My Life

Apr 09

Boyd, Fort, Binder win LRT Pools

Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 10:09 pm Mountain Time

Add three names to The Living Room Times Hall of Eternal Glory: Mike Boyd of Raleigh, NC; Scott Fort of Warrior, AL; and Ross Binder of Minneapolis, MN — champions of the 18th annual Men’s NCAA Pool, 16th annual Women’s NCAA Pool, and 9th annual NIT Pool, respectively.


Actually, Fort’s name is not a new addition to the Hall of Eternal Glory. He won the 10th annual Women’s NCAA Pool in 2007, and tonight, he clinched the 16th annual Women’s NCAA Pool when UConn won the national championship, as he predicted. (Fort had the Huskies beating Baylor; instead, they trounced Louisville, who stunned Baylor in the Sweet 16.)

Fort finished with 331 points out of a possible 477. That’s a bit low by historical LRT women’s pool standards, indicative of the unusual volume of upsets this year, several of them by Louisville. But regardless of point total, Fort is in elite company: he is one of seven two-time LRT pool winners over the pools’ 18 years of existence (and 42 pools in all). The double champions are Jenn Castelhano (2001 women’s, 2002 men’s), Todd Stigliano (2001 women’s, 2005 women’s), Rick Boeckler (2003 women’s, 2006 women’s), Matt Kagan (2004 men’s, 2004 women’s), Gary Kirby (2007 NIT, 2008 NIT), Michael Holtsberg (2009 women’s, 2012 women’s), and now Fort (2007 women’s, 2013 women’s).

Jeb McRary (@tatsumaki4ryu) of Washington, DC finished second with 228 points. Bonnie Stone, my newspaper adviser back in the LRT pools’ Newington High School days, finished third with 321 points, capping off a massive surge from the mid-60s in the 94-person pool just last weekend. She alone predicted Louisville’s run to the title game, and gained a ton of points from that, but fell just short of making up enough ground from her early-round stumbles to win the pool. Kevin Hauschulz, who holds the record for most LRT pools competed in without winning (39 of the 42 pools I’ve done), finished 4th with 320 points. Greg Kagan, who would have won the pool if Louisville had won tonight, and Gary Atkinson tied for 5th at 316.

Rounding out the Top 10: Bob Fisch (313); my dad, Joe Loy (308); 2011 champion and daughter of the national championship-winning coach, Jenna Auriemma Stigliano (306); and my lovely wife, Becky Loy (302), who would have won if Notre Dame had beaten UConn in the semifinals Sunday. Complete women’s pool standings here.

While the women’s pool went down to the final game, the men’s pool was settled on Saturday when Michigan beat Syracuse in the second Final Four game. That clinched the pool championship for Mike Boyd, husband of Karen Torgersen (@vtktorg), who was the only contestant to correctly predict a Michigan-Louisville title game. He also got the champion right — Louisville — but that only served to increase his point total, to 331 points. That’s exactly the same as Fort’s total in the women’s pool, which is a rarity; the women’s pool champ usually scores higher than the men’s pool champ.

Jimmy Smith (@smithadventure), executive pastor at Stapleton Fellowship Church, finished second with 311 points. He would have won if Syracuse, instead of Michigan, had lost the title game to Louisville. Ginny Zak, Becky’s mother, who briefly led the pool after her mascot-based entry successfully predicted the surprise Elite Eight runs by Wichita State, Syracuse and Marquette, finished third with 307 points. Steve Vivier of Connecticut finished fourth with 300, and Lief Olsen of Denver fifth with 293.

The rest of the Top 10: Jerry Palm, the CBS bracketologist and BCS guru, and a Twitter friend of mine, finished sixth with 286 points; Sarah Craddock had 283; Robert O’Brien, 282; and Patrick Cullen, Elizabeth Styles and Kyle Cologne tied for ninth with 279. Complete men’s pool standings here.

Finally, the NIT Pool. That one, like the men’s pool, was decided in the semifinals. Ross Binder (@RossWB), an editor of the SB Nation Iowa blog Black Heart Gold Pants, clinched the pool when his Hawkeyes beat Maryland in the second semifinal, as he predicted. “Woo! ETERNAL GLORY!” he tweeted afterward, adding, “Hooray! Rampant homerism pays off at last!” Binder also correctly picked the other finalist, Baylor, though he wrongly picked Iowa to beat the Bears. But he won the pool anyway, finishing with 232 out of a possible 317 points.

