Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dear Santa

December 23rd, 2008

Dear Santa,

All I want for Christmas is a LoJack for Snot Rod. Oh, and one for a baby spoon. Allow me to explain.

Last Christmas you brought my sons some “matchbox” type toy cars from the Disney movie “Cars”. One of them was the orange GTO with the big racing slicks, the supercharger, and the cylinder head-cold named “Snot Rod.” My four year old has grown quite attached to it over the last few months and likes to take it everywhere now. Likewise, my two year old has developed a fondness for carrying around spoons. He likes measuring spoons, wooden spoons, silverware, and most of all, baby spoons. He has a particular type that is his favorite. The “pokey baby spoony” as he calls it. It’s a metal spoon with a big fat plastic handle. We used to have a lot of them, but now we only have one. That’s because of the problem.

My boys really have no short-term memory at all. That’s the problem. They cherish a certain item almost more than life itself, but cannot remember where they set it down thirty seconds ago. Now, since Snot Rod and the baby spoon are both less than four inches in length and our house is 3400 square feet not counting the garage, you can see my dilemma.

Our boys aren’t allowed to take toys to bed, so they request that they be allowed to leave certain toys right outside their door for when they wake up. Occasionally (read: All the time) they get their heart set on a toy that they have recently misplaced. When this happens, it is important to gauge the level of heart-setted-ness. If it is high, you have two choices. Find the toy and put it outside their door so they will be happy in the morning, and hopefully entertained, or don’t find it, don’t leave it outside their door, and hear about that decision at 5:45 am.

Tonight was a night with a high heart-setitude rating for Snot Rod. My wife and I were lucky enough to be able to go out to a movie this evening by ourselves since Grandma and Grandpa are here awaiting your arrival tomorrow night. When we got back, well past both of our bed times, I was obliged to look for Snot Rod. The last sighting had been in the car. Oh joy. Well, off to the garage I went, flashlight in hand, to contort myself onto the floor mats to be able to inspect under the seats as well as between the car seats in kid row.

Here’s an abbreviated list of what I found:
Six Cheerios
Twelve raisins
One bell
Five matchbox cars (one of them was orange, but it wasn’t Snot Rod)
Two Dr. Seuss books
One Thomas Guide of Sacramento
Two baby wipes (unused, thank the Lord)
Seven acorns
One pinecone
Thirty-two goldfish crackers
Six pretzels
Three Legos
One sock

Here’s a list of what I did not find:
Snot Rod

After resigning myself to the fact that I would be dealing with a disappointed child in the pre-dawn hours, I went upstairs to sit down at my desk. I worked at my computer for thirty minutes before I glanced to my left. And can you guess what was sitting right on top of my desk, not 14 inches away from my left hand? Snot Rod.

So what I would really like for Christmas this year is a few small tracking devices that I can attach to the toy-du-jour. I really think a lot of time and sanity could be saved if your elves could come up with something compact that has a strong signal. We could also use a few for the sippy cups, and the binkies. Also, with regard to my wife, one for the TV remote, the cordless phone, her keys, and her cell phone. And one for Grandma’s cell phone. And her keys. On second thought, if you could just get me a whole bunch of them and I’ll take it from there. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to just LoJack the boys themselves when we head for the park or the mall!

I guess maybe I’d like some sort of desk organizer, too.

Thanks Santa!

See you soon,

Copyright © 2008 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!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Batteries are Draining Me

If you have kids in the house, then somewhere in that house you no doubt run a small side business warehousing batteries. Depending on how many kids and toys you have, you may actually own more batteries than some third-world countries. I know for a fact that I own more AAs than Bangladesh.

In the good old days of my youth, my toys took only one size battery. The 9-Volt. It had opposite terminals on top and you had to plug it into the vinyl-coated contacts at the end of two thin red and white wires stuffed into the battery compartment of your walkie-talkie or radio-controlled race car. When you took the old battery out it was always a gamble on whether you would rip those wires right out of the toy, because the used 9-Volt always managed to weld itself to the contacts. You could check to make sure the old battery was really dead by putting the contacts on your tongue. Everyone who has ever done it remembers vividly the first time they put a brand new 9-Volt on their tongue. The cattle prod-like shock across your taste buds and the lingering metallic flavor is unforgettable. Good times!

