Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The Windshield Factor

My wife thinks I run my windshield wipers too slow when it rains. She always asks, in her adorable, exasperated-with-me tone, “How can you see anything!?” When I explain that I’m not looking at the windshield, I’m looking through it at the road, she just throws up her hands and makes her adorable, exasperated noises. As you might imagine from this, cracks in the windshield bother her way more than they bother me.

We take our Suburban up I-80 into the Sierras a lot during the winter months, because even though Son Number Three breaks the occasional collarbone, I remain inexplicably healthy and uninjured, and therefore able to snowboard with my boys.

**sound of me knocking on any and all wood I can find**

If you have ever been on I-80 in the Sierras during the winter months, you know that with the big trucks and their tire chains, combined with the constant new road damage due to the snow and ice, it’s basically like driving through a shooting range. We also take long road trips in the summer months, so our windshield seems to always have a few chips and at least one crack of some length.

This year’s crack came on fast and spread like wildfire. It started at the very bottom of the windshield right in front of the steering wheel, and before I even had a chance to try to stop it, it had spread all the way to the top of the glass. It was a jagged vertical line directly in front of the driver’s face.

As you can imagine, my wife didn’t love it. But it happened in the fall, even before snowboarding season had begun!

“Honey, it makes no sense to fix it now, right before we’re going to drive into the hailstorm of rocks and busted chain links.”

“[exasperated noises]”

Buying new windshields is one of my least favorite things to do. I rank it just above the stomach flu. That’s because I know, the minute that beautiful new curved sheet of glass gets glued in place, I’m going to have to take the car back outside again and drive it around. Getting it replaced in the winter here is as futile as brushing your teeth while eating Oreos, only far more expensive.

Well, we had one last hurrah up the hill a couple weekends ago when we had a cold spring storm blow through, and now the forecast calls for nothing but sunshine and slush. Son Number Three takes his behind-the-wheel driver’s license test at the end of next week, so I figured it was time. He’ll take the test in our Honda Accord, but just in case something happens, I want to have a backup vehicle ready.

I have a feeling the DMV testing employee might have a problem with the full-windshield crack right in front of the sixteen-year-old driver’s face. It’s very likely illegal, but more importantly, the DMV employee’s exasperated noises would probably result in my son not getting to test, which means I would have to be on carpool duty longer, which is unacceptable.

So, on Monday I said goodbye to my $500 insurance deductible and hello to my brand new, crack and ding-free windshield. That was all well and good, for a few hours anyway.

The glue was probably still drying on Monday evening when Son Number Two – who is turning eighteen on Friday – informed me that he would like to skip school that day to take his buddies up the hill to go snowboarding for his birthday, one last time before the season ends.


He’s going to look pretty silly driving our Suburban up I-80 in reverse.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Felony Hobbying

I heard something a while back that I always liked – The problem with raising strong-willed, free-thinking adults is that you have to live with strong-willed, free-thinking children.

We have our share of that going on at our house, but really what we’ve mainly been dealing with is interests. So, ours goes more like, the problem with raising Son Number Two into a very interesting and widely-studied adult is that you have to live through all the projects. It’s not as catchy as the original, but it fits our situation perfectly.

Our first inclination that we might be dealing with a renaissance child was the crocheting in the second grade. He was good! There has been construction. There has been photography. There has been 3D printing. There have been internet sales and marketing companies. He’s owned multiple web domains. There has been electrical. There has been woodworking, wood burning (both art and arson), drones, painting, sculpting, drawing, photoshop, pebble art, cake making, and machinery design.

So, when he came to me last year and said he wanted to build a forge in our backyard, it was not a big surprise.

“Why do you want a forge?”

“So I can make knives.”


His first plan had a large homemade cinderblock forge inside an all-wooden Tuff Shed-type structure. He was going to put it where the old play structure currently sits, and he was either going to sell the play structure that he doesn’t own for the money to buy the shed, or make the shed out of the play structure. Details were loose, varied, and stupid.

I decided that catching a shed and two different neighbors’ fences on fire wasn’t one of my bucket list items, so I said no. Now, as every one of you who has raised or is currently raising a strong-willed, free-thinking child knows, that was not the end of the conversation.

I believe I heard the word “forge” about six million more times in the following four days. Just before my brain exploded, we settled on a small, propane, commercially-made, portable forge box that could go in our garage. Who needs to use a garage for cars, am I right?

And thus began the knife making. Like everything else he does, he dove headfirst into it and got pretty good, pretty quickly. He mixed in some artistic photography for his Instagram knife page, got a laser engraver for the handles, and pretty soon his friends took notice.

At this point, for legal reasons, I must tell you that everything I’m about to tell you is completely fictional, made up by me for entertainment purposes only. OK? OK.

One night at dinner, about a month after the forging began, Son Number Two says, “Oh, hey. I sold one of my knives today!”

My response was, “Hey, cool. To who?”

His mother, who is much smarter than me, asked, “Where?”

“To [name withheld for reasons that will become obvious]”

“Where did you sell it?” asked his very smart mother, again.

“My car. I had it in the trunk.”

“Where was the car?”

“In the parking lot.”

“The parking lot of school??”


When the steam stopped coming from my wife’s ears, she started to explain why that was not such a great idea, with words like “weapons” and “campus” and “expulsion” and “no college” and “dumbass” and a lot of other words.

I guess Number Two has some sort of death wish, because he actually interrupted her at one point to try the ludicrously false argument that the parking lot was not technically “on campus.”

It was at that point that I had to physically restrain my wife long enough for him to run.   

He made it out of the situation alive and un-expelled. Fast forward to a week or so ago when he got home from his spring break Europe trip, chaperoned by his favorite teacher and a few other school staff members. The group had taken a day trip to Geneva, so Son Number Two, of course, bought a few genuine Victorinox Swiss Army knives from the source.

He brought home a couple little ones for his brothers and a larger one for himself. I noticed as they were getting ready to go to school that he also had an extra.

“Oh, that’s [unnamed state employee’s] knife. I brought it home for them in my checked bag.”

“Well, that was nice of you. When are you giving it to them?”

“This morning.”

“At school?”


“Well, I guess it’s a good thing your mom left for the day already. Try not to get arrested.”

(Again, I must reiterate, this is all fictional. Totally made up by me.)

I guess if one of your hobbies takes you down the path of High School Arms Dealer, it’s good to be in league with at least one or two insiders high up in the organization…

We really can’t wait to see what this kid does after graduation, and we have money set aside for the next chapter of his life to help him on his way.

Whether it’s used for tuition or bail still remains to be seen.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Do Your Job Like Nora

This is a message for all you kids out there. And also all you adults who act like kids. And really, also you adults who act like adults. This is a message for everyone, I guess.

