Category Archives: Thoughts

ball on hoop

This week I found out about the passing of Mekia Valentine

Mekia Valentine was a neighbor and friend of mine at UCSB. She and I met in the laundry room in the San Clemente Village in September 2011. We both lived in Donner Village.

She’s also the reason I decided to broadcast women’s basketball.

While tons of people have wonderful stories about Mak, here are a few from me.

In October of 2011, my then-roommate Darren and I were going to do something on the nights of Halloween, but we weren’t sure of our exact plan. But Mak invited us to walk around IV with the women’s basketball team and the men’s soccer goalkeeper. Why did we merit inclusion in that? No reason other than that Mak was really nice.

Here’s a story from her basketball career:

More than one night of broadcasting women’s basketball, Mak fell off lists of top-10 in UCSB history. Because she was tied for 10th–sometimes with herself–and then she would place higher than 10th, and her 10th-place would fall off.

She notched a triple-double one game I am proud to have been in attendance for.

And throughout all this, she was humble and nice. There are so many people way less accomplished than she was who are awful and rude.

But not Mak.

I found out this week about her passing, and it hurt.

jet cloud landing aircraft

Stupid Delta Variant

Things were looking up for us and down for COVID.

But now the delta variant has rolled in.

I talked to my grandpa and told him if he’d heard of the Delta variant.

I continued to say that the Delta variant is keeping us from being United, and while some say it’s un-American, we must stay Allegiant to the rules.

I had fun saying it, but I have a feeling it went over his head.

Let’s all continue to stay safe! Let’s keep 2020 as hindsight!

person holding blue and clear ballpoint pen

Survey says?

I routinely sign up for focus groups, but just as frequently, they say no.

Until Friday.

A focus group study has said that I can participate!

Yay!

I can’t tell you what it is yet, but they value my opinion! Hooray!

More information to follow, unless I sign an NDA (likely), but be happy for me about this.

Sorry this is such a short post, but there will be more tonight.

Spoiler alert!

I started the Saturday crossword already (Friday), and I hope to have it done tonight.

Williams-Sonoma boosts my ego

I went to Williams-Sonoma this week and was very disappointed in what I saw. I went all the way out to Manhattan Beach because for some reason I believed the Manhattan Beach location to be a very large store. But it is a very small store. It’s nothing like the Beverly Hills location was before it closed permanently years ago.

Now, Calah and I had gone to Crate & Barrel to see their stuff as we’re continuing to finalize our registry, but there were some items that were too expensive for too poor quality.

I had expected Williams-Sonoma to be better. And some things were slightly better quality. But all things were higher prices.

There were some wooden salad tongs on clearance for $15 reduced from $25. I would have paid maybe $5?

Then there were things that were worse quality. Like an olivewood salad bowl–a salad bowl priced at $150. For comparison, that is $150 more than the amount of salad I want to eat.

Hmm, if were were to buy it, we might not have money for salad. Oh, wait, this would be for wedding registry, so we would still have money for salad. Damn.

I

The salad bowl was splitting before ever being sold. Right on the shelf. Split.

I asked a clerk what happens with this type of item if it’s purchased off the registry and then cracks after a single use.

“You have 30 days to return it,” she said.
“Is that in new condition with the labels still on and everything?”
“Yes.”
“But you see it’s cracked just on the shelf.”
“Yes, but they would consider cracking like this normal wear and tear.”
“That’s weird. This is broken already.”
“Oh, I have the bigger [$200(!)] one, and the cracks are much larger. And that happened very quickly. I just don’t let the salad dressing go so high so it doesn’t get stuck in the cracks because then I wouldn’t be able to clean it out.”
“That doesn’t sound very good.”
“I went to a woodworker who told me to take epoxy and squirt it into the cracks to seal it up. But how am I supposed to get a needle that small?”
“So I guess I won’t be putting this on the registry.”
“That’s your decision, but these bowls crack. That’s part of what they do. Maybe it’s the type of wood they use.”
“Yeah, not putting this on the registry.”
“That one is too small, anyway. The one I have at home is larger. And that one fits enough salad just for me.”
“I mean I guess it would hold more if you could fill it all the way, but since the cracking…”
“I suppose so.”
“I guess I’ll go ahead and put this back.”

So it’s back on the shelf. Cracked. But out there for sale.

Now, I’ve encountered many issues in my woodworking projects, but I’ve not tried to sell broken things for hundreds of dollars. Scruples or something. Annoying.

