Running Commentary 6/7/2021
7 min read

Running Commentary 6/7/2021

The Bad Batch (S1E6), Jeopardy host search (Buzzy Cohen, Bill Whitaker), PopCorners, Northern Lapwing


You can tell how hot it's been from how skinny the birds look. Around here, they all have their feathers pressed down tight, to avoid retaining excess heat. They look kind of strange that way.

Also, in case you missed it, my review of Thrawn Ascendancy: Greater Good is out.



Another week, another new episode of The Bad Batch. This time, we're headed to Corellia, appearing on-screen again for the first time since Solo. Here are my notes: SPOILERS

Source: The Bad Batch Twitter
  • I was correct in my predictions that we'll be hanging out with Cyd, and Omega will be armed with a bow.
  • Does Dave Filoni know what helmets are for, or does he just think they look neat? In Rebels, stormtroopers were routinely knocked out cold by a punch to the head, which is hard enough to do to a bare skull, much less through armor. And here, Wrecker is out for several minutes after bumping his head.
  • Since we were on Corellia, I wondered if young Han and Qi'ra would appear. When I saw there were two other people after the droid, I thought that's who it would be. Thankfully, it wasn't them. You don't want the world to feel too small, y'know, especially after Kanan and Bib Fortuna already appearing.
  • We've had Crosshair turn evil, we've had Fennec Shand show up, and now the sisters are working for someone. This is either yet another villain, or Ahsoka. Maybe that's how they find Rex, who we saw in the trailers.
  • It's been a while since we've seen Crosshair, now that I mention him. Hope he's in the next episode, just so we don't forget him.

So, I did forget to keep my Jeopardy guest host ranking updated, just like I worried I would. But I remembered this week, so here we go...

[New Entries are in Italics]

  1. Buzzy Cohen — The host of the Tournament of Champions actually did a really phenomenol job, balancing a clear enthusiasm for the role with clear, consistent delivery and a sense that he knew what he was talking about. He isn't as big a name as Jennings, and isn't known from other projects like most other hosts, and was able to disappear into the role of host. I have no complaints about his performance.
  2. Anderson Cooper/Katie Couric — I'm giving these two news presenters a tie spot. Unsurprisingly, they're good at both reading questions clearly and giving quick interviews after the first break. That's really all there is to hosting Jeopardy.
  3. Ken Jennings — Jennings knows Jeopardy thoroughly. His performance was really only hurt by a thin voice and the fact that you know he could win against most anyone actually playing, which makes for a weird, lopsided dynamic. He has trouble disappearing into the role, but he'd be fine as permanent host.
  4. Michael Richards — Serving as the host during two weeks when they couldn't get anyone else, Jeopardy producer Richards did a pretty good job of keeping things going from in front of the camera. He doesn't seem to want to be the host, but he could be.
  5. Aaron Rodgers — Making the list by virtue of a decent performance on Celebrity Jeopardy, football player Aaron Rodgers started very poorly, but, as his two weeks went on, he loosened up a bit and he was actually doing pretty well once his time ran out.
  6. Bill Whitaker — The 60 Minutes correspondent was doing his best, but he was a touch too low-key. His first episodes were hurt by bad sound mixing, that rendered him much quieter than the contestants, but even once they fixed that, he was a bit slow to confirm answers and generally a bit too soothing. He wasn't terrible, but his episodes lacked much energy. Jeopardy shouldn't be super exciting, but it needs to be a little more exciting than it was those two weeks.
  7. Dr. Mehmet Oz — The surgeon/tv personality was apparently a friend of the late Alex Trebek, but he was also the worst guest host by some margin. A consistent, odd delay in confirming correct answers and a nervous enthusiasm seemingly put on for the show made his episodes awkward to watch. Ratings dropped perceptibly during his two weeks, so I don't think we'll be seeing him again.


I tried something weird this past week that I kind of liked. Someone has managed to make chips out of popcorn. The brand is called "PopCorners", because it's popcorn with three corners; this is not an ad for them. I just had some of the White Cheddar ones and I was surprised how much I liked them. White Cheddar popcorn really does vary a lot by brand, and some of it is really bad. If I saw these but no other brands I knew were good, or if these were the best price, I'd get them again.

Bird of the Week

This week we have another Eurasian bird, the Northern Lapwing. This small shorebird is found in open areas from Iceland to Laos, with the occasional visitor arriving at the eastern coast of North America. They nest in shallow holes dug into fields and have been witnessed defending these nests from intruders as large as cows. They feed on small invertebrates. In recent years, their numbers have seen a decline as the wild or fallow fields they live in have been converted into more intensely active cropland. The IUCN currently lists the Northern Lapwing as a near-threatened species.

This is a bird of many names. To science, it is Vanellus vanellus, a diminutive of vannus, the Latin term for a winnowing fan (used in olden times to separate grain from straws and loose hulls) in reference to its broad, rounded wings. "Lapwing" is also a reference to its wings, specifically to their loud flapping noise. Its call has given it the name peewit, tuit, and pye-wipe. Sometimes they are called green plovers. The combined lapwing-plover-dotterel family (Charadiinae, from the Greek word for ravine) is itself a pile-up of mismatched names. Lately, there's been an attempt to rename larger members as lapwings and the smaller members as plovers or dotterels. In any event, the Northern Lapwing will likely remain lapwings.

One more name. This is the national bird of Ireland, where it is sometimes called "pilibín", the Gaelige form of "Philip". This is a reference to Philip II, the king of Spain for whom the Philippines are also named. He was, briefly, also the King of England and Ireland, through his marriage to their Queen Mary I. The Irish thought Philip, who commonly wore a long feather in his cap, resembled the little green birds, and so gave them a nickname that has stuck among native Irish speakers to this day.

Curation Links

The Never-Aging Ants with a Terrible Secret | Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic

From the always weird world of entomology, a report of tapeworms with a habit of turning ordinary German ants into the formacidine equivalent of immortal golden gods. It's a good life for the infected, but their neighbors tend to suffer.

Why the World’s Best Mathematicians Are Hoarding Chalk | Great Big Story on YouTube

[VIDEO] In an ever-more digital world, mathematics classes remain the realm of handwriting. For students, that means pencil and paper, usually, but for teachers, options vary. I've had a teacher who performed all his calculations with fountain pens, video of his page recorded by an overhead camera and displayed on a projector screen for the class to see. I've had several who hooked up a tablet to the projector directly, and wrote out their problems on the screen with a stylus, in about as high-tech a way as it's possible to do so. And I had one who still used the blackboard, though he bought his own chalk: special stuff he imported from Japan. In this short video, I find that he was in good company. (3-and-a-half minutes)

America’s Forgotten Filling Stations | Nick Mancall-Bitel, Eater

A look at the road-side tea room, the early 20th Century precursor to the modern fast-food establishment. Named after the female-friendly alternatives to saloons, these businesses provided fuel, food, and lodging to the early American motorist. (Unmentioned in the piece, but a neat fact: KFC began as such a thing, after a shootout left Harlan Sanders the only filling station owner for a long stretch of the main road to touristy regions of Appalachia.)

How the Wiffle Ball Came To Be | David Kindy, Smithsonian Magazine

A history of those little plastic baseball things, first designed to make it easier for children to throw curve balls, and now the centerpiece of their own spin-off sport.

On the Many Mysteries of the European Eel | Patrik Svensson, Literary Hub

Excerpted from Svensson's The Book of Eels, this is an account of the life cycle of the eels who live in the rivers of Europe, until one day, like reverse salmon, they return to the ocean to reproduce.