VOLUNTEERISM, THE TRUE SPIRIT OF AMERICA

Hi again, from the shores of the Salish Sea.  I don’t know how many of you watched the national celebration of American volunteerism on television last week.  I did and I totally loved it.  It was entitled “All Together Now:  A Celebration of Service.”  

NBC produced it and the lineup of entertainers alone was worth tuning in.  Reba McEntire, of whom I’ve been a fan for years, introduced the show with her characteristic blend of Dixie grace, twinkling eye sarcasm and quiet statements of heart down home to the facts.  She sang later too and the other entertainers included Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, Cee Lo Green, Sam Moore, Brad Paisley, Kid Rock, Darius Rucker and Carrie Underwood.  Garth Brooks’ rendition of America the Beautiful had me and some of the folks who were watching it with me, in tears. 

All Together Now:  A Celebration of Service.” also brought together four US presidents; George H. W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.  The spirit behind all this was totally devoid of politics and quite frankly, I found that tremendously refreshing.  It was about what we, as Americans are willing to invest of ourselves not only to help the less fortunate among us but, as well, to make where we are a nicer place. 

Of particular poignancy for me was Bill Clinton’s acknowledgement of the friendship he has with both George H. W. Bush and his son, George W.  Clinton told us who those relationships kept the tradition of volunteerism and the government support of same alive, especially during hard times.  It also revealed  a side of the legislative process one does not often get to see.  Politics is a play set on an earthen stage and whose audience and cast have feet of clay.  Publicly, they play the roles expected of them.  When the camera is off or the curtain is down, they conduct the real business of government, which is to get things done. 

To me, this is the true spirit of America.  Nice going, NBC.  And finest kind.

 IN OTHER NEWS 

Although it is still in the test tube stage, scientists appear to have found a cure for AIDS.  Brigham Young University’s Paul D. Savage has invented a compound which not only tracks the virus down but kills it as well.  Our thanks to the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation for tipping us to this one and for more information, please go here

The American economy appears to be on a gradual but consistent upswing, according to a report issued by the U.S. Department of Labor.  The jobless rate declined by one-tenth of a percentage point and some 216,000 thousand new jobs were created. 

After a preliminary review, the US Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has launched a fullscale investigation of the Seattle Department’s enforcement proceedings, including the unnecessary use of force, with particular regards to discrimination against minorities.  The initial review was conducted at the request of the American Civil Liberties Union, local ethnic groups and members of the Seattle City Council. 

The polar ice caps are melting at a faster rate than ever before, according to a NASA-funded study, and the oceans are rising.  To see just what dramatic impacts result from global warming, please go here.  

OH CANADA

 In an odd tribute to the international nature of 21st Century commerce, one dedicated, if not whimsical, soul is seeking to find out if one universally used product can be made of truly Canadian materials.  He has not, thus far, been successful but he remains undaunted is his quest for a roll of toilet paper that truly deserves the red Maple Leaf label.  Yep, this was a romp, so please go here

Canada is building a quiet but impressive energy infrastructure that emphasizes efficiency, structural integrity, cost effectiveness and ease of maintenance, repair, replacement and upgrade.  That necessarily excludes the massive dams and expansive nuclear power plants which once so proliferate in North America.  These new energy producers are smaller because this is a community by community approach which takes advantage of the evolution of all aspects of energy production since most of these older edifices were built.  This is a industrial evolution in progress, so for more information, please go here

 NORTHSTAR FORUM 

GADGETS YOU SHOULD GET RID OF (OR NOT)

 by Sam Grobard,  the New York Times

The common rap against technology is that it leads to an accumulation of devices. But the nature of technology is changing. Fewer products are doing more tasks — all accomplished by countless lines of massless software code. And so we no longer need to accumulate products. If anything, we can cut down. The question is, Which can be replaced and which are fine, or even preferable, to keep? It is plain as day that paper maps and Rolodexes have given way to their digital counterparts. But what else can you get rid of? Here is a list of common consumer technologies and products and a somewhat opinionated judgment on whether to keep or pitch it. 

DESKTOP COMPUTER Lose it. You may have one now, but are you really going to replace that deskbound PC when it becomes out of date? Assuming you are not a hardcore gamer or a video editor, laptops have all the necessary computing power the average user needs. If you want to replicate that desktop experience, you can always connect your laptop to a larger display and keyboard. 

HIGH-SPEED INTERNET AT HOME Keep it. With the advent of devices like the MiFi, which converts a 3G mobile signal into a Wi-Fi cloud for multiple devices to share, you might be thinking about giving your Internet service provider the boot and using your cell phone as your Internet connection, even when at home. That would work — provided that you get a strong data signal where you live; that you never intend to stream video from Netflix, YouTube or Hulu; and that you have an unlimited data plan from your wireless provider. Given all these caveats, it probably makes more sense to stick with your I.S.P. 

