Thursday, March 23, 2017

Bowie Restaurant Project: (96) Chipotle Mexican Grill (Marketplace)

Chipotle Mexican Grill,
15475 Annapolis Rd,
Most Recent Foursquare Check-in: 3/23/2017
Total Foursquare Check-ins: 1
Pre-Foursquare Visits: No
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

As I noted in my review of Chick-fil-A, I am not really keeping up with the Bowie Restaurant Project, but if I happen to visit a restaurant in a way that enables a review, I'll add it to the list.

As I noted in my 2012 review of Chipotle's original Bowie location, I don't like Chipotle. On the other hand, one of the inspirations for the Bowie Restaurant Project was overhearing someone remark that since he was in Bowie, he was going to eat at Chipotle. That was fine if that was his favorite restaurant, but part of my goal has been to find better options for people.

Anyway, I found myself in possession of a $10 Chipotle gift card, so fate was telling me to write this review. First, I used the web to create an order. The estimated total was $10.02. When I tried to plug in the gift card, it told me that I didn't have enough money to pay for my lunch, and offered me no way of kicking in the two cents in another way. So I changed my selection to "pay at restaurant", and the web site told me that it was now too late to get my food when I originally asked for it. In the ensuing chaos, I accidentally ordered it for over an hour in the future.

The person at the restaurant was very nice about fixing my error when I called, and they were unnecessarily apologetic when the food wasn't ready when I arrived. I definitely give them high marks for customer service (though low marks for the web interface). As it turned out, the web site actually knocked the extra 2 cents off when I finally placed the order. That was nice, but it was dumb of it to complain about my gift card balance if it was going to do that.

The food was fine. As noted before, one of the reasons I don't eat at Chipotle is the resulting digestive disruption I experience. Because of this, I can't rate it too highly. Hopefully soon we will have real Mexican food back in Bowie.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Google Local: Four Photos

My phone has been prompting me to add pictures to various places I've visited, so that Google can display them to people who are looking for the establishments in question. Free labor for one of the world's most valuable companies? Sure, why not?

For example, if you search for "D&D Cleaners" in Virginia, you will see featured a photo I took (mostly to make a joke about the name).

Google from time to time will e-mail me with a total number of views on all of my photos (as I look now, the D&D cleaners photo has 432 views). As that number got into the tens of thousands, I conceived of the goal of getting a million views.

My reasoning was that the number of views each photo gets should go up linearly over time. If I contribute photos at a steady pace, the total number of photos should also go up linearly. So, the total number of photos should go up quadratically. (You did know I'm a mathematician, right?)

As my number of views passed 100,000 this week, I thought I'd take a look at how my theory is working out. Well, as it turned out, roughly 70% of my views are from just four photos. That sort of blows apart my theory that quantity of photos is key to upping my views. (Unless more photos means a greater chance of having one of the "good" pictures.)

Here they are:
#4 Jumping Jack Sports, Ashburn, VA, 14,840 views, January 2017.
#3 Rubio's, San Diego, CA, 16,470 views, August 2016.

#2 Arby's, Beltsville, MD, 21,263 views, January 2017.
#1 Wendy's, Chantilly, VA, 21,600 views, August 2016.




I have no idea what the lesson of this is. I guess three out of four are panoramas of store interiors, so maybe I should concentrate more on interiors than exteriors. I had switched to exteriors lately on the theory that it would be more helpful to show people how to find the place. I guess if exteriors really are better for views, those will shoot up the rankings, and I can correct. I don't really see what's going on with the Rubio's picture. That seems singularly unhelpful, yet popular.

I guess I will try for more interior panoramas. I really don't want to spend much time on this project, so time spent while waiting to order or waiting for my food (or watching my kid play at a birthday party) seems like a good time to add to my totals.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Scottish Football: European Speculation

With the final four set for the Scottish Cup, it's time for me to offer my second annual preview of who might represent Scotland in Europe.

