Wednesday, May 22, 2019

47 at 47


I am turning 47 years old in a couple days, which is hard for my brain to accept, since it regularly tells my body I’m still 25. My knees, my back, and my hamstrings, 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 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 a lot of leeway depending on if what you dropped was the last one.

4.  People who say things like, “We’re going to cross-functionalize and parallel task your mission-critical bandwidth,” don’t understand what they’re saying any more than you do.

5.  And 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. I’m not talking about 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.  Owning a pool in the winter is like making payments on your new snowmobiles all summer.

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

13.  When pulling out a stump with your truck, make sure the roots don’t have ahold of your water main. Trust me.

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.  If one of my boys saw their brother in a fight, I'm certain they would jump in and help. I'm just not sure which side they'd be on.

16.  You can ask someone to do something, or you can tell them how you want it done, but you can’t 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.  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.  Your dog thinks it has saved you from being murdered at least a thousand times by barking at the front window, yet you remain completely ungrateful.

28.  Hold out as long as you can before putting on your first pair of magnifying “reader” glasses. The second you do, your eyes give up like a marathoner crossing the finish line.

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.  Pointing out that Van Gogh’s “girlfriend” was actually a prostitute during a fifth-grade art docent lesson is not helpful for anyone involved. Again, I’m not saying I did this; I just want you to know.

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.  Don’t waste your time trying to have a logical conversation with a teenager. Their brains are physically incapable of sustained logic. Instead, just give them healthy food in large quantities and cross your fingers that they leave your house at some point in your lifetime.

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.  Getting passport photos taken at Walmart seems ironic.

38.  In order to properly keep up with the hair from a shedding dog, you should own enough Roomba robotic vacuum cleaners to equal the dog’s weight. For instance, a seventy-pound Lab requires six Roombas (running twenty-four hours a day).

39.  The idiots 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 idiots who are most likely to try to run from the police at some point. That makes me smile.

40.  The people of Earth can be easily divided into two categories: People you would let watch your kids for five minutes, and people you 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.  The problem with trying to raise independent, strong-willed children is that if you are succeeding, you have to live with independent, strong-willed children.

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.  I just said, “I don’t want you two on top of each other on the couch. Find something else to do,” to two of my sons. I guess I should be grateful, because it probably won’t be too long before I’ll need to say that to one of them and his girlfriend.

47.  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,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Google Nesting Place

It was recently announced, in what can only be seen as the beginning of the end of the world, that Google has made the obvious strategic move to team up with Nest.

Google will now be inside your thermostat.

I'm not sure that's a great idea. Do I need to point out the massive failure that was Google+ again? If they can't set up and manage a simple thing like a world-wide social media and networking site to compete with Facebook, what makes them think they are qualified to determine what temperature to keep my living room?

Do they even realize that my wife lives in the house? Sure, Google probably has a lot of smart people behind the scenes, but if they are foolish enough to think they can remove the manual aspect of temperature management inside my home, they obviously didn’t get too much common sense with all that book learnin’!

I mean, do the Google engineers even comprehend the fact that 72 degrees is apparently a completely different temperature, depending on what temperature it is outside. Or in the car?

Do the geniuses at Google understand that my wife thinks 72 degrees is not the same temperature in the summer as it is in the winter?

Do they know that having it be two degrees colder or warmer in an adjacent room or near a window can completely negate whatever temperature it is on the couch?

Something tells me the Google Nest won’t understand the gravity of the situation when my wife says, “It’s cold in here.” The Google Nest can’t possibly learn to read her body language and tone of voice.

Should it immediately spike the thermostat to 95 degrees and retreat to the garage for two hours, or should it bring her a blanket, kiss her on the forehead, and ask about her day? I’m not sure the Google engineers will be able to write that decision tree into the code with any success.

As I understand it, computers work mainly by computing things. I would assume the Google people need to somehow write some code of some kind to run the thermostat, and I assume that code will need to compute different variables.

Off the top of my head, in the last thirty seconds, I developed this short, very incomplete list of variables they’ll need to consider in order to choose the correct temperature for my wife:

Tone of voice
Posture
Current temperament and mood
Sarcasm level
Actual outside temperature
Perceived outside temperature
Actual current inside temperature
Perceived inside temperature
Season
Weather
Dew point
Relative humidity
Current temperament and mood of children
Wind speed and direction outside
Temperature of garage she just spent seven seconds in
Clothing layers and thickness
Square inches of exposed skin near the ankles or wrists
Shoes vs. boots
Do the boots have fur?
Actual draftiness
Perceived draftiness
Activity level in the last hour
Sock type and thickness
Are the socks “cozy” or just regular?
Hydration level
Pre/During/Post dinnertime?
Amount of wine consumed

I just can’t see them figuring all that out.

But, never mind all that. There’s one central problem that will cause all the rest of these problems to be moot: The Google Nest will be mounted to the wall.

How is it possibly going to duck out of the way of a flying shoe if it’s foolish enough to suggest that she might want to put on a sweater?

