Wednesday, August 3, 2022

An Open Letter to Josh Wardle

Dear Mr. Wardle,

Damn you. Also, thank you. Let me explain.

In October of last year, you gave us Wordle. I genuinely want to thank you for that. Not only does your simple little word guessing game bring me joy personally, but it also united us as a nation.

You see, it’s hard to brag about things these days, because everyone is so sensitive about everything. The new cancel culture makes it almost impossible to toot your own horn.

Cooked a beautiful steak? Here comes PETA to tell you why you’re evil. Proud of your ballpark diagonals in your front lawn? Don’t you care that we’re in a drought? Got that sweet ’65 Mustang running again? Why do you hate mother earth? Evaded the cops by doing 120 mph on the freeway after robbing the 7-Eleven? Wow, you’re so “reckless” and “criminally negligent.”

Invariably, some jealous internet troll will cry foul and shut you down with the help of their basement-dwelling minions.

Thankfully, however, bragging about our Wordle scores is still seen as socially acceptable. For now, anyway. Thank you for that. On a side note, Mr. Wardle, I’m happy to report that I remain undefeated by your game. My record as of this morning stands at 181-0. Again, just a small side note. No big deal. Just undefeated in Wordle after 181 games.

Here’s the thing, though. Your fun little game spawned a snakes’ nest of spin-offs. Spin-offs that I’m equally as drawn to. That is presenting a problem.

I don’t know who the lair-dwelling Swiss supervillain was who created Dordle, but in early 2022 this psycho took your beautifully simple game and created the offshoot where we play two Wordles at once, side-by-side, with seven guesses instead of six.

Who even thinks of something that weird and wordishly sadistic? It’s crazy. I was immediately hooked.

Things got out of hand fairly quickly after that. After Dordle came Quordle, with four. Then Octordle, with eight, etc.

Many other game developers abandoned words, but kept your once-a-day, everyone playing against each other theme that we fell in love with. Soon we had a song guessing game called Heardle, and a map guessing game called Worldle. Movies, shapes, Nerdle for numbers. Anything was on the table.

As the non-word-based games ramped up, the word-based developers kept adding on more and more simultaneous puzzles, while also working on the “opposite” of your Wordle. Eventually The Evil Wordle and Absurdle sprang to life. Semantle, a ridiculously impossible one for semantically similar words showed up. Popular series fan-based games emerged like Lordle of the Rings, Hogwartle, and SWordle for Star Wars.

Basically, chaos ensued, and I’m hanging on by a thread. I used to be a simple man. I had my crossword puzzles and I was happy. But you changed all that. Now, among many other things, my day involves the Duotrigordle. Thirty-two Wordles at once.

I don’t want to live like this. Please help me.

You created this mess. Now please create an online support group of some kind where we can get help.

Maybe the support group could also have games of some kind for us to play while we wait for the meetings to start. Perhaps word-based guessing games?

Just please make sure the games keep stats so we can brag. Did I mention I’m 181-0 in Wordle?

Yours in word nerdiness,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, July 27, 2022

The Key to Our Security

I found a great new reality show that I’m really enjoying. There’s only three episodes, but I am loving watching them over and over again. Unfortunately for you all, I can’t really recommend the show, because it’s all footage from my Ring doorbell camera.

Allow me to explain.

We went on vacation last week, and our good friends’ son, who is a teammate of Son Number Two, and a young man we know and love, moved into our house to dog sit for us. He’s about to be a senior in high school, which makes the show even more entertaining.

In the first episode, our main character comes over to the house for the first time. He spends quite a bit of time at the front door fiddling with the lock before he actually went into the house. Our dog thought it was awesome, and continually barked “I’m so happy you’re here! Please come in!” at the window.

I wasn’t quite sure what he was waiting for, since I knew he wasn’t scared of the dog, but eventually he went in the house and I didn’t think much of it, until Episode Two.

Our main character is a social animal, much like our Labrador, and he had a number of friends over during the week. One of his friends, who is also a teammate of Son Number Two, ended up taking over for him one afternoon/evening when our main character had to work a long shift at his summer job. Episode Two of my new favorite show began on our front porch with our main character painstakingly teaching his stand-in dog sitter how to lock and unlock our front door using the key.

It was only then that I realized how important to the series Episode One had been. Prior to coming to our house, neither of these monkeys had ever used a key to unlock a door. They had both grown up with keypad-entry front doors. Episode One was our main character figuring out how the whole confounding key/lock system worked. I was mesmerized.

Just when I thought the series was limited to only two episodes, our good friends’ girls from down the street came over to walk our dog with her sister. (To clarify, our dog and their dog are sisters. The neighbor girls are also sisters. All were involved.)

The key that our main character had in his possession works normally. The key that our friends down the street have was cut a little wonkily. It opens the door just fine, but you have to jiggle it a little bit to get it to turn at first. This added an exciting dimension to Episode Three, and extended it well past the length of the first two episodes combined.

In all, four different girls attempted to unlock our front door before finally gaining entry. After retrieving our dog and her leash, it actually took even longer for them to re-lock the door, apparently not learning much about the ingredients of success on the entry. It was magical entertainment.

Apparently, we are the only house left among our friends that still has keyed doors. It seems, in the not-too-distant future, this will be a new level of security, along with a new level of convenience. Soon, we won’t have to carry our keys around with us. We can simply lock our doors and leave the keys hanging on a hook on the porch.

I’m sure at some point advanced thieves will figure out some code scanning software that can read the keypad door locks and produce the codes. It’s probably already an Android app. The thing is, anyone advanced enough to use the code scanning software will also be young enough to apparently not know how keys work. It’s a lot like how we adults can now write coded messages that teenagers can’t crack simply by writing in cursive.

My old, keyed door lock will soon be more secure than a keypad combination lock, at a fraction of the cost.

What an informative and entertaining show I discovered!

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, July 20, 2022

An Open Letter to the TSA

Dear Transportation Security Administration,

Let me start off by just saying what a great job you all are doing. I know you are obviously not a petty or vindictive group, based on the personalities I’ve run across with your agents over the last twenty years. You are a crack squad of mentally-balanced, well-adjusted, and rational folks. That’s for sure.

Even though I know you would never ever hold a grudge, I just want to make it clear up front here that I’m on your side and I think you’re great. You’re a dedicated group of patriots, keeping us safe, even when those other people (not me) don’t think you’re doing a good job. Or even a marginally reasonable job.

I’ve even heard some of them say your airport agents are most likely hired outside popular fast-food establishments when rejected applicants are exiting from their failed interviews with the twenty-three-year-old managers. I don’t think that’s true, and I would obviously never say anything like that into a recording device.

So, now that it’s clear that I love you and think you are all top notch yet undervalued, underpaid, overworked, and underappreciated, I’d like to suggest a few things, if I may.