To recap, the goal is to get good results and see the UEFA coefficient rise to the point where Scottish teams are treated better. This year's coefficient drops to 25th, which puts the Scottish Cup winner in the Europa League first round. Next year, it will probably be 23rd, which puts the Cup winner in the second round. If APOEL Nicosia continues their Europa League success, Scotland could drop to 24th, but that still would mean a second round entry. The upcoming season (2017/8) affects the matches in 2019 and beyond.

So let's look at the contenders.

Celtic

Chances of playing in Europe: 100%
Path to Europe: They are going to win the Scottish Premiership. They have won all but one match this season. In the amazingly unlikely event that they lost all further matches, there is no way Aberdeen wins enough to catch them. And they are favorites to win the Cup.
How happy we should be if they're in Europe: Very. They are the only Scottish side structured to make some noise in the Champions League.
Managerial dysfunction level: Low. Brendan Rogers knows what he's doing, and he hasn't had enough success at Celtic to move on to an English club yet.

Aberdeen


Chances of playing in Europe: 95%
Path to Europe: They are currently sitting second in the Premiership. Rangers might catch them, but third would be good enough. As long as Hibs doesn't win the Cup, even being caught by Rangers and Hearts would still leave them in Europe. And they could still win the Cup.
How happy we should be if they're in Europe: Quite. Over the past five years, the three best European performances not belonging to Celtic are the past three years of Aberdeen results.
Managerial dysfunction level: Low. Derek McInnes knows what he's doing. He could get lured away by a bigger club, but I heard a commentator say he probably wants to get through to the Europa League group stages first. Hopefully this is the year for that.

Rangers


Chances of playing in Europe: 75%
Path to Europe: They are sitting third in the Premiership. As with Aberdeen, second, third, or probably fourth would get them through. They've looked uneven lately, so this isn't a lock, but Hearts hasn't looked great either. And they could win the Cup.
How happy we should be if they're in Europe: Mostly happy. They have the second-biggest budget in Scotland, so they should be able to make some noise. On the other hand, the last few years they have improved from very messed up to somewhat messed up as an organization. If they can get their act together, they should contend for the group stages.
Managerial dysfunction level: At least medium. Their last manager either left or was fired (they are still arguing that) while looking to jump to an English side. The are (so we hear) closing in on a Portuguese manager who sounds promising, but is mostly an unknown quantity. There's a lot of risk here.

Hearts


Chances of playing in Europe: 65%
Path to Europe: If they can maintain or improve their fourth-place standing, they're in as long as their arch-rivals Hibs don't retain the Cup.
How happy we should be if they're in Europe: Not too unhappy. They did OK last year under their previous manager. They're one of the biggest five clubs in Scotland, so they have the resources to put together a decent side.
Managerial dysfunction level: Medium-high. After Robbie Neilson moved to England, they appointed the young and inexperienced Ian Cathro and the results have not been there. Optimism says he needs time to find his footing and get the club playing the way he wants. Pessimism says he's in over his head. The club has been smartly focused on getting the finances and stadium set for the future, but that doesn't help the short-term results.

St. Johnstone


Chances of playing in Europe: 30%
Path to Europe: Overtake Hearts and/or Rangers for one of the top-four spots.
How happy we should be if they're in Europe: Not very. They put together a string of four appearances which was broken last year. Of Scotland's 18.925 coefficient, that run contributed 1.35. I groan when I think about them showing up again, as they don't have the resources of the other clubs.
Managerial dysfunction level: Low. It takes skills to keep St. Johnstone so high over the years, and Tommy Wright has them. As long as he doesn't get lured away, they are going to be dangerous domestically.

Hibernian


Chances of playing in Europe: 10%
Path to Europe: Repeat as Cup winners, in hopefully their last season in the second tier.
How happy we should be if they're in Europe: Happy. Despite the fact that they're in the second tier, they have a first-tier manager with European experience. They will very likely be promoted, so they'll have a first-tier budget, especially as one of the five biggest Scottish clubs.
Managerial dysfunction level: Low. Neil Lennon had great success at Celtic, and is still licking his wounds from his time in England, so he should be there at least another couple of years.

