Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Alaina's Voice

** Note – This week’s standard humor column has been preempted by a senseless tragedy that hit far too close to home **  

Our friends, Hannah and Arik Housley, lost their beautiful, wonderful, kind, talented, loving, amazing eighteen-year-old daughter in the November 7th shooting in Thousand Oaks, California.

They will bury her tomorrow. Sandy and I are absolutely heartbroken for them.

Hannah and Arik are amazing people, and with the help of their wonderful family they are starting a foundation in Alaina’s honor, to keep her beautiful voice alive.  


Alaina Maria Housley was born July 27, 2000

She lived, laughed, loved, read, smiled, and sang. She had a kind heart, a gentle soul, and was so giving. She coached children, volunteered to serve veterans, and helped everywhere.

Alaina Maria Housley died on November 7, 2018 when someone entered the Borderline Bar in Thousand Oaks, California while she was line dancing and shot her, and eleven other people, taking their lives.

Alaina may be gone in body, but she will be our voice of song, voice of strength, voice of spirit, and our voice of CHANGE.  It's time for change. It’s time to advocate for goodness, love, and life. It’s time to advocate to our country’s leaders to unite us, not divide us.

We will raise Alaina's Voice.

Sandy and I ask that you please pray for the Housleys, and consider including Alaina’s Voice in your holiday giving this year.

With nothing but love for you all,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Post-humorously Elected

The 2018 midterm elections are behind us and once again, during this tumultuous and confusing process, the nation looked to the great state of Nevada for guidance and direction.

Nevada has always been our national beacon of light in times of darkness. Our North Star, keeping the country focused on what matters. What counts. What is truly important to us all.

Roulette, cocaine, and hookers.

Wait, that can’t be right…

In any event, yesterday, Nevada showed us the way forward yet again. They went ahead and elected a dead guy.

We have a long and rich tradition in our larger metropolitan (read: corrupt) areas of allowing dead people to vote, but very rarely do we vote for a dead guy. But that’s the fun of Nevada!

Dennis Hof defeated educator Lesia Romanov yesterday in the race for Nevada's 36th Assembly District by a vote of 63% to 37%.

As per Nevada assembly district election law, at least one person in each race has to be an actual pimp, and that was Dennis in this case. Apparently Lesia is just a teacher or a school principal or something lame like that.

Dennis Hof owned and operated a half-dozen brothels around the state and was running on the platform of “Make Nevada Nevada again,” (it had been previously changed to Nebraska, and people were getting confused), “I Will Protect Our Water,” (meaning, I will protect our rights to have your water delivered to you by a licensed sex worker), and “I Can’t be Bought,” (meaning, I already have all the hookers and cocaine).

Unfortunately for Mr. Hof, he died on October 16th after an extended weekend of celebrating his 72nd birthday at one of his brothels. (Remember to ask your doctor if your heart is healthy enough for birthday activities, and seek immediate medical attention if you experience a birthday celebration lasting longer than four days.)

But the fact that their pimp was inconveniently dead was not going to deter the proud Nevadan District 36’ers from voting him into office in an overwhelming fashion. Well done, 36’ers, well done!

This is certainly a strange situation, and one that raises many questions, the most obvious one being, how bad was Lesia Romanov’s campaign platform that she could actually lose big to a dead pimp?

If she did nothing other than change her late-October campaign speeches to, “Look, I can breathe and wiggle my fingers,” it seems like she should have been able to get closer to at least half the votes.

Who knows how these things work!

Anyway, Nevada, the rest of us just want to thank you for, yet again, showing us the path. You may have just pioneered a new voting strategy of having dead people vote for dead people, completely eliminating the need for a live electorate or candidates. That could dramatically reduce campaign ads being mailed to our houses! That is some next-level visionary stuff.

Whether that dream comes to fruition or not, above all else, I just personally want to thank you for electing a dead guy.

I truly wish all politicians could be as ineffective as he’ll be.

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, October 31, 2018

Frightfully Safe

I hope everyone had a safe and sane Halloween last year. It is my sincere wish (as well as the wish of our National Safety Council and the American Academy of Pediatrics) that none of you or your children were injured, sickened, traumatized, frightened, scared, worried, startled, disturbed, rattled, jolted, displeased, inconvenienced, set on fire, or over-exercised.

You may be saying right now, “Well, yes, Smidge. As a matter of fact, my children were slightly startled in one brief instance last year, and I’m still hopping mad about it.”

If that’s the case, you probably did Halloween wrong. You may not be current on all the latest Halloween safety tips and procedures. Unfortunately, that makes you a bad parent. But before Child Protective Services needs to get involved, we’ve all decided to give you one more chance this year.

Please spend as many hours as necessary (minimum six) reviewing the list below so you’re ready to be a good parent tonight.


Select a safe area for trick-or-treating.  Choose streets that are well lighted and landscaped so you can be seen.  Avoid trick-or-treating on streets you are unfamiliar with, and try to go out before it gets dark.

Were you trick-or-treating after 3:30 P.M.? Shame on you. Did you go to the porch of a house that didn’t have perfectly manicured front hedges? That was incorrect.

Always keep the adult who is watching you in sight.  Never go into a stranger’s home while trick-or-treating.  Never get into a stranger’s car or go anywhere with a stranger.

Cross the street only at intersections and crosswalks.  Do not walk out from behind parked cars or try to cross in the middle of the block.

Did you let your kids jump into the stranger’s van to go get the candy that they forgot at their other house? That was wrong. Don’t do that. Did you cross your neighborhood streets at any place other than an intersection? You are an idiot.

Wait until you get home to eat your treats.  Your parents should inspect each item carefully, looking for needles, open packages and other signs of tampering.  Do not eat homemade items prepared by strangers.

This is equally important – If you did find needles, it is not OK to re-use them.

Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and trick-or-treat bags for greater visibility.

If any part of your child’s costume was a dark, non-reflective, or ill-fitting garment, your children probably already realize you don’t love them.

Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes. Makeup should be tested ahead of time on a small patch of skin to ensure there are no unpleasant surprises on the big day.

If you have found the first properly-fitting decorative hat in the history of the world, please let the rest of us know where you bought it. Any makeup or face paint that says “made in China” is radioactive. Seeking medical attention at this point is futile since you already touched it. Smear it all over and enjoy what time you have left.

When shopping for costumes, wigs, and accessories look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant.

This is especially important for wigs, since every trick-or-treater attempts to stick his or her head inside your jack-o’-lantern, as is customary and traditional.
(Side Note: While fire retardancy is a paramount issue on All Hallows Eve, “The Flaming Wigs” would obviously be a great name for a rock band.)

