Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Man Hugs

As I get older, I am noticing that man-hugging is becoming more and more common, so I thought for my boys’ sake, as well as for the general public, the topic deserved a little discussion.

There are two distinct types of man hugs. The half and half, and the full hug. The half and half starts with a hand shake, then moves into a one-armed hug, and the full hug is, of course, self-explanatory. The problem with man hugs is that since there are two distinctly different types, it is sometimes difficult to gauge which one is appropriate, which one is coming, or in the case of the half and half, whether one is coming at all.

The half and half is the tamest of the two man hugs, though both are fraught with potential disaster. In its basic form, the half and half is this: shake hands with the right while simultaneously doing a left-handed shoulder double slap. The potential for disaster comes in the execution. Without a clear historical precedence of man hugs with a particular male, the only way to know if you’re doing the half and half is if one guy keeps coming forward after the hand shake has begun. This requires quick, decisive action from the other party if he was not expecting the half and half. If he does not act fast enough to keep his momentum and get the left arm up and over, the hug is a total loss. When men are hugging, there is no room for error. The slightest misstep, and things get uncomfortable. The last thing you want is the start-and-stop, or the stutter-shake-stall-and-hug. The worst thing that can occur during a man hug is awkwardness. Hugs are already uncomfortable enough for us, so we need the mechanics of the hug to go very smoothly.

Even with the smoothest hug execution, there are requirements for relieving the innate uncomfortable-ness that comes with hugging another man. Hard back slaps are a rule. Under some circumstances - like if someone has died and it is a condolence hug – a stationary hand on the back is considered marginally OK, but rubbing of any kind is never allowed. Talking throughout the hug is also very helpful for relieving the natural tension. Things like, “Great to see you, man,” or “Take care of yourself” are fine, but never anything too long or drawn out. Man hugs are short, crisp affairs. If you are hugging a relative or a best friend, and the situation warrants - like if someone has died and it is a condolence hug - “I love you, man” may be uttered, but it must be loud, and it must have “man” on the end.

Also, this should go without saying, but during any man hug situation, the bodily contact should be initiated by leaning forward from the waist. No body parts below the waist should be anywhere close to touching. Not even feet.

Speaking of the above-the-waist rule, it is important to keep the handshake high. The last thing you want is for the hands to get forced downward toward waist level during the lean-in. As far as the initial handshake goes, the half and half is actually a lot easier with the bro grip instead of the business grip. The bro grip is where the elbows are down and the hands are up. Your thumbpits still match up the same, but your fingers wrap around the base of the other guys thumb instead of the bottom of his hand. It’s the grip you would use if you were trying to pull that same guy up and over a wall or a cliff, or helping him out of a Dumpster. With the bro grip, you can both push your forearm against the other guy’s chest, creating a comfortable air gap between your bodies while doing the double back slap. The back slap can be an open palm, or a closed fist back bump, but in either case, the harder the better to help relieve natural awkward tensions.

The full hug is a little easier, in that it does not have as many moving parts, but it is no walk in the park either. Again, execution is key to eliminating any excessive awkwardness. If you’re going in for the full hug with no intermediate hand shake, it’s very helpful to throw up the right hand and arm at a 45 degree angle early on, well before you are in handshake range. You must also give the lean to the left, with the left hand and arm down at a 45 degree angle. This should clearly signal to the hugee that there will be no handshake, hopefully eliminating the awkward un-received outstretched hand, and the even more awkward need for a quick hand pull-back. When the unrequited hand extension and subsequent pullback occurs, it leads to excessive and uncomfortable laughter and talking about the hug. You never want to have to talk about the hug. The hugging itself is stressful enough.

Obviously, the full hug ends up with a lot more body contact than the half and half, and should be used sparingly. One major full hug concern is a drastic height difference in the huggers. Ideally, both parties would be of roughly equal height so that the heads can be safely out over the shoulders on their own. The last thing you want is one guy’s chin on the other guy’s shoulder, or worse yet, his face buried in the other guy’s chest. No good. If you must hug, stick with the half and half on any height differential over four inches. Also, due to the increased body contact area with the full hug, the hug duration should be much less than the half and half. Half of the half and half is a good rule, along with harder back slapping. Louder talking can’t hurt, either.

