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By Tom Sloper
February 16, 2014

No. 594

In honor of Presidents Weekend, I thought it would be fun to design some special hands for our two most important presidents. Wright-Patterson mah-jongg and its sibling variant, British/Western rules, use Dates hands, such as for instance "Civil War."

1861 1865 NNN SSS

1861 is when the war started, it ended in 1865, and was between North and South. We can take that principle and apply it to significant dates of our presidents' lives. For Abraham Lincoln, it's easy. He was born February 12, 1809, and he famously died on April 15, 1865. We can write that numerically as 2/12/1809 - 4/15/1865, which fortunately is fourteen numbers. So we have a hand right there.

2/12/1809 - 4/15/1865

For 1809, we use the American convention of white dragon as zero.

George Washington, though, presents a problem. He was born February 22, 1732, and died December 14, 1799. Aside: he was born on February 11, 1731 under the old calendar system. The Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian calendar in 1752 by act of the Parliament of Great Britain (which affected the American colonies), so his correct Gregorian birthdate is February 22, the date we celebrate today (although since Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays are so close together, we take a holiday on the Monday between the two). You don't need to know all that, but I think it's worth knowing.

The problem with Washington's birth and death dates is that 2/22/1732 - 12/14/1799 is fifteen digits (too many for a mah-jongg hand). So let's look for other dates significant in Washington's life, say his inauguration date and his last day in the Presidency. He was inaugurated on 4/30/1789, and his last day in office was 3/4/1797 -- that's too few numbers!

One is too many, one is too few. So, how about we use his birthdate and the date of his inauguration:

2/22/1732 & 4/30/1789

That's the right number of tiles. The tricky thing is that Washington's birthday needs all four twos in one suit, making it very difficult to make. I think an appropriate valuation for both is $1.01. A one dollar bill, with George Washington's face, and a penny, with Abraham Lincoln's face. Hail to the chiefs!

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