Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Cinco de Ulysses Patrick’s Day - Repost

Friday was St. Patrick’s Day, a generally festive time for American humans, but a stressful time for the fish of the Chicago area. Can you imagine if your entire neighborhood got painted green overnight? Freaky. Anyway, us humans got “lucky” this year with the “holiday” landing on a Friday, which is certainly better than Thursday last year or Wednesday the year before, but still not ideal.

That’s because St. Patrick’s Day is the Cinco de Mayo of March. Both are on a fixed calendar date, which makes no sense, and we don’t get work off for either of them, which makes even less sense. Both have some amount of green added to the beer, and no one from the holidays’ countries of origin celebrates them. Here in the good ol’ USA, however, we embrace them like they were the Fourth of July or New Years. And much like New Years, no one knows what we’re celebrating or why. But we’re all Irish for one day in March, and we’re all Mexican for uno dia en Mayo.

The overwhelming problem is that the only people who get to celebrate these two “holidays” with any regularity are students. Specifically, college kids and elementary schoolers. The college kids use the days as excuses to party, and the elementary schools use them as excuses to make leprechaun traps, Mexican flags, and most importantly, eat cookies.

Meanwhile, we adults have to wait until March 17th or May 5th land on a weekend before we get to party anymore. Why should the students get to have all the fun? Why shouldn’t the parents get to participate?

We used to have fun on St. Patrick’s Day. We used to drink green beer and actively look for other college kids of the opposite sex who weren’t wearing green so we could pinch them, as is the standard custom.

We used to have fun on Cinco de Mayo. We used to drink Corona with lime and eat discounted tacos by the truckload while wearing giant sombreros, and actively look for other college kids of the opposite sex who weren’t wearing green so we could pinch them, as is the standard custom.

Did we know why we did any of this? Of course not. Did we care that we didn’t know? Of course not. We cared about doing our part to uphold centuries of fake traditions. We cared about beer with the appropriate green holiday additive. We cared about pinching cute members of the opposite sex. We cared.

I’m tired of being left out. I’m tired of not caring. I want to care again. We should get to party, too. It’s only right, since we’re the ones paying for all of this anyway. Why shouldn’t we get these days off work?

Why? I’ll tell you why. Probably because someone still needs to pay for all this, that’s why. But are we going to let that stop us? Heck no! There are plenty of other days during the year we can work. Although, we do already have a lot of holidays…

OK, let’s compromise. We could combine St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo into one holiday to minimize the work stoppage but still have some fun. What do you say?

I knew you’d be on board!

Ladies and gentlemen, I officially propose a new national holiday.

We will compromise on the month and have the new holiday in April, since it has always been a travesty that we don’t get April 27th off for President Ulysses S. Grant’s birthday either. We will anchor it around that date but it will need to float, of course, to always fall on a Friday so this party is a three-day weekend. It’s only fitting to include Grant, since he really should be the patron saint of these two holidays anyway. You may not know this, but in addition to being a war hero and a Roman god, Ulysses was a prolific inventor and is actually responsible for creating, among many other things, the taco, green beer, the piñata, and Ireland.

We shall call the new holiday either Dia de St. Mayo Patrick de Grant, or Cinco de Ulysses Patrick’s Day. We can vote on that later.

As far as logistics go, we will simply combine all the current fake holiday traditions into one big three-day weekend of awesome.

The holiday uniforms can remain mostly undefined, but should include the required holiday colors; green, white and red, with an obvious emphasis on green and large sombreros.

Mariachi bands will need to shift their focus a little and include bagpipes and plaid. Irish heel-clicking salsa dancing with be a natural follower to the new groove.

The main holiday beverage will obviously be green Corona with yellow lemon wedges instead of limes to signify lucky gold. Cuervo gold tequila will remain unchanged, since it satisfies both holiday motifs. As an alternative to Mexican tequila, Irish mojitos will be made out of crushed clover and Jameson Irish Whiskey.

Red, white, and green tortilla chips will be served with cabbage salsa, and children across the land will spend the new holiday smacking leprechaun-shaped piñatas filled with gold coin chocolates and corned beef taquitos.

We can work out the rest of the details later. I’m not really sure who’s in charge of new holiday creation over in D.C., so if one of you could forward this on to them, that’d be great.

