Monday, August 06, 2018

Scotland's UEFA Coefficient: 2018/9 Third Round Preview

That went very well! How well? The 2.625 points Scotland have picked up so far this year is second only to Serbia. I fell compelled to point out that the giants are Europe are just starting to enter and will inevitably pass Scotland, but among those not in the top 15, it's hard to top this performance!

Second-Round Review

I said a good second round would have one Europa League team advance, and a total of 1.375 points. They got 1.25 points, but with two sides advancing! And Celtic staying in the Champions League.

Pour one out for Aberdeen, who took Burnley to extra time. When you're in a situation where one goal falling differently would have knocked out a Premier League team, you have to give respect to Derek McInnes and his squad. Still, Aberdeen bows out with only having contributed 0.125 to the coefficient this year. That's the first time in their five-year streak of qualification that they've contributed less than 0.625.

Hibs started out with a 3-2 win at home over Asteras. That result was not entirely surprising; the real triumph came with the 1-1 draw on the return leg. They actually probably should have picked up more points, since they held a one-goal first-half lead against a 10-man side.

Rangers won 1-0 on the road in Croatia. That put them in command when Osijek visited Ibrox last week. A 1-1 draw was enough to advance, but would have produced more points if not for a late own-goal.

If we celebrate Aberdeen for being one goal from advancing, we should note that Hibs and Rangers were each one goal from going out. But those are the breaks, and for once Scotland got them.

One Scottish side not in need of breaks was Celtic, which cruised to a 3-1 win at home before settling for a 0-0 draw for a relatively easy dispatching of Rosenborg.

Third-Round Preview

Hibs, whose Elo is up to 1325, faces Norwegian side Molde (Elo 1423). So Neil Lennon's side has about the same chance (33.2%) as they had against Asteras. Given the way Hibs (and Scotland in general) have been overperforming this year, I wouldn't count them out.

Similarly, Rangers has an Elo which has risen to 1385, and they take on Slovenia's Maribor (Elo 1499). So Clubelo.com gives them a 31.8% chance of advancing.

Again, if we look at the probability that at least one of the two advance, we're better than 50/50. But the chance that both do is 10%, unless we believe that Clubelo is underestimating Scotland this year.

Celtic (Elo 1548) faces another tough road against Greek champions AEK Athens (Elo 1605). The mismatch is not quite as severe here, giving Celtic a 42.6% chance of advancing.

So let's say a good round has Celtic advancing in the Champions, and one of the two Europa League sides continuing on, and I'll not be too greedy in asking for half of the possible 1.5 points towards the coefficient.

A bad round would have Celtic be the lone survivor, in the Europa League, and I could see Scotland picking up as few as 0.25 points.

Playoff-Round Sneak Peek

It bothers me that this is not just the fourth round.

If Celtic can get past AEK, they face either Swedish champions Malmo (Elo 1502) or Hungarian champions Vidi (Elo 1435). Celtic would be clear favorites to advance to the group stage against either.

If they can't, they are pretty much a shoo-in for the Europa League group stage, as they face the winner of the tie between Latvian champs Spartaks Jumula (Elo 1138) and Lithuanian champs Suduva (Elo 1264).

If Rangers advances, they face either FC Ufa (Elo 1569) or Niederkorn (Elo 1104). So that doesn't look good for making the group stages.

If Hibs wins, they get either Zenit (Elo 1724) or Dinamo Minsk (Elo 1442).

Unless there are some major upsets, I don't see anyone but Celtic being in the group stage, which is a shame.

Where We Stand

They started out in 25th; now they're 24th. That's progress. The two nations ahead of them (Sweden and Azerbaijan) only have one representative each, so 22nd is not out of the question by the end of the third round. (It is theoretically possible they'll jump to 19th, but it's not going to happen.) On the other side of the coin, Israel and Kazakhstan have a reasonable chance to catch Scotland. (Norway has an unreasonable chance.)

It's more important, I think, to lay a groundwork for advancing in future years (although letting the Cup winner skip the first round in 2020/21 is a bonus). I think 5 points needs to be the goal, and they're over halfway there. If we look at the preliminary 2021 rankings, which includes that last two good years along with this year's results so far, Scotland is 20th. While that shows progress, it also shows that a consistent 5 point is needed to get back into the teens.

