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 5, No. 2

Sunday,  January 8, 2012


Merritt Scott Miller, Editor

Dennis William Steussy, Associate Editor


Hi again, from the shores of the Salish Sea.  Even though it can be a little annoying to those around me, I enjoy having an amusement park type mind.  One of my favourite places in one of these places has been the Fun House, with those mirrors that distort reality.  Sometimes you can see facets of something that were not apparent when rendered in a format most of the rational world agrees is a close approximation.  I think that also works when the world itself is distorted.  Then, a Fun House mirror reflects an image that makes the world a safer place for the rationally inclined.

Boston has been chosen as the place Irish from all over the world are celebrating this year’s international commemoration of the Potato Famine.  From 1845 – 1849, a million Irish left for other places like Australia, Canada and the United States.  Of those who remained, one million starved.  To get a magnitude of that, imagine waking up one morning and finding three-fourths of your neighbors moved or buried.  It was a holocaust of epic proportion and it was also the product of imperial colonial policies which rivaled and in some cases surpassed anything the Americans inflicted on their indigents and the NAZIs on European Jews.

Why is this tragic event remembered each year?  There are an estimated 34,699.616 Americans with Ireland in their gene pool.  They comprise roughly 12.6 percent of the population of the US.  Behind Hispanics, Germans and Africans, they are the fourth largest ethnic group in the United States.  The English, ironically, are fifth at 8.6 percent.  American Indians and Alaskans are 17th, at .83 percent.

One of the things I’m clear on that such holidays should not do is foster and nurture the hatred which made it possible to begin with.  TheEnglandof 2012 is not the Great Oppressor.  Her mighty empire has shrunk to a fragment of its former glory.  With Catholics multiplying inNorthern Irelandfaster the Protestants, it is only a matter of time before the Crown kissesUlstergood-bye. Scotland, for all practical purposes, is almost there.  Within less than two decades, there will only beEngland.  That does seem to be the path of empires.

One million children, women and men starved to death some 160 years ago in a place most of us have never been or will ever see.  It was cruel, barbaric and in some cases, deliberate.  It was also hardly unprecedented in the torturous history of the only species which seems to both need and enjoy senseless acts of slaughter, however savage or sublime.

Perhaps in remembering how it happened, we can prevent it from ever happening again.  To the Irish or to anyone else.  If that isn’t the reason, it seems to me those one million people in FamineIrelandand all the other victims of human brutality pretty much died for nothing.

Maybe you can live with that.  I’m pretty sure I cannot.


The year ended on a good note for the American economy.  December saw the addition of 200,000 jobs and this is the sixth consecutive month which has seen the creation of at least 100,000 jobs.  TheUS unemployment rate now stands at 8.5 percent, the lowest it has apparently been in several years.

The harsher the weather a person has experienced, the more likely they are to vote for legislation which addresses climate change, even if said regulations set new parameters on personal freedom.  This was the major finding in a study led by Ann Owen, a professor of economics at Hamilton College inClinton,N.Y. 

The Iranian government was not real thrilled when an American warship interrupted a Somali pirate attack and rescued 15 Iranian prisoners of same.  But the fishermen liberated by the armed intercession are certainly grateful.  As it was when an Australian naval vessel rescued the crew of an Iranian vessel which ran out of fuel and food off the Yemen coast last month, it was business as usual for the USS John Stennis and her escorting destroyers.


Just because people live in cities where it rains a lot does not mean they like riding their bicycles bad weather.  This was the conclusion of two McGill University researchers attempting to learn whyVancouver’s bicycle ridership was down during the two most severe winters in provincial history.  The pair also said that unless the infrastructure was optimized ~ in other words, good roads, bridges, etc. ~ this was not likely to change.  Our hunch is that even if they were issued rain gear and all of the routes were roofed, most Vancouverites would not go out in weather a Canada goose would not fly in.  There is sometimes not so thin a line between being dedicated and being self-destructive.

Despite the fact that the provincial government and supreme court have reaffirmed the fishing rights of five First Nations on Vancouver Island, after two years, no native boat has “sailed”.  The Canadian government and specifically the office of the prime minister seem intent on keeping policy in Ottawa, despite the feeling on the part of most Canadians that aboriginal rights in these regards should never have been abrogated in the first place. Canada has appealed the provincial court’s decision to the national Supreme Court.

Urban farming in Vancouver may not be making those engaged in it rich.  But it is paying and the forecast is good.


An elected provincial official in British Columbia has decided he can legislate against homelessness better if he has experienced a taste of it.  He already obviously cares.  We’d like to see this idea catch on, particularly with members of the legislative assembly or the state legislature who don’t think the disenfranchised do enough with what limited help is available to them.

One of the most remote places in the United States and the furthest northwest point of the continental part of it is becoming a popular tourist destination for those who love the outdoors, Native American culture and weather at its most “diverse.”  The Makah Indian Tribe has been living on this land and fishing its waters for several thousand years.  They are now providing a taste of that experience and the best part is that it can be done within a ferry ride from Seattle.

Here’s an idea whose time has definitely come; porous pavement, where the water runs through it instead of off it.  Check it out and see what it is catching on, even in one of the rainiest parts of the United States.