Do not carry or wear sharp objects that may poke others or damage eyes.  Objects like swords, wands, canes, etc., should be left at home.  Do not carry toy guns that look like real guns.  A citizen or a police officer can mistake a toy gun for a real gun.

Did your child lose an eye last year? That plastic Harry Potter wand was the problem in that instance. Were your kids pinned down behind your neighbor’s SUV for hours in a firefight with local law enforcement officers? Next time simply leave the toy guns at home.

Carry a flashlight to light the way and to alert motorists of your presence.  Never carry candles or any other flammable object.  Do not use candles for decorations or displays.  They can easily be knocked down or can set fire to a nearby curtain or costume.

Did you set yourself, your curtains, and your neighbor’s curtains on fire last year? The candelabra you were using to light your way was the problem. Most cell phones have a flashlight app now. Look into it.

Motorists need to be extra careful on Halloween.  Watch out for careless children who may run into the street without looking.  Expect the unexpected, and anticipate the actions of others.

If you were not “expecting the unexpected” last night, I am incredibly disappointed in you. Sit down and make a list of all the unforeseen issues that might arise tonight so that you may stop sucking at life.

Small children should never carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers. Then parents can do the cutting.

Correction – No one should ever carve pumpkins. It’s a slimy, messy job that attracts fruit flies and makes your hands stink like pumpkin guts. We should all stop.

Consider using a flashlight or glow stick instead of a candle to light your pumpkin. If you do use a candle, a votive candle is safest.
Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and not on a porch or any path where visitors may pass close by. They should never be left unattended.

In summary, a concrete and stucco porch is no place for a small flame encased inside a wet, sticky, flame-retardant gourd. Keep the fire inside your home, on a surface made entirely of combustible materials.

A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage youngsters from filling up on Halloween treats.

We’re not sure who wrote this, but they obviously had never met a youngster before.

Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books or pens and pencils.

Definitely consider doing this if you’re tired of not having toilet paper in your trees, eggs on your house, and soap on the windows of your cars.

Hopefully this list will help you have a much safer and more enjoyable Halloween tonight. I know that was a lot of information at once, but if you are ever in doubt, just use common sense. You can start by asking yourself five simple questions.

Have I fastened my child to his trick-or-treat buddy with reflective tape?

Is my child carrying anything other than a piece of Styrofoam that I bubble-wrapped for safety?

Is the sun still high in the sky?

Are there any dangerous jack-o’-lanterns with insane open flames inside them within a two hundred-foot radius of my child?
You are doing great.

Have we come into contact with any candy whatsoever?
You are a great parent!

Enjoy your Halloween done right this year!

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, October 24, 2018

Beer Proves the Metric System is Useless

When I was in grade school, they tried to teach us all about the metric system under the now laughable guise that the U.S. was going to convert over any minute now.

I learned even more about it in college, and the metric system is great, provided you are using it to solve metric system math problems. That’s because everything is a multiple of ten. Easy peasy.

The metric system is not so great when you are trying to give someone directions, however. People look at you funny when you say, “It’s just about a 1.6 kilometer down the road.”

And it doesn’t work for weights, either, as illustrated in this fictional conversation at the meat counter:

“May I have 907 grams of lean pastrami, please?”

“Get out of my deli.”

A thousand grams is a kilogram, or a “kilo,” but only drug dealers know what a kilo is, and they’re bad people who should be in jail.

The military uses the metric system, but only because the enemy doesn’t understand it, so no one can listen in on a radio conversation and gain any intel.

Army guy on radio - We’re moving in on the Tangos. Six clicks to the west.

Army base – Roger

Enemy 1 – Where are they going? What is a Tango? What is a click?

Enemy 2 – A Tango is us. A click is one kilometer.

Enemy 1 – Why are we Tangos?

Enemy 2 – I have no idea.

Enemy 1 – What is a kilometer?

Enemy 2 – I have no idea. But don’t worry. Those guys are 3.728 miles east of us. They’ll never find us here.

Enemy 1 – Oh, good. I was getting wor…

Army guy on radio – Tangos down.

The only real civilian use for the metric system is fun runs. Everyone is familiar with the 5K, but that’s where it ends. The non-fun runs are either named or listed in their mile length. People run marathons, not 42.16K’s.

“Hey, I heard you ran a half marathon last weekend.”

“Yes, I ran the 21.08K on Saturday.”

“I’ve never liked you.”

Our government – possibly a branch of the military trying to keep us from knowing how much we were drinking, for some reason – decided to sneak in the metric system on our wine and liquor bottles a long time ago.

Your standard wine bottle and the most common liquor bottles are 750ml. ML is the abbreviation for milliliter, or in layman’s terms, one millionth of a liter. (In alcohol slang, milliliter is often shortened to “mil,” which lends credence to the theory that the military was behind this.)

But do you know what we call a 750ml bottle of booze? A fifth.
A fifth of what, you might ask?
A fifth of a gallon, that’s what. But when you do the complicated booze math (which becomes much more complicated with much more booze), you find out that a fifth of a gallon is really equal to 757ml.

That’s right! The government stole 7ml of your Jim Beam. Remember that next time you vote!

For all their immense and far-reaching flaws, at least the government knew better than to mess with the beer bottles. That’s probably because beer has a long tradition of awesome measurements that they didn’t want to mess with. Or, they knew that beer drinkers are much more apt to riot than wine and spirt lovers. Could go either way.

The ultimate beer keg is called a Tun. It holds 252 gallons, or the equivalent of one night’s worth at Ted Kennedy’s house.

The next size down is a Butt, which is half a Tun. *Please insert hilarious joke about your ex here*

A half a Butt is usually known as a cheek, but in the case of beer casks, it’s known as a Hogshead. This is obviously one of the coolest units of measure, and consists of 63 gallons of foamy goodness.

A Barrel is half a hogshead, and a Firkin is a fourth of a barrel. Now here’s where the beer math starts to get spooky.

You see, in the non-metric system of measurements, there are 12 inches in a foot, and 5,280 feet in a mile, which is 1,760 yards. A yard is also a container you can drink beer out of, if you love to look like an idiot and slosh warm beer all over your shirt. None of those things have to do with this, though, so ignore all that.

Ounces are both a measure of weight and volume in our amazing system. There are 16 ounces in a pound, and a firkin of beer weighs 63 pounds, which is the exact number of gallons in a hogshead! You might think that’s a coincidence, but that just proves you don’t understand the true genius of this system and how it relates to beer.

