Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Pour your Money Down this Hole

The city of Rocklin, California is getting into the adventure theme park business.

Well, maybe they are. We’re not actually sure yet. It all centers on a big hole in the ground.

My Sycamore Detective Agency series takes place in Rocklin, and quite a bit of the fictional action in the third book takes place in the real-life quarry pit formerly known as the Big Gun.

For full disclosure, in order to maintain my impeccable record of journalistic integrity, I must admit that I have quite a bit of personal heartburn with the city of Rocklin regarding this particular quarry pit. It sits smack in the middle of the older part of town, and it used to have a really (arguably) cool old barn on the property. It also had two huge wooden masts – literally masts from old ships – standing high above the pit on either end. They were the derrick crane masts that were used to bring the enormous blocks of granite up out of the pit, and they were strung together with massive steel cables to keep them upright.

The city politely listened to all the Rocklin Historical Society folks about the need to preserve the very historical building and masts, and then tore it all down the next day to build an amusement park.

I really don’t like that some of the cool real-life old historical stuff in my book is no longer there, but at least they left the big hole in the ground. That’s something, I guess.

Truth be told in this situation, I’m really more concerned about the fact that a government entity (that takes my money from me) thinks it’s a good idea to get into the business of building and operating an entertainment venue. Here’s why:

Last year, the city unveiled their grand plan of putting zip lines over the big hole and putting spikes and ropes and such in the walls of the quarry so adventurous adventurers could climb up and down. It was going to be amazing.

Tickets went on pre-sale before Christmas in anticipation of the adventurous grand summer opening adventure. There were fun pictures that someone from the city drew up of what all the adventure would probably look like really soon. There were even going to be cargo nets and maybe even slides!

For around a hundred dollars per happy adventurer, we could buy season passes.

Based on the five-hundred-dollar price tag and the fact that, at that point, the site was nothing more than a muddy, deserted, demolished old quarry hole, our family politely declined the amazing pre-purchase opportunity.

I forgot about the whole thing as the winter went on, and apparently so did all the people in charge of building it. Winter moved into spring, and around May, I started to get the impression – mainly because absolutely nothing had been constructed yet – that the park might not be ready by the time school got out.

Lo and behold, just the other day I heard a radio report on the new Rocklin Adventure Park. It seems the city had to break the news to all the nice folks who bought season passes that their dreams of summer fun zip-lining over a giant hole would not be realized. Seems the facility isn’t quite ready – meaning it still looks almost exactly like it did in May.

They have a new (wildly optimistic) estimated opening day of August 31st, conveniently, for the parents of the greater Rocklin area, after school is back in session. But don’t worry, folks, your season passes will still be valid for the whole season, whatever that may end up being defined as.

Oh, and one other tiny little tidbit the news story mentioned – the city needs another $1.3 million, give or take, to get the project completed.

Wow, you might say, $1.3 million seems like more than enough money to string some zip lines over a quarry pit, let alone as an add-on to get the project competed. What did they say they needed the extra $1.3 million for, specifically?

Oh, nothing major. Just restrooms and a food court.

I am not making that up.

The people that take my money to run my city forgot to include toilets at their amusement park.

Let that sink in for a minute while they have a meeting and ask themselves for another $1,300,000. Think they’ll say yes to themselves?

Actually, Rocklin, better make it $1.5 million. That way you can buy some toilet paper, too.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Tenth Anniversary

Today, we must take time to recognize an anniversary that represents a truly momentous literary achievement.

The Just a Smidge column turns ten years old on Friday! I know, I was as stunned as you are.

The first column was posted on June 22, 2008, and you, our faithful readers, have been mercilessly subjected to a new one each week since then.

“That’s nice,” you say, “but what’s so momentous about ten years? I mean, we’ve got underwear older than that.”

Great question, my fair and thrifty readers, and you are correct. It isn’t the time period that’s momentous - it’s the volume and the content.

I have produced over 500 individual columns, averaging close to 1000 words each, and yet, in all those 500,000 words, I have managed to not provide even one single useful piece of information.

Do you know how hard that is to do? Do you? No? Me neither. It just sorta happens.

Anyway, in honor of this day, I thought we’d take a trip back in time to one of those first columns from ten years ago.

