Five victories and still going strong: Stanford keeps rivalry streak intact with 38-17 triumph over Cal in the 117th Big Game

November 24, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 24, 2014

Big Game’s luster has dwindled somewhat in recent years. Stanford walloped Cal in their 2013 meeting, 63-13; the 50-point thrashing was the largest point differential in Big Game history. It was the Cardinal’s fourth consecutive Big Game triumph; only one of those contests, Stanford’s 31-28 win in 2011, was closer than 18 points. In each of those four years, the Cardinal went on to enjoy 11 or 12 total victories.

If the 2014 matchup wasn’t quite as glamorous as it has been in past year, there were circumstances that added an element of intrigue to Saturday’s contest. The teams entered the 117th Big Game on much more even footing than of late; both sported 5-5 overall records.

But in most other ways, the teams were mirror images of one another. A 5-5 win-loss tally represented a come-up for Cal, which won only a single game in 2013; for Stanford, which finished last year 11-3 with a Rose Bowl berth, that record was a definite let-down. Cal has a prolific offense and a terrible defense; going into Saturday, Stanford’s scoring defense was ranked seventh nationally (16.5 points per game), but its offense was relatively anemic.

On Saturday afternoon in Berkeley, Stanford took a 17-point lead into the locker room at halftime — yet the game could easily have gone differently.

The visitors in white jumped out to a 10-0 lead thanks to a short Remound Wright touchdown run and Jordan Williamson’s 24-yard field goal. But on its second possession, Cal drove the length of the field and seemed poised to score.

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Is the conservative #BENGHAZI!!! scandal narrative ill-served by the facts of the Benghazi attacks? A brief investigation

November 22, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 22, 2014

This afternoon, I conducted a quick review of four websites — two of them mainstream news organizations, two of them avowedly conservative news organizations — and their coverage of the latest news relating to the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks against American outposts in Benghazi, Libya.

Let’s start with the mainstream coverage.

At The Washington Post, a story titled “House panel finds no intelligence failure in Benghazi attacks” was featured in prominent real estate — the top-left corner of the home page. Greg Miller’s article, posted Friday, Nov. 21, at 8:53 p.m., begins:

An investigation by the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee has concluded that the CIA and U.S. military responded appropriately to the attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012, dismissing allegations that the Obama administration blocked rescue attempts during the assault or sought to mislead the public afterward.

After a two-year probe that involved the review of thousands of pages of classified documents, the panel determined that the attack could not be blamed on an intelligence failure, and that CIA security operatives “ably and bravely assisted” State Department officials who were overwhelmed at a nearby but separate diplomatic compound.

The committee also found “no evidence that there was either a stand down order or a denial of available air support,” rejecting claims that have fed persistent conspiracy theories that the U.S. military was prevented from rescuing U.S. personnel from a night-time assault that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

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The sky observed while driving: Notes from a November afternoon and twilight on the road

November 19, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 19, 2014

On Tuesday, I drove down from the New York metropolitan area to Durham, North Carolina. A little before 4 p.m., while I was motoring south on Interstate 95 in central Virginia, I noticed that a cloud was creating a rainbow.

The sky was mostly clear, but one cloud hung relatively low in front of me. The edges to my right — the trailing edges, I presume — were wispy, and these tendrils of vapor were refracting light from the late-afternoon sun. Small patches of red, yellow and blue faintly shimmered. It was a beautiful and strange sight to behold.

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Back online: Minor laptop repairs completed!

November 17, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 17, 2014

My computer’s back!

I purchased my 13-inch MacBook Pro in August 2009, and it’s been through a lot. It’s on its second optical drive and its second hard drive. There’s a dent on the right side of the case from when I dropped the computer once. (Fortunately, it was cradled by a protective case, else the damage might have been catastrophic.) There’s also a subtle crease on the machine’s bottom that I hadn’t even noticed until a few days ago, although this mark was presumably sustained weeks or months ago.

So when my laptop started acting up on my recent Las Vegas trip, I naturally assumed that it would never run again.

But I wasn’t eager to pony up money for a replacement, and I certainly couldn’t lay out any dough without getting a diagnosis for my ailing computer. It seemed pretty clear, based on a comparison of the symptoms that I was seeing to what I’d experienced after a computer mishap a few summers previously, that my hard drive was shot. I believed repairs would cost $200 or more, which probably wasn’t worth it — but again, I had to see.

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Bad beat stories! Get your not-so-fresh bad beat stories!

November 14, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 14, 2014

Gather round the virtual campfire, kiddies! It’s time for Uncle Matthew to tell a few more bad beat stories from the poker table!

These stories are a little bit different, however. On Thursday, I flew out to Las Vegas to participate in Open 19, one of the twice-yearly national championship events staged by World Tavern Poker. That’s right: Your not-so-humble correspondent ponied up real money to play for, well real money.

So these were very different circumstances than the typical World Tavern Poker tournaments in which I usually participate. This wasn’t me playing some mostly familiar faces in a familiar local bar, with no money at risk and no potential rewards on the line other than the self-esteem and league points that come with a good showing. I paid for a plane flight and a hotel room, and I was paying tournament registration fees. I was sitting in an honest-to-goodness casino with professional dealers, and I was facing dozens of mostly unfamiliar faces from all over the nation.