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen


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

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

An Open Letter to Shutterfly, Regarding Lifetouch

Dear Shutterfly,

Last November was the first time I heard your name associated with the venerable, dare I say, tour de force of a company that is Lifetouch School Portraits.

It happened when Lifetouch sent me an email with promo codes to create free Shutterfly photo books.

A few days later, Lifetouch sent another email explaining that “We were a little too excited to deliver your free Shutterfly photo book offer so you may have received a code that doesn’t work.”  I guess they included new promo codes that may or may not have actually worked. I’ll never know, because I never tried them.

I never tried the original promo codes either, because the pictures Lifetouch was offering to put into a free Shutterfly photo book were taken by Lifetouch.

I don’t even have to go back and look at them. I just know.

Son Number One will have a forced, pained smile on his face, like he just stepped barefoot onto a bunch of seashells.

Son Number Two’s hair will be all over the place and his glasses will be visibly smudged and probably on his face crooked. His smile is a fifty-fifty toss-up.

Son Number Three will have some sort of food or condiment prominently displaced somewhere on his face or head, and his “smile” will either look pained, quizzical, confused, nervous, or, like last year’s picture, strangely rodent-ish. It will look like anything other than his actual beautiful, joyous smile.

I’m not sure why I would want any of that in a photo book, free or otherwise.

Lifetouch screwing up the codes didn’t surprise me one bit, because I have a long history with them. I have written them many helpful letters over the years (thirteen to be exact) giving them tons of free advice on how to take passable pictures of children, how to improve their business model, and how to just generally not suck at what they do.

As far as I know, no one at Lifetouch has ever read a single one of my letters. They certainly haven’t taken any of my free advice, like, maybe wiping the macaroni and cheese off the kid’s face before snapping the picture, and stuff like that.

You might not have as much direct personal experience with them, but the fact that they screwed up the free promo code email should have been a major warning sign for you.

But instead of running away as fast as you could, apparently you just went ahead and purchased Lifetouch. And according to Forbes, you paid $825 million for them! You really should have called me first. That was not a good idea.

If you really wanted to get into the school picture business so badly, I honestly believe you could have cornered the market for less than ten or twelve thousand dollars by hiring retired postal employees to take pictures at the schools with their personal cell phones. Seriously.

Anyway, today I received a desperate plea from “Lifetouch + Shutterfly” that my Fall Portraits would soon expire, and I was given helpful portrait ID numbers and access codes for all three boys so I could purchase them and have you preserve them forever.

Sounds like you guys over at Shutterfly are trying to figure out how to get back some of those wisely-spent millions. And how do I know those codes will even work?

Never mind that – back to my original point here, Shutterfly. The pictures you want me to buy were taken by Lifetouch. If I wouldn’t buy the individual paper pictures, why would I buy a hardcover book of them? Or a coffee mug? Or a pillow? Or a wrapped canvas wall hanging?

He has mustard on his face!

I have to look at food on his face almost every time he’s actually in the room. Why would I want to immortalize it on my wall, as well?

He’s smiling like he just backed into an electric fence!

Why would I want to put that on a pillow? Pillows are supposed to make people comfortable!

Have your financial people call me. We should talk.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Desperately Searching for Talent

Thanks to all you boys and girls who signed up ahead of time and came out to audition today for the elementary school talent show. And a special thanks to all you kids who added your names to the list five minutes ago, even though it has been posted in the office for three weeks now. Glad to have you here.

We will take the auditions in the order that you signed up on the list. What's that, ma'am? Your daughter who signed up a half hour ago has tennis lessons today and can't stay past 3:00? Well, I'm not sure what to tell you, since there are about thirty kids who signed up ahead of her and it's already 2:45.  Maybe she could come back after tennis, or be late to practice? No ma'am, I have not been told that I'm particularly unreasonable. I'm sorry to hear that. We will miss her version of “I’m a Little Teacup.”

OK, everybody, let’s get started. First, I see, we have Kayden from the 6th grade playing piano.

[sound of individual piano keys being played in an order that does not necessarily suggest music to the listener]

Wow, OK, thank you for that Kayden. Out of curiosity, how long have you been taking piano lessons? Six years, is that right? Well, thank you for sharing your gift with us today.

OK, next up we have… oh, goody, another piano player. Jade is here from the 2nd grade.

[sound of Beethoven coming from a broken down old elementary school piano as an eight-year-old virtuoso’s fingers fly over the keys]

(Praise Jesus) Thank you, Jade! That was magnificent, sweetheart! Kayden, you might want to get the name of Jade’s teacher. No reason, just in case yours ever decides to retire or something.

Now we have Suzy and Kendall from the 5th grade performing a dance routine.

[alleged dance routine takes place intermittently]

Thank you, ladies. One note that I think deserves mentioning – most dance routines out there involve quite a bit of actual dancing. Yours seemed to contain quite a bit of standing and vague, almost imperceptible, arm movements. What’s that? It was for artistic effect? Oh, OK. Is that why you picked such a sad, slow song? Gotcha. OK, thanks for coming today. What’s that? No, no decisions will be made today. (at least no out loud decisions) We will let you know soon.

OK, looks like we have another dance routine. Kylie from the 3rd grade is here. Take it away, Kylie.

