January 24, 2011

Internet Chatrooms

Evolution or a descent into savagery?

 Hi again from the Bastion on the Puget Sound.  Well, with all that is going on around the planet, I usually do not like to talk about the Internet and issues relating to it because I’m aware that not all of you have the time, the interest, the desire, the need or the motivation to pursue the aspects of it I am going to share with you now.  Having said that, however, I ran the numbers again and was surprised to learn that about 70 percent of this readership has had some experience with chatrooms and frequents them occasionally.  So. I’m modifying a longstanding editorial policy in these regards.

 For those unfamiliar, a chatroom is like a large chamber where ~ in the case of America Online ~ up to 36 people sit around this imaginary Algonquin Round Table and discuss stuff by typing to each other.  In concept, it is a forum for the free exchange of ideas, feelings, credentials, goods and services and social networking.  It is a boon for small businesses and romance has blossomed more than once on the Net.  It is particularly valuable to those living in rural areas where the social options are restricted by the demographics or for those who, in one way or another, have needs and special qualities for which they cannot find resonance in their own communities.

 When I first started going into them in 1995, intent and reality were much closer together than they appear to be now.  I had a good time.  I learned a lot.  I met some very, very nice individuals and I had my own worldview broadened considerably by hearing from people from all over Canada, the States and, sometimes even the world.  It was not something that would have ever happened had I been limited to the three dimensional world of my own community, which, however relatively sophisticated, still retains certain fundamental characteristics of a supply stop for those enroute to the Klondike Gold Rush.

 In the years since, however, and in concert with what many perceive as a general decline in the civility, decency, compassion and humanity of our species in general, chatrooms in general have attracted a class of people who exploit them in ways as creative as anything one is like to encounter in “the real world”.  Despite the fact that human beings are involved, there is a prevailing philosophy that “it’s only AOL” so the rules which govern most effective human commerce can be ignored, modified, suspended or violated.

 AOL and other Internet providers have been slow to respond to the devolvement I’ve just cited and for a variety of reasons.  First, I suspect, is that many of these outfits simply lack the funding to police their own rooms.  Second, until perhaps the last several years, the laws governing Internet conduct have been ambiguous and difficult to enforce.  Third, I believe, there is a fear that policing a chatroom by enforcing a code of conduct somehow restricts freedom of speech.

 As a result, the same people who would stalk someone in real time; molest children, rape women, inflict physical pain on other human beings, and enslave, cheat and rob them have had a field day.  For the wolves of the world, this is new territory, endless pastures filled with defenseless sheep, aging border collies and impotent shepherds.  I’ve seen real human beings literally driven to suicide by the victimization I’ve just cited.

 However, that too is starting to change and The Northstar Journal pledges to be a part of that return to moral and ethical responsibility.  Legislation is being enacted to cover a host of Internet crimes.  Special enforcement and prosecution units are being formed and ~ more importantly and especially laudable during an economic recession ~ funded.  Perhaps as equally impressive is the shift in attitude of the “sheep,” as it were.  They are growing fangs and claws.  They are finding resources to fight back and they are “taking back their streets,” as it were.

 If you would like a list of chatrooms on America Online that we here at the NSJ consider healthy and those we consider toxic, email us at minstrel312@aol.com and we’ll provide it.  We also recommend that you contact your local law enforcement agency and your attorneys general at the community and state level.  They will be able to recommend ways to prevent you from being hurt and/or where to go and who to contact if you’re being stalked, harassed or worse.

 Chatrooms are a rich and fertile source for positive change and the sweet aspect of this is that if those of us who frequent them take the measures outlined above, they can continue to evolve as fundamental instruments for the improvement of the quality of life of us all.


 The conservative-dominated US House of Representatives ~ in what the New York Times referred to as a “largely symbolic gesture” ~ voted to repeal the National Health Care Plan.  The liberal-dominated US Senate does not intend to act on the repeal.  Apparently, the basic right of every human being in America to receive even a minimum guarantee of affordable medical treatment is not as important as supremacy in the political arena.

We join both America and the international community in breathing a collective sigh of relief that US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is making dramatic improvement after an assassination attempt in Tucson, Arizona on January 8, which left six dead and 12 wounded.  Our heart continues to go out to the survivors and to the families of all those so dramatically impacted.  We are also continuing our call for the swift trial and expeditious execution of the individual responsible.

