## How To Play Shanghai Rummy

by James Wallace Harris, 2/11/23

We recently decided to play Shanghai when my sister came to visit. It’s a card game I first learned back in the 1960s. However, we couldn’t remember the exact rules so I looked them up on the internet. There were several sites that gave slightly different rules, and they called the game Shanghai Rummy. As we played the game trying out different rules I decided to consolidate on one set of rules. I made a crib sheet to help remember the requirements of each hand (see below). My goal was to blend how we used to play with the rules published on the internet to maximize the fun and challenge of the game.

Each hand or round requires a different combination of cards to make a meld, and I noticed that the complexity of each combination was related to the number of cards required to complete the meld. The game gets harder with each new hand. I settled on the sequence of 10 hands (rounds) based on the rules at Wikipedia and Bar Games 101.

But our family had one last hand that I’m adding as a bonus round. It requires 17 cards to make the meld. With 11 cards dealt, and 6 cards acquired in three buys. This requires making a perfect hand, meaning you go out on all the other players before they can meld. It’s very hard but lots of fun. Because that hand required 17 cards to meld, I thought there should be a 16-card meld, so I created another bonus round. I just liked the symmetry of 12 hands of increasing complexity going from 6 cards in the meld to 17.

Here are the sites I consulted:

Players: 3-5 with 2 decks, 6-8 with 3 decks.

The Deal: 9-11 cards depending on the round. It can always be 11, but fewer card in the early rounds speeds up the whole game.

The Draw Deck: The undealt cards face down.

The Discard Pile: Start by flipping over the top card of the draw deck.

Melds: Composed of a combination of Sets/Books and Runs. A set/book is cards of the same value. Usually, it’s 3 cards. A run is a sequence of cards of the same suit. Usually, it’s 4 cards. Aces can be low or high. Jokers are wildcards. We called sets books when I was growing up, so our family uses the word book, but the internet has settled on set.

Gameplay: Turns go clockwise. A player draws one card, either from the deck or the discard pile. They must discard one card. Before the next player takes a card, the other players have an opportunity to buy the discard. They must also take one card from the deck. This adds two cards to their hand, and they don’t discard a card while buying. After the buy, the gameplay returns to normal.

The goal is to gather the required meld and lay down. Then get rid of all the other cards in your hand. Generally, the first person to lay down will have extra cards and the gameplay will continue. As other players make their meld and lay down their cards, they can play their extra cards on any sets and runs currently on the table – but only before they discard. Players who have made their meld can lay down on melds only during their turn. Players who haven’t made their meld can’t play on the melds that have been laid down. Each meld can be from Ace to Ace only. Cards cannot be swapped in melds.

Players can not make more than the required number of sets and runs. However, you can make larger sets and runs. So instead of a 3-card set of 3 queens, you could have 5 queens. Or a run of 2-3-4-5-6-7 of the same suit.

Strategy: It’s easy to order your cards and know what you need for the rounds where you only make sets or runs. Rounds, where you make up both sets and runs, are very challenging. How you organize your hand and which cards you seek requires various strategies. How often you buy and when becomes strategic. Sometimes it’s fun to hold your cards until you can lay them all down going out on the other players.

Going Out: The player that can lay down all their cards and have an unplayable discard wins the hand. This rule varies. Some Shanghai rules say going out is when you have no discard. If this method is chosen, the bonus round won’t be perfect and others can still play. Decide ahead of time on which method of going out you prefer. We like requiring a discard.

All other players must add up the values of the cards in their hand and the total is added to their running score. The player with the lowest score wins the game.

Card Values: 2s through 9s = 5 points. 10s through Kings = 10 points. Aces = 15 points. Jokers = 20 points. Other scoring variations include numbered cards = 5, face cards = 10, aces = 20, and jokers = 50. That’s how we scored growing up, but it makes for some brutally large penalties.

Speeding Up the Game: Playing all the hands listed can take 2-3 hours. You can speed up a game by skipping certain hands, especially the first two and the bonus rounds. However, the most complex hands are the most fun.

I have many fond memories of playing Shanghai growing up. Whenever our family visited my Aunt Let in Mississippi in the 1960s, we’d play Shanghai. After we grew up, my sister and I would play Shanghai with our cousins, Sonny and Eleanor, who often played it nightly with their kids, and visitors.

Shanghai is a great card game because it’s not just the luck of waiting for a specific card. Various strategies can be used. You try to arrange your hand so that drawing several different cards will improve your odds of winning.

In all my years of playing Shangai, I have only run into one other person that said their family played this game. If you’ve played Shanghai leave a comment. And if you have any problems with the rules or understanding the rules leave a comment. I hope they are clear and precise.

