Wednesday, December 29, 2021

2021, A Spacey Year in Review

Well, we all had high hopes for 2021 and, other than all the space travel, it came up remarkably short. Let’s recap, shall we?


The year started off with a bang here in the US, as some of our more zealous political supporters decided to graduate from rallies and speeches to treason and domestic terrorism when they stormed the United States Capitol building. In January of 2020, if you’d told me that Murder Hornets were going to be our smallest problem, I wouldn’t have believed you, but here we are.

Ironically, four days later, the thing that all the Capitol stormers thought was happening in their country actually happened in North Korea, as the insane life-size hybrid of the kid from Up and the Stay Puft Marshmallow man, Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un was “elected” to also be the General Secretary of the Workers’ Party, a party that the actual workers have no say in whatsoever. He took over the title from Dear Leader Kim Jong-il, his father, who died in 2011. Apparently, Jong-il was so Supreme, he was able to manage the secretarial duties for ten years, even while being dead.

Three days after that, in Lyon, France, the first transplant of both arms and shoulders was performed on an Icelandic patient. Bernie Sanders was kind enough to donate his extra pair of mittens to the patient. Buoyed by their success, the surgeons graduated to an entire head transplant for Tessica Brown of Louisiana, who had accidentally substituted Gorilla Glue for her normal hairspray.



A joint World Health Organization–China investigation into the source of the COVID-19 outbreak concludes a Wuhan laboratory leak to be "extremely unlikely," with a "natural reservoir" in bats being the more likely origin. In unrelated news, the WHO, a division of Enron, received a sizeable anonymous donation to its executive retirement fund following the release of the report, all in Chinese Yuan.

As the Snopocalypse gripped Texas, leaving over 900 billion people freezing and without power all over the greater Houston area, the United Arab Emirates, and actual country, orbited an unmanned spacecraft around Mars. NASA's Mars 2020 mission, delayed because of bats, was landing on Mars at almost the same exact time, after seven months of travel. No one at NASA in Houston knew about it, though.



Oprah interviewed Prince Harry and Meghan Markle about the disruption in global trade due to the week-long blockage of the Suez Canal by Ever Given, one of the largest container ships in the world, that ran aground after the crew was attacked by bats.



Japan approved the dumping of radioactive water from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, over the course of 30 years, into the Pacific Ocean. The decision came with the full support of the International Atomic Energy Agency, but was opposed by China, who stated, “For Heaven’s sake, people, the ocean contains bat rays!”

Amazingly, a team of Chinese and U.S. scientists announced they had successfully injected human stem cells into the embryos of monkeys. Everyone in the world who wasn’t on the team said, “What in the actual hell?” There is no report on whether the experiment took place in Wuhan, but we have our suspicions.

NASA flew a helicopter on Mars, and Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched four people to the International Space Station. Not to be outdone by a guy who owns a car company, the China National Space Administration launched the first module of its Tiangong Space Station, beginning a two-year effort to build the station in orbit. Elon Musk then launched a second rocket, aimed at China’s new station and filled entirely with bats.



While the world gasped and swooned at Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez getting back together, Elon Musk brought the four people back from the International Space Station, but declined to comment on any plans to retrieve the bats.

The China National Space Administration, still miffed that the dude that started PayPal got to space faster than they did, landed a rover on Mars, making China the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the planet, behind the United States, Elon Musk, and Red Bull Energy Drinks.

The Friends TV show reunion special aired in every country in the world except North Korea, causing Kim Jong-un to become so upset about missing it he launched a missile at Hollywood. Sadly, he missed and hit China’s new Mars rover.



El Salvador voted to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender in the country, alongside the U.S. dollar. Elon Musk immediately sold El Salvador to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle so they could start fresh in a new country.

China sent its first three astronauts to occupy the Tiangong Space Station, still under construction. They returned to China almost immediately in a rocket provided by Elon Musk, citing concerns about an “unidentified infestation.”



The 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup was held in, and won by, the United States, prompting every single American except for the actual players to ask, “What sport are we talking about, here?”

Blue Origin, another space company owned by a dude instead of a country, successfully conducted its first human test flight, with a reusable rocket, the Amazon Prime, delivering owner Jeff Bezos and three other people into space with free two-day shipping and free returns. Elon Musk released a statement saying, “First human test flight, huh? That’s adorable.”

Virgin Galactic, yet another private space company, also sent owner Richard Branson into space. We are not making this up. Virgin Galactic doesn’t use the traditional space rocket, opting instead for flying a modified Southwest 737 passenger jet into space. Branson and three very surprised Southwest flight attendants spent ninety minutes in space, prompting Elon Musk to ask, “Who is Richard Branson? Never heard of him.”

China responded to the increase in private US space travel by releasing a bunch of bats into a North Korean Chuck E. Cheese, totally ruining Kim Jong-un’s birthday party.

