Wednesday, September 28, 2022

A Soggy Regatta

I was treated to one of the most entertaining sporting events barely known to mankind on Monday. A sixty-five and older men’s soccer league match, you ask? No, even better than that. I attended a high school physics class cardboard boat race.

I know what you’re thinking. "Oh, how fun. The kids got to make model boats and float them in a tub of water."

No. The kids had to make full-size boats out of wood with cardboard hulls, put either two or three high school students in each boat and race them across the Olympic-size swimming pool.

It was epic.

The design criteria was simple. The outer hull shall be cardboard. No direction was given past that. So, as you may imagine, there were a variety of different size and shaped vessels come regatta day. (It should be noted that prior to launching, each boat was wrapped in plastic so the cardboard didn’t just melt away in the water.)

One team built a legitimately reusable wooden canoe. On the opposite end of that spectrum, one team appeared to have simply gathered four intact medium-size moving boxes together in a rectangle and duct taped them together. When it was time to race, each of the three rowers just sat in a box. It actually worked pretty well.

I was blessed to attend this aquatic catastrophe because Son Number One and his buddy had taken over my garage for a few weeks building what can only be described as an inverted doghouse. It was constructed of fence boards and 2x4’s, and was big enough to fit both of them, or had they flipped it over, three adult Great Danes.

They formed a bow and a stern (those are the official nautical terms for front and back of a huge, inverted doghouse) with PVC pipes, and then, of course, covered the entire thing in cardboard.

They did some physics calculations at some point with regard to expected buoyancy - after they built the whole boat, of course – and decided that they’d better add some outriggers made out of five-gallon water jugs, and also bring some weight plates along to ride with them in the USS Casa de Perro.

It seemed as if, on paper, at least, four hundred pounds of dudes was not going to be enough weight to get their craft low enough in the water to be stable.

They were right.

Race day came and the “boats” went into the pool in heats of three at a time. It became immediately obvious that every team spent whatever time they allotted for the project solely on design and build. Not one team spent a single minute working on paddling technique prior to the race.

A watercraft consisting solely of the lid to an Ikea entertainment center shipping box is going to naturally be hard to steer, but even more so if you had no plan whatsoever before the starting gun.

There were a lot of collisions

Fortunately for the spectators, the high schoolers in the boats were acting like high schoolers, so entertainment was in no short supply. One team had Viking helmets and a bucket, specifically for drenching their enemies.

The ROTC ladies had two rowers and a machine gunner, manning twin Super Soaker water rifles from the bow.

In heat three, when it was time for the doghouse to race, external sabotage was not its downfall. Son Number One and his buddy made it about a third of the way across the pool before the sheer physics of the situation became too much for them to overcome, and the world’s most unstable boat capsized in spectacular fashion.

The Ikea box finally passed the shipwreck, after running into it twice, to win heat three. The semi-finals were filled with high seas drama, as the canoe was completely swamped twice by Viking bucket fire and still came in second.

The Ikea Pirates were finally dragged down to Davy Jones’ locker, and the rectangular moving boxes got taken out by the ROTC boat’s machine gunner, right before they were rammed by a skiff made entirely out of cereal boxes.

It was a ten-foot-long contraption that looked like a cross between a canoe and a coal barge that ended up taking first place in the extended up-and-back final race. It was in the process of sinking when they made it back to the wall.

The good news for Son Number One and all involved was that grading for the project was not based on sea worthiness. If you showed up with a boat of any kind, you got credit.

The races were just for bragging rights. And some quality entertainment.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Property Mismanagement – Repost

This month marks the third anniversary of us living in a meth-free neighborhood (as far as we know). We have a celebration each year where we barbecue, only we use natural gas instead of lawn mower gas. And we barbecue in the actual barbecue. Allow me to explain – here’s the account of what went down three years ago:


We had a neighborhood barbecue a while back. It was on a sunny Sunday afternoon in March, and it was the kind of day just tailor-made for an impromptu get-together out on the street.

We didn’t grill burgers or dogs, though. We cooked a Prius.

Well, I shouldn’t say “we” cooked a Prius, so much as, the meth addict felon who lives down the street cooked his Prius. We just all came out to watch.

That fine afternoon, Sir Meths-a-Lot had somehow caught something in the middle of his driveway on fire. He remedied that situation by intentionally kicking over a large can of gasoline at the top of his driveway, which ran down into the fire and strangely enough, started a much, much larger fire.

By the time I saw the giant plume of black smoke rising above the rooftops, the entire driveway was burning, his Prius, which was parked at the curb in front of the driveway, was ablaze, and a flaming river of gasoline was running down the gutter toward two of his neighbor’s cars.

Good times.