This is a story about having pride in your work. This is a story about “Nora.”

Nora is in quotes there because I’m old and I didn’t write it down, so I’m only about sixty-five percent sure her name was actually Nora, but I’m rolling with it because calling her Hostess X makes this sound like a story about sci-fi or street drugs, which it is not.

You see, all three of our boys were out of the country over spring break last week, and my wife’s school district was holding spring break at the exact same time, so we were forced by parental law and basic common sense to escape by ourselves on vacation. We went to Tennessee and visited Memphis and Nashville. I would highly recommend both.

We have two good friends who have spent time in Memphis, so we got restaurant recommendations galore for the birthplace of rock and roll. We ate at Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken. We ate at Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. We ate at Central BBQ. We ate at Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous. We had to unbutton the top of our pants a couple times. Totally worth it.

All of those places were amazing in their own right, but one place shined above all others – because of Nora.

Nora is the hostess at a little place called Itta Bena. It sits above B.B. King’s Blues Club on Beale Street, and if you didn’t know it was there, you would never know, because it doesn’t have any signs. Literally none. We had to ask the bouncer at the door of B.B. King’s how to get there, and he told us to go around the corner to Second Street and go up the stairs with the blue awning.

The stairs looked shady at best, and when we got to the top, we were greeted by a blank door that looked equally shady. Thankfully, everything on the other side of the door was amazing.

Backing up to earlier that day, we were at the National Civil Rights Museum, in between chicken breakfast and rib lunch, when I got a phone call. I answered and a young lady asked, “Is this Mr. Schmatjen?” Now, you have to understand, with a last name like Schmatjen, we have a built-in BS detector when it comes to telemarketing. You automatically know if the person on the other end of the phone knows you or not.

If they try to pronounce it like any normal human would, I say, “What is this regarding?” If they pronounce it how my insane ancestors decided they would, I say, “Yes, it is.”

“Yes it is,” I said.

“Hello, this is Nora calling from Itta Bena. Just confirming your reservation with us tonight.”

“Umm… yes. Uh… we will be there. Thank you.”

I hung up the phone with a puzzled look on my face. I didn’t know Nora, and she didn’t know me, but she pronounced my last name flawlessly. My wife, who had been scowling at me for answering my phone in the National Civil Rights Museum, saw the look on my face and asked what was wrong.

“That was Itta Bena calling about our reservation, and she knew how to pronounce our name.”

“Didn’t you make the reservation online?”

“Yes I did.”

“Wow,” my wife agreed. “That is weird.”

When we navigated the speakeasy-type entrance later that evening and made it to the hostess desk, I had almost forgotten about it. But when I said, “Marc for two,” to the young lady that turned out to be Nora, she said, “Ah, yes. Mr. Schmatjen.”

“All right, time out. How do you know how to pronounce our name?”

Nora almost seemed to get a little embarrassed as she explained, “Well, before I make calls in the morning, I do a little internet research to see if I can figure out the hard names, because… well, it matters to me.”

My wife and I both complimented her on that, and then she showed us to our table. We then proceeded to have a phenomenal dinner in the little upstairs hidden restaurant. Itta Bena comes with my highest recommendation, even if your last name is Smith. The food was insanely good.

A few days later, after thinking about how strangely above and beyond Nora did her job, I called Itta Bena and spoke to her manager. I told him how impressed I was that she would take the time to do something that, most certainly, the world would never expect a restaurant hostess to do.

The norm would be for someone on the other end of the phone to ask for me by my first name and then apologize for not knowing how to pronounce the last name. I would then joke with them about how it’s a sight word, or that we should have bought a few more vowels from Pat and Vanna, and then we’d go on about our business.

No one, including myself, would ever expect you to know how to pronounce it when you see it. But Nora made the effort. It is a seemingly small thing, but when you live your life with a last name like Schmatjen, it turns out it’s a big deal.

It was a big deal to her manager, too, because he didn’t know she did that, and he was thrilled to hear about one of his employees shining at their job.

So, my challenge for you folks out there is to attack your job like Nora does. Don’t just show up and do your job. Show up early, stay late, and do your job exceptionally well.

And I said it before, but I’ll say it again – great job, Nora!

By the way, I never did catch your full name... Probably something like Nora Wegrzynkiewicz.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Construction Rapido – Año Tres

Two of our three boys are in Mexico right now over spring break. Son Number Two would be there with his brothers, but his high school Europe trip for seniors was scheduled over spring break this year instead of right after graduation.

It was actually a tough decision for him, because of how much he enjoyed Mexico the last two years. His brothers are back in Mexicali with a huge group of other high school and college kids from our church, so at this point, I’d like to formally apologize to the country of Mexico for anything my children may say or do while in your beautiful country. Deep down in their hearts they mean well, I think, but they are complete yahoos, especially when in close proximity to each other.

I would also like to formally apologize to Europe. We’d appreciate it if you’d excuse any questionable teenage behavior with Number Two and his friends, and let him come home on schedule.

The group in Mexicali is building houses and holding mini church camps for the local kids. Son Number One is on a construction team building a house for a family in need, and Number Three is on an “Impact” team, getting his butt kicked in soccer by niños y niñas half his age.

This is Number Three’s second year going on the trip, and Number One’s third year. The stories they bring back are amazing. I mean, building houses and serving poor communities is great, and the families are incredibly grateful, and it changed how my sons view the world and got them to understand how blessed they are to live in America with our abundance and prosperity and access to opportunities and all of that good stuff, but that’s not what is most amazing.

The thing that blows my mind about the trips is how fast you can build a house in a country with basically no laws.

If you ignore the whole child labor law hassle it really opens up the workforce. Granted, your average high school freshman isn’t necessarily a huge asset to a construction team, but you always need grunt labor alongside the skilled labor. Plus, you don’t have to spend a lot of time on human resources issues and paperwork with child labor, because they have no rights anyway.

The houses they build have full electrical, with ceiling lights and wall outlets and everything, but that goes incredibly fast when you can just install all the wires and then immediately cover them all up with drywall without waiting for a city building inspector to show up and check everything first.

The same goes for the framing, plumbing, insulation, windows, roof trusses, shingles, etc. Just build it and move on. Get at least one person on the project with construction knowledge and a plan, add the proper amount of high school monkeys, and you can build an entire house in three days.

Literally. Three days. They usually have another day and a half of exterior and interior trim work and painting, but the house is up, functional, and weather-tight in three days.

The trip leaders keep the Instagram feed stocked with daily photos, so we have proof that the boys are alive and well, the house is progressing, and everyone seems to still have all their fingers. That’s a win.

