Friday, November 13, 2015


East Slope -- new snow

So I come back from Cut Bank with a new load of cat food, driving against a high wind because another front is pushing over the Rockies, and I take a nap, because I’m sort of blitzed.  When I get back up, the fat cats are collapsed on my reading chairs, so I go
to the computer to write the post for Saturday, because I’ll post it tonight at 10PM.  That’s as late as I want to stay up.  It’s midnight on the east coast.

Check messages.  Nothing exciting.  A few exchanges between Philip Red Eagle, who’s been asked to suggest books for a new library of Native American literature, and David McNabb who’s teaching at York University.  I’ve known these people a long time.  We’re on a list that is almost inactive, but still valuable.

Philip Red Eagle

Next I decide to follow up something I ran across a few days ago, daylighting  Larry Sanger’s complaints about Wikipedia, which he helped to found.  In fact, he’s both a guy with advanced computer expertise and a formidable “philosophy of knowledge” academic background.  He has been in on the start of a predecessor Nupedia and also the start of another following wiki he hoped would be more responsible than Wikipedia, called Citizendium.  It's slow and has few posts, but it's reliable.  Sanger is a “Reedie,” which means that his undergrad degree is from Reed in Portland, a famous place where people value thinking above almost everything else.  I grew up in Portland.

Wikipedia quickly took off, but just months after it was launched, things started to go off the rails, Sanger says, and by the summer of 2001 the new online community was being "overrun" by what he described as "trolls" and "anarchist-types", who were "opposed to the idea that anyone should have any kind of authority that others do not".  Sanger responded by proposing a stronger emphasis for expert editors, individuals with the authority to resolve disputes and enforce the rules.  Tired of endless content battles and feeling he had a lack of support from Wales, Sanger eventually left the project.”

So -- all the time that some of us were struggling against what we considered character assassination and erroneous information by predatory journalists, the Wikipedia management knew very well that it was happening and simply tolerated it.  Maybe because controversy draws eyes.  The ultimate goal was always advertising, against the scruples of Sanger.  So a generation of kids, immigrants, rural students and other credulous folks read a lot of slanted and prejudiced information -- often about THEM -- writing it all down, maybe verbatim.   

Backstage, we hopeful reformers of Wikipedia DID have a little knowledge of Bomis, the porn site that offers Bomis Babes, a sort of babydoll version of females that attracts “lads,”  naive beer drinkers who value cars and sports.  This was the original source of Wikipedia venture capital.  To the Reedie crowd these guys must have seemed hungry for information that would make them seem sophisticated and adult.  But men who were threatened by women who weren't babies didn’t want to put in the effort it takes to develop thinking skills above high school level and probably wouldn’t qualify for admission to a decent university education anyway.  They’d have the money, but not the attention span.  And they like wrangling and powering people down.

So that was fun to chase around the Internet for a while!  Ripping the bandaids off the scabby outfit that operates unseen, but generally suspected, where the money lurks, ethics gives way to profit, and anonymity trumps [sic] expertise.

The happy video dolphin who rehabilitates stroke victims.

Next my regular feed of newsletters brought up  STAT is a new online science magazine.  Carl Zimmer is a science writer with a blog of his own and a column in the NYTimes.  This little vid is a brilliant strategy for stroke rehabilitation that is based on a video game of dolphins trying to catch fish.  The player’s arm is in a cradle that controls the dolphin as it dives and twirls.  This causes the brain neurons and the arm muscles to regrow and recover skill.  It’s a lively little vid that’s fun to watch.  The scientist developing this suggests we stop taking grapes and magazines to our friends in the hospital, but instead take a video game like this, maybe one that can be played by two people, but even a single player is a HUGE improvement over lying in bed all alone for hours, or staring passively at a TV.

But you COULD write a book.  Here’s a call from Frontenac House,Frontenac House, a medium sized publishing house in Calgary Alberta, is currently looking for poetry, short fiction, creative non-fiction, and/or essays on the environment by Canadian authors. 

Authors are invited to submit before Dec. 15th, 2015

Here is the direct link to call on the web page:

Hotel Frontenac House in Quebec

I do not know why a Calgary publishing house should call itself after a famous and fabulous hotel in Quebec, though I have no objection since this is where memory meets research.  My family ate in the dining room there in the late Fifties.  We had breakfast, hoping that was the cheapest meal.  My pre-teen brothers, receiving their grapefruit halves in stemmed glass dishes, immediately thought of wine (very intriguing topic in our teetotaling household) and began a series of toasts, which greatly entertained the otherwise sober titans of industry who were actually staying there.  Morning light glinted off the spectacles of gray-haired men peeping over the top of their newspapers.

But it was summer and gnats were about.  One flew into my milk.  I was at the age when I would have swallowed a mouse to avoid drawing attention, but my father put up his finger, like a person in a movie, and the maitre d’ hustled over to see what was happening.  Staring aghast at the minor insect drowning in my milk, he exclaimed,  “Mon dieu!” and, holding it high to avoid contamination, he bore it off into the kitchen.  Soon he was back with a replacement.  SUCH drama!

Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton, Alberta

Wikipedia, which can probably be trusted in this instance, tells us:  “The Château Frontenac was designed by American architect Bruce Price, as one of a series of "château" style hotels built for the Canadian Pacific Railway company (CPR) during the late 19th and early 20th centuries; the newer portions of the hotel—including the central tower (1924)—were designed by Canadian architect William Sutherland Maxwell. CPR's policy was to promote luxury tourism by appealing to wealthy travelers. The Château Frontenac opened in 1893, six years after the Banff Springs Hotel, which was owned by the same company and is similar in style.”

This is the tourism style, closely related to railroads, that led to the development of lodges in Glacier National Park and the adjoining Canadian Waterton Peace Park lodges, though they tended to emphasize the frontier by using Douglas fir logs brought in on their railroad.  The Prince of Wales in Waterton is rather elegant and features a “high tea.”  It was publicity for these lodges and the park, large portraits of Blackfeet tribespeople in their regalia by Winold Reiss, that established in the minds of so many people just who these people were.

This is Mary Ground.
She sat next to me in ceremonies to make sure I didn't bungle.

And so we have come full circle and it’s teatime on the East Slope of the Rockies.

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