Monday, December 21, 2015

Bowie Restaurant Project: (91) Wesley's Southern Cuisine

For an explanation of the Bowie Restaurant Project, look here.

For a list of all the Bowie Restaurant Project reviews, look here.

Wesley's Southern Cuisine,
15606 Emerald Way,
Most Recent Foursquare Check-in: 12/15/2015
Total Foursquare Check-ins: 2
Pre-Foursquare Visits: No
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

They have the best barbecue I've had in this area. Let me say that up front. Based on the BBQ, I'd give it 4.5 stars. When I went back for my second visit, I worried that a review based on ordering BBQ every time wouldn't be informative. Then they told me they only have BBQ on the weekends. So I ordered the fish with mac & cheese and mashed potatoes. Then they told me they only have mashed potatoes in the evening. Wait, what?

My pique at their unadvertised menu limitations may be the only thing keeping them from hitting 4 stars. The fish was pretty good, but not fantastic, and the sides were very good both times. The food court is looking up again between this and Yamon!

Bowie Restaurant News

Well, it finally happened. A restaurant opened and closed before I got around to reviewing it. Simply Southern Grille is no more. They opened around February and closed recently. That's actually plenty of time for a review, but we visited in May and were not eager to return. The food was OK, but the service was really, really slow. The only time the waitress moved quickly was when my wife got up to go having left a lottery ticket on the table. She tried to scoop it up, but I was too quick. So I meant to get back there, but never did.

I have realized a couple of other places I need to visit, though. Auntie Anne's pretzels has been the highlight of the food court during some dark times, but I never considered it a restaurant...until I realized they sell pretzel dogs. So that deserves a visit.

When we were at Wesley's, Christina got a smoothie from Tamo Smoothies. She said they sold sandwiches. So that deserves a visit, too.

That leaves me with those two, Sakura and Jerry's Seafood.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

World Heritage Update: Brussels

I was in Brussels last week, where I visited my 61st World Heritage Site, La Grande-Place. Brussels has two more sites, but my trip was short, and I was very sick, so I only visited the one. 61 out of 1031 is 5.92%, a new high percentage! (Sometimes the percentage goes down due to new sites being inscribed.)

To make sure that it really was a new high, I wrote a spreadsheet tracking number of sites visited as of a given year. (For simplicity's sake, I only considered year-end totals.) I had to track both the year I visited and the year the site was inscribed, so visits to sites that were later inscribed only show up after the inscription. Then I compare it against the number of total sites inscribed to see my percentage. Here's a graph (I smoothed it to make it look nicer):

So, yes, 5.92% is a new high for me, beating 2012's previous record of 5.82%. Unless they add more than 35 (which they haven't done since 2000), I won't need more than 3 new ones to break 6% for the first time. It looks like the Frank Lloyd Wright buildings will be inscribed, so that's one. I have no idea which ones the other two might be, but I will try to make it happen.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Nebula Update: Tehanu

Tehanu (The Earthsea Cycle, #4)Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was an amazing meditation on age, gender and power. It was also kind of boring. The themes were fascinating, but even more than the first three Earthsea books, nothing much happened (until the very end).

I was disappointed, because I think Le Guin is one of the best science fiction authors ever, but I kept waiting for some wizarding to happen.

I now have seven Best Novel Nebula winners left to read. Since I last checked, The Falling Woman became available for Kindle. In fact, it was on sale for $1.99 a few weeks ago, so that will probably be the next one I read. It's getting to be a feeling of obligation to finish the last few, though, which is why it's taking so long to get around to them.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Bowie Restaurant Project: (90) America's Best Wings (Free State)

For an explanation of the Bowie Restaurant Project, look here.

For a list of all the Bowie Restaurant Project reviews, look here.

America's Best Wings,
15500 Annapolis Rd,
Most Recent Foursquare Check-in: 10/22/2015
Total Foursquare Check-ins: 2
Pre-Foursquare Visits: No
Rating: 3.5 4 out of 5 stars

America's Best Wings? Or at least Bowie's best wings? Maybe. In my review of Wingstop a couple of months ago, I remarked that Bowie now seems to have too many wings places. For ill-defined reasons, however, America's Best Wings has become my favorite.

The first time, I split my order between their medium and hot wings. Memo to self: you're over forty now, skip the hot wings. The second time, I decided to branch out a bit. They advertise 30 flavors, so I went in planning to split between Old Bay wings and something else. But then, I saw something that's not on their web site (medium isn't on there either) -- crab-flavored wings, and suddenly Old Bay seemed like going halfway. I split those with some honey mustard wings, and enjoyed myself. Crab wings are ridiculous, so I probably won't have them again, but it was an entertaining experience.