[rap song blares and a dance routine starts that would make the folks in a Prince video blush]

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hold the music! Um… Kylie, honey, that kind of dancing is a little inappropriate for elementary school. What’s that, mom? Uh, OK, that might be how she dances at home, but you understand this talent show is being held here for the students, right? And that song can’t be played at school, anyway. What’s that? Well, I guess we could try to find a clean version of it, but I’m afraid it wouldn’t have too many words left. OK, go ahead and see what you can come up with. Moving on.

[two excruciating hours later]

OK, thank you for that. One note – try to sing to the back of the room. No, I don’t think you did. We have your microphone turned all the way up and we can barely hear you. Yes, sing to the back of the room. You are only singing to the back of your own throat.

Great, OK, looks like only one more audition and then we can go home (and seriously reconsider our life choices while we have a stiff drink and try to determine how we are going to put this show together…).

OK, hello Avery from the 4th grade. What song will you be singing? OK, and do you have the music? You’re going to sing it a cappella? Umm… OK, well, good luck. Let’s hear it.

[sound of the most soulful, rich, powerful, silky-smooth adult singing voice coming from a four-foot-tall girl, which makes every adult in the room weep with awe and joy]

Thank you so much, Avery, for adding your name to the list at the last minute. And thank you for going to this school!

(We’ve got ourselves a talent show!)

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Happy Birthday, Heimlich

Today is the birthday of the Heimlich maneuver. I don’t mean like when it was invented. I have no idea when that was. I mean today we used the Heimlich maneuver on a birthday. On the birthday boy, more specifically.

Son Number Three turned eleven years old today, and I talked him into choosing Chipotle for his birthday dinner spot. It wasn’t a hard sell. It’s Chipotle after all.

So, there we all are at a big round galvanized steel table, and I’m just minding my own business, eating my chicken burrito bowl with pinto beans and cilantro lime rice, when someone starts asking Number Three if he’s OK. He happens to be sitting directly to my right, so I was kind enough to take a moment away from my amazing bowl topped with cheese, sour cream, and both pico de gallo and tomatillo green salsa, to glance over at him.

I just thought he was gagging and needed to throw up.

At this point in the story, I think we need to step back a little and give you, the faithful reader, some background on my parenting crisis management skills.

I’m sure if I ever saw one of my children on fire, I would move quickly. Hardly any doubt, there. Short of that, however, I’m more methodical in my crisis intervention. My wife calls it oblivious, but there’s a fine line there I don’t think she’s seeing.

She might have a little bit of a point, though.

I mean, there was the time that Son Number Three broke his femur when he was three. He was crying and going on and on, so I did the responsible dad thing and told him to rub some dirt on it and get back in the game. In my defense, I had no way of knowing it was broken. Only a highly trained ER doctor can diagnose that kind of thing in the waiting room seven seconds after you arrive.

But this whole birthday Chipotle incident was really more like the time Son Number Two fainted. He was sitting up on one of our barstools a few years back, and I had his foot in my lap, working on popping a blister with a needle. As it turned out, the blister was really a wart of some kind, and shoving a needle through it apparently hurt a little. Or a lot.

He let out a little squeal, and I looked up from the non-blister to see him acting kinda weird. He was doing something funny with his eyes, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why he was leaning back off the stool, like he was getting ready to do a set of ab crunches. I sat there holding his foot and wondering what his plan was when my wife, from across the room at a dead sprint, informed me he was in the process of fainting.

He hit the floor pretty hard, but I saved his foot.

Now, in my defense, I have only fainted twice that I know of, and I was unconscious both times, so I had no idea what it looked like.

Anyway, today, when I noticed that Son Number Three was gagging and sticking his fingers down his throat and possibly needed to throw up, I jumped into action. As I took another bite of my amazing Chipotle chicken burrito bowl, I searched frantically for someone else’s burrito bowl to position under his chin.

I mean, let’s not throw up all over this nice galvanized steel table. We don’t have enough napkins for that.

Just about the time my wife was trying to shove me out of the way to get to her youngest son, his oldest brother, who was seated on the other side of him from me, solved the dilemma with a modified Heimlich maneuver.

It turns out Son Number Three was actually choking on a wad of tortilla about the size of a golf ball. I would have thought he’d have learned to eat a burrito properly by the age of eleven, but today proved otherwise. Go figure.

I say “modified” Heimlich, because it was really more of a one-handed, single-shot Heimlich to the back. Basically, his older brother open-hand slapped him really hard on the spine and dislodged the offending tortilla wad. They must teach that kind of thing in school now. Modern education is wonderful.

Everything turned out just fine, but for some reason my wife still seems mad at me for not acting faster. I tried to explain my contemplative (almost laissez-faire, if you will) emergency management style to her again, but she just muttered something and walked off.

I think she might also still be a little mad about her burrito bowl.

Anyway, all’s well that ends well. Happy birthday, Number Three!

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Spring Broke


It’s spring break this week for our three boys, which means they are not in school and their teachers are off somewhere getting drunk.