I noticed something on our recent family trip to Washington, D.C., where you are doing a superb and again, underappreciated job of administrating your organization. We were making our initial contact with your agents at the end of the winding rope line in front of security. Our family of five assembled in front of an ebullient TSA agent and she began to check our passports. (We weren’t sure if Washington, D.C. was its own country yet or not, so we brought passports as our identification just in case.)

Our three teenage boys were behind me, acting like teenage brothers, which in this case meant they were flexing at each other and telling the other one they looked small and weak. She looked at them and instead of choosing one and asking to see his passport, she very graciously decided to do some parenting for us.

She snapped at them to listen up and then told them that they were in an airport, and that even though they were not adults yet, they were old enough to take her TSA security station very seriously, just like it should be taken, because she was serious about her job and they needed to be serious about her job also, even if they didn’t understand how serious it was yet, because they were not really adults yet, but they were at an airport. (Or something to that effect. I’m going to be honest with you here, she started to ramble a little bit, and as an actual adult already, I kinda lost track of her point.)

So, anyhoo, I just wanted to make some friendly suggestions about the possibility of maybe putting your applicants through some sort of personality tests and screening procedures during the hiring process. I’ve taken the liberty of coming up with a few questions to ask prospective agents that I think might be helpful.

 

1) Have you ever been rejected for any or all of the following due to mental or physical fitness reasons?

Military

Police

Fire

Volunteer fire

911 operator

Security guard

Lifeguard

Nightclub bouncer

Personal trainer

Walmart receipt checker

Walmart greeter

2) Were you horribly tormented as a youth by an older sibling or a school bully?

3) Does the idea of becoming a TSA agent give you an unbelievable electric sensation of unbridled power up your spine?

4) Does the idea of performing a secondary screening pat down on a stranger fill you with any feeling other than mild discomfort?

5) Does the idea of making someone late for their flight fill you with glee? 

6) Do you have a foot fetish of any kind?

7) Given the opportunity, would you open a stranger’s luggage to inspect it without being asked to do so?

8) Do you fully understand how dangerous more than 3.4 ounces of any liquid can really be?

9) Do you have a burning desire to see everyone’s portable electronic devices, such as laptop computers?

10) In this sample picture of an X-ray screen, do the machete and the souvenir coffee mug look identical to you?

11) Prior to coming to this interview today, were you ever turned down by Taco Bell because they didn’t think you could be trusted with the sour cream gun?

12) Do you desperately want this job for any other reason besides a steady paycheck?

 

I think these types of questions could be a great addition to the already amazing hiring process you have in place.

Again, I think you’re doing a really great job.

Yours in honor and security,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, July 13, 2022

An Open Letter to the Postmaster General

Dear Postmaster General,

For starters, I have absolutely no idea what your title means. I assume I’m writing to the person in charge, but maybe yours is an honorary title and you’re reading this from your yacht in the Caribbean while the actual CEO of the post office does all the work? (If that is the case, please have your yacht captain forward this to the CEO.)

If you are the one in charge, I have some questions about the title. “Postmaster” seems fairly self explanatory. You’re the master of all things postal. I get that. It’s the “General” that I’m confused about. Is that General as in encompassing all things, or is yours a formal military position?

If you are, in fact, part of the military, could I make a request that you change your staffing immediately. The civil servants delivering the mail now are, shall we say, a tad on the apathetic side. We could really turn that around by replacing them with Army Rangers.

Every kid in America, and probably most of the adults, would be thrilled to see the Blackhawk touch down in the middle of the cul-de-sac and the Rangers pour out from both sides to do a coordinated strike on the mailbox cluster. Costs may increase slightly, but efficiency will go through the roof. Something to think about.

Anyhow, I’m writing today on a postal matter that obviously needs your attention. I recently turned fifty, and out of nowhere my doctor’s office sent me a specimen collection kit in the mail.

The sending of the specimen kit to me is not the postal issue. The specimen kit, as of now, is harmless. However, if I follow their instructions, it won’t be harmless for long.

They want me to mail them my poop.

Now look, I don’t know if this is a prank or not, but the kit and the paperwork look fairly official. Apparently fifty is the age I need to start worrying about my colon. Add that to the long list of body parts I need to worry about, I guess. If the kit is bogus, it certainly is elaborate, so I’m treating it like it’s real. That being the case, this is obviously something you should be aware of.

Did you know about this? If this is real, I can’t imagine this is the first time this mail-order poop request has gone out. Again, I have no idea what your job entails, but I would rank preventing mailing of poop as probably a pretty high priority for your office.

The instructions are detailed and clear, and the poop collection stick and containment bottle seem well made, but let’s face facts. They want me to send my poop through the mail. That’s crazy.

How did something like that ever get approved by your office? Are you trying to tell me in all the years this has probably been taking place that not one less than desirable situation ever occurred with a poop mailing? I find that hard to believe.

You know FedEx and UPS would just be a hard no. How is the USPS allowing this? Are you asleep at the wheel? Just bad at your job? Or are you being paid off by the poop specimen lab lobbyists? That’s it, isn’t it!? You’ve used your powerful position for personal gain at the expense of the poor poop-toting mailmen. That’s how you can afford that gigantic yacht!

On second thought, you might not want to get the Army Rangers involved. I’m starting to understand the apathy I’m seeing in the civil servants you currently employ. If the Rangers ever found out they were transporting cardboard envelopes of poop, you might end up with a Blackhawk full of disgruntled soldiers landing on your shiny yacht.

I wonder if they’d land it on the poop deck, just for emphasis?

Probably best not to think about it.

Disappointedly,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, July 6, 2022

An Open Letter to the Guy Who Installed My Floor

Dear Captain Staple Gun,

I don’t know who you are, but since my house was built in the early 2000s, I am assuming you are in your mid to late 30s now. You might still work in construction if you managed to get yourself under control. If you did not calm down, I doubt you were able to hold down any sort of real job and are probably reading this from your parent’s basement.

I’m writing you today because I’m in the process of installing laminate flooring in our master bathroom, with which, you are familiar. You, after all, were there about twenty years ago installing the extra sheet of plywood onto the subfloor in the tiny little three-foot by five-foot toilet room.

Your boss, I’m sure, explained to you that the three-eighths plywood was necessary to raise the floor in that room up ever so slightly so the light beige linoleum would match the height of the dark beige carpet in the main bathroom.

In case you were wondering, the key words that identify the need for our new laminate flooring project are ”beige,” “linoleum,” and “bathroom carpet.”

I just want to start by saying thank you. Thank you for not gluing it down. Since the laminate floor will be continuous throughout the bathroom, I needed to pull out your small sheet of riser plywood so the subfloor would all be the same height. I was already on my knees when I discovered it, so I stopped and prayed that it was not glued down.

I’m not sure if you happen to remember which member of your construction crew installed our original hardwood floors downstairs, but if you do, I’d love it if you would do me a favor and set fire to their house.