Steve Vivier finished second with 212 points, making him the only contestant to finish in the Top 10 (indeed, Top 5) of two LRT pools this year (you may recall he was #4 in the men’s pool). Jeff Freeze (@bigfreezer), winner of the 2008 women’s pool, and Daniel Pilz, co-champ of the 2004 women’s pool, tied for third with 207 points. Aaron Kinser (@AaronK_MN) finished fifth with 203 points. Freeze would have won the pool if Maryland had beaten Iowa in that decisive semifinal; Kinser would have won the pool if, in the prior semifinal, BYU had beaten Baylor, and had gone on to defeat either Iowa or Maryland in the title game.

Again rounding out the Top 10: Lauren Fowler (@ndlauren), 198 points; Michael Watkins, 194; Andrew Long, 187; Aaron Woodward, 185; and Andy Hunter, 183. Complete NIT pool standings here.

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Mar 17

My 18th annual NCAA & NIT Pools!

Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 7:40 pm Mountain Time

incredibly large lrt logo2It’s that time of year again! Everybody in the pools!

My NCAA and NIT pools are, as always, free to enter. There is no monetary or tangible prize* — just a chance at bragging rights (or, as I like to say, eternal glory).

Complete rules here. Entry links below. (Also, “like” the pools on Facebook!) Good luck!

Men’s NCAA Tournament Pool:
Live Standings
Live Game Scoreboard
Scoring system: 4-7-11-17-24-33.
View everyone’s brackets: PDF file here

Women’s NCAA Tournament Pool:
Live Standings
Live Game Scoreboard
Scoring system: 4-7-11-17-24-33.
View everyone’s brackets: PDF file here

NIT Pool:
Live Standings
Live Game Scoreboard
Scoring system: 7-10-15-20-25.
View everyone’s brackets: PDF file here

**NOTE: In a late rule change, I have decided NOT TO COUNT the Tuesday & Wednesday “First Four” games. If you think a “First Four” participant will win in the Round of 64 or beyond, pick the alternative pair (e.g., “MTSU/StMry” or “BSU/LaSal”) and you will get credit if EITHER team ultimately wins a game(s) in the main bracket. Contestants who entered the pool before this rule change will not be disadvantaged, as their First Four picks will automatically be changed to the alternative pair. That said, if anyone wishes to change their picks, they can, as always, do so, as long as their revised bracket is received by 12:20pm Eastern Time on Thursday. I will assume that the last bracket I receive from you before the deadline is the one you intend to use, and I will delete all earlier brackets.

*I’ve finally decided to give up the ghost on promising t-shirts that I haven’t gotten around to actually buying for the champs in several years (sorry guys). Besides, by eliminating the tangible prize, I believe NCAA athletes are now eligible to compete if they wish — at least, if the rules about such things haven’t changed since 2002, when I was a USC tutor working with student-athletes, and thus had to deal with that issue. (Please consult your compliance department if this applies to you, though. I don’t know what I’m talking about!) [UPDATE: Confirmed by @IrishCompliance!]

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Feb 25

Scott Woods wins 9th annual Oscar pool

Monday, February 25, 2013 at 10:14 am Mountain Time

Squarepic2Scott Woods (@gswoods) of Jonesboro, Arkansas won the 9th annual Living Room Times Oscar Pool last night, taking over first place when Ang Lee won a surprise Best Director award for “Life of Pi,” and clinching victory when “Argo” won Best Picture.

Woods got 72 out of a possible 80 points, missing on just 3 categories: he had Robert De Niro winning Best Supporting Actor (6 points) instead of Christoph Waltz; he picked “Anna Karenina” for Best Production Design (1 point) instead of “Lincoln”; and he had “The Hobbit” winning Best Makeup (1 point) instead of “Les Misérables.” He picked the other 21 Oscars correctly.

But until the Best Director category, Woods was largely “off the radar,” thanks to his error in predicting the first award of the night, Best Supporting Actor. That early mistake meant he had to gradually climb the standings, and until Best Director, was still lurking several spots behind the duo who appeared destined for a wire-to-wire win: Vicki Lopez and Chris Aemisegger.

Lopez, a friend of Becky’s & mine from college at USC, and Aemisegger, my 1L law school roommate from Notre Dame, had identical picks, and led the pool all night until Best Director. They would have finished as co-champions if Stephen Spielberg had won for “Lincoln,” as expected, and the rest of the results had gone the same way that they did.