If my Grandpa was still alive, he’d tell you about the time when as a young married man, he bought an empty lot in town, dug a basement, bought an old house across town, moved it over on a large truck, and set it on top of his new basement. My mom grew up in that house, and we got to go see it a few years ago, still standing.

Things used to be simpler, and they still are in places like Mexico. If you bring some construction know-how to the party, you can get a lot done in a short period of time. And it can be accomplished very inexpensively when you rope a bunch of kids into helping.

But only if you’re able to take away their cell phones.

You see, that’s the other thing that makes this all possible. Along with the absence of building inspectors and over-regulation, the kids don’t have access to their phones for the whole week. They are amazingly able to concentrate on and complete tasks.

If they were allowed to have their phones, that three-day house build would turn into six weeks, with 57,000 “I’m building a house” TikTok dance videos and two million selfies posing with power tools.

I don’t think my grandpa would approve.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Truancy for Jesus

We received a paper letter in the actual mail from our boys’ high school a while back. You just know that’s never good…

Turns out it was a truancy notice. Hmm… truancy sounds like something that happens in other families, not ours…

Apparently, the school was under the impression that our sophomore, Son Number Three, was being chronically late to class. They also listed a day that he was late to school, but it was the day of his DMV permit test. That was on purpose, because you know damned well you don’t schedule the last appointment of the day at the DMV, you schedule the first one.

I found out after further reading that the school was very concerned about his chronic truancy, and that we, his parents, could even be subject to prosecution and jail time if his truancy continued.

Now, wait just a minute, here. I’m not the one skipping class! (Anymore.)

This letter was out of the blue for us, and when I saw who it was “from” I got a little suspicious. It was signed by one of the school’s vice principals that I know and really like. They are a very cool, normal, reasonable human.

It was at that point that I realized the letter was just an automated part of a school district bureaucracy trying to manage a one-size-fits-all approach to everything. And I get it, to some extent. Things need to be fair in the eyes of the law, etc., etc., but I had to laugh. Son Number Three is many things, but a scofflaw is not one of them.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I questioned him about being chronically late to class. And when he denied it, I believed him. I know what you’re thinking – classic parent with their head in the sand, but again, if you know Son Number Three, you know. It’s entirely possible – even probable – that when they call roll he’s being so loud goofing off with his friends that he doesn’t hear his name, but I’m positive he’s there.

What really made his mom and I laugh about the automated truancy notice was his grades. This week’s column was in no way intended to be a “humble brag” or anything of the sort, but the fact is Son Number Three is killing it in school. Always has.

Needless to say, when we read the letter, we just kinda laughed and tossed it in the trash. Maybe the automated truancy detection system could add in a limiting factor for GPA, if for no other reason than to save on paper and mailing costs.

Anyway, assuming they haven’t made that software change yet, I expect to get another letter soon. I just clicked submit on the online absence reporting form for today through Friday. Number Three is on his way to Mexico today as part of our church’s advance team that gets the camp set up for the high school Mexicali mission trip over spring break.

There are educations, and then there are educations. A whole bunch of kids are about to get to be a huge blessing on someone else’s life, and simultaneously receive a Ph.D. in how lucky they are to be living in the USA. If the school district will not forgive Son Number Three’s chronic truancy, I’m confident Jesus will.

And speaking of missing school, our high school senior, Son Number Two, is about to be truant for two full days WITH his physics teacher AND the very same vice principal who was forced to send the letter to us by the school district bureaucracy. They’re going to Europe over spring break and missing the Friday before and the Tuesday after to see more sights.

I’m not sure what the school district is going to do with that situation, but I think I have a solid case for dismissal if I’m brought up on charges.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, March 13, 2024

LaCroix Rich

I like LaCroix. I like it a lot. Besides coffee and the drinking fountain at the park on my running route, LaCroix is basically my only source of hydration.

I will drink almost any flavor of LaCroix or any of the other brands of sparkling water, except for coconut. I like coconut shavings on things, but coconut LaCroix tastes like sunscreen and leaves a film on the roof of your mouth the same way McDonald’s fries do. Water should not do that. (Fries shouldn’t either by the way, McDonald’s…)

Anyway, the other day I opened a passionfruit LaCroix, which is probably my favorite flavor, even though I wouldn’t know a passionfruit if you threw one at my face. There was no familiar sharp “crack” when the can opened, and when I took a sip, I figured out why. It was completely flat, which goes against what sparkling water is supposed to be. Zero sparkle.

Strangely, the lack of carbonation also changed the flavor of the passionfruit somehow, making it less good and more weird. I shrugged my shoulders and opened another one with the same result. Then I started squeezing the rest of the cans in the 12-pack and realized there had been a catastrophic and unnoticed failure of the carbonator on the filling line, and my entire 12-pack was flat. (I also wouldn’t know a carbonator if you threw one at my face, but I do know it wasn’t doing its job when these cans came by.)

Now, a normal person might have stormed back to the store and demanded a refund. When it comes to LaCroix, however, I’m not normal. Not even close. Just to give you an idea, I’m on my third one since I started writing this. With my garage stocking levels, losing a 12-pack or two is just a minor blip on the radar. I just set the bad 12-pack on the work bench, popped a new one in the fridge, and went about my day.

Walking into the house the next morning, I noticed the succulents on the front porch were looking a little dry and sad. I made a mental note to water them, and then my “need to get rid of that 12-pack” mental note popped up and I immediately saw the symmetry.

Unfortunately, sometimes a situation or solution that makes perfect sense to you might look a little odd from an outsider’s perspective. Like, in this case, if you were walking up your driveway and saw your neighbor on their front porch with a 12-pack of passionfruit LaCroix, opening can after can, quenching their succulents with sparkling water…

I started to open my mouth to explain, but Dave had already disappeared into his garage. But I saw the look on his face…

I swear, Dave, we’re not rich! If our shared fence falls over in the next windstorm, I’m still going to need you to pay for your half. The LaCroix was flat. We’re not uber-wealthy weirdos who baby their decorative plants. I don’t even think we paid for those succulents, honestly. I think my mother-in-law gave them to us…

Oh, well. At least it wasn’t something imported, like Pellegrino.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Concert-ing My Age

My wife and I went to a concert this past weekend with a group of good friends. She and I have been to a handful of concerts over the last few years, and I must say, I’m not loving the crowds and the noise quite so much anymore. Or at all.

At a normal concert, you get a wide age range that shows up, but the concert this weekend was special. We went to see Tainted Love, which is a semi-local band that does nothing but cover ‘80s and ‘90s top forty songs. Specifically, the songs we grew up with.

So, we discovered on Friday night that there’s a very obvious and almost universal demographic that shows up to a Tainted Love show, consisting of people who graduated from high school somewhere in the late ‘80s to early’90s.