I’m going to get back to my green Corona.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Pie Day

Yesterday, 3/14, was Pie Day. Mathematicians will argue that it’s supposed to be written “Pi Day,” but they are wrong. Many folks out there remain confused about what Pi actually is. It’s not your fault. The public school system failed you.

Allow me to clear it up for you.

Pi is misnamed. You see, Pi is really derived from pie, but mathematicians were too lazy to keep including the “e” for some reason. Pi, of course, is the numerical value of the culinary measure of how much pie is left, using the mathematical relationship between the circumference of the outer crust of the pie and the length across the center of the pie, where the fork marks are.

Pi’s value changes based on how many slices of the pie have been eaten. Even if there is only one slice missing and you can still measure across the middle of the pie in most places, the circumference of the crust has nevertheless been reduced by one slice worth, or in mathematical terms, “one crust radian segment.”

The value of Pi changes constantly, but never repeats, because obviously no one ever adds slices back to a pie. The larger the value of Pi, the happier you are, because there is still more pie left. Unfortunately, in my experience, the value of Pi is usually equal to zero by the time I get home, because my teenage boys ate all of it.

We were miseducated in our early years regarding Pi. For instance, one falsehood perpetrated upon us by the math teachers of America was the idea that pie are squared. Nothing could be further from the truth. Pie are round. Cornbread are squared. It’s natural to be confused about what Pi is based on the lack of educational veracity we experienced.

Can we ever calculate Pi’s true value? While some mathematicians still foolishly argue this point, the obvious answer is no. Pies come in all different sizes, and are either being cooked (expanding), being cooled on the windowsill (contracting), or being eaten. Pi is never a static number, and it varies from pie to pie, so you don’t need to worry about what it is. Don’t beat yourself up about not understanding it. You were misinformed. Again, it’s not your fault. Just enjoy that slice of pie, and know that you are reducing the value of Pi by eating it.

“What about other things that call themselves pies, but aren’t dessert?” you might be asking yourself. “Are they subject to the Pi calculations as well?”

Great question! Yes they are, in certain circumstances. (Or should I say, in certain circumferences? Hahahahaha. Oh, man! Great math joke.)

Pizza pies fall under all the same Pi rules, unless they are one of those rectangular deep-dish pepperonis from Little Caesars. In that case you need square roots.

Chicken pot pies use the same calculations as regular pies, but Pi is always a smaller starting number if they are the little personal ones. Also, don’t let the crust temperature fool you. The inside is lava hot. Please don’t burn the roof of your mouth!

Shepherd’s Pie is where we fall into a gray area, mostly because no one is exactly sure what it is.

Why is Pie Day on 3/14? No one knows for sure. It’s just one of those made-up holidays and they needed to pick a date. Why was Blaze Pizza selling two-topping pizza pies for only $3.14 yesterday? Again, we don’t really know, other than the price corresponding to the date. We guess that was the reason.

The only thing we know for sure: The line at Blaze Pizza was much too long, and definitely not worth the difference between the regular price and $3.14, no matter how big the starting Pi number is for one of those bad boys. Oh, well.

Again, glad to help clear things up. Enjoy that pie!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, March 8, 2023

How Not to Internet

So, apparently, I follow the Reno division of the National Weather Service on Twitter. Or they follow me. I’m not really sure. All I know is that I get alerts about their posts now, which I don’t mind this winter, because I’m interested in how many more damned feet of snow are going to fall in the Sierras before we can finally go back up to snowboard. The current answer is, “A lot more.”

I swear, if anyone even so much as whispers the word “drought” this summer, I’m going to lose it. But I digress…

The other day, the NWS Reno feed (Check out all the exciting weather action on Twitter @NWSReno) had a tweet about the “atmospheric river” headed our way tomorrow. We’ve been hearing that term a lot lately around here in the news. It’s an exciting and fancy weather term, so no one in the weather reporting business misses an opportunity to throw it out there.

While “atmospheric river” is getting the feel of being overplayed, one follower of the NWS Reno feed put on a clinic on how not to respond in these types of term overuse situations.

Howard Smith replied: Talking about an atmospheric river is kinda like the Sahara desert ( desert desert). If you remember your fluid dynamics the entire atmosphere acts as a river!!!!

