Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Noble Nobel

Alfred Nobel was a Swedish chemist, engineer, industrialist, and philanthropist, even though no one knows what those last two words mean. He had a whole bunch of patents in his lifetime, but he is most famous for two of his inventions. He created the Nobel Prize in his will, and while he was still alive, he created the greatest fishing tool ever known to man - dynamite.

Prior to the invention of dynamite, which is very stable, people had to blow things up with nitroglycerin, and they were forced to fish with a string on the end of a pole. Nitroglycerin was very unstable, so mostly what you blew up was yourself, and fishing with a string is very slow. Nobel solved both of those problems at once. You can bang the stick of dynamite around on the bottom of your boat all day long without fear of creating any sudden new holes in yourself or the vessel, and when you light that stick and toss it overboard, you can catch up to 200 fish at once.

For these reasons, Nobel became fabulously wealthy, and used that wealth in his will to fund the Nobel Prize, which consists of a whole bunch of people living off his money all year while they choose up to five worthy recipients in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace to receive a cash prize, a gold medal to wear at the grocery store and to bed, and a fairly cheap wooden plaque to hang at the office. The 2022 cash amount per Nobel prize is 10 million Swedish kronor, but in an effort to keep up with modern times, it will shift to one Bitcoin per prize in 2023, or approximately sixty-four U.S. cents.

Nobel prizes have been won for a lot of good inventions over the years, like insulin, cures for malaria, wireless telegraphy (telegraphy stuff without wires), and even cathode rays, which help with wireless telegraphy. They also give them out for literature, but that is a sore subject for me since they are very overdue in their consideration of my groundbreaking literary work with The Very Sneezy Garbage Truck.

My own personal animosity with the Nobel society aside, I’d like to point out a fact about the prize. Sure, they have recognized a lot of great inventions and works, but they are missing a huge opportunity to recognize and celebrate the little people that truly make life worth living. After all, it was Alfred Nobel’s dying wish that his award be given to "those who, during the preceding year, have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind."

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. The seat belt is great and everything, but I don’t think I’m alone in saying the heated seat has had a greater benefit on humankind. I’ve only needed my seatbelt to save my life a handful of times, but the heated seat has saved my wife’s life on countless occasions. This has consequently averted countless life-threatening situations for me, therefore conferring a great benefit to my own life.

What about the burrito? I think we can all agree that it has been a huge success, and I’m sure the inventor of the burrito is still enjoying his or her Nobel prize. But what about the breakfast burrito? What about the man or woman out there who looked at the standard lunch or dinner burrito and said, “This is great and all, but I can fill this thing with breakfast also, so you can have it for all three meals today.” I’m not sure there has ever been another human being more deserving of a Nobel prize than the breakfast burrito person, whomever they are.

And what about the person that invented the ice cream waffle cone? The TV remote control. Toilet paper. Disposable diapers. Putting lime in your beer when eating spicy tacos. Four-wheel drive. Yoga pants.

You see where I’m going here, Nobel Committee. Let’s start using some of that giant trust fund to recognize more of our true heroes.

They all deserve our gratitude. Especially the breakfast burrito person!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Cinco de Ulysses Patrick’s Day - Repost

Friday was St. Patrick’s Day, a generally festive time for American humans, but a stressful time for the fish of the Chicago area. Can you imagine if your entire neighborhood got painted green overnight? Freaky. Anyway, us humans got “lucky” this year with the “holiday” landing on a Friday, which is certainly better than Thursday last year or Wednesday the year before, but still not ideal.

That’s because St. Patrick’s Day is the Cinco de Mayo of March. Both are on a fixed calendar date, which makes no sense, and we don’t get work off for either of them, which makes even less sense. Both have some amount of green added to the beer, and no one from the holidays’ countries of origin celebrates them. Here in the good ol’ USA, however, we embrace them like they were the Fourth of July or New Years. And much like New Years, no one knows what we’re celebrating or why. But we’re all Irish for one day in March, and we’re all Mexican for uno dia en Mayo.

The overwhelming problem is that the only people who get to celebrate these two “holidays” with any regularity are students. Specifically, college kids and elementary schoolers. The college kids use the days as excuses to party, and the elementary schools use them as excuses to make leprechaun traps, Mexican flags, and most importantly, eat cookies.