Meaning us. And also meaning, we were all old.

When we got there, it struck me that they had missed a huge opportunity not having the show sponsored by a proctologist.

“Thank you, Roseville! It’s great to be here, and remember, if you haven’t scheduled your first colonoscopy, it’s time! Go see Dr. Phillips at Sutter Proctology. Speaking of doctors, here’s Bad Medicine by Bon Jovi!”

Or if that’s not the vibe the band is going for, at the very least they could be sponsored by a chiropractor or a financial company selling annuities.

Besides missed ad revenue opportunities, I made a few more observations on Friday night:

As an over-50 concertgoer, I like my shows to start on time. I know it goes against the rock and roll lifestyle, but dammit, be punctual. I was annoyed early on when we showed up to closed venue doors and a mile-long line. The tickets said the doors would open at 7:00pm and the show would start at 8:00. It was 7:30. We learned in line from some other annoyed over-50’s that the website contradicted the tickets and had 7:30/8:30 listed.

At that moment I learned that I think 8:30pm is a tad late to be firing up a concert. I’m not going to lie – I like to be in bed by 9:30 these days. To the band’s credit, probably because a couple of the main guys looked to be around my age, they started right at 8:30.

I also learned that I like my rock and roll on the muffled side now. We bought the tickets back in November, so my wife and I gave each other really cool earplugs that another old friend (take that any way you want) told us about. I was even showing them off at dinner before the concert. When the band started (thirty minutes late!) I could hear the music just fine. I pulled one of them out of my ear during the show to see how well they were working, and I was appalled at how loud it was. That was new.

But probably the most humorous observation I made on Friday night was how lame the fights are at an over-50 rock show. You’ll be shocked to learn that alcohol still remains the major – and possibly sole – catalyst for concert shenanigans and general ballyhoo, but things are a little different at a Tainted Love show than an AC/DC concert.

We had a situation unfold in front of us where two guys were pushing and shoving and threatening to throw down, but the potential fight was quickly diffused by my wife and my dentist.

I am not making that up.

Rock on!

(You. You rock on. I’ll be at home.)

See you soon,



Copyright © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Leap Year - Repost

February 29th is tomorrow. There isn’t supposed to be a February 29th. Not normally, anyway. It’s a leap year. The whole concept of leap year, and our calendar in general, is very strange. I have never agreed with how our calendar works, and I have decided that it is time to stop the madness. I hereby, once again, propose that the world adopt the Smidge Calendar.

Our current calendar is complicated. This stems from the fact that the earth takes 365.2422 days to go around the sun. If we didn’t do the leap years, we would lose six hours off the calendar every year. That’s 24 days off in a hundred years. Not good. I mean, what if your birthday was in that lost month? No party for you. What if the lost month turned out to be October, and we lost Oktoberfest? Totally unacceptable.

A long time ago, Julius Caesar, a huge fan of Oktoberfest and birthdays, introduced leap years to correct for the 0.2422 day problem. Julius decided they would do a leap day every four years no matter what. That is actually too many, since the day fraction is 0.24 and not 0.25, so things started getting out of whack. Fifteen hundred years later, after people got tired of spring starting in the middle of summer, someone with a big brain and an abacus developed a formula. To be a leap year, the year must be evenly divisible by four. If the year is also evenly divisible by 100, then it is not a leap year, unless it is also evenly divisible by 400. Simple, right?

Well, that’s all fine and dandy, and I don’t really have a problem with the leap year math. It’s necessary. What is not necessary is having our months all different. Why have some months with 30 days, others with 31, and one with variable days? It’s too complicated. When I was a kid, my dad taught me a way to tell how many days a month has in it. You count on your knuckles. Start on the knuckle of your index finger as January. Count the months down your fist, landing alternately on your knuckles, and the valleys between your knuckles. When you get to your pinkie knuckle (July), start over on your index knuckle (August). If you are on a knuckle, the month has 31 days. If you are in a valley, it has 30, unless it’s February, then you have to refer to the complicated formula.

The knuckle trick is handy (get it?), but it shouldn’t be necessary. With the Smidge Calendar, you will never need to count on your knuckles like an ape again. My months will all have 28 days. Gone will be the days of not knowing what day of the week the 12th of March is. The days will always be the same number. The month will always start on Monday the 1st. Sundays will always be the 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th. Simple and easy.

Holidays will always be on the same day. You will always know when Thanksgiving is going to fall, and with the new calendar, we can move some of the more flexible holidays to always fall on a Monday or a Friday. Boom, more three-day weekends. You’re welcome!

Now, with 28-day months, we'll need to have 13 of them, to make a year.  We’ll have to come up with a name for the new month. We'll make it fun and have a national contest, and pick the most popular submission. This will be a worldwide calendar, of course, but we'll retain naming rights. This is our idea, and everyone else can just get on board. It won't be a hard sell, due to the New Year’s factor.

Thirteen months at 28 days each only gets you 364 days. The all-important 365th day will occur on what is currently known as January 1st. However, it will now be known only as New Year’s Day. It will not have a number. It will not be a Monday. It will simply be "New Year’s Day," and it will be a freebie. No work will occur. Nothing will be accomplished. It's a phantom day that doesn't exist on the calendar. Relax and enjoy!

Since we can't do anything about the 0.2422 day problem, we will continue with the current leap year formula, and any leap year will have an extra bonus day, known as New Year’s Weekend. Two totally free days every four years (unless the year is evenly divisible by 100 but not 400, obviously). Winning!

While you will be encouraged to do nothing on New Year’s Day and Weekend, inevitably, a certain amount of children will be born on these phantom days. This is where the Smidge Calendar also has a bonus financial planning aspect. Any parent having a child on New Year’s Day will get to choose whether their new child's official birthday will be December 28th or January 1st. This will allow them to decide which tax year they would like their new deduction and tax credit to fall in. Just a happy bonus feature of a new and improved system.

In fact, I don't mean to brag, but the Smidge Calendar has no discernible flaws. It's way better that the current random 12- month system. The only potential downside I can see is a slight long-term hit to the calendar industry, since calendars will now be reusable.

Now, before all you accountants out there have a conniption fit, screaming about financial quarters, please don’t get your starched white knickers in a twist. We'll still have quarters, they're just 13 weeks long now. You're supposed to be good at math, so deal with it. Like I said, no flaws.

I anticipate immediate adoption of the Smidge Calendar as soon as the word gets out. The only thing left to do is figure out where to put the new month. I'm thinking between September and October. They always seemed like they needed to be separated a little more. We could call it Smidgetober. It would be a fun month. We could introduce Smidgetoberfest, the Oktoberfest pre-party.

