Archive for May, 2018

May 2018 pokerpalooza: Day 2, tournament 4

May 29, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 29, 2018

I have a bit of a checkered history with tag-team tournaments, which was the format on tap for Monday evening.

The tag team is unlike every other event played at World Tavern Poker’s national gatherings in that it involves teams. Normally, poker players are lone wolves, battling every other person in the field. The tag team involves pairs of contestants, each of whom starts with a stack of chips.

Every so often, the master of ceremonies will instruct players to take their partner’s seat if, say, they’re married, or if their dealer is male, or if they’re wearing World Tavern gear. A switch can be announced between hands, during deals or while players are placing and reacting to bets. The exchange introduces a certain element of chaos — if you’re switched during a hand and you don‘t know your partner’s strategy, or the tendencies of your opponents, you can find yourself in quite a pickle.

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May 2018 pokerpalooza: Day 2, tournament 3

May 24, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 24, 2018

Author’s note: On June 11, I edited the fifth paragraph, which immediately follows the jump. Originally, the passage had wrongly indicated that the winner of a grinder tournament does not get to keep the chips in front of him or her. As usual, additions are marked with boldface text; deletions, with a strikethrough line. MEM

Misplaying my first pair of pocket aces early Sunday evening seemingly sealed my doom in that deep-stack tournament. My next chance at redemption came Monday afternoon in a fairly unusual style of tournament: A three-hour grinder.

I’m hardly a poker expert, but I first heard of this format two or three years back when World Tavern Poker first used it at one their national events. WTP now stages grinders at all of their opens, as the twice-annual league-wide gathering is called. In fact, this time around, the league scheduled a total of four grinders.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying two things: First, I don’t know if this is an established tournament style played at other poker events; and second, it’s very popular at WTP conclaves.

So what is a grinder? The way this league runs it, it’s a three-hour hybrid of a $1-$2 no-limit holdem cash game and a tournament with limited re-entries. Everyone starts with the same amount of chips, and everyone can re-enter as many times as they want over the first 90 minutes of the competition. The blinds are fixed — that is, they never rise, as they would in a regular tournament, because the point isn’t to winnow the field down until one person has all the chips.

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May 2018 pokerpalooza: Day 1, tournament 2

May 23, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 23, 2018

On Sunday at 7 p.m., I sat down for a deep-stack tournament that probably wound up having around 300 entrants. This was the second event I played at the pokerpalooza; unlike the first one, which got under way as I was still en route to the casino, I took my seat shortly before the first hand was dealt.

Relatively early on, while sitting in the big blind, I looked at my hole cards and found two aces. Some four or five players had already called. Rather than scare off anyone with a big bet, I decided that I could make a bunch of dough by slow-playing this strong hand. I did a minimum raise, to 800 chips. Everyone who was already in the hand called my bet, naturally.

Unfortunately for me, the flop was a total nightmare: three low and middle cards, all spades. I believe I placed a modest bet, for perhaps 1,800 chips, and the player two seats to my left raised to 3,600 or so.

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May 2018 pokerpalooza: Day 1, tournament 1

May 22, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 22, 2018

I’m participating in another spring pokerpalooza. I regret to report that things are off to a rocky start.

In my first tournament, on Sunday afternoon, I was attempting to win my way into the national championship finals. The semifinal qualifier in which I was playing had a shootout format, pitting players at a table against each other until only two retain chips. Unlike a typical tournament, players never change tables as the field is narrowed down. I’ve traditionally been a bit leery of shootouts, but I started to warm up to them this spring when, during a regional championship, I made it through the shootout stage in one of the satellite tournaments.

I didn’t get to the casino for the start of the semifinal shootout. Still, I was in time to join the proceedings, so I paid my $15 entry fee and sat down at a table in the far reaches of the ballroom where the event was being held.

The table had started with about four ghost stacks, each of which had paid blinds as the deal orbited the table for the better part of an hour. When I arrived, we were in the third blind level, 300-600, and the ghost stack I took control of felt rather puny. (Incidentally, a standard casino poker table is designed to accommodate 10 players, although it can sometimes be a bit of a squeeze.)

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More radio memories! (In which I describe an author interview that may not have happened)

May 21, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 21, 2018

Memory is a tricky thing. People have all sorts of odd old things rattling around their brains; or I do, at least. Sometimes, these memories are spot on. Sometimes, they may — emphasis on may — have been made up from whole cloth.

On Friday afternoon, I spent some time searching the web for information on a book, the title, author and publication year of which I was completely unable to recall.

The good news was that I had a fairly specific concept of what the book was about. The work, which either had been written by a Raleigh resident or else centered on the city of Raleigh, was aimed at a general-interest audience of readers, and it described the systems that deliver electricity and drinking water and remove sewage and rain runoff from modern buildings.

Initially, I conducted a general web search using the terms “the four utilities”book and Raleigh. However, “four utilities” refers to a marketing concept, so I changed this search term to simply utilities. I also ran similar queries in the Library of Congress’s online catalog.

I was certain that the book had been released in the United States at some point after roughly 2010, but even after applying those filters, I was left with a lot of irrelevant results.

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Taking the security challenge: Notes on reviewing and refreshing my Internet accounts

May 17, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 17, 2018

Earlier this month, Twitter announced the discovery of a bug in its security software that had caused unencrypted account passwords to be stored en masse on one of the company’s internal servers. Although there was no indication that anyone had exploited this mistake, Twitter recommended that everyone update their password.

