Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Happy New Year?

It’s February 1st today, and I think we should review our standard nationwide protocols when it comes to saying, “Happy New Year.”

As a general rule, you’re pretty safe just shotgunning “Happy New Year” out into the world until the 10th of January or so. With friends and family, you’ve got a much more relaxed timeline, depending on the first time you see or talk to them after New Year’s Eve. A close family member or a really good friend can comfortably receive a HNY well into January.

With work, you’ll want to keep the 10th in mind as a good guideline. Even before the 10th, however, you’ll need to exercise caution in the workplace.

It can be a major business faux pas to wish the same colleague a HNY more than once in the office. Similarly, wishing a client or vendor a HNY for a second time over the phone can lead to awkwardness. You’ll either want to keep a list of all the people you’ve wished a HNY to, or have an earlier cut-off date.

I would suggest the earlier cut-off date, since someone else finding your list can lead to more awkwardness during your embarrassing explanation, or a trip to HR if you refuse to give a plausible one. It makes people nervous when Bob in accounting has an unexplained list of officemates with some of the names crossed off.

Wishing a HNY to the clerk at the grocery store, the person behind the counter at the coffee place, or your server at a restaurant needs to end right around the 4th or so. You might still be in the holiday mood and want to be friendly and wish them a HNY, but they’ve had the HNY exchange six thousand times by then and they’re just done with it, so have a heart and let them off the hook.

If you’re a friendly sort, and like to wish random passersby on the street a HNY, stick with the 10th as your guideline. Anything past that and it’s getting weird. If you want to say HNY at the end of January, it better be to your immediate family members, and even then they’re going to think you’re being weird.

And for the love of Pete, under no circumstances should a HNY come out of your mouth or land in a text or email after January has ended. This is the official, 100%, no wiggle room, cease and desist, cut-off day.

It’s February now. No one wants to hear it. It’s cold, some of us have started our taxes, and pretty soon we all have to figure out what to do about Valentine’s Day.

Happy February,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, January 25, 2023

In the Army Now?

I think my sixteen-year-old son may technically be in the military. Allow me to explain.

A while back, Son Number Two received a nice letter from Kathrine R. Helland, Ph.D., who, as you know, is the Director over at JAMRS.

What’s that? You don’t know what JAMRS is? OK, good, that makes me feel a lot better. I had to Google it, too.

The only other identifying mark on the letter besides the mysterious acronym was a “government seal.” I put that in quotes because it was made up of the standard Great Seal of the United States that you are familiar with – the shielded eagle with the “E pluribus unum” banner in its beak and an olive branch in one claw and spears in the other, signifying that we, as a country, know Latin and are not afraid to harvest fruit trees with weaponry.

Normally the seal is surrounded by the title of whatever department of government is being advertised. This seal looked a little fishy to me, though, because above the eagle it said “U.S. Government” and below the eagle it said “United States of America.”

If it’s not fake, it’s at least poor grammar and style since it essentially says United States twice, but that aside, I don’t think the “government” as a whole has a titled seal. That would simply be the one that only says The United States of America.

Anyway, after I got done grading the letter for official seal accuracy, I looked up the acronym and found out it stands for the Joint Advertising Market Research and Studies, which is a program run by the United States Department of Defense, which as the seal would accurately suggest, is a part of the U.S. Government.

Unfortunately, the Google search of JAMRS didn’t explain how to pronounce the acronym correctly, so I was left not knowing if I should say “jammers,” “jam-res,” “jammer-ess,” or “ja-missus.”

The letter from Dr. Helland asked my son if he wouldn’t mind spending fifteen minutes of his busy schedule to fill out a survey for JAMRS regarding his future plans and his likelihood of joining a branch of the military. This information would “greatly help public officials make more informed decisions when providing and allocating resources.”

Included with the letter was a return envelope and a crisp, new two-dollar bill.

There was no explanation for the money, however the letter did mention that JAMRS had included a “token of their appreciation.” The letter went on to state that if Son Number Two filled out the survey and returned it in the included envelope, there would be a further “token of their appreciation” for his time and efforts.

Son Number Two enjoys having money almost as much as he enjoys spending it, so he filled out the survey and put it in the mail. Sure enough, Dr. Kathrine sent him back a thank you letter with a five-dollar bill this time. Again, there was no mention of the money specifically, only that JAMRS was presenting him with another “token of appreciation.”


Call it what you want to, Doc, but the United States Department of Defense just paid my sixteen-year-old son seven dollars for fifteen minutes of work. To put it another way, the DoD has hired my son to handle paperwork for twenty-eight dollars an hour.

He’s happy as a clam, but I have a follow-up question…

You never specifically mentioned money changing hands, however the “tokens” were specifically said to be included to show appreciation for his time and effort. You’re from the DoD, but your letterhead has a seal that you appear to have made up in your office specifically to look official but not actually say anything about being from the Department of Defense.

This entire thing reeks of plausible deniability, because you know damned well that you are paying minors to do tasks for you, since apparently not including money up front and the promise of more upon task completion wasn’t getting the job done. No responses back means no data for you to blabber at someone, which means no job for you.

I assume that if you lost your sweet government gig, you might have to resort to the dreaded private sector where potential employers might find out your Ph.D. is in Art History. That would be a shame.

So, here’s my follow-up question – Which would you prefer? Would you like me to pursue a legal case against your department for illegal conscription of a minor into military service, or would you prefer to enroll him into the DoD pension benefits program, since he’s retired from active paperwork duty now?

Your choice.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Wisdom Dilemma

Son Number One went to the dentist yesterday for his regular checkup, and his dentist presented me with a dilemma. She took wrap-around x-rays of his face and showed us how at least one of his wisdom teeth was coming in at an angle. She said he would need to get them removed.

OK, no problem. That’s normal for an eighteen-year-old, even though they are misnamed. I don’t know why they call them that, but eighteen-year-olds, while legally adults, are just about the furthest thing from wise.

But anyway, the decision to take them out was not the dilemma. Getting them out of there – especially with a couple growing in like shark teeth – is a no-brainer. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let some useless, late-to-the-party molars screw up all the pretty orthodonture that cost us, if my math is correct, roughly sixty thousand dollars per tooth.

The dilemma came when the dentist presented us with two options for extraction. Option 1 was the oral surgeon who would put him under for the procedure. Option 2 was an associate dentist that does extractions, but just with really good local anesthesia so you’re not fully out.

She told us that Option 2 was about half the price of Option 1, and Son Number One said no problem, that he didn’t need to be knocked out for it. Hence my dilemma.

On the one hand, we have Option 2 that our dentist recommended, my son is on board with, and will save us a ton of money on the procedure.