And not everyone is happy about buying broken things or things that break quickly. They make that known in reviews!

But the reviews don’t start off bad.

Will last a lifetime (*****)
This is a large, beautiful olive wood salad bowl that is made by hand. As such there are minor imperfections which are typical with artisan works and (for me anyway) add to the value of the design. For this however, I would recommend that you go to a WS store so that you can choose the one that suits you—As each one is different. Beautiful piece and highly recommend.

Wow! Sounds amazing! Hey, wait a second!

Seems a little premature to have Will last a lifetime as the title. You know, unless someone is coming to kill him.

Wood putty filler too visible (***)
We recently received the largest of these bowls. I was a little reluctant to spend that much for a bowl but based on the previous review of lasting beauty I went for it. I understand that this is pieces of wood glued together to form the bowl. I didn’t however expect the putty that is used as a filler to be so visible. Especially around the top rim of the bowl. It is a very light color and doesn’t look even. I echo the previous review to go in and look at them before buying. That being said no one wants a bowl they would serve at a party to show this much putty right on top. I’m trying to be balanced with a three star rating. It’s hard to find a large salad bowl. I could live with imperfections inside the bowl. The one I received just doesn’t look finished. We’ll return and see if there is a better one. Too much money for this type of imperfection.

Cracked (*)
“First bowl cracked 3 weeks in. Got a replacement. This bowl also cracked about 1 week in. Have not washed it, have not used it. Save your time and get a different bowl.”

Welp! Looks like that’s not the salad bowl for us!

Visiting people again

Yesterday I saw my grandpa in person for the first time since the start of the pandemic. I talk to him at least once a week, and that’s something I’ve been doing for years and years. But it’s been a long time since I got to visit him because I didn’t want to risk harming him.

Now, I had kept myself masked and safe. I didn’t engage in risky behaviors. But I didn’t want to find out only when it was too late that I was an asymptomatic case. So why would I even take the risk?

But I’m vaccinated now, and I’ve started to go out and be a person again. That means I am now able to visit my grandpa. Though I’m still wary of getting too, too close because he’s a thousand years old, and even with the effects of the moderna vaccine coursing through my veins, who knows!

During my lunch break today, I headed over there. I called him in advance, which is to say that I parked outside and called him to see if he would have me over. Before I could ask him, he asked me if I wanted to come over. I told him I’d see him shortly.

As a perhaps unnecessary precaution, I wore a mask for the duration.

I’m glad I visited him, and I will do it again. He’s aged throughout the pandemic. I think we all have. But it shows on him. I hope he’ll perk up over time.

Seeing people in person still is strange for me, and I have to break out of the temperament I’ve had throughout the covid era of not letting myself get excited because I feel like the things that are exciting won’t happen. I wasn’t always this way, and I won’t always be this way.

I look forward to the next time I visit my grandpa, and I’m stoked to start seeing others, too.

My essay for the $1000 to watch home improvement shows

I wrote in my Spelling Bee post on Thursday that I was pretty certain I didn’t win the contest to get paid $1000 to watch home improvement shows. I wrote this as my submission essay on April 11, 2021.

“You like home improvement, home improvement shows, and you like to write!” said my fiancee this morning as we drove around to scout out possible outdoor venues. “When we get home, write to them,” she insisted. So here I am, hammering away at my computer, in the living room of our 1+1, much-postponed wedding finally on the horizon.

In most aspects of my life, I like to take things that are distressed and make them shine. I do that in my professional life as an accountant who specializes in bringing startups from something cobbled together (think: Tarek El-Moussa saying, “This whole place has been trashed–and there’s no way this add-on is permitted.”) to being something investors care about (think: the end of every episode of every show in this list). In my personal life, I like to scope the free stuff section on craigslist and take pieces of furniture that look pretty grim (think: every kitchen that’s way too narrow and doesn’t have an island) and turn it into something usable (the end of every episode). I even document my progress in weekly installments on my ThatShipHasSunk blog.

After our wedding this summer, my fiancee and I will be looking to get out of this place where the kitchen drawers are much too tall and vertical blinds fall off when someone sneezes and where I have to stop in the middle of writing this to pull out the staple gun to fix an unsupported chipboard drawer bottom (sure, fixing stuff is fun, but having to do so because knives are falling into a cabinet isn’t). The shows we watch give us insight into what we can do and what we might want to do in a place of our own. We each like to cook and bake, so the kitchen ideas from all the shows give us inspiration on how to have a functioning kitchen where we can work in tandem. Also advice on how to structure our bedroom so that we can have the storage we want while keeping our shins free from bruises is never unappreciated.

