Needed: self-frying potatoes

Question: How many many projects at a 4th and 5th grade science fair will involve using a potato as a battery?

Hypothesis: Three of approximately 45 projects will involve using a potato as a battery.

Experiment: Stuff hands in jacket pockets and slowly walk along 15 cafeteria tables worth of science projects, nodding respectfully and smiling indulgently at eager elementary students. Make mental note of electric potatoes.

Observation: Apparently a lot of kids are also interested in the electricity-producing properties of lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, carrots, peaches and apples.

Conclusion: There are only so many voltage veggie and fizzy fruit projects one woman can handle in one night.

And so, yeah, that’s where I’ve been this evening and why (among other reasons) I’m writing this during half-time of the first third-round games.

But what was there to say about the first two rounds? Oh, I don’t know. How about, with the exception of UNC and Wisconsin, if any Rhyne-Patterson-Blyth had anything to do with any of the schools in the Big Dance, it was as good as the Kiss of Death going in to the Sweet Sixteen.

Arkansas. Duke. Maryland. Vermont. Virginia. Virginia Tech. Wake Forest. Done.Done. Done. Done. Done. Done. And done.

The ACC? Let’s just pretend that that didn’t happen. I mean, who woulda thunk that only one of the nine teams from the league would still be alive. Call it the Atlantic Choke Conference.

The first round was fairly free of upsets, but there were just enough to keep it interesting.  We lost only a few people, including our newly minted double-digit dude: Dell Parker. We also lost Elaine, Jim, the Northerners, Rebecca and Sarah.

Dub, Elizabeth, the Grandest Generation, Kiran, Mike B. and Rivers all coasted in to the second round with both teams intact.

Name Round 1
elizabeth Villanova 1-e UCLA 3-s
rivers Iowa State 5-mw UNC 1-s
dan Arizona 2-w
dub West Virginia 4-w Purdue 4-mw
kiran Oregon 3-mw St. Mary’s 7-w
gwynn/dot/lee Michigan State 9-mw Kentucky 2-s
carl Kansas 1-mw
susan Baylor 3-e
gordon South Carolina 7-e
libby Duke 2-e
caroline Florida State 3-w
ellie Florida 4-e
mike b USC 11-e Virginia 5-e
robert Gonzaga 1-w
claire Arkansas 8-s
karen Louisville 2-mw
megan Wisconsin 8-e
marty Butler 4-s
rhyne Wichita State 10-s
christine Notre Dame 5-w
simon, revi, cora, rowan Rhode Island 11-mw
beth Michigan 7-mw
dottie Northwestern 8-w
joe Cincinnati 6-s
daniel, honor, katie
mike Xavier 11-w
pierce Middle Tennessee 12-s

The second round was ruthless, though, when our first #1 seed was bounced by my Badgers. Number 2 seeds Duke and Louisville crashed and burned, as did No. 3 seed Florida State.

As a result, we lost Caroline, Christine, Claire, Dottie, Joe, Karen, Libby, Rhyne, the Tiny Generation, and Pierce.

Dub is dominating with both of his teams still alive and kicking. The other 14 folks still fighting are Beth, Carl, Dan, Elizabeth, Ellie, Gordon, the Greatest, Kiran, Marty, Megan, Mike P., Rivers, Robert and Susan

Name Round 2
elizabeth UCLA 3-s
rivers UNC 1-s
dan Arizona 2-w
dub West Virginia 4-w Purdue 4-mw
kiran Oregon 3-mw
gwynn/dot/lee Kentucky 2-s
carl Kansas 1-mw
susan Baylor 3-e
gordon South Carolina 7-e
ellie Florida 4-e
mike b
robert Gonzaga 1-w
megan Wisconsin 8-e
marty Butler 4-s
beth Michigan 7-mw
mike Xavier 11-w

For those keeping family tabs, that means there are 6 Pattersons, 5 Rhynes ,3 Blyths and the Greatest.