You see, there are 16 weight ounces in a pound, and there are also 16 fluid ounces in a pint. Beer weighs 8 pounds per gallon, and there are also 8 pints in a gallon!

Do you understand now? What that means is that a pint of beer weighs exactly one pound. A pound!

This is why the metric system is useless. No one would ever say, “Let’s 0.45 kilogram these beers and get outta here.”

Come to think of it, that’s probably where “pounding headache” came from, too.

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, October 17, 2018

Cookie Nough

Recently, the administrators at our middle school decided that they hate all the parents of all the kids at the school, so they held a cookie dough fundraiser to punish us.

The evil geniuses who invented the modern school cookie dough fundraiser knew how to get kids fired up about pestering their parents into giving up all their afternoon/evening free time to take them “to the neighborhood across the street where we don’t know anyone because I’ve already gone to every single house in our neighborhood and I still need to get five more sales to get the super balloon.”

At least, the evil geniuses certainly knew how to get Son Number Two fired up. Son Number One could not have cared less about the super balloon.

The stupid, cheap, Chinese, dollar store prizes associated with every level of cookie dough salesmanship suck Son Number Two in like a ping pong ball into a shop vac. He’s been to the Dollar Tree a million times, so he knows damned well how much the crap in the little student catalog actually costs, yet it never occurs to him to just ask me for five bucks. Instead, he wants to go knock on a hundred and eighty doors.

And do you know what’s even better than that? I found out yesterday that the administrators at our elementary school decided that they hate all the parents of all the kids at the school, too. Guess what Son Number Three brought home? Yep, the cookie dough fundraiser package. Are you kidding me!? I just got done with this nightmare.

And guess who Son Number Three thinks is really cool? Yep, Son Number Two. So guess what Son Number Three wants to do?

Yep. “Dad, I want to sell thirty so I can get the *insert the name of some useless plastic toy that will break within the first three minutes of him owning it, that would cost roughly seventy-two cents to purchase, but will require two hundred hours of my life to obtain*.”

We just did this!!! We’re going to have to drive to a neighborhood in another school district and just mumble the name of the school we’re fundraising for.

And let’s just forget the fact that I don’t want to do this for a second. Why do I have to do this at all? I don’t even understand the need for public school fundraisers in the first place. We live in America. We have more money than all the other countries combined.

We have so much money, we feel compelled to give a lot of it away to other countries every year. I assume those countries that receive foreign aid from the U.S. use some of it for their schools, but they also use a lot of it for stuff like new home furnishings and vacations for their top officials, too. How do we know this to be true? Because our top officials taught them how to get away with it.

And here I am in the U.S., watching my tax dollars going to buy President-for-Life Otawanabe of Guyana a new Barcalounger, while simultaneously having to stand on the sidewalk with my best “I’m sorry I brought him to your house” expression on my face while my son begs our neighbors for eighteen bucks in exchange for $1.29-worth of cookie dough. That’s just no way to live.

So, here’s my idea. Let’s stop all the foreign aid programs immediately. Instead of sending blank checks all over the world, we’ll set up the World School Checking Account. Any elementary, middle, or high school on the planet that needs money can just write a check. Money for anything – no questions asked - from a single box of copier paper to an entirely new campus with fifty state-of-the-art buildings – whatever. Get them whatever they need, and the checking account will still have loads of money to spare.

That way, every kid on earth can get a good education, and eventually none of those countries will need foreign aid anymore, and I can stop schlepping with my kids all over town begging for money in exchange for dough.

Anyway, I’ll probably be over to your place with Son Number Three around dinnertime.

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, October 10, 2018


I registered Son Number Two for lacrosse yesterday. It wasn’t easy.

I mean, the website and registration process and everything was fine. That’s not what I meant. It wasn’t easy getting to this point. You know, because of baseball. Allow me to explain.

You see, lacrosse seems to be a spring sport, which conflicts with the standard springtime baseball season. Everyone knows baseball is America’s game, so I wasn’t really sure what Son Number Two even meant when he said he wanted to play something called lacrosse during baseball season.

He said something about baseball not being fast enough. I told him it speeds up tremendously when you misread a routine fly ball with runners in scoring position. He just rolled his eyes. Then he said something about baseball not having enough action. I told him nothing has more action than an 0-2 curve ball with two outs and the bases empty, but he just looked at me funny.

After many confusing conversations, it finally became clear that he wished to actually not play baseball in the spring and play lacrosse instead. I rushed him to the pediatrician, and explained the situation, but the lady at the front desk was as confused as I was, and kept repeating some nonsense about how kids wanting to choose a new sport was natural.

I kept repeating the whole no baseball part to her, but she just wasn’t getting it. Finally, the doctor came out, shined a light in his eyes, told me his brain was working fine, and made us go home.

We need a new pediatrician.

Exasperated, I told my wife all about what our middle son was suggesting and what the whackadoos at the doctor’s office said.

That’s when I found out she’s also crazy.

Now, finding a new doctor is one thing, but finding a new wife and kids seems a bit extreme, so I was forced to begin to wrap my head around this whole no baseball thing and start to consider lacrosse instead.

Being from the west coast, I had never even heard of lacrosse until my son brought it up. It turns out quite a few kids already play it, but they all seem to live on the east coast. Further research showed some east coast high schools and colleges even offer lacrosse, I assume as an elective.

Reluctantly, I purchased a lacrosse stick for him. If you’re from the west coast like me, I’ll describe it for you. It’s a four-foot-long metal stick with a plastic hoop on top, about the size and shape of a parking meter. The hoop is strung with what appear to be shoelaces, to form a net, and apparently, it’s really cool to leave a bunch of the shoelaces longer than they needed to be so they hang down off the back, like Predator’s dreadlocks.

The stick looks like a fantastic device to catch crawdads with, but when I tried to catch and throw a ball with it, it was totally useless. You know what’s good for catching a ball? A baseball glove. And for throwing a ball? Your arm.

Anyway, off we went, useless Predator stick in hand, to the free clinic put on by the local lacrosse club. Much to my amazement, there were some high school kids there who could actually throw and catch a ball with their lacrosse sticks. And they appeared to be from the west coast. They could even run with the stick straight up, keeping the basket over their heads, and the ball stayed in the shoelace net, which was also impossible at my house.

Then the coaches picked up sticks and started throwing and catching. Holy cow! They could throw the ball approximately seven hundred miles per hour and hit very small targets accurately from many yards away. I was dumbfounded.

