Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Eggnog?

Yes, it’s that time of year again, when the debate rages around the yule log, merry and bright – is it eggnog or egg nog? One word or two?

While you argue amongst yourselves, I thought I’d share my foolproof recipe for this traditional holiday beverage.

Ingredients:

6 large egg yolks

3/4 cup sugar

2 cups milk

2 whole cloves

Pinch cinnamon

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (lightly packed)

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 egg whites

Your favorite bourbon whiskey


Instructions:

Gather together all the ingredients except the bourbon, and find a large saucepan. Throw all of the gathered ingredients into the trash and use the saucepan to defend yourself against anyone attempting to give you eggnog. Pour the bourbon over ice and enjoy with or without regular Coca-Cola. Your choice!

Eggnog, as the name explicitly states, contains eggs as a primary ingredient. You are not Rocky Balboa. Eggs are not a beverage. They are meant to be eaten with bacon and used to make cookies and cakes. They are basically snot until cooked, and therefore it should be obvious to anyone not to drink them.

Eggnog was invented long ago during a horrific drought and ensuing bourbon shortage, by some very poor, very uneducated peasants. They got bored with the straight cows’ milk and did something unspeakable – added raw eggs to it.

When the drought was over and people heard about what they had done, they tried to save face by pretending it was a good idea and adding bourbon to make it a “festive” holiday drink. In reality, they were just trying to get drunk and forget they were drinking eggs.

Let’s not perpetuate this horrible mistake onto another unsuspecting generation. Stop the madness. Keep your children safe. Tell them to just say no to nogs of any kind.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

Your new favorite book is from SmidgeBooks

Your new favorite humor columnist is on Facebook Just a Smidge

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Ask Smidge – The Turkey Edition - Repost

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and if you’re like most of our Ask Smidge readers, you’re just now trying to figure out what to do. That big, fancy meal isn’t going to cook itself, and you have no idea what you’re doing. It’s a scary situation.

Believe me, we understand. Many of you know nothing about cooking anything other than Pop-Tarts and Cheerios, so naturally you have turned to the only truly trusted source for all things culinary – the Ask Smidge advice column.

Our asksmidge@gmail.com inbox has been inundated with poultry-related questions. You ask, we answer! (As always in a fact-based, scientific, and completely non-made-up-on-the-spot manner. We’re here to help, after all.)

 

 

Smidge,

I know absolutely nothing about cooking a turkey. What temperature do I use and how long should I cook it?

Novice in Norfolk

 

Dear Novice,

There is nothing to it. First you have to weigh the bird. Do this while it is still alive, so you can just walk it onto your bathroom scale. Once you remove the feathers and the feet, you’ll cook the bird on high for 90 minutes per pound. Carve and enjoy.

 

 

 

Smidge,

This is my first time doing anything at all with a turkey. We bought a frozen one at the store this week. Do I need to thaw it before cooking?

Frozen in Fort Worth

 

Dear Frozen,

Thawing is a personal choice. A thawed bird will be slightly juicier, but a frozen turkey will have a crispier skin. If you put it in the oven frozen, simply add five minutes per pound to your cook time.

 

 

 

Smidge,

I have never purchased or cooked the turkey before, and I don’t know what size to get. Do they even come in different sizes? We have three teenage boys and my sister has two teenage girls and a grown son. Please help.

Shopping in Santa Barbara

 

Dear Shopping,

Yes, turkeys do come in various sizes. Economy, Compact, Intermediate, Standard, Midsize, Full Size SUV, Convertible, Luxury, and Luxury Elite Platinum. You want to plan for about ten pounds of bird for every high schooler, so look for one at your store in the 70-80 pound range to be safe.

 

 

 

Smidge,

I’ve helped with the turkey before, but I’ve never been in charge of the stuffing, and I’m lost. Where do I start?

Breadless in Bangor

 

Dear Breadless,

Stuffing could not be simpler, because the turkey does all the work. Stuffing is nothing more than full-size dinner rolls that cooked down inside the bird. As the turkey cooks, the rolls break apart naturally and form into the smaller stuffing pieces that you know and love. Just buy a couple extra packages of dinner rolls and cram as many of them as you can into that bad boy before you pop it in the oven. The turkey does the rest!

 

 

 

Smidge,

I’m in charge of everything this year, and I don’t know anything about how to make gravy. Do you even make it, or do you buy it? Help!

Dry Dinner in Denver

 

Dear Dry Dinner,

As with stuffing, gravy is a breeze because the bird does all the work. Gravy is not sold in stores, because it is a natural byproduct of the turkey cooking process. All turkeys are fed a rich diet of corn starch, flour, and butter from a young age, so as they cook, the carcass secretes the ready-to-eat gravy. Yum! That’s why you always cook a turkey in one of those big pans. Makes sense, right? Enjoy!

 

 

 

Smidge,

I’m cooking the bird for the first time this year, so I’m thinking about switching it up and deep frying it in oil. What do you think?

Oiled in Omaha

 

Dear Oiled,

Deep frying a turkey can be a great option, depending on where you live. You’re in Nebraska, where it’s likely to be cold this Thanksgiving, so I’d say go for it. If you were in a warmer climate, I would probably advise against it. That’s because there is a 100% chance that you will set your house on fire when attempting a turkey deep fry. You folks in the frigid Midwest will enjoy the extra warmth, while the raging grease fire would just be an inconvenient distraction for people in Florida and California, really adding no benefit to the day.

 

 

Well, there you have it, America. You’re all set to cook the perfect turkey and have an enjoyable day, with or without a life-threatening oil fire. Your choice.

Have a tasty Thanksgiving!

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

Your new favorite book is from SmidgeBooks

Your new favorite humor columnist is on Facebook Just a Smidge

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Band Together to Lose

With the college and pro football seasons in full swing, and Thanksgiving right around the corner, it’s time to look back on a historic gridiron moment and give thanks that we weren’t part of the band.

November 20, 2022 will be the 40th anniversary of The Play at the end of The Big Game.

If you are unfamiliar, I’m not being generic or randomly capitalizing words like I normally do. The Big Game is one of the oldest college rivalries in the United States, which began in 1892 right here in the Golden State, when Stanford University played Cal Berkeley for the first time.

No one wore helmets or shoes, and the ball was not just pigskin – it was a live pig. The final score was Cal at a half pence and Stanford at a quarter shilling. It was a jolly-good contest!

The rules and scoring have been refined over the years, but The Big Game lives on. The 125th Big Game is this Saturday, November 19th. Home field swaps each year, and it’s an even year, so the game will be at Cal, as it was on that fateful day in 1982.

The Cal Bears led 19-17 in the final minutes of the 85th Big Game, but at the end of the fourth quarter, the Stanford Cardinal (named after a pine tree, of course) mounted an impressive comeback.  

Starting from their own 13-yard-line, on a dismal 4th and 17, Stanford, led by THE John Elway himself, drove all the way down the field to kick a go-ahead field goal with only four seconds left on the clock.

I’m not sure why Cal had been ahead at all, because having John Elway was a clear advantage for the Cardinal since he was already the quarterback for the Denver Broncos at the time. He was just back in town visiting family over the Thanksgiving break.

