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Archive for the 'Life in the United States' Category

Thursday - October 30, 2014

Waiting For The Great Pumpkin

GreatPumpkinForty-five years is a long time to wait for anything. But that’s how long Linus has been waiting for the “Great Pumpkin” to appear.

Linus is one of the characters from the popular Peanuts comic strip (picture stories that appear in newspapers). Listen to him tell his friend Snoopy why he’s been waiting:

On Halloween night the “Great Pumpkin” rises out of the pumpkin patch (garden) that he picks as the most sincere (honest, truthful). Then he flies through the air bringing toys to all the good children in the world. Just think, Snoopy, if he picks this pumpkin patch, you and I will be here to see him!

Linus is sure he’s right. But his friends aren’t. Charlie Brown, his best friend, thinks Linus is confused (not able to think clearly):

Charlie: I can’t believe in the “Great Pumpkin” because I’ve never seen him!
Linus: But he exists (is real). I tell you! On Halloween night he rises out of the pumpkin patch, and flies through the air!
Charlie: I think you have him confused with Santa Claus.
Linus: Would I confuse the sun and the moon? Would I confuse NBC with CBS (TV networks)? Would I confuse the American League (group of baseball teams) with the National League? Would I?
Charlie: (to himself) I can’t stand (accept or put up with) it!

Lucy is sure that Linus’ problem is much worse than being confused:

Lucy: Stupid*! Foolish*, that’s what it is! Stupid and foolish!
Linus (writing to the “Great Pumpkin”): Dear Great Pumpkin – Halloween will soon be here. We are all looking forward to your arrival.
Lucy: Ridiculous*!
Linus (writing) Next week you will rise out of the pumpkin patch, and fly through the air.
Lucy: Absurd*!
Linus (writing) You will bring presents to all the good little boys and girls in the world.
Lucy: Preposterous*!
Linus: I have tried to be good all year long, and hope that you will bring me lots of presents.
Lucy: Crazy*! Completely crazy!
Lucy (as Linus puts on his coat and prepares to take his letter to the mailbox): Outrageous (shocking)! Insane*! Totally and completely insane!

Linus hasn’t convinced (to make someone believe) his friends about the “Great Pumpkin,” but after arguing with them and waiting for all these years, he has learned one thing:

(Talking to himself) I should have known better … There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people … religion, politics and the “Great Pumpkin”.

After 45 years, the “Great Pumpkin” still hasn’t appeared. But a television special – It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown – has. And it is rerun (played again) every year. So every year we wait with Linus, watch the television special, and hope … that this will be the year.

* Vocabulary note: stupid, foolish, ridiculous, absurd, and preposterous all have the idea of being silly or unreasonable; ridiculous adds the idea of “very”; absurd and preposterous add the idea of “completely”. Crazy and insane suggest mental problems.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English web site, where you’ll find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

Peanuts comic strip conversations from www.peanuts.com.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Tuesday - October 28, 2014

“Monster Mash” by Bobby Pickett

Friday is Halloween, the unofficial holiday when children and adults dress up (wear makeup and costumes) to attend parties or to go trick-or-treating (going from one house to the next asking for candy). (Jeff also talked about Halloween in this blog post).

Every year as Halloween rolls around (approaches), radio stations start playing a 1962 novelty (fun or funny song, not to be taken seriously) called “Monster Mash.”  The song in sung from the perspective (point of view) of a mad (crazy) scientist who has created a monster (scary and dangerous creature). One day, the monster gets up and begins doing a dance. The dance becomes very popular and many other monsters attend a party given by the mad scientist to do this new dance. Very silly, right?  But, it is a very popular song on Halloween.

The singer of the song, Bobby Pickett, imitates (tries to sound like) the voice of Boris Karloff, an English actor best known for his 1930 films, including his portrayal of (playing the role of) Frankenstein in Frankenstein (1930), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and Son of Frankenstein (1939). Boris Karloff had a very deep voice, very recognizable (easy to distinguish from other voices), and he went on to play many roles (acting parts).

