Man of La Mancha
2) Les Miserables
3) Jesus Christ Superstar
4) Rent
5) Grease
6) Fiddler on the Roof
7) The Sound of Music
8) A Chorus Line
9) Tommy
10) Little Shop of Horrors

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Apology post

Sorry I'm not blogging a lot these days. I've been super busy with some exciting hush hush stuff that I can't talk about yet. In case I don't have a chance to post again before the weekend,


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Poker, poker and more poker

My latest obsession is poker, specifically Texas Hold 'Em. If you've been reading my blog for a little while, you know I am poker player from way back. These days, I play with a group of friends every week or so. Some of them have blogs, including greenman, Kris, Danny, Dweeze, and Glorious Nonsense. We have decided to start a poker blog called Are You Going To Let Him Push You Around Like That? The name was inspired by that moment in a tense poker game when a player raises big. Those of us who have already folded from the hand invariably ask the person who is forced to call or fold, "Are you going to let him push you around like that?" And thus, a blog was born.

Monday, December 20, 2004

New blog

I set up a Survivor blog. I'll keep all of my survivor spoilers and speculation and commentary there. I am sure there are some readers who will be thrilled by this as it will make it far easier to avoid my Survivor posts (Hi, greenman!). As they say in the Survivor Spoiling world, don't go if you don't want to know! Anyway, here it is, completely unoriginal title and all.


Over the weekend, I saw two movies, The Bourne Supremecy and Before Sunset.

I liked Bourne Supremecy. It wasn't deep and thought provoking, but I wasn't expecting it to be. Matt Damon proved he is a pretty talented actor. He's no Johnny Depp, but he's got a good idea of what to do. Of course, this requires my assumption that he was going for a robotic like portrayal, which did fit with the character. And he did let the blank machine facade slip at a few appropriate moments, so I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. And besides the movie had Joan Allen in it. Any movie with Joan gets a thumbs up from me.

Before Sunset was a good movie, too. Sharon and I watched the first movie, Before Sunrise, many years ago. We liked it a lot. Spoilers ahead - don't read any further if you don't want to be spoiled! A young man and woman meet in Venice, spend the night together, forge a deep connection and, since they had to part, promise to meet again in 6 months. At the end, you are left wondering whether they will actually meet in 6 months as they promised. Both Sharon and I felt something would come up and they wouldn't be able to keep their date. We found out in Before Sunset that we were right. Both have been haunted by that night an neither is happy with their current life - she's never had a lasting relationship and he's unhappily married with a kid. At the end of the second movie we are again left wondering if they'll stay together or break apart again.

My opinion is they do decide to have the affair and it blows up in their faces. They end up unhappier because of it. Am I a cynic? I don't think so. Is there an internet test for cynicism?

Friday, December 17, 2004

Survivor 10 pictures

The names are on the left, but I've also found pictures of half of the known Survivors for the next season. I should say that the spoilers at Survivorsucks and have found the pictures and I have followed their paths across the ether. Great bunch of spoilers out there. Anyway, here they are for your viewing pleasure. Let the speculating begin.

EDITED TO ADD: the Tribe names are most likely Koror and Ulong, the names of two islands in Palau. Credit goes to DanBollinger and Wezzie of

SECOND EDIT: Added Stephenie's picture. And updated the list to the left.

THIRD EDIT: I removed the pics.

Thursday, December 16, 2004


Apparently my soul is a warrior. I hope that's true because I am going to need it after today's events. I can get into specifics unfortunately, but suffice it to say that the next two years of my perfectly planned project have been blown apart. Sometimes it seems like everytime I have everything all figured out something happens to change it. I am sick to death of rolling with the punches, taking one step forward and two steps back, and... getting mired in tired old cliches. I want action and I want it now, and dammit I had a plan. A good solid plan.

The worst part of a day like today is trying not to let my bad mood affect the kids. It doesn't help when Rachel doesn't nap and consequently is grumpy.

I need some jokes. Anybody got a good one?

What sort of soul ya got?

Another interesting quiz.

You Are a Warrior Soul

You're a strong person and sometimes seen as intimidating.
You don't give up. You're committed and brave.
Truly adventuresome, you are not afraid of going to battle.
Extremely protective of loved ones, you root for the underdog.

