July 30, 2013

George Washington's 110 Rules of Civility

"[A]ll modern manners in the western world in the western world were originally aristocratic.  Courtesy meant behavior appropriate to a court; chivalry comes from chevalier -- a knight.  Yet Washington was to dedicate himself to freeing America from a court's control.  Could manners survive the operation?  Without realizing it, the Jesuits who wrote them, and the young man who copied them [Washington was 16 when he did so], were outlining and absorbing a system of courtesy appropriate to equals and near-equals. When the company for whom the decent behavior was to be performed expanded to the nation, Washington was ready.  Parson Weems got this right, when he wrote that it was 'no wonder every body honoured him who honoured every body.'"

In these modern times where it appears courtesy is dying, I thought it would be interesting to see what some of these "Rules of Civility" entailed:
  1. Every action done in company, ought to be with some sign of respect, to those who are present.
  2. When in company, put not your hands to any part of the body, not usually discovered.  (So no ball-scratching in public.)
  3. Sleep not when others speak, sit not when others stand, speak not when you should hold your peace, walk not when others stop.
  4. Be no flatterer, neither play with any that delights not to be played withal.
  5. Let your countenance be pleasant but in serious matters somewhat grave.
  6. Reproach none for the infirmities of nature, nor delight to put them that have in mind thereof.
  7. Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another though he were your enemy.
  8. Superfluous compliments and all affectation of ceremony are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be neglected (aka, no need to be a brown-noser).
  9. Let your discourse with men of business be short and comprehensive.
  10. Artificers and persons of low degree ought not to use many ceremonies to Lords, or others of high degree, but respect and highly honor them, and those of high degree ought to treat them with affability and courtesy, without arrogance.
  11. Undertake not to teach your equal in the art himself professes; it savours of arrogance.
  12. Wherein you reprove another be unblameable yourself; for example is more prevalent than precepts.
  13. Be not hasty to believe flying reports to the disparagement of any.
  14.  Play not the peacock, looking everywhere about you, to see if you be well decked, if your shoes fit well if your stockings sit neatly, and cloths handsomely.
  15. Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for 'is better to be alone than in bad company.
  16. Let your conversation be without malice or envy, for 'is a sign of a tractable and commendable nature:    and in all causes of passion admit reason to govern.
  17. When another speaks be attentive yourself and disturb not the audience if any hesitate in his words help him not nor prompt him without desired, interrupt him not, nor answer him till his speech be ended.
  18. Undertake not what you cannot perform but be careful to keep your promise.
  19. Take no salt or cut bread with your knife greasy.
  20. Put not another bit into our mouth till the former be swallowed.  Let not your morsels be too big for the jowls.
These are but a few of the said rules, and I shall leave you with Rule 110:
Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.

1776 by David McCullough
Foundations Magazine (for the whole list)

July 23, 2013

Qualities Needed In A General

Being who I am, I love to read multiple books at the same time, therefore allowing me to jump from one story to another, or one topic to another, without letting my curiosity wane.

Out of the four books I'm reading now is the historic account 1776 by David McCullough which I find utterly fascinating (especially since I've never studied/read about American history before).

In it, he describes how Nathanael Greene learned about war, which was solely through books and treatises, including that of Marshal Maurice de Saxe's Memoirs Concerning the Art of War, which states that:

"The first of all qualities [of a general] is courage.  Without this, the others are of little value, since they cannot be used.  The second is intelligence, which must be strong and fertile in expedients.  The third is health."

Short, and to the point, and probably something the young Greene (at the time) took to heart when he was made the "youngest general officer in what constituted the American army, and by conventional criterion, an improbable choice for such responsibility."

PS: Just found out General James "Maddog" Mattis, of the Marine Corps, decided to retire.  Now I don't know much about him except from what I've read, but it appears to me he did fulfill these three requirements.  Here's one of his quotes:
"If in order to kill the enemy you have to kill an innocent, don't take the shot.  Don't create more enemies than you take out by some immoral act."

July 16, 2013

Treasure Finding -- The Reality

Fenn Treasure Chest

So I read online about this treasure hunt going on like crazy right now in the US—this 82-year old millionaire hid a treasure in gold coins, nuggets, precious jewels and other similar artifacts (worth over $1 million) somewhere in the Rockies for adventurers to discover. Reason? He wanted to leave his imprint on the world (even if a small portion of it) before cancer took him, by getting people away from the TV/computer/video games, and out into the wild.

But then I got thinking. In this lovely country that is the US, what would be the tax consequences of finding a treasure?