Be that as it may, with what should have been the final score of Cal 19 – Stanford 20 up on the scoreboard, Stanford kicked off to run out the remaining four seconds on the clock, and so began, The Play.

The Cal Bears recovered the short kick and were immediately swarmed by the Stanford special teams defense. The Stanford special teams marching band was behind them, waiting patiently behind the end zone for the clock to say 0:00.

When the four seconds of regular time had expired, the Stanford special teams marching band proceeded jubilantly onto the field in a very disorderly fashion to celebrate their “win.”

The only problem was that the game was still going because the Bears were busy lateraling the ball backward. Three laterals later, the Cal Bears were inside a protective swarm of Stanford band members, many of whom were providing some of the necessary Cardinal-on-Cardinal blocking for the Bears players to pull off two more miraculous laterals and steamroll into the end zone for a touchdown.

Gary Tyrrell, a Stanford trombone player, was the Cardinal’s last line of defense, but he and his instrument were absolutely leveled in the end zone at the conclusion of the miraculous drive. As KGO radio’s Joe Starkey had an on-air aneurism, the scoreboard was changed to Cal 25 – Stanford 20, and so concluded what Joe hailed as "the most amazing, sensational, dramatic, heartrending, exciting, thrilling finish in the history of college football!!" right before he dropped to the ground like Gary Tyrrell and his trombone.

So, as you enjoy The Big Game this Saturday, remember to give thanks. Give thanks that you weren’t one of those band members, or one of those Stanford players that was blocked by a member of their own band.

And also remember the important lesson that Trombone Tyrrell taught us all that day – if you’re going to go out on the field to help, at least learn how to tackle.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

Your new favorite book is from SmidgeBooks

Your new favorite humor columnist is on Facebook Just a Smidge

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

No Time to Change - Repost

This column was originally posted on March 16th of this year, when we once again changed the clocks for “Daylight Saving Time.” We reverted back to “Standard Time” over the weekend, and we’re all screwed up again. Night now officially begins around lunchtime.

Enjoy the column again as a reminder that we need to keep the pressure on Washington. If they can pull through for us, by this time next year we really could be done with this madness.

 

It is entirely possible that the federal government is about to do something that I will like. That rarely happens. And by rarely, I mean never.

I have been saying for my entire adult life that we have enough laws. We have far too many, actually, since there are laws about what kind of light bulbs I can have in my house and how much water is allowed to be in my toilet.

I have also been saying that the federal government should be part time and be paid accordingly. Career politicians are THE problem with any government, and if we could just make it so the lawmakers had to have two or three jobs to support themselves and their families, we would actually get some hardworking, sensible people in there. But alas, no such luck.

There is one more law that needs to be written however, before we drastically revamp how Washington works, and it appears as if it might just be happening now. I am, of course, referring to the abolition of twice-yearly “daylight saving” time changes.

No one likes changing the clocks. Whomever came up with the idea was a complete psycho, and we were (and are) complete morons for continuing to go along it. Our kids get up waaaay too early in November and we need a pneumatic jackhammer to get them out of bed in March. It’s a gigantic pain in my ass having to remember how many clocks I own (garage sprinkler timer, I’m looking at you), not to mention trying to remember how to set the clock on our overly complicated car stereo. But most notably, it messes with my wife’s sleepy time, which is hazardous to everyone’s health.

In short, it’s dangerous and it sucks.

But now, there might be an “extra” hour of sunlight at the end of the long, dark time change tunnel. An unprecedentedly bipartisan bill has passed through the senate this week that would get rid of clock changes nationwide. Currently, it’s a state-by-state decision whether or not to change the clocks, which makes even less sense than changing the clocks in the first place.

I mean, we already have time zones, which although obviously necessary, are still confusing. Just think about those poor people who live and work near the time zone line. If you lived right on the line, how would you ever know store hours, or what time practice starts. How would you ever plan anything?

“I’ll see you at three o’clock.”

“Which three o’clock?”

What if you lived in one time zone and worked in another? That’s my idea of what hell would be like. So, why have we allowed individual states to further complicate things by not changing their clocks when the rest of us had to? It’s absolute madness.

The chaos could be coming to an end on November 20, 2023. The bill – which in true government megalomaniac fashion, they have named the “Sunshine Protection Act,” as if our benevolent leaders on Capitol Hill are somehow actually shepherding the sun for us – would keep the entire country on what we just changed to – Daylight Saving Time.

We can’t just stay on DST now and never touch the clocks again, because airlines and other transportation entities apparently don’t know how to use computers. But if the bill passes – and so help me, House of Representatives, it better – we would only have to endure one more set of ridiculous clock manipulations before everything will finally be logical again.

That is, unless the Association of Early Morning Winter Joggers or some other such group has a powerful, monied lobby. Then the career politicians may be swayed by a series of generous donations to their wife’s brother’s various non-profit organizations, and vote poorly.

I mean, no politician in Washington is dumb enough to actually want to continue changing our clocks, right?

Right?

I’ll be here holding my breath.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

Your new favorite book is from SmidgeBooks

Your new favorite humor columnist is on Facebook Just a Smidge

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Team Ibuprofen

Son Number One is a high school senior this year, and last Tuesday night we attended what we thought was his last water polo game. He has been a Whitney High School goalie for four years now, and we have thoroughly enjoyed watching him play.

What we didn’t know last Tuesday was that he would play one more game last night. We were informed that the team was hosting a final scrimmage of the season.

Against the parents.

Hmm, I thought. That doesn’t sound like a great idea. That might be fun for a soccer team or a basketball team. I mean, sure, there are always going to be parental injuries in something like that, but water polo might be the only high school sport where inviting the parents to a fun scrimmage against their children is legitimately life-threatening.

Well, I thought, at least two of the kids on the team, my son included, are certified lifeguards, and the coaches have CPR training. Plus, they have those portable defibrillators at the pool. We might avoid a tragedy.

A few of the dads were really excited about the game. I was more than a little hesitant. My wife called me yesterday morning and asked if I was looking forward to it.

“Well,” I said. “Sorta, I guess.”

“What’s the matter?” she asked.

“Nothing, really. It will be fun to play against the boys and everything, but it’s just that it’s going to hurt. A lot.”

You see, I played water polo in high school and college. None of the other parents did. Some were wary. Some were full of hope. They were looking forward to it. I, on the other hand, knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into.

I was probably twenty-two years old in my last polo game. I’m fifty now. I’ve been out of the water longer than I was in it. That’s not a recipe for success. Plus, I’m fifty. Fifty is not young. Not by water polo standards. Not by any standard, really.

Did I mention I was fifty? Well, we hit the water last night and I was just praying not to pull my groin. It was cold and damp outside which didn’t help much. At least the high school kids didn’t have to worry about their arthritis acting up.

At the end of the first quarter the score was a fairly respectable 6-2. It was a low scoring second quarter, ending at 8-3. Things cranked up in the third and we started the fourth quarter with a score of 13-4. When it was all said and done, the scoreboard said 15-8.

Parents 15, players 8.

Yeah, you heard me. We crushed them!

At this point I should probably mention that the parent team was given a huge gift a few days before the game – Whitney high school alumni. We had four former players – now college water polo players – show up to help us.

