Notes on the end of one man’s life

April 30, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 30, 2016

Author’s note: The following post relates to mental illness and self-harm and may not be appropriate for readers who are younger or especially sensitive. Potentially upsetting material appears immediately “after the jump.” MEM

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Sunday Scrabble and eavesdropping: Some notes

May 4, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 4, 2016

At least two Sundays a month, you can find me at Saladelia Cafe at 4201 University Drive in Durham sometime around 2 p.m. for a weekly Scrabble get-together. I played two games last Sunday against a pair of new opponents — C— and her husband S—, I’ll call them. They’re college instructors (of what subject or subjects I do not know) who frequently visit the Triangle.

When I arrived, S— was playing one of the other Saladelia regulars, so C— and I took their board and began a game in the next room. I was able to set up a play early on that let me put down Z, a 10-point tile, on a triple-letter-score spot to make ZEE/ZA/ER for 65 points — the equivalent of a bingo — which put me ahead, 117-26, in turn 4. C— got her points in the next turn, however, when she GELATIN/THEN for 67 points of her own, which cut her deficit to a manageable 132-93.

Unfortunately for C—, my tiles went pretty well. After she played NOG for only four points with her 10th move, I had a rack of AEIRSST. I converted that to ARTSIES/NOGS using a triple-word-score spot on the right-most column, giving me 79 points and a very healthy 279-131 lead.

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Postscript to ‘Notes on the end of one man’s life’

April 30, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 30, 2016

Although I’ve blogged extensively about my play in Scrabble tournaments over the past few years, and sporadically about “unofficial” Scrabble games, I don’t believe I’ve chronicled a game against F— on this blog. He was a far better player than I, so we never met in tournament competition. (I’ve always participated in the lowest-ranked division.)

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Arguing about American rights: The U.S. Constitution and its first two amendments

April 29, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 29, 2016

Perhaps the worst day in American history since Sept. 11, 2001, was Dec. 14, 2012. That Friday morning, a 20-year-old fatally shot his mother in their Newtown, Conn., home before driving to nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School, where he killed six adults and 20 children before turning a weapon on himself. The gunman used weapons that had been legally purchased by his mother.

Over the course of more than a year following that massacre, I spent a great deal of time on Twitter attempting to persuade people who held what I thought to be excessive enthusiasm for gun rights that their ideas were somewhat misguided.

“I no longer want to live in a country that shrugs and says the Second Amendment justifies every gun death,” I told one such fanatic several hours after the killings had taken place.

After right-wing conspiracy peddler Alex Jones told Piers Morgan in a January 2013 interview, “My point is that the Second Amendment is sacrosanct,” I quoted Jones and added a sarcastic parenthetical (“Kids’ lives? Whatever”) in attempt to highlight his skewed priorities.

When a conservative mixed-martial-arts fan told me on Twitter that “guns as written in the constitution are to protect countrymen from a tyrannical government,” I dryly observed that “[t]hat worked perfectly in Waco and at Ruby Ridge, right?” Shortly afterward, I asked the same individual, “So 31,000 gun deaths annually is the price of the Second Amendment?”

Reader, I’m 99 percent sure that I persuaded approximately zero percent of the people I engaged to alter or adjust their views in any way.

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Some notes on 2016 primary voting trends (or the lack thereof)

April 27, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 27, 2016

Out of idle curiosity, I began looking at popular vote numbers in Tuesday night’s primaries. Interestingly, the data show that in three states, the Democratic runner-up — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania; former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Clintaln in Rhode Island — received more votes than the Republican winnerbusinessman Donald Trump in all five of that states.

Trump outdid Sanders in Delaware, 42,472 to 36,659, and in Pennsylvania, 892,702 to 719,955.

However, in none of these states did Trump get more votes than the Democratic winner. Maryland, in fact, wasn’t even close — Clinton’s 533,247 votes were more than twice as many as the number Trump got in the Old Line State, 236,623.

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Cheeps and Chirps for April 26, 2016

April 26, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 26, 2016

Here are some recent odds and ends from my Twitter feed. I hope that “Cheeps and Chirps” will be a semi-regular feature on my blog. (Ideally, it’ll be more regular and less semi than “Recent Readings”…)

• Check out this great hockey name!

• Aging man (almost) yells at kid. On Wednesday, I saw a bicyclist (I think she was a college student) bicycling with her helmet dangling from her handlebars. I had to restrain myself from scolding her. #GetOffMyLawn #AgingManYellsAtKid (Except I didn’t actually yell at her.)

