Review: 2021

Although the year 2021 isn’t quite over yet, we may as well write it off now.

This last trip around the sun didn’t really happen. It felt just like an extension of 2020 — the year of the coronavirus. In 2021, the pandemic has dominated our lives since day one.

In all honesty, sometimes I’m not sure what even happened this year because I was cooped up for most of it. I felt disconnected, as if my head was stuck in sand for most of the year — but some noteworthy events did take place after all.

Let’s recap, shall we?

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Rediscovering philately

A few days ago I made a mistake: I opened a cabinet door.

Behind that cabinet door lay my stamp collection.

The last time I spent any real time with it was in the year 2002 when I bought a range of new stockbooks to replace all those loose and haphazard ones I had amassed as a child. All stamps were revised and neatly rearranged, and I also used the chance to integrate the collection of an ex-colleague who had been kind enough to donate hers some years prior.

Since then all I did was occasionally flip through the albums but paid them no further serious attention. This changed when I discovered a certain box of spare stamps and I emptied its contents over the scanner.

Digital philately: Spare stamps for Bethel

That box of spares and duplicates was my stock from back when us kids used to sift through each other’s stash of extras for trading and swapping. It’s about 40 years old.

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More media madness, obviously!

Earlier this month I finished my wife’s artist portfolio website. Check it out here.

Obviously it includes a store.

Obviously you check out the competition while setting up shop, and obviously it doesn’t take long to discover the stranger side of Etsy. Even books have been written about certain regrettable products.

One of the more interesting items I stumbled across was this Hi-Fi rack.

Wouldn't mind the reel tape player, though (image via Etsy/SilverBeardLampCo)

Just look at it. It’s gorgeous!

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Canis fidelis verum vox

So there’s this puppy, and it likes to chase cars.

Not just any car, mind you, this puppy goes after certain black cars and occasionally silver cars too. It has no interest in other colours because pink or green cars cannot be taken seriously — but also because dogs are colour blind. The puppy is informed; it learns what is desirable from the adverts and reviews it sees in the newspapers laying on the floor while it is being house trained, and because it observes the adult dogs in the neighbourhood chasing after similar cars.

However, our puppy never quite manages to catch up because cars are fast.

As the puppy grows up it gradually gets side tracked by other interests and new chew toys. Pussies, too, become an instinctive pursuit. Still, our dog looks up and occasionally gives chase when it sees a flashy black car go by — but loses interest after a few metres.

“Nah, another time,” it thinks to itself, “every dog has its day.”

One sunny day our dog was basking in the front yard as a particularly flashy black car cruises by. The dog gives chase. The car slows down. The dog catches up. The car comes to a stop. The driver leaves the engine running and jumps out to quickly drop off something at a neighbour’s house.

Yes, the dog has finally caught a car!

So now what? Seriously… what’s a dog to do with a car?

Oh, this dog knows. It jumps in the seat, closes the door, and drives off. The dog is happy.

Would you download a car? (Screengrab via Ford@YouTube)

Or is it? After a few spins around the block the dog returns the car and scurries off home. It is not fulfilled. It wants more. A flea bug has bitten. The dog wants a better car.

That dog is me. I finally “caught my car”.

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The legacy of Lou Ottens

As has been widely reported in the media, Lodewijk (Lou) Frederik Ottens, the Dutch inventor of the Compact Cassette as well as the Compact Disc died last month.

He passed away on the 6th of March 2021 at the age of 94. At least he got to C90!

Lou Ottens in 2007 for an interview with De Ingenieur (image via WikiCommons)

Truth be told, Mr. Ottens didn’t really single-handedly “invent” the compact cassette; he was in charge of a team of Philips engineers in Hasselt, Belgium who wanted to develop a portable tape recorder / dictation device and the associated tape cartridges for the home consumer. This was achieved by simplifying, miniaturising and re-imagining several existing concepts and products. It was in mono.

Little could he know what legacy his personal frustration with open-reel tapes would leave.

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Revision: 2020

2020 was a year of infamy.

Corona, corona, corona and more corona peppered with travel bans, lockdowns, quarantine, curfew, face masks and social distancing… urgh, 2020 was a reviled year! Aren’t we all excited and happy now that it’s over?

Bullshit! The fat lady has yet to sing.

2020 will probably go down as the year of SARS-CoV-2 but sorry, we’re still in the middle of the very same pandemic. We still have a stretch to go — as the lack of regular New Year’s celebrations have shown.

Don’t hold your breath. The year you think you’re remembering ain’t quite done yet.

Still, 2020 started like any other year. We optimistically rung it in with celebrations, fireworks and a few Chinese lanterns that descended upon the monkey house at the Krefeld Zoo in Germany. Around 30 primates died in the resulting inferno. Many Australians, in turn, spent New Year’s on the beach in order to escape raging bush fires.

Finn steers a boat to safety

Oz was ablaze again. Happy New Year!

A house burning in Lake Conjola, New South Wales, on New Year’s Eve

A few days later, the USA assassinates Iranian General Qasem Soleimani and nine other people with a drone air strike. Iranians are peeved. Thousands attend his funeral where 56 mourners die during a stampede. Iran responds by firing ballistic missiles at international military bases in Iraq, killing exactly nobody. A few hours later, Iran accidentally shoots down a civilian Ukrainian airliner shortly after take-off in Tehran, leaving 176 people dead. More people demonstrate following the government’s initial denial of the error.

Prince Harry and wife Meghan decided to “megxit” the British royal family, and as of the 31st of January the UK is officially no longer part of the European Union.

And that was just January. That’s how it started.

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