Scrabulous, Scrabble, and Economic Development in South Asia

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Andy's Global View
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Location: Washington, DC, United States
Blog Summary: Andrew Mack is the founder and Principal of AMGlobal Consulting. A seasoned, innovative professional with over 20 years experience in international business and international development. Andrew has worked in some 70 countries around the world with special emphasis on Emerging Markets in Africa, Latin America and Asia.
This blog has been active since: June,2006
Post: Scrabulous, Scrabble, and Economic Development in South Asia /Friday, 25 April

Scrabulous, Scrabble, and Economic Development in South Asia

In February I made my first visit to the Subcontinent, in Delhi, for the regional meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, ICANN. In the main hall there were business and government leaders from around the region. At one of the side events an innovative new registry, dot asia, was launched.

Everything about the event spoke of economic dynamism and to me, of the benefit of an economic system – and longer term economic growth – built on a strong foundation of Intellectual Property (IP) rights. But most entrepreneurs in South Asia and other Emerging Markets (EMs) are still not fundamentally interested in the IP debate. They do see themselves as authors, or artists, or techies, but they don’t see themselves as IP entrepreneurs.

Personally I think this is a tremendous missed opportunity, with long-term implications for economic development.
The rolled eyes phenomenon

Of course if you get into a discussion of IP protection, many people will roll their eyes. Issues of IP are seen in the negative, largely defined by our nearly universal dislike – and this seems to be a global phenomenon – of lawyers. Add to this the general skepticism about the functioning of the courts in South Asia – and most people back away from IP.

However, to my eyes the IP protection debate is not about lawyers at all, but about the very entrepreneurs on whom so much hope is placed. I take as an almost frivolous example the case of the brothers from Calcutta that produced Scrabulous...
The Calcutta brothers who made Scrabulous

Now in the interest of full disclosure, I am a big Scrabble fan. I love playing. I have the computer game on my PC, and I play a lot. I know enough of the two letter words and obscure words beginning with Q that few of my friends will even play with me any more.

So you’d think that something like Scrabulous would have real appeal for me. But I think they should close down the program, and the sooner the better.

There are a number of reasons, of course, starting most obviously with the idea the brothers are hawking, which isn’t theirs to sell. The fact that Scrabulous is for fun and not for profit is irrelevant. It’s no different than piracy of any sort. If I write a book, it’s mine to sell, or license, or give away as I see fit.

Next, you have to consider the Scrabulous phenomenon and ask yourself – is Scrabulous really creating any real value for India? True, in the short term there might be some work for a few lawyers and a PR firm or two. But a few billable hours do not an economic powerhouse make…
Plain fun vs economic value

Compare Scrabulous with the original board game. Scrabble (the idea, using IP protection) has provided value for 50 years. The developers licensed the name to Hasbro, and again to Mattel. Money made, taxes paid, employment provided—the seeds of economic growth. From there the game spread around the world, long before the existence of the Internet. Again, people were hired in manufacturing and promotion in different countries. The game entered into the world’s consciousness. It was a good idea, made possible in part because of IP protection.

Scrabulous, on the other hand, will likely be gone within the year. Not much economic value there for India or the world.

There are many in Emerging Markets that get caught up in arguments around the high cost of IP. And its true, some IP – whether music, or film, or software, or whatever – can be costly. However, if we are really focused on building long-term opportunity in Emerging Markets, a short-term focus on the cost of IP misses the point.

I often hear that Bill Gates or Madonna (or in the case of Scrabulous, Hasbro) won't miss a few rupees if their IP is pirated. Maybe so. However, there is something much larger at stake. Emerging Markets entrepreneurs and government officials talk frequently about their desire to promote investment and growth and protect their own IP and CP (cultural property). They decry the lack of available finance for growth, and complain that they don’t get the best and latest goods and products.
From value to development

South Asia, as well as other Emerging Markets, can't seek to create an environment that will promote rapid, information-based, high-skill economic growth while tolerating loose IP standards. Experience shows that you simply can't have it both ways.

Why? They simply won’t attract as much investment in the long term. They won’t have the same ability to retain good talent. They won’t be able to build wealth. They won’t build competitiveness. And they won’t be able to and create alliances with companies that can give them access to global markets.

