Running Commentary 1/31/2022

Running Commentary 1/31/2022

The Book of Boba Fett (Chapter 5), BattleBots (S6E4), Warframe (DevStream), Mini Saltine Crackers, Western Whistler

Hello,

When were scissors invented? This past week I was listening to a podcast about the history of rock-paper-scissors, and they mentioned an ancient Egyptian game that seems like rock-paper-scissors, though they didn't use those terms, since the ancient Egyptians didn't have scissors (and only sort of had paper). That got me thinking; I had no idea who first did have scissors. You could have told me scissors were invented anytime between the Bronze Age and the 1850s and I'd have had no reason to disbelieve you. So, I looked into it. Turns out, the ancient Egyptians did have a sort of hand-shears that they used like scissors, but the first example of what we would recognize as scissors, a pair of blades held together at the middle with a pin, was a Roman device, first made sometime during the reign of Trajan. These quickly took off in popularity throughout Europe and Asia. The Romans called cutting tools "caesoria" which is where the word "scissors" traces it's roots to.

Anyway...

Watching...

The Book of Boba Fett

Still from The Book of Boba Fett Twitter
  • Boba Fett? Boba Fett? Where? This week we took a break from our regularly scheduled program to watch the Season 3 premiere of The Mandalorian. The new season looks good.
  • I think I found where the budget for this show went. The ring station was quite well done as a location that was both memorable and realistic seeming within the world of Star Wars.
  • The Naboo N-1 (which was designed by Prequel Trilogy concept artist Doug Chiang, who is now a top LucasFilm executive and an executive producer on this show) is a really cool looking ship, and the hot-rodded version Djarin gets is suitably re-designed to fit the aesthetics of the post-Imperial Outer Rim. My one thought, though, is that starfighters just aren't practical for bounty hunting. How's Djarin supposed to bring people back aboard that thing. But, considering he’ll be working as an enforcer for Fett, not a bounty hunter, it might work out.
  • Once again Bryce Dallas Howard delivers the best episode of a season of Star Wars television (so far, in this case.)

BattleBots

In this latest episode, people just didn’t seem to know how to take a win. Let’s look at the fights:

  • MALICE v JACKPOT - Budget bot Jackpot impressed again with a win here. Malice really has not had a good season so far, which is a pity, considering it has a decent design and an enthusiastic team behind it.
  • RIBBOT v OVERHAUL - Ribbot, with a team out of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, always loves a chance to face off against one of the MIT teams. Unfortunately for MIT, their champion this time around was Overhaul. Best remembered as Jamison Go’s old team, Overhaul has been out of the game for years, and it really isn't well adapted to the present landscape of close-range spinners, as this quick and decisive loss demonstrated.
  • BLADE v SKORPIOS - Blade, from the Korean Team Orby, looks like Tombstone disguised as Hypershock. I was eager to see it fight, but I was unsure how good it would actually be. Turns out, not very good. The namesake weapon didn't seem to have much power behind it. In any case, Skorpios fought Blade as if it was Tombstone, that is, they delivered strike after strike relentlessly, even after the point Blade was probably quite broken and could have been counted out.
  • TOMBSTONE v MAMMOTH - Speaking of Tombstone, despite Ray Billings’s protests that his bot is still a top contender, Tombstone barely beat Mammoth. After a rare double-knockout, the judges determined that, since Tombstone knocked out Mammoth, and the arena walls knocked out Tombstone, Tombstone won. Even still, it’s not that Tombstone can’t deliver hits anymore, it’s that it lacks sturdiness. It’s almost like Captain Shrederator passed on its curse.
  • LUCKY v TANTRUM - Lucky got, well, lucky, and managed to hang Tantrum on the wall. Then they pulled them down, and were soundly defeated. I get that a win by trick positioning is maybe less impressive to the tournament seeding committee than a win by proper knockout, but either is better than a loss.
  • GHOST RAPTOR v GLITCH - Veteran bot Ghost Raptor also helped newbie Glitch out of a tough spot, and took a loss for their troubles. I will say that I find Glitch’s design, with a spinner blocked behind a wedge deflecting opponents away from that spinner, quite baffling.
  • SAWBLAZE v MAD CATTER - Mad Catter is a surprisingly good bot, but Sawblaze is just a good bot. The difference between a frequent victor and a true Giant Nut contender was very apparent in this fight. Mad Catter was simply outmatched.

And here’s the extra fight, RETROGRADE v RAMPAGE:

Playing...

