Saturday, September 29, 2018

Geocaching: Summer 2018

This summer, I found 39 caches in 6 states and 2 foreign countries, bringing me up to 414 caches found.

I started out the summer hiking with the kids to find one from December 2012 (175th month found), which earned the first souvenir in this summer's "Hidden Creatures" promotion -- Bigfoot (my 47th souvenir).
A few days later, I found a new-ish one from July 2018 (176th month), which also got me the Fairy souvenir (48th).

On landing in Illinois, my 17th state, I found one in Kane County, my 71st county. That also earned my 49th souvenir for the state of Illinois.
After driving to Wisconsin, my 18th state, I found one in Dane County, my 72nd county. That earned the Wisconsin souvenir, my 49th. It was a virtual cache, where I took my picture with Bucky the Beaver.

That also earned me my 51st souvenir -- Unicorn.

A couple of days later, I took a road trip from Madison and picked up caches in Rock County, Wisconsin (County #73) and Winnebago County, Illinois (County #74). The four I found in Rock County were challenge caches which each gave me new difficulty/terrain combos (numbers 34-37). I also picked up souvenirs 52-54 (Hippocamp, Kraken and Mermaid -- I'm going to stop including the pictures.

On the way back to the airport, I found a couple in Cook County, Illinois (County #75) -- including one in the airport. That got me my 55th souvenir (and the last one of the Hidden Creatures promotion). It also marked the end of my longest caching streak to date (7 days).

A trip to Texas gave me my 19th state, along with counties 76, 77, 78 and 79. The Texas souvenir was my 56th. The two Texas virtuals are pictured below.

One of the Texas caches was from November 2012 (Month #178).

Back in Maryland, I got my 18th FTF (First-to-Find) on one of the limited-edition virtual caches, so it was also my first find of that cache type.

On my way to England, I stopped in Dublin, Ireland and got Country #12 and Souvenir #57 (there is a separate Dublin souvenir). While in England, I found another new virtual, which gave me August 2018 (Month #179).
8/12/18, Country #12, Souvenir #57.

On September 1, I found another challenge cache with a new D/T Combo (#38). I found 2 other caches that day, and it apparently was the first day I found three different types of caches in a day.

A trip to California meant that I was able to secure County 80 (Riverside County), County 81 (San Bernadino County), and Month 181 (March 2006), as well as D/T combo #39.

So, where am I, after some ambitious caching?

I have almost half of the D/T combos. I have been filling out the ones outside of the upper left mostly through the use of challenge caches. I'm not sure how far I can stretch that, but every time I go to a new area, I try to find a few that I didn't have before.

I am missing 41 months, including the current one. That's down from 47 at the end of Winter. I thought I was going to get a rare May 2000 one near Chicago, but the trail was closed.

Adding three new states makes the map look better.
The counties map is looking more interesting, especially the big counties in California. Of course, I only went to the very western tip of each of those two, but it still counts for the map. That's only about 2.6% of the total counties.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Frank Collins Nicholson (1889-1972), who pitched in two games for the Phillies

Last week, the Washington Post had an article about a pitcher who missed his one shot at the big leagues when his scheduled start for the Phillies was rained out.

That reminded me of another pitcher, who did not miss his one chance with the Phillies -- Frank Collins Nicholson. He pitched a total of six innings over two games in 1912. He was my great-great-uncle.

In the family photo, he is the guy in the back with the hat. He is next to his brother Elwyn Nicholson. In the front are his other brothers Clarence "Fat" Nicholson, and William S. Nicholson, my great-grandfather. Thanks to my Aunt Pam for the picture.

If you touch the major leagues, even for an instant, that stays with you for the rest of your life (and beyond). Here is his obituary:

And here is a remembrance from his hometown paper shortly afterwards. It recounts when, as a minor-leaguer, he faced the major-league pitching of "Chief Bender" and "poled out a three-bagger."

Here is another story from a few years after his passing:

And here is another story about his game against Chief Bender and the Philadelphia A's. It contains my favorite line, which is thank Uncle Frank was "a wizard moundsman with the spit ball."

I originally posted this on Facebook, but I thought I would put it on the blog for wider dissemination. If you have come across this and are related to Frank Nicholson, or if you have any more information about his baseball career, please e-mail me at

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Scotland's UEFA Coefficient: 2018/9 Group-Stage Preview

We have group stage! For two clubs!
It didn't seem possible when the various draws were announced, but...I guess Rangers really is better this year?
 Scotland's "neighborhood" (nations within 2 points of them) has shrunk to 20-27 -- versus 19-29 at the start of the competition. The difference is, Scotland is near the top of this neighborhood.

They are having the 3rd best year of any nation so far. (Of course, the top nations are just getting started with the group stages.) Serbia (at 19) and Norway are the only ones doing better. Scotland, Norway and Cyprus are the only countries to start with 4 teams and still have 2 alive.

Playoff-Round Review

Celtic settled for a draw away, and then closed things out with an emphatic win at home. Rangers started with a 1-0 win at home, which put them in good position, then somehow clung to a 1-1 draw despite being down to 9 men late in the match. A few things going differently could have exceeded the 0.75 points gained in the round, but it seems petty to quibble.

Group-Stage Preview

Group stage! The road gets even tougher here. I'm going to use Clubelo ratings one last time to give you a sense of how hard. Celtic (Elo 1550) is grouped with previous opponents Rosenborg (1542), Red Bull Salzburg (1714) and Red Bull Leipzig (1689). Rangers (1444) is grouped with Villareal (1752), Rapid Vienna (1565) and Spartak Moscow (1685).

Clubelo doesn't look at individual matches all the way into December, like we want to do, so I'm going to switch to Fivethirtyeight's predictions. They give Celtic only a 30% chance of making it out of the group, and Rangers a mere 12%.

Looking at the individual matches, things don't look great either. The only match where a Scottish side is favored is their opening tilt versus Rosenborg. But that's not likely the only points we'll see during the group stages.

If you add up the probabilities across all the games, even Rangers can be expected to steal a win and a draw. Celtic should do even better, with one or two wins and one or two draws.

Add it up, and the Fivethirtyeight estimates expect at least two more points for the coefficient. So I'm going to set my expectations there. A good run will be one where they exceed that and put a team through to the knockout rounds, and a bad one will be earning below 1.5 points.

Where We Stand

Four whole points for the year is as many as they got all last year, even after Celtic made it to the knockout rounds of the Europa League (via the Champions League group stages).

Above them, Belarus should pick up about a point in BATE Borisov's group, which would allow them to be caught by Scotland for 20th place. Sweden might pick up a point and a half from MalmΓΆ, which wouldn't be enough to catch Scotland. Norway's two entrants aren't supposed to do as well as Scotland's two...but these are all probabilities, so a series of small upsets could set back Scotland's match to 20th.

The hope, however, is that this excellent season will take Scotland away from worrying about having all Europa League entrants come in during the first round (like next year), and move closer to where the question is whether they can compete for 17th. There, the cup winner enters at the third round, and the second-place team enters in the second round. The real prize, however, is 15th, which will require a consistent 5.5 points per year. This is the year Scotland can show that's realistic.