Monday, January 07, 2019

2018 Stay-At-Home Bowl Preview

It is playoff time in the NFL, which means that as a Redskins fan, I turn my attention to something other than following my team.

Yes, it's the Stay-At-Home Bowl, the honor I bestow upon a team that has beaten both Super Bowl participants. With the final eight teams decided, there are five out of the sixteen possible Super Bowls that will cause the honor to be bestowed.

  • New England-Dallas: Tennessee would win.
  • New England-Philadelphia: Tennessee would also win.
  • Kansas City-Dallas: Seattle would win.
  • Indianapolis-Rams: Philadelphia would win.
  • Indianapolis-Dallas: Houston would win.
I guess what I am saying is that the NFC East wasn't very good, so their playoff teams lost to a lot of teams, so in the unlikely event that one of them ends up in the playoffs (dear God, no), there's a decent chance you have a winner.

Last year's winner, Kansas City is doing pretty well this year, continuing the trend of winners having a good next season.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Geocaching: Quiet Fall 2018

This fall, I found only 10 caches (bringing me to 424), all in Virginia or California. But some of them were memorable!

On September 30, in order to teach the boys about compass use, I found my second letterbox.

I only found two in October, one in California (in a mall parking garage) and one in Virginia (across the street from our post office). Neither were to do anything more than pass some time.

In November, I had my first month since 2015 where I didn't find a geocache. I guess life was busy.

In December, a trip to Northern California allowed me to fill in some areas I had never been to before. My first find was in Paradise, recently devastated by the Camp Fire. There was a virtual cache there, and I confirmed that the historical marker necessary to claim the cache had survived the fire. Butte County was County 82.

From Paradise, I drove to Oroville to find a challenge cache (also in Butte County), then farther south until I hit Yuba County, to claim one in County 83.

Unfortunately, this cache was pretty much disintegrated. I posted a note, and the cache has recently been disabled pending maintenance.
Needs Maintenance

From there, I drove to Yuba City, which is in Sutter County (County 84), not Yuba County like you might think. I visited a war memorial that served as a virtual cache.
Yuba City War Memorial
I ran out of daylight before I could add a fourth county that day -- one of the lesser perils of winter caching, I suppose.

The next day, on my way to the airport, I found caches in Glenn County (County 85) and Sutter County (County 86). I missed another county because I couldn't find a cache at a rest stop. Then, at the airport, there was a new virtual cache, which gave me Sacramento County (County 87).
Sacramento Virtual

So how did these 10 caches affect my stats? I didn't find any new difficulty/terrain combos. I only found one new month (November 2017) -- from the challenge cache.

With three new months appearing, that increases my total of missing months to 43. The three from 2018 should all be pretty easy, however.

My California counties map has really filled out.

Sixteen down, forty-two to go! I bet I can get at least one more in 2019, and several more if I get to spend any time in the Bay Area.

Because Sacramento and Chico are close in latitude to the DC area, I was able to make some progress on the 38 and 39 North challenges. Recall each requires finding one cache for each of the 60 minutes of longitude within a given degree. I found two more for the 38 North challenge, bringing me to 27. I found three more for the 39 North challenge to 22. I am still doing better in the longitude challenges.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Scotland's UEFA Coefficient: 2018/9 Knockout-Round Preview

Celtic made it through to the knockout round! Rangers almost did, and picked up a bunch of points in the process.

The "neighborhood" of nations within 2 points of Scotland has shrunk, but 20th place is not settled yet.

Playoff-Round Review

Rangers put together a win and three draws -- not quite enough to advance, but enough to pick up 1.125 for the coefficient. Rangers bowed out having been worth 2.75 for the coefficient; this year shows what good shape Scotland is in when more than just Celtic contributes.

Celtic contributed three wins -- barely enough to advance, and good for 1.25 for the coefficient. Overall, they have brought 2.875 to the coefficent this year, slightly better than their Old Firm rivals.

I said that better than 2 points total from the group stage and having a team make it out would be good. With 2.375 points and Celtic through, Scotland had a good year.

Group-Stage Preview

Celtic got a tough draw. I'm going to use the Fivethirtyeight ratings to preview things. Valencia is the fifth-best rated of the thirty-two teams remaining. As a second place finisher, Celtic was almost certain to have a tough draw, but this is one of the toughest.

Fivethirtyeight gives Celtic a 24% chance of advancing. The average expectation is for them to pick up 0.5 more for the coefficient; that would represent salvaging one draw.

So a good round would be picking up a full point, even if they don't advance, and a bad round would be two losses (which would not be shocking, given the quality of the opposition).

Where We Are

There was an article in the Scottish newspaper The Herald that I think confused the issue, with statements like, "So in terms of significant improvement, Scottish football needs teams to excel in Europe’s top club competition. Obviously, this isn’t the case this the season but improvements can still be made that will bring tangible rewards in the next couple of seasons."

Here's what that analysis missed. Scotland no longer needs to improve; it merely needs to maintain this year's level of quality. The 6.750 points picked up so far this year, maintained for five years, would put its coefficient at 33.75. Over the past few years, that would have been good enough for 11th-13th. Recall that getting to 15th or 17th is the goal.

