Friday, July 31, 2020


This is all getting scarier than politics.

I went back to to update my new email address and discovered that they have morphed from a printing company to a publishing company.  First they lost my request to change my address for months (literally) and now they say I must swear to have read the terms and conditions.  They were 42 pages long.  I printed it out to read over time.  But merely printing it took so long that the website declared my opportunity to renew my password had taken too long and I'd have to start over.  

Now I wonder whether I should go to a different really PRINTING website and what will happen to the books I already publish through  Some of them have already mysteriously become available as free downloads from the Internet and others are featured on Amazon on "my page".  Opposite directions.

So I go back to look at Medium and am confronted by a headline that demands "Why is no one reading your posts?"  The proposed answer is that I'm not enticing enough.  I must use striking images and write more interesting things.  No comment about content.

Then Medium announces that it's working on a beta version of a new component that will be like Blogger.  But I just LEFT Blogger.

I feel like a guy with one foot on a pier and the other foot on a rowboat.  

Thursday, July 30, 2020


How I’ve been using blogger until now.  This is feedback.

I have built a writing habit by writing 1,000 words every day, including weekends.  This habit is strong enough to trigger complex ideas in a manageable way.

The index I’ve developed is the date.  I manage what I write to be one-a-day.  BUT I am always working along a few strands addressing issues, moving from one to another:  Blackfeet; the last fifty years in this East Slope of the Rockies place; the cutting edge research on brain function; “religious” issues excluding institutions while concentrating on liturgy and ritual in all cultures; the economic and social basis controlled by the ecosystem.  Memoir creeps in.  I am NOT tagging according to the standards of techies.

I use the formal idea of a “blog” being a log of posts accessed through search engines.  I use links all the time.

In a sense I’m following the pattern of sermons as an examination of moral systems, the nature of existence, and community life.  But I don’t claim the idea of being clergy.  Instead, I see the possibility of being a “public intellectual” — that is to say someone with a “high” education who yet belongs to the local and has both the leisure and the income to be free from any obligation to an institution whether public or private.  I see this as helping to maintain the connections among all readers that guard our culture.

I have a special concern for the middle of the continent, but not the “midwest” with its specific culture of mostly white people, though both streams of my ancestors came to Oregon through the Midwest.  The maternal side had been in the US for generations.  The paternal side came from Scotland and my grandfather was educated there.  Scotland seems to be an active source of “religious” ideas that are strongly humanist.

I’m an elitist but my definition of “elite” tends to be classic academic, as affected by the radical reform of contemporary Deconstruction, and moral character, not necessarily conventional.  I think many people see blogging as just a personal or family thing, transient and for fun.  I’m much more serious.  Maybe there ought to be a label to warn readers like the one warning of X content.  When I write about sex it’s more likely to be about meiosis in cells than about how to turn your partner “on”.

I think techies who develop interfaces and blog design are not aware of nor interested in these issues.  They are obsessed with eye appeal and merchandizing.  But maybe they should explain themselves in case I don’t get their thinking.  They are as anonymous and scary as ninjas.


Would you consider posting this on your website on blogger? 
You have readers all over the world - some may not yet have realised they need to email you ? 

On Wed, 29 Jul 2020, 22:45 Mary Scriver, <> wrote:
Dear friends,

This is a sort of letter to those who would like to be on an email group mailing list.  You already know that I want out of Blogger because I can’t read their pale thin font and because I’ve lost trust.  I had thought they were more permanent, which turns out to be a universal human misapprehension.  NOTHING is forever.

I started looking at Medium by watching YouTube interviews with Ev Williams, who founded Blogger, Twitter and Medium.  I like the way he thought.  It was a good place to start.

Most of the things that frustrate me are true of all the social media.  They demonstrated a structural social prejudice, pretty much like that on many levels across the USA.  Everything is predicated on readers who are coastal, urban, educated, young, prosperous and up for tech.  In fact, they seem to be more educated on tech stuff than on content.  Yet Ev Williams had wanted good content.

He says, and I agree, that Facebook is much better able to serve people whose values are family rather than education or sophistication.  This entirely neglects the evil aspect of Facebook, which I will ignore here.  I think it is true, but also if some platform for video operated in the way Twitter does — short bits and images — meant for family even not English speakers and non-print people could be very successful.  A sort of YouTube for individuals.  You Tube is great for dummies like me, because I learn so much about fixit technique and so on.  I see that much of it — esp. cooking — is already ethnic.

This idea of going oral also solves some of my problem with fonts, which is mostly that they are too thin and pale for my old eyes.  In fact, I’ve read essays about how this is a mistaken aesthetic — that increased imperceptibility is somehow higher class.  It reminds me of my mother’s conviction that anything narrow is more aristocratic, notably her shoe size and the width of her ear eustacian tubes.

Parallel to creating websites that accommodate different demographies, awareness of which is always increasing as the pressure of the people who need them mounts, is the problem of the intermediary instruments that “play” them.  Already I am prevented from signing up for the Medium Partner program that shares payment with writers because I don’t have a cell phone.  All pay transactions have to go through cell phones.

