Saturday, August 26, 2006

Friday 25th August: Introducing Hide.

I spent the day playing golf with Jaime at the Forest Hills Golf Club near Hiroshima Airport. The golf course is so near the airport that as we attempted to blast our balls up the fairway we could see an aircraft readying itself for take-off just beyond the trees behind the green.

I shall spare the details about our progress around the course as Jaime has dwelt on that in more detail on his blog. The course itself is very pleasant indeed, designed by an American geezer who doesn't hesitate to take all the credit for the club's success. What we appreciated most though, were the beer machines half way round the "in" and the "out" halves of the course. (Once again, we were sent around arse about face, which is a good thing because that way I can avoid the embarrassment of being observed...)

We went in for lunch after 9-holes, as is the custom here in Japan, and were served by a cute waitress with very nice legs and a certain facility with the English language honed at Nova.

I wonder who her teacher was....

Our rate of progress around the first nine holes was not swift to say the least. What with our treks into the undergrowth to seek out lost balls, the leisurely break at the beer machines, and the general incompetence and the hacking and the slashing and the swearing and the cursing it looked as if we would have to hurry our lunch... But half way through our
prandium the gold course was hit by a rain storm, thunder, forked lightning, the works, so the second half was delayed by about forty minutes.

I was looking rather disconsolately at my score card when Jaime helpfully pointed out that "any score over ten counts as ten," which happily brought my score down below - well whatever, but it was still in three figures.

Back in town, Jaime retired sick from suspected food poisoning - had that leggy waitress resented being chatted up and laced his lunch?

I got to Kodama at 7:30pm and played three games with Noda and Kenyon. Noda took the first game, entirely at Kenyon's expense, but then he went quiet and gave away much of his early winnings to David. However, he called for some
shochu and suddenly his game took off. It took a while, but he went out as Oya on Tsumo, Kokushimusou, robbing David of all his winnings hitherto plus quite a lot besides. Despite getting hit along with David, Kenyon managed to weather the storm and finished in the black on +1. Just as Noda hit his stride a Japanese couple came in and greeted Kenyon - it turned out that the bloke, Hide, an aquaintance of Kenyon's, had come along to join in... and it was just at the moment when we had an audience that Noda put together some more arse-kicking hands and then retired for the evening on +87 which now puts him on +788 for the year, well beyond the reach of the rest of the pack.

So Noda left and Hide (see photo) took his place at the table. David had intended leaving with Noda - it would have been wise since bed was beckoning after a day on the golf course... I don't know which game is more punishing to the player who loses concentration - golf probably because the results are immediate and devastating, whereas in mahjong you can sometimes get away with it! What I do know is that golf is an exhausting game - not physically but mentally, at least for an incompetent player like myself. Anyway, with the beer flowing, The Poor Little Cypriot was born up for a while on a bubble of conviviality and generously gave away several tiles for
Pon or Ron to The Human Computer who, with Noda gone, came into his own. Hide, perhaps new to our style of play, got hit from both sides of the table and ended his first game on -73, but whatever The Poor Little Cypriot had won off Hide he promptly gave to Kenyon, and some.

Another beer was called for and David enjoyed something of a revival, going two games as the only winner and clawing his way back towards parity.

But it did not last and the last dregs of vitality drained away as Kenyon won the seventh game outright. Worse was to follow for The Poor Little Cypriot. Hide, having by now got used to us, suddenly took off! He won three games on the trot and took
Kokushimusou off David and all while merrily chattering away to Mama-san sixteen to the dozen. By the time his run had run out of steam he had gone from -102 to +12 and looked set to enter the Accumulated Results Table in second place!

Then, when Hide's run was over, and David's eyes were glazing over, Kenyon, who had kept his losses to Hide within reasonable limits, promptly won the last two games, finishing each one on +37 and completed
the fourth Kokushimusou of the evening to push Hide back into the red. On the Kokushimusou front the results for tonight were not friendly to The Poor Little Cypriot!

