Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Random Thoughts

As with most weekly column writers, I keep a list of possible future topics for my articles. At least, I assume other writers do this. I actually don’t ever talk to other writers since most of us tend to be neurotic weirdoes. Anyway, a lot of things end up on the list that fall into the category of single random thoughts. Not enough of an idea to write an entire article on (at least, not one that you would want to read), but still important enough to me to keep. Eventually they pile up and need to be freed from the constraints of the list and unleashed upon the world. These are they.

Why does everyone offer senior discounts? In my experience, seniors tend to be the ones with all the money. What we need is “guys in their 30’s and 40’s with three kids” discounts. We’re broke.

It makes more sense to be a strong swimmer than a strong runner. You never drown when you stop running.

I recently received a FedEx delivery slip that said, "Sign legibly." Sorry, FedEx, but you're going to have to pick one or the other.

More and more these days, every time I go to a discount gas station, it seems like I am the only person there not currently on, looking for, or selling methamphetamines. I pay more for gas now just so I can be around other people who still have all their teeth.

Why do we still say, “Hang up the phone?” At this point, shouldn't it be, “Push the button?”

All the hand sanitizer in the world won't help if your kid is going to lick the shopping cart handle.

I have never understood the saying, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” Why would you want to “have” your cake without eating it? To stare at it because it’s pretty? Who wants to sit and look at a cake?

It has occurred to me that “multi-tasking” is the decision to accomplish multiple tasks poorly in more time than it takes to accomplish one task well.

I have decided that the best benchmark of where you are financially in your life is not your bank account balance. It is whether or not the advertisement of “free appetizers” has a profound impact on your decision making.

How come the word symmetrical isn’t a palindrome, like noon or radar?

The people at the Army need to talk to me. If you want to stop an enemy, simply steal their shoes and spread Legos everywhere. Nothing is more effective.

The other day, while trying to go to I typed in dictonary. They should probably have a function that just blocks you from the site for 48 hours to punish you for being an ironic jackass.

I received a letter the other day that had a return address of 3542 Solitude Way. Shouldn’t it be 1 Solitude Way?

Why do I have to spell approximately correctly every time?

I have found that if you donate enough money to the right charities, you will never have to buy return address labels as long as you live.

If you work at the Federal Reserve, wouldn’t it be easier if they just paid you in cash?

As I get older, I’m finding that gravity is really starting to let me down.

It is very obvious that classy is either inherited or earned. It cannot be purchased.

On my last trip to Las Vegas, I flew out from Sacramento on a flight that was advertised as a 55 minute trip, but my flight back from Las Vegas to Sacramento was billed as 1-1/2 hours gate-to-gate. On the return trip, the captain announced that despite leaving the gate 15 minutes late we would still be arriving on time. Is it just me, or are the airlines using fuzzy math?

Why are “sun-dried” tomatoes better than any other way of drying a tomato? A dried tomato is a dried tomato, right?

Why is abbreviation such a long word?

In my experience, people who have a lot to say often say most of it on the back of their car.

There should be a constitutional amendment banning the use of the number 0 and the letter O in alpha-numeric strings. It should also ban the use of the letters V and W. I can never tell if it’s a W or two V’s. Forget about it if they’re next to each other. Is it W-V, or is it V-W? Is it two W’s or four V's, or V-W-V?

Q is in the wrong place in the alphabet. There is no way it should be between P and R. It should be way at the end with V-Z.

Why is the grass in between the sidewalk and the parking lot at Walgreens and Arco always nicer than mine? That offends me on some level.

If you drop your vitamin-C tablet into a hotel sink, is that considered a stalemate?

Money and toilet paper have something in common. They are both easy to take for granted until you run out.

And finally,

How come you never see any bald Eskimos? Someone needs to figure out what’s up with their hair and patent it.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2012 Marc Schmatjen

Have kids? Have grandkids? Need a great gift?
Go to today and get your copy of My Giraffe Makes Me Laugh, Marc’s exciting new children’s book. Get ready for a wild rhyming adventure!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I'm Listening, Honey

“My wife told me I never listen to her. At least, that’s what I think she said.”

It’s a classic joke, and like all good humor, it’s funny because it’s rooted in the truth. All my life I have been hearing about wives complaining that their husbands don’t listen. When I first got married I remember thinking, “Well, that’s silly. I would never do that to my wife. Why would you choose to live the rest of your life with someone, but choose not to listen to them? That doesn’t make any sense.”

Little did I know, it all makes perfect sense. You just have to be married for a while and have kids before it starts.

Ten year into the marriage and three boys later, I totally understand, and I’m here today to tell you ladies, it’s not that we’re not listening, it’s that we’re not remembering.