We had this same laminate flooring installed in the entire downstairs area of our house a few years back, and I decided I would remove the old hardwood floors myself. After all, they were only in the kitchen and foyer. I thought, how hard could it be?

I’ll answer that for you. They were glued down with some substance the Pentagon would love to know about. You could have vaporized all of Placer county with a targeted nuclear strike centered on my home and those floors would have remained securely attached to the concrete slab, somewhere hundreds of miles away.

I had to cut through the hardwood with a Skilsaw, making a cut perpendicular to the board lengths every three inches, and chip the floor off with a giant long-handled scraper. It took our entire family of five a whole week to get the floor out of two rooms. I honestly wished I’d had access to nuclear weapons at the time. I still have a lingering case of PTSD about the whole thing.

So, yes, thank you for not gluing the plywood down, knowing you had access to whatever the hell that stuff was. That being said, this is where my thanks to you stops.

Instead of glue, you used the pneumatic staple gun that shoots two-inch construction staples. Good choice. I would have used that too. And if I was installing the small little piece of plywood to the small little floor of the small little toilet room, I would have used anywhere from twenty to thirty staples total. But that’s because I tend to overdo it a little on my fastener count. I want to know that it’s going to stay nailed down.

Not you, though. No sir. You, my friend, are on an entirely different level. I hammered my prybar under that sheet of plywood and got stopped cold by your first row of staples across the doorway. You had over thirty staples in that first row alone. The door is only twenty-eight inches wide, so you were doing better than one staple per inch. Impressive.

Speaking of staples per inch, or in the regular construction world, inches per staple, it would have been cool if you had some sort of plan or consistency to your work. But you didn’t. In some areas I encountered staples grouped so close together they were actually touching each other. In other places I may have gone a full two inches before I came upon another one of your little projectiles.

There was one spot in the middle where you had a six-inch line of staples so close together it looked like a zipper. A removal project that should have taken me about ten minutes to complete ended up taking me hours. Hours on my hands and knees in a tiny little room doesn’t really work for me anymore. I’m old now. And in more pain now because of your insane rampant stapling.

I just have to ask. What the hell were you doing? Were you hiding from the boss but needed to sound like you were still working? Were you hiding from the crazy hardwood gluer guy? Can’t blame you there. Was it the end of the day and you wanted to milk that project as long as possible so you didn’t have to start something else? I just have to know!

Were you getting paid by the staple instead of by the hour? That would explain why my fifteen-square-foot floor was honestly more staples than actual wood. I’m amazed it didn’t all cave in from the sheer weight of the steel.

Or was it your first day on the job and/or the first time you ever used a nail gun? If that was the case, then I guess I’m glad you had fun at least. And I hope you haven’t lost that childlike enthusiasm for life. I just never want you to do anything like that again.

Ever.

I have to go take more Advil now.

Settle down,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Be Best Life - Repost

A commissioner from the FCC is calling for Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores. If you are unfamiliar with TikTok (in other words, if you’re really old), chances are it’s the thing that your grandkids are staring at when they are staring at their phones. Which is all the time. Literally, right now. Look at them right now, and they will be watching a TikTok video.

TikTok is a video app where young people record themselves either dancing or hilariously getting “accidentally” hit with something by their friends, and then trillions and trillions of other young people watch those videos in a trance while drooling and forgetting to do their chores and homework.

The FCC has shown, however, that TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese government, is illegally data mining off every phone it’s installed on. TikTok is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but rest assured, your teenager doesn’t care, so Apple and Google will keep offering it.

TikTok may be bad, but I’m here to tell you that not everything coming out of China is nefarious. I mean, the copywriting on Chinese products is bad, but it’s hilarious, and only harmful to the sales of those products. Actually, it has an outside chance of being harmful to you, I guess, if you happen to fall over laughing like I did when I got the SUPERSEALER for Christmas.

The SUPERSEALER is a crappy ninety-nine-cent as-seen-on-TV plastic bag sealer that is really hard to operate and works poorly. I could care less about the bag sealer. I am in love with the little cardboard box it came in.

The WORKWONDER SUPERSEALER is made in China by a Chinese company that obviously has two copywriters. One of these people has some background in using the English language. We’ll call him Bob. The other has to be the owner’s son, and after disappointing performances in many different departments, copywriter was the least harmful position his dad could think of to stick him. We’ll assume the owner’s name is Mr. Wang. Mr. Wang doesn’t know any English either. Bob is obviously terrified of Mr. Wang and won’t tell him that Son of Wang partied continuously for four years at the international university in Beijing and knows no English whatsoever.

In a few places on the box, Bob invites me to Just slide SUPERSEALER across bags to seal in freshness!

Son of Wang tells me, Relaxed onepulls, guarantees quality to retain freshness. Based on what we get from Son of Wang in his main paragraph, I guarantee Bob helped him with the last half of that sentence.

Here’s Bob’s effort on selling us on the amazing benefits of the SUPERSEALER:

Finally an inexpensive and easy way to perfectly reseal unused poutions of food. This amazing new SUPERSealer creates an airtight seal that locks in freshness.

You simply slids SUPERSealer along the edge of any bag and it’s sealed airtight. It’s that easy. You’ll not only save on storage bags, but you can save even more buying bulk at warehouse clubs. Just use your SUPERSealer to reseal any unused portions over and over again!

I never claimed that Bob was great. I just said he has some background in English. He’s not the best speller, but I do have to give him credit for using American sayings like, “locks in freshness,” and “it’s that easy.” That would suggest that he has a better than average grasp on American English than your standard WORKWONDER employee.

Here’s what Son of Wang had to offer us. I swear, I am not making any of this up, and keep in mind, folks, this is written on the SAME BOX as Bob’s paragraph.

Have sometimes been able to affect your state of mindbecause of a lot of situation such as damp , becomingmildewed , depraved , water leaking from in the dailylife, have used you feel very vexed , good under this , have had the convenient plastic bag of new model seal implement , have all have made stable , no matter howvexed your nonutility be. Collection such as all food , clothing and other articales of daily use , postage stamp, you have put plastic bag lining inside as long as with them , seal machine has taken form lightly with convenient adheaive tape of new model as soon as the fault , one have protection against the tide , mould proof, the herm etic sealing bag retaining freshness. Such is simple , the simplicity is comfortable, be best life!

After reading the box about a hundred times (and laughing out loud every single time), I have to assume this conversation took place at the WORKWONDERS office prior to printing the box:

“My dad wants you to proofread my copy, Bob. What do you think?”

“This is the most unintelligible thing anyone has ever written. What the hell, Wang?”

“My dad is the owner. I’ll have you fired.”

“Looks great. Let’s print that box!”

 

I mean, am I a little concerned that Communist China will eventually collapse the world’s digital economy by waging a cyber war against us with our own data? Sure I am, but at least Son of Wang provided my family our new motto:

Be best life!

