Wednesday, October 19, 2016

An Urgent Facebook PSA

If you are on Facebook – and I am assuming you are by now, since you are a breathing human – you have no doubt seen the following status update on more than one friend’s page:

Just trying to be safe: Deadline tomorrow!!! Everything you've ever posted becomes public from tomorrow. Even messages that have been deleted or the photos not allowed. It costs nothing for a simple copy and paste, better safe than sorry. Channel 13 News talked about the change in Facebook's privacy policy.

I have been on Facebook for a long time now, and I have seen that fake deadline come and go at least four or five times in the last four or five years alone. I can assure you, if “Channel 13 News” talked about it, it was to attempt to let you know that this hoax comes around once every year, just like the winter solstice, or that fruitcake Aunt Edna baked back in ’79. The only news flash here is that everything you ever posted on Facebook was always public.

NOTE: Facebook is now a public entity. If you do not publish a statement at least once it will be tactically allowing the use of your photos, as well as the information contained in the profile status updates. DO NOT SHARE. Copy and paste.

Facebook is a free web service where you voluntarily post pictures of your cat. That’s all it is. It happens to be a very large free web service with a zillion cat pictures, but let’s not kid ourselves. And what the hell does “tactically allowing” mean?

This is my favorite part:

I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information, messages or posts, both past and future. With this statement, I give notice to Facebook it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, or take any other action against me based on this profile and/or its contents. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of privacy can be punished by law (UCC 1-308- 1 1 308-103 and the Rome Statute).

With this statement, I give notice to Facebook... Yes, because all legal matters these days can be handled by posting lawyerish-sounding phrases on a free social media site. That’s why we don’t need lawyers anymore.

Judge: “Mr. Johnson, you’re being charged with bank robbery, how do you plead?”
Mr. Johnson: “Totally not guilty, Your Honor.”
Bank’s Lawyer: “You walked into our branch and demanded five hundred thousand dollars in cash.”
Mr. Johnson: “Well, yeah, but that’s only because I saw a tweet that said you guys were giving away free money to anyone who asked for it in a low voice while keeping one hand in the pocket of their sweatshirt.”
Judge: “Oh, snap! There was a tweet?”
Bank’s Lawyer: “Wow, sorry. We totally didn’t know that someone tweeted that. Our bad.”
Judge: “Case dismissed.”

The content of this profile is private and confidential information. Yes, that’s why I’m using this free web service as a personal diary, making vague references to my crappy day and how I’m such a bad parent. I do that to get my own private and confidential thoughts down onto a virtual page so I can reflect on them later, privately. I never do that so other people will publicly ask me what’s wrong and send me encouraging messages about how I’m a great parent. I wouldn’t want that kind of public attention on this public free web service when I’m trying to be so private and confidential.

And then, to cap off the awesome, what appears to be the phone number of a pizza place in western Nebraska is listed at the bottom, with “The Rome Statute” thrown in for good measure, which simply doesn’t apply to this fake problem anyway. Besides the fact that no privacy actually exists in my relationship with Facebook (and "any entities associated with Facebook”), the real reason is that the Rome Statute doesn’t even remotely apply to anything having to do with pictures of my lunch.

In my exhaustive ten-second Wikipedia search, I found out The Rome Statute establishes four core international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. Even if my Facebook account could be considered international since I frequently post pictures of tacos, none of those four crimes seem to apply here.

But, hey, I understand if you’re new to the Facebook world and you got duped by this recurring hoax. Lawyers are scary, and like it says in this one and the ‘Bill Gates is going to give money to everyone who posts this’ one, better safe than sorry.

If you did happen to post that warning to your wall, and now you’re suddenly regretting it, have no fear. I have written something you can replace it with. Feel free to copy and paste!

Just trying to be safe, since the deadline is tomorrow. Not a specific date, mind you, but tomorrow for Pete’s sake!!! I hereby totally give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook 100% permission to use my pictures, information, messages and posts, both past and future. With this statement, I give notice to Facebook it is strictly forbidden NOT TO disclose, copy, distribute, or take any other action against me based on my profile and/or its contents. The contents of this profile are so awesome that I would be legally and morally offended if Facebook didn’t take full advantage of it. And I’m not even limiting this to just the stuff I have on Facebook. I mean my actual stuff, like my couch and my food, as well as any of my relatives that will go without a fight. I now hereby renounce all my possessions and my relatives, and give Facebook the legal authority to do whatever they want with them. I give no other entity that is not associated with Facebook any authority whatsoever for anything. Facebook is now in charge of everything. Because I used the words ‘hereby’ and ‘whatsoever,’ this is totally legal and stuff.

There you go. It’s just as legally binding, but now maybe Facebook will come and get rid of that old couch for you. And maybe Aunt Edna’s fruitcake.

Maybe even Aunt Edna, too!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 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 12, 2016

A Giant Smelly Goat

In 1934, a plucky Greek immigrant named William Sianis bought the Lincoln Tavern in Chicago, Illinois for two hundred and five dollars. Foreshadowing the modern Greek financial situation, his check promptly bounced. But he made good, retaining ownership of the establishment by repaying the bank with the proceeds from the first weekend he was open, under the bar’s new name, The Billy Goat Tavern.

William “Billy Goat” Sianis was many things. He was a bar owner, a bartender, a pretty kick-ass nickname haver, a check bouncer, a purveyor of marginal cheeseburgers, an actual Billy goat owner, a marketing genius, and a visionary with the foresight to petition for the first liquor license on the moon, just in case any passing astronauts needed a burger and a beer. He was a man with a dream.

Unfortunately for the Chicago Cubs, Billy Sianis was apparently also a wizard. An evil, sports curse-applying wizard.

In game four of the 1945 World Series between the Cubs and the Detroit Tigers at Wrigley Field, Sianis and his pet Billy goat, Murphy, were ejected from the stadium due to Murphy’s foul stench. Since Murphy was a bar mascot, I would have to assume that he existed, like Sianis, on a strict diet of pickled eggs, greasy cheeseburgers, and beer. Hence the odor.

Also, like Sianis, I have to assume the goat was an angry drunk. History does not tell us how many twelve-dollar Miller Lites Billy and Murphy consumed that day, or how many Cubs executives Murphy rammed on his way out of the stadium that day, but we do know what Billy said to them. The very disgruntled goat owner hexed the entire organization as he and Murphy were being unceremoniously escorted from Wrigley Field.

“Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.”

The curse heard around the world.

Now, if you were a Cubs fan there on that fateful day when your Cubbies were up 2-1 in the series, you may have just shrugged it off as the rantings of a drunken, smelly tavern owner who was callous enough to bring drunken, smelly livestock to box seats at a baseball game.

And when the Cubs then blew the lead and lost the series four games to three, you may not have made the connection, chalking it up to bad luck.

