The past week was warm enough that I was able to get out and enjoy the fall colors, but it looks like the rest of the year will be uninterrupted cold. That doesn't mean an end to birding, but it hampers it. With the pintail eluding me for another autumn, I now prepare for winter, when I hope to get a good look at some goldeneyes, which I've seen but only glimpsed as they've flown away. Skittish things, goldeneyes. I don't expect they'll be by for a few months yet. I'll keep you posted.
The second half of the second season starts with some indications of a coming shift in focus, to say the least. Here are my notes:
- Loki's little speech about how fixing things is harder than just destroying them worked to influence Sylvie but also as a thesis for the reforms he and Mobius are trying to bring to the TVA, regarding working to integrate multiple timelines rather than destroying all but one.
- We finally get the payoff for the earlier scene with Loki and the elevator and the phone. I didn't realize what was going on for a while. That was a neat trick.
- This show remains the best-shot and best-looking of anything Marvel's done on Disney+.
- So, Miss Minutes is gone, Renslayer is gone, Victor Timely is gone, and maybe the whole TVA is gone? The whole multiverse, maybe? I'm not sure but I'm glad that it seems "help O.B. fix the gizmo" won't be the whole story for the season the way I was worried it was going to be. Who knows what'll happen in the next episode.
- Actually, I do have one guess. Proper Kang is going to show up. This is too big for him not to have noticed.
"C'mon...do something" was the theme of the night for what was genuinely the worst episode of BattleBots I've ever seen. There was almost no catharsis here, only frustration at watching bots tiptoe around each other, try and fail to reach past each other's forks, get tripped up on minibots, and let things go to judge's decision over and over and over. Jackpot won, and I'm happy for them, since they're proof that bots don't have to be extremely expensive to win–their entire bot costs less than runner-up Cobalt's weapon disk–but that win came after some really frustrating matches.
Speaking of Cobalt, John Mladenik took the chance to actually drive his bot for these fights. He made it all the way to the finals, but he really doesn't seem to have a great grasp of what to do with Cobalt. I remember Matt Maxham having similar trouble in WCVI in his first fight. Mladenik drove Cobalt like it was Gigabyte: cautiously and avoiding walls. Cobalt doesn't care if it hits the wall, but it does care if it hits it's opponent, which it didn't often do under Mladenik's piloting. Even team-mate and original Cobalt driver Dave Moulds expressed frustration at watching Mladenik's driving. But I think this is just a matter of stick-time experience; Mladenik did get a little better as the night went on.
Big Dill lost, but they tried as hard as any bot I've ever seen to win after an early loss of its weapon's drive. Hats off to them.
Jackpot's win over Lucky surprised me; I would have awarded the win to Lucky, which stayed basically fine for most of the fight, while Jackpot lost weapon drive mid-way through. Still, their follow-up performance against Cobalt was one of the only really good fights of the night.
There's one more qualifying bracket before the Golden Bolt tournament, and it's got a bunch of great bots: Claw Viper, Hypershock, Ripperoni, Monsoon, Shatter, and others. We'll see that next week.
I have Dagath now, and having played her some this week, I think she's...okay. I could see her becoming some players' favorite 'frame, but not mine. Her kit is a bit selfish, if that makes sense; there's little that she does that would benefit her squad, besides kill enemies. Her passive is actually pretty useful: health and energy pickups have a one-in-three chance to be three times as effective. Her 1 is a weird (ha) sort of two-step attack that first hits anyone standing up next to her before throwing out to enemies a bit further away. This, like all Dagath's attacks, deals viral damage, and a pretty decent amount, enough to kill mobs in one cast at lower levels. Her 2 is a cone-shaped de-buff that marks effected enemies with a sort of scythe-of-Damocles that duplicates and stores damage dealt to that enemy, then deals that damage after a short timer. Dagath's 1 synergizes with her 2, refreshing and spreading it. Her 3 is essentially a second passive, a buff to her critical damage that also serves to prevent her from dying if she takes too much damage. It lasts from cast to whenever she takes lethal damage. At that point, she is briefly granted immunity from enemy attacks and a guaranteed health drop from each enemy she kills. After that wears off, there's a half-minute cooldown before she can cast her 3 again.
Her first 3 powers are pretty good. They're well synergized, but don't depend on memorizing a complex series of casts. It's her 4 where things sort of fall apart. It's a directional attack that deals pretty good damage, but only in a strip directly in front of Dagath. Cast down a corridor, this might be effective, but otherwise it's just very expensive energy-wise.
