Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Say What?

There have been a lot of times in advertising and communications when I thought it might have been better to have a professional in charge. Or maybe even a third-grader.

These are a few of those times:

I heard a radio ad looking for volunteers for a weight loss study to test a “revolutionary new pill.” They said, To participate in this study, you must lose at least ten pounds.
Hmm… Not going to be much of a "study," I guess.

Lipitor commercial: Claims about Lipitor are backed up by over 450 ongoing or completed studies.
Umm… How can you back up a claim with an ongoing study?

I was exiting a Chevron bathroom with the door offering the new "touch-free handle." The picture showed someone putting their arm through it and opening it with their shirt sleeve.
That’s great news for all you germaphobes out there, but I have a question. Can we really still call this giant thing a “handle?”

Saw a sign on freeway runaway truck ramp – the ramp designed to stop an out-of-control big rig. The sign said, "No stopping anytime."
Uh, doesn't that sort of miss the point of the ramp?

I was in the McDonald’s drive thru ordering an Egg McMuffin and the lady on the speaker said, “That's with Canadian bacon, right?” My first thought was, do you guys not know how to make it?

I saw an official US Army bumper sticker in Spanish. It said, Yo soy el army.
Umm... Que? One of my main hopes for the army of my country is that everyone who has a gun understands what the guy in charge is saying.

I saw a license plate bracket that said “VFW Life Member.”
Isn't that kinda automatic?

Heard an ad for a pharmacy that apparently specialized in pet medicine. Does your pet run and hide when it's time to take their medication? We can turn your pet’s medication into a cream that you can rub on their ears.
If I'm giving them their meds by rubbing it on their ears, doesn’t that mean I’m taking their medication, too? That can't be a good idea, can it?

I heard a radio ad for some place called, advertising high-end shotguns. Whether it’s waterfowl, upland game, clay pigeons, turkey defense, or tactical…
The words “turkey” and “defense” were said far too close together, so it sounded like the clientele were constantly needing to defend themselves against attacking turkeys. I am assuming that is not the case, but I can’t be sure where these people live.

On a Folsom Lake Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep ad, in the monster truck radio voice – Giant Inventory! If we don’t have it, it’s not in stock!
Uh… yes. That is exactly what that means.

Heard on a radio ad for, which billed themselves as an offsite phone system service for small businesses to have professional voicemail, etc.
Set it up online at, or call 1-800-ring-one. If our agents are busy, please call again later.

Mac’s Plumbing radio ad - This month’s special… We’ll unclog any drain for $99 or it’s free.
Question 1 - Why would I pay if you can’t unclog it in the first place?
Question 2- Isn’t it normally “the same day or it’s free” or something like that? I don’t understand “$99 or it’s free.” Can I bargain with you? How about, $1 or it’s free? That way we wouldn’t have so much to figure out.

Radio spot for The Mutual Fund Store - Do you change your own oil? Cut your own hair? Do your own teeth cleaning? Of course not. Why would you do your own mutual fund planning…
I don’t think I’m their target audience, because I answered “yes” to all three.

Seen on the wall at our local electrical utility: Accident Prevention Awards.
How are these distributed? I mean, how do you really know that you prevented an accident?

Ad for Mercy Orthopedics  - If you are experiencing joint pain or limited mobility…
I have been experiencing limited mobility my whole life, but I don’t think it has to do with bad joints. I’m just slow.

Saw “INKNPPR” on a personalized license plate, with a license plate bracket that said, “It says, Ink and Paper.”
If you have to explain your personalized license plate with the bracket, I think you did it wrong.

On the local talk radio show, the news guy was teasing an upcoming story. “Prepare to be shocked.”
Can you even do that?

Driving down in the rural California central valley I heard an AM station weatherman refer to himself as “KMJ 580 meteorolist”
I wasn’t sure I heard him correctly the first time, but over the next few hours I heard the meteorologist mispronounce his own profession at least four or five times.

