Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Surviving Thanksgiving


We here at Expecting the Spanish Inquisition like to have a little fun. Our hope is that you'll be able to come here and for a few brief moments every so often escape from the real world and its worries. We also hope that by this time you're wondering why we're speaking as though we're more than one person when there's just one guy who runs this blog.

But we also know that tomorrow is Thanksgiving. A time to get together with family and continue whatever family traditions were started before you were born and will likely continue in your family in one way or another long after you're gone. My hope is that tradition involves eating more than you should and then going back for more. However, we also know that it's entirely possible that you'll end up trapped in a conversation about one or more of the biggest news items going on in the country today. As our gift to you (consider it an early Christmas present. Also, it's your only Christmas present), Expecting the Spanish Inquisition is presenting you with a Thanksgiving Conversation Guide that will help you out so you can sound like the smartest person in the room when one of the following topics comes up.

Ferguson - The failure to secure an indictment against police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown has resulted in protests across the country. It's led to discussions on issues surrounding the judicial system, the use of force, the fact that it's unknown exactly how many people are killed annually by law enforcement officers and how Black and White America view the police force. Earlier protests also resulted in discussions of the militarization of police forces and crowd control policies used by various police. There's clearly a divide in this country about how the legal system and its perceived flaws. Should this come up at your Thanksgiving celebration, I see one of two ways it being discussed.

"Man, those riots are stupid. What do they hope to gain from it?" is one way.

"Yes, the protests may not be effective at spreading the message they hope to send, but lets examine why they feel the need to protest in the first place. Dr. Martin Luther King said 'a riot is the language of the unheard' so we must ask ourselves, what message is not being heard and what is wrong with the system that these protesters feel acting outside of the system is the only way to have anyone listen to them?" is the other.

Should this situation come up, I believe the following should allow you to escape the conversation without having to worry about hurting anyone's feelings.

"That's something. Hey, what channel is the game on?"

Bill Cosby - America's dad has been in the news recently as more and more women have come forward to accuse him of rape and sexual assault dating back to the 1960s. The famed comedian was the first African-American to costar in a dramatic television series and won three Emmy Awards for his role in I Spy. He went on to create Fat Albert and star in The Cosby Show that was among the country's most popular programs in the 1980s.  However, he's been embroiled in controversy stemming from the aforementioned alleged sexual assaults. Again, this is likely to come up, and should it, I see it going in one of two ways.

"Why would he do that?"


"How could he do that?"

Again, we're here to help (and continuing to not answer why we're using the plural voice in this post), so when this comes up simply say "Hey, does anyone know what the score of the game is?"

Benghazi - The attacks by terrorists in Libya have been constant source of outrage, especially for those on the conservative side of the political spectrum. Claiming cover up or conspiracy, some on the right have wanted President Obama impeached over his handling of the situation. Late last week a report from the Republican controlled committee looking in to the incident found no evidence of a coverup and, in fact, found the military and CIA acted appropriately in the wake of the attack. This has led some to believe the entire investigation was done for political points while others see the investigation not digging deep enough to uncover what they believe to be a complete mishandling of the situation.

There are any number of ways this could be brought up depending on the political leanings and/or willingness to believe conspiracy theories of your family. However, should it come up, just remember the phrase "Where's the remote? The first game is over and I need to change the channel to the other game?"

Immigration - President Obama last week took executive action to change how immigration policy is enforced in this country. Essentially what the President did was to re-prioritize which people who are here without proper documentation will be deported first. Those with criminal records or who haven't been in the country for a while will be sent back to their home country first and those who have been here more than five years, have no criminal record and may have children who are American citizens will be lower on the priority list. Obviously this is a sensitive issue with plenty of rhetoric on either side of the debate.

When immigration comes up at your celebration, just say "I'm sorry, I wasn't paying attention. I've got $50 on this game and really need the quarterback not to miss open receivers on third and seven."

This obviously isn't a complete list of what may come up, but just remember your ace in the hole should you need an out for any conversation this holiday season. Should you find yourself trapped discussing something you'd rather not, simply say "Oh, that's interesting. Say, want to hear about my fantasy football team?" We've yet to meet anyone, friend or family, who cares how our teams are doing.

Happy Thanksgiving from your friends at Expecting the Spanish Inquisition.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Probably in Proverbs

I'm about to complain. You've been warned. It's not really a rant since there's actual research that's gone in to this. Due to my limited knowledge of the English language, I'm not sure what to call it. I don't know the word for rambling complaint about something that's actually been researched, but that's what this is. That's right, I actually emailed people with knowledge to ask their opinions. All that said, if you have any expectations of anything resembling good writing, you need to stop reading now. What follows can only disappoint you and I don't want that hanging on my head. 

Like many of you, I  hang out on Facebook. That may be overstating it. I have Facebook up at work, though their recent algorithm changes makes the service practically unusable. Seeing people's posts on Sunday afternoon about a touchdown for their college team Saturday night is confusing at best and irrelevant at worst. Do that enough times and it makes reading facebook useless (which is why I interact more with people on Twitter, where they haven't screwed with their timeline, yet.) But that's not where we're going here.

No, on Facebook, I have friends of all religious persuasions including none at all. Now what you choose to believe or not believe is an intensely personal choice and as long as you're working out your own beliefs and not imposing them on others, we're good. I'm not one of those people who can claim absolute knowledge about faith, spirituality and religion. I've got too many questions, some answerable, some unanswerable, to be able to make definitive statements about religious matters. I've been able to admit to myself that I don't know and I may never know. I'm fine with that.

