Thursday, March 29, 2007

Friday 23rd March: Ray and Yuri Join the League!

I was fully intending to play mahjong this evening despite the hangover. What had happened was that I had spent Thursday afternoon with Jeff and Kenyon playing a boardgame called Shogun over at Jeff's flat above DEH. I got through the game by drinking tea and building a Western Empire and a Northern Redoubt, avoiding conflict. Jeff and Kenyon spent the afternoon tearing large chunks out of each other's "armies". However, since the only way to replace "armies", once a certain level of growth had been achieved, was to have your existing armies killed off, neither party suffered as he ought to have done.

The way in which armies battled was most peculiar. You took all the "troops" - little wooden cubes off the board and hurled them into a box inside which there were arranged a series of baffles to trap some of the cubes. The player who had more cubes fall out of the chute at the bottom of the box was deemed the winner of the battle!

Meanwhile a fortuitously drawn card led to a peasant rebellion in which Itsukushima shrine got burnt to a cinder. Apparently the game has no fixed end so my well laid plans might have come to fruition had not the game been terminated in order to switch to a Wild West cattle ranching card game...

Not many cows were raised in the course of an admittedly truncated game, but I was able to make off with some loot via a stick up job or two on my - and the games - last turn before heading off into the night...

Ah, the night... a night when the cannikin did clink... a night over which to cast a veil. Let us say no more than that the Lenten Fast was breached in honour of a misconception, or rather a misnamed conception.

Well anyway, later there was an unlooked for wake amongst familiar company which kept the beer and the words flowing until about five in the morning...

The thing I most clearly remember is how keen my taxi driver was to stress that not only was he not your regular run of the mill Japanese taxi driver, but also that he was cheaper. He pressed me to patronize his services on a regular basis and forced his card upon my person. It is amazing how one fellow, as often as not a base mechanical, a callous-handed hardy son of toil, will pester one to patronize him while another, a thinner skinned sort of fellow and less given to manual labour, will bridle and go wild at any hint of his being patronized. We live in strange and perplexing times.

When we arrived at Rakurakuen, Nostromo turned off the taxi meter (I think he saved me the pprincely sum of 150 yen) and offered to drive me right to my door. All very well and good, but in the first place I really would like to walk thank you very much, and in the second place, familiar as I am with Rakurakuen is I really can't say in my current state where my house - let alone the door to my house - is unless I do get out and walk. This exchange left us both out - I was out of the taxi and he was out of countenance.

Rosy fingered Dawn, and the saffron morn, with early blushes spread, now rose refulgent from Tithonus’ bed. So she might have done, but I, searching for that selfsame Tithonus' bed in which to recumbpose myself,only made it to the floor in front of the "settee" (that is what we always used to call the thing that nowadays we call a "sofa") and the resident Little Imp opened the thing up on top of me. So thus I slept for a couple of hours with the settee serving as a kind of futon while the Little Imp disported herself in front of the television making the most of what she most delights in - a "lazy morning" when the Old Man doesn't cart her off to nursery school and she can idle the morning away with lolling.

Later that day (Friday), Old Ardle turned up in the vicinity with his Edirol hoping to get The Relaunch of the A-Bomb City Podcast underway. First, however, we required some dinner (that is what we always used to call the thing that nowadays we call "lunch") and met at the Little Imp's favourite diner, Saezaria. The place was packed with schoolkids.

After dinner the Little Imp put on a convincing show of being about to fall asleep which, it turned out, was nothing but a cunning ploy so as to avoid being taken to nursery school. It seemed much easier to carry her home, let her sleep and then do the podcast... but no sooner had she got home and discovered that her ruse had worked than she sprang into life. The photo on the left is Ardle's snap of us attempting to record our first podcast in a month.

Well yes, quite. It became evident that the pod was not podding today... So Old Ardle engaged the Little Imp in various gaseous exchanges on the subject of that hero of Japanese folk tales,
Kusai Onara, aka "smelly fart".

If you are not
aux faix with your Japanese fart, check out the Japanese anime series, Oden-kun, which features a cast of characters based on the different types of oden hot pot ingredient...