This song has become associated with Halloween, and if you don’t hear it played on the radio, you’ll hear it played at a Halloween party.  No one really knows what the dance — the “Monster Mash” — looks like. Maybe it looks a little like the “Mashed Potato.” You’ll have to use your imagination to picture how a monster can make his — or her — feet do that.

Lucy

 

“Monster Mash” by Bobby Pickett

I was working in the lab (laboratory, where experiments are done) late one night
When my eyes beheld (past tense of “behold,” an old-fashioned word for “saw”) an eerie (frightening) sight (thing that one sees)
For (because) my monster from his slab (large, thick piece of stone), began to rise
And suddenly to my surprise

He did the Mash, he did the Monster Mash
The Monster Mash, it was a graveyard (outdoor field where dead people are buried) smash (popular thing)
He did the Mash, it caught on (became popular) in a flash (very quickly)
He did the Mash, he did the Monster Mash

From my laboratory in the castle (large house where kings and queens live) east
To the master bedroom where the vampires feast (eat a lot)
The ghouls (ghosts) all came from their humble abodes (homes)
To get a jolt (electric shock) from my electrodes (something attached to the skin to deliver an electric shock)

They did the Mash, they did the Monster Mash
The Monster mash, it was a graveyard smash
They did the Mash, it caught on in a flash
They did the Mash, they did the Monster Mash

The zombies (walking dead people) were having fun
The party had just begun
The guests included Wolfman,
Dracula, and his son

The scene was rockin’, all were digging (enjoying) the sounds
Igor on chains, backed by (accompanied by) his baying (howling) hounds (dogs)
The coffin (box where dead people are placed before being buried)-bangers (hitters, like with a drum) were about to arrive
With their vocal group, “The Crypt (underground room for dead bodies)-Kicker Five”

They played the Mash, they did the Monster Mash
The Monster mash, it was a graveyard smash
They played the Mash, it caught on in a flash
They did the Mash, they did the Monster Mash

Out from his coffin, Drac’s voice did ring (sound loudly)
Seems he was troubled by just one thing
Opened the lid and shook his fist (raised his closed hand in anger) and said
“Whatever happened to my Transylvania Twist? ”

It’s now the Mash, it’s now the Monster Mash
The Monster mash, it’s a graveyard smash
It’s now the Mash, it caught on in a flash
They did the Mash, it’s now the Monster Mash

Now everything’s cool (okay), Drac’s a part of the band
And my Monster Mash is the hit of the land
For you, the living, this mash was meant, too
When you get to my door, tell them Boris sent you

Then you can Mash, then you can Monster Mash
The Monster Mash, and do my graveyard smash
Then you can Mash, you’ll catch on in a flash
Then you can Mash, then you can Monster Mash

Tuesday - October 21, 2014

Scalping Dinner Tickets

Jacques_Lameloise_DSCF6580Your favorite band is coming to town. You call, wait in line, or go on the Internet right (immediately) when the tickets go on sale (become available for purchase) hoping to snag (get something difficult to get) some before the event is sold out (without any remaining tickets).

We’re all familiar with this process even if we haven’t tried to get concert (music performance) tickets, but can you imagine going through this to eat at a sought-after (in demand; wanted by many people) restaurant?

Some chefs (professional cooks), tired of people making reservations (appointments to eat) that end up (result) as no-shows (not arriving when planned) or last-minute (close to the planned time) cancellations (announcing that a planned event will not happen), have instituted (put in place; started) a ticket system.

Like going to a concert or show, eating at their restaurants requires a “pre-paid” (paid in advance of the event) ticket. Some chefs say that last-minute cancellations can result in 40% of their tables going empty (without visitors/users). With tickets, they say, that does not happen. Of course, only the most well-known or respected chefs can pull this off (be successful with a plan).

