Compare and Contrast

The essay is a commonly assigned form of writing that every student will encounter while in academia.  Essays can be a rewarding and challenging type of writing, but they are often dreaded by every student, because they demand a certain amount of preparation.  Many poorly crafted essays have been produced on account of a lack of preparation and confidence. The essay is used to encourage students to test or examine their own ideas concerning a particular topic.  Essays are by nature concise and they require clarity in purpose and direction.  This means that there is no room for the student’s thoughts to wander or stray from his or her purpose, because the writing must be deliberate and interesting.

Expository writing makes things clear and my previous job as a technical writer was to explain things in a way that people could understand.  Expository writing is writing that explains or shares information.  The word expository is derived from ‘expose’ which means ‘to reveal’.   This can also sometimes be called informative writing.  The writer of an expository essay assumes that the reader has no prior knowledge of the topic that is being discussed.  The world is full of expository writing including: Newspaper/magazine articles, Summaries, Informational reports, How-to manuals, Book reports, Operating instructions, Chapters in history textbooks and Entries in encyclopedias.

While working as an engineer, I wrote many technical descriptions of machine operations from customer specifications and I also wrote several sequence of operation procedures, process specifications, technical specifications, operator manuals and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).  My technical reports included Master Validation Plans, Installation Qualifications (IQ), Operational Qualifications (OQ), Factory Acceptance Tests (FAT) and I also made procedural checklists.  I authored documents for internal audit response and FDA consent decree.  I wrote specifications for systems and processes along with procedures for calibrating instruments and training others.

An expository essay must be creative and it is held together by a clear, concise, and defined thesis statement that occurs in the first paragraph of the essay, clear and logical transitions between the introduction, body, and conclusion, body paragraphs that include evidential support, which can be factual, logical, statistical, or anecdotal, and a conclusion that does not simply restate the thesis, but readdresses it in light of the evidence provided.  A common method for writing an expository essay is to use the five-paragraph approach where the first paragraph is an introductory paragraph.  The next three body paragraphs will provide evidence and the first one of these is where the writer begins to flesh out the information that the introduction said was coming.  Paragraph three should be devoted to a new fact or different example that supports the main idea of the essay.  Paragraph 4 is the last of three evidentiary body paragraphs and it should end with signal words that tell the reader that the final point is being made.  The conclusion should restate the ideas from the thesis statement in the introduction.  It should neatly summarize everything including all of the key points that were made in each of the paragraphs in the body of the work.

Comparisons are used to explain differences between subjects or to persuade readers that one subject is superior others.  The compare and contrast essay measures similarities and differences between two subjects.  Sportswriters compare the teams playing in the Super Bowl.  Stockbrokers contrast investment strategies.  Medical journals compare therapy methods. Textbooks use comparison to explain related theories and methods.  Consumer Reports examine competing products.  Essay exams often ask students to compare authors, historical events, political figures, or scientific techniques.

Comparison in writing discusses elements that are similar, while contrast in writing discusses elements that are different.  A comparison and contrast essay may discuss only similarities, only differences, but more often than not, both comparison and contrast are used.  A compare and contrast essay uses factual details to analyze the similarities and differences between two or more two or more people, places, things, or events.  In comparison and contrast, transitions between paragraphs are necessary to keep your essay flowing smoothly, to make it clear to the reader when you switch from one topic to the other, and to indicate the logical relationships between ideas within the paragraph.

The five basic categories in expository writing are: Compare & Contrast Essay where a writer considers similarities and differences, How-to Instructions where the steps involved in doing a task are explained and many reader questions are anticipated, Cause-and-Effect Essay where a writer explores the reasons a particular event or situation occurred and provides an explanation of the causes of the event or situation and this must include solid supporting facts/details, Informational Report where a writer gathers relevant information, facts and statistics and then presents it in a clear and interesting way and Product Evaluation where a writer presents a reasoned opinion of strengths and weaknesses of a particular item or service to helps the reader make an informed decision about whether to use or purchase this product.