But in the year 2015, when your beloved Cubbies haven’t won a World Series in a hundred and seven years, and have failed to even win a pennant and get into another World Series since that fateful goat-cursed year of 1945 - seventy years later - you simply can’t deny the wicked sorcery behind old Billy’s curse.

Many attempts to reverse the curse have been made by the desperate Cubs’ faithful over the years. Sam Sianis, Billy’s nephew, has walked a goat out onto Wrigley Field more than a few times in hopes of canceling out the bad juju.

A Greek Orthodox priest has sprayed holy water in the Cubs dugout, and multiple priests over the years have blessed the field, the dugout, and the entire stadium, to no avail.
Goats have sacrificed and been sacrificed in the effort as well. Two poor goats were made to travel all across the country – one even being made to walk all the way from Arizona to Chicago – in attempts to reverse the curse. If those goats thought they had it bad, the ones that have been killed and unceremoniously hung from a statue at Wrigley Field over the years would argue differently. Cubs fans take their baseball seriously.

My second favorite, albeit unsuccessful, attempt to break the curse of the Billy goat took place in September of last year when - and I’m not making this up - five guys ate an entire forty-pound goat in thirteen minutes at the undoubtedly five-star-rated Chicago eatery, Taco in a Bag. No one combines superstition with food and awesome restaurant names better than Cubs fans.

None of those perfectly sane curse reversal tactics worked, but this year they may have found the most powerful (and certainly my favorite) reversal magic yet - in the form of a T-shirt.

Here are the important elements of the scene:

- Legendary funnyman Bill Murray was the star of Ghostbusters, arguably the best movie about three college professors from New York starting a private business to catch ghosts that was ever made between 1983 and 1985.

- Bill Murray was born in Evanston, Illinois, which is a suburb of Chicago if you look at the map from really far away. He is a lifelong Cubs fan, and since he was born in 1950, he’s been subject to the curse his entire life.

- The art for the Ghostbusters movie poster was a cartoon ghost captured inside the international “no” symbol – the red circle with a diagonal line.

- The movie’s amazingly synthesized hit theme song by Ray Parker Jr. – who literally made an entire musical career out of that ONE AND ONLY song – has the famous line, “I ain’t afraid of no ghost.”

Now the stage is set. The 2016 Cubs are the winningest team in the baseball regular season. But they are facing my San Francisco Giants, a team that always wins the World Series in even years, if “always” is defined as “since 2010.” The Giants don’t have a curse, we have magic. Even year magic. We were all #beliEVEN. Until last night.

Last night the Giants inexplicably blew a three-run lead in the top of the ninth, as the Cubs pulled off the biggest ninth-inning come-from-behind rally in a postseason clinch game in the entire history of Major League Baseball. That not-so-small feat got them past my Giants and moving on to play for the National League pennant. If they can secure that, they’ll be in a World Series again. They certainly look good to do it.

I love the Giants, and I don’t care one way or the other about the Cubs, but if my Giants had to lose their even year magic, I certainly hope it was a result of the Billy goat curse finally being lifted. No baseball team or its fans deserve what the Cubs have gone through the last one hundred and eight years. Except for the Dodgers, obviously. The Dodgers deserve much worse.

The curse reversal magic that is probably making all of this possible? That comes in the form of a T-shirt that Bill Murray wore to the Cubs/Giants games at Wrigley Field. It was the Ghostbusters poster art, but the cartoon ghost was replaced by a cartoon goat, and the tagline underneath read, “I ain’t afraid of no goat.”

Think about how awesome that is for a second. Bill Murray from Chicago wearing a shirt referencing a Billy goat named Murphy, coopting the tagline and poster art from one of the best movies that he himself was ever in, to put a quadruple reverse hex on the curse.

If that is not simply the best sports curse/classic movie/comedic genius movie star T-shirt pun that has ever happened, I don’t know what is. That kind of comedy has powerful magic. Let’s hope it’s powerful enough. At least for the sake of my Giants, and all the unsuspecting goats in the greater Chicago area.

We will see soon enough, but for now, I think if we’ve learned anything here, it’s these three things:

1) Bill Murray is a national treasure.

2) People from Chicago are weird.

3) Never insult a wizard with a goat at a World Series game. Ever. No matter how drunk or smelly either happen to be.

Go Cubs.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 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 5, 2016

The Decoration Blues

Halloween is about to throw up on my house. And in it. The note from my wife has been on my desk for a week – get Halloween tubs down. Great, there goes nine hours of my life.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Halloween season is upon us. I have long been lamenting the fact that Halloween has somehow grown from a one-night event where your single goal is to gather as many Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups as possible, into the most singularly drawn-out “holiday” we have.

The Christmas “season” is probably technically a little longer, but it shares the first half of its spotlight with Thanksgiving. Halloween gets the entire month of October all to itself, and now inexplicably, the last week in September, it seems. I actually saw cobwebbed bushes and jack-o’-lantern lights up on some of the houses in my neighborhood before the calendar flipped to October this year.

I have to give my wife a little credit. At least she waited until September 30th at midnight to put the note on my desk. You may have noticed that ‘tubs’ is plural in the note. Yes, we’re talking multiple full-size Rubbermaid storage tubs crammed full of ceramic pumpkins, ghosts that hang from the Tree of Death out front, wooden signs that say ‘Boo,’ four-foot-tall witches, jack-o’-lantern toilet seat covers, and enough other crap to fully decorate the inside of a Costco if we needed to.

I’m not going to say that my wife is decoration crazy, mostly because I like sleeping in my own bed, but I’ve lost count of how many holiday tubs we have in our garage. We have tubs for Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Flag Day, Columbus Day, Arbor Day, National Aviation Day, King Kamehameha Day, Black Friday, Leif Erikson Day, National Library Workers’ Day, and even some of the lesser known holidays. All I know is we have a three-car garage, and we have just enough room to park the boys’ bicycles inside as long as we stack them.

So in a little while, I’m going to move the bikes out into the driveway with the cars, find the ladder somewhere amid all those tubs, make my way over to the Halloween section on aisle twenty-four, and begin moving tubs into the house. My wife will then begin a decorating routine that looks a lot like what might happen if the Tasmanian Devil got loose in a craft store. When every square inch of the inside and outside of our home is positively spooky, I’ll move the tubs back out to aisle twenty-four until it’s time to replace them with the Thanksgiving tubs from aisle nine.

It could be worse, though. I met a guy the other night at Son Number Three’s baseball game who was hobbling out of his truck on crutches. He had one of those big black fabric-and-Velcro braces on his foot, and he looked to be in a fair amount of pain. When I asked how he was doing, he replied sullenly, “I’ve had better weeks.”

“I can see that,” I said. “What did you do to your foot?”

His face became even more dejected as he recounted his tale of holiday woe.

“I cracked my heel...
stepping off a ladder wrong...
putting up Halloween lights...
for my ex.”

Ouch, bro. Ouch.

