Saturday, May 23, 2015

Has Romance Changed?

This month's round robin topic is about romance novels and how we as readers perceive the changes happening, which, for me, is a lot. During the last decade or more, romance novels have changed, perhaps longer, really, or since the turn of the century. Before then, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and historical romance titles had been around for a long time, but they had well-defined plot and character requirements and publishers didn't accept new works that broke those rules.

I'd like to say women's empowerment made the difference in romance novels, but that has been happening since the 70s and through the 80s and 90s contemporary romantic female protagonists, unless widows, were largely virgins, and their occupations were traditional: secretaries, teachers, or nurses. Today's woman protagonist can be leading scientists, CEOs, doctors, pilots, military officers, private investigators or police investigators, truck drivers, madams; you name it.

I think one of the biggest influences was the emergence of e-books, although romance elements have always been present in other genre. One well-known male author I read back in the 90s said all novels contain a hint of romance since most stories involve at least two characters of the opposite sex. Now, it's even with the same sex. Still, the romance genre held that the romantic relationship was the predominant element. It seems many print publishers failed to notice changing reader interests, which for several years made e-books the only growing market in publishing. Cross-genre plot lines (take the genres of romance, erotica, historical, mystery, horror, western, suspense, fantasy, and science fiction, and mix two or three together in one story and you have a another genre) stories that would not be accepted by the print publishers found homes with on-line publishers, and then found audiences.

During the last decade sex scenes as well as women's occupations have changed in romance novels. In today's novels, even those not labeled erotic, most contain very explicit sex. Women, the majority of romance readers, are people who enjoy sex; although, they still seems to search for the one-and-only man, which considering divorce and breakup rates might be a mythical concept. The HEA (happy ever after) plot is also changing to include happy for now.

One new event is the emergence of the 'new adult' genre, supposedly for the out of high school to early twenties reading audience, although some male protagonists have been in the early thirty's. These stories usually contain very explicit sex scenes. I do have a problem with the 'new adult' moniker being so close to young adult, which is for preteen and early teen readers. I think uninformed purchasers could easily buy new adult for the younger crowd, which could create problems.

I'm also interested in how new sex orientations will affect future romances. We already have gay romances. Will we also have asexual, demisexual, and transgender novels? I think so. Everything changes and to stay interesting, traditional plot and genres need to reflect changes in society.

Check out more opinions on this topic. Visit the following pages:
Beverley Bateman
Fiona McGier
Connie Vines
Skye Taylor 
Margaret Fieland
Helena Fairfax 
Anne Stenhouse 
Marci Baun 
Diane Bator
Rachael Kosinski

Saturday, May 16, 2015

All Things Eleven

Numbers:
Cardinal: ELEVEN
Hindu-Arabic: 11
Ordinate: Eleventh
Roman: XI
basic math: 1 + 10, no divisors Roman words of eleven: undecim,undecimus
Greek words of eleven: endecea
Anglo-Saxon word for eleven: 'Endleofen', or one left over after 10 fingers
Time and holiday references:
  • November
  • eleventh month
  • 11:00
Science, Technology References:
  • Sodium (Na)
  • Eleven year cycle of sun
Games, sports references:

  • Football team, only 11 men on field during play
  • Jack (cards)
Prophetic references:

  • Eleven is the number of revelation
  • transcendental enlightenment and martyrdom
  • It represents the combination of God (1) plus the World (10)
Astrological Association: House of Aquarius
Tarot divination: justice: justice will be done; balance is required, well balanced mind.

Common Usage, slang references:
  • eleventh hour
  • elevenses (mid-morning snack)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

What Hooks a Reader on a Story?


If there were a definitive way to hook every reader into buying a book, I’m sure it would have been discovered before now. Purchasing a book can be a big surprise, sometimes way beyond excellent, sometimes very awful (see this blog post). That’s because all readers are individuals who share some similarities, but most often have distinctive ‘wants’ in reading entertainment.

