Running Commentary 1/9/2023
I’m back. No, the site hasn’t seen those promised upgrades yet; I have made good progress on the offline site, and hope to have the new theme up and running here on the online site soon, maybe even this week. Besides that, I have published my review of Tales of the Jedi’s first volume, and I am almost done writing the full Andor review. Things are shaping up well for The Edwards Edition in this new year.
Season 7 premiered last Thursday, bringing nothing but great fights. Let’s take a look:
- RIBBOT v WITCH DOCTOR - This was a match-up between two of the toughest-to-beat bots in the sport. Ribbot made an early error that cost it a wheel and a lot of mobility, which ultimately cost it the match. Team Witch Doctor mentioned that they were focusing more on damaging power than on reliability. That paid off this time, but I worry about them in future fights.
- QUANTUM v CAPTAIN SHREDDERATOR - After a long hiatus the chomper bot Quantum is back, and they had a very impressive return defeating Captain Shredderator. Quantum was able to keep control of the match throughout, and once they figured out how to bite into the top shell it was just a trial-and-error hunt for Shredderator’s batteries, which they seem to have found by the end of the fight.
- GRUFF v RIPPERONI - Ripperoni came in wanting to be this year’s Blip: a bot that’s engineered its way out of its bot class’s typical shortcomings. Blip was a flipper compact enough to be well-armored, and Ripperoni is meant to be a vertical spinner without the gyroscopic drag on turns. Sadly, those anti-gyro measures didn’t appear to work in this debut match, and Ripperoni was rendered nigh-immobile by the worst gyro pulls I’ve ever seen in BattleBots. Add in wedges set too low and a weird, mismatched set of wheels that had to spin at different speeds to send the bot straight forward, and Gruff didn’t have to do much to win. Still, this was an incredibly entertaining fight.
- HUGE v SHATTER - Huge had its all-time best performance against Shatter. Incredible driving saw Huge alternating between catching Shatter’s hammer on its wheel before striking with its blade like a knight skilled in sword and shield combat. Huge would have been a tough matchup for Shatter on a bad day, and this was a very good day for Huge.
- RIPTIDE v GLITCH - Last season’s hardest-hitting rookies faced off in the shortest fight of the night. The very first blow left Glitch upended with its weapon (and self-right) disabled. Flitch had a great run in last year’s Champions tournament, and I’m excited to see what they do this year. This fight, though, gave them no opportunities.
- FREE SHIPPING v GIGABYTE - This match was a familiar face with a new bot vs. a familiar bot with some new faces. Gary Gin has finally put an actual weapon on Free Shipping and he’s now actually won a match for the first time in years. Still, I don’t think Free Shipping is about to dominate Season 7 or anything. Beating Gigabyte wasn’t that hard considering that the new team doesn’t seem to have figured out how to drive it yet. They kept crashing into walls until their self-righting bar broke off, and Free Shipping had comparatively less to do with their loss than that uncontrolled driving.
- MINOTAUR v TANTRUM - The main event saw the team that won last season’s championship vs. the team that really felt like they could have won. Minotaur’s double-knockout loss to Witch Doctor in last tournament’s semi-finals left the Brazilian team feeling robbed. I expect that they feel even more robbed now that they’ve easily and soundly defeated Tantrum, to whom Witch doctor went on to lose the Giant Nut. But I also know that they’re excited to have started a new season with a win, which they’ve never done before. Also, it’s good to have Marco Meggiolaro back as captain; his obvious love for the sport helps temper his team’s sometimes desperate feeling drive to win, and it was missing last year.
BattleBots isn’t posting extra fights to YouTube this year, but their channel is full of old fights, and, if you’re outside the US or the rest of their viewing area, you’ll be able to see even more old fights, as I understand.
The Bad Batch
Experimental Clone Force 99 returns for a second season. Here are my notes on the two-part premiere:
- There were a fair bit more scenes focussing on Tech and Echo than there were last season. They’ve seemed like somewhat redundant characters up until this point; hopefully, more focus on the both of them will provide some differentiation.
- We get a little more Dooku lore in these episodes, seeing what happened to Serenno after the war, and hearing a bit from Romar Adell what happened during the war. We still need a full Dooku series someday.
- Add Wanda Sykes to The List. Her character didn’t do much (besides flirt with Tech before he started talking) but I expect we’ll see more of her later. Her knowledge of Serenno makes me wonder if she’s not an ex-Seperatist. That would make for an interesting match-up with our ex-Republic heroes.