As I sat on the sidelines, mesmerized by how one coach picked up a ball off the ground by somehow just slapping it with his stick, the league president started showing us the standard boys’ lacrosse equipment.

Shoulder pads, elbow pads, big protective gloves, and a very serious-looking helmet.

Wait a second... you mean to tell me this is going to be a bunch of boys racing around the field banging into one another and hitting each other with the sticks?

Where do I sign him up?

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, October 3, 2018

Alert FEMA, there's a Stormy on the Horizon

My phone went crazy in my pocket today, buzzing like a giant insect and making a sound very similar in tone and annoyance factor to the noise made by my radio during an emergency broadcasting system test. At first, I thought I might be having another episode, so I was relieved to learn that it was just a test of the new Presidential Alert System for wireless devices.

Oh, that’s nice… Wait… the WHAT?

Oh, sweet mother Mary and Joseph! Do you mean to tell me that the U.S. government just gave President Trump unfettered access to text me? That can’t be good.

Looking into the news story, it turns out the Department of Homeland Security posted a reminder about the test on Twitter on Tuesday. I guess Twitter is how all branches of the government now communicate. They apparently attempted to reassure phone users that their numbers are not being shared with anyone. Umm, yeah, not being shared with anyone except YOU GUYS!

Reading further, the story said, While users can choose not to participate in messages of missing children and natural disasters, they are required to receive presidential alerts, which are sent out at the direction of the White House and activated by FEMA.

Rules outlined in a 2006 law states that the White House can issue a presidential alert only if the public were in peril, or during national emergencies. The alert cannot be a personal message on behalf of the president.

Well, that’s a relief! It can’t be a personal message from the president. But wait a minute… it says I’m allowed to opt out of emergency messages regarding natural disasters, but not out of messages from the president about national peril, which will come from FEMA? Correct me if I’m wrong here, but FEMA is our natural disaster organization. They are in charge of stepping in during a natural disaster and making it much worse.

So what other situations beside natural disasters could require the president to need to get in touch with me immediately? What will constitute “public peril” with our revolutionary new alert system?

I mean, the entire free world is obviously propped up and functioning only because of the amazing democracy and general badass-ness of the United States. So, ostensibly, anything that could upset that delicate balance of our constitutional liberty would then threaten the stability of our government, thereby threatening the stability of our entire nation, thrusting each and every citizen into peril. I mean, what would constitute more public peril than the crumbling of the governmental foundation we rely so dearly upon?

Truth be told, this new development wouldn’t be nearly as concerning if it was happening on another president’s watch. A quick search on the history of the cell phone tells us, surprisingly, that Richard Nixon could have been the first president to use a wireless Presidential Alert System.

The first call from a handheld mobile phone was made all the way back in 1973 on a Motorola phone, which was the approximately the size of twenty-six iPhones duct taped together. It took ten hours to charge and had a call time of just thirty minutes. That didn’t matter, though, because it was so heavy you could only hold it to your ear for a minute and a half.

Nixon could have sent out wireless emergency messages, but they would have only been received by three Americans – two Motorola executives and their golfing buddy who received one as a gift when they got tired of calling each other.

Cell phones have been improving on an exponential pace ever since, as has cell phone ownership, so later presidents would have had a progressively bigger audience. Still I think the Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, and Bush 43 administrations would probably have been conservative in its use, had it been around. I’m not so sure about the Clinton presidency. I think we all might have received emergency presidential photos of his interns, asking us to rate them in overall hotness.

We know for sure that the Obama administration could be trusted with this newfound power of communication, because the news story tells us that the wireless alert system actually launched back in 2012, and as far as I know, today was our first Presidential Alert.

Something makes me doubt it will be our last.

We know the first tweet ever sent was in 2006. I’m not sure when the first presidential tweet was sent, or if it was from Bush or Obama, but I do know when the latest presidential tweet was sent. About thirty seconds ago. The next one will be along any minute.

I’m assuming there was a constitutional amendment in the works requiring all citizens to follow the president on Twitter, but now that point seems to be moot. Anything that affects the White House will trickle down to affecting the whole country, right? The citizens need to believe in their leader in order to have a strong country, right? I mean, even someone attempting to besmirch the president’s good name could constitute public peril if it was allowed to get out of hand, right!?

Fire up the texter, boys! We’ve got Presidential Alerts to send.

Maybe all the alerts go through FEMA because her name is Stormy?

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, September 26, 2018

HIPAA Critical, Part III

Son Number Two turned twelve a few months ago, and you know what that means – yes, that’s right, Medical Independence!

Yes sir, nothing points out the fact that the collective IQ of our governing officials is below room temperature better than HIPAA, which stands for Hypocritical Idiots Pounding Abundant Alcoholic Beverages and Possibly Smoking Crack While Passing Insane Health Insurance Bills They Will Never Be Affected By Because They Don’t Live Under The Same Rules As The Commoners. (They cut out some of the letters because the acronym was getting too cumbersome. By the way, “Cumbersome Acronym” is obviously the name of my next rock band.)

The fully-lobotomized bureaucrats who authored the HIPAA bill, presumable with Crayons and drool, included the fun new law that anyone who has reached the ripe old age of twelve should now be in complete control of their medical decisions.

This was not news to our family, since we’d been through this once already with Son Number One. (He’s now thirteen years old, so under the HIPAA regulations he now has his own apartment and a Volkswagen Jetta.)

One easy way to know if your child has HIPAA’d up at twelve, is that their name will disappear from your list of family members on your medical provider’s website. That’s because, due to their newfound medical independence, you no longer have access to their medical records, even though you will be their legal guardian until they are eighteen, or if you are the parent of a hipster, thirty-five.

Now, sure, my twelve-year-old is probably better prepared to make his own medical decisions than Deklan, the thirty-two-year-old bearded chai-sucking blogger living in his parent’s basement, but that’s not really saying much, is it? Son Number Two is still twelve, after all, so his idea of a good medical decision after, let’s say, experiencing a blow to the head, would be to see if he could eat a whole ten-pound bag of granulated sugar with a spoon.

Captain Independence had gone into the doctor for something right before his magic HIPAA birthday, and a few weeks later when I logged on to attempt to pay the bill for the office visit, he had disappeared.

Under the HIPAA regulations, the doctor’s office is prohibited by law to set up his personal medically-independent online account over the phone. It must be done in person with the medically-independent twelve-year-old. In the meantime, I couldn’t pay his bill online because it simply didn’t exist on the website.

I must be honest. I didn’t lose any sleep over that.