Meanwhile, we adults have to wait until March 17th or May 5th land on a weekend before we get to party anymore. Why should the students get to have all the fun? Why shouldn’t the parents get to participate?

We used to have fun on St. Patrick’s Day. We used to drink green beer and actively look for other college kids of the opposite sex who weren’t wearing green so we could pinch them, as is the standard custom.

We used to have fun on Cinco de Mayo. We used to drink Corona with lime and eat discounted tacos by the truckload while wearing giant sombreros, and actively look for other college kids of the opposite sex who weren’t wearing green so we could pinch them, as is the standard custom.

Did we know why we did any of this? Of course not. Did we care that we didn’t know? Of course not. We cared about doing our part to uphold centuries of fake traditions. We cared about beer with the appropriate green holiday additive. We cared about pinching cute members of the opposite sex. We cared.

I’m tired of being left out. I’m tired of not caring. I want to care again. We should get to party, too. It’s only right, since we’re the ones paying for all of this anyway. Why shouldn’t we get these days off work?

Why? I’ll tell you why. Probably because someone still needs to pay for all this, that’s why. But are we going to let that stop us? Heck no! There are plenty of other days during the year we can work. Although, we do already have a lot of holidays…

OK, let’s compromise. We could combine St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo into one holiday to minimize the work stoppage but still have some fun. What do you say?

I knew you’d be on board!

Ladies and gentlemen, I officially propose a new national holiday.

We will compromise on the month and have the new holiday in April, since it has always been a travesty that we don’t get April 27th off for President Ulysses S. Grant’s birthday either. We will anchor it around that date but it will need to float, of course, to always fall on a Friday so this party is a three-day weekend. It’s only fitting to include Grant, since he really should be the patron saint of these two holidays anyway. You may not know this, but in addition to being a war hero and a Roman god, Ulysses was a prolific inventor and is actually responsible for creating, among many other things, the taco, green beer, the piñata, and Ireland.

We shall call the new holiday either Dia de St. Mayo Patrick de Grant, or Cinco de Ulysses Patrick’s Day. We can vote on that later.

As far as logistics go, we will simply combine all the current fake holiday traditions into one big three-day weekend of awesome.

The holiday uniforms can remain mostly undefined, but should include the required holiday colors; green, white and red, with an obvious emphasis on green and large sombreros.

Mariachi bands will need to shift their focus a little and include bagpipes and plaid. Irish heel-clicking salsa dancing with be a natural follower to the new groove.

The main holiday beverage will obviously be green Corona with yellow lemon wedges instead of limes to signify lucky gold. Cuervo gold tequila will remain unchanged, since it satisfies both holiday motifs. As an alternative to Mexican tequila, Irish mojitos will be made out of crushed clover and Jameson Irish Whiskey.

Red, white, and green tortilla chips will be served with cabbage salsa, and children across the land will spend the new holiday smacking leprechaun-shaped piñatas filled with gold coin chocolates and corned beef taquitos.

We can work out the rest of the details later. I’m not really sure who’s in charge of new holiday creation over in D.C., so if one of you could forward this on to them, that’d be great.

I’m going to get back to my green Corona.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Pie Day

Yesterday, 3/14, was Pie Day. Mathematicians will argue that it’s supposed to be written “Pi Day,” but they are wrong. Many folks out there remain confused about what Pi actually is. It’s not your fault. The public school system failed you.

Allow me to clear it up for you.

Pi is misnamed. You see, Pi is really derived from pie, but mathematicians were too lazy to keep including the “e” for some reason. Pi, of course, is the numerical value of the culinary measure of how much pie is left, using the mathematical relationship between the circumference of the outer crust of the pie and the length across the center of the pie, where the fork marks are.

Pi’s value changes based on how many slices of the pie have been eaten. Even if there is only one slice missing and you can still measure across the middle of the pie in most places, the circumference of the crust has nevertheless been reduced by one slice worth, or in mathematical terms, “one crust radian segment.”

The value of Pi changes constantly, but never repeats, because obviously no one ever adds slices back to a pie. The larger the value of Pi, the happier you are, because there is still more pie left. Unfortunately, in my experience, the value of Pi is usually equal to zero by the time I get home, because my teenage boys ate all of it.

