Wednesday, September 27, 2017

My Dog is Full of Crap

A month ago, my entire world was consumed by dog pee when our new Lab puppy had a urinary tract infection. It was really great. She was expelling nine to ten times her body weight in urine every hour, fortunately only inside the house.

We got that cleared up with twelve rolls of paper towels and two cans of carpet cleaner for the house, and for the dog, an evil-smelling remedy of apple cider vinegar and Greek yogurt. Personally, I would have rather eaten the carpet cleaner.

Amazingly, even after ten days of ingesting that demonic concoction with her food, her poop remained normal.

All that has changed now.

Now, my world revolves around her poop. Now, a month after the pee issues cleared up, she is experiencing some issues in the bowel region. To put it in layman’s terms, we’ve got poopy puddles and potty problems, people.

By the grace of God, however, she has not pooped in the house.

{sound of me knocking on every wooden surface in the house}

I will spare you the less than appetizing details. Suffice it to say, her poop has been anything but normal lately. If you decide to visit our backyard in the next few days, I would strongly suggest bringing some hip waders and a military-style gas mask.

She’s also having trouble “going” all at once, and has been gracious enough to wake me up multiple times the last two nights to allow me to experience her GI tract problems with her. She’s so thoughtful for a canine.

I just hope this passes quickly, because I am out of ideas. For the life of me, I can’t figure out what she could have eaten that would be causing such bowel-related stress. She has been religious about sticking to the standard Labrador retriever diet. This past week she has only eaten:

Thirty sticks
Six pounds of leaves
One plastic outer coating off a cheap baseball, and half the stitches
Just under three acres of grass
One wayward hotdog, whole
Thirty gallons of pool water
Seventeen pounds of bark chips
A handful of lamb lung toasters –I am not making that up – Treats that consist of little pieces of dried lamb lung with waffle marks on them!
Three-quarters of a foam squishy ball
One pair of swim goggles
Fifty or so Rice Krispies
More or less half a roll of duct tape
Somewhere between six inches and a foot of polyethylene pool noodle
Thirty-six square inches of dog bed plush top fuzz
One paper towel
One Lego man’s head, with space helmet
Half a tennis ball
One gravity-stricken slice of a quesadilla, with sour cream, whole
Two feet of nylon rope
And approximately six hundred little shriveled red plum things off the ground from our neighbor’s tree.

Oh, and about five pounds of actual dog food. But she doesn’t really seem to eat that, so much as suck it in, the way a jet engine sucks in air.

I mean, who knows what could be causing this, what with such a strict diet? Your guess is as good as mine.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

We were LiED to

I’ll bet when Thomas Edison finally got the light bulb to work, he never imagined anyone would look at his amazing accomplishment as an annoyance. But that’s where I am. My feelings on the miracle of electric lighting have tipped. It feels like it’s more trouble than it’s worth right now.

In all fairness to Tommy and his incandescent bulb, it’s the next generation bulbs that I’m annoyed with right now, not his original. I’m talking about LED bulbs, and their blinky, dimmer, and less reliable cousins, CFL’s.

CFL stands for either, Constantly Flickering Lightbulb, or Can’t Freakin’ LightOnTheFirstTry. They are the worst. They were supposed to last seven years and save planet Earth from certain doom. They are not dimmable, and when you turn some of them on, they start as dim as a candle that has just been blown out, and slowly get brighter over a period of ten weeks, give or take.

We had one bathroom where I would flip on the light switch, pee in the dark, flush, wash up, and by the time I had dried my hands, I had just enough light to be able to see the switch to turn it off again on my way out.

And don’t ever break a CFL, because they are filled with mercury and will kill every living thing in a nine-block radius. Also, they cost four to five hundred percent more than regular bulbs.

So why did I spend hundreds of dollars a long time ago to replace every regular bulb in my house with CFL’s? I wasn’t na├»ve enough to think I was saving the planet. I just wanted to go seven years in between ever needing to change another light bulb.

Besides peeing in the dark, things were going fine until the first one burnt out after nine months. Hmm… that’s less than seven years, I thought. So off I went to the store to enact my constitutional right to a replacement bulb under the Sir Frederick Warranty Act of 1776. It was there, in the lighting aisle at my local Home Depot in Rocklin, California, that I heard possibly the stupidest thing anyone ever said.

