January 16, 2011


Hi again from the Bastion on the Puget Sound.  Well, it has certainly been an action-packed last few days, eh?  The weather’s been slamming around the planet from Canada to France in an arctic game of hand ball that has challenged even the hardiest and most initiated of us. It has also been a little spooky and thanks to one of you who lives in the Shenandoah Valley, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.  He said, “When it’s snowing in Richmond, can Appomattox and the Devil be far behind?”

 And we got another big time example of what an ambitious sadistic sociopathic, bully, predator and thug will do for his “proverbial” 15 minutes of fame. He’s getting a lot more than that now, isn’t he?  He’s feasting on it, all this sorrow he’s sown.  It’s making him stronger, more cunning, more of a threat to a society unprepared to deal with him and others like him.

 He’s doing something far worse, though.  There is one thing in this world that every living organism values above all else.  Although it is not tangible, it can be measured.  It is a gift each one of us can give one another and it is also something that can be taken from us.  If we are robbed totally of it, we ~ us and all the rest of life on this planet ~ cease to exist, at least in corporeal form.  This thing this ambitious sadistic sociopathic, bully, predator and thug is taking from us is time.

 We’re also culpable, however, because he’s also doing it with our tacit consent.  We tend to make celebrities of these people in the name of examining and understanding them.  The idea that a rational mind could wrap itself around that of an ambitious sadistic sociopathic, bully, predator and thug is so illogical and unrealistic to me as to be literally incomprehensible.  I do not need to understand a parasite, however large or small, in order to decide whether or not I want to be a host or an enabler.  I do not need to understand a vampire in order to protect myself from it.  And I do not need a lecture on the difference between the letter and the spirit of the law. 

 There is absolutely no doubt this individual did what he is charged with doing.  If we’re not willing to suspend due process in cases like this, we can at least keep him as socially isolated as possible while it is being observed. I am also suggesting that it should be the surviving victims, their families and the surviving relatives of the deceased who determine the method of execution.  I personally favor the firing squad because it is the cheapest and most dependable when every member of the squad gets a live bullet and nobody gets a blank one.  No one needs to wonder which bullet did the job because in this method, they all do.

 I also think it is very important for us to remember that we are only victims if we choose that role.  We can learn how to protect ourselves and defend our families, friends and communities from these monsters.  We can give up this notion that “there’s no way one can ever be sure.”  We can pay more attention.  We can become better listeners.  We can reject forever, this idea that it cannot and will not happen to “me.”  We can adopt a home security consciousness, replete with dead bolt locks.

 We can take threats and creepy behaviour seriously, report same to the appropriate authorities and then let the professionals whose job it is to do evaluate and move to protect and defend do their job.  At the same time, we can be better prepared.  We can, for example, take and/or teach classes in first aid and self-defense.  The American Red Cross and, in some communities, the volunteer fire department or neighborhood firehouse offers them for the former free as a community service and for the good will and good press it generates for them.

 We’ve become a lot better ~ thanks for the most part to ongoing technological revolution ~ at predicting some natural disasters than we have most of the cold blooded killers we suffered.  I do not think we have done enough to prepare.  On one hand, we decry a large law enforcement presence for fear of becoming a police state.  Then we turn around and crucify these 21st Century centurions when one of their number snaps and sends out a strong message to the bad guys.  We often scoff at Neighborhood Watch as a group of Blue Knight wannabes acting out their fantasies to little effect and lots of embarrassment.  We feel, I suspect, uneasy because these people ~ whatever their motivation ~ have the courage to face, unarmed for the most part, the same criminal element their local precinct deals with 24/7.  It is citizen participation and another way of monitoring abuses of authority. 

 It’s not everyone’s cuppa, though.  It is hardly the thing one would expect of young unwed mother on welfare or a septuagenarian who lives alone in a small room with two cats and a parrot named Leo.  Or a middle-aged Boeing journeyman machinist with three teenaged kids and his wife of 20 years pregnant for the fourth time.  Or the flashy redhead who works in the nail salon on the corner next to Chin’s Market and is the best source of gossip and goodwill in the neighborhood.

 However, these are the in any country ~ who make things work.  We need more of them and we need to be more like them.  We need to become a monster’s worst nightmare.


