Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Scottish Football: European Speculation

With the final four of the Scottish Cup set, it's time once again for me to look forward to the Scottish entries in the upcoming European competitions. I'll use the same format as last year.


Chance of playing in Europe: 100% (Maybe 99.999%.)
Path to Europe: Last year, I said, "In the amazingly unlikely event that they lost all further matches, there is no way Aberdeen wins enough to catch them." This year, if they lost all further matches, Aberdeen and Rangers would probably catch them. But a third-place finish would still net the Europa League. And they are still overwhelming favorites (Fivethirtyeight just says >99%) to win the league. And probably the Scottish Cup.
How happy we should be if they're in Europe: Copy/paste from last year: Very. They are the only Scottish side structured to make some noise in the Champions League.
Managerial outlook:  Good, although it's not unrealistic to see Brendan Rogers being lured away.


Chance of playing in Europe: 90%
Path to Europe: Well, they can hold onto their second-place position, drop to third, drop to fourth and have Motherwell not win the Scottish Cup, or drop below fourth and win the Scottish Cup. One of those is very likely to happen.
How happy we should be if they're in Europe: Quite. Hopefully they've put the dysfunction behind them that caused an early exit from Europe last year.
Managerial outlook: Medium. Their caretaker manager has been doing okay, but maybe not well enough to land the job long-term. They need not to make another mistake.


Chance of playing in Europe: 90%
Path to Europe: See Rangers. Aberdeen is only two points behind Rangers, with a game in hand, so they are practically tied.
How happy we should be if they're in Europe: Quite. Even though they "only" got 2.5 points last year, they and Celtic are the only two Scottish sides to have more than that over the past five years.
Managerial outlook: Good. After Derek McInnes turned down Rangers, he seems to be set to stay in Aberdeen a bit longer. They've struggled somewhat in the last half of this season, but he should guide them well in Europe.


Chance of playing in Europe: 75%
Path to Europe: Stay in fourth place and Motherwell doesn't win the Scottish Cup, or move up.
How happy we should be if they're in Europe: Happy. Neil Lennon knows what he's doing; he even picked up points for Scotland two years ago with a second-tier side.
Managerial outlook: Good. Lennon is a veteran, but his name has not come up in coaching searches elsewhere.


Chance of playing in Europe: 30%
Path to Europe: Move up to fourth, Motherwell doesn't win the Cup or move up to third.
How happy we should be if they're in Europe: Not very. Steve Clarke has done an amazing job with them this season, but they don't have the resources to compete in Europe.
Managerial outlook: Good. Clarke has done an amazing turnaround, but I would not be surprised to see him get snapped up by a bigger club (e.g. Rangers).


Chance of playing in Europe: 10%
Path to Europe: Win the Cup.
How happy we should be if they're in Europe: Not at all. Not only do they not have the resources, they are currently sitting seventh in the Premiership, which means a Cup win will probably be a bit of a fluke.
Managerial outlook: I don't know anything about it.

Hearts (and everybody else)

Chance of playing in Europe: 5%
Path to Europe: Turn on the afterburners and end up in fourth at the end of the season.
How happy we should be if they're in Europe: Not very. Though Hearts has resources, they disappointed in the league since returning to the top flight, and they have been (wisely) limiting their on-pitch spending while they renovate their stadium.
Managerial outlook: Mostly good. Craig Levein is doing pretty well in his second stint as Hearts manager -- he did end Celtic's unbeaten streak. On the other hand, he let Kilmarnock pass them for fourth.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Geocaching Update: Busy Winter 2018

I called Fall busy after finding "42 caches in 5 states and one foreign country," so I guess I'll call Winter busy after finding 35 caches in four states. And I'll call in 2018, even though two of those caches were found at the end of 2017.

On New Year's Eve, I found caches in Manassas and Manassas Park, where were Counties (county equivalents) 53 and 54. That also earned me the "Last Cache of 2017" souvenir (Souvenir 39).

I finished up 2017 with 80 caches found, which is second only to 2016's 134.

So of course, 2018 opened up the next day with the "First Cache of 2018" souvenir (Souvenir 40).
January's trip to San Diego enabled me to nab seven caches, including my first from December 2013 (Month 155), August 2008 (Month 156) and November 2005 (Month 157).

Back in Virginia, I found 3 more, including a challenge cache that was my first difficulty/terrain combo 4/5 (Combo 30) and one from December 2013 (Month 158). It required finding caches in 10 countries, not including Puerto Rico. My December trip to Hong Kong let me claim this one.

February saw another trip to California, with only two caches found. The first was a 5/2 D/T challenge (Combo 31) from March 2014 (Month 159). That completes the year 2014 for me, joining 2002 and 2016. Here the challenge was to find caches at all distances from home listed on the web site (e.g., one less than a mile from home, one 1-10 miles from home, etc.) The cache owner sent me a message expressing surprise that I had met the challenge with so few total caches.
The second was an oldie, from March 2001 (Month 160). It was the third-oldest cache I found.

I then found a virtual at Mount Vernon from October 2001 (Month 161). It was the eight-oldest cache I have found.

After that, the next cache I found was right near work. I was getting in my car to go home when I got the alert, so I knew I would get the First-to-Find (FTF). Unfortunately, there was a little drama there, since I accidentally signed the bottom of the log, and others did not notice and claimed FTF after signing the top of the log. Fortunately, it was all straightened out, and I had FTF #14. That also gave me February 2018 (Month 162).

I found another one in Maryland from November 2017 (Month 163) and one in Virginia (no milestones achieved) before heading out on my most epic day of caching yet.

