Bruins maul Stanford, 34-16

October 18, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 18, 2019

Twelve days after turning in their best performance of the season, the Stanford football team put in arguably their worst Thursday evening with a 34-16 home loss to UCLA. The result gave the Bruins (2-5 overall, 2-2 Pac-12) their first win over Stanford since a 23-20 result in Pasadena in 2008, Jim Harbaugh’s second year at the helm of the Cardinal.

The Cardinal offense generated just nine points and 198 yards against the conference’s worst defense in dropping to 3-4 overall and 2-3 in league. The Cardinal defense allowed 455 yards to a Bruins attack that had only been averaging 397 yards to that point in the season.

It was a crushing comedown for a Stanford team that had seemed on the brink of pulling itself together after an injury-riddled start. The defeat left head coach David Shaw’s squad with immense uncertainty after the team’s third-string quarterback, sophomore Jack West, struggled mightily in his first collegiate start.

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2019 Robb Griffith Memorial Tournament, part 3

October 17, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 17, 2019

As I noted in my last post, my opponents’ ratings were increasing as the day wore on. Round seven pitted me against the field’s No. 2 seed, D.L., a Durham resident who was returning to competitive Scrabble after a 12-year break.

His rating entering the tournament was 942, but he’d had a rough day, and his record stood at 2-4 with a spread of minus-190. Nevertheless, I expected him to be dangerous — he’d beaten me and a few other players during club play earlier in October.

However, I got off to a good start. Playing second, I turned my opening rack of ADEHIS? into SHADIEr/COWS, a 72-point bingo. Later, I put down ZEST/SCOWS for 43-points, which gave me a 168-57 lead after five turns.

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2019 Robb Griffith Memorial Tournament, part 2

October 16, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 16, 2019

As is customary when we hold Scrabble tournaments at the local mall, I took advantage of the midday break to walk home. After grabbing some lunch, I hopped in my car. I parked in a shady spot — I think the temperature got up to the mid-80s that day — in a very particular part of the mall lot that I picked out because it would facilitate my access to the highway I planned to use after the Scrabbling was done.

Upon returning to the tournament play area, which was roughly in the center of the mall, I saw that standings had been posted. Somewhat surprisingly, my 3-0 record with a plus-379 spread hadn’t been enough to put me in first place. That honor actually belonged to N—, whom I hadn’t competed against since June 2018. Like me, she was 3-0, but her spread was even better than mine: plus-435. I knew that I’d have to play well to stay in contention.

My adversary in round four was C—, whom I’d last played in April 2018. Playing first, I drew CJLSVXY and threw back everything but SX. C— put down WHALE 30, which benefitted from the double-letter-score bonus that amplified the W as well as the double-word-score bonus that automatically applies to the first word played in every Scrabble game.

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2019 Robb Griffith Memorial Tournament, part 1

October 15, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 15, 2019

It’s been more than a year since I last wrote about Scrabble. Those posts detailed my 4-4 record with a minus-53 spread that saw me finish sixth in the 10-person lower division.

Since then, I’ve participated in four tournaments that have until now gone unremarked-up on this blog:

• A 4-12 debacle in Wilmington, N.C., in which I finished 12th out of 12 in a single-division event in October 2018. I was seeded 10th but lost 12 games against four wins, with an abysmal spread of minus-1,036.

• A 9-7 performance in the January 2019 Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament. I was fifth out of 18 in the lower division and exceeded my No. 14 seed. I started out 3-5 but went 6-2 on the second and final day.

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Stephen King’s 2015 collection ‘The Bazaar of Bad Dreams’ is a mixed bag

October 14, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 14, 2019

It was with no small interest that I began reading The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Stephen King’s 2015 short story collection. His 1978 anthology, Night Shift, gave me chills when I first read it back in the… well, a long time ago. And I found that it held up just fine when I reread the volume earlier this year.

Unfortunately, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is a bit of a mixed bag when compared with its predecessor. There are some definite hits here, but also some big whiffs.

King is not just one of the most successful authors alive today; he’s one of the most successful in the history of the world. He’s also a vital presence on social media, especially if you enjoy reading sassy left-wing commentary.

