Yesterday I spent the day burning CDs of my photos on my Windows machine, in preparation of reformatting the hard drive and givng the computer to my roommate. I ended up offloading over ten gigs of photos, which is a lot of pictures. I imagine I should have been backing all the work up to this point, because what would have happened if the hard drive had crashed? Why, I would have had to go out and take more photos. The horror of it.

I also spent time finding and downloading new games for my freshly re-formatted PowerBook. Not a variety of games: one game, with several different implementations. The only game I play is Mah Jong solitaire, which resembles the original Mah Jong tile game in the use of the tiles, but little else.

I don’t like games. I used to at one time, and had a collection of popular board games and learned to play most card games (but not Bridge) and even played Chess, though I wasn’t very good at it. I enjoyed play pool, and wasn’t half bad at this. I also enjoyed pinball and would spend hours playing Pong and Frogger when these appeared in my favorite pub.

(I would probably still be tempted with an oldtime frogger game, if you place one in front of me.)

Somewhere along the way, though, I lost interest in games. I do not like role playing games, and when my neighbor tried to interest me in these in college, about the only thing I liked about it was the pretty dice. If I went to Vegas, I wouldn’t gamble — no, not even to put one coin in a slot. I’d enjoy seeing the architecture more than anything, or perhaps watching the people.

What’s odd about this is that gaming and programming have long gone hand in hand, and it’s assumed that if you’re interested in software or development, you’re also interested in games. But once I programmed my first game online, a silly little tic-tac-toe written in old VAX Basic, I soon lost interest in gaming and computers.

I’ve been given beautiful computer games, which I try only once. I’ve watched others talk about their MUD (Multiple User Dungeon) experiences and I’ve thought wistfully that they sound like they’re having fun, but not fun enough to join.

Does this make me sound dull as dishwater? Like the cook that commands dozens of dessert recipes, all of which start with “…create a basic, vanilla custard”?

But I like solitaire Mah Jong. Currently I’m trying out three shareware versions of the game for the Mac: Super Mah Jong, which provides interesting layouts; Aki Mahjong, which is really quite a lovely gameboard; and Burning Monkey Mahjong Solitaire, which has a rather interesting, and subtly sophisticated “Boss is Coming!” option.

“Waiting for inspiration…”

“Fearing change…”

I’ll be trying out other variations this week before I settle on the ones I want to license — there are dozens of variations of the game.

There is no real trick associated with playing Mah Jong solitaire, it’s the most uncomplicated of games. The key to playing is never focus on the tiles that can’t be matched. That’s what usually trips you: you’ll find your eyes drawn to the prettier, more colorful tiles; or you start to play on one specific pattern, only to discover you had found the wrong match. From this point on, though, you can’t keep your eyes off these tiles and you miss the pieces that can be played.

If you really master the game, and this is more difficult than it would first seem, your play becomes smoothly rewarding; your moves confident, and progressing without many hesitations or pauses.

I treat solitaire Mah Jong more in the nature of a focus stone to play with while I work things through rather than as a game–somewhat like worry beads or the Catholic rosary. The fact that I’m downloading multiple versions of the game tells me that I have many things to work through.

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