There were only two other sizes of battery besides the 9-Volt in my youth. The D-cell, which went in standard flashlights, and the gigantic, slightly smaller than a brick, ”lantern battery” with the two cone-shaped spiral spring contacts on top. They went in the molded plastic flashlight with the seven-inch-diameter lens and integral suitcase handle that every family had for camping or emergencies. It was six volts instead of nine, but no one ever thought about putting that one on their tongue! They always seemed to last for a sum total of 8-1/2 minutes in the 300-pound flashlight before it would begin to get dimmer and dimmer. At that point your parents or grandparents would let you turn it on and keep it on so you could stare at the faint glow from the bulb as long as you could to try to pinpoint the exact second that the battery went completely dead. Who needs a Playstation?

I rarely see the 9-Volt or the 18-pound brick nowadays. They have been replaced by approximately eighty-seven other models, shapes and voltages. The clear winner is the AA, which seems to have held the top spot for a long time now. I remember as a bachelor being indignant when I got my fist TV remote that took AAAs. “Why do I need these? The AAs works just fine! Now I have to stock two kinds of small batteries.” Little did I know, that was only the beginning. I got married, had kids, and somewhere along the line, someone brought 13 tons of toys into my home. With the exception of one old-timer wooden train, each and every toy requires batteries. Our portable plastic baby fence takes batteries. We have a wooden puzzle that takes batteries. We have stuffed animals, cribs and bikes that take batteries. And we have books that take batteries. Now come on! The last thing in the world that is supposed to require batteries is a book.

The manufacturers of the battery-operated books and some of the other toys have taken things one step further. In a creepy effort to make their products popular, or at least seem popular, the toys will actually try to get the kid’s attention back if they stop playing with them. When you put them down or stop turning pages for a minute, they call out to the child “Turn the page to hear more” or “Elmo’s lonely, play with me.” Why don’t they just be honest and have the toy say “Excuse me son, sales are down in North America. We would like this product to hold your interest for another three-tenths of a second so your mommy will distinguish it as being special and purchase one for your cousin.”

Until recently, my wife and I had a nice run where we were only stocking AAs, AAAs, C-cells, D-cells, and the occasional 9-Volt. Granted, we have to buy AAs and C's by the pallet pretty much weekly, but at least we only had to inventory five different kinds. That has all changed now. My sons just got their first set of walkie-talkies. Did their super-cool new Transformers Walkie-Talkie set come with 9-Volts like mine did when I was their age? No. They came with calculator batteries. You know the kind. They go in your car’s keychain remote. They look like a dime or a nickel. And they are from Hell.

When you go to the regular battery section at the store it is a straightforward affair. Need AAs, there they are. When you go to the calculator battery section of the store you had better bring some water and a snack, because you’re going to be there for a while. For reasons known only to the battery company engineers, they felt the need to designate them with a letter and a number. C124 or A534. Probably because there are only twenty-six letters in the alphabet, and they anticipated a need for at least three thousand unique sizes. Besides having an almost infinite amount of diameter and thickness combinations, they have cross-references between the model numbers printed in microscopic writing on the packages. It’s like a fun little treasure hunt where you have to find one dime in a pile of two hundred dimes. The D435 is compatible with the A534, the F129, as well as the H245, but not the D534 or the F534.

Just in case it was too simple, the battery companies’ marketing teams went ahead and designated some of them as “medical” and put the universal Red Cross symbol on the package. If I need an H432 for my kid’s toy, and it comes in “medical” and plain, which should I choose? Will the “medical” one last longer, or will it immediately recognize that it is not powering a Life-Alert necklace, and fail to work at all?

The good news is that the calculator batteries come in packs of one, and they cost $9.78 each on average. Our new walkie-talkie set takes four per unit, so if my math is correct, when the batteries run out in both units it should only cost me $3240.87 and six hours of my time cross-referencing in the battery aisle. That is sooooo much better than the forty cents and two minutes it would have taken me if they were AAs.