His also-a-meth-head-but-so-far-only-committed-misdemeanors brother managed to get the fiery river put out before any more cars caught on fire, and it wasn’t too much longer before a couple garden hoses had the entire barbecue extinguished and Captain Felony Meth could concentrate on shouting at one of his neighbors to – and I’m not making this up – “mind your own business, bro.”

This fun Sunday afternoon get-together came after at least a year of other amusing antics and shenanigans over at Methtopia, including, but not limited to the following (and keep in mind, I am not making any of this up):

Fights on the front lawn

Homeless lady living in her truck out front and using their potty

Power washing the house/driveway/street at midnight

Throwing two dozen eggs from the side yard onto the neighbor’s house at 3 A.M.

Vacuuming the street with a Hoover upright

Mowing the street with an electric lawnmower

Power washing the lawn

Oh, and a full guns-drawn SWAT team raid on the house

That was all just neighborly fun and games, but apparently I have a limit, and as we found out, that limit is lighting the street on fire.

After the barbecue that no one was invited to, I did some internet research and came up with a few phone numbers. I texted around until I found the property owner and told him that his renters just lit his entire driveway on fire and it was time for them to find other, more suitable accommodations.

He then told me he only managed the property for his son, who owned it, but he would go check things out that day.

When I inquired back about the property visit, he texted back, “Everything looked fine. No problems.”

I decided at that point that an in-person meeting might be appropriate.

At the meeting, which took place at my kitchen table, I informed Roy of all the silly things that have been going on over at his son’s rental property, and that it was definitely time for the renters to fire up the old Prius, as it were, and head on out.

He amazingly tried to make the case that they were really quite nice, but I finally convinced him to give them notice. We settled on a charitable thirty days’ notice, even though three days were all that was required by law, given the many, many drug arrests that had occurred in the home. We shook on it.

The thirty days would have expired sometime in April, but he texted me later that week to tell me he changed his mind and they could stay until the lease ran out on August 31st.

I texted him back and told him how small claims court works for a landlord operating a nuisance property.

He ignored me.

During the dedicated public servant portion of the barbecue, Mr. Amphetamines-R-Us got popped for felony possession of a weapon while on parole (parole in this case, I’m assuming, meaning the entirety of his twenties and thirties), so he went back to his home away from home.

My first-ever incarceration report search (God bless the internet) turned up the fact that Doctor Now-I-Have-To-Do-Crappy-Jail-Toilet-Meth was scheduled to be in the slammer until after the lease expired, so I let it go.

A For Sale sign went up on the lawn in July, and things were looking promising until Future Eagle Scout Time-Off-For-Good-Behavior came home in mid-August to resume his standard routine of basically living in the front yard and doing absolutely nothing even remotely productive with his life.

I texted Roy. Here’s how that went.

Me: When will they be out?


[August 31st ]


Me, On August 31st: Will your tenants be gone by the end of today?


[They will start moving tomorrow hopefully . but not later than Tuesday

They are moving to my other house, other house’s tenant be out till midnight,so don’t worry PL try to help me find a nice buyer]

September 2nd: [Because holiday,may be we are running behind ( one day)]


Me: So, will they be out by Wednesday?


[Yes sir (OK hand emoji)]

September 4th: [They are moving since last night sir]


Me on September 5th: Your tenants are still at the house tonight.


[They are moving it may take 3 days to finish,sir]


Me on September 10th: It is Sept 10th. Your tenants were supposed to be out on August 31st. They are still in the house, with no signs of being out any time soon. What is your plan to get the felon drug addict who nearly burned your house to the ground out of our neighborhood?


At this point, I received a text from the second number I had, which I thought belonged to the owner, Roy’s son.

[This is Bea. Im Roy's daughter. I cant help but get your texts everyday. Are you renting the house or buying the house on plum? Whats really going on?]


Me: Sorry to have included you on the text string. I thought you were one of the owners. I'm a neighbor with kids, on a street full of people with children. The tenant is a meth addict, a felon, and the definition of a nuisance. He nearly burned down the house one day, which was when I contacted your dad and told him they needed to go. And I am honestly amazed that he didn't come to that decision on his own! This was after the SWAT team raided the house with guns drawn while my kids were playing in the street, and I don't know how many fights on the front lawn between the felon and his drug addict associates. I met with your dad and he told me in person he would evict them in 30 days. He then went back on that and told me they would be allowed to stay until August 31st. It is now Sept 10th. They need to leave this neighborhood, and I need to know an actual day they will be gone. They are wholly unacceptable, and suing your father for running a nuisance property is the only next step. I already made him aware that each affected family can sue for $5000 per person, including children, which adds up to a conservatively estimated $100,000 lawsuit. Time for them to go, now. That's what's really going on.


[First, I d like to thank you for being a concerned neighbor.

Second, if my dad says he will do something. You can mark my words. He is a man of his word.

3rd, My dad raised 3 kids in the same neighborhood. I want you to know things are being taken care of.

