Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Tenth Anniversary

Today, we must take time to recognize an anniversary that represents a truly momentous literary achievement.

The Just a Smidge column turns ten years old on Friday! I know, I was as stunned as you are.

The first column was posted on June 22, 2008, and you, our faithful readers, have been mercilessly subjected to a new one each week since then.

“That’s nice,” you say, “but what’s so momentous about ten years? I mean, we’ve got underwear older than that.”

Great question, my fair and thrifty readers, and you are correct. It isn’t the time period that’s momentous - it’s the volume and the content.

I have produced over 500 individual columns, averaging close to 1000 words each, and yet, in all those 500,000 words, I have managed to not provide even one single useful piece of information.

Do you know how hard that is to do? Do you? No? Me neither. It just sorta happens.

Anyway, in honor of this day, I thought we’d take a trip back in time to one of those first columns from ten years ago.

Enjoy, but don’t expect to learn anything.

Hot Chicks and Cool Dudes
Originally posted July 7, 2008

One of the main differences between men and women can be seen in the simple truth about ambient temperature. Men are comfortable in a thirty-degree temperature range, and the range is the same for all men. From 56 degrees Fahrenheit to 86, men will do just fine. Some may be a little sweatier or chillier than others, but no one is complaining. This range is hardwired in the male DNA and stays the same from birth until death.

Women, on the other hand, are comfortable in only a three-degree range, and not only does that range vary widely from women to women, but throughout the course of an individual women’s day, week, month, year, and lifespan, it will jump all over the board.

These are indisputable facts. You just can’t argue with science. This disparity in the comfort zones of the sexes invariably leads to problems when men and women attempt to share an office, car, home, bed, table at a restaurant, tent, etc. The issue is most often solved by adjusting the temperature to fit the female’s needs. As long as the three-degree range is still falling in the male comfort zone, everyone gets along. If there are two or more women sharing the same space, the inevitable problem is usually solved with layers. It is not uncommon to visit an office where the secretary in the blouse with the personal electric desk fan is working right alongside the HR manager in the parka with the personal electric space heater.

Financial issues can arise from this problem when men and women get married and buy a house that contains a thermostat. Men will do some rudimentary math, and pick one temperature to keep the house livable, foolishly assuming that this temperature will be acceptable for the entire season. Little do they know that the temperature they picked will not even be acceptable for an entire seven minutes. Women who normally complain that the clock radio is too complicated can decipher a thirty-eight-button, eleven-switch thermostat in a matter of minutes and operate any home’s A/C system like they were seated at a NASA control center. In many cases, the temperature swings during the day are so violent that you can actually see the money being sucked out of the double-pane windows.

I think the temperature issue is a physical manifestation of a psychological difference in the sexes. Women are genetically programmed to worry about more things than men are. I have no idea why, but again, you can’t argue with science. When women have no life-threatening situations to deal with, they will inevitably begin to search out things to be concerned about, often making things up to fret over. Hair, weight, money, age, wrinkles, relationships with friends, relationships with co-workers, me-time, us-time, down time, play dates, date night, pre-partum, partum, post-partum, carpet, color palates, window treatments, balanced diets, safety recalls, consumer reports, outdoor tableware, biological clocks, school districts, undercooked poultry, guest lists, footwear, closet organization, furniture, pediatricians, and the list goes on and on. And on.

With men, pretty much twenty-nine days out of the month if the cars are running OK and the house isn’t on fire, it’s all good.

So, I hypothesize that women, being less comfortable inside about all the little things in life, try to micro-manage the external temperature settings to feel more comfortable outside. A way to gain some measure of control over their surroundings when life seems otherwise wildly out of control.

Either that, or it’s a hormone thing and they actually are less comfortable. What do I know?

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Dog (Birth)days of Summer

It’s our dog Remi’s first birthday today. We celebrated yesterday with our good friends down the street who own her sister from the same litter. Our kids made them two little disgusting dog cakes out of completely incompatible ingredients like pumpkin puree and Greek yogurt. The two matching yellow Labs thought the cakes were delicious. Dogs are weird.

Since my next book (currently under construction) will center around Remi’s life, she and her sister are soon to be famous. Out of curiosity, I visited to see what other famous celebrities they share a birthday with.

I’m not going to lie. They might end up being the most famous celebrities on the list.

Also born on June 13th:

1539 Jost Amman, Swiss cartoonist, graphic artist and illustrator, born in Zürich, Switzerland (d. 1591) – So let me get this straight. There were cartoons in the 1500s? Not just poor hygiene and the plague? Who knew?

1911 Albert Cleage, famous African – Famous African what?

1911 Prince Aly Khan [Ali Salman Aga Khan], Pakistani socialite, jockey, political ambassador and husband to Rita Hayworth, born in Turin, Italy (d. 1960) – “Socialite and political ambassador” = good at drinking martinis and schmoozing. And how much competition for best socialite could there possibly be in Pakistan? Famous for marrying a movie star = not very famous.

1918 Helmut Lent, German night fighter pilot (d. 1944) – Look at the death date. Sorry, Helmut, but I can’t count you as a famous German pilot when you obviously got shot down by a non-famous allied pilot.

1925 Hans Fellner, bookseller – Famous for selling books? Seriously? I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love booksellers, but famous for it? I think not.

1926 Geoffrey Finsberg, politician – You may as well have said “garbage collector.” That would make Geoffrey more worthy of fame in my eyes.

1934 Lady Annabel Goldsmith, English socialite – Again, “famous” for being a martini sucker.

1935 Christo [Javacheff], Bulgaria, artist, wrapper (Running Fence) – A wrapper you say? Of what, exactly?

1947 Peter Holm, boyfriend of Joan Collins – Boyfriend? Not even husband. C’mon!

1954 Jorge Santana, Mexican rock guitarist (Malo), born in Autlán de Navarro – “Malo” means “bad” in Spanish. So, a bad guitarist made this list.