But he often gets in his own way in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. His introduction struck me as rather silly:

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Sworn enemies exchange love notes in the sci-fi romance ‘This is How You Lose the Time War’

October 12, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 12, 2019

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone is a new novella that offers a science-fictional update on Romeo and Juliet.

The star-crossed lovers here are Red and Blue, specially equipped and trained time warriors. They respectively champion the Agency and Garden, organizations that are attempting to ensure that their and only their timelines — or strands, in the book’s terminology — survive. When Red, a hyper-advanced cyborg, catches the eye of organically inclined Blue, the latter sends a covert message that launches a romance conducted entirely through letters.

These are not letters or messages as you or I might conceive. Here, Red discovers one while embedded in a Mongol army:

Ten years into deep cover, having joined the horde, proven her worth, and achieved the place for which she strove, she feels suited to this war. 

She has suited herself to it. 

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Struggling up a hill, causing a traffic jam: A recent dream

October 11, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 11, 2019

Author’s note: I originally published this post with the title “Climbing that hill, stuck in traffic: A recent dream”; I adjusted the title shortly after publication to make it more accurate. MEM

This morning, I dreamed that I was driving, perhaps to work. I remember thinking to myself — or explaining to someone in the car? — that this wasn’t the route I normally took to get where I was going, but that it was important to have some variety in one’s routine.

(This part of the dream may have been influenced by Thursday, because I went to a part of Hillsborough Street in Raleigh that I hadn’t traveled on in a few months and found the area transformed by construction. As I used one of the new roundabouts to reverse course in order to access a bookshop on the north side of the street, I noticed that the concrete foundations for a new building had been installed on the northwest “corner” of Hillsborough and Dixie Trail. I thought to myself, “Hey, the sports bar with the outdoor deck that used to be right there that I never visited is now a thing of the past!”)

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Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 3-3 Stanford

October 10, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 10, 2019

I had kind of a crazy night last weekend.

I watched the first part of Saturday’s Washington–Stanford game at Tobacco Road but deliberately left at halftime because of what happened the last time I’d watched the Cardinal play a night game at that location. I walked to my car, drove home and then walked to a sports bar near my house that I’d never visited, despite it having been open for something like two years.

I say that this venue was near my house, but in fact the walk there covered about three-quarters of a mile. I listened to the early part of the second half on my phone…

…and when I arrived at the front door, I noticed that this establishment closed at 1 a.m., which would be before the game’s conclusion. If I’d realized that, I never would have planned this visit.

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Stanford tames Huskies, 23-13

October 8, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 8, 2019

A scrappy Stanford team controlled the lines of scrimmage and played its best football game yet to beat No. 15 Washington on Saturday evening, 23-13.

Running back Cameron Scarlett and quarterback Davis Mills posted career-high marks of 151 rushing yards and 293 passing yards, respectively, as the unranked Cardinal improved to 3-3 overall and 2-2 in the Pac-12.

The game got off to a somewhat ominous start for Stanford, which is playing at home throughout October. The Cardinal scored on its first drive thanks to a 20-yard kick by senior Jet Toner. But Washington (4-2, 2-1) went ahead by a 7-3 score when junior quarterback Jacob Eason threw to wide-open sophomore tight end Cade Otton for a three-yard touchdown to cap the Huskies’ first possession. It was reminiscent of the Oregon contest, which saw the Ducks take a 7-3 lead after their first possession.

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Short Takes: ‘The Final Frontier,’ Denis Johnson’s ‘The Largesse of the Sea Maiden’ and Poul Anderson’s ‘Tau Zero’

October 4, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 4, 2019

The 2018 book The Final Frontier is a collection of 21 stories that share the topic of deep-space travel. My favorite entry in the book was the final one, which I’d read before: Peter Watts’s “The Island,” which is essentially a three-character narrative.

The tale is set aboard Eriophora, a deep-space vessel that set out millennia ago and whiles away the centuries ceaselessly building a network of teleportation gateways. Each gate empowers not its builders but the offshoots of whatever civilization launched the ship; each one also destroys anything near it, which is among the reasons why the vessel cannot slow or even change course by more than a tiny degree.

