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Wednesday, February 5, 2020

2020 NMJL Annual Meeting

National Mah Jongg League 2020 Annual Meeting

On February 3, 2020 at 9 a.m., Larry Unger, President of the National Mah Jongg League called the meeting to order.  In attendance were Larry and David Unger, President and Vice President of the League, along with the recording secretary, treasurer, members of the Standardization Committee as well as individual members of the League.  The meeting is held on the first Monday of February and members are welcome to attend.

The meeting was held in the League conference room, as the main part of the office was filled with helpers opening envelopes containing 2020 card orders.  It was mentioned at the meeting that the League receives almost 10,000 mail orders A DAY during the card ordering season (now).   President Larry Unger verified that the 2020 card has been printed, but, alas, no sneak peeks...

The NEWS from the League is good!  Membership has increased, to approximately 338,000 members, with card sales of close to 500,000.  During the Q and A session, we were told that the discrepancy is from members who buy multiple cards.  Many members order two cards, one for their residence and one for their winter "home away from home."  Some members buy for their group or students.  Almost 25% of card sales are through Collectors - people who "collect" money for sales of over 35 cards.  The collectors receive a portion of the funds back as a donation for their designated charity - and Larry remarked on the number of local community groups receiving donations.  

Some other questions that came up:  Why don't the cards come out January 1?  Apparently, the schedule goes back to the founding days of the League in 1937.  There is a cycle of activities which corresponds to the fiscal year.  "Imagine trying to send out 350,000 cards during the (year-end) holidays," Larry asked.  Or the collectors trying to collect in the summer?  Or the Standardization committee trying to get together to play the new card while everyone is on vacation?  The system works like a well-oiled machine.  David talked about their visit to the mailing facility and what the League has to do to get the cards ready for mailing.  The membership list is scrubbed for errors and sent to the mailing facility where they are arranged by zip code for distribution.  The on-time arrival has vastly improved over the last several years, as those who order early will receive their card on or before April 1.  Remember the cutoff date is February 21!

Another question - Some people have not received a bulletin.  This may be because they are not in the League's 2019 member database, either because someone else bought their card for them or they did not purchase a card from the League, or they purchased a 2020 card.  In addition, the bulletins are of the type of mail that is not forwarded, so if a member has a new address, it's important to let the League know.  If anyone wishes, they may send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the League and one will be mailed.

A spirited discussion was had about the making of the card - ten members of the committee play for two months getting the combination just right.  The topic arose as to whether a computer could generate the hands, and the answer was a resounding no.  While artificial intelligence may calculate combinations of pungs, kongs, pairs and singles, no computer can factor in the "wow" that comes from winning a hand.  The consensus was that it's the human connection that makes it all work.  The committee creates the card working from their knowledge and experience of the game in a way that delights beginners and seasoned players alike. 

Another tidbit from the meeting - "Mahjongg Made Easy," the League's guide to playing, has been updated again.  The updates are not rule changes, but clarifications of existing rules based on questions the League has received from members.  The 2018 book was so popular it sold out! 

It's always a pleasure to have the opportunity to schmooze with the folks that bring you such a great game and a pleasure as well to report on the meeting.  It's reassuring to know that some traditions continue in our ever-changing world, and we have a new card and a new year of playing to look forward to.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

2020 is here!

It's that time again!

The 2019 newsletter has arrived from the National Mah Jongg League, signifying the opening of the card ordering season.  To read about the proper way to order your card, click HERE.  

The most important rule is to be sure you order from the League itself, either by ordering individually at or by ordering it from a collector on behalf of a charitable organization.  This assures that you will get your card on time and you will get a bulletin, and, most importantly, your $8 or $9 order will be part of the charitable contributions made by the League.

I was very impressed this year by the diversity of charities listed in the mailbag; charities large and small.  From Habitats for Humanity to Curt's Cafe and Dress for Success, the League, through its members, helps so many.  The full list of collectors takes almost four pages of small print, and add to that the hundreds of thousands of individual card purchasers.  It's awe-inspiring that such largesse is derived from the game that keeps on giving.  This is what sets the League apart from all other variations of mahjongg, and it's a formula that has worked spectacularly well for 83 years.  It's easy to forget this when we play, but this is the heart and soul of the National Mah Jongg League, and we all make it happen.

The newsletter had a few updates worth noting.  The "You Asked Us" section states that the Committee works from August to November to test the new card, meaning the 2020 card is complete and waiting in the wings.  Once the card is complete, the collectors start taking orders, and on January 1 orders are open to the membership.  Reminder:  If you want to receive your card in the first mailing, your order must be in by February 21.  Don't be late or you will regret it!  

The Q and A selection reflects member concerns throughout the year.  Many seasoned players find the Q and A can be repetitive, but for new players, the questions are pressing and urgent.  If enough calls come in on a particular issue, it is addressed in the newsletter.  This year's questions cover the issue of two players wanting the same tile - the League has clarified that if one player has properly called and exposed their tiles, the player next in turn is too late.  Racing to put up one's exposure, however, is discouraged as being poor sportsmanship.  But if two players want the same tile; one for exposure and one for Mah Jongg, the Mah Jongg declarer gets preference even if the other player has exposed.

A slight rule change is noted.  If there is a dispute over whether a hand is dead or not, the play continues.  Whichever player was incorrect at the time of the challenge pays the other player 50 cents (previously 25 cents).

One last note:  If you want to order 2019 cards, please call the League as all website orders are for 2020.   

All right, now go back to playing.  You still have three months to mark off all the hands on the card!