Archive for the 'Diary' Category

Jan. 3, 2020, poker recap

January 10, 2020

By Matthew E. Milliken
Jan. 10, 2019

It’s only been five days since my visit to the casino in Bethlehem, Pa., but it seems like a much longer while.

I was card dead for quite a while, both before and after my successful acquisition of a working Wind Creek player’s card. Over time, my stack shrunk from $220 to $210 to $200… I had a number of $25 chips plus some $5 and $1 chips. I must have gotten below $150 as things continued to go direly.

The best hand and only pair I got over the first hour or more was 9-9. I raised with it and got at least two or three callers, plus a flop with at least one over (a 10, and maybe there was paint as well). I called a post-flop bet but folded when the turn failed to bring me a third nine.

I made money on three hands. I remember no details about the first — was it ace-queen or ace-jack — except that I bet the river, mimed a bit of anxiety and got called by a beefy fellow two seats to my left. I think I must have straddled that hand, which is a move that involves posting twice the big blind ($4 on this $1–$2 table) and acting last on the initial round of betting.

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All I wanted to do… Or: Departure day! (Being part of my impromptu holiday travels series)

January 9, 2020

By Matthew E. Milliken
Jan. 9, 2019

The plan was simple enough: Leave my parent’s home in the greater New York metropolitan area around 9 the morning of Friday, Jan. 3, 2020; drive about 105 minutes to the Wind Creek casino (formerly a Sands property) in Bethlehem, Pa.; play poker for roughly three hours, until 2 p.m.; and then drive another three and a half hours for dinner and a night’s stay with my friends in Northern Virginia. If I timed things nicely and got a bit of luck, I would avoid heavy rush-hour traffic — especially around Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s capital — and have a little extra cash in my pocket.

All I wanted to do was play some poker on the last full day of my trip, and I was getting grief from this, that and the other.

Actually, most of the grief was coming from my parent’s computer, which had been the focus of many of my information technology efforts over the course of the past 10 or so days. In an effort to improve the speed of a seven-year-old basic 21-inch iMac, I’d installed CleanMyMac X and used it to delete some cruft. The machine seemed to be operating a bit better. (Your mileage may vary; not a paid or otherwise compensated endorsement.)

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Drive, return, blackout: Selected sketches from my holiday travels

January 6, 2020

By Matthew E. Milliken
Jan. 6, 2019

I left my home on the morning of Monday, Dec. 23, 2019, and did a bit of holiday shopping in downtown Durham before heading north to the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area. (I later realized, in reviewing and deleting old email messages, that my shopping errand could have been done over the weekend thanks to the magic of extended store hours — alas.)

On the evening of the last full day of my trip (more about which I may describe in a future post[s]), I stopped at the home of friends in Northern Virginia. After enjoying lunch at an Ashburn restaurant called Pho Noménal, I struck out for North Carolina.

I parked south of downtown Raleigh around 6 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 3, 2020, and walked over to Boxcar, the arcade and bar. After playing a bit of Batman ’66 (Stern 2016), where I don’t believe I got to the main multiball even once, I switched to Monster Bash — again, I’m not sure if it’s the 1998 Williams original or the 2018 Chicago Gaming remake, although I suspect the latter — and put up one good score and some mediocre ones.

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Weekend ruminations

December 8, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
Dec. 8, 2019

One night this week, I parked by my house and started picking my way across the yard to the front porch. In the dark, I put my left foot down on something that was neither flat nor stable. (It was a little chunk of concrete, I found the next morning.) My left ankle rolled sharply, and I yelped in pain. It’s been slightly tender ever since.


On Wednesday morning, I woke to a text from someone who works for my landlord:

Hello! Lowes has called and said they will be delivering the new machines today between 12pm-2pm. We’ll be meeting them there to install it.

This was welcome news. I’d reported a problem with the combination washing machine and dryer some time in early November, after the washer failed to drain. The rental management agency took a look at it and, after receiving the needed parts, dispatched workers to fix the appliance on Nov. 20.

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Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 4-7 Stanford

November 28, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
Nov. 28, 2019

I attended the joint Stanford-Cal Big Game viewing party for the fifth year in a row. Suffice to say that the result was not to my liking.