Lopez’s fortunes are nearly always a major pool storyline, as her numerous close calls, near-wins and heartbreaking defeats have become the stuff of LRT Oscar Pool legend over the years. She fell just short of Oscar Pool victory because of plausible but incorrect Best Picture picks in 2005 (she picked The Aviator; Million Dollar Baby won), 2006 (she picked Brokeback Mountain; Crash won) and 2011 (she picked The Social Network; The King’s Speech won). She also finished second in 2010, narrowly losing out because of incorrect screenplay picks.

Lopez was one of the primary participants in the Oscars live chat all night, and her share of the lead was a subject of much discussion. “Hello again, Vicki! Are you feeling lucky this year?” Kristin Farleigh asked her at the beginning of the chat. “I was until my favorite driver won the Daytona 500,” Lopez replied. “Then I knew I had no shot tonight :)”

But, after Lopez got the first four awards right, including Waltz’s upset, Farleigh wrote: “Whoa, Vicki, this may be your year!” I chimed in: “Or Vicki is setting herself up perfectly for another crushing late defeat,” Brandon Minich added: “This is a great start for Vicki. Buuuut we’ve seen this before.”

Six awards in, as she moved out of the pack and into a two-tie with Aemisegger, Lopez wrote, “Ok, keeping my expectations low is getting harder… damn you, Brendan! I swore I was going to not care this year!”

Later in the night, as the major awards neared and Lopez remained atop the leaderboard, Farleigh wrote, “Vicki, I hope you win.” Lopez responded: “Aww, thanks. Now it’ll be super awkward when I don’t.” Becky chimed in, “I hope Vicki wins too. But we all know it won’t happen!” “Thanks, Becky. Always keeping it real,” Lopez replied.

As it turned out, Becky, Brandon and I were right. In 2006, Lopez had too much faith in Ang Lee, the director of that year’s Best Picture upset victim, Brokeback Mountain. This year, she had too little faith in him.

“WHAT!” Lopez exclaimed in the chat when Lee’s victory for Best Director was announced, dropping her from first place to mathematically eliminated. “I’m actually shocked.”

She added: “I hate everyone, just FYI.” (Heh.) But, a few minutes later, she was more philosophical: “I’m fine with not winning. As I said earlier, I knew it wouldn’t happen after the 48 won Daytona.”

Lee’s win also eliminated me, Brendan Loy, from what had briefly looked like a surprisingly plausible path to victory: I needed Emmanuelle Riva to win Best Actress for “Amour,” which some handicappers believed was a plausible upset possibility, and then the as-expected results for the rest of the way. I realized this scenario existed about 30 seconds before Lee’s win was announced, causing my hopes of a first-ever win in my own Oscar Pool to be raised and then almost immediately dashed.

Taking my place on the Emmanuelle Riva bandwagon was defending champion @juleslalaland, who, like Woods, correctly picked Ang Lee’s win, and like me, incorrectly picked Riva. She would have taken the lead from Woods, and ultimately would have won, if Riva had won Best Actress. But instead, the favored Jennifer Lawrence won for “Silver Linings Playbook,” as Woods predicted.

“I think I just won @brendanloy’s Oscar pool!” Woods tweeted moments after Lawrence’s win.

Not quite. The defending champ’s mathematical elimination left Woods with one remaining plausible challenger: Kristin Farleigh winner of the 3rd annual Oscar Pool in 2007 (under her maiden name of Kristin West). Farleigh — who, like Lopez, was participating in the chat all night — needed “Lincoln” to pull the upset and win Best Picture.

“GO LINCOLN!!!!!!!!!!!” Farleigh wrote in the live chat as the show neared its climax. “I can taste it….SO … CLOSE,” she added as First Lady Michelle Obama appeared remotely to present the Best Picture award, stoking speculation that the White House role might presage a “Lincoln” victory. “Best president, Best picture!”

If “Lincoln” had won, the 15-point boost for getting the Best Picture winner right would have vaulted Farleigh from a sixth-place tie to an Oscar Pool win. But favored “Argo” won instead, dropping Farleigh all the way to 35th place, and giving Woods the victory.

“So I lost @brendanloy’s Electoral College contest on a tiebreaker and won the Oscar pool. Bring on March Madness!” Woods tweeted after clinching the title.

Woods, who started following me on Twitter during Hurricane Isaac last August, did indeed lose the 3rd quadrennial LRT Electoral College Contest on a tiebreaker: he had one of six perfect maps in the presidential race, but was one House seat too low in predicting the Democrats’ House gains, the fifth tiebreaker.

