Wednesday, January 29, 2020

High School Knowledge Week - Repost

I am in the middle of school visit season, and as such, I ran out of time to write a new column for this week. So, in honor of school visit season, I thought I’d re-share a post about a school visit a couple years ago. Everything still holds true today. Enjoy!

I went back to high school today. Not my own high school, but a very similar one. It felt the same. The smell of gym socks and mysterious cafeteria “food” has not changed much in thirty years.

It’s career week at Rocklin High, and they invited me to speak about being an author. I wanted to speak about being a bullfighter, but they said it was better to stick to things I’d had direct experience with, so whatever. Author it is.

I really had a fun time sharing my knowledge and insights with the students about authoring, but I also felt like I left a lot on the table, advice-wise. I mean, I gave them plenty of advice about being an author, such as, “If you want to be able to afford food and clothing, be a dentist instead,” and “Never name your evil villainess after your mother-in-law if you can help it.”

But I really wished I could have gone a step further and given them general high school life advice. The format and time constraints of the day wouldn’t allow for it, but there was definitely more wisdom I wanted to impart, such as:

- Talk to the girl. She’s nervous and self-conscious just like you are, even if all you see is her being amazing and you having zits. If she wants nothing to do with you, smile and say, “OK, no sweat. I hope you have a great day.” Or cover her front yard in toilet paper at midnight. Either way you want to play it is cool.

- Pay attention, you idiot. The things they are teaching you do not suck and are not lame. This is all stuff you will need in life. Except algebra. Algebra does suck and is lame. No one uses algebra in their job.

- Here’s a good joke for your math teacher:
What does the little mermaid wear to math class?
An algebra.
You’re welcome.

- While you are here, learn to form grammatically correct sentences on paper and with your face. If you can’t do that, you will always work at the car wash.

- Drive while driving. And drive as little as possible while you’re in high school. You think you’re amazing at it, but you’re not. You suck at it. So much.

- Stand up straight, look people in the eye, have a firm handshake, and speak clearly. In other words, stop being you and start acting like a human. It’s time.

- Quit wearing beanie hats unless it is below 45 degrees. Never wear them indoors, unless you work in a walk-in freezer.

- Be extra nice to your joints – your knees in particular. Trust me.

- Go to any other country before you start college. Just go. You don’t need any money.

- Get your hair out of your eyes. For you boys, it makes you look like a lazy slob. For you girls, it makes you look like Cousin It. Not good, either way.

- Go to any other country after you finish college. Just go. You still don’t need any money.

- Sit up straight.

- Your parents know a lot of useful information, and they want you to have it because they love you. You don’t know anything useful at all. Listen to them and stop being a turd.

- And no, having “likes” on your selfies is not useful. Stop taking selfies and learn how to cook a steak properly.

- Pronounce words correctly.

- You will get out of college exactly what you put into it. So be sure to study. Also, be sure to learn how to do an upside-down keg stand properly. Both are vitally important to college.

- Seriously, stop wearing beanie hats.

- Get a job if you don’t have one yet. You are not too busy. Throw your cell phone away and you just freed up 80% of your day.

- Once you learn something, start your own business with zero dollars in your bank account. If you fail, big deal. You’ll still have zero dollars. If you succeed, you’ll have more than zero. It’s just simple math.

- Deodorant. Always.

- Don’t say, “To be honest with you...”
It gives the impression you aren’t being honest all the other times.

- And above all else, remember -  Us adults are just as lost as you, but we have mortgages. Stay in high school. You have no idea how good you have it.

I’m going back tomorrow to talk to more students. Maybe I’ll find time to fit some of this good stuff in.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2020 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, January 22, 2020

Insert Emoji Here

It all started with someone turning their head ninety degrees to the left and realizing that this

 : )

looked like a smiling face. It wasn’t too long before a bunch of clever people started exploring their keyboard options and we had a nose,


a winking face,

; )

and a surprised look.

: 0

It escalated until eventually no one was getting any actual work done, but we had a shrugging guy,

\_( ``/ )_/

and Princess Leia,


among many other useful little designs. Then, something weird happened. People started including these little designs in actual sentences, as part of the message.

Instead of writing, “I’m happy about that,” people started just putting a

: )

at the end of the sentence. It wasn’t long before it was universally understood that you meant you were happy, and not all colon space parenthesis about it.

