Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Streaming Moo-vies

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

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

New sign-in to Netflix

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

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

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

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

–Your friends at Netflix

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe you guys should assign each Netflix account a cow…

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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

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

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Parcel Postpartum

On January 1, 1913, the U.S. Post Office began its parcel post service, increasing the size of packages they were willing to deliver from letter size only, to a whopping eleven pound weight limit.

What does this mean to you, you might ask? Specifically, why does this historical event allow you to feel better about your parenting decisions?

Great question!

Chances are you are not over 115 years old. If you are, please check your pulse, because you probably died a few years ago, and you need to let someone know. And if you’re not over 115, it probably never occurred to you to mail your baby somewhere.

See, right there, you can just take a quick second to pat yourself on the back for being an awesome parent. And even if you don’t have kids, you can still pat yourself on the back for being an outstanding human, because I doubt it would have occurred to you, given a scenario where you had offspring, to slap some stamps on them and drop them at the post office.

Great job everybody. You’re absolutely killing it!

The same cannot be said for Jesse and Mathilda Beagle of Ohio. What Mathilda lacked in the cool name department, she more than failed to make up for in the motherhood department. Jesse Beagle is actually a pretty cool name, and Jesse and the Beagles would make a decent name for a rock band, but let’s face facts: as a father, Jesse came up short.

Back in 1913, just a few weeks after the parcel post service launched, Jesse and Mathilda, who may or may not have had warts and a hump, respectively, mailed their eight-month-old son, James, to his grandmother. I am not making that up.

Many of you, in this day and age, will simply not be able to believe this story. Especially those of you who have never let your children farther away from you than the end of the leash. But trust me, every word of this story is historical fact.

Baby James was just shy of the eleven-pound weight limit for packages, and delivering him to his grandma, who lived just a few miles away in the hip, happening party town of Batavia, Ohio (which, amazingly, still exists on Google Maps) only cost his parents fifteen cents in postage.

Can you believe that? Fifteen cents! Nowadays the Post Office would charge at least $7.50 to mail a ten-pound baby.

So many questions are raised by Jesse and Mathilda’s decision to mail little James to his grammy. If she was only a few miles away, why not just ride him over there yourself on one of your trusty mules? Why pay the exorbitant fee of fifteen cents to mail him when it only cost a rabbit and two chickens for the doctor to deliver him in the first place? Shouldn’t he have weighed more than ten pounds at eight months old? Was handing your baby off to a stranger and crossing your fingers that he got to your mom’s house safely worth it just for a date night with a woman named Mathilda who may or may not have had a hump? And as far as baby James’ trip is concerned, was there an in-flight bottle service? And probably the most pressing of all the questions, after news of the incident surfaced, why weren’t both Jesse and Mathilda immediately sterilized?

And believe it or not, the Beagles were not the only wildly irresponsible parents willing to mail their children across the state or even the country. As the post office increased the parcel post weight limit to a more child-friendly fifty pounds, more and more parents started slapping postage on their kids.

The post office immediately recognized the potential issues that could occur if people continued to mail their children. The number of mail carriers being bitten by petulant toddlers was beginning to outpace the more common threats of stray dogs and rabid postal mules. And many of the postal workers were complaining that, while mule poop was expected, dealing with poopy diapers was not in their original civil servant contract.

Thankfully, our agile and ever so efficient government jumped on the problem right away. The practice of mailing children was only allowed for seven more years, with Washington putting its foot down in 1920, saying enough is enough. We simply can’t have any more rabid postal mules being bitten by petulant toddlers! No more mailing kids!

Thanks, Washington, for continuing to fall short of our already low expectations. And thanks, Jesse and Mathilda Beagle, for paving the way for all of us to feel a little bit better about our parenting decisions.

Chin up, America! Unless you’ve ever shipped your eight-month-old over to grandma’s house in an Uber, you’re doing a great job.

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, July 25, 2018

In-Law Breakers

We are currently visiting the boys’ grandma in beautiful Morro Bay, California. (Town motto: Come for the clam chowder, stay for the prohibitively excessive real estate prices!)

Our three boys have grown up visiting their grandparents here, playing at the beach and spending time with their cousins and their Uncle Jay. It has been almost four years since their Grandpa Dick passed away, and we recently traveled with grandma and Uncle Jay up to Alaska, where we spread the remainder of his ashes in the ocean where he loved to fish. (Don’t tell anyone we did that, though, because I’m pretty sure it’s illegal, and we didn’t have any permits.)