In this contest, his 72 points is tied for second-most all time. Jeff Freeze’s 2010 performance remains the gold standard: 74 points out of a possible 80 (though Freeze actually missed twice as many picks, getting six 1-point categories wrong). Also getting 72 points were Lisa Velte in 2008 (eight 1-point categories wrong) and Chris McLemore in 2007 (six 1-point categories and one 2-point category).

Diana Gonzales (@trojanchick99) finished second with 71 points. Like those prior 70+ point winners, and unlike Woods, Gonzales got all of the “big six” categories right, but erred on a number of lesser categories (including a best screenplay Oscar, worth 4 points each).

Aemisegger and Lopez, who had appeared destined for victory until Ang Lee’s upset, finished tied for third with 68 points apiece. Linda Adriaans was fifth with 64 points. Here are the complete final standings:

Continue reading »

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Feb 23

The 85th annual Academy Awards start at 6:30 PM Mountain Time. Becky’s and my live-blog / live-chat / live-snark will officially begin at 6:00 PM (though you can start chatting earlier if you like).

The chat is right here, in this blog post. To participate, you’ll need to log in below via Twitter, Facebook or OpenID.

The chat will also (if Cover It Live’s tweet import function is working properly) auto-import any tweets with the hashtag #LRToscars, as well as any tweets by, or mentioning, Becky or me.)

I will attempt to live-update Oscar Pool results throughout the evening, though you can expect a bit of a lag around the girls’ bedtimes. Also, there will undoubtedly be some sort of OMG SPREADSHEET #PANIC!!! early in the night, rendering initial results unreliable. That’s really just part of the tradition at this point.

Have fun!

P.S. There was talk last year about doing an Oscars Drinking Game this year in the chat. For various reasons, I regret to announce that I will not be organizing or participating in any such revelry. However, if other Oscar live-chatters would like to do a drinking game, and if someone would like to propose rules, I will be happy to post them in the chat. :) Photos of yourself drunkenly watching the Oscars are also encouraged. Bqhatevwr.

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Feb 22

Oscar Pool 2013!

Friday, February 22, 2013 at 1:02 am Mountain Time

I’m pretty late in setting this up (though not quite as late as last year), but I just realized, OMG, the Oscars are on Sunday! … which means it’s time to sign up for the 9th annual Living Room Times Oscar Pool!

The deadline to enter is Sunday at 5:30 PM Mountain Time. Entering the pool is, of course, free. The prize, as per usual: eternal glory!

As always, contestants are urged to enter using their full name, a Twitter handle, or some other readily recognizable partial name or nickname/pseudonym. After all, what’s the point of “bragging rights” if I don’t know who you are?

The scoring system, once again, is 12 points for Best Picture, 9 apiece for the directing and lead acting categories, 6 each for the supporting acting categories, 4 each for the screenplay categories, 2 each for documentary feature, animated feature, foreign film, cinematography and original score, and 1 per award for everything else.

Becky and I will most likely host a “live blog” and “live chat” Sunday night here on the blog. The chat has a reputation of being as entertaining as the actual show, if not moreso… plus, I will post live, updated Oscar Pool results throughout the show. So, bookmark this page and check back on Sunday!

[UPDATE: I created a Facebook Event Page for the Live Chat. Everyone is welcome!]

Anyway, get in the pool!!!

P.S. Some Oscar-prediction resources:
Roger Ebert’s predictions (major categories only)
NYT Carpetbagger predictions (major categories only)
Nate Silver’s predictions (major categories only)
Huffington Post Oscar Predictions
Doc’s Sports Oscars odds
EasyOdds Oscars betting
GoldDerby summary of experts’ predictions

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Jan 07

Ryan Morgan wins 8th Pick ’em Contest

Monday, January 7, 2013 at 9:12 am Mountain Time

373027bRyan Morgan, a.k.a. @rpm002, a Wisconsin fan and 2006 Drake alum, clinched victory in the 8th annual Living Room Times Bowl Pick ’em Contest when Arkansas State beat Kent State in the Bowl last night.

Regardless of the outcome of tonight’s Notre Dame-Alabama BCS championship game, Morgan will finish tied in points with Sam Mann (@mannsg28), and will defeat Mann on the first tiebreaker: “Total number of games picked correctly (regardless of how many points each game is worth).” Morgan and Mann both presently have 41 points out of a possible 56, but Morgan’s win-loss record is 26-8 while Mann’s is 24-10.