It’s also spring break this week for my wife, who is a high school teacher, which means she’s with us all week. And she’s getting drunk.

Since everyone else in the family is on break, that means I am too, so we decided – possibly while drunk – that we should go to Disneyland.

We logged onto the Disneyland website to buy tickets, chose five two-day park passes, added them to the cart, then opened a new browser tab and logged onto our bank’s website and applied for a second mortgage.

After that, we applied for six or seven new credit cards to get the total ticket price to fit in underneath our credit limits, and we were in business. We hit the checkout button and printed out our tickets to the happiest place on earth.

Then we logged onto a popular travel website and searched for hotel suites near the park that could sleep five. After reviewing our options, we logged back onto our bank’s website and applied for a third mortgage. Once that got approved, we booked our hotel and we were all set.

Two days ago, we headed out on the road for the long drive south. As it turns out, our Suburban will not make it all the way to Anaheim on one tank of gas, so after applying for a new Chevron Loyalty Program credit card, we filled up on gasoline and snacks a few times and made it to our surprisingly small hotel “suite.”

We woke up early and sent two of the boys down to the complimentary continental breakfast with an empty suitcase and very specific instructions. After a hearty meal in our room, we headed for the front gate lines.

Once inside the park, we were alerted to the handy new feature of being able to spend additional money on our pre-purchased tickets by purchasing an add-on called a “MaxPass.” As luck would have it, we needed a separate MaxPass for each person in our group. The MaxPass allows you to get the FastPass, which will in turn allow you to get on the ride you thought you were already allowed to get on when you bought the actual ticket to get into the park.

Apparently, nowadays at Disneyland, if you don’t have a FastPass, you are more than welcome to stand in front of the attractions and watch people go in and out, while Goofy consoles you with a gentle hug, but if you actually want to ride anything, you’ll need to pony up some more money for the MaxPass.

We went ahead and filled out a quick application for a Disney credit card, and then got the MaxPasses purchased.

After a fun-filled morning of waiting for our FastPass time window to occur, and riding that one ride, it was lunch time. We had exhausted the remaining supply of hotel bagels and powdered eggs during our morning wait, so we headed over to the buffet to see what else we could afford.

After surveying the menu, and realizing that many of our new credit cards were being systematically deactivated, we opted to splurge and get a banana to share between the five of us, and topped it off with some of the flavored ice cubes sitting on the drink dispenser drain grate under the soda nozzles. Then we headed out to wait for our next FastPass time window to arrive.

While my wife and kids waited patiently for ride number two, I caught the monorail back to the parking lot and sold the Suburban in an all-cash deal to a fast-talking gentleman named Stevie (for what turned out, unfortunately, to be well under blue book value), in order to have a remote chance of financing day two at the park.

I made it back in time to hear all about the second ride, and catch the amazing fireworks show, which, surprisingly, was no extra charge.

Day Two has been just as magical, and even started with another surprise realization that the MaxPasses are only good for one day. What fun!

Anyway, we are having the time of our lives here in line, and it would just be amazing if one of you could plan to pick us up at the main park entrance right after the fireworks show tonight.

And please bring food and water. Thanks a million.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

It's Tax Time, You Fool

Your taxes are due Monday. Don’t blame me. I voted against them.

A few years ago, I thought I would try to make everyone feel a little better about our tax bills by calling attention to some of the wonderful government agencies that our hard-earned dollars go to fund.

So, I went to USA.gov (motto: “Shut up and write a check”), and looked up the A-Z Index of U.S. Government Departments and Agencies. After reading for a while, I realized there was no way I was going to make anyone feel better about paying taxes, so instead I bet myself that I could click on every letter of the alphabet and come up with at least one ridiculous agency that should never have been started in the first place.

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

I have updated the list of current agencies for you again this year. Here’s the fun places your 2018 tax dollars are headed to be mercilessly squandered:


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

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

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

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

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

Federal Consulting Group (From the website: The Federal Consulting Group offers consulting, executive coaching, and performance and customer satisfaction measuring services to federal agencies.) (motto: For your convenience, now completely staffed with direct family members of congress.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Agriculture Statistics Service (motto: We’re still excited about that 1957 bean crop!)

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

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

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

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

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

Utah (motto: The completely unnecessary state.)

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

Washington Headquarters Services (We’re here to provide services. To headquarters. In Washington. Don’t ask a lot of questions, OK?)


It really bothers me that since I started keeping track of this list, we, as a nation, have failed to come up with any Q, X, Y, or Z agencies yet. We’re only four more ridiculous money-wasting agencies away from having the whole alphabet covered. Just off the top of my head in year’s past, I suggested the Quicksand and other Swamp Dangers Mitigation Exploratory Committee, the Xylophone Standardization Council, the Yo-Yo Injury Prevention Task Force, and the Zeppelin and Lighter-than-Aircraft (Unmanned) Aviation Standards Advisory Board, and not one of them has been added. It’s as if Washington isn’t listening to me at all. Where’s the Federal Consulting Group when you really need them? (answer: golfing.)

