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. 51

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Seattle, Washington

Merritt Scott Miller, Editor

Dennis William Steussy, Associate Editor

Seattle Bus & Light Rail Tunnel Under Downtown. Photo by MS(R)M

Hi again, from the shores of the Salish Sea.  I am 6’3” tall and I am not a fan of closets, crawl spaces, coffins, mines or tunnels.  I have a particular aversion to the last.  The idea of spending any time under tons of water or rock in something constructed by my “fellow” fallible human beings makes me very nervous.  I become even more anxious when the tunnels are also in earthquake zones.  I was caught in an electric bus underSan Francisco’s Portal Hill bus tunnel during a small tremblor.  Until the lights came on and we got moving again, it was as close to being buried alive as I ever want to come. 

When I moved back to this state from the relatively geologically mundane Cascade Mountains of Southern Oregon, I knewSeattlehad a couple of tunnels, one for buses and one for trains.  I also knew the city was in an earthquake zone.  And within range of three active volcanoes.  And built on post-glacial sludge, essentially over at least seven hills, a saltwater sound, two large freshwater lakes, several smaller lakes, rivers and marine estuaries.  I’ve wintered enough here to watch portions of Seattle slide into the Puget Sound so I know the first several layers of ground are not real stable. 

Not unlike a good sport on a bad blind date, I accepted seeing more people in a single day than I had in five years in the “deep reaches”.  I allowed for the likelihood of another volcanic eruption.  The rain I knew about.  Earthquakes don’t bother me because I was raised inCaliforniaand I refuse to live in basements.  The snow, the three summer months without rain, the banshee winds and the occasional blizzard were all part of this meteorological pageantry that I’ve been in love with since I found out that one thing using a smile for an umbrella will guarantee you is real wet front teeth. 

What I’ve discovered is that Seattle is also known in some circles as “the extreme sport” of tunneling.  It in fact sits on geological Swiss cheese.  In addition to the downtown bus tunnel, with which I am very familiar, there is apparently an extension of one being drilled under the neighborhood in which I lived for 15 years.  It will connect the University of Washington with downtown.  There’s another one under construction which will provide subterranean commuting to downtown from Capitol Hill, which is where several hospitals and our gay community live. 

All this underground activity does not seem to me a natural state for sane human beings.  I am not sure I am prepared for this incredibly pervasive passion for going down into the earth as once young men answered the call of the sea.  I did a story on a silver mine once.  There was nothing romantic or adventurous about it.  It was cold, wet, confined, claustrophobic and totally dark beyond the headlamps.  There was a mountain on top of us, like there is a city of over a half million people on top of Seattle’s tunnelers. 

And one of them is still looking for higher ground. 


We join the world in mourning the passing of Czech playwright, patriot and president Vaclav Havel.  Seldom has a single individual given so much to a nation struggling so passionately to survive.  His example will inspire for generations all those who know the value of freedom and the responsibilities that go with it. 

We are glad that America’s military commitment to Iraq has ended

We reported earlier this year that the federal Department of Justice has been investigating the Seattle Police Department for inappropriate law enforcement practices.  The results were announced earlier this week and read like an indictment.  The Department was told ~ in no uncertain terms ~ to take care of the problems or face their own day in court. 

According to a recently released study, how we behave on the Internet actually does mirror how we either comport ourselves offline or wish we could.  This appears to be particularly true of the generations brought up on this venue.

If you’ve got kids in school or are looking for a career change yourself, you might want to check out the top ten jobs of the 21st Century. 


The City of Vancouver continues to push the environmental window.  A green team is converting the roof of a parkade (multi-level parking structure) into a greenhouse capable of producing as much as 16 acres (6.4 hectares) ofCalifornia fields.  It will only take up half the roof and it should be very interesting to see whatVancouver’s Green Team comes up with for the other. 

A painfully dying British Columbia woman is petitioning for the right to assisted suicide.  The case is expected to reach the provincial Supreme Court in January but an attorney for the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association said it is expected to go clear to the Canadian Supreme Court.  In that case, a decision would apparently not be made until later next year.  It is problematic at this point whether the petitioner has that much time. 

‘Tis the season to be jolly got stretched a bit last week and now the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are searching for two Santas who got into an argument with a patron at a pub in North Vancouver.  As this is an open case, it is not known yet what issues were involved.  The civilian suffered only minor injuries and was treated and released at a local hospital.  For obvious reasons, the RCMP has not issued an all-points bulletin nor have they been encouraging citizens to be on the look out.  As one veteran Mountie put it, “It’s likely these two will just get lost in the woodwork.” 


