Sunday, November 26, 2006

Friday 24th November: 4 Chombo Shared by 2 Players!

Just as we were thinking about trying another mahjong parlour in Noda's absence the old boy signalled his return to Hiroshima by sending out enquiries about tonight's game so we agreed to return to Kodama.

And the evening was marked by Jaime's continuing revival despite a brief look at negative figures in the second and third games and by David's continuing decline and by Noda's recovery of form and by Kenyon's loss of form despite a brief look at positive territory in the third game.

The evening started with David tucking into his chow and giving away a foolish 1-Characters which also happened to be a Dora tile to Jaime - a Jaime wait if ever there was one, fiendishly designed to catch a chap out over his dinner...

Oh yes, and for pure entertainment value we ought to note that two of the players committed two Chombo each during the course of the evening, Jaime at the beginning and the end and David in the middle.

David had reverted to the "Oh-I'm-knackered-and-losing,-better-drink-as-much-as-I-can," strategy which, up to a point, has its merits but is also fraught with danger...

By the fifth game David had reached the depths so that he could hardly concentrate on the game at all but somehow or other the tiles seemed finally to come together while he was Oya and he declared Riichi - only to discover that one of the tiles he was waiting for - 5-Coins - was lurking in his discard row. Actually, he knew it was there but had misread his hand. Oh well, off we go again... David builds a remarkably similar hand and, certain of his wait, declares Riichi again - only to discover that he had plucked the 6-Coins instead of the 8-Coins from his hand to declare Riichi with, thereby rendering his hand null and void - Chombo!

However, in the last game David was again Oya and found himself building a promising hand that suddenly yielded fruit - another Riichi, this time which no mistakes... Tsumo, Suuanko!

That hand lifted David off bottom spot for the first time all evening, and dumped Kenyon into the mire.

However, with Jaime's continuing recovery refeulling his confidence, the bottom is now as tight as, well as tight as a very tightly shut sphincter indeed!

Jaime +33,* -37, -12, +28, +53, -16,* = +49
Noda -3, +49, -10, +6, --, -- = +42

David -30, -10, -12, +1, -36,** +55 = -32
Kenyon --, -2, +34, -35, -17, -39 = -59

**An unprecedented double chombo!

David Hurley

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Friday 17th November: The Bottom Tightens!

I got a bit carried away in the TOEFL class tonight and in a fit of enthusiasm I began to hack a sentence to bits on the blackboard, separating pluperfect progressive from simple past and unravelling all the odds and sods so that the class could see why the only possible answer to the problem could be "B" and that (iii) the Declaration of Independence was the culmination of (i) the tempestuous events that had led to (ii) the war which had been going on for a couple of years. The double whammy that redounds to the students discredit is that neither grammar nor history is their strong point; they can tell neither the past progressive from the progress of the past nor a conjunction grammatical from a conjunction historical.

The result was that the class continued right up until the bell at 7:30, which is to say that we finished late - much later than usual - and so I missed my usual bus into town and in consequence was a bit late in arriving at Saezaria. When I got there I was greeted by the site of Tim and Jaime sharing a decanter of red wine. They offered me a glass but Prudence counselled that I ought to stick to the beer since I'd be drinking beer later - wine then beer, feel queer!

However, as it turned out, beer then beer still left me in Queer-Street at the mahjong table, but I am jumping the gun.

While I was on the bus heading into town it crossed my mind that I could contact Jaime or Tim and order some dishes pending my arrival. I did not act on the thought and action would have proved superfluous for no sooner had I arrived at the table than the waiter brought over a plate of Mozarella cheese and tomatoes generously laced with finely chopped spring onion tips, as per the menu. Jaime scowled, the waiter looked perplexed, and I brightened up! Jaime's attempt at ordering onion-free dishes had once again screwed up and rather than see good grub return to the kitchen, I took the offending dish off the waiter's hands!

A couple of minutes later the waiter was back with another dish which I had not ordered but which, being laced with onion, I gratefully received. This one was Spaghetti Pepperoncino.

Sometime after 9pm, with Kenyon having joined us, we bade farewell to Tim and set off to search for a mahjong parlour where we had never played before. We found a couple on a street that runs parallel to the Hondori and chose to play in the more homely-looking of the two, a place called Koyo.

