It's February, which means that we're less than a month away from the premiere of Season 3 of The Mandalorian. I believe for the first few weeks of March I'll be covering The Mandalorian, BattleBots, and The Bad Batch simultaneously. That's a lot of TV to watch.
Also, my piece on why the Midwest isn't a thing and what regions the middle of the country actually fall into has finally been completed.
- MINOTAUR v FREE SHIPPING - This was not a surprising victory for Minotaur. I really don't have a lot to say; Minotaur is a top-tier bot, and Free Shipping just isn't.
- CLAW VIPER v RIBBOT - Between Claw Viper, Quantum, and even Overhaul, this is a very good year to be a grabber bot. I'm not saying one will win the nut, but they've been winning their matches. Ribbot did as poorly against Claw Viper as I've seen them do against anyone, just getting completely overwhelmed. They're now dealing with two losses, one in what was probably supposed to be a gimme fight. Claw Viper can be proud of their performance; Ribbot should be nervous.
- SAWBLAZE v LOCK-JAW - This fight went exactly how Sawblaze wanted it to. They kept under Lock-Jaw for the whole fight, only took hits to their plow, and left their opponent stranded. This was apparently the first time these two bots fought, which is surprising to me. At least Lock-Jaw didn't smoke from its batteries this time.
- HUGE v BLIP - This was a really weird match-up between two of my favorite bots; I had no idea who would win this as the fight started. I kind of hoped Blip would win, as they lost their last match while Huge won theirs, and Huge's future match-ups are also probably going to go their way. But blip took a bad hit directly to their weapon that seemed to break the flipper. Huge now has a pretty clear path toward an undefeated regular season.
- WITCH DOCTOR v FUSION - Fusion had a strong start in this fight, ripping into Witch Doctor's armor, disabling their weapon, and taking out a wheel before something inside burned out and left it crippled. This was Fusion's best performance, and I can see how Lisa Winter could have said they won; they did do a lot of damage and were the more aggressive bot. But if the refs aren't going to be counting out crab-walking bots anymore, it falls to the judges to call when a bot has been disabled. Witch Doctor was the winner from what I saw.
If you're interested, this was the fight BattleBots posted to YouTube this week.
- DOUBLE TAP v DOOMBA - Another fight between two rookies, this time alternates who won't be getting the full four fights. It's hard for me to say if Double Tap is the elusive good rookie this season. What I will say is that they were a sincere attempt at building a winning bot whereas Doomba was a poorly engineered visual gag (not unlike team captain Brice Farrell's previous entry, the burger-themed Battle Royale with Cheese). Good for Double Tap; hopefully they get a starting spot next season.
- RIPTIDE v MAD CATTER - Mad Catter came into this match genuinely mad, it seemed, accusing team Riptide of ripping off the design of their driver's beetleweight. Honestly, I don't think Riptide is a distinctive enough design to have specifically ripped off anyone, but maybe there are similarities in the internals, too. I dunno. In any case, Riptide knows how to fight better than a lot of bots in the competition. They kept hitting Mad Catter, instead of hanging back after each blow to see whether or not Mad Catter was disabled yet like most bots would. Skorpios also keeps attacking (just ask Blade) so maybe it's something about that sky-blue paint.
The Bad Batch
Episode 6 saw the return of one of the more obscure Clone Wars characters. Here are my notes:
- We're back to dealing with the fallout of the Clone Wars, this time looking at Kashyyyk. Star Wars has already done a few stories about what happened to Kashyyyk and the Wookiees during the Empire's rise, so this isn't breaking as much ground as some Bad Batch episodes. Still, this was okay.
- Gungi is, unless I'm forgetting something from Season 1, the first Jedi we've seen in the show since Caleb Dume back in the series premiere.
- This episode marks the last part of the season before the mid-season two-parter. From what I've heard from some critics who saw the first 14 episodes in advance, that means that we're through most of the season's weaker episodes.
DevStream 167 gave us a look at some things we have to look forward to in the game for the next couple of months. Here are my notes:
- This March will see the 10th Anniversary of Warframe's launch.