The unnamed narrator, like all of her crewmates, is carrying out a limited rebellion against Chimp, the deliberately hobbled artificial intelligence that ruthlessly hews to the ship’s original mission. Make that most of her crewmates — the third player in the story is Dix, the 20-something son she’s never met, who is suspiciously loyal to Eri’s brain.

‘The Final Frontier’ edited by Neil Clarke.

The narrator and Dix are awakened as part of a seemingly random rotation of personnel who shepherd the assembly of each new gate. As so often is the case, there’s a wrinkle, which is precisely why the ship has a crew. Chimp has detected an anomaly and wants to know if it will affect the build. The narrator discovers something amazing, something the AI likely would not have perceived on its own. In the end, though, she finds that her intuition — her uniquely human wisdom — may not be as well geared to comprehending the immensity and variety of the universe and its strange creations as she initially believed.

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A movie, some local history, a career and some advice; or, my trip to an alumni function

October 2, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 2, 2019

I have not been particularly active in the local Stanford Alumni chapter, but last week there was an event that I absolutely had to attend. The group showed The Best of Enemies, a movie released in April that’s based on a remarkable incident in the battle to integrate Durham schools.

The movie, based on the 2007 book of the same name by journalist Osha Gray Davidson, centers on a comprehensive series of community discussions known as a charrette. The meetings were organized because a fire at an elementary school serving black students essentially forced the public’s hand.

I won’t say much more about what happened, either in actual history or in the movie, other than to note that it’s a truly amazing story. I’d learned about this 1970s episode during a past life as a local education reporter — although I’d forgotten some of the more important points, which heightened the climax for me.

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Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 2-3 Stanford

October 1, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 1, 2019

Saturday evening’s Stanford–Oregon State game was televised on the Pac-12 Network, which is hard to obtain locally, I resolved to listen to the game at home. (Thank you, KZSU community radio Internet feed!) I spent much of the time scanning health-care documents from 2010.

• The Bad

Football teams are supposed to play hard for 60 minutes. But the Cardinal defense hasn’t quite been able to do that.

The unit’s best outing came on Sept. 21 when they held Oregon to 21 points. Through September, the Ducks are the 19th-most prolific scoring offense in the nation (tied with Utah State at 38.5 points per game); only Washington State (44.8 ppg, good for eighth nationally) is scoring more in the Pac-12. Unfortunately, the Cardinal offense was sleep-walking through that contest and only managed six points against the U of O, so that ended in a loss.

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Inconsistent Stanford squanders a big lead but slips past Oregon State with a 31-28 win

September 30, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 30, 2019

Junior quarterback Davis Mills threw for three touchdowns and caught another as the Stanford football team survived Oregon State’s fourth-quarter rally to claim a 31-28 victory on a damp, cool Saturday evening in Corvallis.

Senior Jet Toner hit a 39-yard field goal with a second remaining to win in regulation after the Cardinal (2-3, 1-2 Pac-12) squandered a 21-point second-half lead and a two-touchdown advantage with 9:31 remaining in the fourth quarter. The kick spared Stanford some of the embarrassment of explaining away a late collapse by the defense, which let the Beavers (1-3, 0-1) score touchdowns on their final four drives.

Sophomore wideout Michael Wilson had three receptions for 87 yards and a score, while junior tight end Colby Parkinson (three catches, 44 yards) both caught and threw a touchdown for the Cardinal. His partner on those scoring plays was Mills (18 for 25 for a career-high 245 yards); he started in place of K.J. Costello, who injured his throwing hand against Oregon. Stanford also got another workmanlike effort from redshirt senior running back Cameron Scarlett (24 carries, 92 yards).

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Boat racing in Orange City: A crazy holdem hand at a cash table

September 27, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 27, 2019

I’ve written a pair of posts about my mid-September trip to Orlando (not to mention a few more about the game in which the University of Central Florida walloped my beloved Stanford football team). What I haven’t yet mentioned is my excursion to the Orange City Racing and Card Club, about 30 miles north of downtown Orlando.

What drew me here was cards, particularly the chance to play poker for money. After buying in for $220 in chips, I sat down at a $1–$2 cash table around 2:15 p.m. Aside from a pair of toilet runs and a visit or two to a nearby trash can, I stayed there for nearly the next four hours.