The Mama-san, once she had got over the surprise at seeing three
gaijin in her mahjong parlour, was friendly and efficient with the service.

The first two games went to Jaime who was the only winner in both and took the occasion of Hide's arrival to leg it with his winnings...

Actually, Hide had joined us in time for the second game, but after Jaime had left Hide promptly took over where Jaime had left off and came out the only winner on +49.

Then Kenyon staged a late rally and David didn't so the results ended thus:

Jaime +44, +50, --, --, -- = +94
Kenyon -11, -33, -3, +28, +24 = +5
Hide --, -11, +49, -21, -18 = -1
David -33, -6, -46, -7, -6 = -98

David Hurley
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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Friday 10th November: Noda Sheds More Points

A quiet evening of mahjong saw Noda off form at the table for the second week running...

Jaime was the fastest off the blocks and built himself a nice margin of safety in the first game and still had some of it left by the end of the evening!

David had a consistently good run which would have been even better had greed not clouded his thinking in the middle of the second game. Having declared Riichi on a 2 or 3-Coin wait, and with three 1-Coin Dora tiles in his hand, David drew a fourth 1-Coin and excitedly melded it with the other 1-Coins to declare a hidden 4 Dora Kan. It was only then that he realized that by doing so he had changed his wait and therefore commited a Chombo! On checking his next tile on the wall he found it was 3-Coins - just what he'd needed to go out!

Still, it was not a bad result and with Noda down and Jaime up the distance between top and bottom place has closed a little. A very little.

David +13, +10*, +36 = +59
Jaime +72, -43, -14 = +15
Noda -85, +33, -22 = -74


David Hurley
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Friday, November 10, 2006

Wednesday 8th November: Daisangen to Go!

I made two visits to the doctor's this week. The first was on Monday when we settled down to read about the dominance of Bismark on the German scene, his use of expediency to unite the German territories excluding Austria, and about the Kulturkampf waged between the German state and the Roman Catholic, 1871-1878.

The Kulturkampf
Until the mid-19th century, the Catholic Church was still also a political power. The
Papal States were supported by France but ceased to exist as an indirect result of the Franco-Prussian War. The Catholic Church still had a strong influence on many parts of life, though, also in Bismarck's Protestant Prussia. In the newly founded German Empire, Bismarck sought to bolster the power of the secular state and reduce the political and societal influence of the Catholic Church by instituting political control over Church activities.

Because the German Empire had descended from the 1866
North German Confederation, Bismarck saw the addition of the southern German states (especially Catholic Bavaria) as a possible threat to the Empire's stability. Tensions were also increased by the 1870 Vatican Council proclamation on papal infallibility.

In March 1872 religious schools were forced to undergo official government inspection and in June religious teachers were banned from governements schools. In addition, the state began to closely monitor the education of clergy, created a secular court for cases involving the clergy, and required notification of all clergy employment. In 1872 the Jesuits were banned (and remained banned in Germany until 1917) and in December the German government broke off diplomatic relations with the Vatican. In 1875, marriage became a mandatory civil ceremony, removed from the control of the Church.

Bismarck's attempts to restrict the power of the Catholic Church, represented in politics by the Catholic Centre Party, were not successful. In the 1874 elections, these forces doubled their representation in the parliament. Needing to counter the Social Democratic Party, Bismarck softened his stance, especially with the election of the new Pope Leo XIII in 1878.

The general ideological enthusiasm among the liberals for the Kulturkampf was in contrast to Bismarck's pragmatic attitude towards the measures and growing disquiet from the Conservatives.

A lasting result of Kulturkampf was a heightened alienation of the craft and the state and the remaining population. Another cleft widened between the ultramontane-oriented Catholics and the evangelisch part of the people.

Source: Wikipedia

I returned to the Mogami household on Wednesday evening for this month's mahjong session. Doctor M jr had told me on Monday that he intended to win this month, having had a bit of a mauling last month.

The very first hand of the evening was a lively affair with everybody Tenpai but nobody completing a hand. It boded well for an entertaining evening, and indeed there was a lot of action even though only three games were played.