On the other hand, if we go with Option 2, I will miss out on the chance to film my son on the car ride home from the oral surgeon, all drugged up and saying all kinds of crazy stuff.

You see my dilemma now.

I mean, let’s be serious, he’s eighteen. He’s almost guaranteed to say something really stupid and funny. This could be my one big viral video opportunity that launches me to TikTok fame and fortune. I will obviously need to get TikTok and learn how to use it first, but that shouldn’t be a problem. We have a teenage boys. They can teach me.

I’m really torn. Option 2 saves us a whole bunch of money. Option 1, however, will no doubt make us millions of dollars from the funny video, presumably offsetting much of the extra cost associated with it.

I personally know exactly which way to go. That’s not the problem. My dilemma is how to convince my wife to go with Option 1 and the resulting inevitable TikTok fame. She’s being very negative and unreasonable about the whole thing.

If one of you could talk to her for me, that would be great.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Potato Soup for Justice

One thing I’m going to miss about 2022 is people gluing themselves to floors and walls. I really hope they continue that trend in 2023.

There were multiple reports in October of 2022 about young protesters bravely trading their freedom for the once in a lifetime opportunity to hurl a side dish at a famous painting.

Two enthusiastic environmentalists in Germany threw mashed potatoes on the glass-covered Monet, “Grainstacks,” worth over $100 million. They then glued their hands to the wall under the now slightly tastier piece of art.

Earlier in the year, folks from the elegantly simple solution group Just Stop Oil threw tomato soup on Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” at the National Gallery in London. Then they glued their hands to the wall under the painting, tragically getting tomato soup dripped on them for minutes until someone with a solvent could get there.

The same type of hijinks happened in a number of other places, notably England, Italy, and Germany, with zealous young climate troopers gluing themselves to or near famous works of art, including one sculpture at the Vatican. The Pope responded with an official church statement, saying, “Meh. I never really liked that sculpture much anyway. Keep them glued to it. Might increase traffic to the gift shop.”

The message attempting to be relayed by the protestors, besides the excellent adhesion properties between super glue and human skin, seems to be something to do with the climate and the assertion that we’re hurting it. Although, they don’t seem to have one clear voice, and sometimes the message can get a little garbled, as with Phoebe from Just Stop Oil.

“What is worth more, art or life?” asked Phoebe, while glued to the wall under a Van Gogh with her best buddy, Anna. “Is it worth more than food? More than justice? Are you more concerned about the protection of a painting or the protection of our planet and people?”

No one is sure what Vincent Van Gogh did to harm the planet. He did cut off and presumably dispose of one of his ears, but ears are naturally organic and compostable, so…?

A Just Stop Oil spokesperson attempted to explain the reason for the impromptu soup and glue gallery installation. “The cost of living crisis is part of the cost of oil crisis. Fuel is unaffordable to millions of cold, hungry families. They can’t even afford to heat a tin of soup.”

OK, I hear you, but Just Stopping Oil doesn’t seem like the solution to lowering soup heating costs. It honestly sounds more like you’re organization should be named “Just Produce More Oil So The Cost Goes Down Naturally Due To The Laws Of Supply And Demand, but I guess that might not align with what you think you stand for. Also, it would be harder to fit on the T-shirts.

But never mind all the confused messaging. My favorite glue-yourself-to-something-in-protest story of 2022 was the Volkswagon protesters in Germany. It highlights beautifully how entitled our younger generations have become, although many of the Volkswagon protestors looked definitely old enough to know better.

Six members of the group Scientist Rebellion glued their hands to the floor of an auto dealership adjacent to the Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg, Germany. The dealership/museum, called the Autostadt, (which literally translated means “stuck to the floor of my car”) was taken over by the plucky protestors who valiantly made their point that Porsche is an insanely overrated brand driven almost exclusively by pompous windbags. The Scientist Rebellion was really driving their point home (see what I did there?) right up until it was time to shut the Autostadt down for the evening.

The Autostadt employees – God bless each and every one of them – announced to the rebellious science guys that while they respected their right to protest and glue themselves to floors and stuff, it was time to call it a day. The staff then killed the lights, shut off the heat, locked up, and headed home for dinner.

Now, you would think that a group of scientists, being men of science and whatnot, would have been able to think ahead a tad, but apparently not. Science apparently didn’t even prepare them for what glue does.

Team Science had no plan for staying the night. No plan for getting chilly. No plan for potty breaks. No plan for food. Basically, no plan at all. So, what did this six-man brain trust of pure scientific brilliance do?

They complained on the internet.

Six grown men who glued themselves to the floor of a building they don’t own actually complained to the world that the mean guys at Volskwagon left them alone in the dark without a potty. And that they weren’t even letting them call GrubHub to get some food delivered. And also, presumably, that the big jerks didn’t care as much as they should have about their science protest.

I mean, come on, fellas! That is comedy gold. By all means, please keep gluing yourselves to things. These are the feel-good news stories we need right now amid high gas and food prices and rising inflation.

But a word of advice – as you’re packing up your tomato soup and your super glue for your next big protest adventure, you might want to also bring along enough common sense to know that if you glue yourself to an immovable object, you might be stuck there a while.

Plan accordingly.

And keep on rockin’ in the free world, baby!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, January 4, 2023

About the Author, 2023

Here at Just a Smidge, we like to start the new year off with a little meet and greet, since we continue to gain new readership each and every year. So, for both of you joining us, welcome! Let’s get to know each other, shall we?

Hi. I’m Marc Schmatjen, aka Smidge, and I’m the lone staff writer and chief pooper scooper here at Just a Smidge. Based on how much money I make writing this column, it would be highly inaccurate to call this my job, so let’s just go with “hobby.”

I am a fifty-year-old husband of one, father of three, and legal custodian of one Labrador retriever. We affectionately refer to our boys as Son Number One, Two, and Three. They are all teenagers, and one of them just became an adult, but he hasn’t left yet. They are loud, smelly, and expensive, but the state says we have to keep feeding them, so we march on.

My wife is an amazing woman who teaches math to teenage high school kids, and, since we have three teenagers ourselves whom I spend quite a bit of time with, I am constantly amazed that she is able to maintain her sanity. (I am using “sanity” on a relative scale here. She’s human, after all.)

Anyway, enough about my wife and kids. Let’s talk more about me. Here are twenty other things that you should probably know about me, in no particular order:

1) I would be aging incredibly well if I were ten to fifteen years older.

2) My grandfather killed General Patton's dog. That is the single most historically significant thing anyone in my family has done.

3) Walking out into bright sunlight makes me sneeze. I am one of only an estimated seven people in the world with this disorder. We have a club. I inherited this trait from my grandmother, whose husband once killed General George Patton’s dog.

