Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Frightfully Safe

I hope everyone had a safe and sane Halloween last year. It is my sincere wish (as well as the wish of our National Safety Council and the American Academy of Pediatrics) that none of you or your children were injured, sickened, traumatized, frightened, scared, worried, startled, disturbed, rattled, jolted, displeased, inconvenienced, set on fire, or over-exercised.

You may be saying right now, “Well, yes, Smidge. As a matter of fact, my children were slightly startled in one brief instance last year, and I’m still hopping mad about it.”

If that’s the case, you probably did Halloween wrong. You may not be current on all the latest Halloween safety tips and procedures. Unfortunately, that makes you a bad parent. But before Child Protective Services needs to get involved, we’ve all decided to give you one more chance this year.

Please spend as many hours as necessary (minimum six) reviewing the list below so you’re ready to be a good parent tonight.


Select a safe area for trick-or-treating.  Choose streets that are well lighted and landscaped so you can be seen.  Avoid trick-or-treating on streets you are unfamiliar with, and try to go out before it gets dark.

Were you trick-or-treating after 3:30 P.M.? Shame on you. Did you go to the porch of a house that didn’t have perfectly manicured front hedges? That was incorrect.

Always keep the adult who is watching you in sight.  Never go into a stranger’s home while trick-or-treating.  Never get into a stranger’s car or go anywhere with a stranger.

Cross the street only at intersections and crosswalks.  Do not walk out from behind parked cars or try to cross in the middle of the block.

Did you let your kids jump into the stranger’s van to go get the candy that they forgot at their other house? That was wrong. Don’t do that. Did you cross your neighborhood streets at any place other than an intersection? You are an idiot.

Wait until you get home to eat your treats.  Your parents should inspect each item carefully, looking for needles, open packages and other signs of tampering.  Do not eat homemade items prepared by strangers.

This is equally important – If you did find needles, it is not OK to re-use them.

Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and trick-or-treat bags for greater visibility.

If any part of your child’s costume was a dark, non-reflective, or ill-fitting garment, your children probably already realize you don’t love them.

Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes. Makeup should be tested ahead of time on a small patch of skin to ensure there are no unpleasant surprises on the big day.

If you have found the first properly-fitting decorative hat in the history of the world, please let the rest of us know where you bought it. Any makeup or face paint that says “made in China” is radioactive. Seeking medical attention at this point is futile since you already touched it. Smear it all over and enjoy what time you have left.

When shopping for costumes, wigs, and accessories look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant.

This is especially important for wigs, since every trick-or-treater attempts to stick his or her head inside your jack-o’-lantern, as is customary and traditional.
(Side Note: While fire retardancy is a paramount issue on All Hallows Eve, “The Flaming Wigs” would obviously be a great name for a rock band.)

Do not carry or wear sharp objects that may poke others or damage eyes.  Objects like swords, wands, canes, etc., should be left at home.  Do not carry toy guns that look like real guns.  A citizen or a police officer can mistake a toy gun for a real gun.

Did your child lose an eye last year? That plastic Harry Potter wand was the problem in that instance. Were your kids pinned down behind your neighbor’s SUV for hours in a firefight with local law enforcement officers? Next time simply leave the toy guns at home.

Carry a flashlight to light the way and to alert motorists of your presence.  Never carry candles or any other flammable object.  Do not use candles for decorations or displays.  They can easily be knocked down or can set fire to a nearby curtain or costume.

Did you set yourself, your curtains, and your neighbor’s curtains on fire last year? The candelabra you were using to light your way was the problem. Most cell phones have a flashlight app now. Look into it.

Motorists need to be extra careful on Halloween.  Watch out for careless children who may run into the street without looking.  Expect the unexpected, and anticipate the actions of others.

If you were not “expecting the unexpected” last night, I am incredibly disappointed in you. Sit down and make a list of all the unforeseen issues that might arise tonight so that you may stop sucking at life.

Small children should never carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers. Then parents can do the cutting.

Correction – No one should ever carve pumpkins. It’s a slimy, messy job that attracts fruit flies and makes your hands stink like pumpkin guts. We should all stop.

