Running Commentary 2/28/2022
5 min read

Running Commentary 2/28/2022

BattleBots (S6E8), European Bee-Eater


Today is the last day of February. Spring is coming, snow is melting, and the roads are ruined. I broke a tire.




We’re getting into the last bit of the 2021 season, with a lot of bots going up for their third fight.

  • MALICE v BLACKSMITH - Hey look! Blacksmith lost its weapon head and flopped an empty arm around to try to score points. Just like old times.
  • BLACK DRAGON v CLAW VIPER - Claw Viper performed really well in the YouTube fight versus Pardon my French, but it was really poorly matched against Black Dragon, who took a straightforward victory.
  • GIGABYTE v SMEEEEEEEEEEEEEE - They lost, but SMEEEEEEEEEEEEEE really lucked out that Gigabyte seemed unable to figure out how to fight them. Gigabyte kept hitting the middle portion, which is so floppy that it can't be meaningfully damaged by strikes. Had they focused on the drives at either end, they'd have won quicker and messier.
  • GLITCH v HYDRA - Upset of the night as Glitch proved it was more than just a cool paint job. Part of that victory was probably down to getting rid of the weird pyramid that sat between their weapon and the rest of the world. The rest was down to the fact that Hydra remains the most overhyped bot in the field. Jake Ewert seems to be trying to take over Ray Billing’s villain role, but Tombstone is a bot that lost only 4 times in as many years in its heyday. Hydra is no Tombstone.
  • TOMBSTONE v FREE SHIPPING - After losing to Capt. Shredderator and barely beating Mammoth, Tombstone rounded out its worst season with another too close win. I'm really not sure what to say. Tombstone hasn't had a very high strength of schedule this year and they've still really underperformed. Last season, it seemed like the rest of the field was figuring out how to build to beat Tombstone, but they were still a dangerous opponent. This season, they've barely been able to deal the big damage they're known for.
  • RIBBOT v P1 - This was a brutal slog of a fight, and also, I believe, the first time a bot has been counted out on the new Upper Deck.
  • END GAME v SAWBLAZE - Welp. For all the work they put into the new arena and revised rules to prevent toss-outs, we've seen lots of bots tossed out into the entryway. They should have fixed that, too.

And here’s the bonus fight: CAPTAIN SHREDDERATOR v JÄGER

Bird of the Week

This week I’ve once again drawn the first of a whole family of birds that I hope to draw other members of in the future. The bee-eaters are a group of birds found throughout most of the world, with some species or another found everywhere besides the Arctic, the Antarctic, Northern Eurasia, and the Americas. The European bee-eater in particular breeds in southern Europe and central Asia, and winters in Africa. Bee-eaters are members of the order Coraciformes, a group of large-headed perching birds that also includes the kingfishers, the rollers, and the toadies. (The name of the order means “raven-shaped”, although ravens themselves are classified in the order Passeriformes along with other ostensibly “sparrow-shaped” birds.) There are over twenty species of bee-eaters, all of which are similarly slender and vividly colored, and which can be distinguished by specific colors and patterns as well as by the differing shapes of their tails.

Bee-eaters do indeed eat bees and wasps, along with other insects. They do not generally raid hives, rather snatching up isolated insects on-the-wing. The bird will then return to a perch (often a branch, although some species are known to perch on other animals) and strike the insect head-first against it, then use its long bill to crush the insect’s abdomen. Keeping its eyes closed, the bird will then rub the stinger and venom sac out against its perch. Once the danger has been removed, the bird throws its meal back down its throat. This behavior is instinctive, having been observed in hand-raised specimens.

Bee-eater societies are some of the most complex of any bird species. European bee-eaters live and nest together in colonies, digging burrows into the sides of earthen cliffs. Within the colony, smaller clans will form to cooperate in tending and defending nests. Clans are made up of blood-related families. European bee-eaters will actually pair up in their African wintering grounds, before migrating back to their northern nesting sites.

To science, the European bee-eater is Merops apiaster, a name given by Linnaeus derived from the Greek and Latin names for the bird. It is the type species of Merops, which is, in turn, the type genus of the bee-eater family Meropidae. Bee-eaters were first classified in their own family by Constantine Samuel Rafinesque-Schmaltz, an Ottoman-born French scientist who lived much of his life in the United States, studying living things alongside the earthworks left by prehistoric societies throughout the central US.

O Uommibatto | Angus Trumble, The Public Domain Review

The Pre-Raphaelites, I should explain, since this piece doesn’t really, were an artistic movement, not of artists who came before Raphael, but of artists who came well after, and who marked Raphael’s influence as the start of art getting ruined. Several Victorian artists were united by this belief, as well as, it turns out, a strong affinity toward wombats.

Will the Real Julius Caesar Please Stand Up? | Mary Beard, National Geographic

When they picture Julius Caesar, some people might picture an actor who portrayed the man, while others, seemingly more correctly, will picture the likeness portrayed in various busts and sculptures. But those artworks, even those authentically from the Roman era, weren’t always photo-accurate to what the real man looked like.

In Underground Waterways, an Endangered Ecosystem | James Gaines, Undark

“Groundwater — held in caves, pores, and cracks — is actually the world’s largest unfrozen freshwater habitat, containing more water than all lakes and rivers combined. And where there is water, there is life. Often blind, pale, and adapted to live in near starvation, these groundwater-dwelling animals — known as stygofauna — are poorly understood and difficult to study.”

Construction Site | Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, Lapham’s Quarterly

A French naturalist gives a passionate, if not always modernly scientific, praise of his favorite creature from the then-new United States, the beaver.

Strange Waters | Samantha Mills, Strange Horizons

[FICTION] “Fisherwoman Mika Sandrigal was lost at sea. She knew where she was in relation to the Candorrean coastline and how to navigate back to her home city, Maelstrom. She knew the time of day. She knew the season. She knew the phase of the moon and the pattern of the tide. She did not know the year.”

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