With both families back in Morro Bay visiting and reminiscing about the good times with Grandpa Dick, one of my favorite stories surfaced.

Six years ago, we were visiting here and had just finished up lunch at our favorite wharf-side restaurant. We were heading back to the car and my wife had Son Number One’s hand, who was seven years old at the time.

She saw an opening in the traffic, so she hurried him across the street in the middle of the block. He was resistant to go with her, tugging backward, and in the middle of the street, voiced his concern.

Son Number One: Mom, we’re dick walking!

[record scratch. Mom comes to a complete stop in the middle of the street]

Mom: Excuse me?? What did you say?

Number One: We’re dick walking. Why are we dick walking? We’re not supposed to.

Mom: ……

Number One: Shouldn’t we get out of the street?

Mom: ……

Number One: What?

Mom: …… Oh!!!! Do you mean jay walking?

Number One: Oh, yeah, sorry. Jay walking. That’s what I meant. We shouldn’t do that.

[sound of mom laughing so hard she very nearly pees her pants in the middle of the street]

I’m not sure what it says about his opinion of his mom’s family’s moral character, but our oldest son had been told the term for a pedestrian traffic violation and assumed it was named after his uncle. Then somewhere along the way, his unruly little seven-year-old brain mixed up father and son, and attributed the offense to his grandpa instead.

The result was pretty darn humorous, and something Son Number One will never live down. He probably wishes he’d mixed it up with his other grandpa instead, then he wouldn’t still be hearing about it. Dave walking isn’t nearly as funny. 

We miss you, Grandpa Dick! Glad you got to make it back to Alaska one last time, even if we had to bend or ignore a few rules to do it.

Why our sons would associate us with law-breaking activities continues to be a mystery.

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, July 18, 2018

High Pressure Shopping

Yesterday was Prime Day on Amazon. At this point, I would assume that every person in the entire civilized world is an Amazon Prime member, so you no doubt knew that.

The first item that caught my attention was a 9” tall, 5” diameter white metal cylinder with the title “Furbo Dog Camera.”

At first I thought it was like a dog toy, where you could teach your dog to carry it around and take pictures of interesting stuff, like other dogs’ butts and holes in the lawn. But on further investigation, it turns out it’s supposed to just sit on the shelf or counter and act as a canine baby monitor.

All the features and other reasons why I should buy it were very confusing, but there was a handy video to explain everything.

The video featured Cha Cha, a Husky-looking dog, approximately 40-60 pounds, who lives in an apartment with a single woman who leaves him at home to head off to work for the day.

When he’s barking at the door in the middle of the day, she receives a “Cha Cha is barking” alert on her Furbo smartphone app, and she is able to talk to him to calm him down via the two-way microphone and speaker communication system. Her office mates look at her with the appropriate amount of distain.

Later in the day, after an important meeting where she is no doubt ridiculed behind her back by her coworkers for talking to her dog on her phone, she is able to check in on Cha Cha, even though the sun has gone down and the apartment is dark, because Furbo’s camera has night vision.

But my favorite part of the video was when she gives Cha Cha a treat in the middle of the day, via the Furbo’s treat-tossing hole. You heard me. The Furbo has a hole in the middle of it from which it can toss a treat to the dog. Along with a camera and a microphone, this little 9” x 5” cylinder has a bamboo wood cover and is filled with delicious dog treats.

This is how I know this is a fake product. And Cha Cha is obviously a fake dog, because after the first treat launched out, every dog, no matter what size or how well trained, would immediately remove the pint-sized Furbo from the shelf, gnaw the bamboo cover off, and snarf down every single treat contained inside.

Furbo claims to have 1900 reviews with a 4-star average rating, which is obviously a complete fabrication, or else every positive review is about how white it kept their dog’s teeth from chewing all that bamboo.

More Prime Day Deals were coming fast and furious, in what appeared to be a random order, but as we know, Amazon is owned by an astronaut, and astronauts never do things randomly. You don’t just fly your rocket to wherever. There is always some rhyme or reason to the products Amazon presents you with. For instance, I have a dog, so the Furbo ad made sense, even if the product itself is patently ridiculous. I was, however, a little confused by two other deals I saw back to back.