A Compare and Contrast essay is usually a short piece of expository writing that describes similarities and differences between two or more subjects.  An effective compare/contrast essay identifies a purpose for comparison & contrast, gives factual details about the subjects that are being compared and uses an organizational plan suited for topic/purpose.  The easiest way to organize a comparison paper is to simply divide it into two parts.  After an introductory paragraph, fully discuss the first subject without mentioning the second.  Then in the latter half of the paper, explain the second subject, comparing its likenesses and differences to the first.  For longer and more technical papers, it may be better to compare the two subjects on a range of issues.  Instead of dividing the paper into two sections, you might organize your topic by making a series of comparisons on a point by point list of subtopics.  Persuasive comparisons recommend one subject as being superior to another, while avoiding comments about any obvious differences and always make sure that your comparisons are valid.  Don’t compare apples with oranges!

How To Instructions are step-by-step explanations of how to do something, like how to build, operate, repair, or maintain things.  For something that seems so easy and intuitive, instructions are often some of the worst-written documents.  Good instructions require the writer to use clear, simple writing, to possess a thorough understanding and awareness of the procedure in all its technical detail, to have the ability to put them self in the place of the reader.  The writer must know the person who is trying to use these instructions and to be able to visualize the procedure in great detail and to capture that on paper.  Finally, the writer must be willing to go that extra distance and test their instructions on the kind of person that they wrote them for.

Cause-and-Effect essays examine the relationship between events, explaining how one events or situation causes another. A successful cause-and-effect essay includes a discussion of the cause (event or condition), an explanation of an effect (outcome or result), evidence and Examples for support along with logical organization.  Problem-solution essays go further than just identifying an issue, as they offer an idea or a way of changing it.  An effective problem-solution includes, a clear statement of problem, a proposal of at least one realistic solution, all relevant facts, statistics, data, maybe an expert opinion, and a clear organizational pattern and an appropriate language for a specific audience background knowledge.

An Informational Report does not have an argumentative slant.  Their goal is to give people the facts so that the reader can make a decision, not the writer.  The writer should maintain a neutral attitude when presenting the facts, but spare no energy when it comes to researching in depth and writing clearly.  An informative paper does not need to present an argument, but it does need a clear focus stated in one sentence.

Product Evaluation essays are just like reviews. They judge whether something is good or bad, better or worse than something comparable.  Evaluation papers can be serious or funny, earnest or sarcastic. Many people enjoy reading a review about a really bad movie or a horrible restaurant experience.  The writer will need to use criteria to judge their subject.  Criteria are the parts of the thing you are evaluating.  Writing a product review of an item you have purchased and used can be a great way to share useful information with other shoppers, promote products you love, or just build your writing portfolio.  Your review may offer glowing praise or bitter criticism.  To do a thorough review, a writer must do research and know what their readers are looking for.  It would also be helpful for the writer to buy and use the product.

Written for 12/16/17 Linda G. Hill’s ‘Life in progress’ Stream of Consciousness Saturday where the prompt is contrast.

Seeking Goodness and Light

‘Do You Hear What I Hear?’ is a song written in October 1962, with lyrics by Noël Regney and music by Gloria Shayne Baker. Regney wrote the lyrics for the song, while Shayne composed the music.  The pair were married at the time, and they wrote it as a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis and as a response to the existential dread that they felt because of the Cold War.  When the USSR was spotted constructing bases for ballistic nuclear missiles in Cuba, it was thought that these weapons would be used to strike most of the continental United States and a confrontation was only averted when they were dismantled at President John F. Kennedy’s insistence.  The United States threatened military action if the missiles were not removed.  The world trembled and prayed as these two nuclear powers stood eyeball-to-eyeball.

Regney had been invited by a record producer to write a Christmas song, but he was hesitant due to the commercialism of the Christmas holiday.  Noel Regney felt terrified for his family, his country, and for the survival of the human race.  He had fought in World War II and had experienced the fear and terror of war and death first hand.  Now he was worried that the secure life he had built for himself and his family in the United States was on the verge of ending, as it teetered on nuclear disaster.  He tried to think about something else, while he walked through the streets of New York City, but he kept sensing that a feeling of despair was in the air.