This last one is different, and probably falls under the category of “unintentional marketing,” and I swear every word is true. We were early to Son Number One’s teeth cleaning visit and hadn’t gone into the office yet. Sitting in the car, facing the dental office, we watched one of the hygienists arrive for work. She got out of her car and walked right in the front door carrying an 18-volt DeWalt power drill with a twelve-inch-long drill bit.

Took me fifteen minutes to catch up to my son.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2019 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, January 9, 2019

The Elway, the Truth, and the Life

I love sports, I love Jesus, I love crazy stories, and I love college and professional athletes that use their social influence in good ways, so I have no stinkin’ idea how this story eluded me until this week. I guess I was busy in 2012.

This entire thing has been fact-checked by ESPN – the gospel of sports – but you can look into it if you want. And if you don’t believe in God, you can chalk this “crazy coincidence” up to whatever you want.

You be the judge.

Tim Tebow was the quarterback for the University of Florida Gators, and on January 8, 2009 they won the national championship game. All year, he and his teammates had written little messages on their eye black. Tim is a Christian, so he had chosen a bible verse – Philippians 4:13 – which says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

He had “Phil” under one eye and “4:13” under the other for the entire season. As they advanced during the year, Phil 4:13 became a big thing on campus. Tim saw that happening, and going into the championship game, he decided to change the verse. He knew it would be news, and he knew millions of people would be watching, so he wanted to choose a bible verse that would be best to spread the word about his faith. He settled on John 3:16.

If you are unfamiliar with it, John 3:16 is basically the essence of Christianity in a sentence. It says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

So, out goes Timmy with “John 3:16” under his eyes, and during the game ninety-four million people Googled “John 3:16.”

That’s pretty cool.

Fast forward to 2012, and Tim is now the Denver Broncos quarterback, and exactly three years to the day, on January 8, 2012, they were facing the Pittsburg Steelers as the wildcard. Tim and the Broncos took the field at home and proceeded to knock the Steelers out of the playoffs in overtime.

Another 90 million people Googled “John 3:16” during the game, and it became the number one trending phrase across most social media platforms for the night.

That’s pretty cool, and also pretty easy to explain.

Now, you might think the Broncos knocking off the Steelers was the only miracle that night, but here’s what else happened in that game:

Tim Tebow threw for 316 yards.

Tebow averaged 31.6 yards per completion.

A pivotal interception by the Broncos came on 3rd and 16.

The Steelers time of possession for the game was 31:06

And CBS’s final quarter-hour ratings for the game – at the time when Tim Tebow threw the game-winning eighty-yard touchdown pass, the longest pass in postseason overtime history – were 31.6.

Those “crazy coincidences” are a little harder to explain.

Like I said, you be the judge.

The Broncos’ 2012 run ended there, and Tebow’s football career is now over, but he’s switched sports and is working his way up in minor league baseball.

I know what you’re thinking – his batting average is probably .316, right?

No, not quite. That would take a miracle!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2019 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, January 2, 2019

About the Author, 2019

Here at Just a Smidge, we continue to gain new readership each year. This past year alone we have documented as many as two new readers. So, for both of you just joining us, welcome! Let’s start the New Year with a little meet and greet, shall we?

Hi. I’m Marc Schmatjen, aka Smidge, and I’m the lone staff writer and head janitor here at Just a Smidge. Based on how much money I make writing this column, it would be inaccurate to call this my job, so let’s just go with “hobby.” It would be fun to be able to contribute to the mortgage payment and the food bill, however, so if you know anyone looking to syndicate a humor column, there’s an imported beer of your choice in it for you in exchange for an introduction.

I am a forty-six-year-old husband of one and father of three. My wife is an amazing woman who teaches high school kids math, which means she was born with an unnaturally high level of patience. This is a good thing, because it makes it possible for her to love me (or at least tolerate me), and it also allows her to do her job. Most days, however, the high school kids eat into her patience reserves a little too much, not leaving enough left over for dealing with me. I sleep on the couch a lot during the school year.