When it came time for his regular checkup a few days ago, we went through the ridiculous charade of having him set up his “own” online medical account with the help of the nurse.

Now, I don’t ever expect anything logical to come out of a bureaucrat’s mouth, and neither should you. These are people who have never held down any real job more complicated than running the sour cream gun at a Taco Bell. Their entire existence revolves around clinging to their government job like a rabid squirrel on a caramel popcorn ball, so none of their decisions make any outward logical sense.

I do, however, expect people with real jobs, such as, let’s say, doctors and nurses, to make logical and reasonable decisions, and say logical and reasonable things. I expect these folks to do so during standard, everyday situations, and also in the face of complete government absurdity.

That being said, there we were in the examination room, with the nurse walking Son Number Two through how to set up his username and password on the in-room computer. “Type your username in here,” she said.

I told him what it should be so I would remember it.

She glanced at me with what appeared to be frustration on her face. Then she turned back to him and said, “OK, now your password.”

Again, I told him what it should be.

As a parent of a twelve-year-old, you can imagine how taken aback I was when the nurse turned to me and actually uttered the words, with a sigh, “Just so you know, this is supposed to be his own private account.”

*sound of a small blood vessel exploding in my brain*

I was so shocked I simply couldn’t help myself. I responded, “Just so YOU know, that’s just about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” (Which is a true statement, and keep in mind, I have a teenager who talks.)

She then began sputtering about regulations and how they technically have to follow them, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah, but I cut her off.

“Never mind the fact that he is incapable of making good homework or personal hygiene decisions, let alone good medical decisions. Forget that part of this nonsense. Did you know that I can’t pay his bill without being able to access his ‘private account’? Do you have any idea what his username and password would be right now if I didn’t tell him what to write?”


“Me neither. And do you know who else wouldn’t know? Him, in about fifteen seconds from now. And even if he had ‘remembered’ that he made his password ‘thisPasswordissuperlitty2,’ he would have spelled ‘Password’ wrong in the middle, so it wouldn’t have mattered. So, if you really want it to be his ‘private account,’ I'm actually all for that. Keep sending him the bill, and we’ll keep not paying it, and then you can send his medically-independent ass to collections and see how much money a judge will let you try to squeeze out of a twelve-year-old.”

Thankfully, they were basically done and we were able to leave before any more blood vessels popped in my head. I didn’t want to have to be admitted for treatment of a HIPAA-induced stroke.

I know the nurse was just trying to do her job in the face of governmental idiocracy, and I appreciate that, but c’mon, people! No matter what they tell you to do next, let’s make sure that common sense doesn’t get too uncommon out there!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Old School Dance

I’m not one hundred percent sure what has changed, but things are definitely different now, and somehow, I blame cell phones.

When I was in junior high we all couldn’t wait to go to the school dances. Nowadays, inexplicably, we have to tell our boys that they are going. “But it’ll be lame. I don’t wanna go!”

Shut up and get in the car.

Kids just don’t seem to want to hang out at school together after hours as much as we did. I think they are simply too connected now. It’s too easy for them to communicate via texting and Facetime, so they don’t see the value in going to the dance.

Do you know what you can’t do with a text? Slow dance with a girl, that’s what! (I don’t even want to think about or discuss what kids can and can’t do with Facetime, so let’s all just not go there.)

Our boys don’t even have phones, so you would think they would crave the socialization, and yet Son Number One’s biggest highlight at the last dance was buying a Snickers bar and two sodas at the snack table. We didn’t have a snack table when I was his age. We danced with girls! At least we talked a lot about dancing with the girls, and sometimes we actually did.

One problem with the current state of affairs at the middle school/junior high dances might be the music. It’s entirely possible that the songs just aren’t as awesome now, and by “entirely possible,” I mean “definitely true.”

Music today just isn’t as good as it was in the mid-eighties, and many of the songs are so digitally enhanced and auto-tuned that even if the dance was cool enough to have a live band, they wouldn’t be able to perform them anyway.

Many of our dances had live music. Rock bands made up of local high school kids that we actually knew or knew of, who could actually play instruments really well, would come to our junior high dances and cover all the cool Top 40 songs by Bryan Adams, Duran Duran, Night Ranger, etc.

If we had actual video tape of the events, which would have been recorded on actual video tape in a camera the size of a Ford Fiesta, I think we would discover that the bands actually sounded pretty bad. But I remember the events as being on par with a real rock concert, only with parent chaperones and no forty-five-dollar T-shirts for sale.   

As long as I live, I will always remember the night when Tim Spangler, one of the mega-cool older high school kids, showed up at our seventh-grade dance to be the guest singer for one song – What I Like About You, by The Romantics.

I had never seen a guest singer show up to sing anything. I didn’t even know “guest singer” was a thing. At the time, however, I thought it was quite simply the coolest possible thing anyone had ever done on earth, ever.

And has there ever been a song in the history of music that makes you want to dance more than What I Like About You, by The Romantics?

Yes, is the obvious answer. It Takes Two, by Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock makes you want to dance more, but that wasn’t released until 1988, so at the time in the mid-eighties, What I Like About You was the top dance song.

When that opening guitar hits and the whole band shouts, “Hey!” into their microphones, even the chaperones and the principal get up and dance.

It’s sad that kids don’t have those kind of experiences today. I think there’s only one real solution that makes any sense. I’m obviously going to have to DJ the next dance.

Better bust out my mixed tapes.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Release of Sanity

My grandfather left home to go out on his own at fourteen years old. Those were obviously different times, but now that I’m a father, I think that was very considerate of him. Son Number One will turn fourteen in a couple months, and he shows absolutely no signs of wanting to move out. Rude!

And it doesn’t end there. I just know that if he hangs around, his two younger brothers will follow his lead, continuing to live here and eat our food throughout high school.

Do you know what that means? Do you even realize the implications?

It means I have at least eight more years of filling out liability and medical release forms!

Over the past thirteen-plus years, I have filled out approximately two bazillion forms related to our three boys, and almost six-fifths of them were liability and medical release forms.

Can we just talk about liability release forms for a minute? I’m really hoping that after this discussion we can just be done with them, OK America? Great!

Liability release forms are useless. When I bring my kids to your trampoline fun park, you insist that I sign a document saying that anything that happens to my child under your roof, in your parking lot, or in greater North America is not your fault. I scoff at that idea, but I sign that document anyway, because if I don’t, I can’t leave my kids at your trampoline fun park and sneak away to have twenty stinkin’ minutes with no one yelling to me about how much of a giant butthole their brother is.