Both contestants picked Alabama tonight, and the closest Notre Dame pickers are too far behind to catch them. Morgan and Mann will thus finish tied for first place with either 41 points or 45 points, and Morgan will win the tiebreaker regardless of the ND-Bama outcome.

The championship game will determine how the rest of the leaderboard looks, however. Presently, it looks like this: Russ Caplin is one point behind the leaders with 40 points, Steven Smith is next with 39, followed by Stephen Peroz, Zach Bloxham and Mike Wiser, all with 38 points but with records of 24-10, 23-11 and 22-12, respectively. Rounding out the Top 10, with 37 points apiece, are Nathan Wurtzel and Scotty Stout (both 22-12) and Paul Zak (21-13). The entire Top 10 picked Alabama, so if the Crimson Tide win, the order will remain the same, with everyone having 4 additional points.

However, if Notre Dame wins, the final Top 10 will look like this instead: Morgan first and Mann second with 41 points each, and Caplin next with 40, but then Andy Sorensen and Ross Lancaster (22-13) and Rachel Dulitz (21-14) joining the Top 6 with 40 points each. Defending champ Nyghtewynd (23-12) and Rick Boeckler (22-13) would be 7th and 8th, respectively, with 39 points, ahead of Smith (39 pts, 22-11) and Peroz (38 pts, 24-9).

Also finishing with 38 points if the Irish win, but finishing below Peroz on tiebreakers, would be Brendan Loy (11th), Bloxham (12th), Alison Vargas (13th), Mike Wiser (14th), Matt Wiser and Jeff Freeze (T-15th), Mike Brown and Derek McDonald (T-17th). Double Domer Lisa Velte would finish 19th with 37 points, as Wurtzel and Stout tumble from an 8th-place tie to a 20th-place tie.

GO IRISH!!! :)

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Jan 06 Bowl to Decide Pick ’em Contest

Sunday, January 6, 2013 at 11:10 am Mountain Time

Tonight’s Bowl between Sun Belt champion Arkansas State and MAC runner-up Kent State will decide the winner of the 8th annual Living Room Times Bowl Pick ’em Contest — regardless of the outcome of tomorrow’s BCS national championship game between Notre Dame and Alabama.

If Kent State wins, Sam Mann (@mannsg28) will win the LRT contest. If Arkansas State wins, Ryan Morgan (@rpm002) will prevail by tying Mann in points and winning on a tiebreaker.

Although the GoDaddy Bowl is worth just 1 point, versus the national title game’s 4 points, the latter is irrelevant to the contest’s outcome because everyone within striking distance of the leaders picked Alabama. The highest-ranked Notre Dame pickers are Andy Sorensen and Rachel Dulitz, both 5 points behind current leader Mann. Dulitz, Sorensen and Mann all picked Kent State tonight, so the closest Dulitz and Sorensen can get to first place is 1 point behind.

Dulitz had a chance to win until last night, but she needed Pittsburgh to best Ole Miss in the BBVA Compass Bowl to stay alive. Mississippi’s win mathematically eliminated Dulitz, and made tonight’s bowl the de facto championship game of the Pick ’em Contest.

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Dec 04

8th annual LRT Bowl Pick ’em Contest!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at 9:47 am Mountain Time

IMG_1674 IMG_0453
Above: Me at LSU-North Texas with Ross Lancaster, and at Washington-Colorado with David Kreutz.

It’s college football bowl season, and that means it’s time for the 8th annual Living Room Times Bowl Pick ‘em Contest! The contest is now underway.

If you entered my 2010 or 2011 Bowl Pick ’em contest(s), you can log in with the username & password that you created previously. (If you forgot your username and password, click here.)

[NOTE: If you tweet, and your Pick ’em contest username is not your Twitter handle, you are encouraged to change your username to your Twitter handle.]

If you didn’t enter my 2010 or 2011 contest(s), then after clicking here, you’ll need to click “NEW USER.” Next, you’ll be prompted to create a “Screen Name” — again, I encourage anyone who tweets to use their Twitter handle — create a Password, and enter your E-mail Address, “First Name,” “Last Name,” and (again) “Twitter Handle.”

You are not required to put your full, real name in the “First Name” and “Last Name” fields (though it’s encouraged), but please give me some way of knowing who you are — what I want to avoid is another situation where I have no idea who the winner is!

As always, the contest is free, and the winner gets acclaim, publicity, and eternal glory here on the blog and on Twitter — but no monetary prize. :) All picks are due by Saturday, December 15 at 11am Mountain Time (10am Pacific, 1pm Eastern), when the New Mexico Bowl kicks off. You can change your picks at any time before the deadline.