Warframe

It’s the end of the month, so it’s time for another DevStream. A lot of the stream was a look back at the New War, with some behind-the-scenes stuff that would have spoiled the quest. And we heard a lot about upcoming technical improvements that I don’t really have any comment on. We did hear a bit about the game’s future. Firstly, cross-play between PC, various consoles, and the upcoming Warframe mobile version is a real priority now. There’s still no word about when that will be, but DE is switching from having a different community stream for each console to having one double-length Prime Time stream covering everything. That’s a big step in uniting the various playerbases. Besides that, we got a preview of not one but two upcoming updates. Next Wednesday will come “Echoes of War” bringing the ability to re-play the New War quest along with some some skins and augment mods. DE’s “Tennobaum” event, which didn’t run during Christmastime as usual because of the New War update taking all of DE’s bandwidth at the time, will be folded into the Valentine’s Day-themed “Star Days” event. The biggest change is another change to how Kuva Liches and Sisters of Parvos are generated. Basically, if you reject to spawn one with a certain weapon, that weapon will be taken out of the rotation until you’ve spawned and defeated a nemesis. The second update, “Angels of the Zariman”, will come later. This will be a continuation of the story, with a new quest, “at least 2” new gamemodes, a new warframe (as yet, we don’t know what they’ll be). Also, there’s going to be a fundamental rework of Eximus, giving them more distinct visuals and clearer powers (the Arctic Eximus was given as an example of what they’re going for with that) and also making them tougher to kill. We should hear more details in next month’s DevStream.

Oh, by the way, if you’re a Warframe player, DE has put out a survey you might like to complete.

Eating...

Saltine crackers aren’t really where I go looking for innovation, but there actually has been some lately. Recently, when the supermarket was out of regular saltines, I got a chance to try what Nabisco calls “Premium Mini Saltines”. I was expecting them to just be saltines, but smaller. But it seems that a different recipe or process is used to make them; they seemed most like Cheez-Its, but without the cheese. Unexpected as they were, they were actually some of the best soup crackers I’ve ever had.

Western Whistler.png

Bird of the Week

I’m well and truly tired of the cold so it’s time to take Bird of the Week down under, where it’s the height of summer now. The Western Whistler is a woodland songbird found along the coast of the Great Australian Bight and the southern coast of Western Australia. It was formerly counted among about fifty subspecies of the golden whistler, a species which is now limited to populations along the Pacific shore of the continent. Whistlers look something like the members of the Paridae family, though they are not, themselves, parids. They are found throughout Australia and New Guinea, and some species of the family are among the only birds to produce toxins (in their feathers, thought to discourage mites from taking up residence there.) Western whistlers are not toxic; they are perfectly ordinary backyard birds in the suburbs of Perth and Adelaide.

Male western whistlers are striking looking, with olive-colored wings, black heads with white bibs, and a bright yellow “waistcoat”. Females are similarly shaped, but colored in drab grays. Their song, as their name suggests, is a series of chirps punctuated with a piercing whistle. They live in trees and scrub. They eat invertebrates, mostly insects but sometimes also small crustaceans, as well as berries. They use spider webs to bind their nests together.

The Western Whistler is known to science as Pachycephala fuliginosa. The genus name means “thickhead”, which is what whistlers were once called. It was coined by the Irish MP and quinarian taxonomist Nicholas Aylward Vigors. The species name means “sooty”, and was originally given as a subspecies name by Edward Ramsay, a Sydney-born naturalist who served as the curator of the Australian Museum, and later as a consulting ornithologist there, during the late 1800s. Occasionally, the bird is listed with the species name “occidentalis”, simply meaning “western”.

Aspiring to a Higher Plane | Ian Stewart, The Public Domain Review

A review of Edwin A. Abbott’s Flatland, a thought-provoking work of speculative fiction satirizing Victorian society and dreaming up what a world of two-dimensional polygons might be like. The novella has been a touchstone for philosophers imagining what a fourth or higher physical dimension might be like, but Abbott had a more practical message to give, about women.

The Old Man and the Tree | Jonny Diamond, Smithsonian Magazine

A profile of Robert Leverett, a lay-forester who has discovered and studied old-growth forests throughout New England. Leverett’s improved means of measuring trees have greatly expanded our understanding of forests.

Getting Over the Code Delusion | Steve Talbott, The New Atlantis

A look at the processes by which genetic code influences living things, and an assertion that animate life is built solely on an inanimate bit of acid is an oversimplification built on shoddy reporting and over-optimistic research summaries.

Iago v2.0 | Karlo Yeager Rodríguez, Nature

[FICTION]  “Thus credulous fools are caught.”

See the full archive of curations on Notion