I can muster no enthusiasm to try their non-wing based offerings.

So, maybe it's the fact that I can pick up wings on my way to work (if I'm headed to work after 11), or maybe it's the 30+ flavors, but I hereby decree America's Best Wings to be Bowie's best wings, and award them 3.5 stars.

Four restaurants to go...

Update 1/4/16: I like this place more and more each time; I'm upgrading them from 3.5 to 4 stars.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Scotland's UEFA coefficient still heading in the wrong direction

Celtic Kick Off

I posted this summer about hypothetical scenarios where Scottish club's European fortunes improve to the point where they get improved entry into the Champions League and the Europa League (as determined by the European coefficient).

Since then, uh, things have gone in the other direction. Everyone but Celtic has been bounced from the Europa League. Celtic has (have?) been bounced from the Champions League, into the Europa League. They have then proceeded to go 0-2-1 in their first three group matches, including a 3-1 loss last night. If they don't pick up any more points (a sadly realistic possibility!), Scotland will have its worst year (tied) since 2009.

So how much worse could things get for Scotland? Actually, not much worse. Scotland's ranking is 23rd for next year's competitions, and that should spare them first-round entry for the Scottish Cup winners. But Scotland is currently on target to drop to 25th the following year, which might make the Scottish Cup winners enter in the first round of the Europa League along with the second- and third-place Scottish Premiership teams. Beyond that, however, nothing much changes until around 47th place, which would make a nation's top team enter the Champions League in the first round. Scotland is in trouble, but it's unimaginable they'll get that bad. And the dip to 25th might allow the Scottish Cup champion to enter against easier competition, which wouldn't be so bad.

STV Sport observes that the drop in Scotland's coefficient is the second worst in Europe over the past decade. I would argue that the drop from 11th to 23rd is actually worse than the drop from 32nd to 46th that Latvia suffered.

Celtic has three more matches to turn things around this year, however. They are actually only two points out of second place in their Europa League group. The math isn't too friendly for moving up from 25th in the 2016 rankings (which will determine 2017 entry) -- Norway is currently in 24th, and they have two teams active, including Molde, which beat Celtic last night. Denmark is in 23rd, and their remaining team is in second place in their group. Overtaking Israel, in 22nd, would require more than just Celtic winning their remaining games (while Maccabi Tel-Aviv loses the rest of theirs); Celtic would actually have to pick up some points in the knock-out phase.

2017 (for 2018 entry) is a little more encouraging. Scotland sits solidly in 23rd place (with their bad 2011 performance aged off), and it wouldn't be impossible to move up a place or two in advance of next year's competitions.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Nebula Update: Annihilation

Annihilation (Southern Reach Trilogy #1)Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

So last year the Nebula went to a book some people didn't like because it left out gendered pronouns. Well, look out 2015, because this year's winner doesn't have any names. No place names ("Area X" doesn't count) and no names of characters.

I get that the author is trying to do something with this lack of naming, but he has to try to do something more interesting to get me to accept this. Everything is just confusing, deliberately so. The main character gets some fleshing out (and her dead husband, who we never meet), but nobody else in the book does. And the setting is limited to creepy things that happen in Area X, we don't really get any worldbuilding.

In fact, it's not entirely clear what sort of world this is set in. It's a world much like our own, but different...somehow? A way that's never explained, but this Area X doesn't fit into Earth, so that's why I can tell it's not quite Earth.

I guess what I'm looking for in my science fiction and fantasy is some sort of rationale behind what happens, a rationale that gets conveyed to the reader. This seems more like horror, where I guess you can just make creepy stuff happen to scare the reader.

I read the plots of the next two books on Wikipedia just to spoil them for myself in case I ever got tempted to read them. It doesn't sound like it gets any better.

Well, this catches me up with this year's Nebula winner. I still have the same eight left to read that I did a year and a half ago. I am reading Tehanu, but rather slowly. I have been impressed with the increased collection of eBooks available through my local libraries, but I am somewhat at the mercy of the holds system. I actually bought Tehanu, so it gets set aside when another book (like Annihilation) becomes available.

Of this year's other Nebula nominees, I've read Coming Home and Ancillary Sword, and I'm partway through The Goblin Emperor. I would have preferred any of them to this book.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Bowie Restaurant Project: (89) Chuck's Wagon BBQ

For an explanation of the Bowie Restaurant Project, look here.

For a list of all the Bowie Restaurant Project reviews, look here.

Chuck's Wagon BBQ,
6946 Laurel Bowie Rd,
Most Recent Foursquare Check-in: 9/14/2015
Total Foursquare Check-ins: 2
Pre-Foursquare Visits: No
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I wanted to like Chuck's Wagon more than I do. I like barbecue, I like local businesses, and goodness knows the area needs more barbecue.