But, hey, keep your head up, man. You’ve got to look on the bright side in this life. At least you didn’t break your leg, and you’ve got the makings of a pretty decent country song there. You already have the pickup truck, the ex-wife, and the unfortunate injury. Add in a new girlfriend, a dog, and a beer, and you might end up making some money off this little mishap.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find that ladder and make my way over to aisle twenty-four. If you need me, I’ll either be somewhere in the tub maze, or at the ER writing a country song.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 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 28, 2016

Dirty Chicken Kissers

Want to reduce your chances of becoming just another statistic in the latest salmonella outbreak? There’s an easy solution, says the Centers for Disease Control. Stop kissing your chickens.

The headline “CDC Warning – Stop Kissing Chickens” landed in my news feed a few days ago, so naturally I dropped absolutely everything else I was doing and read the story. A Fox 10 News station somewhere in Arizona gave me the grim numbers.

Over the past 25 years, 13% of chicken-related salmonella cases were caused by people kissing their chickens. Over half admitted to snuggling with the baby chicks, and almost half admitted to keeping the chickens in the house.


Arizona residents, in my head: “Oh, great! Not only do we have to stop kissing our chickens, but we have to stop snuggling them too? And give me a break. You mean to tell me that I’m supposed to keep my barnyard animals outside, instead of next to my bed? What kind of monster are you?”

Come on, people! While ‘Dirty Chicken Kissers’ would obviously be a great name for a rock band, it’s no way to live your life. Was it just Arizona? Are there other states where salmonella is decimating the chicken kissers? I must know! Off I go to the CDC website, where I learn... holy puckering poultry, Batman. There’s a nationwide epidemic of dirty chicken kissers! Arizona is the least of our worries. The biggest offenders are highly concentrated in the Great Lakes states and the upper north east.

Just a Smidge PSA:
Hey up there. It’s wicked bad to kiss your chickens, eh. And don’t let ‘em inside to sit on the davenport with ya, OK? Salmonella is wicked bad. Keep ‘em outside in the yaahd, eh.

That should take care of the problem, but just in case, the CDC did come up with a wicked good poster. It’s a yellow silhouette picture of a baby chick with the title “Don’t play chicken with your health. Wash your hands.” – I’m not making that up.

Inside the outline of the baby chick there’s a handy salmonella outbreak chart by year, showing the number of outbreaks caused by handling live poultry, with the outbreak indicators as cute fuzzy little baby chicks. Again, not making this up.

Our most dangerous chicken kissing year as a nation was 2012, with eight baby chicks stacked up on top of each other. Ranked second-worst was 2009, with six baby chicks stacked, and four chicks stacked on 2015 puts it in a five-way tie for third worst with four other years since 2000.
The poster shows us that 1992 through 1994 were the happy times. Zero stacked chicks for those years suggests that chicken kissing was apparently still frowned upon back then.

This unnerving spike in chicken kissing got me thinking. Why in the hell would anyone kiss a chicken? Also, I thought, this must be due to the seemingly recent increase in the amount of people who have converted the back 0.000344 acres of their suburban backyards into chicken farms.

I can only assume that this practice has something to do with ‘sustainability,’ or ‘homesteading,’ or getting ‘off the grid.’ I doubt too many people wake up and think, “You know what we should do? We should become commercial poultry producers! Wait, we live in town and own no land. Oh, well. Let’s throw a tiny coop and four chickens in the backyard for now, and we’ll expand into a multi-million-dollar operation when we can.”

The ‘sustainability’ aspect got me thinking some more. In this case I guess sustainable means someone will keep selling you chicken feed. But does having backyard chickens that you can kiss and snuggle and bring indoors make financial sense? What’s the national average price for a dozen eggs? How much does it cost to keep a kissable chicken alive and making eggs? Why in the hell would you let a chicken live inside your house? And where? In the kitchen? Living room? Chickens don’t even have lips as far as I know.

There was a lot going on in my head.

Because the internet is awesome, I was able to look up all the information I needed in my normal exhaustive two-minute Google research time allotment. Chickens definitely do not have lips. Also, I was able to find a website apparently dedicated to tracking the price of a dozen eggs on a nationwide scale. That beat my prediction of “there’s no way anyone has a website that tracks nationwide egg prices” by one hundred percent.

For simplicity’s sake, we’ll say that a dozen eggs will run you about two dollars right now, if you live in Anywheresville, USA. My public school math tells me that equates to seventeen cents per egg.

Purina Premium Poultry Feed costs fourteen dollars for fifty pounds. That would be twenty-eight cents a pound not counting tax. Yet another website reveals that an average laying hen eats about a quarter pound of feed a day. So your four chickens are downing twenty-eight cents worth of premium chicken feed every day.

Homesteading websites tell us that we can expect an average of one egg per day from each of our healthy, happy hens. If chicken feed were all we needed, we’d be money ahead with our flock, getting eggs for a mere seven cents each. A full ten cents cheaper than the store brand. I think we all know, after perusing the chicken feed store websites that mere chicken feed will not do it. Our hens need to be happy.

The thirty-ounce bag of Happy Hen Treats Mealworm Frenzy – I swear I’m not making that name up – costs twenty-five bucks. I don’t know how many mealworm treats it takes to keep my hens in a laying mood, but thirty ounces doesn’t seem like it would last that long. Especially if these mealworms are so good they cause a frenzy, as advertised.

So you have unspecified mealworm expenses, and let’s not forget the initial set up costs. Not the least of which is your Williams-Sonoma Cedar Chicken Coop with Planter that set you back fifteen hundred dollars – you heard me – or the designer chicken toys to keep them engaged and mentally stimulated.

Add in your inevitable ER visit for salmonella poisoning, and I think this chicken raising business is costing you about nine hundred dollars per egg, give or take.

I think I’ll stick with the eggs from the commercial poultry producer. He keeps the egg shelves at the store full for me, which I find very convenient, and when I don’t want eggs, I just don’t buy them. Try that with your flock.

He’s smart, too. You know what that commercial poultry producer never does? Kiss his damn chickens, that’s what.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 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 21, 2016

Rubik's Rubes

I just boxed up a broken Pyraminx Speed Cube to return it to Amazon. How many times have you said that, huh? If you’re like me, never.

I have a feeling it won’t be the last time. The problem is my kids are smarter than me. Don’t ever tell them I said that.

What is a Pyraminx Speed Cube, you ask? It’s obviously a four-sided pyramid-shaped Rubik’s Cube. Why are they calling a pyramid a ‘Cube,’ you ask? Good question. I have no idea. Why would anyone need a pyramid-shaped Rubik’s Cube, you ask? Obviously for when the regular square one gets too boring.

When Son Number Two first asked for a Rubik’s Cube, I had an immediate flashback to my childhood. I was there when the Rubik’s Cube became an overnight sensation, and I remember my first encounter with the cube like it was yesterday.

