February 1, 2004: Greetings in the new year. I have little to report in the way of wildlife news at this time of the year. We are inundated with American Goldfinches and the Lesser Goldfinches, Black Backed Race. The latter have actually replaced the former for first place in my affections, for they are here all year long and the males are prettier than the American Goldfinch males, although I love them both. We have a great number of sparrows, and they increase in number with each cold spell. We haven't seen any eagles in a couple of years and I wonder if it is because they aren't coming down this far since winters in this area have been very mild the last three years. Hawks and Kestrels continue to stand guard on the phone posts and lines as we drive to town.
We have begun to have the oak trees we lost cut down. I can actually see my entire house from the front for the first time since we built it ten or so years ago. What grieves me is that we are going to have to get the tall feeder polls to hang the bird feeders on to keep them near the house where we can enjoy them. We had twelve or so trees cut, those that were around the house and driveway, but there are many others in the front yard that have to go. We have to take it in stages in terms of cost.
We have been busy both with company and with our various interests. I have had some quality time with my computer Titania and I always love that. I have been learning a lot and enjoying my creative activities. I discovered something new to me, although many of you may already know about it.
Before Thanksgiving, while in a computer supply store, I wandered into an area I had never gone before--the computer games software section. The first thing that caught my eye sent me on a nostalgia trip internally, for it was a Nancy Drew Mystery game. I devoured Nancy Drew and Judy Bolton mystery books when I was young. I would save my 25 cent allowance until we drove the 16 miles to the nearest city and I could use it to purchase the latest unread Nancy Drew or Judy Bolton book. Then I saw another game called Mahjongg. It drew me like a magnet. I knew little about it except for a vague reference in my reading at some time or other. I read the blurbs on the box and asked the clerk if one could play against the computer (yes), for I have trouble finding others willing to play the kinds of games I like, word games and games relying on chance more than skill. I decided to think about it. Then I saw the Slot Machine games and remembered how we used to play the nickel slots at Le Beaux, approximately half way between home and Baton Rouge where we went to LSU. I was tempted by the computer game, but didn't buy. The Casino games require too much skill from me. I don't like games like Bridge that for me are more work than returning to get a PhD. in college. Then I saw a box with numerous Pinball games and the temptation revved up, for I love the little freebee pinball game that came on my laptop. I was strong, however, and left with only the paper stock I had gone in to get. All the way home I thought about the Mahjongg game. And I kept thinking about it for several days. While in the local discount store I decided, without much hope, to see if they had the game. The clerk said, "Yes Ma'm, We have Mayjongg. I play it every night." (I call it Mah-jongg with a soft J. I don't know which is correct.) I said, "I don't have to have any skill to play it, do I?" "No Ma'am, it's a form of solitaire," she said. So I bought it for only nine dollars. After all, if I couldn't puzzle the game out, I hadn't risked too much money, right?
Well, within ten minutes I was hopelessly hooked. I read the small print on the box and noticed the creator's web site was listed. I immediately visited his site and found out why I only had to risk nine dollars, for my version was version 1 and the one available on his site was version 19.99! I downloaded the demo and fell more deeply in love and it wasn't long until I added the price of the new version to my original nine dollars. The name of the game is Kyodai Mahjongg and it is a form of Mahjongg solitaire. Essentially one has this set of tiles that you can bring up in various layouts. The task is to match two of the tiles on the board and they disappear, until all tiles are gone from the board; the two tiles have to be free, no tiles can be on them and at at least one side must be free on each matching tile. There is a little more to it than that, but essentially that is it. There is a helps file with rules for the game and the other games included in the package. The interface is intuitive and straight forward. It is an excellently crafted program.