You are picky about details and rigorous in your methods.
You also value honesty and fairness a great deal.
You can be outspoken, intimidating, headstrong, and demanding.
You're a hardliner who demands the best from themselves and others.

Souls you are most compatible with: Old Soul and Peacemaker Soul

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Any good at Geography?

I found this at a friend's blog over at LiveJournal. (Thanks, James.)

Are you any good at Georgraphy? Take this quiz and see:

Geography Quiz

I got one out of ten right. And frankly I wasn't that confident about that one. I may try it again to see if I can do better. Can't get much worse... Unfortunately, I lowered the US's score by .001%. And Iowa's score, too, for that matter. Surely, someone who reads this blog is a geography star. Make up for my terrible score and help the US climb the Geography rankings.

Feed and shelter the hungry and unsheltered

A guy in Oregon is giving a buck to a chairty that feeds or shelters needy people for every unique visitor to his blog today. Check it out and help the needy.

Thanks to Kris for the heads up.

I wish I could afford to do something like that, but it's just not feasible. Maybe someday.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Ah, Dieter...

My friend, Dieter, sent the best Christmas card of the season so far. I doubt anyone will top it. It came in a regular size envelope. You open that up to find a tiny, tiny envelope. Inside the tiny envelope is a tiny, tiny Christmas card. As Dieter said in his message, the card is very cute. And endearing. And I just loved the little thing. Made me laugh, which is not typical of Christmas cards. I wish more people would be creative with their Christmas cards.

Which reminds me. We have to do Christmas cards this weekend! Ahhhh!

And then there were three

I changed my template so I have three columns. I likee. Right now the Survivor 10 cast is over there on the left, but it's all still very much a work in progress.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Hits on Survivor

I've been checking my site meter to see how people are finding my blog. I've gotten many referrals in the past few months from Google searches of people looking for Eliza Orlins pics. Sorry, no nudie pics here, Survivor fanatics. Posting the names of the new contestants has lead to a lot of hits, too. Apparently, there aren't too many other sites that come up when you search for "Caryn Groedel". So far today I've had almost three times as many hits as I usually get. Clearly, talking about Survivor will drive up my traffic. Thing is, I'm just not that interested anymore. I did the least amount of spoiling or speculating for this last season than any previous season (except numero uno) and I enjoyed the Survivor show far more. In the past talking about Survivor online has lead to vast amounts of stress, but perhaps the answer is not so much not talking about it and instead just not talking to the same stress inducing people about it.

So maybe I'll do a little Survivor reporting on incarnation 10 on my blog. We'll see how it goes.

Rachel quote:

"I don't like racoons. They stink. I am going to hide under my hood now."

This was during our night of driving around and looking at the Christmas lights. We also stopped at a local bank to listen to Christmas carols and at City Hall where Rachel got to sit on Santa's sleigh and tell him what she wants for Christmas. We were expecting her to tell him that she wants a car seat for her doll, Mickey, which is what she's been saying for weeks. Instead, she tells Santa, "I want a reindeer."

A reindeer? Leave it to the little stinker to throw us for a loop two weeks before Christmas.

We had a nice family evening. This is year three, I think, of looking at Christmas lights. It's becoming a good family traditions. Traditions are important. If it weren't ridiculously late at night, I'd write more about that subject. Instead, I am going to bed.

Congrats, Chris

Well, my prediction was correct. I think this the first time I've gotten the entire Final Four correct in... I don't know how many seasons. And no sources! Woo hoo!

I gotta say, I would have been happy with either Twila or Chris winning. Scout, not so much. She just wasn't physically capable of playing the game at the same level as everyone else. The physical side isn't a huge component in my mind, but no one in nine seasons has that terrible at the physical side of things. I would never have voted for Scout to win had she made it to the Final 2. Poor Eliza. She said in he last confessional that she was completely alone out there - not one person was ever truly allied with her. And that's absolutely correct. There was not one person who wanted to be at the end with Eliza.

