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Thursday, February 29, 2024

How About That ?

It's official, again, as Merriam-Webster stated in an online post that a sentence can end with a preposition. 

As someone who writes a lot, this declaration was much appreciated. Admittedly, I know I've not adhered to the former "rule" about prepositions. How about you?.

Now, the long-held authority on the English language has unleashed writers (as we all are at one time or another) from the constraints of what many have long regarded as a grammatical faux-pas. 

To be sure, dictionary publishers like Merriam-Webster are not rule makers nor rule breakers, but rather report how language is used and how people speak.

Among grammarians and lexicographers, Merriam-Webster's declarations are widely accepted. That's because for over 150 years, in print and now online, its been America's leading provider of language information.

This isn't the first time the online dictionary has tried to end the end preposition prohibition. As with many long-held beliefs, it's a tough one to dislodge with such a centuries old stronghold. 

Prepositions are common in the English language with over 150 in use, including these common ones: above, across, against, along, among, around, at, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, by, down, from, in, into, near, of, off, on, to, toward, under, upon, with and within.

If the ending preposition is "permissible" and "not wrong" is it right?

That depends on whether or not you agree with the Merriam-Webster declaration.

In its online post, the dictionary publisher stated: It is permissible in English for a preposition to be what you end a sentence with.

The post continued, The idea that it should be avoided came from writers who were trying to align the language with Latin, but there is no reason to suggest ending a sentence with a preposition is wrong.

The people who claim that a terminal preposition is wrong are clinging to an idea born in the 17th century and largely abandoned by grammar and usage experts in the early 20th.

Soon enough, the post ignited emphatic responses. Many of the respondents were steadfast in believing that a concluding preposition was lazy or unusual; others embraced the permission.

Why such a reaction?
Merriam-Webster touched on a heretofore grammar no-no of ending a sentence with a preposition, a restriction that many, including myself, have grown up with from primary school. That lead to finding ways to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition. 

Learning there's no such rule was a big deal for some who still cling onto a long-held belief. Personally, I'm delighted to let it go. (Advance apology if you get an ear worm from the song , Let it Go,  from the Disney film, Frozen.)

Who Made This Rule & When?
This grammar issue has been a concern for years. There's dissent on how it became common to admonish those who ended a sentence with an of, to, through or with. 

The story dates to the 17th century and involves two Englishmen, grammarian and rhetorician, Joshua Poole, and John Dryden, poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright. Both men along with others wanted to make English more like Latin. 

English poet John Dryden
In 1668, Dryden was appointed England's first Poet Laureate and, in 1672, he chastised English playwright and poet Ben Jonson stating: The preposition in the end of the sentence; a common fault with him. Jonson himself wasn't concerned with this criticism, he had died years earlier in 1637.

It's a shared issue as many credit Poole with creating the rule and Dryden for popularizing it. Both men and others wanted to make English grammar more like Latin, a language in which a structurally sound sentence can't and with a preposition.

In the 18th century, some folks decided Dryden was correct and began advising against the end preposition.

Sometimes, the advice was never to end a sentence with a preposition. Other times it was more general, for instance, Noah Webster, in a 1784 book on grammar, advised against separating prepositions from the words which they govern. He conceded that grammarians seem to allow of this mode of expression in conversation and familiar writings, but it is generally considered inelegant, and in the grave and sublime styles, is certainly inadmissible.

Even though there's no reason to suggest ending a sentence with a preposition is wrong. The idea that was a rule became widespread.

By the 20th century, however, most grammar and usage guides had concluded that there was nothing wrong with terminal (end) prepositions. In fact, there has been, for about 100 years now, near unanimity in this regard from usage guides. The matter must therefore be settled, right?

Apparently, that wasn't exactly the case.

Those determined to hold onto the "rule," no matter how many times they're informed that it really isn’t one, find the end preposition so annoying. According to articles I read, they've gone so far as to contact the editor of a newspaper when they find an occurrence.

English statesman Winston Churchill
In a similar vein, many who like to use end prepositions will give some mangled version of a quote incorrectly attributed to English statesman Winston Churchill, This is the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put

The story goes that when an overzealous editor attempted to rearrange one of Churchill's sentences to avoid it ending in a preposition, the Prime Minister scribbled the single sentence in response. Like so many Churchill quotes, this was almost certainly never said by him, but it does make for a great anecdote.