Others have no such qualms. In a way, I admire them. To have such an unwavering belief in something seems reassuring, but I'm not in that position. And here's where we get to what bothers me. It seems to me that those most sure of spiritual matters (though by no means only those) end up posting sayings that aren't biblical at all. They sound like they could be from the bible, and I imagine the people posting them believe they may be. In fact, I can see them saying to themselves "I don't know where in the bible it says this, probably in Proverbs somewhere." This list is by no means complete, nor is it meant to imply the people who say these things aren't well meaning (they usually are) or are any more or less spiritual. It's mostly to say that when you see these sayings, know they're not what they often seem to be.

"God helps those who help themselves" This may be true, though it's also likely that God helps those who can't or won't help themselves. This is a saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin. While many have elevated Franklin and other founding fathers of the United States to near-diety status, he was just a guy, a really smart guy, but just a guy.

But let's take a look at the implications of what's behind this saying. It's basically saying the only way God's going to help you is if you're willing to help yourself. But if you can help yourself, why would you need God's help? And if God only helps those who help themselves, which is implied, then what kind of God is that? A God that doesn't help people who can't help themselves isn't a God I'd want to believe in, let alone one I'd want to follow.  

Spare the rod, spoil the child - close, though it's a misquote of a verse actually in Proverbs. In Proverbs 13:24 it says "Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them." Personally, I'm always in favor of sparing the rod because I don't believe using physical force with someone who behaves in a way that you don't want him or her to is wrong, regardless of age, but I understand that some of you may choose not to spare the rod. That said, I'm pretty sure I don't hate my child for failing to physically assault him because he doesn't listen like I wish he would. The fact that the words "punish" and "discipline" have come to be used interchangeably, especially in respect to raising children, is a detriment to both. You can discipline without punishing, and you can punish without disciplining. 

But we're getting sidetracked here. Spare the rod, spoil the child is actually from Samuel Butler in his satirical poem Hudibras, which, as we all know, is about the factions of the English Civil War and written in 1662. I don't even know why I'm telling you this because you're all educated, cultured people of the world who are wondering if I just had to Google that information. Well, the answer is yes. Yes I did. I also learned that while Butler is credited with the phrase "spare the rod, spoil the child," the notion goes back even further to 1377 in William Langland's The vision of William concerning Piers Plowman. The phrase does not, however, seem to go back further to biblical times, though it's possible it does. Even if it does predate Langland, to, let's say ancient Greece, it's still not scriptural and anyone saying otherwise is mistaken.

"God Doesn't give you more than you can handle" What does this mean, exactly? I honestly don't know what is trying to be said here. As best as I can tell, it's said to people when they're going through a particularly difficult time in life as a way to encourage them to persevere. That's good as we all need encouragement. What's bad is somehow either blaming God for giving you this hard time or saying if you can't handle it that it's a failing of yours and not overwhelming circumstances.

It seems like it goes hand-in-hand with misinterpreting Romans 8:28 ("And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."). I don't care how many different ways you try to spin it, when someone gets cancer or a child dies, that's not good. Even if we ignore the person who has the tragedy happen to them and focus only on that tragedy's impact on you, how willing do we want to be to worship a God who brings tragedy to your loved one because it'll be better for you in the long run? I've got a 6-year old son. If, God forbid, something tragic were to happen to him, the thought that God is using that tragedy for good for me is absurd. That also ignores the fact that my son had something tragic happen to him that, supposedly, is working for his good. That's not something I'm comfortable with.

"The Lord works in mysterious ways." While this very well may be true, it's not found anywhere in the Bible. The exact source of this quote is unclear, though it's been attributed to a hymn from the 1800s written by William Cowper. You know William Cowper, he's famous for writing hymns in the 1800s. Anyway, he's often credited with the phrase at it came from the line "God moves in a mysterious ways; His wonders to perform; He plans His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm."

Now as I said, it's very possible the Lord does work in mysterious ways. Perhaps God was inspired by U2's "Mysterious Ways" and started acting that way in response to Bono and company's song. Maybe it was initially in the Proverbs somewhere but got taken out before it was released. If we could only find the director's cut, we'd know for sure. But since we'll have to go with what was actually released, The Lord working in mysterious ways is not in the book.

"Seven Deadly Sins" Proverbs does have a place where the author lists seven sins that are an abomination to God, but nowhere does it imply they are deadly. We could combine the sins listed in Proverbs 6:16-19 with the verse in Romans that says the wages of sin in death, but the Romans verse doesn't imply any particular sin is worse or more "deadly" than any other sin.

Sure, we got a great movie (Seven) out of the whole idea of the seven deadly sins originated in the early church and was initially eight deadly sins. About 200 years after the initial list was written Pope Gregory I combined some of the eight, added envy, and left us with the seven we have today.

Again, this isn't a complete list as there are many more sayings that people mistakenly believe are probably in Proverbs. I want to reiterate that people who mistakenly attribute these sayings to the Bible are most likely not doing so out of an effort to deceive or pull one over on you. I would guess most of them believe they're scriptural and they're trying to impart some wisdom or comfort to the person they're speaking to.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Bud Light Will Do Anything for Publicity, But It Won't Do That

 So here's Alex and his new Buccaneer'd living room and back yard. It's a Bud Light commercial that's been running during NFL games, take the 30 seconds to watch it if you haven't seen it.