I’d made a note on my calendar to update old passwords in mid-May anyway. So I opened up LastPass and began logging in to various services and changing passwords, Twitter among them. This is something I’ve been doing off and on for about two weeks now.

LastPass has a helpful feature called Security Challenge, and I’ve been running it regularly during my password-updating process. Security Challenge evaluates a user’s stored passwords and flags accounts that lack passwords or have passwords that are weak, duplicated (i.e., used on multiple accounts), compromised (that is, involve sites for which serious security flaws have been publicly announced) or old (ones that haven’t been changed for more than a year).

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Election follow-up: May 2018 primary

May 13, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 13, 2018

It’s safe to say that Tuesday night’s results support the notion that my views are not widely held by Durham County’s Democratic electorate. Incumbent Sheriff Mike Andrews was defeated by challenger Clarence Birkhead, in a rematch of Durham’s 2014 sheriff election, while incumbent district attorney Roger Echols was upset by challenger Satana Deberry.

A key measure of a healthy, functional democracy — or a functional republic, if you prefer — is that the supporters of losing candidates accept the results as legitimate. And I do!

But, while I hold no animus toward either victor, I stand by the reservations I expressed in my previous post about both of the candidates (as well as about Andrews). I suppose only time will tell whether Birkhead is a good sheriff or Deberry a good D.A. It might be a while, if ever, before I produce an edition of my Patented Pundit Scorecard™ on this topic.

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Notes from the polls: Primary election, May 8, 2018, Durham, North Carolina

May 8, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 8, 2018

Author’s note: About 90 minutes after this post was first published, I added a disclaimer at the bottom in the interests of completely disclosing the relationship with and potential biases I may have had regarding Durham sheriff candidates. MEM

If you check my record as a North Carolina voter, you’ll find that prior to today, I’d participated in nine primary elections over the course of nearly 14 years. As an unaffiliated voter, the state lets me choose which primary ballot I use: Democratic, Republican, Libertarian or nonpartisan.

This spring, the Green Party became the fourth political party certified to place candidates on North Carolina ballots, but this happened too late for the current primary voting cycle. The Libertarian Party has been officially recognized in the Old North State since 2008.

As a Durham County resident, however, Republican and Libertarian ballots rarely afford much in the way of choice. Durham is North Carolina’s fifth most-populous county, but it has the state’s fourth-highest number of registered Democrats. (The Bull City and its surrounding county surpass the slightly more populous Forsyth County, home of the city of Winston-Salem, in terms of the sheer number of Democrats registered here.)

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Area man goes outside, hears noises: From the case files of Matthew E. Milliken

May 5, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 5, 2018

Incident report

Date/time: Tuesday, May 1, or Wednesday, May 2, 2018 — around midnight.

Narrative: I went outside to retrieve a water bottle that I’d left in my car. I was parked across the street, so I had several yards to walk from my front door.

As I ambulated, I heard a noise that struck me as unusual. I looked around and caught a vague glimpse of what appeared to be a four-legged animal scaling down the trunk of one of the large trees that surround the houses in my pocket of the city. The animal briefly paused at a point about 10 or 15 feet from the ground; after a moment, it descended out of sight.

This, of course, is the kind of climbing that squirrels do all the time. But this creature struck me as being both larger and noisier than a squirrel.

I pulled out my phone, turned on its camera flash/light and swung it around, trying to spot and identity the thing I’d sighted. The beam isn’t very strong or focused, however, so I came up empty.  Read the rest of this entry »

Rebels on the run: The evil First Order tirelessly hunts good guys in the sprawling ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’

May 4, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 3, 2018

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the eighth entry in the projected nine-movie space opera sequence that George Lucas launched in 1977, is a messy but entertaining addition to the saga.

Writer-director Rian Johnson, who’s best known for the 2012 time-traveling drama Looper, splits his sequel to 2015’s The Force Awakens into four interwoven threads. All are set into motion by the nefarious First Order’s pursuit of the Resistance — now in the process of being rebranded as the Rebellion, just like the insurgency from Lucas’s original trilogy. This premise (or at least the timing in play here) is rather confusing, because the narrative involving Rey (Daisy Ridley) and self-exiled Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) picks up literally right where it ended in the preceding film’s coda, which happened shortly after the good guys won a major victory over wicked Snoke (motion-capture legend Andy Serkis), the First Order’s shriveled, misshapen Supreme Leader.

At any rate, as an embittered Skywalker — the missing man being hunted by both sides in Episode VII — adamantly refuses to train Rey in the ways of the magical Force or do anything else to aid the Rebellion, most of the other characters have hastily evacuated their compromised (once-hidden?) base and are fleeing at top speed. A powerful First Order fleet pursues, lurking just outside of cannon range until the inevitable moment the insurgents run out of fuel.

Bereft of outside assistance and perceiving their plight as hopeless, hotheaded pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and First Order defector Finn (John Boyega) devise a plan to disable the new technology that Snoke and his minions have used to track the good guys’ jumps through hyperspace. Finn and his new friend, technician Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) visit a lavish casino in hopes of finding and co-opting a codebreaker with the ability to infiltrate the First Order fleet’s hulking flagship, the Supremacy. Dameron stays behind with the remnants of the rebel convoy, attempting to persuade the tentative Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) to take decisive action in lieu of General Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher), who was put into a coma by a First Order attack.

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