It's early September, which means it will be time to go looking for migratory birds again. This year, as in past years, I'll be searching for a Northern Pintail. That is the only duck commonly found in inland Michigan that I've never seen. (Sea ducks like long-tailed ducks, harlequin ducks, and scoters are another matter, since they typically are only found on the big lakes, although I did see a surf scoter last year.)
The third episode was a bit shorter than the first two, but it seems to have seen the story proper kick off after two episodes of prologue. Here are my notes:
- The scene of Ahsoka trying to train Sabine was quite good, and it really drove home how we haven't had a truly Jedi-focused story in a few years. Sabin is not a failure generally; she's an accomplished Mandalorian warrior and was a founding member of the Rebel Alliance, which just won a war for galactic control. But she struggles greatly as a Jedi. I kind of wonder why she wants to be a Jedi so much, honestly. Huyang doesn't think she has what it takes; Ahsoka seems to, but she's not sure how to teach Sabine how to do what comes naturally to her. So it does seem like it must have been Sabine's idea to try to become a Jedi.
- The ship-to-ship action here was pretty good. It went on a little long, but I liked how there were still character moments going on amidst all the swooping and blasting.
- I think this show's been surprisingly good about not wholly depending on the audience having seen Clone Wars and Rebels to make sense, but I do think they should have laid out exactly what happened to Thrawn and Ezra. It gets closer in this episode with the purgills making an appearance, but I think the events of the Rebels finale should have been stated up-front. Actually, I wonder if the show-makers weren't worried that showing space-whales kidnapping a Star Destroyer might scare off new viewers; I'll admit it's a weird event out of context.
- Somehow it's become a widespread bit of fan speculation that Marrok is Ezra Bridger. Leaving aside character reasons why this wouldn't make sense, logistically it doesn't work either. Marrok is helping find Thrawn, while Ezra was standing right next to Thrawn when the purgills took the Chimaera, so he's already in the other galaxy.
- Hera couldn't get approval for the fleet to go to Denab, but I doubt she leaves things at that. With Ahsoka and Sabine shot down, I'm guessing Hera and Chopper will be along next episode to rescue them. Hopefully Zeb, too.
- Speaking of Denab, I think we've got Leida Mothma beat for most obscure EU element brought into Canon, if indeed it was intentional. Star Wars: The Essential Atlas featured, as an appendix, a list of planets, including every planet used in the setting at the time of publishing along with a bunch of random extra names. Denab was listed, but was only featured on a map in the online extras posted to StarWars.com, not even in the book itself (It's down at the bottom middle, near Hoth and Dagobah. This is such an obscure pull that I think it's more likely that the same name was made up twice.
Just a quick note to say that I finally beat the MR 23 test. Using Kullervo, you can get overguard to ignore enemy attacks really easily and can teleport, which makes the test quite doable. I'd been stuck on this test for so long that I have enough MR points to qualify for the MR 24 test and maybe more, but the whole "one test per day" will keep me from getting those done right away. The 24 test seems pretty easy in practice.
Bird of the Week
There are forty-nine species of quail alive on Earth; of those, thirty-three are members of the "New World quail" family. "New World" is a misnomer, as two of these are found in Africa. Only one quail is found in the United States east of the Great Plains: the Northern Bobwhite.