I’m almost 40 years old now, and I can say with absolute certainty that my brain is much, much smaller than when I was 30. At least it feels that way. It doesn’t actually feel like it has become physically smaller and rattling around inside my skull, it just feels like it cannot hold and process near as much information as before. It’s not necessarily slower, it just has less capacity.

I think it has been filled up with questions. When you have small kids, approximately 78% of your day is devoted to answering questions. This tax on your brain is exacerbated by the fact that your average day is now 78% busier than it used to be, specifically because of the kids. That’s the double-edged sword of child rearing from a brain capacity standpoint. Your brain is now doing approximately 156% more work than it did before you had kids.

Even though your brain is being heavily taxed at home by your children and your schedule, if you’re the dad with the job, you still have to go to work and earn a living. Unfortunately, even though you want to, you can’t just go into the office and stare at the wall and drool, like your brain wants you to do. You have to be at least a little bit productive or they are likely to stop paying you.

So with a brain going full-tilt nearly 18 hours a day, you tend to do information triage on all the incoming data. This is where the wives tend to mistake the husbands’ lack of recall for lack of listening in the first place. I can assure you ladies, we listened to everything you just told us, it’s just that we only retained the information that required our later action.

Allow me to explain with this totally hypothetical situation that happened last week:

My wife sits me down after the kids go to bed and tells me four things:

Wife’s information packet number 1:
We’re going somewhere on Wednesday night after you get home from work. We’ll leave from home.
My brain’s processing of that information:
She will tell me what to wear when I get home from work on whatever night that she just said, and then she’ll tell me where to drive the car. No action required on my part. No need to store this information. Immediately forgotten.

Wife’s information packet number 2:
We’re having some of our friends over for dinner on Friday night. They will arrive at our house after you get home from work. I am making food.
My brain’s processing of that information:
Do we have beer in the garage fridge? Yes. OK. Husbands and I are all set. She will tell me what to wear when I get home from work on whatever night that she just said. No action required on my part. No need to store this information. Immediately forgotten.

Wife’s information packet number 3:
The boys have back-to-back baseball games on Saturday. We’ll all go to the fields in the morning in two separate cars, and then after Son Number Two’s game, you will stay to watch Son Number One’s game with Son Number Two and I will take Son Number Three home for his nap. You will bring Number One and Two home after the second game.
My brain’s processing of that information:
She will tell me what to wear when I wake up on whatever morning she just said, and she’ll tell me where to drive the car. No action required on my part. No need to store this information. Immediately forgotten.

Wife’s information packet number 4:
The guest bathroom faucet is dripping.
My brain’s processing of that information:
That is the lever kind of mixing valve where you need to replace the plastic cartridge underneath the handle. I’ll have to turn the water off under the sink to do it, and sometimes when you do that, the seals in the shut-off valve go out on you, too. I’d better make sure I get a couple spare shut off valves along with the cartridge when I go to the hardware store. I’d also better remember to find my big shut-off wrench in the garage and have it handy before I get started in case one of the valves under the sink does start to leak and I need to shut the main water off out by the sidewalk in a hurry. I have that all-day meeting on Tuesday, but I can probably get to the hardware store Wednesday on my lunch hour and knock that out on Wednesday night.

“Do we have anything going on Wednesday night?”

“Arrrggghhhh! I just told you five minutes ago that we’re going to the Johnson’s for the piano recital. You never listen!"

I hope that little example helps you ladies out there to understand where we husbands are coming from. We’re not ignoring you. We’re just trying to use our smaller brains as efficiently as possible so we don’t forget to pick up the kids when you ask us to.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2012 Marc Schmatjen

Have kids? Have grandkids? Need a great gift?
Go to today and get your copy of My Giraffe Makes Me Laugh, Marc’s exciting new children’s book. Get ready for a wild rhyming adventure!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Leprechaun Trap

Last night I found myself in one of the classic dad-with-elementary-school-kids situations. My wife looked at me lovingly over the dinner table and said, “Honey, after dinner you need to help your son build a leprechaun trap for school. It’s due tomorrow.”

“It’s due tomorrow?!? Why am I just hearing about it now?”

“You’re not. I told you about it twice last week, and again two days ago. Would you like me to tell you the exact times, dates and locations when I told you, or exactly what you said each time I told you?”

“So, a leprechaun trap, huh son? I have some great ideas of what we’re going to build tonight!”

Luckily for me, I am not only trained as a mechanical engineer, but I also happened to have a good sized piece of cardboard, some metal coat hangers, and a roll of duct tape in my garage. Also luckily for me, I was an expert trapper in my youth. I never actually trapped anything, per se, but I did own one heck of a cool galvanized steel, two-door, tray-triggered animal trap when I was a kid.

