Running Commentary 3/7/2022
5 min read

Running Commentary 3/7/2022

BattleBots (S6E9), Northern Shoveler



I just want to say that the Book of Boba Fett review is still forthcoming. I’ve been busy with some other things, and this site is a hobby, not my job, so I haven’t had a lot of time to watch things back for the review. But it’s coming, soon.




The 2021 season continues to wind down, and in the most recent episode, we saw three veteran bots summarily dismissed from the upcoming tournament for going winless in the season. Let’s go match-by-match:

  • COBALT v GRUFF — Gruff is an absolute tank of a bot, so it's a testament to the sheer destructive power of Cobalt's weapon that it wound up as busted as it did. Cobalt is far from undefeatable, but when they get a hit in, that hit hurts.
  • DUCK v RIPTIDE —  Duck lost a third fight, which means this is the last we'll be seeing of it this season. The new design just didn't deliver this year. They were eventually successful in breaking Riptide's weapon against their armor, but by then, they were crippled and stuck under a hammer.
  • VALKYRIE v PARDON MY FRENCH — The Quebecois bot got in one good, solid hit before losing weapon functionality and giving Valkyrie the opportunity to take out its tires. Madison is avenged!
  • LOCK-JAW v BLIP — Edwards Edition Rookie of the Year Blip finally got matched up against an opponent with a high-energy, destructive weapon in Lock-Jaw. And they proved their durability, surviving the full three minutes at full function. They took an impressive and well-deserved win. Lock-Jaw also exits the season winless, after what turned out to be three very tough matchups.
  • MINOTAUR v DEEP SIX — The most lopsided matchup of the night. Minotaur was described as “similarly sized” to Pain Train (who Deep Six defeated earlier) which I suppose is one way to put it. Deep Six is an intimidating bot, and a good hit from that windmill is devastating, but they have some clear weaknesses that Minotaur was well equipped to exploit. The Brazilian team took a predictable win.
  • SUBZERO v HIJINX —  Subzero was the third bot in the night to finish the season without a win. They had some real serious weapon failures all this year, not all of which could be blamed on their opponents. His was probably their best performance this year, which isn't saying much. Hijinx is now 2-1, which gives it a good shot at the tournament.
  • SKORPIOS v YETI — The main event pitted two of the most aggressive bots against each other, and the result was what could be expected: a brutal fight for the full three minutes. Despite losing weapon functionality, Yeti took the win, most likely on account of delivering more blows and generally controlling the fight. Skorpios, though, is well-positioned to get a spot in the tournament

And here’s the bonus fight: DEFENDER v RETROGRADE

Northern Shoveler.png

Bird of the Week

It’s been long enough since we last had a duck, right? The Northern Shoveler is found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, spending the summer in Palearctic regions and wintering in the tropics. They are the third most-numerous duck in North America, behind their cousin, the Blue-Winged Teal, and the mallard. They are puddle ducks, most at home in shallow waters, where they feed on small aquatic creatures by clapping their large, strainer-sided bills together at the surface or through the mud. Those large bills are their most distinctive feature, something they only share with certain Southern Hemisphere-dwelling ducks. Even their ducklings have oversized bills. They otherwise look very similar to mallards, although the drakes seem colored in the wrong spots (dark bill with yellow eyes, white breast with chestnut sides and bellies, where the mallard is yellow-billed, dark-eyed, and chestnut-breasted.)

Shovelers are less strictly aquatic than many other waterfowl. They walk well, for ducks, and are quick, agile fliers. As ducks, they are heavy birds who must beat their wings rapidly in the air to maintain flight, but they exhibit more grace in the air than most birds of their kind. The drake’s wings (which they basically share with the blue-winged and cinnamon teals) are, to my eye, the most beautiful of any duck’s, with highly visible sky-blue coverts and a deep emerald speculum split by a stripe of white. The drakes lose their bright plumage almost entirely in the non-breeding season, turning drab, mottled brown with dark heads.

J. J. Audubon advised that the northern shoveler was one of the best tasting birds in America, better than the prized canvasback. That assessment does not seem to be shared by other hunters, though shovelers are hunted throughout their range.

To science, the northern shoveler is Spatula clypeata. The species name was given by Linnaeus, and it’s derived from the Latin word for a small, round shield, which the duck almost seemed to be bearing, given how large its bill is. The genus name is the Latin word for a spoon, which is also used in English to denote a specialized spoon-like tool. Most languages call northern shovelers something meaning “spoon bill” or “spoon duck”. The northern shoveler is the type species for Spatula, which also includes other shovelers (all indigenous to the southern hemisphere) as well as several non-large-billed ducks, including the gargeny of Eurasia and the aforementioned blue-winged and cinnamon teals. In Hawai’i, they are called Koloa Mōhā, which Google translates as “free commodity”, though I’m pretty sure that’s just a bad translation. Any ʻŌlelo speakers feel free to let me know how they got that name or what it really means.

The Puzzling Virus That Infects Almost Everyone | Sarah Zhang, The Atlantic

A profile of the Epstein-Barr virus, an widespread infection that often causes no disease, but which does cause mono and seems increasingly linked to multiple sclerosis and certain cancers. It’s thought that, while not a threat on its own, EBV can exacerbate and modify the effects of other ailments, but firm answers are hard to get.

Studying the Script | Silvia Ferrara, Lapham’s Quarterly

Excerpted from Ferrara’s The Greatest Invention, a book on the history of writing, this is a history of Chinese script, one of the oldest forms of writing still in use. It is so old that determining it’s exact origin is difficult, though it seems to be tied to a Shang dynasty queen.

The Prisoner Who Revolutionized Chinese Language With a Teacup | Jing Tsu, WIRED

And a more recent story about Chinese script: Zhi Bingyi was an engineer until he fell out of political favor in Mao’s China and was condemned to a life of menial labor. During that time, he became concerned with the problem of how to make the Chinese language, developed to be written with ink and brush, typeable.

The OceanMaker | Lucas Martell, DUST

[FICTION] [VIDEO] “After the seas have disappeared, a courageous pilot fights against vicious sky pirates for control of the last remaining source of water: the clouds.” (9 minutes)

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