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Posts from 2012

By Brendan Loy


Above: Video of the Transit of Venus taken by my dad in Connecticut in 2004.

Long-time readers might vaguely recall that, eight years ago, I considered flying from Phoenix (where I was living at the time) to Chicago, for just a single day, to view the Transit of Venus. I ultimately decided against it — instead shipping my video camera, equipped with a makeshift solar filter, to my parents in Connecticut, and vicariously liveblogging an event I couldn’t see — because, as I wrote on the day of the transit, “There will be a re-run in eight years.”

That “re-run” is tomorrow, as you can see in my countdown timer at right. (I’ve literally been counting the days until tomorrow for the last 6 1/2 years.) And it’s visible from Denver — along with most of the rest of the world — weather-permitting.

Transit of Venus 2012

That last word, “weather-permitting,” is key, though. Right now the forecast says “partly sunny,” revised from an earlier prediction of “mostly cloudy.” (I’ve never been clear on the difference between those two vague phrases; it sounds like a glass half-empty/half-full sort of thing.) I’ll be watching the weather obsessively tonight and perhaps into early morning tomorrow. If it looks iffy, I might end up boarding a plane after all — from Denver to Tucson, where it will be 98 degrees and sunny. I’ve got a refundable (well, re-credit-able) Southwest ticket for a flight leaving at 9:35 AM tomorrow, if I need it.

Hopefully I won’t need that ticket, and I can cancel it and use the credit for something else later in the summer. Most likely, I’ll end up staying in the Greater Denver Area, prepared to chase the sunlight for multiple hours tomorrow afternoon — to Laramie, to Pueblo, to Limon, whatever — if Denver looks like it’s clouding over. But, one way or another, come Hell or high water, I’m not missing this transit — because this time, there’s no re-run in our lifetimes. The next transit will be in 2117.

Anyway… as with an eclipse, or anytime really, DON’T LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN. Safe viewing tips here. And you can find a worldwide map of transit viewing events here.

1 Comment  |  Categories: Transit of Venus 2012

By Brendan Loy

Unless your name is Mitt Romney, this is terrifying.

The head of the World Bank yesterday warned that financial markets face a rerun of the Great Panic of 2008.

On the bleakest day for the global economy this year, Robert Zoellick said crisis-torn Europe was heading for the ‘danger zone’.

Mr Zoellick, who stands down at the end of the month after five years in charge of the watchdog, said it was ‘far from clear that eurozone leaders have steeled themselves’ for the looming catastrophe amid fears of a Greek exit from the single currency and meltdown in Spain.

The flow of money into so-called ‘safe havens’ such as UK, German and US government debt turned into a stampede yesterday.

In Berlin the two-year government bond yield fell below zero for the first time, with the bizarre result that jittery international investors are now paying – rather than being paid – for lending to Germany.

There was a raft of dismal economic news from around the world, with manufacturing output falling in Britain and Europe, unemployment jumping in the eurozone and America, and fast-emerging economies such as Brazil and China showing signs of running out of steam. …

Mr Zoellick warned that the coming months could be as bad as the collapse of US investment bank Lehman Brothers in 2008.

He said: ‘Events in Greece could trigger financial fright in Spain, Italy and across the eurozone. The summer of 2012 offers an eerie echo of 2008.

Money quote: “Eurozone leaders need to be ready. There will not be time for meetings of finance ministers to discuss the outlook and debate the politics of incrementalism. In panicked markets, investors flee to safe assets, sparking other flames.”

Anyone out there think Eurozone leaders are ready, or have any reasonable prospect of becoming ready? Or that our policymakers are, for that matter?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

#PANIC!

By Brendan Loy

The “Occupy Denver” folks — in coordination with the SEIU, seemingly — protested outside Wells Fargo in downtown Denver this morning, about a block from my office. Naturally, I couldn’t resist checking out the scene.

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Note the tie-wearing 1 Percenters on the right, greedily sipping their Starbucks coffee, which no doubt contains ground-up $100 bills as a garnish. ;)

After the jump, my Storify story with more photos and my live-tweeting of the festivities.

Continue reading »

By Brendan Loy

With the news of Germany standing fast against “Eurobonds,” and the Eurozone crisis worsening as a result of the impasse, I posted this silly tweet last night:

Fear! Fire! Eurobonds! Awake! #PANIC

Political Math said he found this very funny, to which I replied with a faux-quote from Angela Merkel: “Let the little people blow.” This caused a brainstorm, as I suddenly realized there’s waaaay more material there. Lord of the Rings quotes are perfect for this situation! (And every situation, really. But particularly this one.) I immediately couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of this before. Anyway, the flood gates opened:

“Understand, François, I would use these eurobonds out of a desire to do good. But through me, they would wield a power too great and terrible to imagine.”

“One Bond to rule them all; One Bond to find them; One Bond to bring them all; and in the darkness bind them.”

“Give Greece the weapon of the bankers. Let us use it against them!”
“Greece cannot wield the Eurobond! None of us can.”

Merkel to Hollande: “I will not lead the Eurobond within a hundred leagues of your city.”

“I am the Servant of the Anti-Inflationary Fire, Wielder of the Flame of Weimar. Dark Eurobonds will not avail you, Flame of Udûn!”

European Council: “If you ask it of me, I will give you the right to issue the One Bond.”
Merkel: “You offer it to me freely? I do not deny that my heart has greatly desired this. In the place of a Council you would have a Queen! Not dark but beautiful and terrible as the Morn! Treacherous as the Seas! Stronger than the foundations of the Earth! All shall love me and despair! … I have passed the test. I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Merkel.”

“Greece is demanding Eurobonds from the south, Spain from the west. And France, you say, has betrayed us. Our list of allies grows thin.”

I eventually broadened the joke to quotes more generally about the Euro situation, not necessarily Eurobond-related:

“I know what you saw, for it is also in my mind. It is what will come to pass if you should fail. The Eurozone is breaking. It has already begun.”

“We Germans cannot hold back this storm. We must weather such things as we have always done.”
“But you’re part of this world! Aren’t you?! You must help! Please!”

“The Euro cannot be destroyed by any craft that we here possess. It was made in the fires of Frankfurt. Only there can it be unmade. It must be taken deep into the heart of the European Central Bank, and cast back into the fiery chasm from whence it came!”

And lastly, my personal favorite:

[Greece throws a few hundred billion euro down a hole.]
Germany: “Fool of a Greek! Throw yourself in next time and rid us of your stupidity!”

UPDATE: Brandon Minich chimes in with more good ones:

(Conversation in the 1990s)
“The European currencies are strong, my Lord. Their roots go deep.”
“Rip them all down!”

Hollande: “What is this new devilry?”
Merkel: “A Bank Run. A demon of the ancient world. This foe is beyond any of you. Run!”

Merkel: “My currency is spent. My chancellorship has ended. Greece has deserted us. ABANDON YOUR DEPOSITS! FLEE, FLEE FOR YOUR CURRENCIES!”