Whether you are going full or half and half, the most important thing to remember is to lean to the left. The absolute worst thing that can happen during any type of man hug is for both of you to try and go to the same side, resulting in faces accidentally coming too close, as if you’re both going in for a kiss. This causes immediate recoiling from both parties, and ratchets up the awkward tensions tenfold. The end result of the same-side-near-kiss is usually a lot of uncomfortable laughter and an overly exaggerated business hand shake. Sure, it was funny, but not the fun kind of funny. Everyone involved, even witnesses, walk away with higher blood pressure. No one wins with a same-side mistake. Remember, no matter what your political views are, when it comes to man hugs, you lean to the left!

Above all, since you never know what is coming, you need to be on your toes and prepared for anything. Man hugs seem to be here to stay, so please, men, do us all a favor. If you’re new to man hugs, practice with your wife or girlfriend until you get it right. I mean left.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2013 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Java Cloud

Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” On that note, I would like someone at Oracle to explain Java to me. And, I would also like someone at Java to explain Oracle to me.

About once a week, my computer alerts me to the fact that my Java desperately needs to be upgraded. Apparently, Java is made by Oracle. Oracle is a computer software company, I think, although I have never been truly sure what they do. All I really know is they have an office complex near my house, with signs at the street that say Oracle. I assume they are rather successful, since the place is pretty big, and the signs at the street are really nice, and their founder bought Hawaii last year.

Java is something they make, or made, or do, I think. They are vague on that subject. When they notify me that my Java is out of date, they say this: “There is a Java update available. Java provides safe and secure access to the world of amazing Java content.”

Great, so if I install Java, or update my existing Java, I can look at Java safely, in a secure manner.

Then they give me even more reason to update. “From business solutions to helpful utilities and entertainment, Java makes your internet experience come to life.”

OK, now we’re getting somewhere. My internet experience will come to life. So Java is involved in the internet somehow, with business, entertainment, and utilities. Internet-based business and entertainment utilities, perhaps.

Finally they explain it. “3 Billion Devices Run Java. Computers, Printers, Routers, Cell Phones, Blackberry, Kindle, Parking Meters, Public Transportation Passes, ATMs, Credit Cards, Home Security Systems, Cable Boxes, TVs...”

OK, we are finally there. Lots of other stuff besides my computer uses Java. Parking meters, for instance. And my credit card. And my TV. Loads and loads of things are benefiting from this safe and helpful entertaining business utility experience, made possible by all this amazing Java content.

Thanks, Ora-java-cle, you’ve made it perfectly clear why I need whatever it is that you are doing to my computer. Actually, I’m being sarcastic. It’s not clear at all. It’s actually perfectly cloudy. That’s another thing I don’t understand, by the way. The cloud.

I think at this point all my computer-based activities and data are in a cloud of some kind. Much like Java, I keep hearing about it, but I have no idea what it is. Everybody has a cloud these days. I’m not sure if they are all separate clouds or one big one. I would imagine they are separate, since Apple has a cloud, and I’m sure they don’t use the same one as everybody else. Theirs would have to be special, since it needs to be called the iCloud, and has to be perfectly puffy and white. Everyone else’s is probably gray and costs half as much. Who knows?

What I do know is that whoever came up with the term “cloud,” and decided to run with it, needs a lesson in marketing. “Carbonite keeps what's important to you safe in the cloud.” When was the last time you thought to yourself, “I need to keep this item safe and secure, free from harm and theft. I think I’ll store it in a cloud.”

Never? Thought so.

The only good thing associated with clouds is rain, and rain is only considered good in certain situations. Crops, yes. Torrential downpours and flooding, no. Rain has never been considered good for computers and phones, and the concept of “raining down” is not very attractive when it comes to your data. You don’t want your bank statements and the pictures of your family raining down out of the cloud all over Eastern Europe. Not good. Also, clouds are made of vapor. Vapor is another thing that you rarely want to associate with things that you wish to retrieve someday.

“How’s the outlook, Bob?”
“Great! The future looks really cloudy.”
“Super! Can I get that sales report from you?”
“Absolutely. It got vaporized.”

Whatever it is and however it works, we need a new, more reassuring name than the cloud. How about, “the vault?”

“Carbonite keeps what's important to you safe in the vault.” Now that’s more like it.

I’m not sure if my Java updates are coming from the cloud or not, but I do know they seem to be coming more frequently these days. I think I might know why, too. With every Java update lately, there is a pop-up screen with the “next” button, and the screen has a check box with "Install the Ask Toolbar and make Ask my default search provider." The check box is small, innocuous, and conveniently already checked for me.


Could it be that the cloud has delivered this Java-rific update to me simply so that Oracle can try to trick me into using their internet search tool? It’s tough to tell, because Oracle was kind enough to sum up why I need this latest update by telling me this: “By installing Java, you will be able to experience the power of Java, brought to you by Oracle.”