Consider using a flashlight or glow stick instead of a candle to light your pumpkin. If you do use a candle, a votive candle is safest.
Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and not on a porch or any path where visitors may pass close by. They should never be left unattended.

In summary, a concrete and stucco porch is no place for a small flame encased inside a wet, sticky, flame-retardant gourd. Keep the fire inside your home, on a surface made entirely of combustible materials.

A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage youngsters from filling up on Halloween treats.

We’re not sure who wrote this, but they obviously had never met a youngster before.

Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books or pens and pencils.

Definitely consider doing this if you’re tired of not having toilet paper in your trees, eggs on your house, and soap on the windows of your cars.

Hopefully this list will help you have a much safer and more enjoyable Halloween tonight. I know that was a lot of information at once, but if you are ever in doubt, just use common sense. You can start by asking yourself five simple questions.

Have I fastened my child to his trick-or-treat buddy with reflective tape?

Is my child carrying anything other than a piece of Styrofoam that I bubble-wrapped for safety?

Is the sun still high in the sky?

Are there any dangerous jack-o’-lanterns with insane open flames inside them within a two hundred-foot radius of my child?
You are doing great.

Have we come into contact with any candy whatsoever?
You are a great parent!

Enjoy your Halloween done right this year!

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, October 24, 2018

Beer Proves the Metric System is Useless

When I was in grade school, they tried to teach us all about the metric system under the now laughable guise that the U.S. was going to convert over any minute now.

I learned even more about it in college, and the metric system is great, provided you are using it to solve metric system math problems. That’s because everything is a multiple of ten. Easy peasy.

The metric system is not so great when you are trying to give someone directions, however. People look at you funny when you say, “It’s just about a 1.6 kilometer down the road.”

And it doesn’t work for weights, either, as illustrated in this actual conversation at a meat counter:

“May I have 907 grams of lean pastrami, please?”

“Get out of my deli.”

A thousand grams is a kilogram, or a “kilo,” but only drug dealers know what a kilo is, and they’re bad people who should be in jail.

The military uses the metric system, but only because the enemy doesn’t understand it, so no one can listen in on a radio conversation and gain any intel.

Army guy on radio - We’re moving in on the Tangos. Six clicks to the west.

Army base – Roger

Enemy 1 – Where are they going? What is a Tango? What is a click?

Enemy 2 – A Tango is us. A click is one kilometer.

Enemy 1 – Why are we Tangos?

Enemy 2 – I have no idea.

Enemy 1 – What is a kilometer?

Enemy 2 – I have no idea. But don’t worry. Those guys are 3.728 miles east of us. They’ll never find us here.

Enemy 1 – Oh, good. I was getting wor…

Army guy on radio – Tangos down.

The only real civilian use for the metric system is fun runs. Everyone is familiar with the 5K, but that’s where it ends. The non-fun runs are either named or listed in their mile length. People run marathons, not 42.16K’s.

“Hey, I heard you ran a half marathon last weekend.”

“Yes, I ran the 21.08K on Saturday.”

“I’ve never liked you.”

Our government – possibly a branch of the military trying to keep us from knowing how much we were drinking, for some reason – decided to sneak in the metric system on our wine and liquor bottles a long time ago.

Your standard wine bottle and the most common liquor bottles are 750ml. ML is the abbreviation for milliliter, or in layman’s terms, one millionth of a liter. (In alcohol slang, milliliter is often shortened to “mil,” which lends credence to the theory that the military was behind this.)

But do you know what we call a 750ml bottle of booze? A fifth.
A fifth of what, you might ask?
A fifth of a gallon, that’s what. But when you do the complicated booze math (which becomes much more complicated with much more booze), you find out that a fifth of a gallon is really equal to 757ml.

That’s right! The government stole 7ml of your Jim Beam. Remember that next time you vote!

For all their immense and far-reaching flaws, at least the government knew better than to mess with the beer bottles. That’s probably because beer has a long tradition of awesome measurements that they didn’t want to mess with. Or, they knew that beer drinkers are much more apt to riot than wine and spirt lovers. Could go either way.