If you’ll excuse me, I have to go put the folks from Mattel and Duracell on my Christmas card list.

See you soon,

Copyright © 2008 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!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Disneyland on Just $700 per Day

We just got back from a mini vacation at the happiest place on earth. No, not Wal-Mart. Disneyland! We spent three magical days at Mickey’s place, and I have the empty bank account to prove it.

Now, Disneyland probably isn’t the most expensive place you can go, but it has to be in the top three. You could go to Atlantic City or Vegas, but you’d have to be on one heck of a losing streak to match the wallet draining power of Anaheim, CA. “Let’s see…. Give me two hot dogs, three waters, and a box of popcorn. What’s that?? $84.50? That sounds reasonable. Why don’t we throw in some mouse ears and make it an even $200. Thanks!”

It really doesn’t matter how much it costs though, when you get to take your two year old on the Matterhorn Bobsleds to thwart the abominable snowman and you get to take your four year old down a 50-foot waterfall on Splash Mountain. Where else in the world can you do that? It’s all worth it when you hear “Daddy, I was pretty scared, but that was fun!” To see my little boys being brave as they got strapped in for the wild rides just melted my heart and made me proud!

I say it really doesn’t matter how much it costs only because my wife booked the whole package on Costco Travel and I really have no idea what admission to the park really was. It may be a total rip-off. You should look into it before you go. My boys probably could have had just as much fun if I dragged our mattress into the back yard and threw them off the roof.

One thing is for sure though. Old Walt really knew a thing or two about how to run an operation. In my opinion, every company in America should have corporate retreats at Disneyland. The customer service is second to none, the place runs like a Swiss watch, and the fact that my kids knew every character’s name speaks volumes about their marketing. (Or it means my kids watch way too much TV in the morning…)

And is there a more popular corporate brand out there? If you had to rank the most well known figures in the world, the list would probably go Jesus first and Mickey Mouse second. And if Jesus had charged people $9.75 for a diet Coke instead of giving away free wine who knows how that list might go.

Amid our reveling in all things Disney what ended up being one of the most entertaining parts of the trip was not the rides at all. It was the crowds. For two days, mixed in with all the other families like ours, were hordes of pale white face havin’, pitch black clothes wearin’, every available orifice piercin’ Goth freaks. They were having a convention somewhere in LA, and what appeared to be the entire convention felt the need to come to Disneyland. Two things about that surprised me. First, how are the socially disaffected, disenfranchised youth of America so organized that they can put together a convention? And second, why do the members of a super-weird, “I’m constantly unhappy and pale” death cult want to come to the happiest place on earth in the middle of the day?

I had never given the pale ones much thought, but seeing them all at Disneyland got me very curious, so I did some research. I always thought it was “Gothic” people, like the historical period. But that isn’t it at all. The entire club is based on a series of books about a fictional bat named Goth who talks and happens to be a cannibal. I’m not sure how that translates to the women dressing like Elvira the meth addict hooker, but I haven’t read any of the books.

After learning about the cannibal bat, I’m still unable to make the Disneyland connection, but go figure. Who am I to judge? Mickey rocks, and evidently everyone knows it! Even the frowning suburban see-through night creatures who are incapable of purchasing clothes in any hue other than black as coal.

Disneyland seemed to be making some of them smile though, but I’m thinking they might be a little happier if they looked up the first name on the popularity list. He has a Book also, just no theme park.

See you soon,

Copyright © 2008 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!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What Did They Just Say?

They say it’s the little things that make life worth living. In my case, it’s the little ridiculous things that amuse me to no end. Here are a few recent ones that put a smile on my face.

I heard an ad on the radio for a Nevada attorney’s office that proclaimed they were “open Monday through Friday, closed Sundays.” That brought up some questions for me. They must know about Saturday, right? What happens there between Friday and Sunday? I was very curious, but given that it was a lawyer’s office, I figured maybe it was a trick to get you to show up on Saturday so they could sue you for trespassing, so I didn’t pursue it any further.

I saw a carpet cleaning van the other day with a logo that I'm fairly certain was trying to suggest that they could get stains out of your carpet. It had the word “Stain” and the word “Gone”, but the “Gone” was the word inside the red circle with the diagonal line through it. Stains not gone? Why would I hire them? I can do that myself!