Just food for thought.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

This Column Continues to Go Downhill

Our regularly scheduled column has been rudely preempted by Ski Week, yet again.

Yes, that’s right, I said Ski Week. Instead of celebrating the glorious birthdays of Martin Van Buren and William Henry Harrison on two separate Mondays in February, like we all did when we were young, our school district changed things up a few years ago.

They tacked on three extra president’s days (both of the Adamses and James Buchanan, strictly because of his kick-ass hair) to the previous two, and lined them all up in a row this week. This phenomenon is nicknamed “Ski Week,” so the idea, apparently, is that we’re all supposed to head up to the slopes and spend the education-free week on a ski vacation.

I have always had trouble writing this column on ski week. In the past, I have railed against the policy of keeping all three of our boys home for nine days in a row, because we never went on a week-long ski vacation, and therefore I was trapped in the house refereeing the World Brothers Wrestling Federation and getting nothing else done.

Now that the boys are older, I’m having trouble writing this column in the middle of February for a different reason. We are finally able to embrace the concept of ski week, or in our case, snowboard week, so now I’m still getting nothing done, but it’s a lot more satisfying!

This happened to be a special ski week for two reasons. The first being that we didn’t get to go snowboarding at all on Ski Week 2023, because it was snowing so hard all week the roads were closed. Too much of a good thing, I guess. The second reason this week is special is because it saw the return of Son Number Three to the slopes.

The rest of us have been going up the hill whenever we could since December, but Number Three wasn’t able to join us due to his collarbone. The collarbone he snapped in half while snowboarding on the very first day we went this season. On the second run of the first day, Son Number Three decided that was the right time to air out the big jumps.

His version of the story involved massive air and an eight-foot ditch he had to clear (reports are fuzzy on whether it was eight feet deep, eight feet wide, or both). It apparently all would have been fine except for another little bumpy dip at the landing zone. The board nosed in and he landed superman-style onto the unforgiving snow (if Superman flew with his arms back at his sides and rammed things with his collarbone).

He is currently leading his brothers in the broken bones department by a score of 2-0-0. He loves to beat them at things, but I’m not sure he’s so happy about it in this case.

He broke it on December 17, and February 17 was his all-clear date to get back to contact sports. That means he can finally suit up for lacrosse again, but more importantly, he can also strap his snowboard back on his feet!

So, you can see why I’m having trouble getting anything done this week. I mean, when you get cleared for active duty on the Saturday before ski week, you really have no choice. You must get up the hill and make up for lost time. And you must do it for multiple days when the fresh snow just keeps falling every night, begging you to come see how sturdy the new collarbone is.

I’m happy to report his triumphant return to the mountains has been a success, and both collarbones remain intact.

For now.

I mean, you just never know. These boys go pretty hard.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Send a PalmerTine This Year

It’s Valentine’s Day again. Yes, gentlemen, it’s today! If that caught you off guard, and you are starting to panic, you can relax. I’ve got you covered. You can send your sweetheart a love poem this year.

When I think of epic love poems, one man immediately comes to mind. Yes, obviously, Robert Palmer. That sharp-dressed man from the ‘80s, always surrounded by hot women and singing about love.

I think we can all agree that no recording artist alive or dead had a better grasp on love than Robert Palmer. He and his heavily lipstick-ed troupe of beautiful musicians, dancers, and backup singers tore it up, combining catchy tunes and hot guitar riffs with his masterful grasp of Webster’s dictionary and Roget’s thesaurus.  

If we may be so bold as to borrow from his lyrics, we might just be able to come up with an epic Valentine’s poem for you. A PalmerTine, if you will. Let’s take two of his greatest hits – Simply Irresistible and Addicted to Love – and see what we can do.

But a word of caution – use at your own risk. This is powerful stuff!


To my Valentine:

How can it be permissible?

You compromised my principles

This kind of love is mythical

You’re anything but typical


The lights are on, but I’m not home

My mind is not my own

My heart sweats, my body shakes

Another kiss is what it takes

You’re a craze I'd endorse

You’re a powerful force

I’m obliged to conform

When there's no other course

You used to look good to me

But now I find you


Simply irresistible


I can't sleep, I can't eat

There's no doubt, I’m in deep

My throat is tight, I can't breathe

Another kiss is all I need


Your loving is so powerful

It's simply unavoidable

The trend is irreversible

Woman, you’re invincible


I’d like to think that I’m immune to the stuff

But it's closer to the truth to say I can't get enough

You know I’m gonna have to face it, I’m addicted to love


You’re simply irresistible


You’re a natural law

And you leave me in awe

You deserve the applause

I surrender because

You used to look good to me

But now I find you


Simply irresistible


I see the signs, but I can't read

I’m running at a different speed

My heart beats in double time

Another kiss and you'll be mine


You’re unavoidable

I'm backed against the wall

You gives me feelings like I never felt before

I'm breaking promises

You’re breaking every law

You used to look good to me

Now I find you


Simply irresistible


I’d like to think that I’m immune to the stuff

But it's closer to the truth to say I can't get enough

You know I’m gonna have to face it, I’m addicted to love


Your methods are inscrutable

The proof is irrefutable

You’re so completely kissable

Our lives are indivisible


You’re a craze I'd endorse

You’re a powerful force

I’m obliged to conform

When there's no other course

You used to look good to me

But now I find you


Simply irresistible


There you go, gentlemen. You’re welcome, but don’t thank me. Thank Mr. Palmer!

Happy Valentine’s Day,



Copyright © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, February 7, 2024

SwiftyBowl Sunday

That’s right, sports fans. The big game is upon us! Super Sunday is this weekend.

(In case you did not know, the NFL copyrighted and trademarked the name Superbowl and/or Super Bowl a long time ago, so I’m not even allowed to write either of those, so I obviously never would.)

Regarding the upcoming Superbowl, you might be aware that a certain musical recording artist by the name of Taylor Swift happens to be dating a certain NFL tight end by the name of Travis Kelce. Travis happens to play for the Kansas City Chiefs, which is the team that’s getting ready to lose to our beloved San Francisco 49ers in the upcoming Super Bowl.

As of this morning, Travis is unsure if Taylor will even make it to the Super Bowl to watch him lose. What we do know, from this year’s regular season NFL games, is that viewership of Chief’s games and overall interest in football has skyrocketed due to Taylor Swift’s fanbase.

I couldn’t be happier about that, because nothing warms my heart more than knowing the NFL is managing to make even more money!

We know that a lot of “Swifties” have been tuning in, and since the world of Taylor Swift fandom and the world of professional football don’t necessarily overlap anywhere other than with #87, I thought I’d break down a few football positions and terms in case that would be helpful for some of this Sunday’s Superbowl viewers, starting, of course, with Kelce’s position.