When I choose a print book, I always read the first few pages. Electronic books don’t usually allow this selling tactic, but excerpts can often be found online, just not always the first few pages. Those pages often determine if I’ll spend the time reading the book. Let’s face it, the cliché is true: time is precious, and I don't want to waste three or more hours on an unsatisfactory story. This lack of prevue might be what is driving potential readers to other entertainment venues. So what draws me into a story?

I like when 1) I receive either obvious or subliminal hints about the lead-in character (first chapter not prologue) and his or her predicament that I can identify with in some manner; or 2) the situation is fascinating. It’s that simple. If the character shares an emotion response to an interesting situation, past or pending, I’ll continue reading. Does it guarantee I’ll finish? No, it’s only the start, but if the story continues with the introduction’s promise of suspense, emotional or physical turmoil faced in a realistic manner, or dealing with some life-changing decision, I’m in, no matter what the genre. I do enjoy stories of contemporary, historical, or future eras, and I’m willing to engage in believable fantasy (there are many that are not believable). I do like to receive some type of insight into the human condition before the end, no matter what. That’s also how I attempt to engage readers in my own novels.

Follow the links to discover other author's viewpoints on how story openings hook them:

Beverley Bateman
Diane Bator
Ginger Simpson
Skye Taylor
Marci Baun
Margaret Fieland 
Helena Fairfax
Anne Stenhouse
Fiona McGier
Connie Vines
Rachael Kosnski 
Victoria Chatham
Lynn Crain

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

All Things Ten!

Ten
Cardinal: TEN
Hindu-Arabic: 10
Ordinate: Tenth
Roman: X
Greek: Iota
Pythagorean number: the decade
1+9, 2+8, 3+7, 4+6, 5+5; 2x5

Roman Words of Ten: decem, decimus decimeter: December (Roman 10th month) decimal. deni: ten each

The Greeks used the word deca for ten, which appears in our words like decameter, decathalon, decade, decapod (lobster). Mmmm. Love those decapods.

Ten Associations:
· ten fingers
· ten toes

Time Associations:
Tenth month: October
10:00
December is tenth month in the Roman calendar
decade

Science, Technology References:
Neon's, Ne, periodic number is ten
Metric system
Combination of 1 and 0 creates the binary system
Powers of ten

Monetary: Sawbuck, ten dollar bill, dime
The FBI has the Ten Most Wanted list.

The Ten Commandments is a guideline for good Christians as expressed in the 10th Commandment: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, nor thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbours'. There were also the ten plagues brought on the Egyptians in Exodus, ten classes of angels, and the ten names of God: Ehyeh, Yh, Jehovah, El the Mighty One, Eloah, Elohim, Sabaoth, Elohim Sabaoth, El Hayy, The Mighty Living One, Adonay the Lord. Then in Judiasm is the Ten Sephiroth (emanations) of the Qabalah (Kabbalak). They also have the ten lost tribes, exiled from Israel by conquerors.

In games, and sports bowling has ten pins, and dice has the big ten.

The tenth sign in astrology is the House of Capricorn, ruled by the planet Saturn, and symbolized by the goat. It is indicative of a driven, hard working, and committed person born under this auspicious sign.

Literary, folk lore, art:

In prophesy, ten represents the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. One combined with 0 indicates a complete cycle through the basic integers. One and zero are also the basis of binary code which operates computers which technology changed our world.This is a basic yes - no operation showing a basic polarity (existing - nonexistent) between the digits. This relates to prophesy, when one, the first number which represents God, has a zero, representing infinity, added, the result is a statement that 'there is only one God without end who knows no bounds.' It is therefore considered a particularly fortunate number and holds the promise of victory in difficult situations. Ten is also seen as a 'holy' number, and it is surrounded in mystic beliefs stemming from antiquity. The Godhead 'Io' was believed to be both masculine and feminine. The 'I' represented the male phallus and the 'O' the female womb through which all creation was projected.

Ten is the greatest of all numbers because it is the Tetraktys and comprehends all harmonic and arithmetic proportions, and Pythagoras viewed ten as the nature of number.
Tetraktys

Ten also has some 'key' words of prophesy tied to it: age, power, faith, necessity, memory, and tirelessness. The number is also associated with Urania, Zuse and Mnemosynes' daughter. She was considered the muse of the stars and heaven, therefore of astrology; Phanes, the One God and Atlas.