But back to Chris. He played an incredible game after his huge mistake (along with the other men) of trusting Julie and Twila right after the merge. Fortunately, he was able to appear weaker physically than a one legged man and also was able to work the social game well enough to stick around. And then he played the game masterfully. Took advantage of the crack in the women's alliance. Made what seemed like rock solid alliances with everyone so no one wanted to get rid of him. And he won the last two immunity challenges, guaranteeing himself a spot at the end. He did make mistakes though. He overplayed his hand with Julie and Eliza and almost lost their votes. Fortunately, he pulled off the BEST jury performance of any season. No one played the jury better than Chris. Not Sandra, not Amber, not Jenna, not Brian (although he was good), not Ethan, not Tina, and not even Richard Hatch. Chris said exactly what each person needed to here. And even after Scout called him out on the bullshit, he recovered beautifully with his final statement. Twila, on the other hand, was terrible at the jury part. Of course, I admire her for being herself and speaking truthfully, and she did do such a good job on her final statement that I thought she had a chance, but you just can't win the whole game without buttering up the jury.

Overall, I really enjoyed this season. Apparently the next season will have 20 contestants. They'd better do a two hour premiere or we'll never learn who everyone is by the first Tribal Council. There's supposed to be some huge twist in the first ten minutes that will completely shake up the castaways. I am guessing one huge tribe for the first few episodes and then they break into smaller tribes.

Sunday, December 12, 2004


I just finished reading the book Wicked today. Excellent story.

It tells the story of the Wicked Witch of the West. There are wonderful ruminations on the nature of evil, on the existence of the soul, and on equal rights for the oppressed. What I love about it is the idea of taking a very familiar if underdeveloped character in literature and telling the story from her point of view. Elphaba, in the hands of Gregory Maguire, is one of the more interesting characters in modern literature. There is something very liberating about characters who exist in a world different from our own for the setting can give those characters an universality to which anyone can relate. When the character comes from the New York boroughs, for instance, it can limit our empathy unless the reader happens to come from the New York boroughs as well. All readers start at the same point in a brand new world and that's the advantage. I think this may be one of the reasons I have always enjoyed fantasy novels.

For my part, I am a huge fan of the Oz books, not just the movie. I read them all when I was a kid. There are fourteen, I believe, and almost all were absolutely entrancing. My favorites were the Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz. I need to re-read them and I think I'll start that soon. Incidentally, other authors wrote Oz books as well, but only the ones by L. Frank Baum himself are worth reading.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Survivor 10 spoilers

Even though Survivor Vanuatu hasn't finished airing yet (finale tomorrow!), the contestants for next season are being spoiled via Here are the names of seven of the 16 (or 18?) contestants:

Ian Rosenberger
Jolanda Jones
Janu Tornell
Will Smith
James Miller
Jeff Wilson
Caryn Groedel

The folks at Survivor Sucks are working hard to uncover information about these individuals. Check it out. Right now, I am rooting for Ian. He's extremely tall and directed Jesus Christ Superstar. Tall theater geeks unite!

Friday, December 10, 2004


You are 87% Leo

Fun quiz. And thanks to deliriumbones for posting about it at her blog.

Survivor finale prediction

And then there were four. As expected, Julie got the boot last night. That leaves us with Chris, Eliza, Scout and Twila.

Twila and Scout have a final two alliance. Twila and Scout think they have a three person alliance with Chris. Chris has promised Eliza it's the two of them to the end. At the next Tribal Council, Twila and Scout will vote for Eliza. If she has immunity, they'll vote for Chris. Chris can make the final three by making sure Eliza does not win immunity. The only way Eliza makes the final three is by winning immunity or forcing a tie (with Chris' help). The next challenge looks to be a physical one. From the preview last night, there appears to be a huge wall. It's unclear what they have to do, but it probably involves some climbing. That means Scout, with her bad leg, will not win immunity. At a straight up physical challenge, Chris and Eliza are pretty well matched. Twila was a strong contender, but she was hurt a little bit last night at the reward challenge. My guess? I think Eliza will lose the challenge and Chris will vote with Twila and Scout.

Chris will know he has to win the final challenge. Fortunately, he has made it to the end with two of the weaker players. I think he'll do it and make it to the final two. And he'll chose Twila as his final two partner.

Jury votes:

Sarge - will vote for Chris, no question.
Chad - will vote for Chris, no question.
Ami - will vote for Twila because she doesn't want a man to win.
Julie - will vote for Twila because Chris betrayed her.
Eliza - will vote for Chris because she hates Twila and won't feel that Chris betrayed her.
Scout - will vote for Twila, no question.

And the swing vote is....Leann!