They were a great help. And by great help, I mean they absolutely carried our team. I think the dads accounted for two or possibly three of our goals. The college kids scored the other twelve or thirteen. And if a dad scored, there was most definitely an assist by a college kid.

And they were suffocating on defense. The high schoolers only hope of scoring on us was being guarded by a dad. And when I say “guarded,” I mean swimming next to someone who was in the process of drowning.

We basically kept the college kids in and rotated the dads on every score change. We had guys calling for subs and paddling to the side of the pool while the ball was still live because they had a cramp, or just couldn’t breathe anymore.

Both my calves cramped up during the game. Mercifully, not at the same time. I was playing goalie, and was able to massage the knots out while the college kids were down at the other end scoring again.

In order to keep from destroying the poor little lads, we played mostly dads in the fourth quarter. The one or two college kids in with us still kept things under control, but the high schoolers were scoring on me at will if they were near a dad. After twenty plus minutes of water polo already, whatever gas we had in the tanks was long gone.

I was completely underwater for at least two of the goals they scored on me. In my defense, I’m fifty and had calf cramping issues. I also nearly drown one of the seniors when there was a loose ball in front of my goal. But again, in my defense, he’s one of the lifeguards and he should have known better than to get near me.

The boys didn’t get the win they were so sure was in the bag before the game, but they did learn two valuable lessons. First, they will get bigger, faster, and stronger in college. Second, never get close to a drowning full-grown man. We are desperate, and we will take you down with us.

Thankfully, along with the win, all the parents left the pool in their own cars and not on a stretcher. That, in itself, is a big win. But it wasn’t without a cost.

Everything hurts.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

Your new favorite book is from SmidgeBooks

Your new favorite humor columnist is on Facebook Just a Smidge

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Scary Big

There is a disturbing new trend happening with Halloween the last few years. And, no, not my Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup-induced weight gain. That has been a disturbing trend for many years now.

I’m talking about the size of the yard decorations. Specifically, the newly popular twelve-foot-tall skeletons. Twelve feet tall! For you math folks out there, that’s a full six feet taller than a standard six-foot-tall skeleton!

Home Depot also sells a fifteen-foot “Towering Animatronic Phantom” and a twelve-foot hovering witch. If you’re looking for something in a reasonable size, they also carry a nine-and-a-half-foot-tall werewolf.

This trend toward larger front yard decorations is disturbing on two separate levels. The first is cost. Have you priced these damn things? The ridiculously tall skeletons are three hundred bucks! It’s a skeleton. By definition, that’s the most stripped-down version of a body you can buy, and it’s still three bills. That’s insane.

The only thing you should be spending that kind of money on at Halloween is Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. And I’ll need your address, please.

The second disturbing aspect of this new trend is storage. I realize you decorated your yard for Halloween in late August, but that still leaves roughly ten months of the year you have to store these things. And no, leaving the huge skeleton up after October 31st and putting a Santa hat on it, trying to pass it off as a Christmas decoration, is not socially acceptable behavior. (This actually happened across the street from our friends’ house. I am not making that up.)

I’m sure the twelve-foot skeleton breaks down a little bit, but that’s still a good-sized bag of bones you have to stash somewhere. And let’s be serious – no one owns just the big skeleton. If you shelled out three hundred bucks for one of those bad boys, you also have seven normal size skeletons worshiping it at its feet, the werewolf, and a full graveyard.

Where do you store it all?? Since you spent so much on the decorations, do you just go all-the-way-crazy and rent a year-round storage space for it all? Or have you figured out some insane garage storage hack that I don’t know about?

We don’t even really have Halloween stuff to speak of, but between our multiple freezers that hold all the burger patties and chicken nuggets for the three teenage boys, a few tools, and my wife’s Christmas decorations, I’ve got a three-car garage that just barely fits one of our cars.

Please, tell me your secrets!

Happy Halloween, y’all. Stay safe, give freely with the peanut butter cups to support hard-working dads, and most importantly, take the giant skeletons down on November 1st.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

Your new favorite book is from SmidgeBooks

Your new favorite humor columnist is on Facebook Just a Smidge

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Financial Fitness?

People like Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman talk about the obvious benefits of “financial fitness” all the time. I’ve noticed, however, that no one ever talks about the literal, physical aspect of that term. The detrimental finances of fitness.

We have three teenage boys, and they are all athletic, so naturally they eat a lot. This didn’t come as a shock to us. We even had a cautionary tale from my mom about my senior year in high school. My two older sisters had left home for college, but my mom reported that year was her highest food bill year ever, with just one of us left in the house.

How can you tell if a teenage boy is sleeping? He’s not eating.

Son Number Two, however, has taken this teenage boy eating thing to another level. To heavily paraphrase a Garfield T-shirt I saw once: He’s into fitness. Fitness whole side of the fridge into his mouth.

Number Two bought himself a gym membership last year, and he pre-paid for an entire year because that was the best deal. It’s a relatively inexpensive gym, but it was still a sizeable chunk of money for a teenager to put down. We talked it over with him, then let him make the decision. I figured at worst it would be a good financial lesson to learn.

It has been a good financial lesson – for the gym. They are learning that if they offer my son a one-year, prepaid membership, he can go to the gym often enough to make it only cost about two cents per visit. Sorry, Crunch Fitness, you blew that one.

It doesn’t seem to matter what his day consisted of, he will end it at the gym. He goes to a two-hour lacrosse conditioning workout, and then heads straight to the gym for at least an hour afterwards. He’s a crazy person.

As you can imagine, he requires quite a bit of food. I did too, at his age, but here’s the difference - I never cared what I ate. I just wanted a lot of it. He’s following weightlifters and fitness instructors on social media and so now I have at least one teenager who wants specific food. Mostly protein.

I’m still lobbying congress for the inclusion of nachos on the healthy eating pyramid, so I tend to kinda zone out when he starts taking about macronutrients and grams of something or other per scoop of protein powder.

Here’s what I do know, though. Protein is expensive!

It was expensive before gas was ten dollars per ounce. Now it’s just insane. Combine that with the sheer amount he’s eating, and not even a 9-1-1 call to Warren Buffett could help us now.

The Costco bag of chocolate protein powder costs more than the set of tires I bought in high school for my Jeep. Add to that the two Costco rotisserie chickens he wanted for “this week,” that will only last him three or four days. And you’ve seen the Costco chickens. They’re the size of adolescent turkeys. They make grocery store rotisserie chickens look like someone oven-roasted a parakeet.

The other night I was cooking dinner on the stove – literally fifteen minutes before dinnertime – and he was standing beside me, frying up six eggs in a pan on the next burner.

“Just a quick pre-dinner snack, Dad.”

Fifteen minutes later, he ate a full dinner, went to the gym, and had a six more eggs and a thirty-seven-dollar protein shake when he got home.

I love my boys and everything, but I’m kinda looking forward to when all three of them are in college at the same time. Even with the skyrocketing cost of tuition, it still has to be cheaper than this.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

Your new favorite book is from SmidgeBooks

Your new favorite humor columnist is on Facebook Just a Smidge

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

reCAPTCHA a Rabbit

Have you ever wondered how the CAPTCHA tests got started, or why they are so ridiculous, or even what CAPTCHA means?

Yeah, me neither, until the other day.