1955 Alan Hansen, Scottish football pundit – Every drunk Scotsman at the pub is a football pundit. How does that make Alan famous?

1962 Mark Frankel, actor (Leon the Pig Farmer) – If your most notable acting performance was in Leon the Pig Farmer, you are as far from famous as a martini-sucking Pakistani socialite.

1968 Deniece Peterson, rocker (5 Star-Silk & Steel) – Rocker? Of babies? Of chairs? Of boats? In what capacity did he or she rock, pray tell?

Since we have obviously set a low bar for fame, I think it is safe to say Remi and her sister are shoe-ins for this list. There was one person on the list, however, that intrigued me. I would again have to argue the claim of “famous,” since I have never heard of them, but their occupation certainly deserves respect.

1979 Nila Håkedal, Norwegian beach volleyball player – Initially, I wondered how anyone could be listed as a “Norwegian beach volleyball player,” until I Googled it and discovered that Norway actually does have at least one beach. Nila commands our respect, not only because she probably only had a four- to five-day seasonal window in which to practice, but also because while on the beach trying to serve and return the ball, she would have been constantly blinded by the almost neon-white bodies of her fellow Norwegian sunbathers. Respect.

Happy birthday, Nila and the puppies. Keep on rockin’ it, just like Deniece!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Gubernatorial Spice

They say variety is the spice of life. I’m not sure who “they” are, but since eating is mandatory for remaining above ground, wouldn’t spices be the spice of life?

In any case, here in the great state of California we voted in the primary election for our new governor yesterday, and boy, was the ballot spicy with variety!

We had twenty-seven candidates on our ballot. Actually, mine had twenty-eight, since, after reading the whole list, I voted for my dog, Remi, as a write-in candidate.

The ballot listed each candidate’s name and occupation, and the variety was immediate and in-your-face with its spiciness.

I was immediately drawn to CEO and business owner Hakan “Hawk” Mikado. I wasn’t knocked out by his qualifications, but how cool does he sound?
“Commissioner, we don’t know what to do! There’s trouble brewing at the capitol building!”
“Calm down. Send in the Hawk.”

On the other end of the spectrum, the person with the least cool name on the ballot, Akinyemi Agbede, listed his or her occupation as “Mathematician.” That simply won’t work. There is no way anyone trained as a mathematician would be able to stomach political math. Logic and tax spending are incompatible.

One man listed his occupation as “Father” and another was listed as “Virtual Reality Manager.” Those struck me as being basically the same job.

There was a guy named Nickolas Wildstar who was listed as a “Recording Artist.” I’ve never heard of him, but my guess is his career isn’t exactly on fire if he’s running for governor. Might I suggest, Mr. Wildstar, that you change your first name to Hawk.

Someone named Josh Jones from my hometown of Davis, California (Town motto: Davis, gateway to East Davis) is running for governor, and claims to be an author. From pictures on his campaign website, he and I look to be roughly the same age, so it’s entirely possible we went to high school together, but I don’t remember. I can’t seem to find him on any other Google searches. There’s a Josh Jones actor, drummer, and even a Green Bay Packer, but not an author, so I’m assuming he has some other form of income he’s not willing to divulge.

Christopher N. Carlson lists his occupation as “Puppeteer/Musician.” No offense, Chris, but I’m going to be a hard pass on having a Muppet operator as the leader of the fifth largest economy on the planet.

Also, Jeffry Edward Taylor, besides having a serial killer name, you have listed your occupation as “Marketplace Minister.” Either you are an evangelist at open-air fruit and vegetable seller events, or you’re some kind of Silicon Valley tech COO who came up with a jackass, trendy, self-important title for yourself. Either way, no thanks.

And, Peter Y Liu, you did not list an occupation of any kind and you don’t have a period after your middle initial, suggesting to me that you are possibly homeless and your entire middle name could simply be the letter Y. I don’t trust you.

But out of all twenty-seven “candidates,” one spicy little nugget of variety stood out above all the rest. My tenth choice from the top was none other than Zoltan Istvan, Entrepreneur/Transhumanist Lecturer.

You have intrigued me, Mr. Zoltan. Wikipedia says this about you: Zoltan Istvan Gyurko, professionally known as Zoltan Istvan, is an American transhumanist, journalist, entrepreneur, and Libertarian futurist.

Hmm… Zoltan Gyurko, “professionally” known as Zoltan Istvan. Interesting choice. Might I suggest, as a gubernatorial candidate for the Transhumanist Libertarian Futurist Party, you might want to sound a little less like a sworn enemy of Buzz Lightyear, and try being professionally known as Steve Istvan, or John Gyurko, or even Mike Zoltan. When you lead with Zoltan – even if your parents are responsible for that – you probably lose a lot of people right off the bat.

Further web investigation of just what in the hell a transhumanist is reveals to us, firstly, that you intentionally own a forty-foot-long, completely and totally poop-brown bus, with a wooden roof structure that you made yourself in an attempt to make the entire vehicle look like a coffin.

Unfortunately, the coffin look didn’t quite come across, and your bus looks more like an abandoned Waffle House on wheels. To make matters even more confusing, written on the side, in almost professional-looking script, are the words “Immortality Bus.”

Apparently, when not running for governor of the great state of California, you drive a rolling caca-brown Waffle House around the country, lecturing to people about how they won’t have to get old anymore if we can just convince the government to unleash the power of science and computerized artificial intelligence. And in your spare time you engage in entrepreneurial transhumanist journalism. 

Solid platform, Zoltan.

Unfortunately, when weighing my options between your spicy variety of gubernatorial hopefulness and that of your twenty-six worthy opponents, I went ahead and voted for my dog, instead.

And equally unfortunately, I think you and Remington Schmatjen have about the same overall chance of being our next governor.