This ticketing system was invented (created) by a Chicago chef named Nick Kokonas in 2011. A ticket to his theme (based on one subject) menu meals costs about $300. The menu changes every four months, so people can buy season tickets (tickets to attend each event during a period of time), just like they would for the symphony (large orchestra of musicians, usually playing classical music) or the ballet (a type of classical dance). Other restaurants charge about $100 for a complete meal and tickets sell out quickly.

Some who criticize this system say that hard-to-get tickets for restaurants have been sold by scalpers (people who resell tickets at a much higher price) similar to concert tickets at exorbitant (unreasonably high) prices.

I don’t have a very sophisticated (knowledgeable) palate (appreciation of flavors), so fine dining (eating at high-quality and fancy restaurants) isn’t usually my cup of tea (not usually what I prefer). I doubt I’ll be buying any of these dinner tickets soon.

Are there top or celebrity chefs where you live, and would you consider buying a ticket to one of their restaurants?

– Jeff

Photo Credit: Jacque Lameloise from Wikipedia

 

Thursday - October 16, 2014

The Musician and The Writer: A Return Visit

ayerslopezMr. Ayers (pronounced “airs”) and Mr. Lopez have been friends for almost ten years. Some of you may remember their story from The Musician and The Writer. In it, I described their story as “a story about dreams and broken dreams and triumph (success) over broken dreams.”

Ayers was a promising (showing signs of future success) young musician who dreamed of playing in a professional orchestra. When he was 19, he began to study at the Julliard School, one of the world’s best music schools, in New York.

Ayers’ dream didn’t last long. He had a mental breakdown (became very depressed, anxious) and had to leave school. His condition grew worse and worse, and he ended up in Los Angeles, a street person (without a home) living under a freeway bridge.

Lopez, a newspaper writer, met Ayers while taking a walk in downtown Los Angeles. They became friends and he told Ayers’ story in a series of newspaper articles and a book – The Soloist – that became a movie.

Earlier this year, Lopez continued Ayers’ story and wrote about his battle in the Los Angeles Superior Court against a doctor’s recommendation to take anti-psychotic medication, medicine that would control his mental illness. Ayers argued (strongly gave his opinion) that drugs like these had caused very bad side effects (unexpected results) for him years earlier.

Lopez wrote that it was difficult for him to listen to the arguments. Part of him wanted Ayers to win. But the other part wanted to see if the medication might “bring him relief (freedom from his illness), clarity (clear thinking) and peace.”

The Court decided that Ayers had to take the medication. So he did.

Lopez writes that he began to see positive results from the medication a few weeks later. Ayers became “softer around the edges (easier to be with), more focused (able to pay attention), and more lucid (able to think clearly).” And there were none of the side effects that Ayers had feared (been afraid of).

Lopez and one of Ayers’ friends who used to work for the Los Angeles Philharmonic (orchestra) recently visited Ayers at the rehab center (place to treat mental illnesses) where he lives now. Ayers had prepared a musical concert for them, and when he finished, his friend said, “I’ve never heard him play so well.”

Ayers seems to be doing better. He’s improved enough that he is allowed to leave the center from time to time. One Sunday he went to church with one of his sister’s friends and played his violin for the people who were there. “With all due modesty*,” he told Lopez, “I brought the house down (made the people excited, happy).”

Ayers will always have to live with his illness. “I’ve got my problems, but I wanna (want to) be free,” he told Lopez. “I wanna be back out there, using every moment as if it’s the most precious (valuable) thing in the world. I don’t have any time to waste.”

Mr. Ayers’ dream continues.

* Some people use “with all due modesty” when they want to talk about something they have done but don’t want to sound too proud (satisfied) about it.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English web site where you will find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

Photo courtesy of Awesome Stories.

 

Tuesday - October 14, 2014

It’s Snowing . . . in L.A.?

