Saturday, July 29, 2006

Friday 28th July: Kenyon Plummets Back into the Red

Two Kokushimusou , one yakitori, one loser! On the Grand Accumulated Results Table only Noda, who did not play tonight, is in the black on a stratospheric +666.

After meeting Tim at Kemby's for a couple of preliminary beers and a plate of pasta the four regular or semi-regular foreign players ambled over to Kodama. Only one other table was occupied - by a group of lads who we'd never seen before. Mama was muttering about the lack of custom and wondering what had happened to everybody - perhaps the Yawner had finally fallen into a deep and not to be disturbed slumber.

Ray made the early running, winning the first game and coming in a healthy second-and-in-the-black on +58 in the second game, but by then the baton had been handed over to David who finished top on +97, chiefly at Kenyon's expense.

In the third game the initiative was with Ray at first, who went out on Kokushimusou as Oya on a tile given away by Kenyon. I think it was in this game that Kenyon threatened for a while to make a come-back and at one stage completed a Suuanko hand. However, it was nowt but a flash in the pan as Jaime was in the process of staging a recovery that saw him extricate himself from trouble and end up second-and-in-the-black on +61 for the evening, helped on his way by David. Kenyon had gone Riichi and thrown a 6-Bamboo. David had a couple of 9-Bamboo in his hand so threw one at which point Jaime went out on Kokushimusou. Despite that setback David finished the fourth game second-and-in-the-black.

In the fifth and final game Kenyon's tray rapidly emptied as Ray, then David (twice in a row) took advantage of his discards. In the last case David went Riichi and Kenyon attempted an Okake-Riichi with the 9-Coins - just what David was waiting for! The Human Computer blew a circuit and the customary sound of "freakin'" suffered a temporary glitch which turned the "reak" into an "uck"!! At several points in the evening Jaime had suggested that he indulge in a beer or two to oil the wheels, but, like his fellow countryman, Kenyon

...took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Ray had been giving away his early winnings and in the last hand of the game both he and Kenyon still had their Yakitori tesserae on the table so David and Jaime were guaranteed a bonus from one or other of the two. As it turned out, Kenyon saved his Yakitori for the third time in the evening when David gave him the tile and so it was Ray who had to pay out the Yakitori fine.

Nevertheless, for all that, Ray came in third-and-in-the-black and so the Gaijin Old Guard all finished over the bar at the expense of the Human Computer, who achieved the distinction of recording the biggest single loss of the year.

Here is the score sheet:

David -25, +97, -13, +25, +62 = +146
Jaime +6, -43, +24, +482, +26 = +61
Ray +32, +58, -61, -21, -433 = +20
Kenyon -13, -112, -5, -52, -45 = -227

1 Kenyon gives Ray (Oya) Kokushimusou.
2 David gives Jaime
3 Ray is

David Hurley
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Sunday 23rd July: Great Pitch, Great Game, Great Victory!

This was a fantastic day out and a great result for DEH. We won 5-1, playing on a lovely grass pitch out in the hills near Hiroshima Airport. It was especially pleasing to see the complete change in the spirit of the team. This was helped by our captain who came along and organised from the sideline despite having broken his leg just a few days before. He was joined by one of our defenders who was not well enough to play but who came out and supported us, which was appreciated.

I have begun to enjoy my new role in right midfield but played myself to early exhaustion (after about 20 minutes) so Dan came on for the remainder of the second half and lasted until the final ten minutes of the second half.

Jaime's goal, his first for quite a while and the second of the day for DEH, came about when I, still with some puff left in my ancient lungs, harrassed their left defence as they brought the ball out with some irresolution. The defender chose to pass the ball across to the centre of defence, where Jaime was well placed to pounce. We then had the pleasure of seeing the Jaime of old as he nicked the ball and wove his way towards the goal and scored! It was a brilliant moment and we felt that everything had changed!

I was back on the pitch towards the end of the second half when Jaime elected to take a free kick from the left side of the pitch halfway down their half. I was right in the middle, just inside their half, ready to charge into the fray - or rather, ready to attempt to pick up the ball and whack it should it come my way - so I had a fine view of the action. Jaime kicked the ball and immediately turned around apologising, but I was following the ball as it span on its trajectory towards the goalkeeper and enter his outstretched arms - and pop out again and bobble into the right corner of the goal!