This is a fabulous example of how not to internet. What Howard is really saying here, to the tens of people who also follow NWS Reno, is this – “Hello, my name is Howard, and I don’t have many people in my life who validate me. I think I am very smart, and I want you to think I’m smart also, even if my boss never tells me I’m smart, even though I’m way smarter than him and should have his job, and I would have his job if it wasn’t for all the bs office politics and Brenda in HR who definitely has it out for me ever since I pointed out that she shouldn’t feed her cat so much because it looks really fat in all the pictures on her desk, and that maybe she should think about cutting back on the treats herself while she’s at it.”

Howard is obviously interneting wrong. I read Howard’s tweet and just shook my head. That’s an example of interneting correctly.

If I was interneting like Howard, I would have responded: “Gosh, Howard, for such an obviously intelligent guy such as yourself, your grammar is as bad as your need to feel smart! I’ll let the “kinda” slide since tweets are informal, but if you remember your third-grade punctuation lessons, informality doesn’t excuse the glaringly obvious missing comma after “dynamics.” Also, what’s with the space between your opening round bracket (you probably call it a parenthesis, but that’s actually the term for the word or phrase inside the brackets) for your parenthetical phrase and the first word of said parenthetical phrase? That’s not supposed to be there, brainiac. And four exclamation points? Bro. And bagging on saying, “Sahara desert?” Really? The Arabic word for desert is “sahra,” and “sahara” is its pluralization. So, if you’re going to be all cutesy and pretend that we should all be using Arabic words in our everyday English communications, you really should have said “Sahara Deserts.” That would have actually been grammatically correct. It still wouldn’t have made you seem smart to anyone, or morally superior in any way, but at least it wouldn’t have been so sadly, sadly wrong.”

You can see the obvious difference between the correct interneting reaction and this incorrect, desperate cry for help style.

NWS Reno took an intermediate approach with Captain Smart Guy. They didn’t internet poorly, necessarily, but they did respond, which I would have counseled against, had they asked.

They referred Howard to a helpful article from on what an atmospheric river actually is: a flowing column of condensed water vapor in the atmosphere responsible for significant levels of rain and snow, especially in the western United States.

Take that, Super Guy. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which employs people that surely understand fluid dynamics slightly better than you (even though you should obviously be running NOAA, and probably would be if your boss and Brenda didn’t have it out for you), thinks that an atmospheric river is not only a real thing, but also grammatically correct. I’ll bet they even call it the Sahara Desert.

Internet better in the future, Howard.

Regarding NOAA’s definition, I’m not sure why the western United States gets to have all the atmospheric fun, but if you’ll excuse me, I need to contact them and ask if they can do anything to divert the river.

I want to go snowboarding!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Snowmageddon - Part II

Our February 23rd major weather event in Rocklin, California was one for the record books! Frozen precipitation of some kind fell from the sky onto our town for minutes. (We have incredibly low standards for our record books.)

While the storm was no doubt unusual, it was also very confusing. You notice I didn’t say that snow fell from the sky, although, many people swear that’s what happened. Others aren’t so sure. They say the Inuit people have more than fifty terms for different kinds of snow. Rocklin is currently giving the Inuit a run for their money.

Almost immediately after the minutes of winter wildness, we began to hear the term “graupel” pop up in our various news feeds. Graupel is, of course, when a snowflake falls through a layer of air containing supercooled water droplets. This causes those water droplets to “rime,” or instantly freeze onto the snowflakes.

“What the hail are you talking about?” you might be asking. No, I’m not talking about hail. That particular phenomenon occurs when rain drops get carried upward by crazy-ass weather inside thunder clouds, to a higher, colder elevation, where they freeze and grow until they are too heavy for the updraft, then fall to the earth and destroy your car, if you live in Texas.

Graupel – which rimes with either “apple,” “topple,” “lapel,” or “Inuit.” No one is sure – is not solid ice and dangerous as hail. It’s crunchy and fun. If you are having trouble envisioning what graupel looks like, it might help to know that the name comes from the German word for pearl barley, so that should clear it up.

But, I’m not at all convinced that what we experienced wasn’t just regular old snow. When I ran outside to enjoy the frozen water of some variety falling from the sky, it was definitely mixed with rain. I was wearing a black long-sleeve shirt, so it was very easy to tell that half of what was falling on my arm was plain old rain, and the other half was frozen water.

I could not readily distinguish if the snowflakes had been rimed into graupel or not, but they did look a little weird. We were told in no uncertain terms, however, that it was not sleet. That’s because no one knows what sleet is. Not even the Inuit.