The ultimate beer keg is called a Tun. It holds 252 gallons, or the equivalent of one night’s worth at Ted Kennedy’s house.

The next size down is a Butt, which is half a Tun. *Please insert hilarious joke about your ex here*

A half a Butt is usually known as a cheek, but in the case of beer casks, it’s known as a Hogshead. This is obviously one of the coolest units of measure, and consists of 63 gallons of foamy goodness.

A Barrel is half a hogshead, and a Firkin is a fourth of a barrel. Now here’s where the beer math starts to get spooky.

You see, in the non-metric system of measurements, there are 12 inches in a foot, and 5,280 feet in a mile, which is 1,760 yards. A yard is also a container you can drink beer out of, if you love to look like an idiot and slosh warm beer all over your shirt. None of those things have to do with this, though, so ignore all that.

Ounces are both a measure of weight and volume in our amazing system. There are 16 ounces in a pound, and a firkin of beer weighs 63 pounds, which is the exact number of gallons in a hogshead! You might think that’s a coincidence, but that just proves you don’t understand the true genius of this system and how it relates to beer.

You see, there are 16 weight ounces in a pound, and there are also 16 fluid ounces in a pint. Beer weighs 8 pounds per gallon, and there are also 8 pints in a gallon!

Do you understand now? What that means is that a pint of beer weighs exactly one pound. A pound!

This is why the metric system is useless. No one would ever say, “Let’s 0.45 kilogram these beers and get outta here.”

Come to think of it, that’s probably where “pounding headache” came from, too.

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, October 17, 2018

Cookie Nough

Recently, the administrators at our middle school decided that they hate all the parents of all the kids at the school, so they held a cookie dough fundraiser to punish us.

The evil geniuses who invented the modern school cookie dough fundraiser knew how to get kids fired up about pestering their parents into giving up all their afternoon/evening free time to take them “to the neighborhood across the street where we don’t know anyone because I’ve already gone to every single house in our neighborhood and I still need to get five more sales to get the super balloon.”

At least, the evil geniuses certainly knew how to get Son Number Two fired up. Son Number One could not have cared less about the super balloon.

The stupid, cheap, Chinese, dollar store prizes associated with every level of cookie dough salesmanship suck Son Number Two in like a ping pong ball into a shop vac. He’s been to the Dollar Tree a million times, so he knows damned well how much the crap in the little student catalog actually costs, yet it never occurs to him to just ask me for five bucks. Instead, he wants to go knock on a hundred and eighty doors.

And do you know what’s even better than that? I found out yesterday that the administrators at our elementary school decided that they hate all the parents of all the kids at the school, too. Guess what Son Number Three brought home? Yep, the cookie dough fundraiser package. Are you kidding me!? I just got done with this nightmare.

And guess who Son Number Three thinks is really cool? Yep, Son Number Two. So guess what Son Number Three wants to do?

Yep. “Dad, I want to sell thirty so I can get the *insert the name of some useless plastic toy that will break within the first three minutes of him owning it, that would cost roughly seventy-two cents to purchase, but will require two hundred hours of my life to obtain*.”

We just did this!!! We’re going to have to drive to a neighborhood in another school district and just mumble the name of the school we’re fundraising for.

And let’s just forget the fact that I don’t want to do this for a second. Why do I have to do this at all? I don’t even understand the need for public school fundraisers in the first place. We live in America. We have more money than all the other countries combined.

We have so much money, we feel compelled to give a lot of it away to other countries every year. I assume those countries that receive foreign aid from the U.S. use some of it for their schools, but they also use a lot of it for stuff like new home furnishings and vacations for their top officials, too. How do we know this to be true? Because our top officials taught them how to get away with it.

And here I am in the U.S., watching my tax dollars going to buy President-for-Life Otawanabe of Guyana a new Barcalounger, while simultaneously having to stand on the sidewalk with my best “I’m sorry I brought him to your house” expression on my face while my son begs our neighbors for eighteen bucks in exchange for $1.29-worth of cookie dough. That’s just no way to live.