And of course, being the “Land of the Free” everything you find/make has to be taxed to the max. So here are the consequences (from what I’ve gathered—of course, things could have changed… doubtful, but possible):

1. If you’ve found raw ore/nugget on private land, you don’t have to declare it as income until you cash it.

2. If the find is in a National Park or Public Lands that require government permission to recover:
   a. Take picture of the treasure before you dig it up + get a good attorney.
   b. Best you can hope for is a 50/50 split with the government.
   c. Costs to get permits and equipment for the retrieval of the treasure will come out of your share.
   d. Whatever’s left at the end will then be taxed as income (so if you’re in the high-tax bracket, expect another huge chunk of your treasure to disappear). Note, in the case of non-cash items, those are taxed upon sale.
   e. Therefore, people say you can expect to keep only 1/8 to 1/4 of your Treasure, when everything’s over.

Nowhere near as fun as in the days of the Count of Monte Cristo, eh?

More information on the Treasure Hunt.

And the dangers one’s faced with when hunting for it (including not being able to keep said treasure).

Desert USA

July 9, 2013

Gandhi On Animals

Recently became a member of The Gentle Barn that takes in abused and abandoned animals (from chickens, and pigs, to horses and llamas) and provides them with a loving home for the rest of their lives.  At the same time, the barn works with children who've suffered similarly (inner-city, group homes, mental healthcare facilities, foster homes, etc), to "teach them that even though we are all different on the outside, on the inside we are all the same and are deserving of the same rights, respect and freedom."

Guys, I'd like you to meet Snoopy, the pig I sponsor (I've always wanted to have a pet pig!).
She was rescued from a hoarder (who had 400 animals left for dead).  At the time, she was so
scared that she would charge at anyone with her teeth bared for the first 6 months after her
rescue.  Now, she loves to get her belly rubbed and runs towards people to get treats.
She reminded me a little of Morgan, which is why I picked her :)

And on that note, here's a quote from Mahatma Gandhi on the subject:

To my mind the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being.  I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body.  I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.

July 5, 2013

Keys To A Breakout Premise

Now that I’m done jotting down most ideas for book 2 of the Morgana Trilogy, I’m re-reading Donald Maass’s The Breakout Novelist to get inspired for more plot twists, to make the story as exciting and intriguing as possible.

In his first chapter, Maass (a very well-known literary agent) describes “the key ingredients that he looks for in a fully formed breakout premise”:

1. Plausibility:
   a. Could that really happen?
   b. Need to feel the story presented has some basis in reality, so we can care about what happens to the characters.
   c. Readers wonder at something that’s strange, unexpected, or unusual, as it provokes questions, thereby drawing us deeper into the story.

2. Inherent conflict:
   a. Does the world of my story have conflict built into it?
   b. Anywhere that there are people, there’s inherent conflict. And writers need to bring it out.

3. Originality:
   a. Is the conflict the writer picked genuinely new?
   b. Although human nature may never change, our ways of looking at it will. Therefore the writer needs to find a fresh angle on a familiar subject.
   c. Some ways to be original:
         i. When derivative novels are successful, they are often not direct sequels, but rather riffs on some aspect or other of the original work.
         ii. Doing the opposite of what readers expect.
         iii. Combining 2 discrete story elements (mixing 2 familiar story styles, and even genres).

4. Gut emotional appeal:
   a. Does your breakout premise make people shiver? Does it get them in the gut?
   b. Feels personal.
   c. Touches emotions that are deep, real, and common to us all.

The rest of the book delves deeper into each point, reflecting on many aspects a great book contains, and why those elements are important. Anything you’ve found inspiring in these words?

July 1, 2013

Cancer, A Byproduct Of Modern Society?

I recently came upon this article which describes how, after numerous studies (including the analysis of hundreds of Egyptian mummies), it was concluded that cancer was probably a “man-made” disease.

Crazy, isn’t it?

Here are some key points from the article:

  • 'The virtual absence of malignancies in mummies must be interpreted as indicating their rarity in antiquity, indicating that cancer-causing factors are limited to societies affected by modern industrialization.'   ~Professor Michael Zimmerman
  •  Out of hundreds of mummies, only one showed cancerous cells, despite the fact that the process of mummification should preserve those cells more easily than healthier ones (don’t ask me for the science behind that, I’m just reporting what I’ve read).
  •  Lifespan shouldn’t be a factor because despite their shorter lives, these mummified people still displayed other signs of age.
  • 'In industrialized societies, cancer is second only to cardiovascular disease as a cause of death. But in ancient times, it was extremely rare.  There is nothing in the natural environment that can cause cancer. So it has to be a man-made disease, down to pollution and changes to our diet and lifestyle.' ~Professor David

 And the conclusion of this whole study is…

‘Scientists now say a healthy diet, regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight can prevent about a third of the most common cancers so perhaps our ancestors’ lifestyle reduced their risk from cancer.’  ~Dr. Rachel Thompson