You pick the winners of each bowl game “straight up” (NOT against the spread, though the spread is shown for informational purposes only). There are no “confidence points”; instead, each correct pick is worth a predetermined number of points. A grand total of 60 points are possible, broken down as follows:

4 points: BCS National Championship Game
3 points each: All other BCS games
2 points each: All non-BCS bowls from December 29 through January 4
1 point each: All other bowls

In the event of a tie in point totals, tiebreakers are as follows:

1. Total # of games picked correctly (regardless of how many points each game is worth)
2. Correct pick of the BCS Championship Game winner
3. Closest to the combined total number of points in BCS Championship Game

So, there you go. Again, sign up here! Have fun! Good luck! Go Irish! :)

P.S. You can also enter by clicking here and then manually entering the Pool ID (67297) and the Pool Entry Code (firekiffin). USC fans may want to use that method just for the satisfaction of typing “firekiffin.” :)

P.P.S. Speaking of “eternal glory“… here are the past winners:

2005-06: Brian Dupuis
2006-07: Ben Sloniker
2007-08: Seth Carmack
2008-09: Amy Booth
2009-10: Doug Mataconis
2010-11: Randy Styles
2011-12: @Nyghtewynd
2012-13: TBD. It could be you! Enter now!

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Nov 26

The Elf on the Shelf

Monday, November 26, 2012 at 12:59 pm Mountain Time


Our “Elf on the Shelf,” Gatito (name explained here), re-emerged over the weekend after 11 months in a drawer at my office at the North Pole with Santa, and has begun his daily Christmas-season routine of observing the girls, flying to north each night to give a naughty-or-nice report to the Big Guy (little Orwellian surveillance tool that he is), then returning by morning in a new “hiding” spot.

The big girls are thrilled. It’s almost like every morning is Christmas morning, they’re so excited to get up and find their elf. It’s the first thing Loyette says when she pokes me awake: “Daddy, can we go downstairs and look for Gatito?” Thus far, Loyette has been the first to spot him in the morning twice, Loyacita once.

In a new twist this year, Gatito has his very own blog, and is also on Twitter at @ElfOnLoyShelf. So, you can follow his exploits throughout the Christmas season. :)

See also: Baby Rabies’ 2nd annual Inappropriate Elf Contest! Lots of LOLs, including:




Heh. More.

Nov 07

Best. Election. Ever.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at 11:41 am Mountain Time


Barack Obama re-elected, and by a comfortable margin both electorally and popularly. Nate Silver, and the concept of objective facts, vindicated against the Right’s ritual denialists. The Democratic Senate majority, which seemed doomed a year ago, expanded. Marijuana legalized in Colorado. Gay marriage legalized at the ballot box in Maine, Maryland and Washington (and an anti-gay marriage amendment defeated in Minnesota). The GOP caucus in the Colorado State Assembly, which egregiously contorted legislative procedures — completely shutting down the people’s business at the eleventh hour — to prevent passage of a civil unions bill that had the votes to pass, kicked out of the majority. A local school bond issue, which will fund the construction of our girls’ eventual high school in our rapidly growing neighborhood, passed. Wingnut senatorial candidates defeated in Missouri and Indiana (the latter by a Notre Dame Law School alum, no less). Crackpot Congressman Allen West ousted. Really, last night couldn’t have gone any better from my perspective.

Well, okay, Michele Bachmann could have lost, too, as she almost did. But that would’ve been just an embarrassment of riches.

The best part of the night, though, was watching it all unfold with Loyette and Loyacita, and engaging them in the process. They were very much into updating their puzzle (above) and their Giant Electoral College Thermometers (below), among other things. Even Loyabelle got into the action at one point, practically chasing me around the living room with a marker she found on the floor, wanting to draw on an electoral map. Heh.


Loyette, who became a huge Mitt Romney fan (“because he’s handsome”) during the GOP primaries when we would watch parts of the debates, and maintained that fandom into the general election — even getting to shake his hand at a rally that I took her to just before the Denver debate — would ultimately be disappointed by the result, of course. But she didn’t know about it until this morning, and in fact, she was pretty excited last night, as Romney led in the electoral count for most of the evening.