But my reaction every time I've been here (I think I've forgotten a couple of times to check in on Foursquare) has been "meh". It's nice enough, but not exciting to taste like I expect from barbecue. I would attribute this to being "spoiled" from living in the South for four years, and enjoying barbecue on visits there since, but...I actually kind of like some of the chains, like Famous Dave's and Red, Hot & Blue.

So, two cheers (and three stars) for Chuck's Wagon, for introducing non-chain BBQ to Bowie. But I won't be hitting it up too often.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Bowie Restaurant Project: (88) Potbelly Sandwich Shop

For an explanation of the Bowie Restaurant Project, look here.

For a list of all the Bowie Restaurant Project reviews, look here.

Potbelly Sandwich Shop,
3900 Town Center Blvd.
Most Recent Foursquare Check-in: 9/4/2015
Total Foursquare Check-ins:1
Pre-Foursquare Visits: No
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

It's a Potbelly. I like Potbelly. When the kids were 2 and 3, we had luck taking them to Potbelly (though not this one, which wasn't open yet). On the other hand, we have had a lot of luck taking them to Panera, and there's one of those right across the street.

They don't have on-line ordering, which was annoying, but I placed a phone order, walked in and picked it up okay. It was reasonably priced, tasty, and they didn't force chips on you. That's about it.

When I started this Project, your sandwich shop choices in BTC were Panera, Subway and Quizno's. Now there's Panera, Potbelly and Jimmy John's. That feels like an upgrade.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Bowie Restaurant Project: (87) Wingstop

15477 Excelsior Dr.
Most Recent Foursquare Check-in: 5/27/2015
Total Foursquare Check-ins: 2
Pre-Foursquare Visits: No
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I don't know, it's another wing place. We had Wing Zone, and that was OK. Both of Bowie's stand-alone Pizza Huts now offer Wingstreet wings (I have no interest in re-reviewing them, however). Free State Mall is getting an America's Best Wings (which I suspect may be carryout only). That seems like more wings than we need, especially without a Buffalo Wild Wings.

Anyway, both times I visited Wingstop I ordered on-line to save time. The first time, the time-saving went poorly, where they appeared to start my order when I arrived, then had to be reminded to give it to me when it was ready. The second time, things were much smoother. In both cases the wings were tasty enough. So I guess, if you want wings, I'd give this a slight edge over Wing Zone, unless you want your wings delivered.

Bowie Restaurant Update

I think I have six restaurants left:

  1. Sakura
  2. Jerry's Seafood
  3. Simply Southern
  4. Chuck's Wagon BBQ
  5. Potbelly
  6. Wesley's Southern

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Bowie Restaurant Project: (86) Yamon! Island Grill

For an explanation of the Bowie Restaurant Project, look here.

For a list of all the Bowie Restaurant Project reviews, look here.

Yamon! Island Grill,
3872 Town Center Blvd.
Most Recent Foursquare Check-in: 8/7/2015
Total Foursquare Check-ins:2
Pre-Foursquare Visits: No
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Jamaican food is back in Bowie after the departure of Irie Cafe. And I have to say, it's better than ever. Yamon! is at least as flavorful as Irie, and the prices are much more down-to-earth. Hopefully locating in the Bowie Town Center food court will allow them to turn a profit with those lower prices, because I'd like to see them stay in business. Bowie needs more independent restaurants and a greater variety of cuisines, and Yamon! provides both.

Bonus points for spelling "grill" correctly.

Bowie Restaurant News

It's been an annus horribilis for Bowie's restaurant scene. First we lost the best Chinese restaurant. Then we lost the best option for pizza delivery (Cetrone's). And now we're losing the only decent Mexican restaurant nearby (Mi Hacienda). This is not good!

Not everything is depressing. Bowie Town Center is getting a Potbelly. I have yet to be overly impressed by any of the "step up from Subway" chains, least it's a step up from Subway!

The Bowie Town Center food court is also welcoming "Wesley's Southern Cuisine" "next week". Hopefully it can succeed where Carolyn Quinn's didn't.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Geocaching: A Few More Degrees

I was looking at the West 76 Longitude Challenge Cache (of which I claimed 14 of the 60 required degrees covered), and I discovered a couple of things.

First of all, there is an automated checker available to tell you which of the minutes you haven't yet found caches in. I used it, and it told me I had 45 minutes left to go. Hmm. It took a while to track down the discrepancy, but it turns out I was the one who was correct. I attended an event cache in Minute 51, but that type of cache doesn't count in the challenge.

Secondly, the cache links to challenge caches for West 77 Longitude and North 39 Latitude. Of course! Latitude! Why didn't I look for this a while ago?