Postage stamp,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Walking is Hard Work

I would like to lodge a formal complaint against anatomy, physiology, exercise as a whole, or any combination thereof. I’m not sure who I should complain to here on earth, however, and I’m not about to complain to God about how my body works. That would be like complaining to Samsung about how my cell phone works. It’s so incredibly complicated and so, so far past my capacity for understanding it, that I have literally no leg to stand on there.

Speaking of legs to stand on, that’s what my formal complaint centers around. Since there’s no earthly authority in charge of this, I believe at this point that I’m just lodging a formal, public whine. So be it.

Here’s my problem: I’m a recovering engineer. No, not my engineer-ish social awkwardness. The other problem. The fact that after a technical college education and a lengthy career in engineering design and implementation, I understand the physical laws of the universe fairly well. At least, the physical laws of motion.

For example, and to my point, work is work. It doesn’t matter if I move one pound up ten feet in the air all at once, or if I move that same one pound up one foot a day for ten days. When I get to ten feet, the amount of work I’ve done is the same for both scenarios. The difference is in the amount of power that was required. Power involves a time component. Work does not. The social awkwardness problem comes in when I think people want an explanation of that concept at dinner parties.

The complaint, or whine, that I am lodging is that walking versus running should work the same. My problem is that I have recent empirical proof that it does not.

We just got back from Washington D.C., where we walked for six straight days. My main/only form of exercise is running. And when I say running, I mean jogging. And when I say jogging, I mean slowly. I run three miles, three days a week. That’s nine miles a week. I think that’s pretty good for a fifty-year-old guy who likes chocolate more than he should. At least, I thought it was pretty good.

Here's my complaint: None of my running prepared me for the walking, and the walking didn’t translate back to the running. Allow me to explain.

My feet hurt in D.C. My legs hurt. I was tired at the end of the days. My feet and legs don’t hurt after running. By the laws of the universe, if I can run three miles in a day, I ought to be able to walk at least nine or so, right? I mean, I don’t really know what the conversion is, because I’ve never timed my walking pace for a mile, but it’s got to be at least three to one against my running, right. I do both very slowly!

We walked a lot, but I don’t think we ever got anywhere close to walking nine miles in one day on the trip. The Smithsonians are big, but they’re not THAT big.

Anyway, we do all that walking, amazed at how tired we are from it, then come home and take a nice two-day break before resuming normal activities. If all the walking was inexplicably wearing me out so much, I should have been getting in better shape, not worse, right? Well, let me tell you, my first attempt at running was pathetic. Or should I say, pathetic-er than normal.

I was sucking wind! It felt like I hadn’t been doing anything for a month. And our sample size of test subjects is not just limited to one overweight, marginally-athletic fifty-year-old man. Our super-trim, very athletic sixteen-year-old, Son Number Two, was right there with me doing all the walking in our nation’s capital. He came home to a lacrosse scrimmage and was a pathetic mess trying to run up and down the field as a midfielder. It was sad.

I am not OK with doing all that work and getting seemingly no return on it whatsoever. Work is work in physics. It should be the same in physiology!

OK, enough whining. I obviously need to get back to work.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, June 15, 2022

An Open Letter to Washington D.C.

Dear Washington D.C.,

As you know, my family and I are on vacation this week in your fine city. Or non-state district. Or federal municipal jurisdiction. Or whatever you are.

We are enjoying all you have to offer. On our first day, we employed your Big Bus tour, which allowed us to hop on and off at almost all of your fabulous attractions along the mall.

Incidentally, I think the "mall" is misnamed. It seems to be comprised entirely of one big-ass lawn and the world's longest lap pool, surrounded by nothing but hugely imposing granite and marble buildings and monuments. We did find some gift shops in the museums, but not a single Forever 21 or pretzel place. And also, the Capital Police get kinda testy when you try to swim laps in the big pool.

Anyhoo, just wanted to thank you for the attractions. We got a guided tour of the Capitol building. Solid giant artwork selection! Although, one of the rotunda artists put his old, bearded face on a baby, and that was mildly disconcerting when pointed out by our guide.

The Lincoln Memorial is outstanding! Kudos on all the huge columns and engravings and gigantic Abe. Very impressively imposing. It's a bit high, though. Not to complain too much, but it's kinda hot and more than a little muggy here in June. Less stairs next time, would be super!

The war memorials are all really well done. Thank you for those. Arlington National Cemetery is sobering and incredibly well kept and cared for. Again, thank you for that. And great work with those guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier! I was sweating like a faucet just standing there watching them, and I never heard one of them complain. Just a lot of heal clicking.

And big props on the Natural History Museum! We saw everything from a T-Rex eating a triceratops to the Hope Diamond. That museum is like the upscale Walmart of natural history. It's got everything! Well done.

We are all big fans of the Nick Cage movie, National Treasure, as I’m sure you are, so we wouldn’t have missed the National Archives. I obviously wouldn’t be reporting it if we had, but I wanted to let you know that we weren’t able to sneak out the Declaration of Independence, or any of the other more important documents. Kudos on all the security in the rotunda room! Strangely, the security in the vault room was less formidable. Go figure. Anyway, we promise to take very good care of our new keepsakes. Cheers!

What I really wanted to write about actually has nothing to do with any of the monuments or museums. I’m corresponding with you today mainly regarding your wildlife. No, not the tourists that rent those electric scooters, and not the homeless guys yelling at invisible people on the Metro rail. I wanted to highlight a plus and a minus for you of the non-human variety.

First, the plus. We took a night tour of the mall and absolutely loved the fireflies. We don’t have those in California, and they added an element of magical wonder to our trip. Thanks so much for providing those! We have yet to find any in the gift shops but would love to get some to take back home for our backyard. Any info you could provide on that would be great.

Now, the minus. Your rats. We definitely do have those in California, but we don’t keep them out on the street in broad daylight like you do. And not to complain too much, but walking through our neighborhood at night is like the underground tunnel scenes in Indiana Jones. Rats scurrying in front of you on the sidewalk every couple yards is not a super-relaxing way to stroll home after a delightful day of sightseeing.

Our AirBnB is in Foggy Bottom, which, incidentally, would be a great name for an alt-folk-rock band. As you know, Foggy Bottom is one of the older neighborhoods in town, but it’s quite nice otherwise. The rats really detract from it, though. Especially when you are constantly readying yourself to dropkick one, and you have to shoo them off your front steps when you arrive home. I’m not making that up.

Anyway, just wanted to drop you a quick line to say you have a great town here, but the rats aren’t doing you any favors in the Yelp reviews, if you know what I mean.

Just a friendly heads up, rodent-wise.

Stay classy,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Something's Fishy Here

A grave injustice has been rectified. Our California courts have come to the rescue of reason and sanity and finally, once and for all, ruled that bees are fish.