IMG_0404I live in a strange town. Quite often, I’ll drive around and see large yellow signs that Angelenos (people who live in Los Angeles) know is a directional (showing right or left, up or down) sign to a filming location. The signs use code names (not real names), so you’re unlikely to see one that says “X-Men” or “Modern Family.” And if you follow them to the location, you’re just as likely to find a shoot (filming) for a boring commercial as for a TV show or movie.

Driving around town, you can also easily spot (find) filming locations by looking for a concentration (having many in one location) of trailers, the large enclosed trucks used for hauling (moving heavy things) filming equipment and as dressing rooms (rooms for changing clothes) for the stars or actors. Sometimes one of these shoots is in my neighborhood, so I’m seldom (rarely) surprised to see those signs or trailers when I drive or walk by. However, I had a surprise last week.

Last Friday, I was driving past my neighbor’s house a few streets over (past my house) and I saw a large crane (large mechanical arm; see photo) and several large trucks. That wasn’t so surprising, but I slowed down to see what the crane was doing. The crane was moving around the roof of my neighbor’s house spraying a white substance (material). When I looked more closely, that white material covered their lawn (grassy area in front of their house) and their trees. It was snowing in Los Angeles!

I noticed that on one of the trucks was the name of the business responsible for this weather phenomenon (special weather occurrence): Snow Business Hollywood. Apparently, there is an entire company devoted to (for the purpose of; intended for) creating winter snow scenes for TV shows and movies. That’s what I guess was happening to my neighbor’s house.

Anyone who films in Los Angeles is required to get a filming permit (written permission) and the permission of the property owner. Many home and business owners will rent out their properties for a price for a short time for a shoot. I guess my neighbor decided that their house would look good in snow.

Living here, I’m not sure what to expect next — perhaps dinosaurs roaming (walking around over a large area) my street or an alien invasion (creatures from outer space coming to take over or take control)? At least life is never boring.

– Lucy

Photo Credit: by Lucy Tse

Thursday - October 2, 2014

Coming to California? Take a Hike!

halfdome

Hiking — taking a long, vigorous (using a lot of energy) walk in the mountains or country (away from cities and towns) — is popular in many countries. Every year many people leave their homes for trails, or paths, which will will bring them face-to-face with the beauty of nature (experience it personally).

Some choose day-hikes, shorter hikes that can be finished in a day or less. Others prefer backpacking, multi-day (more than one day) hikes that require hikers to carry everything they need on their backs in a special bag called a backpack.

When people come to California, they often think about Hollywood, Disneyland, or beautiful sandy beaches, but not  hiking. That’s unfortunate, because California offers (provides) many good hiking opportunities. Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks are popular for their rugged (rocky, rough) mountains, thundering (very loud) water falls, and towering (very tall) trees. The sequoia are some of the largest trees in the world.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park is home to a forest of old-growth redwood trees. It’s one of California’s many state parks and one of my favorites. Old-growth forests have never been disturbed and, as a result, have many features (a part of something that you notice) that you won’t find in other forests. When you hike in an old-growth forest, you often feel like you’re walking backward in history.

arroyosecoYou can also find two other, more unusual, kinds of hiking in California. The first, urban hiking, keeps you inside, or very near, the city. Charles Fleming has described almost 40 urban hikes in his LA Walks newspaper column (articles that appear regularly). These are day hikes that you can take without leaving the city of Los Angeles. Many of these hikes have magical-sounding names, like Ballona Lagoon, Tujunga Wash, Arroyo Seco, Fern Dell, and Elysian Park. Hikers who try these trails quickly discover that they can find and enjoy nature even when surrounded (to be on every side) by the city.

Inn-to-inn (inn = small hotel), or hostel-to-hostel (a place you can stay and eat for very little money) walking vacations have been a tradition in Europe for many years, but not in the U.S. Tom Courtney, a retired university professor, wants to change that. His Walkabout California books and web site describe a series (one after another) of multi-day hikes along the Pacific Coast (the land next to the ocean) and other scenic areas in California.

