Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Happy New Year?

It’s February 1st today, and I think we should review our standard nationwide protocols when it comes to saying, “Happy New Year.”

As a general rule, you’re pretty safe just shotgunning “Happy New Year” out into the world until the 10th of January or so. With friends and family, you’ve got a much more relaxed timeline, depending on the first time you see or talk to them after New Year’s Eve. A close family member or a really good friend can comfortably receive a HNY well into January.

With work, you’ll want to keep the 10th in mind as a good guideline. Even before the 10th, however, you’ll need to exercise caution in the workplace.

It can be a major business faux pas to wish the same colleague a HNY more than once in the office. Similarly, wishing a client or vendor a HNY for a second time over the phone can lead to awkwardness. You’ll either want to keep a list of all the people you’ve wished a HNY to, or have an earlier cut-off date.

I would suggest the earlier cut-off date, since someone else finding your list can lead to more awkwardness during your embarrassing explanation, or a trip to HR if you refuse to give a plausible one. It makes people nervous when Bob in accounting has an unexplained list of officemates with some of the names crossed off.

Wishing a HNY to the clerk at the grocery store, the person behind the counter at the coffee place, or your server at a restaurant needs to end right around the 4th or so. You might still be in the holiday mood and want to be friendly and wish them a HNY, but they’ve had the HNY exchange six thousand times by then and they’re just done with it, so have a heart and let them off the hook.

If you’re a friendly sort, and like to wish random passersby on the street a HNY, stick with the 10th as your guideline. Anything past that and it’s getting weird. If you want to say HNY at the end of January, it better be to your immediate family members, and even then they’re going to think you’re being weird.

And for the love of Pete, under no circumstances should a HNY come out of your mouth or land in a text or email after January has ended. This is the official, 100%, no wiggle room, cease and desist, cut-off day.

It’s February now. No one wants to hear it. It’s cold, some of us have started our taxes, and pretty soon we all have to figure out what to do about Valentine’s Day.

Happy February,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, January 25, 2023

In the Army Now?

I think my sixteen-year-old son may technically be in the military. Allow me to explain.

A while back, Son Number Two received a nice letter from Kathrine R. Helland, Ph.D., who, as you know, is the Director over at JAMRS.

What’s that? You don’t know what JAMRS is? OK, good, that makes me feel a lot better. I had to Google it, too.

The only other identifying mark on the letter besides the mysterious acronym was a “government seal.” I put that in quotes because it was made up of the standard Great Seal of the United States that you are familiar with – the shielded eagle with the “E pluribus unum” banner in its beak and an olive branch in one claw and spears in the other, signifying that we, as a country, know Latin and are not afraid to harvest fruit trees with weaponry.

Normally the seal is surrounded by the title of whatever department of government is being advertised. This seal looked a little fishy to me, though, because above the eagle it said “U.S. Government” and below the eagle it said “United States of America.”

If it’s not fake, it’s at least poor grammar and style since it essentially says United States twice, but that aside, I don’t think the “government” as a whole has a titled seal. That would simply be the one that only says The United States of America.

Anyway, after I got done grading the letter for official seal accuracy, I looked up the acronym and found out it stands for the Joint Advertising Market Research and Studies, which is a program run by the United States Department of Defense, which as the seal would accurately suggest, is a part of the U.S. Government.

Unfortunately, the Google search of JAMRS didn’t explain how to pronounce the acronym correctly, so I was left not knowing if I should say “jammers,” “jam-res,” “jammer-ess,” or “ja-missus.”

The letter from Dr. Helland asked my son if he wouldn’t mind spending fifteen minutes of his busy schedule to fill out a survey for JAMRS regarding his future plans and his likelihood of joining a branch of the military. This information would “greatly help public officials make more informed decisions when providing and allocating resources.”

Included with the letter was a return envelope and a crisp, new two-dollar bill.

There was no explanation for the money, however the letter did mention that JAMRS had included a “token of their appreciation.” The letter went on to state that if Son Number Two filled out the survey and returned it in the included envelope, there would be a further “token of their appreciation” for his time and efforts.

Son Number Two enjoys having money almost as much as he enjoys spending it, so he filled out the survey and put it in the mail. Sure enough, Dr. Kathrine sent him back a thank you letter with a five-dollar bill this time. Again, there was no mention of the money specifically, only that JAMRS was presenting him with another “token of appreciation.”

Hmm…

Call it what you want to, Doc, but the United States Department of Defense just paid my sixteen-year-old son seven dollars for fifteen minutes of work. To put it another way, the DoD has hired my son to handle paperwork for twenty-eight dollars an hour.

He’s happy as a clam, but I have a follow-up question…

You never specifically mentioned money changing hands, however the “tokens” were specifically said to be included to show appreciation for his time and effort. You’re from the DoD, but your letterhead has a seal that you appear to have made up in your office specifically to look official but not actually say anything about being from the Department of Defense.