What to Know
Not only can you end a sentence with a preposition, but there's no problem doing it. In many sentences, where it's been avoided, it would have been better to have ended with a preposition. 

If you don’t like to end your sentences with prepositions, it's OK too, just don’t claim it's a rule. Conversely, if you prefer to end sentences using with or to, that's OK too. But, don’t quote Churchill when someone says that you shouldn’t.

Merriam-Webster captioned its now controversial post: That's what we're talking about which sounds much better than: That's about what we are talking?

Merriam-Webster, Incorporated is an American company that publishes reference books and is the oldest dictionary publisher in the U.S. In 1831, George and Charles Merriam founded the company as G & C Merriam Co. in Springfield, MA. In 1843, after the death of Noah Webster, the company bought the rights to An American Dictionary of the English Language from his estate. All Merriam-Webster dictionaries trace their lineage to this source. In 1964, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., acquired Merriam-Webster, Inc., as a subsidiary. The company adopted its current name, Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, in 1982.
Happy Leap Year — From Our Pad to Yours

Friday, February 23, 2024

Friday Funnies

Welcome mats have come a long way transforming from functional floor coverings to decorative expressions of personality, interests and sense of hospitality. Today, when you step onto a floor mat, you're not just entering a home, but perhaps a lifestyle.
There's over 300 apartment homes on 5 floors in Clocktower Apartments, the converted mill where we reside. On walks through the two connected mill buildings, I've seen some fairly average floor mats like this ↓ one ... and then there are others like those below.
Archaeologists believe the earliest portable floor coverings date as far back as 25,000 years ago. Early humans used grasses, barks and herbs as floor coverings for warmth, to keep the floor dry and to keep out the cold.
The first known floor covering in dwellings dates 25,000 years ago to the Paleolithic period. The earliest records of woven rush mats were found about 6,000 years ago in Mesopotamia western Asia in the area now known as Iraq.
The term doormat emerged in the mid-17th century, derived from the Latin doormata, which means doorkeeper. It first referred to a person who tended the door and, over time, evolved to describe a mat placed outside the door.
In the early 20th century, the term welcome mat became popular, emphasizing its function to welcome guests and create an inviting atmosphere. The introduction of synthetic materials like coir, nylon and rubber led to a surge in the production of durable and decorative welcome mats.
Welcome mats hold cultural significance beyond the practical purpose. Placing a welcome mat outside the door is a way to invite guests into one’s home. 
Sadly, the term has been applied to humans, who are sometimes called a doormat as they let others treat them unfairly, and don't complain. It should never be tolerated.

Enjoy Your Weekend, Everyone
Rainy Friday but sunny the rest of the weekend 

Winter is still here, but no ❄️. Recently, there was an overnight dusting, gone within a day. 

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Once a Power House

Last fall we were part of a group that traveled abroad on a Shades of Ireland tour, focused on that country. However, extras included a 3-day pre-extension to London and/or a 3-day post-extension to Edinburgh. We booked London, Ireland, and Edinburgh and saw as much as possible. This post focuses on one of the most visited sights in London.

Battersea Power Station today 
Battersea Power Station is a decommissioned coal-fired power station located on the south bank of the River Thames in Nine Elms, Battersea in the London Borough of Wandsworth. It was built by the London Power Company (LPC) to the design of Leonard Pearce, Engineer in Chief to the LPC and CS Allott & Son Engineers. The station was one of the world's largest brick buildings notable for its original, Art Deco interior fittings and decor.
Andrew & Kath, Us at Battersea Power Station 
During our London visit, we were treated to a visit to Battersea Power Station by long-time UK friends, Andrew and Kath. 
We took a glass lift to a viewing platform atop the power station’s landmark white chimneys to see sweeping views across the river from a height of over 330 feet.
Views from Battersea Power Station viewing platform
The Start
For nearly six decades from the 1930s to 1980s, Battersea Power Station was a working power station. At its peak, it produced a fifth of London’s power, supplying electricity to some of London’s most recognizable landmarks, such as the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace. The station was one of the world's largest brick buildings, notable for its original Art Deco interior fittings and decor. 

