Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Apply Now for Your Mandatory Heart Attack

I recently filled out the FAFSA form online for Son Number Two. If you are unfamiliar, the FAFSA is a form that high school seniors used to fill out if they were interested in going to college and looking for financial aid. “FAFSA” stands for “you won’t ever see any oF this money if one of your parents has A job, even iF that job iS burger flipper at mcdonAld’s.” (Usually the federal government is a little better with acronyms, but apparently not in this case.)

I said high school seniors used to fill it out because now they have to fill it out. Last year it became mandatory for all California high school seniors, regardless of their after-high school plans, to fill out the FAFSA. The reasoning was said to be that not enough kids and their families understood how much free federal grant money was available for college, so they should all fill out the FAFSA so that the government could tell each of them in person that they didn’t qualify for any of it.

I happen to believe they have another, far more sinister motive behind the move to make it mandatory. I’m convinced they are trying to thin the population in the Golden State by killing us parents off. I know this because they nearly got me this year.

I know damned well that we won’t qualify for any grants, and I am not interested in any of those student loans unless we’re back to not having to pay them off, then I’m very interested! I lost track of the student loan ping-pong match the government was having, so I just stopped paying attention. Therefore, I had no reason to fill out the FAFSA for Son Number Two, but we had to anyway.

I begrudgingly logged into the FAFSA website and went through the motions. The main way the FAFSA people decide that you won’t get any free money is with your federal tax return. Instead of having to manually enter all the information, there is a button that says, “Get my information directly from the IRS.” When you hit that button, it takes you through a few steps to verify that you are who you say you are, but when you’re done, it just pulls all the information into the form. It really beats hand-entering everything. Once the tax return data is in, the FAFSA supercomputer goes to work on the complex formula of: IF Form 1040 Line 15 (Taxable Income) is greater than $0.00, THEN Grant Eligibility equals NO.

The formula is woefully flawed, because it does not take into account number of teenage boys at home, total calories consumed by those teenage boys per week, number of teenage drivers in the household and the impact that has on the auto insurance bill, gas prices, food prices in dollars per calorie, the ridiculous cost of high school sports equipment, etc.

Since I already knew what the flawed formula was going to return, once I finished with the form and the FAFSA website told me I was all done, I promptly forgot about the whole thing and went about my life.

There I am, blissfully enjoying my life a week later when I get a letter in the mail from the IRS. As you know, getting an unsolicited letter from the IRS is never a good thing. When you get an email or a text from the “IRS,” it’s just an annoying spammy part of modern life that we all have to deal with. But the IRS actually communicates with you via the snail mail, and when you are holding a letter that was actually sent from the IRS, you know good and well that it’s legitimate.

So, there I am, no longer blissfully enjoying my life, standing on the sidewalk staring at this letter with a whirlwind of possible worst-case scenarios going through my mind. Am I being audited? Did they decide I owe them more money? How much time and money out of my life is this one envelope going to cost me? I don’t have enough of either.

I bit the bullet and the rising bile, trying my best to ignore my medically-concerning heart rhythm and rate, and opened the envelope.

Our records indicate that your tax return information was accessed by the FAFSA system… If this information sharing was authorized by you, no action is required…

OH MY GOD, the FAFSA! I forgot all about that!

Yes, I guess no action is required by me except to find a defibrillator and try to restart my heart.

I’m telling you, this whole mandatory FAFSA thing is a deliberate plot by California to weed out the high school parents with weak hearts. They know the power of the IRS, and they are exploiting it to kill us off. I haven’t figured out why yet… Maybe something to do with the rising cost of health care? I guess that remains to be seen. I’m just glad I lived through it this time.

Be careful out there, folks! If you have a high school senior, best to let them retrieve and open all the mail between October and June. They still have strong hearts.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Ask Smidge - The Turkey Edition - Repost

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and if you’re like most of our Ask Smidge readers, you’re just now trying to figure out what to do. That big, fancy meal isn’t going to cook itself, and you have no idea what you’re doing. It’s a scary situation.

Believe me, we understand. Many of you know nothing about cooking anything other than Pop-Tarts and Cheerios, so naturally you have turned to the only truly trusted source for all things culinary – the Ask Smidge advice column.

Our inbox has been inundated with poultry-related questions. You ask, we answer! (As always in a fact-based, scientific, and completely non-made-up-on-the-spot manner. We’re here to help, after all.)




I know absolutely nothing about cooking a turkey. What temperature do I use and how long should I cook it?

Novice in Norfolk


Dear Novice,

There is nothing to it. First you have to weigh the bird. Do this while it is still alive, so you can just walk it onto your bathroom scale. Once you remove the feathers and the feet, you’ll cook the bird on high-ish for around 90 minutes per pound. Carve and enjoy.





This is my first time doing anything at all with a turkey. We bought a frozen one at the store this week. Do I need to thaw it before cooking?

Frozen in Fort Worth


Dear Frozen,

Thawing is a personal choice. A thawed bird will be slightly juicier, but a frozen turkey will have a crispier skin. If you put it in the oven frozen, simply add five or so minutes per pound to your cook time.





I have never purchased or cooked the turkey before, and I don’t know what size to get. Do they even come in different sizes? We have three teenage boys and my sister has two teenage girls and a grown son. Please help.

Shopping in Santa Barbara


Dear Shopping,

Yes, turkeys do come in various sizes. Economy, Compact, Standard, Midsize Convertible, Full Size SUV, and Luxury Elite Platinum. You probably want to plan for about ten pounds of bird for every high schooler, so I’d look for one at your store in the 70-80 pound range to be safe.





I’ve helped with the turkey before, but I’ve never been in charge of the stuffing, and I’m lost. Where do I start?

Breadless in Bangor


Dear Breadless,

Stuffing could not be simpler, because the turkey does all the work. Stuffing is nothing more than full-size dinner rolls that cooked down inside the bird. As the turkey cooks, the rolls break apart naturally and form into the smaller stuffing pieces that you know and love. Just buy a couple extra packages of dinner rolls and cram as many of them as you can into that bad boy before you pop it in the oven. The turkey does the rest!





I’m in charge of everything this year, and I don’t know anything about how to make gravy. Do you even make it, or do you buy it? Help!

Dry Dinner in Denver


Dear Dry Dinner,

As with stuffing, gravy is a breeze because the bird does all the work. Gravy is not sold in stores, because it is a natural byproduct of the turkey cooking process. All turkeys are fed a rich diet of corn starch, flour, and butter from a young age, so as they cook, the carcass secretes the ready-to-eat gravy. Yum! That’s why you always cook a turkey in one of those big pans. Makes sense, right? Enjoy!