This song has sold tens of millions of copies and has been covered by hundreds of artists.  Bing Crosby made the song a worldwide smash hit when he recorded it in 1963.  Ironically, Crosby laid down his vocals on November 22, 1963, the day that President J. F. K. was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

This Christmas song contains dramatic shifts in volume and pitch and each refrain begins with a question sung solemn and low, and then jumps up the scales for the answer.  This creates a sense of size, of craning upward for revelation.  The lyrics are impressionistic, being about a chain of communications between objects which are animate and some that are not.  Regney said that he was en route to his home, when he saw two mothers with their babies in strollers.   The little angels were looking at each other and smiling, and those little ones reminded him of newborn lambs and this inspired the first line of the song, “Said the night wind to the little lamb”.  This is my favorite Christmas song.

Whitney Houston – Do You Hear What I Hear

Said the night wind to the little lamb,
do you see what I see
Way up in the sky, little lamb,
do you see what I see
A star, a star, dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite
With a tail as big as a kite
Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,
do you hear what I hear
Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy,
do you hear what I hear
A song, a song, high above the trees
With a voice as big as the sea
With a voice as big as the sea
Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
do you know what I know
In your palace warm, mighty king,
do you know what I know
A Child, a Child shivers in the cold
Let us bring Him silver and gold
Let us bring Him silver and gold
Said the king to the people everywhere,
listen to what I say
Pray for peace, people everywhere!
listen to what I say
The Child, the Child, sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light

Written for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Music Prompt #18: “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman”


Around 4000 BC, the ancient Sumerians invented the sailboat.  Sailboats were important as transportation was essential to their culture.  The Sumerian civilization flourished because it was able to trade and with other cultures.  They set up trade relationships with nearby cities and countries, but since transportation of goods by land routes was hectic and difficult they relied on water transportation for travel and trade.  An ancient legend tells that a Babylonian hero endeavored to cross a lake when he was advised by a ferryman to fabricate a punting pole.  He fabricated it but he could not use the pole to touch the bottom of the lake.  The hero then took off his clothes, stood on his boat, raised his two arms as two masts, and held the clothes over his arms and then the boat sailed along.

Fat and Happy

A long time ago in a land far, far away named Strawberry Fields, King David decided to celebrate the prosperity of his kingdom.  He tasked his son, Prince Solomon to build an automaton.  Solomon welcomed the challenge and since this automaton was to be the symbol of prosperity, he decided to create one that was fat and happy.  Solomon made detailed designs of his robot who was a very jolly fellow that ended up being shaped like an egg with arms, legs, and a head.  Solomon held a contest to name the machine and the three best names submitted were Rolly Polly, Pudgy Wudgy, and Humpty Dumpty and Solomon decided to go with Humpty Dumpty.

Humpty Dumpty liked to jump, and he would jump up on chairs and tables and then he would sing songs to entertain all of the people.  Humpty also liked to tell jokes which made him very popular with all of the people, because they liked to laugh. One day Humpty went for a walk and he ran into a chicken who told him that the sky was falling.  He saw three little pigs and then he saw a goose lay o golden egg on top of a wall.  Humpty decided to jump up on the wall to get a better look at the egg.  Humpty thought that the egg might be his brother, so he started talking to the egg.  Humpty decided that the egg was very young and maybe that was why it didn’t know how to talk yet, so Humpty started rocking back and forth on the wall waiting for it to talk.

Humpty lost his balance and he fell off the wall and broke into pieces.  Chicken Little saw the mess on the ground, sprockets, springs, gears, nuts, bolts, screws and other gizmos were everywhere, so he went to the King’s castle to report Humpty’s condition and then he said, “By the way, the sky is falling.”  The king sent all of his horses and all of his men to find Humpty Dumpty and bring him back to the castle.  When they brought all of the pieces back, the king called Prince Solomon to put Humpty back together.  Solomon told the king that he had forgotten how to assemble Humpty Dumpty, but if he looked at his notes, that it might come back to him.

Solomon went to his office to find his notes, but when he arrived. his office was ablaze in flames.  A boy named Jack was playing a game that involved him jumping over a lit candlestick and he tripped and knocked it over and the fire spread and burnt up everything.  Poor Humpty, as all the king’s horses and all the king’s men and the forgetful prince could not put him back together again.