You and I both know that document means absolutely nothing if my child gets hurt because of, let’s say, your lack of trampoline maintenance and poor decision making with regard to reptile enclosure placement.

“Your honor, it’s simply not our fault that this man’s son was mauled when our obviously well-past-the-end-of-its-useful-life trampoline ripped and he fell through into our pet alligator’s tank that we placed underneath the trampoline so it would be out of everyone’s way. I mean, they signed the liability release, for crying out loud!”

If I brought my own form stating that you would hold us harmless if my son intentionally burned down your trampoline fun park because he loves barbecued alligator, would you sign it? Of course not. The only reason we parents sign these things is because we all know they won’t hold up in court if your business does something stupid, and we can’t get away from our children unless you take them.

And don’t even get me started on medical release forms. I mean, at least they serve an actual purpose – to communicate any medical concerns to the folks who will be watching our children – but they are still annoying, and here’s why: We are constantly filling out medical release forms for every single activity that our children do, but every organization’s form is “unique,” and they all ask the same exact set of idiotic questions.

We should be able to provide any child caregiver with our own pre-printed medical release form. Ours would be a business card that read:
This is Son Number Three. He is allergic to nothing. You already have my name and phone number or I wouldn’t have given you my kid.

Instead, roughly half my existence on this planet has consisted of filling out the same information on each special medical release form that I am given:

Doctor’s Name:
Doctor’s Address:
Doctor’s Phone Number:
Health Insurance Provider:
Health Insurance Plan Number:

Literally no one within a ten-mile radius of this field trip will ever use any of that information. I have never once been able to actually speak to my sons’ doctor on the phone, yet you want his number? And what on earth are you planning to do with his insurance information?

“Oh, no! That boy has fallen and seems to have broken his arm and he’s bleeding from his ears. Get me his medical release form so we can schedule his next six-month wellness check and hopefully get a flu shot in the same visit.”

It’s time to stop the madness, America. If we all band together and stay strong, we can do it. From now on, when we fill out the medical release forms, over the entire doctor and insurance information section, we’ll just write three numbers with a big black Sharpie marker – 911.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Turning 40

I went to another Human Powertrain Warranty Expiration gathering this weekend. You might know them by the more common term – 40th birthday party.

I’m not sure when the trend began, but the 40th birthday seems to be the really big celebration these days. The spouse of the warranty expiree usually throws a huge party. My wife took me on a surprise three-day weekend getaway with friends. I threw my wife a surprise party at our house with about a million people. We had friends who rented out an entire restaurant. It’s crazy!

The parties are fun, but they are a conflicted celebration at best. What are we really celebrating? No one wanted to turn 40. There has never been a 20- or 30-something on earth who has thought, “Can’t wait to turn 40! That will be amazing!”

Every human approaches “The Big 4-0” with the same thought: “Holy %&*#! I’m about to turn 40! How the hell did that happen!?” Every person under 40 at the party is thinking, “better them than me,” and every guest over 40 is thinking, “that poor bastard has no idea what they’re in for.”

That’s because 40 is the year that your entire body stops working like it used to. Your vision blurs. Your hearing degrades. Your feet and knees hurt. Your tendons and ligaments become brittle and weak, as if your muscles are now attached to your bones with those wooden coffee stir sticks. Your hips ache if you sit for too long. You can cripple your lower back for weeks by stepping off the bottom stair a little weird. You can actually hurt yourself by sleeping.

The 40th birthday is the turning point from “Hey, I’m another year older!” to “Hey, I survived another year!”

Our recent 40-year-old club inductee was treated by her husband to a Mexican cruise to celebrate with friends. We couldn’t make the boat ride, but we were able to attend the follow-up celebration back here, where we all went out bar-hopping. A common theme of 40th birthday parties is to pretend to be able to drink and dance like you’re still 25. This is called the denial phase.

(Although, no matter how deep you are into the denial phase, or how much you want to be young again, if you’re over 40, you’re still thinking, “Why is it so loud in here? I don’t understand why we need all these flashing strobe lights and that fog machine, and I would really appreciate it if we could turn on a few more overhead lights so I don’t kill myself on those steps.”)

The denial phase is fun, but invariably, the reality phase sets in the next day. Case in point: our bar-hopping adventure ended up at a country dance joint called the Crazy Horse, and they had a mechanical bull.

Do you know why there are no mechanical bulls in places like Starbucks, or McDonald’s, where they don’t sell alcohol?

I do.

Do you know why there are no professional rodeo bull riders over the age of 22?

I do.  

Do you know how sore you are the next day after attempting to ride a mechanical bull at one o’clock in the morning?

I have no idea.

You thought I rode it? Ha! Are you crazy? I’m 46. I know better by now!

The birthday girl woke up complaining that her arm was awfully sore, though. And her butt. And legs. And back… Happy birthday! Welcome to the Over-40 club. It was a fun party.

I’d say I can’t wait for your 41st birthday party next year, but let’s be serious… nobody celebrates turning 41.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Thanks, Professor Obvious

I’m seriously thinking about becoming a scientist. Based on two recent news stories, it seems like a really easy job:

Science says women have a more active brain, compared to men

Men tend to lose weight more quickly than women

Wow, that’s some real cutting edge, barn burning research there, Science Team. How do you folks pick your research topics, anyway? Do you have a big list of topics on the wall to choose from, titled, “Obvious stuff on which we should spend no time or money trying to prove”?

I mean, if that’s what you researched, what studies were you forced to forgo due to constraints on your budget and schedule? Are puppies cute? Do people like tacos?

The first article stated that for the brain activity study, scientists from Amen Clinics in Newport Beach, California, went back and looked at over 46,000 brain imaging studies. What an incredible waste of time and money.

Who has the more active brain? That study could have been handled in an afternoon with one married couple. One at a time, sit the woman and the man on a couch and ask them each a simple question, such as, “Are you comfortable right now?”

The woman might start to answer right away, but she will undoubtedly stop herself and begin asking you a series of questions to try to determine exactly what you meant.

“In what context am I being asked to consider my comfort? Do you mean emotionally? Physically? Spiritually? Or do you mean in my role as a mother, wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, sibling, friend, leader, follower, volunteer, employee, supervisor, executive, team member, neighbor, or soccer team mom?”

Before any of that is sorted out she will begin to question your motivations for asking the question in the first place. The whole answer will take forty-five minutes, and there will be no actual answer.

The man will answer, “Yes.”

Brain study completed. Cost: Zero dollars and forty-five minutes of your life.