My sister handed me a Rubik’s Cube that was all scrambled up, and told me that I needed to switch all the squares around so each side was a solid color. I twisted and turned the colorful plastic cube for at least an entire minute. Then I threw it at her head and went outside and played freeze tag.

The only other time I ever touched it was when I needed to kick the infernal little Hungarian torture device across the room on my way to get my comic books. I hated that thing. It was impossible. Whatever part of the brain is responsible for being able to even begin to figure out a way to start possibly coming up with the beginning of a partial idea for how to solve a Rubik’s Cube – I was born without that part.

I looked at Son Number Two with rightful suspicion. Should I bother to spend the ten bucks to get you a Rubik’s Cube that history shows you will probably abandon within three days? Do I need to get out the box of abandoned fads?

Let’s see what’s in here. Ah, the five thousand dollars-worth of Rainbow Loom stuff. I remember this. Do you want to make me another multicolored rubber band bracelet, or are we done with this for good? If you need any of the little rubber bands, they’re all still tangled in the vacuum’s beater bar. All the little plastic clips are in the vacuum’s bag.

Oh, look, here’s the big stack of cups from that worldwide sensation you couldn’t bear to miss out on – cup stacking. Yes, stacking cups and then unstacking them really fast. With special expensive plastic cups. I remember the six minutes that lasted. Good times.

Hey! Here’s the three Kendamas we have, because each of you needed your own. Remember? It was dubbed “The Japanese yo-yo.” I never understood that. It’s a stick shaped like a hammer with a wooden ball tied to it. It’s nothing like a yo-yo. What it is is a great way to hit yourself in the face with a wooden ball. Do you remember playing with these for hours? No? That’s probably because you only played with them for three minutes.

What’s that there? Oh, the little spiky tray that the fuse beads go on. You remember the fuse beads, right? You used to store them in the carpet for safe keeping. Those microscopic colorful cylinders that melt together when you iron them to make a plastic drink coaster in the shape of a Christmas tree or a turtle. Those were useful. You could make something with them now, but all the fuse beads are in the vacuum bag with the Rainbow Loom hooks. Sorry.

So why should I believe this Rubik’s Cube you want isn’t going to end up in this box? Oh, well. I guess we’ll give it a shot. What do we have to lose except ten bucks?

It’s been a few weeks now and I’m happy to report that having a Rubik’s Cube has drastically increased the requests for screen time, since there is now a treasure trove of videos and step-by-step instructions on how to solve the cube out there on the internet. There’s even a site where you can input exactly what your cube looks like and it will give you the exact turn sequence to solve it.

Just one more thing this spoiled, entitled generation will take for granted. Back in my day, we didn’t have the internet. We had to peel off the stickers and rearrange them to solve the Rubik’s Cube. That was the only way.

In just a few short days of total Rubik’s Cube immersion, Son Number Two was already looking for a new challenge. Enter the Pyraminx. A pyramid-shaped Rubik’s Cube. As soon as I saw it I had the overwhelming urge to throw it at my sister’s head and run. But Son Number Two jumped right in and spun the pieces around so many times in the span of a week that he wore it out. In the process, he got pretty fast at solving it.

It appears that the Rubik’s Cube might escape the box of abandoned fads for at least another week or two. My children amaze me. At one point or another all three of them have complained loudly about how hard the Rubik’s Cube is, but not one of them has thrown it at the other’s head and gone to play freeze tag. They just keep trying. Go figure.

The Rubik's Cube part of the brain must skip a generation. Or come from the mother's side.

At least I gave them freeze tag.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 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 14, 2016

An Eighth Open Letter to Lifetouch School Portraits

Dear Lifetouch School Portraits,

Just wanted to shoot you another quick letter and let you know that I’m super excited you and I are back together again for Fall Picture Day tomorrow. Getting those picture packets is like opening a box of Cracker Jack every year – I just can’t wait to see what we get.

In my fifth letter to you, I very helpfully detailed how much your website sucks. I assumed you would use that information to improve the website up to at least an level of user-friendliness. I don’t think that’s asking too much.

I wanted to take a minute this year and let you know what a total suckfest your website still is. To focus on the positive for a minute – When ordering my picture packets, there were only six annoying options to click ‘no thanks’ on this year, instead of the forty or fifty I had to wade through last year, so I take that as evidence that you actually have an IT guy. Although, based on everything else, I’m assuming it’s still that fourth-grader. Actually, I guess he or she would be in fifth grade this year. Tell them congratulations for me.

Back to the suckfest - I already had an account with a username and password from years prior, so I logged in and was happy to see my information on the screen, but the momentary hopefulness dissolved quickly as I noticed the system had not saved my sons’ info. Why? Why would you not save that? They’re the ones getting their pictures taken.

On the front page you invited me to ‘add students,’ so I did. It went OK, but I’d like to point out that once I tell you what state and city our oldest boy lives in, and what school he attends, it might be nice if you were to auto-fill that info in for the other two boys instead of having me have to start completely fresh every time. We don’t have one of our elementary school children in California and another in Idaho like I guess you assume most people do? We all live in the same house.

Once I was done with the longer-than-it-needed-to-be process of typing in the exact same information for three kids I was absolutely thrilled to see that when I actually tried to order pictures, I had to type in all that information again. Separately. Three times.

Apparently I was only ‘adding students’ to my new Lifetouch ‘My Rewards’ program that I thought was the start of the order process, but is actually not related to anything helpful about ordering pictures. You did offer me a ‘FREE Hi-Res Digital Image’ through my new My Rewards account that now remembers my boys’ names (but again, I feel I need to point out, does not transfer them through to the actual order process, which would be the only reason anyone would want your website to remember their kids’ names). I didn’t get the news about the amazing free Hi-Res image deal until after my purchase, and there does not seem to be any way to add it to my order now, so thanks for nothing, really. It’s OK, though. We’re really a Lo-Res family anyway. We get too Hi-Res and we might start to notice the mustard stains on their faces and shirts.

I also see that you have completely done away with that annoying family plan, where I got to pay less because I had more than two kids at the school. Thanks. I hated saving that money.

A half-hour later I clicked ‘complete order’ and logged off in disgust again this year. You have one of the only websites that makes people wish they were on the DMV’s website instead. Congratulations for that, I guess.

Then, moments later in my inbox, you made up for everything with your order summary email. I was thrilled to see that you thought enough of our relationship to include the following inspirational statement and handy link:

We're excited for your student's Picture Day! Click here for advice from kids on how to prepare for Picture Day!

I clicked here, and there was apparently supposed to be a video at the top of the page, and I’m sure it was adorable – probably super-cute kids giving hilariously precious advice to parents, like, “Make sure you feed your kids doughnuts on picture day, because doughnuts make you smile,” and stuff like that. I wouldn’t know, because the video failed to play. You can go ahead and make another note for your fifth grade IT guy.