We have three boys, whom we affectionately refer to as Son Number One, Two, and Three. Two of them are teenagers and all three of them are loud and smelly and they eat a lot.

Anyway, enough about my wife and kids. Let’s talk more about me. Here are twenty other things that you should probably know about me:

1) I am a phenomenal driver, an amazing cook, and a first-rate housekeeper.

2) My grandfather killed General Patton's dog. That is the single most historically outstanding thing anyone in my family has done. We are a proud people.

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

4) I am loosely related to a U.S. president, but I’m not sure which one. I think it's either Grover Cleveland or Woodrow Wilson, but I don't care. I would only be excited if it was Teddy Roosevelt, and it isn't.

5) A few of my literary heroes are Roald Dahl, Erma Bombeck, Michael Connelly, and Dave Barry. My grandfather did not kill any of their dogs, that I am aware of.

6) I believe society would be better served if we could bring back these words into everyday use: Bailiwick, Hootenanny, Skullduggery, Scofflaw, Ballyhoo, Shenanigans, Donnybrook, Catawampus, Chicanery, Cajoled, Hullabaloo, Besmirch, Boondoggle, Melee, Befuddle, Flummox, Hoosegow, Wiseacre, Tomfoolery, and Kerfuffle.

7) As an author and a writer, I am not afraid to say that books of non-rhyming “poetry” with sentences like, “My mind is a seedless grape, grasping to comprehend the melancholy oration, drowning in a cacophony of humanity…” etc., are written by people who are too scared to attempt to write anything that is required to make sense.

8) I am slightly over six feet tall, I weigh around 200 pounds, and I have the bladder capacity of a four-year-old. Unfortunately, Son Number Three inherited this trait. He is ten and has the bladder capacity of a hamster.

9) My three favorite flavors are burnt pepperoni, slightly burnt bacon, and well-toasted sesame seeds. Basically, if it has caught on fire, I want to eat it. Except for my s’more marshmallows. Those should only be browned.

10) I was in shape once. I swam 100,000 yards in one week when I was in high school. I could not swim more than 50 yards or so today without needing a floatation device, an oxygen tank, and a defibrillator.

11) I love bacon and I sit all day. See number 10.

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

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

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

15) I like writing dialogue.
“You do?” they asked in unison.
“Yes. I do,” he said solemnly.

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

17) I love to travel and I love to stay home, but I don’t want an RV. Go figure.

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

19) Coincidently, my favorite thing ever said on television – and I am including anything ever uttered on The Newlywed Game – came from KATU Channel 2 newsman Paul Linnman in 1970 after the whale dynamite was detonated. When large chunks of whale rained down on people and cars over a quarter-mile away, Paul noted, completely deadpan, “The blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds.”

20) My wife is still laughing right now about number 1.

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

See you soon,


Copyright © 2019 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, December 26, 2018

Be Best Life! - Repost

I remember it like it was yesterday – that wonderful Christmas in 2016 when I received the best Christmas gift of all time. Unfortunately, the last two Christmases were – and I fear, all future ones will be – marked by the sad reality that no gift will ever compare to the joy I received that day from Son of Wang. At least my family and I will always have his words of wisdom, and I want to share them again with you.

So, I urge you, dear reader – no matter howvexed your nonutility be, if your food has become depraved or you need to have protection against the tide, have no fear. The Supersealer will not help in any way, but the box will make you laugh until it hurts.

 “The simplicity is comfortable.”


I got the best Christmas gift EVER this year. It’s a crappy ninety-nine-cent as-seen-on-TV plastic bag sealer that is really hard to operate and works poorly. I could care less about the bag sealer. I am in love with the little cardboard box it came in.