It’s about damned time.

Bees, in a travesty of “law” and common sense, were up to this point considered insects. Can you imagine? Now they can finally take their rightful place in the animal kingdom alongside largemouth bass and great white sharks.

You see, in 2018, some conservation groups wanted four separate types of bumblebees to be protected by the California Endangered Species Act. I don’t know how bumblebee species get their names, but one of them was the Crotch bumblebee, which sounds like the end result of a very unfortunate situation. Another was the Suckley cuckoo bumblebee, which had to be a prank just to get people to say it out loud with a straight face, right?

Anyway, the endangered species act doesn’t cover insects – just birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, plants, and Keith Richards. Instead of simply asking for insects to be added to the endangered species act, these conservation groups, which shall remain nameless because they qualify as minors based on their apparent average IQ, argued that bees can and should be considered fish.

In 2020, the Sacramento County Superior Court struck down that argument on the basis that it made no sense whatsoever, and also ordered the groups to stop eating the paste.

Decades earlier, however, in 1979, crack cocaine was invented, which California’s 3rd District Court of Appeals smokes religiously before making any ruling. On May 31st of this year, while higher than the grocery bill, they ruled that bees are, in fact, fish.

Which brings me to the point of this particular column. I would like to bring an immediate motion to the California 3rd District Court of Appeals regarding my classification as a human.

As the court is aware, humans obviously all evolved from apes. Many of the more advanced humans have wondered, if that were true, how come there are still apes? I am here to tell you, without a doubt, that some of us apes never fully evolved. My wife can testify under oath to this.

Since I am an ape, I do not fall under the definition of “taxable individual or entity” in any of the Internal Revenue Service code. As such, I am not only exempt from future taxation of any kind, but since I’ve been an ape my whole life, I’m owed a very large amount in illegally confiscated back taxes.

I had no idea this was the case up until now, but in my defense, I’m just a poor, dumb ape. I’d really appreciate it if you fine folks over at the appeals court could fire up those crack pipes and rule in my favor here. I’d really like all that money back.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go buy some nightcrawlers, grab my rod and reel, and head over to the almond orchard to try to catch us some dinner.

In case I run into a game warden, does anybody know the limit on bees?

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, June 1, 2022

An Open Letter to Samsung

Dear folks over at Samsung,

I think, as a smartphone owner, I really don’t have a ton of demands or expectations about performance or features.

Your younger smartphone users – let me pause here for a moment and point out that I didn’t call them “owners.” If they had to pay for these damned things, they would have a lot more respect for them!! Anyway… your younger smartphone users expect quite a bit more from you than I do. They are spoiled little brats. I grew up when the only phone available was bolted to the wall in the kitchen.

I’m fifty, so I’m in the age group that missed the original brick phone, bag phone, and car phone. My first cell phone was a flip phone, and even with that kind of crazy-awesome new technology in the palm of my hand, texting was still damned near impossible.

Kids today will never know the pain of texting a word containing an “ss” on a flip phone. Hit the 7 key four times. Wait until the first “s” registers. Hit the 7 key four more times. Wait for the second “s” to register. Congratulations, you typed “ss.” On the other hand, they have never had the sheer, unbridled awesomeness of ending your phone call by flipping the phone closed.

The Blackberry came out shortly after that, and having a full keyboard was a mind-blowing game changer, even if we had to sacrifice the insanely cool end call flip.

So you see, based on my history, anything a current smartphone can do is just simply gravy. I understand the past and the evolution of these things. I get it. I’m easy.

All that being said, I’m writing you today to take serious issue with one feature I recently noted. I think you can agree, that based on what I’ve told you about my age, history, and expectations, if I’m concerned, you should be too.

There I was last Thursday, just minding my own business, working in my office. My Samsung Galaxy S21 was sitting face up on my desk, directly to the right of my computer screen, plugged into the charger. Things were shaping up to be a fairly normal day, right up until the phone woke itself up, opened the camera app, and took a picture of the desk.

Since the phone was sitting directly in my field of view, I watched the entire thing take place, and I can assure you, my hand never even went near the phone. I hadn’t even bumped the charger cord. It just decided to take a picture all by itself.

Now, again, I don’t demand a lot from my smartphone, but autonomous picture taking is not a feature I’m at all interested in. Pictures on my own phone are one thing, but who’s to say that the next one won’t go public? I mean, my phone decided to take a picture all by itself. Why wouldn’t it decide to upload the next one to social media? Why not, right?

I can think of a whole bunch of reasons not to have this feature, but the main one off the top of my head right now is my shower.

When I shower, I prop my phone up on the bathroom counter, facing me, so I can see the clock on the screen. I’m almost positive the last thing this world needs is shower photos of my fifty-year-old butt on Instagram.

We’ve got enough problems out there. Let’s not add to it with unwanted shower selfies.

Kindly look into that issue for me.

For all of us.

For mankind.

With much appreciation for all you do,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

50 at 50

I turned 50 years old yesterday, and I feel great. My hip only hurts most of the time, and I was able to get out of bed with only a minimal amount of groaning and old man noises. The dog looked at me funny, but she always does. I took her for a run and I didn’t collapse in a heap, so I’m going to consider that a win.

Now, getting old obviously has some disadvantages, but they do say that with age comes wisdom. Unfortunately, I wish that were more true. Nonetheless, in honor of hitting the half-century mark, I have added to my list of thoughts, observations, and acquired “wisdom.”

Here it is - one for each year. You’re welcome.

 

1.  The clearest evidence that capitalism beats communism is that we have at least three private citizens who own multiple space rockets. Suck it, North Korea.

2.  The recent advent of axe throwing places that serve alcohol makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I think they could be the thing that gets this country back to our original motto: America – Dammit, you are free to be as dumb as you want to be under the law.

3.  There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who prefer the toilet paper to come off the top of the roll, and those who are wrong.

4.  Things would go a lot smoother out there if everyone just drove while driving.

5.  With the circumference of a circle, Pi is always a fixed number. With the circumference of a person, pie is rarely a fixed number.

6.  The truth is like poetry, and nobody really likes poetry.

7.  Here’s one of the main differences between men and women: Men can look at an ad for women's underwear and get excited. I’m not talking about women in underwear, just the underwear itself. Women do not get excited looking at pictures of boxer shorts.

8.  You are wholeheartedly fooling yourself if you think the government is efficient at anything except taking your money.

9.  Around mid-November each year, my feelings toward the “Christmas lights stay up on the house all year” crowd changes briefly from mild distain to all out jealousy.

10.  The three-second rule has a lot of leeway depending on if what you dropped was the last one.

11.  Owning a pool in the winter is like making payments on your new snowmobiles all summer.

12.  You cannot use the phrase, “To be honest with you...”  without giving the listener the impression you aren’t always being honest.