One thing was for sure. It wasn’t cold enough at ground level for any of it to stick. And it certainly didn’t get cold enough overnight for any of our atmospheric water droplets to rime into hoar frost, so that was also a win.

Since our exciting hoarless rimed graupel morning here in Rocklin, another slightly more significant weather event has developed. Winter storm Quest, already in a state near you, has since deposited somewhere in the neighborhood of seven feet of new snow in the Sierra Nevadas.

About an hour east of here, the main interstate highways have been closed down for the better part of three days now with near-constant blizzard conditions. If your online order is delayed, you no longer need to wonder what happened to it. Your Amazon package has been flash-frozen in a 55-foot trailer on the side of I-80 somewhere. Please be patient.

It has been wild up there. The power had been knocked out by the storm, but I finally got a call through to our favorite ski resort yesterday, because I was very curious. I asked them to go out in the blizzard for me and see if they were experiencing any graupel with the other types of snow.

They told me to go to hail.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, February 22, 2023


Look, I don’t want to alarm anyone, but we may have a catastrophic situation brewing here. My sleepy little town of Rocklin, California – elevation 249 feet above sea level – is about to get hit with a sizeable weather event.

We are currently bracing for a major winter storm. The grim forecast is calling for as many as fifteen, to possibly even twenty, minutes of snow, scheduled to slam into our unsuspecting hamlet tomorrow morning at 7:00 am.

Do you have any idea what that means? This has the potential for total chaos. We would be staring down the barrel of massive school closures, if we were in school right now. Ironically, the kids are currently off for “ski week.” They’ll probably be skiing down main street tomorrow morning.

Stores may or may not be selling out of Gatorade and AAA batteries as we speak. All I can tell you is the one I went to the other day had very questionable stocking levels.

Hundreds of families probably Googled “Tesla Solar Batteries” in just the last few hours, all of them coming to the same conclusion – they still don’t make financial sense.

But what does it matter? Our solar panels will soon be covered with God-only-knows how many individual flakes of snow, possibly even forming a layer. How in the hell are those things supposed to produce energy for us when they’re virtually frozen solid??

How will we get to work? How will we get our expensive drive-thru coffee? How will we even get out of our houses? Not a single one of us owns a snow shovel.

On the plus side, hundreds of family pets will see snow for the first time. Some children may even get to make snowmen in their front yards. They could be up to five or maybe even six inches in height. (The snowmen, not the children.)

By the way, is it still snowman? I mean, it’s 2023, so is it officially snowperson now? Or snowfigure? I’m really not sure, but I guess it might all depend on where you put the carrot?

Anyway… Amid the ensuing chaos, at least the kids and their pets will be having a good time. That is, if they can even make it from the front door to the lawn through the blowing drifts of sno… Oh, wait, hang on. Nope. The forecast has changed. Looks like it’s just going to be just rain now instead of snow.

Well, that’s a relief. Do you think I can return all this Gatorade and these AAA’s? Or maybe I should donate them to the folks up in the Sierras, about an hour east of here. They’re scheduled for three feet of snow and 70 mph winds.

Nah, they’ll be fine. They’re used to that sort of thing…

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Super Surprising

Well, the Super Bowl was this past Sunday, and as usual, we all learned a ton of surprising facts. For instance, we learned that musician Dave Grohl is not a Canadian. Who knew? He did however star in a Crown Royal ad during the game where he thanked Canada for a bunch of good stuff they produced or invented. The list was often shocking.

Dave, while not on the list himself, revealed that musicians from Canada include the band Rush, folk singer Joni Mitchell, and international superstar Celine Dion – a fact Ms. Dion managed to keep hidden until just this past weekend.

Canadian-born actors included Martin Short, Seth Rogen, and Michael Cera, best known for always being the weird kid in everything. Canada has also given us Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, co-stars of the hit show Schitt’s Creek. In fact, most of the cast was Canadian, which brings up some collusion and possible tax evasion questions about the show, but we’re willing to overlook everything if Canada will agree to take Chris Elliot and never give him back.

The list of foods that Canada can take credit for was equally surprising. Poutine, while delicious, was not a shock, but peanut butter was. I always thought it was invented by George Washington Carver, based solely on an Eddie Murphy SNL skit from my youth, but as it turns out some Canadian named Marcellus Gilmore Edson was the first to make peanut paste, way back in 1884. American Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the inventor of the Cheerio, later patented a process to make peanut butter from flakes of corn, if I have read Wikipedia correctly.