If Celtic can manage a comparable run to last year, Scotland should exceed 5 points even without contributions from the other sides. If the Scottish draw hadn't been so rough this year, I think the quality they've shown would have even more promise.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Scotland's UEFA Coefficient: 2018/9 Second Round Preview

Well, good news for Scotland. They picked up over 90% of the available points in the first round, which is better than anyone else in their "neighborhood" (which I've been defining as nations within two points). Kazakhstan and Serbia got more total points, but they had four teams in the first round.

First-Round Review


Hibernian beat Runavik 6-1 and 6-4. I'm sure Neil Lennon isn't thrilled with giving up 4 goals in the away match (and I bet the Faroese player with the hat trick will be dining out on that performance for years), but they got the job done.

Rangers beat Shkupi 2-0 at home, then held on for a goalless draw to win the tie. I was convinced somebody was going to drop some points somewhere, and this is not the worst place to do so.

Celtic won 3-0 and 3-0 against Alashkert.

Shkupi was clearly the fiercest competition there, so this makes sense.

Second-Round Preview

Up next for Hibernian (ELO 1305) is Asteras Tripolis (ELO 1424). Clubelo.com gives that a 69.5% chance to go to the Greeks, and I don't see any reason to doubt them.

Rangers (ELO 1357) faces Osijek (ELO 1442). Clubelo gives the Croatians 63.9% chance of advancing. (Before you ask, their is no overlap between the mostly-homegrown Osijek squad and the recent World Cup finalists.)

Aberdeen (ELO 1380) faces Burnley (ELO 1684). The Clubelo odds only give Burnley an 88.1% chance of advancing. I'm surprised.

In the Champions League, Celtic (ELO 1517) have a rematch of last year's clash against Rosenborg (ELO 1512). Clubelo ever-so-slightly favors Celtic, with 50.6% odds.

That means there's a more than 60% chance of one of the three Europa League teams advancing.

So I'll say a good second round has Celtic and one of Hibs or Rangers advancing. Let's say that's with 1.375 total points.

A bad second round would have Celtic dropping to the Europa League, and nobody else surviving. Only picking up 0.5 points is realistic.

Third-Round Sneak Peak


Celtic is the one club guaranteed to particpate in the third round of one of the two competitions. If they win, they face AEK Athens (ELO 1597), so the odds will not favor the Scottish champions. If they lose, they face Cork City (ELO 1212), so the coefficient points should flow in the Europa League.

If Hibs wins, they face either Molde (ELO 1427) or Laci (ELO 1228).

If Rangers gets by Osijek, they have the winner of Chikura (ELO 1202) and Maribor (1499).

If Aberdeen someone makes it past Burnley, they face Başakşehir (ELO 1650).

I guess it looks pretty bleak for any Scottish side but Celtic to advance past the third round.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Alexander Cairns' 1909 Trip to the West

My great-great-grandfather, Alexander Cairns (1843-1921) of Mt. Hope, Wisconsin, led an interesting life.

In the Fennimore Times of August 4, 1909, there is a note:
Later issues of the Fennimore Times printed letters from him describing their trip. I discovered the existence of the letters in the mid-1990s during a visit to the DAR library in DC. Only upon visiting the Wisconsin Historical Society in 2018 was I able to get my hands on copies of the letters.

On August 9, 1909, he wrote a dispatch from Wallace, Idaho entitled "The Far West". It began, "We are away out here in a queer country, but interesting nonetheless. It mostly describes the train journey from Prairie du Chien. He seemed to evaluate the scenery mostly based on its suitability for farming. They stopped in Wallace to visit Alex's brother (my great-great-grand uncle), Henry E. Howes.

On August 22, 1909, he wrote a dispatch from Lewiston, Idaho, which the paper titled "Cairns' Western Trip." He described the mining operations in Wallace in fairly great detail, and their trip from Wallace to Lewiston via Coeur d'Alene and Spokane.