For me, part of the love of this game is the beauty of the tiles and the numerous layouts. I have downloaded many sets from other sites. I have tiles that look like ivory, virtual tile sets on rose quartz, ivory, bakelite, jade, some that are black, some that are of beautifully "carved" olive wood and rose wood. The images on various sets are beautiful. I have sets with more or less traditional Mahjongg images on them, others with fine art pictures, one with nothing but beautiful fans on them, an especially lovely one has every kind of dragon you can imagine on it. I have another set of Donald Duck, two Christmas sets, an Easter set, a set with Angels on it, and fractal sets. Adding to the aesthetic appeal are the backgrounds. I scanned some lovely old Chinese pictures to add to my collection of backgrounds. And then there is the music. The music is soothing and mysterious and calls forth the same feeling of delighted anticipation that hearing the jungle drums in Trinidad used to bring forth when I was a child, somehow exciting and soothing at the same time. Additional music is available at various web sites.
One of the big mysteries to me is why this game is so fascinating and holds my attention so much (Farris threatened to go on off to church and leave me if I didn't shut the game down one Sunday morning). Mitch and Tresa came for Thanksgiving. Mitch had played a Dos version several years ago, but of course he and Tresa had to try it after I raved about it. They downloaded the demo and since then have bought the game. One afternoon all three of us were in the living room with our laptops playing our individual Mahjongg games and talking desultorily while Farris continued "ciphering" his math as well. Tresa is as hooked as I am. She and I use it for relaxation after intense computer work. Mitch plays against the clock. I have been amused by tongue-in-cheek warnings on the various Mahjongg lovers' web sites that the game can be addicting.
Naturally, I had to try to make my own tile set. I did, too, using a template provided for download on someone's web site and using my own fractals. I put it on CD and sent it to Mitch and he called and said I was cruel, for it is a hard set to play. Incidentally, layout and tile designs and even backgrounds can sometimes figure in the difficulty factor. I got immense satisfaction from getting them hooked on the game since they are the ones who hooked me on computers. And I do love my computers.
Mr. René-Gilles Deberdt,
creator of the game, has given me
permission to show you a screen shot of the traditional layout using my tile
set. I have tilted the layout a little so you can see that the tiles are
stacked, and this feature also helps one find pairs to match. Here is the screen
Six other games that use tiles are included in the package, but my favorite is Mahjongg. You can select levels of difficulty of some of them. If you think you would be interested, visit the Official Mahjongg web site here . You can download the demo and purchase from that site. Be sure to visit the sites in the linked section to see what is available for the game for download.
I got so interested that I did some research on the physical game of Mahjongg. The virtual game we play is not the same as the Mahjongg that was so popular in the 1930s. Jene told me that women played it in the officer's wives club often. I learned so much, there are different kinds of the physical Mahjongg and one needs to know what kind to get, the history is fascinating, and you can read more about it at this site. Here you can learn what you need to know, how and where to buy, rules of the game. After reading about it, I am very happy with my own Kyodai Mahjongg virtual game. Try it, you may like it!
I have made six new collage paintings and have posted them here. In several I have used pictures of members of my ancestors, in this case aunts, my grandfather and one of my mother. Mother worked in a department store when she was young and back then the drummers, or salesmen would bring samples of their dresses and occasionally would get certain clerks to act as fashion models, which she often did. Mother loved pretty clothes and liked to sew and made gorgeous clothes for me until I finished graduate school. Then she gave me a machine and said that was it, she wanted to spend more time with Dad and wouldn't sew for me any more. The one named "Fashion Plate" contains a picture of my mother from the late nineteen twenties. The latest collages are fairly large and will take some time to download unless you are on a fast connection. I am frustrated right now between my need to make my paintings at a high enough resolution to print and making them at low resolution and therefore smaller download times for the web. I may have to give up the idea of making things to print that I want to post. I am seeking information about this on one of the groups where I learn so much about making digital art.
If you like stories, Tresa has a neat genealogy page in which various people tell how they met their spouses. You can read how our parents met and even how Farris and I met. You can find those stories here. Fourteen different stories appear on that page. Click on the links containing the various couples' names.
Last revised: November 26, 2010