“I can’t believe we have the Axe!” one Cal backer exclaimed joyfully upon the conclusion of the Cardinal’s nine-year victory streak over the Bears.

I had to wait rather a while to pay my bill, which didn’t put me in a good mood.

• The Bad

I was struck after the end of Big Game by the similarities between Stanford’s second half at Washington State and its second half vs. the Bears. Junior quarterback Davis Mills threw two picks in both cases, once per game near the opposing goal line. The Cardinal’s opponents had a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns in both cases. And the opposing defense turned the Farm team away on fourth downs with less than two minutes to play in both contests.

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2019 Robb Griffith Memorial Tournament, part 3

October 17, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
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
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
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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Struggling up a hill, causing a traffic jam: A recent dream

October 11, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
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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A movie, some local history, a career and some advice; or, my trip to an alumni function

October 2, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
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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Inconsistent Stanford squanders a big lead but slips past Oregon State with a 31-28 win

September 30, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
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
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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Florida flipping: My pinball excursion to Orlando* (*by which I mean Oviedo)

September 19, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
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
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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Garbage, person: In which I step outside and have an awkward conversation

September 5, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
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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Some consequences of walking, part 2

August 31, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 31, 2019

Friday afternoon, I opened up a window of my Internet browser and did something I’ve been fortunate enough not to have to do much this year: I logged onto my health insurance company’s website. Because an exercise-induced rash had lingered for more than a week, I’d resolved to make an appointment with a dermatologist.

However, there was a glitch in the website. When I went to search for a health-care provider, “dermatology” wasn’t one of the specialties listed.

I was baffled. Had dermatology been subsumed by some other field, such as sports medicine? This seemed unlikely to me. I played with the options — could it possibly be listed under primary care or behavioral health? — and scanned the drop-down lists, but dermatology continued to elude me.

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Some consequences of walking, part 1

August 30, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 30, 2019

Author’s note: This post concerns a very mild health situation and may not be appropriate for younger or sensitive readers. MEM

My Aug. 23 walk had some lasting consequences.

I woke up the following morning with a rash high on the inside of my legs. Nevertheless, I was determined to get in some exercise, in part because I was hoping my Fitbit app would record more weekly steps than my Parental Unit — this in spite of having flushed away my Fitbit.

I can be a stubborn beast when the mood seizes me.

My upper thighs bothered me throughout my hike beside the Eno River; regardless, I proceeded. However, I knew that I’d have to have a look at the area once I got home. I think I may even have recognized that I was probably going to have to take a few days off from walking.

Little did I know…

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Some more walks: A short list, with pictures

August 29, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 29, 2019

Here are some walks that I took last week:

Tuesday, Aug. 21: I drove back to the same area of Duke Forest that I hiked on Aug. 5 and 6 and walked 5.04 miles in 1:20:16 for a pace of 15 minutes and 56 seconds per mile.

Wednesday, Aug. 22: From my house, I walked north on Broad Street to Stadium Drive, where I turned east and proceeded to Rock Quarry Park, which I’d never really visited before. After briefly wandering the field in the park’s northern area, I started wandering through a forested area that I’d never realized was there.

After proceeding south through the park to West Murray Avenue, I picked up the Ellerbee Creek Trail, which I followed south to Northgate Park. Upon reaching West Club Boulevard, I turned west and followed the road Northgate Mall. Then I turned north on Guess Road and headed home. This journey covered 5.16 miles in 1:18:09 (15:08 pace).

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Fitbit, disconnected: A short(ish) tale of woe

August 23, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 23, 2019

As mentioned in my previous post, I removed the wristbands from my latest secondhand Fitbit before reattaching one wristband. I normally kept the device, a Charge 2, in my pocket to count my steps throughout the course of the day.

My typical sleep outfit has no pockets; however, I sometimes still move around when I’m dressed for bed. In order to capture my steps during these evening (and occasionally morning) periods, I stuck the wristband in my waistband.

It was initially quite difficult to take off the Charge’s wristbands. Afterward, however, they slid on and off all too easily. The device itself frequently separated from the wristband in my pocket. That was only a minor problem.