So, how am I doing? Well (assuming the checker is correct), I have found Minutes 0, 1, 2, 3, 9, 18, 22, 24, and 41 in West 77, for a total of 9 out of 60.

For North 39, I have found Minutes 0, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 16, 19, 22 and 24, for a total of 14 -- the same as West 76. Nope, wait, Minute 12 is that same event cache.

I actually live about an eight minute walk south of the 39th parallel. (Seriously, how did I never notice this before?) So North 38 Latitude seems like an equally good one to check. As it turns out, that cache is near Sacramento. Which makes sense.

For North 38, I have 19, 22, 33, 34, 42, 47, 51, 53, 54, 57, 58 and 59, for a total of 12.

What the heck, I might at well keep track of these, too. Any other degrees are going to be sufficiently far from home that it's unlikely I will make any substantial progress. Let's take a look at the new challenges, then. I'll note my first find of each minute, and which state it occurs in, if not Maryland.

West 77

  1. Minute 0: Back to School III "Sports Zone"
  2. Minute 1: The Original
  3. Minute 2: Last stop for a weary traveler (DC)
  4. Minute 3: Patriotic Wheaton
  5. Minute 9: Jason Turns 30!
  6. Minute 18: Blair Witch Project - Coffin Rock
  7. Minute 22: Jug Bridge
  8. Minute 24: Michaels Mill Cache
  9. Minute 41: Berries and Bikes (Virginia)

North 39

  1. Minute 0: Yowies
  2. Minute 2: Patriotic Wheaton
  3. Minute 3: I.C.C. ya Later - Rt 1 Brick House
  4. Minute 4: Shallow Marsh
  5. Minute 5: TimberHollow
  6. Minute 6: Beachwood Park Travel Bug Hotel
  7. Minute 7: Blair Witch Project - Coffin Rock
  8. Minute 8: Berries and Bikes (Virginia)
  9. Minute 11: Manta's Mystery Cache
  10. Minute 16: Time Will Not Dim...
  11. Minute 19: Michaels Mill Cache
  12. Minute 22: Mount Airy Remembers
  13. Minute 24: Jug Bridge

North 38

  1. Minute 19: A Stroll Around Solomon's Island
  2. Minute 22: All's Well in Greenwell
  3. Minute 33: Back to School III "Sports Zone"
  4. Minute 34: Birds Don't Have Pockets
  5. Minute 42: Hutchins Hideaway
  6. Minute 47: "Awakening"
  7. Minute 51: Grab A Seat (DC)
  8. Minute 53: The Lone Sailor (DC)
  9. Minute 54: Church Ruins Park (DC)
  10. Minute 57: Gallant Fox and Omaha
  11. Minute 58: Jason Turns 30!
  12. Minute 59: Maryland Marathon

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Three New Geocaching Maps

As I mentioned yesterday, I am back to premium geocaching membership. That allows me to generate various fun maps. I'm going to include the ones that have changed since I last was able to do that. In 2011, I added Estonia to my caching countries. It shows up better on the European map than the world one, so that's what I've included here.

Last year, I added Baltimore City to the list of Maryland "counties" cached, so that map gets an update. (Baltimore City has the equivalent of county status in Maryland and is a separate entity from Baltimore County, in which I've not found a geocache.)

Finally, this year I've added Georgia and New Jersey to my list of states. So that map looks a little less lonely. (And I appreciate My Geocaching Profile acknowledging DC without pretending it's a state.)

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Geocaching: Minute 52

I busted open a piggy bank I've had lying around for a few years, so I had a little extra money lying around. I used some of it on a year's premium geocaching membership. One of the results is that I'm now able to see member-only caches I visited when I was previously a member. So I can now update my very weak attempt to visit a cache in each minute of 76 degrees W longitude.
I.C.C. ya Later - Rt 1 Brick House, which I visited on my 36th birthday, is in minute 52.

I now have 14 of 60 minutes: 27, 31, 36, 37, 40, 44, 50, 52, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59.

Slightly more entertaining will be the maps I'll be able to update in a future post.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

More trying to fix Scotland's UEFA coefficient

Earlier this week, I pondered how Scotland could get back to respectability (15th-18th place) in the rankings of European soccer leagues. The scenario I gave the most credence to for the four Scottish teams to behave as Celtic, one "half-Celtic" and two "non-Celtics".