We named them “emoticons,” which literally translated from Latin means, “A huge waste of time.”

“Emoticons” got shortened almost immediately to “emoji,” and things spiraled out of control from there.

Eventually, someone at a cell phone company said, “Why don’t we just make pictures?” and the first round yellow smiley face found its way off the Jeep spare tire cover and onto our cell phones. It has been an exponential emoji curve ever since.

I can now be happy with your text in a number of different teeth options, I can laugh until I cry at your text, I can laugh until I cry with a sideways tilt to my head and sneezing eyes. I can look surprised, worried, pensive, mischievous, shocked, asleep, sick, insane, frustrated, and even dead. There is no end to the emotion I can convey with the array of little yellow faces at my disposal.

And that’s just the little yellow faces. I can also do any one of those emotions in a cat face. And as a monkey.

Apple, the phone company dedicated to making phones for people who do nothing but take pictures of themselves and their food, even came up with a way to make an animated emoji face of yourself. You can even add a body and have yourself standing next to a huge congratulations rainbow with fireworks, conveying the emotion, “congratulations a lot.”

The phone companies didn’t stop there, however. Our emoji menus now contain goldfish, apples, camels, footballs, cacti, the Parthenon, Vespa scooters, trumpets, the handicapped sign, protractors, the flag of Albania, the scales of justice, Ferris wheels, flaming meteors, doughnuts, champagne bottles, beer mugs, and of course, poop.

I use the “thumbs up” all the time, but I recently found my favorite one. Someone at Samsung decided to add an Easter Island head to my emoji arsenal. I have no idea why, or what anyone could possibly try to convey with it, but I use it all the time now, like a signature. “Sincerely, Blockhead.”

These emojis litter our texts, but up until now they have been at the discretion of the texter. That is changing as apps are starting to get pushy about it if you don’t use enough emojis. When I type a note on Venmo about what I’m paying someone for, it keeps popping up emoji suggestions that it wants me to use instead of actual words. If I type “piz…” it’s popping up a pizza slice emoji in front of my fingers, basically screaming at me, “Use this emoji, you idiot! No one reads words anymore!”

And can we even really call the pizza slice an emoji? I mean, I have strong emotions about pizza, but I don’t think a picture of a slice of pizza by itself can be considered a feeling. Be that as it may, I can see where this is all headed.

The English language will die out in its written form, and we will all move back to hieroglyphics, albeit now digital and very colorful. We’re basically all sending each other rebus picture puzzles now instead of sentences.

Your phone has become a digital Lucky Lager beer cap.

[eye] [female sheep] soon,

-[Easter Island head]

Copyright © 2020 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, January 15, 2020

Tiny Naked Hoarders

My wife and I have been watching some reality TV lately. Normally, reality TV can be defined as anything but reality, but in the case of the three shows we’ve landed on, they are as real as it gets.

The first one is Tiny House Nation. Two guys travel the United States helping people move out of regular-size houses and cram themselves, their kids, their dogs, and about five to seven percent of the stuff they used to own into a new tiny house that would easily fit into the living room of their old place.

They all report that they love their new miniature house when they get handed the keys on the big reveal day, but there is never a follow-up show a year or so later detailing the aftermath of the inevitable close-quarters cabin fever tearing the family apart at the seams. It would show only the husband left in the tiny house, parked behind a 7-eleven so he can find dinner, while his ex-wife and the kids and dogs sprawl out in a normal house, at least two states away.

The next show is Hoarders, which is essentially the opposite of Tiny House Nation. Instead of getting rid of all their stuff, hoarders continue to purchase or collect crap they don’t need and cram their regular-size houses so full, even people who live in a tiny house would ask, “How do you move around in this place?”

A psychologist and a cleaning team partner with the family of the hoarder to help them through their deep-seated emotional and mental issues that led to the hoarding while the house is completely cleaned out and returned to the semblance of a normal dwelling. They take stuff out of the houses using snow shovels. Marie Kondo would literally vaporize from the stress.

Predictably, there is a big reveal, and the “former” hoarder cries and says thank you and that they are grateful. Again, I think the one-year follow-up show would probably show the hoarding returned with such a vengeance that the chimney would be getting pushed up out of the roof, but I am only speculating.