Here's a video of Dagath's abilities used against Steel Path Corrupted enemies in the Simulacrum (plus one robotic enemy to show the limitations of a viral damage kit in certain missions):
Overall, Dagath isn't amazing, but I think she's serviceable in a lot of situations. Her nightmare aesthetic might appeal to you, but she doesn't do much that other 'frames can't do as good or better.
Bird of the Week
This week we're going to sub-Saharan Africa to meet a bird that I have a weird sort of connection with: the Dideric Cuckoo. This is the first cuckoo we've featured so far, so let's start with going over cuckoos as a whole. Cuckoos are members of the order Cuculiformes, a mono-familial order that also includes the roadrunners, the couas, and the anis, which we might get to later. Cuckoos are found around the world, mainly in the tropics. They take their name from the common cuckoo, a Eurasian species whose two-note cooed call has been immortalized in the chime of Black Forest-made clocks.
Beyond their call, cuckoos are known for practicing something called "brood parasitism". Basically, cuckoos don't build nests, they don't incubate their eggs, and they don't feed their young. Instead, they find the nest of some songbird and lay their egg there, at which point that egg becomes the songbird's problem. Possibly because they can't tell the difference, possibly for some other reason, the songbird does usually care for the cuckoo hatchling, despite the fact that cuckoos often grow much larger than their hosts. This cuckoo behavior has long been observed, and condemned, by people; the word "cuckhold", referring to a man unwittingly raising another's children, or more broadly to the husband of an unfaithful wife, comes from the name of the cuckoo. Dideric cuckoos tend to lay their eggs in the nests of either sparrows or weavers.
I mentioned that I have a weird sort of connection with this bird. Like the common cuckoo, the dideric cuckoo gets its name from its call; it doesn't go "coo-coo", but rather it goes "DEE-DEE-DEE-DEE-DEE-dideric":
The Afrikaaner settlers thought those last notes sounded like the Dutch men's name "Dideric" (also spelled "Diederik"), so that's what they named the bird. "Dideric" is the Dutch form of "Dietrich", a German name derived from the Old German "Theodoric", meaning "people ruler". (The named "Theodore" comes from the Latin for "God's gift" and is unrelated to "Theodoric".) Two names in English derive from "Theodoric": "Terry" and "Derek". So this bird and I share a given name.
To science, the dideric cuckoo is Chrysococcyx caprius, which means "coppery golden-cuckoo", which is a better fit for the females or juveniles than the predominantly green-and-white males.
The Play Gap | Todd Oppenheimer, Craftsmanship Magazine
“Over the last 15 to 20 years, many teachers felt their students no longer had time for recess. With the increased emphasis put on standardized testing, their primary job now was to make sure students got high scores. Playtime could be handled after school. At other schools, especially those in crowded inner-city neighborhoods, there was no longer any space for playgrounds, or even a basketball hoop. Among those schools who could and did offer recess, many teachers used it for leverage with difficult students. If students misbehaved, or didn’t finish their work, they had to stay in class during recess. And the pattern in low-income urban communities was the worst…As time went on, O’Donnell noticed the growing mound of literature supporting the importance of recess, along with other opportunities for free play. The studies showed that active, open-ended play not only makes for happier, calmer kids, it also is critical to our full development—intellectually, physically, and emotionally.”
EXPOSING the Toilet Paper Industry | Scott Cramer
[VIDEO] A North Dakotan with a marketing degree and sufficient spare time tries, and largely succeeds, in determining what the actual difference is between the different leading brands of toilet paper. Which works best? How do you define “works best”? And just what is the standard roll that every other roll is multiple times larger than? (26:48)
A Living History of The Humble Paper Airplane | Sarah Wells & Jennifer Leman, Popular Mechanics
A look at paper airplanes, how they work, and how they might be put to practical use in the future. They’re actually entirely different from airplanes, and not just in their lack of jets or motors.
The Blaumilch | Lavie Tidhar, Clarkesworld
[FICTION] “Outside Yaniv Town, beyond the dome, on the dirt track that led on to Enid, there was a small camp of Martian Re-Born. A clump of beat-up caravans, a couple of old oxygen generators, a spliced water main pirated off of the main line. A small chapel for the Emperor of Time sat forlorn in what was once a metal drum, the size of a small house, salvaged from an abandoned biofuel facility near Port Jessup. Inside it was a much patched-together Kawamata Chiaki deck that offered the Re-Born access to the Mars-That-Never-Was.”
See the full archive of curations on Notion