This entire thing reeks of plausible deniability, because you know damned well that you are paying minors to do tasks for you, since apparently not including money up front and the promise of more upon task completion wasn’t getting the job done. No responses back means no data for you to blabber at someone, which means no job for you.

I assume that if you lost your sweet government gig, you might have to resort to the dreaded private sector where potential employers might find out your Ph.D. is in Art History. That would be a shame.

So, here’s my follow-up question – Which would you prefer? Would you like me to pursue a legal case against your department for illegal conscription of a minor into military service, or would you prefer to enroll him into the DoD pension benefits program, since he’s retired from active paperwork duty now?

Your choice.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Wisdom Dilemma

Son Number One went to the dentist yesterday for his regular checkup, and his dentist presented me with a dilemma. She took wrap-around x-rays of his face and showed us how at least one of his wisdom teeth was coming in at an angle. She said he would need to get them removed.

OK, no problem. That’s normal for an eighteen-year-old, even though they are misnamed. I don’t know why they call them that, but eighteen-year-olds, while legally adults, are just about the furthest thing from wise.

But anyway, the decision to take them out was not the dilemma. Getting them out of there – especially with a couple growing in like shark teeth – is a no-brainer. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let some useless, late-to-the-party molars screw up all the pretty orthodonture that cost us, if my math is correct, roughly sixty thousand dollars per tooth.

The dilemma came when the dentist presented us with two options for extraction. Option 1 was the oral surgeon who would put him under for the procedure. Option 2 was an associate dentist that does extractions, but just with really good local anesthesia so you’re not fully out.

She told us that Option 2 was about half the price of Option 1, and Son Number One said no problem, that he didn’t need to be knocked out for it. Hence my dilemma.

On the one hand, we have Option 2 that our dentist recommended, my son is on board with, and will save us a ton of money on the procedure.

On the other hand, if we go with Option 2, I will miss out on the chance to film my son on the car ride home from the oral surgeon, all drugged up and saying all kinds of crazy stuff.

You see my dilemma now.

I mean, let’s be serious, he’s eighteen. He’s almost guaranteed to say something really stupid and funny. This could be my one big viral video opportunity that launches me to TikTok fame and fortune. I will obviously need to get TikTok and learn how to use it first, but that shouldn’t be a problem. We have a teenage boys. They can teach me.

I’m really torn. Option 2 saves us a whole bunch of money. Option 1, however, will no doubt make us millions of dollars from the funny video, presumably offsetting much of the extra cost associated with it.

I personally know exactly which way to go. That’s not the problem. My dilemma is how to convince my wife to go with Option 1 and the resulting inevitable TikTok fame. She’s being very negative and unreasonable about the whole thing.

If one of you could talk to her for me, that would be great.

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Potato Soup for Justice

One thing I’m going to miss about 2022 is people gluing themselves to floors and walls. I really hope they continue that trend in 2023.

There were multiple reports in October of 2022 about young protesters bravely trading their freedom for the once in a lifetime opportunity to hurl a side dish at a famous painting.

Two enthusiastic environmentalists in Germany threw mashed potatoes on the glass-covered Monet, “Grainstacks,” worth over $100 million. They then glued their hands to the wall under the now slightly tastier piece of art.

Earlier in the year, folks from the elegantly simple solution group Just Stop Oil threw tomato soup on Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” at the National Gallery in London. Then they glued their hands to the wall under the painting, tragically getting tomato soup dripped on them for minutes until someone with a solvent could get there.

The same type of hijinks happened in a number of other places, notably England, Italy, and Germany, with zealous young climate troopers gluing themselves to or near famous works of art, including one sculpture at the Vatican. The Pope responded with an official church statement, saying, “Meh. I never really liked that sculpture much anyway. Keep them glued to it. Might increase traffic to the gift shop.”

The message attempting to be relayed by the protestors, besides the excellent adhesion properties between super glue and human skin, seems to be something to do with the climate and the assertion that we’re hurting it. Although, they don’t seem to have one clear voice, and sometimes the message can get a little garbled, as with Phoebe from Just Stop Oil.

“What is worth more, art or life?” asked Phoebe, while glued to the wall under a Van Gogh with her best buddy, Anna. “Is it worth more than food? More than justice? Are you more concerned about the protection of a painting or the protection of our planet and people?”

No one is sure what Vincent Van Gogh did to harm the planet. He did cut off and presumably dispose of one of his ears, but ears are naturally organic and compostable, so…?

A Just Stop Oil spokesperson attempted to explain the reason for the impromptu soup and glue gallery installation. “The cost of living crisis is part of the cost of oil crisis. Fuel is unaffordable to millions of cold, hungry families. They can’t even afford to heat a tin of soup.”

