Archive for the 'Diary' Category

Cheeps and Chirps for April 10, 2017

April 10, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 10, 2017

Spring is here. What better time than now to revisit my tweets? (Since we haven’t done this since January, and since I can’t bear to squander any precious gems, this installment will run from late January through the end of February; I’ll catch up on the rest later.)

 

• Donald Trump tackles immigration

 

• Donald Trump makes dubious personnel choices 

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March 25, 2017, mall Scrabble recap, part 3

April 8, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 8, 2017

Two straight defeats had dropped my record to an unremarkable 3-3, and my seventh game would hardly be a walk in the park. My opponent was to be K.L., the event’s second-highest-seeded player.

Playing first, K.L. began the game with IODINE 16. My response, PEONY, garnered 15 points — and that was as close as I would get in the contest.

K.L.’s second move was WHIM 45, which scored 13 points more than my biggest play of the game. I answered with MOB 22 to put me behind, 61-37, after two full turns.

We traded standard plays in turn 3 — MOURN 14 for her, RUIN 6 for me — before things really got out of hand. K.L. dropped AHOYING, a 96-point bingo. That put me in a 171-43 hole. (Much later, I would learn that this word isn’t valid in Scrabble, or probably anywhere else. Alas, ’twas too late.)

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March 25, 2017, mall Scrabble recap, part 2

April 7, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 7, 2017

Coming out of the lunch break, I was pitted against my friend D—, whom I’d beaten 395-344 in Delaware in December. (Our only other previous official encounter had been a 355-310 decision in his favor in September 2012.) Playing second, he took a 51-42 lead in turn 3 with MUTER 25, which I considered challenging but ultimately opted not to.

Things got worse for me in turn 4, as D— bingoed with OVERrUN 72. I was able to make up a bit of ground in turn 5, however, with QUIRT 48. (As in game 1, I got the Q on a double-letter-score bonus and the T on a double-word-score bonus.) Alas, D—’s follow-up was RELAX 47, so I ended the turn trailing 170-106.

Neither of us knew it then, but the tide was about to turn in my favor. My sixth move was WINCE 39, which spotted the W on a triple-word-score bonus and the C on a double-letter-score spot. (The E was helpfully provided by the second letter in RELAX.) I added to my score in turns 7 and 8 with THEY 23 and GOUDA 22, respectively.

Meanwhile, D— fell into a slump, at least compared to how he’d opened the game. His lead — just 200-168 after seven turns — was further cut to 200-190 after I put down GOUDA. That word proved to be pivotal, although neither of us knew it at the time.

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March 25, 2017, mall Scrabble recap, part 1

April 6, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 6, 2017

It’s mall Scrabble recap time again!

The March 25 tournament in Durham was the smallest Scrabble event in which I’ve ever participated; the event had one division of 12 players, whose starting ratings ranged from as high as 1622 to as low as 460. My opening rating was 918, which snagged me a ninth seed.

I began play against B.T., the fifth seed (rating 1120). Going second, I took an early lead with my first play, XI/XU/IT 36, but I lost my third turn for unwisely challenging HOO 22, which is valid (it’s an obsolete variant of the interjection ho). Later, I jumped back ahead, 128-98, after using an S and the triple-word-score space in the lower-left corner to make ZEST/AIDES 53. Later still, after B.T. had narrowed my lead to 154-151, I gave myself some padding with a 46-point play, QuIRT, which spotted the Q on a double-letter score space and the T on a double-word score space.

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Tales of Yesteryear!™ — The case of the mysterious next-door critter

March 18, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
March 18, 2017

Years ago, in a city that shall go nfonnamed in a state that shall remain nameless, I lived in a house on a street named…ah, but let’s not be too specific here. And in the house next to mine, my neighbors had — ah, but I’d better set the scene.

This particular block of this street was lined with houses on each side. The structures were set fairly close to one another. On my side of the road, most (or possibly all?) of the homes had short driveways; most of these were sandwiched between houses.

My property’s driveway ran past the house to a small dark shed. This shed was pretty much exclusively the province of a cubic ton of spiders, give or take. The arachnids also shared their domain with some long-abandoned containers of pesticide and a few yard tools, none of which I recall touching (let alone using) in my time residing there.

A sort of metal canopy that looked a bit like the one offered for sale on this page covered the portion of the driveway that led up to the shed. I often parked my car beneath the canopy to protect it from the elements. Going to the car entailed walking out the front door, taking a short stroll from the front porch to the driveway and walking back toward the shed.

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Notes on my musical preferences

March 15, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
March 15, 2017

Last summer, I wrote about my favorite podcasts. Now, some notes on my iTunes/smartphone musical preferences.