13.  When pulling a stump out of your front yard with a chain and your truck, first make sure the roots aren’t wrapped around your water main. Trust me.

14.  When packing thirteen suitcases into the car for your wife, is it impossible to have ten of them be “on top” so she can get to them easily.

15.  If one of my boys saw their brother in a fight, I'm certain they would jump in and help. I'm just not sure which side they'd be on.

16.  You can ask someone to do something, or you can tell them how you want it done, but you can’t do both.

17.  A good indicator of where you are in life is this: Does the advertisement of free food still affect your decision making?

18.  Fabric softener sheets go in the dryer, not the washer. Just FYI. I’m not saying I didn’t know that.

19.  There is no “t” or “t” sound in the word across. There is no “b” or “b” sound in the word supposedly. Please pronounce accordingly.

20.  Men are far more likely to clean things with spit than women are.

21.  Money and toilet paper have something in common – They’re both easy to take for granted until you run out. Also, in totally opposite, but equally dire situations, they can be substituted for each other.

22.  There are very few things in life that can make you feel as special as the phrase, “or current resident.”

23.  If you ask any guy to tell you a story about a time he almost died, he will have four stories just off the top of his head, and one will be from this year. If you ask women the same question, most of them will look at you like you’re crazy. We guys are much, much dumber.

24.  Nothing says I never want to have a real job quite like a face tattoo.

25.  Guys: Sitting down to put on your pants is one very clear tipping point toward old.

26.  In life, it is very important to remember where you are and why you're there. That way, when your podiatrist tells you to drop your shorts, you’ll ask some questions first.

27.  Your dog has saved you from being murdered at least a thousand times by barking at the front window, and yet you remain completely ungrateful.

28.  Hold out as long as you can before putting on your first pair of magnifying “reader” glasses. The second you do, your eyes give up like a marathoner crossing the finish line.

29.  People who don’t use their cruise control on the freeway should be pulled over and waterboarded.

30.  You can't take bell peppers off a pizza.

31.  Pointing out that Van Gogh’s “girlfriend” was actually a prostitute during a fifth-grade art docent lesson is not helpful for anyone involved. I’m not saying I did this, and I’m not saying I didn’t do this – I just thought you should know.

32.  It’s hard to claim to be a grown woman, fully capable of taking care of yourself, and also claim that you do not know how to operate a toilet seat.

33.  The fact that there is such a thing as the American Cemetery Excellence Award is proof that there is no industry that will not self-congratulate.

34.  Quantity of repetition does not equal truth.

35.  “To be or not to be” is not the question. The real question is which towel in the guest bathroom am I allowed to use to dry my hands?

36.  There is a big, and usually obvious, difference between something that was designed and something that was just built.

37.  Its not interchangeable. (take all the time you need)

38.  If you get a paper cut while reading a book about Navy SEALs, you’re not allowed to say ouch.

39.  The idiots who wear their pants down below their butts and have to waddle with their legs spread to keep their pants from falling to the ground are the same idiots who are most likely to try to run from the police at some point. That makes me smile.

40.  Scientists recently discovered that female dragonflies will fake their own death to avoid mating with males. I’ll bet all the married scientists were like, “Yup.”

41.  We would be in much better financial shape as a nation if we just instituted my new $100 Million Rule. No matter what the project – bridge, building, plane, ship, department of department compliance, whatever – you get a one-time check for $100 million and if you can't get it done for that, too bad. It obviously wasn’t meant to be. No more money for you, ever.

42.  The challenge with raising independent, free-thinking adults is that you have to live with independent, free-thinking children.

43.  Guys, do you ever have trouble figuring out if you’ve had too much to drink? Here’s a handy guideline:

“There is no way I can scratch that itch on my ankle while I’m standing here peeing, so I will not try.” – You’re still OK

“I can totally do it without peeing on myself.” – You’re drunk

44.  Be wary of any celebrity’s restaurant endorsements if that same celebrity also endorses an antacid.

45.  No matter who you are, no matter where you're from, there is one shared experience that binds us all together as one people: The sheer horror of the ketchup or mustard water falling from the unshaken bottle and ruining your perfect bun. I feel your pain.

46.  If you are looking to try it, kombucha is an acquired taste. Meaning you have to acquire one of those long skinny cheese graters and completely scrape all the taste buds off your tongue. Then you can drink it.

47.  If you have to choose, it makes more sense to become a strong swimmer than a strong runner. You don’t automatically die when you stop running.

48.  It’s time for text-in radio contests to stop saying, "message and data rates may apply." At this point, if people don't understand how their text and data plans work, they should learn the hard way.

49.  You can give a teenager reminders about your departure time every fifteen minutes for hours ahead of time, but they still will not start looking for their shoes until you are sitting in the car.

50.  Love is great and all, but the strongest force in the universe is clearly the one that holds 5-gallon buckets together in the stack.

 

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

Your new favorite T-shirt is at SmidgeTees

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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

An Open Letter to AARP

Dear folks over at AARP,

I’d like to start by saying, bite me.

Allow me to explain. AARP is for old people, and I’m only 49. Yet, you felt compelled recently to send me an AARP membership invitation entitled, “Welcome to the ‘50’s Club.’”

Sure, my 50th birthday is next week, but that still doesn’t excuse this egregious affront to my youthfulness. Again, your organization is for old people. Really old people. Women with blue hair and men who sit on their front porch and yell at the neighborhood kids to stay off the lawn.

I have teenage boys, for goodness sake. I’m not old!

I don’t even understand what you want with me, besides, of course, my subscription money. You’ve listed all these amazing benefits of membership, and none of them apply to me. Discounts on meal delivery services? Last time I checked, Meals-on-Wheels was free. (At least, they’ve never charged me.)

Thirty percent off on eyewear? Sure, my eyes gave up trying years ago, but I get my magnifying readers at the dollar store, so I’m good there.

Discounts on dining? I’m not interested in the early bird specials, thank you very much. I don’t eat dinner at 4:00 like your actually old members do. I eat dinner at 4:30 like young people do.

And you bill yourselves as the “proven advocate for protecting Social Security.” I don’t want Social Security. I’ve never wanted it. It’s socialist. It’s right there in the title. I’ve never wanted the government taking my money from me and “saving” it for me for my own good. In case you haven’t been paying attention, the government has a 100% track record of being really bad at saving money.

I can save for my own retirement, thank you very much. And speaking of retirement, might I remind you of what AARP stands for? I realize you pulled a KFC and don’t talk about what your letters mean anymore, but in case you forgot, it was the American Association of Retired Persons.

Why are you even contacting me? I’m miles away from being retired, so how the hell do I even qualify? Also, thanks for rubbing it in my face that apparently there are young people my age out there who have already retired. That’s just hurtful and mean.

