INTERNET BEHAVIOR AND DANTE’S INFERNO

Hi again, from the shores of the Salish Sea.   Well, we’ve suspected it and we’ve certainly seen personal examples of it.  Now, according to South by Southwest Interactive, an annual conference of the digitally involved held in Austin, Tex., the second week of March, our obsession with Internet communication is making us a ruder and cruder society.  

We text when engaged in real time conversations.  We text at conventions when we’re supposed to be attending seminars for which our company has put out a good deal of money.  We text after making love.  We text when we should be working.  We text on the toilet.  If that isn’t silly enough, when we are not texting, we’re talking on cell phones while driving or engaged in other activities which really demand total concentration on the task at hand. 

And what are we sharing?  Some on the most inane and insipid details ever to crowd the airwaves.  Maybe it’s just me, but even if it was the Good Lord Almighty at the other end, I wouldn’t particularly care what the Deity was doing, hour by hour or minute by minute.  Aside from the fact that I refuse to reactivate my cell phone account, even when I used it, I did not consider my own life interesting enough to keep “the readership” up to speed on the latest developments. 

And apparently even when we’re on the Internet under the best of circumstances, we’re none to polite about it.  We receive nice ecards, music or photos from friends and associates and do not feel compelled to respond with even an acknowledgement of receipt.  We assume that the joy of giving does not require a response because “altruism is its own reward”. 

We often end instant messaging conversations abruptly or engage in several of them at once while leaving those on the other end waiting for a response.  If we decide that one of our virtual relationships isn’t working out, we simply block emails and instant messages from the individual concerned, leaving it up to them to figure out why and where things broke down. 

And when we get together as a group, we tend to forget that we’re communicating with living human beings.  We say things we’d never say in a real time group setting.  Because of the relative anonymity of the mode, we act out hostilities and phobias for which we should probably be receiving mental health treatment.  As an example, in one 45-minute session in an America Online chatroom, I saw religious bigotry, rampant homophobia, blatant sexism and bigotry which would have embarrassed the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.  It was as if these individuals were auditioning in front of Satan for the hottest place in Hell. 

This is troubling to me from another standpoint.  My interpretation of the history of nations is that those in decline don’t go quietly or with grace.  They devolve from individuals of compassion, grace, gentility and dignity into a babbling rabble capable only of turning on one another in a desperate and fatal fight for what remains of fading glory and vanishing prosperity. 

If that truly is the case,Americahas far more to fear from Americans than it ever did from those who wished they could fly like eagles. 

IN OTHER NEWS 

Here’s an item I found ironic ~ and maybe you will too ~ considering how proud most Americans are of being a very technologically savvy society.  We still praise pioneer inventors like Ben Franklin, Eli Whitney and Thomas Edison, and while we may envy them their money, we also acknowledge the contributions of contemporary cybernetic pioneers such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.  Why is it, then, that according to the World Economic Forum, the United States is running fifth behind Sweden, Singapore, Finland and Switzerland in the application and daily use of the technology we’ve helped create?  Yep, for more on this one, please go here. 

In concert with what appears to be a major habitat restoration in the Puget Sound, state government is finding a way to offset the loss of federal funding in a way that could set an example for other states/provinces with quality of life vs. the budget problems.  The State Conservation Corps, which hires 18 – 25 year olds for various environmental projects throughout the state, is dedicating a portion of state funding for a branch of the Corps dedicated to the Greater Puget Sound wetlands restoration.  For more on how this is coming together and what it will mean to the area, please go here. 

A year after British Petroleum’s Macondo oil well in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, killing 11 people outright and decimating the ecology and economy of thousands of those to whom these waters are more than a source of perhaps the most toxic fuel source on this planet next to uranium and coal, the American government agency responsible for regulating the fossil fuel industry has been totally reorganized under a director with a spine and new and expanded powers to make sure greed does not kill again.  While we applaud efforts in this regard, we are not real thrilled that offshore drilling has been allowed to continue, particularly when we remember the standAmerica’s chief executive took on this in the first place.  So good luck with this one, guys.  I’m still voting windmills and solar in the next election and if Obama can’t deliver, maybe it is time to trade the jackass in for an elephant with integrity. 

Well, yet another study seems to confirm it.  Human beings need eight hours of sleep a night in order to be fully functional.  Less and their performance deteriorates rapidly, accounting for everything from multi-fatality motor vehicle accidents to extremely poor political decisions to the kind of battlefield heroics which soak the ground in blood but accomplish nothing else.  So if you think it’s admirable and heroic and noble to push yourself until you’re ready to drop, get a good night’s rest, for your sake and the sake of the rest of the lives you touch. 