I saw a headline a while back that read “Man catches halibut weighing just over 319 pounds.” I thought, either it was a pretty good size fish, or the guy needs to lose some weight.

I was at the airport in Portland, Oregon last month and heard the following page: “Abdulla Alqadi (last name pronounced AL-KAY-DIE), please report to the security checkpoint to retrieve your property.” Yeah, right. Please report to the security checkpoint to continue your full cavity search! Sorry, Abdulla, but with a name like that, it might just be easier to take the bus.

A few years ago the DMV sent me a form to permanently register my boat trailer. One final payment, and I received special license plates, never to pay another dime again. Until a couple of years later I received my bill for the “Permanent Trailer Semi-Annual Fee”. It’s the government. They can’t help themselves. Or more to the point, they can and they do!

I got a coupon this weekend from a hotel spa that was offering, among other things, their “Ultimate Back Facial and Massage.” What could a “back facial” possibly be? Do you lie on the table face up or face down? Does it come with an oxymoronic cleansing wrap? Will I be relaxed afterward or just confused? Then I read that it cost $100 so I decided to leave that one a mystery.

I heard an ad on my favorite AM station last week for a company that was offering “Payday Loan Consolidation Programs.” They said if you had two or more payday loans that were late or already in collections, they could help. Then they put the icing on the cake. “Even if you have bad credit.” Can you please show me one person in America who has multiple outstanding payday loans that has a credit score over 32?

The other day I passed a Jeep parked near my street with for sale sign in the window. It was beat up and old and had a layer of dirt on it that suggested it had been there for a while. Posted in the window was a printed out page of four pictures of the same Jeep when it was apparently brand new and shiny. Now I can understand trying to fool someone with the new shiny pictures on the internet or in a magazine, but what idiot is going to look at them in the Jeep’s window and think “Wow! This old heap looked great when it was new! I’ll take it.”

And just this morning I heard an ad on the radio for a company selling gold. Their incredibly innovative sales pitch was as follows:
“Stocks are volatile and real estate is way off, but gold is at record highs! Now is a great time to buy gold for your portfolio.”
I’m sorry, what did he just say???? I think I’m going to have to pass, since the old “buy high, sell low” plan has backfired on me in the past. Thanks anyway.

See you soon,

Copyright © 2008 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!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

My Mind is in the Toilet

Now that I am a dad, I spend a lot of time thinking about toilets. They seem to have become a central theme in my life. I have a four-year-old and a two-and-a-half-year-old in potty training and that inevitably leads to a lot of concern over commodes.

All activities away from the home now have a toilet element in the planning that sometimes eclipses all other decision making.
- We need to try and go potty before we leave.
- Was it successful?
- Yes, OK we’re good for a while.
- No? OK, when was the last time we went potty?
- Will that affect our route to the mall?
- We’d better try again at the mall before we do anything else.
- Where are the toilets in the mall and how will that affect where I park?
- What did we come to the mall for? Was it toilets? I forget.

On road trips I used to stop only when I needed gas and I would choose a gas station based on the price of unleaded. Now I stop at regularly scheduled potty intervals and I choose gas stations on a wide variety of criteria, all having to do with the toilet.
- Does this place have a potty?
- If so, is it in a safe, well lit location?
- If so, does the exterior suggest that the interior will be clean?
- If so, based on past restroom/gas station chain experience, is this place likely to have a diaper changing station (for the 6-month-old)?
- If so, does this place also sell gas?
- If so, great! What’s that? The gas is sixty-seven dollars per gallon more than the dimly-lit, dirty-looking place across the street? Oh, well!

Once I have picked a bathroom successfully, and we’re going in, I now find myself paying much more attention to the lower half of the room. This is due to the proximity of my boys to the floor and their propensity for picking anything up. I’m like a Secret Service agent clearing a hotel’s back corridor just seconds ahead of POTUS.
“Yes, I’m in and we have one unsavory character at urinal three, but otherwise clear of civilians, over.”
“Wait, we’ve got something on the floor. Hang on.”
“No, it’s OK, it’s just an empty McDonald’s bag.”
“We’re clear people, let’s bring em’ in.”