My carefully saved 8 tracks can only be seen as long as I keep the 8-track player.  Already my CD’s are out of date.  I’m being pushed to the Cloud, which is totally misnamed and vulnerable, being a massive warehoused datebase near a river for cooling.
I wonder how practical it might be to permit parallel simpler platforms on Medium or Blogger.  I don’t need graphs and computations.  Just clean print.  But techies love to elaborate.  Content to them is like those babbles for making examples of forms.   Could there be platforms like WriteNow once was, simple and ideal for people who work with print, literary, no emoticons.

As everywhere in this culture, the quality of content is dictated solely by what sells.  This means that what is purported to be the decisions and subjects of the writer is really the taste of the overlord, whether called publisher or curator.  And that, in turn, is really the taste of the culture — as though it were one taste, one definition of quality.

Ev Williams talks about feedback loops.  What he’s really talking about is forces for conformity from the larger culture who express what they want through looking and clicking.

Feedback loops do not respond to morality or progression into the future.  

This is what I know so far.

Monday, July 27, 2020






The original idea of blogging was to report on ideas from exploring the Internet.  The model was something like a personal letter to friends.  My own tendency has been more like a magazine article or column, and then has grown into something more like an academic journal based on history or ideas.  Maybe I'm ready for a domain if I can figure out what that is.

Google does even have my email right:    They took over my old address, changed it and forced me onto gmail.  I've changed my address now.  And here they are again on blogger.

I haven't closed my blogger account.  If Google eliminates the others besides this one, I'll close out all relationship.

I grieve, I mourn, it's just another insult like all the other pandemics.


In some circles I’m remembered as a “good teacher.”  This comes from how I started out in 1961.  There was a dissenter in 1989 because to her a good English teacher was someone who corrected everyone all the time.  They knew the right way and were mission-like in their zeal to teach everyone.  That echoed more recently off-rez in a white town where an English teacher was supposed to supply endless worksheets about usage.  I was so despised and lost there that I only lasted a few months.

The truth is that where I was “good” as a teacher was at listening.  I permitted anything, even “bad” language, and listened carefully.  If a question was honest, I answered it.  “What is Massengill powder?”  (Stuff to use for a female vaginal douche.  Not recommended by doctors.)  “What is an orgasm like?”  I told her it was like a sneeze.  Now a grandmother, she tells me it was years before she figured out what I meant, that it was an involuntary release and relief.  “Why do white people wear black at funerals?  If they really believe the person is going to heaven, they ought to be celebrating.”  Lots of “why do white people . . .” questions.

My method came from theatre.  I tried to “be” these kids though white teachers were blocked from their homes and the parts of their kid-lives they kept secret.  This is quite different from having a pattern in mind that one is trying to impose, call out, evoke, by whatever means necessary.  Teacher life is on paper and blackboards.  Student life is whispered words.  No relationship.

At Heart Butte I was required tp wrote a curriculum plan.  I’ve always been opposed to lockstep “grades” with prescribed levels and content.  In this case it was impossible because kids had failed grade 9, but then was enrolled in grade 10 until some were taking three levels of “English” without mastery of any because the earliest were presumed to be precursor access to the next one in line.

I fought this by assigning themes to each year: grizzlies, lovers, etc. and accenting the literature aspect instead of the constant hammering of conventional usage.  Not grammar, which is a way of achieving clarity, but the proper use of words that demonstrate conformity.  

In class I tried to enliven question and answer by using a thrown ball instead of a “talking stick” as in some circles: the person holding the ball/stick can talk.  Handing off or throwing gives the floor to the next person.  This stopped working because much of classroom action was “gamed,” that is, the interactions had only one purpose which was a kind of war between teacher and pupils, a competition to baffle and stymie.  Even good-natured versions not interrupted by excesses that meant punishment, were not helpful.

My other innovation was to write the curriculum in terms of four strands:  reading and writing plus listening and speaking.  The principal could not understand this.  In the first place he thought oral interaction was not worthy of teaching, had no content.  In the second place, he was trying to impose order by asking for what we had written as grade steps.  He could not understand individual levels of sequenced learning with everyone at their own level.

The bottom line was that textbooks and workbooks controlled everything because there was no way to do preparations that were unique, either teacher-generated or taught in an original way.  There was no time and it was before the Internet.  The name of education is CONFORMITY.  Truthfully, most people didn’t think there was any other way to do it.  I hardly knew myself and I hadn’t been back to teaching long enough to have an archive of my own.

Now that I do, I discover that no one wants it.  I’ll be interested to see whether the pandemic can jar people loose.  But I’m only distantly curious about what happens.  It’s their business, not mine.

When people create an identity, the beginning is the charmed circle in the infant is based on care — feeding, caressing, cleaning.  Then the boundary of that circle is expanded to the family and the immediate community.  In an ideal world, the circle would include education — even a school.   But on the reservation there is so much difference and there has been so much damage that the natural boundary has become a wall with an abyss on the outside, so there can be white crocodiles in it.  The kids won’t attack their teachers, but they will evade them, stonewall them, punk them.