As for the weight loss study, the same husband and wife could have been consulted. Instead, professors from various universities around the world, including the University of Copenhagen (mascot: The Fighting Canker Sores) and the University of Auckland (nickname: NZEwe), took over 2,000 participants and subjected them to an unspeakably cruel diet known as the Cambridge Weight Plan.

The plan involves consuming only 810 calories daily, mostly consisting of juices and shakes. That’s just mean. I think I probably consume 810 calories before I even have my actual breakfast. All that brutal starvation and suffering in the name of science could have been avoided by simply listening to our married couple.

Question: Who loses weight easier, you, or your spouse?

Wife: “Are you kidding? Is that question meant to be a joke? Because it’s hilarious. This idiot’s idea of exercise is laying on the couch yelling at the TV, but he loses ten pounds if he happens to skip lunch one day. Meanwhile, I’m eating nothing by kale and celery, and getting up at 4:45 every morning to sweat my ass off at spin class for an hour before work. Guess what? None of my ass is actually sweating off, and I’ll gain three pounds one week because I walked by a Starbucks and accidentally smelled one of the muffins. Shut your stupid face.”

Husband: “No comment.”

Weight loss study completed. Cost: Zero dollars and possibly a threat on your life.

I’m telling you, as long as I can steer clear of asking woman about anything to do with weight loss, being a scientist seems like a sweet gig.

I wonder who I need to talk to about signing up? I’d like to dig into that taco study right away.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

There's a Problem Nextdoor

Besides being an amazing vehicle for changing hearts and minds on the subjects of gun control, partisan politics, and organized religion, social media has another hidden benefit: finding out what’s happening in your own neighborhood. Gone are the cumbersome days of having to actually put on clothes and speak face-to-face with your neighbors to get news. Social media again makes it easier to stay in your pajamas until dinnertime and still know what’s going on right outside your front door.

I am a member of a number of neighborhood groups on Facebook, not because I live in a number of different neighborhoods, but because we all can’t seem to agree on which group to use. They are meant to be a “message board” for the happenings in our community, both good and bad. Fortunately, no one ever uses the semi-anonymous nature of these groups to vent about their pet peeves or tear down anyone with an opinion that differs even slightly from their own. That’s what makes these groups so valuable to our community!

In addition to the handy Facebook community groups, I also have a Nextdoor account. It’s a website and app strictly dedicated to neighborhood issues, and it’s even more civil and non-judgmental than the Facebook groups, if that’s even possible! People are always so polite and kind on the internet - it just warms my heart.

Just as a for-instance: the other day, a man posted some pictures on Nextdoor of a gentleman on a bicycle going through his trash cans early in the morning. He warned us, his neighbors, to be on the lookout for this man. That was great.

What was even better was the positive responses he received from his neighbors about his post. One helpful neighbor gave him a lot of municipal codes indicating that garbage is public property, as long as it’s on the street. Another budding legal scholar provided civil codes that stated garbage was private property even when it was on the street. Good, and, I’m sure, legally accurate points were made on both sides of the helpful trash ownership issue.

Another happy and well-adjusted neighbor inquired as to why the homeowner didn’t simply go out and speak to the early morning trash diver, instead of cowardly taking photos of him from the safety of his warm and cozy second-story window. He also politely asked why the man hated poor people. A mutually-respectful dialog ensued.

A fun and light-hearted back and forth occurred between three or four of the neighbors about compassion for the homeless versus tangling with drug-crazed lunatics rooting around in filth and garbage. Personal defense classes were touted, and civilian, police, and military tactical confrontation situations were explored with a lively discussion. It was all very helpful.

Some of the man’s neighbors even made polite suggestions about alternative communities he could move to. He, in turn, suggested other towns and neighborhoods that might be more suitable for them. Many neighbors chimed in regarding their housing histories. It was a truly delightful and charming response all around.

Unfortunately, however, our neighborhood sites are not always filled with these kinds of heartwarming and useful conversations about refuse. Many times, there is simply no room for the helpful things we look forward to, because the sites are clogged with posts about “lost” pets.

In fact, on any given day, roughly six thousand percent of all information being shared on these sites is about a wayward dog or cat.

FOUND DOG: Found this cute Yorkie on Peach Street. He was so scared and alone. I have him safely on my couch and have fed him half a Prozac and a ribeye steak. Does anyone know who his people are?

LOST CAT: Please help. Mr. Socks, our seventeen-year-old Siamese, has gone missing. Here’s a picture of him when he was a kitten. We haven’t seen him in over twenty minutes, and we’re worried sick. He was last seen on top of our play structure in the backyard, swatting at butterflies. He’s such a scamp. We live at the corner of Maple Street and Truman Drive.


I feel like I can save us all a lot of time and energy by clearing a few things up about dogs and cats, so we can get back to the really important garbage-related posts.

Dogs are rarely, if ever, lost. They just love to party. If your dog is more than a block away from your house, it’s simply because it smelled something amazing in another town, and it’s going to investigate.

Dogs can smell a pigeon fart from twelve miles away, and they know exactly what your house smells like, so they can find their way home any time. And since they are a dog, they will come home, because you feed them and scratch them. Food and belly rubs will trump anything else they have going on by dinnertime, so just sit back and wait for them to amble on home.

And if you happen to see a dog wandering around without its owner, please have some compassion for the poor animal, and leave it alone. Think about how you’d feel if you were out at a party and someone kidnapped you made you eat another brand of dog food. See?

Cats are another matter entirely. Cats are NEVER lost. If your cat is no longer at your house, it simply got tired of your insolence and left to teach you a lesson. The lesson is this: You don’t own me. I allow you to provide me with food and a place to nap, and in exchange, you get to be seen with me. The minute you start getting any false ideas about who is in charge here is when we have a problem, insignificant human. Many times, I need to leave, because frankly, it’s very trying being around the likes of you all day. I need my space. And also, sometimes I need to kill a lizard.

I’m very surprised you cat owners don’t already understand this stuff. Please stop posting about lost cats, and if you ever find a cat wandering around your house, just remember, it has nothing but pure contempt for you. Leave it to its own devices, for both your sakes.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to a riveting thread on Nextdoor about suspicious solicitors and whether or not Girl Scouts need permits.

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, August 15, 2018

Get out of this Room-ba!

I’m going to let you in on a little secret about me: I hate vacuuming.

I know, I know. You were probably thinking to yourself, “That Smidge, he just loves writing books, eating nachos, and vacuuming.”

But alas, only two of those things are accurate. I hate the task of vacuuming, and I also hate the word. I can never spell it right. I always think it should have two C’s and one U. I’m going to write my congressman.