The 2020 Summer Olympics officially began in Tokyo, Japan, after being delayed a full year by the blockage of the Suez Canal. Elon Musk won gold in freestyle skateboarding.

Russia’s Roscosmos space laboratory launched and docked with the International Space Station. Just hours after docking, a malfunction of its thrusters causes a temporary loss of control of the station, spinning it 45 degrees out of whack. Elon Musk fixed the problem from his iPhone while on the medal podium in Tokyo.



Spencer Elden, the naked baby on the cover of Nirvana’s album, Nevermind, now thirty years old (both Spencer and the album), sued North Korea and the Olympics for seeing his ding-ding.

A 7.2-magnitude earthquake, caused by radioactive bat rays in the Pacific, struck Haiti. The Taliban saw the earthquake as the perfect opportunity to retake Kabul, and, confused, the Afghan government immediately surrendered to Kim Jong-un.

A suicide bomber killed at least 182 people at the Kabul airport, including 13 US service members. The US responded with an airstrike, using $600 million worth of equipment to kill one guy, who, unfortunately, was not Kim Jong-un.

Hurricane Ida slammed into New Orleans, as the US military withdrew the last remaining troops from Afghanistan. The last guy on the plane reportedly said, “We dipped a bunch of camel spiders in radioactive seawater. Good luck.”



Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un shot two short-range ballistic missiles that landed just outside Japan's territorial waters. Japan then gave the head nod to South Korea, who hours later demonstrated their first submarine-launched ballistic missile. Jong-un said, “Crap! You guys have bat rays!?”

Inspiration4, launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, became the first all-civilian spaceflight, carrying a four-person crew on a three-day orbit of the Earth. Each person was able to flip off China and Kim Jong-un from space a record forty-eight times before returning to Earth.



Delayed for a year due to bat rays clogging the Suez Canal, the 2020 World Expo in Dubai began. Attendance was low because everyone was in space.

Roscosmos launched one cosmonaut and two Channel One Russia reporters to the International Space Station, who immediately reported that it was Elon Musk who knocked the station sideways in July, but superior Russian engineers fixed it. Meanwhile, NASA launched the Lucy spacecraft, the first Cuban-based slapstick comedy mission to explore the Trojan asteroids, wherever the hell those are.

In response to the worsening situation in the Suez Canal, the World Health Organization endorsed the first malaria vaccine.



Elon Musk launched four more people to the International Space Station. We are not making that up. Three days later, UberLyft, a joint space start-up, launched Tony and Marge Rapinski of Akron, Ohio to the International Space Station in a Nissan Sentra.

Unfortunately, Russia conducted an anti-satellite weapon test on the same day that created a cloud of space debris, threatening the International Space Station. UberLyft was forced to abort the mission, causing Marge to accuse Tony, once again, of “never taking her anyplace nice.”

The #FreeBritney movement was delighted to learn that a supreme court ruled to end Britney Spears’ fourteen-year-long conservatorship, causing a vast number of Americans to Google, “what is a Britney Spears?”

NASA launched the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART); the first attempt to deflect an asteroid for the purpose of protecting Earth. Jenifer Lopez immediately sued NASA on behalf of Billy Bob Thornton, Bruce Willis, Steve Buscemi, and her boyfriend, Ben Affleck, for copyright infringement.

The World Health Organization convened an emergency meeting in Geneva after learning that the Omicron Variant, another massive container ship, was entering the Suez Canal.



In a strongly worded memo, the United States announced a “diplomatic boycott” of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing in response to China's human rights record. The athletes would still compete, but no diplomats from the US would attend. Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia followed suit with their own memos shortly after. China was quoted as saying, “Oh, darn.” Kim Jong-un announced he would compete against Elon Musk in freestyle snowboarding.

To round out the year of space travel, NASA, ESA, the Canadian Space Agency, and the Space Telescope Science Institute launched the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor of the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA hopes that the new telescope will finally put an end to the twice-daily calls it receives from India regarding the Hubble’s extended warranty.

As we raise a glass this week and toast the end of 2021, let’s all just give thanks that 2022 is on its way. This will certainly be the year that we can finally catch a commercial flight to Mars to get away from all the damn bats.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The 2021 Do-It-Yourself Christmas Letter

Welp, 2021 came and went so quickly you completely forgot to write your Christmas letter again this year. Hey, it’s not your fault, it was crazy-fast for all of us. It’s the PTSD from 2020. Don’t beat yourself up.

But it’s three days ‘til Christmas and there’s no way you can get a coherent letter put together in time now. Not with all the residual 2020 traumatic stress and whatnot.

Well, once again, ol’ Smidgey Claus has got you covered. I have created the 2021 DIY Christmas Letter Grid. Just pick one item from each column in order to string together a sentence that captures the essence of your 2021 experience. Repeat as needed to fully recap this whirlwind of a year.