But, who knows? Maybe more people are into Coffin Waffle House Immortality than I think.

If not, all hope is not lost. You might not end up being Governor Zoltan, leader of California, but you could definitely be Front Man Zoltan, lead singer for the new transhumanist rock band, Gubernatorial Spice.

Why not? You already have a tour bus.

Good luck, California!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Ask Smidge - Special Graduation Edition

Due to the incredible popularity of the first two Ask Smidge columns (and we’re using the word “incredible” in its literal meaning here), we have been flooded with questions at the new email address –

A number of topics have been queried, but we have noticed a majority of you have graduation-related questions this time of year, so we’re doing a special graduation edition this week.

We don’t have kids yet, but my sister just invited us to our niece’s preschool graduation. Is that really a thing? Do we bring a gift?
Kidless in Carson City

Dear Kidless,
Sadly, yes, preschool “graduations” have become a reality. It’s a bunch of two-foot-tall paste eaters whose only requirement for graduation was that their parents kept paying for them to be there, but they’ll “graduate,” nonetheless. Don’t be shocked if they have them in little caps and gowns! (You may, of course, be appalled at the self-celebrating state we have devolved to, just don’t be shocked.) The best gift you can bring is a flask of clear liquor for yourself, and a promise never to put your future children in a preschool that has graduation ceremonies.
Good luck!

Our son’s kindergarten teacher just emailed us about a “small graduation ceremony” they’re planning for the last day of school. Graduating from kindergarten? My son still can’t use scissors correctly, he licks the other kids, and he’s barely even aware that he was in school. What am I missing?
Confused in Columbus

Dear Confused,
Please see answer above and just sub in “kindergarten” every time you see “preschool.”

What’s with these weird flat mortarboard hats?
Graduating in Grand Rapids

Dear Graduating,
Funny story! The flat mortarboard cap with the tassel that every graduate dons today actually started as a fraternity prank at Tulane University in 1893. Apparently, there was quite the rivalry between Phi Delta Gamma and Kappa Kappa Theta back then, and the Phi Delts came up with a real zinger at the end of the year.
They convinced the Kappas that it was a new school policy to wear a “uniform” at graduation. Then they proceeded to get incredibly drunk and come up with the dumbest looking hat they could think of: a flat board sewed onto a skull cap, with a darling little tassel hanging off one side.
They added the gown to the mix and convinced the Kappas that it was super cool to go naked underneath. Come graduation day, the Phi Delts showed up in their caps and gowns, so the Kappas thought nothing of it. But just before hitting the stage, all the Phi Delts tossed their mortarboard caps in the air and took their robes off, unrolling their suit pants from their knees and putting on their snappy fedoras they had been hiding under the robes. They strode across the stage in their three-piece suits, leaving the poor, duped, and naked-underneath Kappas with no alternative but to wear their ridiculous caps and gowns to accept their diplomas.
The prank worked perfectly, but it backfired on the rest of us. The Tulane dean, perhaps still drunk from Mardi Gras, loved the Kappa’s outfits and adopted them for all future graduation ceremonies. Deans from neighboring colleges, not wanting to be seen as non-hip, went along, and the rest is history.   

My pot-smoking grandson is graduating from high school with a 2.3 GPA. What should we get him for a graduation gift?
Unimpressed in Olympia

Dear Unimpressed,
A McDonald’s application and an alarm clock.

Our daughter is graduating from Dartmouth after six years. It took her a while, and more than a few student loans, but she is finally getting her art history degree. We are so proud! Any ideas for the perfect graduation gift for our little princess?
Beaming in Boise

Dear Beaming,
$350,000, a McDonald’s application, and an alarm clock.

Happy graduation, America! Now get out there and tackle life! Or first grade.

(And remember, be sure to email all your burning questions to

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

46 at 46

I am turning 46 years old tomorrow, which is hard for my brain to accept, since it regularly tells my body I’m still 25. My elbow, my knees, and my right Achilles tendon, however, agree with the calendar.

They say with age, comes wisdom. I wish that were more true. Nonetheless, in honor of living through another trip around the sun, I have added to my list of thoughts, observations, and acquired “wisdom.”

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

1.  There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who prefer the toilet paper to come off the top of the roll, and those who prefer the bottom. The people who like it to come off the bottom of the roll are wrong.

2.  If beds were advertised the same way as tents, a queen-size mattress would “sleep nine adults comfortably.”

3.  The three-second rule has almost infinite extensions depending on how much you like the food that dropped.

4.  You never fully appreciate how crazy your family is until you have to explain all of them to your fiancé.

5.  I don’t understand why disappointed is not the opposite of appointed.

6.  Pi and the circumference of a circle have a similar relationship to pie and the circumference of a person.

7.  Here’s the main difference between men and women: Men can look at an ad for women's underwear and get excited. Not 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.  The clearest evidence that capitalism beats communism is that the Red Bull beverage company put a man in space. Take that, North Korea. Anheuser-Busch can probably shoot down your nukes.

10.  If you give enough money to the right charities, you will never have to buy address labels again.

11.  I am far past the electronic tipping point. I would much rather lose my wallet than my phone.

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

13.  Life without beer, wine, and cheese would be horrible, but life without bacon would simply be pointless.

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.  Never get a woman personalized license plates like "HOT QT" or something like that, because eventually you, the boyfriend or husband, will have to drive the car and you will be mercilessly ridiculed by the rest of us.

16.  You can ask someone to do something, or you can tell them how you want it done, but you cannot 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.  Everyone should drive while driving. Always.

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.

24.  One sure sign of getting old – When you start sitting down to put on your pants.

25.  Children and ceiling fans are simply incompatible. It’s science.

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.  The hotel alarm clock - You can either take the time to figure out how it works before you go to bed, or you can figure it out in the dark at 4:30 A.M. when it unexpectedly goes off. Your choice.