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

If that isn’t scary enough for you, then I invite you to blissfully ignore that and ponder this instead:

According to Congress, it takes around $5.9 billion per year just for them to turn the lights on and run the show. Not all of Washington, D.C., mind you. Just Congress. Not the White House, plus the Supreme Court, plus the Pentagon, plus the army and stuff. Just Congress. Just under six billion dollars. Billion with a “B.” Six thousand millions.

They “work” about one hundred seventy-five days per year. That means we’re talking $34 million a day.
Even if we generously assume they work twelve hours per day, that’s $2.8 million an hour.
That’s $47,000 per minute.
That’s $780 per second. For Congress to keep the doors open.

(And, let’s keep in mind that it was Congress themselves who told us how much they are spending. So, in reality, it’s probably a much higher number, since they have a tendency toward not always sharing all the information, on the advice of the Federal Consulting Group.)

In the time it will take you to read this sentence, the U.S. Congress will spend $9,360 of your money (or probably more) on nothing more than working hard to dream up even more government agencies to help spend the rest of it.

Holy crap.

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

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen


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

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The English Sea - Repost

In honor of the release of the Second Edition of my very first children’s book, My Giraffe Makes Me Laugh, I thought I’d re-run a column that came out a few months after the First Edition was released.

The nice folks at the Roseville, California public libraries have inexplicably asked me to host the kick-off event for their 23rd annual Youth Poetry Contest. Apparently, they consider my children’s book, My Giraffe Makes Me Laugh, to be full of children’s poetry. I just thought it was full of rhymes, but who am I to argue? After all, they are the professionals here. They are even billing me as, “Local poet, Marc Schmatjen.” Who woulda’ thought, huh?

Thankfully, they were wise enough not to ask me to judge the event. I will simply be in charge of leading a large group of young children through some rhyming exercises and teaching them about the different kinds of poems. I figured that I could pull it off with a little luck and a lot of ad-libbing, so I accepted the job.

In honor of the event, I thought I would try my hand at some poetry. We’re going off the reservation a little this week, but I don’t want you to worry. I doubt that this will be a permanent thing!


“The English Sea” – A Poem of Sorts

Here in the English Sea, it is tough to grammatically wade.
When you hear English, you see, context must be weighed.

Sounding out a word ewe herd? There may be many ways, not just one.
Four instants, there are three ways two spell too, and to ways too spell won.

Consider this:

A bird with the flu, flew up our flue,
But our brand new gnu knew what to do.

You’ll want to cry foul, but alas, my poor dear,
It’s just a wayward ailing fowl and an African deer.

The sentence is sound, it’s grammatically right,
Although its content isn’t something I’d write.

The words all disagree, on the page or the pane,
But they are pronounced with true sameness. I’d call that a pain.

They have a real name: Homophones, don’t you know?
Do they make the English language neat and tidy? No, no, no!

To know your way through them, you need lots of know-how.
Are they easy and intuitive? No way, no how!

Some of them can serve to make sentences sweet.
To hold up your whole body is a feat of your feet.
And the presence of presents makes your birthday quite neat.

Some of them serve to make sentences insane.
If he rode down the road, you’d see him holding a rein,
But if he rowed down the road, then you’ve had too much rain.

But most of them serve to make you feel like you’re losing.
They’re right there, but they’ve left their chairs there. Is that amusing?
It is certainly not. That’s just downright confusing.

Dew knot give up yet. Try this little tail:

The heir to the throne was thrown through the air.
He gave his horse too much rein and regretted his err.
He ended up in the mud on his derriere.
But the err the heir dared was minor, he swore.
A riding faux pas in the rain, and a seat that was sore.
He knew an err in the reign could cost so much more.
It wasn’t so bad to be thrown from one’s steed,
The heir and his father, the king, both agreed.
To be thrown from the throne would be much worse, indeed.

Sea, now that wasn’t sew bad.

In order for your assistants to kindly deliver your correspondence on your stationery,
It would be of great assistance if your correspondents would kindly remain stationary.

On second thought, theirs no hope two bee had.

It doesn’t make sense, its hard not to err,
When many of the scents travel over the air.

My advice is two get reel good at math before you are grown,
Because this language will only make ewe moan and groan.

English has never made sense, and now you see it two,
Unlike dollars and cents, one and won don’t make to.


I really hope I’m not banned permanently from the public library system after this!

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen


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

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

A Righteous Search?


The internet is an amazing thing. Prior to its invention, it was not possible for me to spend nine consecutive hours watching videos of the greatest plays in major league baseball history from the comfort of my own home office desk, where my legs have fallen hopelessly asleep like the rest of me should be because it’s three in the morning. But the internet makes that possible.

But for all the obvious benefits, I’m getting a little concerned that there may be some unintended consequences associated with having unlimited information at our fingertips. Especially when that information doesn’t seem to be vetted by anyone with an IQ above that of celery, as I discovered on a recent Google search.

For a reason that escapes me, I was Googling the definition of “righteous.”

The first result was an official-looking box labeled “Dictionary,” with the apparently official definition. I say apparently, because I was more than a little skeptical after I read the whole thing.

