Monday, September 23, 2019

Geocaching: Summer 2019

This summer, I found 17 caches in 5 states and 2 foreign countries, which made it my busiest season than last summer (which was more than twice as busy, so I'm still not at my old pace. First, I found 3 caches on a June visit to England, including my first from June 2009 (185th hidden month). No caches in July, but on a drive from California in August, I found caches in Imperial County, California, Yuma County, Arizona, and Maricopa County, Arizona (Counties 91, 92 and 93).

Returning to the East Coast, I was first-to-find on one in Maryland (FTF #21, 186th month).
The blank log on my FTF.

I also found one in Virginia for International Geocaching Day (63rd souvenir).

I found two in Canada, including one from June 2019 (187th hidden month).
Me at Canadian Virtual Geocache

I found another one in Maryland, then headed to Wisconsin for my last six finds of the summer. I added Columbia, Sauk, Iowa, Lafayette, and Green Counties for Counties 94-98. I also added May 2004,  August 2010, April 2019 and July 2019 for Months 188-191.
So I added 7 months, while 3 new ones appeared, for a net +4, and down to 42 missing. I was at 41 last summer, so I haven't been keeping pace for the last year.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Scotland's UEFA Coefficient: 2019/20 Group Stage Preview

We have group stage! For two clubs!
Just like last year!

I included Greece and Cyprus in this, not because they are in Scotland's "neighborhood", but because under the new 2021/22 system, 15th place is what is needed to get 2 clubs in the Champions League and the other clubs in the Europa League (instead of the new "Europa League 2"). That's pretty much out of reach. I guess it matters if they get to 17th to see if the Premiership champions enter in the first or second round of the Champions League, but that seems small potatoes.

Playoff-Round Review

Celtic won the home leg 2-0 before dominating AIK in the away leg 4-1 for a convincing 0.5 points for the coefficient.

Rangers had a scoreless draw away, and was heading into extra time with the same scoreline until they pulled out a 1-0 win over Legia Warsaw. 0.375 for the coefficient.

Scotland stays in 19th place, but more importantly has two clubs alive.

Group-Stage Preview

Celtic (Elo 1595) got drawn with Lazio (Elo 1672), Rennes (Elo 1641) and Cluj (Elo 1574). Remember, Cluj knocked them out of the Champions League.

Rangers (Elo 1542) ended up in a group with Porto (Elo 1809), Young Boys (Elo 1669) and Feyenoord (Elo 1587).

Here we switch to the Fivethirtyeight ratings, because they give match-by-match predictions for the group stages. For reference, the ratings are:
  • Celtic 66.1
  • Lazio 69.9
  • Rennes 60.9
  • Cluj 45.3
  • Rangers 61.6
  • Porto 78.4
  • Young Boys 72.0
  • Feyenoord 57.8

So clearly the Fivethirtyeight model likes the Scottish clubs more than Clubelo does.

In fact, they give Celtic a 66% chance of making it out of the group stage, and Rangers a 35% shot.

What we can do, though is translate the match-by-match win/draw probabilities into an expected number of points for Scotland's coefficient. The expected number of wins is about 4.6, with about 2.9 draws, giving roughly 3 more points for the coefficient, bringing it up to 7.5. That is usually a top 10 coefficient, which would demonstrate that Scotland is truly on its way back.

In fact, we can do something similar for all the nations in the 15-22 range to project the post-group stage standings. (No countries are expected to drop into or out of this range. The projections are:
  • 15. Cyprus 26.67
  • 16. Greece 26.1
  • 17. Scotland 25.62
  • 18. Serbia 25.33
  • 19. Croatia 24.98
  • 20. Switzerland 24.05
  • 21. Norway 22.33
  • 22. Sweden 22.17

2020/21 Sneak Peak

Since Scotland is unlikely to move into 15th place this year, let's look at the race as it is likely to stand next year (which, I remind you, affects the 2022/23 leagues.)