Canada also blessed the world with instant potatoes, canola oil, and amazingly, the Hawaiian pizza. I think they should only get one-quarter credit on that, though, since they used our pineapple, our state name, and pizza is obviously Italian. The only thing they provided, besides a pizza topping combination that divides the human race into unwavering camps, is the Canadian bacon.

Canada’s list of products they can take credit for was impressive. If it was not for our friendly neighbors to the north, we apparently wouldn’t have the paint roller, plastic trash bags, the ironing board, egg cartons, or the whoopee cushion. If you are somehow unfamiliar, Wikipedia provides the most sterile, textbook description ever: A whoopee cushion is a practical joke device involving flatulence humor, which produces a noise resembling human flatulence. Thank you, Canada, for 90+ years of hilarious flatulence-related humor!

In the electricity department, Canada has provided us with the electric wheelchair and the walkie talkie – or hand-held, portable, two-way radio transceiver, if you’re Wikipedia. Coincidently, no child, American or Canadian, has ever picked up a walkie talkie without providing the person on the other end with free flatulence humor.

Canada also gave us portable electricity itself, in the form of the battery. The first true battery was of course invented by Italian physicist Alessandro Volta in 1800.  He also later invented the Chevy Volt. It was Canadian Lewis Frederick Urry, however, in 1927, that perfected Volta’s work in the form of the first long-lasting alkaline battery, six hundred AAA’s of which now power the Chevy Volt.

It was the sports category that really took us all by surprise, however. Canada is responsible for inventing the instant replay, which Eagles fans all wish was used on a certain holding call on Sunday. Hockey came as no shock to anyone, but basketball was unexpected. I give Canada half credit on this one as well, since basketball was invented here in the United States by a Canadian-born gym teacher, who had nothing more than a bouncy ball, two peach baskets, and a dream.

But, bar-none, the most shocking, surprising, unexpectedly mind-blowing revelation of the night was finding out how much money the National Football League is willing to spend on a baby announcement for a singer not even affiliated with their organization.

This year’s game forwent the traditional musical halftime show performance to instead spend countless millions of dollars to announce Rihanna’s new pregnancy and feature a dramatic reenactment of the human biology behind her conception.

Rihanna, dressed in red, played the part of the egg, and all of her backup dancers were dressed in white with big hoods. They played the sperm. It was as riveting as it was educational.

Oh, there was one other surprising fact from Dave Grohl – Canada invented American football.

Thanks, eh?

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

An Open Letter to China's Weather Research Guys

Dear Chinese Weather Scientists,

Sorry about accidentally shooting down your giant weather balloon! That was our bad, and totally accidental, just like it was an accident that your weather research balloon veered off course and traveled across the entire length of the United States, passing over each one of our states that happen to have missile silos. We get it. Accidents happen.

That being the case, I’m sure you guys understand that Andy feels really bad about shooting it out of the sky. He was the guy flying our F-22 Raptor Weather Research Plane near your weather research balloon. As you know, accidents happen, and he shot one of our AIM-9X Supersonic, Heat-Seeking, Air-to-Air Weather Research Missiles into what he thought was a 200-foot, perfectly round cloud. Turns out it was your balloon. Whoopsie.

You see, we regularly fly our F-22 Raptor Weather Research Planes around and shoot our AIM-9X Supersonic, Heat-Seeking, Air-to-Air Weather Research Missiles at clouds, for weather research purposes. We want to know if the clouds contain any heat. If the missile goes for the cloud, we alert our weather researchers that we’ve got a hot cloud coming. If the missile goes around the cloud, it’s a cold cloud and there’s probably nothing to worry about.

Funny story: Steve, another F-22 Raptor Weather Research Plane pilot, saw what we now know was your innocent weather balloon over Montana, but he saw all your weather surveillance equipment underneath it and didn’t know what it was, so he shot at a different cloud instead.

Good thing, because we now know your sophisticated weather sensing camera equipment under your weather balloon was the length of two or three school busses, and weighed more than a ton. Our government officials gave Steve an “atta boy” for not dropping that stuff on Montana, for fear of hitting someone.