So that was Alex. Setting aside the obvious breaking and entering that took place, he got a cool set up at his place to watch the game and some sort of land boat in his back yard complete with cannons should his neighbors ever think of pulling a Peter Griffin and annexing Alex's home. So far so good. I mean, for being seen carrying some beer around, it's not a bad deal. Plus he got to meet Tampa Bay legend Warren Sapp who was dressed as a pirate because, I assume, someone in wardrobe had an extra buccaneer costume that just happened to fit him. Because, really, there's no reason for him to be in a costume.

But what happens when Alex's wife gets home? Let's explore the possibilities.

Option A:
 Alex's wife, let's call her Alexandria because it's the obvious joke, get's home and she loves it. She's been wanting to remodel their home for a few years now and her devotion to her husband is so great that she wants him to have anything he wants, even if it's a home fit for a pirate captain at sea and three attractive maidens living on a land boat in their back yard. We're unclear if Bud Light is giving the girls to Alex or not, and laws prohibiting slavery would seem to indicate those girls on the boat are free to leave at any time, but it's not exactly clear the situation there. Same with Warren Sapp. Is he moving in to the guest room? In this scenario, sure he is. He was Alex's hero growing up, so he stays. Sure, it would require some sacrifices. Alexandria's friends would probably stop coming over and their home would be the go to house for every sports-related viewing party, from the Super Bowl and Final Four to the Scandanavian Curling Championships and South American Team Handball Derby. Alex is judicious in the use oft he cannons to the delight of the neighbors. Every 4th of July and other special occasions Alex hosts a neighborhood block party and eventually uses his popularity to be elected mayor of his little town. He and Alexandria have a long and happy life together thanks to his love of Bud Light.

Option B: 
 Alexandria gets home and is horrified. She's spent her adult life as an interior decorator and now can't invite anyone to her home because Alex just HAD to have Bud Light for the game. And he wasn't even going to watch it at home. Alex was going to a friend's house to watch, which I guess makes sense because otherwise they wouldn't have had time to redo the house. Anyway, Alexandria tells her husband that, in no uncertain terms, that either they have to turn the house back to how it was or she's leaving. Alex is torn, he loves his wife, but he loves his new home. Plus, if Alexandria leaves, he can share the house with Warren Sapp and have the three Buccaneer ladies move in with him. Alex ultimately picks the house, leaving his wife to make it on her own. She cleans up in the divorce, taking everything but the house (because why would she want it?) Out of spite, she also gets the land boat and cannons, which she gives to the neighbors they have been feuding with for years over the height of the hedges. The neighbors shoot off the cannon at all hours of the day and night simply to drive Alex mad. Alex, realizing his mistake too late, begins a slow decent into alcoholism, fueled by Bud Light of course, eventually falling behind on the mortgage and losing his home to Warren Sapp. Bud Light abandons Alex in his time of need and Alex ends up a forgotten footnote in advertising history.

There are other options of course, but those seem to be the most likely. I'm no Nate Silver, but I figure those two options account for 85% of the expected outcomes. The fact we haven't seen a follow up to this commercial leads me to believe Alexandria was less than pleased with how things were. Hopefully they're able to get some counseling and can work this out between them.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Serial is a weekly podcast. This isn't any different from a multitude of podcasts out there that post a new episode each week. Some, like Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me are just weekly radio broadcasts that are released as podcasts for people to listen to on their own time while others, like Slate's Hang Up and Listen or Freakanomics,  are fresh new content weekly that are only posted online.

So every Thursday for the past month or so, Serial has released a new episode. The only difference is, unlike virtually every other podcast in existence, Serial's episodes are not self-contained. That is, you can't just listen to all of Episode 4 and understand what's going on without having listened to the first three episodes. If I listen to Freakanomics, I'm going to get a single topic for the duration and it doesn't matter if I listened to last week's edition. Not with Serial. In fact, at the beginning of the second episode, there's a disclaimer at the beginning urging listeners to start from the beginning or risk being lost.

You see, Serial is a murder mystery. It's looking at the 1999 death of  Hae Min Lee, a senior in a Baltimore High School whose body was discovered in the woods. Her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed was convicted of killing her and sentenced to life in prison. But rather than just take one hour and look at the case, the podcast has so far devoted six episodes looking at the evidence, the timelines and the case for and against Syed. It's a gripping story that reminds me of reading a true crime book.

And that's probably the best way to describe Serial. It's a true crime book in podcast form. But unlike, say, Netflix, which drops its original programming all at once so you can spend a weekend and watch House of Cards, Serial comes out weekly. Once you finish a chapter, you have to wait while next chapter is being written, so to speak. And we're not good at waiting.

But Serial makes us wait. Presumably the producers could have completed the story and released it all at once, allowing those of us who like to binge on things like that to take a weekend an listen. But instead, they've chosen to make us wait. Thus far, I've managed to avoid that because I didn't start listening until last week. But in that time I've caught up on all six episodes, finishing the last one on my way to work this morning. Tomorrow brings a new episode, one I'll likely finish by Friday morning's commute. And then my real waiting begins.

Part of me wishes they'd released them all at once, but having listened to what I have so far, I can see the case for publishing them weekly. The story is gripping, but it needs to absorbed. I need a reminder from time to time that this isn't just a crime story, but it's people's lives. The voices I hear aren't actors reading a script, they're people who are trying to remember a time 15 years ago. A terrible time in their lives that saw the death of a classmate and the arrest and conviction of another of their classmates. That's the kind of story that needs time. Time to let the thoughts and doubts and questions linger as you (and the host, who at this point seems unsure if Syed is guilty or not) run through the evidence presented. If you're not taking the time to think about what you've listened to, (in my case, I never listened to more than one episode a day), you're missing part of the experience of listening.

