Wednesday, June 28, 2023

I'm on a Boat!

We are on a cruise ship right now. I mean, if everything went as planned, we’re on a cruise ship right now. I purposely didn’t bring my laptop on the cruise, due to obvious moisture concerns (many of our cruise group spill their drinks regularly), so I wrote this column before we left.

We should be in the Caribbean by now, and rest assured, I am disappointed if we haven’t seen pirates yet. I will report on my findings when I retrieve my laptop from the desk at Miami International Gate J15, where I left it for safekeeping. I’ll just grab it on my way back through later this week.

This is my first cruise, so I was on a steep learning curve as far as preparations went. There was a lot to learn. Since it’s cruise season (they tell me), I want to impart some of the knowledge I’ve gleaned in this process so any other rookie cruisers can benefit from my experience.

There are some things you’ll need ahead of time.

First and foremost is a cool cruise group name. Chances are, you’ll be cruising with friends, and apparently you can’t show up to the ship without a group name. Prior to sailing, we hadn’t picked a winner, but our tentative list of choices was:

Feeling Nauti

On Cruise Control

All Hands On Derek (This one really only works for us since one of our cruise group is named Derek. Otherwise, you’d have to find a Derek in Miami, and that can get dicey.)

Tropic Like It’s Hot

I’d Sailor

The Prostates of the Caribbean

Nauti Beaches

I Like Big Boats and I Cannot Lie

The Caribbean Wine Mixer (Only funny to Step Brothers fans. So, obviously, really funny!)

We Shore Did

Oh, Ship!


Vitamin Sea

You can all vote for your favorite and I’ll let you know what we landed on later when I get back to Gate J15 and the nice man who offered to watch my computer for me.

The second important thing you’ll need to bring is all of your money. You’ll spend most of it up front, of course, but you’ll need to bring the rest for tips and “incidentals.” Incidentals are defined as half the things to do or eat on the boat that conveniently are not included in the exorbitant base price.

The third thing you’ll need, about a month before departure, is an Amazon account, a full tank of gas in your wife’s car, and a clear path to the Amazon returns counter at Kohl’s. I wasn’t aware of this, but apparently, it’s illegal for women to bring any previously worn or even previously owned clothes onto a cruise ship. This law resulted in Amazon corporate deciding to just dedicate one driver solely to our home address. His name is Steve. Great guy. I’m his kids’ godfather now.

The fourth thing you’re going to want for your cruise is non-hurricane-y weather. As I write this, Tropical Storm Bret is making its way through the Caribbean, with Tropical Storm Cindy right behind it, preparing to wreak havoc on our cruising path. Now, it will be what it will be, and I’m sure we’ll have a fun time no matter what, but news reports about tropical storms can lead your wife, as it did mine, to some late panic shopping on Amazon.

Panic shopping isn’t good for anyone. Especially Steve. He looked tired when he dropped us off at the airport in his Amazon van.




Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, June 21, 2023

We Need the EurApp

Son Number One is in Paris as we speak.

Paris, France. Not the one in the God forsaken middle of nowhere California desert, although I think that one is spelled differently now so people stopped confusing the two and ending up on the wrong continent.

He’s on an amazing Europe trip with his former high school physics teacher – a seasoned traveler who has been running an awesome summer travel program for the past twenty years.

Tomorrow morning they take a train to Burgundy. Or Bordeaux. Or Boone’s Farm. One of the towns named after a fine wine, anyway. After that, they head for Spain and then Portugal.

We think he’s been having a good time and seeing the sights, because we can watch him move around on Life360, but it’s proving hard to get information out of him. We’re not sure if we’re seeing where he’s going, or where the pickpocket who has his phone is going.

Here’s an actual text exchange between us and him:

Son Number One: [Arrives in Paris]

Son Number One:

Son Number One:

Mom: Did you make it? Are you at the hotel? How was the flight?

Number One: ya

Number One:

Me: Good to hear you made it. Have fun and send us some selfies from the cool stuff.