Me: “I need a replacement for this seven-year bulb. It didn’t even last a whole year.”
Lighting Aisle Lady: “Did you ever turn it off and on?”
Me: “Yes, of course. All the time.”
LAL: “Well, there’s your problem.”

Uhh… say what?

She then explained to me that the seven-year CFL lifespan only applies if you turn it on once and leave it on for seven years. If you turn it on and off, they do not guarantee how long it will last.

Uhh… say what?

So, never mind the whole mercury thing, how is leaving my lights on 24-7 helping the planet? I reluctantly bought a new CFL bulb and went home to my dim-but-getting-slowly-brighter house.

I waited patiently. Finally, along came LED’s. At first, they cost four thousand dollars per bulb, and didn’t look anything like a lightbulb, but on the plus side, they were bright enough to permanently damage your retinas.

Over time, the light bulb scientists figured out how to make them look more or less like an actual light bulb, and they got them toned down a little on the brightness scale, so now they only cause temporary blindness in people with healthy retinas. And the price finally dropped and leveled out at only three thousand dollars each, or so.

So once again, I spent and exorbitant amount of money replacing the bulbs in my house.

I am an idiot.

LED’s will definitely last ten years or longer, they said. Except one of the two LED bulbs over my head in my office. It will not last ten years. Or even one. It just started failing on Monday. It would go on and off intermittently, plunging my well-lit office into slightly dim, then back to bright. It was like working at a really lame rave.

And don’t even get me started on the dimmer switches. My “dimmable” LED bulbs are a joke. The regular incandescents do a marvelous job of dimming. If you were literally the most boring human on earth and wanted to chart their brightness on a graph in relation to the dimmer switch position, it would be a nice straight line, descending at an angle from “all the way on and bright” to “off and dark.”

My “dimmable” LED bulbs go from “all the way on and bright as the unfiltered sun” to “I can barely tell this dimmed at all and is still so bright I can’t look directly at it,” as you slide the dimmer switch through its full range of motion. A split second before the switch’s “completely off” position, the bulb goes to “momentarily almost dim but still way brighter than it should be,” and then shuts off. It is impossible to keep the switch in a position to maintain the “dim” setting.

I just replaced the bad bulb with a three-thousand-dollar spare, and out of curiosity, I went to the GE Lighting website to see about their warranty.

We're sorry if you've encountered a problem with one of our lighting products.
Defective Bulbs - Fast Service
For an immediate solution, please return the product to the retailer where it was purchased.

Oh, sure, like I’m going to fall for that old trick again. And why would I? The geniuses at GE and the other LED manufacturers have figured out the perfect price point for their bulbs. Six million percent more than the old incandescent bulbs that are not for sale anymore, but still not enough money that I’m willing to spend the time to go to Home Depot or Lowes and hassle with trying to return it.

The guy in the lighting aisle is just going to ask me if I made the unforgivable mistake of ever turning it off.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 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, September 13, 2017

Now Hiring

Two news stories popped up in my feed this week that immediately caught my attention. One had me laughing and the other had me shaking my head.

I laughed at a story out of Massachusetts - a state that is impossible for me to spell correctly on my own – where a man was arrested for fleeing from the police at a traffic stop, and in the process, running over a state trooper’s foot.

The Mass. troopers have something called the Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section, and it was one of those guys who had his foot squished by Jose Jimenez. The story didn’t say if Mr. Jimenez was, in fact, a violent fugitive before the traffic stop, but he hurt a cop while fleeing from him, so he certainly managed to check off both boxes last Tuesday.

Unfortunately, that kind of story is not really news these days, but how Mr. Jimenez tried to hide from the police was. They found his Toyota Camry abandoned after the short chase, but Jose was nowhere to be found.

A witness reported to the police that he’d just seen a man run into a nearby Osprey Wireless store. When police entered the store they found Mr. Jimenez – I am not making this up – filling out a job application.

Unfortunately, the story did not provide any insight into what Mr. Jimenez’s plan was. I can only assume he figured a man of his qualifications would be offered a wireless store customer service job on the spot, they would quickly get him a uniform, and he would seamlessly blend in with his coworkers when the police arrived, thus, avoiding detection.