“A website is offering $1,000 for someone to binge-watch home improvement shows,” I read to my fiancee as we took the turns of Mulholland Drive in her Nissan Versa, and I continued the CNN article my dad sent to me. “Really, do it.” As though I needed all the convincing.

Personal appeal to the #nytspellingbee / #hivemind community: Please stop posting Queen Bee scores!

Blacking out the scores is so easy!

I understand the desire to brag about getting to Queen Bee. I get it exceedingly rarely, so I know it’s a major accomplishment. Promote your accomplishments for sure!

The issue I have is that I happen upon the scores that yield the Queen Bee badge. I don’t want to know those scores. I don’t want hints. I don’t want solutions without agreeing to get them. I see the spoilers, and I don’t feel like I’ve agreed to seeing that.

Now, posting stuff has been a journey for me. When I started off, nobody cared what I had to write. And appropriately so. I didn’t even realize that it was an issue for me to have as the featured image of a blog post that day’s NYT Crossword grid.

But then people started to read what I write.

And someone reached out in horror that I’d post the solution in a non-hidden way. I, too, was horrified that I’d ruined others’ enjoyment of solving the crossword and forever changed what I use as the featured image.

When I post screenshots from my phone, I block out the score and the words I’ve gotten.

I schedule my blog to post at 11:58pm so I don’t interfere with anyone’s fun for that day.

Today it really got me when I saw that there were lots of posts with the Queen Bee final scores. Some within an hour of midnight. If that weren’t enough, one that was posted only about an hour after the puzzle was released had the final score both in the screenshot and the tweet text.

I know that a solution is to delete twitter/not use twitter. Some might advise not to follow people who post scores early in the day.

I am not going to stay off twitter because that’s not a reasonable solution.

And I don’t have to follow the people who post their scores to see them. I see those tweets accidentally when people like the tweets or reply to them. So I’m stuck.

I like being part of the #hivemind community. I really do. I like that we have a thing to solve every day, and I like the camaraderie. I enjoy having something to write about to daily, too.

I’m not saying don’t brag about Queen Bee. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t post screenshots of the Queen Bee badge. My feeling is what I wrote at the beginning of this: Promote your accomplishments for sure!

My request is that people not post the word count and score.

I used to try to solve for Queen Bee, but knowing what it takes to get there takes part of the fun away from me.

I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way.

I’m not going to reply to all those tweets with this request. This will serve as my appeal to the community to be considerate of those of us who don’t want hints.

Maybe twitter should have a spoiler feature like on reddit. Then it would be easy for all.

Thanks for reading this, and happy solving!

-Matt

Sad Panda/Open Eye -OR- The University of San Francisco Cites My Blog (Part 2)

So there it was. That’s why I was Sad Panda.

Sad panda: This webpage is not useful–it is a random person’s self-published post.

I was crushed. I had been so proud to be cited. But then I learned I was cited as… sad panda.

That feeling was ephemeral.

It was quickly replaced by: Holy shit! They needed a sad panda and chose me! They’re getting people to read me.

But I reread my post, and I didn’t really like being Sad Panda. It didn’t seem just.

“This webpage is not useful–it is a random person’s self-published post.

Self-published post? I’m with you. Not useful? I disagree.

Now, long-time readers of this blog are well aware that my writing mainly is about the Spelling Bee and about woodworking projects. There are a lot of crossword posts, too, but I don’t do them as regularly as I used to due to increased demands on my time.

But there are many posts on here that are about real issues. One series is about the Trump-era change to add a fee to asylum seekers. I don’t think that it has changed under Biden, but I hope that it will.

Another topic is Prop 22.

I hadn’t read the post since around the time it was published in August of last year, and when I reread it, it was better than I’d remembered. It started from an email I’d received from Lyft that seemed sketchy. And I remembered a lesson my folks taught me from an early age about being educated by a salesperson: The salesperson is interested in making a sale, so it’s important to think critically about the the content of the pitch and that it’s OK not to buy right then.

So I broke down the sales pitch nature of the Lyft email and how absurd it was. I also shared independent research I’d done to satisfy my own curiosity. I’m biased, but of all the stuff I’ve written, that one was a good post!

The alternatives to Sad Panda were either too reliable or too conspiracy theory-ey.