JWH

## Be Prepared!

by James W. Harris, 5/18/22

Back in November, I had to jump-start my truck the old fashion way with cables off my wife’s car. It was tricky getting her car into position so my cables could reach. After that, I started parking my truck facing out in case it happened again. But I had also heard about these portable chargers and I got on Amazon and ordered a DBPOWER 1000A Portable Car Jump Starter (pictured above).

When it came in I couldn’t believe how small it was. It comes in a nice case, but the actual charger is about the size of a paperback book. I charged it up on 11/6/21 and stuck it under my truck seat. Today, I went out and discovered I had done the same dumb thing again – which is to not shut my passenger door tight after getting groceries out. I know, I’m a dumbass.

I immediately remembered the DP1000 and wondered if it was still charged up. It was. So it holds a charge for at least six months. It was damn simple to use. You plug in a small set of cables, connect red to positive, black to negative, turn it on the DP1000, and start the truck. It started instantly. I was so impressed. I’m going to get one for my wife’s car now.

I’m not advocating the model of device I got is the best. It says it was good for up to a 7.0L gas engine or 5.5L diesel. There’s a huge variety of them to choose from, even some that are combined with an air compressor. I already had one of those.

I was mightily impressed with this little device. I’ve helped jump other people’s cars with my cables and it hasn’t always been convenient to align the vehicles. This is the solution.

JWH

## Do People Still Read Short Stories?

Yesterday I read, “43 of the Most Iconic Short Stories in the English Language” by Emily Temple over at Literary Hub. Her essay begins

`Last year, I put together this list of the most iconic poems in the English language; it’s high time to do the same for short stories. But before we go any further, you may be asking: What does “iconic” mean in this context? Can a short story really be iconic in the way of a poem, or a painting, or Elvis?Well, who knows, but for our purposes, “iconic” means that the story has somehow wormed its way into the general cultural consciousness—a list of the best short stories in the English language would look quite different than the one below.`

I was able to look up her 43 titles on the internet and found most of them available to read online. I assume that’s because those stories are taught in schools and colleges and teachers have put them online as pdf files so their students can read them for an assignment. I doubt that’s legal, but it’s convenient for me.

Are these stories iconic because a captive audience has been made to study them? Does forced cultural literary constitute a kind of fandom? I’m sure Emily Temple and I are the kind of book nerds that love these stories, but just how many other people do?

I went to Amazon looking for anthologies that might contain these stories. I assumed if they were iconic then they’d be readily available, but they weren’t. The only anthology I found that had more than a couple of these stories is an old one I already owned. It had 7 of the 43, which is pretty good. That volume, The Art of the Short Story edited by Dana Gioia and R. S. Gwynn is probably a textbook, but it seems to be out-of-print. I found a few other textbooks that had some of the 43 stories, but at most three. However, the same authors are anthologized over and over again, so there seems to be disagreement as to what their best stories might be.

This still leaves me thinking Emily Temple’s 43 iconic stories aren’t that iconic outside of hardcore bookworms. These stories definitely aren’t iconic like Classic Rock albums or the old TV shows that rerun on MeTV or TVLand which have tens of millions of fans across generations.

I added the 43 stories to a Google Sheet and put in links to where I found the stories online. I plan to read them all. I also plan to add other lists of “iconic” short stories to this spreadsheet, and read them too.

Last night I read “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe. It was a bit of horror fluff that didn’t have much to say philosophically, nor did it reveal anything about life in 1843 America. I can’t believe we make children read it. There’s got to be better Poe to force onto younsters.

On the other hand, rereading “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omeleas” by Ursula K. Le Guin is intensely philosophical and I imagine an excellent story to trick teens into thinking about deep concepts.

How many people still read short stories after they leave school? Probably damn few. That isn’t to say that Edgar Allan Poe or Eudora Welty don’t have their fans, but are their followers a large enough crowd to swing over the needle of a pop culture meter when mentioned on Jeopardy? Well, some Jeopardy contestants would be the kind of folks to read short stories.

More and more, I’m getting into short stories. I’m reading over three hunded of them a year. But it also feels like I’m withdrawing from reality. My friends want to talk about novels, or movies, or TV shows — and I can’t. And they aren’t interested in discussing short stories.

I imagine kids when assigned to read short stories today feel about the same way as we did when forced to do quardratic equations back in our school days. No, I don’t think the word iconic applies to Emily Temple’s list of old short stories. But what’s the right word?

I wonder if that word is in the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows? I wish I knew Greek and Latin so I could make up a word for loving art forms going extinct. Or a word for cherishing fadding pop culture successes of the past. Anachronostalgia?

It has been said that writers write to become immortal, but that immortality only lasts as long as people continue to read what they wrote. What’s a word for keeping old works of art alive? It’s kind of a good deed, don’t you think? Of course, not as good as helping a real person in need, but it’s still a kindly thing to do.