The first was Poo-Pourri Before-You-Go Toilet Spray. If you haven’t heard of this product, it’s something you spray on top of the toilet water before you poop. I am not making that up. It apparently helps trap odors under the water, sort of like a flower-scented layer of Saran wrap. (Note: Saran wrap of any scent does NOT work for this application.)

Again, if you are unfamiliar, I implore you to look up the Poo-Pourri ad campaign with the nice British lady who speaks very frankly about her poop. The ads are solid. (Pun intended)

The original 2-oz bottle was available for only $6.51, dropped from the original price of $9.95, but I had to move on the deal and plop it into my cart in the next 3 hours and 10 minutes before the offer was flushed out of the system. I passed. (Again, all puns intended, however, completely unnecessary and juvenile)

Floating there, right next to the Poo-Pourri, was the next Prime Day Deal. For a limited time, I could score a Generac SpeedWash Model 6882 2900-PSI Gas-Powered Pressure Washer for only $349.00. I don’t know what the original price was, but that sounds like a smokin’ deal to me. I mean, that’s only $0.12 per PSI. Where else are you going to find PSI’s that cheap? Nowhere, man!

Amazon has obviously figured out that I like power tools, probably using the ingenious algorithm of, “He’s a dude. Sell him power tools.” But what I can’t figure out is what a 2900-PSI pressure washer has in common with an anti-stink toilet spray. They have to be connected to each other in one of Amazon’s internal algorithms, because I have never shopped for anything even remotely connected to poo spray on the internet.

I have purchased Saran wrap before, but that can’t be it. The only possible explanation is there must be a strange sector of power tool-loving men out there who have inexplicably rejected toilet paper in favor of pressure washers. A mobile, gas-powered, 2900-PSI bidet, if you will. I will not. These men are probably from Alaska, or Montana, or Detroit, and I have no idea how I became associated with them.

Either that, or the Poo-Pourri and the pressure washer are related to my dog somehow, but she very rarely uses the toilet, and I think she’d bite me if I hit her with 2900 PSI. It’s all very confusing.

I’ll tell you what, though. Speaking of toilets and pressure washers, what the hell have we been doing all these years with that silly little toilet brush? When it comes time to clean the bathroom, the Generac SpeedWash 6882 would put the hurt on that job in a hurry! Why didn’t I think of that before?

Excuse me, I need to get back to Amazon and see if that deal is still available.

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, July 11, 2018

The Bud Light Blob

“There are no salmon. This is the worst fishing we have had in twenty-eight years.”

When you travel thousands of miles via plane, rental car, bus, train, smaller plane, Uber, foot, cab, ferry, and finally, tiny float plane, to get to a remote five-star floating Alaskan fishing lodge, there are a lot of things you want to hear when you step out of the float plane onto the dock. That is not one of them.

We were fortunate enough to have been guests at this same great place, the Sea Otter Sound Lodge, four years ago, and apparently, we became spoiled then, fishing-wise. Four years ago, we almost couldn’t keep the salmon out of the boat. And since they are the premier Alaskan fish, we spent almost all our time targeting the salmon, never fishing very seriously for any other species.

That being said, let’s not forget my masterful helmsmanship on the last trip, the day I guided my wife to her monster seventeen-pound halibut. Halibut boat captaining requires that you are able to keep your boat positioned over the same spot on the ocean floor, some two to four hundred feet below.

I was so skillful at this maneuver, my wife could be heard for miles singing my praises with encouraging phrases like, “What the hell are you doing?” and, “Why are we spinning like a drunken ballerina?” She could be heard for miles across the ocean not because sound carries well across water, but because we traveled for miles across the ocean as I fearlessly attempted to keep us in one place.

I tried to explain to her about tidal friction, wave current, ballast displacement, navigational knots, etc. – all the nautical factors that I had to take into account as captain – but I don’t think she understood it all. At one point, she even grabbed the VHS radio mic off my bulkhead helm near the port aft, and called the lodge, saying something I didn’t quite catch about “another boat driver.” I assume she was letting them know that the other guests couldn’t compare to me. I heard Tim, the owner of the lodge, say something about sympathizing with her concerns, but the conversation was interrupted when the fishing line started zinging off her reel.