I reached out to the University of San Francisco librarian who seemed to be in charge of the program to see how she even found me. She claimed to have found me on google. I don’t even know how I rated at such a high level on google.

But I expressed how at first I didn’t think it was fair to confine the classifications to those four because it prohibited the combination of self-published and helpful but that then I realized that it was a group projects thing that would require a conversation about which category to choose.

So it’s good that there are so few categories. And it’s great that mine isn’t clearly in one category.

While my post really must be Sad Panda if restricted to these options, it should be in the conversation for Open Eye. It should be far from Poison and nowhere close to Mola Ram.

Mola Ram from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

All in all, my dad was proud that he saw my sister’s employer (Los Angeles Times) on the second tab and my blog on the third. Both his children represented in an assignment from a school none of us has attended.


Happy birthday to Darren!

Sad Panda/Open Eye -OR- The University of San Francisco Cites My Blog (Part 1)

I decided to look through my blog’s stats to see what people are looking and how they found me. Often it’s through twitter or through WordPress reader.

That’s why I was surprised when I saw that the University of San Francisco was linking to my blog!

guides.usfca.edu gives me 16 click-throughs!

So I tried to find out what was going on. How did I get to be so important in the world of academia?

My first thought is that it wasn’t actually the school’s site but rather the site of a student. But that didn’t make any sense. Why would anyone link to my blog? And where in my blog was interesting to link to?

I mean other than all of it because–and no big deal about this–a New York Times bestselling author many times over, in response to reading my writing, said things I’ve written “are great.”

But that knowledge did not help me with this.

I then tried the actual link and found that it went to the University of San Francisco library????

Either says a lot about me or very little about the USF library.

I kept looking.

Aha! I wrote about Prop 22 a long time ago!

OK so a reference to California Proposition 22! Great! Very happy. I spent some time writing about how the idea to exempt Uber and Lyft from Assembly Bill 5 is garbage. And it mattered! Hooray!

Right?

But I wanted to see it in context.

So I went to guides.usfca.edu/swu_prop22 and was disappointed when I saw no reference to anything I cared about–which is to say I didn’t see reference to me.

But after much confusion and it being like midnight, I realized that there were many group tabs.

Same concept but from the LA Times.

and then there it was:

I was so excited about it that I sent it to Lauren without reading further. Why should I read further? They’re analyzing my work. And I am being looked at in the same conversation as people are looking at where she works!

Her reply: “Sad panda.”

Sad panda? What is sad panda?

I stared to searching because I may have missed a meme. It was likely I’d missed a meme. There’s a sad panda meme out there, right?

sad panda?

More next time!

Baseball series 5-8-21

This is my origin story for broadcasting.

When I was at Santa Monica College and looking at schools to transfer to, I saw that Cal State University schools required a speech class as part of the transfer requirements. The only Cal State I’d been considering applying to is Cal Poly, but the speech requirement was still something that I hadn’t yet completed, and I didn’t see room in my schedule for it.

I am not opposed to giving speeches, and public speaking isn’t a foreign thing to me. Not too long before I’d made a decision against taking a speech class, I had spoken in front of the Beverly Hills City Council in opposition to a parks plan.

My dad recommended against taking the speech class and instead recommended taking a broadcasting class. The broadcasting class would not qualify for the speech class requirement, so it was an interesting idea but I’d have to put it into my full schedule, so… pass!

The summer after transferring to UCSB, I decided to take broadcasting class after all. It wouldn’t help my graduation units–my transfer credits were capped already–but I was interested in it, and it was something to do during the summer for a little bit each day while I enjoyed my break from school.

The class was taught by the Ron Brewington, who advised us on what was not newsworthy (dog bites man), and what was (man bites dog). He also emphasized frequently that star is just rats backwards. I remember distinctly that he turned google into a verb by adding ize to it. That is to say that he recommended we “googlize” things. I always imagined googly eyes.

These.

We were also taught to write out our scripts in Courier New and mark up our scripts so we knew where the human speech breaks were.

I learned a lot in that class, but some of this type of formatting did not keep for very long when I went to KCSB.

At the end of the term, we had to write a script and record it. There were phonebooth-sized recording rooms where we had to record to cassette tape. We were in either the same building as or an adjacent building to KCRW, but there was no interaction between the real radio station and the classroom. It’s kind of a shame because they could have done something good with that.

I decided to save mine. And you can hear it if you’d like.