“The Euro is burning…already burning.”
“It’s not dead! It’s not dead!”
“Farewell, Hollande. Go now and die in what way seems best to you.”

Heh! #nerds

UPDATE: More:

“A great bank run, you say?”
“All Barcelona is emptied.”
“How many?”
“Ten thousand strong at least.”
“Ten thousand?!”
“It is a bank run bred for a single purpose: to destroy the Eurozone. The banks will be insolvent by nightfall.”

“I will not risk open #PANIC.”
“Open #PANIC is upon you, whether you would risk it or not.”

“A red sun rises. Red ink has been spilled this night.”

Panagiotis Pikrammenos: “Go back to the abyss! Fall into the nothingness that awaits you and your fellow lefties!”
Alexis Tsipras: “Do you not know death when you see it? This is my hour!”

“Arise, Voters of Syriza! Spears shall be shaken, shields shall be splintered! A sword day… a red day… ere the sun rises! DEATH!! DEATH!!!”

France to Netherlands re: opposition to eurobonds: “How long has it been since Germany bought you? What was the promised price?”

“Angela… they cannot win this fight. They are all going to die!”
“Then I shall die as one of them!”

“Is there any hope, Angela, for Spain and Italy?”
“There never was much hope. Just a fool’s hope.”

“I’m… naked in the dark, with nothing, no veil… between me… and the € of fire! I can see it… with my waking eyes!”

“Sons of Germany, of France, my brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me! A day may come when the Euro fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of currency. But it is not this day! An hour of woes and shattered banks, when the unity of Europe comes crashing down! BUT IT IS NOT THIS DAY! This day we bail out Greece! Again!”

Merkel: “Forgive me. I mistook you for Sarkozy.”
Hollande: “I am Sarkozy. Or rather, Sarkozy as he should have been.”

UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers! Thanks for the link, Glenn! ‘Tis my first Instalanche in a while.

To encourage discussion, I’ve temporarily disabled mandatory comment registration. Chat away!

(Regular readers, if you’re presently logged out, you can still log in here.)

UPDATE: More…

“You did not seriously think that a small Mediterranean economy could contend with the will of the Bond Markets? There are none who can.”

“Smoke rises from the Acropolis of Doom. The hour grows late, and Hollande the Red rides to Berlin, seeking my counsel. For that is why you have come, is it not? My old friend.”

UPDATE: Uh-oh. We have crossover:

“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of bondholders suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.”

UPDATE: Back to LOTR, with still more jokes, some from comments

“One does not simply walk out of the Eurozone. Its iron gates are guarded by more than central bankers. There are technocrats there who do not sleep. And the great € is ever watchful. Not with ten thousand drachma could you do this. It is folly.”

“The Greeks delved too greedily and too deep. You know what they awoke in the darkness of the Bundesbank.”

“The Euro stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little, and it will fail, to the ruin of all. Yet hope remains while Germany is true.”

“I think you should leave the Euro behind, Greece. Is that so hard?”
“Well, no. … And yes. Now it comes to it, I don’t feel like parting with it. It’s mine, I found it. It came to me!”
“There’s no need to get angry.”
“Well, if I’m angry, it’s your fault! It’s mine… my own… my precious…”
“Precious? It’s been called that before, but not by you.”
“What business is it of yours what I do with my own currency?”
“I think you’ve had the Euro quite long enough.”

“We swears we will enact austerity measures! We swears to serve the master of the Euro. We will swear on… on… the Euro!”

Or, if we make the drachma, instead of the Euro, the “precious”…

“We wants the drachma back. We needs it. Must have the precious. They stole it from us. Sneaky little Eurocrats. Wicked, tricksy, false!”

UPDATE: More!

“Strangers from distant lands, friends of old, you have been summoned to answer the threat of debt. Europe stands upon the brink of destruction. You will unite or you will fall. Each nation is bound to this fate, this one doom. Bring forth the Euro.”

“I owe nothing.”
“Indeed. I can avoid paying my debts for a while if I wish, but to make them disappear entirely, that is a rare gift.”

“They were nations once. Great nations. Then Germany the deceiver gave them Euros of power. Blinded by their greed, they took them without question — one by one, falling into darkness. They are the Euro-gûl. Nation-wraiths, neither living nor dead.”

“I’ve put this off far too long … I regret to announce that this is the end! I am going now. Goodbye!” [slips drachma on finger, vanishes]

By Brendan Loy

As if you need any further evidence that conference realignment has gotten way out of hand, Andy Glockner, Mike Greiner and NU Hoops Fan made a brilliant observation on Twitter just now: if a presidential candidate were to win every state with a current or incoming member of the Big East Conference, they would get 291 electoral votes — enough to capture the presidency, based on one league alone.

Big East electoral map

Heh. Andy suggests we rename the Big East the #ElectoralConference.

P.S. And then there’s this.

By Brendan Loy

You may recall that it was a particularly ridiculous Drudge homepage that led to the creation of the “PANIC!!!!!!” graphic that subsequently became my oft-praised Twitter avatar. Well, Drudge has struck again:

ohnodrudge

That’s Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat, who made headlines over the weekend by criticizing President Obama’s anti-Bain Capital ads. ABC says the Obama camp is in damage control mode, which led Drudge to proclaim — referring to the president by the first letter of his last name, then stretching it out for effect — “OOOOOOO NOOOOOO.”

Teehee. Oh, Drudge, you ridiculous, sensationalist partisan shill, you. I doooooon’t knoooooow hoooooow to quit yoooooou.

Anyway, yet again, I couldn’t resist coming up with some alternate versions:

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ohnodrudge-sam

ohnodrudge-mrbill

No Comments  |  Categories: Funny Stuff, The Media

By Brendan Loy

Wow! The solar eclipse over Denver was awesome!

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Above, a photo that Becky took of me holding 10-month-old Loyabelle in one arm and, in the other, raised above my head, a 13-year-old piece of welder’s glass that made it possible to show the Sun in otherwise normally-exposed pictures. It worked amazingly well. (See also here, here, here and here.)

Below, a shot of the eclipse as seen through a pair of eclipse glasses, followed by a close-up of the eclipse taken by my camcorder (with its makeshift solar filter system, constructed with masking tape and one-half of a pair of those glasses).

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These photos were all taken from the west lawn of the Denver Museum of the Nature and Science, which was packed. It was a great place to watch the action, with lots of stuff for the girls to do (like rolling down the hill, chasing bubbles and wandering through the rose gardens), and we even ran into some friends there. But we very nearly didn’t end up there at all!

With the clock ticking toward the eclipse, and the sky looking increasingly overcast, I decided to abandon our museum plan in favor of a long drive south toward Colorado Springs and Pueblo, where the skies looked clearer on the high-resolution visible satellite with ~2 hours to go. So we got on I-225 South and started heading in that direction — but then, with a clearer view of Denver’s western horizon, we could see that there were sunlit skies beyond the clouds, moving toward us, and I made a snap decision that we should go back to the original plan and go to the museum after all. A good thing, too: it looks like the Springs and Pueblo ended up cloudy, while Denver got a great view! We had a cloudy interlude early in the eclipse, but viewing conditions were awesome for the best part of the show, around maximum eclipse.