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

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

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

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

Finally an inexpensive and easy way to perfectly reseal unused poutions of food. This amazing new SUPERSealer creates an airtight seal that locks in freshness.
You simply slids SUPERSealer along the edge of any bag and it’s sealed airtight. It’s that easy. You’ll not only save on storage bags, but you can save even more buying bulk at warehouse clubs. Just use your SUPERSealer to reseal any unused portions over and over again!

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

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

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

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

“My dad wants you to proofread my copy, Bob. What do you think?”
“This is the most unintelligible thing anyone has ever written. What the hell, Wang?”
“My dad is the owner. I’ll have you fired.”
“Looks great. Let’s print that box!”

Thank you, Son of Wang, for giving my family our new motto:

Be best life!

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, December 19, 2018

The 2018 Do-it-Yourself Christmas Letter

What is the matter with you? You’ve done it again, haven’t you? It’s December 19th and you haven’t written your annual Christmas letter yet. And now there’s no time left to concoct a fairy tale that might be able to put some lipstick on the pig that was your year.

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

The 2018 DIY Christmas letter is here, just for you.

So, pour yourself another glass of mommy or daddy’s special holiday cheer, bubble in the appropriate choices with a #2 pencil, fill in the blank if needed, and you’re all set.

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

Christmas 2018

O   relative or loved one,
O   tolerable neighbor,
O   marginal acquaintance,
O   begrudging work or social obligatory holiday recipient,

Merry Christmas from the
O   Smith
O   Gonzalez
O   Lee
O   Johnson
O   Other _______________


We can’t believe
O   how time flies.
O   winter is here again so soon.
O   how depressing this year has been.
O   we have to send this damned letter to so many of you.

What a year! We
O   are so blessed.
O   are, we must admit, a little tired.
O   are relieved it’s finally over.
O   seriously need to just sell the kids and move to an island.

2018 started with
O   joy in our hearts
O   a ridiculous amount of snow and ice
O   anxiety
O   a whole lotta mood-altering substances

and is ending with
O   gratitude and peace.
O   even more *%@#&$ snow.
O   dread.
O   jail time, most likely.

Dad can’t seem to
O   sit still,
O   stop complaining,
O   snap out of his funk,
O   put a cork in it,

and he
O   continues to volunteer at the church and the shelter.
O   won’t shut up about gas prices.
O   lives in his pajamas.
O   was on a bender and MIA at least half the year.

Mom hasn’t
O   lost a step
O   lifted a finger around the house
O   shut up
O   been seen

since her
O   record-breaking hip replacement recovery time.
O   epic hangnail incident.
O   lottery numbers were “only three away” from the “big money.”
O   parole officer reported her for not checking in this summer.

Sister lives
O   near us now.
O   day to day.
O   on borrowed time.
O   above a strip club.

O   moved back with her family for a big promotion.
O   pretends to be holding it together, but a relapse is obviously coming.
O   is the president of her biker gang, and the DEA has been investigating their activities.
O   was named employee of the month at Big Tony’s Gentlemen’s Club and Laundromat.

Brother is
O   switching parenting roles with his wife and staying home with the kids
O   never too far from the couch
O   making one bad decision after another
O   spiraling out of control

while his
O   wife continues to climb the ladder at her amazing job.
O   unemployment checks continue to roll in.
O   bookie keeps contacting us regarding his whereabouts.
O   childhood hopes and dreams slowly circle the giant toilet bowl of life.

The grandkids just keep growing
O   up
O   outward
O   bolder
O   weed

and we wish
O   we could slow time down somehow to enjoy it all a little longer.
O   they would lay off the McCrap and eat a vegetable every once in a while.
O   their parents would actually call their insolent little butts on it.
O   the court system would be tougher on minors.

We hope this letter finds you
O   thriving and loving life
O   before Christmas
O   relatively sober

this year, and we want to
O   extend our warmest holiday wishes to you and yours.
O   let you know we are still alive, despite what you might have heard.
O   make sure we keep in touch, so we have a “what not to do” example for the kids.
O   be done writing now.