So, here’s my idea. Let’s stop all the foreign aid programs immediately. Instead of sending blank checks all over the world, we’ll set up the World School Checking Account. Any elementary, middle, or high school on the planet that needs money can just write a check. Money for anything – no questions asked - from a single box of copier paper to an entirely new campus with fifty state-of-the-art buildings – whatever. Get them whatever they need, and the checking account will still have loads of money to spare.

That way, every kid on earth can get a good education, and eventually none of those countries will need foreign aid anymore, and I can stop schlepping with my kids all over town begging for money in exchange for dough.

Anyway, I’ll probably be over to your place with Son Number Three around dinnertime.

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, October 10, 2018


I registered Son Number Two for lacrosse yesterday. It wasn’t easy.

I mean, the website and registration process and everything was fine. That’s not what I meant. It wasn’t easy getting to this point. You know, because of baseball. Allow me to explain.

You see, lacrosse seems to be a spring sport, which conflicts with the standard springtime baseball season. Everyone knows baseball is America’s game, so I wasn’t really sure what Son Number Two even meant when he said he wanted to play something called lacrosse during baseball season.

He said something about baseball not being fast enough. I told him it speeds up tremendously when you misread a routine fly ball with runners in scoring position. He just rolled his eyes. Then he said something about baseball not having enough action. I told him nothing has more action than an 0-2 curve ball with two outs and the bases empty, but he just looked at me funny.

After many confusing conversations, it finally became clear that he wished to actually not play baseball in the spring and play lacrosse instead. I rushed him to the pediatrician, and explained the situation, but the lady at the front desk was as confused as I was, and kept repeating some nonsense about how kids wanting to choose a new sport was natural.

I kept repeating the whole no baseball part to her, but she just wasn’t getting it. Finally, the doctor came out, shined a light in his eyes, told me his brain was working fine, and made us go home.

We need a new pediatrician.

Exasperated, I told my wife all about what our middle son was suggesting and what the whackadoos at the doctor’s office said.

That’s when I found out she’s also crazy.

Now, finding a new doctor is one thing, but finding a new wife and kids seems a bit extreme, so I was forced to begin to wrap my head around this whole no baseball thing and start to consider lacrosse instead.

Being from the west coast, I had never even heard of lacrosse until my son brought it up. It turns out quite a few kids already play it, but they all seem to live on the east coast. Further research showed some east coast high schools and colleges even offer lacrosse, I assume as an elective.

Reluctantly, I purchased a lacrosse stick for him. If you’re from the west coast like me, I’ll describe it for you. It’s a four-foot-long metal stick with a plastic hoop on top, about the size and shape of a parking meter. The hoop is strung with what appear to be shoelaces, to form a net, and apparently, it’s really cool to leave a bunch of the shoelaces longer than they needed to be so they hang down off the back, like Predator’s dreadlocks.

The stick looks like a fantastic device to catch crawdads with, but when I tried to catch and throw a ball with it, it was totally useless. You know what’s good for catching a ball? A baseball glove. And for throwing a ball? Your arm.

Anyway, off we went, useless Predator stick in hand, to the free clinic put on by the local lacrosse club. Much to my amazement, there were some high school kids there who could actually throw and catch a ball with their lacrosse sticks. And they appeared to be from the west coast. They could even run with the stick straight up, keeping the basket over their heads, and the ball stayed in the shoelace net, which was also impossible at my house.

Then the coaches picked up sticks and started throwing and catching. Holy cow! They could throw the ball approximately seven hundred miles per hour and hit very small targets accurately from many yards away. I was dumbfounded.

As I sat on the sidelines, mesmerized by how one coach picked up a ball off the ground by somehow just slapping it with his stick, the league president started showing us the standard boys’ lacrosse equipment.

Shoulder pads, elbow pads, big protective gloves, and a very serious-looking helmet.

Wait a second... you mean to tell me this is going to be a bunch of boys racing around the field banging into one another and hitting each other with the sticks?

