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.”

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Subscription postcards: A cold glass of holiday delight

Postcard collage: Woman on surfboard in front of an oak tree backlit by sunset. Text: Don't run from the weather.

Hello Bridget, and welcome to 2013! I hope you like this card, it’s one of my favorites that I’ve done so far. Fun fact: The flower design on the left-hand side of this card is taken from the barf bag that sat next to my bed during last summer’s hospital stay. It’s probably the nicest barf bag I’ve ever seen. Supposedly it is even fire resistant. Which is good if you don’t like fire, but bad if you don’t like brominated flame retardants. If you don’t like fire or brominated flame retardants, it’s a mixed blessing. Life is complicated like that.

Right now I’m at the Stumptown location on Division Street in Portland, and the Paul Simon album Graceland is playing on the stereo. It reminds me of a 1999 Onion headline: “Burned-Out Coffee Shop Employee Just Lets Paul Simon Album Play for Fifth Time”. This is a special subclass of life imitating art: Life imitating art that really only made sense when compact discs were the dominant storage device for personal audio media.

This last summer I downloaded a mix from the Kleptones blog called “Paths to Gracland”, and I listened to it while replacing the transmission in my van. Look it up and give it a listen; I think you’ll like it. Anyway, there you have it, another installment in my series “Stories About Things That Remind Me of Other Things”.

On an unrelated note, I spent New Year’s Day in the Columbia River Gorge, hiking up to a place called Angels Rest. It was clear and cold and windy, and the dogs were with me and there were whitecaps on the water. Which reminds me of something I’ll tell you about later.



Postcard collage: Man on bench feeding pigeons while two gingerbread men fly above him. Caption: Pour a cold glass of holiday delight.

Hello Jennifer! The world didn’t end on December 21st like some of the doomsday-minded people had predicted. It was a letdown for eschatology enthusiasts but a good thing for everyone else. The problem with doomsday scenarios is that eventually the world is going to end — we can say this with pretty much 100% certainty — but so far all the apocalypse predictions have had a 100% failure rate. I’m pretty sure that scientists are right. One day the sun will expand, the oceans will evaporate into space, and eventually the Earth will be engulfed and incinerated. I’d put money on this prediction, but unfortunately I won’t be here for the one to five billion years it will take to collect on my bet. Jeepers, this is a bleak postcard. I should end on a positive note. Predictions for 2013: Humans will continue to love their dogs, and dogs will continue to love humans.

Postcard collage: Man with backpack walking toward cliff. Text: The natural genius. They say or hint yes, he walks away.

Hello Beth! Happy New Year, and here’s hoping that 2013 is a good year. I just wrote a postcard that dwelled too much on the Mayan calendar apocalypse hypothesis before I went on to ruminate about the fate of the solar system. I’ll try to keep it more upbeat here. When writing postcards, it helps to focus on more of a human timescale than a cosmological timescale. So here’s a list of things that help me to stay positive:

– Listen to the 1963 Lesley Gore song “Sunshine, Lollipos, and Rainbows”
– Bake cookies; eat some of the dough but not more than half
– Go to the public library, put inspirational notes between the pages of random books
– Write lists of things that help me stay positive
– Self-referentiality

That’s all I can think of right now. Happy New Year!