The first game went to Mrs M sr, in the North seat. Both the doctors had been relatively quiet during this game, and that trend continued into the next, especially for Dr M jr, who seemed to be having trouble getting any of his hands to turn into anything.

Dr M sr began to get some results towards the end of this game and by the end of the second game DH had wiped out his small deficit from the first game, taking second place in the black.

We drew tiles for the seating of the third game, and the two doctors exchanged places, with DH remaining in the West Seat and Mrs M sr remaining in the North seat.

It was in the third game that everything really came together for DH, who filled up his points tray with a nice pile of score-sticks over several hands until the last quarter of the game with a variety of aggressive plays. (One hand I had never built before was an open Tanyao using a mixture of Pon and Chi as that is disallowed in the Three Player game as it is only a 1 Yaku hand - oh, and Chi does not exist in 3-Player.)

Eager to finish of the game, DH actually began to give away tiles - once two Mrs M, and then immediately after to Dr M jr. Dr M sr declared Riichi as last Oya and DH needed to chuck one of his three 5-Bamboo Dora tiles in order to declare Okake-Riichi and, as time was getting on and as a few beers had slipped down the hatch, and as all had hitherto gone pleasantly, and thinking that if it worked... the game might be over quite quickly with DH out in front... he threw it...

"Ron!" cried Dr M sr, who thereby came roaring back into the game, while DH felt himself sinking down from a great height...

Then the machine got jammed as tiles that had not been cleared away fell into the crevices as the table opened to raise the next set of tiles... We pulled the blue-backed tiles out of the crevices and tipped them from a tray into the middle drum and then rearranged the new set of tiles back on the racks before shutting the table and starting again. It is important to note, considering what happened next, that some of the tiles had been moved to different locations - for it is on such small variations that huge differentials in results can occur (along, of course with awareness of the situation and skillful play)...

I had two pairs of dragons, Haku and Hatsu in his hand from the get-go and drew a single Chun on the second or third turn. I claimed a Hatsu Pon from Mrs M, then drew a second Chun and claimed a Chun Pon from Dr M jr. When it came around to Dr M jr's next turn he looked across at my two sets of open Dragons and said "It is too early," i.e. he did not think I'd go Pon on the white Dragon - so he discarded it.


I now had Daisangen and Dr M jr would have to pay out 36,000 plus extras not only if he gave away the winning tile, but if anybody else gave away the winning tile instead of him!!

I happened to have another pair, 2 x 5-Coins and a couple of Bamboo which swiftly became 3 & 4-Bamboo. Then Dr M sr threw a 2-Bamboo....


Although Dr M sr had given away the tile poor old Dr M jr had to pay a total of 36,000, which effectively emptied his tray and brought me sailing back into top position and brought the game to a resounding finish.

David H
Dr M sr
Mrs M
Dr M jr

A fine evening's entertainment indeed!

David Hurley
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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Friday 3rd November: Japanese Players Down on Both Tables...

Ray, Kenyon and David welcomed Jaime back to Hiroshima with a couple of drinks at Kemby's.

Today was a national holiday dedicated to "Bunka" or "Culture" so what better way to mark it than by playing Mahjong? Mama opened the mahjong parlour especially for us and Noda came to fish us out of Kemby's as Mama was worried that we weren't going to play because David had forgotten to confirm our intentions the previous day.

It was a lively evening of play. Ray returned to the table after a lengthy absence determined to move up above Tim in the Grand Accumulated Results Table.

Hide and Yuri joined us later in the evening so we were able to play two tables for the first time for several months.

The first game of the evening was played by Noda, Kenyon and Ray while David and Jaime ploughed through their dinner at Kemby's and joined them for the second. Ray had established a lead of +31 and remained in the black for the rest of his evening, finishing top and thereby achieving his aim of moving above Tim!

Noda, who had been on the sauce, came bottom in the first game and went on to lose every game he played in the evening and finished bottom of the pile, shedding 84 points. He is still way ahead of the pack in the table but, we wonder, could this be another year end downturn for Noda? Has he shot his bolt?

David was the only winner of the second game, despite bamboozling Kenyon with his unpredictable approach to discarding tiles. Kenyon re-entered the fray for the third game and despite from time to time attempting to emulate what he had learnt at the seat of David, he finished on +86 while Ray managed to stay in the black on +9.