As all numbers, there are negative connotations.

In Tarot, the tenth card is the Wheel of Fortune which shows perpetual motion of time, and can be translated into creative evolution within the laws of chance or just the ups and downs of life.

In common language usage and slang we have the gallon hat, ten bucks, the top ten, hang ten in surfing, take ten,· ten percenter, and the· perfect ten.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Research: Getting the Details Right

Every fiction reader must suspend their sense of disbelief to enter and buy into a story, even one built on an implausible premise. One aspect of this requires me, as the author, to create a believable world where the details of setting and character agree with the reader's knowledge. If this happens, then stretching their imaginations and the limits of their belief becomes easier. This means getting the details right, and this often requires research. The thing to remember is all fiction is fantasy, and every fantasy needs a solid footing based on the perceptions of human reality.

All fiction genres take research for establishing details in the setting, even in contemporary settings where the reader might think that since the author lives in today’s reality, the writing of the setting is self-evident. Well, yes, it is, but it is also very changeable. If an author doesn’t have actual experience in a chosen place, they may not know local history, customs, and idiosyncrasies of that particular setting. On the other hand, if a reader does have familiarity with this place, anything that screams ‘untrue,’ makes them leave the story. Things as simple as how police departments operate can differ subtly or dramatically by location, just as laws can vary by community.

Historical settings make take gobs of research. I’ve been working on a story set in the Carolingian age where it seems on every page I find something else needs research. Other periods, like the English Regency era, are so popular books have been written on the peculiarities of the time for author’s using that particular setting. This might be a pet peeve. Having studied and read history, I pick out inconsistencies in fiction right away and incorrect details of a particular historical setting will throw me right out of a story. I’ve noticed, however, characters presented as more modern in attitude and behavior don’t.

Which leads to this: suspension of disbelief involves more than just setting. Today’s Regencies often contain wild per-marital sex, which was a big taboo for upper-class women of the time, but seems to work in today’s stories. Perhaps making a character’s behavior more modern makes them more believable or maybe relatable. ??? Yet unbelievable behaviors and traits in characters can turn off the reader.  For instance, how characters act and speak often differs by age, and nothing drives me crazy like a three-year-old character using the vocabulary of an eleven-year-old child. I’ve noticed children are often miscast by dialogue in this manner no matter what their ‘age’ in the story.

Of course, I write science fiction. For me, science or scientific theory must create the foundation of science fiction; otherwise, it is future fantasy in the truest sense of the fantasy genre. For my novels, I’ve had to research everything from psychology to if bio-formation of a block of rock planet can work and turn it into a life-bearing planet. Another research aspect was how faster-than-light travel might be possible without falling back on Star Trek themes. My hope is that as long as I can get the reader to believe the possibility, they will suspend their disbelief to enjoy (and believe) the story.

AS ALWAYS with the Round Robin, more authors give their viewpoint on research. Please hop to the following sites and enjoy the posts.
Margaret Fieland
Beverley Bateman
Skye Taylor 
Rachael Kosnski  
Heidi M. Thomas 
Marci Baun 
Anne Stenhouse 
Helena Fairfax 
Connie Vines
Kay Sisk
Fiona McGier
A.J. Maguire
Judith Copek
Lynn Crain 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

All Things Zero

ZERO, Oh, Nought, Naught, Nil, Null
Hindu-Arabic: 0
Ordinate: 0th, Zeroth
Neither positive or negative number
n + or - 0 = n; n x 0 = 0

Words of Zero
Nothing, nothingness, none
prefix un as in unseen, unobservable
extinction
empty
empty set
naught
nonexistant
nothing
null
oblivion
void
zilch
zip


Counting wouldn't get far without this empty placeholder, so here's to zero.


Sciences, math, and technology:
Nullus or nulla, meaning nothing
Only 0 and 1 are used in the binary system
Rules of Brahmagupta, earliest known use of zero in mathematics, 628 B.C.


