Running Commentary 2/13/2023
8 min read

Running Commentary 2/13/2023

Bubble Levels. BattleBots (S7E6), The Bad Batch (S2E7,8), Peruvian Pelican


Remember back when I got curious about when scissors were invented? I had a similar thought this past week, regarding when the bubble level was invented. I know the ancient Egyptians used plumb bobs to check that the edges of their stonework were square, and, obviously, laser levels are pretty new inventions, but somewhere between there bubble levels were invented, and I wasn't sure when. Looking into it, it seems that the first bubble levels were made in the 1600s in France, and took some time to catch on elsewhere, but who, specifically, invented it is unclear.



End Game faces Ripperoni | Still from the BattleBots Wiki


  • RIPPERONI v END GAME - Big upset tonight as underperforming rookie Ripperoni takes out elite veteran End Game. They'd actually won the fight almost immediately since End Game got its forks caught in the kill-saw slots, and when Ripperoni knocked them loose, I thought that was a big mistake. But, this time around, Ripperoni's gyro stabilization systems were working, and, y'know what? They aren't half bad, when they can control their driving. End Game got hit really hard a couple of times, and Ripperoni won, not by End Game's bad luck, but in a fair and square fight.
  • DEATH ROLL v SWITCHBACK - A straightforward win by the Aussie croc-bot. I'm still kind of sad Switchback's been as poor a performer as it has. I respect the design ambitions, and I like the color, but it just doesn't seem like it works as well as it's meant to.
  • CAPTAIN SHREDDERATOR v HIJINX - This fight was between two bots I generally assume will lose, so I wasn't really sure who to root for. As it played out, Captain Shredderator was uncharacteristically durable. It took some big hits early on that seemed to have lost weapon functionality again, but it spun back up in the end and left HiJinx dead on the floor. I can't say I'm a fan now, but it does seem like there've been some attempts to improve the Captain, from both a build and driving perspective.
  • ROTATOR v JACKPOT - Rotator fixed its weapon control issues and was back to its old self in this fight. Jackpot lasted for a commendably long time against 2018's "Most Destructive" bot, but they never had the chance to deal a really good hit on Rotator, and they could only take so much.
  • SKORPIOS v BIG DILL - Big Dill debuted their new configuration, with a spinning weapon to go with their lifting forks, and it seemed to be working really well until suddenly they stopped moving and got counted out. The team has blamed faulty battery connections that left their drive without power. In any case, it was a sad end to the fight.
  • BANSHEE v VALKYRIE - Two bots named for female spirits connected with death in northern European mythologies faced off here, which is more interesting than the actual fight turned out to be. This one went to the judges with both bots hobbled. I agree with the judges that Banshee won, if only because they were able to nullify Valkyrie by flipping them over and sticking their weapon too high to reach them.
  • TANTRUM v HYDRA - A rematch of one of last season's semifinals ended with a more definitive win, by knockout, for Tantrum. Despite being the reigning champion, Tantrum still feels weirdly underrated amongst bot fans. And, of course, Hydra remains quite over-rated in my opinion, so I wasn't surprised to see this fight go the way it went. Hydra's good, but they can be beaten by any bot that can keep them out from underneath, as was proven here.
Still from The Bad Batch Twitter

The Bad Batch

The first half of the season comes to a close with a two-parter full of intrigue, if not as full of the Bad Batch. Here are my notes:

  • The first episode didn't feature any of the Bad Batch, which kind of gets to my core problem with the series: the title characters are not really central to the series' story, and the best episodes often barely feature them. This could change at any point, and maybe it's actually going to change in regards to Echo, but, up until now, the Bad Batch haven't been much involved with the transition from Clone Army to Stormtrooper Corps. They defied the Empire and went on the run, but since then they've mostly floated along. Hunter especially seems to lack any real vision for himself and his squad. Omega pulls the squad toward heroics, but she's quite young and doesn't have a great handle on the galactic big picture. Hunter's the leader, but he's not leading the Bad Batch anywhere. This isn't a criticism of the show, yet, since it could be that that's the point, that Hunter's arc this season is about him committing to helping the clones. But if it isn't intentional how this is playing out, I'm going to be disappointed
  • For all the above criticism, these episodes were really well done. They marked a return to what I maintain is The Bad Batch's core storyline, the story of what happened to the clones between Episodes III and IV, to a degree not seen so far this season. They came off very reminiscent of the opening arc of Clone Wars Season 6, which were some of the best episodes of that show. The Bad Batch can stand up against anything else in Star Wars when it wants to.
  • Rampart took the fall for Kamino, but I don't think he's out of the picture quite yet. I almost think he'll just be removed from the public eye, and allowed to continue running Project War-Mantle in secret. If he is genuinely going to prison, that really makes me wonder what's going to happen to Crosshair.
  • It struck me in these episodes how much Omega and Riyo Chuchi sound alike.
  • We saw the Commerce Guild and the Banking Clan still have Senators at this point, indicating that those entities haven't been fully absorbed into the Empire yet.
  • Echo's off with Rex to help clones escape from the Empire. I predict two things: (1) we'll have an episode or two dedicated to the pair of them, and (2) the rest of the Bad Batch will join them in that mission by the end of the season.