More photos:

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UPDATE: New blog logo!

lrt-solareclipse

P.S. After the jump, my Storify page on the eclipse, saving my tweets & retweets for posterity.

Continue reading »

By Brendan Loy

I wrote last night that the only solar eclipse I’ve ever seen was on May 10, 1994, when I caught a brief, unsafe, naked-eye glimpse of the partially eclipsed sun, perhaps 40% or 50% covered, looking out a bus window in Virginia during a school trip. But I belatedly realized that’s not right: I also saw, from the road in the desert of southeastern California, ~20% of the sun eclipsed on December 14, 2001, using a makeshift pinhole to project it from the window of Becky’s Camry onto a notepad as we drove from L.A. to Phoenix:

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Hopefully we’ll get a somewhat more dramatic view this evening. Cross your fingers. After crystal-clear blue skies this morning, it’s now partly cloudy.

UPDATE: I found my welder’s glass! Since buying it way back in 1999 ahead of the sunrise eclipse that I couldn’t see due to clouds, I’ve been hauling it around the country for 13 years — and now that I finally need it, last night I couldn’t find it. But I just located it, in a box in the basement:

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By Brendan Loy

Tomorrow, America will experience its first annular eclipse since May 10, 1994. Weather permitting, I’ll get to see it as an 85% partial eclipse in Denver — the second solar eclipse I’ve ever witnessed, and the first since (again) May 10, 1994. It will also be the first solar eclipse I’m witnessed safely, with proper eye protection.

On May 10, 1994, I saw the partial phase of that day’s annular eclipse from inside a bus near Historic Jamestowne, VA, catching a glimpse for a split-second with my naked eye — which you should not do, as it’s dangerous. Thankfully, my eyes were not damaged. They could have been!

Why was I on a bus in Virginia, you ask? Well, it was day 2 of the annual Martin Kellogg Middle School seventh-grade class trip to Washington and Williamsburg. I was, uncharacteristically, not tuned in to astronomical events of the day; I don’t think I even knew about the eclipse, or else I had forgotten, until our bus’s lead chaperone, Mr. Spitzer, mentioned it. When he did so, and before he could utter the next sentence (reminding us NOT TO LOOK DIRECTLY AT IT), I instinctively turned my head to the left, looked out the window, glanced up, and saw it. Being an astronomy nerd with knowledge of such things, I knew better than this — but I couldn’t help myself. I immediately looked away, and then blurted out something like, “You’re right, I just saw it!”

This all happened in a split second, and gave Mr. Spitzer the perfect segue into his next sentence, telling everyone NOT TO DO WHAT LOY JUST DID. (In fairness to Mr. Spitzer, I think he actually may have said “now, I don’t want you to look at it, but…” before he even mentioned the eclipse — an admonition I promptly ignored — and then merely reiterated the point after I looked.)

Anyway, I discovered this evening that, down in the basement, in our box of photo albums, inside my Williamsburg Trip Scrapbook (a post-trip homework assignment in Mrs. Weber’s class), there is my account of that day! I had forgotten this even exists. We had to write a little something about each day of the trip, and include photos and whatnot; I went above and beyond, giving each day an extended, detailed write-up, and include a ton of photos, souvenirs, etc. I know you’re shocked. :) Anyway, here’s the relevant part of the May 10 write-up, followed by a relevant photo and, er, illustration.

(Before I go on, a key point of clarification: the “tape recorder” in question is an audio recorder only. You’ll understand why that’s important when you read my write-up.)

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By Brendan Loy

Annular Eclipse Sunset

Get your eclipse glasses, pinhole viewers, or Shade 14 welder’s glass out, and your “penumbras and emanations” jokes ready, because there’s a solar eclipse a-comin’ on Sunday evening!

The photo above (by Kevin Baird) shows roughly what the eclipse will look like along the central “line of annularity,” which stretches from parts of China and Japan, across the Pacific, to parts of California and Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, extreme southwestern Colorado, New Mexico, and northwest Texas:

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(Graphics via eclipse-maps.com.)

Here in Denver, the eclipse, at its 7:30 PM peak, will look more like this, with the sun 86% eclipsed. (Photo by Peter Rosen, via Universe Today.)

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If you don’t already have eclipse glasses, and you can’t find a local store that’s selling them at this late date, your best options, in order, are probably: 1) find a public eclipse-viewing event in your local area where they’ll be giving eclipse glasses away, or selling them for like $2 (here in Denver/Boulder, options include CU, DU, and the DMNS); 2) find a local store that sells welding supplies, and buy some “Shade 14″ welder’s glass (it must be 14, not 12 or a lower number); or 3) make a pinhole viewer, and project the Sun’s image instead of looking at it directly.

(Whatever you do, DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN WITHOUT PROPER EYE PROTECTION!!!. At no point during an annular or partial solar eclipse is it ever safe to do this. You could go blind.)

If you do manage to secure eclipse glasses or welder’s glass, consider it an investment. A Transit of Venus–only the second one since 1882, and the last until 2117–is coming next month (June 5, to be exact), and of course the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse is something you should go ahead and put in your gCal, iCal or Outlook calendars right now. It’s absolutely not to be missed.

By Brendan Loy

Today could be an historic day for freedom and equality in Becky’s and my adopted home state of Colorado, as a bill establishing civil unions for gays & lesbians is on the verge of passing into law.

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Even as North Carolina goes down a reactionary road (fueled in large part by ignorance of the facts), the former “Hate State” of Colorado could become another beacon of hope for those of us who believe the arc of the moral universe does indeed bend toward justice.

I said “could.” Nothing is certain yet. The bill has already passed the Democratic-controlled Senate, then eked through two GOP-majority House committees late last week, each time thanks to a single Republican dissenter — Rep. B.J. Nikkel, R-Loveland (a former aide to right-wing congresswoman and Federal Marriage Amendment co-sponsor Marilyn Musgrave) in the Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Don Beezley, R-Bloomfield, in the Finance Committee — and it is expected to pass the Appropriations Committee this afternoon, thanks to the declared support of Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen. What happens after that is less clear:

GOP leadership will decide whether to call it up [to the House floor] and hear the measure. The bill must be debated today because the official vote has to be taken on another day as the debate, and Wednesday is the last day of the session. …

House leadership — Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, but particularly House Majority Leader Amy Stephens, R-Monument — will decide when and if it will be heard. Both oppose civil unions. Only one GOP vote is needed to pass the measure. At least five Republicans are expected to vote with Democrats. If approved, the bill goes to Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has said he will sign it.

