decus, integritas, probitas

Winner of Two Hersh Best Read On The Net Awards

Now reaching informed readers in America, Canada, Ireland, England, Scotland, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Russia & Australia

Volume 4, No. 509

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Merritt Scott Miller, Editor

Dennis William Steussy, Associate Editor

 Hi again, from the shores of the Salish SeaWell, apparently there’s another planet out there which could support the diversity of life we know here on earth.  It has been designated Kepler 22b, after the exploratory spacecraft which discovered it.   It is about two and a half times the size of our planet, orbits its sun in about the same time and has an average surface temperature of 72F/22C.  It also apparently satisfies other criteria for the plausibility of life.  It is 600 light years away and is one of some 2,300 potentially hospitable planets the Kepler Observatory has identified since it was launched 16 months ago. 

Whether as a direct result of this discovery or not, the quest for radio signals from beyond our solar system has resumed.  Yes, this is the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) which was discontinued last April when the University of California’s Hat Creek Observatory ran out of funding.  Under a new arrangement, some 500 astronomers and the military will participate. 

There seems to be a great deal of interest now in “going where no (person) has gone before.”  I wonder how much of that is fear that between global warming and corporate greed, we’ve pretty well turned the Garden into a Weed Patch.  We might not have learned anything from that but Mars is a brand new planet.  It would not be the first time the need for more living space sent us beyond known horizons. 

What if there are planets capable of supporting not only sentient but technologically sophisticated life?  Would their inhabitants necessarily be seeking company in the cosmos?  What if they were merely curious?  Would they necessarily pay much attention to a planet wriggling with this incredibly complex matrix of organisms in an environment comprised mostly of salt water, sand, skyscrapers snowcapped mountains an atmosphere laced with holes in the ozone layer?

Pretend for a moment you’re like one of the Jetson family, looking for a cool place to picnic or holiday?  You want it quiet and serene, safe and clean, with grand vistas by daylight and a panoply of stars by night.  I’m sorry but that’s not us.  Not anymore.  ET camping on earth would be like setting up in the middle of an intergalactic strip mall.  

And what if they are actually coming to conquer, as aliens have so often been portrayed.  With its resources diminishing and apparently incapable of supporting the indigenous flora and fauna, what possible promise could it hold for an invasive species?  

The only reason I can see for searching for sentient life is to find it before it finds find us.  I profoundly hope that it has a sense of humour.  And that, in the final analysis, the joke is not, in fact, on us. 


Astronomers are discovering black hole far larger than anything found thus far.  These are the wolves of the cosmos and they devour planetary systems with an appetite whose voraciousness is unknown on Earth.  Are we, actually, however seeing them for the first time?  Or are they drawing closer to our own sun and its satellites?  I found this one totally fascinating and it has some striking illustrations and diagrams to go with. 

Since the Recession, and understandably, Americans have been driving less.  They’ve also been a lot more careful. Fatalities are the lowest they’ve been per capita since the invention of the automobile.  This is also due, in part, because motor vehicles themselves are safer to drive.  Sightline Daily’s Clark Williams-Derry reports.  See also Stagnant Wages + Expensive Gas = Less Driving 

Apparently this economic downturn has not been real good for the funeral industry.  With burials costing between $10,000 – $16,000, cremation ~ at $1,600 ~ is looking better and better all the time


Canada’s economy is prospering and to help with a labor shortage, her ambassador in Dublin has issued an invitation to thousands of unemployed Irish men and women to literally “go West, lads and lassies, go West.”  This form of emigration is hardly new, even to this generation of shamrocks.  It’s nice to know a nation with jobs wants to make a home for them.  Nice going, Ottawa, and thank you.  See also More than half of Irish jobseekers prepared to move abroad in search for work  

After the conservative administration in Ottawa rejected the Kyoto Accords, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson lashed out at the federal government for its failure to take the initiative in advancing the green movement in Canada. Vancouver’s chief executive says it is now up to individual cities, towns and communities fromVictoria toHalifax to actualize their own environmental agenda.  Taken in total, he believes this will reflect the attitude and will of the Canadian constituency, even when their elected officials do not. 

Perhaps not surprisingly, in Canadaas well as the States, the rich get richer while the poor get poorer 


As regular readers of this particular column know, we’ve been following the mini-house movement.  They keep getting smaller and smaller and at 6’3”, it’s like I’m beginning to feel like I’m the hero in The Shrinking Man novel.  There’s a theatre set designer in Colorado who has crafted one that is 84 square ft/7.8 square meters.  When they get that compact, I start wondering what is the essential difference between them and a good Airstream travel trailer.  Yep, for more on this one, please go here. 

