half birthdays

Everybody should celebrate their half birthday, especially when it falls on a holiday.

In addition to my traditional halving lunch with a friend, 1/2 dozen roses, 1/2 gallon ice cream, watering 1/2 my plants, etc., this year, I am preparing to get myself something special.

Finding out Mahjong is very popular here, I thought I would learn how to play, before attempting to play with others. No problem, I will just click on amazon and find a set.

Not so fast. To my surprise and utter astonishment, the 436 choices are bewildering, and the prices astonishing.
– Kinds: Professional, Stylish, 166 tiles, 146 tiles, Plastic, Wood, White, Ivory,
– Sizes: table, x-large, travel
– Numerous choices in storage cases
– Types: Chinese, American, Solitaire, Japanese, Korean, Singaporean, South African, Three-Players, etc.  

After three attempts to decide, and a little overwhelmed, I resort to googling for advice, where, despite the multiple ways of spelling, I find 4,780,000 entries and the following details:
– Tile-based game
– Tiles bearing various designs are drawn and discarded, until one player has an entire hand of winning combinations
– Tiles are used to build a wall
– Starts with four players at a table
– Hands include: craks, bams, dots, flowers and jokers
– Win by yelling “mahjong,” stealing the last tile, or drawing the last tile

Ok so far. Then I learn:
– Game is dependent on skills, not luck (I am lacking in both)
– Hard to master, fairly easy to learn the basics (can you teach an old dog new tricks?)
– There are hands and scoring involved
– You don’t learn it in one sitting, there is much to absorb
– Explaining the game is almost as difficult as trying to play it
– Takes new players a few weeks to get it. Even then, you will need lots of playing time
– The secret: match tiles that will free and open up the most new tiles; pair that doesn’t open anything, leave until you need it; concentrate on matching tiles on horizontal lines which are usually more difficult to remove.

Maybe this isn’t going to work. Then I find, Mahjong can save your brain. So maybe it is worth exploring.

I know how to play dominoes, how much harder could Mah Jong be?

On information overload, I choose to first get a “Beginner’s Guide.” That would constitute half a present.

For others who, like me, find researching and history interesting:
– Word origin, from the Chinese, literally: sparrows
– Developed in the 19th century in China, spreading through the world since the early 20th century
– Played in Asia for over 300 years
– Game offered young Chinese Americans a way to connect with both cultures
– After World War II, became popular among Jewish American women
– Young mothers, in particular, forged American mahjong culture during the 1950s and 1960s

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