I have still not seen a northern pintail. I did, over the weekend, see a much rarer bird for Michigan: a limpkin. This is a large-ish wading bird that eats snails, and which doesn't usually stray any further north than Florida. This one was in Hastings, south of Grand Rapids and well north of Florida. I expect it will leave once winter starts to set in, but for now, Michigan has plenty of snails.
I didn't get any pictures of this bird myself, but several others did, and posted them to eBird. See them here.
- Episode 7 was very much an "episode before the finale" episode. Nothing is really resolved, but a lot of things are primed for resolution. Thrawn is almost ready to leave, Ahsoka's back with Sabine, and Ezra has been found. All the pieces are set for the finale. The one wildcard is Baylan, who just sort of wandered off this episode.
- Now that we got to see him for a decent amount of time, I must say that Eman Esfandi is as good an Ezra as Natasha Liu Bordizzo is a Sabine. Recastings of animated characters have been hit-or-miss in Star Wars; Ahsoka has largely had hits, and I think Ezra and Sabine have been the best ones we've had in any project.
- I really liked that Ezra's learned to fight without a lightsaber, and is sticking with it. Lightsaber fights are great but it's always seemed to me that Jedi should be able to hold their own without one, moreso than they've been shown to be.
- Thrawn seemed pretty concerned when he heard Ahsoka had been Anakin's padawan. You might remember, if you've read Thrawn: Alliances (or at least my review of it) that Thrawn briefly fought alongside Anakin, and later Vader (who he figured out was the same person).
- In any case, it seems like his plan of using Ezra as a lure to get all his enemies, along with the mercenaries he doesn't trust, out of the way is working. Again, I fully expect Thrawn to make it back to the usual Galaxy by the end of the season; I don't think our heroes will stop him. I think they'll be focused on getting back themselves.
- I'm still not sure what Thrawn's loading up in the Chimaera's hangar. I don't think it's just random supplies, since he's risking his escape to make sure it all gets aboard. I've seen some speculation that it's dead nightsisters that he hopes to use as an undead army. Maybe, but that's all speculation at this point.
DevStream 173 gave a look at this month's update, which will bring a new warframe along with a slew of reworks. I'll talk about Dagath once I get her and play her for myself, but I'll give some thoughts about the coming reworks now:
- A lot of reworks are just things like making focus quicker to earn or archons quicker to kill. There are some buffs coming to Kahl-175, if you're still playing the Break Narmer missions. There are some changes coming to health and armor values, but really only to how they're displayed, from what I can tell. I do wonder if 'frames that aren't at full rank yet might be squishier, but if they are I doubt it matters since ranking up 'frames isn't done in the hard missions.
- The next nightwave will have some more annoying acts removed, and some Duviri-related ones added. Sadly, they are not removing the "Win Three Rounds of Index without Nef scoring" act, which is the main one I just avoid trying to do. They're also adding some that will just repeat every week (kill 30 eximus, kill 500 enemies, and play 15 missions) to allow regular gameplay to consistently count toward Nightwave progress, which will be nice.
- There are some changes being made to shields to address the low-shield gate-triggering meta. Basically, shields will be twice as effective at damage reduction, and the duration of invulnerability after shields break will scale with the shield level; more shields, better shield gating. I can't say that I've meta-gamed enough to have built for low shields, but these changes seem great to me.
- Companions are getting a re-work to make them immortal and generally more similar in terms of base stats. The immortality will come in the form of auto-revival 60 seconds after a companion is down. This includes sentinels. This will make the game much less annoying, to be sure, and will also open up options of different companions to bring along. I tend to default to bringing a panzer vulpaphyla, largely because vulpaphylas already auto-revive. (There were also subtle hints from Pablo that make me think that the smeeta kavat's "charm" ability might be nerfed, though DE said that companion abilities won't be touched until these changes to their survivability shake out.)
- DE plans to make new players' time a little easier by not giving them bad versions of weapons and mods to start with, making it easier to get a necramech, and giving all warframes a degree of enemy radar without needing mods. That won't effect me, but it should be good for new Tenno.
- The Waverider quest is going to be made easier, so I guess I'll try to complete that finally.
- There are a whole bunch of little changes that DE are calling "accessibility upgrades" that are largely improvements to visibility along with automelee (hold melee attack to keep attacking, rather than hitting the same button over and over.) I don't know that I'll enable all of these, but a few seem useful.
- Incarnon weapons can have their special attributes adjusted from the arsenal, without having to drag them back to the Zariman every time they get changed, which is probably the single biggest thing I'm looking forward to in this update.
- Hydroid is, as I feared, losing his puddle power. It seems the plan is to make him a really powerful armor stripper/decent tank. I'll check him out again after the update and let you know if he's any good now.