You could use Courtney’s guides to explore California’s rugged coast and fascinating coastal towns all the way from San Francisco to Mexico. Or you could choose shorter hikes, usually two to four days long, and explore a smaller area. Whichever you choose, you won’t need a large backpack, because Courtney promises that almost every day will “end with a comfortable bed, a glass of wine, a good meal, and maybe even a hot tub (spa or jacuzzi).”

~Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English web site, where you’ll find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

iPhotos of Half Dome (Yosemite Nat’l Park) and the Arroyo Seco Trail by W. Ediger.

Tuesday - September 30, 2014

Fundraisers that Won’t Make You Fat

1024px-Several_browniesFundraisers are a part of many schoolchildren’s lives, but a new law that took affect in July puts major restrictions (limitations) on what can be sold.

Fundraisers are efforts to earn money for a specific project or group. In U.S. public schools, many extracurricular activities — such as after-school sports, student clubs, and music programs — aren’t supported by government money, at least not entirely (completely). If students want to buy new uniforms (clothing worn by an entire team, usually for sports), take a field trip (travel somewhere for an educational experience), buy supplies, or have money to support their activities, the students (and their parents) must raise (earn) the money themselves.

Fundraisers come in many shapes and sizes (are varied; there are many types), some of which I wrote about when talking about school music programs. Among the most popular fundraisers are bake sales and candy sales. Bake sales involve students and parents making desserts such as cupcakes (small, round cakes), cookies, and brownies (a small square of heavy chocolate cake; see photo), and selling them at an event where other students, their parents, teachers, and people in the community come to buy them.

Candy sales involve students taking packaged candy that their club or organization purchases in bulk (in large quantities) and selling them at a higher price, with the understanding that the money will go to help the school group. Students sell to other students or go door-to-door (going from one house to the next), but very commonly, parents sell them to their co-workers at work.

In July, the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act went into affect (began to be enforced). This law requires that the federal (national) government set standards (say what is required) for all food and drinks sold during a school day. This includes vending machines (machines in which you put money to buy food or beverages), classroom snacks (food eaten between meals), and daytime fundraisers. The law doesn’t say that all sweets are out (not allowed) in fundraisers, but says that they must meet nutritional standards (what is considered healthy and beneficial for the body). Bake sales are still allowed and each state decides how often they can occur, but they should be “infrequent” (not very often), according to the new law.

Recent news reports say that this new law poses (causes) problems for schools that rely heavily (depend very much) on selling sweets to supports their activities. However, many are moving to selling other items, such as wrapping paper (colorful paper used to wrap (cover) gifts), candles (blocks of wax that can be lit), and other things not related to food.

How are schools funded where you live? Do schoolchildren raise money for some school activities?

– Lucy

Photo Credit: Several Brownies from Wikipedia

Tuesday - September 23, 2014

9 Questions You Should NOT Answer on Your Next Job Interview

800px-Unemployed_men_queued_outside_a_depression_soup_kitchen_opened_in_Chicago_by_Al_Capone,_02-1931_-_NARA_-_541927There are many laws in the U.S. that are intended to (have the purpose of) protect workers (people with a job). But there are also laws to protect people who are applying for (asking for; trying to get) jobs, including questions that employers (companies) cannot ask you during an interview.

Here are nine topics a U.S. employer cannot ask you about during an interview or on an application (and that you should not answer if they do!):

  • Race (the racial group you belong to) or Color (the color of your skin)
  • Ethnicity (the ethnic group you belong to)
  • Sex (whether you are male or female)
  • Religion
  • National origin (the country you are from)
  • Birthplace (the place where you were born)
  • Age (as long as you are old enough to work legally)
  • Disability (a physical or mental condition that limits someone’s activity), as long as you can do the work required
  • Marital/family status (whether someone is married or single, or has children)

But one question that most employers can ask is, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?,” meaning “Have you ever been found guilty of breaking the law or doing something not allowed by law?”