For this year's coefficient, a single draw would push them past Serbia into 19th. Although they would need to get to 17th to guarantee skipping early rounds, this year because of various details 19th was good enough, so it might be good enough in 2020/21 (when these ratings take effect).

Next year, they will start in 20th (the terrible 2013/4 qualifying cycle still hits them for one more year). They will have one chance to make the hard climb to 15th before they end up in Europa League 2.

(I read the announcement for this new league. I am mostly going to ignore its effects for now, since it seems mostly to be a split of the Europa League for our purposes. It may have a mild positive effect of exposing Scottish teams to weaker competition, and a mild negative effect of hurting revenues and recruitment by putting them in the third-tier competition.)

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Geocaching: Summer 2018

This summer, I found 39 caches in 6 states and 2 foreign countries, bringing me up to 414 caches found.

I started out the summer hiking with the kids to find one from December 2012 (175th month found), which earned the first souvenir in this summer's "Hidden Creatures" promotion -- Bigfoot (my 47th souvenir).
A few days later, I found a new-ish one from July 2018 (176th month), which also got me the Fairy souvenir (48th).

On landing in Illinois, my 17th state, I found one in Kane County, my 71st county. That also earned my 49th souvenir for the state of Illinois.
After driving to Wisconsin, my 18th state, I found one in Dane County, my 72nd county. That earned the Wisconsin souvenir, my 49th. It was a virtual cache, where I took my picture with Bucky the Beaver.

That also earned me my 51st souvenir -- Unicorn.

A couple of days later, I took a road trip from Madison and picked up caches in Rock County, Wisconsin (County #73) and Winnebago County, Illinois (County #74). The four I found in Rock County were challenge caches which each gave me new difficulty/terrain combos (numbers 34-37). I also picked up souvenirs 52-54 (Hippocamp, Kraken and Mermaid -- I'm going to stop including the pictures.

On the way back to the airport, I found a couple in Cook County, Illinois (County #75) -- including one in the airport. That got me my 55th souvenir (and the last one of the Hidden Creatures promotion). It also marked the end of my longest caching streak to date (7 days).

A trip to Texas gave me my 19th state, along with counties 76, 77, 78 and 79. The Texas souvenir was my 56th. The two Texas virtuals are pictured below.

One of the Texas caches was from November 2012 (Month #178).

Back in Maryland, I got my 18th FTF (First-to-Find) on one of the limited-edition virtual caches, so it was also my first find of that cache type.

On my way to England, I stopped in Dublin, Ireland and got Country #12 and Souvenir #57 (there is a separate Dublin souvenir). While in England, I found another new virtual, which gave me August 2018 (Month #179).
8/12/18, Country #12, Souvenir #57.

On September 1, I found another challenge cache with a new D/T Combo (#38). I found 2 other caches that day, and it apparently was the first day I found three different types of caches in a day.

A trip to California meant that I was able to secure County 80 (Riverside County), County 81 (San Bernadino County), and Month 181 (March 2006), as well as D/T combo #39.

So, where am I, after some ambitious caching?

I have almost half of the D/T combos. I have been filling out the ones outside of the upper left mostly through the use of challenge caches. I'm not sure how far I can stretch that, but every time I go to a new area, I try to find a few that I didn't have before.

I am missing 41 months, including the current one. That's down from 47 at the end of Winter. I thought I was going to get a rare May 2000 one near Chicago, but the trail was closed.

Adding three new states makes the map look better.
The counties map is looking more interesting, especially the big counties in California. Of course, I only went to the very western tip of each of those two, but it still counts for the map. That's only about 2.6% of the total counties.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Frank Collins Nicholson (1889-1972), who pitched in two games for the Phillies

Last week, the Washington Post had an article about a pitcher who missed his one shot at the big leagues when his scheduled start for the Phillies was rained out.

That reminded me of another pitcher, who did not miss his one chance with the Phillies -- Frank Collins Nicholson. He pitched a total of six innings over two games in 1912. He was my great-great-uncle.

In the family photo, he is the guy in the back with the hat. He is next to his brother Elwyn Nicholson. In the front are his other brothers Clarence "Fat" Nicholson, and William S. Nicholson, my great-grandfather. Thanks to my Aunt Pam for the picture.

If you touch the major leagues, even for an instant, that stays with you for the rest of your life (and beyond). Here is his obituary:

And here is a remembrance from his hometown paper shortly afterwards. It recounts when, as a minor-leaguer, he faced the major-league pitching of "Chief Bender" and "poled out a three-bagger."

Here is another story from a few years after his passing:

And here is another story about his game against Chief Bender and the Philadelphia A's. It contains my favorite line, which is thank Uncle Frank was "a wizard moundsman with the spit ball."

I originally posted this on Facebook, but I thought I would put it on the blog for wider dissemination. If you have come across this and are related to Frank Nicholson, or if you have any more information about his baseball career, please e-mail me at