CABLE TV Depends. While you may and should hold on to a good broadband connection at home, it is debatable whether you need to pay for cable TV. Sports fans probably will want to keep it, as many leagues restrict online content, but casual viewers who mainly want some shows and movies to watch could get by with a good Internet connection and some low-cost subscriptions to services like Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video

POINT-AND-SHOOT CAMERA Lose it. Yes, a dedicated camera will probably take a better picture than the small lens and image sensor of a Smartphone, but it will not be that much better. And a point-and-shoot has limitations of its own. It is hard to share photos until you have transferred them to your computer, and there are no apps for cameras, as there are for Smartphones, that allow you to quickly apply cool filters and treatments to the shots you took. Perhaps most important, a camera may or may not be close by when a photo-worthy moment arises, but it’s very likely that your phone will. 

CAMCORDER Lose it. Camcorders get squeezed at both ends of the video spectrum. On the low end, smartphones can capture video, and while it may not be Imax quality, many people do not care. At the high end, new digital S.L.R. cameras (like Canon’s EOS Rebel T1i, which costs around $750 with a lens) can shoot full-HD video while taking advantage of all the interchangeable lenses that were created for still photography. That camcorder you have now is probably the last one you will own. 

USB THUMB DRIVE Lose it. File sharing does not require hardware anymore. In almost any case you can think of, you can move files around digitally via the Internet. That could mean signing up for a service like Dropbox, which creates a private, shareable hard drive in the cloud, or by simply e-mailing yourself attachments and storing them in the drafts folder of Gmail, Yahoo Mail, etc. A USB drive is just something to misplace or break. 

DIGITAL MUSIC PLAYER Lose it (probably). Do you have a smartphone? Then you have a music player. Why load yourself down with an extra gadget? Apple popularized the music player with its iPod, but when was the last time you saw that iconic white box with the dial on the front? Music is data, and many multifunction devices can handle it along with many other kinds of data (like video, e-mail and apps). The one exception may be if you enjoy music while exercising. In that case, a tiny player like the $49 iPod Shuffle might be a better accessory than a larger, heavier smartphone. 

ALARM CLOCK Keep it. Smartphones can be terrific alarm clocks. They can ramp up the volume gradually, display weather information and awaken you to your favorite song. And when on the road, they are still light-years ahead of the incomprehensible alarm clocks in hotel rooms. But a recent daylight time glitch in iPhones that fouled up the clock could give some early risers pause. Furthermore, setting and resetting smartphone alarms may require a dive into one submenu too many; turning a little knob on the back of a clock and flipping a switch is still simplicity itself. 

GPS UNIT Lose it. The least expensive GPS units cost around $80. But your smartphone can do the same thing, if not more, for half that price, or even free. Android smartphones already have Google’s turn-by-turn navigation app built in. And earlier this month, Google announced that the company would be including live and historical traffic data in route planning, so you hopefully get to where you are going faster.  If you have an iPhone, you have several options for GPS apps, including Navigon’s MobileNavigator (which starts at $30) and ALK’s CoPilot Live ($20). Renting a car? Decline the optional GPS; if you have a smartphone, you already have one with you.

 BOOKS Keep them (with one exception). Yes, e-readers are amazing, and yes, they will probably become a more dominant reading platform over time, but consider this about a book: It has a terrific, high-resolution display. It is pretty durable; you could get it a little wet and all would not be lost. It has tremendous battery life. It is often inexpensive enough that, if you misplaced it, you would not be too upset. You can even borrow them free at sites called libraries.

But there is one area where printed matter is going to give way to digital content: cookbooks. Martha Stewart Makes Cookies a $5 app for the iPad, is the wave of the future. Every recipe has a photo of the dish (something far too expensive for many printed cookbooks).

Complicated procedures can be explained by an embedded video. When something needs to be timed, there’s a digital timer built right into the recipe. You can e-mail yourself the ingredients list to take to the grocery store. The app does what cookbooks cannot, providing a better version of everything that came before it. 

Now all Martha has to do is make a decorative splashguard for a tablet and you will be all set. 

RESPONSE:  Carl Slater, senior engineer, The Boeing Aircraft Company, Seattle, Washington 

There are some things the author does not have quite right. 

When a laptop gets six years or so old, it begins to break down.  For example, on the laptop I sent to my son, the floppy drive had quit about a year ago.  Also when a laptop is your primary computer, you will find that, five to six years out, more and more software and software updates can not be handled by your computer.   