Before addressing those scenarios more concretely, let me dismiss two other scenarios. One is that Celtic could just become a super-Celtic. Celtic's best run in recent years was in 2012 when they reached the round of 16 in the Champions League. That run netted them 19 points. A "non-Celtic" has typically produced 1 (let's round down from 1.077), so under the current system, a super-Celtic and three non-Celtics would get 22 points, which gives five-year coefficient of 27.5, which is in the range I identified. (Actually, Celtic would have to win one more round to make it to the sixteen based on current rankings, but we can ignore that for now.) Although Celtic has been very successful, expecting it to end up in the top 16 clubs in Europe every year to make up for the deficiencies of other Scottish clubs is just too much.

Another possibility that I identified would be Celtic, and three "mini-Celtics". Let's round Celtic's usual contribution to 12 (up from 11.875). Then if each other team contributes 3 points, we're at 21 points for the year, a five-year coefficient of 26.25, again in the 25-30 range. But since the birth of the Europa League, only two teams have managed 3 points. The 2010 Motherwell squad got 3.5, as did last year's Aberdeen side. Motherwell barely avoided relegation last year, so they are not in European play this year. Aberdeen...well, we'll get to them later. The point is that expecting to have a stable of three Scottish clubs that can each win two rounds of qualifying (as those two did) is a bit far-fetched.

So we return to my scenario of Celtic, half-Celtic and two non-Celtics -- in other words, Celtic contributes 12 points, another club puts up 6, and two sides throw in 1 each. So far this year, St. Johnstone played its part, getting a point before exiting in the first round. Inverness CT may disappoint even low expectations. They dropped the first half of their tie with Astra Giurgiu 1-0 today, so they will need an away win (against a team they couldn't score on at home) to get a point. Celtic has 1 point, and seems likely to advance, so we hope they do their part. That leaves us with...Aberdeen.

Aberdeen now has 2 points after demolishing HNK Rijeka 3-0 in Croatia today. Unfortunately for fans of Scotland's UEFA coefficient (maybe that's just me), that will leave them with the temptation to "park the bus" next week and get a draw or a 1- or 2-goal loss, which will allow them to advance, but not get them another point towards this year's total. Nevertheless, let's take the long view. What does a team (in particular, one who enters in the first or second rounds of Europa League qualifying) need to do in order to get 6 points?

I only had the energy to look at last year's games. But the fact is, no team that missed the group stage got 6 points. The closest (Spartak Trnava) got 5.5. The average of those who entered in the first round and exited in the playoffs was 4.8, and second-round entrants who lost in the playoffs averaged 3.1.

So making it to the group stage is crucial. Four teams entered in the second round and made it to the group stage, averaging 9.4 points. Unhappily for Aberdeen, no team entering in the first round made it that far, and no club entering before the third round made it out of the group stage.

But, that tells me that if Aberdeen can turn itself into a side that makes the group stage half the time, and falls just short the other half, it would be the team that Scotland needs. Some other team could, of course, fill the void (as I said on Monday, keep an eye on Hearts), but that appears to be the basic formula.

I don't know why it interests me to work that out, but it does. I guess because there's math involved, but the coverage of it doesn't explain how "doing better in Europe" would translate into "getting a better ranking."

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Geocaching Update: Two New States

In March 2008, I had been geocaching less than a year, and I posted a map showing that I had found caches in seven states...

Well, my geocaching really tailed off after then, because seven years later, I had found caches in seven states...and the District of Columbia (added in May 2008). I've geocached in ten countries, which isn't too bad, but the last of those was added in 2011.

So, with two recent trips to potentially new states, I decided to add to the list. I give you Bronzed Barker, a virtual geocache in Georgia, and 1938, a virtual in New Jersey.

To get a new map, I'll need to upgrade my geocaching membership again, but then it looks like My Geocaching Profile is a nice, free way of generating maps.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Who messed up Scotland's UEFA coefficient?

Last July, I puzzled over the weird way in which UEFA, the European soccer association, figures out which European club teams end up in which European competitions (namely, the Champions League and the Europa League).

One of the concerns in Scottish soccer over the past few years has been the dip in Scotland's coefficient. The Scottish ranking used to be enough to send two teams to the Champions League; now it's only one (always Celtic). An opinion piece in today's Daily Record summarizes the distress nicely.

The article assigns blame to three parties:
  • Celtic has not been doing as well as Scots feel it should. Since Celtic tends to earn the majority of points that count towards the coefficient, that hurts.
  • The non-Celtic teams don't contribute much.
  • Rangers, which traditionally could be counted on to contribute significant points most years, hasn't been part of the picture since their departure from the top flight.
I've been puzzling over the numbers, as I like to do, and I'd like to nominate a fourth culprit:
  • The Europa League, for existing.
UEFA posts season-by-season rankings for Scotland going back to 2004. The actual UEFA coefficient is aggregated over five years, but the reasons for a particular ranking are clearer in the yearly statistics. One thing that jumps out at me is that from 2004-2007, Scottish football was anywhere from 5th to 17th, while since then, it has been no higher than 19th. The 2008 season seems to be somewhat of a fluke; I can't figure out why only two teams are counted. But from 2009 on, the number of teams involved never drops below four, while it was never more than three prior. This matters because your one good team gets its results divided by four (or five or six) after being added to the pittance the rest of the league produces.