(What’s iTunes? I imagine you asking. It is, of course, the free piece of Macintosh audio software that served as a precursor to Apple’s immensely popular iPod portable digital music player. It’s frequently used to organize personal music and video collections, but it also launched podcasts as a communications medium.)

When iTunes was first put out, back in 2001, many new computers had built-in CD players, which people would use to digitize (rip, in the vernacular) their music collection. (That started to change after people began acquiring music through the Apple Music Store and other Internet-based means, thereby entirely bypassing the need to pick up a physical copy at the once-thriving type of business known as the record store.)

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Crash bang pop! (In which nothing much happens)

March 11, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
March 11, 2017

So about that car crash…

North Buchanan Boulevard is a quiet street; even more so at night. And as previously noted, this particular moment on this particular Saturday evening, things were especially quiet. So I was quite surprised when, as I crossed the intersection of Buchanan and West Knox Street, I heard a loud POP! and glimpsed a shower of sparks in my rear-view mirror.

I wasn’t sure what had just happened; rather incongruously, it seemed like someone had set off a single pyrotechnic item. Had a street light or maybe a transformer exploded?

The good samaritan in me felt the need to report this. Was this a matter for 911, or should I call the power company, or perhaps the police department’s non-emergency number. I didn’t know, in part because I did not know what had just happened.

I turned left at the next intersection, parked on Englewood Avenue, exited my car and began walking briskly back toward the site of the…well, whatever had just gone pop.

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A short drive through downtown Durham

March 9, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
March 9, 2017

Author’s note: The day after this blog post was original published, I adjusted one paragraph after realizing that I’d driven through the Brightleaf District closer to 7:40 p.m. than 8 p.m. As usual, additions are marked with boldface text; deletions, with a strikethrough line. MEM

I inserted myself into the wake of a car crash on Saturday night. This is the story of how I maneuvered myself into falling just short of actually witnessing the collision.

I’d spent much of the afternoon participating in World Tavern Poker’s North Carolina Central East Regional Championships at a hotel in Southeast Durham County. I’d played decently for much of the tournament, but I was never able to recover after I misplayed a hand during the 4,000–8,000 level.

The event had started with around 225 players, of whom the top 10 percent, or 23 players, would qualify to play in the National Championship Finals this spring. When I was eliminated, there were four tables of players; they weren’t keeping track of the exact number, but I went out around 35th or 40th — not bad, but not as good as the finish I’d had in the previous regionals.

Anyway, I was feeling somewhat morose and contemplative as I drove home that evening. When I left the hotel, I headed north on North Carolina 55 until I reached North Carolina Central University. I haven’t written at all about NCCU on my blog, but it has the distinction of being the nation’s first public supported liberal arts institution for African-Americans. I don’t pass by Central much — it’s on Durham’s east side, as opposed to Duke University, which has its main campus on the west side of the city and is much closer to where I live.

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Sisyphus, with car, in winter

March 7, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
March 7, 2017

Back in the 1990s, I saw something that subtly but permanently altered the way I engage with the world.

I was working my first job out of college, a position that I’d held for more than two years at the time this happened. For some reason, I’d gone to the office to work for a few hours on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. It was a bitterly cold winter day. Earlier in the week, a storm had passed through, and some ice and snow remained on the roads.

The company where I worked was located in an obscure office park a stone’s throw from the New York–New Jersey state line. The park was situated on a hillside, and so the roads and the parking lot were graded. The angle was not particularly steep, but it was enough to come into play when your car’s tires were struggling to get traction.

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Some notes about my conversations with myself

February 26, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Feb. 26, 2017

I was thinking the other day about my history of talking to myself.

I’m not sure just how I picked up the habit, although I definitely was doing it in elementary school. My monologues were likely motivated by a variety of factors: I think at least one of my parents used to mutter to himself; it was surely something that characters did at least occasionally in the cartoons and TV shows that I watched; and it sort of mimicked the way that characters’ thoughts were often portrayed in the books I’d read.

At some point in high school or college, I realized that most other people perceived my talking to myself as a sign that I was mentally defective in some way. Since this was having the opposite of the intended effect — I fancied that talking to myself made me seem intelligent or important somehow — I made a conscious effort to cut back on these one-sided conversations.

I still do it, but not nearly as often as I once did. For the past several years, I’ve tended give myself short pep talks while showering. (I think I also sometimes do it when I’m playing Scrabble in person.) But what I realized recently was that the nature of these pep talks — or perhaps more accurately, the way I regard these pep talks — has changed.

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