Last weekend I immersed myself in one of my favorite rainy-day indulgences: reading a good mystery novel. One of my favorite mystery writers is J.A. Jance, who hails part-time from Seattle. I also hail from Seattle, so I’m hoping by reading her novels that some of her writing expertise will rub off on me.

One of Jance’s main characters is a loveable, and rather humanly ‘flawed,” Detective J.P. Beaumont. And often, I’d say at least twice per book, dear Beau refers rather disparagingly to “the fourth estate.”

From context, I figured he was referring to his nemesis, newspaper columnist Maxwell Cole, and other news reporters. But I had to Google “the fourth estate” to fully understand the complete and very interesting 220-year-old history of the reference.

It’s funny how we constantly learn new things even when we’re simply reading fiction for fun. I guess that’s what lifelong learning is all about: Keeping our minds open to new bits and pieces of information that enrich our lives in countless ways.

It was idle curiosity that also prodded me into Googling “the fifth estate.” Turns out there’s quite a divergent number of opinions on that one. Some argue that “the fifth estate” are the bloggers, the ‘networked individuals’ enabled by the Internet in ways that can hold the other estates accountable.

Go figure! There’s actually a PURPOSE for blogging!