Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Scottish Football: Big Clubs, by the numbers

Celtic just won their 100th major trophy by picking up this year's Scottish League Cup. I was surprised the number was so low. Let's ignore the European trophies for the rest of this post (only 1 of the 100 falls into that category). Every year, there are three major trophies in Scottish football -- the league, the Cup and the League Cup -- I figured Celtic would have averaged about one a year over their history, which stretches back well over a hundred years.

My primary error appears to have been forgetting that the Scottish League Cup only dates back to the 1940s. That got me thinking, how does my trophies/year guess look for Celtic in the post-war years? And what is the rate for other clubs?

One of the amazing things about Scottish football is the long history, and the fact that Rangers and Celtic have dominated it for pretty much the entire time. On the other hand, if you look at the full sweep of history, you see weird things like the fact that Queen's Park is tied for 5th on the list of major trophies, despite not having won anything since 1893. So let's call the post-war years the modern era.

There have been 71 League Cups, as well as 70 each of top-flight titles and Scottish Cups since the War. All together 211 trophies on offer. Rangers picked up 80, Celtic 65 and everyone else 66.

So a trophy per year is pretty close for Celtic, and only a bit low for Rangers. A trophy a year is also pretty close for the category of everyone else. Breaking down the "other" category further, Aberdeen has 17 trophies, Hearts 10, and Hibs 7. So the totals are 38% Rangers, 31% Celtic, 16% Next Three, 15% Small Clubs.

I'm going to use these stats to bolster my contention that the five biggest sides in Scotland are the ones with the resources to pull Scottish fortunes up in Europe. With Celtic not going any further in European play this year, I'm keeping my eye on who Scotland sends next year. The top four on the table look pretty good now, but a weird victor in the Scottish Cup could mean a lesser club competes. Of the big five, the two Edinburgh clubs are probably the least promising right now. Hibs is still second-tier, and though they look to pull themselves up, their experience this year with Europa League play doesn't bode well if they repeat as Cup champions. Hearts seems to be a solidly-run club, but part of that is that they are investing in their stadium rather than chasing players. Also, their manager may be lured away.

So I think we can say that in order to make a push, Scotland needs to send its big two clubs to Europe, and it would really help if one of the other was Aberdeen.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Return of Where's Jon?: Towson Edition

I haven't done a "Where's Jon?" post (where I link to conference photos and invite the blog reader to locate me) in a while, so let's try an easy one. (I mentioned the conference on my math blog.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Geocaching: First Letterbox and Miscellany

Last month, I found my eighth geocache type when I found my first webcam cache. This month, I went for number nine, and the last of the main cache types: the Letterbox.

Letterboxing is similar to geocaching, but its origins date back to the 19th century. Instead of GPS coordinates, finders use maps or directions to locate the hidden containers. It grew in popularity with the advent of the Internet, and Geocaching's parent company made a failed bid to become the official home for letterboxing. The aftermath of that, however, left us with letterbox hybrid caches, which combine elements of both types of location games.

I was driving around one morning and decided to hunt for a letterbox that had been on my "To Do List" for a while. The description contained a map:
I parked at the parking location, and guessed which direction to head off in. Reading a note the cache owner had posted led me to the fact that the flower and pumpkin at the top of the map represented certain streets, so I felt good when I realized I was near those streets. I guessed which trail would lead to the creek, and seeing that the hider had put coordinates for the doughnut (Hint: "Map is not to scale; if you walk past the doughnut you went too far") further convinced me I was on the right track. That was confirmed when I found a creek to cross, and two things that looked like quarries, with a big tree at the back of one of them. I was amazed, but I had finally found a letterbox.

I am not as enamored with the "puzzle" aspect of geocaching as others are, so I don't think I'll be doing many more letterboxes, unless I find some that are relatively straightforward.


There are some milestones I passed which didn't seem to merit their own posts, but I thought I'd capture here.

  • The letterbox cache was my first cache in Fairfax City. In Virginia, cities are entities independent of any county, so they count as counties in the overall total. That's County 29.

  • I got my fourth FTF ("First to Find") on a cache published this month.

  • I have now found caches placed in 121 different months, leaving 78. Last month I had 90 left to go, so I'm chipping away at that challenge. 2015 now joins 2006 and 2007 as years where I'm only missing two months.

  • The progress in months has included knocking out two months from 2001, January and November. The January cache is the oldest I've found yet.

  • I have now found caches in 18 minutes of West 77 degrees (I hit 10 in September). I also found one in Minute 51 of West 76, bringing that up to 31. (I am at 16 minutes in both the North 38 and North 39 latitude challenges.)

  • I added three more difficulty/terrain combinations. Podcache was a tricky one, so I really felt like I was expanding my geocaching skills. The next one was a "challenge cache" that you could only log if you had found caches 25 degrees of latitude apart (Estonia to Puerto Rico is 41). Some challenge cache hiders make the rating based on the challenge itself, so I will probably find more combos that way soon. Carderock was a nice virtual cache that involved clambering up a rock overlooking the Potomac. 