But there must be ways in.  Forming student coalitions among kids who want to learn is one.  Persuading parents to understand might be helpful.  Cooperations of understanding among teachers, who by now include many who are tribal but not too assimilated to be an interpreter.  Administrators, also now often tribal, can make spaces.

An industry has grown up that markets teaching materials and discipline gimmicks to teachers and administrators.  Often they are ambitious tribal people but more likely they are white people who represent themselves as sort of a cross between anthropologists and missionaries.  They take several days to present lectures and experiences that are meant to be nearly magical in finding the key to happy schools on reservations.

One was about controlling classes by delaying their dismissal, counting seconds according to the seriousness of failure to obey.  The theory was that for the kids the most precious time was “passing” when they could talk, visit their lockers, and get to the rest room.  Therefore, denying them those seconds would pinch them.

Another was an anti-drug workshop to teach awareness, solidarity, and willingness to change.  It promoted itself as tribal in origin and the leaders were indeed Apache.  Tribal rivalry, disgust with the illustrations on the materials showing kids dizzy or goofy, and unfamiliar New Age gimmicks (everyone stands in a circle back-to-front and sits at the same time so everyone is sitting on everyone) were scary.

These marketers of fancy ideas were expensive, left after a couple of days, and then broke contact.  Their programs didn’t work.  But they look good to school boards.

I became a former teacher.

Sunday, July 26, 2020


Well, heck.  I think I’ve finally grasped the electrical and dazzling true nature of the world and existence and I open the door to all this wonder . . . and everyone is already there, calling to me and inviting me to watch a vid about Terrence Malik.  Here is a link to it:

If all that talk just leaves you cold, try watching these short advertisements he made for Guerlain.  The secret of attachment to life is through the senses.  (I once wore “Mitsouko”.  There are stories. . .   not now.)

Of all Malik’s films, the one closest to my heart is “Days of Heaven” which was filmed mostly just north of here and in the time of my grandparents who homesteaded in South Dakota and northern Manitoba.  I never lived in Alberta but there are many connections.  Edmonton Unitarian Church published a book of my “sermons” focused on the land.

Oddly, it is the Humanists who have responded to this broad and enduring set of ideas not about God.  Especially in Scotland where Process Theology, an attempt to reframe Christianity in the terms of quantum mechanics, gave it a good try.

The American Humanist Association has always jostled alongside Unitarianism.  The trouble with small congregations with incompletely developed identities is that they become platforms for strong personalities.  That has happened to both institutions and has kept them from responding earlier to today’s Great Sea Change which is due to the new understandings provided by science.

I’m not good at knowing the major philosophical platforms of Western Thought and the people (mostly men) who represent each, but the vid linked at the beginning of this says that Malik was impressed enough by Heidegger to translate his book, called in English “The Essence of Reasons”, published by the Northwestern University Press, my undergrad alma mater’s publishing arm.  I like to think of the title as “Scented Logic,” combining the senses that connect us to the world with our individual brain-building identities that give it meaning.

That’s for religion wonks.  What I see happening in practical terms is that Christianity has been based on congregations of like-minded people — sometimes the mega-thousand meetings of the prosperity stand-alones and sometimes the quiet non-owning fellowships of UU or Quaker circles.  That is, “religion” is defined as “denominations” (named entities) as much by their way of organizing as by their “beliefs.”  The Southern Baptists next door to me have congregational “polity”, the same as UU’s, but their belief systems are diametrically opposite.  Both of us are legally accountable only to ourselves, but our idea of who we are is diametrically opposite. 

In seminary a Konkoyo priest from Japan lived in my same building.  He was always impressed that I was so un-Japanese, so noisy and messy.  I asked him what church was like for him, knowing that it did not entail big meetings, the kind that are now blocked by the pandemic.  

He said that he went to the temple and waited.  If someone came, they brought him flowers or food.  The two of them would sit together while the person presented their worries and doubts.  Then he would tell them what they should do.  The model was our understanding of therapy and much dependent on the sacredness of the priest, who was a genetic descendent of the founder of the religion.

Maybe another good model is the group of twelve or more Jewish men who gather to study the Torah, with the choice of scripture to focus them.  Early Christians gathered as “house churches” and the layout of altar (butcher block used in sacrificing) and baptismal font (watering pool) grew out of that.  Other more primal People might gather in standing up circles, even dancing and singing.

This is the element that the new “belief systems” about the awe of the universe and the salvation of sensory connection has missed so far.  If one is inspired by photos online, even at home on the sofa with a loved one, that’s not solidified as a once-a-week event with rows of pews.  Yet it’s quite like prayer, to be alone or with a few others.  Or like hiking together in a spectacular place or sitting together around a bonfire at night.