Noda: completed 1, paid out 0 = +1.

Hide: completed 2, paid out 1 = +1.

Kenyon: completed 1, paid out 1 = 0 (2 x 0.5)
David: completed 0, paid out 2 = -2. (1 + [2 x 0.5])

Meanwhile, David and Kenyon effectively switched places on the Grand Accumulated Results Table as Kenyon fought his way into the black and David slept his way into the red!

It had been a long day and a longer night. Seven hours at the golf club (including lunch, storms, beer breaks and the hot bath at the end, I hasten to add), followed by over eight hours and 11 games at the mahjong table. Somewhere between the two events I had mislaid my golf shoes... a bad omen if ever there was one!

The mahjong went like this:

Noda +45, -32, +74,1 --, --, --, --, --, --, --, --, -- = +87
Kenyon -52, -5, +1, +83, -16, -21, +43, -21, -13, -5, +37,3 +37 = +68
Hide --, --, --, -73, -9, -12, -8, +36, +60,2 +18, -1, -33 = -22
David +7, +37, -75, -10, +25, +33, -35, -15, -47, -13, -36, -4 = -133

1 Noda goes out on Tsumo - Kokushimusou as Oya.
2 Hide goes out on Tsumo - Kokushimusou.
3 Kenyon claims Kokushimusou off Hide.

David Hurley
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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Friday 18th August: It Was the Grappa Wot Done It!

After a long drawn out podcasting session at Ardle Towers I charged into town to join Tim, Jaime and Kenyon at the new Saizaria in the basement beneath the AU shop on the Hondori. Due to the time it had taken us to get just one podcast completed I was running almost two hours behind schedule... However, the lads were still there when I arrived.

Jaime and Kenyon headed off to join mahjong at Kodama but I stayed on at Saizaria with Tim... We sat and chatted through several disturbances caused by the faulty fire alarm which one of the waiters muffled with a towel for about twenty minutes. Tim did pop out to check that there actually was no fire...

By that stage the cleansing beer for starters had been followed by a couple of carafes of red wine. Then we noticed that they had grappa on the menu. Now, I usually steer well clear of grappa but the very fact that Saizaria had it on its menu seemed worth celebrating...

All I can say is that I can still feel the effects twelve hours later!

By the time I arrived at Kodama the other three were on their fourth game. I spent most of the fifth game singing into my cups and giving away the most dangerous tile (preferably a "Red Five" whenever possible). The results can be seen on the score sheet...

It appears from the score sheet that five games were played after Noda left Kodama on +14. I don't remember too many of the details. It seems that The Poor Little Cypriot was not bottom in every game. There was something of a revival in the last two games, if you can call a score of zero a revival. There was an Oya run but then Kenyon staged a last Oya stand and replenished his empty tray.

We called it a night at 4pm, by which time Jaime and Kenyon had spent over nine hours at the table!

Kenyon -56, +19, +3, -19, +64, +23, +20, -3, +17, -14 = +54
Jaime +38, -21, +21, +1, -1, -10, -16, +35,1 -17, -14 = +16
Noda +18, +2, -24, +18, 0, --, --, --, --, -- = +14
David (beer), (wine), (wine), (grappa), -63,** -13, -4, -32, 0, +28 = -84

Chombo. Somehow or other, Jaime managed to collect too many tiles after discarding a Dora...

David Hurley
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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Friday 11th August: Podcast and Rain Delay Play. Ray Sinks, Jaime Drowns...

Two of the usual gaijin suspects turned up at Kemby's at 6pm for the summer holiday season pre-mahjong beer and nosh and awaited the non-arrival of the third (the fourth having already sent in apologies for his absence).