Symbols:
The goose egg
the Lemniscate symbol represents infinity in mathematics and eternity in occult studies ( an eight on laying on its side)
image of urboros swallowing his tail shown. The classical Greek alchemist’s representation of Uroboros, the World Snake


Color: Color comes from the refection of white light. The absence of light is total blackness, representing nothingness.
Black indicates no light
White in paint is the absence of pigment or color although there are mineral pigments used to create the white; thus, white also represents nothingness.


Zero’s prophetic references:
Naught represents the void, or the emptiness before creation. Zero can mean invisibility or death as in unobservable or gone, so becomes those who are nonentities, anonymous, nobodies.
Zero is akin to a self-emptying process, particularly of the ego. Therefore, it represents those who are unaware, incognizant, or oblivious.
In relation to one’s coming into existence, it represents non-existence or oblivion.
Zero as shown by the circle of pre-conscious totality, the Ouroboros Serpent with its tail in its mouth forming a circle around the collection of existence and non-existence. Isn't it interesting that most clocks and compasses were circular in shape, showing they included all of known existence. The Ourobouros perpetually lives off itself, like the universe. Ouroboros also represents a closed system and more recently the human psyche.


Negative connotations:
Everyone who has ever been called a zero or a nothing, knows the bad side of zero. However, it can also be anyone who deceives himself (herself), remaining oblivious to his (her) own life or the lives of others.


Tarot Divination: The Fool's card upright represents a dreamer or a mystic who wants to accomplish great goals, someone who must be careful to make the right choices. It can also represent any start, but particularly of a journey. To be successful the Fool must plan, make good choices, and be prepared for the unexpected. It also means one chooses the path he takes, either good or evil. Perhaps thinking about a life's philosophy would be a good start. When the card is reverse in the divination layout it can mean a poor choice has been made, that the querier has been foolish or thoughtless.


Common usage, slang, metaphors, phrases:
absolute zero
goose egg
ground zero
na dah
nul op
sub zero
zero down
zero g's, zero gravity
zero hour
zero in – targeted
zero tolerance


* * *

Sources Some information is drawn from:

The Discoverers by Daniel J. Boorstin

The Numerology Workbook by Julia Line

Zero to Lazy Eight, the Romance of Numbers by Humez, Humez and Maguire

Dartmouth, Number Symbolism in the Middle Ages site offers much info on Christianity and numbers.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Accomplish in the Future

This month's Round Robin is about things you want to accomplish. Do you have a bucket list? I don't, not exactly, although there are some places I'd still like to visit like the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and the Louvre in Paris; but I would hate the plane ride over and back, so the journeys are unlikely. I'd like to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Field Museum in Chicago again. They are both close enough to drive and perhaps share with grand kids. We'd visit in the spring or fall because I hate leaving my garden in summer. The growing season is much too short here in Northern Michigan. One of the main reasons I don’t like traveling is I am most comfortable in my own house and surroundings. I do, however, have things I want to accomplish. I like creating 'things.'

About thirty plots and character lists are sitting in a file on my computer. I was going great guns until writing helped me get a great part-time job and slowed down my production. I've been working on two books for the last six months, one of which every time I write a few paragraphs I have to recheck my research or do more research. I'd really like to finish those two stories and move on to the ones waiting in that file. There is a problem there, too, as new stories and different characters keep invading my mind, and while writing this and other blog posts is good promotion and allows me personal expression, it takes time away from fiction writing.