I have no idea how she will vote, but whomever she chooses wins Survivor Vanuatu. I think I'll go with Chris winning. But I think it'll be close.

The Englert's story

Dweeze is covering the story of the Englert in detail. I wrote about it a little bit a few weeks ago. But it looks like he'll have the whole story from day one. Check it out.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Arbys, the salt house of the world

Many of you know I love Arbys. My first job was at an Arby's restaurant when I was 16 years old. I loved the food then and I still love it to this day, even though I have seen the meat before it's cooked.... not a pretty sight. My favorite sandwich is the beef n' cheddar. Three ounces of roast beef, a squirt of cheddar cheese sauce, and a dollop of red ranch dressing on a sesame seed bun. Mmmmm. I am salivating just thinking about it. Their fries are pretty good, too.

That low salt diet I'm on because of Meniere's Disease? It sucks. The RDA of sodium is 2400 milligrams. I am supposed to have about 1200 mg. Wanna know what one beef cheddar has?

1240 mg.

Of course, that's with the onion bun, which I eschew. The regular roast beef (on a sesame seed bun) is "only" 950, so I figure the beef n' cheddar on a regular bun is somewhere between those two numbers. We'll call it 1100.

So after I have a beef n' cheddar, I get 100 mg of salt for the rest of the day. Whoops. I had french fries with my beef n' cheddar. That's 570 mg.

Oh well, guess I'm going to go deaf. What'dya say?

Coralville pride

Have you ever been to the Coralville post office? It's tiny. Ridiculously tiny. Every time I'm there, there's a line of people out the door. The only good thing about it is the camaraderie that I've found almost every time I've been waiting in line. It seems we Coralvillians like to commiserate about long lines at the post office. It's pretty nice, actually. And I have to say that the post office employees are always friendly, helpful, and efficient. Especially that one guy with the huge mustache. Charlie, I think his name is. The place is still too damn tiny for a town our size.

Hey, Jim Fausett! Get us a new post office! And in case you don't know, it's a higher priority than a rain forest.

In other Coralville news, I found this book about a tough inner city youth who comes to Coralville to help the police chief solve crimes.

No, I'm not kidding.

Overall, I like living in Coralville. It's a good city with a lot going on. And it's growing. Sure, it's going to have the ridiculous rain forest in a few years, but.... Actually, that's probably enough to make me want to move. But I do like Coralville. For now.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

LOTR test

Thanks, Greenman. I always liked Legolas when I was a kid.

You are most like Legolas, Son of Thranduil

Legolas knows his way around in the world, with a keen understanding of nature. He is often oblivious to the pain and fatigue of his activities.

Though reserved, you excel in aesthetic endeavors. If a mountain is there, you will climb it. Time alone is important and solitary activities refresh you. You have good observational skills. While providing compassion and being considerate, you may have the tendency of being soft-hearted or even "too emotional" You like keeping your options open. Closure is probably not one of your strong suits.

Like Boromir, you are not content to sit on the sidelines while the action takes place around you.

Traits: Open minded, easy going, persuassive, optimistic about the future. On the dark side you could be exploitative and an opportunist.

Want to take the test? Go here.

The water is wide

We had our first read through for Someone Who'll Watch Over Me last night. It's just an amazing play. What struck me in re-reading it was the humor that runs rampant through the show. I had forgotten how funny it is. We'll need to play that up so when the serious stuff hits, it hits that much harder.

The only thing I'd forgotten was how much singing is in this show. Fortunately, I don't have to be a good singer. There's only one song that needs to be sung well and Thomas, who plays Adam, handles that. I have to sing The Water is Wide, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Oh Come All Ye Faithful, and... something else. I can't remember. We're doing The Water is Wide as a drinking song so that'll work okay. Chitty Chitty does not have to be sung well - it's just a fun, silly moment in the play. And I think I can handle the Christmas song well enough.

I do have to work on my Irish accent. It's not bad, but needs work. I have a dialect CD and that's helping.

I am determined to make this the best show we've ever done. Not just because I love the play, but because it's a chance for us to give a voice to the Americans, Britons, and others who have have been kidnapped and murdered in Iraq and other places. Does a little play performed in Iowa about hostages really have any effect on what's going in the world?

Yeah. It does.

Here's a partial list of murdered hostages since 2002.