Now, get to it. There’s no time to lose.










We lost

our child tax credit checks


the harassment charges.

We sheltered with


Simone Biles


the labor shortage.

We opened


toilet paper, again


school and pro sports.

We cried about


booster shots

in the middle of

Ted Lasso.

We prayed for


Harry & Meghan


the trip to space.

We freed


Elon Musk

prior to

Olympic skateboarding.

We bought


the supply chain


the conservatorship.

We gained


Britney Spears


the Delta variant.

We worried about




the Capitol riot.

We abandoned




the flooding.

We lived without


Andrew Cuomo


a Zoom meeting.

There you go. Now add a “Merry Christmas,” sign, and send. You’re all set.

No need to thank me. It’s what I do. Now crack open that second bottle of spiked eggnog and let’s all pray this next year is a lot less weird than the last two.

Merry Christmas, y’all!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen


Your new favorite T-shirt is at SmidgeTees

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Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Supply Chain Salvation

Well, you’ve done it again, haven’t you? Christmas is right around the corner, and once again you’ve procrastinated your shopping list. In normal years, you’d be screwed, as usual. But not this year! This year you can blame the evil “global supply chain problems” with absolute impunity.

To help you out, I have created a letter you can use. (I will, in no way, be using this ploy myself for my lack of planning with regard to my wife’s gift). Just come up with a great gift idea and fill in the appropriate blanks. Bing, bang, boom.


Dear __________,

We regret to inform you that we see no way to get you the __________ you so thoughtfully ordered many, many months ago, before the Christmas rush.

We know from your previous earnest communications that this incredibly expensive and rare __________ is a gift for your __________. While we regret not being able to help you fulfill that amazing act of Christmas generosity and thoughtfulness, we hope that your __________ can take some solace in the fact that you are probably one of the greatest and most selfless people we’ve ever had the pleasure to encounter.

As you know from our previous correspondence, your __________ is still aboard the Hapag-Lloyd container vessel Mauritania, in Wan Hai container number WHLU0473956. Also, as you know, the Mauritania has been anchored off the Port of Long Beach for two months now, is still thirteenth in line, and has no estimated time for docking.

We want to commend you on your valiant effort three weeks ago of chartering that yacht and personally sailing out to the Mauritania. We were so sorry to hear that the Coast Guard wouldn’t let you board. We were also very sorry to hear about the ensuing kerfuffle, the sinking of your chartered yacht by the Coast Guard patrol boat, and the resulting short stint in the brig at the U.S. Coast Guard Base Los Angeles.

On the bright side, the captain of the Mauritania said he really appreciated the EXPENSIVE bottle of scotch you brought him, even though he couldn’t help. He also said that he and the crew were pulling for you during the whole chase.

Sadly, we can’t offer you a refund, since your __________ is technically “in transit,” still being on the ship and all. Unfortunately, if the Mauritania gives up and sails back for her home port of Panama, as we suspect she will, that could delay things for many more months or even years.

Our sincerest apologies for the inconvenience this global supply chain catastrophe has caused you. Again, your ___________ is very lucky to have such an unprecedentedly amazing gift giver as you in their life.

Best wishes for the happiest of holidays,

Edwin R. Straithmoore III

Director of Global Logistics

__________ Corporation


There you go, folks. Just fill in the blanks and include this letter with the five-dollar Starbucks gift card you’ll pick up for them later, and you’re all set.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Long Live the iPod Shuffle

I don’t like Apple products.

I realize I just made half of the population gasp, but it’s true, ApplePeople. There are actual humans out there that don’t think iPhones are just the best thing ever.

Apple is a cult, like CrossFit or “high-demand religions.” (I’d say you know who you are, but you don’t… yet.) Everything costs four to five times what it should, and doesn’t communicate well with anything other than other Apple products. (Much like high-demand religions, come to think of it.)

Let’s use text messages as a quick iPhone for-instance. Apple decided that having an Apple-only iMessage texting platform was a good idea. It wasn’t. The rest of the free world (using that term literally, cult members) uses the SMS texting platform.

Hey ApplePeople, has an outsider ever told you that they didn’t get your text? They weren’t lying. Your phone never sent it to them. Did you assume it was their fault because they have a stupid Samsung that doesn’t work right? It wasn’t. It was your fault. You can read that as many times as you need to.

Buried in your iMessage settings, six layers deep, is a button that should not even have to be there that says, “Send our ridiculous iMessage text as a real text if the other person doesn’t have an overpriced cult phone.” (It might be worded slightly differently.)

Oh, and don’t worry, you have to do the same thing to your iPad, but it’s more complicated.