4) I am distantly related to U.S. president Grover Cleveland on my maternal grandmother’s side, whose husband (my grandmother’s, not Grover Cleveland’s) - I believe I may have mentioned this - killed General George S. Patton’s beloved English bull terrier, Willie.

5) Dave Barry is my humor column hero, and I hope to be as cool as him someday, although his grandfather wasn’t connected in any way to General Patton’s dog, as far as I know, so I’ve got that going for me.

6) Toilet paper should come off the top of the roll. I’m not stating that as a personal preference, but simply as a fact.

7) We currently have four drivers and five cars. Our three-car garage only fits one. If garage-driveway-street vehicle shuffling was an Olympic event, I’d be a medal contender.

8) My face is going numb. Why does this happen to men? You see old guys all the time eating dinner with food stuck to their faces. We just can’t feel it on there anymore. My chin is completely dead at this point.

9) My three favorite flavors are burnt pepperoni, slightly burnt bacon, and well-toasted sesame seeds. Basically, if it has caught on fire, I want to eat it. Except for my s’more marshmallows. Those should only be browned. (And they will end up stuck to my chin, where they will remain until my wife scolds me.)

10) I was in shape once. I swam 100,000 yards in one week when I was in high school. (That’s 57 miles, for you English majors). I could not swim more than 57 yards today without needing a floatation device, an oxygen tank, and a defibrillator. See number 11.

11) I love chocolate and bacon. See number 10.

12) I constantly get my left and right mixed up. This makes driving directions with my wife fun.

13) I am a recovering engineer, so I know there are only 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don’t.

14) My favorite joke of all time is: A guy walks into the psychiatrist’s office wearing nothing but underwear made out of Saran wrap. The doctor takes one look at him and says, "Well, I can clearly see you’re nuts."

15) After a twenty-one-year hiatus, I began snowboarding again two years ago with our boys. So far [sound of me knocking on every wooden surface I can find] I have not hurt myself. This could be my most impressive athletic feat to date, and I once swam 57 miles in a week.

16) I like most foods (see number 10), but I have a deep, abiding hatred for cantaloupe. If bacon is a 10, cantaloupe is a negative 3000.

17) I once pointed out that Van Gogh’s “girlfriend” was actually a prostitute during a fifth-grade art docent lesson. It was not helpful to anyone involved.

18) My absolute favorite thing that has ever happened on this earth – and I am including my marriage and the birth of my children in that – was when the Oregon State Highway Division tried to disintegrate a dead whale with a half-ton of dynamite in 1970. I wasn’t around yet, but thankfully they had video cameras back then. (Just Google “Oregon Exploding Whale.”)

19) I hope to one day be in charge of detonating something as large as a dead whale, but so far, my wife has not let me.

20) I only type with three of my ten fingers, so this is all very impressive, if you stop and think about it.

So, there you have it, folks. You now know everything you need to know about me. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming next week.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, December 28, 2022

2022, An Expensive Year in Review

Well, what a year, huh? Was 2022 a good year? Yes. Was it a bad year? Yes. I think at this point, we’re all just a little dazed and wondering what the hell just happened. Let’s recap, shall we?


Unlike the mini attempted coup of the U.S. government that we began 2021 with, 2022 starts with some good news. On January 10th the first successful heart transplant from a pig to a human patient takes place in Baltimore, Maryland. Phil Krazinski, the pig heart recipient, is quoted in the recovery room as saying, “They put a what in me? I thought they said a big heart.”

Australia thinks they have pulled a fast one after deporting the world’s number one tennis champion, Novak Djokovic, just ahead of the Australian Open due to his COVID vaccination status. In his health survey, Djokovic apparently checked the box marked “I’m over twelve years old, and therefore medically independent under HIPAA rules, so you can kiss my ass.” Unfortunately, Australia’s hopes for a home team victory are dashed when some fully-vaccinated foreigner named Nadal wins instead.

Cryptocurrency has a wild year. Bitcoin – the world’s most popular and stable of the completely unstable, based-on-absolutely-nothing, make-believe cryptocurrencies – starts January down a whopping 50% from its high in October of 2021. One piece of Bitcoin is only worth $38,000 at the start of the year. However, that’s up 39,900% from its value of $95 in 2013, which makes sense, because Bitcoin’s value has gone up because it went up in value, based on its overall value increasing, due to valuation.



The 2022 Winter Olympics commences in Beijing, China, making Beijing the first city ever to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics. All the major governments of the world decided to give it to them, in exchange for continuing to manufacture of all our cheap crap on Amazon, despite the fact that Beijing is a terrible place to have the Winter Olympics, because they get one inch of snow every three years. Those crazy kids make it work, though, managing to rack up another “first” along the way. The 2022 Winter Olympics is the first time all the ski and snowboard events are held on a mountain of Styrofoam and plastic chips instead of actual snow.

The biggest breakthrough in fusion energy since 1997 is reported at the Joint European Torus in Oxford, England. They apparently produced 59 megajoules over five seconds, which is 11 megawatts of power, and more than doubled the previous record. This had the whole world asking the same question – watt did you guys do, and why did you use a Torus? A Ferrari seems like it would have been a cooler choice.

Gas prices begin to rise in February, with grim predictions for a stop to the increases, causing the whole world to ask, “When will that Torus fusion thing be ready?”

Russia declares war on Ukraine. Russian Self-Elected President Vladimir Putin is interviewed while signing the declaration of war, saying, “This is not a declaration of anything at all. Especially not war. I’m just filling out my grocery list.”



In an emergency session, United Nations member states pass a resolution deploring Russia's invasion of Ukraine and calling for the immediate withdrawal of its forces. In response, Putin is quoted as saying, “Those guys are adorable.”

The US and UK announce a ban on Russian oil, while the European Union takes an even firmer stance, announcing a two-thirds reduction in its demand for Russian gas. Reportedly, not a single leader from the US, UK, or EU ever once says, “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t be relying on getting our really critical stuff from countries run by total psychos.”

Researchers in the Antarctic announce they have found The Endurance, one of the greatest undiscovered shipwrecks ever, which sank in 1915. The skipper, intrepid Irish adventurer and explorer Ernest Shackleton, is found treading water above the wreck, chewing on a piece of seal blubber. Upon seeing the researchers, he is quoted as saying, “Jolly good show, gents. Glad you could make it. I’d love a glass of whiskey if you happen to have one.”



Elon Musk buys nine percent of Twitter on the open stock market, causing millions of investors to ask, “Is there a closed stock market you’re not telling us about?” Musk then offers to buy Twitter outright for six gazillion dollars, or four Bitcoin. Twitter employees publicly freak out about it, mostly on Facebook, citing concerns about losing their relaxed, three-hour workweek.

