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A pair of white wings

wingsWhile walking near Puget Sound in the middle of the day, I encountered a pair of white wings dangling from the branches of an alder tree. Each wing was bound to other with a tether of tendons and gristle. The wings were thick, well formed wings from a massive gull. At first I thought maybe they were the wings that belonged to a bald eagle that I’d seen in the forest near Salt Water State Park. I’d seen bald eagles flying over the beach and as they flew the other birds disappeared. I thought maybe some poacher had removed the body of the bird and discarded the wings. But likely bald eagle wings are worth just as much money if not more than other part of the bird. Instead it seemed more likely the wings were the remains of a meal from some animal that could kill a gull and consume the gull from the top of a tree. Likely it was the leftovers from the meal of a bald eagle rather than the remains of an eagle. As I walked I wondered at how often I see the remains of animals. The streets of my neighborhood are lined the carcasses of raccoons, possums, and cats.

severed headMy cat brings to the house the bodies of birds, rats, and mice. He leaves them on the doorjamb in at tidy bundle as an offering or payment in rent. The other day there was the grisly head of some bird. Considering how packed my neighborhood is with people I am surprised actually at how efficiently the remains of people are removed.

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I don’t own a chainsaw

She owns three chainsaws.

She owns three chainsaws.

I returned to my house after seeing a reading in Seattle. The readers were enjoyable. Seattle was being replaced. Many of the city blocks looked like Berlin after World War II. A billboard said that a transit station would be in operation in seven years time, in 2016. In Seattle, there were long range plans a foot.

I have seen my neighbor three times since I moved into my house six years ago. By 2016, I’ll have seen her three or four more times. She suffers from depression or some kind of malady that turns her into a shuffling, grey, affectless human being. The first time I saw her, the sky was overcast. She peaked her head over the fence to watch me mow the lawn. She said the last people who owned my house had kept the yard in perfect shape. They kept it in really good order, she said. And then, she disappeared behind the fence.

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A Good Fishy Smell, Not Bad Fishy Smell

Smells Like Fish

Smells Like Fish

At dusk yesterday I was tired of reading. I’ve been reading a great deal, and I was tired of reading and it was dusk. At dusk cool air from Puget Sound, about a half mile away and out of view of my house drifts across the lawns. It seemed like kelp and saltwater. I sat on my lawn and played a game of chess with the computer. At first, I had set the game of chess to an easy setting and even at the easing setting I lost the first several games and then I began to win. The computer would make strange mistakes as if it were throwing the game. I set the game to a moderate level and one the first two games, and have not won since. I continue to play the game. The computer is unrelenting and flawless in its execution of strategies. I sat on the lawn while I played the computer. It grew darker and darker. I posted a not on twitter about the smell of Puget Sound because I enjoyed it and something about the smell of seawater, and the damp lawn seemed completely the opposite of twitter. And then after I tweeted, I noticed someone saying about how everyone liked or didn’t like something, and I realized that the measurement of the value a mob places is something is called sentiment and that sentiment is not criticism. The mob is usually kind of wrong and usually vaguely right about the things it likes. The mob is fickle and easily districted. The mob is compulsive. A critic isn’t these things, or usually isn’t these things. I don’t mean the kind of critic who gives a movie an A or C plus like they are an adjunct professor grading compositions, but a critic who engages with things and tries to understand the individual response to something that is often the product of another individual sensibility. A book or movie or LP seems like such a weird way of communicating when instead a person can just write a letter. Instead, they are doing something that is not writing a letter, and is something else. A critic, one who refuses to give grades, I think can be a useful guide. I’m reading a biography of Andre Breton which is written in the drab, factual way of a “the big biography” and it seems very useful for someone like Andre Breton. I’m also reading a biography written in the same style about Donald Barthelme. This is less useful. I’m unsure how an admired professional class such a creative professor can produce radical anything, and instead this book affirms that Donald Barthelme isn’t really radical but instead a kind of groovy stylist.  Bartheleme doesn’t really believe that an individual book can change the world. Breton at least seems to think it there might be a possibility of it that maybe a book can cure the world. I don’t know whether that is wishful thinking or delusional, but I know for me that I have found a single short story to be something that has altered my way of thinking. I wonder if it is possible for a single work to change the sentiment of the mob, to make them not have a sentimental at all but for the mob to change. I tried to tell the mob what it smelled like in my yard yesterday. And here I am trying to tell you. The dusk, the repeated pattern of the cool air filtering up from Puget Sound, evening after evening was reassuring because tomorrow it would be bright outside, the air would hold strands of cotton from the cottonwood trees in the greenbelt behind my house, but it would all settle again into the cool blue odor of brine and kelp.

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Same Blog, New Place

Notice on Seed Cake in 2000. Still up in 2001.

Notice on Seed Cake in 2000. Still up in 2001.

My blog is moving to this location from seedcake.com. I sold the domain for modest sum to a business that sells bird seed and supports a social networking community for bird house builders. It seems a good use for the domain name. So my blog is now here. I have sold my slice of virtual real eastate. Although I’ve only really recovered my expenses making Seed Cake more of a saving account for me. I trust the business-savvy owners of the new site will stimulate the Seed Cake economy.

This location has several advantages. The main being, as a hosted space, I can now accept comments. I have tried over the years running Moveable Type to allow comments, but I’ve always been pounded by spammers. I hope this works out better.