Usually that team has been Celtic, but as recently as 2010, it was Rangers, who produced 12 of Scotland's 18 points. The average, across five teams, was 3.6, good enough for 21st. If Rangers and Celtic were the only two teams, their combined 14 would have given an average of 7.0, good enough for 11th. Perhaps more fair would have been to say what had happened if you paired Rangers and Celtic (the top two league finishers) with Dundee United, the Scottish Cup winners. Well, then you would have 14.5 points, divided by 3, so at 4.833, Scotland would be a still-respectable 14th.

With the Europa League here to stay, what does Scotland have to do to climb back up to its previous heights of at-least-we're-not-Sweden? For the current season, Scotland is ranked 23rd with a coefficient (five year total) of 16.566. That earns them one berth in the Champions League, entering in the second round, two first-round entries into the Europa League, and a second-round entry into the Europa League.

Nothing would change for Scottish Champions League entry unless it rose to 15th, at which it would get two berths, both entering in the third round. Since that's what Celtic has been complaining about, it's worth keeping that in mind as a goal. Nothing would change in the Europa League until they rose to 18th, which would boost the second-round entry to the third round. 17th place (or 16th) would promote one of the first-round entries to the second round. 15th place would mean two second-round entries and one third-round (in addition to the two Champions League spots).

So it seems like 15th place is the goal for real change in Scotland's fortune, with some consolation prizes at 16 through 18. This year, the Czech Republic took 15 place, which a coefficient of 29.350, almost twice that of Scotland. Next year is already set, with Romania at 26.299. Looking back in time doesn't help too much, since it includes pre-Europa League years. So somewhere in the 25-30 point range should be Scotland's goal -- in other words, 5-6 points a year.

But that's a per-team average, so 20-24 points spread across 4 teams (for the forseeable future). Over the past four seasons, the average Celtic team has contributed 11.875, while the average non-Celtic team has kicked in 1.077. That projects out to 18.882 for a five-year total with Celtic and three non-Celtics. If Scotland could field two Celtics and two non-Celtics, the resulting 32.38 coefficient would be more than enough. In fact, one-and-half Celtics and two-and-half non-Celtics projects out to 25.631, at the lower end of the range I identified above.

So one path to regaining European respectability is the emergence of a club with decent, but not Celtic-caliber results. I have three nominees for this position.
  • Aberdeen. They seem to be well-run, and finished second to Celtic in the Scottish Premier League last year. On the other hand, they barely squeaked into the second round of the Europa League this month, and it looks like they can only afford a payroll about 6-7 smaller than Celtic.
  • Hearts. Despite being only promoted this year, they seem to have emerged from bankruptcy as a well-run club, dominating the second-tier without living beyond their means. As an Edinburgh-based club, they have the potential to increase revenues more than some of the other clubs from smaller areas.
  • Rangers. Despite living in the second-tier for another year, they will eventually get back up. When they do, they are the only side positioned to challenge Celtic.
Another scenario would be Celtic and three "mini-Celtics"  -- perhaps the three sides I mentioned above. If Celtic can continue to earn more than 10 points per season, and the other three Scottish teams chip in between a third and a quarter that number, Scotland's coefficient would be in the 25-30 range. It seems less likely that smaller clubs that get hot and enjoy one year near the top of the league or hoisting the Scottish Cup will do anything other than what they do now -- go out after a round or two.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

World Heritage Update: Three "New" Sites

My quest to visit World Heritage Sites has slowed down. I travel less these days, and I tend to travel to places I've already been. For the first time in years, I have been able to take advantage of another way of adding sites to my visited list.

Earlier this month, UNESCO added 27 new sites to the list. I've visited 3 of them! That's a pretty good hit rate.

The three are:
So I'm now at 60 out of 1031, or 5.8%, which is the same (up to rounding) as my all-time high.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Bowie Restaurant Project: (85) First Watch

For an explanation of the Bowie Restaurant Project, look here.

For a list of all the Bowie Restaurant Project reviews, look here.

First Watch,
15471 Excelsior Dr.,
Most Recent Foursquare Check-in: 2/21/2015
Total Foursquare Check-ins: 3
Pre-Foursquare Visits: No
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

First Watch proves that a chain can do a good job of providing healthy food in a pleasing environment. I think it's my nominee for the "Best Breakfast" category (assuming that there is, in fact, a place to nominate Bowie restaurants for such things).