We love it when our neighbors do something really cool.  Ballard is a part of Seattlenorth of downtown and right along the Puget Sound/Salish Sea.  This is where a couple built a totally energy efficient home.  It generates more electricity than it uses.  To see how this all came together, please go here

Now, if we think a single home like that is cool, imagine our rapture when nearby Bainbridge Islanders decided that rather than sanction the construction of a Puget Sound Energy substation, they’d see first what they could do to reduce energy consumption. This is a definite exportable so yep, for more, please go here


Well, here’s an announcement that is going to precipitate a stampede.  Time is running out to book a bottom of the Atlantic Ocean look at the Titanic.  The centennial of her sinking is this coming April 15 and this combination of eco and historical tourism is real popular, especially if you’ve got around $60,000 in loose change to spare. 

Women, cross dressing men and media wardrobe people will especially love this wedding of technology and fashion.  There is now a body scanner which can pick out a person’s perfect dress size.  I suppose the downside of that is that there’s also no way, once that is done, that someone can claim they are a size six, the dress was just a smaller size six. 

If you still think climate change is one of those things that only happens to the other guy, this newly published interactive map of the United States showing recent record-breaking weather might give you pause to reconsider.  And if you’re already half-convinced, this will probably make a believer out of you.  For more on this one, definitely go here. 


According to playwright William Congreve, “Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.”  It can also lower your blood pressure, mitigate depression and extend your stay in the earthly realm.  Yep, for more, please go here

If ~ as parents, grandparents, teachers or other youth care providers, we needed another reason to stay in appropriate emotional contact with the teenagers in our lives ~ read this heartbreaking story about a beautiful English girl who almost starved herself to death after being kidded about her red hair and her full figure.  Our thanks to Lily and Margo in Oxfordshire.  Yes, we totally agree.  This should never have happened. 

My infamous Grandpa Seamus once observed that some people got older, some people got better and some people got older AS they got better.  Here are 14 doctor’s recommendations on how to not only prolong your stay on this mortal coil but enjoy it more

Center For Disease Control Disease FAQs Index
 Tips and Tools For Staying Young
 Weight Watchers:  Calculate Your Body Mass Index 


A drug administered to women to keep their bones strong during chemotherapy for breast cancer has accomplished far more than that.

 Irish oncologists have finished the first Cancer Atlas, after studying the incident rate of 18 types of the disease in both Northern Irelandand the Republic.  For more on this remarkable project, please go here.

 Cancer:  What You Need to Know
 American Cancer Society
 Canadian Cancer Society
 Cancer Research Journal
 National Cancer Institute (American)
 Fighting Breast Cancer: Breast Cancer Survivor Stories
 Science Daily:  Health & Medicine News


 I’m reading another article on the effects of global warming and my mind is drifting to strange places.  I know that human industrialization has played a role in accelerating this natural and cyclic process by all the greenhouse gases released.  I know that motor vehicle emissions are part of it.  But I was raised partly on a ranch and I’ve marched in parades behind horses.  I wonder if a world full of these smelled better or worse than what we have now?  I’m thinking back even further than that to a time when creatures the size of King Kong’s kid brother walked the earth, flew the friendly skies above it and swam the briny blue in it.  These living organisms were not small.  They ate a lot.  Some of them probably sweated.  It is reasonable to assume they also passed gas and answered nature’s call.  And how much methane was released after they died and before scavengers totally disposed of them?  I wonder how much a million of these life forms contributed to global warming and/or their own extinction.  It seems to me the planet has her own way of deodorizing herself.  She lets the offensive suffocate in the noxious vapors of their own evolution. 



Frisco Winter Lights is a light show of holiday-decorated places orchestrated by the New Trans Siberian Railroad. 

At 85, pianist extraordinaire Boyd Lee Dunlop is “discovered”. 


Animal Tracks is msnbc.com’s Critter Stuff.  They feature stories of every facet of the creature kingdom from the domestic to the primordial.  This is a great stress buster for me and a profound pick-me-up if I’m having a “poor me” day. 

Baby pandas soak up sun for the first time 

FREE VIDEO is for those of us who in whom the Inner Child is still alive and well.  It’s a joyful romp with totally ingenuous music and outstanding video footage, including scenes of trolley cars inSan Francisco.  This one gets fives stars from us.  

NASA Probe To Explore Jupiter is a National Geographic video whose production values I found outstanding.  This is one you might enjoy sharing with the family. 

OH AMERICA – Celtic Woman expresses my love forAmerica far better than I have thus far ever been able.  