Thus, when we brought a second table into play the scores stood at:

Kenyon +83
Ray +33
David -2
Noda -32
Jaime -82

Ray, David and Noda stayed on the first table while Kenyon and Jaime joined Hide (and Yuri) on the second table.

On the first table play went off smoothly and quietly and with Noda at bay and uninspired Ray and David shared the points between themselves and were only robbed of a higher score when Noda woke up at the end to finish of the fifth game with Tsumo to keep his score below minus one hundred.

Meanwhile, the other table was abuzz and the word "Chombo" was heard three times in the space of about ten minutes along with a few utterances of "freakin'" and "lucky" and variations on the plural of "ball".

The first table broke up around midnight and Noda and David headed off for a taxi so I leave it to Jaime who reports from the heat of the battle with what follows.

"We ended up playing 5 games and finished around 3am. Hide mostly played on his own, but allowed his girlfriend to play a few expensive hands in the 1st game and more successfully in the final game. Kenyon was only up in the first game as the only winner and I ended up being the 'top dog', but stupidly agreed to play 'just one more game' when I was falling asleep and of course it cost me!

"It was an entertaining night though with quite a lot of action, Hide had Yakitori in game 2. Hide chombo'ed (is it possible to turn into a verb..?) by taking too quickly before I had time to ron Kenyon (or even before kenyon had thrown his tile out). You know the Old Noda/Japanese trick, although I was perhaps fortunate to get away with a chombo myself, but then again I think more than half a second should be allowed before the other player throws his tile....Then in the same game Kenyon made chombo by a riichi and then realising that if he looked at his discard pile.... There were two double ron in successive hands - kenyon giving away and then me responding in kind.

"The best comments of the night were from Hide's girlfriend responding to various "freaks" and "fucks" she said that Kenyon said a lot of rude "f words". I of course responded by saying than as an English gentleman I would never use such language around a lady, and then proceeded to teach her "bollocks" which she quite enjoyed. She tried to think of a translation into Japanese, quite an entertaining evening!

"I did particularly enjoy one hand that ensured I was top and relegated Hide to Yakitori when I went tsumo on a pitifully small hand (1 / 500) and Kenyon lamented the unfairness of life.

"So despite actually finishing down overall and continuing to expand the record deficit score, I had a rather jolly time, not too sure what was more entertaining; Kenyon's sudden losing streak, Hide's continued refusal to let his girlfriend play and her bitching comments, the sight of certain mammary extrusions flopping out, or the classic 'This tile has to be safe!' from Kenyon followed by a ron from me and a payment of 28,000pts."

Ray +31, -7, +9, -18, +33, --, --, -- = +48
David --, +25, -27, +56, -19, --, --, -- = +35
Kenyon -3, --, +86, +18*, -26, -33, +19, -27 = +34
Jaime --, -14, -68, -6, +87, +47, -2, -48 = -4
Hide --, --, --, -12*, -61**, -14, -17, +75 = -29
Noda -28, -4, --, -38, -14, --, --, -- = -84

*Kenyon managed two Chombo in one game
*Hide drew a tile and threw it before Kenyon - thus preventing Jaime from declaring Ron on Kenyon's discard...
**Hide got stuck with his Yakitori.

David Hurley
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Wednesday 1st November: Heiwa no Inori

Archbish Emeritus Desmond and the Dalai Lama arrived in Hiroshima today along with their fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner Betty Williams. They were presiding over some sort of peace conference with a stiff entrance fee. However, after that was done and dusted Desmond Tutu and Betty williams took part in an ecumenical service at the Hiroshima World Peace Cathedral.

As Desmond Tutu is an Anglican Archbishop the Japanese Episcopalian Church was out in force, with one Japanese Anglican bish and several chaplains, a couple of servers, oh and Yours Truly. I had been roped in by the chaplain of Fukkatsu Kyoukai, Noborimachi, to do the NT reading. He readily agreed to my request that it be the King James version and not some pedestrian modern translation. Modern translations have their uses, but the KJV was made for public declamation by men who had not only a deep understanding of the Christian faith but also of literature, rhetoric and oratory.