He would then begin his new life as a wireless salesman, possibly even starting a new family, in his new hometown, leaving his old life of crime behind him for good.

Solid plan, Jose. Sorry it didn’t work out. Maybe your new almost-coworkers could help you out with that $250K bail. We’ll put a fundraiser jar in the breakroom.

My joy from reading about Mr. Jimenez and his brilliant escape plan gave way to utter befuddlement when I read the next story about a hot dog vendor from Berkeley, California.

The story itself shouldn’t have been news at all. A man decided to sell hotdogs on the street without a license to do so. A cop stopped and asked him for his business license. He didn’t have one. The cop confiscated his $60 as evidence and wrote him a ticket to appear before a judge.

No news here. Man cheated. Police caught him. Man is in trouble now.

The story only made the news because some yahoo with a cell phone filmed the whole thing while berating the cop for “stealing this man’s livelihood while there are people down the street drinking alcohol in public and lots of other stuff and why can’t you just leave this poor proud man alone to support his family and boo hoo,” or something to that effect.

The internet then became outraged at the police officer who “stole the nice man’s money,” and the yahoo with the cell phone decided to start a GoFundMe page for the hot dog man to help him with his legal expenses, and maybe also other poor street vendors as well.

The GoFundMe page actually said, The funds raised will be utilized to cover legal and personal loses. In addition, funds in excess are to cover other vendors who have been robbed of their hard earned living through citations and removal of their carts. It is my goal to locate Juan in Berkeley.

Besides the fact that he can’t spell ‘losses’ and doesn’t know when to hyphenate, the cell phone guy doesn’t even know Juan the hot dog man, and he doesn’t know how to get in contact with him. AND PEOPLE ARE STILL GIVING HIM MONEY.

I wish I was making this up, but I’m not. The cell phone yahoo started with a lofty goal of $10K “for Juan’s (and maybe others) “legal and personal loses,” and as of this writing, he has raised $73,000.


So, I would like to take this opportunity to announce my own GoFundMe page that I set up this morning. You can find it at:

Here’s why – Like Juan, I also happen to manage an illegal street vendor operation. My sons run a totally unregulated and non-licensed lemonade stand in our neighborhood, and I am their business manager and their original angel investor when they needed start-up capital. So far, their lifetime earnings are less than Juan the hot dog man’s daily take, but after seeing his post-police involvement success, we are encouraged. Maybe we can make a go of this unlawful lemonade business after all.

I would love for any and all law enforcement in our area to immediately descend on our illegal lemonade stand. Please write us a citation, take our nineteen dollars and book it into evidence, and shut us down. (Please just wait until I have my cell phone video camera ready.)

The Berkeley cell phone yahoo has raised over $70K in three days with a target of only $10K. I have done some very simple math and set my target at $100K. That should get us very close to the one million mark in no time.

Here is the compelling verbiage from our campaign:
(GoFundMe gave me very helpful tips to raise as much money as possible, so I followed their template to the letter)

Describe who will benefit:
Me (and also my poor, deserving children, maybe)

Detail what the funds will be used for:
Possible legal expenses and loss of income if we are ever hassled by the police over business license issues.
And tacos.

Explain how soon you need the funds:
ASAP! Who knows when we could be unfairly ticketed or shut down.
Plus, we want tacos.

Talk about what the support will mean to you:
After the recent outpouring of support for the Berkeley hot dog vendor, I just figured, hey, people love to support other people who run non-licensed and totally unregulated street food operations, so your donation to this campaign will mean the world to me!

Share how grateful you will be for help:
I will be so grateful for your support, I might even "pay it forward" by giving this money (after any upcoming legal and taco expenses, of course) to my good friends at RPAL - the Roseville Police Activities League - an amazing non-profit organization that helps kids in need, and steers them in the right direction, so they don't grow up thinking they have the right to run illegal businesses.

Thanks for your support in this time of need.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 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, September 6, 2017

Brain Child

Our family has officially made the transition. We have unwillingly breached the barrier and found ourselves on the other side. Things are bad.

We have a middle schooler now.

Life was so much simpler last year when Son Number One was still a sixth-grader. For starters, he was still at the same school as the other two. The elementary school is nine feet from our house. School drop off and pick up was a breeze.