The smell of this chief brat, Jaga-kun's farts is "
sugoi" to say the least and he takes every occasion to wave his buttocks in your face - full on "oshiri furifuri"!! These charming attributes are sufficient for him to qualify as one of the Little Imp's current favourite animation characters...

Incidentally, if one must refer to the odoriferous quality of another's flatulence it is preferable to say "
sugoi" rather than "kusai" - at least that is what my own chief brat tells me without actually putting it into practice herself.

With podcasting a no-go we spent the afternoon watching Hal's Moving Castle before Old Ardle moved himself off homewards...

It was only then that I began to realize that I had been maneouvred into a situation in which I was at home with the Imp and therefore not in a position to charge off early to play mahjong and catch the tram home again... And by the time relief arrived I had begun to think more fondly of an early night than another night on the tiles, mahjong or otherwise...

I therefore hand over the reporting of the Cockseye Club activities to Jaime:

Hurley was absent from mahjong on Friday as he had over-indulged the previous evening and through wanton disregard to his faith had broken his Lenten fast (again) by downing a beer or two. Or maybe he was just as Hemingway opinioned in For Whom the Bell Tolls “An intelligent man [who] is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools”. Reader, I offer you the choice, but I know to which one I adhere to.

The evening’s play started when Enami arrived to be joined one game later by Ray! Tim had come along for a “quick pint” and to have a little chat, but didn’t lay his hands on any tiles. 2 quick games were spat out resulting in Jaime being bottom, Noda down a smidgen, Ray a little and Enami taking the points. The low-point being a yakitori awarded to Ray for not winning a hand in his 1st game of 2007.

During the latter part of the 2nd game the rest of tonight’s mahjong-ers sat down at the only free table and munched on their mama-san / convenient store purchases. Once the last hand had been finished tiles were shuffled and the result was the 4 Japanese would contest the 1st table and the 3 foreigners the other. Kenyon seemed overly-happy with this arrangement, but his demeanor changed when Noda (as reigning Yokozuna) decided a re-arrangement was in order as the current status “would be a bit dull”. So after another clacking of tiles Kenyon joined Noda and Enami whilst the remaining 4 would occupy the last free table of an extremely busy jansou.

On Jaime’s table 3 games were completed with the crafty Irish wolf Ray staging a later day comeback to stand atop of the points table. Although, undoubtedly the player of the table was Yuri, who was also making her 1st toe-dipped-in-the-water play of 2007. She racked up some good wins whilst oya and was only undone by some carefree exuberant (OK naive) tile tosses towards the end – which Jaime especially seized upon.

The topic of conversation on our table was the correct usage of the English slang word “bollocks”.* Yuri had informed us that Hide had taken quite a liking to the word and had been encouraging her students to articulate the word frequently. The only other audible English utterance that could be heard was “freakin’” from across the room…

Around the Witching Hour Noda and Enami departed leaving a hovering Kenyon to flit around while we finished our last game. Yuri also decided to leave and so the final quartet re-grouped on our familiar corner table to bring in the early hours of Saturday.

A resulting 3 more games were played out with Kenyon taking the brunt of the British Isles attack. During the 2nd game Kenyon did muster a series of wins as oya, including 1 hand where he took some revel in counting his numerous dolla tiles. Fortunately and indeed fortuitously, both Ray and Jaime avoided the rather large payout.

Hide started strongly taking a good many points of Kenyon, only to suffer reverses in the next 2 games to finish up in the red for the night. Ray was the top Gaijin with 5 successive “in the black” finishes whilst Jaime once again played for over 7 hours only to finish -5 for the night. Not that he is complaining, -5 is much better than -76!

So the final table in descending order are as follows:

Enami: “The Chameleon” +72
Ray: “The Comeback Kid” +59
Noda: “The Bull” -3
Jaime: The Illusionist” -5
Yuri: “The Crocodile” -10
Hide: “The Bollocks” -30
Kenyon: “The Mighty Freak(in)” -76

David Hurley

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Friday 16th March: Jaime Returns to the Fray... Enami-san Joins the Club!