Domestic terrorism has finally reached the Pacific Northwest.  On Monday, an explosive device intended to be triggered by remote control was discovered in a backpack along the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade route in Spokane, Washington.  Authorities are offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

Well, thanks to one of you who collects trivia like I do (I’m a garage sale junkie), a recent study seems to confirm that left-handed people are smarter than their right-handed counterparts.  They also apparently solve problems better and have bigger vocabularies.  Righties, however, have better memories, which to me, balances it out.  I mean, what good does it do to be real smart if you can’t remember all the stuff you know, right?  But lefties are also a statistical minority so I’m going to add a couple of things.  Examples of notable southpaws include Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso, for starters. Not to mention every U.S. president since 1981, except this one.  Oh and FYI, I’m neither a righty nor a lefty.  I’m that weird blend of both, ambi.


 We join most of America and certainly the International Community in mourning the passing of R. Sargent Shriver, perhaps most of the most dedicated and resonant public servants in recent American history.  The founder of the Peace Corps under President John F. Kennedy, he is also credited as the architect of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and was an ambassador to France.  He is also the father of NBC broadcast journalist and former California First Lady Maria Shriver Schwartzenegger and the husband of Eunice Kennedy, sister of John, Bobby and Ted.  Mr. Shriver died in Bethesda, Maryland this past Tuesday, at the age of 95.  For more on this remarkable individual, please go here.

 We also note the passing of another American icon and cinema history maker, Ms. Jill Clayburgh.  A contemporary and friend of such cinema notables as Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino, she “came onto the scene,” as it were, at a time when women were still a tiny minority in the world of male professionals and joined such actresses as Ellen Burstyn, Carrie Snodgrass and Marilyn Mason in redefining the role of women in American society.  Ms. Clayburgh passed away this past Friday at her home in Lakeville, Connecticut, at the age of 66.  For more on THIS stellar individual, please go here.

 Felina:  I am reading more about these places humans go in this realm which appears to have no substance, no gravity and no laws of physics as we understand them and yet which is taken so seriously by them.

Sam:   .I’m going to take a shot at this and say that we are not talking about their old television shows Twilight Zone or the Outer Limits.

Felina: .Quite so.  This is a place called America Online and these particular realms are called chatrooms.

Sam:   Gotcha.

Felina:  They appear to send symbols back and forth among one another, without the benefit of seeing, touching, tasting or smelling each other.  And from this rather limited sensory information, they postulate what appears to be an entirely new dimension.

Sam:   .Kind of spooky, isn’t it?

Felina: .Rather.  I mean, for a species which appears to have elevated aberrations to an art form, this seems a bit much even for them.

Sam:   It’s one of their more endearing characteristics, this obsession with improving on what the Creator gave the rest of us in the first place.  This is the species which takes from mountains and the seas to build artificial peaks which crumble more easily than sand castles at high tide.

Felina:  And yet even here, in this Internet Place, they continue to interact across the admittedly broad spectrum of typical behaviour.

Sam:   .Typical human behaviour, Felina.

Felina: .Quite so.  Typical human behaviour.  They appear to do everything except give birth here.

Sam:   And I have this strange feeling that’s not far behind either.

Felina:  It would not surprise me.  They are nothing if not ingenious.

Sam:   .Terminally, sometimes.

Felina:  Yes, and I still find that so sad. 

Sam:   Me too, love of my life.  Even at their most contradictory, they are a consummately sublime blend of the bestial and the divine.

Felina:  Quite so, oh sun and moon of my life.  And capable of such stellar acts of kindness and compassion which I am quite sure must bring tears to the eyes of even the Creator herself.

Sam:   .Yep.  They’re not doing all that bad for a species that was created on the sixth day, with what mud remained.

Felina: .And they continue to evolve.  So perhaps there is hope for them after all.

Sam:   Yep, they just might make it.  And on that note, Felina?

Felina: .And on that note, gentle readers, until next time, may the Creator bless and keep you.