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The Hornets Came Back the Very Next Day

Hornet Nest Like an AcornIn the middle of July hornets started to build a hive in the small fruit tree next to my mailbox. Shortly after I first moved into my house, my prior mailbox had been flattened in the middle of the night. I woke in the morning to find my old mailbox crushed on the side of the road as flat as a Pepsi can left on the macadam. I replaced the mailbox with a Rubber Maid contraption that jiggled and threatened to come apart whenever I opened the plastic flap of a door.

The hornets had a cantaloupe-sized hive in progress. The hornet nest wasn’t that big. I had seen one as large as volleyball. A few summers ago I’d removed one the size of a watermelon from the tree behind the house.

I took the hose and set it to the conical spray and then sprayed the hive at the point where it was connected to the tree. The nest popped off the branch. It fell onto the cement lip edging my lawn and the street.

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The Snowball Bush

Matt Briggs SeattleThe snowball bush blooms once a year. I’m never sure when it will bloom. For most of the year the bush sits in the middle of the lawn, a mass of stalks, dead leaves, and long grass in an island that I can’t mow. I would like to keep the entire lawn wild since I am not much of a lawn keeper. But it doesn’t become wild but instead feral. Blackberries briars spring up from the untended hedges. Cherry tree samplings appear near the crumbling limbs of the old tree between the house and the street. Succulent vines with sticky leaves and round leaves a lime color, a weedy green, grow up the edge of the fence. Instead, I keep the dandelions mowed. I keep the packets of weeds corralled in circles under the snowball bush, the misguided cinder brick planter someone used to hide the stumps in the middle of the yard. When we first moved into the house, there was a Michelangelo Venus standing on one of the old fir stumps. And the snowball bush was in bloom. In the first load of trash I hauled away the statue and threw her into the pit at the transfer station. A man drove a huge, house sized tractor from one edge of the pit to other crushing everything: old chest of drawers, elaborate wooden filing cabinets, bags of weeds, and Venus. When I returned home, the snowball as still in bloom seemed to lit the yard in the reflective light in the dusk. When in bloom even at a night, I can see by the reflective light of the bush. And then after a week of huge shapeless flowers they turn brown and scatter and the bush is a dark lump. I contemplate then pulling it out and turning that portion of the yard into an easy to mow slip of grass and dandelions. I haven’t done it yet because every spring when I think about pulling up the bush, I can’t remember when it will bloom and I wait until it blooms and by the time it does in late May, by the time the memory of the bloom fades, the yard is hot and yellow with the summer and pulling anything living out of the ground seems foolish.

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A Scanner Captures an Individual and my friends Miis

I am a MiiWhat does a scanner scan in order to to capture an individual? Does it understand the general features of a person and only capture the differences that identify an individual? If this is the case, then does the scanner store the master copy, the boilerplate person? Can a scanner store these differences and then if you would like you could restore a person when they die or they are lost? Can you synchronize the differences so that as a person becomes different even from their different selves you could restore them to say how they were in 1976?

I imagine that the first implementation of a scanner would focus on certain administratively expedient features — finger prints, eye color, skin color, hair color — and that of course these would be poorly implemented. Nuance would be lost. Finger pints would be reduced to a laser-eye-readable bar code. Eye color to a 16 crayon Crayola box. Human skin to eight shades. Hair color the same eight shades.

The Wii features an Avatar builder called the Mii. My daughter entices houseguests to make versions of themselves from the limited palatte of bobble-head accessories. Given these limitions people are able to make very close approximations of themselves. Long after they leave their Mii Avatar’s wander around our Mii plaza. On occasion a person will create a Mii that is free form the constraints of their physical world self. It makes me wonder why more people don’t make bodies and shapes and faces that are free of any reference to their physical world self?

Here is an online Mii creator in Flash.

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Absence

This past month my real world life has completely obliterated my virtual one. It is odd because increasingly I feel that the virtual world is more vibrant or at east that more is possible virtually than physically. In the physical world everything takes so much time. I was commuting to a town only twenty miles away to sit at a computer that was similar to the computer where I sit and write in the morning. It took two hours to physically travel there. It would take two hours to return. I have started working at a new job that performs analysis of what is called “consumer generated media” or the blogosphere for companies and people who can afford to pay for the intensive data collection and number crunching required to figure out what people are saying about them online and to do something about it. Generally, this doing something about it is positive. It involves listening and understanding why people are saying the things they are saying. It is odd that it takes so much energy to listen to the blogosphere with its promise of instant, global publication. The trick is that there is so much noise, chatter, and talk. In this explosion of noise, it is difficult to focus. So, it is interesting work. And ironically although I am in virtual space at work, my working place requires me to physically move my body from my town to their town. At least it is only a half-hour away.

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Instruction Manual for Ultraslimline Tower Fan

In the heat wave last month I bought a fan. It was a long contraption rather than then the box fan I’m used to owning. In the heat wave, I thought about cool air. My thoughts on the subject were limited to one idea: air moving through my home so that when I left and stood on the warm grass or walked through the shimmering heat, I could return to the cool hard wood floors of my home.

I was surprised to find that the fan came with instructions carrying the imperative heading: READ & SAVE THESE INSTRUCTIONS. I didn’t know a fan could be so complicated that it would require instructions. It wasn’t an expensive fan.

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Santa Claus and Global Warming

My daughter was looking at a map of the world and found the north pole. It wasn’t marked as the polar ice cap, and instead was in the center of the Arctic Ocean. If map makers can perpetuate the myth that Greenland is a continent, couldn’t they at least add an island or something for Santa to live on? I have yet to find any solid information about Santa’s plans after the warming of the polar caps. I did find a save Santa site, though. I also discovered that in a post-ice cap world, there is concerns about conflict with Canada over a newly valuable Northwest Passage.

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