Staying Out of Harm’s Way

Hi again, from the Shores of the Salish Sea.  Earlier this week, four Americans ~ including a Seattle couple ~ were murdered in the Indian Ocean off Oman by the Somali pirates who commandeered their sailing yacht, removed them from it and held them hostage.  Their lives were being negotiated when the pirate vessel opened fire on one of the four US warships shadowing it. 

These are the first American casualties in history of high sea aggression dating back to the early 1990s and not with any real intent to make it a national income generator.  The original pirates were fishermen defending their offshore waters from the incursion of foreign competition and from vessels which emptied their wastes into those same Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden depths.  Once they learned that the owners of these ships would pay multi-million dollar ransoms and in the wake of a declining fishery, these men and women traded nets for modern weapons and piracy became an economic institution. 

Somalia itself is largely rural, with agriculture, according to the Central Intelligence Agency World Fact Book, accounting for about 40% of GDP and more than 50% of export earnings.  Somalis are nomadic but tightly tribal and piracy has a  broad base of support in a nation which was once two colonies, British and Italian respectively. 

What this means is that Somali pirates spend the ransoms they demand locally.  They pay to have their charges housed deep inland at hidden locations.  They purchase what it takes to keep their charges alive until they are either released or negotiations break down and they are removed as an expense.  What they need for their vessels and mother ships, where they live and what they spend there, the weapons and other tools of their ‘trade,” all bought and paid for at home. 

Because of its proximity to the Suez Canal, the waters off Somalia witness the passage of some 16,000 vessels a year, including those of many of the navies whose commercial and private ships use these sea lanes.  Because of the vast distances involved, it is impossible to protect these civilian ships short of escorting them in convoys.  This has been suggested but has not been adopted.  Cruise ships, private yachts, merchant vessels, supertankers and even private research vessels continue to ply these waters regardless the risks involved. 

What makes the taking of the American sailing yacht Quest and its four passengers particularly insidious to me is that these hostages did not and could not commanded a seven figure ransom of the size a shipping company or major petrochemical industry leader is willing to pay.  We also cannot help but wonder what was on the minds of these four Americans when they decided to enter these waters in the first place. 

With all due respect to the magnitude of this tragedy and the grief it has brought to all involved, sometimes the best way to stay out of Harm’s Way is to stay out of Harm’s Way.


Our hearts go out to the people of Christchurch, New Zealand.  That community of 350,000 was slammed by a 6.3 earthquake which left at least 65 dead.  For dramatic video footage of this tragic natural disaster, please go here

The Seattle police officer who shot and killed a First Nations woodcarver but was not prosecuted has resigned in the wake of an internal review which cited numerous procedural errors, concluded that the shooting was not justified and that the officer should never be allowed to wear a badge again.  The Seattle police chief stated publicly that he intended to fire the officer.  This comes at a time when the Seattle Police Department is under investigation by the US Department iof Justice for several incidents of inappropriate conduct in the field. 

The electric transportation movement in Oregon got a major charge with the announcement this week that some 1,150 charging stations will be installed in homes, businesses and businesses all over the state.  The US government backed the company involved to the tune of $115-million, which strongly suggests that the present administration intends to honor its commitment to environmentally healthier public and private transportation.

The campaign to legalize marijuana in Washington State took a major leap forward last week when the King County Prosecutor said he was no longer processing user-level marijuana arrests.  In the wake of this announcement, the region’s largest daily newspaper, endorsed State House Bill 1550, which would make it legal to sell the herb in liquor stores. 


Our congratulations to Vancouver, British Columbia for making the top of The Economist magazine’s most livable cities. 

Still in Vancouver, leave it to these folks to promote literacy, beautify buses and give the indigent poet population some recognition.  They’re putting local verse on their city buses and as this story by Katie Hyslop of the Tyee points out, for Canadians, this approach is traditional and started with the London Underground. 

We’ve long suspected that being occasionally outer-directed and helping out simply because it’s a nice thing to do makes for happier individuals or is one trait of same.  Canadian seniors are dramatically proving why giving makes good living.


Felina:  I am watching these poor humans from that earthquake in those large islands in Oceana which has head hunters, small flightless birds, prehistoric landscape and three official languages.

Sam:    I’m going to take a shot at this and say that we are not talking about anyplace close hereabouts.  It sounds like New Zealand and that large aftershock that did so much damage earlier this week.

Felina:  Quite so, the archipelago of New Zealand, where earthquakes are apparently not a rarity.  This occurred in the settlement of Christchurch, on South Island and it was apparently an aftershock of an event which took place months ago.

Sam:    Sort of puts a new spin on delayed reaction, doesn’t it?

Felina:.  Indeed.  This programme describes a “Ring of Fire” which begins in New Zealand, runs along the east coast of the Asian continent north to the Aleutian Islands and then back south and down the coasts of both American continents.  The images are fascinating.  I feel so guilty saying this but a volcanic eruption at night can be absolutely awesome.

Sam:    As long as the wind’s not blowing your way and you’re a long ways away, yep.  That ring’s also been a real good planetary population control device, sort of like a flea collar on domestic pets.