Global food prices increase to their highest level since the UN's Food Price Index began in 1990. To put that in layman’s terms, one non-medical-grade pig heart now costs three Bitcoin.

The Russian flagship Moskva becomes the largest warship to be sunk in action since World War II. Ukraine claims to have nailed it with Neptune anti-ship missiles, while Putin claims, “It did not sink. It’s a submarine. We just didn’t tell you.”

Average gas prices in the US reach $4.50/ounce.

The Large Hadron Collider recommences full operations, after being down for three years for upgrades. The first two things to be collided are a Torus and a Ferrari.

The European Union accuses Russia of blackmail after gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria are halted by Russian energy giant Gazprom. Putin is quoted as saying, “I mean, those guys are just adorable! Adorable, I say!”



Elon Musk’s Twitter purchase is put on hold due to a discrepancy in the reported number of bots operating on the platform, and the unfortunate dip in Bitcoin’s value. One Bitcoin is now worth seventy-five cents.

Vladimir Putin is interviewed while literally shooting a shoulder-fired missile across the border into Ukraine, saying, “This? This is not missile. It’s rocket-propelled tennis ball. I’m playing fetch with my dog. Dog very fast.”

Tens of people tune into the annual Eurovision Song Contest in Turin, Italy. In what is clearly a pity vote, the winner is Ukrainian folk-rap group Kalush Orchestra with their song "Stefania," which literally translates to “Swine Heart.”



Canada and Denmark finally end their competing claims for Hans Island by dividing the island roughly in half, ending what was referred to as the Whisky War. The residents of Hans Island respond by saying, “Like hell this is over! Send more whiskey!”

On the only day since February that worked for everyone’s schedule, G7 leaders meet for a summit in Germany to discuss the situation in Ukraine. A ban on imports of Russian gold is announced. “Just so damned adorable!” was Russia’s official response.

Bitcoin rebounds from $0.75 to $78,000.



The 2022 World Games are held in Birmingham, Alabama, prompting the world to ask, “What are the World Games?”

The first operational image from the James Webb Space Telescope is revealed to the public, showing a really, really close-up view of Novak Djokovic flipping off Australia.

The European Central Bank raises its key interest rate for the first time in more than eleven years, from minus 0.5 percent to six Bitcoins.

Average gas prices in the US reach $8.00/dram.



Vladimir Putin is interviewed while literally driving a tank into the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv and shooting at a building. He can be heard saying, “What? This is just my car. I’m remodeling my apartment. Where is Ukraine, anyway? Never heard of it.”

China conducts its largest ever military exercise around Taiwan in response to a controversial visit by Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Taiwan since the 1990s. Elon Musk came with her and offered to buy Taiwan if the Twitter thing fell through.

Gasoline is officially tied to the price of Bitcoin, and rises to an average price of $46,000/gallon.



The G7 leaders finally wrap up their June summit and spa retreat and agree to impose a price cap on Russian petroleum exports. Putin responds with a heart and a hug emoji.

Queen Elizabeth II dies at Balmoral Castle in Scotland at the age of 96. After a royal drawing of the straws, her son Charles III succeeds her as King. Prince Andrew could not be located to give a statement. At a ceremony at St. James's Palace in London, Charles III is officially proclaimed King of the United Kingdom and of the Commonwealth realms, which entitles him to an $8.50 raise and all the fish and chips he can eat.

The state funeral of Elizabeth II is held in Westminster Abbey, London. The funeral is speculated to be the most watched television event in world history, which angers Vladimir Putin.

In retaliation for the world’s insolence, Putin threatens nuclear action against Ukraine, saying, "This is not a bluff,” only he said it in Russian, so it sounded totally different.

Shortly afterward, NASA's DART crashes into the asteroid Dimorphos in the first test of potential planetary defense, leading many to ask the obvious question, “Why didn’t we just aim that thing at Putin?”

Hurricane Ian slams into the eastern United States and Cuba, causing catastrophic damage and leaving millions without power, including the entire nation of Cuba. But let’s be honest – the week prior, someone ran a moped into a light pole and left the entire nation of Cuba without power, so that’s a tough one to measure.



OPEC, hearing that global gas prices were hurting the average family, helpfully imposes a production cut of up to 2 million barrels per day. Banks begin mortgage programs for gas fill-ups, with convenient at-pump loan approvals.

The 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party is held. Xi Jinping is elected as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party by the Central Committee, beginning a third term as the paramount leader of China. And by “elected,” we mean in the most open, transparent, and legitimate of ways. Thank you, Supreme Exalted General Secretary Jinping, for continuing to bless the world with your inexpensive and incredibly well-made products.

Elon Musk completes his 34-Bitcoin acquisition of Twitter. Taiwan is thrown in as a bonus. Twitter employees find out they have to actually start working. Many at McDonald’s.

Vladimir Putin expands invasion plans to include Taiwan, Westminster Abbey, Twitter headquarters, and Cuba, as long as they’re still without power, which is a safe bet.



Elon Musk abandons Twitter’s blue checkmark verification system and simply makes the blue checkmark available to anyone for $7.99. Thirty-three people are the checkmark-verified Elon Musk within the first ten minutes.

The world population reaches 8 billion. Supreme Exalted General Secretary Jinping (blue checkmark) tweets, “You’re welcome.”

NASA launches Artemis 1, an uncrewed vessel, and if you read that as unscrewed, you’re not alone. Artemis 1 is the most powerful rocket ever launched into orbit – a full twice as powerful as Artemis 1/2. It will orbit the Moon in a slingshot trajectory before returning to Earth with a planned impact point at an undisclosed location somewhere near Vladimir Putin’s office.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup begins in Qatar, which everyone agreed was dumb because they don’t serve beer in Qatar. Not to mention, Phil Krazinski was denied entry to the country on religious grounds. The United States started the tournament with two very exciting ties of 1-1 and 0-0, reminding Americans why we don’t watch soccer the rest of the year.

FIFA bans Russia from all soccer competitions, including the World Cup. FIFA also bans the world’s number one tennis champion, Novak Djokovic, just to be safe. Convinced that free nations have finally done enough, all news channels promptly forget about Ukraine.



Just in time for the Christmas season, gas prices begin to ease back to the level that we would have had a conniption fit about, had they not just been double the current ridiculously high price two months ago.

Elon Musk polls Twitter users to ask if he should step down. It is a resounding yes, and he will comply. As soon as he finds a suitable replacement, he will step down as the president of Taiwan, but he will retain ownership.

