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Visa Guide

What Is a Visa?

A visa is an official document that allows the bearer to legally enter a foreign country. The visa is usually stamped or glued into the bearer’s passport. There are several different types of visas, each of which afford the bearer different rights in the host country.

What Is a Travel/Tourist Visa?

Travel visas allow the bearer to enter a foreign country for touristic and leisure purposes only and stay for a predetermined amount of time. These visas do not entitle the holder to work or engage in any business activities in the host country.

What Is a Work Visa?

Work visas are required for individuals who wish to take on employment or engage in business activities in the host country. There are several types of work visas that depend on the nature of the work and length of stay. For example, working holiday visas allow individuals to temporarily take on employment while travelling through the country.

What Is a Business Visa?

A business visa allows the bearer to enter the host country and engage in business activities without joining that country’s labour market. For example, an individual may require a business visa if they are travelling to a country to do business with another company or if they are attending a business conference. The visitor typically must show that they are not receiving income from the country.

What Is a Student Visa?

A student visa is a type of nonimmigrant visa that allows the bearer to enrol at a postsecondary educational institution in the host country. High school foreign exchange students must typically obtain a visa for temporary residence.

What Is a Refugee/Asylum Visa?

Refugee visas and asylum visas can be granted to individuals fleeing persecution, war, natural disasters and other situations in which their life is at risk.

What Is a Working Holiday Visa?

Working holiday visas allow the bearer to undertake temporary employment in a country through which they are travelling. Not every country offers a working holiday program. Australia has the most popular such program.

What Is a Spousal Visa?

Spousal visas allow partners to visit each other when the couple does not hail from the same country.

What Is a Transit Visa?

Travellers may sometimes require transit visas in order to pass through a country that is not their destination country. Transit visas are typically required if you have a layover in a country of more than a few hours.

What Is an eVisa?

An eVisa, or electronic visa, is a digital visa that is stored in a database rather than stamped or glued into the bearer’s passport. The eVisa is linked to the individual’s passport number. Applications for eVisas are typically done over the Internet and the applicant will receive a paper document to present while travelling.

Immigrant Vs. Nonimmigrant Visas

Travel visas can be separated into two categories: immigrant and nonimmigrant. Immigrant visas allow the bearer to reside permanently in the host country, whereas nonimmigrant visas allow the bearer entry into the host country on a temporary basis.

What Does a Visa Look Like?

Traditional visas can either be stamped or glued into your passport. If your visa is glued into your passport, it is usually a small document that includes your name, passport number, place of birth, reason for travel and expiration date. Stamped visas typically have less information on them. They usually only have the destination and date from which the visa is valid and official instructions stating how many days the visa is valid for.

Why Do I Need a Visa to Travel?

Visas are necessary if you’d like to travel to a country that does not have a visa policy in place with your home country.

Many countries have visa policies and agreements that allow their citizens to travel freely between them without the need for a visa. For example, Canadians and Americans do not need visas in order to travel to each other’s countries, only valid travel documents. However, Canadians do need visas to travel to Bhutan, for example, since no visa agreement exists between the two nations.

What Is a Visa Policy?

A country’s visa policy is a rule that states who may or may not enter the country. The policy may allow passport holders of one country to enter visa-free but not the passport holders of another country. Most visa policies are bilateral, meaning that two countries will allow visa-free travel to each other’s citizens, but this is not always the case. For example, Canadian passport holders may travel to Grenada visa-free, but Grenadians must apply for a visa in order to travel to Canada.

There are no hard and fast rules for countries when determining visa policies. However, some typical considerations include diplomatic relations with the other country, the history, if any, of illegal immigration from the country, cost and tourism factors, and more.

Why Do Certain Countries Have Visa Restrictions?

Countries have visa restrictions in order to check and control the flow of visitors in and out of the country and to prevent illegal immigration and other criminal activities. Forcing travellers to apply for a visa allows the authorities to vet potential visitors. For example, individuals may attempt to travel to a country with better economic opportunities in order to work illegally there.

When Do I Need a Visa?

When you need a visa depends on where you’d like to go. If your home country has a visa agreement with the country to which you intend to travel, then you likely will not need to apply for a visa beforehand. However, if your home country does not have a visa agreement with your intended destination, then you must apply for a visa before travelling.

Passport Visa page

Applying for a Visa

How Do I Apply for a Visa?

Using your preferred search engine, find the official government immigration website of the country you intend to visit. Once you’ve found and read all the information, including the visa application requirements, fill out the required travel visa application form. You may be able to send in the form electronically or you may be required to send it by mail. If your destination requires visa on arrival, then you don’t need to worry about applying for a travel visa beforehand. In this case, once you get to your destination you may be required to fill out a visa form and pay any applicable fees. Double check the requirements with the relevant website or consulate as you may need to bring a passport-sized photo as well.

What Are the Requirements for a Visa?

Each country has its own visa application requirements. Make sure to check with your destination country’s appropriate government website to find out. Requirements typically include filling out the visa application form, providing your passport for stamping if required, a photograph, and additional documents such as your flight itinerary, hotel booking or letter of invitation.

Many countries also have inadmissibility guidelines when it comes to issuing visas. Potential visitors may be deemed inadmissible if, for example, they have a criminal history, are a security risk, have a serious health problem, have serious financial problems and more.

If you do not meet the visa requirements for the country you intend to visit it is highly likely that your visa application will be denied and you will not be allowed entry into the country.

What Are the Supporting Documents Required for Visitor Visas?

When filing your visa application with the embassy of the country you intend to visit, you will be asked to include supporting documents with the main visa application. The following is a list of commonly requested supporting documents:

  • Letter of invitation.
  • A photocopy of the information page of your passport.
  • One or two photographs of a specific size determined by the visa office.
  • Proof of financial support during the trip.
  • Travel insurance.
  • Airplane tickets.
  • Proof of purpose of travel.
  • Visa application fees.

What Is an Invitation Letter for a Visa?

Some countries, such as Canada and the United States, may require the visitor to include a letter of invitation with their travel visa application. A letter of invitation is a formal letter from the person you intend to visit stating that they are inviting you to visit them in that country. Invitation letters help travel authorities vet potential visitors by making sure that a temporary visit is indeed the true nature of the visa request. Check with your intended destination’s government website for details on what needs to be included in a such a letter.

What to Expect During a Visa Interview?

Once you have filed your visa application, you may be requested to submit to a visa interview by the country you intend to visit. Most visa applications are approved or denied without the need for an interview, but the visa officer may request one. The following are common questions you may be asked during a visa interview:

  • Why do you want to travel to X country?
  • Why do you want to visit at this specific time?
  • Do you have a criminal record?
  • Are you travelling with someone else?
  • Who will you be visiting?
  • How long will you stay?
  • Where will you stay?
  • Have you booked airline tickets?
  • Do you have health insurance for this trip?
  • If you are currently employed, do you have proper leave from your workplace for the duration of the trip?
  • Will you return to your home country after your visit?

What Are the Fees for Obtaining a Visa?

Each country has different fees for obtaining a visa. Check with your intended destination’s government immigration website to find out the costs. For example, visa application fees for visas to the U.S. start at US$160.

What Are Visa Processing Times?

Every country processes visa applications at a different rate. Make sure to check the government website of the country you intend to visit to find out how fast they process visa applications. For example, visa applications from Russia to visit Canada take approximately 8 days to process, while Canadians looking to travel to India are advised to submit visa applications at least 15 days in advance.

What Visa Services Does an Embassy Offer?

Embassies typically offer visa application services, assistance and up-to-date information regarding visa and travel requirements. It’s always a good idea to check the embassy of your destination country to learn about travelling there.

Passport index page 3

Other Questions

What Can I Learn From the Visa Restrictions Index?

Passport Index focuses not on the visa restrictions but rather on the possibilities and freedom that passports offer. The Passport Compare tool allows users to see which countries they can visit visa-free and compare their passport against others.

Which Countries Can I Travel to Visa-Free?

Currently UAE has the most visa-free access with 175 countries, while Afghanistan has the least access with visa-free travel to only 30 countries.

What Are the US Visa Restrictions?

The United States has several visa restrictions that affect whether a potential visitor is granted a tourist visa. Visa applications may be denied on the grounds of health, a criminal record or other security reasons. For example, anyone with a significant communicable disease or a physical or mental health disorder that poses a safety threat will not be allowed entry into the US.

Visa-Free Vs. Visa on Arrival Vs. Visa Required

Visa-free refers to the ability to travel to a foreign country without the need for a travel visa. In such a case only a valid passport is required for entry and exit purposes.