The residents of Montana disagree however, because they know the truth: You could drop the state of Wyoming onto the state of Montana and not hit anyone. There’s only one person per six trillion square miles in Montana. There’s also a couple missile silos. You might have seen those when you were looking downward for all the weather.

Incidentally, great job on building such an impressive weather research balloon! Our Statue of Liberty is only 151 feet tall. Your 200-foot-tall balloon would have looked almost 49 feet taller than Lady Liberty if you’d accidentally veered it a couple hundred miles north. But then it wouldn’t have accidentally flown over all the missile states.

Some good news, though. Our Navy is currently fishing your innocent weather surveillance balloon out of the ocean as we speak, so I’m sure we’ll get all your important weather data back to you in a jiffy.

But if the data happens to be too wet and damaged to be useful, we assume you can just default to all the weather research data you’ve been collecting on TikTok as a good backup source.

Stay awesome,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Happy New Year?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy February,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, January 25, 2023

In the Army Now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Your choice.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


Your new favorite book is from SmidgeBooks

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Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Wisdom Dilemma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You see my dilemma now.

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

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

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

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

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


Your new favorite book is from SmidgeBooks

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Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Potato Soup for Justice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They complained on the internet.

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

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

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

Plan accordingly.

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

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


Your new favorite book is from SmidgeBooks

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Wednesday, January 4, 2023

About the Author, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


Your new favorite book is from SmidgeBooks

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Wednesday, December 28, 2022

2022, An Expensive Year in Review

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


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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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

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

Bitcoin rebounds from $0.75 to $78,000.



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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

Bitcoin ends the year worth one sixteenth of a Taiwan.


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

See you soon,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


Your new favorite book is from SmidgeBooks

Your new favorite humor columnist is on Facebook Just a Smidge

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

The 2022 Do-it-Yourself Christmas Letter

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

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

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

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

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


Christmas 2022


O   friends and cherished loved ones,

O   relatives,

O   people from work,

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

Merry Christmas from the

O   Smith

O   Gonzalez

O   Lee

O   Johnson

O   Other _______________




We can’t believe

O   how time flies.

O   winter is here again so soon.

O   how surprisingly lame this year has been.

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


What a year! We

O   are so blessed.

O   are, we must admit, a little tired.

O   are relieved it’s finally over.

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


2022 started with

O   joy in our hearts

O   a ridiculous amount of snow and ice

O   anxiety

O   a whole lotta mood-altering substances


and is ending with

O   gratitude and peace.

O   even more *%@#&$ snow.

O   dread.

O   jail time, most likely.


Dad can’t seem to

O   sit still,

O   stop complaining,

O   snap out of his funk,

O   put a cork in it,


and he

O   continues to volunteer at the church and the shelter.

O   won’t shut up about gas prices.

O   lives in his pajamas.

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


Mom hasn’t

O   lost a step

O   lifted a finger around the house

O   shut up

O   been seen


since her

O   record-breaking hip replacement recovery time.

O   epic hangnail incident.

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

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


Sister lives

O   near us now.

O   day to day.

O   on borrowed time.

O   above a strip club.



O   moved back with her family for a big promotion.

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

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

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


Brother is

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

O   never too far from the couch

O   making one bad decision after another

O   spiraling out of control


while his

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

O   unemployment checks continue to roll in.

O   bookie keeps contacting us regarding his whereabouts.

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


The grandkids just keep growing

O   up

O   outward

O   bolder

O   weed


and we wish

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

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

O   their parents would actually discipline their insolent little butts.

O   the court system would be tougher on minors.


We hope this letter finds you

O   thriving and loving life

O   before Christmas

O   relatively sober



this year, and we want to

O   extend our warmest holiday wishes to you and yours.

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

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

O   be done writing now.


If you ever find yourself in town,

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

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

O   just remember, we’re away a lot.

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

Have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!


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

See you soon,




Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen



Your new favorite book is from SmidgeBooks

Your new favorite humor columnist is on Facebook Just a Smidge

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Take the Elf off the Shelf

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

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

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

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

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





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

Undecided in Union City


Dear Undecided,

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





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

Lost in London


Dear Lost,

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





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

Empty in El Segundo


Dear Empty,

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





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

Blindsided in Buffalo


Dear Blindsided,

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





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

Heartbroken in Hoboken


Dear Heartbroken,

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




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

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

See you soon,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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