Saturday, July 13, 2019

World Heritage Update: 2019 Inscriptions

UNESCO has inscribed 29 new properties onto the World Heritage list, bringing the total to 1121. Of those, the only one I have visited is "The Twentieth-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright," specifically Fallingwater and the Guggenheim.

That makes it my 63rd World Heritage site. As I have not visited any of the 2018 inscriptions, my percentage falls to 5.62%. I don't see a prospect of visiting any more this year.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Geocaching: Spring 2019

I only got out geocaching three days in the Spring. But two of those days, I found four caches each, so I at least got a total of 9.

I went out at the end of March to find a high-favorite cache, because that gave me three souvenirs in the then-ongoing promotion. That got me to 62 souvenirs. I counted being at 57 last summer.  I didn't take note of a promotional souvenir I got in September, and there was a retroactive one awarded for the United States in December (previously, we only got souvenirs for individual states).

Then in April, when in Greensboro, NC, I found 4 caches while waiting for my family. That moved Guilford County, NC to #7 on the counties I've found the most caches in. One of the caches I had been unable to find on my previous visit to Greensboro due to a bug in my phone's operating system. I got a new phone, so I was able to read the signal with the cache information. That was a 4/2 difficult/terrain combo, for my 40th D/T combo.

In June, I headed out of the house and found four in Virginia while my family was wrapping Father's Day presents.

Hoping to find a few more this summer in a few more regions (but unlikely new states or countries).

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Scotland's UEFA Coefficient: 2019/20 First-Round Preview

Ah, summer, when a man's thoughts turn to Europa League qualifying. (And, OK, the Champions League.) After an amazingly good 2018/19 campaign, what does the new season have in store for Scotland's teams?

Where We Stand


Scotland climbed from 26th to 20th last year, but there's more than a point separating them from moving up to 19th. We always keep in mind the important thresholds. The nation in 15th place gets two Champions League berths, the one in 17th gets later entry into the qualifying, and 24th is necessary to prevent all the teams from entering in the first qualifying round. The 26th place ranking from two years ago determines that is what happens to Scotland this year. Another fantastic performance like last year would probably be necessary to get up to 17th, with 15th a more realistic target for the subsequent year. It would take a truly terrible performance to drop down to 25th.

First-Round Matches

Everybody has something to look forward to, although sometimes they have to wait for the preliminary round (zeroth-round?) to know exactly who that is. A total of 2.0 points are available. No Swiss teams enter yet, so a clean sweep would pass Switzerland. Serbia, Norway and Belarus also have 2.0 points available, while Sweden has 1.5 and Israel has 1.0.

Celtic

In the Champions League, Celtic (Elo 1570) face Bosnian champions Sarajevo (Elo 1239). (The source of these stats, as in previous seasons is clubelo.com.) A difference of 331 Elo points corresponds to an 87% win probability, but that does not account for the fact that in a two-legged tie, the favorite has even more of an advantage. I expect the full 0.5 from Celtic, although 0.375 would not be shocking. If by some weird sequence of events, Celtic loses, they get placed in third-round Europa League qualifying due to an odd number of teams, or a wormhole.

Rangers

In the Europa League, runners-up Rangers (Elo 1514) face the winner between FC Prishtina (Elo 1111), the 2nd place Kosavar team and St. Joseph's (Elo 875), the 3rd place Gibraltar team. You expect to face Prishtina, and be even stronger favorites than Celtic. Look forward to the full 0.5, but remember that Scottish clubs have embarrassed themselves in Europe before (though not last year, and not under Brendan Rogers).

Kilmarnock

Can they make some noise under a new manager? Third-place Kilmarnock (Elo 1392) face Welsh runners-up Connah's Quay Nomads (Elo 1005). I expect another full set of points, but I am less confident here. Connah's Quay were invited to the Scottish Challenge Cup last year, where they lost in the final to a second-division Scottish club.

Aberdeen

It's good to see Derek McInnes have a shot at a longer run this time, instead of facing a Premier League club out of the gates. Fourth-place Aberdeen (Elo 1403) face Finnish runners-up RoPS (Elo unknown). Finland operates on a calendar year schedule, so that second-place finish was in 2018, and RoPS is currently 10th (out of 12 teams).