Visa on arrival means that travellers must obtain a visa in order to enter the destination country, but it can be obtained upon arrival. Visitors do not need to apply for a travel visa beforehand.

Visa required means that travellers must apply for a visa to the country before actually travelling there.

How Are Travel Visas Linked to My Passport?

In order to apply for a travel visa, applicants must have a valid passport as the visa is typically stamped or glued into the passport. In the case of eVisas, the visa is linked to your passport number in the country’s travel database.

Which Countries Can I Visit Visa-Free With the US Passport?

The U.S. passport has a mobility score of 166, meaning holders can visit 156 countries without the need for a travel visa.

How Many Visitor Visas Does the US Accept and Reject Each Year?

According to the US Office of Visa Services, the US issued 10,381,491 nonimmigrant visas in the 2016 fiscal year and refused 3,121,950 nonimmigrant visas in the same period. This means that 28.66% of nonimmigrant visa requests were denied.

Which Countries Can I Visit With a Schengen Visa?

The Schengen zone comprises 26 countries in Europe. A Schengen visa allows the bearer to enter one Schengen country and then travel freely throughout the rest of the zone. The following is the list of all Schengen member states:

Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Belgium, Greece, Malta, Spain, Czech Republic, Hungary, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Estonia, Italy, Poland, Liechtenstein, Finland, Latvia, Portugal, France, Lithuania, Slovakia.

When Was the First Visa Ever Issued?

The first mention of what we would think of as a visa is in the Bible’s book of Nehemiah from approximately 450 BC. A prophet was given a “safe conduct” letter from the Persian king Artaxerxes asking that he be granted safe passage to Judah.

Global Visa Issuance Over Time

According to the US Office of Visa Services, from 2013-2017 the US issued an increasing number of nonimmigrant visas each year, with an average increase of 11% per year. Nonimmigrant visas include tourism visas, temporary worker visas and student visas.

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Maid Services Guide

Maid servicecleaning serviceapartment cleaning and janitorial service are terms more modernly describing a specialized outside service, providing a specific service to individuals, businesses, fraternal clubs and associations as well residential premises.

History

Maid services may be different from what is generally thought to be the historically prevalent services performed by a maid, and these services may be provided by both male and/or female individuals.

Once part of an elaborate hierarchy in affluent homes and profitable businesses, today a maid may be the only domestic worker that upper and even middle-income households can afford, as a household domestic-help employee. Maids perform typical domestic chores such as cooking, ironing, washing, cleaning, grocery shopping, walking the family dog, and tending to the household children.

Socio-economic factors

In the Western world, comparatively few households can afford live-in domestic help employees, in lieu of live-in staff, a maid service is utilized as a periodic cleaner. In developing nations, differences found within income and social status between different socio-economic classes, lesser educated women, with less opportunity are believed to provide a labor source for domestic work.

Socio-economic opportunities, not being confined to any specific global location, may allow cleaning services to perform ‘cleaning’ as their source of business as a service.

There are thousands of residential cleaning businesses throughout the United States, United Kingdom and Canada. Historically and traditionally, cleaning was considered a woman’s role, but as more and more women have joined the workforce, the time pressure on families with children has grown, so paying a service for cleaning makes sense to persons who can afford it. Additionally, many modern homeowners lack the proper knowledge to use the safest and most effective cleaning products.

Services provided

Maids, per se, perform typical domestic chores such as cooking, ironing, washing, cleaning, folding clothes, grocery shopping, walking the family dog and taking care of children. Some maid services offer hourly, daily, weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly work as well.

Reasons for use

Utilizing a maid service may be considered due to a number of personal factors, including but not limited to geographical location, social standing, lack of personal time, lack of experience. There are many reasons why individuals may consider hiring help around the house, especially with cleaning. It may, for example, prove easier for them to enjoy time with their family rather than spending time cleaning.

A maid service may be more expensive than simply hiring a part-time maid, but it offers a number of advantages. Usually the service will provide not only someone to do the cleaning, but also all of the necessary cleaning supplies. Also, as a bona fide employer, the service is responsible for withholding Social Security and other income taxes. Third, a service is insured and often bonded, so it can be held accountable if something is stolen or missing.

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Beginner’s Football Guide

Football can be a confusing sport at first, but it is actually fairly easy to understand when explained properly. With that in mind, we’ll take you through the very basics of football you need to watch and enjoy a game. 

If you don’t know your tight end from your end zone or want a better understanding of the West Coast offense or the Cover Two, we can help you out.

The Fundamentals of Football

In American football, two teams of eleven players each take to a 120-yard field with the ultimate goal of scoring points via a touchdown or field goal. That is the entire game in a nutshell, but it is more complex than that. 

For example, unlike basketball, the same players do not take both defensive and offensive roles. There are separate teams filled with players that are specialists in each.

When a team has control of the ball, their offense takes the field, including the quarterback, halfback, receivers, tight ends, and the center. On the flip side, the defense takes over when the opposing team is trying to score. This is when the defensive and nose tackles and linebackers are called up.

Some players make an appearance only for specific plays and they make up the special teams. These positions include the punter, place kicker, kick returner, and long snapper who most often play when the football is being kicked.

Strategy and Game Play

Football is all about getting the ball as far down the field as quickly as possible. Sure, at times it can feel like the game is running slow, but there’s a lot of strategies involved.

Essentially, each time an offensive team takes control of the ball they get four “downs” to try and advance the ball at least 10 yards toward the goal. Each time the center passes the quarterback the ball, it is a down. Once they reach that 10-yard mark, the downs start over with a first down and this can play out slowly or quickly all the way toward the goal.

If they don’t make those 10 yards, the other team gets the ball. However, you’ll often see teams punt the ball downfield on the fourth down unless they’re really close to getting another first down.

To advance the ball, the offensive team will use a series of well-coordinated plays and formations, starting at the line of scrimmage.

  • Running plays are those in which the quarterback or halfback runs toward the goal with the ball in hand.
  • Passing plays occur when the quarterback throws the ball to another player, often a wide receiver or tight end. 
  • In the midst of all that, the offensive tackles and guards try to block the defensive players from tackling the player with the ball.

The defense also has its strategies that direct players where to stand on the field and who to target one the ball is snapped. The defensive linemen are among the biggest on the field, but they must also be quick. They take up formations that are meant to counteract the offensive team’s formation, giving them the fastest route to the players who might get the ball.

If a defensive player happens to tackle the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage, that is called a sack.

During any play, either team can be called for any number of penalties. Among the most common are illegal formations, a delay of game, ineligible receiver downfield, false starts and holding.

What Is the Red Zone?

During a football game, you’ll often hear announcers mention “the red zone.” This is the final twenty yards to the goal and is where strategy really comes into play. Do you pass or run the ball into the end zone? This is the question coaches must answer many times during a game.

The Referees on the Field

All of this back and forth in a football game is overseen by the officials. They are on the field to enforce the rules and ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible and they often have tough calls to make.

The referee is the lead official, the umpire oversees the line of scrimmage, and you’ll typically find five other officials watching other parts of the field. This may vary depending on the league and officials in the NFL and college football may have a few extra rules to enforce. 

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Starting Digital Marketing Agency

Did you know that digital market spending is supposed to climb to $375 billion by 2021? If you’re looking to break into this promising field, you’ll want to learn how. This article contains information about what digital marketing is, plus how to start and run a digital marketing agency.

Read on to discover how to break into the marketing world and watch those big checks fly in. 

Starting a Digital Agency in 8 Steps

  1. Educate Yourself
  2. Find Your Niche
  3. Do Competitor Research
  4. Launch Your Website
  5. Build a Portfolio
  6. Set a Business Model
  7. Have a Social Media Presence
  8. Generate Leads

Educate Yourself

Before beginning, it’s important to educate yourself and understand as much as possible about digital marketing for agencies. Some of the most successful people in the world never stop learning. So, invest your time and money in learning. You’ll also want to have an understanding of the industry as well. 

Some different concepts you’ll want to understand are PPC (pay-per-click marketing), SEO, email marketing campaigns, and creating online funnels. You’ll also want to understand graphic design and content marketing as well. 

Once that’s understood, you’ll want to find your niche.

Find Your Niche

Competition is intense, so finding your digital marketing niche is vital to stand out. You can then focus on a smaller audience that’s interested in what you offer. 


Do Competitor Research

When starting any business, you’ll want to know how you’ll rank against the competitors. When you research your competitors, you’ll then be able to understand how to surpass them.