I’m cooking the bird for the first time this year, so I’m thinking about switching it up and deep frying it in oil. What do you think?

Oiled in Omaha


Dear Oiled,

Deep frying a turkey can be a great option, depending on where you live. You’re in Nebraska, where it’s likely to be cold this Thanksgiving, so I’d say go for it. If you were in a warmer climate, I would probably advise against it. That’s because there is a 100% chance that you will set your house on fire when attempting a turkey deep fry. You folks in the frigid Midwest will enjoy the extra warmth, while the raging grease fire would just be an inconvenient distraction for people in Florida and California, really adding no benefit to the day.



Well, there you have it, America. You’re all set to cook the perfect turkey and have an enjoyable day, with or without a life-threatening house fire. Your choice.

Have a tasty Thanksgiving!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Place Your Holiday Orders Carefully

I am obviously being punished by the Ghost of Thanksgiving’s Past. That’s probably a thing, right? I’m envisioning a spectral pilgrim in tattered clothes and chains, but still rocking the super-cool buckle hat.

Anyway, whatever he looks like, he’s a jerk, and I have incurred his wrath.

And dammit, I knew better.

Every year my wife wants to start decorating for Christmas in October, and every year I hold firm that we must give each holiday its fair and proper time. Halloween gets from August to October 31st, then Thanksgiving gets from November 1st until whatever date Thanksgiving is that year, and then promptly on Black Friday, we can tear down all the turkeys and orange and brown fall décor and go full-throttle jingle bells.

I have held firm for years and years, but this year I gave in. She wore me down. She kept coming at me, day in and day out since before the jack-o’-lanterns even got carved – “I’ve got no time this year. I have to decorate for Christmas early. We’re traveling for Thanksgiving, and I’ll only have seven minutes from when we get home until I have to be back at school. I won’t have any time once I’m back in the classroom, and I can’t trust any of you bozos to do it right.”

True story, there.

I’m not sure if I eventually agreed with her timeline dilemma, if I decided I needed to be more flexible, or if I just didn’t want to hear about it anymore, but I gave in.

And this weekend, I paid the price.

Decorating our house for Christmas starts with me going into the garage and getting approximately sixty-five hundred storage tubs down from the overhead racks. I had Son Number Three with me, and we had about half of them down on the garage floor when I felt the icy hand of the pilgrim ghost grab my lower back muscles and twist.

I wasn’t aware the pilgrims had electricity, but somehow that buckle-hatted SOB shot a 240-volt shock of “oh crap” through my lumbar. What a jerk.

I was one of the biggest defenders of his sacred, eating contest of a holiday, and I had betrayed him. He did not take it lightly. My back is really not great right now.

I mean, I get it. He relied on me, and in his eyes, I let him down. But give me a break, Mayflower man! Take it easy. Try to see my point of view here. I’m starting to think you were one of the pilgrims that was never married…

Meanwhile my wife forged ahead with decorating for Christmas in mid-November, even as I lay on the heating pad begging her to not rile the Thanksgiving ghost any more than we already had. She just scoffed and called me crazy.

And get this – she even tried to blame my back injury on me just getting old and out of shape. Can you believe that nonsense?

She’s right about one thing. I have gotten soft. I let her talk me into early Christmas decorating, and look where that got me.

All I want for Christmas this year is more Advil. Stupid vengeful pilgrim ghost!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Plug-In Cat Juice

My wife and I saw an ad on TV the other night and we both had the same reaction – Why the hell are we seeing commercials? I thought we were done with all that!

Then we remembered that we’re too cheap to pay for the no-ads version of some of our streaming apps, so we just sat and endured it. They make it so you can’t fast-forward them, and if you try to skip over the ads, they just play anyway, so you’re kind of stuck. At least you can still mute them.

It’s an interesting place advertisers find themselves in with streaming services, now that anyone can just pay more to never see their ads. They don’t get any of that extra money, so you’d think they would be at a place in the history of their business where they would be going all out. Knocking it out of the park. Creating ads so interesting, exciting, hilarious, or shocking that I would not be able to take my eyes off them, and there would be no thought of hitting the mute button.

Not the case. In fact, they’ve gone the other way. I guess they’re putting all their ad dollars into TikTok now, because the TV ads on streaming services are starting to look like they were shot on someone’s phone with a budget of six dollars and a happy meal.

There’s one ad we get for an appliance store, and I swear it has to be meant as a gag. The “actors” appear as if they were chosen by simply going to a Walmart blindfolded with your arms outstretched, and using the first two people who voluntarily hugged you. The husband in the kitchen appliance-needing couple has so much neck hair protruding from the back of his shirt collar that I originally thought it was a crappy remake of Teen Wolf. Middle-Aged Wolf Den Remodel. Sadly, no.

And occasionally we get ads that are in Spanish. The whole ad. In a foreign language. You guys obviously know the show we’re watching is in English. I don’t even have Spanish subtitles turned on. I don’t get it. Why on Earth would you advertise to me in a way where I can’t understand what you’re saying? That’s just plain dumb. Save your money and put those on Telemundo, amigo.

With all the crap out there, there was one ad recently that caught my attention and made me come off mute. The lady took what appeared to be one of those Glade PlugIns air fresheners things and (appropriately) plugged it in to her wall outlet. Then the imaginary cartoon fresh smell waves wafted over into her cat’s nostrils, and it became clear that this was some contraption meant for her cat, and not to mask the fact that she feeds her cat nasty three-day-old fish.

I unmuted in time to hear that this was an ad for a “feline calming diffuser.” I’m sorry, a what now? Upon further internet investigation, it turns out there are Glade-like plug in things that pump out cat pheromones into your home. I don’t think I have ever wanted anything wafting through my home less than cat pheromones.

The cat calming juice apparently “mimics cat’s natural facial pheromones they mark their territory with, when they feel safe, secure, and in control of their environment, which may help your pet feel calmer in common stressful situations.”


What could a house cat possibly have to be stressed about? They are the laziest animals on planet Earth. They do nothing. Cats are naturally good at one thing – hunting and killing rodents – but house cat owners seem to hate it when they do that. We’ve absolved them of all responsibilities. Suburban cats are like spoiled rich kids. Spoiled rich kids aren’t stressed about anything. Why would your cat be?

The 110-volt pheromone pump is said to reduce scratching of furniture and urine spraying.