I saved my money and bought it from a mail-order trap manufacturer whose ad I had been studying for months in the back of Outdoor Life magazine. It was easily the coolest thing I had ever purchased, and at ten years old, I had visions of wearing a coon-skin cap and running a lucrative trap line business, with a large knife on my hip and a rifle over my shoulder, just in case. As it turns out, the fields behind our house weren’t exactly a trapper’s paradise, and my mom wouldn’t let me walk around town with a rifle, so eventually the trap was retired to the rafters in the garage and my career aspirations took a new path. Looking back on it, I’m glad I never trapped anything, because it would most likely have been a skunk.

Anyway, I remembered exactly how the trap door mechanism worked on my old trap, and it was perfect for a leprechaun trap that needed to be built in a hurry, on (arguably) short-notice. Off to the garage we went after dinner, to start the often challenging, yet always rewarding process of building something with a 5-five-year-old. Being a semi-seasoned father of three boys, I was prepared for the logistical challenges ahead involving overanxious young helpers and sharp cutting implements. I was totally unprepared for, however, all the questions about leprechauns.

Apparently, St. Patrick’s Day is a pretty major holiday at the elementary school level, and apparently the existence of leprechauns is the overriding theme. Apparently, this time of year, preschools and elementary schools are overrun by mischievous leprechauns, who apparently invade the classrooms at nighttime, in search of gold and snacks. It is apparently the duty of every God-fearing American boy and girl, ages three through eight, to help attempt to trap these Irish varmint-sized marauders, and take their gold.  

“Dad, there must be lots of different kinds of leprechauns, right?”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because there are so many of them.”
“Why do you think there are so many of them?”
“Because there are a lot of schools, and they come to all the schools, right?”
“Sure they do.”
“Why do they come to schools, dad?”
“Pass me that blow torch, son. Have I ever shown you how to weld?”

I’m still trying to keep my story straight on Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. It’s hard enough to explain how and why they all know to come to your house, but now I have to try and explain why leprechauns sneak around, also?

“Once there was green leprechaun pee in the toilet at the pre-school. How did he use the toilet if they’re so small? What are they looking for at the schools? Why do they like glitter? What do leprechauns eat? What do we do with them if we catch one in the trap?”

How am I supposed to know? This is (arguably) the first time I’m hearing about this. I’m just trying to get through the already challenging task of building a working scale model of a trigger-door animal trap using cardboard and coat hangers, and now I’m fielding a bunch of questions and trying not to contradict the unknown-to-me answers that the teacher may or may not have already given.

To add an extra layer of difficulty, my design is being constantly monitored by a little kid who believes that his trap will actually need to snare and contain a small magical Irish elf, so I am needing to bend to some design constraints that wouldn’t otherwise be a concern, such as, not putting any of the connecting duct tape on the inside of the trap because, “the leprechaun would just tear it off and escape.”

On top of the mechanical, mental and mythical challenges the project presented, the other two boys added their own level of difficulty. As Son Number Two sat at the workbench and “helped” me, Sons Number One and Three tore around the garage playing Star Wars. So, as I tried to put the trap together and carefully answer and/or evade the leprechaun inquiries, I was constantly being hit in the legs with plastic light sabers and repeatedly shot with Nerf bullets. The evening reminded me of what astronaut training must be like. Doing complicated math problems while pulling four G’s in a spinning chair and getting Ping-Pong balls and jets of hot steam shot at you, just to see how you react to the chaos.

I am happy to report that I survived the space training exercise, and ended up with a pretty awesome leprechaun trap for my son. We couldn’t reproduce my old animal trap’s food tray door trigger, so we went with the tried-and-true “stick propping up the door” trick. 

“So, when he moves the stick, the door will fall, this latch will swing down into place to keep the door shut, and bam! You’ve got a leprechaun in your trap.”

“Why will he move the stick, dad?”

Why will he move the stick? It was my last mental exercise of the night. Why would he move the stick? The “stick” happened to be a piece of a Home Depot paint stir stick, so it was flat and had some room to write on it. A green Sharpie solved my last design hurdle of the evening.

“Dear Mr. Leprechaun, move this stick to get treats.”

That was perfectly logical in the mind of the five-year-old leprechaun hunter, and he went to bed satisfied that he had the best trap ever. I went to bed about three minutes after he did, completely mentally exhausted.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2012 Marc Schmatjen

Have kids? Have grandkids? Need a great gift?
Go to today and get your copy of My Giraffe Makes Me Laugh, Marc’s exciting new children’s book. Get ready for a wild rhyming adventure!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Trade Show

To: Richard Weeden
Vice President of Sales
Standard Pharmaceutical Corporation

From: Sylvia Gardner
Human Resources Manager
Consolidated Global

Dear Richard,

Judging by the large amount of recent emails that have arrived at our Human Resources department from yourself and your employees, it appears that you and Standard Pharmaceutical Corporation may have been the victims of fraud. The man you are attempting to reach, John Smith, is no longer an employee of Consolidated Global. I’m not sure if you are currently communicating with John via phone, but if you are, be advised that he is not acting as an authorized agent or employee of our company.