The content is more likely to be sensory concepts than logical reasoning based on abstracts.  Maybe a story.  The role of a celebrant then becomes guiding thought to what “feels” real and meaningful.  But this new way of thinking may be less like a lecture hall and more like a seminar.  Is a celebrant really necessary?  Or, like Quakers, should those who are inspired be entitled to speak?

The dark side of this — death and the possibility that we’re all deluded about what is valuable — is denied in Christianity which purports to be about individual return to life after death.  Judaism doesn’t address the question, since it is based on community, which persists in spite of everything.  It is quite possible to organize a belief system and even an experience based on the dark truth that we will never really know much of anything and the cosmos is as clouded as it is revealed.  Brains use whatever evidence and experience they have to create meaning.

My thought now is that the congregation is the whole planet and existence on it is continuous, interconnected in every way through the granular code of genomic life and through the electrochemical molecules of stone and sea.  We are arrangements of elements that came from stars and will eventually disperse, only to regroup inconceivably.

So a human individual arises through community and ecosystem, becoming someone built by encounter with the facts of his or her life, and acting in the world in ways that affect that legendary butterfly in Australia as well as the other way around.  One of the things that incline me to observant inaction is a fear of making a misstep that will destroy something valuable in the future, like the time-traveler in H.G. Wells’ story who killed an insect precursor of a whole line of history that produced something bad, maybe Naziism. 

This is grandiose on my part, believing that I matter that much.  I must grow where I am planted knowing that I’m just one among many.  But I can write because now there are blogs and and the internet.  Use what you have under this peneplain of sky.

It is a poetry of image.  I didn't forget Malick.

I think religion right now is in its Malick stage.  

Saturday, July 25, 2020


After what people are accustomed to call “supper”, my brain is usually pretty burned out, so I watch streaming movies.  YouTube, Acorn, Netflix.  Netflix was pushing a new film about immortal heroes who could nevertheless feel pain.  If killed, they took a few gasping moments and then reassembled.  Until it didn’t work anymore.  But these days heroes work in teams.  New members appear.

Then I watched a three episode series documentary about the Mafia, things that happened when I was first in Browning and finally climaxing when I was in seminary.  These are the families and the structure that Trump came out of, the assumptions he learned as a young adult.  The film did not shrink from that, so his power must be weakening at last.  We saw the Trump Tower go up — we will see it come down.

“Fear City: The Mafia and New York City.”

Some commentators are treating this series as “just another crime film”, which it is not.  This is like testimony in court, vivid and ghastly.  The real focus is on the abstracts like the principles of the system that made the Mafia work, and how and why the FBI was pressed to figure it out and devise a counter plan that took the leaders to court — those who survived the summary judgement of death arrived at by their peers.  The RICO law is still in force.  Bugs are far more sophisticated and used by nations, even looking down from satellites.  When the Trump Tower comes down, we’ll find electronics by the handful — including direct access to Russia.

Most powerful of all is the internet that records transactions, conversations, agreements.  Cameras are everywhere and the pics are sent instantly to some safe place.  No angst over who has the negatives — the possibility now is thousands of viewers with a screen in their pocket.  Teenaged girls who think sex is everything discover this to their deep regret.  

One of the aspects of the original Mafia that helped the gangsters was their families, their children, and we’ve all seen how a Godfather who rules his nabe also goes home to a ’50’s style household.  He thinks small town thoughts from the prosperous post-war that was full of building.  Today “family” is challenged by kids in their bedrooms texting each other.  A tighter bond that working parents.

There’s no advantage to population density for work or the arts if gathering into an office or audience will kill a percentage of the people.  Working from home means strengthening the cell tower and wire systems.  But it means vulnerability to hackers around the globe who can shut down electricity or gas infrastructure, who are often young, and who think almost mechanically — not in terms of civilization as the Western World knows it.  Maybe a little more like China.  

Now Manhattan's island floods around the edges a dozen times a year.  I once read a book about how to deconstruct a skyscraper.  It was in the Seminary Co-op Bookstore at the height of the deconstruction craze and I can’t find it on the internet.  I wish I’d bought it, but at the time I was using all my power and money to understand the U of C Div School.

I was startled and pleased to see on the Economist an article about Franklin Zimring, though I can't read it because of the paywall.  During seminary I worked as a typist at the U of Chicago Law School which was a very different but equally intense sort of self-contained community.  (That’s where I learned about cappucinno.)  I learned as much from reading while I typed as I learned in classes.  I once subscribed to the Economist, since it is considered one of the most excellent of news sources, but I had to back off because there was too much to assimilate.  Thin paper, thick writing.

In those days (78-82) Zimring was having back trouble and was too liberal for some of the conservative profs, like Scalia.  When in recent past years I began to be interested in boys at risk, I contacted him and he sent me materials.  He believes in young people.  Contacts like this, almost random, are often key to lives.  Zimring’s habitat is southern California and the heart of the liberal humanists.  I should renew his specifics, checking Google, because his writing is strong resistance to those who want to control, to structure, and — secretly because they pretend to be liberal — to kill dissenters.