Do you know what else reduces furniture destruction and flying urine, and doesn’t involve pumping cat juice into the air in your home? Not having a cat, that’s what.

I’m just sayin’.

Now, what I really need to know is if they have some sort of diffuser to calm a Labrador retriever when the garbage truck comes on Wednesdays? That would be useful. Dogs really object when the huge smelly truck comes to steal their hard-earned garbage.

On second thought, probably not a great idea. To calm down a 70-pound Lab in that situation, the diffuser would basically need to be a fog machine of chloroform.

That seems problematic.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Ask Smidge – Daylight Savings Time

Many of us are about to once again engage in a twice-yearly tradition that can only be described as utterly insane. We are going to “fall back,” and move all our clocks back an hour on Saturday night. Or should I say, most of our clocks. A few states don’t do it at all, and for those of us that do, let’s be serious about that sprinkler timer in the garage. You have never changed that one.

Anyway, the inbox has been overflowing with time change-related questions, and as always, we have answers.




I heard the federal government was passing a law getting rid of the stupid clock changes. When does that happen?

Hopeful in Hartford


Dear Hopeful,

You may have heard that, but you were tragically misinformed. The “Sunshine Protection Act” was introduced in 2022, but has been stalled ever since. Seems no one could agree on whether to keep standard time or go to permanent daylight savings time. You see, government officials are, by nature, complete morons, as evidenced by the name of the bill. They no doubt believe that passing this law will actually affect how much sunlight is in one day. The weight of that responsibility is too much for their tiny brains and they are frozen in fear. It will never happen. You can hold your breath if you want, but while you’re at it, you should also officially abandon all hope.





I can never figure out how to change the clock in my car. What should I do?

Confused in Concord


Dear Confused,

Don’t sweat it. About half of the cars built before 2018 don’t even have the ability to set the clocks. You just get what you get. You can always disconnect your car battery and then reconnect it right at noon or midnight, but that’s a big hassle. Your best bet is to pretend your car is simply in a different time zone than you are. So, for half the year you would just know that even though you’re on eastern time, the interior of your car is on central time, and do the math in your head accordingly. As a bonus, you’ll always have a plausible excuse for why you were two hours late for work. “Sorry boss, converted the wrong direction this morning. My bad.”





How did Daylight Savings Time even happen? I heard Benjamin Franklin invented it. Is that true?

Amazed in Anaheim


Dear Amazed,

No, Benjamin Franklin did not invent Daylight Savings Time. He was actually intelligent. That story has been going around for years because he wrote about it, in jest, in an essay in 1784. He didn’t even suggest changing the clocks. He was writing a letter to the editor in a Paris newspaper, and he was joking that the French could save money on candles if they just got out of bed earlier. He was right. Also, humor wasn’t as funny in the 1700s.

No, we have a New Zealand bug scientist to thank for the idea of changing the clocks – he wanted “more daylight” to search for bugs (I’m not making that up), and like the French, couldn’t figure out the “just get your ass out of bed earlier” life hack. And, of course, we have the Nazis to thank for actually putting the clock changes into practice during World War One. Technically, they weren’t the Nazis yet, but same difference. Classic Nazi move.





How come some states do DST and other don’t?

Curious in Cleveland


Dear Curious,

I wish I knew! By law in the United States, it is up to the states to decide if they want to change their clocks or not. While many states are smart and don’t do it, and I’m usually a fan of extremely limited federal government powers, in this case I do not agree. It should be all or nothing. Here’s why: We already have time zones, which although obviously necessary, are still confusing. Just think about those poor people who live and work near the time zone line. If you lived right on the line, how would you ever know store hours, or what time practice starts. How would you ever plan anything?

“I’ll see you at three o’clock.”

“Which three o’clock?”

What if you lived in one time zone and worked in another? That’s my idea of what hell would be like. So, why have we allowed individual states to further complicate things by not changing their clocks when the rest of us have to? It’s absolute madness.





I use my phone as my alarm, but I always lose sleep on these crazy time change nights. I know my phone will adjust the time change automatically, but I always end up waking up ten times in the night to check my alarm. How does it know to adjust my alarm?

Tired in Tampa


Dear Tired,

Phones have tracking software now that recognize your normal everyday patterns and adjust their settings accordingly. That’s why the maps program always knows exactly where you want to go, and when you get there. It’s spooky, but also handy.




Well, there you have it, folks. All the answers to your vital DST questions. You’re welcome. (Please keep in mind, Ask Smidge always has answers to your burning questions, but we never said they were good ones.)

Don’t forget to “fall back” on Saturday. Unless, of course, you’re in your car or one of the good states.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, October 25, 2023

DMV'd Again

Son Number Three turned fifteen and a half the other day. You parents of teenagers know what that means.

That’s right. A lot of attitude. Oh, and also I’m back to dealing with the DMV again. And once again, to no one’s surprise – especially not my wife – the DMV has raised my ire. I don’t even really know what that means, but I know they’ve done it.

At fifteen and a half, your teenager becomes eligible to take the written test to get their learner’s permit. Unlike his oldest brother, Son Number One, Number Three is interested in getting his driver’s license the old-fashioned way. Meaning, as soon as he possibly can. We honestly couldn’t figure out what was up with Number One’s lack of interest in getting his license, but at least he embraced it once he got it – about six months after he was eligible.

It was hard to fathom at the time, because you are unable to find anyone my age who was not at the DMV literally on their sixteenth birthday, car keys in hand, ready to take the behind-the-wheel test and gain an unfathomable amount of freedom. I blame the internet for this generation’s wishy-washiness about driving.

At least some of them are wishy-washy about it. But like I said, Son Number Three wants to get his license on his sixteenth birthday, which brings me to the source of my most recent DMV ire. You see, you are not allowed to take the learner’s permit written test until you are fifteen and a half. But I was not about to chance it and schedule his test for exactly six months from his birthday.

This is my third rodeo with teenage driver licensing. I have been in the middle of some incredibly questionable DMV rules, regulations, and decisions, like the time they told me our certified copy of a birth certificate was not a certified-enough copy because the raised bumpy parts of the official seal weren’t raised and bumpy enough. They were raised and bumpy, but not quite enough…

So, I was not about to get stopped by any insane DMV math about how the fifteen and a half rule takes into account the leap year, or depends not only on the day of birth, but also the time of birth, which can be found on a bumpy-enough certified copy of the birth certificate. No sir. I know the deal. I scheduled our appointment six months and one day from his fifteenth birthday.