To do competitor analysis, you’ll want to use the same keywords your business would use online. Narrow down your competition to about 10-15 competitors. 

Once you’ve discovered your competition, check out how they’re monetizing (obtaining their money). Then you can learn what their methods are and what’s successful. 

Some examples of monetization methods are:

  • Donation, commission, coaching
  • Selling a digital or physical product
  • Lead generation, affiliate sales, advertising

Identify at least one method per competitor. 

Once you’ve figured out how they monetize, you can then determine their content marketing strategy. Take a look at their blog posts, social media, and SEO. As far as content is it in the form of podcasts, blogging, or videos? 

Then, take a look at how they communicate with their customers. After this, determine if you’d like to use a similar content marketing strategy, or differ. 

start-and-run-a-digital-marketing-agency-business-do-competitor-research

Launching a Website

Before you launch your website, you’ll want to keep content and competitors in mind. You also need to decide how you’ll find clients for your business. You’ll then need a domain name and hosting service for your site. 


Build a Portfolio

When you’re starting a digital marketing agency, to get reviews and your name out there, you’ll want to offer free services. When you gain trust from your customers, you’ll then attract potential customers. 

A good portfolio includes:

  • In-depth case studies
  • Headlines or snippets
  • Client testimonials
  • Upcoming goals for that client

You want to show your audience that you can deliver results and will continue to do so. Make sure your portfolio is ethical and honest, not stretching the truth. 


Set a Business Model 

There are numerous ways you can bill your client, and how is up to you. One choice is where they pay you by the hour. This is good for when you have one or shorter tasks. When you start scaling up it can be trickier. 

A flat retainer is a simple pricing model. This is a flat fee for the month. Just make sure to have rules as far as if a client quits early or scales up with their requirements.

starting a digital marketing agency

The next pricing model is the percentage of spending. This makes sure your agency will receive the correct compensation from your hard work. You can also check our digital agency pricing guide to find out which model fits best for you.


Have a Social Media Presence 

When you’re starting a digital marketing agency, you’ll want to be on social media. It’s free to create an account on social media platforms, so why not take advantage? You can benefit from organic lead generation, engaging with customers and potential customers, and then turn your business global. 


Generating Leads 

There are several ways to generate leads, but it can be difficult at first growing your client base so don’t get discouraged. Before generating leads, you’ll want to have your target customer in mind.

Once you have your target customer, one method you can use for lead generation is starting a Youtube channel. 

Make sure to regularly publish video content on Youtube to generate leads with helpful content. Some publishing ideas are case studies, hot marketing topics, how to’s, and reviews from clients. 

Are you noticing some articles on your blog perform better than others? Take a look at the title. Do A/B testing of different titles and see which performs better. You can always go back and switch out articles for blog posts. 

Another method is to do affiliate marketing. When you partner with affiliates, you can then expand your network and find potential prospects. You can also do cold emails, but be careful with this method so you don’t come off as spam. 

Properly research each company before reaching out, and craft an email that speaks to their needs. This is great when you’re first starting out and your budget is limited. 

Actually you should also keep in mind that, if your agency will work on generating leads for other companies in some way, you should know how to do it. If you can market yourself, it will be easier to do it for your customers and you will have a case study in your hands about you.

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PPC Advertising Guide

If you have ever noticed the advertisements that appear alongside search results on Google and other search engines, you are already familiar with pay-per-click, or PPC advertising.

What Is Pay-Per-Click Advertising?

PPC is an online advertising model in which advertisers pay each time a user clicks on one of their online ads.

There are different types of PPC ads, but one of the most common types is the paid search ad. These ads appear when people search for things online using a search engine like Google – especially when they are performing commercial searches, meaning that they’re looking for something to buy. This could be anything from a mobile search (someone looking for “pizza near me” on their phone) to a local service search (someone looking for a dentist or a plumber in their area) to someone shopping for a gift (“Mother’s Day flowers”) or a high-end item like enterprise software. All of these searches trigger pay-per-click ads.

In pay-per-click advertising, businesses running ads are only charged when a user actually clicks on their ad, hence the name “pay-per-click.”

Other forms of PPC advertising include display advertising (typically, serving banner ads) and remarketing.

How Does Pay-Per-Click Advertising Work?

In order for ads to appear alongside the results on a search engine (commonly referred to as a Search Engine Results Page, or SERP), advertisers cannot simply pay more to ensure that their ads appear more prominently than their competitor’s ads. Instead, ads are subject to what is known as the Ad Auction, an entirely automated process that Google and other major search engines use to determine the relevance and validity of advertisements that appear on their SERPs.

How Keywords Work in Pay-Per-Click Advertising

As its name implies, the Ad Auction is a bidding system. This means that advertisers must bid on the terms they want to “trigger,” or display, their ads. These terms are known as keywords.

Say, for example, that your business specializes in camping equipment. A user wanting to purchase a new tent, sleeping bag, or portable stove might enter the keyword “camping equipment” into a search engine to find retailers offering these items.

Pay per click advertising example SERP

At the moment the user submits their search query, the search engine performs the complex algorithmic calculations that the Ad Auction is based upon. This determines which ads are displayed, in which order, and by which advertiser.

Since you have to pay for each click on your ads, it’s imperative to only bid on keywords that are relevant to your business, so you can be sure to get ROI from your ad spend. A keyword tool can help you find the right keywords to bid on that are both likely to drive sales or conversions, and are not prohibitively expensive.

Actionable Insight into Your Pay-Per-Click Advertising Campaigns

There you have it! Pay-per-click, explained.

Although the basics of pay-per-click advertising are simple, managing a successful paid search account can be anything but. Many advertisers simply cannot devote the time and effort required to stay abreast of developments to Google AdWords and Bing Ads, and many are missing valuable opportunities to grow their business through PPC.

We can help.

Our suite of free tools, as well as our trusted Advisor software platform, demystify pay-per-click advertising management and allow you to focus on what really matters – growing your business and helping your customers. Many tools can help you every step of the way, whether you’re an experienced PPC advertiser or are new to the world of paid search.

Our free search marketing tools connect securely to your Google AdWords and Bing Ads accounts, enabling you to see, at a glance, a wealth of data from your campaigns that would be otherwise difficult to access in one centralized location. Based on this data, you can take steps to optimize your AdWords and Bing Ads campaigns to increase conversions, maximize return on investment, and grow your business.

We can provide insight into actionable data, including:

  • Keywords, including top-performing search terms
  • Negative keywords that can save you money
  • Conversions
  • Ad performance information
  • Bid optimization suggestions
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Toy Making Process

Numbers, sales, and the largest companies are a good amount of data to have a good picture of the toy industry’s relevance. Nevertheless, there is still an interesting question about this: how plastic toys are made? In this post, you will find the answer. We’ll show you the process, step by step, in a toy factory to deliver the final product: a toy ready to hit the world.

Toy companies: the starting point

In order to start producing plastic toys, you need to have a clear idea of what do you want to create. A toy company employs many people who will be of use at each step of the process. But toy companies are not the only ones that produce toys, many other companies fabricate toys, according to the needs and requests of their clients.

To have a better picture of what you want to produce, brainstorming is a vital element to begin with, for the reason that imagination and research find in this practice a way to coexist and put together a plan to fabricate the toy.

In Martin’s, we have professionals that will help you to put your ideas in order, so you make the best of them to get a quality plastic product. From the very beginning, designers will be glad to turn your ideas into action and so it begins all the process until the client is satisfied with the result: a bright new toy ready to hit the stores.

Group of Busy People Working in a toy factory
Brainstorming allows clients and company workers to find the best way to collaborate.

Designing a toy

Toy factories need the work of designers. Clients and toy company employees have a brainstorming session and, after that, designers prepare sketches of the toy in question. They include the size, colors, and facial expressions and poses, according to the type of toy (it can be a figurine, a doll, a car or some plastic food).

Sketching precedes a 3D depiction of the product, which is regularly made with specialized software. Here, depending on the equipment of each toy factory, the process can take different paths. One of them is to get the toy model with the help of a 3D printer. Another more traditional involves modelers. And, finally, top-notch technology allows a machine to sculpt the design pattern into the metal that will shape the plastic.

Modelers will work the traditional way by sculpting wax models following the 3D depiction of the toy. You may think this step takes a long time, but an experienced wax modeler can work faster than a computer. Models can also be made externally, there are factories that specialize on this. Anyway, once the model is finished, the toy factory will use it to fabricate the molds that will be of use to produce plastic toys.

Designing and modeling are the first steps when producing toys.
Designing and modeling are the first steps when producing toys.