OK, I hear you, but Just Stopping Oil doesn’t seem like the solution to lowering soup heating costs. It honestly sounds more like you’re organization should be named “Just Produce More Oil So The Cost Goes Down Naturally Due To The Laws Of Supply And Demand, but I guess that might not align with what you think you stand for. Also, it would be harder to fit on the T-shirts.

But never mind all the confused messaging. My favorite glue-yourself-to-something-in-protest story of 2022 was the Volkswagon protesters in Germany. It highlights beautifully how entitled our younger generations have become, although many of the Volkswagon protestors looked definitely old enough to know better.

Six members of the group Scientist Rebellion glued their hands to the floor of an auto dealership adjacent to the Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg, Germany. The dealership/museum, called the Autostadt, (which literally translated means “stuck to the floor of my car”) was taken over by the plucky protestors who valiantly made their point that Porsche is an insanely overrated brand driven almost exclusively by pompous windbags. The Scientist Rebellion was really driving their point home (see what I did there?) right up until it was time to shut the Autostadt down for the evening.

The Autostadt employees – God bless each and every one of them – announced to the rebellious science guys that while they respected their right to protest and glue themselves to floors and stuff, it was time to call it a day. The staff then killed the lights, shut off the heat, locked up, and headed home for dinner.

Now, you would think that a group of scientists, being men of science and whatnot, would have been able to think ahead a tad, but apparently not. Science apparently didn’t even prepare them for what glue does.

Team Science had no plan for staying the night. No plan for getting chilly. No plan for potty breaks. No plan for food. Basically, no plan at all. So, what did this six-man brain trust of pure scientific brilliance do?

They complained on the internet.

Six grown men who glued themselves to the floor of a building they don’t own actually complained to the world that the mean guys at Volskwagon left them alone in the dark without a potty. And that they weren’t even letting them call GrubHub to get some food delivered. And also, presumably, that the big jerks didn’t care as much as they should have about their science protest.

I mean, come on, fellas! That is comedy gold. By all means, please keep gluing yourselves to things. These are the feel-good news stories we need right now amid high gas and food prices and rising inflation.

But a word of advice – as you’re packing up your tomato soup and your super glue for your next big protest adventure, you might want to also bring along enough common sense to know that if you glue yourself to an immovable object, you might be stuck there a while.

Plan accordingly.

And keep on rockin’ in the free world, baby!

See you soon,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen

 

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Wednesday, January 4, 2023

About the Author, 2023

Here at Just a Smidge, we like to start the new year off with a little meet and greet, since we continue to gain new readership each and every year. So, for both of you joining us, welcome! Let’s get to know each other, shall we?

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

I am a fifty-year-old husband of one, father of three, and legal custodian of one Labrador retriever. We affectionately refer to our boys as Son Number One, Two, and Three. They are all teenagers, and one of them just became an adult, but he hasn’t left yet. They are loud, smelly, and expensive, but the state says we have to keep feeding them, so we march on.

My wife is an amazing woman who teaches math to teenage high school kids, and, since we have three teenagers ourselves whom I spend quite a bit of time with, I am constantly amazed that she is able to maintain her sanity. (I am using “sanity” on a relative scale here. She’s human, after all.)

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 would be aging incredibly well if I were ten to fifteen years older.

2) My grandfather killed General Patton's dog. That is the single most historically significant thing anyone in my family has done.

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 distantly related to U.S. president Grover Cleveland on my maternal grandmother’s side, whose husband (my grandmother’s, not Grover Cleveland’s) - I believe I may have mentioned this - killed General George S. Patton’s beloved English bull terrier, Willie.

5) Dave Barry is my humor column hero, and I hope to be as cool as him someday, although his grandfather wasn’t connected in any way to General Patton’s dog, as far as I know, so I’ve got that going for me.

6) Toilet paper should come off the top of the roll. I’m not stating that as a personal preference, but simply as a fact.

7) We currently have four drivers and five cars. Our three-car garage only fits one. If garage-driveway-street vehicle shuffling was an Olympic event, I’d be a medal contender.

8) 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. (That’s 57 miles, for you English majors). I could not swim more than 57 yards today without needing a floatation device, an oxygen tank, and a defibrillator. See number 11.

11) I love chocolate and bacon. 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) After a twenty-one-year hiatus, I began snowboarding again two years ago with our boys. So far [sound of me knocking on every wooden surface I can find] I have not hurt myself. This could be my most impressive athletic feat to date, and I once swam 57 miles in a week.

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 once pointed out that Van Gogh’s “girlfriend” was actually a prostitute during a fifth-grade art docent lesson. It was not helpful to anyone involved.

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) I hope to one day be in charge of detonating something as large as a dead whale, but so far, my wife has not let me.

20) I only type with three of my ten fingers, so this is all very impressive, if you stop and think about it.

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,

-Smidge

 

Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen

 

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