Written for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Fairy Tale/Tale Weaver #150 – 14th December – The Prince Who Forgot.

To The Victor Belongs the Spoils

Spoils in politics and government is a practice that takes place after winning an election, where as an incentive a winning candidate can give jobs to their supporters, or reward friends and relatives for working on their campaign.  The term was first used in the United States, by New York Senator William L. Marcy, when he was referring to the victory of Andrew Jackson in the election of 1828, with the term spoils meaning goods or benefits taken from the loser in a competition, election or military victory.

Steve Bannon who usually has something to say was speechless last night after Roy Moore lost the Alabama election. America dodged a bullet in Alabama last night, because Moore is a man who was twice removed from his state’s Supreme Court for defying judicial orders, a man who said Muslims should not be allowed to serve in elective office, who suggested the black family was better off under slavery, and who declared that homosexuality should be illegal.  These facts made Roy Moore horribly unfit for any office whether or not you think that the allegations against him for chasing girls as young as 14 were credible.

The special election for the Alabama Senate seat took place because Jeff Sessions vacated this position to become the Attorney General.  The Democrat Doug Jones won and the spoils belong to him.  The people spoke and they did not want the despicable goon Roy Moore to serve Alabama in Washington.  It was the women’s vote that decided this election as many felt that Roy Moore was horrifying and also many Republicans from Alabama stayed home in droves, while Democrats who probably couldn’t have picked Jones out of a lineup on Election Day stampeded to the polls.

Roy Moore refused to do the right thing, which would have been to drop out of the race under all of the controversy.  Initially some Republican leaders wanted him to drop out of the Alabama Senate race after those nine women accused him of sexual misconduct against them when they were teenagers.  The Democratic Party forced influential legislators like Michigan Representative John Conyers and Minnesota Senator Al Franken to resign.  A Republican congressman Trent Franks of Arizona resigned in response to sexual harassment allegations, but he did not face the public pressure from his party that Franken and Conyers did.  Trump has also been accused of sexual harassment by at least 15 women and he was caught on tape in 2005 boasting about kissing and groping women without their permission.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his top lieutenants are left with few options other than to contain the damage of this brutal defeat.  They will soon hold a perilously thin majority, 51 to 49, in the Senate, and the more perilous prospect of losing it altogether in the November 2018 midterm elections.  Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) needs a net pickup of two seats next year, and although that would still seem like a high hurdle as Democrats are defending almost three times as many seats as Republicans are, and 10 of them are in states that Trump won last year, but Jones has opened a path.

The Jones victory might encourage other Democrats to make long-shot bids in Republican states such as Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming.  GOP incumbents are considered overwhelming favorites in those places, but if a Democrat can win in deep red Alabama, it will provide encouragement to others.

When a string of women started coming forward to accuse Moore last month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other party leaders denounced him, only to have Trump come out to support him.  Trump argued that he believed Moore’s denials, and since then has repeatedly asked Alabamans to vote for him.  Calling women who accuse you of misdeeds liars, flat-out denying even knowing them and threatening lawsuits are the same tactics that Donald Trump used to deal with sexual misconduct allegations.  Ivanka Trump said that there is a special place in hell that is reserved for people who prey on children, but her father ended up endorsing this presumably hell-bound candidate.  The category of sexual assault against children is in its own universe.

United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley told her thoughts to CBS News concerning Trump’s female accusers saying, “Women who accuse anyone should be heard.  They should be heard and they should be dealt with.”  The remark reportedly angered Trump.  Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a rare clarification that her statements about Trump’s female accusers were not her views, but Trump’s.  “I’m here to speak on behalf of the president,” she said.  “And I can say that the president has directly responded and said that these allegations are false, and that’s what I’m doing in relaying that information to you.”

Written for Linda G. Hill Life in progress One-Liner Wednesday – Spoiling it All.

