Running Commentary 3/28/2022
4 min read

Running Commentary 3/28/2022

BattleBots (S6E12), Pheasant-tailed Jacana


I came across something this past week about how the Miami Hurricanes have, as their mascot, a bird with the word “Hurricanes” stitched across its hat. (The bird is apparently meant to be an ibis, though it looks more like Howard the Duck.) That got me thinking about sports mascots for teams like the New York Mets, where the name of the team isn’t really something you can dress up as. Here in Michigan, we kind of have something like that. Lansing is home to a minor-league baseball team called the Lansing Lugnuts. (A lug nut is a fastener, basically a nut with a conical, bullet-nose shape. They’re used to attach wheels to axels mostly, and the name is a nod to Lansing’s local auto-making, and, before that, carriage-making industry.) I guess you could dress someone up as a lug nut, but instead, Lansing’s mascot is a big purple dinosaur named Big Lug, who has hex nuts for nostrils. Not lug nuts; hex nuts. And the team’s logo features a hex bolt in place of the “t”. There are actually no lug nuts in any Lugnuts branding.




The second half of the first round of the tournament has aired. I made more correct picks on my bracket compared to last week, although I did have one big upset. Let’s go through the fights:

  • HYDRA v DEFENDER - Hydra is finally fully operational, and it made quick work of Defender, who, ironically, had little defense against a well-working flipper.
  • TOMBSTONE v JACKPOT - Tombstone ended its worst season on record with a first-round loss in a tournament that, to be perfectly honest, they had no business being in in the first place. I hope that Hardcore Robotics can figure out what went wrong; this was more than just falling behind the build creep curve, this seemed like serious build quality issues.
  • COBALT v YETI - Yeti had the best fight performance I've ever seen from them, which was wasted against Cobalt, who just hits too hard for most bots to deal with.
  • BLIP v VALKYRIE - Blip is just one of the best built bots I've ever seen. I've said this before, but the compactness of Blip really is an unprecedented asset for a flipper. I really don’t see any way Bronco, SubZero, or Hydra could just sit and tank hits from a spinner until that spinner broke the way Blip did to Valkyrie here; those have to stretch their armor so far. I have Blip going deep into the tournament.
  • MADCATTER v BLACK DRAGON - Madcatter went with a weird, eccentric configuration here, to no apparent benefit. Black Dragon advances to the next round.
  • TANTRUM v GIGABYTE - This was a brutal fight which I could easily have seen going either way at the judges’ decision. I had Tantrum winning on my bracket, though, so it’s nice that they won.
  • HYDRA v RIBBOT - This was my upset. Regardless of whether Hydra or Defender won the play-in, I had Ribbot winning here. Hydra had a great performance against Ribbot; if they stay as good as they were tonight, I think they could beat Black Dragon, too.

And here are the unaired fights: ICEWAVE v WHIPLASH and ROTATOR v CAPTAIN SHREDERATOR

Pheasant-tailed Jacana.png

Bird of the Week

There are over ten thousand species of birds in the world today. Sure, about half of those are songbirds, nothing that different than a sparrow. But that other half has some weird things in it, very specialized birds, with weird bodies accommodating weird habits. Case in point, the jacanas (pronounced with a French-type “j”, and most properly with a soft “c” as well). These are little wading birds with oversized, spidery feet. The length of their toes varies by species; this week’s bird is actually among the smaller-footed of the jacanas, though it’s by far the largest-tailed. Jacanas are sometimes also called “lily-trotters” or even “Jesus birds” due to their ability to walk across ponds, their large feet distributing their weight across lotus pads and other such floating vegetation. They primarily eat insects

Jacanas are found throughout tropical regions of the world. The pheasant-tailed jacana is found in south and southeast Asia. They are distinguished from other jacanas by longer necks and extravagantly plumed tails. They are also the only jacana with a migratory population. As is the case with many of the species’ cousins, female pheasant-tailed jacanas are larger than males, and females keep harems of males, who incubate eggs and care for young, in an inversion of the typical arrangement among polygamous birds.

“Jacana” comes to English via the Portuguese interpretation of the TupÍ term for the Wattled Jacana or any other alert, noisy marsh fowl. To science, the pheasant-tailed jacana is the Hydrophasianus chirurgus, the “water-pheasant surgeon”, with the specific name’s reference to surgery coming from French explorer Pierre Sonnerat’s observation that the birds toes, with their long nails, resembled lancets.

The Butterfly Sting | Craig Welch, High Country News

Name basically anything, and there will exist some sort of illegal trade in it somewhere. This is even true of butterflies. Here, the story of Yoshi Kojima, endangered insect smuggler. Splitting time between Japan and California, Kojima dodged clueless customs officials and late-responding park rangers to bring the rarest specimens to high-paying collectors, before a competitor turned out to be an undercover agent.

Happy Furniture in the Eames Era | Justus Nieland, Places Journal

Towering figures in Michigan’s other manufacturing industry, Charles and Ray Eames were the husband-and-wife team behind some of the most iconic furniture of the post-war era. Their designs, light, modular, and curved, were a statement of American ideals, but they couldn’t entirely speak for themselves. That’s where their short films came in.

Speaking in Whistles | Bob Holmes, Knowable Magazine

Throughout the world, where people live in dense forests or far-flung mountains, they sometimes develop a whistled language, or a whistled version of a non-whistled language. This can be a real challenge when the root language is tonal, but it still happens.

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Reporter | Daniela Tomova, Tor

[FICTION] “A reporter travels to the Norwegian Arctic to cover an unusual sled race with the undead leading the living into unknown territory.”

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