The National Ignition Facility, which may or may not be located near the Joint European Torus, achieves fusion ignition – apparently a major milestone in the development of nuclear fusion power, or so they tell us. We remain skeptical since we all still have to buy insanely expensive gas. C’mon fellas! We’ve got a pig’s heart beating inside Phil Krazinski’s chest. How hard can it be to get fusion into a Torus?

Argentina ends up winning the World Cup final on penalty kicks, making Americans wonder, once again, why isn’t the whole game just penalty kicks? That part is actually exciting.

Bitcoin ends the year worth one sixteenth of a Taiwan.


Can’t wait to see what 2023 brings us. Have a happy New Year, y’all.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, December 21, 2022

The 2022 Do-it-Yourself Christmas Letter

You’ve done it to yourself again, haven’t you? It’s December 21st and you haven’t even started to write your annual Christmas letter yet, have you? You’re out of time, out of patience, and for three years now, you’ve been close to being out of toilet paper.  

Sure, just like our hopes for the future, things look bleak. But have no Christmas fear! While I can’t do anything about your toilet paper situation or your Aunt Ethel’s impending fruitcake delivery, I can certainly help in the communications department.

The 2022 DIY Christmas letter is here, just for you.

So, pour yourself another glass of mommy and daddy’s special holiday cheer, grab a #2 pencil, and start bubbling in the appropriate choices. You’re all set.

No need to thank me. It’s just what I do.


Christmas 2022


O   friends and cherished loved ones,

O   relatives,

O   people from work,

O   people I don’t know on this list my spouse handed me,

Merry Christmas from the

O   Smith

O   Gonzalez

O   Lee

O   Johnson

O   Other _______________




We can’t believe

O   how time flies.

O   winter is here again so soon.

O   how surprisingly lame this year has been.

O   we have to send this damned letter to so many of you.


What a year! We

O   are so blessed.

O   are, we must admit, a little tired.

O   are relieved it’s finally over.

O   seriously need to just sell the kids and move to an island.


2022 started with

O   joy in our hearts

O   a ridiculous amount of snow and ice

O   anxiety

O   a whole lotta mood-altering substances


and is ending with

O   gratitude and peace.

O   even more *%@#&$ snow.

O   dread.

O   jail time, most likely.


Dad can’t seem to

O   sit still,

O   stop complaining,

O   snap out of his funk,

O   put a cork in it,


and he

O   continues to volunteer at the church and the shelter.

O   won’t shut up about gas prices.

O   lives in his pajamas.

O   was on a bender and MIA at least half the year.


Mom hasn’t

O   lost a step

O   lifted a finger around the house

O   shut up

O   been seen


since her

O   record-breaking hip replacement recovery time.

O   epic hangnail incident.

O   lottery numbers were “only three away” from the “big money.”

O   parole officer reported her for not checking in this summer.


Sister lives

O   near us now.

O   day to day.

O   on borrowed time.

O   above a strip club.



O   moved back with her family for a big promotion.

O   pretends to be holding it together, but a relapse is obviously coming.

O   is five states away, and that still doesn’t seem far enough.

O   was named employee of the month at Big Tony’s Gentlemen’s Club and Laundromat.


Brother is

O   switching parenting roles with his wife and staying home with the kids

O   never too far from the couch

O   making one bad decision after another

O   spiraling out of control


while his

O   wife continues to climb the ladder at her amazing job.

O   unemployment checks continue to roll in.

O   bookie keeps contacting us regarding his whereabouts.

O   childhood hopes and dreams slowly circle the giant toilet bowl of life.


The grandkids just keep growing

O   up

O   outward

O   bolder

O   weed


and we wish

O   we could slow time down somehow to enjoy it all a little longer.

O   they would lay off the McCrap and eat a vegetable every once in a while.

O   their parents would actually discipline their insolent little butts.

O   the court system would be tougher on minors.


We hope this letter finds you

O   thriving and loving life

O   before Christmas

O   relatively sober



this year, and we want to

O   extend our warmest holiday wishes to you and yours.

O   let you know we are still alive, despite what you may have heard.

O   make sure we keep in touch, so we have a “what not to do” example for the kids.

O   be done writing now.


If you ever find yourself in town,

O   please come by, we’d love to see you!

O   don’t hesitate to let us know you were here.

O   just remember, we’re away a lot.

O   I’ll bet you’ll be wondering how you got here, you lush!

Have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!


You’re welcome. Now just sign, copy and send. You’re all set.

See you soon,




Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen



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Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Take the Elf off the Shelf

We are eleven days from Christmas, and if you’re like many of our sad, pathetic Ask Smidge readers, you’ve been moving a little toy elf named Pumpernickel or Frostbite around the house for at least fourteen damn days now.

Perhaps you were even foolish enough to get a pair of them, and you’re forced to come up with wacky elf pair ideas each night.

Or perhaps, you don’t have an Elf on the Shelf yet, but you’re kids have been bugging you and you’re contemplating the idea.

Maybe you’ve dodged multiple bullets and have no idea what an Elf on the Shelf is or what I’m even talking about.

Well, have no fear! Our inbox has been overflowing with Elf on the Shelf-related questions, and as always, we have all your answers.





We’ve held off getting an Elf on the Shelf ever since our kids were born, but now our oldest is in kindergarten and hears about the other kids’ elves all the time. Should we cave in and get one?

Undecided in Union City


Dear Undecided,

Each family needs to weigh the pros and cons of these types of holiday tradition decisions for themselves, because each family is special and unique, but there is no way in hell you should ever get an Elf on the Shelf. Never, under any circumstances. It’s like twenty-five-plus days of having to remember the tooth fairy, but much more annoying and involved. Move your children to a new school or move your family to a new town if you need to.





I’ve heard the term “Elf on the Shelf” before, but I must confess, I don’t know what it is. Can you explain?

Lost in London


Dear Lost,

We’re not 100% sure if it was intended to be a harmless children’s book before it became a gigantic commercial time and money suck, or if it was diabolically planned from the beginning to invade every home in the free world and ruin Christmas, but that is essentially what it is. Hope that helps.  





My husband and I are running out of ideas for what to do with Popcorn, our Elf on the Damned Shelf. He’s already pulled every toilet paper and kitchen cooking prank we could think of, and quite frankly, we’re getting tired of cleaning up his messes. Besides, inflation is killing our family budget. We can’t afford to be wasting toilet paper and food anymore. My husband has searched for new lower-cost, lower-mess ideas on the internet, but none of them are exactly appropriate for children. Please help.