Sometimes, surviving hard times is being able to look beyond one’s own difficulties and contribute to the world at large.  Here in the Bastion, we call that “The Boomerang Theory of Good Karma” and this essay on eight things one can do to mitigate the human population explosion fits into that category.  Have fun with this one, folks.


 This has got to come as good news to menopausal women.  According to an American government study of 205 women, the antidepressant Lexapro alleviated 47 percent of the number of the hot flashes they experienced.  Yep, for more, go here.

 Salad lovers rejoice.  Here’s yet another reason for having a small green one at each meal.  It prevents arthritis.  Yep, for more, go here.


In Dedication to Shannon Patricia Goddard: 1962 – 2001

This will come as good news to those facing the risk of prostate cancer.  The results of a four-year study of a drug used to shrink enlarge prostate glands is also proving of significant value in the early detection of cancer of that organ.  Yep, for more, go here.



Apparently, one of the largest American chain stores has decided that selling healthy food will be profitable and one of our favorite people, Michelle Obama, is responsible for motivating them to do so.  Yep, you’re going to love this one so please go here.

Thanks to $100-million in federal funding, it will one day be possible to drive a Nissan Leaf and other electric vehicles from Canada to Mexico.  Over the next six months, charging stations will be built in in Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona, Texas, Tennessee and Washington, D.C.  For more on this one, yep, go here.


Finding Rootedness is perhaps the most empowering blog we have yet come across for those of us who value positive and empowering alternatives.  This one is for the window pushers among us.  It offers not only solid alternatives to the chaos but news of where these options are being successfully implemented.

Irish Newsletter is an outstanding pocket source of Irish life, politics and times.  Particularly well written are their news snaps (shorts) which ~ according to friends of mine in Erin ~ literally tell it like it is.  While the Republic of Ireland’s population is only about 4.5-million, there are an estimated 80 million people of Irish descent worldwide and email version of this reached 50,000 of them.

Rusty Miller – Writer/Editor For Hire is my professional home page.  Contracts I receive through this site help finance The Northstar Journal.

Sightline Daily is the best Pacific Northwest source of environmentally friendly news we’ve encountered yet.  They draw from newspapers and National Public Radio sources in Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington State.

The Northstar Gallery features photography of Seattle available as postcards, computer wallpaper and workspace art.

Words Matter: How Media Can Build Civility or Destroy It is a “Should Read” for any of us involved in the communication of the written word.

Wrath of the Testament, an exciting seagoing saga of war and rebellion, is now available for $3.99 at amazon.com.

Yes magazine is the online Life and Look of the Internet combined and their present series “What Happy Families Know is both insightful and inspirational.



Seattle Bridges

Photo by Merritt Scott (Rusty) Miller 

 What’s Going On Here?

 Whether you live here or plan to visit ~ and whatever it is you enjoy doing at home or as a tourist ~ you’ll find it listed here at seattlepi.com.




Well, it looks like there might be a reason why dogs are considered “man’s” best friend.  And that might have something to do with how smart they actually are.  There’s a border collie in Spartanburg, South Carolina which has apparently learned over a thousand nouns and the way it was taught them may have something to do with how children learn new words.  I totally loved this one so for more, yep, go here.

This one reads like an undersea mystery story.  In addition to the two resident orca pods off the coast of Vancouver Island which subsist on salmon and marine mammals, there’s another elusive population whose dietary habits for years have baffled local marine biologists.  According to a study recently published in the journal Aquatic Biology, these particular killer whales eat sharks.  Yep, for more, go here.

Recommended Related Links:


Well, here’s an interesting aspect to what appears to be global warming.  It seems that as glaciers and the snow pack in general continue to melt in the Andes of South America, mysteries about what happened to lost airline flights, hikers and other travelers of these remote and formerly inaccessible peaks are being solved.  My hunch is that before it is over, we’re going to find relics of a civilisation that will explain everything from the paranormal to the rise and fall of Atlantis.  Yep, for more, go here.

Well, that’s it for this week.  If you enjoyed this edition and would like to contribute to the next,

And if you’re in a shopping mood and into some interesting choices?  We have a “reader stocked” General Store that you might want to check out.  We’ve stocked a bit of everything from camping gear and cookware, specialty food items, books, music, films and fun/interesting/weird things that just somehow found their way onto the shelves at night when we were asleep.