The other team played well and - and this was appreciated - they never gave up. They were rewarded right at the end with a goal. The ball came across from the right into the box and was not picked up by any of us and in it went.

Anyway, Jaime has written a full account of the game here.

Afterwards Jaime and I went to the Italian restaurant up on the tenth floor or Asse Fukuya to celebrate.

David Hurley
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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Friday 21st July: Double Kokushimusou Whammy!

The Poor Little Cypriot were robbed! Just two tiles did it. Two nice Tempai hands but both times he drew and discarded the 1-Characters. Both times the result was a disaster! The first was in the second game when Noda, as Oya took 48,000 off the PLC. The second was in the last game when Kenyon took 32,000 off him. Two tiles and 80,000 points! Bang went the start of the July revival...

The Cockseye Mahjong Universe is expanding once again. Jaime had a catastrophic evening and hit the bottom. Noda disappeared ever upwards, accelerating away from the pack, including the only other ascendant player, Kenyon, whose "run at Noda" despite his "natural luck" is "getting nowhere fast."

As for the descenders Jaime, who is plummeting, and David, who is sinking, seem like latter day Anthonys to those two Caesars, Noda and Kenyon... As the Soothsayer said to Anthony:

If thou dost play with him at any game,
Thou are sure to lose; and, of that natural luck,
He beats thee 'gainst the odds:
We commenced play at 7pm. Noda joined us shortly after 8pm and left around midnight.

Only one other table was in action tonight. One of the players at that table really ought to have gone straight from work to bed as he kept up a barrage of excruciatingly tiresome and ear-penetrating yawns for much of the evening...

Noda --, +23, +123, -3, +50 = +147
Kenyon -26, +34, +91,+72, -15, -27
2, +53 = +100
David +22, -11, -483, 0, +8, -5, -334 = -67
Jaime +4, 0, -84, -69, -43, +32, -20 = -180

1 Chombo: Kenyon declared Riichi on an open hand and several tiles were played before anybody noticed...
2 Yakitori.
3 David gave Noda (the Oya) Kokushimusou.
4 David gave Kenyon Kokushimusou.

David Hurley
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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Friday 14th July: Noda Loses A Finger But Gets Ahead...

I didn't play mahjong tonight because I was out celebrating the end of term with some of the TOEFL girls who I teach Friday evenings, and one of my "English Presentation" students, as well as Miree, a Norwegian of Korean heritage who was visiting Hiroshima for a few days.

Because Miree speaks no Japanese the girls had to practise their English and were very keen to do so. It turned out that one of my students shares Miree's Korean heritage and was especially excited to speak to her. Her grandparents "came to Japan" (that was the euphemism that was used in English and Japanese) during the war... Miree asked her which was her first language, Japanese or Korean and she hesitated for a long time before putting on a sweet smile and saying "Japanese". Both my student and Miree are heading to Korea for their first visit this summer (although Miree was born in Korea she has no memories of the country).

Until this evening the Friday evening class had divided itself into the talkers and the silent ones; the talkers tending to be second year students and the silent ones mostly the first years. I think that might change next term as a result of tonight's party...

The first year contingent got up some Dutch courage by working their way through the cocktail menu and their faces got redder the more they drank.

Meanwhile, over at the mahjong parlour Noda was once again extending his lead over the rest of the pack although he might have been finding it more difficult to handle the tiles and "read" their faces as he lost part of a finger in an industrial accident at work earlier this week. Apparently he failed to withdraw his hand from a vacuum machine before the door shut and had one of his fingers off.

At least, that is his story, but finger lopping is punishment that the local Yakuza is notorious for dishing out to recalcitrant parties...

The saddest thing about it is that he will no longer be able to play the guitar and will have to retire from his band.

Nevertheless, Noda's lack of finger did not prevent him getting ahead. Tonight's game was between Noda, Ray and Jaime. Kenyon was partying out in Saijo - a place not usually associated with partying except for the annual sake' festival in October...

Ray managed to claw back some more ground despite committing a massive
Chombo in one game in which he went Riichi on a 7-Coins wait, despite having discarded two of them himself!