If you ever find yourself in town,
O   please come by, we’d love to see you!
O   don’t hesitate to let us know you were here.
O   just remember, we’re away a lot.
O   I’ll bet you’ll be wondering how you got here, you lush!

Have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

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

See you soon,


Copyright © 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, December 12, 2018

Death by Cabover

Because I used to be a power forward for the Portland Trailblazers, I am still a pretty big deal in the NBA community, and as such, I was given an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the Sacramento Kings’ Golden 1 Center last night. One of the neat features of the arena is a series of air vents located under the seats, spaced every so often in each section. You can text the arena during a game and ask them to heat up or cool down your section as needed.

We had a chuckle when someone asked if they could look at the data of the text requests and graph them by gender. Everyone on the tour, both male and female, agreed that it would probably be roughly 99.95% women requesting a temperature change.

It brought to mind one of my very first columns ever, titled “Hot Chicks and Cool Dudes,” where I explored my Universal Truth that men are comfy in a thirty-degree temperature range, which is the same for all men, and women are only comfortable in a three-degree range that is different for each woman, and can vary wildly throughout the day.

That got me thinking about one of my other Universal Truths – Times You Almost Died. Us men are far, far dumber creatures than women, and that Universal Truth shines brightly when you ask someone to tell you about a time they almost died. Most women will be hard-pressed to come up with one or two stories, but every guy in the world will have ten stories right off the top of his head, and two of them happened last week.

And THAT got me thinking about one of my stories: The Old Ford Cabover Incident.

In college I worked for a landscape products company called JJ’s. It was owned by Jack and Joanne Lord, but it was named JJ’s prior to them buying it. No kidding. Anyhow, they were fantastic folks, and over the course of my first year working there, I trained to become a delivery driver and got my Class B driver’s license so I could drive the big dump trucks. We had two main deliver trucks – a newer International truck and an old Ford cabover.

A “cabover” truck gets its name from having the entire cab of the truck sit directly over the top of the engine, instead of having the engine out in front like we’re used to. The mark of the cabover design is the fact that the driver’s windshield is basically the very front of the whole truck. When you want to access the engine to do any maintenance, you unlock the cab release and the entire cab – seats, steering wheel, dashboard, pedals - everything – tilts forward on a big hinge located just behind the front bumper, exposing the engine underneath. Needless to say, you don’t leave your coffee sitting on the dashboard when you need to tilt the cab, unless you really like cleaning coffee off the inside of the windshield. Anything loose in the cab – maps, empty soda cans, sunflower seeds, etc. – ends up on the windshield when you tilt the cab up to get to the engine. (Note to millennials – “maps” are what we used to get ourselves lost before Waze was invented.)

One fine, sunny day I loaded up the old Ford cabover with six tons of decorative river rock, and headed out to make the delivery. JJ’s was set back off a two-lane highway on the outskirts of San Luis Obispo, and a long sloping gravel driveway went down one side of the property and teed into the highway. I bounced down the driveway in the old Ford, whistling a happy tune, and pressed on the brakes at the start of the downhill run about twenty or thirty yards prior to reaching the highway tee.

Seat belts are an amazing invention, and I highly recommend to all my young male readers that you always wear yours, even when inside your own home. My seatbelt was the only thing that prevented me from crashing headfirst through the windshield of that old truck and being ground to a messy pulp on the gravel driveway that day, as I realized halfway through my exciting semi-circular ride around the hinge axis that some idiot had forgotten to lock the cab latch.

My seatbelt kept me attached to the driver’s seat, but try to imagine everything in the cab of your truck staying in the same place relative to you, but having the entire cab lift up and try to do a front somersault. While you’re driving.

Braking down the hill caused the entire truck cab to flip to its full-open position, so if a truck mechanic happened to be running alongside, he would have had excellent access to the engine. As the driver, I was left hanging upside-down from my lap belt, chest being compressed into the steering wheel, with my face inches from the windshield, watching the gravel driveway race by less than six inches away from the glass. It was exciting.