28.  One of the funniest things ever written is this: “We’ve upped our contribution. Up yours!”

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

30.  There are 21 words in the English language that need to be used more. They are: bailiwick, hootenanny, skullduggery, scofflaw, ballyhoo, shenanigans, donnybrook, catawampus, chicanery, cajoled, hullabaloo, besmirch, boondoggle, haberdashery, melee, befuddled, flummoxed, hoosegow, wiseacre, tomfoolery, and kerfuffle. Please begin immediately.

31.  Nothing is more interesting to a small child than what you are doing, provided that what you are doing is easier without small children involved.

32.  You cannot 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.  We, as humans, all share a universal reaction – the automatic flinch when the driver hits the button and starts rolling up the car window under your arm.

34.  A carsick child and a blender without a lid or an off button have a lot in common.

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.  Give a boy enough time with any object, whether it be a stale Cheerio, a bouncy ball, a doll, or a book, and he will eventually turn it into a weapon.

37.  "The only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys" is a pretty accurate saying, but it leaves out the other major difference: the speed at which they heal when they fall off those toys.

38.  New parents - The best thing to do when your infant cries at night is to set a timer for ten minutes. If the timer runs out before the baby stops crying, then you may get up and reset the timer.

39.  The yahoos who wear their pants down below their butts and have to waddle with their legs spread to keep their pants from simply falling to the ground are also the yahoos who are most likely to try to run from the police at some point. That is hilarious to me.

40.  As I get older, I find myself dividing the world into two categories: People I would let watch my kids for five minutes, and people I wouldn’t.

41.  The person who invented the hotel shower curtain rod that curves out away from the tub so the shower curtain doesn’t stick to your arm should receive the Nobel prize.

42.  If you want a good example of unbridled optimism, look at your smoke alarm. They all have "test weekly" printed on them. Yes, smoke alarm company, I’ll get right on that.

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 are drunk

44.  A kid’s definition of “pool toy” is different than an adult’s. We think of pool toys as something designed to be played with in a pool. They define “pool toy” as anything they own, if it happens to be brought into the pool. Like a bike or a sandwich.

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 contaminating your food forever. I feel your pain.

46.  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.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

We Put the "IT" in School District

It seems our Rocklin, CA teachers are currently at odds with the school district over some aspect of their contract. I would have to assume it’s about salary and/or benefits, because, honestly, if you’re getting all the money you want, you don’t tend to argue with your boss too much. Anyway, they seem to be at a stalemate in their contract negotiations.

I have mixed feelings about the issue of teachers’ salaries. Before I became an author with flexible hours and an unnervingly flexible pay scale, I had real jobs with steady paychecks, and we only got two or maybe three weeks of vacation each year. Teachers have the only job I know of where you get sixteen paid weeks off every year, so on the one hand, I think, pipe down!

On the other hand, I think all teachers should make ten times more than what they are being paid, because besides parenting, they are doing the most important job on the planet. (And in many cases, they are doing the parenting and the teaching, because many “adults” tend to outsource the parenting job by default in favor of malt liquor.)

(I also tend to think teachers should be paid more because my wife is a teacher, and I want a boat.)

I don’t know the particulars of the stalemate, but I do know one thing: based on the metric ton of property taxes I pay, along with the regular taxes, our school district should have more money than Uruguay. I don’t know where all the money goes, but I certainly know where the money is not going. It’s not being spent on the district’s IT department.

If any money was going into IT, they would certainly be able to afford someone who could fix their communications department. Even someone with the tiniest bit of knowledge about computers and one or two iotas of common sense could fix what is obviously broken.

Here’s my problem:

Last week the school district wanted my opinion on their new English Language Arts curriculum. (That’s what they call English now. I assume they have long-term plans to eventually drop the “English” from the title and just call it Language Arts. That way we can stop being so insistent on it always having to be taught in English. Time will tell.)

Anyway, they sent me an email with a link to a survey. That’s where a normal IT department would have stopped. Not at our district!

Moments after the email arrived, they called me and left a voicemail about the fact that they sent me an email.

Mere seconds after the voicemail about the email hit my inbox, they sent me a text message - to the same phone number that they left the voicemail on - to tell me that they left a voicemail about the email. I am not making this up.

Then they sent me another email (again, I’m not making this up, I swear!) to tell me that they just left me a voicemail to let me know that they sent me an email.


They do every single one of those things twice because I have two kids at the elementary school. The same elementary school! Last year I got all of them three times, because all three boys were there.

Three separate emails. Three separate voicemails alerting me to the emails. Three separate text messages alerting me to the voicemails regarding the emails. And three separate follow-up emails alerting me to the fact that they left me three separate voicemails about the original three separate emails.

But they only let me take the survey once.

If they can’t come up with the money for a new IT hire, maybe they could look into a sixth-grade internship. Even the kid who sits in the back of the class and eats his boogers could do better than this.  

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The All-Cake Diet

I’m developing a new diet with the help of Son Number Two. It’s called the All-Cake Diet, and it’s mind-blowing. I’ll probably write a best-selling book about it someday.

Here’s how it works:

You start with a middle child who is the epitome of growth mindset and creativity. Make sure that child can play two or three instruments, is good at sports, can crochet blankets and sweaters, likes to shop for plywood and 2x4’s to build better-than-third-world-quality forts and structures, enjoys outdoor recreation and whittling, is good at puzzles, can rewire household electronics to make ad hoc surveillance equipment, enjoys blacksmithing and soldering, has a strong entrepreneurial streak, and isn’t afraid to make a working blender out of a water bottle, flattened nails, and a 3000-RPM DC hobby motor.

When you have that child in place, have them somehow develop an interest in baking cookies. Encourage this delicious new hobby as long as possible until the natural escalation occurs to cupcakes, and then finally, to full-scale cake baking.