One thing that those who attended the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Durban, South Africadid not expect was to be tongue-lashed by an angry Canadian student from the College of the Atlantic.  She claimed to be speaking for half the world’s population and accused two generations who could have done something to prevent this of betraying her own generation.  Her speech was brief and electrifying.  To experience it in its entirety, please go here

The average person in Denmarkbicycles 600 miles a year.  It is estimated that if the rest of the European Union did that, emissions would drop by 25 percent.  In America, if people in just 11 Midwestern cities did half their errands on a bicycle for only four months out of the year, 1,100 deaths would be prevented and $3.9 billion would be saved in medical and other healthcare costs.  Other figures on bicycle usage are astounding so for more, please go here

Washington governor Christine Gregoire signed into law an initiative which will enlist commercial shellfish farmers in cleaning up and protecting the state’s marine environment.  The creatures themselves are filter feeders and remove contaminants from the water. Washington leads the nation in shellfish production.  The initiative is aimed at, among other things, rehabilitating some 7,000 acres of polluted shellfish habitat so the mollusks themselves can move back in and finish the cleanup as Nature intended in the first place. 


For those of you who missed the Geminid Meteor Shower last week, here’s a recap shot from the American Southwest.  I thought this was incredible. 

The US government is calling on even more stringent regulations on cell phone use while operating a motor vehicle.  Evidence strongly suggests that there is the same risk factors with hands-free technology as there is texting.  It has nothing to do with manual dexterity but with the mind’s ability to perceive adequately while processing other stimuli.

 I’m not normally a real competitive person but there are certain contests I can see entering.  Apparently, there is now the opportunity to publish one’s utility bill on Facebook and compare it to others.  The goal, of course, is to make us all more energy conservation conscious. 


Olive oil, a staple of the Mediterranean diet, is also good for fighting Alzheimer’s Disease

We’ve talked in this column before about how being cruel, obnoxious and mean-spirited is not good for a person.  A recent study has learned that the opposite is true; that altruism ~ aka the spirit of giving  ~ is actually healthy and can prolong one’s life.  Might be why Santa’s so jolly, eh?

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


 There is a new test for cervical cancer which dramatically increases the chance of finding this killer early.   

Annual CT scans can reduce the risk of lung cancer by 20 percent, according to an extensive American study. 

Just a reminder that Vitamin B6 ~ which is found in bananas, among other foods ~ is a breast cancer preventer. 

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


We have it on very good authority that Santa Claus has subcontracted his surveillance out to the American Central Intelligence Agency.  Now, if you’re naughty, you don’t get straw in your stocking.  You get a government escort to one of the CIA’s luxury hotels, where you are encouraged to share your transgressions in the minutest of detail.  Yep, it’s a little like Confession but with no appeal to theVatican.  So if you need any additional motivation to be nice, I would think that avoiding a CIA Hilton would probably be among the top ten.  It will be interesting to see how many of you are still around after Christmas. 



The Gemini Meteor Show was shot in Joshua Tree time lapse and has a beautiful musical score. 

She speaks on behalf of a generation and half the people on this planet and her plea for the salvation of our species is eloquent, to say the least. 

Snowy owls flock south to B.C. for rare appearance 


Animal Tracks is’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. 


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. 

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


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. 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. 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

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

 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


Thanks to the interactive interest thousands of you have taken in these creatures, 68 American bison are being relocated to First Nation lands in America’s YellowstoneNational Parkto protect them from potential slaughter.  We applaud the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission for their precedence-setting decision in these regards.  Yep, for full details, please go here. 

In the almost five years I’ve been finding items for this column each week, I have become convinced that every part of the world has the potential for totally cute animal “incursions.”  This one comes from New Zealand and involves a baby seal.  I’ll warn you now.  On the Cuteness Scale, this is a ten

Many of you ~ me included ~ live in cities which have lakes and ponds clean enough for fishing.  So this reminder of the hazards abandoned fishing line poses to other wildlife who share this environment should resonate

Because they feed primarily on Arctic lemmings, snowy owls are not usually seen as far south as Vancouver, British Columbia.  When their prey’s population declines, however, their range increases.  Canadians flocked (intended) to Boundary Bay to get a rare glimpse of these magnificent creatures.  And yep, this one has video 

Animal Tracks is’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 OceansHow to Behave Around BearsSeattle/Lake Washington Eagle CameraNational Wildlife MagazineGo Northwest:  Northwest Wildlife WebsitesBBC’s wildlife finderNational Geographic Daily News – Animals 


When 67 foot waves hit the west coast of Ireland, people did not panicSome of them went surfing.  I wonder if they also say, “Cowabunga” or “surf’s up.” 

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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