Archive for the 'Diary' Category

Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament: Session 2, Jan. 13, 2018

January 20, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
Jan. 20, 2018

I ran a bunch of errands over the lunch break before returning for the second session of the annual Duke PBMT benefit Scrabble tournament.

I felt like I’d had a respectable morning overall. Yes, my two losses had been annoying, but to be fair to myself, I’d drawn badly at times: namely, OOQ in my opening contest against J— and OOQX in the second game against TS. (It wouldn’t be until the following week that I’d realize my ZOEAE/ZOEAS miscue in the latter encounter.)

At any rate, the fifth game saw me playing B—, a sharp elementary school student. I felt some pressure to beat B—, and moreover to beat him by a sound margin. That was because I knew B— had lost his first-round game to the top seed in the division by 300 points, and a player who kicks off a competition with such a big spread has a huge advantage over the rest of the field.

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Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament: Session 1, Jan. 13, 2018

January 19, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
Jan. 17, 2018

I arranged the evening of Friday, Jan. 12, so as to get home and go to bed at a decent hour — and the plan worked out. Unfortunately, my brain and body didn’t cooperate, and it wasn’t until sometime around 5 a.m. that I finally fell asleep. This, alas, was prior to an event for which I needed to get out of bed around 8 a.m.

Despite this, I felt surprisingly normal as I showered, dressed and prepared to head out to the Duke medical facility that serves as the venue for the annual Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament.

I was playing in the lower of two divisions. Our group featured eight players, each of whom would play eight games on Saturday and eight more games on Sunday. Because of the size of the field, we were scheduled to play all seven of our opponents twice — a double round robin format — before games 15 and 16 determined the final standings — a king-of-the-hill format.

The opening contest of the tournament matched me with a very familiar foe: J—, a local resident whom I encounter several times a year in Sunday-afternoon club play. Over the course of 14 official meetings between us, he had an outstanding record of nine victories against five losses, including a six-game winning streak. His rating at the start of the weekend was 1051, markedly higher than my 932.

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Near-miss on the interstate: My close encounter with a wrong-way driver

January 19, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
Jan. 19, 2018

I narrowly avoided serious injury and possibly death in a high-speed car crash while driving west on Interstate 40 around 11:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 18.

As is typical for me on Thursday nights, I was driving back to Durham from Raleigh when the near-miss occurred. Because of Wednesday’s heavy snow, and the inconsistency with which roads are treated following snowfall in North Carolina’s Piedmont, when I first got on the highway, I drove below the posted limit. But the road seemed to be clear of snow and ice, so I gradually pushed up to 65 miles per hour.

The highway has four lanes in each direction for much of Wake County (where the city of Raleigh is located) and Durham County (home, of course, to the city of Durham). At some point as I was approaching or passing Raleigh-Durham International Airport, which is roughly midway between the two cities, I steered into the second lane from the left.

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Practicality, love and gloves: A few thoughts

November 30, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Nov. 30, 2017

I used to own a pair of hybrid glove-mittens. When I needed to keep my hands warm, I’d pull on the hybrids and make sure the mittens enveloped my fingers. When I needed to use my digits, I could pull the mitten-pocket away from my fingers and pin it on the back of my hand using Velcro patches. That left me sporting what were essentially fingerless gloves: except for the top inch or so of my eight fingers, my hands were completely covered. It was like having the best of both worlds!

These hybrids weren’t the most stylish item — then again, very very little of what I wear is — but they were incredibly practical. I wish I still had these hybrids, but alas, I lost track of them years ago.

One of the nicest gifts I ever got was given to me by Lady X when we were dating. She took a solo trip to Italy in the fall or winter. (I think this would have been towards the end of 2010 or the beginning of 2011.) When she came back, she presented me with a pair of brown leather gloves. They fit quite comfortably and looked great. I was thrilled with them.

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Cheeps and Chirps: Special Boulder edition!

November 17, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Nov. 17, 2017

Forget about catching up on past tweets; instead, here’s a Twitter photo and video essay chronicling my recent visit to Boulder, Colo.

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How I became a pinhead

October 24, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 24, 2017

A friend got me interested in pinball. Back in 2014 or 2015, I think, he bought a World Cup Soccer table. I occasionally noodled around with it when visiting his house.