So I'll wait until tomorrow's episode. Meanwhile, I'll be thinking about what I've heard. Trying to put together a mystery that isn't easily solvable, if it's even solvable at all. After all, if it were easy, it wouldn't be a mystery. By Saturday I'll want another episode. I'll want to know more, to see how the story has unfolded. But instead I'll wait and appreciate the anticipation.

You can start listening at or in iTunes or Stitcher.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


I once wrote about how I really don't like blog posts or other writings that are essentially just lists of things. I stand by that, so in an effort to distinguish this entry from one that is just a list, I'm declaring what follows to be a rankings, not a list. See, they're different. Nothing like each other. Not being hypocritical here. Nope, not me.

So here's where various items rank in my life.

Squirrels - My third-favorite woodland mammal to be in my back yard at some point in the last year.

LeBron James - My second-favorite Cleveland-based character (trailing only Drew Carey).

ESPN - in order, my 7th, 23rd, 15th and 24th favorite letters.

Rachel - My 7th favorite character from Friends.

Austin - 23rd in terms of cities I'd most like to have a seance to speak to Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain.

Matchbox 20 - My 20th favorite matchbox

Matchbox Cars - 2nd favorite brand of toy cars. (Hot Wheels for Life!)

30 Rock - 30th in terms of Rocks.

Horses - Ranked 5th in my list of ways to measure power.

Gnomes - 13th favorite roaming creature.

 Hot Chocolate - A curse upon this land and unworthy to be ranked just like all the other warm or hot drinks.

Luftballons - Third favorite thing to release into the sky at weddings.

South Dakota - My favorite Dakota

West Virginia - My second favorite Virginia.

South Carolina - My third favorite Carolina.

Diamonds - Either (A) my fourth favorite suit in a deck of playing cards or (B) my favorite shape for playing a sport.

Cuba - 18th favorite Gooding.

Facebook - 83rd in usefulness of things I use daily.

Chattanooga - Third most popular city in Tennessee

Boise - city I'd most like to have a Zaxby's restaurant located.

Boo - My second favorite Radley.

Chicken Nuggets - 7th in terms of food I'd eat when meeting with the head of the International Monetary Fund to discuss my plans of the organization giving me lots of money for no reason.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Watch Party

With last night’s 3-2 win, the San Francisco Giants won their third World Series title in five years, defeating the Cinderella story that was the Kansas City Royals in the deciding game of the Major League Baseball Playoffs.  It was an exciting end to an amazing postseason of a great season that brought me untold hours of joy.

But now it’s over. Thanks to the magic of, for the past six months I never had to think about what I was watching each night when things around the house were done and it was time to relax. There was baseball.  Unless there was a game I really wanted to see, I’d let my son pick which teams he wanted to watch before he went to bed. I never could figure out a pattern or favorite team of his. As best I could tell, he’d pick a game based on whichever baseball cards he was playing with that day that caught his fancy. The Marlins were more popular than I would have guessed, though I think it had something to do with their orange uniforms. After he’d go to bed, I’d turn on the Cubs or, if there was a game that caught my interest for some other reason, that game. My wife would go to bed around 9:30 and I’d stay up and watch the end of the game before picking a west coast game to fall asleep to in bed.

It obviously wasn’t that exact routine every night (there'd be far fewer references to a wife or son if it was as they’d have left me), but more often than not, baseball filled my evenings from April through October. It wasn’t always intense watching. Usually just a game on while my wife and I talked or I caught up on Twitter while my wife Pinterested – I assume that’s the conjugation of “To Pinterest” – and there were times I’d turn the sound down on the game and listen to a podcast while casually following the game.

But every year, at the end of the World Series, I’m left with an entertainment void that needs to be filled. I’ve got a couple of books I’ve been putting off reading, so I’ll be doing that, but one thing I always make sure to do is pick a television show that I’ve missed out on completely and watch it during the offseason. Last year, for example, I finally got in to the Breaking Bad phenomenon and spent the offseason watching the entire series. Often I had to limit myself to one or two episodes a night and follow it with a comedy before going to bed because of how intense it was. There’d been enough chatter about the show online and among friends that it was an easy choice for me to pick as my offseason show.

But this year, I’m still not sure what I’m going to watch. I’ve got two brothers and both of them have made their pitch for what I need to see. One, who happens to live just outside Washington DC, says I should watch The West Wing. The other says I need to watch Friday Night Lights. (I’ve put off watching FNL mostly because I’ve read the book by the same name and it was turned off by the premise of the show being so different from what was portrayed in the book. I know that’s a mental hurdle I have to overcome and nothing against the show. Finally, had several friends push Parenthood as one I should watch. Other than the fact it has Lauren Graham in it, I really don’t know much about the show, so I’d be going in to it with only the expectations of it being really good.

One I’d considered before reaching out to others for suggestions was The Sopranos, especially now that it’s streaming on Amazon Prime. I feel like that’s one of those shows I’m supposed to watch to be culturally fluent in America in 2014, well, more likely culturally fluent in 2008 but given the amount of baseball I watch annually, it shouldn’t shock anyone that I’m not up to date, culturally, with televised entertainment.

But now I turn to you for suggestions. What do I need to watch between now and April when baseball season starts again? I’m not saying it has to stream on Netflix or Amazon Prime for me to watch it (we are that family that still has a Netflix DVD plan), but it would be helpful. So help me out here, what do I need to watch?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Baseball Friends

I've never been to Kansas City. I've never even been reasonably close to the city. I've spent a couple weeks in Memphis, Tennessee, but even that is 451 miles from where the Royals play baseball. At best I think a former coworker had been to Kansas City a few times, but essentially I have no connections to the greater metropolitan Kansas City area, nor do I really have a reason to.