Empty in El Segundo


Dear Empty,

My advice would be to have Popcorn leave a nice note with a candy cane for each kid stating that Santa needed him back at the North Pole permanently due to a horrific industrial accident with the machine that clamps both sides of the Etch a Sketches together, and the resulting multiple-elf shortage on the assembly line. Viola’! No more Elf on the Shelf to deal with, and the kids are happy because they received a plausible explanation and a candy cane.





Our eight-year-old son was on TikTok and saw a compilation video of some less-than-appropriate Elf on the Shelf scenarios, including an Elf passed out with a Barbie doll and surrounded by empty beer cans, and an Elf “refilling” the See’s candy sampler, if you get my drift. What should we do?

Blindsided in Buffalo


Dear Blindsided,

Just explain to your son the unfortunate truth that some elves aren’t as good and wholesome as other elves. You can let him know that it’s not their fault. Their elf parents probably just let them indiscriminately surf the internet on apps like TikTok when they were eight years old, and that’s why they ended up bad. Cheers!





I have completely blown it. We had so much going on this weekend with family coming into town and crazy holiday shopping emergencies, etc., that I forgot to move Cupcake for three days! Our little girl never said anything to me, but I found her this morning looking up at the hanging light fixture over our dining room table crying. Cupcake has been hanging upside down from one of the lights since Thursday morning, and my daughter wanted to know if she was OK. What should I tell her? Please help!

Heartbroken in Hoboken


Dear Heartbroken,

No problem. Just let your daughter know that sometimes when little boys and girls don’t live up to their potential and disappoint their parents, their elves refuse to move. That’s a two-fer! You’re off the hook for accidentally neglecting your Elf duties, and your daughter will surely be trying a little harder in all her endeavors. You’re welcome.




Well, there you have it, folks. All your vital Elf on the Shelf questions answered and all your crises averted. You’re welcome.

Have a fabulous (and hopefully Elf-free) Christmas!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

An Open Letter to Best Foods

Dear Best Foods,

I really want to thank you for providing me with a brand new life experience recently. I’m fifty now, so my new life experiences these days mostly revolve around a different joint becoming painful, pulling a new muscle getting up out of a low chair, or messages from my doctor about my colon.

But you provided me with a new and far less uncomfortable life experience the other day.

You mailed me a condiment.

I’m just writing to let you know that’s a really weird thing to do.

I received a plain white padded envelope in the mail, with absolutely no markings on it except my address and the return address, which was listed as “SOPOST, 14 Henderson Drive, West Caldwell, NJ.”

What is SOPOST? You guys are lucky I opened it. If it wasn’t Christmastime, I probably would have tossed it, but you never know what my wife has purchased this time of year. I sure as heck wasn’t going to be the one responsible for Grandma’s stocking coming up short on Christmas morning, so I looked inside.

Imagine my surprise to find one single fast-food-size packet of your new Spicy Mayonnaise Dressing hot-glued to a postcard with a picture of a chicken sandwich on it.

Look, I’m not going to lie to you – the chicken sandwich and fries pictured on the card look amazing. And from what I can tell from the photo, you seem to think your new Spicy Mayonnaise Dressing goes well as a sandwich spread and as a fry dipping sauce.

That may very well be true, but how am I supposed to tell? You sent me exactly 0.47 fluid ounces of your new sauce. I’m a full-grown man with three large and still growing teenage boys. None of us has ever used just one fast-food-size packet of any condiment on anything we’ve ever eaten.

I mean, I put four packets of hot sauce on each one of my Taco Bell crunchy tacos. My boys ask for an entire separate bag filled with Chick-fil-A sauce cups to go with their chicken and fries. Those things hold way more than 0.47 ounces, and they go through them all.

This is America, Best Foods, as you can tell by both the To: and From: addresses on your weird plain white padded envelope. We love our sauces here in America, and you should know that better than anyone. How are you expecting me to get excited about your amazing new spicy mayo when you send me basically one drop of it? I’m going to run out before I’m halfway through my first bite of chicken.

If you want to market your new sauce with free samples to a house full of American men, you’d best be sending us the 11.5-ounce bottle sitting next to the chicken sandwich in the picture. I mean, have you ever even seen a teenager eat? Suffice it to say, keep your hands and feet away from their mouths at all times. At the rate the food enters their bodies, I’m amazed they taste any of it. You have to have a lot of sauce on there to get any kind of reaction out of them.

And speaking of my boys and your marketing department – if you really want to sell this stuff, don’t send me a single packet all the way across the country in an unmarked envelope like a bunch of weirdos. Get with the times. Pay an influencer on YouTube or TikTok to rave about how amazing your sauce is. That’s how you market to kids, and they’re the ones inhaling all the sauces around here anyway.

You are welcome for the condiment-ary advice,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, November 30, 2022


Yes, it’s that time of year again, when the debate rages around the yule log, merry and bright – is it eggnog or egg nog? One word or two?

While you argue amongst yourselves, I thought I’d share my foolproof recipe for this traditional holiday beverage.


6 large egg yolks

3/4 cup sugar

2 cups milk

2 whole cloves

Pinch cinnamon

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (lightly packed)

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 egg whites

Your favorite bourbon whiskey


Gather together all the ingredients except the bourbon, and find a large saucepan. Throw all of the gathered ingredients into the trash and use the saucepan to defend yourself against anyone attempting to give you eggnog. Pour the bourbon over ice and enjoy with or without regular Coca-Cola. Your choice!

Eggnog, as the name explicitly states, contains eggs as a primary ingredient. You are not Rocky Balboa. Eggs are not a beverage. They are meant to be eaten with bacon and used to make cookies and cakes. They are basically snot until cooked, and therefore it should be obvious to anyone not to drink them.

Eggnog was invented long ago during a horrific drought and ensuing bourbon shortage, by some very poor, very uneducated peasants. They got bored with the straight cows’ milk and did something unspeakable – added raw eggs to it.

When the drought was over and people heard about what they had done, they tried to save face by pretending it was a good idea and adding bourbon to make it a “festive” holiday drink. In reality, they were just trying to get drunk and forget they were drinking eggs.

Let’s not perpetuate this horrible mistake onto another unsuspecting generation. Stop the madness. Keep your children safe. Tell them to just say no to nogs of any kind.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Ask Smidge – The Turkey Edition - Repost

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and if you’re like most of our Ask Smidge readers, you’re just now trying to figure out what to do. That big, fancy meal isn’t going to cook itself, and you have no idea what you’re doing. It’s a scary situation.

Believe me, we understand. Many of you know nothing about cooking anything other than Pop-Tarts and Cheerios, so naturally you have turned to the only truly trusted source for all things culinary – the Ask Smidge advice column.