I just need to step off the gas pedal a lil bit and know you have been respectfully heard and my family is making it happen.

My dad stays unwell. Please be respectful. Nobody is ignoring you. We are all families in this community

Contact me directly from now on.

The new family thats moving in has their trucks outside being loaded.]


Me: I was not aware your dad was unwell. I will contact you from now on, but hopefully that won't be necessary. What do you mean when you say the new family moving in has trucks outside being loaded? As of this minute, the Plum house is still occupied by the old tenants.


[Again Marc, I want you to know my dad is under doctor's care and is very fragile. He is a good man. You will be taken care of at any cost. Period.

Have faith and some patience. M working on it too from Chicago as well.

You have our utmost respect n attention. I will personally contact you soon.

I m looking out 4 my dad and his health too. I only got 1 old man.

He dont need threats, your request is enough 4 all of us to step in.

My name is Bea. M his oldest kid. I invite you to be patient with serene calm mind. Universe will return the favor in 10 folds.

Namaste! (prayer hand emoji)]


Umm… say what?

Me: I am nice and serene. You didn't answer the question. What do you mean when you say the new family moving in has trucks outside being loaded? Outside where? As of this minute, the Plum house is still occupied by the old tenants.


[We have new tenants moving in very soon. Be patient, be kind. Everytime u look towards the house, inhale love n exhale love. Right now, you may not be perceiving things as they are, rather how you see!

No need to be on pins n needles. Cuz I got chu! Relax.

Your request has been received, approved, accepted, sealed, stamped!]


What in the actual hell is this idiot talking about? Are there three different people on the other end just grabbing the phone to text random crap at me? Can someone throw the phone to an adult?

Me: What actual date on the calendar will your current tenants be gone?


[I will call you tomorrow with that. Im sending my own tenants from my house to shift over there.]


Me: Text me. I like to have things in writing. It brings me peace and harmony.


[Blessings (double pink and red heart emoji)]


They did finally move out, but it took another week. I spent that week wondering if I was perceiving things as they really were, and concentrating on inhaling n exhaling love.

I’m fairly certain I was communicating with Bea’s idiot boyfriend more than half the time during that week, and I’m positive he was inhaling n exhaling something entirely different.


See you soon,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, September 14, 2022

A Brief History of Communications

Many, many years ago, people used to scribble messages and stories on the walls of their caves. That was great, but you had to go to their cave to see what they had to say. That was inconvenient and dangerous, because without advanced notice of the visit, they were likely to kill you when you entered their cave, and there was no way to give advanced notice, because you couldn’t send your own cave wall over ahead of time.

People eventually started scribbling notes on rocks and throwing them to other people, but that was also problematic because of the concussions and rotator cuff injuries associated with the longer/larger messages.

Finally, someone got smart and invented paper, followed closely by the invention of the carrier pigeon. But the pigeons were hard to train and only batted about .500 on delivery because none of the streets were named, and also hawks. There was also a poop-on-the-messages issues until someone figured out the messages should ride of the top of the bird instead of underneath, but the poop-on-the-recipient problem remained, so that program was short-lived.

It wasn’t long before Alexander Graham Bell took credit for a lot of work done by an Italian guy and “invented” the telephone, famously uttering the first words ever to travel across phone lines, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to talk to you about your car’s extended warranty.”

Americans instantly fell in love with the telephone, but within hours of the first network being connected it was rendered completely useless by teenage girls clogging up all the lines.

Then along came World War II and all the teenage girls were sent to work in factories, finally freeing up the phone lines. Radio technology had been progressing side-by-side with the telephone, with Nicola Tesla first demonstrating wireless radio message transfer. He then went on to pioneer the self-driving electric car. The radio was later patented by Gugliemo Marconi who had already made a fortune in cheese-covered pasta.

Radio waves were vital during the war, but there was a problem. The crafty Germans had figured out how to jam our radio signals, rendering our entertainment systems, and possibly more importantly, our torpedo guidance systems, useless. Thankfully, Austrian-born actress Hedy Lamarr had escaped her arms-dealer husband and moved to Hollywood ahead of the war. She went on to star in many, many movies that no one has ever seen, and she was quite famous.

In addition to being smokin’ hot, Hedy was also a genius. During the war, she and a music composer friend took it upon themselves to solve the problem of the Nazis being able to jam our torpedo guidance signals. Those crazy kids invented a radio guidance system that used frequency hopping.

“Frequency hopping?” you ask.

Yes, I don’t know what it is either, but apparently it was later the foundation for the Bluetooth and WiFi technology we know and love. Enjoy your digital device lifestyle? You can thank Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr. I am not making that up. We had to wait nearly five decades for something to come out of Hollywood that was even remotely as impressive, which, of course, was the movie Die Hard.

