Saturday, October 07, 2017

Bowie Restaurant Project: (98) Pho D'Lite

Pho D'Lite,
6840 Race Track Rd,
Most Recent Foursquare Check-in: 9/30/2017
Total Foursquare Check-ins:2
Pre-Foursquare Visits: No
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Welcome to the latest entry in the now-defunct but still-breathing Bowie Restaurant Project.

It's pho. In Bowie. That's novel. There are actually 3 different places to get pho not too far from Bowie, if you're willing to head up north around Route 3. I don't know that I'd say that Pho D'Lite is any better or worse than Saigon Noodle House, Pho Golden (which I actually haven't visited), or V N Noodle House. But it's here! In Bowie!

In general, any restaurant in this space has a high bar to clear to get me to visit rather than Chesapeake Grille. But after a less than ideal last visit there, and the sense that pho is so completely different, I was able to convince myself to head there.

Anyway, if you're in the mood for a big bowl of Vietnamese noodles, you've come to the right place.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Geocaching Tennessee

As noted in my previous post, I went to Tennessee recently. This was an opportunity to find some geocaches and generate some geocaching stats.

My first stop on the day of the trip was a geocache near Dulles airport (and my kids' school) that I had been saving for this occasion. It was easy to find, and it set me up to break my maximum per-day distance record, a task that eluded me last year. As a reminder, this is the old record:

I had the chance to break a few more personal records. I could have driven to Kentucky after landing, to get 3 states in a day, but seeing the World Heritage Site seemed more interesting. I could have found a cache near the hotel after checking in, to get 4 counties in a day, but I was tired, and I figure I will save that record for the next trip.

The Knoxville airport is in a different county from Knoxville itself. Rather than stop right by the airport, I drove to nearby Maryville College. My grandfather spent a year there, and played on their 1932 JV football team. It was a nice place to stop, and there I found a geocache. It was my first September 2016 geocache. That completed 2016 for me, and gave me Month 141 (still at 68 missing months because of the addition of September 2017), State 13, and County 34 (Blount County).

After that, it was off to the Great Smoky Mountains. There was a virtual cache there at the John Ownby Cabin. That is in Sevier County, County 35 for me.

And there's a new maximum distance!



The next day, on my way back from lunch to the conference, I found a cache on campus, giving me Knox County, County 36.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

World Heritage Update: Great Smoky Mountains

Last weekend, on a trip to Tennessee, I visited Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a World Heritage Site. This was the 62nd World Heritage Site I've visited.
I went to the Sugarlands visitors center and hiked a short trail.
Since my phone captures everywhere I go, this is what it looked like. My phone knew (though I didn't) that I hiked to the John Ownby Cabin and back.

I couldn't tell at the time what made this more special than other National Parks and thus worthy of being a World Heritage Site. It turns out it's the biodiversity, so it makes sense that doesn't jump out at me. (Though I did see some nice trees.)

This is the first site I've visited since I was in Brussels almost two years ago. None of the sites inscribed in 2016 or 2017 were ones I had already visited, so my percentage has dipped from the all-time high of 5.92% sites visited in 2015 to 5.78%.
I don't have any more visits I can see coming soon, and the Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings won't make it in before 2019, so I don't see a path to 6% right now. But you never know!

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Google Local: 1 Million Views

Well, like a video game that is fun until it gets too easy, the challenge of getting to a million views of my photos kinda bored me once I got a good engine going where I got lots of views (somehow I got 139.9K views this past week). I still upload pictures from time to time, but I lack the enthusiasm I had before.

Still, it was nice to receive a congratulatory e-mail from Google, particularly since I had conceived of this challenge myself.

Here are my top 10 photo locations. Most of the pictures themselves are in previous posts with this label.
  1. Michaels, Bowie, MD, 61,341 views.
  2. Office Depot, Bowie, MD, 59,218 views.
  3. Dollar Tree, Bowie, MD, 52,977 views.
  4. DICK's Sporting Goods, Gambrills, MD, 48,058 views.
  5. Harris Teeter, Bowie, MD, 46,854 views.
  6. Safeway, Gambrills, MD, 44,852 views.
  7. Safeway, Reston, VA, 39,070 views.
  8. Arby's, Beltsville, MD, 38,849 views.
  9. Dollar Tree, Chantilly, VA, 36,402 views.
  10. Michaels, Vienna, VA, 35,598.
For some reason, pictures in Maryland seem to have done better than pictures in Virginia (they have more views despite being newer). And boring old chain stores rule the roost. The most-popular photo I have that's not of a chain store is #16, Jumping Jack Sports (an indoor kiddie play space).

And I'm still enjoying the free Google Play Music for another couple of weeks.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Geocaching Update: Two Per Month

I was too busy this summer to find any more than six geocaches (two each month), but I have some hopes for the fall.

The first June cache that I found was in the tree pictured above. The more I think about this one, the more I liked it. It combines "nature" with "easy to access". It was also my first November 2010 cache, keeping me at 68 missing months (since I didn't have June 2017 yet).

The second June cache I found was a less than exciting one in a parking lot.

