Subscription postcards: Exploding craters, an important message from Hubert Humphrey, and a bunch of chimps

Postcard collage: Diagram of lava exploding, with the text "How Craters Were Formed: Bubble Theory". In the background is Crater Lake.

Message on postcard:
Sacha — I’m here at the Tillamook Cheese factory in Tillamook, Oregon, where they have a kiosk that allows you to send “Cheese Mail”, a cheese-themed video postcard that will be warmly received by friends, family, and, if the amphetaminic Cheese Mail marketing is to believed, your coworkers. Three Cheese Mails cost just one dollar, so of course I was very excited to send out about fifteen hundred. Unfortunately, the kiosk ate my dollar and I left dejected.


Postcard collage: A drawing of Hubert Humphrey in front of a green wooden building plastered in quilts, with a word bubble saying "Hello Clear Skin"

Message on postcard:
Evgeniya — Gift shops are weird. I visited the Tillamook Cheese factory today and their gift shop only had one good postcard of the factory. But they did have copies of the books Life in the Goat Lane and How to Live with Teenagers. The cover of the latter book featured a crazed-looking teenager about to run over an old lady with his car. I’m not sure what it had to do with cheese or why the teen’s heart was filled with such malice.

This seems less like advice and more like a warning.

This seems less like advice and more like a warning.

It's also the title of a little known B-side by the Eagles.

It’s also the title of a little known B-side by the Eagles.


Postcard collage: A group of chimps in front of Crater Lake.

Message on postcard:
Elizabeth — Here is a picture of chimps using tools to get food. They stick twigs into dirt that’s full of bugs. Then they eat the bugs that are on the twig. People used to think that only humans use tools. Today we know that other primates (like chimps), birds, elephants, and even some insects can use simple tools.

Subscription postcards: Genius dog and a pizza paradigm shift

Postcard collage: A dog stands in front of a giant hand with mathematical equations written on it. Text reads "The Need to Succeed".

Message on postcard:
Jennifer — I hiked out to the end of Cape Lookout this morning. Cape Lookout is a promontory located in a state park which bears its name. Eponymous geological features are usually pretty good, and this one was no exception. To the north you could see the Netarts Spit, which I’d hiked yesterday, and miles of coastline were visible in both directions. The trail winds along above tall cliffs, grassy steeps, and a rocky cove. I took the dogs with me. They got really close to the ledges and it made me nervous. I told them to step back and that they have too much to live for. If humans were like dogs, we could save hundreds of lives by placing dog treats near emergency suicide hotline phones.

My dog Kaida eating grass at Cape Lookout.

Kaida, high above the Pacific and oblivious to all danger, browses on vegetation along the Cape Lookout trail.


Postcard collage: A horned mammal with prominent rear end kicks with its rear legs. The text "circles are the new slice" is overlaid above a cross-section of a ball bearing mechanism.

Message on postcard:
Erin — Last weekend, while hiking at Cape Lookout, I searched for a plaque in memory of a 1943 plane crash, but I couldn’t find it. The guidebooks didn’t say much about it, so I did a little research to learn more. A B-17 flying through coastal fog crashed into the cliff, just fifty feet or so from clearing the promontory. There was one survivor, who was thrown from the plane into a tree, hanging by his bootlaces and soaked in aviation fuel while a fire burned nearby. He went on to become an appliance salesman. It makes me think about all the ordinary people you see in the course of an ordinary day, and what kind of stories they might be carrying with them.

Learn more here.


Postcard collage: A bison stands in front of a cornfield, with text that says "PIZZA SLIDERS"

Message on postcard:
Mollie — Dateline: Tillamook Cheese factory! After camping at Cape Lookout, I’m here touring the Tillamook Cheese factory. They have big windows where you can look down at the factory floor. Blocks of cheese the size of small monuments zoom around single-file on a production line, where they’re cut into brick-sized units and slipped into colorful packaging. One of the workers would happily wave at anyone watching him. Another worker would only reluctantly return my wave. I think he wondered why a full-grown man touring a cheese factory would wave at him. I have no good answer and concede his point.

A worker at the Tillamook cheese factory acknowledges my presence.

A worker at the Tillamook cheese factory acknowledges my presence.

Subscription postcards: Bats, birds, and dogs that love math

Postcard collage: A bat flying in front of Crater Lake at sunset, with the text "Amazing Technicolor Brain"

Message on postcard:
Kevin — Today I was walking along the beach and I found a really long, rubbery plant with an air-filled bladder at one end. What is this thing? Is it kelp? I don’t think it’s kelp. I don’t know very much about ocean plant life, but I know this thing is interesting and disgusting. I think the whole plant is hollow. It’s like a hollow, rubbery rope. When the mutant apocalypse hits we’ll rename things after their new, post-industrial uses. These weird sea plants will one day be known as quick-rot hoses. But I want to know what we call them today.

My dog Skillet and a weird sea plant.

Skillet sits next to a quick-rot hose on Netarts Spit while staring at the ocean.


Postcard collage: A bird of prey with outstretched wings is positioned behind an "Iron Range" sign from Minnesota. A word balloon from the bird says "Come in".

Message on postcard:
Beth — Cape Lookout State Park is a popular spot for paragliders. Today I saw about ten of them flying around above the beach. They tend not to venture too far from shore. I’m guessing that one paraglider lost at sea was enough to teach everyone else a valuable lesson. People who can fall out of the sky don’t like learning the hard way.