OH CANADA 

BC Hydro, British Columbia’s provincial power company, is installing Washington state manufactured electrical ‘smart’ meters on an estimated two million homes and businesses in the greater Vancouver area.  At a cost of $930-million, the devices are anticipated to save BC Hydro $500-million by 2030.  The meters are not first-time installations but merely upgraded replacements of those already in place to measure customer usage and also to detect energy theft. 

When, in 2006, the Vancouver City Park Board cut down 14 healthy maple trees because residents in that East Van neighbourhood said they were spoiling the view, citizens throughout this green metropolis were incensed and perhaps rightfully so.  In the minds and hearts of many Canadians, trees ~ because they benefit so many life forms including humans ~ belong to all, not just to the owners of the property on which they grow.  To learn more about how this passion for all things great, small, and green is being translated into the ways and means to prevent what thousands British Columbians consider genocide, please go here

GOOD EXAMPLES 

With all the bad news we read about or watch on television or listen to on the radio, it’s real easy to forget that there are a lot of good people and good things happening out there as well.  For as predatory as some of us can be, there are others willing to step out, stand up and proactively care about other human beings.  That’s particularly true in my community and this story of how neighbors and one man in particular rallied to prevent someone of diminished capacity from losing their home to back taxes is but one example, albeit an outstanding one

In full recognition of the role that salmon play in the total web of life in the Pacific Northwest, private citizens, local, state and federal agencies and a First Nation restored to its natural beauty and vitality an entire river delta.  And yep, the salmon have returned.  We totally loved the video on this one so, of course, go here.

Felina:  Samuel, I am watching this story about the return of these great fish to another land west of our mountains and I must admit that I am very impressed.

Sam:    Felina, I’m going to take a shot at this and say it’s also the one river in the State ofWashingtonwhose name you cannot pronounce.

Felina:  Quite so.  It is a First Nation name which must twist even the tongues of humans who are not direct descendants of those who walk on two legs but live on the land as if they had four.

Sam:    And it is pronounced Niss-SQUAL-ee.

Felina:  I have studied the history and culture of this tribe and to me, not only is their survival quite remarkable considering what the New American invaders did to them but that they have remained faithful to a culture which has worked for them for thousands and thousands of years on this land seems exceptionally noteworthy.

Sam:    There’s definitely something to the antiquity of the gene pool and generations to learn how to do it right the first time.

Felina:  Not to mention that adage you are so fond of quoting, mate mine.

Sam:    “If it’s working, do not mess with it?”

Felina:  Quite so.  It is a shame the white human invaders could not leave well enough alone.

Sam:    The pioneers weren’t interested in learning from anyone.  They had a vision of what they wanted and it was to not be poor, hungry, cold or told what to do by anyone, except their Good Lord Almighty.  And half the time, they didn’t listen to Him either.

Felina:  Yet they profess so eloquently their piety and their belief in the one true god.

Sam:    And to paraphrase their humorist, Mark Twain, every religion had one and there were as many religions as there were lies and slanders in an election year.

Felina:  Surely some of them must have realized the true value of the land in its natural state?  It is difficult for me to believe they were all stupid.

Sam:    I’m sure there were a few around.  When we were in Californiavisiting Cousin Ezekiel, we met the descendants of that great 19th Century environmentalist, John Muir.

Felina:  Those humans with those lovely glass beads around their necks who lived together communally and smoked that plant which made them speak slowly, see visions and eat anything that wasn’t actually trying to crawl off the plate or jump out of the jar.

Sam:    Yep, those were John Muir’s progeny.  They loved trees so much they hugged them.

Felina:  And when those humans with those terrible and noisy machines with teeth and a chain came to the forest, these humans with long hair and decorative jeans bound themselves to the trees with chains so the forest would be spared.

Sam:    Yep, Felina, that’s about the size of it.

Felina:  So they have learned after all.

Sam:    Some, sure.  Nobody can remain that ignorant and still remember to draw a breath.

Felina:  Perhaps sanity is contagious as well, Samuel.

Sam:    I wouldn’t bet the family cave on that one, Lass.  However, on that note, Felina?

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 knowing how to be happy.  Here are a list of ten actions human beings can take that scientific research has proven make us that way.  I’m betting that most of you who with sunny dispositions are already doing at least seven of them.  And I’m working on the other three.  Yep, for more on this one, please go here. 