I was up by $69 when I returned to the cashier. This was both encouraging and disappointing: The former because I started off ice cold and seemingly couldn’t get a winning hand for an hour or so, the latter because I had roughly $350 arrayed in front of me around 5:30 p.m. before I started playing more loosely in hopes of hitting it big. (Obviously, I did not.)

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Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 1-3 Stanford

September 25, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 25, 2019

This week, I have no blisters or stories to share; there was just a visit to a sports bar to see yet another desultory Stanford loss.

• The Bad

We are yet again spoiled for choice in this category. On a macro level, the Cardinal’s pass defense was atrocious; the offense was held to 234 yards and six points while converting only five of 16 third downs; and the special teams unit returned only two punts for a paltry nine yards while being pinned inside their own 15-yard line all of five times.

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Punchless Cardinal falls at home to Oregon, 21-6

September 24, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 24, 2019

A fierce defensive effort came to nought Saturday evening as the Stanford football team fell at home to Oregon, 21-6, giving the Cardinal its first three-game losing winning streak under head coach David Shaw.

After surrendering back-to-back 45-point games, the Cardinal defense held the prolific Ducks offense to just three touchdowns while receiving virtually zero scoring or special-teams support. While Oregon senior quarterback Justin Herbert was magnificent, completing 19 of 24 passes for 259 yards and three touchdowns, the Stanford defense recorded four sacks and seven tackles-for-loss in limiting the Ducks to 61 yards on 31 carries.

Stanford (1-3, 0-2 Pac-12) drove 61 yards on 12 plays on its opening drive but had to settle for a 32-yard Jet Toner field goal after gaining first down at the Ducks 17-yard line.

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Cardinal considerations: Can Stanford recover from its two-game losing streak?

September 21, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 21, 2019

Since David Shaw was became Stanford’s head football coach prior to the 2011 season, the Cardinal has had a swell run. Over Shaw’s eight-plus seasons, the team has extended its bowl streak to a school-best 10 years, which currently leads the conference. Shaw boasts an 83-28 record, which translates to a winning percentage of 74.8. The former Cardinal wide receiver has been named the Pac-12 coach of the year four times, more than any other over the 44-year history of the award.

Half of Shaw’s 28 defeats have occurred as part of consecutive losses. Never to this point has a Shaw-coached team sustained more than two losses in a row. I’ve assembled the following table of the seven losing streaks, which you’ll probably have to click on to read:

Stanford football losing streaks under David Shaw, 2014 onward

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Florida flipping: My pinball excursion to Orlando* (*by which I mean Oviedo)

September 19, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 19, 2019

I went to Orlando to do one thing: Watch Stanford football. But in booking my trip, I gave myself a few days on either side of the actual football game against UCF. I looked online for a few other activities to fill the time.

A quick search of a handy app named Pinball Map revealed that the Orlando area has three locations with large numbers of pinball machines. For reasons that escape me, they’re all in a town called Oviedo, which is five miles north of the University of Central Florida and about 15 miles northeast of central Orlando.

The first pinball venue that I stopped at was District Eat and Play, which is located in Oviedo Mall. When I visited on Thursday evening, the facility was so dark that I at first believed it was entirely abandoned. This is one of the old-style enclosed malls that were popular in the latter half of the 20th century, as opposed to the street-style shopping districts that have supplanted them. (Incidentally, I suspect this trend might be cyclical, but it could be decades before a possible shift back to indoor malls, so I may not live to know the truth.)

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Botanical beauty in Central Florida: Images from my stroll through the Leu Gardens

September 18, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 18, 2019

My major cultural activity while staying in Orlando for Stanford’s ill-starred football game at UCF was visiting the beautiful Harry P. Leu Gardens. I headed west from the main gate and walked to the Lake Rowena overlook — where a woman inspecting the informational placards was surprised to learn that alligators might be about — before cruising through the northwestern sections of the property.

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Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 1-2 Stanford

September 17, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 17, 2019

Saturday was the first time I caught a Stanford football game in person since the Cardinal traveled to Boulder in 2015. It was the team’s first trip to the East Coast since their 2013 visit to West Point.