Toy factory: the manufacturing

After the wax model is finished, engineers will determine whether the toy should be manufactured in just one piece or in many of them. For each one of the parts, toy factory works will create a silicone mold to make many copies in hard plastic. To create this mold, a metal box is filled with silicone that takes around 12 hours to cure.

These hard plastic copies are the prototypes, but the silicone molds can’t endure a very large production (we’re talking about thousands of toys). So, the prototypes go to different places, like the art department where the workers sample paint colors, but necessarily one copy is sent to make the production mold.

Some other toy factory workers create the production molds. The hard plastic copy goes to a metal form which is filled with plaster at the midpoint, so when the plaster cures, the prototype can be removed and leaves a cavity.

Then, this cavity is filled with a mix of metals, that includes molten zinc, copper, aluminum, and magnesium. When this mix cools, it solidifies, the plaster is broken and the metal production mold is ready. The process is repeated in order to make the other half of the toy piece and the process repeats on and on until all pieces are ready.

Plastic pellets used used in an injection molding machine
Plastic pellets are used to create the paste that will be used in an injection molding machine.

When the mold is finished, usually it’s a two-part mold, but there are molds that are made of 4 or more parts, the next step in the process is the plastic injection molding. The mold is mounted in an injection molding machine. Polymers or plastic pellets are introduced in the machine to be melted. The pellets mix together with dye at high temperature and they form a thick paste.

This paste, or hot molten plastic, is shot by the machine into the molds cavities. Then it cools, it hardens, and, now a solid object, it is ejected. The plastic is still soft, though, so the toy is further hardened by plunging it in cold water.

Each one of the expelled pieces gets carefully tested for high quality. Then, depending on the type of toy, each piece will follow a different path, this means, each piece will go through a different process in the toy factory, some of which we’ll talk about a few lines below.

Different toy-making techniques

To manufacture certain toys, some plastic pieces require other processes, such as tampography, also called pad-printing. This technique transfers a 2-D image into a 3-D object and it allows details like an expressive face to be applied to the plastic piece, think of the Lego, Mega Bloks, Miniland or Playmobile plastic toys with their eyes and smiles.

But other toys, like plastic fruits or little balls, will go through air injection, a process in which air is blown into melted plastic, this applies pressure against the interior surfaces of the mold. Later, the plastic cools and solidifies and the piece is ready to proceed to the next step.

Doll-manufacturing
Doll-manufacturing is a very exciting process!

One of the most interesting as well as fascinating processes when talking about how toys are made is doll-manufacturing. To create the pieces that will become the doll’s head, arms, legs, and body, a small amount of liquid vinyl is poured into the molds. These molds go inside rotation furnaces where they rotate until the plastic assumes the shape of the mold.

After some minutes of rotation, workers take out the pieces, which are still hot, and they begin to assemble the body with the legs and arms. Meanwhile, the head goes through decorating with aerography to get facial expressions, such as blushing, and the eyes and hair are added. When the head is ready, it’s assembled to the doll’s body and limbs.

As you can see, the adequate technique depends on the toy you want to produce. This might seem obvious, but each product to make demands its own requirements. As toy manufacturers, in Martin’s, plastic injection molding is one of our essential processes and we’ve got years of experience in this business. But, aside from this, one of the great advantages our clients have with us is that we also handle everything, from the very conception of an idea to the distribution of the product, in this case, the toys, no matter which kind of toy it would be.

Toy manufacturing: final details

Many toys go to the art department where they are hand-painted or airbrushed, as we’ve already explained. Dolls get their faces, as well as some other toys, like smiling trucks and cars. Dinosaur and animal figurines, for example, get their details, like the painting effects needed to show texture.

After all these different processes, when the toys are made of more than one piece, the plastic parts move to the assembly line and product handling. Technicians and workers join together the pieces skillfully, by glue, by pressure or another mean, in order to create the final depiction of the toy.

The toys are then placed in their boxes or containers, depending on their kind. Packaging is the second-to-last step of the whole process, industrial designers conceive the way the toys are going to be presented, packaged and sold in all the places they’ll go. After this, toys are now ready to get to the final step of the process: the distribution.

Toys everywhere, toys for everyone

We have presented so far, in general terms and in a very concise way, the making of plastic toys. Now, you might be wondering why toys? Or maybe you’re thinking now if it’s the right choice for your business to take. These are perfectly valid questions to pose. And they just don’t have a simple answer.

Let’s remember some figures: in 2018, the total revenue of the global toy market was 90.4 billion USD, with just the U.S. market size being about 25 billion USD [1]. In the same year, in North America, the average amount spent on toys per child was 306 USD [2]. All these numbers give us an easy idea of how large and profitable is this industry.

But if this is not enough reason for you, since you might think that the market represented in those numbers is highly taken by very large companies, you might find in other approaches a good motive to invest in a toy factory. One of this is the use you can make of a toy to help you with your business.

Toys are present in daily life toy factory
Toys are present in daily life, which makes this industry a very profitable one.

Toys are also marketed as promotional products. This is a golden opportunity to increase your sales or get potential customers interested in your business or in a specific item. Toys are an attractive way to prompt people to buy something that includes them. This applies mostly to kids, but not exclusively, just think about cereals, chips or other snacks that contain little toys inside them. But there’s also the modality where you can get a collectible item, sometimes a toy, when you buy a certain product.

Toy manufacturers produce a diversity of products, from educational and colorful toys for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, to promotional products for different brands, to collectible figurines such as the super popular brand Funko, which works with many other brands through licensing and now it’s a successful company that in the third quarter 2019, increased its sales 26% to 223.3 million USD [3].

There isn’t just a type of toy, of course. On this post, we’ve focused a lot on figurines, plastic toys like fruits, cars, collectibles, and dolls. However, plastic is also present in other kinds of toys, like board games (think about the tokens or character figurines) or now even electronic toys, with some of the pieces being made of plastic.

In the middle of all this production diversity, it must be said that toy companies and manufacturers don’t work in isolation. They are in constant interaction and they are always networking with many other enterprises and businesses. The toy industry gathers in annual or periodically events, such as K Fair, the most important toy fair in all the world, that takes place in Düsseldorf every three years. This kind of events make possible important associations in order to maximize toys production.

We’ve shown you roughly how a toy factory works and, by extension, how plastic toys are manufactured. It is not an easy or simple process and it involves many people. Graphic and industrial designers, wax modelers, engineers, technicians, workers, and drivers are just a few of the professional people that give the best of themselves day by day to produce toys everywhere and for everyone.

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Ceiling Fans Working Guide

What would we do without the ceiling fan? Turn up our AC a bit more? Ok, that’s fair, but the air in your house would feel all stale and muggy. Ceiling fans could be called the co-managers of your home supply. The whole principle of the ceiling fan is to make sure the air you want is getting to where you want it as effectively as possible.

Sure, your HVAC moves air throughout your house, but the ceiling fan optimizes that air, room-to-room. Understanding the humble ceiling fan and using it effectively will help you stay comfortable, keep the air flowing, and even help you save money! Here’s the simple science that keeps you cool.

Ceiling fan with wooden blades in a white room

Hot Air Catching

As you probably remember from middle school, hot air rises. When a ceiling fan rotates counter-clockwise, the force of the spinning blades suck the hot air around and above the ceiling towards the fan.

After the hot air gets sucked into the blades, it’s simultaneously “cut,” accelerated, and pushed downward into the room as a breeze.

Graphic illustrating how air circulates in a room

Creating a Downdraft

Ceiling fans create a “downdraft” by pushing rising hot air back down. Downdrafts reverse the typical direction of air movement. Instead of heat rising, it pushes back down. Then, cool air rushes in to fill the vacuum created by the absence of hot air.

The ceiling fan’s downdraft is how it circulates air. Hot air continues attempting to rise even while a fan is on, and the fan’s operation continues to push it back down. The warm air rises, falls, and tries to rise again, circulating throughout the room.

Graphic of cyclical heat exchange

The Wind Chill Effect

Ceiling fans don’t actually cool rooms down. Instead, they make the people in the rooms feel like they’re cooler. The downdraft, breeze, and air circulation produced by ceiling fans all contribute to a “wind chill” effect by displacing hot air and allowing cooler air to take its place.

All the air in the room is the same temperature as was before you turned the fan on, but you have more access to the cooler air. To compensate, your body generates more heat. Ironically, this feels like you’re cooling down, because you’re losing heat faster than you were.

arrow reversing direction

A New Direction

A lot of homeowners don’t know this, but most fans have a setting that reverse the direction their blades turn. When blades turn clockwise instead of counter-clockwise, the whole process we just described is essentially inverted.