Back to Einstein’s quote, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Now, I’m not na├»ve enough to think that Oracle doesn’t understand what their own products do, so I have to conclude that old Albert left out an important second option. If you decline to explain it simply, even though you can, you’re probably trying to hide something.

I’m starting to think these Java updates with their cloudy explanations are just an elaborate ruse to get me to use That begs the next question: Does Oracle own or is Ask a separate company that paid Oracle to push their service on me?

Good question. I think I’ll Google it.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2013 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The QWERTY Conspiracy

I am really mad at someone, or maybe a lot of people. I just wish I knew who they were, so I could yell at them. You see, I can’t type. Up until yesterday, I thought that was largely my own fault. Up until yesterday I took full ownership of the fact that I avoided high school typing class like the plague. At the time, I think I would have rather cut a few fingers off in shop class than have sat through one hour of typing, and ironically, the way I type, missing a few digits would not slow me down at all.

As I write this, I am using the index fingers on both hands, along with the middle finger on my right hand and occasionally, the ring finger on my left hand. My thumbs operate the space bar, and that’s it. Six fingers out of ten make up my typing tools. I look like E.T. phoning home on the Speak and Spell. Since I don’t have proper typing form, I have to look at the keyboard instead of the screen while I type. I did not see this entence being written.

Now, since I am a writer and an author, you may be wondering to yourself, what’s the matter with you? Believe me, I have been wondering the same thing for years! I actually type pretty fast using my caveman style, but yesterday I figured that I’d better finally bite the bullet and teach myself to type correctly. I was curious how fast I currently type with my head-down, six-finger style, so I timed myself. I cruise at 50-60 words per minute, with occasional bursts of up to 3,000 words per minute when I get into sentences like, “I am at an inn.”

I was pretty impressed with myself until I looked up average typing speeds. I am definitely not dragging the world-wide average down, but I was shocked to read about how Stella Pajunas banged out 216 words per minute on a typewriter in 1946. That’s impressive. Then I learned about Barbara Blackburn, and how she could hold steady for hours at 150 words per minute, with a top speed of 212. That was also impressive. Then I learned that Barbara didn’t use a standard QWERTY keyboard. She used a Dvorak Simplified Keyboard.

Excuse me? A what?

That is when I started to get mad. The QWERTY keyboard layout has always seemed a little off to me, but I just figured that it was laid out in some optimal manner for true typists that my small brain couldn’t understand because I don’t type correctly. That could not be further from the truth! It turns out the keyboard layout was designed strictly from a mechanical point of view, to keep the first typewriters from jamming. If you are under 40 years old, you will just have to take my word for it. The first typewriters had long “hammers” with the letters on the ends of them, and when you pressed the key, the hammer had to swing up and out and hit the paper. I know, crazy, right! OMG, how did people even live back then?

Are you kidding me, typewriter manufacturers? And are you even more kidding me, first word processer manufacturers? There was a better keyboard and you guys never adopted it? Now I’m trying to learn how to type correctly, and I am burdened by the knowledge that this infernal keyboard layout has absolutely nothing to do with typing efficiency or ease? Now I’m really mad! Why did I just have to hit the “shift” key and the “1” key to make an exclamation point? Why do I have to hit “shift” to make a question mark? There it is again! And again. Why would either of these frequently used punctuations get second billing to a number and a slash?!?

And why is my right pinky finger wasting away over here resting on the colon key? I use a colon about twice a year. I use a semicolon never. And why are the vowels spread all over the keyboard like a shotgun blast? What are F,G,J, and K doing in the home row? Look at a Scrabble board, people. Those are high value letters[shift][1]

And speaking of brackets, how is it that the normal (parentheses) are “shift” keys that live over the “9” and the “0” in the infernal top row, but the ridiculous [brackets] and {whatever these are called} that nobody ever uses end up being main keys?

The Dvorak Simplified Keyboard is genius. At least, it’s way more genius than this now confounding QWERTY mess. The home row of keys on the Dvorak is AOEUIDHTNS. Imagine that! Being able to type the word “the” without having to lift a finger. I’d call that genius. Why wasn’t this immediately adopted the day after IBM came out with their first electric typewriter? Or at the very least, when the first word processor came along???? Sure, it might have been painful for a week or two for anyone who could already fly on the QWERTY, but let’s be serious; they would have learned the Dvorak quicker than anyone. If you can master this stupendously incomprehensible key layout, you can learn anything. You could be a classical guitar player, a rocket scientist, or a genetic physicist, if that’s even a thing. If you can type 100 words per minute on a keyboard that has F and J as your home keys, you have no limits.