Scotland starts barely below 15th. If we go a step further and add the expected points from the group stage, we see:
  • 14. Scotland 22.62
  • 15. Denmark 22.03
  • 16. Serbia 21.13
  • 17. Greece 20.7
  • 18. Croatia 20.48
  • 19. Czechia 20.17
(I skipped Ukraine because they will probably pick up a bunch of points in the group stage.)

So over five years ago, I started wondering about the then-Celtic manager's complaint that, "It is stupid the Scottish coefficient is not regarded as good enough." And next year, the Scottish clubs should be perfectly placed to do something about take effect in 2022.

    Monday, August 19, 2019

    Scotland's UEFA Coefficient: 2019/20 Playoff-Round Preview

    Could have gone better, but definitely could have gone worse.

    Third-Round Review

    Celtic picked up 0.125 for the coefficient in an away draw to Cluj and seemed poised to progress as late as the second half of the home tie, where they were leading 3-2. Then they dropped the match 4-3, meaning only 0.125 total and falling to the Europa League.

    Rangers looked absolutely dominant, winning both legs against Midtjylland, 4-2 and 3-1. 0.5 for the coefficient, and they should have an easier time the next round.

    Aberdeen lost both legs 2-0. Absolutely dreadful, and another third-round exit for Derek McInnes. They depart having contributed 0.875 to the coefficient.

    That adds up to 0.625 points, staying in 19th place, and still having more points from this year than any other nation.

    It's more points than they had last year at this time, and last year was spectacular. So it's hard to argue with success, though there are some "if only"s in there.

    Fourth-Round Preview

    Celtic (Elo 1568) is up against Swedish champions AIK (Elo 1525). Clubelo gives Celtic a 56.2% chance of advancing.

    Rangers (Elo 1549) faces Legia Warsaw (Elo 1420). Clubelo gives Rangers a 69.8% chance of advancing.

    I think there's a strong hope for two teams in the group stages again, and the bounty of points that is possible there, but there is a slight chance of crashing and burning and seeing nobody progress.

    In particular, if you believe the odds (and Rangers in particular has a history of overperforming odds in the past year), there is about a 40% chance of having both progress, and a 13% chance of neither progressing.

    Where We Stand

    Not much changed in Scotland's neighborhood. Norway moved ahead of Switzerland. Everybody is down two teams, so there's no real advantage there (though having 3 of 5 left is a slight advantage, particularly if one is entering the Champions League now). Scotland could easily pass Serbia, and hypothetically Croatia. In turn, a bad round would see them drop below Norway, and there's a mathematical possibility of dropping below Switzerland.

    But the most important thing is to get teams through to the group stage (and see their rivals not manage the same).

    Monday, August 05, 2019

    Scotland's UEFA Coefficient: 2019/20 Third-Round Preview

    That went (mostly) well. All three remaining Scottish teams advanced, and they only dropped 0.25 total points based on two away draws. The road gets tougher from here, though.

    Second Round Review

    Celtic downed Nomme Kalju 5-0 and 2-0 to advance. They got an easy draw, and took advantage with full points.

    Rangers built up a 2-0 lead on Progres Niederkorn before settling for a 0-0 away draw.

    Aberdeen started with a 1-1 away draw to Chikhura Sachkhere before destroying them 5-0 at home.

    That adds up to 1.25 points, and moving up to 19th place.

    Third-Round Preview

    Celtic (Elo 1566) faces Cluj (Elo 1572). Clubelo gives them a 49% chance of advancing.

    Rangers (Elo 1508) faces FC Midtjylland (Elo 1539), so they should be slight underdogs.

    Aberdeen (Elo 1399) is up against HNK Rijeka (Elo 1530), so they should be heavier underdogs.

    Everybody's technically an underdog, so I'd say a good result is two wins, and more than 0.75 points. A bad result would be losing both Rangers and Aberdeen to European football before the playoff round. It would be reasonable to see Scotland anywhere from 17th to 21st after this round, although the low end would take a good bit of bad luck.