His third dispatch was from Seattle. Undated, it was published a week after the second, in the September 15 Fennimore Times. It was also titled "Cairns' Western Trip." Here, he catches the reader up on Lewiston, Idaho, specifically how the farming is done around there, and which former residents of the Mt. Hope area he visited. I had always assumed he visited his nephews on this trip, but now I see that they were in the southern part of Idaho, which is not a convenient detour, even 109 years later.

Towards the end of that third letter, he writes, "One thing for sure, it is a hot spot, 105 in the shade. Don't think they go to church much here. In fact there is no need of it. If they can stand the heat here they need fear nothing anywhere else."

That was the last letter in the index. On a hunch, I checked subsequent issues of the Times, and found a September 7 letter from Thomas, Washington, entitled "Cairns at the Coast". Here he describes his impressions of Spokane, Yakima and Seattle, and the World's Fair. I was struck by the fact that he compared it to the Chicago World's Fair -- of course he had been to that one, too. They were headed to Portland as their last stop on the West Coast.

Unfortunately, I have no further letters. Whether he didn't write again, the Times failed to publish them, or they didn't show up in the index, I don't know.

We know that he and "Lizzie" did not go home directly from Portland, however, due to this note from the Frankfort (Ky.) Index on September 29: “Mr. and Mrs. Alex. Cairns, who were guests of their old friend Herman Johnson, left this noon for their home in Mt. Hope, Michigan. [sic] They are on their way home from a trip to the coast.”

The October 6 Fennimore Times reports, "Alex. Cairns and wife got back from their trip to the coast Saturday. They had a fine time but are glad to be home again."

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

"The Land of Burns" by Alexander Cairns


My great-great-grandfather, Alexander Cairns (1843-1921) of Mt. Hope, Wisconsin, wrote an article entitled "The Land of Burns" for the Fennimore Times on January 31, 1906. In it, he describes his trip to the birthplace of Robert Burns and writes about the poem "The Brigs of Ayr".

As far as I know, he never had any higher education, but he seems to have been quite the self-educated individual. In 1884, he received Patent 308,463 for a “new and Improved Churning Device”.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Herndon Restaurant Project: (1) Wendy's

Wendy's,
2160 Centreville Rd.,
Most Recent Foursquare Check-in: 7/1/2018
Total Foursquare Check-ins: 7
Inside Town Limits: No
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

It's a Wendy's. Just like my review of the Bowie Wendy's, I can't find much exciting to say about it. Like most Wendy's, they often mess up some but not all of my order. Unlike the Bowie Wendy's, they participate in the recent "4 for $4" promotion, which is, uh, a lot of food for only $4.

It's somewhat annoyingly situated; no matter how you approach, you have to cut through a lot of unrelated parking lot to get there.

I can't really justify why I'm giving it half a star more than the Bowie Wendy's; I just am.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Geocaching: Spring 2018

This Spring, I found 37 caches in 3 states and DC.

As Spring began in late March, Geocaching started a promotion where you could earn points depending on what sorts of geocaches you found, and once you earned a certain number of points, you would get planet-themed souvenirs. So I started out by finding a geocache and earning my 41st souvenir.
The next day, I was in the Crofton area and I was first-to-find on a cache there. First, I failed to find it, and then left a message about the description (which indicated it wasn't at the actual coordinates -- which is a no-no). The cache owner left me a hint and changed the difficulty/terrain rating to 4/1, so I got my 15th FTF, my first in Anne Arundel County, my 32nd difficulty/terrain combo...and my 42nd souvenir.
After those two in Maryland, I found one in DC and one in Virginia to snag my 43rd souvenir.
The day after that, I found a couple with the kids for my 169th month (January 2018) and my 44th souvenir.
A few days later, we were in North Carolina and found my first in Forsyth County (67th county), and my first from March 2013 (170th month).
After another in Forsyth County, we found a virtual in Stokes County (68th county) that earned me my 45th souvenir. That capped off a March with 27 counties found, the most I have ever done.
I found another on our way out of North Carolina, then a few more in Maryland and Virginia, including one from September 2017 (Month 171).

The "Planetary Pursuit" promotion was extended, allowing me to nab one last souvenir (#46).
Also in April, I nabbed another FTF (Number 17), which was Month 172. That got me all of the months from February 2015 forward.