The third show has no houses whatsoever. Naked and Afraid is where a man and a woman who don’t know each other are paired up to survive for twenty-one days together somewhere harsh and unforgiving, like Detroit. Also, of course, they are naked. They are allowed to bring one single item each, which usually ends up being a machete and a fire starter. Why none of them choose to bring a taco truck is baffling to me.

One of the first things they always do is attempt to build a tiny house, albeit in this case out of branches and leaves instead of 2x4’s and ugly kitchen tile. Amazingly, they have even less storage requirements than a tiny houser, since they have no clothes and only own one household item each, so their houses tend to be of the six square feet variety.

They also have significantly less food that hoarders or housers, since they have none, which makes Naked and Afraid a very effective weight loss program. If they make it the full three weeks, which many do not, the men lose about twenty to twenty-five pounds and the woman lose about twelve to eighteen. Women around the globe are outraged by the disparity. Equal weight for equal time!

After watching a lot of these shows, it occurs to me that the networks are not really applying themselves here. Just between these three shows alone, there are countless spinoff and collaboration opportunities for new shows.

Just off the top of my head:

Hoarders Helped Me Go Tiny – hoarders are invited to remove items from people’s houses to help them pare down their belongings in order to fit into their new tiny house. Will the homeowners be able to fight off the growing feeding frenzy of hoarders in order to keep anything at all for the move?

Naked and Afraid I Won’t Fit into My New Tiny House – overweight people go on the twenty-one-day wilderness survival challenge in order to prepare for fitting more comfortably into their new tiny houses. Can they make it long enough to fit, or will they tap out and have to stay in their normal-size house?

Naked and Building my Tiny House – a couple has three weeks to build their new tiny house out of materials found only in the jungle. They are allowed to eat and use power tools, but is that really a good idea given that they are naked?

Afraid My House is too Tiny to Be Naked – They need to go smaller on the square footage, but will there still be enough room for a shower? Or are they doomed to a life of coin-operated truck stop showers?

Tiny House Hoarders – like regular Hoarders, but with eighty percent less stuff. Episodes can be fifteen minutes each.

Naked Hoarders Afraid of Tiny Houses – hoarders have to fit all their stuff into a tiny house and then live there naked for twenty-one days. Why do they need to be naked? Why not?

Hoarding Tiny Houses – one man’s rabid obsession with collecting two hundred square-foot mini houses. Where will he put them all? Tune in to find out.

Hoarding Tiny Naked Houses – same as Hoarding Tiny Houses, but none of the tiny houses have exterior siding. Will the elements consume the houses before his hoarding disorder consumes his life?

Hoarding Tiny Houses Naked – the houses have siding, but now the guy is naked…

As you can see, the possibilities are endless. You’re welcome, network executives. I will await my royalty checks.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2020 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, January 8, 2020

About the Author, 2020

Here at Just a Smidge, we continue to gain new readership each year. This past year alone we have documented as many as two new readers. So, for both of you just joining us, welcome! Let’s start the New Year with a little meet and greet, shall we?

Hi. I’m Marc Schmatjen, aka Smidge, and I’m the lone staff writer and head pool maintenance technician here at Just a Smidge. Based on how much money I make writing this column, it would be inaccurate to call this my job, so let’s just go with “hobby.”

I am a forty-seven-year-old husband of one and father of three. My wife is an amazing woman who teaches high school kids math, which is becoming increasingly difficult now that school isn’t necessarily used for teaching anymore. For a math teacher, she’s an excellent counseloreferee.

We have three boys, whom we affectionately refer to as Son Number One, Two, and Three. Two of them are teenagers and all three of them are loud and smelly and they eat a lot.

Anyway, enough about my wife and kids. Let’s talk more about me. Here are twenty other things that you should probably know about me, in no particular order:

1) I am going bald, and amazingly, getting better looking with every single lost hair off my head.

2) My grandfather killed General Patton's dog. That is the single most historically outstanding thing anyone in my family has done. We are a proud people.

3) Walking out into bright sunlight makes me sneeze. I am one of only an estimated seven people in the world with this disorder. We have a club. I inherited this trait from my grandmother, whose husband once killed General George Patton’s dog.