The Poor Little Cypriot had been detained in the shady suburb of Yano recording episodes #20 and #21 of the A-Bomb City Podcast with his associate Ardle Lightfart. Actually, it must be noted that today's effort was a pretty efficient operation and although we have not billed it as such it represents something of a relaunch of the venture. Ardle has pre-recorded a seven-part diary of his trip to the Kansai area while the PLC has lined up a series of readings from the annals of literature relating to Japan commencing with Edmund Blunden, one of the British poets and prose writers of the Great War. Blunden came out to Japan in 1924 to take up the position of Professor of English at Tokyo University until 1927. He returned to Japan for a couple of years after the Second World War and wrote a book of sketches and reflections called A Wanderer in Japan.

In Episode #20 I read an extract in which Blunden takes a train to Nagasaki and describes the devastation the atom-bomb had wreaked upon the northern district of the city. He then relates how, during the Napoleonic Wars, Admiral Pellew brought his Royal Navy ship Phaeton into Nagasaki bay hoping to capture some Dutch ships. There were no Dutch ships there at that time but the incident rather put the Mayor of Nagasaki's nose out of joint and caused him to commit harakiri.

What caused me to be late for mahjong was our determination to produce enough episodes of ABC during the holiday season so that we won't have to flog ourselves during the autumn term. In episode #21 Ardle continued with his account of his travels and I read another extract from A Wanderer in Japan, this time about the Jacobean adventurer John Saris, who in 1613 was the captain of the Clove first English ship to reach Japan. I then read the first of two parts of Saris' own account of his time in Japan, which is written with much more vigour of expression than Blunden's account three and a half centuries later.

Actually, I would have made it to mahjong at about seven-fifteen had the 18:45 train not been delayed by 15 minutes as a result of the afternoon thunderstorm - "late due to rain" sounds a bit like the excuse you would hear at a British railway station, but that was exactly the excuse that came over the JR tannoy.

By arriving late, however, I had managed to disrupt Ray's latest winning formula: two beers and one of Kemby's huge chicken sarnies with chips half an hour before the first game... Ray had expended all his inspiration talking to Jaime about the sex life of the bearded carp; as a result he sank beneath Tim on the Grand Accumulated Results Table. Mind you, he did not sink so fast as Jaime, whose plunge to the bottom - if there is a bottom - continues apace and tonight saw him sink below Kenyon's longstanding record for the worst accumulated score so far this year...

David was starving when he arrived and so Mama was set to work cooking up her prize meal of yakimeshi with miso soup. The combination must have worked wonders because David was the only winner of the first game despite spending most of it digging a spoon into a steaming mound of flied lice. Jaime was left with his Yakitori tessera on the table to add to his woes.

Old Noda turned up for the second game but was twelve points adrift when David finished as the only winner.

Jaime requested a change of seats and the result was that Jaime and David exchanged seats and Noda and Ray. The order changed from David-Noda-Ray-Jaime to Jaime-Ray-Noda-David if you see what I mean. We joked at the time that the luck was not with seat but moving with the player and it seemed to be the case as both David and Noda came out of the third game ahead in seats that had been wholly negative hitherto, while Ray and Jaime's poor fortune continued apace.

The third game produced the most amusing scenario of the evening. With Noda as Oya, Ray and Jaime both went on a Pon spree that reduced their hidden hands to just four tiles each before Noda had had a chance to play more than a couple of tiles. At that point Jaime predicted that Noda would complete the hand regardless. Another couple of Pon declarations saw first Ray and then Jaime reduced to just one hidden tile each - i.e. they were both waiting to complete the head to go out. Noda, meanwhile, had built a hidden Tempai Honitsu hand consisting of the Coin suit and two Hatsu (Green Dragon) tiles. In order to go Riichi he had to discard the 8-Coins, but since that had been Ray's discard of the hand it did not pose too much of a problem so Noda declared Riichi waiting for Hatsu or 9-Coins. Both Ray and Jaime survived one round of discarding and then Noda picked up the third Hatsu and went out on "Riichi-Tsumo-Ippatsu-Honitsu-Hatsu" to retain the Oya. Ray turned over his one remaining hidden tile to reveal a 4-Bamboo - exactly the same tile that Jaime had been waiting for and had been wisely not keen on discarding!! Noda had discarded a 4-Bamboo early on so there was just one more in the wall somewhere - but all four of the tiles that Noda needed were also there which I think stacked the odds 8-1 in Noda's favour (although I have not considered how the dead part of the wall might affect that probability calculation...).