In the final game Ray and Noda were going head to head until close to the end when Ray won enough to see himself move up the Grand Accumulated Points Table to third place...

Jaime, meanwhile, continues his competition with David for the worse run in the recorded history of the Cockseye Club and has now fallen so ignominiously low as to be below Tim...

The players stopped around midnight so neither Kenyon nor I got to play.

Miree, my "Presentation" student and I left the
izakaya to meet Ray in Kulcha. My student was particularly excited as Ray used to teach her when she was at high school - ray is held up as something of a cult figure among Hiroshima school girls...

Miree is an artist who, in her short stay in Japan, has developed a penchent for Japanese businessmen. She is also keen on photographing people's feet, so it was not long before most of the men in the bar were standing around barefoot while she clicked away.

It turned into a long night... too long, in that I got back home just a couple of hours before having to go out and teach a make-up class - not cosmetics, but a class that I missed back in April... however, I slept right through my alarm and woke up at 9:15, a quarter of an hour after the class had begun... Doh!

Noda +27, +28, -19, +29, +28, -39 = +54
Ray* -11, -38, +38, -19, -2, +57 = +25
Jaime -16, +10, -19, -10, -26, -18 = -79


David Hurley
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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Friday 7th July: (Current) Business as Usual...

With just three players tonight, Noda, David and Kenyon, it was strictly business as usual (for the last three months) on the score sheet.

In short, Noda and Kenyon finished in the black. (Actually, Noda and Kenyon were never in the red.) David sank.

Of six games:

Kenyon came top in games 1, 2 & 6, with Noda second and in the black in 1 & 2, Kenyon the only winner in 6.

Noda came top in games 3 & 5, the only winner in 3 and with David on +1 in game 5.
David came top in game 4, with Kenyon second and in the black.

A common occurrence was for David to declare
Riichi, then for Kenyon to declare Riichi shortly thereafter and go out.

In several of the games a lot of
tenbou were passed between the players and at one stage it appeared as if Kenyon's momentum had been halted when Noda took 24,000 off him in one hand and then David took a similar amount off him in the next. For a brief spell the sound of "Freakin'..." could be heard in the parlour again after a long absence...

There were some dastardly tricks, as when Noda went
Riichi with a 5 and 8-Coins showing in his discard row, only to be waiting for a single 2-Coins for Chitoi which The Poor Little Cypriot threw out for him.

The Poor Little Cypriot had built a nice
Tanyou hand as Oya with a two-tile wait. The only problem was that he had to discard a 1-Characters knowing that Kenyon was Tenpai and pretty sure he was waiting for it... so what did he do? He chucked it.

"Ron..." etc.

Noda was prevailed on to stay for just one more game, which was a mistake from the PLC's point of view, even though he had been urging him to stay. Eyes glazed over. Once more bottom of the pile. Only -17 this time, but enough to drop below Ray - who now moves "up" to fourth place!

Noda, meanwhile, broke the record for the highest score, and at this rate he will keep on doing so for the rest of the year.

Still, the quarter is yet young and university term will end soon, so glazed eyed exhaustion of a Friday evening will be a thing of the past (or at least, university classes will have nothing to do with it if it is not)!

Noda +8, +6, +38, -45, +28, -2 = +33
Kenyon +26, +28, -23, +11, -29, +19 = +32
David -34, -34, -15, +34, +1, -17 = -65

David Hurley
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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Wednesday 5th July: "Amour de Soi" versus "Amour Propre"

At the Doc's today we compared the merits of the French and German models of the Enlightenment, or perhaps I should say, we read part of a chapter of Steven Ozment's A Mighty Fortress which showed us how the German model of enlightened despotism was superior to the French model of revolution in the name of liberty, equality and fraternity. Frederick the Great, that enlightened Prussian despot, strengthened the state by safeguarding the freedom of the individual and promoting his development within an ordered society based upon law; the French revolutionaries, however, in seeking to destroy the corrupt aristocracy merely replaced it with a new elite, which proved even more illiberal, and which led to the righteous tyranny of Robespierre and utimately to the brilliant but abominable dictatorship of Napoleon. It was Napoleon who stood before Frederick's tomb and said

Gentlemen, if this man were still alive I would not be here.