I also have a quilt and some other needlework pieces that if I don't finish soon, the fabric and threads will start disintegrating from age. That is just one of my hobbies, although after the break I have had from picking up a needle, I don’t know if it falls into the ‘hobby’ category any longer. I also like to draw, paint, do calligraphy, make pin dolls, and bake bread. (I finally found a Russian Black Bread recipe that tastes like I remember from the defunct Pretzel Bell Restaurant!) I do a lot of Zen doodling (Pinterest)  when I don’t have a book to read at night. Painted faux finishes in marble, leather, water, adobe, and other murals cover the walls of my house. The photo below shows one of my pastimes (see pin dolls for other designs). Reading falls in here, too, but I’ve covered that topic in a recent post. Yet, I often feel guilty devoting time to these activities, and I am not sure why. Maybe because I consider them just putzing around.
Angel Pin

My writing and my hobbies are my bucket list I guess. These things I want to finish and then continue with more new writing and craft projects. That said there are a few important events I want to witness: the graduation of my three grandchildren, and I'd like to share more time with my family, although they claim my visits too short. I suppose they are, but feel that no one wants to outwear their welcome, especially me.

So there it is, not quite a bucket list — just a continuation. What objectives are on your bucket or still to-do list?

Be sure to check the blogs of the following authors who are also blogging on bucket lists and future accomplishments:

Skye Taylor 
Fiona McGier
Marci Baun 
Diane Bator
Victoria Chatham
Anne Stenhouse 
Beverley Bateman
A.J. Maguire 
Rachael Kosnski
Geeta Kakade
Kay Sisk
Connie Vines
Judith Copek

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

All Things Nine

Nine
Nine is the last of the digits exclusive of zero, which usually comes first as in before you have anything, you have nothing. One through nine plus zero are the basics, nine seemingly the penultimate.

Cardinal: NINE
Hindu-Arabic: 9
Ordinate: Ninth
Roman: IX
Greek: Theta
Pythagorean number: the ennead
1+8, 2+7, 3+6, 4+5, 3x3

The Roman words of nine are novem, and nonus, from which we get November or the Roman ninth month, and the word noveni meaning nine each. The Greeks used ennea or ennead for nine.

September is our ninth month now, but November was ninth month of Roman Calendar. The Roman Emperor Augustus had two months inserted, one in recognition of Julius Caesar and and one to immortalize himself. This turned November into the eleventh month. Nones was the Roman ninth day before the ides, which included the seventh day of March, May, July & October but the fifth of the other months. None is also the day's ninth hour, and a liturgical hour of prayer for Catholics.

In science Fluorine, F, is is ninth element on the periodic table. Nine is the cube of three. Humans have a nine month gestation period.

Bowling has nine pins to knock down with the bowling ball. Tic-tack-toe has nine squares, and craps has a 'niner from Carolina.' Every baseball team has nine players on a team and a game consists of nine
innings.

In the Christian religion nine choirs of angels: the Seraphim, Cherubim, Aeons, Hosts, Powers, Authorities, Principalities, Thrones, Archangels, Angels, and Dominions, although they are also known by different names. The Ninth Commandment is Thou shalt not bear false witness. None is the ninth hour after daylight set aside for prayer or around 3:00 PM, while a Novena is a period of prayer lasting nine days. Christ is believed to have expired in the ninth hour nailed to the cross.

A few associations with nine include the claim that nine is a holy number as it is the cube of the trinity.
Nine has been associated with descent of divine power to world. In the U.S. Great Seal, the eagle's tail consists of nine feathers.

The ninth house in astrology is the House of Sagittarius, symbolized by the archer. It is the house of intelligence, philosophy, and education including travel and interaction with others to achieve those goals.

In mythology and folklore, the Egyptians had nine deities in the Ennead, including the god Atum and his children, grandchildren and great-grand children: Shu and Tefnut, their children Geb and Nut, and their children Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nephthys. Greek and Roman religion had the nine muses, Calliope who encouraged epic poetry, Clio who encouraged history, Euterpe whose domain was song, Erato who fostered lyric poetry, Melpomene who covered tragedy, Polyhymnia of hymns, Terpsichore of dance, Thalia of comedy, and Urania of astronomy. The Greeks believed in a nine-headed water monster called the Hydra.