That game saw Noda climb back into the black which means that he once again pushes up the highest score on the Grand Accumulated Results Table. However, one glimmer of hope for the rest of us - illusory I am sure - is that his rate of advance seems to be slowing down!

Noda beetled off home after the third game and the three foreigners stayed on for one last game in which, finally, Jaime got a result which saw David give a bit back to the market and Ray shed a few more points, but just few enough to keep him off the bottom for the evening...

We were the only customers all evening so we were well supplied with side dishes of grub each time we ordered a drink. Towards the end of the evening Mama treated us to a glass of umechuu (Japanese plum wine)1 and joined us at the table although, unlike the Mama-san who used to run the now defunct Aka Denwa, Kodama-mama does not play mahjong. She chuckled away when David went Riichi and then Ray announced that he was going to do "something really stupid" - i.e. go Riichi on a dangerous looking tile. The tile t
urned out to be safe and David immediately gave Ray the tile he needed. It was a win that put Ray just above Jaime for the evening...

David +68, +22, +59, -16 = +133
Noda --, -12, +20, -- = +8
Ray -3, -8, -54, -5 = -70
Jaime -65,** -2, -25, +21 = -71


1For more info about umechuu and how to make it, check Jan Moren's blog.

David Hurley
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Saturday, August 05, 2006

Friday 3rd August: The Rise and Fall of Ray. David Back in the Black.

The gaijin party met at Kemby's for pre-match refreshments after a day of sweltering summer heat. The two DEH football players in the party had spent the day rather differently. Jaime had spent it by going out on his bicycle in the midday sun and flogging himself all the way up to Kabe and back. David had spent it in the air-conditioned comfort of a library snoozing over his books. Back in town, the walk from the bus -stop to Kemby's, my most taxing physical exercise of the day, left me soaked in sweat. Need a change of t-shirt? Go to 7-11 and buy one of their white numbers for about 600 yen. I especially recommend this course of action in the dog days of summer because 7-11 air-conditioners are usually set to just a few degrees above freezing so the t-shirt comes chilled and feels very pleasant against the skin on a summer's evening, I can tell you.

Noda was waiting for us when we got to Kodama a little after 7pm. As there were five of us we agreed that the fifth player should sit out of the game, and whoever came second would sit out of the following game.

I had brought along my Edirol MP3 recorder and amused myself with a bit of impromtu commentary which I might get around to uploading sometime. What we hear is the progress of one of the early games in which Ray went Riichi on 5-Coins only for Noda to go Okake-Riichi but Ray manages to go out on "Tsumo-nashi-nashi" - a small contribution to his early evening charge which lasted two games before disaster struck.

Jaime sat out of the second game and took over the commentary which saw David go Riichi and take the hand off Kenyon. With the 2-Bamboo and 8-Bamboo showing, Kenyon threw a 5-Bamboo - the only tile David was waiting for...
It got rid of his Yakitori but did not set him up for victory as Ray was still on his charge... Ray went Riichi on 9-Coins and then went out with Tsumo to maintain his momentum, but, we wondered, would Ray be able to keep his end up or had success come too early? By the end of the second game Ray was over +100 points ahead of the pack having gone several hands as Last-Oya, one of which saw him take 32,000 points off Noda (which brought cheers of delight and relief from David who had been sitting on three of the tiles which Noda - who had gone Riichi - needed).

Then, in the third game disaster struck. The expected "Kenyon revival" appeared to have arrived but was slightly overshadowed by David's charge. Jaime hung in to finish above the bar so the only loser of the third was Ray who gave up all of his winnings and some more.