And since this is my third rodeo, we breezed through the paperwork portion of the appointment, where the bumpy-enough birth certificate copy showed that a boy was born who has the same name as a boy who owns a passport with a picture that could be literally any blond kid from five years ago, and a man whose name is on the same birth certificate, listed as the father, lives in California, based on a matching name on a property tax bill, a life insurance policy, and a credit card statement. Easy peasy.

Son Number Three then aced the eye test, took a pretty handsome driver’s license photo, and moved on to the written (computer) test. I then became engrossed in two simultaneous conversations. One with the DMV computer test lady and the interpreter for a Russian man who needed to take the same test that Number Three was taking. Since the guy needing to take the test also needed an interpreter, I was pretty sure I knew how that was going to go.

The second conversation was between a DMV window employee near my chair and a man who was doing his best to explain as vaguely as possible how he had changed his name from a real name to a nickname because his cousin had the same name, or the same  nickname, and it was confusing for the family, or inconvenient for him, or both, so he changed his name and now his name doesn’t match a lot of the paperwork in his life. Presumably the DMV paperwork.

Before I could learn how great things were going to go for him, I looked over to see Son Number Three finished and standing at the counter again. He was done earlier than I thought he should be, and he wasn’t smiling, so I had a momentary PTSD flashback to the time Son Number Two forgot to actually study for this same test and made me come back to the DMV against my will seven days later to try again.

Thankfully, it turned out Number Three had passed – aced it, as he claims – and the lady at the counter was giving him his learner’s permit. Then she said the thing that raised my ire.

She said, “He passed the test, so you can schedule his behind-the-wheel test six months and a day from today.”

I clarified. “Six months and a day?”

“Yes,” she confirmed, “six months from tomorrow’s date.”

I said OK, and thank you. But I didn’t really mean it.

You see, even if we had rolled the big fuzzy DMV car dice and been there one day earlier – the day he actually turned fifteen and a half – the DMV still makes it mathematically impossible to get your driver’s license on your actual sixteenth birthday.

The best you can hope for is the day after you turn sixteen. Even on a leap year. That is lame. They took away a time-honored American teenage driver’s birthright.

Once again, the DMV has figured out how to make everything suck just a little more.

On the bright side, I should only have to go deal with the teenage driver DMV appointment experience one last time. Assuming Number Three can keep it between the lines on the behind-the-wheel test.

Hmm… I’ve known him for a while, now… I think I’ll plan on two more visits, just to be safe, and then hope to be pleasantly surprised.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Good Apps and Bad Apps

Technology is an amazing and scary thing.

I just read a really good insight that I now can’t find anymore, because I saw it when I was mindlessly scrolling through one of the social media apps, and the act of years of mindlessly scrolling through social media apps has reduced my attention span and retentive memory to that of a hamster.

So, I will paraphrase and apologize in advance to the person responsible for this pearl of wisdom if I get the ages and exact wording wrong. It went something like this:

Any new technology invented before you were born until age 18 is just normal and how the world works. Anything invented from age 19 to 45 is an amazing new life-changing breakthrough. And any new tech inventions from age 45 until your death all go against the natural order of things and will surely contribute to the downfall of our society.

I’m 51, so I think you know where I stand on the new stuff. Actually, I think I do OK for the most part, but I am convinced that ChatGPT is 100% going to be the end of us.

There are plenty of examples of good, useful apps out there, and I still embrace them. And there are maybe just as many examples of apps that never should have been made in the first place and will surely bring on the end of times. Those are all the ones the teenagers use.

One good example of how I am embracing technology in my advanced years is the Sam’s Club Scan & Go app. I just used it again this morning, and it is a game changer. You just use your phone to scan the barcodes of everything that goes into your cart. You can easily change the quantities, so you only have to scan one of the six packs of bacon crumbles you are buying, as a real-life recent example.

As you make your way through the poor man’s Costco, the app keeps a handy running dollar total of your purchases, so you can easily see how much longer you’ll have to work before retirement. But let’s face it – the number is meaningless because you’re buying six bags of bacon crumbles, for goodness sake. You’ll never live long enough to retire.

Once you are done shopping – signified by a very large three-digit number at the top of the screen and no more room in your giant, oversized cart for anything else – you just hit the Checkout button, and head for the door. A nice person near the exit scans a barcode on your app then scans a couple of items in your cart to make sure your large three-digit number shouldn’t be larger, and they wish you a nice rest of your day.

Checkout lines are for chumps.

Scan & Go is an excellent example of a good app.

Do you know what isn’t a good app? The one that a business I have visited in the past just emailed me about.

Right there at the top of my inbox the other day was the subject line, “Donate Using Our App and You Could Win Big!”

My first thought: Umm… say what? This is a very bad idea.

Why, you ask? The company encouraging me to donate using their app was Vitalant. (Formerly, BloodSource).

I am by no means an expert, but donating blood is really a situation where I think you need hands-on professionals involved in a controlled setting.

Donating with an app seems insanely problematic.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Umchina, That Guy is Good

I have an Amazing Facts desk calendar, and I have to tell you, a lot of the times the facts are slightly less than “Amazing.”

For instance, today I learned how many times some actor named Max Schreck blinked in the nine minutes he was on screen in a 1922 movie. It was once.

Earlier this week I learned that badgers have helped make a number of important archeological discoveries, none of which I cared about.

I even learned how much genuine yak hair the Broadway run of Cats went through making wigs in the eighteen-year span of the musical. It was 3,247 pounds. Not only did I not care at all about that statistic, but I also reacted poorly to it on a personal level since my mom made me go see an off-off-off-Broadway (Sacramento, CA) production of Cats when I was young, and I still haven’t recovered from how much I disliked it.

I’m not going to lie to you. This calendar is not great. It’s not even very good. But I stick with it each day, just hoping for that odd gem that might make learning about yak wigs at the world’s worst musical all worth it. Well, on Wednesday, September 27th my perseverance paid off.

On that fateful day I was treated to one of the funniest things I’ve learned in a long time. And after I got done laughing, my heart immediately went out to all the young Korean men out there.

Here’s the “Amazing Fact:”


Umchina, a Korean term meaning “mom’s friend’s son,” is used to describe a person who’s better at everything than you are.


How prevalent moms shaming their kids for lack of achievement must be in Korean society to have a one-word term for it. Wow! Nice job, Korean moms. Maybe take it down a few notches, huh?

