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.