    Playoff (Fourth) Round Sneak Peak

    Celtic is up against Slavia Prague (Elo 1649) if they beat Cluj, so an even harder road the group stages of the Champions League. If they fall to Cluj, it's the winner of Sheriff Tiraspol (Elo 1304) and AIK (Elo 1539). So I expect them in the Europa League group stages one way or another, but it's not a pushover.

    If Rangers upsets Midtjylland, they face the winner of Legia Warsaw (Elo 1403) or Atromitos (Elo 1468). They should be favored in either situation.

    In the unlikely event Aberdeen progresses to the playoff round for the first time under the Europa League format, they have to take on Gent (Elo 1546) or Larnaca (Elo 1539). The draw never seems to be kind to Derek McInnes' club.

    Tuesday, July 23, 2019

    Nebula Update: Flowers for Algernon

    I finished another Nebula winner, giving me 5 left to go. I am not having much luck making it through The Stone Sky, so I may be stuck at 5 for a while.

    It looks like I didn't write a review. It was very thought-provoking. I think what kept it from 5 stars was that I was hoping to be more entertained than have my thoughts provoked.

    Flowers for AlgernonFlowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    Monday, July 22, 2019

    Scotland's UEFA Coefficient: 2019/20 Second-Round Preview

    The first round didn't actually go too badly. Kilmarnock going out to Welsh "minnows" was obviously disappointing, but it's the kind of thing you aren't surprised by when you send a minor Scottish team (who has just changed managers) into Europe. And they weren't going to be advancing past the second round anyway...

    The "neighborhood" of two points around Scotland has shifted from 18-24 to 16-23, which looks promising, although with the Greek and Swiss sides entering the competition, it will become harder to gain ground. At least Croatia, Serbia and Norway all saw teams knocked out.

    First Round Review

    Celtic took both legs, 3-1 and 2-1 against Sarajevo. You might have expected more from the champions, but they got the job done, and it's early.

    Rangers absolutely destroyed St. Joseph's, 4-0 and 6-0. That was the largest aggregate margin in the first round of the Europa League.

    Aberdeen slid past RoPS, 2-1 and 2-1. They looked like they were going to drop coefficient points until added time in the last game, but again, they got the job done.

    Kilmarnock picked up some points by winning 2-1 against Connah Quay's Nomads, but messed up the away leg 2-0 and dropped out.

    So 1.75 points total, with the least-shocking shock exit. Not great, but they're in good shape going forward.

    Second Round Preview

    Celtic (Elo 1563) lucks out and faces Estonian champions Nomme Kalju (Elo 1092), which should be an easy win for them. (Clubelo says 96.7%.)

    Rangers (Elo 1504) gets a rematch with Luxembourg side Progres Niedercorn  (Elo 1203), who knocked them out two years ago. I predict revenge will fuel a big Rangers win.

    Aberdeen (Elo 1397) has a long trip to face Georgian side Chikhura (Elo 1238). On paper the most difficult matchup, but Aberdeen should advance to the third round for the fifth time in six years.

    I'll say a good result is picking up at least 1.25 points and having all teams through, while a bad result is getting less than 1 point and suffering an aggregate loss (bonus points for an Old Firm loss).

    Third Round Sneak Peak

    If Celtic progresses, they will face either Maccabi Tel-Aviv (Elo 1554) or Cluj (Elo 1560). Celtic should be slight favorites there. In the unlikely event they lose, they drop down to the Europa League where they take on Shkendija (Elo 1247) or F91 Dudelange (Elo 1242).

    If Rangers wins, they face Midtjylland (Elo 1536). A touch matchup, but winnable if they play like they did last year.

    If Aberdeen progresses, they are up against Croatian side Rijeka (Elo 1526). Aberdeen would be underdogs, but it would not be a huge upset to see them win.

    It would be tough, but not impossible for all three sides to progress to the playoff (fourth) round.