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The rules keep on changing

You were probably shocked in 2006 when the ninth planet, Pluto, was demoted to a Kuiper Belt Object and could no longer be considered a planet. This was largely the handiwork of Mike Brown, professor of Planetary Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Prof. Brown wrote the book, "Why I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming." Brown explains that Pluto never did anything wrong, but was just a mistake that scientists made back in 1930 when Pluto was named a planet. Pluto was considered large enough to be numbered among the big planets, but over the years has been getting smaller and smaller.

Finally, it wasn't considered to be large enough to be included and was stricken from the list. Now there are only eight bodies big enough to be considered planets.

The fate of Pluto illustrates one of the unchanging rules of life: The rules keep changing.

As this is being written, March Madness is going on full speed all around the country and college and high school basketball tournaments are everywhere. Our own Detroit Lakes Lakers were headed for the state tournament for the first time ever (since it was an invitational event in 1918) and were excited. But if you've been watching basketball for quite a while, you'll notice actual rule changes in free throws, three-point shots and jump balls, as well as other changes in interpretation on traveling and physical contact (no fracture, no fowl). Almost all of the changes improve the flow and drama of the game.

If you're married, I don't need to tell you that the rules of marriage change, sometimes overnight. So many factors enforce these changes: jobs, religion, friends, neighbors, in-laws, family, children, grandchildren, health issues, the press of time, changing attitudes, good luck and bad luck. The changes are never written down, seldom spoken and sometimes not even recognized or understood. They just evolve, but they're real and they're important.

If you've been at the same job for more than two years, I guarantee you the rules have changed since you started. Think about it: Different people, different duties, the economy, technology, casual Friday -- all these affect the daily rules of your work.

The rules of communications change daily. There is still no substitute for face-to-face encounters -- you watch my eyes and body language and I watch yours. I listen for the tone of your voice and you listen for mine. The next best for me are phone calls, but I like to speak to real people, not machines or recordings. Personal letters, not form letters, arouse the human response. E-mail has crept into our lives along with texting and Facebook. They're communications, so they do work. But in the process of rapidly-changing technology of communicating, the rules of privacy are being reshaped, even the means of bullying one another and the ethics of anonymity.

If you're asked to be a "volunteer" for some task or committee, feel complimented that you're considered fully ready and able to do the job, but ask questions, check around and remember your experiences and past endeavors because, as you know, the rules will change before the job is done. ("Oh, didn't I mention your detailed written report to the committee and a speech to the members at our annual banquet?")

A young, attractive woman of our acquaintance just celebrated her 40th birthday. A card she received pointed out some changes. When she was born in 1972, a flat screen was the outer covering on a screen door and a cell phone was the phone behind bars in a jail where the prisoners could make one call to a lawyer.

Recently some young wives wandered into a kitchen at a party where the older hostess was stirring up some whipped cream for the cake. One said, "Look, she's making some artificial Cool Whip."

Planets change, national boundaries shift, maps are revised, farms and even towns disappear, people change, time marches on and rules change -- usually for the better. Shape change when you can and bend when you must. Accept change and live in the present. Don't always insist that the old ways were better and refuse to embrace progress, but remember: honesty, integrity, fidelity, loyalty, faith and love are absolutes and should never change. As the Marines say: "Semper Fidelis" (Always Faithful).