Noda joined Jaime in the Bizenya ramen shop for a bowl of Stamina Ramen to set himself up for the mahjong parlour. David joined them somewhat behind schedule but nevertheless in good time to catch Jaime expatiating on the subject of St Andrews and why anybody who attempted to maintain that it was not the best golf course in the world would be a blithering imbecile.

I just checked out the St Andrews website and think I now get why it is that you have to play backwards to get your ball out of some of the bunkers... Apparently the Old Course used to be played clockwise, then "Old Tom Morris (pictured left on the first tee of the Old Course in 1896) created a separate green for the first hole, it became possible to play the course in an anti-clockwise direction, rather than clockwise which had previously been the norm. For many years, the course was played clockwise an anti-clockwise on alternate weeks, but now the anti-clockwise, or right-hand circuit has become the accepted direction".

Despite his stamina
ramen, Noda-san did not start off too well at the mahjong table. His Yakitori tessera lingered on the table for much of the game as Jaime and David made the early running.

While we were playing out the first game Hide called to say that his father wanted to join us and a few minutes later he arrived at the
jansou and introduced us to Enami-san. Hide went off again and Enami-san joined the second game, which he won by just 1,000 points over Noda who took "second-and-in-the-black".

It was during this game that the first
Chombo of the evening occurred. Jaime took a tile and promptly went out, revealing his hand. It was then pointed out to him that he had taken his tile from the wrong end of the wall!!

By now Hide had returned from going about his business and Kenyon had arrived. For the first time in quite a while we were able to form two tables of three. We drew tiles to allocate tables.
Noda, Jaime and Enami stayed at the first table in the back left corner, while Hide, Kenyon and David moved to a new table.

Kenyon and Hide were very pleased to have avoided the
Noda-Enami combination, with K opining that he could win on the new table. However, no sooner had we sat down at the table and pressed the button than the machine went haywire and disgorged tiles in a disordered wall on Hide's side. We loaded the tiles into a basket and pressed the button again for the second set of tiles to disgorge themselves and we found some of the first set mixed up with them. After sorting the tiles and reloading the table the same thing happened again so Mama-san switched us to the table in the front right corner.

Then, after the first hand David scooped the tiles AND the Wind marker into the guts of the table so for a second time we found ourselves rummaging in the guts of the machinery!

Meanwhile, over on the other table, Jaime suffered a first-hand "
Double Ron" and had to pay 16,000 points out to Noda and Enami respectively. Noda went on the charge and disaster was looming. Then Jaime staged a recovery sparked by a second "Double Ron". This time, Jaime declared Riichi, Enami discarded a tile and Noda promptly declared "Ron". Jaime turned to him to berate him for stealing the hand when he suddenly realized that he too could go out!

Back on David's table Hide was enjoying a run of success, finishing top in the third and fourth (his first and second) games. David, who is officially on a Lenten alcohol fast, decided it was time for a medicinal glass of whisky to fight the ague and found his spirits restoring themselves and his fortunes reviving. By now play had finished at the first table and the
Noda revival, which began last week was strongly reconfirmed tonight. As a result, Noda climbed up the Grand Accumulated Results table to fourth place on -25...

Hide and David were also in the black at this stage in the evening. Then, from the point of view of results rather than of entertainment value, David made two mistakes. He took more medicine and he played two more games!

Noda and Enami left, David, Jaime, Kenyon and Hide returned to the back left table to play out two more games. In each of those two games Fortune strongly favoured one player. In the first (the sixth of the evening) Jaime could do no wrong with the tiles. Hands formed themselves within the first few draws and out he went. David and Kenyon bore the brunt of this assault. Indeed, by the end of the sixth it looked as if it would be a losing night for Kenyon, not one of his spectacular three-figure losing nights, but still something quite hefty.

But then we played one more game and Dame Fortune switched her
allegiances in a most whimsical fashion. With Kenyon going four rounds as Oya, Hide to his right, and Jaime right of Hide, Hide declared and went out - but had forgotten that Ryanshi had kicked in and that his 1-Yaku was therefore invalid. It was this Chombo by Hide that triggered the avalanche... a fifth 100-Tenbou went up and then a sixth... seventh... eighth (no Paarenchan)... ninth... and finally a tenth 100-Tenbou as Kenyon put together a series of winning hands that raked in ever higher rewards (Oya gets a 1,000 yen bonus per 100-Tenbou so each victory makes the following one - if it comes - more expensive for the payers).