Anyway, for any one of these sides, you expect two victories, but someone somewhere is surely going to slip up. The best case is that nobody does, and you get the full 2.0 (or at worst 1.875). The worst case is a shock exit. I think between 1.5 and 1.75 would be a reasonable outcome, with all teams advancing.

Second-Round Sneak Peak

If Celtic wins, they face the winner of Estonian champions Nõmme Kalju (Elo 1046) and North Macedonian champions Shkëndija (Elo 1326). Probably a tougher match, with Celtic a definite favorite.

If Rangers wins, they face one of Cork City (Elo 1198), Progres Niedercorn (Elo 1190) or Cardiff Met University (Elo unknown). Although Niedercorn knocked Rangers out two years ago, this is a much better side, which should be a heavy favorite against any of those three.

If Kilmarnock wins, they face Partizan Belgrade (Elo 1560). They will be definite underdogs.

If Aberdeen wins, they face Fola Ech (Elo 1173) or Chikhura Sachkhere (Elo 1214). Either way, they should be favored.

Getting three sides through to the third round would be even better than last year's excellent start, and is the most likely scenario.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Nebula Update: The Calculating Stars

I'm now down to 7 books to read in my Nebula Best Novel quest. I finished the latest winner, The Calculating Stars. It has a lot of good bits, but I was put off by its approach to alternate history.

Here is my Goodreads review.

The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut, #1)The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This book is well-written and compelling, but I can't bring myself to give it more than 3 stars. As with the novellette that ends the series, I find the rules of its alternate history confusing. In the notes, the author explains that she made Dewey instead of Truman president because she had written herself into a corner on the timeline in the novella. But then there's an asteroid strike that seems to be the main divergence, which is explained fairly differently in the prequel short story than it seems to be in the book. And then there's a character in the book who died in real life in 1920, so it seems like things are just being changed around for the convenience of the story.

If you can get past that, it's at least a 4-star book, if not 5 stars.



View all my reviews

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Nebula Update: All the Birds in the Sky

I finally got around to reading the 2017 Nebula Best Novel winner, All the Birds in the Sky. It was not as good as I would have liked. I can't put my finger on what bothered me the most, but here are a few things. The style was very breezy. The first part felt like a YA novel (not in a good way). I gather that may have been a conscious choice to reflect the characters' ages, but it did not really mature as the book went on; it just added more "mature situations". At one point, an apartment was described as looking like it was from the show Hoarders. That's just not a good description for me. Also, the billionaire bankrolling science that is going to change the planet tires me out by this point. The author may have done some things differently with that, but it's still a warped view of how technological progress happens.

While I read that, the latest award went out to The Calculating Stars. Sadly, it was not the nominee I had already read. It's part of a series with a novella that I "kind of enjoyed." It's not the ringing endorsement I'd like, but I will plunge forward. This still leaves me with 8 books to read:

  1. 1966: Flowers for Algernon (tie)
  2. 1966: Babel-17 (tie)
  3. 1968: Rite of Passage
  4. 1976: Man Plus
  5. 1978: Dreamsnake
  6. 1981: The Claw of the Conciliator
  7. 2018: The Stone Sky 
  8. 2019: The Calculating Stars

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Scottish Football: Three To Go

I have updated my crude simulation after this weekend's games. The new probabilities are:
  1. Celtic 99.6% Rangers 0.4%
  2. Rangers 99.6% Celtic 0.4%
  3. Aberdeen 67.4% Kilmarnock 30.9% Hibs 1.8%
  4. Kilmarnock 59.1% Aberdeen 31.1% Hibs 9.6% Hearts 0.2%
  5. Hibs 76.1% Hearts 12.7% Kilmarnock 9.7% Aberdeen 1.5%
  6. Hearts 87.1% Hibs 12.6% Kilmarnock 0.3%
In words, Celtic failed to clinch the title, but is almost certain to. Rangers clinched no worse than 2nd (and a European place). The race for 3rd and 4th is still basically Aberdeen and Kilmarnock, with Aberdeen 2-1 favorites to nab 3rd, and Hibs having an 11% chance of sneaking in there. The difference between 3rd and 4th will matter if Hearts shocks Celtic for the Cup.