Instead of sucking in hot air and pushing it down, the fan sucks up cool air and pushes it higher. When the fan forces cool air higher, the cool air forces warm air down. Instead of giving you more access to cool air in your room, the fan gives you more access to the warm air, making you feel nice and cozy.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the chill effect you feel using a fan is equivalent to 4 degrees of heat. That means when you use a ceiling fan you can turn up the thermostat 4 degrees without noticing a difference. You will notice a difference in your heating bill, however.

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History Of Sports

The documented history of sports goes back at least 3,000 years. In the beginning, sports often involved the preparation for war or training as a hunter, which explains why so many early games involved the throwing of spears, stakes, and rocks, and sparring one-on-one with opponents.

With the first Olympic Games in 776 BC—which included events such as foot and chariot races, wrestling, jumping, and discus and javelin throwing—the Ancient Greeks introduced formal sports to the world. The following by no means exhaustive list takes a look at the beginnings and evolution of some of today’s most popular sporting pastimes.

Games with Bats & Balls: Cricket, Baseball, and Softball

An Early SF Baseball Team
 SF baseball team, circa early-1900s.
  • Cricket: The game of cricket originated in south-east England sometime in the late 16th century. By the 18th century, it had become the national sport, making inroads globally in the 19th and 20th centuries. The prototype for the modern cricket bat featuring a willow blade and a cane handle layered with strips of rubber, and then tied with twine and covered with another layer of rubber to form a grip was invented around 1853. (The longest recorded game of cricket took place in 1939 and spanned a period of nine days.)
  • Baseball: Alexander Cartwright (1820-1892) of New York invented the baseball field as we know it in 1845. Cartwright and the members of his New York Knickerbocker Base Ball Club​ devised the first rules and regulations that became the accepted standard for the modern game of baseball.
  • Softball: In 1887, George Hancock, a reporter for the Chicago Board of Trade, invented softball as a form of indoor baseball that was first played on a cold winter day inside the warm Farragut Boat Club.

Basketball

Portrait of Early American Basketball Teammates

The first formal rules for basketball were devised in 1892. Initially, players dribbled a soccer ball up and down a court of unspecified dimensions. Points were earned by landing the ball in a peach basket. Iron hoops and a hammock-style basket were introduced in 1893. Another decade passed, however, before the innovation of open-ended nets put an end to the practice of manually retrieving the ball from the basket each time a goal was scored. The first shoes specifically designed for the game, Converse All Stars, were introduced in 1917 and were soon made famous by legendary player Chuck Taylor who became an early brand ambassador in the 1920s. 

Rugby and American Football

Team Portrait of Early Oklahoma University Football Team
 Football team in typical team pose of the early 1900’s at Oklahoma University.
  • Rugby: The origins of rugby can be traced back over 2000 years to a Roman game called harpastum (from the Greek for “seize”). Unlike soccer, in which the ball was propelled by means of the foot, in this game, it was also carried in the hands. The game made its modern debut in 1749 at a newly built school in Rugby in Warwickshire, England, which boasted “every accommodation that could be required for the exercise of young gentlemen.” The eight-acre plot on which the game evolved was known as “The Close.” Between 1749 and 1823, rugby had few rules and the ball was kicked rather than carried to move it forward. Games could go on for five days and often more than 200 students participated. In 1823, player William Webb Ellis was the first to took pick up the ball and run with it. This was the beginning of the modern version of the sport as it’s played today. 
  • Football: American football is a descendant of rugby and soccer. While Rutgers and Princeton played what was then billed as the first college footballgame on November 6, 1869, the game did not come into its own until 1879 with rules instituted by Walter Camp, a player/coach at Yale University. On November 12, 1892, in a game that pitted the Allegheny Athletic Association football team against the Pittsburgh Athletic Club, AAA player William (Pudge) Heffelfinger was paid $500 to participate—marking him as the first-ever professional football player.

Golf

Golfers at St. Andrew's Golf Club in Yonkers
 St. Andrews Golf Club in Yonkers founded by Reid in 1888. 

The game of Golf is descended from a game that originated in the Kingdom of Fife on the eastern coast of Scotland in during the 15th century. While there were similar games in other parts of Europe at the time that involved swatting a rock with a stick around a predetermined course, the game as we know it—including the innovation introduction of the golf hole—was invented in Scotland.

  • During the mid-15th century, the games of golf and soccer suffered something of a setback. As Scotland prepared to defend its borders against English invasion, the rising popularity of the games was thought to be responsible for men neglecting more useful pursuits such as archery and swordsmanship. Golf and soccer were officially banned in Scotland in 1457. The prohibition was lifted in 1502 with the signing of the Treaty of Glasgow.
  • In the 16th century, King Charles I popularized the golf in England and Mary Queen of Scots, who was French, introduced the game to her homeland. (In fact, it’s possible that term “caddie” is derived from the name given to the French cadets who attended Mary when she played).
  • The first reference to golf at Scotland’s most famous golf course, St Andrews, was in 1552. The clergy allowed public access to the links the following year.
  • The golf course at Leith (near Edinburgh) was the first to publish a set of rules for the game, and in 1682, was also the site of the first international golf match during which a team pairing the Duke of York and George Patterson playing for Scotland beat two English noblemen.
  • In 1754, the St Andrews Society of Golfers was formed. Its annual competition relied on the rules established at Leith.
  • Stroke play was introduced in 1759.
  • The first 18-hole course (now standard) was constructed in 1764.
  • In 1895, St Andrews inaugurated the first women’s golf club in the world.

Hockey

Thompson Defends The Net
B Bennett

While the exact origin of ice hockey is unclear, the game likely evolved from the centuries’ old Northern European game of field hockey. The rules of modern ice hockey were created by Canadian James Creighton. The first game was played in Montreal, Canada 1875 at Victoria Skating Rink between two nine-player teams, and featured a flat circular piece of wood that served as a prototype for what would eventually evolve into the modern hockey puck. Today, barring penalties, each team has six players on the ice at a time, including the goalie, who guards the net.

Lord Stanley of Preston, Governor-General of Canada, inaugurated the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup—known today as the Stanley Cup—in 1892, to recognize the best team in Canada each year. The first award went to the Montreal Hockey Club in 1893. The awards were later opened to both Canadian and American league teams.

Ice Skating

Pond Skaters
 A frozen pond in Central Park, New York City, 1890s. Museum of the City of New York

Around the 14th Century, the Dutch started using wooden platform skates with flat iron bottom runners. The skates were attached to the skater’s shoes with leather straps. Poles were used to propel the skater. Around 1500, the Dutch added a narrow metal double-edged blade, making the poles a thing of the past, as the skater could now push and glide with his feet (called the “Dutch Roll”).

Figure skating was introduced at the 1908 Summer Olympics and has been included at the Winter Games since 1924. Men’s speed skating debuted during the 1924 Winter Olympic Games in Chamonix, France. Ice dance became a medal sport in 1976, with a team event debuting for the 2014 Olympics.

Skiing and Water Skiing

Skier Off A Jump
Underwood
  • Skiing: Although the sport of skiing in America is little more than a century old, researchers have dated a rock carving of a skier, found on the Norwegian island of Rodoy as more than 4,000 years old. Skiing was so revered in Scandinavia that the Vikings worshiped Ull and Skade, the god and goddess of skiing. Skiing was introduced to the United States by Norwegian gold miners.
  • Water Skiing: Water skiing came about on June 28, 1922, when 18-year-old Minnesotan Ralph Samuelson proved the theory that if a person could ski on snow, a person could ski on water.

Competitive Swimming

1890s 1900s TURN OF 20TH...
H. Armstrong Roberts

Swimming pools did not become popular until the middle of the 19th century. By 1837, six indoor pools with diving boards had been built in London, England. When the modern Olympic Games were launched in Athens, Greece, on April 5, 1896, swimming races were among the original events. Soon after, the popularity of swimming pools and the related sporting events began to spread.

Several famous 20th Century swimmers, including three-time gold medalist Johnny Weissmuller who competed in the 1924 Paris Games, two-time Olympian Buster Crabbe, and Esther Williams, an American competitive swimmer who set multiple national and regional swimming records (but did not compete in the Olympics due to the outbreak of WWII) went on to have successful careers in Hollywood.