At this point you will need to have shifted at least half your monthly grocery budget over to the flour/sugar/butter/cake mix line items.

Eat his practice cakes and tell him they are delicious, because they are.

When it’s his birthday, buy him books on cake decorating and a vast assortment of cake decorating tools. (At least enough to start one or two mid-sized commercial bakeries)

Be prepared to watch countless hours of Cake Boss and Next Great Baker, actually enjoying them, but at the same time marveling at how far down the spiraling vortex of entertainment we’ve traveled that these two shows even exist, and trying to imagine, if you had traveled back in time, how you would explain to your then-young grandmother that we now have multiple television shows about baking cakes.

Eat more practice cakes.

Take him to the craft store to buy something called fondant, which is, apparently, flat cake icing that does not need to be refrigerated and comes in a very expensive cardboard box, because there is no way anyone could justify charging that much for flat cake icing.

Eat more practice cakes.

Marvel at the volcano cake he decided to make for his little brother’s birthday, complete with an interior dry ice chamber to create “smoke.”

Take him to the store to buy dry ice. (And, obviously, more cake supplies.)

Eat a volcano cake.

Take a delicious one-day detour into the world of apple muffins, then return to cakes.

Learn, one morning, as he is measuring the driveway, that he plans to make a cake model of your house.

Spend the next few days cleaning up the kitchen non-stop as sheet cake after sheet cake come out of the oven and into the freezer in preparation for the big project.

During the build, hover in the kitchen to collect the cake scraps that get discarded during the house shaping process.

When the project is complete, invite the neighbors over to eat your delectable model home, which comes complete with the garage, backyard, pool, play structure, and even the dog.

The next day, thank the good Lord the house was too big to finish and there are leftovers.

Eat your garage for lunch.

So on, and so forth.

I’ve got to tell you, this new diet is amazing, and I would highly recommend it, especially if you’re as big a fan of cake as I am. I’m loving this, and I’m really seeing the results.

I am, of course, using the term “diet” in the sense of “what you eat,” and not “a way to lose weight.” Cake makes you fat.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go eat my front yard for dessert.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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Wednesday, May 2, 2018


You’ve really got to hand it to the Ghaneze (?) The Ghanans (?) The Ghanites (?)
The folks from Ghana, anyway. They seem to be following the lead of the Nigerians, looking to better their presumably ridiculously weak economy with some good old-fashioned internet scams.

The honorable banker Mr. Charles Emmanuel got ahold of me yesterday vie email, and I gotta tell you, Chuck, your act needs some polishing. I’m obviously not going to give you my banking information for this grammatically chaotic once-in-a-lifetime offer you’ve presented me, but since I’m such a nice guy, I’ll give you some pointers. You know what they say – Fall for a man’s scam, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to scam, you feed him for a lifetime.

Dear Schmatjen,

 I have been in the search for someone that bears the name "Schmatjen" so when I saw your name I was pushed to contact you and see how best we can assist each other. I am Mr. Charles Emmanuel

Banking head of the company with a reputable bank here in Accra Ghana. I believe it is the wish of God for me to come across you on search now. I am having an important business discussion I wish to share with you which I believe will interest you because, it is in connection with your  name and you are going to benefit from it.

OK, Chuck, first off, let’s talk about American last names. I’m not sure how common a name Emmanuel is in Ghana, but Schmatjen is very rare, so right out of the gate you seem to be doing OK. Just remember, this probably won’t work with Smith, Johnson, or Hernandez. And by the way, if you made up Emmanuel for this scam, then I applaud you for invoking the name of God into your own to garner my trust. Well played.

Secondly, the terms “reputable bank” and “Ghana” don’t really go together here in America. No offense, but third-world countries such as yours don’t foster a ton of trust with us as far as fair regulatory oversight, and whatnot.

By the way, I had to look up where Ghana actually was. Turns out you’re not far from Nigeria, which makes sense. I have to ask though, what’s with the two little countries in between you guys? Togo and Benin? Have those always been there? I really don’t remember those from high school geography, but I went to public school, so who knows? And when did “The Gambia” show up, tunneling their wormy little way into Senegal from the coast? I’ll bet those guys are a pain in the ass at the cocktail parties, am I right? I mean, how pretentious do you have to be to name your country “The Gambia”? Anyway, back to your letter.

 I have a suggestion urgent action and a highly secret for you. On March 15,
2004, an Iraqi foreign oil consultant / contractor with the oil company
Chevron, Mr William Schmatjen, had fixed deposit with my bank in 2004
calendar year, valued at 18,500,000.00 (Eighteen million five hundred thousand U.S. dollars)  The date for this contract and deposit is January 30, 2010. Sadly, he was among the victims of plane crash and for more about the crash you can visit the BBC web news for the tragedy. which killed

more than 2,000 people. It was  on a business trip, and that is
how he met his end.

Seriously, Chuck, I don’t even know where to start with this “urgent problem” section of your compelling email. Let’s just dive right in with your really believable-looking BBC link to a plane crash that killed 2000 people. Seriously? You’re going with 2000 people? Did the plane crash into nine other planes simultaneously, or did it spiral into a soccer stadium on my man William’s final business trip?

And thanks for telling me the exact day, month, and year of our wealthy Mr. Schmatjen’s sizable bank deposit, only to reiterate the year in the same run-on sentence, and then add a completely different date in the next sentence to confuse me.

Astonishingly, the link to the news article doesn’t seem to be working, but I see it mentions Oxfordshire, England. I actually have relatives who live in Oxfordshire. I sure hope they weren’t at that soccer game at some point between 2004-2010 and now!

 My bank management is yet to know about his death, I knew about it because he was my friend and I am his account officer. Mr.William  did not mention any Next of Kin/ Heir when the account was opened, and William  was married and no children. Last week my Bank Management requested that i should give instructions on what to do about his funds, if to renew the contract.