The Field


Chance of playing in Europe: 25%
Path to Europe: Stumbles by Rangers, Hearts and St. Johnstone could bring Partick, Dundee or someone else into contention.
How happy we should be if they're in Europe: Not. Smaller clubs have a record of dragging down Scotland's UEFA coefficient.
Managerial dysfunction level: Variable.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Geocaching: Another FTF: ho-hum, but not a ho-hum FTF

I scored one FTF (first to find) on a geocache in 2007, one in 2008, a record three last year, and just found my third of the month in January 2017. So they've become more routine, and perhaps less deserving of their own posts.

Except this one was pretty cool. I got an alert that one had been published a few miles away from me, so I headed out. (As it turned out, another was published during the drive about a thousand feet from my original location, but I missed that one.)

The fact that it was named "King of the Hill" probably should have prepared me for a bit of a challenge. The description said, "There are plenty of difficult ways to the cache, but I will say there is an easy way to it."
 The satellite imagery gives some hints as to the difficulty. It's in a stand of trees -- but how do you get there from the road? The beige strip to the southeast of the cache is actually a concrete gully, so you have to pick your spot. You can't see the elevation changes, but that also factors in.

As it turned out, near the clearing, there's a place to hop over the gully where the vegetation is not too thick, and then there's sort of a trail heading up. The hint really narrowed down the number of possible hiding locations, so once I was up there, it wasn't too hard to find...and then my pen wouldn't work to sign the log.

Now, sometimes it's possible to take a picture of the log, or count making an indentation in the paper as "signing", but this seemed inadequate for a first-to-find claim. First I tried breaking open my pen to see if I could get ink out that way...no dice. Then I tried dipping the pen in a nearby berry; that sort of worked, but didn't. Fortunately, in the process of doing so, my pen started working again.

Given the terrain, I didn't think it would be found as often as some other caches. It was found again three days later, and then a day after that. That finder forgot their pen, so despite my forgetting to take pictures of my adventure, I do have a picture of my scratching at the log from them.
So, what does this do for my stats?
Well, most obviously, it is a record FTF month for me.
Also, the hike up the hill made the terrain a 3.0, but the ease of finding the cache was rated 1.5. That's a new combo for me, the 28th out of 81 possible.
And the cache was hidden in the waning days of 2016, although not published until January 2017. That's my first December 2016 find, for Month 126 (75 to go).
Finally, it's my first FTF in Fairfax County, Virginia. Mildly amusing, and a stat that Project Geocaching keeps track of.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

2016 Stay-At-Home Bowl: Congrats, Seattle

As I said two weeks ago,
If New England goes to the Super Bowl, nobody wins the SAH Bowl.
 So there you go.


Wait, what? I just went to check things out, and it appears Seattle beat both of them. Oops. So congratulations Seattle.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Books: 2016 in Review

Time for my annual-ish project of recapping the books I read in the previous year. Lots of graphic novels once again really juiced the total. I'm going to eschew the links to the Goodreads reviews to save me time this year, but you can see them all here.

Brian Michael Bendis is now my most-read author, after not making the top 10 two and half years ago. Robert Silverberg slipped out of the top 10 as a result.

Brian Michael Bendis (16)