Until the late 1930s, electricity was supplied by municipal undertakings, small power companies that built power stations dedicated to a single industry or group of factories, selling any excess electricity to the public. These companies used widely differing standards of voltage and frequency. In 1925 Parliament decided that the power grid should be a single system with uniform standards and under public ownership. Several private power companies reacted to the proposal by forming the London Power Company (LPC) to heed the recommendations and build a small number of very large stations.

The LPC's first super power stations was planned for the Battersea area, on the south bank of the River Thames, London. In 1927, a proposal was made for a station built in two stages capable of generating 400 MWs of electricity. The site was a 15-acre plot of land which had been the site of reservoirs for the former Southwark and Vauxhall Waterworks Company. It was chosen for its proximity to the River Thames for cooling water and coal delivery; it was in the heart of London, the station's immediate supply area.

Sir Giles Gilbert Scott 
The proposal sparked protests from those who felt that the building would be a large eyesore as well as concern that pollution could damage local buildings and parks. The pollution issue was resolved by granting permission to build the station on condition that its emissions be treated to ensure they were clean and smokeless.

The company hired Sir Giles Gilbert Scott to design the building's exterior. An industrial designer, Scott was a well-known architect, referred to in the press as architect of the exterior. He is famously remembered for his design of the iconic British red telephone box, which is still in use today. 

The station was designed in the brick-cathedral style of power station design popular at the time. Battersea is one of a small number of examples of this style of design still in existence in the UK today. The station's popular design was described as a temple of power, which ranked it equal with St Paul's Cathedral as a London landmark. 

Battersea Power Station A, 1934
The first stage, Battersea Power Station A, was built between 1929 and 1935. The second, Station B was built between 1937 and 1941. Construction was halted during WW II.
 RAF pilots used the plumes of white vapor from the chimneys to guide them home in fog. The German Luftwaffe also used the plumes for navigation, which many believe is why the power station avoided extensive bombing.

Station A's control room had many Art Deco fittings. Italian marble was used in the turbine hall, and polished parquet floors and wrought-iron staircases were throughout. After WW II ended, construction resumed on Station B, which was nearly identical to Station A on the outside. Due to a lack of funds after WW II, Station B's interior wasn't done the same, fittings were made from stainless steel. It was constructed directly to its east as a mirror, giving the station its familiar four-chimney layout. The space within the main Boiler House was vast enough to fit St Paul's Cathedral inside. There were nine boilers in Station A station, six in Station B, which were the largest ever built in the UK at that time. 
Battersea Power Station, Stations A and B
The construction of Station B brought the site's generating capacity to 509 MW peak capacity, making it the third largest generating site in the UK then. It was also the most thermally efficient power station in the world when it opened.

The End
In March 1975, Station A closed after 40 years in operation. Three years later, rumors began that Station B would follow. A campaign was launched to save the building as part of the national heritage; it was declared a heritage site in 1980. In October 1983, production of electricity at Station B ended, after nearly 30 years of operation. The station's generating capacity had fallen to 146 MW. 

Battersea's demise was caused by output falling with age, outdated generating equipment, preferred choice of fuel for electricity generation shifting from coal toward oil, gas and nuclear power and increased operating costs.
The power station's roof was removed in a plan to convert it into a theme park
Former turbine room in ruins after station was decommissioned
After being decommissioned, the power station
 fell into serious ruin. It condition was described as very bad by English Heritage, which cares for over 400 historic buildings, monuments and sites, and which included it in the Heritage at Risk Register. Various proposals to renovate the building included a theme park, shopping mall, football stadium all fell apart. In 2012, a Malaysian consortium bought the 42-acre site to develop it with residences, restaurants, office space, shops and entertainment spaces. 
Plans were approved and redevelopment started in a few years. Most of the building's interior scaffolding was removed with work done to refurbish the original 1930s features. Original chimneys were replaced with replicas, two have steam emitted from a new gas-powered energy center.
Station B Controls at Battersea Power Station 
The Redo
In October 2020, after 4 years of construction, nearly 40 years after the lights went out, Battersea Power Station opened its doors for the public to explore the iconic building and its first shops, bars, restaurants and leisure venues, including Electric Boulevard, a pedestrian street. 
Apartments around Battersea Power Station today
Today, Battersea Power Station has been featured in or used as a shooting location for films, TV programs, music videos, video games as well as for sporting, cultural and political events. One of its earliest film appearances was in the 1936 Alfred Hitchcock film, Sabotage, made before construction of Station B. Scenes from the 2008 Batman film, The Dark Knight, were filmed at Battersea. 