In prophesy, nine is the last and greatest of the series of digits 1 through 9, which comprise the root of all things. Numerology assigns nine to the letters i, r. Nine is considered the greatest of all primary numbers because it contains the qualities of all the others. It reduplicates the creative power of three and stands for completeness. When multiplied by any other number, the sum of the digits making up the final number is always nine, which signifies a tendency towards egotism. Nine represents the pinnacle of mental and spiritual attainment, so becomes the number of consciousness. It is the Trinity of Trinities, and the first square of an odd number. Because it fell short of the perfect number 10, nine can be associated with failure. Because of the nine-month gestation period, it is the number of man. Nine represents a limitless number because there is nothing beyond it but the infinite combinations of it, the previous digits, and zero; therefore, it was associated with the ocean and a boundless horizon. Nine is sometimes regarded as evil because it is an inverted six.

In Tarot divination, the Hermit card is the ninth card and indicates pure intellect. Nine is the number of initiation and includes silent counsel, prudence, and discretion. It represents receiving wisdom from above, instruction from an expert or a meeting with a guide who sets the seeker on a path to material and spiritual attainment. It indicates the means to attain goals, but a journey may be a necessary to gain knowledge.

Nine, because of human gestation, represents life, creation, and the fulfillment of humanity.

Mars, because it has always been connected with war, indicates the inability to accept and work with the prevailing circumstances.

Nine in mythology and lore:
The nine white winged horses of Helios
The Greek Sun God
Sign: the scepter and the orb.

Common usage includes sayings like: 'As nice as a ninepence'; 'nine days’ wonder'; 'dressed to the nines'; 'nine lives of a cat'; 'on cloud nine'; and 'the whole nine yards.'

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Ethical or Moral?


Words and meanings interest me, and as a writer, often become important. Some words have vague meanings, others several different meanings, like a minute of time and in minute detail, and the exact definition needs clarification of the meaning desired in the writing. Every term I talk to my students about plagiarism, ethics, and morals. Many have a very imprecise concept of any of these terms, so I decided to explore it on my own. Perhaps then, I can help clarify it for myself and for them.

Ethics come from the Greek word ethos, used by Aristotelian in his philosophy approach of ethos, logos, and pathos, which when used in arguments led to understanding and solutions of issues. Ethos is the behavioral guidelines set up by a society, logos the logic involved, and pathos the appeal to the audiences’ compassion. Ethics became the rules for right and wrong within a society, the group’s law or code of conduct. If the Greeks were using ethos, logos, and pathos to discover the nuances of right and wrong, then these three properties must have become involved in human development long before then.

The French word etiquette, or the standard for polite interaction, also comes from this principle. What is interesting with the French word is the standards were vastly different for genders and classes within the society. An aristocratic man acted one way within the restrictions of his class for public deportment, but almost the opposite with the other class. This discrepancy in behavior has proven true within codified laws and the accepted behavior norms for other societies, too. Not so long ago the United States codified who was a citizen by race and gender. So, ethics can be a somewhat nebulous thing, but if someone breaks societal ethics, harsh punishment is often meted out to the guilty by society such as shunning, loss of reputation, name calling, and worse. Ethical standards can also change. Science, medicine, differing interpretations of wording, and social change can affect ethics.


Have humans always used some ethical standard? I do not know, but I know every group that lives together must have some standard or endure constant chaos. No matter how unprincipled or brutal the society or what tyrannical rules the group’s leadership follows, it follows some kind of ethical standard. As mentioned above, understanding of right and wrong can change, and certain former ‘ethics’ can now be seen as evil. My guess is that even prehistoric societies had these rules, perhaps even the Neandertals, who recent research has shown were not so different from the Homo sapiens. After all, humans are known to act irresponsibly, spiteful, and hateful, and also known to steal, injure others, lie, and cheat. Sometimes this is an aberration in a person’s behavior due to stress or situational events; then again, some humans are just reprehensible individuals whether from the affects of nature or nurture. Societies need protection from such people, which ethical standards supposedly establish.

Today we have volumes of law codes and philosophical and religious principles guiding our ethical standards, which still change from country to country and society to society. While the general American population follows the law codes of the nation and state, some sub groups like gangs live by their own code. Individuals develop their own codes too, sometimes in opposition to society’s accepted norms. Media often subtly supports this undermining of known standards, which might have evolved from America’s myth for rugged individualism (big supposition). Yet, for instance, how often in a fictional crime or investigation procedural show has a main character broken the legal or ethical standards of his profession to deal out a supposedly more appropriate punishment? In NCIS, the main character Gibbs has his own ‘rules,’ even when those rules counter those of his job.