So the question is whether McNulty and Stephens allow a floor debate [UPDATE: and initial voice vote] today. If they do, the bill will ultimately become law; if they don’t, it will die, unless Hickenlooper calls a special session, as the Denver Post has urged him to do if necessary. (He has called such talk “premature,” but hasn’t ruled it out.)

[UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: Eli Stokols explains the procedural requirements:

If [the bill passes the Appropriations Committee], the measure would still need to be approved by the full House on an initial voice vote by Tuesday at midnight.

That’s because bill’s must pass second- and third-reading votes on separate days; so if the House doesn’t do an initial vote by Tuesday night, there wouldn’t be time to hold a final vote on Wednesday.

Knock on wood, but I don’t think McNulty and Stephens will prevent a vote. Perhaps they’ll try to extract some sort of concession in exchange for allowing it, but in the end, I think their vague threats to prevent a vote are mostly posturing. If the GOP had the stomach for this fight, they would have stalled the bill already. They could have done so by delaying the committee report out of Judiciary, or by refusing to schedule a Finance or Appropriations committee hearing, all of which were discussed and threatened and fretted over. But ultimately, the relevant GOP leaders have caved at all of those critical junctures over the last few days. And McNulty and Stephens haven’t even clearly stated an intent to stop the bill. I think the state GOP leadership has made a judgment that, with a majority of the House supporting the bill, and an even larger majority of the public supporting it, this isn’t a hill to die on.

Moreover, the worst thing they could do, politically, is to let the bill get to this point, get supporters’ hopes sky-high, and then kill it. The outrage then would be far worse than if they’d killed it earlier, like after the Judiciary vote. Now, public pressure might well force Hickenlooper’s hand into calling a special session, thus embarrassing the GOP leaders further, whereas that probably wouldn’t have been the case if they’d killed it last week. So they’ve missed their ideal window to kill this bill — which they surely realize as well. That leads me to believe they ultimately will not kill it.

But we’ll see. Supporters certainly aren’t resting easy yet. Above is a photo from a rally this morning on the State Capitol steps. More below. See these dangerous radicals, promoting the gay agenda? Don’t all you fellow heterosexuals feels like your marriages are threatened just looking at these pictures? EVERYBODY PANIC!!!

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To proclaim our support for civil unions, Becky went out and bought a rainbow flag this afternoon, and put it up on our front-porch flagpole. It’s 2′ x 3′, not as big as our American flag or our USC flag, because that’s the biggest one they had. But it still makes the point:

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Let’s do this, Colorado!!!

P.S. We had an interesting discussion on Facebook about this issue last week, including the whole civil unions vs. gay marriage / “perfect being the enemy of the good” problem. Mike Wiser was, as always, the voice of reason:

I think that’s a complicated point. On the one hand, progress is good, even if it’s only incremental. But there is part of me that worries that such an incremental progress might stall out well short of actual equality. Those of us who such measures will directly affect are a very small minority; our only progress from a legislative end will come from convincing the much larger majority. One of the most effective ways of convincing the larger majority has been the justified moral outrage of the abuses in the current system — hospital visitation rights, next of kin status for medical and parental responsibility purposes, etc. As these terrible things are removed, it becomes harder to motivate unaffected third parties to care about smaller but still daunting issues for some couples, like access to spousal social security payments or the ability to file taxes jointly or transfer property to a spouse without incurring substantial tax penalties and the like. So I simultaneously want the most awful things taken care of as soon as possible…and worry that taking care of just the most awful things first will mean that the more moderate problems may not be taken care of for years or even generations longer than they would be in an all or nothing approach. Someone is going to lose either way.

If I had to choose, I think I’d go with the civil unions for now. Actual political change tends to happen over the course of generations; it’s less common that individuals change their minds, and more common that they are replaced by a new generation of voters who see things differently.* The generation of our grandparents, as a whole, is extremely unaccepting of homosexuality. Our parents’ generation is better; our generation is better still; the generation below us is even further along. I eagerly await the day when most people realize that the arguments against same sex marriage are virtually verbatim the same arguments previously used against interracial marriage. I think I’ll probably live to see that, but I may well be in my 60s by the time it happens. If I do find the right man, I think I’d rather risk some years of economic penalties than risk not being allowed at his bedside if he gets sick and his family isn’t OK with me. The economic penalties are more concrete and certain, but less terrible if they do happen. But the game of “pick the way in which you’d prefer to be legally screwed” is hardly a fun one.

* The main way individuals happen to change their views on this one over the course of their own lifetime is from having friends or family members members who come out of the closet. This is one of the major reasons I want as many of the adult gays as possible to come out of the closet. It would also be helpful if more of the truly bisexual people came out of the closet, though I can understand why many choose not to due to the ridiculous social stigma attached.

UPDATE: Mitt Romney is coming to Colorado tomorrow, and at least one event, he will be taking questions from local media (which he didn’t do ahead of his caucus defeat in February). Do you think he wants to answer a bunch of questions from local reporters about how the state GOP leadership torpedoed a bill the night before that has majority support in both houses of the state legislature, and 75% public support in this critical swing state?

Despite Mitt’s professed opposition to civil unions, I’m thinking Team Romney is silently rooting for McNulty and Stephens to let this bill come to a vote tonight. (Or maybe not so silently? Who knows?)

By Brendan Loy

In the wake of this weekend’s news that Utah State and San Jose State are probably leaving the WAC for the Mountain West, and Texas-San Antonio and Louisiana Tech are probably leaving for Conference USA, I have obtained exclusive footage of the conversation last night at WAC headquarters in Greenwood Village, Colorado:

In all seriousness, it’s really unclear how the WAC can go forward now. For all my jokes about the mythical “eighth football member,” it appears the WAC is now down to just three football members: Idaho, New Mexico State and Texas State. There don’t seem to be enough viable FBS football options in the western half of the country to make it possible to build from that “base” of 3 back to a respectable size, so it now appears inevitable — barring some eleventh-hour moves that keeps the above-mentioned USU/SJSU/UTSA/LTU quartet from fleeing — that the WAC is well and truly dead, at long last, as a football conference. If so, it seems plausible that NSMU and TSU could end up in the Sun Belt, while Idaho may be the first realignment victim forced to drop FBS football because it couldn’t find a league. The FCS Big Sky, the Vandals’ former home, may also be their future home.

If those three schools depart, that would leave the once-proud WAC with four schools, none of whom are actually members yet as of today: Denver, Seattle, UT-Arlington, and Boise State in everything but football. Could that possibly be the base for a viable basketball/Olympic sports league? Add, say, Utah Valley and Cal State-Bakersfield, and you’ve got…a really crappy conference, but one that’s still eligible for an auto bid to the NCAA Tournament, I think.