I really do want to finally learn how to type, but now I’m conflicted. I think maybe I want to hold off, and instead, launch a nationwide campaign to adopt the Dvorak keyboard. If it catches on, I could save myself a ton of time and headache.

Maybe I’ll roll the metric system into the campaign as well. Its time is finally coming, too. I can feel it!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2013 Marc Schmatjen

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

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

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

545 People

If the United States government is not going to do their job, then neither am I. First, we were going to go off a fiscal cliff. That drop-dead date came and went, and I’m not sure if we went off or not. Everyone stopped talking about it as soon as “sequestration” was mentioned. Whether or not we’re falling off a cliff, we’re also sequestered now, whatever that means. What I do know is that they were supposed to get a budget passed by a certain deadline, and they chose not to. I was supposed to have a column posted at a certain time, but instead, following the government’s lead, I chose not to. Instead I decided to just use someone else’s column. If they don’t have to do their job, then neither do I.

In keeping with my new governmental work ethic, I thought it would be appropriate if my low-effort column had a government theme, so I am posting a column that every person in America should be required to read before stepping into a voting booth for the first time. (Don’t worry, it’s short and really good.)

The below piece of simple genius is commonly (and mistakenly) called “Charley Reese’s Last Column.” Charley Reese did in fact write it, but it was not his last column. He refers to it as “The Frankenstein Piece,” because of how many times it has been copied, brought back to life and added onto. It has probably been re-printed and re-posted thousands of times. It’s that good.

As near as I can tell after my exhaustive two-minute internet search on, this is by and large the exact column written by Charley Reese way back in 1985, however the specific names of politicians and places have been removed by someone else along the way  to make it timeless, without changing the point at all.

I think the main reason that this piece is so timeless, is that it’s written from a plain old citizen’s point of view, with party politics left out. I also think that the fact that it is timeless, still holding true to this very day, some 28 years after it was written, means we are totally screwed. Enjoy.

545 People

Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.

Have you ever wondered, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, WHY do we have deficits?

Have you ever wondered, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, WHY do we have inflation and high taxes?

You and I don't propose a federal budget. The President does.

You and I don't have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does.

You and I don't write the tax code, Congress does.

You and I don't set fiscal policy, Congress does.

You and I don't control monetary policy, the Federal Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one President, and nine Supreme Court justices equates to 545 human beings out of the 300 million who are directly, legally, morally, and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered, but private, central bank.

I excluded all the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman, or a President to do one cotton-picking thing. I don't care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it. No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator's responsibility to determine how he votes.

Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party.

What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of a Speaker, who stands up and criticizes the President for creating deficits. The President can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to accept it.

The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating and approving appropriations and taxes. Who is the speaker of the House? He is the leader of the majority party. He and fellow House members, not the President, can approve any budget they want. If the President vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto if they agree to.

It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 300 million cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted -- by present facts -- of incompetence and irresponsibility. I can't think of a single domestic problem that is not traceable directly to those 545 people. When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise the power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

If the tax code is unfair, it's because they want it unfair.

If the budget is in the red, it's because they want it in the red.

If the Army & Marines are in a foreign country it's because they want them in a foreign country.

If they do not receive social security but are on an elite retirement plan not available to the people, it's because they want it that way.

There are no insoluble government problems.

Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take this power. Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical forces like "the economy," "inflation," or "politics" that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.

Those 545 people, and they alone, are responsible.

They, and they alone, have the power.

They, and they alone, should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses - Provided they have the gumption to manage their own employees.

Charlie Reese is amazed that some people find this column so eye-opening, because he says that it’s just Civics 101. Unfortunately, he’s right about that. It was all true before he wrote it, and it’s all true today, almost three decades later. Nothing has changed.

I guess we’re fresh out of gumption around here. See what I mean about being screwed? We get the government we deserve, plain and simple. Save this column and make sure your kids read it over and over when they are old enough, and make them send it to twenty of their friends, like a chain letter. If we all do that, maybe their generation will be the first in a long time to finally understand who has the power and who works for whom.

As good as Charley’s column is, please don’t fret about the direction this column is taking. We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled humor format and content next week. Unlike the 545 people in Washington, D.C., I have a low tolerance for shirking my duties.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2013 Marc Schmatjen

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

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