Don't get me wrong, I would love to get to Kansas City some day as part of my dream of seeing every Major League team play in their home stadium. And while that means the Royals are on the list, I can't really say they're high on the list. Giving it very little thought, I'd say they're somewhere between 25th and 29th on the list (I'd be ok if I never made it to Philadelphia for a game, though if I'd been to each of the other 29, I'd find a way to make it to Philly.)

So about a year ago when I was goofing off on Twitter, I managed to gain a follower who was a Kansas City Royals fan. We tweeted back and forth a few times, I started following him and we developed a friendship over baseball. Soon, a couple of his friends (maybe from Twitter, maybe offline friends, I honestly don't know) started following me and we also developed a baseball-centric friendship.

Then this year happened. You may have heard that the Royals, expected to be a slightly above average team, were, in fact, a slightly above average team. They won 89 games which was good enough to get them in to the one-game wildcard round of the playoffs. Win that game and they'd play a best-of-five series against the team with the best record in the American League. Win that series and they'd play a best-of-seven series against the second-best team in the American League. The odds were not in their favor.

Despite that, it was the first playoff appearance for the Royals in 29 years. Sure they were only guaranteed one game, but come on, after almost three decades, you'll take what you can get. I mean, when there are songs written about looking back at 1985 in a nostalgic way, you know it's been a while.

And it looked like the Royals return to the playoffs was going to be a brief one. Trailing by 4 late in the game, I'd already written an "I"m sorry" tweet to send to the group of Royals fans I'd befriended. I saved it in my drafts and was all set to send my condolences but to remember the joy the previous six months of baseball had delivered along the way as soon as the game was over.

But I never needed to send it because the Royals started scoring and pulled out a 12th inning win. And then they kept winning. Sweeping the Angels and the Orioles to get to the World Series. And after losing Game 1, Kansas City took games Two and Three and suddenly the downtrodden Royals were having legitimate visions of World Series parades dancing in their heads. And me, a guy in south Georgia with no real connection to the team, was getting to follow along with some diehard Royals fans who, though the wonder of the Internet, allowed me to follow along the highs and lows.

Living vicariously through their joy and taking the unexpected ride to the World Series with them has been a fantastic experience. One that, with the Royals now down three games to two, may come to an end tonight. With a little luck, it'll go to a Game 7 tomorrow. Win or lose, it's been so much fun to get to follow along with a group of strangers who welcomed me into their little twitter world and let me go from casual fan watching the games because I enjoy baseball to someone who is actively rooting for his friends to get to experience the ultimate joy in baseball fandom.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Paved Paradise

There are several things I hope to be able to impart to my son as he grows up.

I want him to know the importance of being kind to others. I want him to know that learning for the sake of knowledge is a good thing. I want him to find what he's passionate about in life and find a way to make a career out of that.

And I want him to remember where he parks.

Now granted, he's more than a decade from actually having to remember where he left his car in a crowded parking lot. But I don't want to wait until he's started driving to help him learn this most valuable of all skills.

So just how do I plan on doing this? By adhering to one simple rule. I hesitate to tell you what it is because if this gets out and people start doing it, then my grand plan will be ruined. But given the limited readership of this blog in general and the even smaller likelihood anyone's still reading five paragraphs in, I feel ok sharing with those of you dedicated readers.

Here it is. I park near a light pole. At the ball fields. At the grocery store. At sporting events. I will pass up spots closer to where I'm going to get a coveted spot near a light pole. And I make sure I point this out to my son so he knows what to do.

It warmed my heart the other night when we were walking out of our Fair into the adequate but not well lit parking lot and said to him, "uh oh, I don't remember where we parked."

"Did you park near a light pole?" he asked.

Sadly, because we were directed where to park, I hadn't. But the life lesson has been learned, so I may take the next 10 years of parenting off.

Monday, October 6, 2014

What if... "The Max"

What if The Max, the 50's diner style restaurant from Saved By The Bell, had Yelp Reviews

- This place looks nice from the outside, but inside it's kind of cramped. There aren't that many tables and this group of six teenagers always has the best booth. The food is ok, mostly burgers and fries, but it's definately a teenage hangout spot. Go elsewhere if you're looking for 50's nostalgia."1 Star"

- What a joke. My wife and I wanted something quick so we ducked in here on our way out of town. Little
did we know there was going to be a fashion show taking place right in the middle of the restaurant. Who holds a fashion show in the middle of a restaurant? The fashions sucked and we ended up going somewhere else. "1 Star"

- The place had a creepy vibe to it. The college-aged manager kept hitting on his high school wait staff right in front of the customers. Max? More like "Min." Am I right? "1 Star"

- My husband and I had heard about this place from our son who goes to school at Bayside. We figured we'd give it a shot but when we got there, it turns out some kids in his class had rented out the place for some marriage project in one of their classes. Seriously, is this any way to run a business? "1 Star"

- I'm giving this two stars because the waitress was kind of hot. But the food sucked and right in the middle of our meal, a pep rally broke out for some high school. Don't these kids have a gym or football field? What happened to that oil money they were going to get when they found oil under the football field? "2 Stars"

- Who holds a radio contest at a restaurant roughly the size of half a basketball court? Between the radio DJ and the chairs set up for people to watch a radio show. Who watches a radio show? Anyway, we went elsewhere. No wonder they needed a fundraiser to keep this dump open. "1 Star"

- Casey Kasem broadcasted a dance party from here once, so I figured I'd give it a shot. Big mistake. Food was bland, drinks were served with no ice and there wasn't a single bit of Kasem memorabilia. Do yourself a favor and go anywhere else. "1 Star."