At one stage Jaime asked Ray when he last went to confession and the response was that it was the last time that he sinned, which was a long time ago. It turned out that the last time he had sinned was before Kenyon was born!

It was now 11:20pm and David weighed up the situation, saw that it placed him nicely in the black on the evening, and also on the year, yawned and legged it for the last tram. To win at mahjong and catch the tram is a kind of double victory since the biggest expense of the night for the Poor Little Cypriot is as often as not the taxi fare home!

Jaime takes over the commentary:

"Well we played only one game after David left. It ended predictably with Noda surging ahead. I was briefly looking comfortable, an Oya Ron off Kenyon swelling my coffers by 19,000. Unfortunately, a very cunningly disguised Kokoushimusou by Ray ended with me paying him 32,000. I couldn't be annoyed with myself because he had thrown out so many different Koku tiles that you just put it down to 'one of those things'. I rallied a little bit and Kenyon as last Oya won a few games in a row only for Ray to win the last hand. Much to Kenyon's disgust."

David --, -22, +78, -- = +56
Noda -23, -1, --, +37 = +13
Ray +59, +50, -122, +3 = -10
Jaime +2, --, +5, -18 = -11
Kenyon -38, -27, +39, -22 = -48

David Hurley
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Friday, August 04, 2006

Wednesday 2nd August: On Top at the Doctors...

Today's theme was the progress from the Congress of Vienna of 1815 to the German revolution of 1848. As good old Wikipedia puts it, "Germany" at the time of the Revolutions of 1848 was a collection of 38 states loosely bound together in the German Confederation after the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

The Congress of Vienna undid the work of the French Revolution and the Corsican Upstart and it also delayed the emergence of a unified Germany. What is of interest however is the way in which the German reaction was one that allied liberal (or "progressive") ideology with the nationalist spirit. The two went hand in hand against a reactionary aristocracy.

Having sorted out that point, we cleared away our books and were joined by the doc's parents around the mahjong table for another solid session of four games in just under six hours of highly entertaining play.

By the end of the second game I had amassed a solid cushion of 12 Maru (2 x OOOOOO) having come out the only winner both times. The second time that occurred I was on the lowest possible winning threshold of +1,000, but everybody else was below the bar.

In the third game Mrs M. Sr. got into a winning swing and finished top, while I had managed to finish second-and-in-the-black and pick up another two Maru to further cushion me from disaster.

Doctor Mogami Jr. was having a difficult time of it but he then recovered his form in the fourth game and finished top. Everybody else was down, but I had managed to remain closest to zero so was only fined one Batsu (X). In one game that helped my recovery the Doc had gone Riichi and I would be Tempai dif I could get away with throwing out the Hastu that happened also to be the Dora tile for the game. The senior Doc had made a comment about Hatsu which I interpreted as meaning that he had one. I therefore took a chance and told the Doc that he did not need "this tile" and declared Riichi with the Dora. I had a Bamboo Honitsu hand and the Doc was good enough to pluck a 4-Bamboo from the wall and discard it! Thank you very much. However, it turned out that he had a Hatsu pair making up the head of his hand (if you see what I mean) so I had been quite fortunate really - but then Fortune is one of the presiding deities of the game, along with Mercury.

Despite the Doc's recovery - up to that point - he and his father were the payers out this time. I had taken quite a haul, with each of my 13 Maru worth 250mulas in bonus loot on top of the score of +37 (x 50mulas) . The total came to 5,100mulas.

The Doc had pointed out at the beginning of the afternoon that the usual rate is actually double and had asked me if I wanted to graduate to that rate. I declined since, as I said to him, I did not want to hand his tuition fee straight back to him. We had a chuckle about my missed opportunity at the end of the game. It was then that I pointed out to him that of course I only charge him half my usual fee for the class and he agreed that that was probably so! We left it at that, but at this rate it might be worth offering to double up if he agrees to pay the full tuition fee...

Over to you Doc!

David Hurley
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