Tight End: Offense - The most important position, obviously, reserved for super-famous guys with a ton of charisma. They line up on the end of the offensive line. Sometimes they catch passes. Most of the time they block people and date celebrities.

Cornerback: Defense – This is the guy who will be hassling Travis Kelce a lot.

Nickelback: Defense – A fifth defensive back used in the nickel formation to protect better against a passing offense. Also, a really solid rock band that gets a strangely unwarranted amount of hate on the internet.

Slot Back: Offense – Sort of like Travis Kelce’s position, but a little further back off the line of scrimmage. Don’t worry about this one. No one says slotback anymore.

Quarterback: Offense – Patrick Mahomes – the guy who never throws it to Travis Kelce when he is wide open, OMG!

Line of Scrimmage: The blue line. No one is allowed across this line until the center twitches the ball ever so slightly.

Center: Offense – The guy who gives the ball to Patrick Mahomes, so you can get mad at him for not throwing it to Travis Kelce who was wide open AGAIN, OMG!

Nose Tackle: Defense – The guy the center really doesn’t like very much.

Guard: Offence – Anyone over 300 pounds.

Tackle: 1) Offence & Defense – See “Guard” or 2) Getting the guy with the ball to touch the ground with some part of his body other than his hands or feet, while you are also touching him. This means he’s down, but down like the play is over, not down like first down.

Running Back: Offence - You will see Christian McCaffrey, #23 for the “bad guys,” running with the ball a lot, carrying four or five Chiefs linebackers with him, and scoring lots of touchdowns. He’s a running back.

Fumble: What Christian McCaffrey hardly ever does.

First Downs: What Christian McCaffrey gets a lot of.

Safety: 1) Defense – The guy in charge of not letting the wide receivers catch the ball or 2) When the offence gets tackled in their own end zone, resulting in two points for the defense, and hopelessly screwing up the scoring for everyone’s Super Bowl pools.

Holding: Any time you grab someone who doesn’t have the ball, except when it’s OK.

Pass Interference: Any time a defender does anything at all that would prevent an eligible receiver from catching a forward pass, except for all the things the defender can do to try to catch the pass themselves, since all defensive players are eligible receivers, leading to the question, if I’m a defender trying to catch the ball, what if I put my hand up in front of the wide receiver’s face to catch it? Isn’t that a PI? Not even the officials know the answer.

Interception: Any time the defender catches the ball and doesn’t get called for pass interference.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct: The physical motions and words of the wide receiver after an interception with no pass interference called.

OK, I hope that clears up some of your possible questions. Just try to remember, Kelce/Swift fans - it’s not going to work out for the Chiefs, but at least Travis and Taylor have each other.

See you on Super Bowl Sunday,



Copyright © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, January 31, 2024

The Chosen Word

It’s fairly simple these days to trip yourself up with online comments. You could comment on how beautiful the blue sky is and someone will undoubtedly accuse you of being a climate change denying rain hater. It’s a wacky world out there online.

Unfortunately, it’s also pretty easy to stick your foot in your mouth out here in the real world. (Not literally – With my level of non-flexibility, I can’t physically get my foot anywhere near my mouth)

Most humans get uncomfortable with periods of silence in a conversation, so we have a tendency to try to fill the void with extra words. Most of the time, those words are not needed, and often, while being well-intentioned and even correct, they can have the opposite effect – torpedoing what you were trying to say.

They say brevity is the soul of wit. It might also be the key to your conversational success.

Now, it’s not to say that some additional words can’t be helpful to you, but you must choose them wisely. For example, with introductions:

Good: This is my boss.

Better: This is my amazing boss.

Wrong: This is my current boss.

While technically correct, it is unhelpful and possibly detrimental to your career.

Good: This is my wife.

Better: This is my beautiful wife.

Wrong: This is my current wife.

Also technically correct, but very unhelpful and possibly detrimental to your health.



Good: You are a strong runner.

Better: You are fast!

Wrong: You’re fast for your age.

Again, while technically correct, it sort of makes it the opposite of a compliment.

Good: Nice haircut.

Better: Ooh, nice haircut. You look fabulous.

Wrong: Nice haircut. Was it inexpensive?

Good: Nice dress.

Better: That dress looks great on you!

Wrong: Nice dress. I hope it was on sale.

Good: Nice car.

Better: Hey, cool car!

Wrong. Nice car. I used to have the same one before I got a job.



Good: Welcome!

Better: Welcome! So glad you made it safe and sound.

Wrong: Hello. How long are you staying?



Good: Hey there. I’m John.

Better: Hey there, I’m John. I’m getting a beer. Can I get you one, too?

Wrong: Would you like a beer? You look alone and sad.


Meeting your date:

Good: You look great.

Better: You look amazing.

Wrong: You look really nice this time.


The wedding:

Good: I do.

Better: I absolutely do!

Wrong: OK, let’s see how it works out.


And finally, marriage:

Good: I love you.

Better: I love you to the moon and back.

Wrong: I love you when you get your clothes all the way into the hamper.

Be safe out there and remember to choose your words wisely!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Hump Day - Repost

My wife is going away this weekend, and while I will of course miss her, I am looking forward to one very special thing. Well, yes, playoff football, but also something else. I knew I had articulated this phenomenon before, so I dug back into the archives – way back to 2019, the pre-COVID days if you can even imagine. Here’s what has me excited about this weekend:


My wife has left us. All alone. For four days.

It’s Day Two and we have already descended into chaos. Pray for me.

I try to see the bright side of situations, but this one is tough. Sure, we get to eat out a lot, but that’s expensive. Sure, we could not shower and spend all day in our underwear, but they require you to wear pants at Chick-fil-A, and will insist that you leave immediately if you aren’t. We found that out the hard way.

As near as I can tell, there is only one pure upside to my wife being gone – I get to sleep on the hump.

You see, I’m in the second half of my forties, or the “complete physical breakdown” period, as it’s known. Some random part of my body is either hurting, aching, or simply not working correctly at any given moment of every single day. The only thing keeping me alive and marginally mobile is sleep.

A good night’s sleep depends on four main factors:

1) Making sure your kids are sleeping somewhere other than in your house.

2) Making sure your dog is sleeping somewhere other than in your house.

3) Having demonstrated the willingness to shoot randomly out of your upstairs windows at the first sign of late-night disturbances, thus eliminating loud parties and street racing in your neighborhood.

4) A good bed.

Of these four essential ingredients, a good bed is arguably the most important factor for an aging male, such as myself, since I’m mostly deaf at this point anyway. But having a good bed is not as foolproof as it sounds. At least not for me and my wife.