Tennis

Family rests after a tennis match, ca. 1900.
 Resting after a tennis match, ca. 1900. Corbis

While there’s evidence to suggest that ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians played some version of a game that resembled tennis, court tennias we know it is descended from a game enjoyed by 11th-century French monks called paume (meaning “palm”). Paume was played on a court and the ball was struck with the hand (hence the name). Paume evolved into jeu de paume (“game of the palm”) in which racquets were used. By 1500, racquets constructed of wooden frames and gut strings were in play, as were balls made of cork and leather. When popular game spread to England, it was played exclusively indoors, but rather than volley the ball back and forth, players attempted to hit a ball into a netted opening in the roof of the court. In 1873, Englishman Major Walter Wingfield invented a game called Sphairistikè (Greek for “playing ball”) from which modern outdoor tennis evolved.

Volleyball

1920s WOMAN IN BATHING...
 Woman holding volleyball on beach, ca. 1920s. 

William Morgan invented volleyball in 1895 at the Holyoke, Massachusetts, YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) where he served as Director of Physical Education. Originally called Mintonette, after a demonstration match during which a spectator commented that the game involved a great deal of “volleying,” the sport was renamed volleyball.

Surfing and Windsurfing

  • Surfing: The exact origins of surfing are not known, however, most research suggests the activity dates back to ancient Polynesia and was first observed by Europeans during a 1767 voyage to Tahiti. The first surfboards were made of solid wood, measuring between 10 and 10 feet, and weighing from 75 to upwards of 200 pounds. Solid boards were designed for forward-motion only and were not meant to cross waves. At the dawn of the 20th century, a Hawaiian surfer named George Freeth was the first to cut a board down to a more manageable eight-foot length. In 1926, American surfer Tom Blake invented the first hollow board and later introduced the fin. During the late 1940s through the early 1950s, inventor and surfing aficionado Bob Simmons began experimenting with curved boards. Thanks to his innovative designs, he is often referred to as the “Father of the Modern Surfboard.” Later designs would aim for lighter, more maneuverable boards. Boards carved from balsa wood, then laminated with fiberglass and coated with epoxy resin became popular, but as technology advanced, balsa core boards were eventually eclipsed those constructed of foam core.
  • Windsurfing: Windsurfing or boardsailing is a sport that combines sailing and surfing and uses a one-person craft called a sailboard. The basic sailboard is composed of a board and a rig. In 1948, 20-year-old Newman Darby first conceived of using a handheld sail and rig mounted on a universal joint, to control a small catamaran. While Darby did not file for a patent for his design, he is recognized as the inventor of the first sailboard.

Soccer

According to the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), more than 240 million people around the world play soccer on a regular basis. The history of the game can be traced back more than 2,000 years to ancient China, where it all began with a bunch of players kicking an animal-hide ball around. While Greece, Rome, and areas of Central America claim to been seminal to the development of the game, soccer as we know it—or football as it’s called in most places other than the United States—came to the fore in England during the mid-19th Century, and it’s the English who can claim credit for codifying the first uniform rules for the sport—which made tripping opponents and touching the ball with the hands are forbidden. (The penalty kick was introduced in 1891.) 

Boxing

The earliest evidence of boxing can be traced back to Egypt circa 3000 BC. Boxing as a sport was introduced to the ancient Olympic Games in the 7th century BC, at which time, boxers’ hands and forearms were bound with soft leather thongs for protection. Romans later traded in leather thongs for metal-studded gloves called cestus.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, boxing died out and did not make a comeback until the 17th century. The English officially organized amateur boxing in 1880, designating five weight classes: Bantam, not exceeding 54 kilos (119 pounds); Feather, not exceeding 57 kilos (126 pounds); Light, not exceeding 63.5 kilos (140 pounds); Middle, not exceeding 73 kilos (161 pounds); and Heavy, any weight.

When boxing made its Olympic debut at the 1904 Games in St. Louis, the USA was the only country entered, and as a result, took home all the medals. Since its initial admittance in the Olympic program, the sport has been included at all of the subsequent Games, with the exception of the 1912 Stockholm Games, since boxing was outlawed there. But Sweden wasn’t the only place where fisticuffs were illegal. For a good deal the 19th century, boxing was not considered a legitimate sport in America. Bare-knuckle boxing was outlawed as a criminal activity and boxing matches were regularly raided by the police.

Gymnastics

Gymnastics began in ancient Greece as a form of exercise for both men and women that combined physical coordination, strength, and dexterity with tumbling and acrobatic skills. (The translation for the word “gymnasium” from the original Greek is “to exercise naked.”) Early gymnastics exercises included running, jumping, swimming, throwing, wrestling, and weight lifting. Once the Romans conquered Greece, gymnastics became more formalized. Roman gymnasiums were mostly used to prepare their legions for the rigors of battle. With the exception of tumbling, which remained a fairly popular form of entertainment, as the Roman Empire declined, the interest in gymnastics, along with several other sports favored by gladiators and soldiers dwindled as well.

In 1774, when prominent German educational reformer Johann Bernhard Basedow added physical exercise to the realistic courses of study he advocated at his school in Dessau, Saxony, modern gymnastics—and the Germanic countries’ fascination with them—took off. By the late 1700s, German Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (the “father of modern gymnastics”) had introduced the sidebar, the horizontal bar, the parallel bars, the balance beam, and jumping events. German educator Johann Christoph Friedrich GutsMuths (also known as Guts Muth or Gutsmuths and the “grandfather of gymnastics”) developed a more graceful form of gymnastics focusing on rhythmic movement, opening the Jahn’s school in Berlin in 1811. Soon after, gymnastics clubs began to spring up in both continental Europe and Great Britain. As gymnastics evolved, the Greco-Roman events of weight lifting and wrestling were dropped. There was also a shift in emphasis from simply beating an opponent to the pursuit of excellence in form.

Dr. Dudley Allen Sargent, a pioneering Civil War-era physical education teacher, athletic proponent, lecturer, and prolific inventor of gymnastic equipment (with more than 30 pieces of apparatus to his credit) introduced the sport to the United States. Thanks to a wave of immigration at the end of the 19th century, an increasing number of turnverein (from the German “turnen,” meaning to perform gymnastic exercises + “verein,” meaning club) sprang up as recently arrived Europeans sought to bring their love of the sport to their new homeland.

Men’s gymnastics debuted at the Olympic Games in 1896, and have been included in all Games since 1924. An all-around women’s competition arrived in 1936, followed by a competition for separate events in 1952. During early competitions, male gymnasts from Germany, Sweden, Italy, and Switzerland, dominated the competition, but by the ’50s, Japan, the Soviet Union, and several Eastern European nations were turning out top male and female gymnasts. The widespread coverage of Olympic performances by the Soviet Union’s Olga Korbut in the 1972 Olympics and Nadia Comaneci of Romania at the 1976 Games raised the profile gymnastics dramatically, resulting in a major promotion of the sport, particularly for women in the China and the United States.

Modern international competition has six events for men—the rings, parallel bars, horizontal bar, side or pommel-horse, long or vaulting horse, and floor (or free) exercise, and four events for women—vaulting horse, balance beam, uneven bars, and floor exercise (which is performed with musical accompaniment). Tumbling and trampoline exercises are also included in many U.S. competitions. Rhythmic gymnastics, a non-acrobatic performance of graceful choreographed moves incorporating the use of a ball, hoop, rope, or ribbons, have been an Olympic sport since 1984.

Fencing

The use of swords dates to prehistoric times. The earliest known example of swordplay comes from a relief found in the temple of Medīnat Habu, near Luxor that was built in Egypt by Ramses III circa 1190 BC. In ancient Rome, swordplay was a highly systemized form of combat that both soldiers and gladiators had to learn. 

After the fall of the Roman Empire and through the Middle Ages, sword training became less systematic and sword fighting took on a seedy reputation as criminals increasingly used the weapons to further their illicit pursuits. As a result, communities began outlawing fencing schools. But even in the face of such obstacles, including a 1286 London edict passed by King Edward I condemning the practice, fencing flourished.

During the 15th century, guilds of fencing masters came to prominence throughout Europe. Henry VIII was one of the sport’s earliest supporters in England. The English convention of using a cutting sword and with a buckler (a small shield worn on the free arm) was replaced by the rapier combat more prevalent in continental European countries. It was the Italians who first began using the point rather than the edge of the sword. The Italian fencing style emphasized speed and dexterity rather than force and was soon adopted throughout Europe. When the lunge was added, the art of fencing was born.