Introduction To String Theory

In physics, string theory is a theoretical framework in which the point-like particles of particle physics are replaced by one-dimensional objects called strings.  String theory describes how these strings propagate through space and interact with each other.  We live in a wonderfully complex universe, and we are curious about it by nature.  Time and again people have wondered, why are we here?   Where did we and the world come from?  What is the world made of?  It is our privilege to live in a time when enormous progress has been made towards finding some of the answers.  String theory is our most recent attempt to answer where the world come from and what is the world made of.  String theory describes how one-dimensional objects called strings propagate through space and interact with each other.

Physics is the branch of science concerned with the nature and properties of matter and energy.  Theoretical physics is a branch of physics that employs mathematical models and abstractions of physical objects and systems to rationalize, explain and predict natural phenomena and String Theory is a part of theoretical physics.  Sir Isaac Newton was the first theoretical physicist, although in his own time his profession was called ‘natural philosophy’.  One of the goals of Physics is to find a single theory that unites all of the four forces of nature which are, electromagnetism, gravity, and the strong and weak nuclear forces.  Concerning the two most familiar forces, Electromagnetism is the force that holds a fridge magnet to a refrigerator, while gravity is trying to pull it off towards the earth.

One crucial idea that has driven physics since Newton’s time is that of unification: the attempt to explain seemingly different phenomena by a single overarching concept.  Perhaps the first example of this came from Newton himself, who in his 1687 work Principia Mathematicae explained that the motion of the planets in the solar system, the motion of the Moon around the Earth, and the force that holds us to the Earth are all part of the same thing: the force of gravity.  We take this for granted today, but pre-Newton the connection between a falling apple and the orbit of the Moon would have been far from obvious and quite amazing.

180 years after Newton the Scottish mathematician James Clerk Maxwell showed that electrostatics and magnetism, by no means similar phenomena at first sight, are just different aspects of a single thing called electromagnetism.  In the process Maxwell discovered electromagnetic waves, which are in fact light, Maxwell had inadvertently explained a further seemingly different aspect of nature.

Each of the four fundamental forces in the universe: gravity, electromagnetism, and the weak and strong nuclear forces is produced by fundamental particles that act as carriers of the force.  The most familiar of these is the photon, a particle of light, which is the mediator of electromagnetic forces.  This means that, for instance, a magnet attracts a nail because both objects exchange photons.  The graviton is the particle associated with gravity.  The strong force is carried by eight particles known as gluons.  Finally, the weak force is transmitted by three particles, the W+, the W , and the Z.

There have been two great breakthroughs in the 20th century physics.  Perhaps the most famous is Einstein’s theory of general relativity.  The other equally impressive theory is quantum mechanics.  In 1984, the Pakistani Abdus Salam and the American Steven Weinberg showed that the electromagnetic force and the weak nuclear force, which causes radioactive decay, are both just different aspects of a single force called the electroweak force.  This left us with three fundamental forces of nature being gravity, the electroweak force and the strong nuclear force which holds protons together.

Having dealt with the forces, physicists became concerned to know about matter.  Many ancient belief systems have postulated that matter, and reality itself, is made from a finite number of elements and modern physics confirms this idea.  Experiments performed with the particle accelerator at CERN in Geneva have shown that there are just twelve basic building blocks of matter.  These are known as the elementary particles.  Everything we’ve ever seen in any experiment, here or in distant stars, is made of just these twelve elementary particles.  This is truly impressive, the entire Universe, its matter and dynamics explained by just three forces and twelve elementary objects.  It’s a good start, but questions still abound, and this is where string theory enters as an attempt to unify further.

Particle physics has spent a long time searching for the Higgs boson particle.  On July 4, 2012, scientists at CERN announced that they had found a particle that behaved the way they expect the Higgs boson to behave.  Maybe the famed boson’s grand and controversial nickname, the “God Particle”, has kept media outlets buzzing.  Then again, the intriguing possibility that the Higgs boson is responsible for all the mass in the universe rather captures the imagination, too.  Or perhaps we’re simply excited to learn more about our world, and we know that if the Higgs boson does exist, we’ll unravel the mystery a little more.