Notice this question is not asking if you have been arrested by the police (accused of a crime or suspected of a crime), but rather, if you have been found guilty (a judge and/or jury has said that you did the crime) and punished for a crime.

While this question about having been convicted of a crime is common, some U.S. states have decided recently to outlaw it (make it illegal).

Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Minnesota have made it illegal to ask applicants this question. Proponents (people in favor) of outlawing this question say that people who get out of prison can’t get a fair chance to go straight (no longer do illegal things) because they can’t get past this first screening (an activity to identify something, often to eliminate it) found on job applications and in interviews.

Many convicts (people who are in prison) get job training while they are incarcerated (held in prison) and plan to go straight when they leave prison, and getting a legitimate (real) job is the first important step. Even in most states that have outlawed this question, employers can often get information on an applicant’s criminal record (official listing of his or her arrests and convictions (crimes they have been found guilty of)) later, before hiring them.

Opponents (people against) say that that’s too late. Small businesses, for example, that only have five or 10 employees, may need someone to start work immediately and can’t afford (do not have the money for) a long hiring process.

How many people are affected by this question? It turns out that’s a difficult question to answer, in part because there are two issues here: (1) the question about criminal convictions, and (2) your criminal record that employers can find information about by doing a criminal background check. These two issues are often confused when people talk about changing the employment laws.

For example, one government official (employee; representative) stated back in 2011 that 92 million Americans have a “criminal record.” That sounds like a lot — nearly a third of Americans!

But it does not mean 92 million people have been convicted of a crime. That’s because if you are arrested, that arrest may show up (appear) on a criminal background check even if you have not been convicted (it can here in California, for example). So while an employer would see your arrest if it runs a criminal background check, you would still answer “no” to the question about being convicted of a crime.

In addition, that 92 million number comes from adding up the number of people with criminal records in each of the 50 states; those with a record in more than one state are counted twice (or three or four times, possibly). Since the U.S. does not have a good federal (national) system of counting the number of criminals we have, we don’t really know the how many Americans are affected even by criminal record checks, although some proponents of changing the laws have given the media an estimate — questionable, in my opinion — of 65 to 70 million. (This information page from a proponent’s website even states that “1 in 4 adults in the U.S. has a conviction history (emphasis added),” which is not what the government data say.)

Are there laws where you live restricting (limiting) the types of questions an employer can ask job applicants? Do you think there should be such laws?

– Jeff

Photo Credit: From Wikipedia
Thursday - September 18, 2014

The Mysterious Moving Rocks Of Racetrack Playa

Moving-rocks-baffle-scientists-11The mysterious moving rocks of Racetrack Playa have puzzled (been impossible to understand or explain) scientists for nearly 100 years.

A playa is a dry lake. The water that used to fill Racetrack Playa evaporated (disappeared into the air) many years ago and left a three-mile-long (4.8 km) and two-mile-wide (3.2 km) layer of thick, yellowish-brown mud.

Racetrack Playa lies in between two mountain ranges (a group of mountains in a line) in Death Valley – the hottest, driest, and lowest area in the U.S. Death Valley is in the Mojave Desert in eastern California, about 140 miles (~225 km) west of Las Vegas.

Nearly 100 years ago, visitors noticed that the rocks on the playa – some larger than a man – moved from time to time. One year they would be in one place and the next year in another. And when they moved, they left tracks, or trails, in the soft mud.

The rocks’ movement was rarely the same. Sometimes they moved a few inches (1 inch = 2.54 cm), other times much farther. Sometimes the tracks were straight, other times they curved or even zigzagged (moved like a “Z”) across the playa.

Many scientists have tried to explain why the rocks move the way they do. But no one has succeeded, that is, until recently.