Being in the second half of my forties, also known as the “My Knees Hurt” half, I grew up with real dictionaries printed on paper and compiled in book form. They were large, cumbersome, comprehensive, and in all my years growing up and into adulthood, no single person I am aware of ever called into question the validity of a word definition found in one of these books. Dictionaries were, by definition, the bible of definitions. No arguments. If it says it in there, that’s how it is.

I even still have one on my desk, an arm’s reach from my computer, but most times it’s just easier and faster to Google a word. I’m re-thinking that laziness now.

The first definition of “righteous” given to me by Google seemed perfectly legitimate:

adjective
1.
(of a person or conduct) morally right or justifiable; virtuous.
"feelings of righteous indignation about pay and conditions"


OK, I’ll accept that. Makes sense.

Do you know what didn’t make any sense? The second definition:

2.
INFORMAL•US
very good; excellent.
"righteous bread pudding"

Um… huh?

I mean, I agree with the initial definition. I grew up using the informal US-based slang term “righteous” to denote anything that was extra cool. That’s not in question. It’s your choice of example sentence, dear Google, that I have issue with.

Bread pudding!? Seriously? You needed to come up with an example of something a hip, informal US slang user would say, and “this is some righteous bread pudding” was the winner?

No informal slang user, US-based or otherwise, has ever uttered the words “righteous” and “bread pudding” in the same sentence. I’m not sure where you’re from, or even what bread pudding really is, but I’m quite sure you’re not from Earth, and bread pudding has never been even remotely righteous.

This utter lack of common sense and culinary decency calls into question every single thing you might tell me ever again. You have lost my trust with your ridiculous example sentence, and driven me back to my trusty, tangible, paper bible of words.

I mean, I expect this kind of thing from Wikipedia, but not you, Google. I thought you were better than this.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to watching the highlights from every world series in history.

Righteous bread pudding! You should be ashamed of yourselves.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen


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

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

A Vegan-Free Celebration

I just finally figured out the main reason I’m not a vegan. Besides their whole incomprehensible No Bacon policy, I mean.

It hit me this Sunday on St. Patrick’s Day. While 99.9% of Americans were joining me in celebrating our Irish-ish heritage, the vegans were left out again. I think this might be why many of them seem so bitter. Vegans are sadly incapable of properly celebrating anything.

There are two key components to a St. Patrick’s Day party. Green beer and corned beef. Assuming the green beer dye was not animal- or insect-based, the vegans could get half, and arguably, the most important part, Irish-ly speaking, of the celebration. But they can’t have the full-meal-deal, as it were. Corned beef is amazing, and they are missing out on it.

Corned beef is traditionally cooked with potatoes and cabbage. Those are vegan-approved, but not when cooked with the corned beef in the crock pot, as God intended. So, along with their green beer, vegans are forced to eat regular cabbage – probably uncooked and raw, knowing them – and boring potatoes with no butter, sour cream, or even bacon bits. Just dry potatoes with chives. Chives are meant to be held onto your potato bites by sour cream, nature’s delicious adhesive. They probably just fall off onto the plate or into your lap without it. That’s no kind of celebration.

And this self-inflicted holiday exclusion continues year-round. Thanksgiving turkey? Nope. How about some Thanksgiving tofurkey? There’s nothing to be thankful for there.

Christmas Cornish game hens? New Year’s polska kielbasa? Valentine’s Day milk chocolates? Easter ham? Cinco de Mayo carne asada street tacos? Memorial Day burgers? Independence Day hot dogs? Labor Day meat lover’s delight pizza? Columbus Day leg of lamb? Veteran’s day shish kebab, abalone, or meat and cheese fondue (your choice, because freedom)? Nope, nope, nope, and more nope.

And forget holidays for a minute. What do you do when you get the big promotion at work? Or for your anniversary, or birthday? You go out to dinner and you get the steak. Or the lobster. Or the crab. Or salmon. Whatever.

How does a vegan even celebrate good news? “Hey, I just found out we’re getting a huge unexpected tax refund. Let’s go out to dinner tonight. We’ll order the whole eggplant!”

I had never understood why vegans are always trying to persuade other people to join them on their meatless non-thrill ride. I mean, how can you go through life never eating pulled pork nachos? It doesn’t make any sense. In light of this new revelation, I think it might be a “misery loves company” thing.

Now that we know they’re secretly unhappy, I think it’s time we turn the tables on them. We owe it to every vegan we meet (meat?) to extoll the benefits of beef and pork products. If even one or two of them can finally know what it means to truly celebrate, it will all be worth it.

But be smart about it. Offer them some of your omelet or grilled chicken sandwich at first, just to start them off slow. Don’t start with baby back ribs or a T-bone. You learn to drive in a Honda, not a Ferrari.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen


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

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Free Shipping at UPS

Besides hosting one of the greatest author day events in the history of organized education last week, with free books for every student, I think one of the teachers at the elementary school has just given us all the gift of free shipping. Allow me to explain.

Yesterday, UPS showed up with a good-size box addressed to me from Warrior Sports – the company that I bought Son Number Two’s lacrosse gear from. I hadn’t ordered anything from them recently, so I had no idea what it could be. Son Number Two tore into it and produced a box of Lucky Charms cereal, a package of cookies, a book of stamps, and a Happy St. Patrick’s Day greeting card addressed to him.