In order to truly understand what the Higgs boson is, however, we need to examine one of the most prominent theories describing the way the cosmos works and that is called the standard model.  The model comes to us by way of particle physics, a field filled with physicists dedicated to reducing our complicated universe to its most basic building blocks.  It’s a challenge we’ve been tackling for centuries, and we’ve made a lot of progress.  First we discovered atoms, then protons, neutrons and electrons, and finally quarks and leptons, which will be discussed more later on.  But the universe doesn’t only contain matter; it also contains forces that act upon that matter.  The standard model has given us more insight into the types of matter and forces than perhaps any other theory we have.

As theories go, the standard model has been very effective, aside from its failure to fit in gravity.  As it turns out, scientists think each one of the fundamental forces has a corresponding carrier particle, or boson, that acts upon matter.  That’s a hard concept to grasp.  We tend to think of forces as mysterious, ethereal things that straddle the line between existence and nothingness, but in reality, they’’re as real as matter itself.

Some physicists have described bosons as weights anchored by mysterious rubber bands to the matter particles that generate them.  Using this analogy, we can think of the particles constantly snapping back out of existence in an instant and yet equally capable of getting entangled with other rubber bands attached to other bosons (and imparting force in the process).

Scientists think each of the fundamental forces has its own specific bosons.  Electromagnetic fields, for instance, depend on the photon to transit electromagnetic force to matter.  Physicists think the Higgs boson might have a similar function, but transferring mass itself.

The behavior of all of these particles and forces is described with impeccable precision by the Standard Model, with one notable exception, the one we call gravity.  For technical reasons, the gravitational force, the most familiar in our everyday lives, has proven very difficult to describe microscopically.  This has been for many years one of the most important problems in theoretical physics, to formulate a quantum theory of gravity.

So, what is the world made of?  Ordinary matter is made of atoms, which are in turn made of just three basic components being, electrons that are whirling around a nucleus which is composed of neutrons and protons.  The electron is a truly fundamental particle (it is one of a family of particles known as leptons), but neutrons and protons are made of smaller particles, known as quarks.  Quarks are, as far as we know, truly elementary.

Our current knowledge about the subatomic composition of the universe is summarized in what is known as the Standard Model of particle physics.  It describes both the fundamental building blocks out of which the world is made, and the forces through which these blocks interact.  There are twelve basic building blocks.  Six of these are quarks, they go by the interesting names of up, down, charm, strange, bottom and top.  A proton, for instance, is made of two up quarks and one down quark.  The other six are leptons, these include the electron and its two heavier siblings, the muon and the tauon, as well as three neutrinos.

In the last few decades, string theory has emerged as the most promising candidate for a microscopic theory of gravity.  And it is infinitely more ambitious than that: it attempts to provide a complete, unified, and consistent description of the fundamental structure of our universe.  For this reason it is sometimes, quite arrogantly, called a ‘Theory of Everything’.

The essential idea behind string theory is that all of the different ‘fundamental’ particles of the Standard Model are really just different manifestations of one basic object that is termed a string.  How can that be?  Well, we would ordinarily picture an electron, for instance, as a point with no internal structure.  A point cannot do anything but move.  But, if string theory is correct, then under an extremely powerful microscope we would realize that the electron is not really a point, but a tiny loop of string.  A string can do something aside from moving, it can oscillate in different ways.  If it oscillates a certain way, then from a distance, unable to tell it is really a string, we see an electron.  But if it oscillates some other way, well, then we call it a photon, or a quark, hopefully you get the idea.  Thus, if string theory is correct, the entire world is made of strings!

The Elements

Theophrastus said, “Do you mean to imply that everything in the entire universe is made up of only five elements, being earth, water, air, fire and ether?”  Aristotle replied, “The universe is truly an extravagant place and yes you did catch my meaning correctly.  You are a fast learner, but there are miles to go before you can sleep.  You have not reached the top of the incline yet, but you do have a great attitude that features a certain coruscant.”

Theophrastus said, “Thanks teacher, but I feel that you are being too lenient on me and I may do better with stricter discipline.”  Aristotle replied, “A man threw his fishnet into the sea and all he caught was a tulip and because of this glitch, he was feeling very saudade.”  Theophrastus said, “I fail to see how this is relevant.”  Aristotle said, “When you figure it out, then let me know.”

Written for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Wordle #182.