And don’t even get me started on Ethan, the twenty-something “customer service Genius,” (currently gagging again at that title) at the Apple store the time I had to go with my mother-in-law. I’ve never met a human that was so smug about not being able to answer a SINGLE technical question I asked him. He was visibly shocked that I wanted to know about anything other than the color of her new computer. (Which she was buying because you stopped supporting her “old” one from two years ago.) I would have slapped Ethan, but I didn’t want to hear him scream.

All that being said, Apple, I will give credit where credit is most definitely due. I own an iPod Shuffle, 2nd Generation, released in September of 2006, and it is an absolutely amazing piece of equipment.

You probably stopped supporting it in October of 2006, but I don’t care, because it is bulletproof. And beautiful. And small.

So very, very small.

It’s smaller than a pack of matches. (Kids, you’ll need to get a size reference from your parents here. Matches are what people used to use to light their vapes, back when vapes were made of paper and you actually lit them on fire on purpose, instead of waiting for the crappy knock-off Chinese battery to light it on fire for you.)

My iPod Shuffle has no pesky screen. It’s a sleek piece of aluminum and white plastic with one set of selector buttons, two switches, and a headphone jack, because it’s old-school and doesn’t screw around with Bluetooth. It clips onto the pocket of my shorts and plays twenty songs in order, or on shuffle. It blares music through my headphones while I run, as loud as I can stand it, and I only have to charge it once every few months.

It is simple, and at the same time, amazing. I can’t speak for any of the other iPod Shuffle generations, but the Gen2 is phenomenal. The battery, the storage, the size and weight, the clip, the simplicity – it’s all perfection.

So, thank you, Apple, for the amazing iPod Shuffle. You help make my runs as enjoyable as runs can be.

Now please fix the damn texting thing. And fire that idiot, Ethan.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Duty-Free Shopping, Perhaps

I want to point out to the wonderful and kind folks over at the California Franchise Tax Board and the amazingly benevolent and totally cool (and not at all “universally disliked”) people at the IRS that the following tale could be completely hypothetical in nature.

Let’s just say, for the sake of telling a fun story, that my family recently traveled via our Chevrolet Suburban up to Oregon, where we have other family. We potentially traveled there to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. It was, hypothetically, a great trip!

If Son Number Two had happened to catch wind of a smokin’ deal that Verizon was having where he could somehow trade his current iPhone in as long as the screen wasn’t cracked and magically get the latest iPhone 13 for free, he would have been really excited about that.

The one catch to getting a “free” iPhone here in California with a possible Verizon program would be that you would still have to pay the sales tax on the $900 “value” (using that term ironically, Apple) of the phone. That could, in theory, run you as much as $92 in tax in some parts of the Golden State.

If Number Two happened to hear about this program the night before we left for the alleged trip, he would have been pestering me to take him to a Verizon store the minute we had a free minute. I would have buckled under his teenage endurance for pestering and taken him to a possible Verizon location close to our accommodations on Sunday.

We then might have been informed about the true nature of this hypothetically amazing deal, whereas every one of the family’s lines potentially had an $800 or $900 credit for a brand-new phone, due to our possible customer loyalty.

If that had been the case, we surely would have all arrived at that same Verizon store on Monday, fifteen or so minutes before they opened, ready to upgrade all of our phones for free. And during the ostensibly fictional transaction, we may have discovered that my wife’s phone was ineligible due to a previously unnoticed small crack in the corner of the screen.

Getting some fictional advice from a helpful Verizon employee we’ll call Mike, we would then have tracked down a brand-new older model phone, still in the box, being sold, potentially, four miles away on Facebook Marketplace, and jumped in the car to race over and buy it with cash for far less than the sales tax would have been had this alleged transaction been taking place one state to the south.

And after spending, potentially, three hours of our Monday morning at the Verizon store and/or on Janet’s porch paying cash for a phone her daughter ended up never using, we might have walked out with five top-of-the-line, brand-spankin’-new cell phones for a hypothetical grand total cost of $175 in data transfer fees and cash for Janet’s daughter’s phone she didn’t want.

I would have been very pleased, ostensibly, because what we would have avoided, in theory, was upward of $450 in California sales taxes by having this entire theoretical situation occur on the fertile soil of our friendly neighbors to the north.

And if I had purchased a new wallet-style phone case for my wife on Amazon Prime and had it shipped to our Oregon accommodations, I would have, in theory, also avoided paying any sales tax on that.

Had any of this actually taken place, rest assured that come January, I would be reporting those sales to the IRS and the California Tax Board so that I made darn sure to pay 100% of my fair share of the tax revenue they so richly deserve. But, of course, as stated, this tale is speculative. Merely a “for-instance.”

Later that week I also hypothetically put new sales tax-free tires on the Suburban. They rode, in theory, quite nicely back down south.

Duty-free has a nice relaxing hum to it.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen


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