Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Thanks, Professor Obvious

I’m seriously thinking about becoming a scientist. Based on two recent news stories, it seems like a really easy job:

Science says women have a more active brain, compared to men

Men tend to lose weight more quickly than women

Wow, that’s some real cutting edge, barn burning research there, Science Team. How do you folks pick your research topics, anyway? Do you have a big list of topics on the wall to choose from, titled, “Obvious stuff on which we should spend no time or money trying to prove”?

I mean, if that’s what you researched, what studies were you forced to forgo due to constraints on your budget and schedule? Are puppies cute? Do people like tacos?

The first article stated that for the brain activity study, scientists from Amen Clinics in Newport Beach, California, went back and looked at over 46,000 brain imaging studies. What an incredible waste of time and money.

Who has the more active brain? That study could have been handled in an afternoon with one married couple. One at a time, sit the woman and the man on a couch and ask them each a simple question, such as, “Are you comfortable right now?”

The woman might start to answer right away, but she will undoubtedly stop herself and begin asking you a series of questions to try to determine exactly what you meant.

“In what context am I being asked to consider my comfort? Do you mean emotionally? Physically? Spiritually? Or do you mean in my role as a mother, wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, sibling, friend, leader, follower, volunteer, employee, supervisor, executive, team member, neighbor, or soccer team mom?”

Before any of that is sorted out she will begin to question your motivations for asking the question in the first place. The whole answer will take forty-five minutes, and there will be no actual answer.

The man will answer, “Yes.”

Brain study completed. Cost: Zero dollars and forty-five minutes of your life.

As for the weight loss study, the same husband and wife could have been consulted. Instead, professors from various universities around the world, including the University of Copenhagen (mascot: The Fighting Canker Sores) and the University of Auckland (nickname: NZEwe), took over 2,000 participants and subjected them to an unspeakably cruel diet known as the Cambridge Weight Plan.

The plan involves consuming only 810 calories daily, mostly consisting of juices and shakes. That’s just mean. I think I probably consume 810 calories before I even have my actual breakfast. All that brutal starvation and suffering in the name of science could have been avoided by simply listening to our married couple.

Question: Who loses weight easier, you, or your spouse?

Wife: “Are you kidding? Is that question meant to be a joke? Because it’s hilarious. This idiot’s idea of exercise is laying on the couch yelling at the TV, but he loses ten pounds if he happens to skip lunch one day. Meanwhile, I’m eating nothing by kale and celery, and getting up at 4:45 every morning to sweat my ass off at spin class for an hour before work. Guess what? None of my ass is actually sweating off, and I’ll gain three pounds one week because I walked by a Starbucks and accidentally smelled one of the muffins. Shut your stupid face.”

Husband: “No comment.”

Weight loss study completed. Cost: Zero dollars and possibly a threat on your life.

I’m telling you, as long as I can steer clear of asking woman about anything to do with weight loss, being a scientist seems like a sweet gig.

I wonder who I need to talk to about signing up? I’d like to dig into that taco study right away.

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!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

There's a Problem Nextdoor

Besides being an amazing vehicle for changing hearts and minds on the subjects of gun control, partisan politics, and organized religion, social media has another hidden benefit: finding out what’s happening in your own neighborhood. Gone are the cumbersome days of having to actually put on clothes and speak face-to-face with your neighbors to get news. Social media again makes it easier to stay in your pajamas until dinnertime and still know what’s going on right outside your front door.

I am a member of a number of neighborhood groups on Facebook, not because I live in a number of different neighborhoods, but because we all can’t seem to agree on which group to use. They are meant to be a “message board” for the happenings in our community, both good and bad. Fortunately, no one ever uses the semi-anonymous nature of these groups to vent about their pet peeves or tear down anyone with an opinion that differs even slightly from their own. That’s what makes these groups so valuable to our community!

In addition to the handy Facebook community groups, I also have a Nextdoor account. It’s a website and app strictly dedicated to neighborhood issues, and it’s even more civil and non-judgmental than the Facebook groups, if that’s even possible! People are always so polite and kind on the internet - it just warms my heart.

Just as a for-instance: the other day, a man posted some pictures on Nextdoor of a gentleman on a bicycle going through his trash cans early in the morning. He warned us, his neighbors, to be on the lookout for this man. That was great.

What was even better was the positive responses he received from his neighbors about his post. One helpful neighbor gave him a lot of municipal codes indicating that garbage is public property, as long as it’s on the street. Another budding legal scholar provided civil codes that stated garbage was private property even when it was on the street. Good, and, I’m sure, legally accurate points were made on both sides of the helpful trash ownership issue.