Turns out, CAPTCHA tests were invented to aid in the digitization of books. When the scanning picked up a word that the computer didn’t recognize, the software would send out two words to be verified – a control word, like “word” or “control,” along with the word in question.

Who did these words get sent to? You and me. Every time we had to type in those two words that had some random wavy line running through them when we were trying to buy something on the interwebs, we were unwittingly helping a computer accurately convert books to digital form.

If enough of us typed in the second word the same way, the computer would assume it was valid and use it in the book. Fun, huh?

So, what does CAPTCHA mean? Glad you asked. Apparently, it’s a contrived acronym for "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart."

What is a Turing test, you are probably asking now, like I was when I looked up what CAPTCHA meant. The Turing test, originally called the imitation game by Alan Turing in 1950, is a test of a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.

(Alan Turing, of course, eventually went on to found Cyberdyne Systems, which as you know, used CAPTCHA to perfect the artificial intelligence in Skynet, eventually leading to the machines becoming self-aware and total thermonuclear destruction of the planet, followed by the terminators. Not a great legacy, Alan.)

As you also know, the original CAPTCHA system was flawed because none of us could ever read either of the words through the wavy lines, and we had to ask for new words at least six times until we got “and” and “cat.”

To improve the system, they made everything wavier and added numbers, so the words were no longer words. When that didn’t work, they got rid of the wavy lines and just melted the two number-words, making it impossible to decipher them no matter how many tries you asked for. This led to a very brief uptick in consumers shopping at actual stores again. The CAPTCHA folks were forced to re-improve the system quickly, however, when it was discovered that all the actual stores had gone out of business.

In September of 2009, Google acquired the CAPTCHA system in a multi-faceted business deal that also included the purchase of Cyberdyne Systems, the entire state of California, and the rights to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s body after he, as they put it, “powers down for the final time.”

At some point, probably due to all the bad Skynet publicity, Google renamed the system to reCAPTCHA. The “re” stands for “really excellent.” Google explains the reCAPTCHA system as using an advanced risk analysis engine and adaptive challenges to keep malicious software from engaging in abusive activities on your website. Meanwhile, legitimate users will be able to login, make purchases, view pages, or create accounts and fake users will be blocked.

Google’s anti-bot detection has become so advanced that it now works in the background without the need for melted letters and numbers. There was a brief period of time when we were required to click on all the pictures in a grid that had a stoplight in them, or a crosswalk, or a car. This was cumbersome, though, because the guy outside of Google headquarters with the camera taking pictures of the street could not keep up with demand.

Google finally distilled it down to a single checkbox that simply asks you to confirm, “I'm not a robot.” This seemingly simple system works on the wickedly intelligent conundrum a computer would find itself in when posed with the choice of lying or telling the truth. Computers are forced to think in terms of ones and zeros, so they are unable to lie because they would have to divide by zero to do so, which would render them useless. Genius!

The “I'm not a robot” checkbox brings us to the other day. I clicked it, naturally, but Google didn’t quite believe that I was human. For the first time in my history with the checkbox, I was given a secondary quiz. I was presented with the six-picture grid again, only this time, there were no cars, stoplights, or traffic cones.

Click on each picture that shows a rabbit swimming.

How sophisticated are these bots becoming!? I mean, that is really specific! We used to just have to distinguish between cats and dogs, or something like that. Now we have swimming rabbits?

For the first time in all my years with CAPTCHA, I got a little nervous about what might happen if I got the answer wrong. If we’re all the way to swimming rabbits in order to detect malicious bots, then these things are obviously a bigger problem than I thought. Does my door get kicked in by the FBI if I click on a patch of water with no rabbit?

And I honestly can’t tell if that’s a beaver, and otter, or a rabbit. It’s just a blurry photo of something swimming and we can only see the head. Is that a rabbit with its ears back, or some other mammal?

Or is this some super-advanced trickery, and as a human, I’m supposed to know that rabbits can’t swim? Because honestly, I’m not sure if they can or not. I mean, that one picture sure looks like a rabbit swimming, but we all know what a bot can do with photoshop these days.

I would Google whether rabbits can swim or not, but I’m not falling into that trap. That’s just what the bot would do.

I miss the melted number-words.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

Your new favorite book is from SmidgeBooks

Your new favorite humor columnist is on Facebook Just a Smidge

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

An Open Letter to Uber

Dear Uber,

As you obviously know, I used your service twice this weekend. I have a few issues I’d like to let you know about.

On my Friday morning ride, Dustin picked me up in a Tesla. I thought that was pretty cool. I wondered about the economics behind that, and during our conversation he shed some light on it. Turns out Dustin is renting the Tesla from you guys.

That led to a lot more economic questions, but I kept them to myself because I was pretty sure I already knew the answers. Dustin was a nice guy, a good driver, and his (your) Tesla was nice and comfy. I thanked him for the ride, wished him the best of luck, and gave him five stars..

But then I looked at my bill when you emailed it to me. Along with the Uber Booking Fee of $5.97, the Airport Surcharge of $3.00, and the City Surcharge of $0.50, which were all totally worth it and appreciated, by the way, you hit me with a $0.55 Temporary Fuel Surcharge.

Umm, what?

You know damn well Dustin is driving a Tesla. You wouldn’t be able to pretend you didn’t even if he was the one who owned the thing, because a central part of your service is telling me the make and model of the car to look for. But it’s even worse in this case, because it’s your Tesla. C’mon, fellas! That’s just cheap, and I might actually try to do something about it other than this letter if it weren’t only fifty-five cents, which is exactly why you’ll keep getting away with it, which makes me even crazier.

You are basically looters. Do better.

Now, let’s discuss my Sunday ride. My main man Thanh picked me up in a black Toyota Highlander, that I am assuming he owned. Thanh spoke basically no English at all, so our ride to the airport was quiet, and his Google maps was throwing some crazy-looking words up on the screen, none of which made any sense to me, but apparently Thanh could read it, because we got there.

Thanh’s Highlander was impeccable, but his driving style was obviously imported from his country of origin. He was not a dangerous driver, he just wasn’t a smooth driver. In any way. At all.

I believe he considered gas and brake pedals to function as on/off switches, and his goal with any lane change was to get into the new lane as fast as possible. I think he would have jumped the lane lines if he could have. His goal on any curve was to wait until the last possible second and then do all the steering at once at the end, presumably for efficiency?

The car itself was very comfortable when we were parked. Just not so much whenever we were moving. I would have loved to give him some constructive feedback on his driving, but our communication barrier was simply too tall.

Now, up until Sunday, I really hadn’t paid too much attention to you star rating system. I always just gave the driver, like Dustin for example, five stars. Thanh got me thinking about the rating system for the first time as we jerked to a stop at the airport. As he unloaded my bag from the back, he spoke his first of two memorized English sentences. I am assuming it was something to the effect of “thanks for riding with me,” or “have a good flight,” but he hadn’t memorized it quite right, so I didn’t understand.

English sentence two of two was clear as a bell, however. “You give me five stars.” I don’t know if it was a question, a command, a demand, or a polite request, because Thanh didn’t have English inflection down yet. It just ended flat, but he said it twice, just to make sure I heard him. I just smiled and thanked him for the ride.