Number One: ok

Number One:

Number One:

Number One:

Mom: OK, I’m going to need a proof of life photo, please.

Number One: [Sends picture of crappy side street his hotel is on. No humans in photo]

Mom: OK, thanks…

Number One: ya

Number One:

Number One:

Number One:

Me: [Seeing that he is at the Eiffel Tower] Hey, how is the Eiffel Tower?

Number One: cool

Number One: [sends picture looking up the tower from the ground]

Me: Cool!

Number One: ya


Later that evening we told Sons Two and Three that he had been to the Eiffel Tower.

“Yeah,” said Number Two. “Cool that he got to go up to the top.”


“Yeah, he sent me a video. And also one from the crypt.”


“Yeah, he’s doing a lot of cool stuff. He’s sending me tons of pictures and videos.”

“Umm… can we see them, please?”

“Sure. Here you go. They’re all on Snapchat.”

[Videos of amazing sweeping panoramic views from the top of the tower, videos of him and his buddies on an ancient tunnel and crypt tour, picture of his buddy holing the Eiffel Tower in the palm of his hand, pictures of his amazing dinners, etc., etc., etc.]

OK, wow.

Apparently, it’s not that he can’t be bothered to share his experiences with his lame parents. It’s that his lame parents were lame enough to ask him to share his experiences on a lame app like regular old stupid text messaging.

If we had Snapchat it would be like we were on the trip with him, apparently.

Parenting in 2023 is a wild ride. The kids and their tech move fast, and you have to keep up if you want to meet them where they are. So, my wife and I talked, and decided to change how we were approaching this.

We’re just going to have Number Two keep showing us whatever he gets.

Neither of us want to try to figure out Snapchat.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Hit SEND Before it's Too Late

There’s a funny thing about kids these days. They have embraced digital technology like no other generation before them. It is interwoven into their lives and they probably would not be able to function without it.

Except for email.

For whatever reason, email – once the very pinnacle of sophisticated digital communications – is like a rotary phone to them. They don’t know how to use it.

Way back when the boys were little, I set all three of them up with Gmail accounts. Best dad move ever, I thought at the time. I would have been less enthusiastic had I known how little and how poorly they would use them.

If you email them something, you have to text them to tell them that you emailed them. If you do that, you have increased the chances from 0% to 11% that they will see your email. Unfortunately, even if they do see it, the chances are still 0% that they will actually read it.

I foolishly thought that high school would get them in the habit of using email effectively. I mean, after all, they were given school email addresses in order to communicate with their teachers. Once again, I was wrong. Ask any high school teacher how well the kids use email. They will just laugh and laugh.

Once again, I foolishly thought things would change with my eighteen-year-old when it was time to register for college. And once again, I was wrong.

He is going to University of Nevada, Reno in the fall, and yesterday was his orientation day. About two weeks ago we received an email about Orientation Step One. I saw that he and I had both received it, and I even mentioned it to him at the time.

When I inquired about it Monday night – the night before orientation – he said, and I quote, “Huh?”

When I sat down with him at his computer and had him look for the email, he immediately claimed that he had no idea where it was, and probably never got it. As I stared slack-jawed at his 999 unopened emails in his inbox, I suggested that he might try a search for the word “orientation.”

Miraculously, we found the email, which contained a detailed list of lots of things he needed to take care of about a week ago. He had a busy night.

The next day at UNR, one of the presentations for the parents was from the head of the student advisory department. They are in charge of helping the kids get all the classes they need in order to stay on track. She talked with us for twenty minutes, and about nineteen of those minutes consisted of begging us to somehow make our children check their emails.


So, parents of young children, this is your Immature Societal Email Nonfunction Disorder (I-SEND) Public Service Announcement. It’s obviously too late for our college freshmen, but you might still be able to salvage your children.

You need to get your kids in the habit of checking (and actually reading) their emails on a daily basis. It won’t be easy, but it can be done if you focus on the things they really want and need.

For instance, kids need food. Put a lock on the refrigerator and the pantry and email them the combination. Change the combination each day.