My feet were now behind me and above my head, and even though the pedals were still there, I really didn’t have a good way to press them anymore. As my truck picked up speed downhill toward the busy highway, I hung upside-down watching the road go by my face and wondering just what to do about this little predicament, and also wondering if I was the idiot who forgot to lock the cab latch.

I might also have been screaming.

Prior to making it all the way into oncoming traffic, enough blood was forced into my brain due to gravity to kick-start an idea. The air brake button was located in the center of the dashboard, which, in my current cab configuration, meant it was off to the right, out away and slightly below my right ear.

I found it and pulled it out as fast as I could. By the grace of God and the Ford engineers of the 1960s, the air brakes can still be controlled from the dashboard, even if the dashboard isn’t where it’s supposed to be.

With the high-pitched squeal of beautiful, life-saving compressed air, all the tires instantly stopped rolling and started sliding on the gravel road. I was probably only going fifteen or twenty miles an hour at that point, and my seatbelt held fast, but the weight of the big truck combined with the twelve thousand pounds of rock in the back trying to come to an abrupt halt managed to stretch my torso and elongate my spine enough that my face was able to be completely pressed against the windshield as the old Ford C-Series beast slid to a stop. I was two inches taller when I finally got my heart restarted and rolled my way off the door and back onto solid ground.

Men die from heart attacks far more often than women, but I don’t think that’s because our hearts are weaker, or even because of all the extra bacon. I think we simply do quite a bit of preliminary damage to them over our lifetimes with all the minor heart attacks along the 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!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Florida Offshore Phishing

Not many people take full advantage of the fun side of internet phishing scams, and I must say, they are missing out on some truly satisfying entertainment.

Back when Al Gore had just invented the internet, the first professional phishermen were the Nigerians. They were pioneers in the art of internet skullduggery, so much so that their name is forever associated with the “deposed king of (insert African country name here), let me share my millions with you, just give me your banking information” email scam.

Many, many years ago I worked for a company that – and millennials, you will not believe this, but I swear it’s the truth – had one email address for the whole company. As the junior engineer, I was the most tech-savvy (meaning I knew how to spell “tech”), so I was in charge of the account. Every morning I would fire up the modem (a device that served mainly to make your internet connection slower than you ever thought imaginable) and log in to our account, print out the emails (on paper!), and disperse them to my coworkers. This was back in 1826.

One morning, much to my delight, we received an email from the son of the (recently murdered in a coup) Crown Prince of Nigeria. He was anxious to wire me ten million dollars because he would be tragically killed just like his dad if he was caught with the money. I would hold onto the cash while he snuck out of his war-ravaged kingdom, then we’d meet here in the U.S., split the windfall, and then, presumably, party like rock stars and become BFF’s.

There was just one catch. He had no access to any money, so it was up to me to front him a little dough to, as he so eloquently put it, “greeze the palms” of the local banking officials.

I then spent two weeks looking forward to each morning when I would respond to his emails pretending to be a doddering old fool who was super-excited about the opportunity but not really sure how to carry out all his complicated banking instructions.

At some point, right around the time I was asking if I could come to Nigeria to help with the greezing, and asking him if I could stay at his house while I was there since I didn’t know if any of the hotels were up to my standards, I was passed off to the Nigeria Scamming Department Manager. Sadly, as with most American middle managers, he had less finesse than the low-level scam starter guy that had initiated contact, and over the next few days the manager guy became increasingly less patient with me.

He finally ended our budding financial relationship in an all-caps email demanding to know what the hell was wrong with me and why I couldn’t follow simple instructions. (Perhaps because I never could quite figure out what he meant by my “bank account number,” and gave him several different options, including the bank’s phone number, their address number on the outside of the building, and also the exact number of accounts the bank had, after I called the bank manager to inquire.)