Another happy and well-adjusted neighbor inquired as to why the homeowner didn’t simply go out and speak to the early morning trash diver, instead of cowardly taking photos of him from the safety of his warm and cozy second-story window. He also politely asked why the man hated poor people. A mutually-respectful dialog ensued.

A fun and light-hearted back and forth occurred between three or four of the neighbors about compassion for the homeless versus tangling with drug-crazed lunatics rooting around in filth and garbage. Personal defense classes were touted, and civilian, police, and military tactical confrontation situations were explored with a lively discussion. It was all very helpful.

Some of the man’s neighbors even made polite suggestions about alternative communities he could move to. He, in turn, suggested other towns and neighborhoods that might be more suitable for them. Many neighbors chimed in regarding their housing histories. It was a truly delightful and charming response all around.

Unfortunately, however, our neighborhood sites are not always filled with these kinds of heartwarming and useful conversations about refuse. Many times, there is simply no room for the helpful things we look forward to, because the sites are clogged with posts about “lost” pets.

In fact, on any given day, roughly six thousand percent of all information being shared on these sites is about a wayward dog or cat.

FOUND DOG: Found this cute Yorkie on Peach Street. He was so scared and alone. I have him safely on my couch and have fed him half a Prozac and a ribeye steak. Does anyone know who his people are?

LOST CAT: Please help. Mr. Socks, our seventeen-year-old Siamese, has gone missing. Here’s a picture of him when he was a kitten. We haven’t seen him in over twenty minutes, and we’re worried sick. He was last seen on top of our play structure in the backyard, swatting at butterflies. He’s such a scamp. We live at the corner of Maple Street and Truman Drive.


I feel like I can save us all a lot of time and energy by clearing a few things up about dogs and cats, so we can get back to the really important garbage-related posts.

Dogs are rarely, if ever, lost. They just love to party. If your dog is more than a block away from your house, it’s simply because it smelled something amazing in another town, and it’s going to investigate.

Dogs can smell a pigeon fart from twelve miles away, and they know exactly what your house smells like, so they can find their way home any time. And since they are a dog, they will come home, because you feed them and scratch them. Food and belly rubs will trump anything else they have going on by dinnertime, so just sit back and wait for them to amble on home.

And if you happen to see a dog wandering around without its owner, please have some compassion for the poor animal, and leave it alone. Think about how you’d feel if you were out at a party and someone kidnapped you made you eat another brand of dog food. See?

Cats are another matter entirely. Cats are NEVER lost. If your cat is no longer at your house, it simply got tired of your insolence and left to teach you a lesson. The lesson is this: You don’t own me. I allow you to provide me with food and a place to nap, and in exchange, you get to be seen with me. The minute you start getting any false ideas about who is in charge here is when we have a problem, insignificant human. Many times, I need to leave, because frankly, it’s very trying being around the likes of you all day. I need my space. And also, sometimes I need to kill a lizard.

I’m very surprised you cat owners don’t already understand this stuff. Please stop posting about lost cats, and if you ever find a cat wandering around your house, just remember, it has nothing but pure contempt for you. Leave it to its own devices, for both your sakes.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to a riveting thread on Nextdoor about suspicious solicitors and whether or not Girl Scouts need permits.

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!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Get out of this Room-ba!

I’m going to let you in on a little secret about me: I hate vacuuming.

I know, I know. You were probably thinking to yourself, “That Smidge, he just loves writing books, eating nachos, and vacuuming.”

But alas, only two of those things are accurate. I hate the task of vacuuming, and I also hate the word. I can never spell it right. I always think it should have two C’s and one U. I’m going to write my congressman.

Anyway, since I dislike vacuuming so much, you can imagine how excited I was when I found a reasonably-priced Roomba at Fry’s Electronics. (If you are unfamiliar with Fry’s, it’s a strange, semi-nationwide chain of stores that give you the impression that a Walmart, a Radio Shack, and a 7-Eleven all got together and had a love child. You can buy a 60-inch flat screen TV, a no-kink garden hose, a three-pack of Barbie dolls, a ten-micro-farad capacitor for your circuit board, and a 64-ounce soda all at the same cash register.)

Roombas are made by a company called iRobot, and just like the iPhone, the new ones cost about the same amount as a semester at Yale. But apparently, just like the iPhone, last year’s models are looked down upon by the hipster robotic vacuum in-crowd, so I was able to score one for what a semester at a midwestern junior college might cost. It was on the aisle between the Samsung refrigerators and the pool noodles.

I brought it home, absolutely giddy with how much time and frustration it was about to save me.

And then I watched it work.