Your company is apparently not the only company that Mr. Smith defrauded, and we are still trying to piece the details together on this end, but it appears that Mr. Smith attended a pharmaceutical trade show in Las Vegas a week after he was let go from Consolidated Global. It seems that Mr. Smith had registered for the trade show and pre-paid his travel arrangements and lodging with a company credit card without his supervisor’s approval or knowledge. It also appears that Mr. Smith misrepresented himself as a current employee of Consolidated Global at the trade show, and apparently placed fraudulent purchase orders with at least a dozen companies, including yours.

We have been in contact with quite a few salesmen from other companies that John apparently defrauded at the recent Las Vegas trade show, and all of them tell a similar tale. John arrived at their booth, was immediately interested in their most expensive product lines, claimed to have immediate needs for large numbers of products, and then set up a series of meetings over the course of the week-long trade show, all involving either a meal, cocktails, or various forms of entertainment. Based on the information that we have already gathered, it would seem that John ate over $5,600 worth of food in less than five days, drank over $9,000 worth of alcohol, and racked up over $4,500 in room service and mini-bar charges to the tower suite that we unknowingly paid for.

He also managed to cause $23,000 worth of damage to the hotel’s rooftop pool complex. One anonymous sales representative told us that John insisted on testing some sort of proprietary water gelling agent he was “planning to buy a butt-load of”  in the hotel’s 20-person hot tub. This “test” apparently took place at 4:00 am after the sales rep and his team ran up an $800 bar tab at the Fandango Lounge attempting to close the sale with Mr. Smith. The general manager of the hotel described the scene as “an enormous bowl full of clear JELL-O.” It apparently took the Las Vegas fire department over an hour to free the nice couple from Kansas who were unfortunate enough to be sitting in the hot tub when John applied the gelling agent.

As we have stressed to the hotel manager, the other defrauded companies, and Jim and Jill Meyers from Topeka, our legal department is quite certain that we have no liability with regard to Mr. Smith’s actions at the Las Vegas trade show. We had no knowledge of where Mr. Smith was or what he was doing, he was not an employee of Consolidated Global at the time, and he was certainly not acting on our behalf. Any damages that your company wishes to seek in this matter must be taken up with Mr. Smith directly.

Obviously, we cannot honor any of the fraudulent purchase orders that John signed in Las Vegas, including the ones that he apparently gave to Standard Pharmaceutical. We’re not really sure why Mr. Smith even chose a pharmaceutical trade show. We are a worldwide manufacturer of toilets, and as such, we have absolutely no need for thirty-six “Omegatron centrifuges” or seventeen $280,000 autoclaves. We actually don’t even know what those things are.

Again, if you have been defrauded in any way by Mr. Smith, or incurred any costs associated with this incident (and judging from some of the pictures your salesman Steve Wonowski has sent via email, you have), please take it up with Mr. Smith himself. He may be difficult to track down, however. We have reports that he was last seen early Saturday morning boarding a plane at McCarran International Airport bound for Cabo San Lucas with three sales reps from Pfizer and the entire Friday night shift of waitresses from the Fandango Lounge.

As we have asked the other companies, please let us know if you do learn of Mr. Smith’s whereabouts. His landlord has reported that he vacated his apartment here in Tennessee without notice just prior to the trade show, so we really don’t have any idea where he might end up. After reviewing the company credit card account Mr. Smith used to book his trip to Las Vegas, we also learned that he pre-paid for a week-long limousine rental, and bought over $25,000 in Las Vegas area Groupons. We have reports from some hostesses on the strip that Mr. Smith was selling these discount coupons out of the back of his limo at even further discounted prices, presumably as a way to turn them into cash for himself. It appears that Consolidated Global has unknowingly paid for some great deals on laser lipo, botox, permanent makeup, orthodontics, gym memberships, and cellulite reduction treatments for quite a few Las Vegas area women.

We apologize for any inconvenience while, again, reminding you that Consolidated Global is in no way liable for any losses incurred by Standard Pharmaceutical as a result of these unfortunate circumstances.

Best regards,
Sylvia Gardner

See you soon,


Copyright © 2012 Marc Schmatjen

Have kids? Have grandkids? Need a great gift?
Go to today and get your copy of My Giraffe Makes Me Laugh, Marc’s exciting new children’s book. Get ready for a wild rhyming adventure!