Because it was Election Night, we kept the older girls up past their usual ~7:00-7:30 PM bedtime, but finally put them to bed around 8:30 PM — about 45 minutes before this happened:

Romney, in fact, was still leading — just barely — on the thermometers when the girls last updated them before bedtime, as you can see in the earlier photo. But I pretty much knew he was going to lose, based on the way things were going in Florida and elsewhere, so I tried to prepare Loyette for that eventuality. (Loyacita preferred Obama, though she wasn’t nearly as invested either way in the outcome as her big sister.) Just before our goodnight hugs and kisses, I explained to Loyette that, even though Mitt Romney was winning, “I think he might lose,” and she shouldn’t be “shocked” if she finds out in the morning that he did. She announced that she would be very sad and would cry if that happened, but she also asked me to leave her a “note” outside her door telling her the result, so she could find out immediately upon waking up, and not be “shocked.” I did that, and as expected, there were some tears this morning — “Daddy, I’m really sad Mitt Romney lost. I really wanted him to win.” — but she avoided a total meltdown, at least thus far. (As Jim Kelly quipped on Facebook: “Sounds like she handled it better than Dick Morris or Karl Rove then.” Heh.) We’ll see how it goes this evening, when I’ve promised the girls they can finish their thermometers and their puzzle…

Anyway, my election liveblog is technically still active; I’ll probably shut it down later tonight, but I wanted to wait until a few final races are “called” and I can come as close as possible to finality on the Electoral College Contest. Speaking of which, I’ll post an update here about that later, again probably tonight. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I’m already thinking about how to make the midterm elections engaging for the girls, who will be almost 3 1/2, almost 5 1/2, and almost 7 by the time November 2014 rolls around…

Oct 18

[NOTE: In addition to entering the contest, please bookmark my Liveblog, Livechat & Live Results page, then come back Tuesday for election results and contest results!]

With less than three weeks until the presidential election, the polls are open for my quadrennial blog contest to see who can best predict the Electoral College outcomes! It’s time to start playing with the red & blue map, like Loyette and Loyacita:

In 2004, Mike Wiser had a perfect map; in 2008, Kevin Curran missed only Missouri, edging out the competition because he correctly predicted Obama’s surprise win in Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district.

Who will join Wiser and Curran and earn eternal glory (and possibly a CafePress mug of your electoral map) this year? Will it be you?


Click here to enter the contest!

The entry deadline is Election Eve — Monday, November 5 — at 7:00 PM Mountain Time (9pm Eastern, 6pm Pacific). Feel free to enter early, and then re-enter later if you change your mind; I will assume that the last entry I receive is the final one, and will discard any earlier entries, unless you tell me otherwise. If you have any questions, or just want to make a minor change to your entry, e-mail me at irishtrojan [at]

Contest Rules:

* Each contestants will receive between 0 and 538 points, depending on how close they come to a “perfect map.” For each correctly-predicted state/district, the contestant receives as many points as the state/district has electoral votes. So, for instance, it’s better to get both Iowa (6) and Nevada (6) wrong, and everything else right, than to get just Ohio (18) wrong. The map that missed only IA & NV would get 526 points; the map that missed only OH, 520.

* I will abide by the final popular-vote result in each state/district as certified by the relevant governing authority in that jurisdiction; “faithless electors” will not be taken into account. A winner will be declared as soon as the state-by-state election results are sufficiently complete that such a declaration is possible, whether that’s on election night or weeks later. I will use my best judgment to fairly determine the operative winner for contest purposes in the event of any disputed state results.

* There is no requirement that the contest winner must necessarily have predicted the correct overall winner in the election (although that is a tiebreaker, as you’ll see). The object of the game is to predict each state correctly. If you only get, say, New Hampshire wrong, even if that one error happens to change the national winner, you’ll still beat someone who had the right national winner but picked Florida wrong, for instance.

* Tiebreakers are similar to, but slightly different from, last time around. They are as follows, in order:

1. In the event of a tie in points, a contestant who correctly predicts the overall national electoral vote winner (again, going by the popular-vote results in each state, ignoring “faithless electors”) prevails over a contestant who predicts the wrong national winner. NOTE: For purposes of this rule, a 269-269 map is regarded as predicting an Romney victory, and a 269-269 result is considered a Romney victory (because the Republicans have a mortal lock on a majority of the House delegations in more than 25 states, so Romney would become president in any 269-269 scenario, unless a number of House Republicans defect and vote for Obama, which seems inconceivable to me).

2. Among still-tied contestants, whoever gets the fewest number of states wrong prevails. So, for instance, all other things being equal, it’s better to get Wisconsin wrong (10 EVs) than to get both Iowa (6) and New Hampshire (4) wrong. For purposes of this rule, the District of Columbia counts as a “state.” As for Maine and Nebraska, if a contestant gets the at-large result right, but a congressional district or two wrong — or vice-versa — this will be counted as a “half-state” wrong.