Photo by Dawn O'Connor
One of the station's most memorable uses was for the cover photograph of Pink Floyd's 1977 album, Animals. It sold millions of copies worldwide and was officially launched at an event at the power station. A December 1976 photo shows the power station with an inflatable pink pig floating above it. The inflatable tethered to one of the power station's chimneys broke loose from its moorings and drifted into the flight path of Heathrow Airport.

Touring this iconic power station was definitely a highlight of our brief visit to London. We are thankful that our friends suggested this outing, which might have been one we would have overlooked.
If you have a London visit planned in your future, Battersea Power Station might be a site to include for the views alone. There's a cost to access the tower viewing platform, but the 360-degree views were wonderful on the thankfully clear day of our visit..

Friday, February 16, 2024

Friday Funnies

Last October, I did a Friday Funnies post about vehicular vanity plates with examples of some  spotted in and around NH. More have been spotted since then, so here's another post showing a couple more.

Here's a couple of fun ones that seemed to go together.
Vanity plates are issued by every U.S. state and the District of Columbia. Virginia leads with the highest number of vanity plates per capita of any state or commonwealth

There's no doubt as to who drives these vehicles according to the plates.
If it seems like there's an unusually high number of vanity plates here, it's because New Hampshire is ranked second in the country for its percentage of vanity plates. Another New England state, Maine isn't far behind and is ranked sixth in the country.

As these plates clearly indicate, that's all for now.
The quality of most of these images isn't optimal. Many were taken on the road while behind the vehicle with a vanity plate, always when I was the passenger (not the driver).
Valentine's ❤️ Day was celebrated earlier this week. This Mallard duck couple were seen while out for a stroll along the Nashua River.

Enjoy Your Weekend, Everyone 
A quick moving storm may bring 1-3 inches of ❄️

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Something Old & New

These are the familiar first and second lines of a traditional rhyme detailing what a bride should wear at her wedding for good luck. The entire rhyme mentions five items:

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a sixpence in her shoe.

It dates to the late 1800s during the Victorian Era and comes from an English rhyme. The objects were considered necessary to include on a wedding day with the belief they would ward off the evil eye and lead to happy marriages, a superstition still popular today in the UK and US.

Something old is a family keepsake carried or worn by the bride to symbolize continuing her past life in her marriage. Something new offers optimism for the future. Something borrowed is believed to transfer luck from one marriage to another. Something blue is a sign of purity and fidelity represented in something blue worn by the bride. A sixpence is a silver British coin, about the size of a penny, no longer in use. It's meant to symbolize a life of wealth and prosperity. Traditionally, the bride's father would place the sixpence in her shoe for good fortune. The custom derives from a time when the bride would gift silver coins from her dowry to the groom.

But, as usual, I've digressed and here's why. When thinking about a post title, this rhyme came to mind, so off I went to learn more and, of course, opted to share here. However, this post is not about any upcoming wedding and, no, we didn't include any of these traditions at our own nearly 25 years ago and it's lasted regardless.

That said, there is something old and something new to post about, a bit of an extravagant and overdue holiday and birthday gift from myself to myself. Do you ever treat yourself? 

Older iMac desktop
The old is a nearly 10-year old, 21-inch desktop iMac computer purchased shortly after we'd relocated to NH. This was my first Apple computer, aside from an iPad and iPhone. Before buying the Mac, I'd always used HP computers based on Windows (Microsoft) operating system, switching to Apple meant learning to do things differently. I admit to still learning, overall it continues to have been a good decision to switch. 

The desktop is still working, but like most things, equipment tends to get slower with age, and with mine it was taking longer to open mail, documents and multiple tabs. All of these are not unexpected, as some issues associated with aging computers include:

Less reliability which can mean unplanned down time if they malfunction.
Expired warranty which can lead to unexpected expenses.
Slower running with more waiting for applications to load.
Older computers often become incompatible with some software.

Internet source
How long do computers last?
That's what I wondered as well. According to many experts, desktop computers generally have a healthy lifespan of five years, some longer, especially if well maintained. Laptops are estimated to have a lifespan to three or four years. 

The good news is that according to experts, Mac computers have a reputation for lasting longer. Apple offers a strong maintenance and support system. There's an added cost, but AppleCare is an available option that extends the warranty for an additional 2 years. Speaking from experience it has always been worth the added cost to buy the extra protection.