4) I am related to U.S. president Grover Cleveland on my maternal grandmother’s side, whose husband (my grandmother’s, not Grover Clevelend’s) - I believe I may have mentioned this - killed General George S. Patton’s beloved English bull terrier, Willie. I don't really care about being related to Grover Cleveland since he’s not Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy got shot in the chest while leaving his hotel to give a speech. He continued on to the auditorium and gave an 84-minute speech with a bullet in his ribs. Teddy was the only truly cool president.

5) A few of my literary heroes are Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss, Erma Bombeck, Michael Connelly, and Dave Barry. My grandfather did not kill any of their dogs, that I am aware of.

6) I am 47 now, and my once-fantastic eyesight is relaxing like a tired dad in a Barcalounger. My arms are not long enough to read small print anymore, or even the medium print. Also, every other part of my body aches.

7) As an author and a writer, I am not afraid to say that books of non-rhyming “poetry” with sentences like, “My mind is a seedless grape, grasping to comprehend the melancholy oration, drowning in a cacophony of humanity…” etc., are written by people who are too scared to attempt to write anything that is required to make sense.

8) Another highlight of being 47 now: My face is going numb. Why does this happen to men? You see old guys all the time eating dinner with food stuck to their faces. We just can’t feel it on there anymore. My chin is completely dead at this point.

9) My three favorite flavors are burnt pepperoni, slightly burnt bacon, and well-toasted sesame seeds. Basically, if it has caught on fire, I want to eat it. Except for my s’more marshmallows. Those should only be browned. (And they will end up stuck to my chin, where they will remain until my wife scolds me.)

10) I was in shape once. I swam 100,000 yards in one week when I was in high school. I could not swim more than 50 yards or so today without needing a floatation device, an oxygen tank, and a defibrillator. See number 11.

11) I love bacon and I sit all day. See number 10.

12) I constantly get my left and right mixed up. This makes driving directions with my wife fun.

13) I am a recovering engineer, so I know there are only 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don’t.

14) My favorite joke of all time is:
A guy walks into the psychiatrist’s office wearing nothing but underwear made out of Saran wrap. The doctor takes one look at him and says, "Well, I can clearly see you’re nuts."

15) I like writing dialogue.
“You do?” they asked in unison.
“Yes. I do,” he said solemnly.

16) I like most foods (see number 10), but I have a deep, abiding hatred for cantaloupe. If bacon is a 10, cantaloupe is a negative 3000.

17) I love to travel and I love to stay home, but I don’t want an RV. Go figure.

18) My absolute favorite thing that has ever happened on this earth – and I am including my marriage and the birth of my children in that – was when the Oregon State Highway Division tried to disintegrate a dead whale with a half-ton of dynamite in 1970. I wasn’t around yet, but thankfully they had video cameras back then. (Just Google “Oregon Exploding Whale.”)

19) Coincidently, my favorite thing ever said on television – and I am including anything ever uttered on The Newlywed Game – came from KATU Channel 2 newsman Paul Linnman in 1970 after the whale dynamite was detonated. When large chunks of whale rained down on people and cars over a quarter-mile away, Paul noted, completely deadpan, “The blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds.”

20) My wife is still laughing right now about number 1.

So, there you have it, folks. You now know everything you need to know about me. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming next week.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2020 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, January 1, 2020

The 2020 Do-it-Yourself New Year's Resolution Template

So many of you needed to use my DIY Christmas letter this year that it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if you’ve also failed to plan ahead for your New Year’s resolutions. Have no fear. I’ve got you covered, hopeless slackers.

Just choose one entry from each column to construct your new resolution. If you are super ambitious and want more than one resolution that you can abandon before the middle of January, just repeat the easy four-step process.

Now, get to it. There’s no time to lose.



cooking meth
running a 5K
Step up my

while posting about
crying uncontrollably

singing loudly

talking back
in the middle of
making love

ignoring the pain

while livestreaming
disinfecting the hookah

making painful small talk
prior to

drowning my sorrows
while filming strangers
dialing 911

talking to the voices
working the crowd
increasing my swagger
sifting through the wreckage of my life
Effort toward

when I’m done
babbling hysterically

while shouting at people
smoking hash
Work my way into

in addition to
buying burritos

making an impact
immediately before
running from the cops

There you go. Now get out there and make those resolutions stick. You got this!

No need to thank me, it’s just what I do.

Happy New Year!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2020 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!