Running Commentary 2/7/2022
7 min read

Running Commentary 2/7/2022

The Book of Boba Fett (Chapter 6), BattleBots (S6E5), Common Kingfisher


Michigan just got over a foot of snow across the part of the state where most of the people live, including me. I wound up snowed in for a couple of days. So, yeah, not a great week.



The Book of Boba Fett

Cobb Vanth facing down Cad Bane
Still from The Book of Boba Fett Twitter
  • I joked about last episode being the season 3 premiere of The Mandalorian, but this episode really did feel like part of another show, at least for the scenes with Luke and Grogu. Catching up with Djarin ahead of him joining up with Fett mattered for Fett’s story. Grogu really doesn’t seem to fit in with that story. I mean, we still have an episode to go, so maybe this will all tie together in the end. But as it stands now, the show feels quite disjointed.
  • That said, I really liked this episode, just on its own. The scenes with Luke and Grogu were charming, and the scenes in Freetown (neé Mos Pelgo, neé Freetown, neé Mos Pelgo) were fun and Western-y. The season 2 premiere was the best episode of The Mandalorian, and I’m glad we’re getting more of that part of Tatooine now that there’s a show set on the world.
  • Cad Bane’s appearance caused quite a stir in the Star Wars fan community. As in, his physical appearance, which differed a bit from how he looked in The Clone Wars. I was fine with his face; I think his hat was too small. I know, he’s had several hats over the years, but his best look was with the big, wider-than-he-was hat he first appeared in, and I think he’d have looked better here with a bigger hat.
  • Is Bestine not a thing in Canon? In Legends, that was Tatooine’s capital, while Mos Espa was the center of Jabba’s power and Mos Eisley was a free-for-all “wretched hive of scum and villainy” on the edge of the settlements. In the post-Imperial era, Bestine might have lost some of its importance, but it hasn’t been mentioned at all in this show.


There were a lot of fun fights this week. Let's break them down:

  • UPPERCUT v FREE SHIPPING - Yeah, if you have a flamethrower, and you're up against Uppercut, you might just want to drain the tank and go without. After blowing up Sawblaze last season, Uppercut turned Free Shipping’s weapon into a flaming tornado straight out of Exodus. Free Shipping, to its credit, continued moving afterward for a bit, but ultimately lost the match.
  • BLACKSMITH v SHATTER - This match was closer than it would have been between Shatter and the old Blacksmith, but still, Shatter took the win. That new hammer sure looked scary, but I noticed it bent under what I’d think would be standard operations.
  • JÄGER v P1 - Jäger is a double bot, which improves on strategic positioning at the cost of, well, pretty much everything else. One bot died almost immediately, the other put up more of a fight, getting out of the first count-out. But still, it’s probably best to invest the weight allotment into a single, good robot.
  • HYDRA v GRUFF - After a really bad opening fight, Hydra was able to perform as hoped for against Gruff, controlling the fight and tossing its opponent out of the arena. There’s really nothing like watching a successful performance from a high-energy flipper bot, which are all too rare these days.
  • GIGABYTE v CAPTAIN SHREDDERATOR - So Capt. Shredderator went out and hit a bot and then hit a wall and then stopped working. Brain Nave complained that everyone expected him to lose, which, yeah, they did. You’re tired of losing and I’m tired of writing up this same fight re-cap. Fix your bot, or maybe try a different design. Lots of great teams change approach year-to-year.
  • DRAGON SLAYER v DUCK - I’m not sure about dragons, but this rookie bot was quite enough to slay a duck. I’ve gotta say, Duck’s re-design does not seem to be paying dividends in the arena this year. Always happy to see some newcomers win, though.
  • END GAME v WITCH DOCTOR - The main event was a brutal fight between two top bots. End Game just never let up, hitting Witch Doctor and eventually flipping it over and knocking out its self-right. Having seen it in a couple of matches, I’m not sure who in the field this season can beat End Game. Maybe Sawblaze, on a good day, but it’s no guarantee.