Now, Number One goes to school all the way across town. Besides the fact that we’re forced to actually drive the car there, the location presents a few other challenges. A long time ago, when they built the middle school, the Rocklin city planners decided that it would be good to bury it way back in a residential area on a small street. To add to the fun, the only reasonable way into the neighborhood is at an intersection with the world’s slowest traffic light and a six-foot-long left turn lane. I regularly sit in my car, a quarter-mile from the light, listening to five middle schoolers jabber and squinting into the distance to count how many green arrows I’m not able to take advantage of. It’s relaxing.

Then, a few years ago, for reasons unexplainable by actual reasoning, the city planners decided to OK the placement of a Dutch Brothers drive-thru coffee shack on a lot roughly the same size as Juan Valdez’s hat, AT THE SAME DAMNED INTERSECTION. If you are not familiar with Dutch Brothers, they are a coffee company with a cult following. At any time of the day, there are no less than seven hundred cars lining up to get coffee from this place. It’s not as if it’s free beer, so I can only assume they somehow infuse crack cocaine into the coffee during the brewing process. That’s the only logical explanation for the crowds.

Speaking of drugs, I imagine this is how the city planning meeting went:

City Planner One: “Dude, Dutch Bros wants to put a coffee place there.” [pointing to the map and exhaling a huge cloud of bong smoke]
City Planner Two: [taking a rip off the bong] “Cool. Wait. Doesn’t that intersection get kinda crowded sometimes, bro?”
One: “Yeah, man, ‘cause of the school. Have you ever had Dutch Bros coffee, man? I think they put crack in it.”
Two: “Sweet, bro. If we say yes, do you think they’ll give us free donuts?”
One: “Totally.”
Two: “Sweet.”
[more bong hits]

So, between the school traffic and the drug traffic, a helicopter is really starting to look like a cost-effective option for our middle school carpool group.

Unfortunately, the hassle of getting Son Number One and his friends to and from school now is the least of our middle school problems. The main problem is that we have a middle schooler. If you don’t have one, let me explain.

We’ve been noticing a change in Son Number One’s behavior for some time now. Initially, we chalked it up to him just being grumpy because he considered his two younger brothers to be annoying. That was an easy explanation, since they are very annoying. Very.

But the seventh grade orientation slideshow enlightened us to what was really going on. It seems he has something in his brain called a prefrontal cortex, which is Latin for “is this thing on?”. Most adults you meet have smoothly functioning prefrontal cortexes, but all middle schoolers have crappy ones.

Wherever and whatever the prefrontal cortex is, it’s the least-developed part of the adolescent brain. That is great news, since it’s apparently in charge of these things:

*Self control
*Setting goals
*Prioritizing tasks
*Making sound judgements
*Planning and organizing multiple tasks
*Control of moods and impulses
*The ability to reason
*Determining right from wrong
*Determining cause and effect

That list, and the fact that Son Number One’s brain isn’t good at any of it, make so much sense now.

1) Lack of self control -
Me: “Don’t do that again.”
Him: [immediately does it again]
Me: “Now, you’re in trouble.”
Him: “Why?”

2) Bad at setting goals – That explains why his only discernable goal is to eat.

3) Bad at prioritizing, planning, and organizing multiple tasks – That explains why I saw him make a sandwich, put it in the dog’s bowl, kick off only one of his shoes, try to take a bite out of the remote control, and then put his sock in the fridge.

4) Bad at reasoning and determining cause and effect – See Number 1.

5) Bad at making sound judgements – Can’t wait for him to get his driver’s license!

6) Little to no control over moods and impulses – This explains why he’s like living with a schizophrenic spider monkey.

7) Determining right from wrong –
“Please don’t grab your little brother by the ear and neck and try to fling him down the stairs.”
“But, he breathed on my arm.”
(Also see Number 1, 4, 5, and 6.)

Unfortunately, just because we know why he’s so weird right now, doesn’t change the fact that we have to live with it. I guess all we can do is ride it out, and hope all the parts of his cortex, prefrontal and otherwise, start working correctly as soon as possible.

One thing, however, I’ve already learned from middle school – If things go south and his brain never gets any better at operating properly, all hope is not lost. He can always get a job as a city planner.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 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!