And what is the story with public parks that don’t have toilets? The people that build parks know that children will come there, right? They put in nineteen acres of Kentucky bluegrass and keep it mowed and trimmed neater than the fairways at Augusta, but they can’t afford to maintain one hole in the ground? What am I paying taxes for? I’m not even asking for toilet paper! I’ll bring my own. I always have wipes. Just provide a hole and a seat. This is an especially troubling phenomenon in the newer subdivisions without any mature trees. You never really know how you’re going to react in a crisis situation until you have a kid dancing around at your heels saying “Daddy, daddy I really need to poop” and you scan the area to discover you are standing on what looks like the surface of the moon. “Hold it” is not a fool-proof option for a three-year-old when you’re fifteen minutes from home. Sometimes, you just have to hold your kid over a trash can.

And speaking of wipes, how did we ever live our pre-parental lives without them? I can’t even remember my life before having children, but I know for a fact it must have been horribly inconvenient without constantly having access to baby wipes. Now granted, before I had kids I probably had fewer messes to deal with every day, but let’s face it, I was a bachelor. I wasn’t exactly Mr. Clean. (Besides the fact that there is no possible way I could pull off the bald-with-a-gold-hoop-earring quasi pirate look, I wasn’t all that clean either.) What did I use to clean up spills? Or shine my shoes? Or blow my nose, clean my sunglasses, dust the house, wash my hands, clean the dashboard, wash my feet, wipe down the kitchen, wash my face, check my oil, or polish the silverware? I probably just used my shirt like my kids do.

As if off-site bathrooms weren’t enough of a concern, the bathrooms at home aren’t exactly free from troubles either. Sure the kids have easy access to them, but sometimes, that’s the problem. Since we’ve had children, I have very rarely used my toilet by myself. Some little one either wants to come in to watch how it’s done, or just needs to be in there with me to talk about what’s going on. If I lock the door, that often leads to a lot of knocking, banging, or crying about not being able to get in.

Before I had kids I never gave one thought to the bathrooms at work. Now I cherish them. Using the bathroom at work is the only time I ever have any privacy on the toilet anymore. I have resigned myself to the fact that I will have very little privacy in my own bathroom ever again, unless I can hold out until nine or ten at night when I’m relatively sure there won’t be any more boys boomeranging out of bed to use the potty. But even after nine it’s a crapshoot (so to speak). There is always the off chance that someone will still get up because “There’s another poop in there,” or “Whoops, I forgot to pee.”

Go use the toilet at the park kid. Here’s some wipes.

See you soon,

Copyright © 2008 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!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Productive Hijackings

In 2001 we had the September 11th hijackings and part of the aftermath was the ingenious idea of putting the TSA in charge of airport security. Almost instantly I was not allowed to travel with my toenail clippers.

In December of 2001 ol’ Richard Reid tried to light a bomb hidden in his shoe and now I have to walk through the metal detector in my socks.

Then in 2006 some idiots in England were plotting to take a plane down with a liquid bomb, so now when I fly I can only bring enough shaving cream and toothpaste with me to shave half my face and brush most of my teeth.

If the TSA is going to continue to be the pro-active, forward thinking organization we have come to know and love, then I have a few helpful suggestions for any would-be terrorists out there. Not helpful to the terrorist so much as helpful to you and me.

Here is a list of things I wish someone would try to hijack a plane with:

- The loud talking cosmetics saleswomen with the big hair

- The “carry-on” that just doesn’t seem to fit in the overhead bin no matter how hard she shoves, or how loud she talks about it

- The in-flight magazine with the crossword puzzle already completed

- The sweaty guy with BO

- The super-important business man who gets audibly indignant about delays

- The un-disciplined 6 year old who repeatedly kicks the back of my chair

- The parent of the un-disciplined 6 year old who repeatedly kicks the back of my chair

- The 400 pound guy who only buys one seat, but uses part of mine too

- The cutesy snack mix that occasionally subs for good old-fashioned peanuts

- The older lady who asks at least six different gate agents if they still need to see her ID

- The beef stroganoff

- The safety briefing

- The tray table that won’t stay up

- The exit row seat that won’t recline

- The baggage handler that just doesn’t care anymore

- The guy next to me snoring in my ear

- The “contains only two sips” miniature can of soda

- The in-flight movie that’s edited for time and content

- The talkative couple who are on their way to Vegas and are super excited about it, and

- The drunk guy who tries to tip the flight attendant

I really feel that we could all travel a little bit safer if a few of these grave security concerns were addressed. Won’t you please help?