- This place really started to go downhill once the magician guy left as manager. That guy could really run a restaurant. "1 Star"

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ray Rice and the power of pics

Spend enough time on the Internet and eventually you'll come across the meme "pics or it didn't happen." Usually this is in response to some exaggerated tale from some anonymous person bragging about some feat that is so amazing, so astounding that the only way it could be believed is if there is some sort of documented photographic evidence to support the claim. It's basically the Internet's way of making that guy in middle school who says "yeah, I've got a girlfriend, but she goes to school two towns over and anyway you wouldn't know her but she's really hot and I totally got to second base" actually prove it.

While there may be some actual instances when it's used in seriousness, I've seen it used mostly as a joke. It's a fun way to call b------- on internet braggers.

That brings us to Ray Rice. The former Baltimore Raven initially suspended for two games after video surfaced of him dragging his then-fiance (now wife) out of a hotel elevator in February. The underwhelming punishment, especially in light of the NFL's seemingly haphazard punishment system, led to an outcry from pretty much everyone who said it wasn't enough. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said it was a mistake and changed the league's policy regarding domestic violence punishments in the future. (Just don't ask them about San Francisco 49er Ray McDonald.)

Well, Monday video surfaced showing Rice striking his fiance in the elevator and it's as appalling as you'd think a video of a man paid to withstand a physical pounding on his body knocking a woman unconscious would be. Suddenly there was new outrage. Within a few hours, the Ravens cut him from the team and a short while later, the NFL suspended him indefinitely (which one writer likened to a guy showing up at the end of a bar fight after it's over and yelling at the losers "yeah, you better be glad my friends are holding me back.)

What changed between the initial suspension and the current one? Just the video. Goodell tried to defend the league by saying they didn't know the details of what happened inside the elevator until Monday. Most of the smart people I've read on this seem to believe that either the NFL had seen the video before Monday or they didn't want to see the video to claim plausible deniability. Taken at face value, which you shouldn't, he's admitting there may be a justifiable reason for a professional football player knocking his fiance out cold. More cynically, the NFL hoped they could sweep this under the rug and it would all go away.

Either way, the NFL seemed to be basing its decisions on the "pics or it didn't happen" approach. Only, in this case, the guy really did have a hot girlfriend two towns over and he had the pics to prove it. As Patrick Hruby wrote, "The NFL isn't reacting to the video, they're reacting to the fact we saw the video."

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dear Facebook Moms

Dear Facebook Moms,

Hi there. How are you? Good? Glad to hear it. Things going well? Your little tyke learning and growing still? New adventures every day, huh? That's awesome and I'm excited for you. You've got a hard job there, being a mom and all. It comes with a lot of responsibilities and not nearly the recognition you deserve. Kudos to you for taking an active role in your kid's life.

But here's the thing. I see you on Facebook asking each other advice on a variety of things. Some of them are big things like how to get your kid to sleep through the night. Others are, let's say, less pressing in nature. Where to find the proper bookbag for school or maybe just looking for ideas for where to take your children for a fun Saturday afternoon. Whatever it is, you're on Facebook looking for answers and there's nothing wrong with that.

However, nearly every time I see you ask, you're only asking other moms. In fact, most of the time your posts start out "Ok moms, I'm looking for ...." as though us dads have absolutely no clue what's going on. But I want to let you in on a little secret. Dads know stuff. Not all the stuff, but we have some of it. You don't ask, however.

I realize there's a possibility that there's nothing to it and you're not intentionally ignoring a sizable group of your Facebook friends when it comes to advice. It may just be a language thing similar to how I say "alright guys, come over here" to the soccer team I coach despite it being 50 percent girls. Then again, maybe years of clueless husbands on television have resulted in you believing that dads really don't know anything and asking our opinions would be about as helpful as asking my five-year old to explain the ending of The Sopranos.

As I've said, you've got a difficult job as a mom. You're under-appreciated, if you're appreciated at all for what you do. So don't try to take everything on yourself. You may be surprised to know what us dads know if you'd ask us from time to time.

Thanks for your time,

A Facebook Dad

Friday, August 22, 2014

Air Bud through a child's eyes

So we decided to have movie night tonight. Actually, my wife lost track of time and suggested movie night around 8:15 p.m., or as it's known during school nights, my son's bed time.

But it was a Friday night and while we do have plans on Saturday morning, there's nothing stopping us from making Saturday afternoon nap time, so we searched around on Netflix for something we thought we'd all enjoy.... or could tolerate that would also be fun for a 5-year old. When my son heard about Air Bud, the movie about a dog who plays basketball, he was immediately all for it.

The movie came out in 1997, my freshman year in college, so while I knew of it, I don't know that I'd ever seen it. But I know it turned in to quite the little franchise with Buddy, the Golden Retriever in the movie, going on to star in several other sports movies. I figured it'd be fine for us to watch.

Before we could start it, my son got blankets and pillows on the floor and told my wife she would be laying on the floor with him to watch the movie.* He got some of his stuffed animals out to watch with us (strangely, no dogs) and we all settled in for family movie night.

*My wife is not one who stays awake for movies. It's to the point where I don't let her pick what we watch because 30 minutes in she'll be asleep and if I'm going to end up being the only one watching, I'd rather it be something I want and not, say, The Notebook. I tell you to this to say she feel asleep about 30 minutes in to the movie.