3. Among still-tied contestants, whoever comes closer, in absolute value terms, to predicting President Obama’s electoral vote total prevails. This rule rewards “offsetting” errors when two maps otherwise contain the same number of mistakes. So, for instance, suppose Obama wins Iowa (6) and Wisconsin (10), but Romney wins Nevada (6). Now support Map #1 gets Iowa and Wisconsin wrong, giving Romney both states. Map #2 gets Wisconsin wrong, giving it to Romney, and also gets Nevada wrong, giving it to Obama. Both maps are off by 16 EVs, and by 2 states. But Map #1 gives Obama 16 fewer electoral votes than he actually received, while Map #2 comes within 4 electoral votes of Obama’s actual total. Map #2 therefore wins this tiebreaker.

4. Among still-tied contestants, whoever comes closer, in absolute value terms, to predicting how many Senate seats the Republicans will win, prevails. The result will be based on election results only; any post-election party switches (or surprise Angus King caucusing decisions) will not be considered.

5. Among still-tied contestants, whoever comes closer, in absolute value terms, to predicting how many House seats the Republicans will win, prevails. Again, the result will be based on election results only; any post-election party switches will not be considered.

6. Among still-tied contestants, anyone who correctly predicted the state with the closest popular-vote margin (in percentage terms) defeats anyone who failed to do so.

7. Among still-tied contestants, whoever comes closer, in absolute value terms, to predicting Obama’s national popular-vote margin of victory/defeat, prevails. (All Romney & Obama popular-vote predictions are rounded to the nearest tenth of percent.)

8. Among still-tied contestants, whoever comes closer, in absolute value terms, to predicting Gary Johnson’s national popular-vote total, prevails. (All Johnson popular-vote predictions are rounded to the nearest hundredth of percent.)

9. Among still-tied contestants, whoever comes closer, in absolute value terms, to predicting Obama’s raw vote total in Colorado, prevails. (Contestants are encouraged to give an exact total, down to the individual vote, in order to prevent ties.)

10. In the unlikely event that a tie remains, whoever entered the contest earlier, prevails. (Any changes to one’s prediction resets their prediction time to the date and time of the last change.)

Again, click here to enter! And then check back here, and on my Twitter feed, for contest results on Election Night. [UPDATE: Liveblog link!]

Good luck!

P.S. A big hat tip to Unlikely Voter, whose nifty, easy-to-use, Maine-and-Nebraska-including, informative-URL-encoding electoral prediction map I used to power my contest.

Jun 05

Go west, young man

Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at 12:18 pm Mountain Time

The Transit of Venus is just hours away (it starts at 4:05 PM MDT and goes until sunset, which is around 8pm), and while I didn’t take that flight to Tucson, I have decided to drive three hours west, into the Rocky Mountains, to find a better viewing location. Actually, I’ve already found it: a field near St. Vincent’s Church in Carbondale, Colorado, where the Three Rivers Astronomy Club will be setting up shop with numerous telescopes.

Why the long drive? Because of the cloud cover situation and the forecast thereof:

denver glenwood springs

That’s a computer model projection of the cloud cover at 6:00 PM tonight. The plus sign on the left is Carbondale; the one on the right is Denver. It appears that Denver — and all points north, east and south — will continue to have a veil of high clouds, probably with some low/medium clouds mixed in, throughout the transit. But by going west, I can get behind the cloud line, to crystal clear skies. So I’m going west.

Continue reading »

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May 20

My other solar eclipse

Sunday, May 20, 2012 at 2:12 pm Mountain Time

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:



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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May 20

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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Feb 26

Oscars Live Chat 2012

Sunday, February 26, 2012 at 8:14 am Mountain Time

By popular demand (by which I mean Becky said I should do it), I’ve set up a Live Chat for tonight’s Academy Awards after all.

More on that in a second, but first, join my 8th annual Oscar Pool!

The ABC broadcast starts at 5:00 PM Mountain Time, the actual awards at 5:30 PM, but you can start chatting whenever you want. To participate, you’ll need to log in below via Twitter, Facebook, MySpace (does anyone still use MySpace?) or OpenID.

(The chat will also auto-import tweets with the hashtag #LRToscars, as well as any tweets by, or mentioning, Becky or me.)

Whether I live-update Oscar Pool results remains to be seen.

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