Our inbox has been inundated with poultry-related questions. You ask, we answer! (As always in a fact-based, scientific, and completely non-made-up-on-the-spot manner. We’re here to help, after all.)




I know absolutely nothing about cooking a turkey. What temperature do I use and how long should I cook it?

Novice in Norfolk


Dear Novice,

There is nothing to it. First you have to weigh the bird. Do this while it is still alive, so you can just walk it onto your bathroom scale. Once you remove the feathers and the feet, you’ll cook the bird on high for 90 minutes per pound. Carve and enjoy.





This is my first time doing anything at all with a turkey. We bought a frozen one at the store this week. Do I need to thaw it before cooking?

Frozen in Fort Worth


Dear Frozen,

Thawing is a personal choice. A thawed bird will be slightly juicier, but a frozen turkey will have a crispier skin. If you put it in the oven frozen, simply add five minutes per pound to your cook time.





I have never purchased or cooked the turkey before, and I don’t know what size to get. Do they even come in different sizes? We have three teenage boys and my sister has two teenage girls and a grown son. Please help.

Shopping in Santa Barbara


Dear Shopping,

Yes, turkeys do come in various sizes. Economy, Compact, Intermediate, Standard, Midsize, Full Size SUV, Convertible, Luxury, and Luxury Elite Platinum. You want to plan for about ten pounds of bird for every high schooler, so look for one at your store in the 70-80 pound range to be safe.





I’ve helped with the turkey before, but I’ve never been in charge of the stuffing, and I’m lost. Where do I start?

Breadless in Bangor


Dear Breadless,

Stuffing could not be simpler, because the turkey does all the work. Stuffing is nothing more than full-size dinner rolls that cooked down inside the bird. As the turkey cooks, the rolls break apart naturally and form into the smaller stuffing pieces that you know and love. Just buy a couple extra packages of dinner rolls and cram as many of them as you can into that bad boy before you pop it in the oven. The turkey does the rest!





I’m in charge of everything this year, and I don’t know anything about how to make gravy. Do you even make it, or do you buy it? Help!

Dry Dinner in Denver


Dear Dry Dinner,

As with stuffing, gravy is a breeze because the bird does all the work. Gravy is not sold in stores, because it is a natural byproduct of the turkey cooking process. All turkeys are fed a rich diet of corn starch, flour, and butter from a young age, so as they cook, the carcass secretes the ready-to-eat gravy. Yum! That’s why you always cook a turkey in one of those big pans. Makes sense, right? Enjoy!





I’m cooking the bird for the first time this year, so I’m thinking about switching it up and deep frying it in oil. What do you think?

Oiled in Omaha


Dear Oiled,

Deep frying a turkey can be a great option, depending on where you live. You’re in Nebraska, where it’s likely to be cold this Thanksgiving, so I’d say go for it. If you were in a warmer climate, I would probably advise against it. That’s because there is a 100% chance that you will set your house on fire when attempting a turkey deep fry. You folks in the frigid Midwest will enjoy the extra warmth, while the raging grease fire would just be an inconvenient distraction for people in Florida and California, really adding no benefit to the day.



Well, there you have it, America. You’re all set to cook the perfect turkey and have an enjoyable day, with or without a life-threatening oil fire. Your choice.

Have a tasty Thanksgiving!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Band Together to Lose

With the college and pro football seasons in full swing, and Thanksgiving right around the corner, it’s time to look back on a historic gridiron moment and give thanks that we weren’t part of the band.

November 20, 2022 will be the 40th anniversary of The Play at the end of The Big Game.

If you are unfamiliar, I’m not being generic or randomly capitalizing words like I normally do. The Big Game is one of the oldest college rivalries in the United States, which began in 1892 right here in the Golden State, when Stanford University played Cal Berkeley for the first time.

No one wore helmets or shoes, and the ball was not just pigskin – it was a live pig. The final score was Cal at a half pence and Stanford at a quarter shilling. It was a jolly-good contest!

The rules and scoring have been refined over the years, but The Big Game lives on. The 125th Big Game is this Saturday, November 19th. Home field swaps each year, and it’s an even year, so the game will be at Cal, as it was on that fateful day in 1982.

The Cal Bears led 19-17 in the final minutes of the 85th Big Game, but at the end of the fourth quarter, the Stanford Cardinal (named after a pine tree, of course) mounted an impressive comeback.  

Starting from their own 13-yard-line, on a dismal 4th and 17, Stanford, led by THE John Elway himself, drove all the way down the field to kick a go-ahead field goal with only four seconds left on the clock.

I’m not sure why Cal had been ahead at all, because having John Elway was a clear advantage for the Cardinal since he was already the quarterback for the Denver Broncos at the time. He was just back in town visiting family over the Thanksgiving break.

Be that as it may, with what should have been the final score of Cal 19 – Stanford 20 up on the scoreboard, Stanford kicked off to run out the remaining four seconds on the clock, and so began, The Play.

The Cal Bears recovered the short kick and were immediately swarmed by the Stanford special teams defense. The Stanford special teams marching band was behind them, waiting patiently behind the end zone for the clock to say 0:00.

When the four seconds of regular time had expired, the Stanford special teams marching band proceeded jubilantly onto the field in a very disorderly fashion to celebrate their “win.”

The only problem was that the game was still going because the Bears were busy lateraling the ball backward. Three laterals later, the Cal Bears were inside a protective swarm of Stanford band members, many of whom were providing some of the necessary Cardinal-on-Cardinal blocking for the Bears players to pull off two more miraculous laterals and steamroll into the end zone for a touchdown.

Gary Tyrrell, a Stanford trombone player, was the Cardinal’s last line of defense, but he and his instrument were absolutely leveled in the end zone at the conclusion of the miraculous drive. As KGO radio’s Joe Starkey had an on-air aneurism, the scoreboard was changed to Cal 25 – Stanford 20, and so concluded what Joe hailed as "the most amazing, sensational, dramatic, heartrending, exciting, thrilling finish in the history of college football!!" right before he dropped to the ground like Gary Tyrrell and his trombone.

So, as you enjoy The Big Game this Saturday, remember to give thanks. Give thanks that you weren’t one of those band members, or one of those Stanford players that was blocked by a member of their own band.

And also remember the important lesson that Trombone Tyrrell taught us all that day – if you’re going to go out on the field to help, at least learn how to tackle.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, November 9, 2022

No Time to Change - Repost

This column was originally posted on March 16th of this year, when we once again changed the clocks for “Daylight Saving Time.” We reverted back to “Standard Time” over the weekend, and we’re all screwed up again. Night now officially begins around lunchtime.

Enjoy the column again as a reminder that we need to keep the pressure on Washington. If they can pull through for us, by this time next year we really could be done with this madness.


