Running Commentary 3/15/2021
6 min read

Running Commentary 3/15/2021

The Hustler, BattleBots, Hooded Merganser


This is the last RC for the winter. Next week’s will be out on the second full day of spring. Are you ready for spring? Do you have…I dunno, dirt for your garden. Do you know where your light jacket is? Do you have a good umbrella? If not, you have five days.



There was no new episode of a Marvel or Star Wars show this past Friday, so I’d like to highlight a game show that ABC had over the winter that I really liked.

Image from

The Hustler is a quiz show, but it’s a slow-paced quiz show. Those are really hard to pull off, but this one does because it brings a lot of suspense. The premise is that one of the five contestants is a plant, who knows the answers to all of the questions. Each round, a piece of trivia is given about the plant, the eponymous “hustler”, and then a question is asked that relates somehow to that bit of trivia. The contestants then discuss the question and give their answer as a team. If they answer correctly, they accumulate prize money. The non-hustler contestants must decide, by the end of the game, who the hustler is. If they vote correctly, they split the prize money; if not, the hustler takes it all.

This was a good game show. There were eight episodes. I’m not sure if it’s being renewed; I didn’t see many people talking about it when it was on, but I liked it and I hope there’s a second season.

Team Endgame with the 2020 Giant Nut | Photo from


The 2020 Tournament’s Giant Nut went to Endgame, who defeated Whiplash in the final match. I had mentioned last week that, of the bots left, I favored Whiplash to win the whole thing. I was nearly correct, but Endgame won by ring-out one last time. Congratulations to Nick Maybey and the rest of the team at OYES Robotics.

The 2020 season, for all the pandemic-imposed difficulties, was a good season of BattleBots. We saw a lot of bots that were rookies last season take strong wins. Uppercut, Bloodsport, Black Dragon, Hydra, and even Tantrum were really impressive, and I don’t think that’s just because of the absence of big names like Bronco, Duck, and Son of Whyachi.

So that’s all for BattleBots until the next season. I don’t know if that’s going to be this summer, or later, but I’ll cover it here whenever it airs.

Bird of the Week

This week we have a PSA for any readers in North America: the Hooded Mergansers are in breeding plumage right now. These smallest of the saw-billed diving ducks nest during late winter and early spring, and over the winter the males of the species exhibit stark black-and-white plumage, which has led some to call them the “art-deco duck”. By summer, they revert to a fairly drab brown color, and females and males can only be distinguished by their eyes. So get out this month to your local woodland pond and see if you encounter some of these yourself.

A word about mergansers: these are a loose group of diving ducks that swim underwater after fish. Typically, mergansers are members of the genus Mergus, which takes its name from classical antiquity. (Pliny the elder called some waterbird or another a “mergvs”, but we aren’t really sure which one.) The Hooded Merganser, however were moved from Mergus into their own genus, Lophodytes (from the Greek for “hooded diver”). Their species name, cucullatus, also means “hooded” and was shared with the now-extinct Raphus cucullatus, the dodo. Mergus mergansers are generally much larger, and longer of body.

The upcoming new Railjack console | Photo from


DE has put out some posts concerning the upcoming Railjack changes and a rework to Zephyr’s kit that will accompany her deluxe skin’s release. Some notes on all that:

  • Changing the weird bits of Railjack to be more like the main game is just a good idea. The switch from avionics/dirac to mods/endo ends the weird parallel systems that do the same thing. The upgradable grid thing is gone. The weapon types don’t all have different names for no reason
  • Switching the mods and armaments from railjack to player is a good change, not least because now, as in the main game, you’ll be able to pick a mission from the map without caring whether you’re the mission host or not. That’s going to fix what I think is the biggest single pain point in railjack. The “harness” mentioned in the last devstream is now being called the “plexus”, because Warframe.
  • The Intrinsics changes I can’t really comment on, except that the system still seems overly complicated, but once you have everything maxed out you don’t have to think about it anymore. As an incentive to get playing Railjack missions, it works, up to a point. The one thing I will say is that the new command intrinsic, what’s been shown of it, looks good; it seems to be enabling solo play without making it so easy that a full squad doesn’t have enough to do. Railjack’s best feature was its actually collaborative co-op gameplay, which I’m happy to see being preserved.
  • Expanded mission types should be good. Operation Orphix venom is being reworked as a Railjack mission that awards arcanes. Considering what a slog the Eidolon fights are, this is probably going to be the main source of arcanes going forward.
  • Void storms won’t be until later, so I’ll talk about them later.
  • Zephyr’s rework seems to be coming from Pablo Alonso, who brought us Nidus’s kit as well as the reworks for Wukong and Nezha. Alonso put together a video of the new Zephyr in action, and she seems a lot more suited to the present state of the game than she was while keeping the air theme well. Her powers all looked useful in the demo. I’ll give a further evaluation once I can play the rework myself.

The Most Amazing Bowling Story Ever | Michael J. Mooney, D Magazine

Most people think perfection in bowling is a 300 game, but it isn’t. Any reasonably good recreational bowler can get lucky one night and roll 12 consecutive strikes. If you count all the bowling alleys all over America, somebody somewhere bowls a 300 every night. But only a human robot can roll three 300s in a row — 36 straight strikes — for what’s called a “perfect series.” More than 95 million Americans go bowling, but, according to the United States Bowling Congress, there have been only 21 certified 900s since anyone started keeping track.

For the Dallas-based D Magazine Michael J. Mooney profiles bowler Bill Fong and his run toward a perfect series over the course of three games in Plano.

Out There I Have to Smile | Heather Lanier, Longreads

A personal essay about the social struggles faced by parents of disabled children.

Bob Pardo Once Pushed a Crippled F-4 Home With His F-4. In Flight. | Preston Lerner, Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine

A story from the Vietnam War about a last-ditch effort by an airforce pilot to keep his wingmate from crashing in enemy territory.

For the Love of Pizza | The Food that Built America Podcast

[AUDIO] The story of two pairs of Irish-American brothers who brought pizza to middle America. (31 minutes)