Where do I sign him up?

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, October 3, 2018

Alert FEMA, there's a Stormy on the Horizon

My phone went crazy in my pocket today, buzzing like a giant insect and making a sound very similar in tone and annoyance factor to the noise made by my radio during an emergency broadcasting system test. At first, I thought I might be having another episode, so I was relieved to learn that it was just a test of the new Presidential Alert System for wireless devices.

Oh, that’s nice… Wait… the WHAT?

Oh, sweet mother Mary and Joseph! Do you mean to tell me that the U.S. government just gave President Trump unfettered access to text me? That can’t be good.

Looking into the news story, it turns out the Department of Homeland Security posted a reminder about the test on Twitter on Tuesday. I guess Twitter is how all branches of the government now communicate. They apparently attempted to reassure phone users that their numbers are not being shared with anyone. Umm, yeah, not being shared with anyone except YOU GUYS!

Reading further, the story said, While users can choose not to participate in messages of missing children and natural disasters, they are required to receive presidential alerts, which are sent out at the direction of the White House and activated by FEMA.

Rules outlined in a 2006 law states that the White House can issue a presidential alert only if the public were in peril, or during national emergencies. The alert cannot be a personal message on behalf of the president.

Well, that’s a relief! It can’t be a personal message from the president. But wait a minute… it says I’m allowed to opt out of emergency messages regarding natural disasters, but not out of messages from the president about national peril, which will come from FEMA? Correct me if I’m wrong here, but FEMA is our natural disaster organization. They are in charge of stepping in during a natural disaster and making it much worse.

So what other situations beside natural disasters could require the president to need to get in touch with me immediately? What will constitute “public peril” with our revolutionary new alert system?

I mean, the entire free world is obviously propped up and functioning only because of the amazing democracy and general badass-ness of the United States. So, ostensibly, anything that could upset that delicate balance of our constitutional liberty would then threaten the stability of our government, thereby threatening the stability of our entire nation, thrusting each and every citizen into peril. I mean, what would constitute more public peril than the crumbling of the governmental foundation we rely so dearly upon?

Truth be told, this new development wouldn’t be nearly as concerning if it was happening on another president’s watch. A quick search on the history of the cell phone tells us, surprisingly, that Richard Nixon could have been the first president to use a wireless Presidential Alert System.

The first call from a handheld mobile phone was made all the way back in 1973 on a Motorola phone, which was the approximately the size of twenty-six iPhones duct taped together. It took ten hours to charge and had a call time of just thirty minutes. That didn’t matter, though, because it was so heavy you could only hold it to your ear for a minute and a half.

Nixon could have sent out wireless emergency messages, but they would have only been received by three Americans – two Motorola executives and their golfing buddy who received one as a gift when they got tired of calling each other.

Cell phones have been improving on an exponential pace ever since, as has cell phone ownership, so later presidents would have had a progressively bigger audience. Still I think the Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, and Bush 43 administrations would probably have been conservative in its use, had it been around. I’m not so sure about the Clinton presidency. I think we all might have received emergency presidential photos of his interns, asking us to rate them in overall hotness.

We know for sure that the Obama administration could be trusted with this newfound power of communication, because the news story tells us that the wireless alert system actually launched back in 2012, and as far as I know, today was our first Presidential Alert.

Something makes me doubt it will be our last.

We know the first tweet ever sent was in 2006. I’m not sure when the first presidential tweet was sent, or if it was from Bush or Obama, but I do know when the latest presidential tweet was sent. About thirty seconds ago. The next one will be along any minute.

I’m assuming there was a constitutional amendment in the works requiring all citizens to follow the president on Twitter, but now that point seems to be moot. Anything that affects the White House will trickle down to affecting the whole country, right? The citizens need to believe in their leader in order to have a strong country, right? I mean, even someone attempting to besmirch the president’s good name could constitute public peril if it was allowed to get out of hand, right!?

Fire up the texter, boys! We’ve got Presidential Alerts to send.

Maybe all the alerts go through FEMA because her name is Stormy?

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!