I’m glad to hear you were tight with William, but obviously, sad for you at the loss of such a good friend. How is his wife taking all this? I know you said he never mentioned any Next of Kin/ Heir when he opened the account, but as Banking head of a reputable bank in Accra, Ghana, I’m sure you have figured out by now that his wife would, of course, be his Next of Kin/ Heir. Pretty much the first person in line, actually. You don’t have to look any further down the old Next of Kin/ Heir chain once you find the wife. So you could just text her or something, I guess.

And why do you keep mentioning a contract? Do banks in Ghana work differently than other banks? Here in the U.S., we just deposit our money and it stays in there until we take it out. There’s no time limit, as there apparently is in Accra.

 I know this will happen and that is why I have been looking for a means to handle the situation, because if my Bank Directors happens to know that William  is dead and do not have any Heir, they will take the funds for their personal use, so I don't want such to happen. That was why when I saw your last name I was happy and I am now seeking your co-operation to present you as Next of Kin/ Heir to the account, since you have the same last name with him and my bank head quarters will release the account to you. There is no risk involved; the transaction will be executed under a legitimate arrangement that will protect you from any breach of law.

Well, first of all, let me just breathe a huge sigh of relief that there will be no risk of “breach of law” involved for me perjuring myself in a foreign country by claiming to be someone I’m not in order to snag a cool eighteen million bucks. Whew! For a minute there I thought this might be shady.

And I thought you told me you were the Banking head? Why are you letting these Bank Director idiots push you around and steal our money for their personal use? You’re the Banking head, dammit! Tell those Directors to pound sand. Or you could simply direct them toward Dead Bill’s wife. Either way.

 It is better that we clam the money, than allowing the Bank Directors to take it, they are rich already. I am not a greedy person, so I suggested we share the funds equal, 50/50% to
both parties, and will help me to start my share of my company, which was my dream.

Those rich sumbitches! Why are they always trying to take the cash that neither of us have any rightful claim to, either? I am not a fan of the Directors.

By the way, you might want to review what the word “reputable” means in the dictionary. You started this communication using that word to describe your bank, but I’m not sure all this conspiracy and shenanigans from the Banking head and the Bank Directors really qualifies your organization for that distinction.

And for Pete’s sake, Chuck, don’t use the past tense when telling me about your dreams. Never give up, man! I might not be falling for this ill-conceived train wreck of a plan, but someone out there might. And when they do, you’ll finally be able to start that GhanaBurger franchise you’ve always wanted. That is your dream, not was. Chin up, old boy, as they say in Oxfordshire.

 Let me know your opinion on this subject, please deal with this information
and the highest
Secret ballot.

Please get back to me with my email address private ( and we will go over the details once i receive
your reply soon.

 Have a nice day, and I am waiting for your contact.

Charles Emmanuel

Here’s where I have to apologize, Chuck. I don’t really know what “deal with this information and the highest Secret ballot” means, but I’m guessing my nationwide weekly column wouldn’t qualify under your definition. Sorry to betray all that trust we’ve built up over the years of you being fake friends with a pretend rich guy with my same last name who had a wife but no next of kin.

I wish we could have split his 18,500,000.00 (Eighteen million five hundred thousand U.S. dollars) equal 50/50% to both parties, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

I just don’t feel like you’re as “reputable” as you’d like me to believe. Although, there might be one thing that would change my mind… Since you were such pals with old Iraqi Oil Bill, get back to me and tell me how Schmatjen is pronounced. Then we’ll talk.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Laugh Track

Raising kids is hard. There’s no getting around that fact. And these days, I think it’s safe to say we have a more challenging job raising kids than our parents did, with the added pitfalls of the internet, smartphones, social media, and mind-melting video games lumped on top of all the age-old problems associated with trying to mold quality adults out of little idiots.

At the end of most days, we’re left exhausted on the couch, still dumbfounded by their apparent inability to co-exist even on the same planet with their siblings, let alone two different rooms, and annoyed by the attitude we received regarding the dinner we so graciously provided them.

And especially as they get older, it seems they give us less and less to smile about each day, let alone laugh about. But the silver lining to this change, as they become older and more annoying, is when they do give us that gem to laugh about, it’s all that much sweeter.

Case in point – the other week I got a call from an unfamiliar number. The word is out on the streets of India that I have a website, and as a result, I have been getting mercilessly spammed by phone calls from friendly website hosting and design firms, so I have been a little gun-shy about answering my phone. But this was a local area code, so I picked up and cautiously said hello, ready to demand to be put on the Mumbai telemarketer’s do-not-call list.

But low and behold, it was a familiar voice on the other end of the line. Son Number One was calling from the middle school front office.

“Hi Dad.”

Uh oh, I thought. What happened? Is he sick? Did he get hurt? Did he burn down the science building? (Based on his track record, I was obviously leaning toward arson.)

“What’s up, buddy?” I asked, ready for the bad news.

“I forgot to bring my gym clothes this morning. Can you drive them over here real quick before gym starts?”


“No. Good luck in gym class.”

Oh, man. That was a good one! Thanks for that, buddy. I really needed a good laugh.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Don't be Foolish, it's Tax Time

Your taxes were due yesterday. If you didn’t get them filed in time, fear not. Agents will be knocking on your door momentarily to take you to your new home, where you get three meals a day and don’t have to pay for anything. Sweet!

A few years ago, I thought I would try to make those of us not in prison feel a little better about our tax bills by calling attention to some of the wonderful government agencies that our hard-earned dollars go to fund.

So I went to (motto: “Please don’t ask a lot of questions”), and looked up the A-Z Index of U.S. Government Departments and Agencies. After reading for a while, I realized there was no way I was going to make anyone feel better about paying taxes, so instead I bet myself that I could click on every letter of the alphabet and come up with a ridiculous agency that should never have been started in the first place.