It's sort of hard to describe the restaurant concept succinctly, but it's basically breakfast/brunch/lunch with fresh ingredients.

All three of my visits have produced tasty meals. The only glitch I really had was one time, I brought two hungry four-year-olds, and the meals took much longer than they should have. That would not have been a problem with patient adults with fully-formed digestive systems, but hungry crankiness led to some embarrassing misbehavior. So, if you have hungry kids, IHOP is probably a better choice. But if you want adult food for adults, you should come here.

Besides my three visits, one time a co-worker arranged a catering order through them (something I've done very successfully at Lima's). It was great!

Bowie Restaurant News

I haven't posted a restaurant update since January, so there must be some news. Let's see.
  • Glory Days has been reduced to rubble with the rest of the Marketplace. It will not be returning.
  • Wingstop is now open in the former Quizno's location at Bowie Town Center.
  • Yamon Island Grill is now open in the Bowie Town Center food court.
  • Simply Southern American Grille is now open next to Chesapeake Grille in Hilltop.
  • Chuck's Wagon BBQ is open in Bowie Plaza
  • Free State is getting "America's Best Wings".
Last time I had three left to go, and I reviewed one, but four have opened, so I have six to go. Three of those have been visited twice, as my standards require, so I just need to write those up. And move faster, apparently.

Coming to Bowie at some point in the future:
  • America's Best Wings
  • another Taco Bell
  • Whatever the new Marketplace brings (Chipotle and Firehouse?)
  • Samosa Supreme (Their website now sounds like less of a restaurant, though).

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Pony Rides and an Unexpected Geocache

When Christina's cousin visited in February, we took the boys to the Belair Stable Museum. There wasn't much there for a couple of 4-year-olds, but the docent told us that on May 17th, the museum would be offering free pony rides for Bowie Heritage Day. Ever since, the boys have been reminding me of this date.

They got their pony rides, of course, which was very exciting. And they got to see how butter was made, which they found less exciting.

Jack takes the lead!
Salem lines up
Then the museum organized a race among the kids in attendance. There were two heats, and the Grantham boys made a clean sweep. They got their winner's medals. (Everyone got medals.)

Afterwards, while Christina was listening to the bluegrass band, the boys got antsy and went outside. Salem attempting to climb the wall despite my requests to the contrary. He grabbed a rock as a handhold, and was surprised as it came off the wall in his hand. I was surprised to realize that it was a geocache! We weren't even looking, and I found my 89th geocache, and 1st of 2015.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

My 2015 Hugo Nominations

As a member of last year's Worldcon, I'm eligible to nominate for this year's Hugo awards. I will probably become a member of this year's Worldcon in order to vote on the nominees, but we're not there yet, are we?

I am happy with the criteria I used last year -- was it a four-star work? Although there are probably better works than the ones I nominated, they probably won't get nominated anyway. So I'd rather see stuff I liked nominated than other stuff, which I probably won't like.

Best Novel
  • Words of Radiance, Brandon Sanderson
  • World of Trouble, Ben H. Winters
  • V-S Day, Allen Steele
  • Coming Home, Jack McDevitt
  • Ancillary Sword, Anne Leckie
Best Novelette
  • There Was No Sound of Thunder, David Erik Nelson
Best Related Work
  • World of Fire & Ice, George R.R. Martin, Elio M. GarcĂ­a Jr., Linda Antonsson
Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Captain America: Winter Soldier
  • Game of Thrones (Season 4)
Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)
  • "Turn, Turn, Turn," Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • "The Lion and the Rose," Game of Thrones
Best Fancast
  • Sword & Laser, Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt
Comments: World of Trouble was the only five-star novel in the bunch; definitely my favorite. Neither of the first two books in the trilogy made it into even the long version of the Hugo list, so I don't have much hope there. Both Coming Home and Ancillary Sword were nominated for Nebulas, so I think they have shots at the Hugo, though McDevitt has much more luck with Nebula nominations than Hugo ones. I am not actually finished with Words of Radiance, and I was planning to drop it until I figured out that another book that I wanted to nominate wasn't published in 2014. I have been having trouble figuring out which category Game of Thrones belongs in (they only get to be in one), so I figured I'd try both and let them choose. I have just been making my way through season one of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., so I thought I'd nominate the best one I've see so far. Sadly, it doesn't contain the best dialogue from the series so far.
Maria Hill: What does S.H.I.E.L.D. stand for, Agent Ward?
Grant Ward: Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.
Maria Hill: And what does that mean to you?
Grant Ward: It means someone really wanted our initials to spell out "shield." 
And with Sword & Laser, I'm not convinced they're eligible, but they seem to think they are, so I'd rather nominate and let it get sorted out later. (They're not "professional," but I think they are "semi-professional," in which case there should be a separate "semiprocast" category.)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Bowie Restaurant Project: (84) Jimmy John's

For an explanation of the Bowie Restaurant Project, look here.