Felina:  And you think appreciating the beauty of it as long as you’re not directly impacted may account for why so many otherwise rational and reasonable species would live on such short skirts of catastrophe?

Sam:    Survival itself is based on one magnificent conceit, isn’t it, Felina?

Felina:  Quite so, oh sun and moon of my life.  “It can happen to the other chap but it can’t happen to me because the Creator and I have this understanding.”

Sam:    That’s pretty much it, oh endless galaxies of mine.  And when you really think about it, it does have its own weird logic, Felina.

Felina:  The survivors concluding that they were spared because the Divine One loves them more?

Sam:    More than the ones who weren’t spared.  And for the deceased…

Felina:  It rather is a moot point, isn’t it, Samuel?

Sam:    I’ve yet to hear it contested.

Felina:  And if only logic mitigated the anguish of watching them suffer so.

Sam:    Felina, that’s just a part of being you.  You raised a litter of pet rocks and got flea collars for your Chia pets.  Sometimes loving a species which could very well end up being a charcoal briquette at its own barbecue is pretty much the same thing.

Felina:  Everybody needs a hobby, Sam.

Sam:    They do indeed, Lass.  They do indeed.  And on that note?

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


Sometimes surviving hard times is also about being inspired by others who are, as well.  Like many of you, I come from land stock, a ranch in my case. Others of you I know were raised on farms.  So this video story about how organic dairy farmers in Washington County, Maine are finding new markets for their products after losing a long time distributor should resonate.  It certainly did for me and it also had some great shots of the Maine countryside in winter. 

Another way to survive hard times is to modify a lifestyle habit and freeing up the money it costs for something else.  We’re pleased that this tip comes real close to home and we’ve seen it in action.  A Boeing engineer we know named Carl dries his clothes either outdoors on a line or inside on a rack.  A scientist, Carl really gets into these kinds of ‘experiments’ and he’s published the results of some of them, including this one, on a website we highly recommend.  Yep, for this one, please go here


Seattle Skyline, looking south from Wallingford – photo by Merritt Scott (Rusty) Miller


Population:                      612.000

Greater Seattle Area      3,707,400

Area:                            84 sq mi/217 sq km

Density:                        7,286 people per sq mi/2,821 per sq km

Annual Rainfall:             36.2 inches/92 cm

Compared to:                 19.5 in/50 cm in San Francisco

                                         34.5 in/88 cm in Chicago

                                         39.0 in/99 cm)in Washington, DC

                                          40.3 in/102 cm) in New York City

More Seattle Facts & Figures

Upcoming Events 


In our never ending war on obesity, we came across another munchie which helps take the weight off.  It’s also a good excuse to try something new.  We did and we enjoyed it very much.  It’s Japanese in origin, made from seaweed and tastes heavenly.  Yep, for more, go here

For those of us who prefer to get our highs naturally but are prone ~ as many people are ~ to the winter doldrums, it’s nice to discover a non-prescription cure for it and it is as simple as eating more colorful vegetables.  Yep, for more on this one, go here

As scientists have known for years, the brain is like a muscle in that the more it is used, the better shape it stays in.  Want to test your memory with these two quick tests brought to us by the World Memory Championship?  Click here. 


In dedication to: Shannon Patricia Goddard 1962 – 2001 

More women facing the need for a biopsy and the choice between surgery and a needle should be choosing the latter, according to a recent study in Florida.  Two out of ten women who elected surgical biopsies didn’t need them and would have been far better off with the less invasive alternative.   



Some seventh graders in Seattle are learning what it was like to be a black slave by putting on a place entitled “The Stolen Ones and How They Were Missed.  It is part of the citywide celebration of Black History Month.  We thoroughly enjoyed this one so yep, for more, please go here

Rapper Jar ~ or Jean Albert Renaud as the entertainer is less well-known ~ has used the money his talent as a singer has reaped for him and in turn, invested the money in wild mustangs and at-risk children.   For more on this exceptional human being, please go here. 

In a small town in British Columbia, on the shores of the Salish Sea, a handful of caring people are restoring underwater forests of bull kelp.  To learn why this is important and for a marvelous interview with the kind of human beings we’d all like as neighbors, 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 

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. 


We’re sort of glad we weren’t in Palm Beach, Florida or environs this week.  Apparently sharks migrate in schools and a bunch were sighted as close as shallow water off the beaches.  Marine experts say that these particular Devonians are not a threat to humans but even if I knew they were all vegetarian, I would still not swim with them.  It would be just my luck to run across a short sighted one that mistook me for a giant carrot.  No thanks.  I’ll pass.

 We love it when a wild creature breaks with type and teaches us that we don’t know as much as we might think about them.  That’s the reaction biologists had when a camera placed along a game trail snapped shots of eight cougars moving in a pride.  Mountain lions, as they are also called, have a reputation for being solitary hunters and not particularly gregarious.

 Recommended Related Links:


We’ve made the claim before that American bald eagles nest in Seattle’s skyscrapers.  They’ve also become residents of West Seattle, a quiet neighbourhood overlooking Elliott Bay and the Puget Sound.  For a video glimpse of what it’s like to share the environs with these magnificent creatures of the sky, please 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.


 If you would like to sell something with us or know someone who does, email us at 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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