Hide's tray swiftly emptied. Meanwhile, in the eighth hand, Jaime broke up a hand to avoid a costly throw. He took the risk of throwing a dangerous tile in order to get to Tenpai on the ninth, however, but was punished.

One of the hands that rocketed
Kenyon up into the stratosphere included a Daisangen finish in which he needed just one more Haku (White Dragon) to go out. Both Jaime and Hide had declared Riichi, and Hide drew and had to throw a Haku tile right when the wall was exhausted of tiles... 52,000 points switched hands on that one alone!

Hide finally managed to complete a hand to conclude Kenyon's term as Oya, so
Kenyon took a break and play resumed at a more leisurely pace and with some hilarity as some swift manouvering by Jaime struck a chord with Hide who roared with infectious laughter, which brought Kenyon back to the table with a "What did I miss?" What about noting Kenyon's eventual result? Ah yes, a complete reversal of the evening's form, his +141 finish landed him in the coveted "second and in the black" spot with a respectable +55. It makes a change on recent form for Kenyon not to finish with three figures, positive or negative score although it took a three-figure positive score to get him to that position! I should also note that Hide, the chief victim of Kenyon's charge, managed to recover from a position in which his tray was empty and he owed Kenyon 80,000 points (i.e. a total debt to the table of 130,000 points!!) to a position of relative respectability - "just" -51,000 total.

Altogether it had been a very entertaining night and a lively one too.

Noda -46, +18, +62, +40, +21, --, -- = +95
Kenyon --, --, +2, -42, -8, -38, +141 = +55
Jaime +32, -37,* -35,** +4, -6, +93, -68 = -17
Hide --, --, +19, +52, -41, -14, -51* = -35
Enami --, +39, -27,** -44, -15, --, -- = -47
David +14, -20, -21, -10, +49, -41, -22 = -51

* Chombo

** Double Ron

Hide drove David part of the way home. As he drove he gave him the lowdown on the "hostess" scene in the
Hatsukaichi area... where good figures and cute looks come at a discount... or so he tells me.

David Hurley

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Friday 9th March: Noda off the Bottom!

Noda was back with his bottle tonight so he and David polished off the remaining half of the contents during the first two games. Both those games were notable for the number of times the Oya was retained through to Rianshi and so each one lasted a long time, which is why Noda was only able to play two games tonight.

Hide and Kiyo joined us for the first game and Kiyo took the first hand of David's discard. Indeed, Kiyo and Hide took several hands off David's discards as David, observed by Kenyon, found his hands too attractive to break up! But then David staged a South Oya recovery at Kiyo's expense and so climbed into the black for a while, just behind Noda who had avoided trouble and so it was Kiyo who bore the brunt of Hide's +50 victory.

Hide disappeared on business during the second game so Kenyon slotted into his seat but it was Noda who took over the running of the show; the whisky was obviously working for him. Could tonight be the beginning of The Noda Recovery? Or does the empty bottle that Noda left behind signify barren times ahead?

Apart from that brief spell in the South round of the first game, the whisky wasn't working for The Poor Little Cypriot tonight; it probably was not a good idea to use it to wash down the pain killer he'd taken to administer to his toothache. ["ha ga itai" to iu iiwake nan desu. Ed.]

Preliminary data gathered from experiments in the field of toothache amelioration conducted over the past ten days would appear to suggest that whisky may be a far more effective pain killer than conventional pain killers. Toothache is a funny thing. The worst thing about it is that it comes like a thief in the night. Toothache is like a great wind. It is a pain in the arse. It is a wind which bloweth where it listeth and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth. It seems to have more to do with the state of one's spirit than of one's teeth. Cum fessi sumus, infirmi sumus.