The first July cache I found was also one I was FTF (first-to-find) on. It's less than half a mile from my office, so I should have had a good chance at it.

Here's the satellite image of it. Yep, it's on that sign there. (I was going to use Google Street View, but in the 2012 picture, the sign is still under construction.) Someone else showed up while I was poking around, but I was the one who spotted the cache perched up there, and I was the one who tore a (small) hole in my pants climbing up there. That gave me July 2017, and kept me at 68 missing months.

It was my 12th FTF.

My second July cache was very close to the first. I was not in my office at the time it was listed, so I missed the FTF.

My first August cache was in Ellicott City. I was present shopping, and I looked for nearby caches. This one was interesting, at least for my stats! It was a June 2017 cache, keeping me at 68 missing months. It was my first at N 39° 15', giving me my 17th minute of 39 North. It was my first at W 76° 48', giving me my 32nd minute of 76 West. I actually have 32 of the 33 westernmost minutes in that degree of latitude, missing only W 76° 48'. I have one scouted out for that minute, then I guess it's off to the Eastern Shore to make more progress on that challenge.

My second August cache was unremarkable, but it was a nice pick-me-up to find it on a day I needed cheering up.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Scotland's UEFA Coefficient: Group Stage Preview

Hey! It's the still Champions League!

Playoff-Round Review

Celtic all but clinched their participation in the Champions League group stage with a 5-0 win at home. But then they lost on the road 4-3. It didn't "matter", but there went 0.25 for the coefficient for the next five years. Still, with the bonus for group stage qualification, that was 1.25 more for this year's coefficient.

Group-Stage Preview

Let's look at the Clubelo rankings of Celtic's group. There's #3 (Bayern Munich), #8 (Paris St. Germain), #65 (Anderlecht) and #90 (Celtic). Incredibly, this is not as tough a road as last year, when Celtic faced teams from the three top leagues in Europe. Celtic has been scrappy enough to pick up draws at home from even the best teams in the world, and Anderlecht shouldn't scare them, even on the road. (Sadly, the reverse is true.) So it wouldn't be impossible to imagine 3 draws and 1 win netting a third-place finish for Celtic, which would drop them into the elimination phase of the Europa League. In fact, 14 years ago, Celtic ended up in group with...uh...Anderlecht, Bayern Munich and a French team, and ended up third. So one could dream of picking up 1.25 more in the group, and even more by making a Europa League run.

FiveThirtyEight

The American web site FiveThirtyEight has expanded their soccer coverage to include the Scottish Premiership. I find this mildly cool (currently second-place Celtic are 81% favorites to win the league...seems low). But what really helps us out is the coverage of the Champions League, and yes, the Europa League, so I can analyze how likely other nations are to get points for their coefficients.

Where We Stand

We (they) stand 23rd. Despite the awful start for Scottish teams, their 3 point so far look pretty respectable compared to other countries in their neighborhood. The problem is moving out of that neighborhood...

I tend to show a window of countries within 2 points of Scotland. Right now, that's 21-28. That means there's more downside than upside, particularly with many of these teams in the easier Europa League group stage. Let's take them one-by-one.

21. Romania. Despite starting with five teams in Europe, they're down to one, and in the Europa League. Steaua has a 55% percent chance of advancing from the group, according to FiveThirtyEight, so expect them to widen then 1.05 gap with Scotland. Still, any points they get are divided by 5 rather then 4, so they will not be too far ahead.

22. Azerbaijan. They are having a better year than Scotland, but like everyone else in the neighborhood, they are down to one team. Garabag (or however you spell it) is the lowest-rated team in Champions League play. Fivethirtyeight gives them only a 3% chance of even finishing third. They could well be shut out of further points, and a decent performance by Celtic could pass them.

23. Celtic, while distinct underdogs, is listed as a 4% chance of finishing second and 43% to finish third. That's almost a 50/50 chance of advancing!

24. Belarus. They have the same number of points as Scotland. I'm not sure what the tie-breaker is here. BATE Borisov is in Europa League play, where they are severely outclassed by Arsenal and Koln. They only have a 14% chance of advancing, but they should pick up enough points from Red Star Belgrade to keep Belarus close to or ahead of Scotland.

25. Sweden. Osterund is another team out of its depth in its Europa League group, between Bilbao and Hertha. But even the Ukranian side Zorya should outperform them -- they have an 8% chance of advancing, so Scotland's lead of 0.15 is more likely than not to hold up.

26. Bulgaria. Ludogorets Razgrad has a decent shot -- 29% -- at their group. Hoffenheim is the clear class, but neither Braga nor Istanbul should scare them too much. The 0.25 lead Scotland has over Bulgaria could evaporate quickly.

27. Norway. After Celtic bounced Rosenborg down to the Europa League, they still have the opportunity to pick up points. In this case, mostly against the Macedonian side Vardar, because Zenit St. Petersburg and Real Sociedad should deny them, as long as they take Europa League play seriously. I think the 1.2 point gap is safe; Fivethirtyeight gives a 21% chance for them to advance.

28. Kazakhstan. Astana is another side Celtic bounced from the Champions League, and another side with a 21% chance of advancing. At 1.5, the gap is probably even safer.