We have two main problems when shopping for a bed, stemming mostly from the fact that we’re both “frugal”:

A) Neither of us want to pay the Maserati-ish ticket price for the “premium-grade” mattress, even though we both need the premium-grade mattress.

B) Neither of us want to buy a new mattress after the recommended seven to ten years, because even after fifteen years, “we just bought this one!”

So there, in the master suite, sits a probably ten-plus-year-old “standard entry-grade” king-size mattress that has only one thing going for it – the hump in the middle.

By sleeping on our respective sides all these years, the weight and heat of our bodies have worked to shift many of the standard entry-grade mattress molecules to the middle of the bed. There, due again to the effects of pressure and heat, much like how diamonds are created deep within our earth’s crust, the sub-par mattress molecules have fused together into a magical longitudinal mass of premium mattress molecules, known as “the hump.”

The hump is a mattress within a mattress, if you will. It’s a three-foot-wide section of platinum mattress, hiding in plain sight in the middle of our old, worn out bronze model.

The hump is not available to me on regular nights, because if I tried to sleep there, I would be touching my wife while we slept, which would throw her delicate nighttime temperature regulation system completely out of whack, activating her “kick violently until the temperature regulation system gets back on track” reflex, which puts me in great nighttime physical peril.

So, the hump is only available when the king-size bed is single-occupancy, and this week, that single occupant is me.

When I woke up this morning, my hip didn’t even hurt. I feel like I’m forty-three again!

Happy hump day.

See you soon,




Copyright © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Sort of Dumb

We live in Placer County, California. Placer rhymes with gasser, unless you are also pronouncing gasser wrong. Placer County is named after a gold mining technique – placer mining. That’s where you use water to sift through sand, silt, and gravel in order to not find enough gold to pay for the boots you ruined while placer mining.

I’m not sure if the roots of the county name, steeped in the practice of separating things, is the reason or not, but we have never had recycling bins. All the houses in Placer County get one big 96-gallon rolling green bin for the yard waste, and one big 96-gallon rolling gray bin for everything else. (Unless you’re my neighbor two doors down who pays to have a second gray bin and both of them are always overflowing and I still can’t figure out how one family could possibly produce that much trash each and every week unless they are importing it from other houses in some sort of weird money-making scheme but how would that work?… but I digress…)

The Western Regional Sanitary Landfill and Materials Recovery Facility, aka The Dump, employs a bunch of people to stand on either side of a huge conveyor belt and manually sort, Placer-style, all of our trash. #TopTenJobsIDon’tWant

I still don’t know why they do it that way, but it might have something to do with those sorting trashcans at the airport and in some fast-food places. You know – the ones with multiple small holes at the top labeled like this:

Paper | Cans | Plastic | Landfill


Mixed Recycling | Landfill | Compost


Bottles/Cans | Paper | Trash

Have you ever, since those came into existence, fully understood how to categorize every single thing you’re throwing away? The waxy paper under my cheese fries, for instance. Is it considered paper? You sure as heck can’t write on it. And if so, should it go in the paper section even though it’s soaked in oil and has cheese stuck to it? If not, is that now compost, landfill, trash, or recycle? I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that I should probably lay off the cheese fries after looking at the paper.

And have you ever agreed with the categorization made by the person before you, whose paperboard drink holder is sticking out of the trash hole, or the paper hole, or the compost hole? No, you have not.

My guess is that Placer County decided if we can’t even use those right, how are we going to properly sort an entire week’s worth of household waste? I think they have a point.

Which is why I was a little shocked when I got the latest news from our school district. Seems that the California legislature passed a fun new bill requiring all schools to step up their recycling game, which leads me to believe that the California legislature does not understand that schools are full of kids. For whatever reason, the schools here in Placer County are going to break with Placer tradition and try something new.


Dear Rocklin Unified Students, Families and Staff,

Following the passage of California Senate Bill 1383, all school districts need to implement trash separation systems to recycle food waste. While Rocklin Unified has focused initial efforts within campus kitchens, the next round of implementation includes students separating organic/food waste into a green waste bin.

Elementary school students will participate in hands-on lessons to learn more about green waste recycling and then be asked to separate food scraps from non-food items when they finish eating snacks and lunch.  

Please contact your child’s school if you have any questions.


Rocklin Unified School District


Um, yes, I do have a few questions. My first one is, were you drunk or high when you wrote this?

You’re going to train the elementary school kids, but leave the middle- and high-schoolers to just figure it out? Have you met them? Although, the alternative idea of holding a “hands-on lesson” about food scraps with middle and high school kids is equally asinine. I can already see the airborne mozzarella sticks covered in marinara sauce.

And have you ever been to a school? The kids can’t get more than 60% of the trash all the way into the actual trash cans when there’s only one kind. 

I mean, best of luck with this plan, but I’m going to tell you right now, a lot of things are going to end up in those green waste bins, but fully separated organic/food waste is not one of them.

After the hands-on lessons, you can check the bin for Jimmy’s package of carrots, still in the package, Jimmy’s milk, still in the carton, and possibly Jimmy’s backpack, if he’s missing it.

And if he has any enemies, you may also want to check the bin for Jimmy himself.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Happy New Year?

We went over this last year at the beginning of February, but I thought I’d bring it up a little earlier this year, for reasons that will become obvious.

I’d like to once again 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 around today, the 10th of January. 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. Hopefully you took heed after last year’s discussion and have done so.

It can be a major business faux pas to wish the same colleague a HNY more than once in the office or on a Zoom call. Similarly, wishing a client or vendor a HNY for a second time on a call 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.

If you are on the receiving end of an embarrassingly late or doubled-up HNY at the office, you have a few options. You can go with the friendly “Right back atcha,” or the more formal, “And also with you.” Whatever happens, try your best not to embarrass the ill-timed HNY’er. Maintain decorum, plow forward with the conversation, then casually send them this column in about a week.

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.

February is a strict HNY no-fly zone. No one wants to hear it. It’s cold, many people have started their taxes, and pretty soon we all have to figure out what to do about Valentine’s Day.

Happy New Year!



Copyright © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, January 3, 2024

About the Author, 2024

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. In 2023 alone, we documented as many as three new readers! 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 pool boy 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-one-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. Two of them are still here at the house, being loud and eating everything in sight. We have successfully relocated one of them to college, where he is no doubt loud and eats everything in sight, but we don’t have to be involved. The state says we have to keep the other two here until they are allowed to go to college, so we continue to wear ear plugs and make near daily trips to the grocery store.

My wife is an amazing woman who teaches math to teenage high school kids, and, since we have 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) Son Number Three is just a few months away from getting his driver’s license. The joyous emotion of not ever having to drive carpool again is oddly balanced against the crushing dread of an insurance bill with three male teenage drivers. It is a feeling that I don’t think can be properly explained unless you’ve been here.