Then came the five pearls of wisdom:

Use these tips to help your child get ready for a great-looking school portrait that you’ll treasure forever.

1) Help your child pick out clothes and colors that look good on them. After all, your child is the star of the photo—not their shirt, so avoid slogans, logos, and big patterns. Small jewelry and accessories are fine but nothing too big or distracting. Make sure to check your flyer to see sample poses for your Picture Day. Some poses may show pants or skirts, so plan the complete outfit.

Look, it’s either pick out the clothes for them, or get what you get. They can’t be involved in the decision making. Case in point would be that time you took a picture of Son Number Three wearing a T-shirt featuring a bear in full road leathers and gloves, riding a green motorcycle in front of a U.S. flag shaped like an outline of the United States. That ‘no logo’ advice would have been handy then.

And thanks for the pose advice. Where was this nugget a few years back when you had my kids sitting on a plastic “rock” that looked like a giant cow pie? I sent them to school in soccer shorts and your pictures ended up just showcasing all their knee injuries.

2) Glasses are okay! Lifetouch photographers know all the tricks to reduce glare.

So we should let Son Number Two wear his glasses on picture day? Thanks for the heads up. Now I feel like a jerk. A lot of those knee injuries were from trying to bike to school without his glasses that day.

3) Any hairstyle works for Picture Day. Schedule haircuts a few weeks ahead of time to allow hair to grow back a little, or you can go for a fresh-cut look.

I like how you give me so many options. One question, though. By ‘any hairstyle’ do you also mean bed head? Because bed head is by far our most common hair style for our boys on any given school day.

4) Keep kids relaxed and ready to be themselves. Smiles can look fake if they’re practiced ahead of time. Remember, smiles are like french fries—they’re better when they’re fresh.

I guess this sort of applies to Son Number Two. Son Number Three however, has never relaxed. Unless you want to take a picture of him sleeping, you’re going to have to deal with wild and crazy. And as far as Number One goes, no amount of relaxation or French fry jokes are going to help with his Chronic Forced Smile Disorder. The struggle with CFSD is real and we’re still looking for a treatment center.

5) Don’t worry about “perfect”! That hair that always sticks up or a missing tooth shows your child just as they are right now—and you’ll enjoy looking back on that for years to come. On Picture Day, teachers and volunteers will help straighten collars and check posture. And, if you like, we have retouching options for scrapes and blemishes.

Really? We’ll enjoy looking at bed head for years to come? Tell that to my wife. I’m not sure she’s buying it.

And teachers and volunteers will help straighten collars and check posture, huh? Hmm... I guess that might be true, but I think sometimes they might get sidetracked dealing with little Johnny making fart noises in line and blaming it on Suzy. Either way, could you do me a huge favor? When you look through the lens and see something other than collars or posture out of place – oh, I don’t know, like maybe food stuck to my son’s face - in two different places, I might add – could you maybe grab a wet wipe and help clean him up a tad. We’re not worrying about “perfect” over here, but we’re not going to send the grandparents a picture of our boy with an entire noodle from his macaroni and cheese stuck to his cheek.

And yes, I know all about the retouching options. I spent ten minutes clicking ‘no thanks’ to all of them before you’d let me order. I’m not willing to give you money to digitally edit out the mac ‘n cheese noodle. Napkins cost less. Let’s use them.

That’s it! Our experienced photographers are pros at making a fun and worry-free Picture Day.

OK, if you say so. Thanks for all the good advice. We’re excited about Picture Day, too.

I’m over here just giddy with anticipation. Good luck tomorrow.

All my best,


Copyright © 2016 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 7, 2016


Some Jehovah’s Witnesses came to my door yesterday, and since I was in the midst of a living hell, having been without internet service all day, I actually talked to them for a few minutes instead of throwing water on them like I normally do.

I left the short conversation with my amazing copy of the latest edition of Watchtower magazine, and a sudden flashback memory of the awesomeness that was Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.

In case you don’t know the story, a very corrupt and devious man, who was also a total genius, came from India in the 1980s and bought an eighty-four thousand-acre ranch in central Oregon. All he needed next were some followers. Two thousand of them, to be exact.

In exchange for the low price of working for free seven days a week, along with giving him all their money, two thousand total idiots got the sweet combo deal of getting to dance naked, and also wave at him every day at two o’clock when he drove by in one of his ninety-three Rolls Royces that they paid for.


Sure, he had tear gas guns hidden in the fenders of his cars. And he tried to rig an election by attempting to poison an entire town’s voters. And he was actively trying to kill quite a few government officials while running the largest illegal wiretapping operation ever seen. But hey, who among us hasn’t done that kinda stuff? Am I right?

So it got me thinking. I’m pretty sure I’m going to start a cult. It seems easier and more lucrative than a real job. Plus, I have first-hand experience in cult operations, so I have a leg up on the competition. I never made it up to Rajneeshpuram in Oregon to see the operation, but I have been to Ratna Ling.

Ratna Ling is supposedly a “spiritual Buddhist retreat” on the coast of California. What it really is is a mid-sized industrial book printing operation that is in no way zoned properly. They have millions of dollars’ worth of high-tech printing and conveying equipment operating daily, with all the deliveries and shipments associated with an industrial operation, tucked back in the woods on small county roads never designed for the traffic or the load.

The only thing keeping them from being shut down is that their workforce isn’t paid. The guru at Ratna Ling has himself some followers. Cult followers, you ask? Hmm... You be the judge. The whole very modern and expensive print line is operated entirely by skinny, smelly, barefoot hippies living in yurts. In exchange for their tireless printing efforts that are no doubt swelling the guru’s bank account, they receive enlightenment and rice with fruit.

I installed a piece of industrial equipment when I was there. I was paid, so in turn, I received no enlightenment whatsoever. I did get an education, though. What I learned is that there will always be lost and misguided people out there in search of whatever kind of “spiritual enlightenment” they think will be the answer to their problems, and they are willing to work for free to get it, and in many cases, pay you for it.

I want to help those people. I want to help them join my new cult... uh, Spiritual Guidance and Enlightenment Center. PorkTown, we’ll call it. Enlightenment through Bacon. That’s our motto.

You see, the major bugaboo with cults seems to be land-use issues. That’s what fouled up the Bhagwan’s sweet gig, and that’s what has Ratna Ling’s neighbors up in arms. PorkTown will operate out of a warehouse in the business district, so there won’t be any zoning problems.

Now, your traditional dirty shoeless cult-goers seem to be drawn to fresh air and trees, which always leads to that pesky land-use issue, but I’m looking for a different demographic. My draw will be a giant sports bar that offers free food and beer. Bacon will be the path to true oneness with the universe. Everything will be wrapped in bacon. Even the bacon will be bacon-wrapped.

In exchange for their daily chores (known as the Participations in Greatness) and/or generous donations to the cause, the Porkers will receive spiritual and galactic healing and tranquility through swine and beer. Only true and compete understanding of the universe can be achieved from the life-altering shock of the Defibrillator of Truth. Much bacon must be consumed to be worthy.