I’d be willing to bet that even if the term wasn’t invented to be spitefully humorous, that’s at least how it’s used by today’s Korean youth. At least I hope so.

“I’ve got no chance on this test. Mr. Umchina in the front row is going to blow the curve for all of us.”

“How’d the game go, honey?”

“Not great. Their starting lineup was Umchina city.”

When I told one of my buddies about this fabulous new word I discovered, he asked what the Korean term for “wife’s friend’s husband” was. Now that’s one we need to know!

I hear about him all the time. That guy is good!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

The Difference in College, Part II

As I found out recently when Son Number One went off to his freshman year of college, the university experience has changed a tad in the last thirty years. He’s got co-ed dorms, real restaurant chains on campus that accept his meal plan card, a new iPad included with tuition, and food trucks at the football games. It’s insane.

I was already jealous enough, but then he joined the Winter Sports Club. Do you know who didn’t have access to a Winter Sports Club in college? Me, that’s who! Now granted, he’s going to college at the base of the Sierra Nevadas and I went to college at the beach in central California, but still, it’s obviously unfair.

His two younger brothers and I upgraded our season passes this year, since our budget opened up a bit when our fourth snowboarder went off to college. We were feeling pretty smug, thinking we’d be ripping it up at the fabulous Sugar Bowl while he was relegated to the slightly lesser Mt. Rose in Nevada.

But then he went and joined the Winter Sports Club, and do you know what they did? They figured out how to wrangle a discounted price on the IKON pass. The IKON pass, people!

For those of you non-winter sports club kinda folks, the IKON pass is one of a few relatively newish passes that gives you access to a bunch of different ski resorts instead of just one.

The IKON pass gives you unlimited access to fourteen different resorts across the U.S. and Canada, and up to five days access to a bunch more. Even a handful of way-more-international-than-Canada resorts.

So, while his brothers and I will be forced to go to one place all winter, he will have unlimited access to: (Sorry in advance about the all caps. I copied the list off the IKON website and I’m far too lazy to re-type it all.)















Now, I doubt he’s going to make a road trip to Sugarbush or Tremblant, but the Colorado Rockies aren’t 100% out of the question for some motivated college kids who are willing to skip a lot of classes.

But all that is irrelevant when you read the one on the list that really matters – Palisades Tahoe. They changed the name to Palisades a while back, but you might know it better by its old name - Squaw Valley. He gets to go to Squaw Valley. Squaw! He’s only about 45 minutes away. They held the Olympic Games there, for goodness sake.

And do you know what really frosts my fanny about this whole thing? The price he paid. The IKON pass is expensive, and for good reason. But they have a young adult discount if you’re under twenty-three. Then on top of that they have a college student discount. And then on top of that, the Winter Sports Club somehow managed to get a major discount on top of those as well.

His IKON pass was less than I paid for his fifteen-year-old brother’s pass at Sugar Bowl!

College is ridiculous!

To make matters even more frosting for me, the pass also entitles him to up to five days at these world-class resorts:





































I mean, I don’t know anything about it, but how fun does Dolomiti Superski in Italy sound? Am I right? And I don't even know where Andorra is, but I know I want to shred the Grandvalira! If I was him, I’d take my second semester of college off and hitchhike with my snowboard. Just sayin’.

His mom might be a little upset, but I’d high five him. Privately, away from his mother, of course.

But here’s the part about all of this that really, REALLY frosts me: When I called the people at IKON, no one there had heard of our new UNR Winter Sports Club’s Parents Club, and they flatly refused to honor our 85% discount.

The nerve.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Caught in a Marketing Trap

They got me. I'm the sucker.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door." I am a fan of his, because I went to Ralph Waldo Emerson Junior High School in the ‘80s, where I also learned he coined the phrases, "Gag me with a spoon,” “Take a chill pill,” “Bros before hoes," and “Party hearty with Bacardi.” If you don’t believe me, you can check my yearbooks.

Anyway, back to me being a sucker. There I was one day, about three weeks ago, mindlessly spiraling down the Facebook rabbit hole when I saw it. A better mousetrap.

Literally. It was an ad for an actual mousetrap.

The design was brilliant. Just a simple plastic lid that you pop onto the top of a five-gallon bucket. The lid came with a little plastic ramp the mice would happily climb to get to the delicious peanut butter I would spread liberally on the underside of the little raised roof in the middle of the lid. They would scamper toward the free meal only to find… what’s this? I foolishly walked out onto an ingenious trap door that was cleverly hidden under the little raised roof, and now I find myself in the bottom of this five-gallon bucket, unable to get out. Woe is me!

The real-life footage in the ad was amazing. A black and white time-lapse video from inside a barn showing mouse after hungry mouse falling victim to the trap door prank. I saw so many mice fall into the bucket in the short video that I was amazed they hadn’t figured out how to make a mouse cheerleader pyramid to get back out.

It was incredible! And so simple.

I immediately beat an internet path to their virtual door and bought one from the random Chinese website linked in the ad. It was a little over $20, and I waited patiently for it for about an hour before I went to Amazon and found the same ones from a different Chinese mousetrap conglomerate that were two for $20 and would arrive tomorrow.

I bought those, too. I mean, I have three buckets, and if one amazing new mousetrap is good, three will be phenomenal.

Well… three weeks, $40, and two operational, peanut butter-baited mousetraps later, I have captured exactly zero rodents of any kind. I have one in the garage and one in the backyard by the shed, and I can honestly tell you, they work as well indoors as they do outdoors.

Someone (not P.T. Barnum) once said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” I have proven that to be true recently.

And speaking of that old phrase, I just happen to be having a special right now on the most amazing new trap door-style mousetraps. Check out the video! They’re ingenious! Hurry though, because they’re moving fast. I only have three left in stock.

They’re only $40 each!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Celebration Injury

I celebrated too early, and my feelings have been hurt. Along with my gas budget and my will to live.

Seventeen months ago, I thought I was a free man. In my column on April 27, 2022, I was giddy with anticipation. Son Number Two was getting his license the next week and I was beside myself with joy because I was about to be liberated forever from the shackles and chains of carpool. Damn the insane insurance costs, it was going to be worth it.

I did the simple math. At the time, Son Number Two was a junior and Son Number Three was a freshman. That meant that this current school year, if the final exams went reasonably well, they would be a senior and a sophomore. They did, and they are.

Seventeen months ago, it was all so clear. They would be going to the same high school and even playing the same sport. They would attend both school and lacrosse practice together. Son Number Three wouldn’t have his driver’s license yet, but that wouldn’t matter, because Number Two could take him everywhere.