So, Emerging Markets need to recognize the role that IP protection can play in economic development, from creating employment, to strengthening the middle class, to ensuring economic independence and cultural preservation.
Requisite for the next IP entrepreneur

South Asians need to demand the kind of business environment that will help them thrive, and the improvements to the courts that will help them protect and leverage their country’s good ideas. In the words of Sourabh Gupta, a Washington, DC-based Indian trade and development analyst, they need to build “a body of case law that is pro-innovation and pro-IP protection to help underpin their aspirations of upward mobility.”

It’s not about today’s Bill Gates. It’s about tomorrow’s Bill Gates, the one who might come from India or Bangladesh or any other Emerging Market.

And as Gupta says, the opportunity “will only be as strong as the energies invested by those most materially affected – the vast multitude of small entrepreneurs.”

In the end, if we are truly serious about what we claim to want so badly – investment, jobs, to be taken seriously on the world economic stage, to become economic drivers, not just followers – then we need IP protection.

Because unlike Scrabble, economic development is no game.

The History of Mahjongg

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Online Gaming Business
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Post: The History of Mahjongg / 13th May

The History of Mahjongg

During a recent visit to my parent’s house I noticed a solid black briefcase on the kitchen table. I was curious as to what was inside. From it’s size, I thought it might be a laptop computer. My mom opened the briefcase to reveal several colorful tiles and game pieces. She informed me that it was her Mahjongg tile set. She plays this ancient Chinese game weekly with her friends.

I am a big fan of playing Mahjongg on the computer. I wondered if there were differences in the rules of my mom’s physical board game versus my computer game. There are many differences indeed, just as there are many versions of Mahjongg available.

The board version is an intense game of strategy, logic, and planning. My mom plays with three other players and has to work with a partner. The computer version I play is basic in comparison as I just try to match tiles together to remove them from the Mahjongg tile pile.

What is the history of Mahjongg? Mahjongg is an ancient Chinese game that has a debatable origin. There are several theories as to who invented Mahjongg. Some believe that Mahjongg wasn’t invented until the middle of the 19th century. Believers of this origin maintain that Mahjongg was based on current Chinese card and domino games.

Others believe that Confucius invented the game around 500 BC. Confucius was known as a great Chinese philosopher. The theory that he started Mahjongg is based upon observation that game piece tiles and popularity relate to his philosophies and travels.

Mahjongg made its way to the United States by the early 20th century. The game was translated into English. In 1937 the National Mah Jongg League was created. The rules of Mahjongg were reviewed and revamped.

Who plays Mahjongg? Mahjongg has had a variety of players. The game requires four players and takes a few hours to play. Therefore, it is an ideal game for parties or special occasions. Players in China have played Mahjongg to celebrate life events.

When Mahjongg became popular in the United States it was primarily played by the Jewish population. Mahjongg is now making its way across all backgrounds and age levels. The physical tile game is familiar to the older generation while the computerized version is bringing in the younger generation.

How do you play Mahjongg? Good question. The answer is that it depends. There are basic rules, but rules tend to vary based on the geographic region. The main goal of the game is to find matching tile suits and complete the 14 to 17 tile set. There are rule books that cover the Western version of the game.

The Mahjongg game that my mom plays is closer to the ancient Chinese version then the computerized version I play. She enjoys the complexity and strategy of Mahjongg as well as the benefit of playing with her good friends.

Mahjongg is an exciting game to try whether you want to play with friends or on your own. I find playing the computer versions both entertaining and relaxing. Many games websites, such as, have several PC versions of Mahjongg available. The different versions are akin to the variety of Mahjongg history, rules, and players around the world. Start your exploration of the Mahjongg variations by searching GrandMatrix under the keyword ‘Mahjongg’ and you will be well on your way to fun!