 Yep. Eleven caches in a day. Many cachers do hundreds, or even a thousand (somehow), but this was my record. Further, I did it on a road trip to Tennessee, allowing me to pick up 10 new counties (Counties 55-64).
(I found two in Salem, Virginia.) On that day, I found caches from February 2009 (Month 164), August 2007 (Month 165), May 2010 (Month 166) and January 2009 (Month 167). In planning the trip, I used an on-line tool that allowed me to find caches from unfound months.

Here are some pictures from logs on that day's caches.
The next-to-last cache of the day was an interesting case. It had gotten dark, but sometimes it's possible to grab a quick cache at a rest stop. I stopped at the Tennessee Welcome Center, and there were a few. I opted for one on the northern edge of the welcome center.
Surprise! The northern few feet of the Tennessee Welcome Center appear to be in Virginia, so this counted as my first cache in Washington County, Virginia.

On the drive back, I found caches in Bristol (County 65), Washington County (turned out to be my second one, but I did not know it yet), and Pulaski County (County 66). Now at 21 Virginia counties!

Back in Maryland, I found two more, including one I was second-to-find on in March 2018 (Month 168).
Only missing 47 months makes me feel like I'm closing in on this challenge, although I'm sure the fact that 10 of them are from the first 14 months of geocaching will make things quite difficult.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Scotland's UEFA Coefficient: Knockout Round Review

What's that, you say? The knockout round isn't over? Well, it is if you aren't one of the top 13 countries in Europe. (Hats off, Czech Republic.)
As you can see, Scotland's 2018 ranking ended up 26th (or tied for 26th -- it doesn't matter). That includes the five-year period ending in 2018. Their 4.0 points for the year put them in a three-way tie for 23rd.

Celtic contributed 3.125 of those 4 points. That's the best Celtic performance over the five-year span, so blame the other clubs.

Celtic picked up 0.5 for the coefficient by winning the first leg of their Round-of-32 matchup, and got knocked out by losing the return leg by a bigger margin. That pushed them into a tie with Belarus.

The access list for 2018/19 is out. As expected, nations ranked 17-24 are treated the same, as well as those ranked 25-51 (that are not Liechtenstein).  So 16 to 17 and 24 to 25 are the only transitions that Scotland needs to keep an eye on.

Good news, 2018/19 uses the previous year's ranking, so at #23, Scotland won't have their cup winner enter until the second round of Europa League qualifying. For 2019/20, that'll be the first round, however. I will have more on who is likely to represent Scotland in Europe once the Scottish Cup semi-finals are set. Suffice it to say, however, that for the first time in a long time, the five biggest Scottish clubs are the top five in the league table, promising some well-funded European squads. (If that holds up, it will be the first time in 13 years that those five have held the top five slots).

Scotland starts out the 2019 rankings in 25th place. I include the rankings up to 16th to show how out of reach that is for next year. But a good showing by multiple clubs could bring them up a few rankings and position them to make a move in future years.

Monday, January 22, 2018

2017 Stay-At-Home Bowl: Congrats, Kansas City

It has come time to see if there is a winner of the 2017 Stay-At-Home Bowl, the dubious honor I bestow on any NFL team that has beaten both Super Bowl participants.

The 20th winner of the Stay-At-Home Bowl is the Kansas City Chiefs, who defeated New England and Philadelphia in the first two weeks of the season, perhaps the high point of their season. This is their second win in three years. They join the Chargers (1979, 1980), Cowboys (1980, 1996), Dolphins (1985, 1993) and Seahawks (1986, 2016) as two-time winners. There are no three-time winners, yet.

Last year's winner, Seattle, missed the playoffs, so only 11 of the 19 previous winners made the playoffs the following year. Still better than random!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Geocaching Update: Busy Fall 2017

I last posted about geocaching after my trip to Tennessee, which took place at the end of (astronomical) summer. Now, three months later, we've past the winter solstice, so it's a good time so summarize all the geocaching fun I've had since then.

In that time span, I have found 42 caches in 5 states and one foreign country, so let's see how they add up.

Well, in that time span, I've had my busiest and third-busiest days.
Also, my busiest weekend and week.

I hit three states in a day by taking advantage of the nexus of where Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland meet. West Virginia was State 14 for me, and Washington County, Maryland was County 37. Jefferson County, West Virginia was County 38.

Fauquier County and Alexandria City in Virginia got Counties 39 and 40.

I had my 13th FTF in October.

A trip to Maine (as well as finding a cache in Virginia before leaving) broke my maximum distance in a day record.
Maine was a new state (State 15), and also allowed me to get five counties in a day. This actually broke my record set previously in the Maine trip of four in a day. All in all, I hit eight new counties on the Maine trip (Counties 41-48).

By the way, that puts me in a 6-way tie for 6th of the most counties found in Maine by a cacher from Maryland. (According to their algorithm, I'm still from Maryland because of where I have found most of my caches.)

I found three caches in Hong Kong (Country 11). I am only one of seven cachers in Maryland to find a cache in more than one region of Hong Kong.

A trip to California added four new counties (Counties 49-52). I am now tied for #31 in most counties found in California (8) by a Marylander.

I found caches placed in October 2013 (in Virginia), August 2009 (Virginia), September 2001 (Virginia), December 2003 (Virginia), June 2010 (West Virginia), August 2017 (Maryland), October 2017 (Maryland), August 2003 (Maine), March 2012 (Maine), February 2013 (Maine), December 2014 (Maine), April 2014 (Hong Kong), and December 2017 (Maryland).

Now at 154 placed months, 58 missing months.