Wednesday, February 23, 2022

This Column is Going Downhill Again and Again

Our regularly scheduled column has been rudely preempted by Ski Week, for the third time!

Yes, that’s right, I said Ski Week. Instead of celebrating the glorious birthdays of Martin Van Buren and William Henry Harrison on two separate Mondays in February, like we all did when we were young, our school district changed things up a few years ago. Apparently, they think we’re all rich.

They tacked on three extra president’s days (both of the Adamses and James Buchanan, strictly because of his kick-ass hair) and  to the previous two, and lined them all up in a row this week. This phenomenon is nicknamed “Ski Week,” so the idea, apparently, is that we’re all supposed to head up to the slopes and spend the education-free week on a ski vacation. I guess I forgot to let our school district know that we don’t have thirty-eight thousand dollars lying around for just such an occasion.

And our school district failed to check with any of the surrounding districts to see if they were also populated by the idle rich and doing the same thing. Turns out they’re not. Since my wife teaches in a neighboring district, our week-long ski vacation, could we afford it, would be momless.

Sure, we might be able to shave a few thousand bucks off the total cost with one less lift ticket and no overpriced ski lodge chardonnay, but if you think I’m taking these three monkeys on a vacation by myself, you’ve obviously been drinking something a lot stronger than wine.

So, what I’m telling you is, the kids in Rocklin, which unfortunately includes MY kids, have the ENTIRE damn week off. And not only that, but this particular week has weekends on BOTH sides of it! Do you know what that means? It means my three boys have been here at home with me now for five whole days in a row already, and we still have four more whole days, also in that row, left before they go back to school.

Those of you with kids, or those of you who have met kids before, should now understand the fact that I’ve got nothing done in the last five days, and that trend will continue for the next four. In particular, I haven’t been able to write this column. I haven’t been able to do anything useful.

(Author’s note to aspiring writers: Take notice of how I deftly implied that this column is actually useful through the trickery of italics, even though there is absolutely no historical evidence that would support that claim.)

So, to all of you who are not currently on a week-long ski vacation, I apologize for not having a column for you today. I don’t know why our school district is choosing not to celebrate the President’s Days as our forefathers intended, but one thing is certain – our distinguished former presidents of yesteryear are rolling over in their ornate, gold and diamond-encrusted graves.

As for you folks who are swooshing down the slopes all this week and sipping expensive ski lodge cocktails in plush leather chairs in front of magnificent fireplaces while I spend another day eating cold pizza and refereeing at the World Brothers Wrestling Federation, I’ll say this:

I am NOT sorry that I don’t have a column for you this week. You’re probably too busy to read it anyway, what with all your swooshing, and expensive sipping, and plush fireplace sitting, and stacking gold coins in your Rolls Royce, and snorting caviar, and whatever else it is you people do.

But I’m not bitter. I would never wish for you to have a skiing accident or anything like that. That’s just not right.

But I do kinda wish you’d fall off your wallet in the lodge and get a mild sprain.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Not-So-Super Bowl

I’ve had some easy jobs in my time. I’ve been the traffic control stop/slow sign guy. That was easy. I’ve been paid to sit in the booth at a gas station and sell people cigarettes, which, looking back on it seems dangerous and poorly thought out, but it was certainly an easy job.

The problem with the easy jobs is that they are inevitably boring and, in almost every case, don’t pay very well. There is one job I can think of, however, that would not be boring and pays really well. I mean, even if you were at the absolute bottom of the pay scale compared to your coworkers, this job still pays better than most.

And it’s easy. Really easy.

That’s the thing that has me a little miffed at the moment. If your job is really easy, and you get paid a bunch of money to do it, you ought to do it well, don’t you think?

I think so!

It just so happens that I run a Super Bowl pool every year. It’s the standard 10x10 grid of squares with the last digit of each team’s score randomly assigned to the squares. It’s not my job, but it is relatively easy to run it, and I do it well. It’s easy for me to do it well because it is easy to do well. You know what I mean?

Now, for those of you folks from the IRS or any kind of federal gambling commission who may be reading this, let me assure you that we play this pool each year for fun.

A lot of fun.

Each square is a fair amount of fun, and when we multiply all that fun by the 100 squares in the grid, there’s a whole lotta fun up for grabs. Each score change results in the holder of that square receiving a substantial amount of fun. Five times more fun than each square is worth, to be precise.

And if you nice government folks are at all concerned about my recent Venmo activity, let me explain that January and February are my months to go out to a lot of expensive dinners with friends, family, and a few folks I just recently met through mutual acquaintances.

Anyway, all I have to do to run the pool is watch the game, keep track of the score changes, and tally up all the fun everyone is having. Like I said, it’s an easy job.

You know what job is even easier than running a Super Bowl pool for fun? Playing in the Super Bowl, of course. That is, as long as you are the guy lucky enough to have that easy job I was talking about earlier – namely the placeholder for extra point attempts – a job literally easier than being the Gatorade guy.

Do you know who failed to do their incredibly well-paid and easy job last Sunday? The Rams’ placeholder, that’s who.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t rooting for the Rams and I didn’t really care if they scored any extra points (or any points at all, for that matter) in the game. It just so happened that one of my squares in the pool would have afforded me a significant amount of fun had the football been upright and available to kick between the uprights at that moment.