One thing, though – you mention health tips and advice a lot in the brochure… do you have any advice for what to do about aching hips? I’m not saying that I’m old, or even that my hips hurt, but I assume that a lot of your actually old members have hip issues, and I’d like to know what is recommended for relief.

You know, for future reference, of course.

So, to sum up, I’ll skip the amazing free insulated car trunk organizer you are offering and just go about my youthful, young man business.

But seriously, any advice you could give me on the hip thing would be great.

Sincerely, a very young almost-50-year-old,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, May 11, 2022

An Open Letter to Dixon Ticonderoga

Dear folks over at the Dixon Ticonderoga Company,

I am writing you today to give you a heads up about the end of an era. Specifically, the era of the Number 2 Pencil, of which you are surely the world’s leading manufacturer.

I have been proctoring college advanced placement exams for the last two weeks. “Proctoring” is an old Latin word that means “trying not to fall asleep.” The job involves giving a large number of high school students very specific instructions for about five minutes, then nodding off in a quiet room for two hours.

A majority of the instructions I am required to give have to do with each and every student desperately needing to have in their possession one or more Number 2 Pencils. For this, I have to give you a ton of credit. I don’t know who you had to pay off over the years, or how much it cost, but that whole “Number 2 Pencils are the only thing that works on these little bubbles” nonsense has really stuck around.

So much so, that it’s printed on nearly every page of the lengthy instruction book I have from College Board. Seriously, you guys deserve a ton of credit for that marketing home run. You actually have testing companies putting it in writing that every high school student in America must use your products. I mean, that is a big win. Sure, they don’t actually write “Dixon Ticonderoga” in the instructions, but they may as well.

You guys are the Kleenex of pencils. The Xerox of writing implements. The Q-tips of Scantron bubble tests. When someone says, “you need a yellow Number 2 Pencil,” they may as well be saying your name, even if people don’t know your name. You’re that good.

The majority of folks out there probably think “Number 2” actually means that the pencil is wooden, yellow, and has your name on it. But we know better, don’t we, DT? You and I both know that Number 2 is just another designation for “HB” lead hardness, on the long and weird scale of pencil lead harness/blackness that only artists and us old engineers care about. You have to get up pretty early in the morning to fool us old engineers. (Because our hips hurt if we lay in bed too long, and we needed to pee anyway.)

I mean, I can understand the reasoning behind the whole “pens will not work” instruction on the bubble tests. It’s not because the machine wouldn’t read the pen mark – it’s better than a pencil. It’s because the kid can’t erase it if they need to.

But where your marketing department really came through for you was the “mechanical pencils will not work” instruction. You guys are good! Never mind that I have an old set of wooden pencils with all kinds of different lead hardnesses that are not “Number 2,” but I have plenty of HB lead for my mechanical pencils.

I’m just super impressed with the long game you guys played in the Scantron testing field! But here’s the thing. How long can it really be before the AP tests – all tests, for that matter – go digital. I’m actually amazed it hasn’t happened yet. The SAT is slated to go digital in the next year or so, and colleges might even stop using that one. I can’t imagine the AP tests’ move to digital will be far behind.

And as near as I can tell, bubble tests are your last remaining market on earth. I’m assuming you’ve noticed a slight dip in sales over the last few years, but just in case you’re still all wearing polyester Sansabelt slacks and riding high on those Number 2 Pencil glory years of the ‘60s thru ‘90s, change is a-comin’.

I guess you still have the paper crossword puzzle crowd, but there are fewer and fewer of us around these days, and Wordle is probably putting a major dent in that market, too. (And I use a mechanical pencil. Less pencil shavings, you know.)

Anyway, just wanted to give you a heads up.

Best of luck with everything,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, May 4, 2022

We're Burying the Lead, Here

Two news stories have captivated my interest lately. Actually, it’s more the stories behind the stories that I’m interested in.

First, some boaters on Lake Mead, near Las Vegas, found a dead body stuffed in a barrel. But the barrel hadn’t washed up on shore. Instead, the shore came to the boaters as the water level of Lake Mead has dropped to historic lows.

As additional details have emerged over the last few days, we found out that, to no one’s surprise, this seems to be the result of foul play.

One additional detail was that the body has an additional hole in it, caused by a bullet. And our unfortunate murder victim has likely been barrel-marinating since the late ‘70s or early ‘80s.

"The victim's clothes and shoes were sold at Kmart in the mid-to-late 1970s," Metro Police Homicide Lt. Ray Spencer told KLAS.

So, based on the wardrobe, I have to assume at this point that the police are looking into disappearances of very, very low-level Las Vegas mob guys forty-plus years ago. Kmart was never high-end, even in the late ‘70s.

We also learned: The decades-old barrel is also believed to have originally been about 100 feet underwater and "several hundred" yards from shore, Lt. Spencer told Fox5 Las Vegas.

The drought has caused a large decrease in water level, and Lake Mead is one of two major reservoirs in the country. According to The Associated Press, Lake Mead and Lake Powell supply water to over 40 million people, but its drop in water level has created major cause for concern.

Here’s where the story behind the story comes in, and the news doesn’t seem to be covering it. They state that it’s the “drop in water level” that “has created a major cause for concern.”

The articles even dropped this little speculation from law enforcement on us: According to Spencer, there's a "very good chance as the water level drops that we are going to find additional human remains."

Even after that cheery news, the press still hasn’t covered the real story here.The major cause for concern is not the water levels. It’s all the dead bodies in the drinking water, people!

I mean, come on! The headline here should be: “Bottled Water Sales Skyrocket in the Nevada/Arizona/Utah Regions”

 

The second story that has me glued to my phone is the Alabama jail break. Lauderdale County Assistant Director of Corrections Vicki White, a formerly model Sheriff’s department employee, seems to have broken her secret jail boyfriend out of said jail.

(Note the fun built-in foreshadowing of the county in Alabama being named “Lauderdale.” You just know damn well this thing is going to all wind up in Florida, the natural magnetic home of American crazy.)

Casey White, our murderous incarcerated love interest, was released from jail a little earlier than expected by Vicki. She broke department policy by failing to bring along another officer when transporting Casey to his fake court appearance and then she broke AMA and HIPAA policy when she failed to show up for her own fake doctor’s appointment hours later.

Initially, the U.S. Marshals Service put out a reward for information leading to the capture of a dangerous fugitive and hopefully, the safe return of his poor little hostage. Shortly thereafter, more information began to arrive.

"Investigators received information from inmates at the Lauderdale County Detention Center over the weekend that there was a special relationship between Director White and inmate Casey White," Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said in a statement Tuesday. "That relationship has now been confirmed through our investigation by independent sources and means."

Throughout the reporting of this story, the press has been very diligent in noting the fact that Casey White and Vicki White are not related.

Inmate Casey White and Lauderdale County Assistant Director of Corrections Vicki White -- who are not related -- went missing from Florence, Alabama, on Friday.