That meant I was officially done with carpool. Forever. I celebrated by not driving anywhere. It was glorious.

Well, I may have done the simple math, but the calculus caught up to me and smacked me across the face in August. (I realize it’s almost the end of September, but it’s taken me this long to be ready to talk about it.) Seventeen months ago I was thinking only about their school days. I never stopped to consider their school day schedules.

Things were great for the entire month of May last year, when Son Number Two was a junior. My plan worked perfectly. Number Three caught a ride with him every day, to and from school. Well, turns out that’s because juniors still have to take lots of classes. Seniors, on the other hand, do not.

Seniors like Son Number Two, who handled all their core class graduation requirements in the first three years of high school, hardly even have to take any classes that have homework or tests. I think on one of his days he has two periods of woodshop, weightlifting, and creative writing. C’mon!

What’s the problem with all this? His ridiculous schedule gets him out of school two and a half hours before his younger brother. By the time I need him to drive everyone home, he’s already been home, eaten two meals, watched a movie, and is at the gym.

That leaves me and the other neighborhood parents still needing to pick up the sophomores. Damn you, schedule calculus! I guess one thin silver lining in my carpool cloud of despair is that we only have to pick them up from school. Number Two still takes them in the morning. But anyone who has ever done carpool knows that is small consolation. Pickup is waaaay worse than drop off.

So, I’ll have to wait another seven months before I get to celebrate for good without injury. Number Three doesn’t turn sixteen until the end of April.

And I’m celebrating no matter what. You can Marc my words, if he doesn’t pass his driver’s test, he’ll be walking home from school in May.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Right, Left, Right, but Circularly

I’m not a big fan of roundabouts. They are a lot like the metric system. Both, when studied objectively, are a much better ways to do things, but I still don’t like them..

The metric system makes complete logical sense. Everything is based on factors of ten. Take the millimeter, keep multiplying by ten and eventually you end up with the kilometer. Multiply the kilometer by five and you have the most grueling thirty-five to forty-five minutes of my year every April at the Run Rocklin.

Whereas with our imperial system, there is no length unit smaller than an inch, there are twelve of those in a foot, three feet (foots) in a yard, and 1,760 yards in a mile. Great. We also have ounces that can be volume or weight, and neither has anything to do with the other. It’s stupid.

What’s even more stupid is buying beer at a bar by the yard, because “three feet of beer” can be any amount of volume ounces they want based on the inner diameter of the long tube, you have to drink it like some idiot blowing a glass trumpet, and you lose most of it to the classic yard slosh down the front of your shirt. But enough about last Saturday.

Roundabouts make complete logical sense, from a traffic flow perspective. Four-way stops are dumb. Why do I need to completely stop my car at an intersection if I’m the only one there? Why do three of us need to wait next to each other at a red light when no one else in any other direction is there to use the same intersection? It’s dumb. Roundabouts solve those problems with a continuous flow pattern that only requires yielding when someone else happens to be there.

But here’s the thing. No one knows how to use either of them. The metric system is complete nonsense when put into context in everyday American life.

“How far away is the movie theater?”

“One and three-quarter kilometers.”

“Never speak to me like that again.”

“How much gas did the car take?”

“Thirty-seven and a half liters.”

“I hate you.”

And just like the ridiculous metric system, no one knows how to use roundabouts. Everyone seems to know what to do at a stoplight, and about half the people seem to be able to operate successfully at a four-way stop sign. The other half have no clue how or when to turn left, but it’s just become a part of our daily routine to swear at those people and then move on with our lives.

Roundabouts, on the other hand, will always have at least one person who can’t figure it out. If they’re not in it yet, chances are good that they will not yield to those who are. And if they are in it, there’s a better-than-average possibility that they’ll stop in the circle to let someone in.

And that’s just the single-lane roundabouts. Don’t even get me started on when there’s an inside lane and an outside. Why the hell do they even build them like that? What could I possibly want to use the inside lane of a roundabout for? I just love turning left and want to do it all day?

We have a new roundabout in my town that has two right turn options for one of the streets. When approaching the intersection, you can stay in the far right lane and bypass the roundabout to make a right onto the street, or you can enter the roundabout and drive 480 degrees around to the left to end up on the same street. For the love of God.

The police don’t even seem to understand them. At least the police in Alaska. OK, to be fair, it was a campus cop at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks who pulled me over when we were on our way to their natural history museum. Their museum comes with my highest recommendation. Their roundabouts do not.

I had just gone through one of their roundabouts when he lit me up. I pulled over and he told me he had stopped me because I failed to use my turn signal in the roundabout.


I was not aware that turn signals were a thing in roundabouts. How does that work, exactly? I would need to approach the entrance to the roundabout with my right blinker on? Once inside, immediately switch to my left blinker for the trip around until I come to my exit point, where I will quickly swap back to my right blinker as I leave the circle? That’s as dumb as getting a yard of beer.

The cop didn’t offer any advice on the matter, immediately switching the subject to my town of Rocklin, California where he had once visited family. We were on his campus in the summertime, and I think he might just have been bored. I didn’t press the roundabout blinker question because it was clear he wasn’t going to ticket me. I think he just wanted someone to talk to.

So, the moral here is clear. If you are going to use a roundabout, do it in a high-crime area where traffic is minimal, yield only when appropriate and necessary, or whenever you feel it would also be the polite thing to do, and just flip your blinker back and forth at random while you are in or near the circle.

And stay out of that ridiculous inner lane.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, September 6, 2023


As you may have heard, Jimmy Buffett passed away on Friday. He was a legendary singer-songwriter, undoubtedly most famous for the song, “Margaritaville.”

I knew he was a very successful individual, financially speaking, but I didn’t know until this week that his net worth was estimated to be a billion dollars. That’s a lot of dollars.

He parlayed the song, “Margaritaville,” into an absolute empire of a lifestyle brand, which now includes tortilla chips, cookbooks, RV parks, blenders, pool floats, casinos, slip-on shoes, pickleball paddles, drink mixes, retirement communities, patio furniture, hotels, salsa, various frozen shrimp meals, at least one cruise ship, and of course, the Margaritaville restaurant chain that spans the globe. I mean, my goodness, the word “Margaritaville” doesn’t even flag your spell check!