Now, like I said, he wasn’t a dangerous driver, just a bad one. As I sat in the airport, I fired up your Uber app and attempted to give him helpful feedback. You have no section for notes, so stars were the only thing available to me. Here’s where I’d like to see some improvement on your end.

Thanh’s driving did not deserve five stars, and I really wanted to give him three, but I was feeling charitable because my neck made it through the ride without hurting so I decided to go with four. I clicked on the fourth star and was immediately presented with a list of secondary choices as to why or how my driver attempted to murder and/or humiliate me.

I had a Dangerous Driving option, a Driver was Rude option, Offensive Language, Offensive Odor, Reckless Endangerment of Children and the Elderly, Threats on my Life or the Lives of my Family and Pets, Offensive Clothing, Excessive or Disturbingly Audible Chewing, Jazz Music, Hit Someone in a Crosswalk and Kept Going, Robbed Me at Knifepoint/Gunpoint, and Participated in a Drive-By Shooting Enroute, just to name a few.

I might be remembering some of those wrong.

The thing was, none of them were anywhere close to what I wanted to convey and there was no way for me to just let the dude know he needs to drive smoother. I certainly didn’t want him to lose his job, so I reluctantly clicked on the fifth star. Amazingly, with the five-star rating, there are no secondary feedback choices.

Basically, you have taken our tried and true, perfectly good five-star system and somehow turned it into a binary driver rating. My driver was either absolutely amazing, or a homicidal maniac.

Please fix that, and for the love of Pete, stop charging people for gas in electric cars.

With three actual stars for Thanh and one star for your star rating system,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

Your new favorite book is from SmidgeBooks

Your new favorite humor columnist is on Facebook Just a Smidge 

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

A Soggy Regatta

I was treated to one of the most entertaining sporting events barely known to mankind on Monday. A sixty-five and older men’s soccer league match, you ask? No, even better than that. I attended a high school physics class cardboard boat race.

I know what you’re thinking. "Oh, how fun. The kids got to make model boats and float them in a tub of water."

No. The kids had to make full-size boats out of wood with cardboard hulls, put either two or three high school students in each boat and race them across the Olympic-size swimming pool.

It was epic.

The design criteria was simple. The outer hull shall be cardboard. No direction was given past that. So, as you may imagine, there were a variety of different size and shaped vessels come regatta day. (It should be noted that prior to launching, each boat was wrapped in plastic so the cardboard didn’t just melt away in the water.)

One team built a legitimately reusable wooden canoe. On the opposite end of that spectrum, one team appeared to have simply gathered four intact medium-size moving boxes together in a rectangle and duct taped them together. When it was time to race, each of the three rowers just sat in a box. It actually worked pretty well.

I was blessed to attend this aquatic catastrophe because Son Number One and his buddy had taken over my garage for a few weeks building what can only be described as an inverted doghouse. It was constructed of fence boards and 2x4’s, and was big enough to fit both of them, or had they flipped it over, three adult Great Danes.

They formed a bow and a stern (those are the official nautical terms for front and back of a huge, inverted doghouse) with PVC pipes, and then, of course, covered the entire thing in cardboard.

They did some physics calculations at some point with regard to expected buoyancy - after they built the whole boat, of course – and decided that they’d better add some outriggers made out of five-gallon water jugs, and also bring some weight plates along to ride with them in the USS Casa de Perro.

It seemed as if, on paper, at least, four hundred pounds of dudes was not going to be enough weight to get their craft low enough in the water to be stable.

They were right.

Race day came and the “boats” went into the pool in heats of three at a time. It became immediately obvious that every team spent whatever time they allotted for the project solely on design and build. Not one team spent a single minute working on paddling technique prior to the race.

A watercraft consisting solely of the lid to an Ikea entertainment center shipping box is going to naturally be hard to steer, but even more so if you had no plan whatsoever before the starting gun.

There were a lot of collisions

Fortunately for the spectators, the high schoolers in the boats were acting like high schoolers, so entertainment was in no short supply. One team had Viking helmets and a bucket, specifically for drenching their enemies.

The ROTC ladies had two rowers and a machine gunner, manning twin Super Soaker water rifles from the bow.

In heat three, when it was time for the doghouse to race, external sabotage was not its downfall. Son Number One and his buddy made it about a third of the way across the pool before the sheer physics of the situation became too much for them to overcome, and the world’s most unstable boat capsized in spectacular fashion.

The Ikea box finally passed the shipwreck, after running into it twice, to win heat three. The semi-finals were filled with high seas drama, as the canoe was completely swamped twice by Viking bucket fire and still came in second.

The Ikea Pirates were finally dragged down to Davy Jones’ locker, and the rectangular moving boxes got taken out by the ROTC boat’s machine gunner, right before they were rammed by a skiff made entirely out of cereal boxes.

It was a ten-foot-long contraption that looked like a cross between a canoe and a coal barge that ended up taking first place in the extended up-and-back final race. It was in the process of sinking when they made it back to the wall.

The good news for Son Number One and all involved was that grading for the project was not based on sea worthiness. If you showed up with a boat of any kind, you got credit.

The races were just for bragging rights. And some quality entertainment.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

Your new favorite book is from SmidgeBooks

Your new favorite humor columnist is on Facebook Just a Smidge

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Property Mismanagement – Repost

This month marks the third anniversary of us living in a meth-free neighborhood (as far as we know). We have a celebration each year where we barbecue, only we use natural gas instead of lawn mower gas. And we barbecue in the actual barbecue. Allow me to explain – here’s the account of what went down three years ago:

 

We had a neighborhood barbecue a while back. It was on a sunny Sunday afternoon in March, and it was the kind of day just tailor-made for an impromptu get-together out on the street.

We didn’t grill burgers or dogs, though. We cooked a Prius.

Well, I shouldn’t say “we” cooked a Prius, so much as, the meth addict felon who lives down the street cooked his Prius. We just all came out to watch.

That fine afternoon, Sir Meths-a-Lot had somehow caught something in the middle of his driveway on fire. He remedied that situation by intentionally kicking over a large can of gasoline at the top of his driveway, which ran down into the fire and strangely enough, started a much, much larger fire.

By the time I saw the giant plume of black smoke rising above the rooftops, the entire driveway was burning, his Prius, which was parked at the curb in front of the driveway, was ablaze, and a flaming river of gasoline was running down the gutter toward two of his neighbor’s cars.

Good times.

His also-a-meth-head-but-so-far-only-committed-misdemeanors brother managed to get the fiery river put out before any more cars caught on fire, and it wasn’t too much longer before a couple garden hoses had the entire barbecue extinguished and Captain Felony Meth could concentrate on shouting at one of his neighbors to – and I’m not making this up – “mind your own business, bro.”

This fun Sunday afternoon get-together came after at least a year of other amusing antics and shenanigans over at Methtopia, including, but not limited to the following (and keep in mind, I am not making any of this up):

Fights on the front lawn

Homeless lady living in her truck out front and using their potty

Power washing the house/driveway/street at midnight

Throwing two dozen eggs from the side yard onto the neighbor’s house at 3 A.M.