I had maneuvered the boat directly over the top of the waiting beast, and my wife was in for the fight of her life. Two and a half minutes later, we hauled our catch over the side of the boat (known as the stern whale), after I had harpooned and gaffed it extensively, because that’s what you do with the big game.

Fortunately, I had not forgotten any of those halibut boat captaining skills, because we needed them this past week.

As Tim explained to us upon our arrival, the entire state of Alaska is currently being visited by the least amount of salmon they have seen since the Paleozoic era. Apparently, in 2014, there was a situation in the Pacific Ocean that somehow caused this issue.

This all had something to do with El Nino, which is Alaskan Inuit for “no salmon.” El Nino is an ocean current, or a storm, or a small baby whale. Details are sketchy. What they do know for sure is that a series of “perfect storm” events lined up to create what scientists have very scientifically named, “The Blob.”   

The Blob is a vast pocket of warm water, floating in the cold water. It formed in 2014 as a small blob, and then El Nino combined forces with other unnamed forces and transformed the baby blob into a massive blob, about one thousand square miles in size on the surface, and a significant number of fathoms deep. (Unfortunately, no one knows how much a fathom is, so we’ll never really know how deep it goes.)

The Blob prevented the salmon that would normally be in the waters of Alaska now from getting there on time. Think of The Blob as a giant oceanic TSA security station, or the DMV of the deep.

As he explained this to the group, I shrunk silently to the back of the room, hoping not to draw attention to myself. I crossed my fingers and prayed Tim and his wife Murtie would not make the connection, but it was obvious to me. We were there, fishing in the Alaskan Pacific in 2014.

Between the eight of us, we consumed an inordinate amount of beer over the five-day fishing trip. Since we were on the boats all day, the vast majority of that beer was recycled directly into the ocean.

Could we have been responsible for the blob? Well, I think it’s a real possibility. I’m no oceanographer, but I can tell you I’m probably responsible for at least two to three hundred square miles of ocean being converted to 98.6 degrees..

Further fueling my suspicions of culpability is the fact that the blob is gone now. It slowly dissipated over the last four years. And where were we the last four years? Not peeing in the Alaskan ocean, that’s where. Coincidence? You be the judge.

Sorry about that, Alaska. We toned it down on the beer this time, so fingers crossed for four years from now. I’m looking forward to getting home and grilling up our halibut from this trip. I think I have enough for a pretty decent appetizer.

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, July 4, 2018

The Fourth in the Forty-Ninth

We are currently on vacation up north, spending the Fourth of July in the great state of Alaska, which we are told is actually part of the United States. Go America! We are having a great time and learning all sorts of interesting things in the 49th state. We started in Fairbanks, where we learned that despite what Santa might have you believe, reindeer are just a slower, dumber version of caribou.

We also learned that Alaska’s state bird is not the eagle or the goose, as you might expect. It’s the mosquito, which sucks.

We then learned all about the Alaska highway system as we drove down to Denali National Park. It turns out, unfortunately, the state has not had an actively working road maintenance crew since 1911. Some of the potholes are pretty bad, but thankfully the larger ones are filled with unlucky cars and pickup trucks, so you just rattle right over the top of them.

Once we made it to Denali we learned about all the majestic animals that live in the park, and what a suckfest it is to be a caribou. The winters are bad enough, with forty-below temperatures and having to dig through snow drifts to chew lichen off rocks, all the while being pursued by wolves, but the summer and spring for the caribou are worse. That’s because in the summer, there is something called a nostril fly, and it does exactly what it sounds like. It flies up the caribou’s nose.

But wait, it gets worse.

They fly up the caribou’s nose to lay their eggs. The fly larvae winter in the caribou’s throat, and then the caribou coughs them out in the spring. There is simply no way around it - it just sucks to be a caribou.

There was nothing we could do for the poor beasts, so we jumped on a train and headed for Anchorage.

We learned that Anchorage has about 300,000 people, which is almost half of the population of the entire state. And all 300,000 residents have fireworks that they shoot off, beginning around 11:59 P.M. on July 3rd and going well into the morning of the 4th. I’m not sure why, though. You can’t see them.

That’s because, from a sunlight perspective, there seems to be very little discernable difference between midnight and noon here. Alaska is the weirdest place on earth in the summer. On our first night in Fairbanks, we accidentally let the kids stay up until midnight, because we all thought it was still five or six in the evening. Around 3 A.M., we realized that the sun had no intention of actually going down. It just sort of made a lazy circling pass near the horizon, then headed back up.