We were miseducated in our early years regarding Pi. For instance, one falsehood perpetrated upon us by the math teachers of America was the idea that pie are squared. Nothing could be further from the truth. Pie are round. Cornbread are squared. It’s natural to be confused about what Pi is based on the lack of educational veracity we experienced.

Can we ever calculate Pi’s true value? While some mathematicians still foolishly argue this point, the obvious answer is no. Pies come in all different sizes, and are either being cooked (expanding), being cooled on the windowsill (contracting), or being eaten. Pi is never a static number, and it varies from pie to pie, so you don’t need to worry about what it is. Don’t beat yourself up about not understanding it. You were misinformed. Again, it’s not your fault. Just enjoy that slice of pie, and know that you are reducing the value of Pi by eating it.

“What about other things that call themselves pies, but aren’t dessert?” you might be asking yourself. “Are they subject to the Pi calculations as well?”

Great question! Yes they are, in certain circumstances. (Or should I say, in certain circumferences? Hahahahaha. Oh, man! Great math joke.)

Pizza pies fall under all the same Pi rules, unless they are one of those rectangular deep-dish pepperonis from Little Caesars. In that case you need square roots.

Chicken pot pies use the same calculations as regular pies, but Pi is always a smaller starting number if they are the little personal ones. Also, don’t let the crust temperature fool you. The inside is lava hot. Please don’t burn the roof of your mouth!

Shepherd’s Pie is where we fall into a gray area, mostly because no one is exactly sure what it is.

Why is Pie Day on 3/14? No one knows for sure. It’s just one of those made-up holidays and they needed to pick a date. Why was Blaze Pizza selling two-topping pizza pies for only $3.14 yesterday? Again, we don’t really know, other than the price corresponding to the date. We guess that was the reason.

The only thing we know for sure: The line at Blaze Pizza was much too long, and definitely not worth the difference between the regular price and $3.14, no matter how big the starting Pi number is for one of those bad boys. Oh, well.

Again, glad to help clear things up. Enjoy that pie!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, March 8, 2023

How Not to Internet

So, apparently, I follow the Reno division of the National Weather Service on Twitter. Or they follow me. I’m not really sure. All I know is that I get alerts about their posts now, which I don’t mind this winter, because I’m interested in how many more damned feet of snow are going to fall in the Sierras before we can finally go back up to snowboard. The current answer is, “A lot more.”

I swear, if anyone even so much as whispers the word “drought” this summer, I’m going to lose it. But I digress…

The other day, the NWS Reno feed (Check out all the exciting weather action on Twitter @NWSReno) had a tweet about the “atmospheric river” headed our way tomorrow. We’ve been hearing that term a lot lately around here in the news. It’s an exciting and fancy weather term, so no one in the weather reporting business misses an opportunity to throw it out there.

While “atmospheric river” is getting the feel of being overplayed, one follower of the NWS Reno feed put on a clinic on how not to respond in these types of term overuse situations.

Howard Smith replied: Talking about an atmospheric river is kinda like the Sahara desert ( desert desert). If you remember your fluid dynamics the entire atmosphere acts as a river!!!!

This is a fabulous example of how not to internet. What Howard is really saying here, to the tens of people who also follow NWS Reno, is this – “Hello, my name is Howard, and I don’t have many people in my life who validate me. I think I am very smart, and I want you to think I’m smart also, even if my boss never tells me I’m smart, even though I’m way smarter than him and should have his job, and I would have his job if it wasn’t for all the bs office politics and Brenda in HR who definitely has it out for me ever since I pointed out that she shouldn’t feed her cat so much because it looks really fat in all the pictures on her desk, and that maybe she should think about cutting back on the treats herself while she’s at it.”

Howard is obviously interneting wrong. I read Howard’s tweet and just shook my head. That’s an example of interneting correctly.

If I was interneting like Howard, I would have responded: “Gosh, Howard, for such an obviously intelligent guy such as yourself, your grammar is as bad as your need to feel smart! I’ll let the “kinda” slide since tweets are informal, but if you remember your third-grade punctuation lessons, informality doesn’t excuse the glaringly obvious missing comma after “dynamics.” Also, what’s with the space between your opening round bracket (you probably call it a parenthesis, but that’s actually the term for the word or phrase inside the brackets) for your parenthetical phrase and the first word of said parenthetical phrase? That’s not supposed to be there, brainiac. And four exclamation points? Bro. And bagging on saying, “Sahara desert?” Really? The Arabic word for desert is “sahra,” and “sahara” is its pluralization. So, if you’re going to be all cutesy and pretend that we should all be using Arabic words in our everyday English communications, you really should have said “Sahara Deserts.” That would have actually been grammatically correct. It still wouldn’t have made you seem smart to anyone, or morally superior in any way, but at least it wouldn’t have been so sadly, sadly wrong.”