Winter, A Dolphin’s Tale is the Flipper of this generation and is the true story of a dolphin so snarled in commercial crab trap that her fluke had to be amputated in order to free her.  She was adopted by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where she was fitted with a prosthetic.  The film, starring Kris Kristopherson and Morgan Freeman, is out now and I highly recommend it. 


Daily Crossword:  This one from Universal has two levels.  It is extremely easy to use and it has some features like music and clues that we thought were pretty cool.

National Geographic Kids Page:  If you enjoy learning about the places, people and things which make life on this planet such a unique experience? 

Vocabulary Quiz:  Take this 10-word daily test and see how you rank with people your age, younger and older. 

Word Games:  Merriam Webster has a totally creative menu. 


Tank Hunter – This puts you behind the controls of a tank on a vast battlefield in which everything from small tanks to big ones to invisible ones is shooting at you.  Definitely the best game play of its type I have personally encountered. 


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. 

IrishCentral is absolutely the best commercial source of news, entertainment, politics and all things Irish and hyphenated Irish.

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. 

(The) Legacy Project was originally designed as a course teaching students to make appropriate life choices personal and particular to them.  Its exercises have kids answering such questions as what they would like to learn, how would they like to make a living and what they can I do for their community.  What I found remarkable about these exercise is that so many adults these days are addressing these issues as well in order to survive hard times and stabilize in spite of them. 

Liberty’s Kids is an animated half-hour series on America’s War of Independence.  It features a regular cast, including the voice of Walter Cronkite as Benjamin Franklin, and top Hollywood actors and actresses in guest roles.  What also works so well for younger audiences is the theme song, which is American Revolution rap.  To watch an episode online, please go here

Safercar.gov is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (HTSA) website.  It contains a wealth of safety and reliability information on motor vehicles.  You can also, as have we, subscribe to an email newsletter which informs its subscribers of all vehicle recalls and the reason for them. 

Sightline Daily is the bestPacific Northwest source of environmentally friendly news we’ve encountered yet.  They draw from newspapers and National Public Radio sources throughout the American west, northwest, Western Canada and  Alaska. 

USA.gov has a comprehensive email directory of American federal and state elected officials and government agencies.  You fill in two or three blanks, hit Enter and you’ve got what you need to offer support or air a grievance. 

Yes magazine is the editorial hammer of the Green Movement and the most deeply rooted, informative, insightful and magazine on the Net. 


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. 

The Northstar Photo Gallery features photography ofSeattle available as postcards, computer wallpaper and workspace art. 

Sponsorship ads are another way begin at $5.00 a week for a simple small logo and web page link.  Ads more elaborate than that are negotiated and charged on an individual basis.  For more details, email us at minstrel312@aol.com

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

Writer/Editor For Hire for everything from business letters to data entry to editing and proofing, to speech writing and special projects, you’ll find it here at negotiable rates.  I don’t consider any request too small and I don’t take on any that are too large.  For a full list of services and more information, please go here


Apparently, butterflies are to climate change what canaries are to a mine, which is a good analogy as far as it goes because not all butterflies die if their environment changes.  Some migrate.  Yep, for more on this one, please go here

If you’ve ever wondered how penguins time their dives ~ a burning concern, I know ~ or if you’re just interested in these fascinating creatures in general, you’ll definitely want to check this out

Scientists at Marwell Wildlife in the United Kingdom are conducting a unique experiment with a rare breed of monkeys which could make some quantum leaps in understanding how other primates think.  It’s a magnificent wedding of cyber technology with a direct recognition (as opposed to symbolic representation) approach.  Yep, for more, please go here

Animal Tracks is msnbc.com’s Critter Stuff.  They feature stories of every facet of the creature kingdom from the domestic to the primordial. 
Oceana:  The National Geographic of the World’s Oceans 
How to Behave Around Bears 
Seattle/Lake Washington Eagle Camera
 National Wildlife Magazine 
Go Northwest:  Northwest Wildlife Websites 
BBC’s wildlife finder 
National Geographic Daily News – Animals


We cannot help but admire the ingenuity, the practicality and the profound sense of humour the Irish display so consistently during hard times.  With the austerity program their government has embarked upon, even the hallowed halls of justice have had to adjust.  In one county, that meant one court looking for another place to hold the proceedings after the hotel they were using was closed down.  To quote the Irish Times, “as of the 3rd January 2012, those facing charges, including assaults, public order breaches and motoring offenses, should make their way to O’Donovan’s bar.”  Yep, for more details and an excellent photograph of O’Donovan’s Bar and Restaurant at Ballina/Killaloe, please go here.

Take care, stay well and God Bless.




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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