Steve is a member of the GrandMatrix team. They provide a broad range of games and puzzle articles and reviews. Read more articles and play the latest PC games for free plus thousands of user submitted puzzles, quizzes and word games at:

Brutalities and Idiosyncrasies of the German Language

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This blog has been active since: Jan, 2008
Post: Brutalities and Idiosyncrasies of the German Language / May 8, 2008

Brutalities and Idiosyncrasies of the German Language

Dear Readers,
As you know, I have been terribly delinquent in keeping up with my blog entries. (Or as my good friend informed me, I've been a total flake.) I wrote the following entry back in March while I was still living in Berlin and traveling for auditions. I have much more to share, but for the moment, here is...Brutalities and Idiosyncrasies of the German Language.

I love German. Really, I do. My first German language experience was at the age of twelve, when I sang my first German Lied: Schubert’s Heidenröslein. A sweet little text with diminutive words and an elegant lilt. (I’m sure my German was less than elegant, as it was taught to me by the choir teacher at Summer Arts in Tulsa, Oklahoma.) As I continued my vocal studies, I sang the songs of Schubert, Schumann and Wolf, and studied the poetry of Goethe, Rilke and Heine. The music was so entrancing, and the poetry exquisite.

So imagine my surprise years later upon learning German grammar and vocabulary, to find that not all of German is beautiful. Some of the loveliest things in life are given the most heinous and graphic of German names. The word "butterfly" is commonly used as a point of comparison for different languages. In French, the word is “Papillon,” a sweet and lovely word even prettier than the English version. In German, however, the word for butterfly is “schmetterling.” Now, that isn’t the prettiest word in the world, but believe me, it gets much worse.

The German language is like the German people: capable of great elegance and beauty, yet sometimes cold, literal, direct, and with hard edges. Take for example, the German word for meat, which is “Fleisch” or literally, “flesh.” Every time I see that word on a menu, it is enough to make me want to become a vegetarian all over again. How about “Zahnfleisch”? As in, brushing your teeth regularly will keep your “Zahnfleisch” healthy. Translated into English, that word means “teeth meat,” or as we prefer to call them in English, “gums.” And downstairs next to my building, is a “Fleischerei,” or a “fleshery.” (I suppose the word “butcher” isn’t so subtle, either, but then, there are many similarities between English and German.)

To this day, I can’t figure out what the word “Spital” means in German. I know what it means in English, and it is revolting. Yet all over German speaking countries, you will see “Kinderspital” or “Spitalstrasse,” “Spitalmarkt,” or “Spitalgasse”. Regardless of what it means in German, it is a nasty looking and sounding word, and for some reason the Germans seem quite proud of it.

But by far, my all time favorite word to love and hate in German is…. ...are you ready???


Yep, you guessed it. And no, I am not kidding.

The translation of Brustwartzen is indeed: “BREASTWARTS!!!!


The Germans have managed to take one of the most beautiful parts of the body and turn it into something horrifying. (And they think the word “nipple” is slang!)

Some words in German are delightfully onomatopoeic, such as the word for chopsticks: “Stabchen” (“little stabbers”) and the word for a head cold, which is “Schnupfen.” I also adore the words “küsse” and “süsse,” which sound just as delicious as they are. And as most of us know, German words can extend on for miles, like the word “Jahreshauptversammlung,” which refers to an annual meeting. With words this long, I have yet to understand how one could play Scrabble in German.

In spite of all these linguistic idiosyncrasies, gross or just plain silly, German manages to redeem itself with lovely words such as “Rosenthalerstrasse,” or “Liebling.” I find these words incredibly satisfying and rich, and for all the ugly words to be found in German, there are far many more beautiful ones.

Which brings me to my love of languages in general. Last week I was in Paris, and within two days I felt like I could understand and communicate in French. Not well, of course, but well enough to experience the difference of what French feels and tastes like, verses English or the German I’ve been learning.

I remember that my graduate school boyfriend, who was both a native German and English speaker, would sound like a completely different person to me in each language. I felt like I was getting a glimpse into a whole different side of him when I heard him speak German, even though at the time I didn’t understand much of it. Someone once told me that you are as many different people as the number of languages you speak. I believe that is true, and perhaps that is part of why learning a new language is so deeply satisfying. In absorbing and reproducing the rhythm, cadence, and color of a new language, we allow different parts of ourselves to rise to the surface and be heard. The experience is an unveiling of a self you didn’t know existed.