Enjoy, but don’t expect to learn anything.

Hot Chicks and Cool Dudes
Originally posted July 7, 2008

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 alongside 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 you 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 © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Dog (Birth)days of Summer

It’s our dog Remi’s first birthday today. We celebrated yesterday with our good friends down the street who own her sister from the same litter. Our kids made them two little disgusting dog cakes out of completely incompatible ingredients like pumpkin puree and Greek yogurt. The two matching yellow Labs thought the cakes were delicious. Dogs are weird.

Since my next book (currently under construction) will center around Remi’s life, she and her sister are soon to be famous. Out of curiosity, I visited to see what other famous celebrities they share a birthday with.

I’m not going to lie. They might end up being the most famous celebrities on the list.

Also born on June 13th:

1539 Jost Amman, Swiss cartoonist, graphic artist and illustrator, born in Zürich, Switzerland (d. 1591) – So let me get this straight. There were cartoons in the 1500s? Not just poor hygiene and the plague? Who knew?

1911 Albert Cleage, famous African – Famous African what?

1911 Prince Aly Khan [Ali Salman Aga Khan], Pakistani socialite, jockey, political ambassador and husband to Rita Hayworth, born in Turin, Italy (d. 1960) – “Socialite and political ambassador” = good at drinking martinis and schmoozing. And how much competition for best socialite could there possibly be in Pakistan? Famous for marrying a movie star = not very famous.

1918 Helmut Lent, German night fighter pilot (d. 1944) – Look at the death date. Sorry, Helmut, but I can’t count you as a famous German pilot when you obviously got shot down by a non-famous allied pilot.

1925 Hans Fellner, bookseller – Famous for selling books? Seriously? I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love booksellers, but famous for it? I think not.

1926 Geoffrey Finsberg, politician – You may as well have said “garbage collector.” That would make Geoffrey more worthy of fame in my eyes.

1934 Lady Annabel Goldsmith, English socialite – Again, “famous” for being a martini sucker.

1935 Christo [Javacheff], Bulgaria, artist, wrapper (Running Fence) – A wrapper you say? Of what, exactly?

1947 Peter Holm, boyfriend of Joan Collins – Boyfriend? Not even husband. C’mon!

1954 Jorge Santana, Mexican rock guitarist (Malo), born in Autlán de Navarro – “Malo” means “bad” in Spanish. So, a bad guitarist made this list.

1955 Alan Hansen, Scottish football pundit – Every drunk Scotsman at the pub is a football pundit. How does that make Alan famous?

1962 Mark Frankel, actor (Leon the Pig Farmer) – If your most notable acting performance was in Leon the Pig Farmer, you are as far from famous as a martini-sucking Pakistani socialite.

1968 Deniece Peterson, rocker (5 Star-Silk & Steel) – Rocker? Of babies? Of chairs? Of boats? In what capacity did he or she rock, pray tell?

Since we have obviously set a low bar for fame, I think it is safe to say Remi and her sister are shoe-ins for this list. There was one person on the list, however, that intrigued me. I would again have to argue the claim of “famous,” since I have never heard of them, but their occupation certainly deserves respect.

1979 Nila Håkedal, Norwegian beach volleyball player – Initially, I wondered how anyone could be listed as a “Norwegian beach volleyball player,” until I Googled it and discovered that Norway actually does have at least one beach. Nila commands our respect, not only because she probably only had a four- to five-day seasonal window in which to practice, but also because while on the beach trying to serve and return the ball, she would have been constantly blinded by the almost neon-white bodies of her fellow Norwegian sunbathers. Respect.

Happy birthday, Nila and the puppies. Keep on rockin’ it, just like Deniece!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Gubernatorial Spice

They say variety is the spice of life. I’m not sure who “they” are, but since eating is mandatory for remaining above ground, wouldn’t spices be the spice of life?

In any case, here in the great state of California we voted in the primary election for our new governor yesterday, and boy, was the ballot spicy with variety!

We had twenty-seven candidates on our ballot. Actually, mine had twenty-eight, since, after reading the whole list, I voted for my dog, Remi, as a write-in candidate.

The ballot listed each candidate’s name and occupation, and the variety was immediate and in-your-face with its spiciness.