Careful not to omit the major draw to any cult, the Porkers will be allowed to dance naked whenever they want. Of course, this will be allowed only in the special Dance Naked Room that will have no windows, because let’s face it - these people are going to be eating a lot of bacon. There will need to be a Defibrillator of Truth in the Dance Naked Room also. Maybe more than one.

Participations in Greatness at PorkTown will include cleaning my house, making my kids’ lunches every morning, buying me stuff, pool maintenance, giving me money, landscaping and yard work, paying me, interior and exterior painting, paying all my bills, various home improvement projects, buying expensive things for my wife, auto repair and maintenance, family meal preparation, and giving me more money.

Come be a Porker. Your enlightenment is waiting, and it’s wrapped in bacon!

I’ll see you around town. I’ll be the one in a Rolls Royce with a pig as the hood ornament.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 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 31, 2016

Screen your Kids for Drugs

Our kids are getting addicted to screen time. No, not like, “Yeah, we should cut back on that a little.” Like you might as well be giving your kids crack.

A guy named Dr. Nicholas Kardaras just wrote a book called Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction is Hijacking our Kids – and How to Break the Trance. I recently read his article on the subject, and although I have never heard of the man before, my usual exhaustive two-minute Google search confirmed that despite the similarity in last names, he is in no way related to or associated with the Kardashians, so he’s OK in my book.

It was a short article, but filled with references to studies by other smart-sounding people from places like UCLA and the Pentagon, all saying the same thing: Screens are REALLY bad for kids!

Here’s the scary upshot - screens affect the brain’s frontal cortex - which is presumably in the front, and apparently in control executive functions including impulse control – exactly the same way cocaine does. In other words, a brain on Minecraft looks the same as a brain on drugs. They also said technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels as much as sex.

So apparently, instead of more screen time, you might as well be encouraging your kids to have sex, smoke crack, or, depending on how much screen time they get every day, both.

In fact, as the article points out, besides the obvious negative health effects of drugs, they might actually be a better thing for a human to become addicted to, because quitting is easier. It’s much simpler to get into a drug-free environment than a screen-free one, unless you happen to be someplace like Tijuana, Columbia, or Detroit.

That’s it for Casa de Smidge. No more screens.

I have always had a natural inclination to limit our boys’ screen time. My only real reasoning when I started was, “I didn’t have them as a kid, so you don’t need them.” That logic is good enough for me, and I also apply it to things like GoPro cameras, hoverboard scooters, five hundred-dollar baseball bats, and name-brand breakfast cereals. It saves us quite a bit of money every year.

We don’t have any game consoles, and they don’t have any handheld devices other than our old smartphones. Well, after this article, those are officially gone now, too.

Now that our kids will have no home screen time at all except for the occasional TV show or movie, I have come up with a list of alternate activities since I know we’ll need to be ready for the pushback from our crack-addicted children as they detox from the glow.

A short list of things to do when you feel the need to stare at a screen:

- Go swim in our pool. Or sit next to the pool and stare at the water. It sorta glows like a screen. Or wait until I’m not paying attention and get the ladder, climb up onto the patio roof and see if you can jump all the way into the deep end. Even if you miss and break your legs, that hospital visit will be better than checking into a rehab clinic. Plus, you will have learned a far more valuable lesson about velocity, trajectory, and gravity than you could have ever gleaned from Angry Birds.

- Burn ants with a magnifying glass. It’s far more useful to me than you killing zombies on a screen, because we will have less ants. Plus, at some point, your feeble little mind will put your finger under the glass to see just how hot it is, and you’ll learn a real-life lesson about focal point energy than simply cannot be taught with a Play Station.

- Make a mud pie. It’s messy. There is no life lesson to be learned. It’s just fun and squishy. Plus, it will give us a great excuse to make you take a shower.

- Run. It’s handy, because the more you run, the faster you get. Remember – you don’t have to be faster than the bear. You just have to be faster than the video game kid you were standing next to when you saw the bear.

- Do some pull-ups. They are handy for when you need to climb up, over, or out of something. You’ll be back up on the right side of the zoo fence while the video game kid is still stuck in the gorilla’s enclosure.

- Read a book. Your dad is an author, for goodness sake. Let’s keep up appearances.

- Learn to make cocktails. It’s a skill you’re going to want later in life, and it would be great if I could just order stuff instead of having to make it myself.

- Learn to cook. See above.

- Play with your Legos. They’re like Minecraft, but you can touch them. You have no idea how jealous I am of your fancy curved Legos, your Star Wars Legos, and your Legos that actually shoot projectiles. You are spoiled beyond belief when it comes to Legos. Earn it!

- Open a lemonade stand. We used to be OK with the computer games where you ran a restaurant or ran a hotel, thinking at least they were educational, but no more. Run an actual business that makes actual products to sell to actual people. You will learn so much more, and you will make actual money. I will then teach you about something the video games never did: expenses. You will pay me rent, you will pay me for the supplies, and I will tax your profits. Welcome to reality.

- Wander around the neighborhood. It’ll be just like Pokemon Go, but without the screen. You’ll actually notice actual physical things around you, and you’ll be forced to figure out which way to go to get home, without the help of Google Maps. That’s an important skill that almost no one your age will grow up with.

- Play an instrument. It will get you girls later. Video games will not.

- Ride your bike off a jump. It’s fun in a way that video games can never be. You might get hurt. That’s good. You can’t get hurt playing video games. Not being able to get hurt is bad. Nothing good in life comes without risk.

- Make nachos. Share them with your father. Nachos are delicious.

- When all else fails and you can’t think of anything else to do, take a nap. You will get nothing accomplished at all and it will still be better for you than screen time. Plus, you’ll be less grumpy.

In the meantime, you will hate me because I am unfair and all your friends get to play video games and I am unfair and mean and unfair. I’m perfectly OK with that, because when you are not busy resenting me you will be able to concentrate on solving a problem. You will be able to create a story in your mind and then communicate it to another person coherently. You will be able to have a conversation with another human being that involves eye contact and active listening. You will stand up straight. You will be able to survive outdoors. You will be strong and tanned and tough.

And I don’t want you to worry for a second about “falling behind” when it comes to technology. You’ll be just fine. You are smart and resourceful. When you grow up there will be people your age who will know far more about the inner workings of the devices you all use. There will be people your age who will be far better able to create the “code” to make things work. That’s just fine. In fact, it’s great.

You’ll hire those people.

I love you,

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 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 24, 2016

Lochte'd and Loaded

Through our almost unbelievably extensive worldwide network of undercover reporters here at Just a Smidge, we were able to secure an exclusive transcript of the impromptu meeting in Ryan Lochte’s Olympic village dorm room, just minutes after the story broke about the harrowing robbery he and his fellow party-goers were involved in. You’re welcome, America.