Often maddening and always humbling, learning a new language forces you to put your ego aside and start from the ground up, like a child learning something for the first time. You must be willing to sound like a complete idiot for months at a time, and not allow your ego to creep in and prevent you from even trying. When one allows the protective walls of the ego to recede into the background, what comes into the foreground is always a relief. How wonderful to know that the world doesn’t collapse when I speak in a less than brilliant manner, when I make mistakes, when I allow myself to be vulnerable and ask for help. What a relief to know that people generally don’t care if you aren’t perfect. (How silly and egomaniacal to think it could be otherwise!) When those beautiful moments happen, when you realize you just had an entire conversation in German, or you spoke to someone with words you didn’t know you had inside of you, it feels like more than just a linguistic success.

It feels personal, as if you have allowed yourself to expand and briefly break free from the shackles of ego and insecurity. It is the best reward for all the patience and frustration that comes with learning a language, and it comes long before you have achieved full fluency. And so my love for German continues, in spite of my shock at words like “Zahnfleisch” and “Brustwarzen.” As long as I keep learning new words like “Gleichfalls” and “Blumen,” my love affair will continue.

The Wedding Planner and being Missional

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Meditations of the Heart
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Blog Summary: These are thoughts, meditations, ponderings, or realizations that have pressed upon my mind and heart through my daily Bible devotions, sermons I have heard, or class/social discussions. I hope that you might be encouraged and blessed from them.
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Post: The Wedding Planner and being Missional / May 8, 2008

The Wedding Planner and being Missional

Lately I've been reading a great book called "Breaking the Missional Code" by Ed Stetzer and David Putman. The point the authors are trying to make is that we here in America need to live in our communities as missionaries do overseas. No, you don't have to build a grass hut in suburbia and go without running water or toiletries. (That's not how most missionaries live either). The point is to live with intentionality.

When missionaries go overseas they are placed into a whole new context of living, a whole new culture. They learn the customs, language, and culture of the people they are trying to reach with the Gospel. They build purposeful relationships with those in that culture and find ways to present the Gospel to them within their context. They make connections that draw them to Christ.

When I left my little town in GA to move to seminary I contemplated the questions that Stetzer and Putman raise in their book. Why don't I live like missionaries do? Why is there a difference between the way they live for Christ and the way I live for Christ? Simply put, I think it is because we are in our comfort zones. We live in the same town we grew up in (or something similar to it), know most of the people around us, only associate with those who go to our church, it is all about ME.

Most do not live outside of their comfort zone. Missionaries have no choices. If they don't like the food, they starve. If they don't connect with people, they don't spread the Gospel. They live mostly out of their comfort familiarities for the sake of the Gospel. If we don't like the food, we don't go to that restaurant. If we don't connect with our city, we seclude ourselves to our "church friends".

I was watching The Wedding Planner recently(yes, I'm a guy, yes, I watched it, and yes, I liked it) and was convicted by a part of the movie. Can you believe it?! I was convicted by a secular movie!! Jennifer Lopez's character loves to play scrabble. She is even apart of a scrabble club. Later in the movie she reveals that she loves scrabble because her parents moved to America and didn't know how to speak English and so they joined a scrabble club to learn the language.

This convicted me for two reasons. 1. There are social avenues to meet the lost and connect with the culture around me that I don't even know exist because I'm too caught up in my own little world and comfort zone to even seek them out. 2. I have a friend from India that has been in America for a little over a year. He is involved in many social networks and events to try to make friends. I've been in Raleigh for almost 4 years and probably don't know half of the places and people he does only being in Raleigh for 6 months.

This is the reason I named my blog Engage the Culture. No, we don't live in a 3rd world nation, but our culture in America is vast and ever changing and we need to realize that in order to reach our cities for the Gospel we need to quit living for ourselves and begin living for Christ and engaging the culture so that many might come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

I definitely do not do things right but this is where my heart burns. I desperately want to see people come to Christ. The way I've been living has not been the most fruitful way. It might be time for a change. Time to begin living as a missionary among my own country. This is being Missional, this is engaging the culture.

Are you up for a change too?!

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