The period ending April 20th represented the fastest I had found 100 caches (210 days). That should not be too hard to break, but I have never put together more than 3 months in a row with 10 or more caches.

In May, a trip to the Williamsburg area got me James City County (County 69) and York County (County 70), but frustratingly, not Williamsburg itself.

In late May, I finally found a challenge cache that required me to find caches 100 degrees of longitude apart (I have 179). It was a tiny cache in the woods; I gave up on finding a similar one nearby. Anyway, that was D/T combination #33.

Later that day, I was FTF on my 17th cache, which also marked four consecutive months with an FTF (doesn't look like I'll make it 5) and Month 174.

After all that excitement, I found just one more cache before the solstice -- I had messed up the hours of a business, and needed to kill some time. Still that brings me to 375 caches total. It took me almost 9 years to hit 100, so finding 275 more in a little over two years definitely feels like a lot.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Scotland's UEFA Coefficient: 2018/19 First-Round Preview

The draws have been made for the first two qualifying rounds of the Champions League and the Europa League, so it's time to examine Scotland's path.

Where We Stand



Here are the rankings before this year's performance is added in. As a reminder, these rankings will affect qualification for the 2020/21 cycle. Scotland is 23rd for this cycle, and locked into 26th for the 2019/20 cycle. As another reminder, the countries ranked 18-24 are equivalent, so the thresholds we care about are the 17/18 drop and (more realistically) the 24/25 drop. (This year because of various things, 20-25 were equivalent, so the drops were 19/20 and 25/26.)

I consider the 2 point zone around Scotland to be their "neighborhood" and cut the charts from Bert Kassies' site to show that competition. Cyprus zoomed from 26th to 19th last year, so that kind of jump is not unprecedented.

First-Round Matches


As the second-place Scottish Premiership finisher, Aberdeen is spared first-round Europa League entry this year. On the other hand, the shuffle that put more teams from the big leagues into the group stages of the Champions League means Celtic faces first-round matches this year. So three teams with a potential for 1.5 points. Romania and Belarus field only one and two teams respectively this round, because of their previous higher rankings. Azerbaijan, Serbia, Kazakhstan and Bulgaria all field four, however.

Fourth-place finisher Hibs faces Runavik from the Faroe Islands. As I did last year, I will be using Clubelo.com to preview the matches. Runavik has an Elo of 897, while Hibs show up at 1296. A 399-point difference is massive, and should make Hibs the overwhelming favorites.

Third-place Rangers faces Shkupi of Macedonia. I don't have an Elo for Shkupi, but Rangers' is 1341, which is close to the top teams in the Macedonian league. Rangers should be favored, but it won't be a runaway.

In the Champions League, Celtic (Elo 1510) is up against Alashkert (Elo 995) of Armenia. This is a massive mismatch.

I'll expect 1.25 points, and all three teams to advance.

Second-Round Sneak Peak


As usual, the second-round draw happens at the same time, so let's see what lays in wait.

Should Hibs advance, they face Asteras Tripolis (Elo 1424), so they will have a tough path.

If Rangers goes on, they face the winner of Petrocub and Osijek (Elo 1438) -- so they will probably be underdogs to Osijek.

Aberdeen (Elo 1373) faces Burnley (Elo 1684), an unfair task for Derek McInnes' side.

Celtic would be up against the winner of Rosenborg (Elo 1494) and Valur (Elo 1161). By the Elo and their narrow win last year, Celtic should be only slight favorites.

It will be a tough second round, but they will have to make it there first.

I'll expect 1.25 points, and only Celtic to advance. It's really a rough draw.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Jazz Fest Hat, Part 2

In 2007, I posted a bunch of pictures of places I had been to in my favorite hat.
It's 2018, time for a new one:
Pictured: Las Vegas, Borneo, Frederick, Annapolis, Puerto Rico, Fallingwater, Seoul, Monterey, Hong Kong.


Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Herndon Restaurant Project: Introduction

Seven years ago, when moving to Bowie, I started the Bowie Restaurant Project, with the goal of reviewing all the restaurants in Bowie. I got within two restaurants of finishing, then we moved, new restaurants opened, and I'm somewhat behind. I still work in Bowie, so I still do occasional reviews, but I am abandoning my quest for completeness there.

