There's a lot to get to this week, but if you're done and want to keep reading on the site, I do have a review out of the latest Star Wars book*, Inquisitor: Rise of the Red Blade. It's a pretty good book; it's not a rousing adventure, and the ending wasn't as strong as the rest of it, but I enjoyed it.
*Right as I got the review typed up, E. K. Johnston's Crimson Climb, a book about Qi'ra, was released. I haven't read that one yet, obviously, but when I do, I might post a review if there's enough to it.
Okay, so I'm caught back up on Loki, having seen episodes 2 and 3 of the new season. Here are my thoughts:
- The show is well-acted, it looks great, and it keeps me watching, but I really don't feel like I know what's going on. The last season was a little confusing, but generally I understood what the TVA's mission was. Now, I'm not sure what's going on. I get that there's a bunch of branches from the main timeline, and that the TVA is largely mutinying against their mission of pruning them, but I don't really know what the "temporal loom" is or what's going to happen if it breaks. OB says "we're all going to die", but why? If He Who Remains built the loom, time must have worked before he built it.
- I found Loki's comment that nobody knows who Balder is pretty funny. In Norse mythology Balder was a reasonably prominent figure, but he was never a big hit as part of Marvel comics, and he just plain hasn't appeared in the MCU.
- That key lime pie was almost blue. Key lime pie is, you'll remember, is the second-best pie, but it's usually a sort of khaki-yellow, not bright green.
The third episode of Champions II featured sort of an underwhelming roster. There were still some good fights, though. Gigabyte did well; full-body spinners are tricky to drive, but the new team seems to really be getting the hang of it by the end. Their win over Death Roll was the craziest moment of the tournament so far; Death Roll got stuck in the wall flapper, which meant they lost by count-out, but the hits they delivered caused Gigabyte to burst into flames on the way back to the pits. I've gotta believe if they hadn't gotten stuck, Death Roll would have won the fight and probably could have beat Free Shipping afterwards.
Speaking of Free Shipping, I'm glad that all the Gary Gin fans got their moment here. I've always found the hype around Gin a bit confusing. Sure, he's a veteran of the old Comedy Central days, but his bots aren't great nowadays, and he's not some big personality on TV. I suspect that he's more of a presence off-screen, in the pits; the slushy machines we saw here seems to confirm that. I did especially appreciate Free Shipping casually trashing Beta after Beta spent the last half-minute of their previous fight pounding away on an already-defeated opponent.
I'm glad to hear Mammoth isn't retiring. I don't think it's a contender bot for a Giant Nut or anything but it's so unique and it always makes for an interesting fight, whether it wins or loses. Slammo, on the other hand, I think needs at least a major rework. Craig Danby seems as genuinely upset at his bot's poor performance as anyone I've seen in a post-loss interview, so I don't want to come down too hard on him, but Slammo has almost triple as many losses as wins.
I have completed the farm for Dagath, but she isn't built yet, so I'll have to give my thoughts on her next week. I can give my thoughts on the re-worked Hydroid, though:
Hydroid is a pretty solid pick now. It's weird, but his whole kit is very biased toward fighting Grineer over the other factions, since he now deals a lot of corrosive damage. I used Hydroid while doing the new Dagath farm mission, which is against the Grineer. (Video below)
You'll notice that I started with the Steel Path version, died a lot, then switched to the normal version of the mission. I will say that my playstyle wants my 'frame to have some sort of self-heal, and the closest Hydroid has to that is his new third ability, which grants him extra armor, but that doesn't restore his health. Up against Steel Path enemies solo, I couldn't do much. As you see in the end, my Hydroid build was focused on both taking and dealing as much damage as possible; I didn't have a squishy build, but I couldn't kill mobs of Grineer faster than they could kill me on Steel Path. On normal missions it's a different story. The rework really is an impressive upgrade; I miss puddle mode but Hydroid just plays much more smoothly now. If I took the time and forma to get him really upgraded he might be Steel Path viable, but he's no Kullervo, so I doubt I'll bother. Still, he's much better than he used to be.
Dagath's farm isn't bad either. The biggest hassle is that the game doesn't seem to auto-matchmake players, since it's a mission you enter with a key you buy (for very little apiece) from whichever Syndicate. You can, at the moment, recruit a squad pretty easily in the recruitment chat, but that'll probably change once Dagath is no longer new. But, her farm is just an exterminate mission with an added pick-up twist, and it's very solo-able. Running it Steel Path grants double the progression toward Dagath – you're awarded "petals of an extinct rose" that you use to craft her components, either 4-6 on regular or 8-12 on Steel Path; you need 108 to craft her – and if you run your best gear, not just kind of whatever like I used in the video, even Steel Path should give a lone player little trouble. (The map's dark, though, which is annoying.)
It's getting chilly out, which means it's time for making warm, hearty foods. I found a great recipe for a warm, hearty food in an issue of Cook's Country magazine: pork marbella. Apparently, the usual dish is chicken marbella, but the recipe I found was for a pork roast braised with a weird but very flavorful mix of prunes, olives, and chicken stock. It was absolutely delicious. I made a few changes just based on what ingredients I had. Here's my recipe:
- 4 lbs. pork butt, cut into roughly 4 oz. chunks
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp. fish sauce
- 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 tsp. red pepper flake
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 2x 1/2 cup portions canned prunes, pitted and halved
- 2x 1/2 cup portions green olives, halved
- 2x 1/8 cup portions capers
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- Prepare your oven by setting a rack in the middle and pre-heating it to 325°F.
- Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper on all sides.