In 2016, my buddy invited me to play in a couple of monthly tournaments at a downtown Raleigh bar/restaurant/arcade called Level Up. For a while, I resisted his blandishments, but eventually I decided to give competitive pinball play a try.

My first tournament was in March 2016; I finished in a three-way tied for last place in a 19-person field. I’ve played every other month or so since then, although I’ve never placed better than a two-way tie for seventh out of 15 participants.

I might have remained an extremely casual pinball player but for a few things. One was a complicated chain of events that began with the extended illness of a relative, which prompted me to spend a bunch of time in Ye Olde Family Home up north at the beginning of this year.

I had a few days in mid-January to myself. I wanted to participate in the annual charity Scrabble tournament in Durham, but I didn’t want to do a 1,000-mile road trip over the course of four days or so. I wound up driving to North Carolina and booking a pair of flights to take me up north and back down to Cackalacky.

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Everything you (n)ever wanted to know about my sock-wearing habits

October 22, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 22, 2017

About six or sevens years ago, I was sitting in West End Wine Bar on Main Street in Durham with a couple of friends when, for some reason, the subject of my wardrobe came up. I think that I was wearing a nice long-sleeve buttoned shirt, jeans and sneakers — a very typical outfit for me when the weather is cool or when I’m doing something social in the evening.

My outfit was fine… for the most part. However, my friends’ critical eyes were drawn to my socks.

As was my wont at the time, I was wearing white crew socks. This was, my friends told me, a no-no. Instead, they encouraged me to start wearing dark-colored socks.

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Aug. 26, 2017, mall Scrabble recap, part 3

September 5, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Sept. 5, 2017

My foe in game 7 was L.B., a veteran player I’d never encountered before. She was seeded seventh and had begun the day with a 1029 rating.  To that point, her only loss on the day was a 538-351 defeat to A.H., the top seed, who’d beaten me to start the afternoon session.

I got off to a rocky start. L.B., playing first, opened with GRADED 22. My rack was awful, IILRRUX; I played off LURID 7 and drew AADO, which left me with a similarly puzzling rack of AADIORX.

L.B. used my L to play QUALE 30. (You can read the definition of quale here; I won’t claim to understand it.) I answered with RODE 15 and drew EIS, which gave me AAEIISX. Once again, these were not stellar tiles.

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Aug. 26, 2017, mall Scrabble recap, part 2

September 4, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Sept. 4, 2017

Despite getting off to a 3-0 start with a win against the tournament’s highly rated third seed, I knew that I’d have a stiff test in the fourth game, which would close out our early session. I was to play F.T., the fourth seed in the field, who began the day with a rating of 1394. We’d played once before back in March, which had resulted in my sustaining a 49-point loss.

F.T. opened with DIDY 18, which was not positioned so as to enable me to convert my rack of AELLMST into the obvious bingo of MALLETS. (Didy, alternatively spelled didie, means diaper; its plural is didies.) I settled for MALL/MY 14.

F.T.’s second play, FUMY 14, didn’t cooperate with my rack of AEEIPST. (Fumy, of course, means emitting or full of fumes.) I settled again, this time for APE/LA 17, which left the score 32-31 in my foe’s favor.

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Aug. 26, 2017, mall Scrabble recap, part 1

September 3, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Sept. 3, 2017

I plunged back into competitive Scrabble play last weekend with another tournament at Northgate Mall in Durham. I knew it would be an exciting day: Stanford football would kick off its 2017 campaign in Sydney, Australia, that night, and I was planning to drive up to Northern Virginia as soon as the event ended.

I didn’t get a great night’s sleep, but I felt pretty sharp in the morning. I’d already packed most of my bags. I woke up in timely fashion, showered, and walked over to the mall, arriving 15 or 20 minutes ahead of start time.

The field was small, only 12 contestants; I was seeded ninth with a player rating of 922. I was a little nervous about my first opponent, C—, a Scrabble veteran with a sixth seed and a rating of 1080. C— is a Carolina resident and shows up to all of the Durham tournaments, so I knew him a bit, but I was a little intimidated by his extensive experience and higher rating.

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