Consequently, we learned that Alaska has some of the crankiest, most sleep-deprived young tourists in the world, and also the best summertime vegetable growing conditions in all of America. No one understands this better than a gardening madman from Palmer, Alaska by the name of Scott Robb. (I mean he understands vegetables. I don’t know if he knows how cranky our kids are.)

We learned that Scott is the Alaska State Fair Giant Vegetable Champion in not one, not two, but nine different types of vegetables and melons, seven of which are world records.

Scott has grown (and somehow transported to the fair, presumably with help) a 138-pound cabbage, a 65-pound cantaloupe, a 63-pound celery stalk, a 106-pound kale plant, a 97-pound kohlrabi, an 83-pound rutabaga, and a 39-pound turnip, all of which are world records.

The amazing enormity of these vegetables leads to so many questions, not the least of which is, what the hell is a kohlrabi?

Scott also holds the state fair records for cauliflower (36 pounds) and watermelon (169 pounds), but those are not world records. That means at some point, somewhere in the world, some super gardener’s poor kids were forced to eat over 37 pounds of cauliflower before they could leave the table. The humanity!

We were not able to meet Scott Robb or his family, which is a shame, because I really wanted to be invited to their house for dinner, just to see if, as I suspect, they serve the salad in the bed of a Ford F-150. They probably have dinner rolls the size of couch cushions.

Oh, well. We’ll just continue to eat regular-sized food and dream.

So, anyway, today, as you thank God that you’re an American, you can also take pride in the fact that the pioneering, adventurous, giant vegetable-growing spirit is alive and well in this great country of ours.

You can also be thankful that you got more sleep than I did last night.

And that you’re not a caribou.

Happy Independence Day!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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

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

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Pour your Money Down this Hole

The city of Rocklin, California is getting into the adventure theme park business.

Well, maybe they are. We’re not actually sure yet. It all centers on a big hole in the ground.

My Sycamore Detective Agency series takes place in Rocklin, and quite a bit of the fictional action in the third book takes place in the real-life quarry pit formerly known as the Big Gun.

For full disclosure, in order to maintain my impeccable record of journalistic integrity, I must admit that I have quite a bit of personal heartburn with the city of Rocklin regarding this particular quarry pit. It sits smack in the middle of the older part of town, and it used to have a really (arguably) cool old barn on the property. It also had two huge wooden masts – literally masts from old ships – standing high above the pit on either end. They were the derrick crane masts that were used to bring the enormous blocks of granite up out of the pit, and they were strung together with massive steel cables to keep them upright.

The city politely listened to all the Rocklin Historical Society folks about the need to preserve the very historical building and masts, and then tore it all down the next day to build an amusement park.

I really don’t like that some of the cool real-life old historical stuff in my book is no longer there, but at least they left the big hole in the ground. That’s something, I guess.

Truth be told in this situation, I’m really more concerned about the fact that a government entity (that takes my money from me) thinks it’s a good idea to get into the business of building and operating an entertainment venue. Here’s why:

Last year, the city unveiled their grand plan of putting zip lines over the big hole and putting spikes and ropes and such in the walls of the quarry so adventurous adventurers could climb up and down. It was going to be amazing.

Tickets went on pre-sale before Christmas in anticipation of the adventurous grand summer opening adventure. There were fun pictures that someone from the city drew up of what all the adventure would probably look like really soon. There were even going to be cargo nets and maybe even slides!

For around a hundred dollars per happy adventurer, we could buy season passes.

Based on the five-hundred-dollar price tag and the fact that, at that point, the site was nothing more than a muddy, deserted, demolished old quarry hole, our family politely declined the amazing pre-purchase opportunity.

I forgot about the whole thing as the winter went on, and apparently so did all the people in charge of building it. Winter moved into spring, and around May, I started to get the impression – mainly because absolutely nothing had been constructed yet – that the park might not be ready by the time school got out.

Lo and behold, just the other day I heard a radio report on the new Rocklin Adventure Park. It seems the city had to break the news to all the nice folks who bought season passes that their dreams of summer fun zip-lining over a giant hole would not be realized. Seems the facility isn’t quite ready – meaning it still looks almost exactly like it did in May.