I don’t think it’s saving me any time at all, and it’s certainly not reducing my frustration levels. I was under the impression when I purchased it that you just push the button and walk away, letting it clean your house for you, but that’s not how it works. It must be constantly monitored and given verbal directions, because it seems to be a total vacuuming moron.

That’s the table leg. Just go around it. Yes, that’s the same one. You ran into it twice within five seconds. Who programmed you?

Go left! Left!



OK, now you’re stuck under the easy chair. Why would you go under there? You have sensors on your front. Use them!

Oh, my God, get out from under the chair. Get out! OK, fine, let me lift it up. OK, there you go. Now go left. Left!

Why would you make a 180 after you just got stuck under that chair? Why are you going back?

Here, let me block you with my foot. Yes, I don’t want you to go back under there. That’s it, turn around.

No! Don’t come back to my foot!


OK, good, now you’re heading the right direction. Get that carpet. Wait. Where are you going? Why are you leaving this room? You made one six-inch-wide pass at the living room carpet and you’re leaving? There’s a lot more carpet!!

Why would you go back to that table leg?

OK, good. Get the hardwood floors. This is why you’re here. Get the dog hair. Looking good. I’m going to leave you now and go do something else.

I need to… what’s that clicking sound? That’s a baseboard, why are you… that’s a wall. Why are you just running into it? Are you stuck on the baseboard? Seriously? How is that possible? Did your designer not plan for baseboards?? Get off! Just go left!!! OK, let me kick you loose, and then I really have to go do other things. I can’t be here with you the whole… get out of the drapes!

Just go left!

Dining room, OK. Great, looking good. No, that’s a chair. Don’t go under… why? Why would you go under the chair? Just spin around and go back out the way you came. What is hard about that?? Why would you go back there? OK, now! Go left!

Let me just lift the chair up for you. OK, get out. Go get the carpet. Don’t… sweet mother Mary and Joseph, why would you go back under the same damn chair!?!?

OK, seriously, I need to go. Just get the carpet over there to the left.

That’s the coffee table. I don’t think you fit under… yes, you’re stuck. Oh, you have a nice female voice with a soothing accent in there to tell me you’re stuck. I can see that, but thanks for the verbal heads-up. Let me just get you out of there. OK, now go get the… No! Go left! WHY WOULD YOU GO BACK TO THE SAME PLACE YOU JUST GOT STUCK!?!?  

OK, go do… another chiming sound? What does that one mean? Now where are you going? Back to the dock? Oh, battery is low… well, OK. Thanks for cleaning under all those chairs. Maybe next time we could get more of the actual floor? Have a great rest.

For those of you who watch too many sci-fi movies and worry that the machines are going to take over the world, I wouldn’t sweat it. I don’t think we’re quite there yet.

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!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Streaming Moo-vies

Our security was breached earlier this week, and we immediately went on high alert. Things were tense on Monday when I received the warning email, alerting me to suspicious activity on my account.

From: Netflix
Subject: New sign-in to your account

New sign-in to Netflix

Hi Marc,
We noticed a new sign-in with your Netflix account.

Device: Computer
Location: United States
Time: August 6th, 5:17 PM PDT

If you signed-in recently, relax and enjoy watching! But if you don’t recognize this sign-in, we recommend that you change your password immediately to secure your account.

We're here to help if you need it. Visit the Help Center for more info or contact us.

–Your friends at Netflix

Wow, Netflix, thanks for the heads up! A device inside the borders of America logged onto my account. Hmm… I’m currently in America, but there are at least a few other people here as well, so I really don’t know what to think.

I mean, if you had said Location: Myanmar (Formerly Burma, name changed in 1989), I would have known immediately that the activity was unauthorized, and I would have learned a fun fact about a Southeast Asian country. But sadly, that wasn’t the case.

I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but the United States is divided up into fifty or so states, united together for a common goal: twenty-four hour access to reasonably-priced fast food. Each of these states has a border, so we can keep them all separate. Rarely do those borders move, so as long as you’re sitting still, it’s fairly simply to figure out which state you’re in.

But you didn’t tell me Location: Louisiana (Formerly Burma, name changed in 1812). If you had, I would have known right away that something was amiss, since I’m in California.

And again, I’m not sure how up on geography you are, but most states here in the U.S. are divided into counties, and further delineated by cities, towns, villages, hamlets, parishes, townships, Nike corporate campuses, etc.

But you didn’t tell me Location: Los Angeles (Formerly Mexico, name changed in 1848). If you had, I would have immediately accused my sister of stealing my account, since I’m in Rocklin and she has a history of shady behavior.