  • Jessica Jones: Alias, Vol. 1. 5 stars. "This volume is a nice exploration of the seedy side of Marvel."
  • Guardians of the Galaxy/All-New X-Men: The Trial of Jean Grey. 4 stars. "A fun Guardians/X-men crossover."
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 3: Guardians Disassembled. 4 stars. "This did a good job at reminding you who each of the Guardians were, while still moving along the story." 
  • Jessica Jones: Alias, Vol. 2. 5 stars. "I continue to enjoy the comic more than the TV show (and I enjoy the show)."
  • Alias, Vol. 3: The Underneath.
  • Ultimate Comics Spider-Man - Volume 2. 4 stars. "It felt like it moved a little slowly."
  • Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man, by Brian Michael Bendis, Volume 3.  3 stars. "It descended into Ultimate Universe silliness with Captain America as President and the Battle of Wyoming. Whatever." 
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 4: Original Sin. 3 stars. "If you want GotG to deal with the Cancerverse and Venom, this is the book for you. I don't." 
  • Jessica Jones - The Pulse: The Complete Collection. 5 stars. "If I had any complaints, it was that the plot jumped from this to that, but it's a comic book, what did I expect?"
  • Daredevil by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev Ultimate Collection, Book 1. 4 stars.
  • Ultimate Comics Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis Volume 4. 4 stars. "Some quality Miles Morales storytelling." 
  • Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Vol. 5
  • Daredevil by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev Ultimate Collection, Book 2. 4 stars. 
  • Daredevil by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev Ultimate Collection, Book 3. 4 stars.
  • Spider-Man: Miles Morales Vol. 1 (Spider-Man (2016-)). 4 stars. " This is just as good as you'd expect given Bendis' previous Miles Morales work."
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: New Guard, Volume 1: Emperor Quill. 3 stars. 
    •   

James S. A. Corey (8)

  • Drive. 4 stars.  "This 7-page story is the long version of [the opening paragraph of Leviathan Wakes]. It's good, but not as good as the [that] paragraph." 
  • Leviathan Wakes. 4 stars. "I found the story compelling and enjoyable, but I am not quite sure what to think of the turn it took halfway through." 
  • Caliban's War. 4 stars. "I continue to enjoy this series. I'm still not 100% sure about the genre mishmash." 
  • The Butcher of Anderson Station. 4 stars.  "A bit short for two bucks, but something to pass the time while I have the next book in the series on hold."
  • Abbadon's Gate. 4 stars. "I enjoyed this more than I expected."
  • Gods of Risk. 4 stars. "I thought the main character was really well-drawn, as a teenager in over his head -- as most teenagers are."
  • Cibola Burn.
  • Nemesis Games. 

Matt Fraction (4)

  • Hawkeye, Volume 1. 5 stars. "It's a clever, snappy, above-average comic book that was still a lot more fun than it should have been."
  • Hawkeye, Volume 3: L.A. Woman. 4 stars. "It was still good fun particularly since I enjoy the more down-to-earth superhero antics."
  • Hawkeye, Volume 4: Rio Bravo. 4 stars.
  • The Immortal Iron Fist: The Complete Collection, Vol. 1. 4 stars. "It was good enough that I incurred overdue fines to finish it."

Scott Lynch (3)

  • The Lies of Locke Lamora. 4 stars. "This is a very good book, and it was fun to read."
  • Red Seas Under Red Skies. 3 stars. "It was exciting, and the characters were unique and fleshed-out."
  • Republic of Thieves. 4 stars. "The writing seemed to have matured."

Ryan North (3)

  • The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 3: Squirrel, You Really Got Me Now. 4 stars. "Fun, without being cloying."
  • The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe. 4 stars. "This book worked pretty well as a satire of a variety of other Marvel Universe titles from years past."
  • The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 4: I Kissed a Squirrel and I Liked It. 4 stars. "Charming."

Greg Pak (3)

  • Hulk: Planet Hulk. 2 stars. "It wasn't to my taste."
  • Hulk: WWH - World War Hulk. 3 stars. "A lot of smashing wrapped around a fairly straightforward story"
  • The Totally Awesome Hulk, Volume 1: Cho Time. 3 stars. "Some fun stuff but so, so, sexist." 

G. Willow Wilson (3)

  • Ms. Marvel: Vol. 5: Super-Famous. 3 stars. "It got a little silly in parts."
  • A-Force, Volume 0: War-Zones! 3 stars. "I was mildly entertained."
  • A-Force, Volume 1: Hypertime. 3 stars. 

Claudia Gray (2)

  • Bloodline.  4 stars. "This is the best of the new canon works that I've read."
  • Lost Stars. 4 stars. "This book did something that none of the other new Star Wars tie-in books did; it made me care about characters who weren't from the movies."