Vacuuming the street with a Hoover upright

Mowing the street with an electric lawnmower

Power washing the lawn

Oh, and a full guns-drawn SWAT team raid on the house

That was all just neighborly fun and games, but apparently I have a limit, and as we found out, that limit is lighting the street on fire.

After the barbecue that no one was invited to, I did some internet research and came up with a few phone numbers. I texted around until I found the property owner and told him that his renters just lit his entire driveway on fire and it was time for them to find other, more suitable accommodations.

He then told me he only managed the property for his son, who owned it, but he would go check things out that day.

When I inquired back about the property visit, he texted back, “Everything looked fine. No problems.”

I decided at that point that an in-person meeting might be appropriate.

At the meeting, which took place at my kitchen table, I informed Roy of all the silly things that have been going on over at his son’s rental property, and that it was definitely time for the renters to fire up the old Prius, as it were, and head on out.

He amazingly tried to make the case that they were really quite nice, but I finally convinced him to give them notice. We settled on a charitable thirty days’ notice, even though three days were all that was required by law, given the many, many drug arrests that had occurred in the home. We shook on it.

The thirty days would have expired sometime in April, but he texted me later that week to tell me he changed his mind and they could stay until the lease ran out on August 31st.

I texted him back and told him how small claims court works for a landlord operating a nuisance property.

He ignored me.

During the dedicated public servant portion of the barbecue, Mr. Amphetamines-R-Us got popped for felony possession of a weapon while on parole (parole in this case, I’m assuming, meaning the entirety of his twenties and thirties), so he went back to his home away from home.

My first-ever incarceration report search (God bless the internet) turned up the fact that Doctor Now-I-Have-To-Do-Crappy-Jail-Toilet-Meth was scheduled to be in the slammer until after the lease expired, so I let it go.

A For Sale sign went up on the lawn in July, and things were looking promising until Future Eagle Scout Time-Off-For-Good-Behavior came home in mid-August to resume his standard routine of basically living in the front yard and doing absolutely nothing even remotely productive with his life.

I texted Roy. Here’s how that went.

Me: When will they be out?

 

[August 31st ]

 

Me, On August 31st: Will your tenants be gone by the end of today?

 

[They will start moving tomorrow hopefully . but not later than Tuesday

They are moving to my other house, other house’s tenant be out till midnight,so don’t worry PL try to help me find a nice buyer]

September 2nd: [Because holiday,may be we are running behind ( one day)]

 

Me: So, will they be out by Wednesday?

 

[Yes sir (OK hand emoji)]

September 4th: [They are moving since last night sir]

 

Me on September 5th: Your tenants are still at the house tonight.

 

[They are moving it may take 3 days to finish,sir]

 

Me on September 10th: It is Sept 10th. Your tenants were supposed to be out on August 31st. They are still in the house, with no signs of being out any time soon. What is your plan to get the felon drug addict who nearly burned your house to the ground out of our neighborhood?

 

At this point, I received a text from the second number I had, which I thought belonged to the owner, Roy’s son.

[This is Bea. Im Roy's daughter. I cant help but get your texts everyday. Are you renting the house or buying the house on plum? Whats really going on?]

 

Me: Sorry to have included you on the text string. I thought you were one of the owners. I'm a neighbor with kids, on a street full of people with children. The tenant is a meth addict, a felon, and the definition of a nuisance. He nearly burned down the house one day, which was when I contacted your dad and told him they needed to go. And I am honestly amazed that he didn't come to that decision on his own! This was after the SWAT team raided the house with guns drawn while my kids were playing in the street, and I don't know how many fights on the front lawn between the felon and his drug addict associates. I met with your dad and he told me in person he would evict them in 30 days. He then went back on that and told me they would be allowed to stay until August 31st. It is now Sept 10th. They need to leave this neighborhood, and I need to know an actual day they will be gone. They are wholly unacceptable, and suing your father for running a nuisance property is the only next step. I already made him aware that each affected family can sue for $5000 per person, including children, which adds up to a conservatively estimated $100,000 lawsuit. Time for them to go, now. That's what's really going on.

 

[First, I d like to thank you for being a concerned neighbor.

Second, if my dad says he will do something. You can mark my words. He is a man of his word.

3rd, My dad raised 3 kids in the same neighborhood. I want you to know things are being taken care of.

I just need to step off the gas pedal a lil bit and know you have been respectfully heard and my family is making it happen.

My dad stays unwell. Please be respectful. Nobody is ignoring you. We are all families in this community

Contact me directly from now on.

The new family thats moving in has their trucks outside being loaded.]

 

Me: I was not aware your dad was unwell. I will contact you from now on, but hopefully that won't be necessary. What do you mean when you say the new family moving in has trucks outside being loaded? As of this minute, the Plum house is still occupied by the old tenants.

 

[Again Marc, I want you to know my dad is under doctor's care and is very fragile. He is a good man. You will be taken care of at any cost. Period.

Have faith and some patience. M working on it too from Chicago as well.

You have our utmost respect n attention. I will personally contact you soon.

I m looking out 4 my dad and his health too. I only got 1 old man.

He dont need threats, your request is enough 4 all of us to step in.

My name is Bea. M his oldest kid. I invite you to be patient with serene calm mind. Universe will return the favor in 10 folds.

Namaste! (prayer hand emoji)]

 

Umm… say what?

Me: I am nice and serene. You didn't answer the question. What do you mean when you say the new family moving in has trucks outside being loaded? Outside where? As of this minute, the Plum house is still occupied by the old tenants.

 

[We have new tenants moving in very soon. Be patient, be kind. Everytime u look towards the house, inhale love n exhale love. Right now, you may not be perceiving things as they are, rather how you see!

No need to be on pins n needles. Cuz I got chu! Relax.

Your request has been received, approved, accepted, sealed, stamped!]

 

What in the actual hell is this idiot talking about? Are there three different people on the other end just grabbing the phone to text random crap at me? Can someone throw the phone to an adult?

Me: What actual date on the calendar will your current tenants be gone?

 

[I will call you tomorrow with that. Im sending my own tenants from my house to shift over there.]

 

Me: Text me. I like to have things in writing. It brings me peace and harmony.

 

[Blessings (double pink and red heart emoji)]

 

They did finally move out, but it took another week. I spent that week wondering if I was perceiving things as they really were, and concentrating on inhaling n exhaling love.

I’m fairly certain I was communicating with Bea’s idiot boyfriend more than half the time during that week, and I’m positive he was inhaling n exhaling something entirely different.

Namaste.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

Your new favorite book is from SmidgeBooks

Your new favorite humor columnist is on Facebook Just a Smidge

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

A Brief History of Communications

Many, many years ago, people used to scribble messages and stories on the walls of their caves. That was great, but you had to go to their cave to see what they had to say. That was inconvenient and dangerous, because without advanced notice of the visit, they were likely to kill you when you entered their cave, and there was no way to give advanced notice, because you couldn’t send your own cave wall over ahead of time.

People eventually started scribbling notes on rocks and throwing them to other people, but that was also problematic because of the concussions and rotator cuff injuries associated with the longer/larger messages.

Finally, someone got smart and invented paper, followed closely by the invention of the carrier pigeon. But the pigeons were hard to train and only batted about .500 on delivery because none of the streets were named, and also hawks. There was also a poop-on-the-messages issues until someone figured out the messages should ride of the top of the bird instead of underneath, but the poop-on-the-recipient problem remained, so that program was short-lived.