For a hot minute, it seemed as though the contest in Orlando might be staged in the fringes of the tropical storm that subsequently evolved into Humberto. The system’s track shifted to the east; still, for a short time Saturday morning it rained fiercely, and a strong threat of precipitation was forecast for the late afternoon as recently as a few hours before kickoff.

I’d brought just one pair of shoes on my trip to Florida, and I didn’t want them to get deluged during my spectating. I purchased some Teva boat shoes the day before the game and donned them after parking on campus. Five minutes into my trek to the stadium, I had a blister on the back of my left foot. I tried adjusting the straps, to no effect. I walked barefoot for a short distance, but the campus grass felt coarse and unpleasant beneath my feet.

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UCF embarrasses hapless Cardinal football squad in a 45-27 thrashing

September 15, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 15, 2019

Freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel went 22 for 30 with 347 yards, four touchdowns and no picks to lead UCF to a 45-27 rout of Stanford in Orlando on Saturday.

A week after USC went down by two touchdowns early before going on to win by 25, Central Florida scored three touchdowns in the game’s first nine minutes and was never in any serious danger. The Knights only had seven points in the second half, but that touchdown slammed the door on what were Stanford’s already slim comeback chances.

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Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 1-1 Stanford

September 10, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 10, 2019

I returned to Tobacco Road on Saturday evening to view the Stanford football team’s debacle at USC. Suffice to say that the results were quite different from the previous week’s.

• The Bad

As you might imagine after a 25-point loss, there are plenty of candidates for this week’s The Bad. For instance, the Stanford secondary, which allowed a freshman quarterback making his first collegiate start to roll up 377 yards and three touchdowns on 28 of 33 passing. For another instance, the Stanford defensive front, which allowed a freshman quarterback making his first collegiate start to roll up 377 yards and three touchdowns on 28 of 33 passing. And for a third instance, the Stanford defensive coaches, who allowed a freshman quarterback making his first collegiate start to roll up 377 yards and three touchdowns on 28 of 33 passing. (Are you sensing a theme here?)

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Trojans come back from a two-touchdown deficit to stomp Stanford, 45-20

September 9, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 9, 2019

USC scored five unanswered touchdowns in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to humiliate Stanford in the Pac-12 conference debut for both teams Saturday night.

The Cardinal (1-1, 0-1) took a 17-3 lead on the first play of the second quarter before suffering an epic collapse. Stanford’s backup signal caller, junior Davis Mills, turned in an adequate performance with 237 yards, a score and a pick while competing 22 of 36 throws. His favorite targets were a pair of juniors, tight end Colby Parkinson (seven catches, 89 yards) and wideout Conor Wedington (five catches for 67 yards). Redshirt senior Cameron Scarlett gained 82 yards on 17 rushes.

But USC’s freshman quarterback was the undisputed star of the game. Kedon Slovis was magnificent in his first collegiate start, racking up 377 yards, three touchdowns and no picks on 28 of 33 passing. Vavae Malepeai led the way for the Trojans on the ground with 42 yards and two scores, while Stephen Carr had 33 yards and a touchdown.

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Garbage, person: In which I step outside and have an awkward conversation

September 5, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 5, 2019

As I write this on Thursday, Sept. 5, Hurricane Dorian seems to have largely spared the Triangle. It only started raining hard around 4:15 p.m., and there have been no winds to speak of. (The rain settled down after an hour or so and is no longer coming down in buckets.) As far as I could tell, Durham didn’t get any precipitation until around 2 or 2:30 this afternoon.

However, as you can imagine, the storm has been on everyone’s minds. A lot of area residents monitored its approach toward us as the system churned north past Florida and Georgia on Wednesday.

I starting running an errand late Thursday morning and returned home around 1 p.m. After puttering in the house for a bit, I got a notification from my phone’s weather app that rain was going to start about 20 minutes after the hour.

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Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 1-0 Stanford

September 3, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 3, 2019

I watched the season opener at Tobacco Road with my local Stanford sports buddy. The joint was hopping — a bunch of interesting college football games started at 3:30, about half an hour before the Cardinal kicked off against Northwestern, and the restaurant was doing a booming pregame business with Durham Bulls fans dining before a 6:30 first pitch on the final weekend of regular season play in the International League.

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