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A few notes about secondhand fitness trackers and the activity they’ve inspired

August 22, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 22, 2019

Here is some information about the two Fitbits that I’ve owned.

Both of my devices were hand-me-downs from my Parental Unit. The first of these was a Flex, which I believe I began using in October 2015. In the following calendar year, 2016, I wrote a number of different posts that revolved around walking and using this device. Sadly, the gadget went kaput either because it got rained on and/or I inundated it with sweat. As best I can tell, this happened toward the end of August 2017.

Sometime this year, I think, my parent gave me what I believe was a Charge 2 after P.U. once again picked up a newer Fitbit. It sat unused for several months before I picked it up about a month ago.

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Poker postseason recap, summer 2019

August 11, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 11, 2019

The six-month-long World Tavern Poker season will conclude this evening. Thus far I’ve collected one prize — or make that two prizes, a plaque-and-medallion two-in-one combination — thanks to my taking the season points championship at the venue where I serve as tournament director on Sunday nights. It’s only my second-ever season-points title.

On Wednesday, July 31, I finished second in a tavern championship, one of two sorts of postseason tournaments that World Tavern hosts.

There were two key hands at the final table. In one, Janet, the player to my right, pushed all in for, say, a quartet of 5,000 chips at a time when I had around eight such chips in hand. I had king-10 unsuited in the small blind. Did I want to risk a major chunk of my stack on a pair of hole cards that were, at best, moderately strong? I discarded my hand.

Janet ended up winning the main pot with KQ, which would have beaten my KT, while D—, sitting immediately to my left, collected a modest side pot with a hand that was inferior to mine. I later kicked myself because, without knowing it, I’d passed up an opportunity to eliminate D—.

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Some good walks: A list, with pictures (and a pair of videos to boot!)

August 10, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 10, 2019

Recently I’ve been very active on the walking front. A quick recap: 

Tuesday, July 30: I hiked 3.44 miles in 1:26:25 (25:09 per mile) at Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area, which is located a little southwest of Hillsborough, N.C. This was my second-ever visit to the park; I went around five years ago as a volunteer on some kind of work party. As I recall, we stayed around the fishing ponds near the park entrance and never approached any of the forested areas. My pace was extremely slow because I’m not used to sustained inclines of any sort. I also paused at the highest point I reached to take this short video:

• Thursday, Aug. 1: I hiked 4.1 miles in 1:05:28 (15:59 pace) on the American Tobacco Trail from a little north of mile 8, where Durham’s Streets of Southpoint shopping mall is located, to probably around the 9.75 mile marker, a little past Crooked Creek. I’ve hiked the ATT before, but always on stretches further to the south, in Chatham and Wake counties. 

• Saturday, Aug. 3: I hiked 3.2 miles in 52:18 (16:22 pace) on the section of Bolin Creek Trail between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and East Franklin Street in Chapel Hill. I’ve traveled this trail before, both on foot and on bicycle, but it was my first journey along this track in probably at least five years. 

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Cheeps and Chirps for Aug. 8, 2019: Not-quite-as-political edition

August 8, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 8, 2019

More of my microblogging

• Miscellany

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Cheeps and Chirps for Aug. 8, 2019: Political edition

August 8, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 8, 2019

I guess it’s time for another dive into my stream of consciousness.

• Politics ’n’ stuff

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Mid-2019 D.C.–area poker anecdotes, conclusion

July 28, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
July 28, 2019

My D.C.–area poker tour concluded with a visit to a popular area venue. Things did not go as hoped.

I don’t think I won a hand during the hour or so that I played in the early game. This set the stage for a pretty unenjoyable remainder of the day.

After getting knocked out, I wandered over to the front of the room and asked the server for a burger and fries. Since she was responsible for covering more than one room, and since I wanted to sit and eat outside, I asked her a question after placing my order: “Can you find me outside?” She pulled a face, as if parsing my request, and then nodded.

With that taken care of, I went outside to unwind. I sat down and looked at my phone; I paced around and looked at my phone; I shook my head in sorrow and anger. Woe is me!

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