My computers are well past these estimates, not only is my desktop older than its expected lifespan, but so is a 2017 MacBook Air notebook computer, which is not being replaced now. It's mainly taken on road trips and still functioning quite well enough for that purpose. Perhaps, its replacement will come in a couple years.

In an earlier post, when I noted that plans were in the works for a new computer gift to myself and invited comments from fellow bloggers. Several responded they preferred a notebook. That's exactly what I was considering based on the limited size of my desk. The iMac consumed much of the available desk space.
New MacBook Pro

This MacBook Pro notebook is new with so much more memory, faster processor and other features, too many to list. True, its 16-inch screen is smaller than the 21-inch desktop, but having more desk space is a good thing for me. And, hopefully, it will last as long as its predecessor.

What happens to the old computer?
This week, files were migrated from the desktop to the notebook using Apple's built-in file migration system and Patrick's help. As soon as I'm sure the notebook is working with no issues, the desktop will be recycled at the Apple store in Nashua, NH. 

Last week, we went there not only for me to check out the available models and purchase a new computer, but to recycle Patrick's even older-iMac desktop. It had been replaced it with an Apple notebook over the holidays because it was also time for an upgrade.

What about donating older PCs?
Yes, we did consider the possibility of donating both desktops to a local organization in need (after first removing all personal data). However, that's easier said than done it seems. After calling a number of volunteer organizations and not finding any takers, we decided recycling was the best alternative. Some reasons given when declining the offer were that the organization did not use non-Windows computers, there was no need and, of course, the age of the computer even though it remains functional, just a bit slower.

Computers, monitors and other peripheral devices often contain toxic materials, such as lead and mercury that don't belong in a landfill. Just like Apple, many manufacturer and retailer-sponsored programs (like best Buy) will take drop-offs and then dismantle the computers for materials recycling. While Apple offers a credit toward purchase of another device or gift card, both our computers were too old and so no credit would be offered toward another purchase, so they would be recycled at no cost to us, win-win.

If and when you’re also ready to retire your old equipment through donation or recycling, make sure to completely erase the hard drive first. Then, donate or recycle the hardware whichever works best for you. 
Sunset over the Nashua River earlier this week

Friday, February 9, 2024

Friday Funnies

It's official: spring is right around the corner.

Last week on Feb. 2, a well-known weather predictor, who happens to be a groundhog called Punxsutawney Phil didn't see his shadow. His annual appearance before a crowd of onlookers at Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, PA was part of the Groundhog Day tradition celebration.

Not seeing his shadow means, according to legend, that it will be an early spring. This was the first time since 2020 that Phil has predicted early spring, the 21st time since records were kept.

But, while many were very happy about this prediction, not everyone was overjoyed at the news, like this snowman.
Seen last week, this snowman looked very dejected as he surveyed the melting snow all around or maybe he was unhappy due to winter weight gain?
Some snowmen were oblivious to the forecast, most likely as they reside indoors and ignore weather predictions, like these outside some of the mill apt residences. 
Cheers ūüć∑ and Thanks for the birthday well wishes last weekend. It was a stay-at-home celebration with dinner at a downtown restaurant capped off with a piece of the signature dessert, tall cake. The flavors change monthly, this was lemon. Yes, I shared with Patrick.

Enjoy Your Weekend, Everyone
60-degree temps forecast in Nashua, NH, on Saturday

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Mah Jongg Anyone?

That the game of mah jongg (Americanized name) supposedly sharpens memory, improves concentration, and challenges the brain. It's known by various names: mah jongg, mah jong, mahjong or maahj and there are two versions, Chinese and American

Since I celebrated a milestone birthday recently, I thought that if learning the game would help in even one of those areas, then why not?

Even better, the public library here in Nashua, NH, was offering a series of four free lessons for American mah jongg with a request that those at the first session commit to attend all the weekly sessions. That's understandable as the two sisters teaching the class were also volunteering their time.

So given an opportunity to possibly improve my cognitive abilities and get at least an introduction to a game that has always fascinated me — what's not to like. After all, free is good as well.

Internet source
If you're wondering why learning this game is good for your mind, it's because it requires a player to be calculating and decide on every move using strategy. These variables must be balanced together in a short time — before another person wins. 