I could almost see him banging away on the keyboard in a spitting rage. It was one of the most delightfully entertaining two weeks of my life.

I had a few fleeting moments of that same joy yesterday and today, when I was contacted via phone - from a number in Florida - by the “Google Gmail Security Team.” A nice gentleman named Dave, with a heavy Indian accent, explained that my Gmail account had apparently been hijacked by spammers, and it would be shut down and locked within twenty-four hours if we didn’t fix it right away.

Oh, my! What a predicament we have found ourselves in! Especially since Google doesn’t call people. Whatever shall we do?

I kept him on the phone as long as I could, but I was driving, so I couldn’t take the necessary steps at my computer terminal to secure my account from the insidious hackers. It turned out he was located in Wilmington, Delaware, and not Florida, and he seemed to think the weather in Wilmington was “pretty mild,” that early December day. I guess Dave doesn’t really understand where Delaware is located.

Sadly, I had an appointment to get to, so I had to ask Dave for a callback number. He gave me an 800 number that, upon later Googling, could either have been associated with an opportunity to buy an apartment in Delhi, or a web design and internet marketing firm in Pasadena. Hmm…

I thought my fun was over, but in a wonderful turn of events, Dave called back this morning. Great news, Dave! I’m home and can get to my computer terminal. Let’s fix this vexing issue!

All I had to do was log out of my Gmail, get to my home screen, hit the Windows key and the letter R simultaneously to bring up the run command prompt, and simply type in “iexplore”. Once I did that, we could get this problem solved. He had to get off the line briefly to get the last string of digits. I guess they don’t always get that far, and he needed to ask his manager what the code was today.

I told Dave that I typed it all in just like he said, and I could almost hear him salivating in “Delaware.” He asked what I was seeing, hoping that I was looking at their screen cloning site located at the 216 IP address. I told him my screen had gone blank.

Dave, ever the Gmail security professional, had to come up with a series of blank screen troubleshooting tips while I quizzed him on why the Google logo was all gray today instead of colored, and how the Wilmington weather was this morning, and if he was calling me on his old Florida cell phone, or if their office had been blown down the coast in the last hurricane, and if he’d ever been out to Topeka, Kansas where the main Google campus is located, and if so, while he was there, had he tried the world-famous “Google Burger,” which I had been told was a tofu burger stamped in the letter G, with red ketchup, yellow mustard, blue lettuce, and green tomatoes, on a gluten-free ciabatta roll.

After powering down my device didn’t work, an increasingly frustrated Dave finally accused me of wasting my own time. I assured him that this was not at all a waste of my time, but he apparently had better things to do with his day, so he wished me - what I’m pretty sure was sarcastic - good luck with my soon-to-be frozen Gmail account.

I thought for sure my fun was over, but lo and behold, ten minutes later, Steve from Gmail Support called me from the exact same number.


I asked how Dave was doing, but it turned out that Steve was really in Florida, and didn’t know Dave, or anything about a recent call. I told Steve he needed to contact the folks at Guinness after our call, because he just set a land speed record, but he had no idea what I was talking about.

It seems Steve was calling because Google noticed that my Gmail account had apparently been hijacked by spammers, and it would be shut down and locked within twenty-four hours if we didn’t fix it right away.

Oh, my! What a conundrum, Steve!

I asked if I should get to my run command and type in “iexplore”, but Steve hung up on me before I could finish reading the number string.

I am currently sitting at my desk praying that I get a call from Mike who works at Gmail Google Security Support in the greater Florida-Delaware region.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A Letter from Your Loving Father

Our family lives very close to the epicenter of the California Gold Rush. We happen to have moved here for the schools (and the abundant Chipotle locations), but a long time ago a bunch of people moved here for the gold. Ground zero for the gold frenzy was a little town called Coloma. All three of our boys got to go on fourth grade field trips to Coloma, to stay three days and two nights and learn all about the life of a gold miner.

