Running Commentary 2/19/2024
9 min read

Running Commentary 2/19/2024

Echo, Warframe (Steel Path completed), Common Goldeneye


I did my taxes this weekend. Fun times. I also saw a Cooper's hawk (I'm pretty sure; as always, might have been a sharp-shinned) try and fail to catch a red squirrel.




I've finally seen Echo; I figured I'd better get to watching it and covering it here like I promised before The Bad Batch Season 3 kicked off, as it does this week. Echo is a limited series, about three hours long, split across five episodes. It stars Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez, a character first introduced in Hawkeye who served in Wilson Fisk's criminal empire until she learned that he was behind her father's murder by the Ronin. If you haven't seen Hawkeye, don't worry; the first episode features a lot of re-used footage from the show to re-cap her story there.

The show is...okay. It's very absorbing, but not much happens. Maya heads home to Oklahoma after shooting Fisk in the face, resolved to sabotage some of his operations there. Her uncle warns her off, but she ignores him, bringing Fisk, who survived her attack, into her hometown to try to make peace with her, and, barring that, kill her and her family. Such is the way of Wilson Fisk.

Actually, let's just look at the show's official synopsis:

Maya Lopez must face her past, reconnect with her Native American roots, and embrace the meaning of family and community if she ever hopes to move forward.

If that seems vague, that's fitting. Maya doesn't do a whole lot here, besides fight Fisk and complain that her family abandoned her after her mother died. I was on her side about her family until I remembered that she was not a little girl when her father was killed; they didn't abandon her to Fisk, they let her father move her to New York, like what you'd expect might happen. They, by contrast, are justified in their worry that Maya's going to get them all killed in her fight with Fisk. I'm not sure I'd say Maya really "faces her past", per se; to my mind, that would see her trying to atone for killing people for Fisk, or something, not just returning to her childhood hometown.

Alaqua Cox is, unfortunately, the series' weakpoint. She doesn't speak, which is the character, but she also doesn't emote physically. She doesn't smile, she doesn't frown, she doesn't gasp, her eyes don't widen. They narrow, a bit, when she's angry, and she can cock her eyebrow, but she doesn't do much else. Cox does okay in fight scenes but she doesn't sell emotional moments. Maybe it's just an issue of really specific casting. Put out a call for "young Native American Deaf woman missing her right foot" and you're going to get limited responses. It's not that a deaf Native American amputee couldn't be a great actress, but you're going to have fewer auditions to pick from than when you want "a hunky blonde guy named Chris". Cox's only acting credit is as Maya Lopez, which supports my idea that she's all they could get for really authentic casting. I don't want to be too hard on her; for all I know her directors haven't known how to direct a deaf actor, which could contribute to a blank performance.

Other performances were pretty good. Vincent D'Onofrio's Wilson Fisk remains a really engaging presence, better here than he was in Hawkeye, and he wasn't terrible there either. He's always reminded me of a Sith Lord, very ambitious and also very rage-fueled. I'm curious where his story goes from here if Maya actually did resolve his anger at his father.

I believe that a lot of the show was shot on-location in Oklahoma, and the show does a great job capturing that location as a character. Echo reportedly cost a third what Marvel series ususaly cost, and sure, there's not much CGI and there's only five episodes, but it doesn't look like they cut corners; it looks great. The mood of the show carries it; despite the thin plot and weak lead performance, I enjoyed watching it. I'll give it 6/10, since I don't think I could recommend it strongly to someone not still interested in keeping up with Marvel, but it didn't fall apart in the ending like some other Marvel shows, and I don't regret spending the time to watch it either.

One more thing: this show heavily features a yellow-bellied sapsucker, which I took as a personal taunt since that's the only woodpecker in Michigan that I haven't seen.



I'm just leaving a note to say that I've finally completed the Steel Path: all nodes on all worlds. Obviously, we'll get more nodes eventually, but I'm caught up for now. What I'll say is that, for the most part, I think that the Steel Path is in a good place presently; all the content is very doable, provided that you have good gear and know how to use it. One notable exception: the Zealoid Prelate fight. That's a bad boss fight on regular mode; on Steel Path, it's intolerable. I tried and failed solo for several times before matching with another player. We were both running Revenant Prime, since Revenant can (at time of writing) skip stages of the fight by casting his 1 on the Prelate. Even still, we spent the better part of half an hour shooting the Prelate directly in the face, watching his health tick down slowly, and running around in a dark room chasing after the lantern. At one point, the lantern-bearer kept getting healed by a leech eximus who, because we didn't have the lantern, couldn't be killed. Overall the fight was DE double-dipping on their method of making a mission harder by making enemies tankier, resulting in ludicrously tanky enemies and a ludicrously tedious mission. DE needs to fix that.

Game Review | Warframe
I don’t play much in the way of video games; I just play Warframe.