But alas, someone failed to do their job. (Their job that they do while literally resting on one knee, I might add.)

I ended up not having as much fun during the game as I could have.

I’m not bitter.

Do your job.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, February 9, 2022

A Wordle from Our Sponsors

Once again, the British have found a way to bring our entire country together. They did it the first time in 1775 with all their unfair taxes. We showed them! We can unfairly tax ourselves just fine, thank you.

They tried to unite us again recently with the whole Prince Harry/Meghan Markle thing, but it backfired. We just further divided ourselves into people who think that following the British royalty live-action soap opera is a worthwhile use of their time, and people who can’t give even one small crap about any of it, but think Meghan Markle is pretty hot.

But the British are not quitters. They’ve been going strong ever since the Norman Briton Viking Druids built Stonehenge in the year negative 702, if I have read Wikipedia correctly, and they aren’t about to quit now.

A few weeks ago, in a stroke of internet genius, the English have once again united our nation in solidarity, using, quite fittingly, English. Some company called Power Language in the UK burst into our lives with Wordle.

It’s a simple game that gives you six tries to guess a five-letter word. When you hit enter on your guess, it gives you clues. A letter in your word will turn green if it’s the right letter in the right place, gold if it’s in the word but in the wrong place, and gray if it’s not in the word at all.

There is one Wordle per day, and the whole world is trying to guess the same word. It keeps track of your stats on how many guesses each daily puzzle took you and allows you to share your results on social media to flex your word nerdiness. I like crosswords and I like logic puzzles, so Wordle is a natural fit for me. What is amazing, however, is that Wordle seems to be a natural fit for everyone else, too.

Middle schoolers like it. High school kids play it. Everyone in America, old and young, is playing it, and it’s actually ever so slightly educational. It makes you think. It makes you use your vocabulary. It might even teach you a new five-letter word, instead of all the four-letter words that come so naturally to you.

It doesn’t have fast moving graphics. It doesn’t have any graphics, at all, really. It has no guns, no cars, no explosions. Just six blank five-letter word slots, waiting for you to start guessing. And kids are actually into it! It’s amazing. What will those crazy British come up with next? First that fun baking show and now thi… wait, what?

Wordle isn’t from England? But the website is

What? Anyone can have a .uk domain? It’s not restricted to residents and businesses of the United Kingdom? Well, that’s weird.

So, you mean to tell me that is not British at all? It’s just some dude named Josh from New York?

No kidding?

Wow. Well, sorry, Old Original York, I guess you guys don’t get the credit after all. But keep after it. We believe in you, even if you couldn’t keep Meghan Markle around.

And thanks, Josh! Wordle is awesome.

Wait… what’s that?

The New York Times bought it from you last week?

Oh, OK, well, congratulations on the sale. Enjoy your early retirement. We’ll keep playing your cool game until the Times inevitably screws it all up.

It certainly has been fun.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, February 2, 2022

An Open Letter to the Kids of Placer County

Dear school-aged kids of Placer County, California,

As some of you are aware, I started substitute teaching at the beginning of this year. If I have subbed in your class and your teacher didn’t leave a detailed lesson plan that day, then you learned about the miracle of compounding interest, why the Labrador Retriever is a superior dog breed, small engine repair, or whatever other useful information happened to be on my mind.

You’re welcome.

I also perform another very important public service when I sub that I wanted to call to your attention so you could be grateful.

I take roll.

My main job as a substitute teacher is, in fact, to take roll, and I take that responsibility very seriously. Not in terms of making sure I have a super-accurate head count, or knowing exactly which students are in class and which ones are absent. I’m a libertarian by nature. Your attendance is really none of my business.

No, I take my job of taking roll seriously in terms of making sure I read each and every name out loud, pronounced right or wrong.

Mostly wrong.

It’s the least I can do. You see, there’s a lot that you kids are missing out on, and you don’t even know it. When we were your age, we were standing in front of the DMV on our sixteenth birthday, sometimes before they even opened, paperwork in hand, ready to get our driver’s license. You kids don’t seem to care about getting your licenses nearly as much as we did.

Should they have given us a license to drive a car at sixteen? Probably not, but that’s not the point. We wanted them so we could leave the house, and go do stupid things far away from home. You don’t even seem to be interested in doing stupid things in the parking lot of the 7-Eleven near your house. Or the AM/PM. I mean, I can’t figure you kids out.

You just stare at your phones and LOL with each other digitally about the latest viral TikTok. I worry about you. I want you to have the same amazing experiences I had growing up. If you won’t leave the house and do stupid things, I will at least do my part to make your school days as meaningful as possible by taking role. I guess you will relay the story on your phone instead of in the Circle K parking lot, but I won’t deny you the hilarious recounting of how the lame old man sub butchered your friend’s name today. That’s a school tradition we cannot let die.

And I want to thank you, Lilieth, Elleia, Adagio, Bode, Imogen, Sibohan, Isla, Cian, and of course, Anais, for always being there for me, in some amount and combination, on my role sheet. With your help, you and your friends will never run out of stories to text, tweet, Snap, Insta, or TikTok about.

Again, you’re welcome.

See you soon,

-Mr. Schmatjen (rhymes with pigeon)


Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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