 We applaud American president Barack Obama’s call for a civil era in politics.  That works for on another level.  We like growing things and it is a lot easier to do that when the mud is on the ground and stationary than when it is airborne and in flight.  So good luck with that one, Mr. President.

Considering how cold it has been everywhere under the seven flags this publication reaches, we found this headline rather ironic, Figures on Global Climate Show 2010 Tied 2005 as the Hottest Year on Record

Our hearts go out to those of you in northeastern Australia, where several weeks of torrential rains, flooding and landslides have exacted a tragic toll.  At this writing, there were 26 dead and 53 missing.  See related story under Good Examples below.

And here’s yet more good news that not only does green pay, it creates jobs.  There is a new solar film that can be rolled out like a sheet and shaped and cut to fit a variety of surfaces rather than requiring a rigid structure.  By the end of this year, 170 people in Wilsonville, Oregon will also be working in a factory which produces this and is ultimately expected to employ 500.

Well, apparently the American government has decided that the “virtual fence” it was building across its southern border isn’t feasible after all.  It only took them several years and a billion dollars to reach that conclusion.  There is one good thing about being poor; not a lot of my tax dollars went into this one.

Felina:  I am reading about that horrible human down in that place where there are large leaf less trees, little lizards with horns on them and their own time zone.

Sam:   I’m going to take a shot at this and say it’s not one of those rides in their great amusement park, Disneyland, in Southern California.

Felina:  Quite so.  I believe this place is called “Arizona.”  I have seen photographs of this unmentionable human being and if ever there was a creature which wore its psychotic bestiality on its face, it would surely be this one.

Sam:   And how deep a look into that human being’s soul did you take when you were doing that, oh love of my life?

Felina:  I searched for even a spark of humanity and I saw none, oh sun and moon of mine.

Sam:   It must have been a considerable shock, given your enviable belief in the goodness of their species.

Felina  It was not an experience I would like to have again anytime soon, Samuel.  What saddens me even more, however, is the attention that is being paid to this freak of Gaia.  I can certainly understand the grief, the anger and the outrage.  But their belief that if they can understand someone like this and therefore prevent future massacres frustrates me because I have seen them do this so often and fail so abysmally that I cannot help but believe that the energy could have been much better spent.

Sam:  Well said and I could not agree more.  But just remember that these creatures tend to surface during periods of extreme stress for their species.  And that one purpose for this examination they do is also directed at what causes an environment in which these monsters flourish and encourage others like themselves.

Felina:  I am sorry, Samuel, but it seems to me that it is hardly a matter of posturing predicates but in promulgating protocols.  They have been fighting greed, poverty, pestilence and ignorance since they first rose from all fours and walked on two legs.  They seem to know what it takes to solve their problems but they seem unwilling, for the most part, to make the sacrifices sometimes necessary.

Sam:   Like when prey is scarce during a hard winter, we scale back our appetites.

Felina:  We learn how to do with less and often, find, in so doing, that we actually have more.

Sam:   Yep, sometimes it truly is a matter of adjusting to the times, rather than trying to change them.  And in believing what one of their leaders contended.  “Our problems are man-made, therefore they may be solved by man. And man can be a s big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.”

Felina:  John Fitzgerald Kennedy was definitely one of the brighter stars in the cosmos of their species.  Perhaps if more of them remembered and believed what he had to say, there would be more stellar souls and considerably fewer black holes.

Sam:   Amen, Felina.  Amen.  And on that note?

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


The American economy added 103,000 jobs in December and the national unemployment rate dropped from 9.8 to 9.4 percent. The term “modest recovery” apparently continues to apply.  See also Slow growth in jobs underscores challenge ahead.  Hang in there a little while longer, gang.  This too shall pass.

Sometimes surviving hard times is also about being healthy and, in particular, making sure that our children are.  An elementary school in a small town in Washington State, near the border with Canada, is doing just that and providing local farmers with a chance to cut their own production costs by selling locally.  Yep, this is yet another “exportable” so to learn more, please go here.


In our ongoing campaign for a healthier readership and as another sally forth in our war on obesity, here are three tips that might make staying on a diet a lot easier.

 I love a story that starts out “Medical research seems to intersect with common sense a lot.”  This one is about people who sit around a lot and don’t get enough exercise, whether it’s as a couch spud or an office worker, bus driver or transcontinental airline pilot.  It’s simply not good for one’s health and if your spouse or boss has a problem with that, print this or send it to them and see if at least the workplace can’t include the necessary stand up, stretch and exercise for five minutes breaks.  Yep, for more, please go here.