In case there is some scenario involving a time machine or interstellar space travel you’ve endured that has prevented you from ever hearing the song, “Margaritaville,” it’s a heartwarming tale about a man who has been spending some quality time away from home, drinking delicious frozen cocktails, playing his guitar, eating delicious shrimp, every once in a while discovering that he has gotten a new tattoo after a few too many of the frozen drinks, and slowly coming to the realization that he is the one to blame for his failed relationship.

It's a great song with a catchy tune and it’s fun to sing along to with your friends. I never thought too much about it past that until I heard a stand-up comedian describe it as the most depressing song ever written.

Now, obviously, you might argue that there are far more depressing songs out there. Anything from an opera where everyone dies would be a natural trump card to the relatively tame, “Margaritaville.” Or anything by the Doors. There’s a lot of material to counter the claim. That is, until you put it into context with Jimmy’s empire.

In the song, we are led to believe that our boozy hero is somewhere tropical, or south of the border. The refrain that we all love to sing along with is, “Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville, searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt…”

On the surface, it seems to be an almost enviable situation. Leaving all your worries behind on some tropical beach somewhere. When Jimmy Buffett wrote the song, Margaritaville was just an idea. An unknown destination. A far-off paradise.

But that’s not where Margaritaville really is today. Thanks to his incredible marketing efforts over the years, the destination is no longer unknown, and the stand-up comedian might just have a point. “Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville” takes on an entirely different tone when the lyrical scenario is playing out in the parking lot of a shopping mall in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

RIP, Mr. Buffett. Thanks for all the great songs.

And this sweet pickleball racket with the parrot on it.




Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, August 30, 2023

An Eighteenth Open Letter to Lifetouch School Portraits

Dear Lifetouch School Portraits,

You guys over there continue to crack me up. You sent me a survey the other day, asking about my most recent Lifetouch experience, and you referred to me as “a valued customer.”

Really? Have you not read any of the letters I’ve sent you over the years? If I’m considered a valued customer, your business is circling the drain a lot faster than I thought it was.

Your survey email read as follows:

As a valued customer, we would love to get your feedback about your most recent school photography experience with Lifetouch.

If you already completed a survey, we thank you! If you have not, and have a moment, please take this brief survey and register for a chance to win a $100 gift card.

Thank you for providing your feedback.


My immediate reaction, besides, of course, uncontrollable laughter, was “Wow, a $100 gift card? Why don’t you just offer a free 5x7 image with my next order. That’s an equivalent prize based on your pricing, and seems like it would be less paperwork on your end.”

My most recent school photography experience with Lifetouch consisted of the following: I was driving Son Number Three to his sophomore check-in day a few weeks ago, and halfway to the high school I remembered that you would have employees taking pictures that day. (I still cannot, in good conscience, refer to them as “photographers.”)

I said, “Oh, yeah, by the way, school pictures are today, too.”

He was in a semi-presentable T-shirt, but his hair was a little on the “I don’t really care about my hair today” side.

He said, “Great. Thanks for the heads up.”

Then both of us continued to not care that school pictures were happening that day. I only assume you took his picture. That’s how my most recent school photography experience with Lifetouch went.

I may not care about picture day anymore because of you, but since I do care so much about helping you improve your business model, I figured I would click on the survey link and help you out. At a minimum, I was going to hunt around for the button labeled “See any one of my previous seventeen letters.”

I couldn’t find that button. I couldn’t even find the survey. You see, Lifetouch, this is why you are so loveable, and at the same time, such an absolute bane of so many parents’ existence.

I mean, we’ve all been aware for many years now that you refuse to hire actual photographers for your photography business. But apparently, you use that same unorthodox rebellious model in every aspect of your organization, including your web team.

I clicked on the link, told you that my child was in 10th grade, hit the “next” button, and was greeted with this:  

This page can’t be found

No webpage was found for the web address: HTTP ERROR 404


You’re a school picture company that can’t figure out how to take school pictures, so I don’t know why I expected you to be able to take survey answers either.

Stay adorable!

Yours always,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, August 23, 2023

The Difference in College

We moved Son Number One into the dorms at the University of Nevada, Reno this past weekend, and I have to tell you, college is much different than I remember. Here’s my top ten.

1.  They have Starbucks, Panda Express, Panera, and other national chains on campus. In the student union! Do you know what we had at our student union? A vending machine, and it didn’t even have sandwiches.

2.  They can use their meal plan to get food at Panda Express, Panera, etc. Do you know where I could use my meal plan? The cafeteria, and the “fancy place” next to the dorms, that looking back on it, served the exact same food as the cafeteria.

3.  The dorms are co-ed. Ours were too, but the building was divided in half, with doors and a lounge between the men’s side and the woman’s side. My son has female neighbors one door down. Dad me is a little concerned about that. College me is a little jealous about that.

4.  The on-campus parking in my day was one low price and every spot, no matter where it was, was first come, first served. His parking passes are color-coded with tiered pricing. The lowest cost one, which he has, allows him to only park his car at the far corners of campus, which appear to be in a different time zone than his dorm. We could have purchased a pass that would allow him to park in the nice parking garage twenty feet from his dorm, but then he wouldn’t be able to have a meal plan. Or tuition.

5.  They gave him an iPad. They gave every single student an iPad! Do you know what they did not give us? Our books. We had to buy those, and they were incredibly overpriced. And heavy. As far as computers went, we had floppy disks that were actually floppy, and we had to buy them ourselves. The only computers were at the library, and they were NOT portable.

6.  They had a welcome event at the football stadium and it had food trucks. Food trucks! On campus! Do you know when we had food trucks on campus? Never, because they hadn’t been invented yet.

7.  The dorm move-in was well scheduled and organized with day and time slots by floor and room number. Our dorms didn’t have a move-in schedule. They just told us to be there before classes started. I’m not even sure they told us where the dorms were. I think we just had to figure it out.

8.  They are actually teaching them things during orientation week, like good money management principles and study habits. Our “week of welcome” consisted of playing tag and capture the flag.

9.  Did I mention the delicious chain restaurants included in the meal plan and the co-ed dorms?

10.  The biggest difference between college then and college now, however, is that I’m paying for it this time! Yowza.

Have a great time, kid. I know I did.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, August 16, 2023


It has recently come to my attention that the DMV does not, under any circumstances, want you to call them. I mean sure, when you go into a DMV branch, they don’t want to talk to you either, but they really don’t want you to call.

Recently, a friend of mine bought a new car. He quickly found an eager buyer for his old car and set up the meeting for the sale. The only issue was that he didn’t have the title document (or “pink slip” if you’re a Beach Boys fan). It had been electronically sent to the DMV, but he didn’t have it in his hand.