- This month we'll be getting a fame update with a new quest and a new frame. There's also a new game mode described as "mirrored defense". The 'frame, called Citrine, is a crystal-themed warframe described as having a support role, primarily. There were also hints of the return of fan-favorites like Tyl Regor and the old Corpus defense/interception tileset that the Xini mission used.
- Rhino is getting a new deluxe skin, made to look like a rhinocerous beetle, and another voidshell skin, this time for Ember. Both look really nice.
- They're implementing a pity system wherein the chance of getting a tau-forged archon shard will double every time a player gets a regular archon shard, meaning that at least every fifth archon shard will be tau-forged. This seems fair to me, though I think it should have been thought of when the archon hunts launched.
- Cold procs are getting a buff to allow for faster stacking. I'm not convinced this will really make cold damage more desirable, since it still doesn't do direct or indirect damage, it just slows enemies down. But now they'll slow down faster, which should make headshots easier, I suppose.
Besides the DevStream, I've played a bit with Voruna now, enough to give my thoughts on her. She's a decent stealth frame, different enough from the other stealth frames to be worth using over Loki or Ivara in certain situations. Her first three powers work really well: her 1 gives invisibility, her 2 deals cascading damage to crowds, and her 3 helps keep energy and health up. The only downside is her 4, which is awkward and time-consuming. Being able to toggle between 4 different passives is also neat; each one is useful in different situations. Overall, I'll probably keep playing Voruna from time to time, but I don't think she'll be getting a dedicated loadout slot.
Bird of the Week
Last week we took a look at a bird from the boreal forest, but not one very many people have seen. Today, we're also looking at a northern bird, but a more well-known one. The Dark-eyed Junco is, through much of the U.S., the most iconic snowbird. They descend from Canada each winter, as sure a sign of changing seasons as grackles are in Spring. They are the most common migratory winter bird at most feeders, where they can be readily recognized by their pinkish beaks. In the summer, the only places in the U.S. that they can be found are in the northern Great Lakes Region and in mountainous regions such as the Rockies, the Pacific Northwest, and Appalachia.
Besides those pink bills, dark-eyed juncos differ widely in appearance across locations. Here in Michigan, as well as other parts of eastern North America, they look like my drawing – slate-colored with white bellies. In the Pacific Northwest, they are a rich brown with black heads and white bellies. In the Rockies, they either look like eastern birds, but with white wing bars, or else they have pinkish-tan sides, or else yet reddish backs and gray bellies. To fully depict this species I would have had to draw at least five birds. Alden H. Miller, an ornithologist who taught at U. C. Berkely* studied juncos extensively, dividing the dark-eyed junco into fifteen subspecies, though he noted that a dozen of those would interbreed and thus produced a sort of sub-species gradient across the species' range.
Juncos, of which the variable dark-eyed is but one of five species, are a genus of New World sparrows, a family of birds once placed in the same family as the Old World buntings; indeed, the word "junco", derived from the Latin iuncus (reed or rush), originally referred to the common reed bunting during the Middle Ages. "Dark-eyed" differentiates this species from its Central American cousin, the yellow-eyed junco. To science, it is Junco hyemalis, the "junco of winter".
*Among his students was Charles Sibley, who is the co-creator of the Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy, a radical proposal to reconfigure the species in Class Aves that I expect I'll get to talking about someday.
Raising the Dead | Tim Zimmerman, Outside
The story of the recovery effort to reclaim the body of a cave diver who drowned in a deep hole in South Africa. This article is a fascinating look at a strange community of people.
The Top 100 | Close-up Photographer of the Year
Here's some nice photographs. Expect some more in the coming weeks, since a lot of these photo contests are announcing their winners lately.
Duck, Duck, Duck | Samantha Murray, Flash Fiction Online
[FICTION] “’Duck, duck, duck,’’ says Maddy, touching each head in the circle with a perfunctory authority. ‘Duck, duck,’ she pauses almost imperceptibly at the curly, blonde head in front of her, ‘’alien.’”
See the full archive of curations on Notion