See you soon,

Copyright © 2008 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!

Monday, August 11, 2008

I Have a Dream - A Father's Version

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. It is a Father’s Dream.

I have a dream that one day I will be able to sleep in. That one day I will not be woken by the sound of a wooden kitchen spoon banging on my door at 5:30 am.

I have a dream that I will one day be able to wear a shirt for more than ten minutes without getting baby spit-up on it.

I have a dream that one day I will not have to watch four effeminate Australians dance poorly and sing about fruit salad and a big red car. That one day I can stop having to sing along with the four effeminate Australians.

I have a dream that my three little boys will one day be able to play with someone else’s children without someone going to time out or the emergency room.

I have a dream that my children will someday get up in the middle of the night, go pee, and go right back to bed without waking me up to tell me about it.

I have a dream that someday soon I will be able to walk through my own house barefoot in the dark without fear of plastic dinosaur puncture wounds.

I have a dream that I will no longer have to count to three. That someday I will only need to get to two.

I have a dream that someday I will stop finding two-week-old fruit snacks in the leather seats. That I will quit having to vacuum pulverized goldfish crackers out of the floor mats.

I have a dream that one day I will remove my last car seat, never having to contort myself to install it in another car again.

I have a dream that one day my children will travel with only one suitcase each, and they will carry that suitcase themselves. That one day they will not require 32 tons of accessories per child.

I have a dream that some day soon I will be able to stand at my toilet and pee without having a little boy come up behind me and try to stick his head between my legs because he thinks it’s funny.

I have a dream that one day I will be able to open my own cupboards freely, without first having to Houdini a child-proof plastic locking device. That one day we may be able to have breakables below the five foot line.

I have a dream that someday soon I will be able to set my drink down on the coffee table without a care in the world. That someone somewhere would produce a reliable stain repellant for carpet.

I have a dream that one day I will no longer have to play the “Identify the Foul Smell and its Source” game. That one day, I will no longer stockpile poop-filled diapers in my laundry room until the “odor reducing” container is full enough to go to the trash.

I have a dream that the day will come when I will no longer find any long-forgotten sippy-cups of curdled milk underneath my couch.

I have a dream that I will once again be able to eat my whole meal at a restaurant without once uttering the words “inside voice,” or, “Please don’t stab your brother with your fork.”

I have a dream that someday what is on my plate will cease to be much more desirable than what is on his plate. That his green things will stop being “yucky” while mine are “yummy.”

I have a dream that one Saturday morning in the future my boys will be able to run into my room and jump on me in bed without one of them kicking me in the goodies.

And when this happens, I will sing:

Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Because our boys will be growing up and done with all those annoying childhood problems. Teenagers are easier, right?

See you soon,

Copyright © 2008 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!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hands-Free Phones and Other Results-Free Laws

We here in California are just finishing up our first month under the new “Hands-Free” cell phone law. We are still allowed to talk on the phone while driving, and we are still allowed to hold the phone in one or both of our hands while driving, we just can’t hold the phone up to our ear while driving. This confuses me a little. If I hop in my car, hit the road and hold a book up to my ear for the entire drive, I’m well within my rights under California law. Substitute that book for a phone, and I’m an outlaw. Interesting.

I think the idea is to reduce accidents. A few years ago I was hit by a guy who ran a stop sign. He wasn’t on the phone at the time, he was just a really bad driver. Maybe we should outlaw those. A long time ago, I got hit by a guy on the freeway in LA. He wasn’t on the phone either, he just dropped his cheeseburger in his lap. When he went for it, he lost control of his car and bounced off mine. Maybe we should outlaw cheeseburgers.