• About that pitcher who was fired by ESPN last week… Curt Schilling, who has regularly made a habit of posting right-wing memes on social media that disparage Muslims, the LGBTQ community and liberals — excuse me, libtards — in general, recently lost his job. Unsurprisingly, right-wingers rallied around him. I attempted to remind conservatives that their hero of the moment had extracted $75 million from the coffers of the state of Rhode Island for a video game company that was a tremendous bust — hardly embodying the free market that conservatives claim to reveal. But hey, it’s OK to tout Schilling as a conservative icon as long as he regularly hates on lefties and queers, right?!

This old Saturday Night Live skit would be…problematic today. And rightfully so.

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Lion kings, gorillas, Labradors and road kill: The 2016 presidential campaign as viewed from the perspective of a handful of Pennsylvania “Wal-Mart moms”

April 25, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 25, 2016

When I last wrote about politics, I discussed a cockamamie scheme to draft a retired Marine general into running a third-party presidential campaign that would block either Trump or Clinton from winning the Electoral College.

I wanted to return to the subject of politics after reading this Todd Gillman story about the possibility of a contested Republican National Convention, which seems high indeed. The article, published Friday, concerns focus groups that were held in Pennsylvania last week by a pair of pollsters, one Republican and one Democratic. Gillman concluded that “for at least one group of Wal-Mart moms — an umbrella demographic that stands for much of the electorate … depriving Trump of the prize if he’s ahead would deeply offend many voters.”

(The pollsters define Wal-Mart moms as voters with children age 18 or younger at home and who shopped at Walmart at least once in the past month; they comprise roughly 15 percent of the electorate. According to Gillman, they include members from a wide range of income brackets.)

Gillman does a good job of presenting the arguments for and against a contested convention. The cons mainly come from the mouths of 10 anonymous so-called Wal-Mart moms from the Pittsburgh area, all registered Republicans, who said their sense of fair play would be offended if the candidate with a plurality of votes didn’t wind up receiving the nomination.

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My (tongue-tied) moment in the DPAC spotlight

April 23, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 23, 2016

A year ago, my pal Andrew, the proprietor of Mammoth Data, graciously offered me several passes to the 2015 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, which enabled me to review several movies for this blog. On Thursday, Andrew struck again, offering me the chance to accompany him to the Roundabout Theatre Company touring production of the 1966 musical Cabaret. (As it happens, this year marks the 50th birthday of both Roundabout and Cabaret.) Reader, I said Yes!

Andrew, whom I first met through Twitter, had actually seen the production in its local debut on Wednesday evening at the Durham Performing Arts Center, or DPAC. But he was offered three tickets for Thursday night’s performance and wanted to go again, this time with his middle-school-aged child; luckily for me, he gave me a chance to tag along. Especially lucky for me, these were terrific seats.

I dressed in khaki slacks and comfortable-but-appropriate-for-the-office shoes and went to get a haircut, which I’d been putting off for a number of weeks. I met Andrew and son outside of Mammoth’s office in downtown Durham and we walked over to DPAC.

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Must hustle, can’t slow: Chronicle of a second-place finisher

April 20, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 20, 2016

I did a bunch of walking last week, thanks in no small part to wearable technology.

My niece, A—, issued a Workweek Hustle challenge through Fitbit, marking the second time she, my Parental Unit and I had engaged in a competition since my niece got a Fitbit this year. Once again, the metric was simple: The winner would be the person who got the most steps over the course of five days. Because of time-zone issues, the challenge began at 2 a.m. Eastern Time on Monday and ended at 2 a.m. E.T. on Saturday of this past week.

I fell behind both of my rivals relatively early. This was, alas, not terribly surprising. My niece averages about 12,000 steps a day; my parent, 16,000. My own daily step count is much more modest — about 9,000 or 10,000 entering the challenge.

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Mall Scrabble: Part 3

April 17, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 17, 2016

Going into the seventh game out of a total of eight, my 5-1 record with a modest spread had me positioned to finish at almost any point in the Division C rankings. It all depended on how I played.

My opponent in the penultimate contest was S—, a man in his late middle age who was participating in only his third tournament. I’d narrowly beaten S— in January while he was playing in only his second official competition (not, as I’d erroneously implied in my post, his first tournament).

I got off to a brisk start by playing FREAK for 34 points, and I held a modest lead of 63-56 going into turn 6. At that point, I had a rack of EGORST?, which I did not like. Generally, it’s hard to bingo with an O — although when I sat down to write this recap, I realized that I could have made STORaGE. Instead, I played LOG for 4 points. S— traded in four tiles; it was the second time in a row that he’d swapped out four letters and the third time in the young game he’d made that precise trade.

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