It may be that this person has both a laptop and desktop computer where the desk top is kept up to date and the laptop is used for travel. 

At home and at work, my laptops are my primary computers.  At work, they are replaced about every four years.  I suppose that the old ones are thrown away so they are gotten rid of but a new ones replace them.  (This last replacement at my company was after a longer period because of the Recession.)  Our batteries were bad and the drives were full. 

Also, the point and shoot cameras are still ahead of cell phone cameras in terms of pixel density and many have some lens-driven telephoto capability.  I know of no cell phones that have that. 

CROSSING OVER 

It is with profound sorry that we mark the passing of former Queens congresswoman Geraldine A. Ferraro, Walter Mondale’s vice presidential running mate in the 1984 presidential election.  She literally broke the glass ceiling for women in politics and her, “If We Can Do This, We Can Do ANYTHING” speech at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, inspired women not only in America but around the world.  She died last Saturday at Massachusetts General Hospital, after a 12-year battle with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, at the age of 75.  For more on this landmark human being, please go here.

 GOOD EXAMPLES

 When the discussion of the natural resources of any nation comes up, we tend to cite things like oil, natural gas, various minerals important to industry, forestry and agricultural products.  Those are certainly all important but to me, at least, the most important of these is our children.  In Philadelphia, Pennyslvania, an elementary school is doing its best to make sure their kids are well fed, both on campus and off.  If you’re in a mood to be inspired and to perhaps emulate this example in your own community, please go here

While America cannot properly claim to have invented the automobile, each generation since the first appeared on its streets and country roads frightening the living Hades out of horses and the transport they provided has loved to tinker and recreate them in garages from Bangor Maine to Bangor, Washington.  Now that we’re witnesses the dawn of the Electric Age of the Auto, it’s not surprising that this tradition should be carried forth.  To see how one group is manifesting that in the Pacific Northwest, please go here

In the midst of the Hell that Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station has become, a shining and unimpeachable example of the stellar heights of heroism to which our species is capable has emerged.  There are no words this country journalist can convey that can nearly begin to honour the courage of these brave souls.  This story, however, can and does.

 

Felina:  Samuel, I am reading about these brave humans who have gone into the place where great invisible fires burn in a land of cherry blossoms and ancestor worship.

Sam:    Felina, I’m going to take a shot at this and guess Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

Felina:  Quite so.  The radiation keeps building and I am afraid that these men will die in there, leaving their families and community without them.  Such valour is not as rare among them as they themselves apparently like to believe.  So I do so hope they do not perish believing they needed to inspire further self-sacrifice.

Sam:    If they do, Felina, the best we can hope is that their example will, in fact, arouse commitment from the audience which delights in the play but very seldom joins the cast.

Felina:  Precisely.  Their lives are quite the play their Man of Avon contended and they are all swept up in the drama.  Those brave humans who ride those red mechanical beasts which sound like shrieking eagles to places that look like the pit of a volcano and then go into them to save the lives of other humans, these too have valour.  And families who sometimes mourn for them.

Sam:    And the nurses and doctors in their emergency rooms, who witness what horrific damage humans and their machines can do to one another, yet go back night after night, day after day, week after week, year after year, in spite of, or perhaps because of a profound recognition their own mortality.

Felina:  And the teacher in their hard places, where poverty and desolation make old people of children, who refuse to accept the darkness and each day, day after day, week after week, year after year, hold high the beacon of enlightenment and the path it points to a better life.

Sam:    And the farmer who produces their food, whose own survival depends on forces far stronger and more unpredictable than he is, and whose very sweat helps quench the thirst of the land from which he seeks sustenance.

Felina:  And the makers of their machines, who work in long lines and doing tasks of sometimes deadly tedium and repetition but without whom, nothing on their vast concrete paths would move or have anything to transport.

Sam:    When it comes right down to it, they’ve all ~ every one of them ~ the potential to rise to valor and live with courage, it seems to me.

Felina:  That would be what the overwhelming body of evidence strongly suggests, yes.  They are a heroic species but…

Sam:   …it would be kind of nice if they weren’t so often the authors of their own catastrophes. 

Felina:  Yes, my love.  The planet and the universe offer enough challenges, enough tragedies, enough reason to praise the Creator, revel and dance.  Perhaps if they gave themselves permission to live with more passion and less drama, they would also be happier and healthier.

Sam:    Makes sense to me, Lass.  And on that note?

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

 SURVIVING HARD TIMES

 Sometimes surviving hard times is also about making the best of a bad situation.  For a totally humourous look at how to cope with rising gasoline prices, please go here. 