A few years prior to Hans Gruber falling out of Nakatomi Plaza, Al Gore invented the internet, and along with it, email. I first heard about “electronic mail” when I was in college in the early ‘90s, and I thought it sounded like the stupidest thing I’d ever heard of. Why wouldn’t you just call them, I thought. That is why I’m not a multi-millionaire.

Anyway, radio shows and my beloved phone calls enjoyed a long run of popularity until 2002, when Blackberry introduced the first phone that had a keyboard on it. Sure, the keys were far too small to actually use, but the idea was born. Finally, we could send emails from our phones! I mean, sure, you could use the Blackberry and the iPhones that followed as phones, but you could type on them!

The invention of the smartphone was the turning point in a communications timeline that has come full circle. We used to enjoy writing letters. Then we ditched that practice in favor of telephone calls until our telephones were able to write letters. The long letters known as emails gave way to texting as we grew more and more averse to actual phone calls.

Now, no one likes telephone calls anymore and everyone just writes short, incoherent texts to each other with atrocious grammar, zero punctuation, made-up words, a never-ending array of emojis, and no capital letters whatsoever.

We’re all the way back to basically texting each other cave painting scribbles.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why my wife and my children never answer my calls.

I’ll just leave them a quick voicemail…

See you soon,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Ford versus Chevrrari

This is not by any means a car column, but a great wrong has been perpetrated upon us, along with a great right, and it needs to be discussed.

Growing up, I was a Ford guy. Not necessarily out of any great passion or loyalty toward Fords, it was just that when you were a teenage boy in my day, you were expected to pick a side. Wishy washy on the subject was not an option. My dad had a Ford truck, so I was a Ford guy, and Chevy could suck it.

The two sides of this ridiculous feud had all sorts of fun wordplay to put down the other team. If you were a Chevy guy, Ford stood for Found On Road Dead, or Fix Or Repair Daily. There were many others, most where the F stood for various forms of the “F word,” my personal favorite being F’er Only Rolls Downhill.

Us Ford guys would counter their clever acronyms with one of our own by saying, “I think you meant to say, ‘First On Race Day.’” Take that! Unfortunately, that was the only positive Ford acronym, so then we’d politely ask that if Chevrolet is supposed to be American, why does it have a French name?

Later on, in the early ‘90s when Chevy came out with the “Like a Rock” campaign, we could say, “Yes, like a rock. Found on the side of roads everywhere.” That was about all us Ford guys had. The Chevy guys had a lot more ammo with the long list of Ford acronyms. They were all dumb, but they had a lot of them.

Both sides had their hallmark cool cars. Ford had the Mustang and Chevy had the Camaro and the Corvette. The Camaro was short-lived, but the Mustang and the Corvette lived on. The ‘80s were no good for either brand, especially the Mustang, but to be fair, the ‘80s weren’t good for much of anything.

The Mustang and the Corvette made it through those dark years and stood the test of time. Up until now, that is, which brings us to our discussion here today.

First, let’s talk about the good. The 2022 Corvette is the coolest Corvette ever. They finally got away from the ridiculous twenty-three-foot-long front end and made a race car. It looks like an Italian supercar now. The driver can finally see something other than three acres of hood, and the mid-engine design looks fast as hell. It has two really cool looking air intake holes on the sides behind the doors. I don’t know if they do anything, but they look awesome, and the engine sounds throaty and amazing, without that annoying supercar high-pitched whine. Well done, Chevy.

On the other hand, things have gone terribly awry over at Ford. They have introduced the 2022 Mustang. The only problem is, you have to ask which 2022 Mustang? On the one hand, they’re making the normal gas-powered ones, including the amazingly sweet Shelby Mustangs that make you want to drive 250 miles per hour and outrun the cops while blasting Born to be Wild from the 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system.

On the other hand, they’re making a “Mustang” that is electric, and also an SUV.


How can you take one of the most iconic sportscars in the universe and decide to make two versions of it that look and act nothing alike? That aren’t even the same shape?

Do you want the car Mustang or the large SUV Mustang? Or the boat Mustang. We have one of those two. We also have a Mustang 10-speed bike, an e-bike, a Mustang food truck, and a Mustang Little Rascal grocery store scooter.

What the hell, Ford? Did you guys want to make a different car but you just ran out of names? Mustang was the only thing anyone over there could think of?

Do you see Chevy over here saying hey everyone, check out the new 2022 Suburbans. This one is shaped like a Suburban and seats eight passengers comfortably, with room for everyone’s luggage. This other Suburban seats two and is shaped like a rolling turd. It runs on fairy dust and happy thoughts.

No, you don’t see Chevy doing that, because that would be stupid. Ford, you’ve gone stupid and I’m officially a Chevy guy now.

I need to start saving up for one of those Corvettes! By the way, did you guys know that Ford stands for Factory Ordered Road Disaster?

See you soon,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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