Vicky White, 56, and Casey White, 38, who are not related…

Etc.

You might think that this is just a natural result of standard reporting practices, but I believe it to be something more. I think that’s the real story behind the story here.

The reporters keep pointing out that Casey and Vicki are not related for a much different reason than you think. The rest of us around the country would initially see the same last name and think, “Oh, maybe they’re cousins and she’s helping a family member escape.” We would think that before we found out they were romantically involved.

This insanely stupid jail break is serving to showcase a huge media bias that is almost never talked about. The real story here is the elite media snobs’ natural bias against hillbillies. This isn’t a case of racism, it’s a case of regionism. The press are regionists, or whatever you call it when people from Manhattan automatically look down on people from Alabama.

The New York press keeps pointing out that the fugitive lovers are not related because they are simply amazed at the fact that they’re not cousins.

The other thing that amazes me about this particular story is the fact that Vicki is five-foot-five and “walks with a waddling gait,” and Casey is six-foot-nine.

Six feet, nine inches tall.

For the love of Pete, how is this couple hard to find!?

See you soon, and May the 4th be with you,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, April 27, 2022

A Light at the End of the Carpool, Part Two

When Son Number One was born, we had to quickly master the baby blanket swaddle wrap. Confining his arms and legs in a blankie, like an eleven-pound Chipotle burrito, was the only way to shut him up at bedtime. It worked like a charm.

A little over sixteen years ago, when Son Number Two was born, our swaddle game was at its peak. I burrito-wrapped him like a pro in the hospital on his very first day.

He cried.

Then, unfortunately, he kept crying. Soon, my wife was crying.

After somewhere between eighteen and twenty-four hours of crying, I was about to cry. I went to his bassinet to do the only thing I knew to do – re-wrap the burrito boy. When I pulled the top locking blankie fold loose, his little arms and legs all went “fwump” down onto the mattress, and he fell instantly asleep – completely unwrapped.

That was the moment that my wife and I came to the horrifying realization that our boys would not be exactly the same.

Neither of us really remember what Son Number Three preferred. Those years are just one big hazy, sleep-deprived fog, with my most consistent memory being Shop-Vac’ing Cheerios and goldfish cracker dust out of car seat crevices.

While all three of our sons being very different creatures has presented many, many challenges over the years, one recent bright spot is the driver’s license situation.

Son Number One didn’t seem to care about getting his license at all. Thankfully for everything except our insurance premiums, he finally became a legal driver a few months before turning seventeen, and takes himself where he needs to be.

Son Number Two, not surprisingly, is taking a different approach. He is on what I would call the more traditional driver’s license timing path. He’s still acting like a psycho and didn’t schedule his test on his sixteenth birthday, but his test in this coming Monday, so he’s at least within a couple weeks of the date.

Assuming – and finger’s crossed – everything goes well on Monday, we will have two teenage drivers. Army generals and insurance companies have known for centuries that the teenage boy is the most reckless and wild animal on the planet, scoring just in front of the honey badger and the Tasmanian devil.

When Number One was learning to drive, we were told to just expect our insurance premium to double when he got his license, and that’s pretty much what happened. I’ve done zero research and asked zero questions about what happens to the premium when you add a second honey badger to the plan. I don’t want to know.

I don’t care at this point, because money doesn’t matter right now when balanced against carpool. I’ve never been freed from a long imprisonment in a POW camp, but I would imagine it’s a very similar feeling to being freed from carpool.

I am currently in the middle of the second-to-last carpool week of my life, and I am giddy. Son Number Two getting his license is a big part of that. With all three boys at the same high school next year, and two of them driving, there is a very good chance that Son Number Three will have a ride to and from whatever school or sports activity he’s involved in, nearly every single time.

Again, it's hard for me to express the joy I feel when I think of never driving carpool again, but to try to put it into monetary terms, it’s totally worth whatever multiple-Tasmanian devil insurance bill is coming my way on Monday afternoon.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, April 20, 2022

This Survey is a Big Doughnut

Son Number Two turned sixteen yesterday. Pedestrians of Northern California, you have been warned. He had a high school lacrosse game last night, so we bought doughnuts for the team to celebrate after the game.

There are eighteen guys on the roster, so we did the math and figured, conservatively, we’d need about six hundred doughnuts. When I got to the drive thru menu board at Krispy Kreme, however, I realized that, from a long-term financial survival standpoint, we’d only barely be able to afford three dozen, so I went with that.

My giant receipt offered me the opportunity to take a “brief” survey in order to get a free dozen doughnuts with my next purchase of another dozen. Normally, I would have thrown that away, but Son Number Three is turning fourteen on Saturday, and he also has a lacrosse game that day. He was there for his brother’s game last night, so there is no possible way we’re getting out of doing the “doughnuts for the whole team” thing again.

Suddenly, taking the doughnut survey could potentially be the smartest financial decision I make all year.

 

What food items did you purchase?

Umm… doughnuts. I thought that was implied here.

 

Please rate your satisfaction with our service, etc.

Phenomenal, except for the price. I was unaware that doughnuts are now priced like Tesla batteries.

 

Based on this experience, what is the likelihood that you will…

Return to Krispy Kreme in the next 30 days?

Highly. That’s why I’m taking this ridiculous survey.

 

Recommend Krispy Kreme to others?

I’ll recommend everything except actually paying for them.

 

When do you plan to purchase Krispy Kreme again?

In the next couple days, but I feel like that answer might be giving you a false sense of my willingness to keep coming back and paying these prices…

 

What type of doughnuts did you purchase?

I was sincerely unaware that you made more than that one type of doughnut.

 

After your purchase, how soon was the first doughnut eaten?

Is this a trick question? I had a box of doughnuts on my lap. About three seconds.

 

After your purchase, when were the majority of the doughnuts eaten?

OK, that’s a little better gauge of what happened. About three hours later.

 

After your purchase, when was the last doughnut eaten?

Umm… these are high school kids. I don’t understand the question. There was no “last doughnut.” They were all devoured in less than ten seconds.

 

After your purchase, where were most of the doughnuts you purchased consumed?

Inside a swirling vortex of high school lacrosse players. We went over this already.


How much did you spend on this visit?

Way too much! Again, why do you think I’m doing this survey??

 

Was this your first visit to Krispy Kreme?

I’m fifty years old. Of course not.

 

What was your primary reason in deciding to visit this Krispy Kreme?

Umm… is this another trick question? To buy doughnuts.


When did you make the decision to visit this Krispy Kreme?

Umm… right around the same time I decided I wanted doughnuts…

 

You guys should hire better survey people. I’m not sure your questions are doing you any good, but I sure do appreciate the discount for this Saturday!

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

Your new favorite T-shirt is at SmidgeTees

Your new favorite book is from SmidgeBooks

Your new favorite humor columnist is on Facebook Just a Smidge