One of the real downsides of chemotherapy is the resulting muscle tightness, impairment and fatigue.  Thanks to physical therapy, however, much of that can be alleviated.  For more, please go here.

If you are a woman and you are not getting at least seven hours sleep a day/night, you are at about a 47 percent greater risk of contracting cancer, according to a study of over 5,000 women in Maryland.  Yep, for more, please go here.



 This one is tragic but then sometimes love, courage and self-sacrifice.  Thanks, Glengarry and Owena in Brisbane, Australia, who called our attention to this story headlined ‘Save My Brother First’.

 The Panera Bread Company is opening its third “pay what you can afford” restaurant, this one in Portland, Oregon.  The other two are in Clayton, Missouri and Dearborn, Michigan.  And it seems to be working out.  For the 20% who don’t pay the suggested amount, 20% pay more and the remaining 60% around the actual price of the meal.  Yep, for more on this one, go here.

 This is certainly a glimpse of things to come.  In Washington State, there are now six businesses at which you can shop and relax while recharging your electric car.  One of them happens to be a picturesque winery in the mountains.  This is one of those “if they can do it there, we can do it here” exportables so, by all means, please go here.


 Finding Rootedness is perhaps the most empowering blog we have yet come across for those of us who value positive and empowering alternatives.  This one is for the window pushers among us.  It offers not only solid alternatives to the chaos but news of where these options are being successfully implemented.

 Irish Newsletter is an outstanding pocket source of Irish life, politics and times.  Particularly well written are their news snaps (shorts) which ~ according to friends of mine in Erin ~ literally tell it like it is.  While the Republic of Ireland’s population is only about 4.5-million, there are an estimated 80 million people of Irish descent worldwide and email version of this reached 50,000 of them.

 Meade Fisher Observes Humanity From A Safe Distance is a blog authored by an outdoor writer, photographer, West Coast kayaker and environmentalist living in the San Francisco Bay area.  These short, humorous, few holds barred observations on the machinations of the human species run from the whimsical to the arid and occasionally to the quietly outraged.  I’ve been a fan of this particular writer for years and I’ve always found him worth the read.

 Rusty Miller – Writer/Editor For Hire is my professional home page.  Contracts I receive through this site help finance The Northstar Journal.

 Sightline Daily is the best Pacific Northwest source of environmentally friendly news we’ve encountered yet.  They draw from newspapers and National Public Radio sources in Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington State.

 The Northstar Gallery features photography of Seattle available as postcards, computer wallpaper and workspace art.

 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.


Seattle, Elliott Bay and Vashon Island, from lower Beacon Hill January 2011.  Photo by Merritt Scott (Rusty) Miller

What’s Going On Here?

Whether you live here or plan to visit ~ and whatever it is you enjoy doing at home or as a tourist ~ you’ll find it listed here at seattlepi.com.




 Apparently one of the first predatory dinosaurs and the ancestor of Tyrannosaurus Rex was only about four feetl/1.2 meters tall and weighed about 14 lbs/6.3 kg.  It was, however, apparently a lot more ferocious, ounce per ounce, than its later versions and it is certainly not a creature that would have shared the Flintstones’ hearth with Dino.  Yep, check this little darling out here.

 The wolf ~ hated and much maligned by farmers the world over ~ may in fact be taking the rap for destruction caused by feral dogs and foxes.  This one comes from The Economist, by way of a reader in Spain, and certainly with our thanks.

 Recommended Related Links:



 Sometimes the stories that cross this particular desk are not weird as much as they are extraordinary and inspirational.  This is about two little boys in a hospital who became good friends, despite the fact that one of them was dying of cancer.  The Chicago Tribune’s Duaa Eldeib tells this one far better than I ever could so for more, yep, go here.

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

And if you’re in a shopping mood and into some interesting choices?  We have a “reader stocked” General Store that you might want to check out.  We’ve stocked a bit of everything from camping gear and cookware, specialty food items, books, music, films and fun/interesting/weird things that just somehow found their way onto the shelves at night when we were asleep.

If you would like to sell something with us or know someone who does, email us at minstrel312@aol.com and we’ll see what we can do.  See you next time.  Be well.


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