But as I see it, the WAC only stays together, even in that shell of a form, if the four remaining schools have absolutely no other viable options. Suppose the WCC rejects Denver and Seattle (again), the Big Sky rejects Boise’s Olympic sports (the Big West already has), UT-Arlington can’t find a home, the Big Sky and Sun Belt aren’t interested in non-football-playing WAC castaways, the Summit League closes its doors or is otherwise deemed a non-viable optios, etc. If those things all happen — and they very well might — the #ZombieWAC is probably going to stay alive, one way or another, no matter how awful it is. The alternative, that case, would be for Denver, Seattle, etc., to break away and form a new league… in which case they might as well just stay in the WAC.

But if the WCC takes DU and Seattle, and/or if Boise State finds a different home for its Olympic sports (or leaves the Big East and rejoins the Mountain West in all sports, in light of the death of AQ status)? BOOM. Game over.

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By Brendan Loy

Legendary Tennessee Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt is stepping down after 38 seasons, an NCAA-record 1,098 career victories, and an amazing 8 national titles. She will become a coach emeritus with the UT program, as Lady Vols associate head coach Holly Warlick takes over as the team’s new head coach.

Summitt was diagnosed eight months ago with early onset dementia, an apparent precursor to Alzheimer’s. She continued to coach Tennessee all season, albeit with Warlick playing an increased role. Although the Lady Vols lost to eventual national champion Baylor in the regional finals, Summitt accounted for the emotional highlight of the Final Four in Denver when she was among the coaches honored at halftime of the second semifinal. When her name was announced, four fan bases of other national programs — UConn, Notre Dame, Stanford and Baylor — gave her an enormous standing ovation. (I was there, and have audio that I’ll try post later. Below, a photo of Summitt waving and pointing as she and the other coaches walked off the court.)

IMG_3380

Growing up in Connecticut as a UConn fanatic, I hated Pat Summitt as a kid, even jokingly calling her the “Devil-woman.” But as I grew older and matured, I started viewing her in much the same way as most USC fans viewed UCLA’s John Wooden: someone so legendary and so thoroughly admirable that you absolutely had to respect her, no matter your allegiances. Then, of course, I moved to Knoxville for a year, attended some Lady Vols games, and found myself — horror of horrors — starting to kind of like her. Now, in the wake of her diagnosis and now retirement, I’m simply sad for her, and for the game that will be poorer without her continuing as a head coach for another 38 years — as you got the sense she would have, if her health had allowed it.

Anyway, there isn’t much else to say except to thank Pat Summitt for everything she’s done for the game, and wish her well. Thanks, Pat.

UPDATE: Here’s the audio clip. Summitt’s face and name appear on the jumbotron around the 0:37 mark, and then she starts walking out onto the court.

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By Brendan Loy

My soon-to-be sister-in-law, Deanah Kim, is competing to be Safeway’s Culinary Kitchen Chef in an online contest. Her entry includes a recipe for “Seared Scallops over Celery Root ‘Farroto’ with Green Beans and Toasted Almonds.” Sounds yummy, even if I’m doubly allergic to it (mollusks and tree nuts!).

Anyway, to advance, Deanah needs your vote! And not just one vote — you can vote early and often, ACORN-style! So I prepared a little campaign graphic:

314202_10100222881725087_5601403_44062854_1821906411_n

Between now and April 20, when the polls close, you can vote for Deanah up to 100 times. And you don’t even need to pretend you’re Eric Holder!

Just log into your Facebook account, “like” Safeway, and then vote for Deanah! (You don’t actually have to “Share” your vote as a status update every single time you vote. Just click cancel when the “Share” window comes up. Your vote will still count.)

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By Brendan Loy

Tim Donahue & Michael HoltsbergThe overwhelming favorites in both the men’s and women’s NCAA Tournaments, Kentucky and Baylor, won their respective national championships Monday and Tuesday — and in the process clinched Living Room Times pool championships for Tim Donahue of Elizabethtown, KY and Michael Holtsberg of Broomall, PA.

Donahue, a Louisville alum and huge fan of Rick Pitino’s Cardinals, clinched the 17th annual Living Room Times men’s NCAA pool when Louisville’s archrival, Kentucky, followed up its win over the Cardinals by capturing the national title over Kansas. Donahue, who predicted a perfect Final Four and title game, finishes with 378 of a maximum possible 477 points — the third-highest winning point total in LRT men’s pool history, trailing only Arash Markazi’s 409 in 2007 and Alex Whitfield’s 392 in 2008.

Brian Kiolbasa, the 2005 champ who holds the fifth-highest point total ever (362), finished second with 355 points. Adam Feldman (347 points), Chris Bossman (342) and Rachel Wetherill (332) came in third, fourth and fifth, respectively. Abby Newbold, who would have won the pool if Kansas had upset Kentucky, finished sixth with 328 points. Joshua Guiher (327), Michael Holtsberg (326), Zach Bloxham (324) and Jeremy Kidd (323) round out the Top 10. Full standings here.

Meanwhile, in the 15th annual Living Room Times women’s pool, Michael Holtsberg is your champion for the second time in four years, having won the 2009 women’s pool as well. And this time, he won in record-setting fashion — or at least record-tying.

Holtsberg’s 421 points (also out of a possible 477) tie him with Rick Boeckler in 2003 for the most points ever in any Living Room Times pool. His bracket contains just 9 errors in the tournament’s 63 games: he missed 5 first-round games, 2 second-round games, and 2 Sweet 16 games. His picks for the rest of the tournament were perfect.

Holtsberg, a Penn alum, ties Boeckler in another category as well, as they are both among the six two-time LRT pool winners over the pools’ 17 years of existence. The double champions are Jenn Castelhano (2001 women’s, 2002 men’s), Todd Stigliano (2001 women’s, 2005 women’s), Boeckler (2003 women’s, 2006 women’s), Matt Kagan (2004 men’s, 2004 women’s), Gary Kirby (2007 NIT, 2008 NIT) and now Holtsberg (2009 women’s, 2012 women’s).

Finishing second behind Holtsberg was Carol LaPlante was 414 points, followed by Alex Talcott (411) and Jeff Morrison and Randy Styles (406). Mike Bonfanti (403) was sixth, Ken Stern (402) was seventh, Colin Pedicini and Derek McDonald tied for eighth (392), and Lauren Fowler (386) rounds out the top ten. Joe Hiegel, who would have won the pool if Notre Dame had prevailed Tuesday night, instead finishes eleventh with 385 points. Complete standings here.

Holtsberg, incidentally, was the only contestant to finish in the top 10 of both the men’s and women’s NCAA pools this year. (Pedicini and Stern were also in the NIT pool top 10.)

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By Brendan Loy

The 17th annual Living Room Times men’s NCAA pool is down to a two-way battle between Tim Donahue of Elizabethtown, KY and Abby Newbold of Boston, MA.

Donahue, a Louisville alum and huge Cardinals fan, stayed alive (and in first place) because his team lost to its archrival today, just as he predicted. Now he needs the Wildcats to finish the job with a win over Kansas on Monday.

Newbold, a Villanova alum and the wife of my high-school classmate and long-time pool contestant Brian Newbold, jumped into second place Saturday and will win the pool if Kansas wins Monday.