SEATTLE SCENES

It was another soggy sundown approaching; quiet, windless and not gray, but white. It was a Saturday and no different than a string of sunless ones which stretched back, almost unbroken, to last Thanksgiving. Even for us, that’s a long time. On my way back from grocery shopping, I heard something so improbable in this quiet neighborhood that I stopped and looked across the street. I don’t know who this man was but from the equipment in the back of his truck, I’d say he was a gardener by trade. He also learned to play the trumpet from the angels who do that in Heaven and that’s the only way to describe the haunting strains of that Christian hymn he played. He was a humble man thanking God for another day and he was facing west, where his golden gratitude would reach the snowcapped Cascade Mountains and all life in-between. How Great Thou Art never resonated more nor seemed so poetically well deserved Mishka.

FOR SEATTLE READERS ESPECIALLY 

With the Boeing Company, McCord Air Force Base, the Seattle Tacoma International Airport and the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station all providing their own influence on the region, it was surprising to many that NASA did not accept the Museum of Flight’s (MOF) proposal to site one of four retired Space Shuttles here.  The Puget Sound’s contribution to the aerospace industry was, however, considered important enough for the MOF to receiving a training mock-up, which is what the astronauts use to familiarize themselves with the various components, workstations and modules of the ones which actually fly.  Former astronaut and MOF CEO Bonnie Dunbar announced the decision at a press conference earlier this week.

 SEATTLE FACTS

  • Population:                   612.000
  • GreaterSeattleArea      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:

  1. San Francisco                     19.5 in —  50 cm
  2. Chicago                               34.5 in —  88 cm
  3. Dallas                                   37.1 in –  94 cm
  4. Washington,DC                  39.0 in —  99 cm
  5. New York City                      40.3 in –102 cm

 More Seattle Facts & Figures 

Upcoming Events

 HEALTH NEWS  

Here’s another of those “miracle veggies” which has been on my diet since a beautiful Russian woman gave me birth.  A blight of this particular tuber literally altered history with the famines it caused.  During the 1950s, it was used as a toy and a gun was invented to shoot it.  Depending on the color, it fights everything from cancer to high blood pressure and cardiac incidents.  In its fried form, it’s been a symbol of adolescence in Americafor generations.  To see if you guessed right and for more information, yep, please go here. 

If you’ve been feeling the winter blues more acutely than usual because spring has been so late in coming to where you live and wonder if you’re alone in this, wonder no more because you’re not.  An estimated ten percent of us in the Greater Seattle area ~ including yours truly ~ suffer from seasonal affective disorder or SAD.  To find out what doctors recommend to mitigate these symptoms and alleviate the condition, please go here

ON THE CANCER FRONT 

As sunnier days approach, it is worth noting that skin cancer is the most prevalent form of this disease.  It strikes one million Americans each year and kills 10,000 annually.  Ironically, melanoma, as it is also called, is the most preventable of these conditions.  For 10 ways to keep from contracting it, 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 inFlorida 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 inErin ~ literally tell it like it is.  While theRepublic ofIreland’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 bestPacific Northwest source of environmentally friendly news we’ve encountered yet.  They draw from newspapers and National Public Radio sources inAlaska,Alberta,British Columbia,California,Idaho,Montana,Nevada,Oregon andWashingtonState. 

The Northstar Gallery features photography ofSeattle 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 

Like hundreds of other communities under these seven flags, Seattle is not only embracing the return of its original citizens but making sure they are safe.  To see what the city is doing to protect perching ospreys, yep, go here

Being from the Pacific Northwest and never having traveled any further east than Wyoming and Montana, I have not associated eagles with the Midwest.  However, thanks to a reader from that region and the link she sent to be shared with all of you, I do now.  To see a farming communit eagle family in real time, please go here

Recommended Related Links:

YOU GUYS THINK I MAKE THIS STUFF UP 

Thanks to RTV and other television stations which broadcast programs from “the olden days,” most of us are familiar with a cartoon character named Woody Woodpecker.  He talked like Donald Duck on helium and espresso, engaged in slapstick that would have turned Roger Rabbit green with envy and came across as a nightmare on every street named after a tree.  I totally loved him.  What I didn’t know was that the animation director in charge of these cartoons was also a modern art afficianado and managed to work some fantastic examples of this form into those animations.  For examples and some other fascinating details on this one, yep, please go here

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

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.

Remember, folks. It doesn't cost anything to browse now, right?

 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.

Mishka and with special thanks to a very special red rose of Texas

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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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