Ryan Lochte: Hey, why are you dudes in my room?

Jimmy Feigan: Did you seriously tell your mom we were robbed at gunpoint?

Lochte: Jeah, bro. When we got back this morning she asked me for some money. I didn’t have any because of last night, so I told her we got robbed. Pretty smart, huh?

Jack Conger: Smart? Are you kidding, dude? She told a reporter. It’s on the news!

Lochte: No way, bro. For reals?

Gunnar Bentz: Yes, for reals. Look at my phone!

Lochte: Dude. I’d better tweet about this right now.

Feigan: That’s a bad idea.

Conger and Bentz: Yes, very bad idea.

Lochte: Dudes, shut up. I’m the oldest. Plus, I’m rich. I totally know how to handle the media, bro.

Feigan: Why did you tell your mom we were robbed? Why not just say you spent all your money?

Lochte: I dunno, bro. I didn’t think of that. The booze at that France House was flowin’, yo! Plus, being robbed could be cool. Check it out, I’m sayin’ the dude had a gun to my forehead but I was all like, ‘whatever, bro.’

Feigan, Conger, and Bentz: Do not tweet that!

Lochte: Just did, bros! This is going to light up my Tinder account! Oh, man! I shoulda said I ninja kicked him. Dang. Maybe I’ll add that.

Feigan: You’re an idiot!

Lochte: Whatever, bro. I got a gold medal here.

Conger: We all got gold medals, you moron. We were in the same relay.

Lochte: Whatever, dude. You and Gunnar were only prelimers. I won the final.

Feigan: (coughs) Phelps

Lochte: Oh, whatevers, bro. I have twelve Olympic medals. That’s second most.

Feigan: Dude, you’re like thirteenth on the overall list.

Lochte: Second most for swimmers, bro.

Feigan: Dude, you’re tied with Jenny Thompson, Dara Torres, and Natalie Coughlin. And Jenny Thompson has two more golds than you.

Lochte: Second most for dudes, dude!

Conger: Yeah, behind Phelps.

Lochte: Whatever, dude. If it wasn’t for Phelps, I’d be Phelps.

Feigan, Conger, and Bentz: What?

Lochte: He’d be Ryan Lochte. You know what I mean. Whatever. I’m awesome.

Feigan: Which do you think is higher? Your IQ, or the pool temperature?

Lochte: Huh?

Feigan: You’re an imbecile. What happens when they get the video from the gas station?

Lochte: They’re not gonna have video.

Bentz: Every place has video.

Lochte: No way, bros. This country is totally bogus, man. My Tinder account wasn’t even working at that lame-o gas station.

Feigan: What?

Lochte: Jeah. It said there were no hot babes who wanted to date me within a mile of that place. That never happens.

Conger: We were at a gas station at six in the morning on a Sunday, dude. Why would there be any chicks around!?

Lochte: There’s always chicks around, bro. Always.

Feigan: Oh my God! Shut up! They’re going to get that video and you’re going to cause an international incident with Twitter because you lied to your mom! Are you kidding me right now? Why did you destroy that dude’s sign anyway?

Lochte: I don’t want to talk about it.

Feigan: I don’t care! You screwed all of us and probably the whole U.S. team. Why did you go berserk on that guy?

Lochte: Because I told him we were famous American swimmers, and he asked if Phelps was with us. He wanted his autograph. I hate that. Besides, you were the ones kicking the bathroom door.

Bentz: Because you locked it, dude!

Lochte: No, bro, I Lochte’d it. Get it?

Bentz: No.

Lochte: Hang on, let me take a quick selfie. *click* Oh, yeah, I’m SnapChatting that one. Look how good my hair looks. Hashtag woke up like this, hashtag ice blue goes good with gold. I’d better Instagram it, too. Hashtag no filter needed.

Feigan: Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! We need to tell coach that we weren’t robbed. He’ll know what to do.

Lochte: No can do, bro. We’re already blowin’ up on Twitter. Check it. Four hundred re-tweets already. Boom! Robbery it is. Let’s get our story straight.

Feigan: What story? We busted up a gas station and then paid the guy for the damage. That’s the only story! They’re gonna have us on video coming home at the metal detectors with our cell phones and our watches.

Lochte: We’ll just say the bad guys only took our cash. Besides, they probably don’t have cameras either. I’m telling you, this country is bogus, dude.

Feigan: Armed street thieves in Rio de Janeiro only took our cash, and let you keep your nine bazillion-dollar Ralph Lauren watch? Do you even have any idea what country we’re in?

Lochte: Jeah, bro. Rio. Duh. 2016 Rio Olympics. Hello? Oh, man, Tinder is blowin’ up. There’s honeys everywhere wanting to make sure I’m OK!

Feigan: Oh my God!

Conger: We can’t do this. They’re going to know we’re lying.

Lochte: Relax, bro. I’ll handle the media. I’ll go talk to Matt Lauer and Billy Bush again. They love me. Billy’s got a serious man crush on me, bro.

Feigan: Oh, great! That should go well. Aren’t you even the slightest bit worried about losing your endorsement deals?

Lochte: No way, bro. Speedo? Ralph Lauren? Those dudes need me. I’ll totally handle this.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 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 17, 2016

The Gold Medal Wiener

In my opinion, when measuring the most dominate Olympic athlete of all time, we must consider the wiener.

If you are dutifully keeping up with your Rio Olympics YouTube fail videos, you might immediately assume that I’m referring to Japanese pole vaulter Hiroki Ogita, and his unfortunate, yet anatomically impressive disqualification at the hands of his man parts.

I am not.

And you gymnastics fans might be thinking that I’m referring to a three-time Olympic medalist in the men’s trampoline event - high-flying Chinese silver medalist, Dong Dong. Again, you would be wrong.

South African rugby phenom Werner Kok? American synchronized diver Steele Johnson?

What’s the matter with you people? Get your minds out of the sewage-infested gutters of Rio. I’m obviously talking about hot dogs. Now get your minds into the sewage-infested pools of Rio and think swimming, people! Swimming and hot dogs. What do they have to do with each other, you ask? Well, a lot, as a matter of fact, when discussing total swimming dominance.

Michael Phelps has once again turned in one of the most amazing sports careers of all time. He left the sport of swimming the first time in 2012, at the end of the London Olympic Games, but decided on a comeback and added six more medals to his neck in Rio this year. He retires (we think) with twenty-eight Olympic medals, a staggering twenty-three of them gold.

Let’s put that into perspective with some handy bullet points:
- No other single Olympian in history even has double digits in gold. Not even Dong Dong.
- Phelps has two more total career Olympic medals than Egypt, and the country of Ireland is only beating him by one in the overall medal count. Don't even get me started on Kyrgyzstan. He beat them before he could legally buy beer.
- Brazil, this year’s host country, has the same amount of career gold medals as Michael Phelps now has at home, assuming Phelps gets out of the crime-infested host country with all of his medals.