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By Brendan Loy

217_527421755413_212494_33399892_6428_nAfter 11 years and 32 tries, Mike Wiser is finally a Living Room Times basketball pool champion.

Wiser, a 2003 USC and 2006 Stanford alum and current Michigan State Ph.D. student who has competed in every single LRT pool since he and I were USC sophomores in 2001, clinched victory in the 8th annual NIT Pool when his grad-school alma mater, Stanford, crushed Minnesota for the NIT championship, 75-51.

Had Minnesota won, UConn senior and Newington High School alum Dan Dinunzio, who started the day with the lead, would have won the pool.

Wiser’s 31 pools without a win prior to yesterday (including this year’s men’s and women’s NCAA pools, from which he has been mathematically eliminated) placed him fourth on the all-time list for most LRT pools participated in without a win, behind Kevin Hauschulz (36), Josh Rubin (34) and Becky Loy (32).

(I hold the record for most pools participated in, having been in all 40 of them — 17 men’s NCAA, 15 women’s NCAA and 8 NIT — but I won the first-ever women’s pool, in 1997, which had only ten contestants. Including Rubin and Hauschulz. :) That said, I do also hold the record for most losses in my own pools, with 39.)

Stanford led Minnesota by just 6 at halftime, 31-25, setting up a somewhat eerie parallel to the Wiser’s closest near-miss in an LRT pool. In 2001, his first year as a contestant, Wiser was somewhat famously 20 minutes away from winning the women’s NCAA pool, which would have made him the first-ever non-Newington winner in the then-6-year history of the pools. Wiser needed a Purdue win in the national title game to capture the pool championship, and the Boilermakers, having led by as many as 11 in the first half, were ahead of Notre Dame at halftime by an almost identical score to Stanford’s halftime margin yesterday — 32-26. But the Fighting Irish, led by Ruth Riley, stormed back, and Newington High School alum (and then-Providence College sophomore) Todd Stigliano won the pool, extending Newington’s dominance in the LRT pools.

The first non-Newington winner would emerge two years later, in 2003, and now there hasn’t been a Newington winner since 2005 (coincidentally, Todd Stigliano, winning his second women’s pool title). But yesterday, Wiser was yet again facing a title-game showdown with Newington High alum, and yet again the team he needed to win the championship game was ahead by 6 points at halftime. But this time, there would be no comeback to derail Wiser’s pool championship. The Cardinal outscored the Golden Gophers 44-26 in the second half, and Wiser jumped from 3rd place to 1st, winning the pool with 186 of a possible 317 points.

Dinunizio and Don LaPlante of Cheektowaga, NY, the only contestant besides Wiser to pick Stanford as the NIT champ, tied for second with 171 points. (Wiser, incidentally, is originally from nearby Kenmore, NY.) Tommy Lemoine of Manchester, NH was fourth with 164 points, and J. Scott Fitzwater of Ohio was fifth with 161 points.

Rounding out the top 10 were Colin Pedicini (160 points), Larry Caplin (147), Ian Auzenne and Jeff Poor (tied with 142) and a four-way tie among Greg Kagan, Ken Stern, Kelly Strutz and Lisa Velte (140). Full standings here.

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By Brendan Loy

Six contestants are still alive in the 15th annual Living Room Times women’s NCAA pool heading into the Final Four — a new LRT record for any pool, I believe, and just two shy of the theoretical maximum (barring ties) of eight — as all four #1 seeds have advanced to Denver, creating a wide variety of outcomes for a pool field whose picks vary substantially from this point forward.

Currently, Bethel College ‘03 and Indiana ‘10 alum Randy Styles of South Bend, IN has the lead. But he will win the pool only if UConn upsets hometown team Notre Dame and its South Bend-born star, Skylar Diggins, and plays Baylor in the title game. If that happens, it won’t matter if the Huskies win or lose against Baylor; Styles would clinch on Sunday. (He is the only contestant who can potentially clinch before the title game.) Other scenarios:

• If ND wins the championship (regardless of whether it’s over Baylor or over Stanford), Joe Hiegel of Greenfield, WI will win the pool.

• If Baylor beats ND in the title game, 2009 women’s pool champ Michael Holtsberg of Broomall, PA will win again.

• If Stanford beats ND in the title game, Amy Booth of San Diego, CA will win.

• If Stanford beats UConn in the title game, Yvette Webster of Round Hill, VA will win. Webster is also in contention for the men’s pool championship heading into the Final Four; she’ll win that pool if Louisville plays Kansas in the title game.

• Lastly, if UConn beats Stanford in the title game, Gary Kirby (gahrie) of San Bernardino, CA will win.

Meanwhile, in the 8th annual Living Room Times NIT pool, Stanford’s win over UMass last night in the semifinals kept USC & Stanford alum (and current Michigan State Ph.D. student) Mike Wiser alive, while Washington’s overtime loss to Minnesota eliminated previous leader Tommy Lemoine and elevated UConn senior (and Newington High alum) Daniel Dinunzio into first place.

Dinunzio will win the pool if Minnesota beats Stanford. Wiser will win if Stanford wins.

If Wiser wins, it would be his first-ever victory in an LRT basketball pool, after being a regular contestant for more than a decade. If Dinunzio wins, it would be the first win for someone from Newington, CT, where the pools originated 16 years ago, since Todd Stigliano won the women’s NCAA pool in 2005.

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By Brendan Loy

With the Final Four half set, a whopping 12 contestants are still mathematically alive in the Living Room Times women’s NCAA pool. But any one of them could be eliminated tonight. It’s a high-stakes Elite Eight finale!

Presently, as you can see on the possible outcomes page, a dozen contestants — Randy Styles (1st in the current standings), Michael Holtsberg (3rd), Cam McLachlan (T-4th), Joe Hiegel (T-4th), Becky Loy (6th), Gary Kirby (T-11th), Rick Boeckler (T-11th), Amy Booth (T-11th), Yvette Webster (14th), David Kreutz (17th), Michael Walsh (21st) and Kevin Hauschulz (31st) — have a chance to win.

Holtsberg, who won the women’s pool in 2009, might be considered the favorite to do so again, as he will win if all the expected results happen: Notre Dame beats Maryland and UConn beats Kentucky tonight, Notre Dame and Baylor win in the national semifinals, and Baylor wins the championship. That said, he’d be eliminated tonight if Maryland upsets Notre Dame. So would the current leader, Styles (who has UConn upsetting ND in the semis, but needs the Irish to get there).

Meanwhile, Cam McLachlan and Becky Loy both face an unusual situation tonight: they’ll either take the lead (if Maryland upsets ND, in McLachlan’s case; if ND wins and Kentucky upsets UConn, in Becky’s case) or be mathematically eliminated.