I failed to find an insane waste of money under each letter of the alphabet, but that was only because there were no agencies that started with the letters Q, X, Y or Z.

I have updated the list of current agencies for you again this year. Here’s the fun places your 2017 tax dollars are headed:

Administrative Conference of the United States (motto: Leave us alone. We’re still conferring. Offsite.)

Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (motto: Buyer beware. And seller, too. We’re coming for all of you.)

Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee (motto: It goes in the upper right corner, dammit!)

Delaware River Basin Commission (motto: Getting paid to stare at water since 1961.)

Economic Adjustment Office (motto: Please be patient. We’re redistributing your money as fast as we can.)

Federal Geographic Date Committee (From the website: An interagency group that promotes and coordinates the production, use, and publication of geospatial data. Well, thank God someone is doing that!)

Government Ethics, Office of (motto: We can’t even fit all the irony into one building.)

House Office of the Clerk (Main functions include running the offices of deceased and retired representatives – I am not making that up.)

Inter-American Foundation (From the website: Provides grant support to Latin American and Caribbean grass-roots groups and non-governmental organizations with creative self-help ideas. Can’t we just send them Tony Robbins?)

Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (motto: We will sue you in as many places as possible.)

Kennedy Center (motto: Please stop asking about Marilyn.)

Legal Services Corporation (motto: That might be legal now. There’s been a lot of changes.)

Marine Mammal Commission (We’re investigating the narwhal. He seems like a troublemaker.)

National Agriculture Statistics Service (motto: Still excited about that 1957 bean crop!)

Overseas Private Investment Corporation (This is not where we hide all the bribes and kickbacks and stuff. We swear.)

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (Just kidding, we spent it all. Here’s a third of what you were promised. We borrowed it from social security. Shhh!)

Risk Management Agency (motto: We manage our risk with your money. No problemo!)

Surface Transportation Board (We don’t trust those Department of Transportation guys to handle the surface. There’s just too much of it. It covers the whole country, you know?)

Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (We changed our name from “Taxpayer Advocate Service” because too many people thought we would actually help. You’re still screwed.)

U.S. Election Assistance Commission (motto: Helping you get crappy officials for generations to come.)

Veterans Day National Committee (We’re thinking November 11th again this year.)

Washington Headquarters Services (We are here to serve headquarters. In Washington. Don’t ask a lot of questions, OK?)

It really bothers me that we don’t have Q, X, Y, or Z agencies yet. We’re only four more ridiculous money-wasting agencies away from having the whole alphabet covered. Just off the top of my head last year, I suggested the Quicksand and other Swamp Dangers Mitigation Exploratory Committee, the Xylophone Standardization Council, the Yo-Yo Injury Prevention Task Force, and the Zeppelin and Lighter-than-Aircraft (Unmanned) Aviation Standards Advisory Board, and not one of them has been added this year. It’s as if Washington isn’t listening to me at all.

As far as the current agencies go, keep in mind, folks, I limited myself to only one department per letter of the alphabet. This list of agencies whose only concern is to justify their funding for next year could go on for days.

Even more disturbing than the fact that the lists grow each year, is the fact that not all the agencies are listed under the “Complete A-Z Listing” of government agencies. In years past, if you dug a little deeper on you could find the rest of the disheartening lists – a list of Independent Agencies and Government Corporations, a list of Boards, Commissions, and Committees, a list of Federal Advisory Committees, and my personal favorite, a list of Quasi-Official Agencies. I can’t seem to find any of those lists this year. Hmm… I’m sure that means they all got shut down because they were unnecessary or borderline illegal, right?


If that isn’t scary enough for you, then I invite you to forget all the agencies, boards, commissions, committees, and departments, quasi-official or not, that we may or may not be allowed to know about and simply ponder this:

According to Congress, it takes around $5.3 billion per year just for them to turn the lights on and run the show. Not all of Washington, D.C., mind you. Just Congress. Not the White House, plus the Supreme Court, plus the Pentagon, plus the army and stuff. Just Congress. Five and a third billion dollars. Billion with a “B.” Five thousand millions.

They “work” about one hundred seventy-five days per year. That means we’re talking $30 million a day.
Even if we generously assume they work twelve hours per day, that’s $2.5 million an hour.
That’s $42,000 per minute.
That’s $700 per second. For Congress to keep the doors open.

(And, let’s keep in mind that it was Congress themselves who told us how much they are spending. So, in reality, it’s probably a much higher number, since they have a tendency toward keeping some of their agencies and stuff off the main list.)

In the time it will take you to read this sentence, the U.S. Congress will spend $8,500 of your money (or probably more) on nothing more than working hard to dream up even more hidden quasi-official agencies to help spend the rest of it.

Holy crap.

The real April Fools’ Day is not April 1st. It’s April 15th.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Different Waze to Die

During Easter break, now popularly known as the-completely-coincidental-break-in-the-spring-that-has-absolutely-nothing-to-do-with-a-major-Christian-holiday (see also, Winter Break), we traveled by car down to the LA area.

For those of you unfamiliar with the LA area, that’s sort of like saying we traveled by plane down to the place where all the planes just sit there and can’t fly.

For most of our travels we knew where we were going and didn’t require any electronic navigational aids, except for one destination. We took the boys to Universal Studios one day and needed some guidance to get there.

Earlier in the trip my wife had been experimenting with Waze and Google Maps, comparing which app gave us the most accurate arrival times. But we were driving in the LA area, and consequently hearing all the arrival times became so depressing we kept shutting the apps off before we arrived.

When it came time to use one of them, she chose Waze, and we were off. We left early in the morning, knowing we had at least an hour and a half of driving, and wanting to get to the park when it opened. The early hour may have been the only thing that saved our lives.