But at this point, speaking of the Greatest, I do have some sad news to share. You may not have known it, but Gwynn has been battling leukemia for the past several years. With regular chemo cocktails, and an occasional blood transfusion, she somehow maintained her energy and charm. Unfortunately, the meds had become less and less effective over the past few months. Now, the leukemia is not responding to any medication.

Gwynn is now in hospice care in a facility connected to a hospital in Richmond. Her sons and their wives are staying by her bedside and talking to her, even though she cannot communicate. I just got a message from her daughter-in-law saying that a music therapist came in and asked what kind of music Gwynn liked. They ended up having a Sound of Music concert there in her room.

She really enjoyed you all, and she had a lot of fun with this silly family tournament thing. In fact, she wrote me just last week to say she was happy to still be included in our nonsense and hoping that her last blood transfusion came from a basketball player.

We will keep you posted on her progress. Her son says that they are planning on a small graveside service, and a reception at a later date.

Hug each other extra tight tonight.


Would you like to dance?

Greetings, my lovely family!

It is with alacrity that I cordially invite you to join me in a turn about the ballroom floor. A sojourn of serpentine steps in simple but sophisticated symmetry to the subtle but sultry strains of a string symphony under the steady skills of a seasoned supervisor. It is commonly known as the Big Dance, of course, but you you may call it the Hippest Hoops Hootenanny in the Whole Hemisphere!

I hope this note fines you all healthy and hail and free from the effects of the Nor’easter known as …



Here in Williamsburg, Stella brought a lot of wind and rain and much colder temperatures, but we dodged the snow that points north and west suffered. It was winter’s (hopefully) last gasp and I for one am eagerly awaiting warmer temperatures and sunnier days, also known as Mojito weather.

As in past years, the first games of the NCAA tournament coincide with Sunshine Week for me in my professional-in-name-only capacity. I celebrated by teaching a class on Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act at William and Mary and then coming home, taking  some cold medicine and sleeping for three hours. The cold brought me a cold, you see, which also meant that I couldn’t taste the donuts, apple fritters, scallops, steak, chocolate cake, Twinkie cake, Caesar salad, mashed potatoes, and a few other choice morsels ordered up by Dell for his double-digit birthday on March 13, also the day Robert and Christine celebrate their entries into this world. But by God I did try to taste all of the above. I tried.

The Cat Commissioners (Jinx in the East, Brook in the Midwest, River in the South, Julep in the West) have been as busy as Kellyanne Conway on a Sunday talk show after a Saturday morning Twitter storm from her boss coming up with this year’s picks for the tournament. They did some devisions doubling up to arrive at 32 participants, with each participant getting two teams. One group consists of the Littlest Generation: Simon, Revi, Cora and Rowan. They may be tiny, but we all know they are tough and not to be trifled with.

Another team consists of the Grandest Generation: the lovely ladies Dot, Gwynn and Lee. They, of course, have better things to do with their time than to read my rantings, but with their powerful picks, we will probably hear a lot more from them.

The final team is made up of what I like to call the Defectors. Northerners. Yankees, if you will. Daniel, Honor and Katie. They’re wonderful people, y’all, and we love them dearly, but bless their hearts, livin’ like they do north of the Mason Dixon line. Why, I declare, it’s enough to give me the vapors. Where are my smelling salts.

We’re international again this year, too, since Dottie is off gallivanting in Gaulle country. Oui, oui, mon ami, je m’appelle Dottie Lee.