Bird of the Week

I like ducks. They are my favorite birds to go looking for. I can identify any duck in Michigan, provided I get a decent look at it. And getting a decent look at a duck is relatively easy. Sometimes ducks will simply be too far away for me to tell what they are, but I can still see them. The term is "sitting duck" for a reason. But rules have their exceptions, and, at least in my experience, the exception to "sitting duck" is the Common Goldeneye.

I've known some mallards that would let you sit down beside them on the riverbank, so long as you didn't touch them, but for the most part ducks are a little wary of people. If you walk up to the water's edge, they'll swim off to the other side, or down the river. That's understandable. But goldeneyes, again in my experience at least, will usually fly away at first sight of me. Even their little cousins, the buffleheads, will generally stick around where I find them; goldeneyes, though, don't wish to be seen.

Common goldeneyes are a diving duck of cold waters, breeding throughout the lakes of the boreal forests of Canada and northern Eurasia. They primarily eat aquatic arthropods. In the winter, they are generally the last inland duck to migrate, travelling only far enough south to find open water in which to swim and feed; in North America they are most abundant, in winter, in the Great Lakes region, often found in small groups but sometimes gathering in large flocks at particularly good roosts.1

There was one time, recently, that I got a good look at some goldeneyes, but they weren't sitting; they were dancing. The goldeneye is famous for its courtship display, which I was fortunate enough to see three males perform for a female a little over a week ago, inspiring me to draw this duck. The drake's dance is as follows: while swimming, they raise the feathers on their head, bend their necks all the way back so that the tops of their heads touch their backs; then, they'll often dip down in the water and flap their feet in the air, then extend their necks fully upwards, before returning to their normal posture.2 I saw the goldeneyes dancing some distance from me in a river; I wasn't close, but they could see me, and they didn't fly away. I suppose they were distracted.

(I seriously considered drawing the goldeneye with its head thrown back in its dance, but it looks too strange in a still image.)

As I mentioned, the common goldeneye is in the same genus as the bufflehead: the bull-headed ducks, Bucephala. Its specific epithet is clangula, meaning "shouter"3, although goldeneyes make few vocalizations. They do, however, make a loud "whee-whee-whee" noise with their wings when they fly,4 leading to the nickname "whistler".

One more thing: spy film fans will recognize "Goldeneye" as the name of a James Bond film, the first to star Pierce Brosnan as 007 and the first not to be directly inspired by an Ian Fleming novel. The film was named after Fleming's Jamaica home, which was, in turn, named after Operation: Goldeneye, a program he developed while serving in British Intelligence during WWII. The operation was a plan to infiltrate Franco-ruled Spain in the event they entered the war for the Axis, something that never wound up happening. Special operations are often given deliberately nonsensical names, so I don't think Fleming had any meaning in mind when calling his operation "Goldeneye". Most likely he just thought it was a cool word.

  1. Adams, Kirby. “eBird Checklist - 6 Feb 2015 - Keegan Nature Park (Goldeneye Roost) - 8 Species.” eBird, February 6, 2015.
  2. Iron, Jean. “Common Goldeneye Courtship Displays,” March 14, 2019.
  3. Jobling, J. A. (editor). The Key to Scientific Names in Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman et al. editors), Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Ithaca.
  4. Åberg, Patrik. “Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) · call, flushed and wingbeats,” April 27, 2014.

The Valve at the End of the World | Evan Grillon, Dirt

“Endocarditis is rare enough in young people that I became an object of curiosity in the Family Medicine wing. Besides people with BAV, it usually occurs either in geriatric populations who are immunocompromised or in people who are sharing unclean needles. Every time I saw a new doctor in my room they seemed puzzled by my youthfulness and then checked the crook of my elbow. Infectious disease specialists, nurses, pharmacists, and dentists have all asked me with a delicate mix of disgust and fascination in their voice, “Where’d you get it?”, as if my endocarditis was a rare mink coat.”

Six questionably legal pencil sharpeners | Stuff Made Here

[VIDEO] Once the pencil was invented, there were a few different ideas as to how to sharpen them before the standard sorts of pencil sharpeners took prominence. But there are still some ideas out there to try. This video features a mechanically creative man making some unorthodox (and often unsafe) pencil sharpeners. (29 minutes)

The best book covers of 2023 are the ones you’ll never see | Zachary Petit, Fast Company

Books do, in fact, get judged by their covers, and a lot of work goes into making those covers just right to sell the book inside. Here, we’re shown some draft covers, rejected but still quite nice in many cases.

The Carrion Droid, Zoe, and a Small Flame | Parker Ragland, Clarkesworld

[FICTION] “The carrion droid brushes its synthetic fingers through Aanya Ruiz’s branches. She has grown so much since it buried the egg-shaped pod that contained her corpse. Ninety years, seventeen days, fifteen hours, thirty-one minutes, and twelve seconds have elapsed. Her leaves bask in the sunbeams that filter into Flatirons Biodome, where the air always smells of petrichor due to the underground irrigation system. Together, the light and water have caused her to grow tall.”

See the full archive of curations on Notion