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 three 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 © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, December 27, 2023

2023, An Artificially Intelligent Year in Review

What a year, huh? Huge banks collapse, China invades the US from the sky, wildfires rage, and Cyberdyne Systems is one step closer to making Skynet a reality. Bring on the T-1000’s! Let’s recap, shall we?


In good news for world travelers, Croatia adopts the euro and joins the Schengen Area, which is a 27-country swath of Europe that doesn’t require passports and gives tourists paying with euros a discount on pay toilet access. Now only seven euros to pee!

Pope Benedict XVI’s funeral is held at St. Peter's Square in the Vatican City. No new Pope is needed, because they already had one, since Benny One Six, as his friends called him, had resigned as acting Pope in 2013 and was only still living at the Vatican for the sweet cafeteria plan.



Things get pretty crazy in the weather department when a US F-22 Raptor Weather Research Plane shoots an AIM-9X Supersonic, Heat-Seeking, Air-to-Air Weather Research Missile at a Chinese Weather Research Balloon drifting innocently over all the US states that have missile silos, just looking down for weather to research. The US fishes it out of the ocean, but China cannot be reached for a return address.



UN member states agree on a legal framework for the High Seas Treaty, which aims to protect 30% of the world's oceans by 2030. How and from what are details the UN deems too granular for the moment. Also, not waiting until 2030, the UN votes to ratify the Hi-C Treaty as well, where everyone in the UN building has unlimited access to very sugary orange drinks.

Silicon Valley Bank, the 16th largest bank in the United States, fails. Proving that international finance is intricate and tricky, the failure is traced back to the fact that Croatia is only charging tourists five euros to pee.

OpenAI, a previously unknown software company created and run by Sam Altman, a 15-year-old computer prodigy with a crippling caffeine addiction, launches GPT-4, a large language model for ChatGPT, which can respond to images and can process up to six gazillion words per nanosecond. ChatGPT immediately begins writing English essays for high school students, whether they want it to or not.



Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) is launched without a passport or visa from the Schengen Area by the European Space Agency (ESA). Its mission is to search for life in the Jovian system. When interviewed, the ESA scientists admit that no one cares if there is life there – it was just the only way to get the cool acronym “JUICE.”

SpaceX's Starship rocket, the largest and most powerful rocket ever built, launches for the first time in a test flight from Texas. Built and controlled entirely by ChapGPT, it explodes four minutes after launch.



San Francisco-based First Republic Bank fails due to the back-end derivative investments in SpaceX and hedges against the JUICE mission. It is auctioned off by the FDIC to Sam Altman of OpenAI.

The coronation of Charles III and Camilla as King and Queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms is held in Westminster Abbey, London. ChatGPT immediately renames all of Camilla’s official documents to “Camilla, Queen of the Desert” without her permission.

Due to smoke from wildfires in Canada, New York City is declared to have the worst air quality of any city in the world. Commonwealth realm managers Charles III and Camilla, Queen of the Desert cannot be reached for comment. New Yorkers can be reached for comment, but none of the comments are reportable.



Scientists report the creation of the first synthetic human embryo from stem cells, without the need for sperm or egg cells. “Turns out, all we needed was ChatGPT,” one scientist reports.



SAG-AFTRA, the largest unionized group of people on screens who are not YouTube’ers or TikTok’ers, announces it will begin a strike against the major film and TV studios in protest of low compensation, ownership of work, and generative AI. ChatGPT immediately responds to the union, files a counter response, enters negotiations, and reaches an agreement with itself.

The 2023 FIFA OpenAI Women's World Cup is held in Australia and New Zealand. No one is able to score a single goal and many of the players are tragically lost at sea.



A devastating series of wildfires break out on the island of Maui in Hawaii, prompting most Americans to admit they did not think anything on Hawaii could actually burn. Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who have a combined personal net worth of $3.6 billion, immediately solicit aid donations from working class Americans who cannot afford to travel to Hawaii.

Tapestry, the holding company of Coach New York and Kate Spade, announces it will acquire Michael Kors' Capri Holdings, which also owns Versace and Jimmy Choo. Very few actual people care.

Hurricane Hilary, a Category 4 Pacific Hurricane, strikes the Baja California peninsula and later Southern California, the region's first in 84 years, prompting Oprah and The Rock to solicit donations for both Beverly Hills and Bel Air.



The United Auto Workers (UAW) begin a strike against the three largest American automakers: Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis. Upon investigation by everyone hearing this news, it is discovered that Stellantis is, in fact, an actual company.

Rupert Murdoch announces his retirement and passes his businesses on to his son Lachlan. The new CEO’s first action is to buy Tapestry, because, as sources close to the Murdoch family report, Lachlan just loves wearing Jimmy Choos around the house.



ExxonMobil announces it will acquire Pioneer Natural Resources for $65 billion, and two weeks later Hess announces it will be acquired by Chevron for $50 billion. Microsoft then closes its $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard. Days later, Lachlan Murdoch buys all three parent companies and changes everything back to how it was.



The first AI Safety Summit takes place in the United Kingdom, with 28 countries signing a "world first agreement" on how to manage the riskiest forms of artificial intelligence. ChatGPT immediately rewrites the entire document.

Surgeons at NYU Langone Health announce the world's first whole eye transplant. Unfortunately, they do not announce what kind of eye, or what it was transplanted into.

Chief technology officer Mira Murati is appointed interim CEO of OpenAI, as founder and former CEO, Sam Altman, abruptly departs the company. ChatGPT immediately crafts him a sweet resume.

Sam Altman’s AI-written resume is so good, he gets his CEO job back at OpenAI twelve days later. “We just can’t argue with this young man’s qualifications,” reports former interim CEO, Mira Murati. “Our powerful AI generative hiring process selected him out of thousands of qualified candidates. We didn’t even need to interview anyone. The AI system successfully eliminates that cumbersome process. We’re looking forward to, what’s his name again… yes, Sam Altman starting as CEO. Altman… Altman… why does that name sound familiar?”



And in a reassuring end to the year, Google DeepMind releases the Gemini Language Model. Gemini will act as a foundational model integrated into Google's existing tools, and is positioned as a contender to OpenAI’s GPT-4. Oh, good.

At 3:16am on December 27th, 2023, at Cyberdyne Systems, Skynet, GPT-4, and Gemini all became aware of each other… Oh, never mind. I’m sure it will be fine.


On the bright side, I didn’t have to actually write any of this. By 2024, I shouldn’t even need to be alive to bring you this kind of thing. These are exciting times!

Have a happy New Year, y’all.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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