Postcard collage: Tourists appear to lean to the side in a wooden shack called the "Gravity House". Text says "'Publish or perish' has become an axiom affecting the destinies of many scientists."

Message on postcard:
Hey Kathleen — Today I ate marionberry pie for breakfast. It’s my new favorite thing to do while camping. I didn’t know the difference between a marionberry and a blackberry, so I had to look it up. Turns out that the marionberry is a specific blackberry cultivar developed by the USDA at Oregon State University. In 2009 Oregon was going to name the marionberry our official state berry, but a farmer who grew a different cultivar objected and the issue was dropped.

The fracas generated a great headline: “Push to name a state berry starts rhubarb”. The story had a fantastic quote from Marion County’s state legislator: “I am not going to bat over internal disputes in the berry community.”

Learn more: http://tinyurl.com/berry-fracas

Subscription postcards: Impact theory, bird-emblazoned mountain scenery, and corrugated cephaloboxes

Postcard collage: Diagram of meteorite impacting moon to create a crater. Beneath it is a sprinting pig. Behind it are salt flats. The text says "IMPACT THEORY"

Message on postcard:
Sharon — Greetings from Cape Lookout State Park! I remember reading John Muir in my early twenties, reading his description of unbroken old-growth forests that used to carpet the Pacific Northwest … these days there’s not much of it left. Here at Cape Lookout all the trees seem to be second growth. But every once in a while you’ll see a massive old stump that’s about the size of a whale head. I’m camped next to one right now. It’s dwarfing my van.

Vanagon and tree stump.

My van parked in front of a gigantic, old-growth tree stump at sunset. The tree stump looks like a smokestack.


Postcard collage: Birds and reeds in front of a mountain landscape. The bottom of the postcard says "UTAH".

Message on postcard:
Carmel — Today I went for a hike along the Netarts Spit, a thin strip of land bordered by Netarts Bay on the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west. The spit has an ocean beach and a long and tiny hill dotted with dead and dying trees. It also has a grass-covered mud flat that isn’t so much water-saturated dirt as it is earth-laden water. It’s pretty. I like it.


Postcard collage: A boy with a box on his head stands in front of an old-style race car on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Message on postcard:
Bridget — About a week ago I visited Cape Lookout State Park on the Oregon Coast. In the afternoon, before the sun went down, I walked a couple miles up the beach. Debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami is beginning to wash ashore. The best piece of debris I found was a big blue bucket. It reminded me of a bucket-related Meat Puppets song that I later listened to and enjoyed. This is the first and only positive outcome from the tsunami.

Below: The above-mentioned Meat Puppets song.

Tsunami debris sign at the Cape Lookout campground recycling area.

Tsunami debris sign at Cape Lookout campground.

Subscription postcards: Dirt and oil, bus of intrigue, babies of the nothing

Postcard collage of woman, 1972 Monte Carlo, and arid mountainside. Text reads: "Dirt and oil: The revolutionary way to mix and match."

Message on postcard:
Andrew — Last weekend I took part in the annual Worst Day of the Year Ride. It’s a bike ride that takes place during the part of February that is statistically the worst part of winter. This year we lucked out and there wasn’t any rain. In fact, we double-lucked out. The pre- and post-ride staging area had donut holes.

Donut hole nirvana.

Donut hole nirvana at the Worst Day of the Year Ride.


Postcard collage: Greyhound bus in front of leaf-strewn clearing in the woods, with the text "Designed to intrigue."

Message on postcard:
Jeff — The foul weather is still plaguing Portland, but lately we’ve been getting a really nice day every couple of weeks. These are the days when cool old cars emerge from hibernation. All winter long these quasi-reliable beasts of old are hidden under garage roofs or rotting tarps … but when the sun comes out, so too does (for example) a blue 1978 Dodge van whose owner will talk to you at length about important van-related matters while you stand in the street taking photographs, blocking traffic.

A blue 1978 Dodge van.

Riding in style.


Postcard collage: Baby animals and an upside-down bat. Text says "Babies of the NOTHING".

Reverse side of postcard: "If anybody wants to have an itch, I'm ready to be a scratcher."

Message on postcard:
Steve — I found this in a newspaper sitting on a table at a coffee shop.

Family-Circus-cartoon-found-in-coffee-shop

Postcard: So damn busy

Postcard of a lazy hillbilly fishing while a crow steals his moonshine and a pig sleeps on his belly.

Text of postcard to Flink. At the top is an illustration showing how salamanders locomote.

Message on postcard:
On my to-do list for today is the task “clean desk”. This postcard is one of the items on my desk, so by writing something to you and sending it off in the mail, it’s like I’m being productive and responsible. I bought a big stack of these postcards in 2006 when I saw them —

Oops. Steve just showed up to give a drum lesson to my roommate Tony, and I sorta got sidetracked mid-sentence there. Anyway … I saw these postcards in the airport in Iowa and I bought a big stack and this is the last one. I don’t think I’ve sent one to you yet, so I’m sending it now.

Things in Portland are okay. I’m building my first grown-up website right now — by that I mean something more than a vanilla WordPress install — and it’s been fun and challenging and rewarding, and the best antidote to depression that I know aside from exercising and taking actual medication. Ever play so much Tetris that you dream about it? Apparently that’s a somewhat common phenomenon. I’m dreaming about computer problems lately. Good stuff.