- In an enameled Dutch oven or similar, on a medium-high burner, heat olive oil and brown pork on all sides. (This will take about 15 minutes; the pork does not have to be fully cooked through at this stage.)
- Remove pork from vessel and add garlic, pepper flake, fish sauce, and Worcestershire sauce to remaining fat; cook until fragrant.
- Stir in flour and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add chicken broth, wine, and vinegar; whisk the mix together until lumps disappear, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the vessel.
- Stir in one portion each of the prunes, olives, and capers, along with the bay leaves and oregano.
- Return the pork and any fluids it gave up to the pot and bring to simmer.
- Cover vessel and place it in the oven; let the dish braise for at least 2 hours, until the pork becomes fork-tender
- Once the pork is done, remove the vessel from the oven and add the remaining portions of prunes, olives, and capers, stirring these down into the liquid, and let the dish rest for 10 minutes. Add parsley and remove bay leaves.
The magazine suggested serving this with egg noodles, which I did, but I think it might go better with some fresh bread, roasted brussels sprouts, and fried apples. Maybe a little blue cheese crumbled over it, if you like. This fixes a lot of pork but it's excellent left over as well.
Bird of the Week
Sometimes I feature a bird because it's interesting, or because I saw one recently and was inspired to draw it as a sort of souvenir. And sometimes they're just pretty. The Malayan Banded Pitta is a shy dweller of forest floors in Southeast Asia. It is one of about four dozen pittas in the world. Some pittas are found in Africa, but the majority are found in tropical Asia.
While pittas are reclusive, they differ from most forest floor birds in being incredibly colorful. Different sorts have different colors; some are red in the front; some have turquoise marks on their wings; the banded pittas (of which there are currently regarded to be three species, after the species Hydrornis guajana was split up1) are blue-and-gold, with namesake horizontal stripes down their fronts; in males these stripes are blue in the center and orange at the edges, while in females the stripes are black-and-tan. John Gould, writing of what was then called Van der Bosch's pitta, after Jules Van der Bosch, the colonial governor of the Dutch East Indies (today the country of Indonesia) who authorized the expedition into the forests of Sumatra that fetched the first specimens of the bird described to science, called it "certainly one of the most charming of [the pittas]"2. Given that this is the pitta with the most orange, I'm inclined to agree.
The term "pitta" comes from the Telugu word for "bauble", and was first applied to the Indian pitta. "Malayan" derives from melayu, the name of a people of Sumatra and, later, of the southern reach of the nearby Malay peninsula, where this bird is found. Today, the malayan banded pitta is known to science as Hydrornis irena. The genus name was first applied to the blue-naped pitta; it means "water bird", in reference to how the blue-naped pitta is commonly found near streams. The Dutch naturalist Coenraad Temminck named the species after Irene, the Greek goddess of peace and plenty, although I was unable to determine why.3
- Rheindt, Frank, and James Eaton. “Biological Species Limits in the Banded Pitta Pitta Guajana.” ResearchGate (August 1, 2010). https://www.researchgate.net/publication/274387758_Biological_species_limits_in_the_Banded_Pitta_Pitta_guajana.
- Gould, John. “Van Der Bosch’s Pitta, Pitta Boschii, Mull. & Schleg. [Pl. 83].” The Birds of Asia 5, no. XXV (March 1, 1873). https://doi.org/10.5962/p.323176.
- Jobling, J. A. (editor). The Key to Scientific Names in Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman et al. editors), Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology
The quest to understand tornadoes | Carolyne Wilke, Knowable Magazine
A history of our understanding of tornadoes. Though hyper-localized events, tornadoes are the most violent and destructive of all weather phenomena, which makes studying them very difficult. Despite what you may have seen in Twister, scientists aren't especially interested in what's going on inside; rather, the key to understanding tornadoes is understanding the skies around them.
Ice Breakers | Henry David Thoreau, Lapham's Quarterly
"From Walden. Thoreau spent two years, two months, and two days in the cabin he built at Walden Pond near his native Concord. During the winter of 1846, he watched as a hundred Irish immigrants working for the Tudor Ice Company cut ten thousand tons of ice from the pond. The ice was subsequently shipped around the world. 'Thus it appears,' he reports elsewhere in Walden, 'that the sweltering inhabitants of Charleston and New Orleans, of Madras and Bombay and Calcutta, drink at my well.'"
The Platypus Guardian | Nick Hayward, et al., PBS Nature
[VIDEO] I usually don't post time-limited things, but the latest episode of Nature was truly exceptional. It'll be up on YouTube for about a month. It tells the story of Pete Walsh, who befriended the platypuses living in the creek-come-storm drain running through Hobart, Tasmania. (53:33)
The Horla | Guy de Maupassant
[FICTION] "I fell asleep, dreaming thus in the cool night air, and then, having slept for about three quarters of an hour, I opened my eyes without moving, awakened by an indescribably confused and strange sensation. At first I saw nothing, and then suddenly it appeared to me as if a page of the book, which had remained open on my table, turned over of its own accord. Not a breath of air had come in at my window, and I was surprised and waited. In about four minutes, I saw, I saw - yes I saw with my own eyes - another page lift itself up and fall down on the others, as if a finger had turned it over. My armchair was empty, appeared empty, but I knew that He was there, He, and sitting in my place, and that He was reading. With a furious bound, the bound of an enraged wild beast that wishes to disembowel its tamer, I crossed my room to seize him, to strangle him, to kill him! But before I could reach it, my chair fell over as if somebody had run away from me. My table rocked, my lamp fell and went out, and my window closed as if some thief had been surprised and had fled out into the night, shutting it behind him.”
See the full archive of curations on Notion