Perhaps it was all Rousseau's doing; all that business about having been born free and yet being everywhere in chains, and all that balderdash about the virtue of men in their "natural" state (whatever and wherever that might have been), and all that absurdity of believing that if only the slate were wiped clean and a rational social contract were set up, all would be well, nay, better, than now...

Yet for all Rousseau's trumpery there is much to admire in his writings. Take the concepts of amour de soi - which represents an instinctive desire for self-preservation and a sort of pristine rationalism - and of amour-propre - which represents pride, wherein man, corrupted by society, begins to compare himself to others and to feel threatened by their successes and satisfied by their failures.

The Japanese are said to believe that objects, over time, develop a soul and become tsukumogami or "artifact spirits." If that be so why should not concepts no less than artifacts, achieve some sort of apotheosis so that it may be said of Rousseau's two concepts, simulacra factus sunt?

Those two spirits, if spirits they be, might well find the mahjong parlour a suitable shrine in which to abide for successful play often seems to flow from "a sort of pristine rationalism" in which self preservation is "instinctive" and has nothing to do with pride or fear, whereas, when everything goes amiss, it is often the case that the player is "beside himself" and feeling threatened by the other players' successes on the one hand and enjoying a sense of Schadenfreude at their setbacks on the other.

It has been the case throughout the second quarter of this year that I have been suffering from too much attention of the false god Amour Propre in the mahjong parlour where we play 3-player mahjong.

However, at the Doc's this Wednesday, I was blessed (if it is permissable to be blessed by a false god) by the presence of Amour de Soi while Dr Mogami Junior suffered an attack of the summer collywobbles. At one stage he was propping up his head and looking with glazed eyes at the table. Play came to a halt.... The Doc was clearly suffering from the slings and arrows of an outrageous fortune and all that sort of thing.

"Er, Doc, it's your turn."

"Is it? I thought it was yours."

"Er, no. I discarded. [sotto voce:] Three minutes ago."

"Did you?"

Actually, the senior Doc made the running in the first game. I finished down a little with only two batsu (XX) against my name since the losses were shared. The Senior Doc did well in the second game too, but I also ended up in the black.

During this period of the afternoon the Senior Doc was very cheerful while Mrs M was heard to complain about her hands and that it was "omoshirokunai" when the Senior Doc went out yet again. Indeed, at one stage, our hostess was heard to utter an unselfconscious "Chikuso!"

We then shuffled tiles to allocate seats for the second two games but it turned out that we all stayed in our original seats. The Senior Doc was quite chuffed about that, forgetting that Fortune may be fickle. It turned out that she had moved her caravan off his patch and over to mine.

The third game went entirely my way. I ended the game up 56 with six maru (OOOOOO) to my name.

But mahjong is not of works, lest any man boast. It is probably all self hypnosis, either in the direction of amour de soi (if we be blessed) or amour-propre (if we be cursed):

We flatter ourselves that it is we who are thinking; whereas the thinking is within us and goes on all the time.

Bernard Hollander: Hypnosis and Self Hypnosis

David Hurley
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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Saturday 1st July: World Cup MJ at Jaime's

Jaime invited several of his mates up to his pad in Mitaki to watch England play Portugal in the quarter finals of the World Cup and to play a bit of mahjong. Prior to that we met at the izakaya on the second floor of the building attached to the front of Yokogawa Station.


Don, Tim, Jaime
David, Ray, Kenyon

In short, the usual suspects for a house party that involves football and mahjong were present. Everyone was there for the football, Jaime, David, Kenyon and Ray for the mahjong as well. Two England shirts (David, 2002; Jaime, 2006) and one France shirt (Tim, 2004) were in evidence.

Don was upbeat about England's prospects against the Portuguese, as he had been yesterday evening too, and his optimism was quite infectious... despite everything that we know about the managerial decisions leading up to the World Cup and continuing through it, which you can read about over on Jaime's blog.

While on the subject of football, Kenyon revealed that he supported Leeds in the Championship and West Ham in the Premiership, choices which were approved of by David and not disapproved of by Don.

Kenyon then suggested that world groups would be a better idea than the current regional groups in the qualifying stages of the World Cup. Jaime argued in favour of having the top 32 national teams in the competition while Don argued the case for keeping regional qualification so that smaller teams had a chance to appear along with their exotic fans and add that festival jollity to the proceedings that we so much enjoy.