Hide came back for the third game and took Noda's place and promptly resumed his winning ways. However, Kenyon, who had struggled his way through the second and third, spread himself like a green bay tree in the fourth and fifth while everybody else withered upon the vine.

David's decline was marked by several more giveaways. One was triggered by Kiyo's 5-Bamboo discard. David drew a tile that brought him to Tenpai with either a red 5-Bamboo or an 8-Bamboo discard. Seeking to preserve his Dora he tossed the 8-Bamboo and Hide immediately declared "RON"; he had an 8-Bamboo Chitoi wait!

David was also clobbered by a double Ron at the end of the last game. All three players were working on Coin based hands. David had a couple of open Pon melds including three 7-Coin Dora. He had another set of three coins in hand, and two Chun (Red Dragons) and either a pair of 2-Coins or a 2 & 3-Coin combination. Now, at this stage of the game a more alert player would probably have thrown a Chun - the least unsafe of the choices available... But David threw the 4-Coins and both Kiyo and Kenyon went out! David had been in with a chance of finishing ahead up until that point! Kiyo took 24,000 points off him and Kenyon took 1,000 points and that was where the evening ended!

Even if we had wanted to continue (actually, it may only have been David who wanted to go home on our table), Mama-san had already told the players on the other table that she was shutting up shop. It was 3am and Mama's eyes were stinging, so that was that.

The reckoning:

Kenyon --, -49,* 0, +52, +76 = +79
Noda +4, +66, --, --, -- = +70
Hide +50, --, +21, -10, -29 = +32
David +3, -20, -3, -24, -31 = -75
Kiyo -57, +3, -18, -18, -16 = -106

Kiyo now replaces Noda on the bottom. Kenyon gets back into the black.

David Hurley
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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Friday 2nd March: by the Inspiration of the Spirit, Courtesy of Noda!

Noda, Kenyon and Hide play, Kiyo looks on.

The Poor Little Cypriot arrived at Kodama at a quarter to eight to be greeted by Noda brandishing a bottle of Glenfiddich. As Lententide is upon us the Poor Little Cypriot had intended to eschew all things alcoholic, or at least he had resolved not to drink any beer during the mahjong session, and indeed, by the intercession of the spirit, courtesy of Noda, he is pleased to report that his resolution did not waver; instead, the PLC endeavoured to navigate the Via Media betwixt the Charybdis of abstinence and the Scylla of inebriation, against whose rocks Noda's barque had long since foundered. Albeit Noda's barque was worsted by Scyilla's bite, imbibing seemed to be a jolly good strategy for both him and the Poor Little Cypriot. After all, it was the two imbibers who finished in first and second place, with Noda just under the bar on -3 despite indulging in a fair bit of that reeling to and fro and staggering like a drunken man business to which David alludes in the 107th Psalm. Noda even treated us to a rare Chombo when he forgot to discard a tile, or picked up twice or something!

But the geezer who was sat in Wit's End Corner this evening was none other than the big winner of the previous two sessions, "Cola King" Kenny, who would appear no longer to be acquainted with the middle path of mahjong moderation...

Unbeknown to us, the form of the evening was laid out in the first game, played out by Noda, David and Kenyon, which finished with David as the only winner, and Kenyon taking the brunt of the punishment.

Hide-san joined us in good time for the second, and in that game it looked as if the evening would turn out differently as David was stuck with his Yakitori on the table for much of the game while Noda found his form. Indeed, Noda was the only other player to spend any part of the evening in the black, finishing the second game on +43. David was running on empty until in the last hand of the game he
declared Riichi, got rid of his Yakitori and with a felicitous revelation of "Hidden Treasure" underneath the Mekuri-Pai he brought in enough to recover to -28, the same score as Hide-san, with Kenyon marking up a small recovery on +14.

In the fourth game every player finished above the bar except for Noda, who by now was sozzled on the Glenfiddich and relinquished his seat on -3 points, a score which keeps him rooted to the bottom of the table for another week...

A new Member was initiated into the Cockseye Club at this point of the evening. His name is Kiyo, Hide's younger brother. He had joined us shortly after Hide-san and watched the first three games. I don't think he'd played the three-player game before tonight.