The movie's going along fine (and there may be some spoilers in here, as much as you can spoil a 17-year old movie) with the basic plot being a family finds the dog after he's abandoned by a comically villainous clown who treats Buddy like dirt. Buddy and Josh the kid in the movie, become fast friends and since Josh just moved to a new town, Buddy is essentially his only friend.

At some point Josh learns Buddy can play basketball, which coincidentally is Josh's dream to play for the school team. The two play together in a park and though convenient plot twists, Josh makes the team and Buddy becomes a mascot for the team and also performs tricks at halftime.

Just before the championship game, our clown villain sees that Buddy has become famous and wants him back for his act. He dognaps him from Josh.

Here's were family movie night takes a turn. At Buddy's dognapping, my son starts crying. Nothing major, just tears running down his face while we tell him the movie's not over and we need to see what happens.

Well, what happens is that Josh dognaps Buddy back, but in an emotional scene, Josh tells Buddy that he knows Buddy isn't really his dog and he sets him free. Of course, being a dog, Buddy doesn't understand this, so Josh starts yelling at him to just go and says something to the effect that he doesn't want Buddy anymore.

Now we're in full-on crying. We're throwing things in anger and wanting to turn the movie off. It's at this point I realize we haven't watched enough movies for him to see the familiar build to a climactic scene of conflict only to know it'll be resolved shortly. For all my son knows, Josh is being mean to Buddy for no reason and he doesn't understand there's more to the movie.

This being a Disney movie, Buddy shows up at the team's final game and has to end up playing. The dog leads a comeback and Josh's team wins the middle school state title (I had no idea such a thing existed.) But there's one final courtroom scene where the villain comes back to try to get his dog one more time. Through movie magic, it's decided that Buddy can decide who he wants to live with. Outside the courtroom, Josh and the villain are placed on either side of the courthouse lawn with Buddy in the middle. It looks initially as though Buddy is going with the clown, causing my son, once again, to break into sobbing. Even after the dramatic turn where Buddy (SPOILER ALERT) chooses Josh, my son's still crying.

My wife, who has woken up at this point, is constantly reassuring him that it's just a movie, but it's as though the whole thing happened outside our window to our son. Part of me feels awful for him that he sees this as so traumatic. Part of me wonders at what age we realize the structure of movies and how they're going to end up. For now, all I do know is we won't be watching any of the Air Bud sequels anytime soon.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I don't care if I ever get back

We took our son to his first Major League Baseball game earlier this year in Atlanta. We did the whole thing like stereotypical fans. We got him a hot dog. Later we got him ice cream in one of those mini helmets. We did not get peanuts and Cracker Jack because it's not 1923 and because, honestly, we did care if we ever got back. We watched the best player of today's generation (Mike Trout) as well as the best player of the previous decade (Albert Pujols) bot hit home runs. We saw the Braves rally from a 5-1 deficit to tie it up in the 9th inning and then stayed for the 10th.

With the game still tied and the attention span of my five-year old and the four-year old of the other couple who was there with us nearing its end, we called it a night and headed for our friends house for the night. Driving there, my son wanted to listen to the game on the radio, so we did with  the Angels eventually defeating the Braves in the 13th inning. All in all, he seemed to have a good time and enjoyed his experience.

So on the 4-hour trip back home the next day, my wife and I asked him about his experience and what he thought about seeing his first big league game. He said it was fun, but he actually liked going to the Savannah Sand Gnats, our local minor league team's games, more.

"It's not so loud and it's not so crowded," he said.

So this past weekend, we took him and a friend to a Savannah Sand Gnats game. The Sand Gnats play in "Historic Grayson Stadium." Historic is usually a code word for "old" and in this case, the stadium is old. Originally constructed in 1921, the stadium underwent major renovations in 1941 following destruction from a Category 2 hurricane in August of 1940. Spanish-American War veteran Gen. William L. Grayson spearheaded the campaign to raise the $150,000 needed to rebuild the stadium that now bares his name.

Fun at the ballpark.
Despite being old and lacking the amenities of modern stadiums, Grayson Stadium is a fine place to watch a ball game. The outfield wall is plastered with ads from local business. So many, in fact, that I couldn't tell you one of them on the wall because they all ran together. I think there was maybe one for a law firm, but I really couldn't tell you. If those organizations' goals were to support baseball in Savannah, they succeeded. If they wanted to get their message out to potential customers, well, in this instance, they failed miserably. The aisles are wide enough for my son and friend to run around and play without really bothering anyone else.

This particular Friday night turned out to be a great night to go. As has been the case for as long as I can remember, there's no parking fee. We parked maybe 200 feet beyond the right field wall and walked right up. Also that night, the team was collecting canned goods for those less fortunate, so for a few donations, the four of us got in free. On top of that, it was bobblehead night at the ballpark, so each of us got a Gnate the Gnat bobblehead, which is exactly as cool as it sounds. (We got there early to make sure we got one, my parents, who also came to the game, showed up late and didn't get one. They weren't too upset about it.) The weather was unseasonably cool for a July night, with game time temperatures in the mid-70s at first pitch.

One thing about Minor League games is fans' allegiance to their favorite Major League team doesn't carry over. The Sand Gnats are located in Braves territory, and looking around the stadium, there was no shortage of Braves fans on hand. However, they all seemed to be rooting for the Sand Gnats, who are the affiliate of their division rivals, the New York Mets. Despite that, the fans had no problem wanting to see Savannah play well and defeat the Lexington Legends (of the Kansas City Royals.)