Here’s an overview of tonight’s scenarios:

If Notre Dame and UConn win, creating an all #1-seed showdown in Denver, we’d head into the Final Four with 6 pool contestants still mathematically alive, which I think would be a new LRT record. Those contestants would be Styles, Holtsberg, Hiegel, Kirby, Booth and Webster.

If Maryland and UConn win, we’d have 5 still alive: McLachlan, Boeckler, Kreutz, Walsh and Hauschulz.

If Notre Dame and Kentucky win, the pool would have a “Final Four”: Loy, Styles, Holtsberg and Booth.

If Maryland and Kentucky win, we’d be down to just 3: McLachlan, Boeckler and Kreutz.

With Becky and me having tickets to the Final Four next weekend, I confess I’m a bit torn about whether to root tonight for the team I grew up cheering for, UConn (though I’d be rooting against them if they play my law-school alma mater, Notre Dame, in the semis), or to instead root for my wife to have a shot at the pool championship. It would be fun to have a Becky’s pool fortunes riding on Notre Dame’s success as we watch them next weekend. But it would also be fun to watch the fourth game of the season between the Irish and the Huskies. Ah, well. I’ll look at it as a no-lose situation, I guess. (Well, “no-lose” unless Maryland upsets ND!)

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By Brendan Loy

A wildfire southwest of Denver is still totally uncontained this morning, one day after it killed one person, destroyed 15 to 25 strucutres, burned more than 3,000 acres, and gave off a huge smoke plume, blown northeastward by galeforce winds, that was impressively well-defined on radar:

@JimCantore wow dude that is a huge smoke plume! #cowx #COfire  on Twitpic

Another way of viewing that smoke plume is by looking at the brief time-lapse video I took out my office window in downtown Denver yesterday, looking south-southeast:

That video caught The Weather Channel’s attention after I tweeted it out, and it was featured in a loop on Weather Center Live last night:

I wish I’d taken more than 8 seconds of video! Unfortunately, my iPhone’s battery was already low when I started, and it died at the end of the video.

(By the way, I made the video with Time Lapse Camera HD for iPhone and iPad. Thanks to Timothy Burke for the TWC clip. And a hat-tip to Brandon Minich for suggesting the headline of this post.)

By Brendan Loy

Tim Donahue and Zach Bloxham went 4-for-4 in predicting the men’s Final Four of #1 Kentucky, #2 Kansas, #2 Ohio State and #4 Louisville — the first time anyone has picked a perfect Final Four in a Living Room Times men’s pool since 2009, when Matt Scarborough did it. The feat helped Donahue maintain his lead in the pool, and if the overwhelmingly favored Wildcats win the national championship, Donahue will earn “eternal glory” as champion of the 17th annual LRT men’s NCAA pool.

But that would presumably be a bitter consolation prize for Donahue, a self-described “big-time Louisville Cardinal fan” who just returned from Phoenix, where he and his youngest daughter watched the Cardinals reach the Final Four. He has come this far in the LRT pool thanks in part to his faith in Rick Pitino’s team, which is the Final Four’s biggest surprise. But now his pool fortunes depend on archrival Kentucky (which most of Donahue’s family roots for) beating Louisville and winning the national title.

Bloxham, for his part, can finish no higher than third. He’s in seventh place now, but he is too far behind leader Donahue to catch up, even if he gains points from their differing picks for national runner-up (Donahue says Kansas; Bloxham, Ohio State); and he cannot gain any points on sixth-place Michael Holtsberg because their picks are identical from this point forward.

Three others, though, are still alive to win the pool. Chris Palmer, currently in second place, will win the pool if Ohio State wins the title, or loses the championship game to Louisville. Yvette Webster, currently third, will win if Louisville plays Kansas in the title game, regardless of the outcome. (She predicted Kansas over Louisville for the title.) And Abby Newbold, currently fourth, will win if Kansas beats Kentucky for the championship.

That means the pool will go down to the wire if Kentucky reaches the title game, but if Louisville upsets the Wildcats in the first national semifinal, the pool champion will be determined by the second semifinal between Kansas (Webster) and Ohio State (Palmer).

Full standings here and possible outcomes here. You can also scroll through the “what-if scenarios” using the drop-down menu at top right of the standings pages.

A bit of background on each of the “Final Four” in the pool:

Tim Donahue, of Elizabethtown, KY, found the Living Room Times pools last year via a Facebook search, and entered again this year when I invited all of last year’s participants. He said he “just enjoyed the tone and friendliness of your pool, so wanted to give it a try again.”
Chris Palmer, of Long Valley, NJ, is a Vermont alum, a fellow Mid-Majority reader and owner of two Ballys, and a friend of mine on Twitter, where he goes by @chrispalm.
Yvette Webster, of Round Hill, VA, found the pools via Rachel Wetherill, a long-time blog reader and pool contestant. Webster entered using the “mascot bracket,” proclaiming “I do not know a thing about basketball.”
Abby Newbold, of Boston, MA, is a Villanova alum and the wife of my high-school classmate and long-time pool contestant Brian Newbold.

Meanwhile, in the women’s pool, with a “chalky” Elite Eight set — all four #1 and #2 seeds made it — the pool remains very competitive, with 17 of 78 contestants still alive to win.

The current leader is Randy Styles, with 281 points; he has a Final Four of all #1 seeds, with Baylor beating UConn for the title. Ken Stern is presently second, just four points back, but with an identical prediction to Styles’s, he cannot win.

Michael Holtsberg, the 2009 women’s pool champ, is presently third with 272 points, and can still win because he has Notre Dame, instead of UConn, losing to Baylor.

Cam McLachlan and Joe Hiegel are tied for fourth with 269 points, and have identical picks to Styles except that Hiegel has Notre Dame beating Baylor for the title, while McLachlan has the Irish losing to Maryland in the Elite Eight tomorrow.

Becky Loy and Kevin Curran are tied for sixth with 268. Becky’s picks are identical to Hiegel’s, except she has Kentucky upsetting UConn on Tuesday. Curran cannot win, as his surprise Final Four pick, St. John’s, was already eliminated, and his picks are otherwise identical to Styles’s.

Also still mathematically alive to win: Michael Walsh, Gary Kirby, Amy Booth, Kevin Hauschulz, Rick Boeckler, Ken Wagner, Yvette Webster (the only contestant still alive to win both the men’s and women’s pools), David Kreutz, Mike Tran, Diane Krause, Josh Rubin and Bonnie Stone.

Full standings here and possible outcomes here.

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By Brendan Loy

With half of the Elite Eight set, Tim Donahue of Louisville, Kentucky has taken the lead in the 17th annual Living Room Times men’s NCAA pool.

Donahue, who does not know me personally but found the LRT pools via Facebook last year, is one of three contestants — the others being Zach Bloxham (currently 11th) and Ben Eng (17th) — who picked both #2 Ohio State and #4 Louisville to reach the Final Four. (For the record, Donahue has Kansas and Kentucky tomorrow, as does Bloxham; Eng has UNC and Kentucky.)