The mystery was solved one day last December by two scientists, Richard and James Norris, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times. When they arrived at the playa, Richard said that it was covered with ice. They also noticed new rock trails near piles of broken ice along the shoreline (edge of the lake).

The next day, the two cousins were sitting nearby when they heard loud cracking (breaking) sounds from the playa. “It’s happening,” Richard yelled.

The sun had begun to melt the ice, and when the wind began to blow, the ice began to break into floes (areas of floating ice). The wind blew the floes across the lake and into the rocks. As the Norrises watched, the large, thin floes pushed the rocks so they began to slide across the slippery (wet, smooth) mud of the normally-dry lakebed (bottom of the lake).

So, what happened? What made it possible for the Norrises to see what no one had ever seen before? The answer is that they were there at the right time, when the all the conditions (things that must happen before something else can happen) were just right. What were these conditions?

First, there was water in the playa from one of the infrequent (rare; not happening often) rains or runoff (water from melted snow) from the nearby mountains. The water makes the lakebed soft and slippery. And it was deep enough for ice to float on top of it, but not deep enough to cover the rocks.

Second, the water froze enough to form what they call “windowpane” ice – ice that is thin enough to move freely (easily) on top of the water but thick enough that it doesn’t easily break.

When the ice began to melt, it broke into floes that a light (not strong) wind was able to blow across the shallow lake. When the floes moved, they pushed the rocks in front of them, and the rocks left their telltale (a sign that shows that something has happened) trails in the soft, slippery mud.

Mystery solved (to find the right explanation for something that is difficult to understand)!

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English web site, where you’ll find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

Photo credit: www.onlinefreecomputers.com.

Tuesday - September 16, 2014

Board Games are Back

ChineseCheckersboardGrowing up, I enjoyed playing board games, games you play with other people on a board, usually a hard piece of thick paper or wood with pictures, words, or drawings on it. I liked playing popular games like Monopoly, a board game where you travel from space to space on a square board with the goal of collecting, trading, and accumulating (adding) more and more properties or land. Also popular in our house was a game called Sorry!, a similar board game using dice (small squares you throw with dots on each of the six sides, from one to six).

But my favorite board game was always Chinese Checkers, a game where you move marbles (colored balls of glass or plastic) strategically (with a plan or purpose to win) across the board to your opponent’s (person you are trying to defeat in a game or battle) territory or area. (The game was actually invented (created) in Germany and got its name — Chinese Checkers — from a U.S. game-maker because of the pictures painted on the board.) My brother and sisters and I spent many hours trying to defeat (beat) each other.

But with the advent (invention and arrival) of video games, the popularity of board games waned (went down; decreased). Even in our house, when my mother brought home an early video game console (machine into which individual games can be placed for playing), we spent less time playing board games and more time trying to shoot aliens (beings from outer space). Today, over 60% of people in American homes play some form of video game, and over 50% own a game console, according to one report.

However, I also read an article recently that board games may be getting a second wind (becoming popular again), especially among the generation (people born in approximately the same years) called Millennials, who are now between the ages of 18 and 32.

They’re not playing the old games, but new board games that involve strategy, many using the same skills they may use in video games. Many meet in each other’s homes or at cafes to play. The appeal (what attracts them), they say, is being able to interact with other players and friends in a more relaxed, friendly, and social atmosphere. There’s still competition (efforts to win), but it’s more likely over a cup of coffee than a game console.

In fact, just last Saturday, I was at a cafe relaxing, reading, and drinking tea in the courtyard (enclosed outdoor area with no roof) where three large tables of people were gathered. Each table was had a different board game being played. One was clearly a trivia game (game asking short questions about facts), but I didn’t know what the others were. The players were very animated (showing excitement). Most of the players appeared to be Millenials, with a few older players.

Do you have any favorite board games, especially ones you still play?

– Lucy

Photo Credit:  Chinese Checkers board  from Wikipedia