For a list of all the Bowie Restaurant Project reviews, look here.
Jimmy John's,
15411 Excelsior Dr.
Most Recent Foursquare Check-in: 1/22/2015
Total Foursquare Check-ins: 1
Pre-Foursquare Visits: No
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

It's a Jimmy John's. To me, that means that it falls into the category of "slightly nicer than Subway" sandwich joints. I like Subway well enough (even if Bowie has more than it needs), and I like "upscale" sandwich restaurants (Jimmy John's, Firehouse, Potbelly, etc.) slightly better. It's not too exciting, but a sub's a good meal.

The Jimmy John's in Bowie Town Center opened about a week ago, and they seem to be doing a fine job. The on-line ordering works well. I think telling someone your sandwich order is tiresome, so on-line is the way to go. I appreciated that I was able to do it from the web without downloading an app I would never use again. I was somewhat irritated that they wanted 30 minutes to have my order ready, but in fact it was ready in less than 15.

Apparently I used their on-line ordering in 2011 at the Jimmy John's in College Park, and I was irritated when they only gave me one bag of chips. This time, they showed me where to get the chips myself, so it wasn't a problem.

Jimmy John's "replaces" the Quizno's around the corner that just closed, along with the Subway in the food court. All in all, an upgrade in your Bowie Town Center sandwich choices, but one I have a hard time getting excited about.

Bowie Restaurant News

Well, last time, I had two reviews left to go, and I reviewed one, which leaves me...three?

Yep. In the past week, Jimmy John's and First Watch have opened around the corner from each other in Bowie Town Center. I can still see the finish line, though!

Grace's Fortune, long my go-to place for taking interview candidates at work, is closing in February. Golden Pavilion has been my go-to Chinese place, mainly because I couldn't justify Grace's higher dinner prices, but I'm looking for a new Chinese place to recommend. I think interview candidates may end up at some place outside Bowie; Thai at Waugh Chapel and Namaste are probably good choices.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Stay-At-Home Bowl 2015 Winners: KC Chiefs

One of this blog's (few remaining) running features is noting the winners of what I have dubbed the "Stay at Home Bowl" -- the teams to defeat both Super Bowl participants. Last year's winner, the Indianapolis Colts made it all the way to the AFC Championship Game, demonstrating the obvious: if you can beat both Super Bowl participants, you're probably good. Of the 17 teams to have won this honor, 7 have made it to the conference championship game, and 10 have made the playoffs.

This year's winner is the Chiefs, who beat the Seahawks 24-20 and the Patriots 41-14.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Bowie Restaurant Project: (83) Anthony's NY Pizza & Pasta House

For an explanation of the Bowie Restaurant Project, look here.

For a list of all the Bowie Restaurant Project reviews, look here.

Anthony's NY Pizza & Pasta House,
15480 Annapolis Rd, Suite 217,
Most Recent Foursquare Check-in: 1/8/2015
Total Foursquare Check-ins: 9
Pre-Foursquare Visits: No
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Anthony's has been open for a few months now. I like it pretty well, as evidenced by the nine check-ins I've logged there. That's helped by the fact that it partway between work and home for me. The thing keeping it from four stars is that, well, when a convenient location is one of your major selling points, I can't justify that fourth star.

I have had pretty good pasta here, I have had pretty good pizza here (it's about equal with Cetrone's, but Cetrone's gets a leg up for delivering), and I particularly enjoy the meatball parmesan sub. The interior is nothing special, but the service has been friendly, if a bit less-than-careful. (One time they couldn't remember what toppings I ordered on my takeout pizza, so they waited until I showed up to cook it.)

I'm happy for it to be there, and I hope it stays. I will patronize it, but now that I'm done evaluating it, I will probably move much of my pizza business back to Cetrone's.

Bowie Restaurant Update

Two restaurants to go!

Of course, Bowie keeps adding and subtracting restaurants, so I'll never be finally done.

In addition to the four that I mentioned in November (and the Chipotle and Firehouse that might show up at The Marketplace in 2016), we have more coming soon.

 The Quizno's in Bowie Town Center is being replaced by a Wingstop, and the Irie Cafe is now gone, soon to be "Simply Southern American Grille."
I can't say that either departure surprises me, but I hope their replacements have more luck.

There is also a proposal to put Bowie's second Taco Bell into the "Bowie Gateway Center" (near the Lowe's).