The OT reading was from Isaiah chapter 11, verses 6-8. It was read in Korean, but the KJV rendering was supplied in the service sheet. An analysis of the rhetorical structure of the passage will reveal the intricacy with which it has been knitted together and give some appreciation of the refined auditory sensibility of the translators:

6. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

7. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

8. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den.

Anyway, my part in the service came directly after the reading of Isaiah. My part was to read a few verses from the 26th chapter of Matthew,

48. Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast.

49. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him.

50. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus and took him.

51. And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear.

52. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.

I can't imagine that there were many viewers, but anyway here is the tv extract of the Korean geezer and myself doing our stuff: Reading

Anglicans and Roman Catholics took part alongside Tibeten Buddhists and Buddhists of the prevailing Jodo Shinshu sect here in Japan. There was a place in the service for some Muslim chaps to chant something from the Koran, but nobody showed up.

The best parts of the service were the "Ave" sung by a Catholic girls choir and the two Tibetan chants. The Jodo Shinshu mob did a wierd Christian sounding choral sort of thing. Very nicely pulled off, but not very Buddhist - have they got heavily into Fusion or something? I mean this "ecumenical" business is all well and good, but what I liked was the way that each party did its own thing - the Tibetans were very Tibetan, the Romans were as if in Rome, the Anglicans manifested various Anglican tendencies from King James to Archbishop Desmond, and the Korean reader was, well, very Korean Christian. So what was with the Jodo Shinshu mob?

You will see what I mean if you check the photos of the service:

Photo album of the service

You will also note the inevitable inclusion of a guitarist in the service - and as inevitably she invited the congregation to join in the singing. Thankfully, she was not wearing open-toed sandals.

The two main speakers were, of course, Betty Williams and Desmond Tutu. Betty Williams spoke briefly and with great dignity from the heart and by heart - her speech was essentially the First Declaration of the Peace People, a peace organisation founded in 1976 in Northern Ireland:

We have a simple message to the world from this movement for Peace.
We want to live and love and build a just and peaceful society.
We want for our children, as we want for ourselves, our lives at home, at work, and at play to be lives of joy and Peace.
We recognise that to build such a society demands dedication, hard work, and courage.
We recognise that there are many problems in our society which are a source of conflict and violence.
We recognise that every bullet fired and every exploding bomb make that work more difficult.
We reject the use of the bomb and the bullet and all the techniques of violence.
We dedicate ourselves to working with our neighbours, near and far, day in and day out, to build that peaceful society in which the tragedies we have known are a bad memory and a continuing warning.

Desmond Tutu, however, gave his interpreter Hell by straying radically from the agreed text. Perhaps inspired by the lack of applause, he told the congregation that they should applaud themselves and that God was very proud of them. Hmm, sounds a bit theologically dodgy to me.

The seasoned old salt made full use of the comedy potential of his interpreter's struggles to give an impromptu rendition of the archbishop's thoughts in Japanese - now starting before the other had stopped, now pausing too long, now speaking at great length without pause, now stopping suddenly after the briefest of statements.

But the most impressive part of Archbishop Desmond's performance was his giving the Trinitarian Blessing in his native South African language, which could have been Shona or Ndebele or Tswana or Sotho or Zulu or Xhosa or Pedi or Swati, I don't know which.

Afterwards, as I was pegging it along the main drag wondering whether or not to join the Anglican contingent and the Archbish for dinner at the Rega Royal, I bumped into Old Ardle in his blue cardie and yellow tie so we headed off to Molly Malone's for a quick snifter instead.

Now, Old Ardle can be a bit of a knob at times, but he got his comeuppance at the bar tonight. I was tucking into my Fish 'n' Chips and fending off his oggy fingers which were making repeated forays into my grub when he said something along the lines of how I'd have to move a bit quicker if I was to stick the prongs of my fork into the back of his hand, and he whipped his arm back and knocked his pint of Guinness over the bar. Laugh! I nearly... Well, anyway, Old Ardle was suitably mortified and contrite and Mark, the fine manager of the bar, even gave him a thoroughly underserved refill from the tap.

Well worth missing dinner at the RR to see Old Ardle confound himself!

David Hurley
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