At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Phelps made history by winning eight gold medals in eight straight events. He broke the long-standing record of fellow American swimmer Mark Spitz, who went seven golds for seven events in Munich in 1972. When Phelps broke Spitz’ medal record, the world crowned him as the new “Greatest Olympian,” and there was very little public debate about it. Now, as Phelps finishes up with his astonishing career medal count, crushing former Soviet female gymnast Larisa Last-name-ina for all-time individual medals won, and ending up with close to three times as many career medals as Spitz, he will be written into the history books as the greatest, bar none.

I am here today to dispute that. I am here today to tell you that Spitz was better, and my argument lies with the wiener.

My case for Spitz being a more dominant swimmer doesn’t even take into account that he won most of his 1972 Olympic races by body lengths, or that he set new world record times in all seven swims. I’m not even focusing on the fact that he swam without goggles, that he swam without a cap, or that he swam with an afro, all of his rather prodigious underarm hair, and a Tom Selleck mustache. My argument even ignores his 1970’s red, white, and blue Speedo, which is hard to ignore.

My argument has to do with eating. A lot of fuss is always made during the Olympic coverage about how much Michael Phelps and the other swimmers eat every day. While it is certainly a lot, in the world of competitive swimming, it’s pretty standard. World-class swimmers do two things - swim and eat. I was by no stretch of the imagination a world-class swimmer, or even a county- or city-class swimmer, but when I was swimming in high school, I would come home from practice and eat the entire right side of the fridge. That’s just par for the course, swimming-wise.

The amount of food that Spitz and Phelps put away during their swimming days is not where my argument lies. My case for Spitz’ athletic superiority comes from the amount of food he could put away during a race.

When I was in high school, our swim coach told us a story about Mark Spitz. Back when Spitz was in high school in Santa Clara, California, Coach Pete had seen him race at a nationals meet. Spitz already held national high school records in every stroke, and he was heavily favored in every one of his races, but when the swimmers took the blocks for one of his events, he was absent.

His name was called over the loudspeaker, and everyone at the pool and in the grandstands began looking around for him. When the race officials called his name again, telling him to report to his lane to start the race, he was seen jogging toward the starting blocks from the snack bar. He had three hot dogs in one hand, and he was eating another while he was running toward the pool.

He reached his starting block at one of the middle lanes of the pool, chewing the last of the hot dog he had been eating while he ran. He handed two of the three remaining dogs to the timer behind his block, asking the man to please save them for him. He then joined his opponents, stepping up onto his starting block, still holding a hot dog.

Now, let’s be clear for a minute. We’re talking about an Oscar Mayer wiener, in a bun, with the condiments of Spitz’ choice. In his hand. On the starting blocks. Of a nationals race. He had just Joey Chestnut’ed one of them while running. He was now standing over the end of his lane holding another.

As the crowd looked on in gastro-intestinal awe, Mark Spitz proceeded to stuff the entire hot dog into his mouth, reach down to touch the block at the “take your marks” command, and dive into the pool with seven other swimmers, starting his race while chewing and swallowing a whole hot dog on lap number one.

He beat the nearest finisher by almost two body lengths.

Michael Phelps is undoubtedly awesome, but all he ever did was swim. What about the wiener? It probably never even occurred to him to combine competitive eating with competitive swimming. Mark Spitz was a trailblazing, groundbreaking, lightning-fast, “I can eat a hot dog during this race and still whip your ass” kind of an athlete. Wait thirty minutes after eating before getting in the pool? No thanks. I’ll eat while I’m swimming.

Phelps says he did everything he set out to do, and the world seems to be in agreement on his status as the Greatest Olympian.

That may be true, but when measured against the wiener factor, Spitz still has my vote.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 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 10, 2016

Curls for the Core

Son Number One said the funniest thing he's ever said the other day. He asked his mom if we had any weights.

“Weights?” she asked, while trying not to laugh directly into his face. “Like dumbbells to lift?” *partially stifled snort*
“Uhh... Yes we do. Why do you ask?”
“I want to start working out. I need to work on my core. I can't even do a sit-up.”
*red-faced, snorting cough and quick turn away* “That’s great, honey.”

Please don't misunderstand. We are not normally in the habit of laughing at and mocking our children. I mean, not unless they do something incredibly stupid. Then, they’re just bringing it on themselves.

Anyway, this wasn't one of those times, so we were fighting very hard to keep straight faces. You see, the request for free weights and a workout routine would have seemed completely normal coming from Son Number Two, and would have been odd but believable from Number Three, but Son Number One? He doesn't like to move.

If you want to get him to groan, moan, whine, and complain all in one sentence, just wait for him to be sitting and then tell him he needs to get up. Want to hear him howl? Ask him to come upstairs to talk to you. He’s only eleven years old and he already sounds like he’s ninety.

Very early on in his first season, he asked his soccer coach if he could just go ahead and be goalie all the time, because as he put it, "I don't really like to run much."

Years later in his athletic career, Son Number One was told by his mean parents that he would be on his elementary school's cross country running team. After an intense period of whining we answered his main recurring question of “Whyyyyyyy????????”
“Because we participate on school sports teams and cross country is the only sport at your school.”

The other obvious reason was that his parents are all about any school-sponsored way to keep their kids out of the house for as long as possible, but we didn’t mention that part.

Son Number Two was told that he would be on the cross country team as well, and his response to the news was different than Son Number One’s, although it did involve him.
“I’m going to beat him!” was all he said.

We had very little doubt. Number One’s love of running had not yet blossomed at that point. Still hasn’t as a matter of fact.

At their first cross country meet, Son Number Two’s goal was to place in the top twenty runners. He met his goal. Son Number One's goal was, and I quote, "to not come in last." He also met his goal. By one runner. He was second to last. I think he beat a kid who was walking the course while playing Minecraft on his iPod.

It’s not a lack of ability. He can run really fast. I’ve seen him chase his brother when he’s angry. The boy’s got some jump. It’s just a lack of drive. That’s what makes baseball the perfect sport for him. The running is very short and far between episodes.

So given his eleven-year-and-counting streak of not wanting to give too much effort, we were more than a little surprised when he asked us for workout equipment. To his credit, we’re on day three of workout mania, and he hasn’t abandoned the five-pound weights yet. But I will maintain a cautious level of optimism, based on this conversation this morning:

“I just did a hundred curls on each arm.”
“Hmm... really feeling the burn, huh?”
“Well, A) maybe we need to get you bigger dumbbells, and B) I’m pretty sure that didn’t help your core. You should do sit-ups.”
“That’s the problem, I can’t do sit-ups very well.”
“What do you mean? I don’t get it.”
“I know you don’t son. I love you.”
“Whatever. You’re weird. Can I go watch TV now?”
“Sure. Find something really funny. It’ll help your core.”
“Never mind.”

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

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