But I already knew it wasn’t her. The new sign-in to the account was my son, getting his new school Chromebook loaded up with all the important academic apps like Netflix and Candy Crush, and he was sitting three feet away from me.

Come on, Netflix, you can do better than this. Every single TV, computer, tablet, and phone in our home connects to Netflix from the same Wi-Fi router. You literally could have told me Location: Your living room (Formerly The Allen’s living room, name changed in 2008). How hard could that actually be?

I don’t know anything about computers, but I do know the story of a cow. Many years ago, before the internet (so you guys at Netflix weren’t around yet, but pay attention to this story anyway), mad cow disease broke out in North America. Scientific investigators were able to track the original source of the disease back to a single cow in a specific stall on a Canadian farm. If tracking a disease back to a stall number in a barn was possible without the internet, please tell me how you can only pinpoint a new log-in to my account down to a 3.8 million square mile area?

Maybe you guys should assign each Netflix account a cow…

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!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Parcel Postpartum

On January 1, 1913, the U.S. Post Office began its parcel post service, increasing the size of packages they were willing to deliver from letter size only, to a whopping eleven pound weight limit.

What does this mean to you, you might ask? Specifically, why does this historical event allow you to feel better about your parenting decisions?

Great question!

Chances are you are not over 115 years old. If you are, please check your pulse, because you probably died a few years ago, and you need to let someone know. And if you’re not over 115, it probably never occurred to you to mail your baby somewhere.

See, right there, you can just take a quick second to pat yourself on the back for being an awesome parent. And even if you don’t have kids, you can still pat yourself on the back for being an outstanding human, because I doubt it would have occurred to you, given a scenario where you had offspring, to slap some stamps on them and drop them at the post office.

Great job everybody. You’re absolutely killing it!

The same cannot be said for Jesse and Mathilda Beagle of Ohio. What Mathilda lacked in the cool name department, she more than failed to make up for in the motherhood department. Jesse Beagle is actually a pretty cool name, and Jesse and the Beagles would make a decent name for a rock band, but let’s face facts: as a father, Jesse came up short.

Back in 1913, just a few weeks after the parcel post service launched, Jesse and Mathilda, who may or may not have had warts and a hump, respectively, mailed their eight-month-old son, James, to his grandmother. I am not making that up.

Many of you, in this day and age, will simply not be able to believe this story. Especially those of you who have never let your children farther away from you than the end of the leash. But trust me, every word of this story is historical fact.

Baby James was just shy of the eleven-pound weight limit for packages, and delivering him to his grandma, who lived just a few miles away in the hip, happening party town of Batavia, Ohio (which, amazingly, still exists on Google Maps) only cost his parents fifteen cents in postage.

Can you believe that? Fifteen cents! Nowadays the Post Office would charge at least $7.50 to mail a ten-pound baby.

So many questions are raised by Jesse and Mathilda’s decision to mail little James to his grammy. If she was only a few miles away, why not just ride him over there yourself on one of your trusty mules? Why pay the exorbitant fee of fifteen cents to mail him when it only cost a rabbit and two chickens for the doctor to deliver him in the first place? Shouldn’t he have weighed more than ten pounds at eight months old? Was handing your baby off to a stranger and crossing your fingers that he got to your mom’s house safely worth it just for a date night with a woman named Mathilda who may or may not have had a hump? And as far as baby James’ trip is concerned, was there an in-flight bottle service? And probably the most pressing of all the questions, after news of the incident surfaced, why weren’t both Jesse and Mathilda immediately sterilized?

And believe it or not, the Beagles were not the only wildly irresponsible parents willing to mail their children across the state or even the country. As the post office increased the parcel post weight limit to a more child-friendly fifty pounds, more and more parents started slapping postage on their kids.

The post office immediately recognized the potential issues that could occur if people continued to mail their children. The number of mail carriers being bitten by petulant toddlers was beginning to outpace the more common threats of stray dogs and rabid postal mules. And many of the postal workers were complaining that, while mule poop was expected, dealing with poopy diapers was not in their original civil servant contract.

Thankfully, our agile and ever so efficient government jumped on the problem right away. The practice of mailing children was only allowed for seven more years, with Washington putting its foot down in 1920, saying enough is enough. We simply can’t have any more rabid postal mules being bitten by petulant toddlers! No more mailing kids!

Thanks, Washington, for continuing to fall short of our already low expectations. And thanks, Jesse and Mathilda Beagle, for paving the way for all of us to feel a little bit better about our parenting decisions.

Chin up, America! Unless you’ve ever shipped your eight-month-old over to grandma’s house in an Uber, you’re doing a great job.

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!