Now we live in Herndon, and I'm eager to start reviewing restaurants there. Let me review key similarities and highlight key differences between the two projects.

Key Similarities

  • The Town of Herndon has a restaurant guide I used as a starting point.
  • I got to send them a correction, too! (They had missed one restaurant I knew of.)
  • I am eliminating places that don't have dine-in options.
  • I am eliminating places that don't serve meals (for example, dessert-only locations).
Key Differences
  • I am not trying to be complete! Part of the motivation for the Bowie Restaurant Project was living and working there. I will have less chance to dine in Herndon. Also, Herndon dining is more expensive.
  • I will review restaurants when I feel like it, rather than requiring a certain number and type of visits. If I had been a teensy bit more relaxed about this, I would have actually finished the Bowie Restaurant Project.
  • Although I think the difference between Herndon town limits and Herndon mailing address is meaningful, we are moving out of those town limits, so I will, at least, consider anything in ZIP codes 20170 and 20171 to be Herndon for the purposes of this project.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Scottish Football: Two Matches to Go

There are two matches (per team) left in the Scottish Premiership, and it's time for a new program.

That's because there are only 4 games left that can affect the European participation. With only 3 possible outcomes for each game, that's 34=81 total possibilities. It's better to exhaust over all the possibilities versus randomly simulating them.

To recap, Celtic has sewn up first place, Kilmarnock is locked into 5th, and Hearts is guaranteed 6th. Aberdeen has 69 points, Rangers has 68, and Hibernian has 66. Aberdeen has Rangers and Celtic remaining, Rangers has Aberdeen and Hibs, and Hibs has Hearts and Rangers. It is either the case that second place gets a first-round bye for Europa League qualifying while the other two don't, or second and third get in the Europa League while fourth doesn't. So the outcome matters.

Rangers has goal differential of +26, Aberdeen +18 and Hibs +17. I am therefore going to assume Rangers wins any tiebreakers. If Aberdeen and Hibs both end up with 70 points, Aberdeen will end up with a negative differential in their last two games, with Hibs positive. In other cases, I will throw up my hands.

Of the 81 possible outcomes...
  • 29 have Aberdeen, Rangers, Hibs
  • 24 have Rangers, Aberdeen, Hibs
  • 14 have Aberdeen, Hibs, Rangers
  • 5 have Rangers, Hibs, Aberdeen
  • 3 have Hibs, Aberdeen, Rangers
  • 2 have Hibs, Rangers, Aberdeen
  • 2 have Rangers, and then a tiebreaker
  • 2 have a tiebreaker and then Rangers
If we assign the remaining tiebreakers randomly (why not?), that gives:
  1. Celtic 100%
  2. Aberdeen 54% Rangers 37% Hibs 9%
  3. Rangers 38% Aberdeen 36% Hibs 26%
  4. Hibs 67% Rangers 23% Aberdeen 10%
  5. Kilmarnock 100%
  6. Hearts 100%

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Scottish Football: Three Matches to Go

Well, last weekend's matches determined a couple of things. Celtic clinched the league, and thus the Champions Cup berth. Kilmarnock will do no better than fifth, and is thus out of Europe. (Whew.) Hibs, Aberdeen and Rangers are the Europa League entrants, if Celtic wins the Cup. In that case, all that is left to be determined is who gets the first-round bye.

If Motherwell wins the Cup, they're in Europe (with the first-round bye), and one of Hibs, Aberdeen and Rangers loses the game of musical chairs. It's not entirely clear whom. Here's what my simulation shows:
  1. Celtic 100%
  2. Aberdeen 60.5% Rangers 21.3% Hibs 18.2%
  3. Rangers 39.8% Hibs 33.0% Aberdeen 27.2%
  4. Hibs 48.7% Rangers 38.9% Aberdeen 12.3%
  5. Killie 99.6% Hearts 0.4%
  6. Hearts 99.6% Killie 0.4%