But it wasn't just Braves fans (and the two Royals fans I saw) there. I had on my Cubs hat, as apparently other people did too. As I was in line to get a drink, a guy walked by, saw my hat and said, "hey, another Cubs fan, that's the fifth one I've seen tonight." From my seat, I counted several Orioles fans, a few Reds fans, a Mets fan and one guy down front who was wearing a Montreal Expos hat. There was also a smattering of Yankees fans as well as a guy in a Brewers cap.

Midway through the third inning, the boys start to get restless, so my wife and mom took the boys to the jump castles while dad and I watched the game. The stadium underwent additional renovations in 2009 in which they installed giant fans above the seats to create a comfortable breeze during the game. And other than the obstructed view seats where posts block your view, there really isn't a bad seat in the stadium.

My wife hates this. I love it.
Despite being one of the lowest levels of the minors, there are players from this level who eventually go on to become stars. Among those who have played for the Sand Gnats who have gone on to have success in the Major Leagues are Adrian Beltre, Edwin Encarnacion, Travis Hafner and Ryan Zimmerman. On this night, I wanted to see Dominic Smith. He's a 19-year old first-baseman rated among the top-50 minor league prospects in all of baseball. He did not have a night to remember. Smith went hitless with two strikeouts and was tossed from the game for arguing with the umpire after striking out in the 7th. Truth be told, he probably should have been ejected in the 5th for arguing, but the umpire was in a more forgiving mood than I would be. All in all, not a good night for Mr. Smith, but in the unlikely event he becomes a star, I can say I saw him way back when.

There's a chance the Sand Gnats may be leaving Savannah. The team wants the city to build a new stadium with more modern amenities and if they don't, they've threatened to leave, with Columbia, SC seeming to be a likely landing spot for the team. I'd be disappointed if they left, but I can understand a city not wanting to spend $30 Million on a new stadium when I'm sure there are other things the city could spend that money on. If they do leave, It'll mean we have to drive an extra 25 minutes (one way) to get to the nearest minor league team. We'd still do it, it'd just be different. Or we'll just go to games when we visit my in-laws. And my bobbleheads would likely go up in value as they'd become rare collectors items for that small subset of fans who really, really, REALLY like Minor League mascot bobbleheads.

Eventually the boys make it back from the jump castles in time for the last few innings of the game. We'd probably head home at this point if it weren't "Kids run the bases" night at the ballpark. But that's what I like about Minor League games, there's always something to attract and keep fans engaged (and, presumably, spending money.) My son and his friend were both extremely excited about the opportunity to run the bases, even if Gnate was going to be at home plate.

You see, my son doesn't like giant mascots. From the local college team's Eagle to Gnate to any others, he is anxious around them. Sure, they're all smiling and welcoming, but I can't get him to go stand next to a mascot for a picture. Sadly, my Photoshop skills are also not that great, so I can't even pretend he's done it. But now, if he wanted to run the bases, Gnate would be awaiting him when he completed his trip.

Finally the game ends with a 5-2 Savannah win and the kids all line up. The friendly young woman in charge is very clear that parents are not able to run the bases with their kids so we have to wait down the third base line for them to finish and then they'll find us when they finish. The kids all patiently wait their turns as they walk make their way down the first base line. From there, they're supposed to say their name (not shout it, we're instructed) into the microphone and then circle the bases.

Soon it's my son and his friend's turn and they start running. They're both careful not to pass the person in front of them (more of the rules) and when my son finally gets to home plate, instead giving Gnate a high-five like the other kids, my son gives Gnate a huge hug and then runs over to find us with a big smile. When we asked him why he gave Gnate a hug, he said "because I love him."

Overall, he and I had a much more enjoyable experience than the Major League game. It was more relaxed, less crowded and overall a more fun atmosphere. Sure, he skipped out on some of the game to play in a jump castle and sure it's likely none of the players we saw will ever be Major League All-Stars, much less Hall of Famers, but the game was fun and we had a good time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


I work at a small college. I love my job. I love getting to interact with students. I love being around people who have dedicated a good portion of their adult lives to learning and want to share that information with others. I love that both my wife and I work at institutions of higher learning and hope that fact makes an impression on our son that we value education.

But there’s one aspect of my job that I can’t stand. I absolutely despise it and have gone on a one-person crusade against it.

I hate when college students call me “sir.” Hate it. Look, I get it, they’re being polite and respectful and all that. But it’s entirely possible to be respectful without saying “sir.” Come in, shake my hand and be attentive while we’re talking – that’s respectful. I don’t need the added “sir” thrown in there. I'm not that formal.

Every time a student calls me “sir” I do two things. First, I tell them I’m not that old. They usually laugh sheepishly and apologize and say they were trying to be polite. Then I tell them in about 15 years when some college student calls them “sir” or “ma’am” they’re going to feel old and also think back to this meeting and say “that guy was right, I do feel old. That’s not cool at all.” Invariably, they’ll forget this and the next time they walk in to my office, they’ll call me “sir.” I tell them “I know we’ve gone over this before, you know you’re not supposed to be calling me sir.” They laugh, I smile and we move on.

If it were completely up to me, I’d have every student who comes in to my office to call me “Luke.” It’s the name I was given and I imagine that’s what my parents wanted people to call me. Having students call me that would be, in a way, respectful to my parents’ wishes. But I understand that probably won’t go over with the powers that be. I begrudgingly accept “Mr. Luke” as a title though I really don’t like it.

I realize by writing this there’s about a 100% chance of people I know who read this calling me “sir” just to mess with me. But if it’s really about respect, you’ll respect my wishes and call me what I want to be called, “Luke the Magnificent.”