Kids love Wi-Fi. Change the code daily and have them send you an email each day to request their chore list. When they have replied with a list of fully completed chores, they can then send a separate email formally requesting the Wi-Fi code. If their email has no subject line, delete it without reading it.

Kids enjoy getting an allowance. Each month they must email you an allowance request. They can find their money after they complete a series of back-and-forth informational emails as you lead them through a scavenger hunt. Make it complicated. If you have more than one child and they use Reply All incorrectly, no allowance that month.

If you have teenagers that drive, the location of their car keys should be available only by email. Every once in a while, send them an email from you, but with poor grammar and spelling errors, starting with, “Dearist beloved Child.” Include an attachment that is a “pdf of the locality of you keys.”

The pdf should consist of the following one line of text: “You don’t get to drive today because you obviously need to stay home and learn which emails to flag as spam.”

Good luck out there, parents!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

There's Now a Colon in D-Day

Have you ever chugged a whole bottle of grape cough syrup? If your answer is yes, please seek help immediately.

I haven’t ever downed an entire bottle of Robitussin, but I’ve recently done something very similar. Twice.

My six-ounce bottle of sodium, potassium, and magnesium sulfates was the same consistency as cough syrup, and had that same “grape” taste that leaves you wondering if anyone involved has ever eaten an actual grape.

I was instructed to mix it with ten ounces of water, and drink the entire sixteen-ounce mixture. The water did not help.

I did that once on Monday night and again yesterday morning. Why would someone drink a sixteen-ounce mixture of various sulfates, you ask? I found myself asking that same question about thirty minutes after I drank the first one.

Holy wow.

Allow me to explain. Yesterday was D-Day. On June 6th, 1944, after softening of targets by air support, Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy, penetrating deep into France after heavy resistance.

And yesterday, on June 6th, 2023, after sudden, severe, and overwhelming softening of the target area from heavy sulfate solutions, Sutter Roseville physician, Dr. Bul, met me in Procedure Room 3 with his colonoscope, and... well, you get the picture. (He also got a few.)

I obviously wasn’t at Normandy, but on Monday night after the first weaponized grape cough syrup kicked in, I might have chosen the hostile beach landing given the option.

Unpleasant colonoscopy bowel preparation aside, the procedure itself was fairly boring. This was my first one, so I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but it mainly consisted of laying on my rolling bed in a curtained-off waiting area ahead of time, bored out of my mind because my phone was with my clothes in the plastic bag that I couldn’t reach.

They had originally told me I would be semi-conscious, in and out of it, but very comfortable and not feeling anything. They were going to accomplish this by giving me a mixture of fentanyl and something else. I was understandably concerned by their drug choice, but the male nurse assured me it was “the good stuff.” Hmm…

A little later into my incredibly boring waiting period, they came back through my curtain and told me they had an anesthesiologist who could stay for the whole procedure, so they could give me the even better stuff that knocks me completely out and wears off faster. It was an easy sell.

Whatever he put in my IV definitely did the trick, because he said, “Off you go,” and I woke up about two minutes later and they were all done. As I was coming back around, someone in the room said something funny, and I came back with possibly the wittiest retort ever uttered in that procedure room to date.

“What were my demands?” I said, expecting the room to erupt in laughter.

The general reply was, “Huh?”

Um, OK, either I’m slurring really badly, or that was only funny in my head. What was the joke again?

Wow, what the hell was in my IV?

I don’t really remember the bed ride back to my private curtained waiting area, but after two of the best apple juices I’ve ever had in my life, Son Number One showed up to shuttle me home.

Easy peasy. So, remember gentlemen, there’s nothing to fear. And they’ve recently lowered the initial screening age down to 45 years old, so don’t wait.

And if you happen to find yourself needing to storm a heavily fortified beach for some reason, I’d highly recommend bringing along a supply of sodium, potassium, and magnesium sulfates to slip into your enemy’s water supply first.

Talk about softening up your target. It’s basically a gastrointestinal hand grenade.

Holy wow.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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