Fortunately, in California, anyway, you don’t have to have it in your hand to sell your car. We were 95% sure that he just needed the transfer of title form and a bill of sale form. I was helping him gather up the paperwork, and the 5% doubt is what had me calling the DMV.

I was immediately connected to the DMV’s “automated assistant” (read: scary AI robot that is no doubt communicating with Skynet). His name was Miles. (I see what you did there, DMV. Cute.)

Miles: What can I assist you with today?

Me: I want to speak to a live person.

Miles: OK, due to high call volumes, the DMV offers a call back service. What is it you would like to speak to an agent about?

Me: [speaking very clear English] Forms needed to sell a car without the title.

Miles: OK, you want to know how long a DUI stays on your record. DUI's come with two different points. A one-point DUI stays on your record for...

(I am not making this up.)

Miles: We will call you back at 3:20pm.

(It was 12:20pm)

Miles: If you would like us to call you back on this number, press 1. To use a different number, press 2.

Me, thinking: Umm, I don't want you to call me about DUI's. I also don't want questions about DUI’s associated with my phone number. God only knows what Skynet will do with that info...

Me: [presses 2]

Miles: Please enter the number you would like us to call.

Me: [presses 0000000000]

Miles: Hmm… That doesn't seem to be a valid phone number. Please enter the number again.

Me: Click.

Me, thinking and redialing: OK, let’s start over and pray that they don’t store the canceled calls…

Miles: What can I assist you with today?

Me: [speaking even more very clear English] How do I sell a car with no physical title document?

Miles: Bien. Le gustaría saber qué formularios se necesitan para vender su automóvil. ¿Se lo venderá a una fiesta privada oa un negocio?


Again, I am not making this up. Not only did Miles start speaking Spanish, but he was doing it in the most non-Spanish-speaking American accent imaginable. As if the AI was set to "Ted Lasso using Google translate."


It was at that moment that I started looking around for the hidden cameras and Ashton Kutcher hiding behind the ficus. Am I being punked?


OK, hang up and start over…

Miles: Due to high call volumes, we cannot take your call today. Please call back tomorrow morning.

(It was 12:30pm)

Wow, OK. I guess I’ll try the DMV website for the live chat that Miles was advertising. I got back on my computer and clicked on the yellow “Ask DMV” button at the bottom of the screen and was connected to an actual human in less than four minutes... OK, so the DMV is abandoning the phone lines. Cool. Good to know.

Me: Types in question…

DMV Chat Employee, presumably in India: You need Form 277 and Form 262.

Me: OK, we have Form 277. What is Form 262?

DMVCEPII: Form 262 is the Bill of Sale.

Me: OK, we already have Form 135 which says Bill of Sale. Is that a substitute for Form 262?

DMVCEPII: Let me check... Does your Form 135 have an odometer section?

Me: No.

DMVCEPII: OK, then you will need Form 262. It has the odometer statement section that you will sign. Form 277 is available for download, but Form 262 has to be picked up in person.

Me: I have to go to an actual DMV branch to get Form 262?


Me: It’s not available anywhere in your online forms on the website?


I didn't even bother asking why.

So, our takeaways from this are as follows:

1) The DMV has two phone operators and they are on break together.

2) Miles is an AIdiot.

3) The DMV is sneaking up on almost achieving a reasonable level of customer service with their online “Ask DMV” chat function.

4) However, the DMV will never not be the DMV.


See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Stop the Water Shaming

I want to bring up an important and sensitive topic that affects millions of us. Or maybe thousands of us. Actually, possibly only hundreds of us? Tens of us?

Anyway, it’s an important and sensitive topic for me.

I am, of course, talking about LaCroix shaming. Has it happened to you? If so, please know you’re not alone. I’m here standing right beside you. With a cold, refreshing, naturally essenced passionfruit sparkling water in my hand. Cheers, my friend.

I’m not going to lie to you. I drink a lot of sparkling water. It’s basically the only beverage I drink besides coffee. I drink so much of it that the giant cruise ship we were recently on – The Carnival Celebration that holds 6500 passengers – was not prepared for me. I bought the “unlimited bubbles package” that included canned Bubly sparkling water, and they couldn’t keep up with me.

When I went to customer service to talk about how the bubbles package didn’t really perform as advertised with regard to the term “unlimited,” the customer service girl pulled up my account and actually exclaimed, “Oh, wow! You ordered so many of them!”

This is what I’m talking about. This rampant sparkling water shaming that our society just looks the other way on so often. I mean sure, there are definitely different ideas about acceptable behavior at sea, but the shaming happens on dry land just as often. Most notably at my grocery store.

Most checkers will make some sort of comment when they see the number of twelve-packs of LaCroix I buy on a weekly basis. One nice young lady actually asked, “Do you own a restaurant or something?” Now, in all fairness, she might have been thrown off by how much food I was buying, since we have three teenage boys. I mean, we do go through two to three chickens a day around here. But when I laughed and said no, she explained that she asked because of how much LaCroix I was buying.

The checkers also can’t seem to agree on the proper way to ring up the twelve-packs. For the sake of this example, let’s use a low, easy number and say I have a quantity of eight twelve-packs on the bottom of my cart.

In the past I have put them all on the belt, only to have half the checkers tell me not to do that because they don’t want to have to lift them all. But the first time I just put one of each flavor on the belt and told the checker how many of each I had under my cart, she looked at me sternly and said, “Well, I need to see them all!”

I thought the store had finally solved the inconsistent checker issue by installing hand-held scanners at each register recently. I was hopeful when the first checker told me it was there for me to use to help scan heavy items so they didn’t need to come out of the cart. Great, I thought.

The next time I used one of the new scanners, it went like this:

Me: OK, I’m going to grab the scanner and get my LaCroixs.

Checker: OK, great.

Me: [Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep…]

Checker: Whoa! Stop, stop! You scanned it too many times!

Me: No I didn’t. And I’m not done yet.

Checker: You have to be. There’s no way you have that many under there.

Me: Um, yes I do…

Today when I used the scanner, it went like this:

Me: OK, I’m going to grab the scanner and get my LaCroixs.

Checker: OK.

Me: [Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep]

Checker: Wow. Do you think you got enough?


It’s time to stop the sparkling water shaming, people! We have feelings, too, you know. We need love and understanding, not labels.

“Addict” is such an ugly word. I prefer “enthusiast.”

See you soon,



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