OK, not to target specific age groups as I'm also in the seniors category, but researchers, who studied the effects of playing the game on human brains, concluded that compared to non-players, the minds of mah jongg players were sharper with longer lasting memory. A conclusion was that regular playing could improve short-term memory, attention, and logical thinking in middle aged and elderly adults. Studies have also shown that stimulating intelligence through game playing and puzzling solving could even prevent or delay dementia.

Hmmm, now where was I? (just kidding)

Internet source
Experts are mixed on whether games have long-term brain benefits. Some counter that, while games stimulate the brain in important ways, other beneficial and scientifically proven ways to improve brain health, include physical activity, diet and social engagement. Research has not proven if these might actually prevent cognitive decline.

In short, there's agreement and disagreement even among aging experts. Regardless, most agree there’s more good than harm done playing games, doing puzzles or brain games. A good thing to know.

Maj jongg solitaire
The mah jongg game that many play through online apps is a single-player matching game,
 often referred to as mah jongg solitaire. It uses the same tiles as in traditional Chinese mah jong.

I've played some of these versions without knowing that it was nothing like playing the actual game.

The traditional Chinese game, mah jong, which translates to sparrows, is a four-player game with rules similar to the card game of rummy. Sparrows are shown on traditional sets of tiles. Theories as to why mah jongg is so named are that the moving of tiles resembles the noise of sparrows. (To me, the moving around of mah jongg tiles doesn't sound anything like bird sounds, just clatter.) 

As noted above, mah jongg is a rummy-like game that's played with tiles not cards. While it started in China as a variant of card games, its exact origins are shrouded in story and myth. Some claim it was the game of Chinese royalty, played in secret to keep the knowledge private. Others claim it was invented by a Chinese general to amuse troops during long months of battle. 

Joseph P. Babcock
Its introduction in the U.S. was through Joseph P. Babcock, an engineer who worked for the Standard Oil Company in Shanghai and Beijing in the 1920s where he and his wife enjoyed playing a Chinese tile game. He created a simplified version of Mahjong with a goal of introducing the game to America. 

He trademarked the spelling Mah-Jongg and began exporting sets to the states. Since the game could be confusing to Westerners and to increase interest, Babcock added Arabic numerals and Western letters, simplified, published rules that became the American standard and invented racks to facilitate playing. 

When the game was introduced in the U.S. and incorporated into an American version, it was eagerly enjoyed by not only the American public, but also by European game players. As the sets became popular, Babock, ever the promoter and salesman, advertised the game as a cerebral pursuit. He fabricated a posthumous endorsement from Confucius, odd considering that Confucious had died some 2,000 years before the game was ever played.
Mah-Jongg trademark advertisement page
Toys and Novelties, September 1924 
The main difference between American mah jongg and Chinese mahjong, the traditional game established in China, is that hands allowed in American mah jongg are listed on a card. These hands change on an annual basis, but the allowed hands in Chinese mahjong never change. Another key difference is that in American mah jongg, The Charleston involves the passing of three unwanted tiles from one player to another. 

A Chinese mahjong set has 144 tiles, an American set has 152 (with the inclusion of 8 joker tiles) and can cost more as it has more tiles and includes a set of racks to hold them. More tiles, the addition of racks, and a larger box makes the set more expensive. Many manufacturers also include added extra tiles to replace any lost ones.

Playing the Game
Mah jongg tile suits
Mah-jongg tiles consist of three suits of one through nine referred to by specific names: Craks (called characters, wan, or ten thousand), bams (called bamboos or sticks), and dots (called balls or circles). Special tiles are: winds (North, East, West, South), dragons (red, green, white), flowers and jokers. In American Mah-Jongg, season tiles are referred to as flowers.

The game is played with four players seated around a table. Tiles are shuffled, die are cast, and rituals involving the allocation of tiles and then the exchange of tiles begin. The first person to match a hand of 14 tiles and call mah jongg ends the game. How fast a game is played depends on the level of the players experience (newbies tend to need more time). With experienced players, a game finishes in less 10-15 minutes so many are played in the course of a few hours. 

Many variations exist, most have some basic rules in common such as how a piece is drawn and discarded, the use of suits (numbered tiles) and honors (winds and dragons), how to deal the tiles and the order of play. Beyond the basic common rules, regional variations may have different criteria, different scoring or extra rules. A group of players may introduce house rules that change the feel of play.