Margaret Hassan
Zoran Nasovski
Dalibor Lazarevski
Kenneth Bigley
Jack Hensley
Eugene Armstrong
Fabrizio Quattrocchi
Martin Burnham
Daniel Pearl
Raja Azad
Sajad Naeem
Georgi Lazov
Ivaylo Kepov
Keith M. Maupin
Kim Sun-il
Paul Johnson
Hussein Ali Alyan
Nicholas Berg

The water separating them from me is very wide, but I get a little closer every time I talk about them and remember them. We all need to cross that water to have a chance to change things.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Odds and Ends

I really have to get this book. Sharon will probably get it for Christmas and I'll have to wait til she finishes it. Fortunately, she's a speedy reader.

I watched My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss last night. What a train wreck. It looks like the sort of show that you just have to catch the finale so you can see the mediawhores explode after they discover they've been had. Everything leading up to that moment is pretty much just dreck. Not the finale isn't dreck; it is, but it's also entertaining dreck.

Still really into Lost. I finally caught the most recent episode yesterday. My local ABC affiliate pre-empted it because of an Iowa basketball game. Argh.

Bears won yesterday! Woo hoo!

Wasn't there some other TV show that I cared about....? Oh, yeah, Survivor. We're down to five and only two episodes remaining. Ami was sent packing last week, thank God.

She was the biggest bitch on Survivor and not in a good way. She was a sexist pig, with one goal - get rid of the men. But then she couldn't even stick with that plan and decided to betray one of her own instead. After that plan backfired, Ami threw a guilt trip at the person she tried to betray. Although Eliza seemed to fall for it, she decided to not let it affect her strategy and Ami became the next loser lodger. After being voted out, Ami had the gall to say:
My integrity is still complete, and I can't say that for all the people on the tribe still.
Honey, you got no integrity. Get thee to a nunnery.

So who's left?

There's the iron clad alliance of Scout and Twila.

Chris, the only man still standing.

Eliza, the potential swing vote.

And Julie, who is next on the chopping block.

If all goes according to plan, Julie will be the next to go. It's definitely the best move for Scout and Twila. Eliza, on the other hand, should try to make a move to break up the last alliance in the game. If she convinces Chris to vote out Twila, she'd be in a better situation. At the Final Four, it'd be easy for Scout and Twila to convince Chris to vote against Eliza because that'd put Chris in the Final three with two people he could probably beat in an immunity challenge. In a Scout, Julie, Chris, Eliza Final Four, Eliza has more options. However, Chris is a smart player and will probably not go for it. Which means Julie is the next to go. Plus, there's a lot of misdirection in the previews that points to Twila going home, so she's probably safe. Sorry, Julie.

Check back on Friday for my prediction of the Final episode.

Tears for Fears

I read a great line about the difference between writing comedy and drama. Peter Mehlman, writer on Seinfeld wrote in the current issue of Entertainment Weekly:

"And really, writing moments that make viewers cry is so easy. Ninety percent of the world is on the verge of tears at any given moment anyway; how hard is it to push them over?"

I have always felt writing comedy was much harder than drama. The humor in my plays is there because it sneaks in; I am not a funny writer. I've always been impressed by those who can deliver the zowie, like my wife, for instance. However, what really struck me is that "90% of the world is on the verge of tears at any given moment" bit. There's truth in that, I think. I know I feel that way a lot. And I know I'm not depressed or anything like that. But stuff gets to me really easily these days. A sappy commercial, watching love unfold on a TV show, an emotional blog entry by a stranger... I may not be crying buckets, but the tears are there and willing to fall if I give them say so. Most times, I say no. Maybe it's just the winter and the emotional time of year or maybe it's the money issues we're dealing with lately. I don't know. But watch out. Say the wrong (or right) thing and there's a tidal wave waiting to wash ashore.

The POV of an American in Iraq

Thanks to the Yin Blog, I found this blog from an American in Iraq. It's a very interesting read and I am going to add it to my links on the side. I recommend you check it out.

Escape to Pine Needle Mountain

Last December, after Christmas 2003, I bought a nine foot fake Christmas tree at a 70% discount. I wanted a good one, but did not want to spend $200 for it. It's been sitting in our garage all these months, patiently waiting for that special time of year and ignoring a couple hundred bumps from the car. Last night, after a week of cajoling from Rachel, we put it up.