Here is where a weakness in my simulation comes in. Rangers and Hibs have both faced Celtic already; Aberdeen is up next. The projected higher finish for Aberdeen does not reflect that harder road ahead.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Scottish Football: Four Matches to Go

Since I wrote this crude simulation of the remainder of the Scottish Premiership (top half only), I thought I'd indicate where things stand after the first set of post-split fixtures:
  1. Celtic 99.6% Rangers 0.2% Aberdeen 0.2%
  2. Rangers 49.9% Aberdeen 39.0% Hibs 10.7% Celtic 0.4%
  3. Aberdeen 39.2% Rangers 35.8% Hibs 24.8% Kilmarnock 1.1%
  4. Hibs 61.9% Aberdeen 21.5% Rangers 13.9% Kilmarnock 2.6% 
  5. Kilmarnock 96.0% Hibs 2.6% Hearts 1.2% Rangers 0.1% Aberdeen 0.1%
  6. Hearts 98.8% Kilmarnock 1.2%
So basically, by beating Celtic, Hibs all but assured itself of a European slot assuming Celtic win the Cup. Kilmarnock all but played itself out of Europe, and Aberdeen and Rangers stayed on track for the two slots not dependent on the Cup outcome.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Scottish Football: More European Speculation

Before the Scottish Cup semi-finals, I posted some subjective odds for who the Scottish representatives will be in Europe. Now that we know the finalists (Celtic and Motherwell), I thought I should make the odds a little more objective. Let's make a bunch of questionable assumptions:
  • All teams have equal chances. (Probably true-ish if you ignore Celtic.)
  • Each match (except the Scottish Cup final) has a 1/3 chance of ending in a draw.
  • All non-draws have a goal differential of 1.
  • If two teams are tied on points and goal differential, the team that is currently ahead will stay ahead.
These are all bad, but probably not too bad. Let's code this up and see what happens. I'm going to do some rounding to make things make a little more sense.

Celtic:
  • Chance of being Champions League representative: 99.95%.
  • Chance of entering Europa League in second round: 0.025%.
  • Chance of entering Europa League in first round: 0.025%.
  • Chance of missing out on Europe: 0%.
Rangers:
  • Chance of being Champions League representative: 0.025%.
  • Chance of entering Europa League in second round: 24%.
  • Chance of entering Europa League in first round: 65%.
  • Chance of missing out on Europe: 11%.
Aberdeen:
  • Chance of being Champions League representative: 0.025%.
  • Chance of entering Europa League in second round: 19%.
  • Chance of entering Europa League in first round: 57%.
  • Chance of missing out on Europe: 14%.
Hibs:
  • Chance of being Champions League representative: 0%.
  • Chance of entering Europa League in second round: 6%.
  • Chance of entering Europa League in first round: 45%.
  • Chance of missing out on Europe: 49%.
Kilmarnock:
  • Chance of being Champions League representative: 0%.
  • Chance of entering Europa League in second round: 0.4%.
  • Chance of entering Europa League in first round: 10%.
  • Chance of missing out on Europe: 90%.
Hearts:
  • Chance of being Champions League representative: 0%.
  • Chance of entering Europa League in second round: 0%.
  • Chance of entering Europa League in first round: 0.007%.
  • Chance of missing out on Europe: 99.993%.
Motherwell:
  • Chance of being Champions League representative: 0%.
  • Chance of entering Europa League in second round: 50%.
  • Chance of entering Europa League in first round: 0%
  • Chance of missing out on Europe: 50%
Another way of looking at it, here are the projected finishes:
  1. Celtic 100%
  2. Rangers 48% Aberdeen 39% Hibs 12% Kilmarnock 1%
  3. Aberdeen 39% Rangers 34% Hibs 24% Kilmarnock 3% 
  4. Hibs 49% Aberdeen 21% Rangers 15% Kilmarnock 14% Hearts 0.02%
  5. Kilmarnock 79% Hibs 14% Aberdeen 3% Hearts 2% Rangers 2%
  6. Hearts 98% Kilmarnock 2% Hibs 0.04%

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.

 Celtic


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.

Rangers


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.

Aberdeen


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.

Hibernian


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.

Kilmarnock


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).

Motherwell


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!