Of course, there is quite a bit a lot more to the game playing procedure. As a beginner (newbie) I'm still learning about the its intricacies, which will take more than the 4 lessons. The library hosts a mah jongg playing group, which everyone has been encouraged to join.

Who sets the rules in the American playing community?
The National Mah Jongg League headquartered in NYC standardizes the American version rules. In 1937, a group of female Jewish mah jongg enthusiasts met in New York City to ensure that they were all playing the same game with the same rules and winning hands. Soon, the group developed a card with winning hands and took it when traveling. Women they played with adopted the card, taking it back home. Within a couple of years, the card went viral with women countrywide using it and rules set forth by the newly established National Mah Jongg League which today is headed by David and Larry Unger, whose late mother, Ruth, was a founder.

Current 2023 rules card
Each year, the League changes the hands and rules. An official rules card issued annually contains hands for the current year. The 2024 card will be available in April; there is a $15 cost.
 
Creation of the rules card is a volunteer-led process that's continued for over 8 decades years. Starting in August, a group meets to discuss the new card. Collectively, group members have over 500 years of combined playing experience. They play variations and improve the winning hands and in November finalize the card that will be used in the coming year.

Last year over 350,000 members ordered a card to see what hands they would be playing in 2023. Proceeds from sales of the card benefit charities.The organization has supported various organizations including Alzheimer’s Association, American Cancer Society, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Deborah Hospital, Epilepsy Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, American Heart Association, Make A Wish Foundation, Salvation Army, Meals on Wheels, Muscular Dystrophy Association and others.
Formal dress not a play requirement

The game surged in popularity in the U.S. until the 1950s, followed by a decline. Today, mah jongg is currently enjoying a resurgence in popularity, with millions of dedicated players worldwide and various Internet and computer versions. 

Soon, I hope to be counted among them.
Your turn — do you play?

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Waltzing Through

The post title is a reference to waltz music being in 3/4 time. 

Today my age is best described in a similar way. Yes, once a year this date comes around whether welcomed or not. But, I am in not complaining. As a famous statesman famously said. "It's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years . . ." (Abraham Lincoln)

It's hard for me to fathom that today marks a major milestone in my life, three-quarters of a century to be exact, and perhaps wishing it were a bit less.

As a toddler and today

During a phone chat with my (slightly) younger brother this week, we were reminded of the words our late mother, and certainly others, have cautioned: "Don't get old."

And, the alternative is?

Let's not go there, we both agreed, while noting that longevity seems to run in our family. He laughed when reminded that our age difference is just 3 years.

Personally, I'm thankful for many things in my life, especially the love and support of my best friend and husband, Patrick, and for friends, near and far, who have sent well wishes by mail, text, email or phone call. Birthday cards received to date are displayed on bookcases in our apt as is our usual habit for cards. It makes me happy to see them every day. Friendship is not only the best gift, but certainly a priceless gift, to be remembered is even nicer and much appreciated.

Some fellow bloggers asked in their comments if I was doing anything "special" today. A fellow resident who is 93 years young, and my Scrabble playing partner here, invited us to a homemade crepes breakfast, which was delicious. Patrick is treating me to dinner at a downtown restaurant after he was told (politely) that no gift is needed. That said, my future gift to myself will be a new computer to replace my aging (and getting slower) desktop. The big question is another desktop or a notebook PC with all the "bells and whistles" to last a few years (or longer). Opinions welcomed in a comment.

Birthday wishes on the bookcase included duplicate cards (a fun coincidence)
And, while on the subject of a waltz tempo, my favorite 3/4 tune is The Christmas Waltz, but only the version done first by Frank Sinatra. It's been covered many times by a number of popular artists and, while it's an oft played popular holiday tune, it's never been #1. 

The backstory (of course): The song was written for Sinatra by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne and recorded in 1954. During a hot spell in Los Angeles, Cahn received a call from Styne who told him: 'Frank wants a Christmas song." Cahn initially resisted, but Styne was emphatic that Sinatra wanted a new Christmas song. Styne had been working on a waltz to which Cahn added the lyrics and Sinatra recorded A Christmas Waltz. 

So in honor of my own 3/4s today, here's a link to The Christmas Waltz.
Maybe, it's one of your favorites as well, no offense taken, if not (smile).