Donahue has 265 points. Chris Palmer is next with 263. Then comes Yvette Webster with 253, Abby Newbold with 248, and 2005 pool champion Brian Kiolbasa with 242. Complete standings here.

Donahue, Palmer, Webster and Newbold are still alive to win the pool, as is Eng. Also still alive: Vicki Huffman, Brian Neudorff, Amy Booth, Nick Manzione and Kristy McCray. Possible outcomes here.

My 2 1/2 year old, “Loyacita,” was eliminated when Syracuse lost to Ohio State. But she is still alive in my law firm’s office pool; she will win the $80 first prize if Kansas beats UNC tomorrow and Kentucky wins the national championship. Go Loyacita! Ha!

Meanwhile, in the women’s pool, with three of eight Sweet Sixteen games complete (Stanford-South Carolina is underway as I write this), the Top 5 right now are Karen Torgersen, Michael Holtsberg, Randy Styles, Joe Hiegel, and a tie between Kevin Curran and Dan Dinunzio. All of them, and 25 others, are still alive to win.

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By Brendan Loy

The first night of the Sweet Sixteen was a dramatic one in the 17th annual Living Room Times men’s NCAA pool.

When the day began, Yvette Webster had the lead. But when Syracuse edged Wisconsin in the night’s first game, Elizabeth Styles took the lead. Webster, who had picked the Badgers, fell to 4th place.

However, an hour or so later, when Louisville upset Michigan State, Webster, who had picked the surprising Cardinals, re-took the lead; Styles fell to 2nd. Meanwhile, my 2-year-old daughter “Loyacita,” who also picked Louisville(!), started to creep up the leaderboard, jumping from 12th to 5th.

Then, when Ohio State beat Cincinnati, Jen Deschenes took the lead, while Steve Vivier and Loyacita moved into a tie for second place. Webster fell into a 4th-place tie with Chris Palmer and Randy Styles. Elizabeth Styles, Randy’s wife, fell to 7th.

Finally, when Florida upset Marquette, Palmer and Webster moved up into a first-place tie — the third separate time Yvette Webster had led today. Deschenes fell to 3rd, Vivier & Loyacita tied for 4th. The Styles duo remains 6th and 7th (but are mathematically eliminated from winning).

Here are the full standings. And here are the possible outcomes. Twenty-nine contestants are still mathematically alive to win — including Loyacita, who has a greater than 10% chance on paper, and possibly even better in reality, considering she will win the pool if Kansas goes to the Final Four and Kentucky beats Syracuse in the title game. (That’s not her only path to victory, but it’s a shockingly plausible one.)

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By Brendan Loy

The NIT Final Four at Madison Square Garden next Tuesday is set — UMass-Stanford at 7pm Eastern, followed by Minnesota-Washington at 9pm — and the 8th annual Living Room Times NIT Pool is down to a Final 3: Tommy Lemoine of Manchester, NH (a Michigan State alum), Dan Dinunzio of Storrs, CT (a current UConn senior), and Mike Wiser of Lansing, MI (a USC and Stanford alum and current MSU grad student).

Lemoine is an 800 Games Project participant who goes by @hoopthink on Twitter. Wiser is a friend of mine from USC’s Trojan Hall and a long-time contestant in my contests for more than a decade, and is trying to win his first Living Room Times basketball pool. Dinunzio is a fellow Newington High alum and, currently second place in the women’s pool, is gunning for a rare double pool championship.

Here are the current standings. Lemoine is first with 164 points. Dinunzio is second with 152. Jeff Poor is third with 151, but is mathematically eliminated. Wiser is tied for fourth with J. Scott Fitzwater at 141, but Fitzwater is mathematically eliminated; Wiser is not, because of his prediction that his alma mater Stanford will win the championship.

Here is how the scenarios play out:

* Wiser wins the pool if Stanford wins the title.
* Lemoine wins the pool if Washington wins the title, or loses the title game to UMass.
* Dinunzio wins the pool if Minnesota wins the title, or loses the title game to UMass.

This means that, next Tuesday, if UMass wins the first semi, Wiser will be eliminated and the second semi will decide the pool — Lemoine wins if Washington wins, Dinunzio wins if Minnesota wins. But if Stanford wins the first semi, Wiser will stay alive, and the second semi will merely decide which contestant, Lemoine or Dinunzio, gets to essentially face off against Wiser in the title game for the pool championship.

In other news, the men’s Sweet 16 starts tonight. Here again the current standings and victory scenarios in that pool.

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By Brendan Loy

Heading into the Sweet Sixteen, Yvette Webster of Round Hill, VA, who entered using the “mascot bracket” and stated, “I do not know a thing about basketball & I select by mascots – prefer birds & animals to anything,” leads the 17th annual Living Room Times NCAA Men’s Tournament Pool by a point over long-time blog reader and pool contestant Elizabeth Styles of South Bend, IN. (Until recently, Styles’s husband Randy was winning the women’s pool, leading to talk of “Styles family dominance.” Randy has since fallen to 7th place.)

Jen Deschenes of Newington, CT, Steve Vivier of Meriden, CT, and Chris Palmer of Long Valley, NJ round out the top 5 in the men’s pool. But they are among 78 contestants (33.5% of the field) who are still mathematically alive to win the contest.

The women’s pool is even more competitive heading into the Sweet 16 of that tournament, with 40 of the 78 contestants (51.3% of the field) still mathematically alive to win. The current leader is Michael Holtsberg of Broomall, PA, the 2009 women’s pool champ, looking to become the sixth two-time winner in the LRT pools’ history.

Four points behind Holtsberg are Dan Dinunzio of Newington and Notre Dame alum Kevin Curran (kcatnd) of Austin, TX, tied for second place. Carol LaPlante of Cheektowaga, NY and Karen Torgersen of Raleigh, NC round out the top five of the women’s pool standings. Here is the scenarios page showing who can win and everyone’s best possible finish.

Last but not least, in the NIT pool, we’re down to a Final Four: Tommy Lemoine of Manchester, NH; Jeff Poor of Washington, DC; Dan Dinunzio of Newington (again), and Mike Wiser of Lansing, MI. That pool could be decided tonight, with the last two quarterfinals: if Middle Tennessee beat Minnesota and Stanford beats Nevada, Lemoine (@hoopthink on Twitter) will clinch the championship.

If Minnesota wins, Dinunzio, who is aiming to join Matt Kagan as the only contestant to win two LRT pools in a single year, stays alive. If Nevada wins, Poor, the Auburn fan, avowed mid-major hater, and recently Limbaugh-lanched Daily Caller columnist, stays alive. And if Minnesota and Stanford both win, Wiser — the USC and Stanford alum and current MSU grad student, who has the Cardinal winning the NIT championship — stays alive. So, at the end of the night, there will either be 3 contestants (if Minnesota beats MTSU), 2 contestants (if MTSU & Nevada win), or just 1 contestant (if MTSU & Stanford win, so Lemoine clinches) left standing.

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