And let’s not forget the bonus fight, VALKYRIE v TRIPLE CROWN:


Bird of the Week

This week we have a favorite bird of many a resident of the Eastern Hemisphere. The common kingfisher is a sparrow-sized diving bird renowned for its fish-catching ability and for its iridescent turquoise plumage. That turquoise color, rare in birds, is a “structural color”, dependent on the form of the bird’s feathers to refract light. Thus, depending on the conditions, these birds sometimes appear greener, and sometimes bluer. (Actually, when I tried to print off a copy of my drawing, I ran into a problem: that cyan color, which shows up really nice on a screen, prints much darker and greener on a typical inkjet printer.) The fronts of these birds are a golden orange color. Males have darker bills than females. Common kingfishers are found throughout Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa, and are the only kind of kingfisher to breed in Europe.

My readers will remember that we’ve featured a kingfisher in this space once already: the woodland kingfisher of tropical Africa. Those are somewhat odd for kingfishers in that they don’t eat fish. The common kingfisher, which is the namesake of the family of birds, does eat fish, watching from exposed perches over the water and then diving into the water, bill-first. Their eyes are capable of polarizing light to eliminate glare on the surface of the water.

Linnaeus gave the common kingfisher the same binomial name still used today: Alcedo atthis, combining the Latin name for the birds with the name of the handsome son of the nymph of the Ganges river in Greek myth. “Kingfisher” derives from “king’s fisher”, an older name for these birds, though the reasons for calling them that and which king they were supposedly the fishers of is unknown at present. Other languages give them other names: Romance languages’ names generally translate to “fisherman martin”, as does the Basque name; a martin is any of several large swallows, especially the house martin, which has similar blue-green feathers. Germanic languages tend to call them something meaning “ice bird”; this could be a reference to the way kingfishers will punch through thin patches of ice when fishing in the winter, or it could be a reference to their glittery blue plumage; I wasn't able to get the German etymology. The Welsh call kingfishers “Glas y Dorlan”, which I translated to “blue/green of the hollow riverbank”. In China, their name combines characters for “emerald” and “bird”; in Korea, those for “water”, “gun”, and “bird”. In Indonesia, they are “prawn attackers”. In the Telugu language of southeastern India, they are “blue buffoons”. In Greece, they are called “Alcyone”, named after a mythical queen who, along with her husband Ceyx, offended the gods and were changed into common kingfishers, “halcyon birds” that could command the seas.

Solving the Wordle Puzzle | Ian Bogost, The Atlantic

Published just before the news that viral puzzle game “Wordle” had been sold to The New York Times, an examination of the game, which, while neither original, nor heavily marketed, nor especially concerned with popularity, became a sensation apparently worth millions of dollars. That popularity doesn’t come down to just one thing, and, despite the Times’s hopes, seems unlikely to last.

The Engineered Student | Audrey Watters, The MIT Press Reader

Excerpted from Watters’s Teaching Machine, a history of the automated schoolwork machines now used in many institutions in the form of digital homework apps, the story of B.F. Skinner, who made a lever-operated device to teach simple arithmetic to the children of Mid-Century America. Skinner’s was not the first such device, a fact which was overlooked then later driven home by the media, though Skinner argued his methods were new and improved over his predecessors. A behaviorist who believed people’s actions could be controlled in a mechanized society, Skinner would become a foundational figure in modern education.

The Wonder Bird | Jim Robbins, Smithsonian Magazine

The Hudsonian godwit is an unassuming little brown shorebird, named for the Bay along which many live during the northern summer. When the seasons change, godwits fly to the other end of the earth, the far end of South America. They make this journey rapidly, sometimes flying a week or more across open ocean without stopping. Their numbers are falling, due to the usual issues of habitat loss and toxin exposure, but also due to shifting wind patterns that may be blowing migrants off-course.

Isolation Booth | E. M. Forster, Lapham’s Quarterly

[FICTION] Excerpted from The Machine Stops, Forster’s prescient 1909 story of a future world where people no longer leave their homes, instead using a great, Earth-spanning Machine to communicate and to summon whatever could meet their needs.

See the full archive of curations on Notion