Getting back to the movie called "Fear City", telling the story of the Manhattan concrete-monopoly that was part of building the place is vital to understanding Trump.  He is a product.  But so is Mary Trump, whose education has clearly been a way to save her father, at least in memory, and which now aligns her with those who wish to save the nation and the whole premise of democracy.

When I was doing animal control, door-to-door ('73-'78) I always marveled at how people could “not know” things that were one block over.  Drug houses, fires, rogue animals, gang bangers — nice people coped by not-knowing.  Likewise, people in this village are very good at the strategy.  

I discover that they don’t know that Bob Scriver is dead and his little empire is entirely gone.  Eloise Cobell saw how to preserve his beloved ranch but the Montana Historical Society does not know what to do with his lifework.  And they get upset if one (like me) tries to tell them.  To them I am an ex-wife, a non-person.  In their papers I’m too old to exist.  In law terms, I have no “standing.”  

But they can’t keep me from writing any more than they can prevent Mary Trump’s book or mine (“Bronze Inside and Out”) or this blog or this movie called “Fear City”.  Sooner or later witnessing will break through the “not-knowing.”

People say to me when I tell them I’m a writer, “well, it’s good therapy.”  They say when I tell them I sometimes get 2,000 “hits” from around the planet in one day, “people want to know about America.”  They don’t register that the curiosity is prurient.  They guard their “not knowing” with the assumption that they are irreproachable.  A moral mistake that is costing hundreds of thousands of lives.

Friday, July 24, 2020


I'm going to experiment a bit.  Often I have short scraps that don't translate into 1,000 blog posts.  What if I put them in boxes, like magazine layouts that have side bars or interruptions?   No ads.

This didn't work.  It was supposed to be in a box.  I suppose I'm going to have to read the instructions.  Sigh.

 Though I’m aware that communist was an epithet in McCarthy’s time, I also remember that they helped win WWII when fascist was even worse.

My dad worked for farmer co-ops which he had a nearly religious belief in because of growing up on the prairie when people survived by cooperating.  His actual salary came from a supply wholesale cooperative which corporations resented and constantly labeled communist in the worst sense.  In the end it worked because the farmers no longer wanted to take time to cooperate.  The corporations took over and fired my father.


It's said that Montana is one small town spread over hundreds of miles.  Here's an example.  

Valier has acquired a proper coffee shop with excellent espresso.  This morning I stopped for the first time when I passed by the door on the way back from leaving my filthy pickup with Fitz's auto mechanics now run by Cliffords'.
I live in a house once occupied by Lily "Fitz".

My excellent latte was made by Melissa Peebles, whose husband now runs the Pondera Canal Company, the irrigation owner which operates on shares, a sort of hybrid between corporation and co-op.  Her husband is part of a family connected to dinosaurs that grew out of a little "rock shop" in Choteau, an hour's drive away from here.  

Beginning with Trexler, a notable force and a rock hound, Marion Trexler ran a little museum which expanded into a shop across the street in a former church.

One could say that it celebrates the Beginning with dinosaurs.  Melissa is married to Marion's grandson.

I get confused by the lawsuits Cohen paid off for Trump.  They were paid for not disclosing "affairs" but in fact those episodes were paid sexwork, cost not disclosed that I remember.  People assume that sex workers enjoy what they do, but the person who is paying for the sex is the one who presumably enjoys.  The sex worker is just doing a job.  It's a bit dangerous because of the dynamics of guilt, control, stereotyping.  The sex worker mind is not on their own ecstasy, but on what will please the customer and bring him back.  Trump was not doing these women a big favor -- it was simply a transaction and I'm guessing not pleasant for the women.  But that's the only way Trump ever treats anything, as a buy/sell transaction.  No different from the concrete business or casinos.  He sued over them, too.


Professor Vaknin begins the YouTube linked below by talking about “Jewish guilt.”  In seminary we used to play a “game” by describing our religious origins (moral) in terms of the kind of guilt they defined.  (Christian Science is the hardest to escape.)  Since my childhood was Presbyterian, I still have traces of Presbyterian guilt.  This is as severe as any, but also embraces predetermination, which claims that “God” predetermined everything and that  you will already be destined for some fate and a judgement you can’t control.  Nevertheless, you should do your best.  (Though God is not thought to ever relent, gives no exemption for good behavior.)

But this point of view deeply embedded in me is sympathetic to that of Professor Vaknin.  I regret ever joking around by calling him “Sam” though it was my grandfather’s name and I get a little irritated when people don’t call me Reverend unless the situation is clearly not one in which I have a title.  I’ve had to accept students and congregants calling me just “Mary” though it often does mean — as Professor Vaknin notes — that they think of me as an equal . . . or less.

The first part of this vid is aimed at the over-familiar “levelers” out there who want to assert that if you want something to be true, it will be that, which is dysfunctional and psychotic.  He will pay no attention to uninformed and childish people who have not studied, nor New Age nonsense either, though those folks write books (if they sell, which they do,)  

I want to assert here that my kind of writing, which is largely blogging, is a base for research-informed writing, using online essays, books, and old university notes.  I google everything and everyone, but in my own doodle-bug and eclectic way which separates me from Professor Vaknin.  In his mid-Eurasian way, which is a version of what we call the Western World, he respects institutions and schools of thought more than I do.  But he also knows people I haven't heard of.  I will look them up.

