Running Commentary 3/14/2022

Running Commentary 3/14/2022

⊃∪∩⪽, BattleBots (S6E10), Warframe (DevStream 160), Cuban Tody

3/14/2022

Hello,

The ponds are still frozen over, but the rivers are clear and the ducks migrating north have made it to Michigan. I got out and saw buffleheads, goldeneyes, ring-necked ducks, various mergansers, and a stray redhead and ruddy duck. But the most exciting thing I spotted was a horned grebe, which was making its way from the Gulf Coast to its breeding grounds in northwestern Canada.

The horned grebe (shot from very far away)

I had never seen a horned grebe before. They’re actually quite beautiful when they’re in their breeding plumage, but you gotta take what you can get during the migration.

Anyway...

Watching...

⊃∪∩⪽

So, I finally got a chance to watch Denis Villeneuve's adaptation of (the first half of) Frank Herbert’s classic work of space fantasy. It was quite good. It’s basically what you’d expect of a faithful adaptation of the front end of Dune from the guy who did Arrival: lots of extra-wide establishing shots and enormous spaceships hanging ponderously in the air, their doors opening slowly, groaning deeply. As much as the fact that the film was only “Part 1” was obscured in the marketing, I think not trying to fit the whole book into a single feature-length film has paid off. As someone who respects Dune more than I really like it, I found ⊃∪∩⪽ a really well-made, enjoyable watch. I’m looking forward to the second part.

BattleBots

The 2021 regular season is over, and we all now know who will be fighting in the tournament for the Giant Nut. But before we get to filling out brackets, let’s look at those last fights:

  • BLOODSPORT v CLAW VIPER - Claw Viper lost, but not for lack of trying. As much as Bloodsport got in some big hits ripping away Claw Viper’s claws, they never hurt the actual core bot. Still, Bloodsport advances to the tournament
  • MADCATTER v RAMPAGE - An easy win for Madcatter. They’ll be advancing to the tournament.
  • HUGE v SWITCHBACK - I went into the season with high hopes for Switchback, whose design I found really intriguing, but it just hasn't had the speed it needs. So much so that Huge could lose functionality of one wheel (I am very surprised it wasn’t counted out) and still get the knockout. Huge advances to the tournament
  • KRAKEN v GLITCH - Glitch finished an undefeated rookie season by beating Kraken, who just hasn’t had a good year. Glitch advances to the tournament.
  • MAMMOTH v LUCKY - Mammoth is always entertaining, but, without armor, there’s only so much it can do. Lucky advances to the tournament.
  • RUSTY v WITCH DOCTOR - Witch Doctor’s team didn’t really want to break Rusty, but the path to the tournament led through the junkyard bot. Hopefully, Rusty 2.0 will be ready for the next season. Witch Doctor advances to the tournament.
  • FUSION v ICEWAVE - This fight, like a lot of IceWave fights, was always going to go to whichever not got the first good hit in. That turned out to be IceWave, even though Fusion seemed to survive at first. So IceWave advances to the tournament, though its first fight is against Whiplash, who I think should win easily against a bot who can't self-right.

And here’s the final bonus fight: BLADE v DRAGON SLAYER (neither of whom are advancing to the tournament)

Playing...

Warframe

When The New War released, DE promised that the gameplay changes that usually accompany big, cinematic quests would follow shortly. Well, it’s all coming next month, along with a (presumably smaller) quest called “Angels of the Zariman”, which will leave us with access to the Zariman 1-0 derelict. A lot of this got covered in last Friday’s DevStream:

  • The Zariman will be a sort of open world without the open world, which the usual strung-together Warframe levels accessible through a door in a new hub area. That hub area will feature new, as-yet unrevealed NPCs, in a new syndicate. It will also feature Tenno apartments (as were shown briefly in the New War quest) for those who enjoy Warframe as an interior decorating sim.
  • There will be a few new game modes in Zariman missions. The one which was revealed was basically a parkour challenge you do while fighting enemies, which looked pretty fun. No word as yet regarding what the other game modes will be, or what rewards they’ll give.
  • There’ll be a couple of reworks of some big game systems coming in the update as well. First, there’re the promised changes to eximus enemies. A type-by-type breakdown is forthcoming, but they showed off a re-worked energy leech eximus, which will now have a dodgeable energy-draining attack rather than simply draining energy simply by being in the room. This should make overall Warframe gameplay both easier and more challenging, if that makes sense.
  • Operators are also getting a rework. The Focus system is getting thrown out and replaced with something a bit more streamlined, which, again will have a more comprehensive breakdown released later. From what we saw of the underutilized Unairu school’s rework, these changes will make operators a lot more useful. There will also be some movement changes, with an...improved? ruined?...void dash as well as more fluid switching between operator and warframe. Also, switching to operator will now be a client-side action, which should fix the lag that could accompany that but which I worry will break the fix for stuck doors.
  • There are also going to be some new skins, with the ability to change not just colors but textures as well. Textures won’t be coming to older skins, but they might be a feature going forward.
  • Before the big update, at the end of this month, we’ll be getting our next Prime, Garuda. This will come with a Garuda rework, which will make her invulnerable while casting abilities, and which will sort of invert her passive: rather than dealing more damage the more she’s damaged, she’ll deal more damage with each defeated enemy. These seem like solid changes.
Cuban Tody.png

Bird of the Week

This week we’re looking at our smallest bird yet. The Cuban tody is the most colorful of the todies, a mono-genus family within the kingfisher order which ornithologist and Smithsonian Institution Secretary F. A. Witmore described as the gnomes of the bird world. Todies are only found in the forests of the Greater Antilles, with each island having its own species (with the exception of Hispaniola, which, in an interesting coincidence, is home to both two countries, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and two species of todies, the broad- and narrow-billed todies.) Cuban todies are, of course, the ones which live on Cuba and the immediately surrounding smaller islands.

Todies are all green-backed, and all very small, smaller than some of the larger hummingbirds. Cuban todies measure a little more than four inches from their long beaks to the tips of their stubby tails. Both male and female look the same as one another, and the same all-year-round, though their plumage is brightest early after their molt. The Cuban tody is distinguished from other species by the blue fringes at its throat and its pink flanks, the latter of which it fluffs out extensively during its courtship display.

Behavior-wise, todies resemble their cousins the tree-kingfishers, but with a twist. Where tree-kingfishers watch the forest floor for prey from a high perch, todies keep down in the underbrush, peering up, watching for insects crawling on the undersides of leaves or twigs, which they will then fly up and snatch. Todies nest in foot-deep cavities in banks of earth, though Cuban todies have been known to occasionally take over the burrows left by crabs instead. They dig new tunnels each year, sometimes beginning and abandoning a few before getting it just right. These holes often become homes for lizards and invertebrates, sometimes before the todies have left.

“Tody” comes from the French todier, which in turn derives from todus, a Latin name that also serves as the birds’ genus name. “Todus” was the name given by some Roman writers to an unknown, small bird, possibly a European robin. The name was given to the todies by the French scientist M. J. Brisson, a man remembered for his work in ornitology and for opposing the (now accepted) view of electricity put forth by contemporaries such as Joseph Priestly and Benjamin Franklin. The Cuban tody is Todus multicolor. In Cuba, the birds are called either “Cartacuba”, a name whose meaning I’m uncertain of, or “Pedorrera” which is in reference to the bird’s song.

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