By the end of the 17th century, the changes in men’s fashion dictated by the court of Louis XIV changed the face of fencing as well. The lengthy rapier gave way to the shorter court sword. Initially dismissed, the lighter court sword soon proved an effective weapon for a variety of movements impossible to achieve with earlier blades. Hits could be made with sword-point only, while the side of the blade was used for defense. It was from these innovations that modern fencing evolved.

The French school of sword fighting focused on strategy and form, and specific rules were adopted to teach it. A practice sword, known as the foil, was introduced for training. The first fencing masks were designed by French fencing master La Boëssière and infamous duelist Joseph Bologne, chevalier de Saint-Georges in the 18th century. Basic fencing conventions were first organized codified by French fencing master Camille Prévost in the 1880s.

Men’s fencing has been an Olympic event since 1896. After numerous disputes, the Fédération Internationale d’Escrime was founded in 1913 as governing body of international fencing for amateurs (both in the Olympics and in world championships) to ensure uniform enforcement of rules. Individual foil for women was introduced at the 1924 Olympic Games. The women’s foil team event debuted at the 1960 Games. Women’s team and individual épée arrived for 1996 Games. The women’s individual saber event was added for the 2004 Games, and women’s team saber followed in 2008.

Rowing

Rowing has been in existence as long as people have traveled by boat, however, the first historic reference to rowing as a sport dates to an Egyptian funerary carving from the 15th century BC. Roman poet Virgil mentions rowing in the Aeneid. In the Middle Ages, Italian oarsmen zoomed across Venice’s waterways during Carnevale regatta races. Beginning in 1454, London’s early water taxi drivers battled it out on the Thames River hoping to win monetary prizes and bragging rights. A race between London Bridge and Chelsea Harbor has been held annually since 1715. America’s first recorded rowing event took place in New York Harbor in 1756, and not long after, the sport took hold in the athletic programs at many of the country’s elite colleges.

England’s Oxford University Boat Club, one of the oldest established college teams, and its perennial rival, Cambridge, held their first men’s competition, known simply as the University Boat Race, in 1929. The event has been held annually since 1856. Similar rowing rivalries, most notably those between Harvard, Yale, and the U.S. service academies, soon surfaced across the pond. Yale challenged Harvard to its first intercollegiate boat race in 1852.

Rowing became an Olympic sport in 1900. The United States took gold that year, and again in 1904. The English won gold medals in 1908 and 1912, after which the United States ditched professional rowers, and instead, tapped the best college team to compete at the 1920 Games. The U.S. Naval Academy went on to beat the British team, recapturing the gold medal. The trend continued from 1920 to 1948, however, by then, the nature of American sports was changing. As the immense popularity of collegiate basketball and football grew, interest in rowing waned. While still wildly popular at some schools, rowing will likely never regain its former widespread audience.

Sports Miscellany: Wiffleball, Ultimate Frisbee, Hacky Sack, Paintball, and Laser Tag

David N. Mullany of Shelton, Connecticut invented the Wiffle ball in 1953. A Wiffle ball is a variation of a baseball that makes it easy to hit a curveball.

While Frisbees date back to 1957, the game of Ultimate Frisbee (or simply Ultimate) is a non-contact team sport that was created in 1968 by a group of students led by Joel Silver, Jonny Hines, and Buzzy Hellring at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey.

Hacky sack (a.k.a. “footbag”) is a modern American sport invented in 1972 by John Stalberger and Mike Marshall of Oregon City, Oregon.

Paintball was born 1981 when a group of 12 friends playing “Capture the Flag” added the element of firing at one another with the tree-marking guns. After investing with a tree marking gun manufacturer called Nelson, the group began promoting and selling the guns for use in the new recreational sport.

In 1986, George A. Carter III became the “founder and inventor of the laser tag industry,” another variation of “Capture the Flag,” in which teams equipped with infrared and visible light-based guns tag each other out until one side is victorious.

As anyone writing a compendium on the history of sports can tell you, there’s a staggering amount of information to sift through and only so much time. Sports is such a huge topic (with events such as horse racing, wrestling, track & field, and mixed martial arts—to name only a few—that are more than deserving of coverage), it would take an encyclopedia to do it justice. That said, the ones included in this list should give you a fair sampling of the popular athletic endeavors that continue to fascinate sporting enthusiasts around the globe.

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RPG Games Guide

Everyone knows what a role-playing game is. I mean, it’s so obvious, why even talk about it? They’re those games where you take the role of a protagonist who must face down world-beating odds to save the universe. You meet lots of cool characters, gain new skills and abilities, fight gnarly monsters, and watch an epic story unfold: your story. Then again, that could describe about half of all modern games, so… let’s take a step back.

There’s lots of different types of RPGs, and they comprise many milieus and sub-genres, growing more and more granular as we bore down. Action and strategy RPGs might be thought of as two families or orders of role-playing games, whereas the Phantasy Star series could be a species. But on the macro scale, RPGs are usually broken down into two main kingdoms: tabletop (like D&DFATE, and and Fiasco) and video games (like Chrono TriggerHorizon Zero Dawn, and the Final Fantasy series). I could see arguments for LARP being a third kingdom, but for the purpose of this article, let’s say it is a phylum of tabletop since it’s physical not digital. Given that tabletop and digital RPGs are two totally different mediums that both carry the same genre label, it will be instructive to look at the two side by side and identify what they have in common. If we can do this, we should be able to say once and for all what makes an RPG an RPG.

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Consider if you will the tabletop role-playing game. The very first one was [Original] Dungeons and Dragons, released in 1974. It was an offshoot of a miniatures war game called Chainmail. D&D’s big innovation was pulling an individual out of the war game’s unit, naming that individual and supplying them with game statistics, and then asking players to take on the role of that person in an imaginary world. Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that, and many innovations can be found in that first edition and its successors, but that is the core of the game.

The Definition

Every tabletop roleplaying game since has had those basic elements:

  • The player controls a specific character.*
  • That character has game statistics and/or relational attributes with other game objects
  • The character has important fictional/narrative relationships with other story elements
  • The player makes decisions for the character, stepping into that role and making choices as if they were the character

*Rarely, the player controls multiple characters, but it’s always at least one.

The above elements are listed in order from general to specific. The first point applies to many game genres, the last one applies pretty much only to RPGs. It’s tempting to list other common RPG features alongside these such as character creation, the presence of a Game Master who’s responsible for playing non-player characters and governing what happens in the world, and the fact that tabletop RPGs are played face to face around a table with pencil and paper, but these characteristics are not actually universal and make up the families, phylums, genera, and species, not the kingdom (to continue torturing our biology metaphor).

Applying the criteria to video game RPGs

Great! We’ve got it! We did it! We nailed it down. Of course, you might disagree on this core, and if you do I welcome your thoughts in the responses to this article. For those keeping score at home, LARP, our potential third kingdom, is also described perfectly by those core elements, though it has other features that make it unique.

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Square-Enix re-releases the original Final Fantasy

So now that we have it, let’s throw some classic video game RPGs up on the board and see if they fit the description. Let’s start with the original Final Fantasy, sometimes called Final Fantasy 1, an archetypical video game RPG.

Does the player control a specific character?

I’d say yes. They control multiple characters and they’re not incredibly specific (with names like Thief and White Mage), but the player controls them.

Does the character have game statistics and/or object-relationships with other game objects?

This one’s easy. Yes. These statistics and relationships are what define the characters.

Does the character have important narrative relationships with other story elements?

Well, it depends on what you consider important, and I used that word for a reason. Most games have some fictional layer that informs what’s happening in the game. That’s how you decide to jump on goombas, kiss Princess Peach, and not to throw Mario into a of lava after all, other than trial and error. But I’d struggle to say the narrative relationship between your PCs and the enemies you fight and characters you talk to is important in Final Fantasy. Let’s call it a toss up.

Does the player take on a role and make decisions for the PC as if they were that character?

Here, I would say no. Broadly speaking, they are making decisions that benefit their avatar and harm their avatar’s enemies, but this is true of all games. They are not making the granular level of decision that characters in a tabletop RPG or LARP make such as who to trust, what to do during down time, what is the morally right action and how to balance that with expedience, deciding what your character will say and how they will say it — or when to just keep silent, and so on.

This leaves us with two possible conclusions: 1) Final Fantasy is not an RPG. 2) Our definition is wrong, and there must be some other common thread that we missed.

Reconsidering our definition

Let’s examine the second possibility first, because memento mori and all that. The fourth point is the one that Final Fantasy really fails on, so let’s temporarily throw it out and see what we might replace it with. Here are some common RPG elements we might consider:

Character Advancement/Customization: In D&D there is character advancement, and there is also character advancement in FF. However, not all tabletop RPGs have this, and many non-RPG video games also have it (for instance X in Mega Man X, which is a platformer, gets stronger as he acquires different items, as does Link in the original Legend of Zelda, which is an action adventure game).