Open 19’s first event was the “Early Strikers” tournament at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 7. I signed up with some reservations. On the one hand, my body was sore from traveling, and my head was a bit stuffy. On the other hand, I was in Las Vegas, and how else was I planning on spending my Friday night?

I won a modest pot or two early and felt comfortable with the proceedings. Then trouble struck.

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The blog post that should have been: My digital sob story

November 12, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 12, 2014

I woke up very early Sunday morning and, because I realized I wasn’t going to fall back asleep, went to the Starbucks in the hotel where I’m staying in Las Vegas. (The structure actually has three separate Starbucks branches — that I know of — that can be patronized without setting foot out of doors.)

After fruitlessly struggling for a while to connect with any of the nearby wireless networks, I gave up and decided to do something that I hadn’t tried since sometime in 2013: Draft a blog post on my computer.

An hour or so later, I had all but finished a post, but my computer was running out of power. I wandered over to a nearby hotel (again, without seeing the actual sky — although there were artificial ones) and settled down at a spot in the lobby where I could plug in my MacBook Pro, a 13-incher that I acquired in August 2009.

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In ‘Donald,’ Eric Martin and Stephen Elliott turn the tables on an architect of George W. Bush’s wars

November 8, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 8, 2014

Donald, a 2011 book co-written by Eric Martin and Stephen Elliott, is one of the first novels centered on a key figure in the presidential administration of George W. Bush. (I know of one other — American Wife, the 2008 novel by Curtis Sittenfeld that fictionalizes the story of Laura Bush.) Donald, I would guess, is likely to be one of the strangest novels ever to be written that centers on a key figure in the Bush administration.

It’s not that this novel, which is told from the perspective of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, is fantastical in execution; to the contrary, the story unspools in realistic fashion.

Instead, the odd thing here is the premise. One night, Rumsfeld is kidnapped from his Maryland home by covert operatives. He is detained and interrogated in a series of settings — first a residence that appears to be near his own house, then in a prison camp in Afghanistan or Iraq, and finally in various prison facilities located at the American naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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Cardinal calamity: Ducks dive-bomb stultified Stanford, 45-16, in Eugene showdown

November 4, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 4, 2014

Remember the glory years, Stanford football fans.

Remember 2009, when Toby Gerhart was leveling opposing defenders seemingly at will, and a dubious penalty (against Wake Forest) and a questionable coaching decision (against Cal, natch) may have been all that separated Stanford from a 10-2 regular-season record and the school’s second Heisman.

Remember 2010, when Andrew Luck came into his own as arguably the finest college quarterback of his generation, and certainly the best in Stanford history, when the Cardinal went 12-1, scoring at least 31 points in every game but one, and cruised to a 40-12 Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech.

Remember 2011, when Luck returned and Stanford graduate David Shaw replaced Jim Harbaugh as coach, when the Cardinal went 11-2, scoring at least 28 points in every game, and a case of freshman kicker nerves and a questionable coaching decision (by Shaw, alas) may have been all that separated Stanford from a Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma State.

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An enterprising Boston criminal does well by doing wrong in ‘Live by Night’

November 3, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 3, 2014

Nearly two years ago, I read my first Dennis Lehane novel — The Given Day, Lehane’s sprawling 2008 tale of the well-to-do Coughlin family and their servants (one a black man, the other an Irish immigrant). I enjoyed the book tremendously, as did a relative of mine, who has since been consuming other Lehane works and passing them on to me.

Since then, I’ve read four other Lehane outings: the mystery Shutter Island, the Patrick Kenzie/Angie Gennaro detective novels Moonlight Mile and A Drink Before the War, and now Live by Night.

Live by Night, published in 2012, is a sequel of sorts to The Given Day. The book begins in Boston in 1926, six years after the advent of Prohibition. Young Joe Coughlin — the son of a prominent Boston police official — is working as an aide (and part-time muscle) for a local mobster. After a bank heist goes horribly wrong, leaving three cops dead, Coughlin is nabbed while trying to meet with his lover, Emma Gould, before skipping town.

Coughlin is sentenced to prison, where he falls in with another gangster. After several treacherous years behind bars, his new boss orders the about-to-be-freed Coughlin to take charge of the rum-running business in Tampa, Fla.

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Treasure hunter Alex Benedict rides again in Jack McDevitt’s entertaining ‘Seeker’

November 2, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 2, 2014

I had one reservation before purchasing Seeker, Jack McDevitt’s 2005 science fiction novel.

It wasn’t the writer, whose work I’ve enjoyed.

It wasn’t the book’s premise, which sounded great: The incidental discovery of an artifact from a long-lost spaceship sets two treasure hunters on a quest to locate the vessel and the vanished colony that it helped establish millennia ago.

No, it was the book’s characters — or, maybe more to the point, its series. Seeker is the third of six books in McDevitt’s Alex Benedict sequence, which revolve around an incredibly intelligent antiquities dealer from a prosperous colony world called Rimway.

Last year, I read Polaris, the second Alex Benedict novel, and found myself disappointed in its pacing, even though it boasts an intriguing premise (as Seeker does) and a rousing action finale.

Still, I was willing to gives McDevitt another go, and I’m glad I did.

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