This seems like a strange thing for Warrior Sports to be sending my son. Are they just the most Irish, most customer-centered company in the entire world – so much so that they send strangely random and personalized St. Patrick’s Day gifts to every single one of their customers every year? Seems unlikely, but here we are…

Upon opening the card, it had a nice note wishing our son a fun-filled St. Patty’s Day, signed, “Love, Mom & Dad.”

Uh… Hmm…

Honey, did you get a second job at a hockey and lacrosse equipment company and forget to tell me?

No? Me neither. Umm… what the heck is going on here?

Then we flipped the box over and saw the second UPS label – the one with a white sticker covering up the bar codes – and my handwriting in Sharpie marker on the flap of the box.

Mrs. Smith – Fifth Grade – Room 12

*sound of light bulbs turning on in my brain, illuminating the dark, confused, hazy cloud*

Ohhhhhhh! Now I understand what is happening here!

This was the old box that Son Number Two’s lacrosse helmet came in, that I then re-used to hand-deliver a big stack of books to Mrs. Smith’s classroom last week. Mrs. Smith then repurposed the box as a St. Patrick’s Day care package for her son, who is presumably in college and enjoys sugary cereal and snacks and never writes home to his parents, and also shares a first name with my son. No one noticed the old UPS label from Warrior Sports on the bottom of the box, since apparently, I opened it upside down the first time. No one, that is, except for the UPS sorting machine that noticed two conflicting labels and kicked it out to the UPS This-Box-Has-Two-Labels-Fix-It guy, who then chose to cover up the bar codes on the wrong one. So, the very coincidental box came back to my house.

So, we peeled the cover-up sticker off the correct bar codes and put it over the other ones, then grabbed the packing tape from the garage and re-taped the cellophane packaging on the remaining cookies as best we could. Then we bundled it all back up for the poor, starving, possibly pre-diabetic college student.

Off we went to the UPS store, where we waited in line to talk to the young lady at the counter. I explained the situation to her and told her I wanted to make sure the label would still work to get it to the college student so he could finally write a letter home to his wonderful parents who have excellent taste in cookies, demanding to know what happened to over half of them.

She said, and I quote, “Oh, sure, no problem. It will get there. The labels don’t expire.”

“OK, great. Thanks.” Wait. What?

The labels don’t expire? How can that be?

The first label did work twice to get the box to my house…

*sound of more light bulbs turning on in my head, although this time much slower, like they were on dimmer switches*

Um… does this mean what I think it means? If you have someone you regularly send things to, I’m pretty sure you never have to pay for shipping again. Just ship it once back and forth with the labels on opposite sides, and never remove the labels. Then simply cover up the other label every time you want to send it back, for free.

I feel like, as a multi-billion-dollar worldwide corporation, UPS would have figured out a fix for this, like for instance, having the labels expire, but here we are.

Thanks, Mrs. Smith, for the life hack! And a very happy St. Patrick’s Day to the young Mr. Smith. Study hard, write your parents, and for goodness sake, don’t forget to brush your teeth.

As for the rest of you, enjoy your free shipping while it lasts. They’re bound to catch on sooner or later.

In the meantime, you’re welcome, America.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen


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

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Free Books at Walmart

We interrupt this regularly-scheduled column for a severe hand cramp. I am typing this with my left hand and my nose.

It all started a few months ago when I was contacted by the vice president. No, not that one. The vice president of the PTA at one of our local elementary schools. She was contacting me to set up an author visit, which is a normal occurrence, but this one had a twist. She was in the process of trying to get a grant to buy every single kid at the school one of my books. I was immediately in favor of the idea.

She continued to work hard and I went about my daily routine, which is centered largely around snacking, keeping my cheese dust-covered fingers crossed that she could pull it off. Lo and behold, almost a month ago, she called to tell me the good news that she had secured the money, and every student would get a book!

I hadn’t asked originally, but I just assumed she was working with the school district, or some other education-based entity to get the money, so I was surprised when she told me the funds were coming from Walmart. I immediately began to wonder who I had gotten myself involved with, but she assured me that she didn’t rob the Walmart, like I naturally concluded.

It turns out that every Walmart and Sam’s Club store in America has ten thousand dollars per year that the store manager is in charge of giving away to local non-profit and charity endeavors. How cool is that!? My books may not be in Walmart, but they are sponsored by Walmart!

I immediately inquired to our neighborhood Walmart about getting some funds donated to the newly-established Schmatjen Family Mortgage Relief and Vacation Foundation, but they apparently have strict guidelines about charitable status blah blah, or something. I stopped listening after they threw me out.

So why am I experiencing severe, physically debilitating cramping in my right hand, you ask? Well, I was given almost an entire month to complete the task of signing all the books, so naturally I left it until the last minute.

The school visit is tomorrow and I’m not even half way through yet.

I have to stop typing now. My left hand is starting to cramp up and my nose is getting sore.