The Northstar General Store

If you would like to sell something with us or know someone who does, email us at minstrel312@aol.com and we’ll see what we can do.  See you next time.  Be well.




About minstrel312

MERRITT SCOTT MILLER Bio Wrath of the Testament Author and Northstar Journal editor Merritt Scott (Rusty) Miller is a former newspaper reporter who has published extensively in the Pacific Northwest and several times nationally. A U.S. Navy veteran of the Vietnam War, he began his career in the alternative media of the mid-Seventies. His own Sacramento-based monthly ~ Rapline ~ drew praise from Sacramento BEE metro columnist Herb Michelson in a column published that that newspaper; and from Berkeley Film Quarterly editor and author of the bestsellers Ecotopia and Ecotopia Emerging, Ernest Callenbach. A Northern California native with roots in British Columbia, Mr. Miller has written for several Northwest community newspapers, United Press International, the daily Portland Oregonian and for such Seattle publications as the Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Press and the University Herald. As an investigative reporter for the McMinnville, Oregon News-Register ~ and in conjunction with CBS News in New York, Washington, DC and Flagstaff, Arizona ~ Mr. Miller localized a story of alleged Contra gun-running by an international air freight company headquartered in that Willamette Valley community. During the 1987 Angel Complex Fire in southern Oregon, Mr. Miller worked as the lead dispatcher for the U.S. Forest Service and covered the disaster for National Public Radio and as a special writer for the Portland, Oregonian. His 1988 series on child abuse for a rural weekly earned him praise from the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association. In his career as a journalist, Mr. Miller has interviewed a Nobel peace laureate; an internationally renowned abstract artist; a popular folksinger and various Pacific Northwest elected officials, include a state treasurer and governor. An accomplished travel book writer, Mr. Miller has penned demographic and feature copy for the “Best Choices” series on Eastern Washington, British Columbia, Virginia, South Carolina and Atlanta. As either a contract or staff publicist, he has served a host of clients including the Olympia Music Festival, Umpqua Valley Community Hospital, the City of Canyonville, the Tiller Ranger District, The English School, the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners, Yamhill County Assessor Kim Worrell and Workers of Oregon Development. His freelance publications include: United Press International, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Portland Oregonian, Forest World, American Trucking, Trucks, Oregon Adventures, Oregon Education, Old Oregon, The Entertainer, the Seattle Press, the San Juan Island Sounder, Northwest Passage, Northwest Connection, Seattle Source, Seattle Forum, the University of Colorado’s Writers Forum, Clouds, The long Beach Literary Journal and the Pacific Media Group. He has worked since the age of 13 and has been a hop harvester, professional musician, civil servant, forester, convenience market clerk, lumber mill worker, temporary word processor, technical writer and editor. He has also led a social services research and development team and has six years of radio and telephone communications experience. His interests include astronomy, aviation, camping, Canada, communications, conversation, cooking, dancing, economic development, education, environmentalism, exploration, film/DVDs, fine dining, government, green technology, health. History, human rights, International community, Internet media, law, literature, marine engineering & design, medicine, music, nature, networking, outdoors, pets, photography, romance, science, sexuality, technology, travel, water, wildlife His honors and awards include: Letter of Appreciation - Amnesty International; US Senator Patti Murray Letter of Appreciation for The Northstar Journal Blog; Editors Choice, International Library of Poetry; Congressman Edward Murray Letter of Appreciation; Congressman Frank Chopp Letter of Appreciation; Hersch Best Read on the Net Award for The Northstar Journal; President Bill Clinton Letter of Appreciation; Workers Of Oregon Development Certificate of Appreciation; City of Canyonville Police Department Certificate of Appreciation; City of Canyonville Mayor’s Office Certificate of Appreciation; California Supreme Court Justice Rose Bird Letter of Appreciation; Northwest Magazine Editorial Board Letter of Appreciation for Rain; Editorial Award, Society of Professional Journalists; Sacramento Bee Metro Column; Honor Roll: California State University Long Beach; Deans List: Long Beach City; Mr. Miller currently resides in Seattle, Washington, where he continues to edit and publish The Northstar Journal. He is working on two novels concurrently and a sequel to Wrath of the Testament.
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