It is entirely possible that the federal government is about to do something that I will like. That rarely happens. And by rarely, I mean never.

I have been saying for my entire adult life that we have enough laws. We have far too many, actually, since there are laws about what kind of light bulbs I can have in my house and how much water is allowed to be in my toilet.

I have also been saying that the federal government should be part time and be paid accordingly. Career politicians are THE problem with any government, and if we could just make it so the lawmakers had to have two or three jobs to support themselves and their families, we would actually get some hardworking, sensible people in there. But alas, no such luck.

There is one more law that needs to be written however, before we drastically revamp how Washington works, and it appears as if it might just be happening now. I am, of course, referring to the abolition of twice-yearly “daylight saving” time changes.

No one likes changing the clocks. Whomever came up with the idea was a complete psycho, and we were (and are) complete morons for continuing to go along it. Our kids get up waaaay too early in November and we need a pneumatic jackhammer to get them out of bed in March. It’s a gigantic pain in my ass having to remember how many clocks I own (garage sprinkler timer, I’m looking at you), not to mention trying to remember how to set the clock on our overly complicated car stereo. But most notably, it messes with my wife’s sleepy time, which is hazardous to everyone’s health.

In short, it’s dangerous and it sucks.

But now, there might be an “extra” hour of sunlight at the end of the long, dark time change tunnel. An unprecedentedly bipartisan bill has passed through the senate this week that would get rid of clock changes nationwide. Currently, it’s a state-by-state decision whether or not to change the clocks, which makes even less sense than changing the clocks in the first place.

I mean, we already have time zones, which although obviously necessary, are still confusing. Just think about those poor people who live and work near the time zone line. If you lived right on the line, how would you ever know store hours, or what time practice starts. How would you ever plan anything?

“I’ll see you at three o’clock.”

“Which three o’clock?”

What if you lived in one time zone and worked in another? That’s my idea of what hell would be like. So, why have we allowed individual states to further complicate things by not changing their clocks when the rest of us had to? It’s absolute madness.

The chaos could be coming to an end on November 20, 2023. The bill – which in true government megalomaniac fashion, they have named the “Sunshine Protection Act,” as if our benevolent leaders on Capitol Hill are somehow actually shepherding the sun for us – would keep the entire country on what we just changed to – Daylight Saving Time.

We can’t just stay on DST now and never touch the clocks again, because airlines and other transportation entities apparently don’t know how to use computers. But if the bill passes – and so help me, House of Representatives, it better – we would only have to endure one more set of ridiculous clock manipulations before everything will finally be logical again.

That is, unless the Association of Early Morning Winter Joggers or some other such group has a powerful, monied lobby. Then the career politicians may be swayed by a series of generous donations to their wife’s brother’s various non-profit organizations, and vote poorly.

I mean, no politician in Washington is dumb enough to actually want to continue changing our clocks, right?


I’ll be here holding my breath.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Team Ibuprofen

Son Number One is a high school senior this year, and last Tuesday night we attended what we thought was his last water polo game. He has been a Whitney High School goalie for four years now, and we have thoroughly enjoyed watching him play.

What we didn’t know last Tuesday was that he would play one more game last night. We were informed that the team was hosting a final scrimmage of the season.

Against the parents.

Hmm, I thought. That doesn’t sound like a great idea. That might be fun for a soccer team or a basketball team. I mean, sure, there are always going to be parental injuries in something like that, but water polo might be the only high school sport where inviting the parents to a fun scrimmage against their children is legitimately life-threatening.

Well, I thought, at least two of the kids on the team, my son included, are certified lifeguards, and the coaches have CPR training. Plus, they have those portable defibrillators at the pool. We might avoid a tragedy.

A few of the dads were really excited about the game. I was more than a little hesitant. My wife called me yesterday morning and asked if I was looking forward to it.

“Well,” I said. “Sorta, I guess.”

“What’s the matter?” she asked.

“Nothing, really. It will be fun to play against the boys and everything, but it’s just that it’s going to hurt. A lot.”

You see, I played water polo in high school and college. None of the other parents did. Some were wary. Some were full of hope. They were looking forward to it. I, on the other hand, knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into.

I was probably twenty-two years old in my last polo game. I’m fifty now. I’ve been out of the water longer than I was in it. That’s not a recipe for success. Plus, I’m fifty. Fifty is not young. Not by water polo standards. Not by any standard, really.

Did I mention I was fifty? Well, we hit the water last night and I was just praying not to pull my groin. It was cold and damp outside which didn’t help much. At least the high school kids didn’t have to worry about their arthritis acting up.

At the end of the first quarter the score was a fairly respectable 6-2. It was a low scoring second quarter, ending at 8-3. Things cranked up in the third and we started the fourth quarter with a score of 13-4. When it was all said and done, the scoreboard said 15-8.

Parents 15, players 8.

Yeah, you heard me. We crushed them!

At this point I should probably mention that the parent team was given a huge gift a few days before the game – Whitney high school alumni. We had four former players – now college water polo players – show up to help us.

They were a great help. And by great help, I mean they absolutely carried our team. I think the dads accounted for two or possibly three of our goals. The college kids scored the other twelve or thirteen. And if a dad scored, there was most definitely an assist by a college kid.

And they were suffocating on defense. The high schoolers only hope of scoring on us was being guarded by a dad. And when I say “guarded,” I mean swimming next to someone who was in the process of drowning.

We basically kept the college kids in and rotated the dads on every score change. We had guys calling for subs and paddling to the side of the pool while the ball was still live because they had a cramp, or just couldn’t breathe anymore.

Both my calves cramped up during the game. Mercifully, not at the same time. I was playing goalie, and was able to massage the knots out while the college kids were down at the other end scoring again.

In order to keep from destroying the poor little lads, we played mostly dads in the fourth quarter. The one or two college kids in with us still kept things under control, but the high schoolers were scoring on me at will if they were near a dad. After twenty plus minutes of water polo already, whatever gas we had in the tanks was long gone.

I was completely underwater for at least two of the goals they scored on me. In my defense, I’m fifty and had calf cramping issues. I also nearly drown one of the seniors when there was a loose ball in front of my goal. But again, in my defense, he’s one of the lifeguards and he should have known better than to get near me.

The boys didn’t get the win they were so sure was in the bag before the game, but they did learn two valuable lessons. First, they will get bigger, faster, and stronger in college. Second, never get close to a drowning full-grown man. We are desperate, and we will take you down with us.

Thankfully, along with the win, all the parents left the pool in their own cars and not on a stretcher. That, in itself, is a big win. But it wasn’t without a cost.

Everything hurts.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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