They have a new (wildly optimistic) estimated opening day of August 31st, conveniently, for the parents of the greater Rocklin area, after school is back in session. But don’t worry, folks, your season passes will still be valid for the whole season, whatever that may end up being defined as.

Oh, and one other tiny little tidbit the news story mentioned – the city needs another $1.3 million, give or take, to get the project completed.

Wow, you might say, $1.3 million seems like more than enough money to string some zip lines over a quarry pit, let alone as an add-on to get the project competed. What did they say they needed the extra $1.3 million for, specifically?

Oh, nothing major. Just restrooms and a food court.

I am not making that up.

The people that take my money to run my city forgot to include toilets at their amusement park.

Let that sink in for a minute while they have a meeting and ask themselves for another $1,300,000. Think they’ll say yes to themselves?

Actually, Rocklin, better make it $1.5 million. That way you can buy some toilet paper, too.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Tenth Anniversary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy, but don’t expect to learn anything.

Hot Chicks and Cool Dudes
Originally posted July 7, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Dog (Birth)days of Summer

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

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

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

Also born on June 13th:

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

1911 Albert Cleage, famous African – Famous African what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Gubernatorial Spice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solid platform, Zoltan.

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

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

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

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

Why not? You already have a tour bus.

Good luck, California!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Ask Smidge - Special Graduation Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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

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

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

46 at 46

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7.  Here’s the main difference between men and women: Men can look at an ad for women's underwear and get excited. Not women in underwear, just the underwear itself. Women do not get excited looking at pictures of boxer shorts.

8.  You are wholeheartedly fooling yourself if you think the government is efficient at anything except taking your money.

9.  The clearest evidence that capitalism beats communism is that the Red Bull beverage company put a man in space. Take that, North Korea. Anheuser-Busch can probably shoot down your nukes.

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

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

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

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

14.  When packing thirteen suitcases into the car for your wife, is it impossible to have ten of them be “on top” so she can get to them easily.

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

16.  You can ask someone to do something, or you can tell them how you want it done, but you cannot do both.

17.  A good indicator of where you are in life is this: Does the advertisement of free food still affect your decision making?

18.  Fabric softener sheets go in the dryer, not the washer. Just FYI. I’m not saying I didn’t know that.

19.  There is no “t” or “t” sound in the word across. There is no “b” or “b” sound in the word supposedly. Please pronounce accordingly.

20.  Men are far more likely to clean things with spit than women are.

21.  Money and toilet paper have something in common – They’re both easy to take for granted until you run out. Also, in totally opposite, but equally dire situations, they can be substituted for each other.

22.  Everyone should drive while driving. Always.

23.  If you ask any guy to tell you a story about a time he almost died, he will have four stories just off the top of his head, and one will be from this year. If you ask women the same question, most of them will look at you like you’re crazy.

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

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

26.  In life, it is very important to remember where you are and why you're there. That way, when your podiatrist tells you to drop your shorts, you’ll ask some questions first.

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

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

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

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

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

32.  You cannot claim to be a grown woman, fully capable of taking care of yourself, and also claim that you do not know how to operate a toilet seat.

33.  We, as humans, all share a universal reaction – the automatic flinch when the driver hits the button and starts rolling up the car window under your arm.

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

35.  To be or not to be is not the question. The real question is, which towel in the guest bathroom am I allowed to use to dry my hands?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

43.  Guys, do you ever have trouble figuring out if you’ve had too much to drink? Here’s a handy guideline:
“There is no way I can scratch that itch on my ankle while I’m standing here peeing, so I will not try.” – You’re still OK
“I can totally do it without peeing on myself.” – You are drunk

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

45.  No matter who you are, no matter where you're from, there is one shared experience that binds us all together as one people: The sheer horror of the ketchup or mustard water falling from the unshaken bottle and contaminating your food forever. I feel your pain.

46.  If you have to choose, it makes more sense to become a strong swimmer than a strong runner. You don’t automatically die when you stop running.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

We Put the "IT" in School District

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s my problem:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

But they only let me take the survey once.

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

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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

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

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The All-Cake Diet

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

Here’s how it works:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eat more practice cakes.

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

Eat more practice cakes.

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

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

Eat a volcano cake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eat your garage for lunch.

So on, and so forth.

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

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

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

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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!