You can see the obvious difference between the correct interneting reaction and this incorrect, desperate cry for help style.

NWS Reno took an intermediate approach with Captain Smart Guy. They didn’t internet poorly, necessarily, but they did respond, which I would have counseled against, had they asked.

They referred Howard to a helpful article from on what an atmospheric river actually is: a flowing column of condensed water vapor in the atmosphere responsible for significant levels of rain and snow, especially in the western United States.

Take that, Super Guy. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which employs people that surely understand fluid dynamics slightly better than you (even though you should obviously be running NOAA, and probably would be if your boss and Brenda didn’t have it out for you), thinks that an atmospheric river is not only a real thing, but also grammatically correct. I’ll bet they even call it the Sahara Desert.

Internet better in the future, Howard.

Regarding NOAA’s definition, I’m not sure why the western United States gets to have all the atmospheric fun, but if you’ll excuse me, I need to contact them and ask if they can do anything to divert the river.

I want to go snowboarding!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Snowmageddon - Part II

Our February 23rd major weather event in Rocklin, California was one for the record books! Frozen precipitation of some kind fell from the sky onto our town for minutes. (We have incredibly low standards for our record books.)

While the storm was no doubt unusual, it was also very confusing. You notice I didn’t say that snow fell from the sky, although, many people swear that’s what happened. Others aren’t so sure. They say the Inuit people have more than fifty terms for different kinds of snow. Rocklin is currently giving the Inuit a run for their money.

Almost immediately after the minutes of winter wildness, we began to hear the term “graupel” pop up in our various news feeds. Graupel is, of course, when a snowflake falls through a layer of air containing supercooled water droplets. This causes those water droplets to “rime,” or instantly freeze onto the snowflakes.

“What the hail are you talking about?” you might be asking. No, I’m not talking about hail. That particular phenomenon occurs when rain drops get carried upward by crazy-ass weather inside thunder clouds, to a higher, colder elevation, where they freeze and grow until they are too heavy for the updraft, then fall to the earth and destroy your car, if you live in Texas.

Graupel – which rimes with either “apple,” “topple,” “lapel,” or “Inuit.” No one is sure – is not solid ice and dangerous as hail. It’s crunchy and fun. If you are having trouble envisioning what graupel looks like, it might help to know that the name comes from the German word for pearl barley, so that should clear it up.

But, I’m not at all convinced that what we experienced wasn’t just regular old snow. When I ran outside to enjoy the frozen water of some variety falling from the sky, it was definitely mixed with rain. I was wearing a black long-sleeve shirt, so it was very easy to tell that half of what was falling on my arm was plain old rain, and the other half was frozen water.

I could not readily distinguish if the snowflakes had been rimed into graupel or not, but they did look a little weird. We were told in no uncertain terms, however, that it was not sleet. That’s because no one knows what sleet is. Not even the Inuit.

One thing was for sure. It wasn’t cold enough at ground level for any of it to stick. And it certainly didn’t get cold enough overnight for any of our atmospheric water droplets to rime into hoar frost, so that was also a win.

Since our exciting hoarless rimed graupel morning here in Rocklin, another slightly more significant weather event has developed. Winter storm Quest, already in a state near you, has since deposited somewhere in the neighborhood of seven feet of new snow in the Sierra Nevadas.

About an hour east of here, the main interstate highways have been closed down for the better part of three days now with near-constant blizzard conditions. If your online order is delayed, you no longer need to wonder what happened to it. Your Amazon package has been flash-frozen in a 55-foot trailer on the side of I-80 somewhere. Please be patient.

It has been wild up there. The power had been knocked out by the storm, but I finally got a call through to our favorite ski resort yesterday, because I was very curious. I asked them to go out in the blizzard for me and see if they were experiencing any graupel with the other types of snow.

They told me to go to hail.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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