We never had fake trees when I was a kid. Always real with the pine needle scent; always big with full branches; and always short needles because it's easier to hang the ornaments. So I was violently opposed to the fake tree thing. It didn't feel like Christmas unless you could smell the pine needles. But it was necessary for the first few years because we lived in apartments. Sharon didn't mind because her family had almost always had a fake tree so she was used to it. Last year, we were in our own house and we could finally have a real tree. I was excited.

You know how some movies are not nearly as good when you see them as an adult? Like Escape to Witch Mountain, for instance. Great movie. When you're nine. Well, it turns out real Christmas trees are kind of like Escape to Witch Mountain for me. The wooden acting you don't notice when you're nine is just like the million pine needles that inhabit every crack in your house - really annoying. I swear we were vacuuming up needles in June.

Mom and Dad, I just want to say thank you for dealing with all those damn needles all those years and hiding the pain from me. I appreciate it. Unfortunately, I am not as self sacrificing a parent. Consequently, I bought a fake tree at 70% off the day after Christmas last year.

It's a great tree. Easy to put up and it looks great. And it's NINE feet tall. I love a tall Christams tree. Trees are supposed to be tall. I should have to stand on something to hang ornaments on the top branches.

Rachel had a great time trimming the tree. And she was very careful with the ornaments which is a huge improvement over last year when a few were broken. This year, I was the only one to break an ornament. Sharon and I had to take turns being on Sami watch to keep her from getting at the tree. After we were finished, we put Sharon's antique chest in front of the tree to block the inquisitive 10 month old. We listened to Bing sing Christmas tunes and we smiled remembering the history of each ornament. It was a great family evening....everything was perfect....

Until I noticed the fake pine needles on the floor.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Doe, a dead deer

I went to my family's website to find a picture of a distant relative's 8 or 9 year old daughter with the dead deer she'd shot. It was disturbing. I am not a big fan of the "sport" of hunting no matter what the circumstances, but I am extremely uncomfortable with a child shooting and killing a deer. And then posing proudly while holding it's head up by the antlers is waaaay over the top for me. Where I grew up, there was no hunting. I live in Iowa now and there are plenty of hunters around. It's a different culture than what I am used to, I guess. And I get that. But still. An eight year old child should not have a gun in her hands. She should not be ending the life of an animal. One should reach a certain maturity, an understanding about what it means to end an animal's life, before doing so. A child that age is not capable of that understanding. Our society has devalued life in so many ways and it starts so young. There's a rule in writing. You don't break the rules until you understand them. I think hunters should adopt a similar rule - you don't end a life until you understand what it means to be alive.

I am just so creeped out by that picture. Especially since the child is member of my extended family.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Will Kenyon

Thanks to my fellow Iowa bloggers, a few weeks ago I discovered Will Kenyon's blog. Will was born October 26, 2004 at just 24 weeks and consequently his father is the writer of the blog. Will currently weights 1 lb. 10 oz. Tomorrow he has to have surgery to correct something called PDA. I've been following Will's fight to make it out of the hospital and have been amazed not only at the strength of this little person, and the miracles that the doctors can perform these days, but also at the steady voice of his father, John. I don't think I could write so calmly were I in his place. The funny thing is it turns out I know John Kenyon in a peripheral sort of way. He used to write for the Gazette and he's covered my shows in the past. He wrote a review of Barefoot in the Park that was very kind considering the set we had and the fact that aside from John and his guest, there were only two other people in the audience. It was also about 20 below zero and Mother Nature had dumped a half foot of snow on us that night. But John came out despite the weather, stayed despite the lack of audience, and reviewed our show. These days we couldn't get a review from the Gazette if we performed the show in their writer's living room so every review we've received (positive or negative) we appreciate more than I can describe. Bottom line is, reviews aside, in every dealing I've had with him, John has always impressed me as a class act.

So do me a favor today and send some good thoughts or some prayers to little Will.

My Survivor blog has the latest news and speculation as well as some spoiling about the show.
About Me

Name: Matt
Location: Coralville, IA
I am a Dad and a Husband. An Actor. An Administrator. A Hiker. A Writer. Probably a bunch of other things too. Read my blog and you'll find out more.
Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama

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