  • My ranking in difficulty/terrain averages among those with at least 100 finds is 7471/7544. At least 73 from the bottom is better than 16 from the bottom, where I was in September.

  • I had my busiest week ever last week, when I found 10 caches. Previously my busiest week included the day I went into DC and found 7 virtual caches (still my busiest day), but with the help of a 6-cache day last Monday, I set a new weekly record. Given that I have seen stats where people find over 1000 caches in a day, that's not much, but it's a record for me.
  • Tuesday, November 15, 2016

    Geocaching Update: Hunting the Elusive Webcam Cache

    On the geocaching web site, you can search for nine different types of caches. There are other, rarer types, but I think they are considered subtypes for search purposes. Here they are with the total number of caches available worldwide as of Saturday, October 29, 2016.
    • Traditional (2,365,714)
    • Multi-Cache (157,030)
    • Mystery (363,775)
    • EarthCache (24,809)
    • Letterbox Hybrid (20,447)
    • Event (3,420)
    • Webcam (313)
    • Wherigo (9,365)
    • Virtual (4,636)
    Of these, Virtuals and Webcams are "grandfathered", meaning that it is no longer possible to create new ones, and it has not been for more than a decade. Since I last counted virtuals a month ago, six have gone away. By far the rarest type is the webcam cache. The idea is to go to a location where a webcam is filming and capture an image of yourself on camera. This was a lot more difficult back when the caches were active, since nobody had phones that could grab the image! You would have to call a friend to get them to nab the image, or you would have to set up a script on your home computer to save the image.

    When I learned I would be giving a talk at a conference at Towson University, home of one of 130 remaining webcams in the United States, I knew I wanted to find it.

    (I had actually had a shot at finding one in California this summer. My family and I were walking down a beach covered by one webcam associated with a webcam cache, but I never saw us on screen.)

    I got to the conference early, made sure everything was set up for my talk, and then ran out and grabbed the image. It's not a very high-resolution picture, but you can see (but not read) my conference badge.

    So that leaves one of the main types of caches for me to find -- the letterbox. They aren't as rare, but they are still a little bit unusual. That's a story for another day, however.

    Thursday, October 20, 2016

    Scotland's UEFA Coefficient: Group Stage Halfway Point

    I didn't want to let six matchdays go by without checking in, so here's where we are halfway through the group stage of the Champions League (and for other nations, the Europa League).

    So Celtic managed to grab a draw against Manchester City. That added 0.25 to the coefficient, which moved Scotland past Norway into 22nd. Yay! No more 23rd (for now), where they had been stuck the entire time.

    Legia Warsaw is having an even worse time in the Champions League than Celtic, so Poland is still within striking distance, if Celtic can put together a win or two draws in their last three matches.

    On the other hand, Israel's coefficient has inched up 1.25, Azerbaijan is up 0.75 and Cyprus is up by 1. A repeat of that performance in the last three matches by Israeli clubs, a surge by Azerbaijan, or qualification for the knockout stages by APOEL Nicosia could move any of those nations past Scotland.

    It just goes to show that having two teams do reasonably well in the Europa League is better for the coefficient than having one do poorly in the Champions League. I'm not sure that's fair, but that's how it is.

    In December, UEFA is supposed to unveil the new qualifying procedure, which will take place the year after next. The coefficient referenced above is the one that will get used in this qualifying, so these moves of one or two spots could make a big difference...or no difference at all. I will update when we find out.

    Saturday, October 08, 2016

    Geocaching: Year 2002 Caches

    On Friday, I found a virtual cache in Virginia that was placed in January 2002.
    Not only did this bring me one month closer to finding a geocache placed in every month since geocaching started (the Jasmer challenge), for the first time there's a year where I've found a cache placed in every month.

    Why 2002? Well, 2000 and 2001 were really early days of geocaching, and there aren't a ton of caches left from then. I have actually found four caches from 2001, but none from 2000 yet.

    The other reason is that new "virtual caches" were banned about 11 years ago. Since there is no container to maintain, they tend to stick around, and they can be fun to find. Currently, there are 4,642 virtuals remaining, only seven of which date from after 2005. I think those seven are weird cases where the placement date has been changed over the years.

    In fact, I found a virtual cache placed in every month from 2002. Of the 29 caches from 2002, 25 were virtual and 4 were traditional. Of the four traditionals, two are no longer available. Of the 25 virtuals, two are no longer available. How do virtuals go away, since there's no container to maintain? Well, generally you need to e-mail your answer to the cache owner, and if the e-mail address no longer works, the geocaching reviewers will archive the cache.

    Looking at the list of 29 caches, I have found them in Virginia, California, England, New York, New Jersey, Nevada, Germany, Maryland, Turkey, Georgia, DC, and Arizona, so geocaching had definitely spread far and wide by 2002.

    So now I'm up to 108 months found, out of 198. Perhaps I should count down by saying I have 90 left to find, since the total number of months keeps going up. I'm only missing 2 months from each of 2006 and 2007 -- most of those I did when I started caching in 2007 and early 2008. So those may be the next years I finish.

    Also, that January 2002 cache is now the fifth oldest I've found.