Anyway, since I dislike vacuuming so much, you can imagine how excited I was when I found a reasonably-priced Roomba at Fry’s Electronics. (If you are unfamiliar with Fry’s, it’s a strange, semi-nationwide chain of stores that give you the impression that a Walmart, a Radio Shack, and a 7-Eleven all got together and had a love child. You can buy a 60-inch flat screen TV, a no-kink garden hose, a three-pack of Barbie dolls, a ten-micro-farad capacitor for your circuit board, and a 64-ounce soda all at the same cash register.)

Roombas are made by a company called iRobot, and just like the iPhone, the new ones cost about the same amount as a semester at Yale. But apparently, just like the iPhone, last year’s models are looked down upon by the hipster robotic vacuum in-crowd, so I was able to score one for what a semester at a midwestern junior college might cost. It was on the aisle between the Samsung refrigerators and the pool noodles.

I brought it home, absolutely giddy with how much time and frustration it was about to save me.

And then I watched it work.

I don’t think it’s saving me any time at all, and it’s certainly not reducing my frustration levels. I was under the impression when I purchased it that you just push the button and walk away, letting it clean your house for you, but that’s not how it works. It must be constantly monitored and given verbal directions, because it seems to be a total vacuuming moron.

That’s the table leg. Just go around it. Yes, that’s the same one. You ran into it twice within five seconds. Who programmed you?

Go left! Left!



OK, now you’re stuck under the easy chair. Why would you go under there? You have sensors on your front. Use them!

Oh, my God, get out from under the chair. Get out! OK, fine, let me lift it up. OK, there you go. Now go left. Left!

Why would you make a 180 after you just got stuck under that chair? Why are you going back?

Here, let me block you with my foot. Yes, I don’t want you to go back under there. That’s it, turn around.

No! Don’t come back to my foot!


OK, good, now you’re heading the right direction. Get that carpet. Wait. Where are you going? Why are you leaving this room? You made one six-inch-wide pass at the living room carpet and you’re leaving? There’s a lot more carpet!!

Why would you go back to that table leg?

OK, good. Get the hardwood floors. This is why you’re here. Get the dog hair. Looking good. I’m going to leave you now and go do something else.

I need to… what’s that clicking sound? That’s a baseboard, why are you… that’s a wall. Why are you just running into it? Are you stuck on the baseboard? Seriously? How is that possible? Did your designer not plan for baseboards?? Get off! Just go left!!! OK, let me kick you loose, and then I really have to go do other things. I can’t be here with you the whole… get out of the drapes!

Just go left!

Dining room, OK. Great, looking good. No, that’s a chair. Don’t go under… why? Why would you go under the chair? Just spin around and go back out the way you came. What is hard about that?? Why would you go back there? OK, now! Go left!

Let me just lift the chair up for you. OK, get out. Go get the carpet. Don’t… sweet mother Mary and Joseph, why would you go back under the same damn chair!?!?

OK, seriously, I need to go. Just get the carpet over there to the left.

That’s the coffee table. I don’t think you fit under… yes, you’re stuck. Oh, you have a nice female voice with a soothing accent in there to tell me you’re stuck. I can see that, but thanks for the verbal heads-up. Let me just get you out of there. OK, now go get the… No! Go left! WHY WOULD YOU GO BACK TO THE SAME PLACE YOU JUST GOT STUCK!?!?  

OK, go do… another chiming sound? What does that one mean? Now where are you going? Back to the dock? Oh, battery is low… well, OK. Thanks for cleaning under all those chairs. Maybe next time we could get more of the actual floor? Have a great rest.

For those of you who watch too many sci-fi movies and worry that the machines are going to take over the world, I wouldn’t sweat it. I don’t think we’re quite there yet.

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, August 8, 2018

Streaming Moo-vies

Our security was breached earlier this week, and we immediately went on high alert. Things were tense on Monday when I received the warning email, alerting me to suspicious activity on my account.

From: Netflix
Subject: New sign-in to your account

New sign-in to Netflix

Hi Marc,
We noticed a new sign-in with your Netflix account.

Device: Computer
Location: United States
Time: August 6th, 5:17 PM PDT

If you signed-in recently, relax and enjoy watching! But if you don’t recognize this sign-in, we recommend that you change your password immediately to secure your account.

We're here to help if you need it. Visit the Help Center for more info or contact us.

–Your friends at Netflix

Wow, Netflix, thanks for the heads up! A device inside the borders of America logged onto my account. Hmm… I’m currently in America, but there are at least a few other people here as well, so I really don’t know what to think.

I mean, if you had said Location: Myanmar (Formerly Burma, name changed in 1989), I would have known immediately that the activity was unauthorized, and I would have learned a fun fact about a Southeast Asian country. But sadly, that wasn’t the case.

I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but the United States is divided up into fifty or so states, united together for a common goal: twenty-four hour access to reasonably-priced fast food. Each of these states has a border, so we can keep them all separate. Rarely do those borders move, so as long as you’re sitting still, it’s fairly simply to figure out which state you’re in.

But you didn’t tell me Location: Louisiana (Formerly Burma, name changed in 1812). If you had, I would have known right away that something was amiss, since I’m in California.

And again, I’m not sure how up on geography you are, but most states here in the U.S. are divided into counties, and further delineated by cities, towns, villages, hamlets, parishes, townships, Nike corporate campuses, etc.

But you didn’t tell me Location: Los Angeles (Formerly Mexico, name changed in 1848). If you had, I would have immediately accused my sister of stealing my account, since I’m in Rocklin and she has a history of shady behavior.

But I already knew it wasn’t her. The new sign-in to the account was my son, getting his new school Chromebook loaded up with all the important academic apps like Netflix and Candy Crush, and he was sitting three feet away from me.

Come on, Netflix, you can do better than this. Every single TV, computer, tablet, and phone in our home connects to Netflix from the same Wi-Fi router. You literally could have told me Location: Your living room (Formerly The Allen’s living room, name changed in 2008). How hard could that actually be?

I don’t know anything about computers, but I do know the story of a cow. Many years ago, before the internet (so you guys at Netflix weren’t around yet, but pay attention to this story anyway), mad cow disease broke out in North America. Scientific investigators were able to track the original source of the disease back to a single cow in a specific stall on a Canadian farm. If tracking a disease back to a stall number in a barn was possible without the internet, please tell me how you can only pinpoint a new log-in to my account down to a 3.8 million square mile area?

Maybe you guys should assign each Netflix account a cow…

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!