We then adjourned to Fresta to stock up on drinks and snacks and headed up to Mitaki by train (Ray, David, Tim, Kenyon) and bike (Jaime, Don). The pleasant atmosphere of expectation on the platform was augmented by a Suntory "-196 degree" ginger
chuhai courtesy of Tim.

Up at Jaime's we reviewed the highlights of the completed quarter final games and tucked into the excellent brandy-filled cheesecake that Sawako had made for us. Dan also turned up to try the cheesecake and watch the game...

Then Jaime got out the black mahjong set which has served him so well hitherto... David, Ray and Kenyon joined him at the table and squinted at the tiles as they played.

However, things did not go according to Jaime's cunning plan as Ray, after a long absence from the mahjong table, swept into an early lead...

Mahjong was adjourned at the beginning of the South round and we all took our places in front of the big screen for the big match...

Well, in case you don't know the rest, click here.

Jaime went out because he could not bear to watch the penalty shoot out. It was a farce. Two Portuguese misses and three Portuguese saves - the first time in a World Cup penalty shoot- out that the goalkeeper has saved three penalties. Mind you, he didn't have to try very hard. Only Hargreaves, the man of the match, displayed anything like professional, or GERMAN confidence. Poor old Carragher scored, but had to retake the penalty because he had not waited for the whistle and - inevitably - his second effort was saved...

We resumed our game of mahjong and Ray finished top on +28 with David creeping into the black on +2. As that result put Ray above Tim on the "Grand Accumulated Results" table he called it a night and retired from the mahjong table to watch the France-Brazil quarter final.

It sounded like a good game. Meanwhile, at the mahjong table David won the second game and Kenyon won the third.

During the third game the mood in the flat turned sour as a certain disgruntled and disappointed England supporter attempted to assert that England had not lost because the game was a draw... This opinion was disputed by several other guests who attempted to point out that penalty shoot-outs have to be considered part of the game in the knock-out stages and that a failure to perform in the shoot out amounts to a defeat. When he resorted to name calling it did me the kind of favour that a slap in the face or a bucket of cold water can do: It woke me up and alerted me to the fact that I had been drawn into one of those arid "either-or" or "all-or-nothing" disputes that are so seductive to our captious friend,

Bent resolutely on wringing lilies from the acorn;
Capaneus; trout for factitious bait...

I returned my attention, therefore, to the mahjong table before Kenyon had quite run away with the game and left Tim to take up the baton and run with it. We were later berated by him for not having backed him up. Tim had amused us earlier by picking up on a generalization made by our Capaneus which was large enough to contain a contradiction with a more particular point which he had made earlier, and which Tim had noted and filed away for future reference (i.e. now, at the moment when the general observation contradicted the particular point). Capaneus took that in good part and told Tim not to be so literal (a rebuke which, I doubt not, has also been noted and stored away for the future)...

At some stage during the France-Brazil game Tim nearly brought the roof down with his whoops and yells when France scored! We were all pretty happy with that result - the goal I mean... Jaime was less happy with the whoops and yells...

We called it a night at the mahjong table after three games and the results were:

David +2, +32, -6 = +28
Ray +26, --, -- = +26
Kenyon -2, -4, +19 = +13
Jaime -26, -28, -13 = -67

The new quarter began with a change of fortune, small but welcome, for David.

Everybody except David had left Jaime's around 6:30am. After an hour's snooze D&J had to get up and go and play - or attempt to play - football at Higashi Yano, where the game kicked off at 9:30.

Despite the heavy rain of the past couple of days, the game had not been postponed, and the morning had brightened up so now we resorted to hoping that the Japanese captain would have rounded up about 12 or 13 other players so that we would be able to act as substitutes and snooze our way through the game.

We arrived at Kaita-ichi at about ten past eight and bumped into a group of Brazilians among whom we were pleased to recognize Arturo with whom we shook hands and exchanged commiserations. His mob were off to play "footsal" - indoor football. One of the larger members of his team asked us "France?" and his face darkened and he boxed the air when we said "Oh yes," and chuckled...

We took our leave and headed off to seek out the football ground on foot. Despite our doubts, Jaime led us to it and we got in about fifty minutes kip on a couple of old benches before the rest of our team - if you can call it such - arrived...