JWH

## Have You had BPH Surgery?

by James Wallace Harris, Saturday, May 16, 2020

I need BPH surgery and have been researching TURP and Urolift procedures. I’d prefer to have the Urolift since it’s less drastic, but I’m not sure if it’s a long-term solution. It’s only been available since 2013. TURP is considered the gold standard procedure, but it has several potential nasty side-effects.

JWH

## Emotional Reactions to Pandemic Times

by James Wallace Harris, Friday, March 27, 2020

Psychically, our nation, our world, has made an abrupt U-turn. The stock market was soaring, unemployment was at an all-time low, and everyone was running around the planet doing everything they dreamed. We thought we had a handle on the future. Then BAM! Now we’re all huddled in our homes fearing the grim reaper and hoarding ass-wipes. (Of course, this ignores all the other forms of endless suffering so many humans were already combatting.)

We all want to get back to those tomorrows we were planning just a few weeks ago. I imagine the emotional reactions to the pandemic vary greatly, especially by age. I am 68, going to turn 69 this year, and I was already feeling oddly emotional about getting close to my seventies. The growing aches and pains of aging, as well as the deterioration of my various organs and digestive system, was already leading me into gloomy thoughts about the future. Running out of time has become more and more inspirational, but when the plague hit, that emotion went into hyperdrive.

We are experiencing something very new and different. It’s not that humans haven’t been on the brink before, or that we don’t think about it often, but we’re getting to feel it for ourselves in a very intimate way. Last night I watched the first episode of The War of the Worlds on Epix, where billions of humans are wiped out by invading aliens. I’ve read books and seen shows about apocalyptic events countless times in my life, but watching this one last night felt more realistic than ever before. The worse this pandemic gets the harder it will be to vicariously enjoy fictional apocalypses in years to come. The Great Depression and WWII inspired a lot of fluffy fun films in the 1930s and 1940s.

We still don’t know what this plague will bring. It could be over in weeks, months, or years. We don’t know how many lives it will terminate, how it will change the economy, or how it will alter our future daily outlooks. Essentially, it’s fucking with our sense of the future. What I love, and I imagine most of my fellow humans do too, is normalcy. We want orderly lives that we can control and predict. Remember, “May you live in interesting times” is a curse. Sure, there is a percentage of the population that are thrill-seekers, but most of us are not.

I was already stressed out for political reasons. The plague has both trumped Trump and swept away the 2020 election. I realize if I had the psychic energy I would ignore both and get on with my plans. I can pursue all my old ambitions at home while sheltering in place. But the dark clouds of rapidly shifting futures disrupt my thoughts. I assume they do you too.

If I was Yoda I suppose I could separate thinking from my emotions, but I’m not. The fear of being put on a ventilator keeps me from mentally seeing straight. And the fear of Donald Trump being elected a second term still eats away at my sense of wellbeing. If I had Zen Master mind-control I’d phase out these psychic ripples caused Covid-19 and Trump and get on with business. Unlike Trump, I don’t think we should all plan to go out by Easter. On the other hand, until the virus grabs me, I don’t think I should sit around and wait for it either.

The reality is I’ve already got other age-related health problems. Worries about the pandemic just exacerbate them. My health is easily disturbed by disruptions in my diet, exercise, sleep, and thinking. That wasn’t true, or not apparently so when I was younger. All of this leads to the realization that controlling my emotional reactions to the daily news is vital to my health. At 68, staying positive is critical. Fearing the future is just as dangerous as actual viruses. What we want is to act on the now to bring about desired futures, rather than wait in the now for scary futures.

When I was young I used to tell people I never worried about getting old because I didn’t fear wrinkles and going bald. I thought being old was all on the outside. I never imagined the psychic components of aging. What getting old is teaching me is the breakdown of consciousness is scarier than the breakdown of the body. Of course, they go hand-in-hand, but ultimately we need to fight for mind over matter.

What the plague is teaching me is how positive emotions are tied to our planning. And experiencing a plague later in life combines two very similar storms of emotions. I used to think I was like Mr. Spock, all intellect and no emotion. That delusion was possible when I was young, healthy, and society was stable. But looking back, I realize society was seldom stable.

I have a hard time imagining how the young are reacting to the pandemic mentally and emotionally. Do their youth overpower their fears, or do their fears undermine their youth? I am too distant from them psychically to empathize. I assume it’s quite a trip being laid on them.

I live in the American South and all the reports tell us we’re next in line for major pandemic growth. Ignoring that is hard. The older I get the more I envy robots. Being a conscious mind on top of a soup of chemical and biological reactions is a razor’s edge of a tightrope to walk. The idea of just having discrete circuits and powerful fast emotion-free thinking is so damn appealing.

The reality is I’m not a robot, nor am I Yoda, and I’m definitely not a Zen Master, and all the wishing in the world won’t make it so. I also feel sorry for all the people who have faith in prayer or Donald Trump’s reality avoidance systems. Our emotions have a hard time when hard reality canes us viciously about the head and shoulders.

JWH

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