Unlike Google Maps, which sticks to freeway routes and just relays the depressing news to you about how late you’re going to be, Waze actively attempts to avoid the red sections of the freeway by using neighborhood streets as shortcuts. That’s just dandy, except for the fact that the people over at Waze are not taking everything into consideration.

In their corporate headquarters, somewhere in the shiny Silicon Valley no doubt, they are simply seeing available streets for use on a nice, cartoony map of the USA. “Hey, look, it will save this nice LA commuter two minutes if we jog them over on I-710 and down Hermosa Avenue to I-10 instead of staying on I-5. Hermosa Avenue – that sounds lovely, doesn’t it?”

Well, let me tell you, Waze employees, Hermosa Avenue may look like a wonderful shortcut on your screen, but in real life, it will scare the hell out of you. In the first four blocks we saw two chop shops, a crack house, a drug deal in progress, three good places to get murdered, two places to pay to have someone else murdered, three liquor stores, four hookers, and an entrepreneur named Skinny T offering crazy-good deals on ammunition and gently used car audio components from a table on the sidewalk.

Not really what we had in mind for our family drive to the amusement park.

I’m sure the early hour of the day was our saving grace, since it appeared to be a shift change. All the really bad guys had no doubt just retired to their comfy beds after another hard night of felonious skullduggery, and the daytime thugs weren’t up yet.

You folks at Waze may not believe this, but this was not my first near-death experience with computer route-mapping software. In the early days of the internet, MapQuest actually tried to route me down a boat launch ramp in Stockton once. Fortunately, I realized the error before finding out how floaty my car was or wasn’t. All their software engineers are probably retired from their careers in the fast food industry by now, but I assume you learned some valuable lessons from their ground work, as it were.

And of course, I realize that your Waze navigation system operates on continually-updating algorithms that are simply trying to get me from A to B in the shortest time possible, and the area of map software as a whole has vastly improved, but I’ll make a few minor suggestions if I may.

For starters, you might try getting some crime statistics uploaded to your databases. Your app did a nice job of alerting us every time there was a police officer up ahead of us on the side of the highway, but I’m guessing that feature was designed to warn speeders. You probably don’t want your users thinking, “Oh, thank God!” when they hear the police alert.

If you were to gather crime data and start overlaying the street names in the police reports onto your maps, you could form a risk model for each route.

I, as the driver, could then input my acceptable level of risk for my trip, and you could route me accordingly. If I was unsure of my personal risk profile, you might even be able to give me options, like showing me two or three different routes and telling me important information about each, such as, “This route will get you to your destination 7 minutes faster, but you have a 57% higher likelihood of being caught in the middle of a gang war than with Route A.”

You might even be able to give me a Murder-Free Routes Only button, for when I’m with the family. A No Hookers button could also be a nice option.

I realize you meant me and my family no harm, and to your credit, we never saw any boat launch ramps. Nevertheless, I sure found myself wishing there was a Stop Trying to Get Us Killed button that morning.

Food for thought.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

House Cougar

It happened last Friday. The moment I lost all remaining faith in our general public and our education system. If you want to document the date and time for historical purposes, it occurred on Friday, March 23, 2018 at approximately 12:15 P.M.

That’s when the call came into the Rocklin Police Department’s main board. “There’s a mountain lion roaming around near Rocklin High School.”

“Holy crap,” said school officials, probably. “We can’t have a cougar on campus. That could be dangerous. We have no idea where it might go. I mean, we know it will steer clear of the cafeteria, because, seriously, have you tried the food? But it may eat one of the students. They’re sitting ducks. They never look up from their phones.”

The school went on temporary lockdown, enacting the standard wild animal intrusion protocol. First, all the students were moved to the gymnasium, the teachers and staff forming a human corridor to guide them so they wouldn’t bump into walls and doorjambs while concentrating on their phones. Once the kids were secured inside, the teachers and staff went to work emptying the cafeteria kitchen, stacking the school lunches to form protective wildlife-repellant barriers around all the entrances.

With everyone safely behind the impenetrable walls of rubbery chicken strips and rock-hard gluten-free corn muffins, the administrators monitored the situation as Rocklin PD and animal control arrived on the scene.

After a thorough search of the campus came up empty, including inside the cafeteria, just to be safe, the police cleared the lockdown. While all the officers on scene said they were not particularly frightened about the possibility of running across a mountain lion, many of them reported negative phycological effects from their search of the cafeteria, apparently having flashbacks to their own high school histories with the Friday chef’s surprise.

As the students got back to class and the cafeteria officers sought counseling back at the station, animal control officers stayed behind to review the surveillance footage of the campus and the surrounding area.

The video search results were made known to the media, and later in the day the following was released by a local news outlet:

Officers and animal control couldn’t find any trace of a lion.

Video later revealed that the animal was just a large house cat.

Police say they encourage residents to continue to report sightings so that officers can properly determine any potential risk to the community.

A large house cat.

I am not making that up.

Someone in Rocklin, CA, which is located in America, saw a house cat and thought it was a mountain lion. The caller had to be an adult, because if it was one of the high school students there would have been thirty-seven selfies with the cat in the background prior to reporting the sighting, and the lockdown would have been avoided. Plus, most high school students are unaware that their phones have a phone feature. They would have tweeted the selfie to the Rocklin PD’s Twitter page. “omg r u kidding? cutest mountain lion photobomb!”

So an American adult saw a house cat and decided it was a cougar.

I really wish I was making that up.

“Police say they encourage residents to continue to report sightings…” Yes, I guess that’s what the police have to say to the public. I guarantee what police say in the privacy of their own patrol cars is, “A %*^$# house cat!? What the $%##& has happened to #@%&% common sense?”

I am hereby proposing a new rule that should make the police happier: Anyone who looks at a house cat (large, extra-large, or even jumbo), and calls the police thinking it’s a mountain lion gets tazed.

Or they have to eat lunch at the school cafeteria. Either way.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!