"How many players?"
"Nine or ten."
"Including us?"

Ah, by "Nine or ten," Yuusuke, our captain, meant, of course, "nine." Most of the seven Japanese who had turned up had been drinking all night, and most of those who had not turned up had been drinking all night... But wait a minute, if two old and unfit foreigners can stay up all night drinking, playing mahjong, watching footie on tv and arguing with their mates, and still make it to a match despite getting in barely an hour's sleep, then why can't these 19 and 20 year olds? In the good old days of Inter Milang, 1992-1997, hangovers were worn as badges of honour on the field of battle.

Our goalkeeper was among the missing miscreants and so I opted to go in goal. Within five minutes we were two-nil down. By half time, despite a number of blocks and saves, the score stood at 6-0.

Jaime and I swapped places in the second half and there was a slight improvement. We ended the "game" 11-0 down. Despite the result, several of us gave it all we had - which was not a lot, but we did keep on battling and attempted to defend as much as possible and even won a corner towards the end of the second half... All to no avail.

This season has been a disaster. We lost the first game 1-0 with a full team, but with little in the way of crosses. The next game was forfeited - which means we automatically lose it 3-0. And now, this our third game, five or six of our team go missing and we lose 11-0 to a team that we beat 4-1 last season. Yuusuke came over to apologize to us at the end of the game. The point we made to him was that team members may certainly drink all night, but they should come to the game - or if there are not enough players then cancel the game. I suspect he may have been afraid of cancelling a second game in a row.

It looks increasingly like demotion to "C" division next season - that is if the team survives...

I headed for Yamato no Yu after the game and snoozed on the tatami mats in the cafeteria until I was joined by Mrs HH and Miss ELH and then soaked my aching limbs in the hot baths while Miss ELH tipped bowls of hot water over my head and experimented with tasting the salt water (etc) of the outdoor bath...

Despite the trials and tribulations of these events, I must say that I quite enjoyed them, masochist that I apparently am.

David Hurley
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Friday 30th June: A New Record on a Broken Table...

There were just three of us at our table tonight - the Old Guard of Noda, David and Jaime. The table, however, could not take the strain. After one hand had been played the shuffling and sorting mechanism inside the electronic table broke down and as all but one of the other tables were in use, and as the remaining table had also broken, we had to resort to shuffling the tiles, building walls and throwing the die ourselves. I am gratified to report that Mama-san waived the table fee at the end of the evening although this is not something that the players at the other tables should know...

From the foreigners' point of view the breakdown of the table and the waiving of the table fee were probably very good things.

Firstly, at a time when Noda is rampant at the table, the process of shuffling and sorting our own tiles slowed down the rate of play so we only played four games in three and a half hours.

Secondly, Mama's discount pretty much covered our losses at the table - so another "score draw" may perhaps be claimed by the losing players...

Noda was the only winner in three of the four games tonight. His final score for the evening came to +112 and so his score for the year on the "accumulated points chart" now stands at +432 - a record high...

The player who suffered the main brunt of the onslaught was Jaime, who ended every game in negative territory. Tonight saw Jaime move from "black" to "red" on the "accumulated points chart" and he and David have had occasion to compete with each other for the honour of being the most despised by that strumpet goddess Fortuna over the last three months...

Tonight the honour fell to Jaime as David had managed to wage a relatively successful defensive campaign against the Noda onslaught for much of the evening. He was the only winner of the second game and by the end of the third game he was back to zero... But the fourth and final game was Noda's best game of the evening and so it turned out that David and Jaime both had to see out the second quarter of the year with yet another loss.

However, we look forward to the third quarter, resting our hopes upon the mighty edifice of the "Hirohurl Hypothesis,"
videlicet, that fortune changes every quarter...

Noda +36, -6, +16, +66 = 112
David -15, +18, -3, -36 = -36
Jaime -21, -12, -13, -30 = -76

After the game, Jaime and David strolled over to culture to watch the Germany v Argentina
game with Tim, Don, Dutch Alex and a few others. All the English were cheering on Germany, which must be an unusual circumstance, although none was so vehement that he did not want the game to go to penalties. Who could fail to be impressed by the German team's ability to score and to save penalties?

David Hurley
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