Bird of the Week
It's been far too long since I've featured a duck as Bird of the Week; the last one was the cotton pygmy-goose way back in March. That was an odd sort of duck, and so is this week's: the White-faced Whistling Duck.
Whistling ducks are a genus of ducks that are generally slimmer and more upright-perching than other ducks. They are consisdered possibly more closely related to geese and swans thatn ducks, based on a variety of factors. Sibley & Alquist propose placing the genus in its own family.1 The whistling ducks are lifetime-maters, like swans, and a single-molting, not double-molting like other ducks.2 They are largely tropical birds; some are typically found as far north as the Gulf Coast of the United States or India, others as far south as northern Argentina and South Africa, but generally they are most abundant between these extremes.
The white-faced whistling duck is found in sub-Saharan Africa and in South America.3 It lives on still inland waters, and feeds on plants. Unlike some other whistling ducks, the white-faced whistling duck does not nest in trees, instead nesting in gathered vegetation in reed-beds.4
Whistling ducks are named for their high-pitched calls. The term "whistle" is an old work in English, both as a noun and a verb, and is related to "whisper"; both words derive from the term for a hiss, which seems onomatopoeic.5 Linnaeus first described the white-faced whistling duck as Anas viduata, or the "widow duck", because its head, all black except for the white face, struck him as resembling the hooded head of a mourner. William Swainson later moved it and the other whistling ducks to their own genus, Dendrocygna, whose name means "tree-swan".6,7
- Donne-Goussé, Carole, Vincent Laudet, and Catherine Hänni. “A Molecular Phylogeny of Anseriformes Based on Mitochondrial DNA Analysis.” Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 23, no. 3 (2002): 339–56.
- Ducks Unlimited. "Whistling Ducks". www.ducks.org (April 2006). Accessed at https://www.ducks.org/conservation/waterfowl-research-science/whistling-ducks September 2023
- Fink, D., T. Auer, A. Johnston, M. Strimas-Mackey, S. Ligocki, O. Robinson, W. Hochachka, L. Jaromczyk, A. Rodewald, C. Wood, I. Davies, A. Spencer. "eBird Status and Trends, Data Version: 2021; Released: 2022." (2022) Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. https://doi.org/10.2173/ebirdst.2021 https://science.ebird.org/en/status-and-trends/species/wfwduc1/abundance-map
- Ramos, Pablo. "ML322509901 White-faced Whistling-Duck". The MacCauley Library. (April 2021) https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/322509901
- “Whistle| Etymology, Origin and Meaning of Whistle by Etymonline.” Online Etymology Dictionary. https://www.etymonline.com/word/Whistle.
- Jobling, J. A. (editor). The Key to Scientific Names in Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman et al. editors), Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology
- Swainson, W. On the natural history and classification of birds, Vol. II, 365 (1836) A Spottiswoode. Accessed online at https://archive.org/details/onnaturalhistor221836swai/page/365/
Book Review: The Alexander Romance | Scott Alexander, Astral Codex Ten
“There is no single Alexander Romance. Every culture from Ethiopia to Russia added their own bits and adapted it to their own needs. The Persian version changes things around so that Alexander is secretly the descendant of the rightful Shah of Persia; the Jewish version adds bits about how Alexander knelt before the High Priest of Jerusalem and said that the LORD was the one true God. Someone from Syria added the bits about Gog and Magog; nobody knows who added the parts with the 36-foot-tall giants, the three-eyed lions, the sphere-people, or the headless men. This makes it hard to review “the” Alexander Romance - some historians describe it as more of a genre than a single story.”
Artists have forgotten how to draw | Alexander Poots, UnHerd
A lament that traditional methods of learning to compose an image have fallen out of favor, and now only survive as a pastime for the artistic laity. In short, most art programs today skip the once-foundational step of having students simply copy older works to develop a proper eye for drawing.
How Snails Cross Vast Oceans | Thom van Dooren, Nautilus
“While there is undoubtedly something very “passive” about this dispersal of snails—always at the whim of others, be they birds, storms, or tides, traveling under their steam and direction—this isn’t the whole of the story. Deep evolutionary histories have produced these possibilities. Snails’ modes of passive movement only “work” because they have evolved some remarkable traits for dispersal, survival, and reproduction, across and into isolated new lands: from epiphragms that seal them up inside their shells and sticky eggs that can attach themselves to birds and debris, to hermaphroditism, sperm storage, and self-fertilization which all potentially allow a single snail introduced to a new land to begin reproducing.”
Floreana | Louis Morton
[FICTION] [VIDEO] The description on Vimeo says “On a remote island in the future people are preparing for an important mission.”. To say anything more would be a spoiler, although it does involve birds. (4:05)
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