Jeff Lemire (2)

  • Hawkeye, Volume 5: All-New Hawkeye. 3 stars. "The storytelling wasn't as compelling as the previous amazing volume."
  • Descender, Vol. 1: Tin Stars. 3 stars. 

Greg Rucka (2)

  • Before the Awakening. 3 stars.
  • Shattered Empire. 3 stars.

Dan Slott (2)

  • Amazing Spider-Man: Worldwide, Vol. 1. 3 stars. "What dragged this down for me was how ridiculous Zodiac was as a villainous organization."
  • Amazing Spider-Man: Worldwide, Vol. 2. 3 stars.

Mike Benson (1)

  • Luke Cage: Avenger. 3 stars. "This was a mishmash of stuff."

Lois McMaster Bujold (1)

  • Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen. 4 stars. "It wasn't very exciting, as all of the conflict was internal." 

Ernest Cline (1)

  • Ready Player One. 3 stars.

Ta-Nehisi Coates (1)

  • Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Volume 1. 3 stars.

 Kelly Sue DeConnick (1)

  • Captain Marvel, Volume 2: Stay Fly. 3 stars

Luke Dempsey (1)

  • Club Soccer 101: The Essential Guide to the Stars, Stats, and Stories of 101 of the Greatest Teams in the World. 4 stars. "It fails to be 5 stars only because alphabetical order is a weird way to read them."

Steve Ditko (1)

  • The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl & The Great Lakes Avengers. 3 stars. "The real star of this book in my view is the Great Lakes Avengers who are an interesting group in their own right."

Alan Dean Foster (1)

  • The Force Awakens. 4 stars. "I liked it because I like the story from the film."

Jason Fry (1)

  • The Weapon of a Jedi - A Luke Skywalker Adventure. 3 stars. 

Kieron Gillen (1)

  • Darth Vader, Vol. 1: Vader. 4 stars. "It really captures the spirit of what made Darth Vader cool in the original trilogy without layering on too much new crap."

Sam Humphries (1)

  • Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: Black Vortex. 3 stars. "Parts of it were fun."

Jason LaTour (1)

  • Spider-Gwen, Vol. 1: Greater Power. 3 stars. "I didn't find it compelling."

 Ursula K. LeGuin (1)

  • The Daughter of Odren. 4 stars.

Kate Leth (1)

  • Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat!, Volume 1: Hooked On A Feline. 3 stars. "It was fine."

Jeff Loveness (1)

  • Groot

James Luceno (1)

  • Catalyst (Star Wars): A Rogue One Novel. 4 stars. "This was interesting in its own right."

Naomi Novik (1)

  • League of Dragons 

Ken Ono (1)

  • My Search for Ramanujan: How I Learned to Count. 4 stars. "Overall, I found the book very interesting."

Amy Reeder (1)

  • Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Vol. 1: BFF. 3 stars. "I liked Moon Girl. I did not like Devil Dinosaur."

J. K. Rowling (1)


  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay. 3 stars. "I wish Rowling would go back to writing novels."

Brandon Sanderson (1)

  • Calamity. 3 stars. "This series definitely did not live up to the potential of the first book."

John Sandford (1)


  • Saturn Run. 4 stars. "The second half of the book really kicked things up a notch."

Charles Soule (1)

  • Lando. 3 stars. "A pleasant enough read."

John Tiffany (1)

  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. 3 stars. "This relied heavily on one of the things that bothered me by the end of book seven, namely the inbred nature of the wizarding world."

Mark Waid (1)

  • Princess Leia. 4 stars. "It does what a tie-in should do by enriching the back story rather than complicating the events of the movies."

Walt Disney Company (1)

  • Star Wars: 5-Minute Star Wars Stories. 4 stars. "It's a good way to induct your kids into the cult of Star Wars even if they're too young to see the whole movies."

Ben H. Winters (1)

  • Underground Airlines. 4 stars.