This year could be a memorable one for the aerospace industry and for space exploration in general what with Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory’s landing on August 5; the continued Russification of space now that America’s Challenger program has ended and a robotic refueling in orbit.  For more on what we can expect in 2012, please go here.

Take a look at some of the weird life forms a robot with a camera “captured” around a hydrothermal vent on the floor of the Antarctic Ocean.  To me, this is another example of how the human imagination could never match the reality of what has actually evolved on this planet.

I love it when our technological advances lead us to discovering life forms which, once experienced, alter forever our perception of the “natural order of things.”  Check out this video on a fish that mimics an octopus that mimics a fish.  No, I am NOT putting you  guys on


We’ve reported in this column before that happy people ~ people who know how to have fun ~ not only live longer but also healthier.  Here are five things you can do to tweak your own inner sunshine quotient.

Here are four of the most popular excuses for not engaging a healthy lifestyle.  My own theory is that people who deliberately neglect themselves have a deeply buried death wish and lacking the courage to end it quickly, they’re letting bad habits kill them a little bit each day.

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


One of the reasons my fiancée Shannon decided against a second round of chemotherapy after her cervical cancer came out of remission is that then ~ 1999 ~ it meant losing her hair.  In Short Stuff’s case, it was thick, lustrous blonde hair in which she took a great deal of pride.  It’s nice, therefore, to read about a Seattle woman who has found a way to treat her cancer and not lose her hair.

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 have deduced several things in studying the behavior of those who have passionate relationships with other species.  No, I’m not talking about deviant sex.  This is a PG13-rated publication.  I’m talking about the kind of people who ~ Lord love ‘em ~  eat lamb chops and then go dancing with wolves; get up extra early so they can study a rooster waking up; don wetsuits and scuba gear to go swimming with orcas or, using the same equipment, go into a cave of feeding sharks to hang out and record the experience on video.  I have also noticed that Australians are more prone to this behaviour than Canadians.  Nobody, of course, equals the Yanks in questionable intra-species relationships so we’ll leave the Americans out of it.  I’m pretty sure I know what causes this behavior in people who live on a part of the planet which is essentially upside down.  It’s the magnetism that holds them to the planet like a ceiling walker.  All that blood rushing to the brain is not healthy.  That’s also why Australians exercise so much.  They have to keep the blood circulating.  When it doesn’t do that very well, they go surfing during a shark alert and go swimming on the Barrier Reef right after a tuna sandwich-eating contest.  Here’s a television interview of two Australians after recovering from their temporary lapse of sanity and survival instincts.



The Foundation For A Better Life produces 15 – 90 second inspirational videos equally ~ if not surpassing ~ the video vignettes produced by Hallmark, Folgers Coffee and Campbell Soup.  These are human stories, sans preaching, and to me, their appeal is universal.  Three I’d recommend right off the top are Concert, The Class Room and Spirit of America.


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.

This National Geographic slideshow of an underwater park comprised of life-sized human statues is nothing short of incredible.

National Geographics Photos of the Week are of a newly discovered tiny galaxy.

National Geographic’s Video Page is the diversion the doctor ordered If you’re looking for a video experience that will definitely take you out of wherever you are and you don’t mind your reality coming at you in relatively short bursts (about long enough to keep a fussing child occupied).

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

A baby polar bear whose mother could not produce enough milk to feed it is being cared for at a wildlife refuge in Denmark.  If you’re allergic to cute, avoid this one at all costs.

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.


NEW  The Artwork of Lisa Faulkner is a online art gallery of impressionistic paintings I really like.  She works in several media and although I’m hardly an art critic, I’m planning on investing in some of it later this spring when I start rebuilding my art collection.

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.

Irish Central 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. 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 best Pacific 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.


Hunted nearly to extinction on their home range, wolves in Washingtonstate are, for the third consecutive year ~ and thanks to more enlightened management policies at both the state and federal level ~ increasing in population.  The annual survey reports three breeding pairs (mom, dad, two pups) and a total of 27 of the creatures.  Yep, for more on this one, please go here.

OR7, that young wandering male wolf which has been spotted moving hundreds of miles from its own range in that state and is now apparently entered California has apparently been captured on film.  For more on a creature whose behavior has wildlife experts totally baffled, please go here.  I have

I cannot imagine needing to know how to do this but given the weirdness of life and mine in particular, go here if you want to learn how to tickle a gorilla.  Apparently this is one of those things that, if you’re going to do it or even think doing it, you really need to get it right the first time.  So for all the gorilla ticklers, right?

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 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


I’ve noticed that a lot of weird stuff comes out of Ireland, including my father.  Because it was originally civilized by people who were also excellent imitators of birds and other wildlife.  Their language is a blend of what normal people would consider human sounds and some which definitely are not of This Kingdom.  That leads to some very interesting names of people and places.  Imagine yourself in a village in CountyLimericknamed Effin Hell.  For a virtual visit there, please go here.

Well, that’s about it for this week.  If you enjoyed this edition and would like to contribute to the next, please go here.  For a quick way to respond to what you’ve experienced here, yep, 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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