Running Commentary 12/7/2020

Running Commentary 12/7/2020

Hello,

Hello,

Well, we’re past Thanksgiving, it’s December, and that means it’s Christmastime. This year, it’s also Robot Fightin’ Time, but we’ll get to that. Here in this part of Michigan there has been some accumulating snow, but nothing that’s lasted through the day yet.

Anyway…

Watching…

The Mandalorian Chapter 14 released Friday. Here are my notes. SPOILERS

Din Djarrin and Grogu | Photo Credit: The Mandalorian Twitter
  • No one new for the List this week.
  • Hey, they were Dark Troopers.
  • Hey, Boba Fett is in this.
Is Robert Rodriguez just Dave Filoni again?
  • This episode was directed by Robert Rodriguez, who is known for his near-homemade action films. The fight sequences were all really good.
  • This episode felt like the set-up of a story, rather than a story in and of itself. It’s like the beginning of an episode, but stretched with action scenes and cutting off at the first crisis moment. I think once the season is over, and you can just watch the whole thing at once, this will be less noticeable.

Bird of the Week

This week we have a duck, the Northern Pintail. This bird can be found in marshes and lakes throughout the Northern Hemisphere, either in Arctic regions in summer, or in the northern tropics in the winter. They are large dabbling ducks, being roughly the size of mallards, if a bit slimmer in build.

Both their colloquial, English name and their scientific, Latin name make reference to the male of the species’ most defining feature: long tail feathers that come to a point. To science they are Anas acuta, the “sharp duck”. Personally, I would rate them, if not the most colorful or most ornate, the classiest looking of all ducks.

Pintails historically have been popular game birds, but they seem particularly fragile in the face of avian diseases, and their numbers have declined significantly in recent decades.

Malice defeats Axe Backwards, who decided to try a flamethrower this year | Video from BattleBots Twitter.

BattleBots

The start of the 2020 season did not disappoint. The big match, Tombstone vs. Endgame, has been something people have wanted for some time, of course. I’d like to say upfront that I’m not a huge fan of either team, and I’m not trying to make excuses for or diminish anybody when I say that Endgame won by a lucky shot. I don’t think Mabey and company would deny that. Still, it was an exciting fight at the end of a night of great matches.

Besides the main event, the most spectacular fight was between Malice and Axe Backwards. As usual, Axe Backwards lost. What made their loss spectacular was the fact that they added a flamethrower to their bot this year. My advice is always “don’t add a flamethrower”, and I’d like to take this opportunity to explain why: bots are generally made of metal, either aluminum or steel. These have melting points of about 1,200 and 2,500 Fahrenheit respectively. A propane torch can certainly get that hot, but you’re only going to do damage if you can perform a close, sustained burn. And even so, as was the case with Axe Backwards and many bots before it, the fuel tank is a serious weakness.

Rusty bores into Sporkinok | Video from BattleBots Twitter

There were several new bots Thursday night, and the one that has captured the most attention is Rusty. David Eaton showed up with no team, no sponsors, and a bot made out of spare parts, and won. That’s a great story.

Rusty was on my list of favorite new bots, mostly because its weapon is one I’ve thought would be an effective one: a drill. I don’t have a lot of hope for Rusty in fights against anything with a high-energy weapon, but I’m hoping Eaton can maybe get some sponsors off this strong start and be able to come back again with a better-funded, more solidly built bot with a drill.

Captain Shredderator bounces off Lockjaw | Video from BattleBots Twitter

Finally, I’d like to talk about the Lockjaw vs. Captain Shredderator match. For the third year, I’ve been able not only to confidently say Shredderator will lose a given match, but to be able to say how. Any bot that can take a hit from Shredderator can win the match by just tanking until Shredderator had bashed itself to death pin-balling around the box. With so many veteran bots having been redesigned over the years, I have no idea why Nave keeps the same glass cannon season after season.

The Squid Hunter | David Grann, The New Yorker

Profile of Steve O’Shea, a marine biologist attempting to become the first to study a live specimen of Architeuthis dux, the giant squid, even if he has to raise one from a larva himself.

How eBird Changed Birding Forever | Jessie Williamson, Outside Magazine

Report on eBird, the crowdsourced ornithological database developed by Cornell University and relied on by birdwatchers across the world.

The Failed Start of the League of Nations | Jesse Alexander, The Great War

[VIDEO] A look at the League of Nations, the Woodrow Wilson-spearheaded initiative that served as a precursor to the United Nations. Alexander delivers a more complete evaluation of the factors leading to the League’s failure than is generally given.

The Colors of Childhood | Beth Py-Lieberman, Smithsonian Magazine

A history of that mainstay of elementary school art classes, the Crayola crayon.