One of the things the teachers ask the parents for, besides a ton of money for the trip, is a letter written to your fourth-grader as though they were an actual forty-niner in the gold fields.

For reasons unknown to me, my wife decided I should be the one to write those letters. Apparently, she doesn’t read this column.

Son Number Three just found the one I wrote for him last year, and I thought I’d share, as an example of how my wife is not paying attention.

August 16, 1849

Dearest Son Number Three,

Your ma and I hope this letter finds you alive and well in California. We sure hope you made it all the way out to the diggins in Coloma, and you’re not dead on the Missouri Trail somewhere.

I know the trip to the Mother Lode couldn’t have been easy for you, what with your wooden leg and all. Hopefully you still have it attached, and you didn’t run into any weirdo leg robbers, or God forbid, a pack of angry beavers. I know I taught you well with the shotgun, so hopefully you gave any highwaymen or uppity rodents a backside full of buckshot.

We miss you here on the farm in Indiana, especially now that your older brothers have up and left us as well. Son Number One ran off with a traveling circus act that came through Fort Wayne earlier this summer. He claims to be making decent money, but his official job title is Head Pooper-Scooper for the elephant show.

Son Number Two has gone off to run a barge company on one of the Great Lakes. The good Lord only knows what possessed him to become a sailor, but he seems to enjoy it. He brings iron ore from Michigan to Wisconsin and returns with tons of cheese. Go figure.

We had high hopes for all three of you, but so far we have one son who picks up giant piles of elephant dung and another who is a cheese boat captain. Hopefully you will make something of yourself out in Coloma and save the family name.

One piece of advice for you when it comes to gold diggin: Don’t handle any quicksilver. Stay away from it altogether. A lot of the uneducated prospectors out there will tell you it’s the best way to attract the gold dust and collect it, and it does work great for that, but they will all end up with mercury poisoning. As they get sicker they will make gurgling noises when they talk, they will shiver and shake, their pee will be a funny color, and eventually they will all go bat-guano crazy. Then they’ll die.

Ma says hello.

Best of luck. Try not to get shot by a claim jumper.



I have no idea why my wife puts me in charge of these things.

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, November 21, 2018

Thankfulness 2018

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a day traditionally filled with family, love, overeating, and passing out on the couch in front of the football game.

Along with those things, as with many families, we have a tradition around the dinner table of naming the things for which we are thankful. Invariably, people (including myself) go with the big low-hanging fruit – family, friends, church, employment, good health, food, clothing, shelter, etc.

Nothing against all those very important things, but I think it’s a shame that we don’t have time to name everything we’re really thankful for before the mashed potatoes go ice cold and the gravy develops an impenetrable skin.

So, here’s my small list of some of the smaller things:

Aerosol cheese
The inventor of aerosol cheese
Ziploc bags
Opposable thumbs
Rolling luggage
Shopping carts that drive straight
Paying for things with my phone
Labrador retrievers
Car backup cameras
Han Solo & Chewbacca
The “What is this song?” feature on Google
Dave Barry
Tabasco Green Pepper JalapeƱo sauce
Pork products
La Croix
Turkey stuffing
Getting to be a coach
Getting to be on a couch
Magnum, P.I.
Garbage disposals
Duct tape
C.J. Box
Forever stamps
Toilet paper
Simon & Simon
The plastic things on the ends of shoelaces
Compound interest
Indoor plumbing
Solar panels
See’s Candy Nuts and Chews
Discount printer ink that actually works
Fortune cookies
Microwave popcorn
Every day without a school project
The five-second rule
Dog treats
The National League
Bill Murray
Caller ID
Any time the house doesn’t smell like boys’ shoes
Amazon Prime
Dr. Seuss
Every day it’s not windy

It’s the big things in life, but it’s also the little things in life.

Have a great Thanksgiving,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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

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 actual conversation at a 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!