For much of the rest of the evening almost everything went David's way. The infamous one-tile "
Riichi" declaration, the "Noda-formerly-Jaime-wait", always seemed to work, even if the analysis of the situation was a bit haywire. In one hand, The Poor Little Cypriot needed only a 4-Coins to finish and noticed that none had been discarded so promptly declared "Riichi" and just as promptly went out "Ippatsu, Tempai". Kenyon had been holding one of the other three 4-Coins tiles, and Kiyo had been keeping hold of the other two! On another occasion The PLC was Tenpai but scratching his head over his Bamboo arrangement when Kenyon threw the 4-Coins (yes, that tile again). The Poor Liddle Cypriot let it pass. Hide, who was watching, looked askance as the PLC seemed to have missed his chance. But when the gods and the whiskey fuelled "inspirebriation" is with you even cock-ups (or should that be "cocks up"?) are good! The hand changed and the PLC went out on something else.

On such occasions as these it is probably truer to say that Mahjong played the player better than the player played Mahjong. But it does take a whisky priest to be moved by the inspiration of the spirit...

As the Glenfiddich fire began to settle into a warm glow it was Kiyo's turn to show his potential. He took the seventh and final game of the evening, with David also finishing above the bar.

The atmosphere in the
jansou had been pretty good with three lively tables in action from the beginning, and with one other table continuing as long as ours did. Both groups finished around 3am.

I don't suppose Mama-san was too chuffed with Noda for bringing in his own bottle of whisky, but then it wouldn't have made much difference to her takings had he not done so since the PLC would not have ordered any beer anyway, what with its being Lent withal!

David +55, -28, +39, +46, +108, +35, +10 = +265
Noda -12, +43, -34, --, --, --, -- = -3
Hide --, -28, -6, +20, -3, +5, -3 = -15
Kiyo --, --, --. -22, -58, -40, +58 = -62
Kenyon -43, +13, +1, -44, -47, 0, -65 = -185

David Hurley

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Friday, March 02, 2007

February Update!

A couple of games were played in February, neither of which I was able to attend. The first was played on Friday 2nd and I gather that Kenyon was the big winner and Hide the biggest loser. More than that I cannot say. Here is the reckoning:

Kenyon +54, -2, +50, +55, -9, -24, +37, +27, -9 = +179
Noda -47, +35, +12, --, --, --, --, --, -- = 0
Jaime -7, -21, -21, -60, -7, +39, +5, -17, +54 = -35 Hide --, -12, -29, -7, +16, -15, -42, -10, -45 = -144

The game put Kenyon at the top of the losers and less than 30 points shy of breaking even on the year. Jaime recovered to retain his place in the black. Hide is now bottom of the pile, dropping below Noda who has not shown much of his customary form so far this year...

Another game was played on Friday 9th February, this time between Noda, Jaime and Kenyon. I have received the result but not the breakdown of the game so I have not yet added the details to the Grand Accumulated Results Table. Anyway, it was another big win for Kenyon which caused Jaime to allude to that bit in Hamlet where he goes on about "outrageous fortune" and all that:

"i forgot to mail you last Friday's MJ result, which predictably saw Kenyon win again. It has been mentioned before, but I'll say it again, boy is he lucky. Towards the end of the night's play, I could do nothing but smirk at his outrageous fortune. Unbelievable is my new watchword. My evening was only saved my Noda still managing to finish below me. He can not seem to get anything right at the moment and his luck was even poorer than mine - which was saying something."

The result:

Kenyon +155
Jaime -77
Noda -78

Just for the record, the current Grand Accumulated scores are:

Tsuyoshi +147
Kenyon +128
David +86
Jaime -61
Hide -113

Noda -187

Thus Noda is now bottom, possibly for the first time in recorded history...

So, where was I while all this drama was being played out? I was back in Blighty on my hols, holed up in a cosy gaff deep in the Kentish countryside with Little e and Flopsy Bunny.

Uncle Steve and Uncle Barry came to stay and we had a look at the beach at Dymchurch on the south coast after a morning of sherry and snooker at Sibton Park.

David Hurley

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