A Deep, Detailed Story: Forget for a moment that many video game and tabletop RPGs have rather shallow stories rife with plot holes. These days most video games have expansive stories loaded with interesting characters and situations. Bioshock, Half Life, Metal Gear, and many more games and series come to mind.

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Bioshock Infinite, Irrational Games 2013

Turn-based Combat: D&D features this, and so does Final Fantasy. However many other games we consider RPGs do not, for instance Secret of Mana has real-time action based combat, and many tabletop RPGs and LARPS have no combat mechanics at all.

A Rich, Fantasy Setting: Final Fantasy obviously has this, but any game can be set in a medieval fantasy world. This is a milieu, not a genre.

Gated Areas That Mix Combat and Puzzle-solving: The dungeon is a common RPG trope: large complexes filled with enemies to slay and puzzles to solve, culminating with a milestone. D&D began it, but action adventure games like Metroid and Castlevania perfected it, not video game RPGs.

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Super Metroid, Nintendo, 1994

Social Dynamics: Tabletop RPGs, being multi-player games undertaken in person are inherently social. Multi-player video game RPGs like World of Warcraft have this element. Single player RPGs lack this, but can make up for that by adding an online community to their game. Then again, any game can have a social element added to it via online play communities with forums and walkthroughs, so I don’t think this answers the question either.

Giving Narrative Control to the Player: Out of all of these, this feature comes closest. After all, what is the value of having players make decisions in character if those choices don’t effect the outcome or direction of the game and its story? However, by this token a choose-your-own adventure book is a roleplaying game and so is any video game with multiple endings, regardless of its other mechanics, so it has to be a non-starter.

Facing the Facts: There’s No Such Thing as Video Game RPGs

We tried, and we couldn’t reconcile it. Final Fantasy is not an RPG, according to our very simple definition. Therefore it follows that most, perhaps all, video game RPGs are not really role-playing games at all, but something else. Some might be open world games, others fantasy-themed action adventure, or story-rich, turn-based tactical games. I believe some of the confusion comes from the emulation of aspects of classic tabletop games like D&D, borrowing some mechanical ideas or aping the milieu of sword and sorcery. But none of these are sufficient.

Some modern RPGs may come close. The Elder Scrolls series, for example, gives the player a lot of freedom to make choices in-character, but in the end these choices are essentially problem-solving choices in an open world action adventure game with a rich story and strong elements of narrative control. These may all be common features of RPGs, but they are not core elements, and thus not enough to satisfy the definition.

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One other possibility:

I can hear my readers saying now: “Wait a second, when I play Skyrim, I really AM making choices based on what I think the character would do. I really am stepping into their shoes, and playing a role. So it does satisfy your definition.”

This is compelling, and to a point, I have to agree. Player experience is subjective, and the reasons people play games and the emotions they feel when they play them are all their own. The counter argument to this is that this would mean that every game is a role-playing game if the player feels like they are roleplaying, which makes the genre label totally useless to players, reviewers, and designers. However, it is still an exciting thought. This reframes an RPG not as a mechanical genre, or something a game designer creates, but as something a player does.

This reframes an RPG not as a mechanical genre, or something a game designer creates, but as something a player does.

I am very open to this idea. It’s a fascinating and rich area of discussion. Thinking of roleplaying as an action, or as a mode of play — or perhaps a mode of being — completely transforms the conversation around RPGs and would represent a paradigm shift in game design and popular criticism. This is interesting for academics and theoreticians, but perhaps not for players, journalists, and game studios. It does, however, serve my interest of exploding RPGs as a video game genre — even the notion of genre itself — and provides a new framework for discussing video game play.

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Quick Healthy Breakfast

Breakfast for children is, in fact, a very important meal to get the day started off right. Why? After sleeping and growing during the night, kids need to refuel their bodies for the day ahead. 

Breakfast provides energy for the morning and eating breakfast can lead to increased classroom concentration. Can you imagine trying to participate in a science experiment or concentrate on solving a number bond with your tummy grumbling? It’s tough, especially for kids who aren’t allowed a snack at school. Breakfast is their only chance of eating prior to lunch.  

Sometimes, finding the time to eat and/or make breakfast is the challenge. With the school morning breakfast suggestions below and some planning, you’ll find ways to conquer those challenges and pave the way for a productive, learning-filled day. An added bonus is that, depending on the ages of your child, they can prepare many of these food items on their own or with minimal help on school mornings.

Here are several ways to have a quick breakfast at your fingertips:

From the Freezer

  • Smoothie packets: Freeze the fruits and vegetables that you need for your favorite smoothie in individual portions so that all you have to do in the morning is add the liquids/add-ins and blend.
  • Pancakes and waffles: Make a large batch of whole grain pancakes or waffles over the weekend and freeze in a freezer bag with a sheet of freezer paper between each. Defrost in the toaster or microwave and top with walnuts and fruit, nut butter, and banana slices, or your family’s favorite toppings.
  • Breakfast egg cups in a muffin tin: You make these ahead of time and freeze them, and since it yields six egg cups (or more, depending on how large your muffin tin is), that’s six breakfasts that you can have stored and ready in the freezer.
  • Muffins: Make your favorite whole grain muffins and freeze them to easily defrost for a delicious homemade breakfast.
  • Whole grain English muffins: We like to keep whole grain English muffins frozen to use as a quick breakfast food. They can be used with a microwave scrambled egg and grated cheese to make a breakfast sandwich, or use it as you would use toast, waffles or pancakes.
  • Egg and English muffin sandwiches: Make these sandwiches ahead of time with a low-fat meat option and freeze for a fast microwavable breakfast.

From the Refrigerator

  • Overnight oatmeal: Make breakfast while you sleep! Overnight oatmeal is delicious, filling, nutritious, and so quick to make. Make it the night before in individual servings and you’ll have a breakfast that requires no preparation in the morning. 
  • Yogurt and fruit parfait: Make a few yogurt and fruit parfaits the night before and add granola to the top in the morning if desired.
  • Hard-cooked egg: You can hard-cook eggs on Sunday for several uses during the week, such as a fast breakfast or for use in green salads or tuna or chicken salad.
  • Cheese stick: If we are truly rushing, grabbing a cheese stick (with or without pizza dipping sauce, which is a favorite in our home), along with a box of raisins or a banana fulfills our breakfast dash needs.

From the Microwave

  • Microwave scrambled egg: Beat two eggs, two tablespoons of milk, and salt and pepper to taste in a microwave safe 12-ounce mug or bowl. Microwave on high for 45 seconds, stir, and then microwave 30-45 seconds more or until the eggs are cooked. One of our favorite ways to serve this egg is wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla with shredded cheese and salsa. It’s so quick and oh so good! 

From the Oven or Crockpot

  • Oatmeal: this breakfast makes our list again. When you wake up, turn the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix one cup of old fashioned oats, three cups of water, and a pinch of salt in an oven-safe bowl. Bake for about 30 minutes (while you get ready for the day, wake the kids, pack up lunches, etc.) or until the desired consistency is reached. Stir in about a teaspoon of butter when you take it out of the oven, and then comes the most exciting part—toppings. Let the kids add their favorite toppings such as raisins, blueberries, walnuts, pecans, or whatever they’d like.

This makes three hearty servings of oatmeal for kids. If you don’t have time to do this on a school morning, cook it on Sunday, refrigerate, and reheat for breakfast on Monday, or try slow-cooked steel-cut oats. Leftover oatmeal can be refrigerated and enjoyed another morning.

From the Pantry

  • Nuts, raisins, dried fruit, and whole grain cereal: Make individual portions of any combination of these to grab and eat anywhere. Check out this homemade trail mix that can easily be made, pre-packaged into individual servings, and grabbed for the hike to school.
  • Toast with nut butter: It’s quick and easy.
  • Whole grain cereal: If you are having a cereal and fruit morning, set out the boxes of cereal, spoons, bowls, and bananas or other fruit (or have it prewashed, cut, and ready in the refrigerator) the night before.

You can get several of the above options ready over the weekend so that you have quick breakfasts available for the school week. Feel free to get the kids involved in the preparation of your breakfast options. Also, pairing your breakfast with fresh fruit is always a great option.

There is definitely a way to get breakfast to the table (or to the car, or to the bus stop). A small investment in breakfast planning time will reap big rewards by making happy bellies and ready-to-learn minds.