Morals, on the other hand, while often used interchangeably with ethics, have a different meaning. The word comes from the Latin moralis, or proper manners. Morals are more about personal choices, each individual deciding what ethics they believe and follow. I suspect family often influences morals, but so could personal psychological issues, or a person's social dynamics within their society, or someone's personal situation.

Can a sociopath be a moral person? Yes: They may have no empathy (pathos) for anyone, but they are capable of following an ethical standard, and choosing to follow those standards would make them moral. Can a moral person be unethical? Yes: When their morals in a situation oppose the ethical standards of their society. Can a person’s morals change? Yes: If a person moves into an ethically different society, or if their morals lead them to an emotional or intellectual conflict they must resolve, morals can transform. Morals can also be very situational, such as the white lie given to prevent a friend’s suffering.

That means that in the end, ethics are guidelines, morals are choices. So, in another example from NCIS, the character Ducky tells his assistant Jimmy, “The difference between morals and ethics is the ethical man knows he shouldn't cheat on his wife, whereas the moral man doesn't cheat on his wife.” Most of us, luckily, choose to follow our society’s ethical standards, our morals, however, are often challenged. As mentioned above, moral choices can also lead to societal punishment. In many instances, though, a more personal punishment of guilt affects the transgressor, which can be lifelong and every bit as prosecutorial as any other form of punishment. After all, aren't we often our own worst judge and jury?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Clouds and Sky Watching

I have to ask you, who does not like sky watching? During the daylight hours, it can take place anywhere, but at night, it is especially precious in rural areas faraway from ambient light, preferably on a cloudless night when the stars shine in all their glory. In between the light and dark of day and night, sunrises and sunsets can be extraordinarily gorgeous visual experiences, which is why so much artwork features them.

I do not know about you, but for me, seeing the night sky crowded with stars and the Milky Way is awe-inspiring, somehow putting my existence into perspective. Viewing the moon has been a human compulsion since prehistoric times not only to tell time but also to induce inspiration. It continues to hold its thrall for modern man, and now we have the added knowledge that man has visited there. (Off topic, I know, but left garbage there, too; so human.) Some hold dreams of inhabiting the moon’s harsh landscape, others of developing it as a weapons base. Even on cloudy night the moon can be breath taking. Its refracted light can illumine through layers of clouds. Atmospheric conditions sometimes creates halos of light around the moon, and a moon with wisps of clouds drifting by makes the perfect Halloween night. Yet, a full moon radiating the sun’s golden light in an otherwise empty sky makes me want to dance. With all the media announcements about impending meteorite shows, passing comets, eclipses, and northern lights, I know many of you share this sky-watching urge.

While all of these are wondrous sights and events, the beauty and variety of common clouds entrance me. Clouds are water molecules loosely attracted in the atmosphere by what humans have learned about chemistry and physics. Clouds indicate weather and can be friendly or threatening, but always awesome. Did you know some of those clouds, if you had the water molecules collected here on the Earth’s surface, would weigh a million or more pounds? Just because they float, does not mean they weigh nothing. They come is such a wide variety of forms, all with scientific names, but I prefer to recognize them as scattered puff balls, as long overlapping sheets of grey, white, and blue, or as wispy mare’s tails. In their astonishing shapes, I have seen dragons, sharks, warriors, eagles, and other imaginary phenomenon.

Sometimes I am saddened to think that after I die I will never see such sights again, which is silly because of the all too obvious realities. Anyhow, the thought does serve as a good warning to enjoy them while I can. The sky reminds us time passes, day and night, midday and midnight, and everyone only has a limited amount of time. So take a minute for one of the world’s common miracles and watch a few clouds. Do some sky watching and let the Earth, sun, and moon remind you of the miracle of our planet, and celebrate life. Plus, it's free.