On second thought, this is America. We can’t outlaw cheeseburgers. It’s every American’s right to eat cheeseburgers. However, I believe we have a very serious freeway/cheeseburger/lap/collision issue that needs to be dealt with in a responsible manner by our legislators. I propose the hands-free cheeseburger amendment of 2008.

If holding a phone to one's ear has become such a menace to society, then the cheeseburger issue must follow suit! How many lives could be spared, how many dollars could be saved if we could just get a handle on the “burger sliding out of the bun due to slippery lettuce” issue. Or the “sauce dripping on the pants because of the unseen hole in the bottom of the wrapper” problem. Or the “two handed pickle removal while steering with one elbow” maneuver. So many different burgers, so many different problems.

A hands-free burger initiative could tackle all these very serious concerns and get them under control so our roads can once again be safe. If just one fender is spared, if just one pair of chinos is left unstained to be worn a second day in a row, it will all be worth it.

Now, I have no idea what the hands-free cheeseburger device will look like. What I do know however, is that if we can just get this legislation rolling, the American entrepreneurial machine will kick in to high gear, and we’ll have a new industry in no time. Bluetooth will no doubt be the leader with the quick launch of the “Blue Cheese Tooth” burger holder or the “Cordon Bleutooth” burger holder. Apple will be close behind with the introduction of the iBurger. It will hold five times the amount of burger and automatically reduce the calorie count to single digits, but it won’t be compatible with any of your favorite burger joints, and it will cost $499.00 I can’t wait to be the first to get one.

Now of course, all the hands free devices in the world won’t help people stay out of accidents as long as we continue to ignore the real problem on our roads. Crappy drivers. It doesn’t really matter what our oh-so-insightful government takes away from us next. Until we can figure out how to legislate away crappy drivers, nothing is going to change out there. I had another idea about more police patrolling our roads and tougher standards at the DMV, but that’ll never catch on. Makes way too much sense.

Oh well, got to go, this is my exit. Watch it jerk! I’m typing here!

See you soon,

Copyright © 2008 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!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Hot chicks and cool dudes

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I hypothesize that women, being less comfortable inside about all the little things in life, try to micro-manage the external temperature settings to feel more comfortable outside. A way to gain some measure of control over their surroundings when life seems otherwise wildly out of control. Either that, or it’s a hormone thing and they actually are less comfortable. What do I know?

See you soon,

Copyright © 2008 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!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Name

It's spelled Schmatjen. It's pronounced "Smidgen", like a smidgen of this, and a smidgen of that. No one in the family knows why. It's German, but some kind of strange hill-people German that were more Austrian or Swiss or Drunk than actual Germans.

So we all went by "Smidge". Once you pronounce it for people, that's your nickname. No getting around it, and all in all it's a pretty good deal for a kid. There is never really any doubt about what you might get called later in life. If you're destined for a certain nickname, it's nice to know ahead of time that it's going to be palatable. No chewing your nails wondering what fate might befall you on the playground. Through a twist of fate will I forever be branded "Stinky" or "Monkey Butt"? Nope. Not with a last name like Schmatjen. All that being said, I went through college known as "Schmeg". Thanks Jeff!

In the Schmatjen clan, there is a general rule that because of the last name's inherent spelling and pronunciation issues, the first names had better be fool-proof. So, inexplicably, my folks named me Marc with a "C". I'm not sure what they were thinking at the time, but looking back on it, it seems ill-advised. I have always liked it, but it invariably adds and extra dimension to the name explaining process that we Schmatjens constantly go through. I have learned from this experience, and have named all three of my boys very common and traditionally-spelled names. Constantinople, Madagascar & Lyb'ya are the apple of my eye!

One upside to having Schmatjen as a last name is that any other Schmatjen that you catch wind of is 100% definitely related to you. Take that, Smith and Johnson! I am proud to have had three sons that will some day perpetuate the Schmatjen name. Not because I am overly fond of it, but more because having more Schmatjens out in the world increases the chance, however minutely, that one of us will become famous and the rest of us can stop having to explain how to pronounce/spell the damn name!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2008 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!