And now, stateside, may I present this year’s picks for the Rhyne-Blyth-Patterson-Mostly-Annual-Am-I-The-Only-One-In-This-Country-Who-Hasn’t-Spoken-To-A-Russian-Ambassador NCAA Basketball Extravaganza!!

beth Kent State 14-s Michigan 7-mw
carl Kansas 1-mw Nevada 12-mw
caroline Florida State 3-w Winthrop 13-s
christine Troy 15-e Notre Dame 5-w
claire Vanderbilt 9-w Arkansas 8-s
dan Creighton 6-mw Arizona 2-w
daniel, honor, katie VCU 10-w New Mexico State 14-e
dell Minnesota 5-s Miami 8-mw
dottie Northwestern 8-w East Tennessee State 13-e
dub West Virginia 4-w Purdue 4-mw
elaine UNC-Wilmington 12-e Maryland 6-w
elizabeth Villanova 1-e UCLA 3-s
ellie Florida 4-e Princeton 12-w
gordon Dayton 7-s South Carolina 7-e
dot, gwynn, lee Michigan State 9-mw Kentucky 2-s
jim Iona 14-mw SMU 6-e
joe Cincinnati 6-s NC Central/UC Davis 16-mw
karen Louisville 2-mw South Dakota State 16-w
kiran Oregon 3-mw St. Mary’s 7-w
libby Duke 2-e Vermont 13-mw
martie Butler 4-s Jacksonville State 15-mw
megan Wisconsin 8-e Marquette 10-e
mike p Xavier 11-w Bucknell 13-mw
mike b Providence/USC 11-e Virginia 5-e
pierce Middle Tennessee 12-s North Dakota 15-w
rebecca Kansas State 11-s Tennessee Southern 16-s
rhyne Wichita State 10-s Seton Hall 9-s
rivers Iowa State 5-mw UNC 1-s
robert Gonzaga 1-w Northern Kentucky 15-s
sarah Florida Gulf Coast 14-w Mount St. Mary’s 16-e
simon, revi, cora, rowan Rhode Island 11-mw Virginia Tech 9-e
susan Oklahoma State 10-mw Baylor 3-e

First, and most obviously, what has Robert and family been mixing in their morning coffee because they are rocking the picks! Robert, Rivers and Elizabeth have three of the four #1 picks. This is fresh off Susan winning the whole tournament last year! She passed her Villanova gene on to Elizabeth this year, with Robert picking up Gonzaga and Rivers carrying the Tarheels to rep the ACC since his beloved Demon Deacons duffed it in the play-in game.

Carl holds the last #1 pick with Kansas. Daughter Sarah, however, was not so fortunate as she has one of the #16 AND a #14 pick, and nor was husband Joe, who also has a #16. Karen and Rebecca round out the bottom feeders (heh heh, Rebecca  … rounded … bottom … heh heh).

The best overall seed total goes to Elizabeth (4), followed closely by Rivers (6), with Dan and Dub (8) nipping at their heels. Sarah(30), Rebecca (27) and Pierce (27) are bringing up the rear (Rebecca … rear … heh heh — Hey! This isn’t shade, it’s a Rhyne family trait!).

This year we welcome back in to the tournament Mike P.’s favorite Hokies, and Gordon was so excited to be at University of Vermont this year that he persuaded his Catamounts (without a fine set o’ whiskers, that Cat amounts to nothing) to join the fray. Libby is the only one, however, who holds her own alma mater’s fate in her hands: she has the #2 seed Duke.

I am the Queen of Cheese with my two Wisconsin-based picks, the U and Marquette. Kiran’s got Ducks and Gaels, just to prove how whacked people in the West are. Dell has the snowbird duo of Minnesota and Miami. Martie’s sporting fighting dogs and chickens (Butler and Jacksonville State). Pierce is sporting Blue Raiders (Middle Tennessee) and Fighting Hawks (North Dakota). Fighting hawks? Because Hawks aren’t legit killing machines unless they’re also fighting?

Husband and wife will be tangling when Elaine’s UNC-Wilmington takes on Mike B.’s Virginia. Father and son will battle when Kiran’s St. Mary’s takes Revi and the Littlest Generation’s VCU.

The fight for Florida (Florida State and Florida Gulf Coast) will be taken on by Caroline and Sarah, while the Kentucky clash (Kentucky and Northern Kentucky) will be waged by the Grandest Generation and Robert.

As of this writing, two play-in games had not been decided, but I’ll be back with a roundup of rounds. For now, may your days be filled with basketballs bouncing your way.