SEATTLE SCENES

I wonder what was on HIS mind? Trablant Cafe, University District, Seattle, Washington. Photo by MS(R)M

SEATTLE FACTS

  • 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:
  • San Francisco                     19.5 in —  50 cm
  • Chicago                                34.5 in —  88 cm
  • Dallas                                   37.1 in –  94 cm
  • Washington, DC                  39.0 in —  99 cm
  • New York City                      40.3 in –102 cm 
  • More Seattle Facts & Figures
  • Upcoming Events

HEALTH NEWS  

According to a study published in the 2003 edition of the American Medical Journal, as many as 35 million Americans suffer ~ at some point ~ from forms of depression ranging from mild to severe.  Down the years, however, the term has become rather loosely used to describe conditions which may have nothing at all to do with the precise medical definition. For eight myths about depression and an accurate description of what it is, please go here

Okay, this one was a little weird but I tried it and it does work.  I love a lot of stuff that’s not good for me and the lady of my life can smell that stuff on my breath a half mile north of a southbound wind if I eat too much of it.  So when I wandered into a famous hamburger chain and opted for three of the biggest, juiciest, greasiest red meat burgers in the history of cow meat, I made a fist and squeezed hard.  One green salad and a half order of French fries later, I was home free and did not, proverbially, spend the night by myself on the couch.  The catch is that if you don’t have a nutrition warden under the same roof, it doesn’t work as well.  You have to care about being healthy in the first place.  Yep, for more information, please go here

ON THE CANCER FRONT  

There’s a rusty saw in the health industry that I’m sure you’ve all heard.  Poor doctors don’t like it because eating an apple a day allegedly keeps them away.  But when we’re talking about one of the greatest and non-discriminatory killers of the human species, the humour pales in light of one of the healthiest vegetables the Garden ever produced.  It is sold in juice form.  It is an ingredient in most pizzas and it goes well with bacon and lettuce on a sandwich.  It is also a great aid in preventing cancer and if fighting it if you contract the disease.  Yes, you guessed it.  We are talking about the tomato.  For more on this one, please go here

RESOURCES AND RELATED LINKS:

 NORTHSTAR FAVORITES 

Celtic Woman is The Northstar Journal’s favourite musical performance group.  When it is inspiration in a song we seek, they invariably provide it and they look as good as they sound.  The production values of their performances, whether at the Helix in Dublin or on a television stage in Adelaide, are flawless.  Perhaps most endearing for me is that these Irish ladies are totally ingenuous, and totally free of pretense or posturing.  They have a global following and for a sampling of why, please go here. 

(The) Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida is the home of Winter, the rescued dolphin who was fitted with a prosthetic fluke and continues to amaze marine lovers the world over by her recovery.  The CMA is in the marine mammal rescue business for real, both as a public amusement site at which they also take care of a variety of species, and on the web as well.  Their videos and other information also make for a nice “educational” experience to share with others. 

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. 

The Northstar General Store is a truly unique online shopping experience and reflects what you, the readers, have said interests you the most.  Whether it’s a specialty food item for that proverbial someone who has everything else or just to browse with some discretionary capital to spend on a whim, you’ll find everything from quality camping gear to interesting CDs, DVDs and books to totally fun and otherwise useless toys, women and men’s apparel and a wide variety of other items and wares you simply will not find under a single roof anywhere else on the Net.  And by shopping here, you help us pay our bills.  To enter and check it out, please click the picture of the store above. 

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.

 CRITTER STUFF

Those of us who love animals ~ and as nearly as I can determine, that’s most of you readers across these seven flags ~ really want to do what is best for them.  Sometimes, however, what we think serves them well does, sadly and in fact, exactly the opposite.  YES magazine asked animal expert Jane Goodall for clarification and she gave them a list of ten things we all can do to best serve in these regards

Most of us who have had anything to do with animals know that they can be a great comfort to us.  They are also apparently good for academic stress and for students training for critical professions.  That’s why the Yale Law School Library is also letting its scholars check out a puppy for a half hour.  Yep, for more, please go here

Recommended Related Links:

 YOU GUYS THINK I MAKE THIS STUFF UP 

The bad news is that last week, a young but extremely lethal cobra managed to escape its confines at the Bronx Zoo and elude a massive search.  The good news is that the venomous little twerp has been found and apparently did not send man, woman, child or beast to their Heavenly reward.  Yep, just about the time that I dare believe that  I have seen, heard and/or experienced darn near everything, I am truly humbled in these regards.  And yep again, for the exceptionally weird details of this one, 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 minstrel312@aol.com and we’ll see what we can do.  See you next time.  Be well. 

Rusty

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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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