He feels that academia qualifies as able to define authorities, who should be valued.  Learning should be a stiff but "jointed" armature for knowledge and disciplines are to be valued as close to permanent.  I disagree.  I respect the value, but I disagree.  Disciplines are boxes, pigeon-holes.

What changed me was in part one strategy that was proposed by Paul Tillich, who stood between an unyielding Christianity and the new sciences of relativity and expansion.  He suggested that in the war between “being” and “non-being” there had to be an inclusive concept of “ground of being.”  The best we can do with mutually exclusive concepts is to imagine something bigger than what we know, including both being and non-being, regardless of how unreconcilable they may seem.  Some might think "God" does that job.

We’ve been in a long line of Western Thought that values individual being and authorities that certify them as an alternative to the non-being of crowd anonymity,  put down as not mattering, which can subject a person to abuse and destruction.  The alternative has been seen as obedience and oppression.  This can be enforced with incarceration, as Professor Vaknin knows personally.  (Lest you think all incarcerated people are wicked, I urge you to think of Nelson Mandela.  They did not quite dare to kill him.)

But this line of thought has corrupted Christianity — as the Old Testament warns — to be a strategy to get wealth through "virtue" and to confuse the two.  The wealthy -- alas -- can buy endorsing documents, diplomas and titles that are empty.  Anyway, the uneducated dominate politics right now.  Those who are excluded realize they have moral power, and it is the morality of experience, not rules recorded in Leviticus.  I’m searching for ways to be in community without compromise and enforcement.

Rather by accident — since I simply happened upon the Blackfeet Reservation and saw it as a good place to be, not arriving with some agenda about saving everyone — much of my life has been between two systems of thought, ways of being.  They are oil and water.  To many indigenous people the Euros remain invaders who have murdered and stolen what the People hold dear.  To white people — not just here but all across the US — the indigenous people are primitive, little more than animals.  They have lost the meaning of the word “primitive” which comes from “prime” — number one, indivisible prime numbers.  

What is the “ground of being” for these two kinds of people and their thinking?  It is the land.  Even before the “Word” and even before humans, it was the land.  The ultimate guilt is not killing “God” who had aged out anyway and will reincarnate only to be killed again.  What is worse is killing the land.  That is the ground of human being.

Professor Vaknin has perhaps had less experience directly with land than I have.  We could not find a lot of commonality there, though the land in Eurasian Russia is similar to mid-America.  Even more so in mid-Canada which accepted so many Ukrainians. Too much history has been different.  

Many of the psych experts I know are the same and continuous with the ones Professor Vaknin names, like Piaget or Spinoza or Bettelheim.  I understand his impatience with some humanist, third-force, and gimmicky theories.  But I also know people who say that the very discipline of psychology is comparatively new and possibly already obsolete.  The abstract and crucial ideas that Professor Vaknin names will probably persist but with different names because they are produced by experience.  The discipline itself will probably become much broader and include things like biochemistry of brains, which may or may not support the medicalizing tendency of today’s disciplines as a route to legitimacy in terms of the Western World.  In fact, the medical world is having to redefine itself.  The beauty of being a science is that redefining is progress.

The last time I read a rant like this one, it was from a man with quite different point of view that I can’t name without endangering him.  It comes from a sub-culture that is denied, not-known, and yet about which we profess curiosity and even a desire to participate, much as people wonder about the rarified world of "intellectuals."  It is largely a person-to-person world, partly because this version has formed around adolescent males who are only in that “place” for a decade.  

They do not want to be observed or analyzed, each carrying the guilt and shame of their existence itself.  The best hope is for them to find something worth living for, without any institutions trying to grab them, without being pressed into the military, without having to turn to Mafia, without even turning to female compatriots.  This is close to defining a ground of being that is not quicksand.   The days when academics were protected have also disappeared.  Being an adjunct professor is pretty much the same as being homeless, like these boys.  What a shock.  How enlightening and challenging.

Thursday, July 23, 2020


You know those little cube air conditioners that are being promoted everywhere?  This is a consumer report.  First let me say I love this little gizmo and it is making my life far more bearable when the weather gets hot.  I’m on the keyboard all morning in a small eastside bedroom that takes a lot of sun and I normally run a little clip fan to keep things moving.  This AC is not more powerful, but it is quite a bit cooler.  I point it right at me a little more than a foot away but the doors are open so warm air and gnats do come through — then get blown away.

There are two possible problematics: the “cool” depends on the air blowing past a little reservoir that charges a foam filter that does the evaporation.  I find that I need to refill the reservoir hourly.  Only a cup of water.  No sweat. (jokes)

The other thing is that much of it is plastic which squeaks and sticks.  My computer printer is the same.