I was immediately drawn to CEO and business owner Hakan “Hawk” Mikado. I wasn’t knocked out by his qualifications, but how cool does he sound?
“Commissioner, we don’t know what to do! There’s trouble brewing at the capitol building!”
“Calm down. Send in the Hawk.”

On the other end of the spectrum, the person with the least cool name on the ballot, Akinyemi Agbede, listed his or her occupation as “Mathematician.” That simply won’t work. There is no way anyone trained as a mathematician would be able to stomach political math. Logic and tax spending are incompatible.

One man listed his occupation as “Father” and another was listed as “Virtual Reality Manager.” Those struck me as being basically the same job.

There was a guy named Nickolas Wildstar who was listed as a “Recording Artist.” I’ve never heard of him, but my guess is his career isn’t exactly on fire if he’s running for governor. Might I suggest, Mr. Wildstar, that you change your first name to Hawk.

Someone named Josh Jones from my hometown of Davis, California (Town motto: Davis, gateway to East Davis) is running for governor, and claims to be an author. From pictures on his campaign website, he and I look to be roughly the same age, so it’s entirely possible we went to high school together, but I don’t remember. I can’t seem to find him on any other Google searches. There’s a Josh Jones actor, drummer, and even a Green Bay Packer, but not an author, so I’m assuming he has some other form of income he’s not willing to divulge.

Christopher N. Carlson lists his occupation as “Puppeteer/Musician.” No offense, Chris, but I’m going to be a hard pass on having a Muppet operator as the leader of the fifth largest economy on the planet.

Also, Jeffry Edward Taylor, besides having a serial killer name, you have listed your occupation as “Marketplace Minister.” Either you are an evangelist at open-air fruit and vegetable seller events, or you’re some kind of Silicon Valley tech COO who came up with a jackass, trendy, self-important title for yourself. Either way, no thanks.

And, Peter Y Liu, you did not list an occupation of any kind and you don’t have a period after your middle initial, suggesting to me that you are possibly homeless and your entire middle name could simply be the letter Y. I don’t trust you.

But out of all twenty-seven “candidates,” one spicy little nugget of variety stood out above all the rest. My tenth choice from the top was none other than Zoltan Istvan, Entrepreneur/Transhumanist Lecturer.

You have intrigued me, Mr. Zoltan. Wikipedia says this about you: Zoltan Istvan Gyurko, professionally known as Zoltan Istvan, is an American transhumanist, journalist, entrepreneur, and Libertarian futurist.

Hmm… Zoltan Gyurko, “professionally” known as Zoltan Istvan. Interesting choice. Might I suggest, as a gubernatorial candidate for the Transhumanist Libertarian Futurist Party, you might want to sound a little less like a sworn enemy of Buzz Lightyear, and try being professionally known as Steve Istvan, or John Gyurko, or even Mike Zoltan. When you lead with Zoltan – even if your parents are responsible for that – you probably lose a lot of people right off the bat.

Further web investigation of just what in the hell a transhumanist is reveals to us, firstly, that you intentionally own a forty-foot-long, completely and totally poop-brown bus, with a wooden roof structure that you made yourself in an attempt to make the entire vehicle look like a coffin.

Unfortunately, the coffin look didn’t quite come across, and your bus looks more like an abandoned Waffle House on wheels. To make matters even more confusing, written on the side, in almost professional-looking script, are the words “Immortality Bus.”

Apparently, when not running for governor of the great state of California, you drive a rolling caca-brown Waffle House around the country, lecturing to people about how they won’t have to get old anymore if we can just convince the government to unleash the power of science and computerized artificial intelligence. And in your spare time you engage in entrepreneurial transhumanist journalism. 

Solid platform, Zoltan.

Unfortunately, when weighing my options between your spicy variety of gubernatorial hopefulness and that of your twenty-six worthy opponents, I went ahead and voted for my dog, instead.

And equally unfortunately, I think you and Remington Schmatjen have about the same overall chance of being our next governor.

But, who knows? Maybe more people are into Coffin Waffle House Immortality than I think.

If not, all hope is not lost. You might not end up being Governor Zoltan, leader of California, but you could definitely be Front Man Zoltan, lead singer for the new transhumanist rock band, Gubernatorial Spice.

Why not? You already have a tour bus.

Good luck, California!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 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!