It wasn’t long before Alexander Graham Bell took credit for a lot of work done by an Italian guy and “invented” the telephone, famously uttering the first words ever to travel across phone lines, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to talk to you about your car’s extended warranty.”

Americans instantly fell in love with the telephone, but within hours of the first network being connected it was rendered completely useless by teenage girls clogging up all the lines.

Then along came World War II and all the teenage girls were sent to work in factories, finally freeing up the phone lines. Radio technology had been progressing side-by-side with the telephone, with Nicola Tesla first demonstrating wireless radio message transfer. He then went on to pioneer the self-driving electric car. The radio was later patented by Gugliemo Marconi who had already made a fortune in cheese-covered pasta.

Radio waves were vital during the war, but there was a problem. The crafty Germans had figured out how to jam our radio signals, rendering our entertainment systems, and possibly more importantly, our torpedo guidance systems, useless. Thankfully, Austrian-born actress Hedy Lamarr had escaped her arms-dealer husband and moved to Hollywood ahead of the war. She went on to star in many, many movies that no one has ever seen, and she was quite famous.

In addition to being smokin’ hot, Hedy was also a genius. During the war, she and a music composer friend took it upon themselves to solve the problem of the Nazis being able to jam our torpedo guidance signals. Those crazy kids invented a radio guidance system that used frequency hopping.

“Frequency hopping?” you ask.

Yes, I don’t know what it is either, but apparently it was later the foundation for the Bluetooth and WiFi technology we know and love. Enjoy your digital device lifestyle? You can thank Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr. I am not making that up. We had to wait nearly five decades for something to come out of Hollywood that was even remotely as impressive, which, of course, was the movie Die Hard.

A few years prior to Hans Gruber falling out of Nakatomi Plaza, Al Gore invented the internet, and along with it, email. I first heard about “electronic mail” when I was in college in the early ‘90s, and I thought it sounded like the stupidest thing I’d ever heard of. Why wouldn’t you just call them, I thought. That is why I’m not a multi-millionaire.

Anyway, radio shows and my beloved phone calls enjoyed a long run of popularity until 2002, when Blackberry introduced the first phone that had a keyboard on it. Sure, the keys were far too small to actually use, but the idea was born. Finally, we could send emails from our phones! I mean, sure, you could use the Blackberry and the iPhones that followed as phones, but you could type on them!

The invention of the smartphone was the turning point in a communications timeline that has come full circle. We used to enjoy writing letters. Then we ditched that practice in favor of telephone calls until our telephones were able to write letters. The long letters known as emails gave way to texting as we grew more and more averse to actual phone calls.

Now, no one likes telephone calls anymore and everyone just writes short, incoherent texts to each other with atrocious grammar, zero punctuation, made-up words, a never-ending array of emojis, and no capital letters whatsoever.

We’re all the way back to basically texting each other cave painting scribbles.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why my wife and my children never answer my calls.

I’ll just leave them a quick voicemail…

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

Your new favorite book is from SmidgeBooks

Your new favorite humor columnist is on Facebook Just a Smidge

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Ford versus Chevrrari

This is not by any means a car column, but a great wrong has been perpetrated upon us, along with a great right, and it needs to be discussed.

Growing up, I was a Ford guy. Not necessarily out of any great passion or loyalty toward Fords, it was just that when you were a teenage boy in my day, you were expected to pick a side. Wishy washy on the subject was not an option. My dad had a Ford truck, so I was a Ford guy, and Chevy could suck it.

The two sides of this ridiculous feud had all sorts of fun wordplay to put down the other team. If you were a Chevy guy, Ford stood for Found On Road Dead, or Fix Or Repair Daily. There were many others, most where the F stood for various forms of the “F word,” my personal favorite being F’er Only Rolls Downhill.

Us Ford guys would counter their clever acronyms with one of our own by saying, “I think you meant to say, ‘First On Race Day.’” Take that! Unfortunately, that was the only positive Ford acronym, so then we’d politely ask that if Chevrolet is supposed to be American, why does it have a French name?

Later on, in the early ‘90s when Chevy came out with the “Like a Rock” campaign, we could say, “Yes, like a rock. Found on the side of roads everywhere.” That was about all us Ford guys had. The Chevy guys had a lot more ammo with the long list of Ford acronyms. They were all dumb, but they had a lot of them.

Both sides had their hallmark cool cars. Ford had the Mustang and Chevy had the Camaro and the Corvette. The Camaro was short-lived, but the Mustang and the Corvette lived on. The ‘80s were no good for either brand, especially the Mustang, but to be fair, the ‘80s weren’t good for much of anything.

The Mustang and the Corvette made it through those dark years and stood the test of time. Up until now, that is, which brings us to our discussion here today.

First, let’s talk about the good. The 2022 Corvette is the coolest Corvette ever. They finally got away from the ridiculous twenty-three-foot-long front end and made a race car. It looks like an Italian supercar now. The driver can finally see something other than three acres of hood, and the mid-engine design looks fast as hell. It has two really cool looking air intake holes on the sides behind the doors. I don’t know if they do anything, but they look awesome, and the engine sounds throaty and amazing, without that annoying supercar high-pitched whine. Well done, Chevy.

On the other hand, things have gone terribly awry over at Ford. They have introduced the 2022 Mustang. The only problem is, you have to ask which 2022 Mustang? On the one hand, they’re making the normal gas-powered ones, including the amazingly sweet Shelby Mustangs that make you want to drive 250 miles per hour and outrun the cops while blasting Born to be Wild from the 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system.

On the other hand, they’re making a “Mustang” that is electric, and also an SUV.

What?

How can you take one of the most iconic sportscars in the universe and decide to make two versions of it that look and act nothing alike? That aren’t even the same shape?

Do you want the car Mustang or the large SUV Mustang? Or the boat Mustang. We have one of those two. We also have a Mustang 10-speed bike, an e-bike, a Mustang food truck, and a Mustang Little Rascal grocery store scooter.

What the hell, Ford? Did you guys want to make a different car but you just ran out of names? Mustang was the only thing anyone over there could think of?

Do you see Chevy over here saying hey everyone, check out the new 2022 Suburbans. This one is shaped like a Suburban and seats eight passengers comfortably, with room for everyone’s luggage. This other Suburban seats two and is shaped like a rolling turd. It runs on fairy dust and happy thoughts.

No, you don’t see Chevy doing that, because that would be stupid. Ford, you’ve gone stupid and I’m officially a Chevy guy now.

I need to start saving up for one of those Corvettes! By the way, did you guys know that Ford stands for Factory Ordered Road Disaster?

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

Your new favorite T-shirt is at SmidgeTees

Your new favorite book is from SmidgeBooks

Your new favorite humor columnist is on Facebook Just a Smidge

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

An Open Letter to the Student Loan Department

Dear whomever is in charge of the student loan forgiveness program,

Son Number One is a high school senior this year, so he’ll be off to college around this time next year. We’re all very excited about your new plan to wipe out student loan debt, and we plan to take full advantage of that next year.