I feel quite smug about this pal o’ mine and brag it up to others.  Then I went down to see my mechanic in his vast warehouse work space, always orderly and cool.  What was keeping it cool was a dishpan of water with a fan blowing across the top.  Very simple.  Same thing, but not as cute.

I’m gonna give away my window AC.


Here's a link to start a search, but there's very little limit to what a person can discover online.

We’re used to water coming from overhead or from up the mountain and staying on the surface.  But there is a LOT of action under the ground.  in fact, there so much of such complexity and mythology that I can only point to categories and maybe suggest search engine material.

In spite of obviously shrinking population, Valier keeps needing more water and the water uses keep increasing rules and standards.  For instance, the old water tower that had supplied the town “forever” was measured and found wanting — not able to supply enough water to put out a fire in the school, for instance.  This was outside anything anyone had imagined, but there was no way to just ignore it.  Today there is a second water tower big enough and tall enough to need a red light on top to warn airplanes.

The well levels had been shrinking. We already had four, and wanted to sink another one.  There was enough money for four attempts.  Two were inadequate and were simply capped, though there was a scheme to use one as slow irrigation.  Things were tight, debatable, and dependent on human memory and theory about where to drill.  Finally some people insisted on a water witcher and it’s blurry whether or not that worked.  It was controversial.  In the end a successful well was found and seems to work.

Here are some stats from Pondera County.

Number of wells in County
Deepest well on record (feet)
Shallowest well on record (feet)
Most recent well on record
Oldest well on record
Number of water quality samples
Number of measured water levels

As I began to search materials to begin this little post, I watched for hot springs, one of the most beloved luxuries of Montana, cherished by humans and bears alike.  I’m not talking about Yellowstone, which is a bit over the top, but rather the ones that have been developed into spas.  But I’ve always wanted to visit the quiet, small, nearly secret ones cherished by hippies and other lovers of the land — like bears.  I was surprised that hot springs seem only to be recorded on the West side of the Rockies.  Technically, these are surface pools, not underground.  But that may just be an artifact of reporting.  I knew a family who warmed their large chicken house with hot water from the ground.  

There’s a catastrophic side to thinking about underground water.  When the continental glaciers melted 10,000 years ago, huge aquifer reserves formed underground.  When found, we thought of them as inexhaustible and freely pumped them out to crops.  Now we discover we are emptying the spaces, creating grottoes that might collapse.  Because there is always tectonic pressure from the Pacific plate, this might weaken the area along the Rockies, creating another massive earthquake as we know has happened in the past.  There is no way to ever replenish these subterranean bodies of water.

Fracking, pumping water full of chemicals down oil wells to force out more oil, has also become a worry as ground water becomes contaminated and small earthquakes are triggered.  We have the idea that the ground is much more solid and inactive than a long term look shows us. Common ingredients of fracking fluid include methanol, ethylene glycol, and propargyl alcohol. Those chemicals, along with many others used in fracking fluid, are considered hazardous to human health.

Many old wells, some of them once artesian, even oil wells, have been simply abandoned rather than plugged and recorded.  Sometimes they are marked by rusting debris left behind or leaking poisons draining into waterways.  People have seen the hazards and costs of this failure to repair our endless burrowing and piercing, so they have worked at recording their location and size.  Legal requirements would be enforced if the miscreants could be found.

Small towns and homesteads are dependent on water.  Valier is a source of water for local “dry” farms where there is no well.  An assigned access for improvised tank trucks in town is always busy.  An earlier hydrant next to the small grass airfield had to be shut down because it had been used by a crop duster who stored his chemicals nearby.  He moved his operation to the country, but not without urging since it was so convenient.

The town itself is basically a cooperative meant to take in underground water, distribute it to households, and accept back a system of septic pipes that take it to lagoons designed to treat and settle it.  The piped systems of gas and wired systems of electricity and electronics follow that pattern.  There is always argument about how much of the underground well water is oozing over from Lake Francis and how much is following separate paths through the geology of the East Slope.  Constant testing of the incoming potable water and outgoing lagoon water is required by the state.

The Valier town employees spend a lot of their time digging up yards and streets in search of broken pipes.  The trees the residents enjoy constantly try to infiltrate water systems for their own uses.  In my yard two big fir trees have separate fates.  We removed a huge root from one that might have forced a sewer break, but the other one never gets water except from rain.  Some of us stopped watering when state-required water meters made it expensive.    Both are approaching the limits of their life and pessimists like to tell me they will fall over on my house.  They’re slanting.

The underground with its water secrets makes a potent metaphor.  I’ve stood next to the backhoe watching to see what will appear and the town workers are just as curious.  Until recently when the state is demanding a map of pipes, no one really knew what was down there or even what it was connected to — early day improvisations meant shared or doubled or abandoned lines.  At one point a city employee had asked for a device for holding ditches open so it didn’t collapse on shovelers down in the trench.  It is expensive: two big steel plates with legs in between that has to be moved by the backhoe.  The town council refused to buy one until a collapse trapped a man.  It didn’t kill him, only wrenched his back which will afflict him a long time.