If you know any experts in forgery who would work for beer and snacks, I’d appreciate a quick introduction. In the meantime, I’m going to go duct tape the pen to my right hand and try to keep going.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Canine Loyalists

I had a strange new emotion last night. A friend of ours texted me looking for a hot date by today at the latest, and I got a little upset.

A little background is due at this point.

We have a beautiful yellow Labrador retriever named Remi. Our friends have her sister from the previous litter, and both dogs have the same pair of parents. Our dogs are virtually twins, even though they are a year apart in age.

Our dog Remi has been spayed, which resulted in some hard feelings between her and me at the vet, and two completely shattered plastic cone collars at home, because she just wasn’t having any of it.

Their dog, on the other hand, is not spayed, and as far as I know, has never shattered a plastic “cone of shame” on a door jamb.

They are currently trying to breed her.

The text last night was this: “Hey, we’re trying to breed our dog right now. She’s in heat and we’ve been trying with a young Lab for two days, but he’s just not interested. Do you know of anyone wanting to breed their male Lab?”

At this point, my first thought, of course, was that “Gigolo Retriever” would be a great name for a rock band.

My second thought was that unfortunately, I didn’t know any available male Labs looking for love, so I texted back saying no, and then, out of nowhere, I got pretty defensive.

What the hell is wrong with this idiot male dog? Why won’t he mate with our girls? Are our Labs not good enough for him? Our dogs are beautiful!

Hmm… where is this emotion coming from? My dog and I are not even involved in this failed transaction. Why am I taking this personally?

Still, though, what is wrong with our girls? Nothing, that’s what!! They are good looking bitches, and any pure-bred Lab yahoo would be lucky to even get to sniff their butts!

Wow. Seriously. Not even my dog. I don’t even know the male dog. I literally have nothing to do with any of this. Settle down.

At that point, however, I was too curious not to ask. “What’s wrong with the male?”

Our friend responded, “Not sure. He mounts her, does a few hip tucks, then jumps off and sniffs the grass. We think he might be gay. Ha ha.”

So, obviously, my first thought was “The Gay Labradors” would be a great name for an alt-rock bagpipe troupe.

My second thought was, yeah, he’s probably gay. That makes the most sense, because our girls are amazing.

Apparently, I’m weirdly loyal to my dog. Who knew? I think that’s probably normal, though.

At least, I’m going to decide it is.

Who’s the best girl?!!!

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Hump Day

My wife has left us. All alone. For four days.

It’s Day Two and we have already descended into chaos. Pray for me.

I try to see the bright side of situations, but this one is tough. Sure, we get to eat out a lot, but that’s expensive. Sure, we could not shower and spend all day in our underwear, but they require you to wear pants at Chick-fil-A, and will insist that you leave immediately if you aren’t. We found that out the hard way.

As near as I can tell, there is only one pure upside to my wife being gone – I get to sleep on the hump.

You see, I’m in the second half of my forties, or the “complete physical breakdown” period, as it’s known. Some random part of my body is either hurting, aching, or simply not working correctly at any given moment of every single day. The only thing keeping me alive and marginally mobile is sleep.

A good night’s sleep depends on four main factors:
1) Making sure your kids are sleeping somewhere other than in your house.
2) Making sure your dog is sleeping somewhere other than in your house.
3) Having demonstrated the willingness to shoot randomly out of your upstairs windows at the first sign of late-night disturbances, thus eliminating loud parties and street racing in your neighborhood.
4) A good bed.

Of these four essential ingredients, a good bed is arguably the most important factor for an aging male, such as myself, since I’m mostly deaf at this point anyway. But having a good bed is not as foolproof as it sounds. At least not for me and my wife.

We have two main problems when shopping for a bed, stemming mostly from the fact that we’re both “frugal”:
A) Neither of us want to pay the Maserati-ish ticket price for the “premium-grade” mattress, even though we both need the premium-grade mattress.
B) Neither of us want to buy a new mattress after the recommended seven to ten years, because even after fifteen years, “we just bought this one!”

So there, in the master suite, sits a probably ten-plus-year-old “standard entry-grade” king-size mattress that has only one thing going for it – the hump in the middle.

By sleeping on our respective sides all these years, the weight and heat of our bodies have worked to shift many of the standard entry-grade mattress molecules to the middle of the bed. There, due again to the effects of pressure and heat, much like how diamonds are created deep within our earth’s crust, the sub-par mattress molecules have fused together into a magical longitudinal mass of premium mattress molecules, known as “the hump.”

The hump is a mattress within a mattress, if you will. It’s a three-foot-wide section of platinum mattress, hiding in plain sight in the middle of our old, worn out bronze model.

The hump is not available to me on regular nights, because if I tried to sleep there, I would be touching my wife while we slept, which would throw her delicate nighttime temperature regulation system completely out of whack, activating her “kick violently until the temperature regulation system gets back on track” reflex, which puts me in great nighttime physical peril.

So, the hump is only available when the king-size bed is single-occupancy, and this week, that single occupant is me.

When I woke up this morning, my hip didn’t even hurt. I feel like I’m forty-three again!

Happy hump day.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen


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

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