- The opening crab heist scene was kind of silly, but this is a kid’s show, and kids would probably really like it. I will say that the series’ envirionments remain gorgeously animated.
- It seems that Crosshair must have tried to cover for the Bad Batch’s escape from Kamino by saying that they had died. Now Rampart knows that they’re still out there, but is stuck covering for them himself out of fear of Tarkin. I suspect he’ll want Crosshair to go deal with them quietly.
- The way Wilco’s refusal to falsify a report played out seemed less like he was just really honest and more like his inhibitor chip wouldn’t let him breach regulations. Something about how his face changed right before he refused. That might become more reason for Rampart to push to replace clones with conscripts.
Bird of the Week
Getting back into things after a December break, I’m finally able to share my 2022 Christmas bird with all of you. Christmas has its fair share of associated birds, be they the goose at the center of a traditional English Christmas table or the songbirds seen decorating so many Christmas cards. In years past, birds were even given as Christmas gifts, among those who could afford a bit of extravagance. “The 12 Days of Christmas” famously lists off turtle doves, swans, French hens, “calling birds” (originally “colly birds”, or blackbirds), “gold rings” (probably originally “goldspinks”, or European goldfinches) and partidges (which are not often actually found in trees, pear or otherwise, though it may be that the phrase was originally “a partridge and a pertrix, using the French name for a different species of partridge, although, if that were the case, the number of birds given wouldn’t match the number of the corresponding day of Christmas) as gifts given to the singer by thier true love. Most of the birds mentioned would have been given as food, but the goldfinches, if that’s really what “gold rings” means, would have been cage birds, kept for their beauty and song. Keeping live songbirds indoors has fallen out of fashion, with a few exceptions, since the days the song was written. Conservation laws generally prohibit killing or capturing migratory birds, which most songbirds in North America and Europe are, and improvements in optics, photography, and communications have made seeing birds in the wild, or at least images of them, very easy for most people. In a lot of ways, seeing captive birds just isn’t the same experience.
Which brings to me to this week’s bird, the Common Green-magpie. This bird is native to Southeast Asia. Like the tru magpies of the genus Pica, this bird is a long-tailed member of the crow family, though it is smaller than the true magpies, being more the size of a jay. There are actually three other species of green-magpie, each also native to Southeast Asia and each with a more restricted range than their common cousin.
They are not simply jay-like in size; they use the same tricks as jays to achieve their vivid colors, but with a twist. The blue feathers of a jay are, arguably, not blue at all. They appear blue from most any angle, but if you hold one up to a source of light, the blue will go away and the feather will turn gray. This is because the blue of a jay’s feather comes not from pigments by from the physical structure of the feathers themselves, which, much the way Earth’s atmosphere does, scatters light, producing a blue color. The feathers of green-magpies do the same, though their feathers aren’t a colorless gray but are pigmented bright yellow by chemicals called carotenoids, which the birds absorb from the insects they eat. The yellow carotenoids and the blue-scattering structures work together to impart the namesake vivid green to the birds’ feathers. However, they don’t always stay green; the carotenoids break down in sunlight, which can, over time, bleach the feathers, turning them turquoise. And captive green-magpies, exposed to far more light and fed far fewer carotenoid-filled insects than their wild counterparts, will often turn completely sky-blue. So, if you want to see a truly green green-magpie, you’re going to need to go out into the dense woods where the wild ones live.
The term “magpie” was first used to describe the Eurasian magpie. The “mag-” part comes from the English slang term for an idly chattering woman; the English people of the era would refer to a gossip as a “Mag” (short for Margeret, a name derived from the Latin word for “daisy”) in much the same way today’s American would refer to a rude customer as a “Karen”, and the magpie, which is prone to a lot of chattering singing, picked up the name as well. The “-pie” part is older, a reference to the sharp pointedness of the bird’s beak. In Thailand the bird is called the “green salika”; it seems “salika” is the Thai word for a magpie, but I was unable to find any etymology of that word. To science, the common green-magpie is Cissa chinensis, the “Chinese magpie”. The species was first described by the French naturalist George-Louis Leclerc, whom you may remember from my entry on the prothonotary warbler. Leclerc erroneously believed that the brid was principally found in China. (They are found in China, but only in the extreme southeast). Cissa was a figure from Greek myth. She was one of the nine daughters of a Macedonian king who challenged the nine muses to a singing contest, lost said contest, and were subsequently turned into birds, either jays or magpies.
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