We are sustained by the flow of water through the earth and sky just as we live because of the constant flow in and out of our bodies through flesh and breath.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020


So far I’ve met two ditch riders in Valier, but there must be more.  Maintenance is a big part of making an irrigation system work.  Yet this is a job most people have never heard of and may imagine amounts to nothing.  QUITE the contrary!


Job Description:
1) Controls irrigation system to convey water to farms in assigned area, according to rights, or as instructed by WATER CONTROL SUPERVISOR or other officials, for irrigating fields and crops: Contacts water users to determine quantity of water needed, and time and duration of delivery.
2) Computes and requisitions quantity of water required.
3) Operates gates, checks, turnouts, and wasteways to regulate waterflow into canals and laterals.

4) Measures or estimates diversions of water from canals and to water users, and calculates and records quantities delivered for use in computing charges to farmers.
5) Patrols assigned area by foot, horseback, or motor vehicle to detect leaks, breaks, weak areas, or obstructions and damage to irrigation system.
6) Removes debris and makes emergency repairs to banks, structures, gates, and canal roads.
7) Fills holes and exterminates rodents.
8) Writes reports and records daily deliveries, number of users, amount of water used, and other data required by law or company.
9) May prepare reports on condition of system and equipment, and replacements or repairs needed.
10) May supervise crew workers cleaning ditches, raising ditch banks, repairing concrete and wooden structures, erecting fences and gates, and other maintenance work after irrigating season has passed.
11) May take annual crop census and make weed and other surveys.
12) May patrol canal at night to determine that water is flowing in prescribed volume into users' ditches.



He’d been a ditch rider patrolling the irrigation canals for many years, but he’d never done it at night before.  Once he was out on the little trail along the built stream traveling from the high east slope down to the fields, he began to wish that they hadn’t given up the old system of riding horseback for the modern all-terrain vehicles.  Even lit with a headlight and knowing where he was going wasn’t as useful as a sure-footed horse that knew the path.

One would think that a straight-shot of water moving right along would keep itself clear, but that’s because they didn’t know how industrious and effective beavers can be, esp at night, nor how brush and mud caved in the sides.  A slope like that down through the foothills of the Rockies was a natural engine powered by gravity and hydraulics.  Once it got down to the flats, it could still be tricky for anyone trying to swim in it if someone upstream made a major release from the dam at the headwaters.

Animals used the canals the same way they used natural creeks, deer following along because growth was lush, cougar following because there were deer, and grizzlies because they are peak opportunists.  He was hoping that the noise of the ATV motor and the headlight would alert bears to stay back in the brush, but he spontaneously began to sing as well.  Since he was fond of the stories of the early open range, he sang cowboy songs.

The trouble with this strategy was that he made so much noise that he couldn’t hear the sounds of the night.  Maybe an owl now and then.  The sound of the water, of course.  And sometimes he could see the bright dots of deer eyes.  He could tell they were deer, not cougar, from their size, height and movement.  Small nocturnal animals also froze, glittered, slipped away.

Then the motor failed.  It would not restart.  Small motors are always tricky.  He could not think of a reason.  Silence was sudden.  He turned off the headlight to keep from running down the battery.  Now there was nothing to do but wait for morning when someone would come looking for him.  He had a powerful flashlight and a baloney sandwich.  Cell phones wouldn’t work along this stretch.  Cell phones are an urban invention.  He also had a .357 handgun, just in case.  They were a military invention, but they could stop a bear if the repellant spray didn’t work.

Now it was dark but far from silent.  The breeze sang.  Stars pricked through the sky everywhere and he wished he’d paid more attention to learning the constellations when he was a Boy Scout.  He wished for a full moon, but it was a slender little crescent.

When the bear came, he didn’t see it — just knew it was there.  The smell, but also the displacement of space on the trail.  He tried not to spike adrenaline because he knew the bear could smell it.  It didn’t seem like more than one bear, no cubs was good.  Breeding season was over so a boar would not necessarily want to challenge competitors.  His brain raced on and on, dredging up factoids and ideas that weren’t even relevant.

Time stopped.  

He wondered whether it would be a good idea to turn on the flashlight.  Even if it blinded the bear, it would be depending on its ears and nose more anyway.  If it had been later in the summer, the bear would have been so intent on eating everything vaguely edible that he would have been in more danger.  He thought about his baloney sandwich, whether he should throw it to the bear.  Would it be a peace offering or a snack that implied there might be more?  He thought ridiculously about what would happen if he threw the sandwich hard enough to hit the bear on its nose.  Should he unwrap it?

Nonsense.  Get the bear spray.  Lazily, he hadn’t put it close to hand, so would the search for the can be movement that triggered a charge?

“Whuff!” said the bear, shifting its feet, bobbing its head.  Then it crashed peacefully off into the brush along the canal and out across the empty space beyond.  When the night rider's rescuers came, he could point out the grizzly tracks and tell the story.  They would be impressed.  He might add a few details.