Originally, we were thinking he’d need to stay in our home state of California for college to avoid those high out-of-state tuitions, but your new program has really opened up the possibilities. Since money is no longer an object, I think we’ll have him try to get into some of those famous schools that always seem to produce good results, like Harvard, Cambridge, or MIT. However, I’m not sure if he really has what it takes, grade-wise, so we’d really appreciate it if you could put in a good word for him. Thanks in advance!

I’m really writing today to inquire how to get started on the forgiveness of all of our past and existing student loans. I noticed that the program was entitled “Student Loan Forgiveness” without the “College” qualifier, and that’s great for us, because we’ve had student debt for years now with the three boys.

Let’s start with the obvious one – our mortgage. We’ve been housing up to three students here for the last fourteen or fifteen years, ever since Son Number One headed off to his first day of preschool. That obviously qualifies under the “room” section of room and board.

We’ll obviously split the mortgage amount by three-fifths, since my wife and I aren’t students anymore. Just let me know where to send that sizeable bill for forgiveness. Will you work directly with the bank that holds the mortgage, or will you send us a check? Either way is great. Whatever works best for you.

Now, let’s talk food. We’ve also been feeding these young students the whole time we’ve been housing them, which falls under the “board” portion of room and board. (Interesting side note, in case you were unaware – the term “board” means food because it refers to what folks used to eat off of before plates were invented.)

Based on our current weekly grocery bill, I can get you a fairly decent estimate of the total for the last fifteen years. Again, I’d be happy to split it by three-fifths, which in this case is extremely generous on my part, because these boys eat waaaay more than we do. You’ll obviously need to send me a check directly for the past amounts, but going forward, I’m happy to have you send me a credit card that I’ll use only for the boys’ food. Just make sure it has a high credit limit. I think they plan to start dining at some pretty fancy restaurants.

Besides tuition and room and board, transportation costs to and from school are the only other thing I can think of that needs forgiving. Son Number One and Two drive separately to school because of differing schedules, and Son Number Three has to ride with whomever lost the Ro-Sham-Bo that morning. We have never had any car loans, mainly because no bank will loan us money to buy cars as crappy as ours, but also because I have an aversion to financing anything that can roll off a cliff.

That’s all going to change now that student loan forgiveness is in full swing. We’ll start shopping right away for new cars for the boys. I’m thinking we should just get three new cars now, since Son Number Three will be learning to drive in about a year. Might as well handle all the paperwork at once to make things easier on you guys. You’re welcome.

We’ll want to go mid-upper level with the new rides. I’m thinking in the BMW/Audi/Maserati arena. We both obviously want to get something reliable, but I don’t want to spoil these kids, you know? Gotta keep them grounded and teach them how the real world works out there, right?

Do we call you from the dealership to handle the loan side of things, or do you want to just send a check in advance? Again, whatever works best for you.

We just can’t thank you enough for this new program. Super helpful! Looking forward to hearing from you soon about moving forward on all this, and we’ll be back in touch again next year for the college costs.

Yours in forgiveness,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

Your new favorite book is from SmidgeBooks

Your new favorite humor columnist is on Facebook Just a Smidge

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

An Open Letter to Lowe's

Dear Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse,

A long while ago, you built one of your stores in my town, and you built it literally right next-door to the existing Home Depot. When my wife and I bought our first house, we remodeled the entire place, floor to ceiling, from that Home Depot. We were able to do that because we didn’t have kids yet, so we had all the time and money in the world.

We were rich and carefree. We could go out to eat anywhere, at any time. We could go to the movies any day of the week – not just on Tuesdays - and buy all the popcorn we wanted, even at those movie theater prices. We played golf, both mini and regular. We could do all that while still saving for retirement and pouring tons of money into the home renovations.

We had no idea how much would change when we had kids. No one at the Home Depot warned us. You’d think they would have, since they knew damned well that once we had kids we’d have no more time or money to spend at their store. Go figure.

Anyway, when you built your Lowe’s right next to our Home Depot, I remained very loyal to them. Their employees had always been top-notch (except for the not warning us about the kids thing), and I wasn’t going to share my business with you.

However, over the period of a few months to a year I began to notice a decline in the Home Depot customer service levels. The employees seemed to be getting younger and less knowledgeable, not only about general home improvement how-to, but also about where things were actually located in their own store. Then one evening, a funny thing happened.

I was walking down an aisle and overheard a customer ask one of the employees where something was located. The employee didn’t know what it was. She explained what it was, but the employee still had no idea where to find it. I stopped and told the woman exactly which aisle to find it on, how far down the aisle, and how high off the floor it was located. She thanked me and asked if I was an off-duty employee. I said no, just someone who’s shopped here a lot, as I shook my head in disgust at the pathetic excuse for a customer service representative, hanging his head in shame above his orange apron.

That night was when I decided to give you a try, Lowe’s. And our relationship was good for a long time. Your employees would drop whatever they were doing and walk me to where I could find something, even when I insisted that it was OK if they just told me. Sometimes that was uncomfortable and weird, but it was appreciated, nonetheless.

Somewhere along the way, Home Depot got the memo and stepped their customer service back up, and over these many years, you have both performed fairly well. But I wanted to give you the courtesy of a warning. You’re slipping, big time, in the stocking and returns department.

My wife and I have denied our teenage boys food and shoes just long enough to be able to afford some new lighting and mirrors for our master bath. We bought two light fixtures from you the other day, and I was more than a little upset when I unpackaged the first one back at home. It was immediately obvious that something was wrong, from the complete lack of internal packaging involved.

The only damn thing in the box was the light fixture. No protective bag. No Styrofoam end caps holding it in place, no installation instruction sheet. Also missing were the bracket that holds it to the wall, the electrical connectors, and the screws. And to cap it all off, it was visibly and obviously scratched up. Digging down to the bottom of the box I did actually find one other item – the receipt from the last time it was purchased!

I have one simple question for you: How in the actual hell did this thing end up on the shelf?

Based on my recent past experiences, combined with this incident, both purchasing and then returning this fixture (for at least the second time in its life), here’s my estimation of the current inner workings of your returns department:

1) Customer brings in a return.

2) You ask zero questions about the product’s performance, current state, reason for return, or even origin.

3) You assess whether the product is in the original packaging.

4) If it’s not, you shrug and say, “whatever.”

5) If it is in the original packaging, you will, under no circumstances whatsoever, open that packaging to inspect the item, or even verify that it’s in there at all.

6) You give the customer back whatever amount of money they ask for.

7) You turn around and throw the return into a Lowe’s shopping cart.

8) Someone rolls that shopping cart out into the store and puts whatever it is back on the shelf in the approximate location it came from.

9) Everyone in the breakroom complains about how many returns we’re getting today.

10) Repeat.

Like I said, this is not an isolated incident. It’s just the latest one, and I’m done. I can’t do this anymore. The price of gas is too high for me to make two round trips to get one item. The boys will eventually need to eat again, and the school is complaining about them being barefoot.

So, from now on I’ll be the guy bringing my own box cutter in and completely unpackaging everything right there in your store before I buy it.

And fair warning: If it’s not all there, I’m just going to leave it lying there on the floor.

Do better,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen

 

Your new favorite book is from SmidgeBooks

Your new favorite humor columnist is on Facebook Just a Smidge