Bird of the Week

The seashore is home to a tremendous variety of birds. I've drawn gulls, a tern, a cormorant, a sea eagle, a penguin, and there are still whole sorts of seabirds I haven't drawn. Well, here's another: a pelican. The Peruvian Pelican breeds on the Pacific coast of Peru and northern Chile, though some wandering specimens can be found in Ecuador as well as further south. They are the much larger cousins to the brown pelicans found throughout the coasts of North and Central America and the Caribbean. These are truly massive birds, weighing about fifteen pounds and having a seven-foot wingspan.

There are only eight species of pelican in the world, but they are found throughout the world in a wide range of aquatic habitats; the Peruvian is strictly marine. Pelicans are some of the most recognizable birds in the world, thanks to their distinctive bills, which can open into comically-large hoop nets which they use to catch fish. Pelicans typically soar over the water, skimming up fish, though both brown and Peruvian pelicans are known to plunge-dive. The limericist Dixon Lanier Merritt famously declared that a pelican's beak can hold more than its belly can, and, indeed, pelicans have the largest beaks of any bird. (Specifically, the Australian pelican has the largest, at nearly two feet long.)

Because they feed on large amounts of fish, pelicans have historically been persecuted by fishermen, but beloved by farmers. You see, fish meat contains a lot of nitrogen, which gets concentrated in the guts of seabirds. Dried deposits of seabird feces, known as guano, are important sources of fertilizer. For this reason, the Peruvian pelican is among perhaps the first birds to have been protected under conservation laws. The Inca Empire, which ruled much of western South America before they were overthrown by invading Spaniards, instituted harsh controls on the hunting of seabirds and travel to their roosting sites, maintaining a monopoly on the guano trade, and thus on agriculture in the region, while also allowing for farming in otherwise inarable land. The Peruvian pelican's numbers and range surged throughout the Inca coasts.

Today, I'm sorry to say, they seem to be in trouble. While the IUCN states their numbers are increasing, it's unclear to me if their numbers are reflecting the fact that, recently, they've been hit hard by a strain of avian flu. Over 10,000 pelicans have died, out of a population of between 100,000 and 1,000,000 mature individuals. That's a population drop of between 1% and 10% due to disease. For comparison, the mid-19th century cholera outbreaks in London, among the deadliest human epidemics of that era, killed only 0.33% of that city's population.

The term "pelican" derives from the Greek for "axe", and, in ancient times, the word referred both to the seabirds and to woodpeckers, which must have been confusing. "Peruvian" obviously refers to Peru, whose name derives from the Inca word for "river". (Peru, you'll remember, is one of the three namesake countries of the turkey, along with India and, of course, Turkey; turkeys are not found in any of those three countries.) To science, the Peruvian pelican is Pelicanus thagus, the species name having been given in error by naturalist and Catholic priest Juan Ignacio Molina, who believed "tagua" was the local Chilean name for the pelican; "tagua" is, in fact, the name for the American coot. (Molina similarly misnamed the Snowy Egret.)

Zeno's Paradox | Joel David Hamkins, Infinitely More

To get to some location, you must first go halfway there. To get halfway there, you must first go a quarter of the way, and so on to infinity. Zeno of Elea, an ancient philosopher, claimed that this meant that, logically, no one should be capable of movements, since to move to any degree one must first complete an infinite number of smaller movements. The fact that we can still move is a logical paradox. Or is it? Can’t infinity have a finite sum? Doesn’t 1 = 0.99999…?

You Don’t Know How Bad the Pizza Box Is | Sahil Desai, The Atlantic

The standard American pizza was invented in Ann Arbor, MI, and, like a lot of unloved but ubiquitous styles of food, it was designed for easy transport above other concerns. This pizza is almost never consumed fresh from the kitchen, rather it is packed up in a cardboard box and taken to the diner’s home. That box is an imperfect invention, but it seems to be the best we’ve got.

"Lorem Ipsum" Has a Meaning | Jack Shepherd, On Words and Up Words

Supposedly used as filler text for centuries, a sequence of Latin-esque words beginning “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet” is a common sight among typesetters, and sometimes among the general public, when typesetters forget to replace it with actual text before publishing, which happens from time-to-time. But its origins are clouded by misconceptions, and its meaning isn’t actually as lacking as it seems.

Strange Beasts | Magali Barbe

[FICTION] [VIDEO] "A sci-fi short about augmented reality. 'Strange Beasts' is an augmented reality game. It allows you to create and grow your own virtual pet. How far can it go?" (5 minutes)

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