Quail, whether New World or Old, are game birds, smaller than chickens or ducks, and generally brown-colored and distinctly spotted. They are quite shy, as well they should be, as they are a favorite meal for many other creatures, including people. Quail, the bobwhite included, are both hunted and farmed for their meat. (Typically farmed bobwhites are released into hunting preserves before they are eaten.) In his account of the "Virginian partridge", J. J. Audubon wrote detailed instructions of how bobwhites could be driven by men on horseback into conical nets1, though such practices are no longer allowed to hunters today. He also described ongoing attempts to domesticate the bird; while not a common sort of poultry, bobwhites can and are kept like chickens.2
Bobwhite's popularity as a game bird has made them one of the most studied birds in the United States; much of this study has been focused on preventing or reversing population declines. Herbert Stoddard, a self-trained naturalist who was employed by the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey, studied bobwhites in the Red Hills region of Florida and Georgia. The Red Hills had been the site of plantation farming before the Civil War, but afterward, they became a tourist-focused area, a refuge for Northerners seeking an escape from unhealthy, industrialized life, including the opportunity to hunt quail. So when the quail population in the Red Hills began to fall, the government brought in Stoddard, who had already made a name for himself studying bird life on the western shore of Lake Michigan, a similar semi-natural tourist area. From 1924 until his death in 1968, Stoddard lived and worked in the Red Hills. He was an early proponent of controlled burning of the long-leaf pine forests there, a controversial position to hold in the middle of a nationwide lumber shortage. Stoddard's Cooperative Quail Investigation was a landmark wildlife management study, and the resulting book, The Bobwhite Quail: Its Habits, Preservation, and Increase (published in 1931) became a cornerstone work of applied ornithology.3,4
Bobwhites are still a declining species, for reasons that remain somewhat unclear. They are not overhunted, as hunting is declining as well; in fact, as in Stoddard's day, quail hunters are very concerned with maintaining bobwhite populations. 5 It's thought that increased use of pesticides in farm fields may be negatively affecting bobwhites as it has been shown to do to other quail and partridge species.6 Complicating things is the fact that bobwhite populations are naturally quite dynamic, rising and falling over time. Generally, it's agreed that large-scale restoration of habitat is necessary, while smaller-scale efforts such as the release of captive-bred birds or elimination of predators have been ineffective. 7 One point of population growth is in the masked bobwhite, a Tex-Mex subspecies thought to be extinct until living specimens were discovered in the 1960s.8
Bobwhites are named after their call, a whistled "ah-bob-white". To science, the northern bobwhite is Colinus virginianus; the generic name comes from zōlina, the Nahuatl word for a quail or partridge, while the specific name references Virginia, the British colony where the first described specimens were found. The colony was either named after the notion that the land was untouched or after the fact that Elizabeth I, the British monarch who sponsored the colony, was unmarried.9
- John James Audubon. “Virginian Partridge.” Birds of America, Plate 76. https://www.audubon.org/birds-of-america/virginian-partridge.
- Jacquie Jacobs. “RAISING BOBWHITE QUAIL SMALL AND BACKYARD FLOCK – Small and Backyard Poultry.” https://poultry.extension.org/articles/poultry-management/raising-bobwhite-quail-small-and-backyard-flock/.
- Way, Albert Glover. “Burned to Be Wild: Science, Society, and Ecological Conservation in the Southern Longleaf Pine”. University of Georgia, 2008. http://getd.libs.uga.edu/pdfs/way_albert_g_200805_phd.pdf.
- Gromme, Owen J. “In Memoriam: Herbert Lee Stoddard.” The Auk 90, no. 4 (September 30, 1973): 870–876. https://doi.org/10.2307/4084367.
- Nickens, By T. Edward. “Bobwhite Quail: Shoot ’Em Or Lose ’Em?” Audubon, January 31, 2023. https://www.audubon.org/news/bobwhite-quail-shoot-em-or-lose-em.
- Sotherton, Nicolas W., Peter A. Robertson and Simon D. Dowell. “Manipulating Pesticide Use to Increase the Production of Wild Game Birds in Britain.” 1993 National Quail Symposium Proceedings
- Hernandez, Fidel & Brennan, Leonard & DeMaso, Stephen & Sands, Joseph & Wester, David. On Reversing the Northern Bobwhite Population Decline: 20 Years Later. (2013) Wildlife Society Bulletin. 37. 10.1002/wsb.223.
- Medrano, Lourdes. “The Decades-Long Effort to Save the Masked Bobwhite Is Finally Taking Off.” Audubon, February 23, 2023. https://www.audubon.org/magazine/spring-2021/the-decades-long-effort-save-masked-bobwhite.
- J. A. Jobling. The Key to Scientific Bird Names. Cornell Lab of Ornithology
The Mystery of the Bloomfield Bridge | Tyler Vigen
A journalist becomes obsessed with explaining an elevated pedestrian bridge running over an interstate in Minneapolis between an industrial supply store and a Taco Bell. It was built before either of those, but for what purpose? Finding out will take more than a cursory Google search.
Gadgets and gizmos that inspired Adam Smith | Virginia Postrel, Reason
A look at the miniaturized devices popular in 1700s Europe, of which only the pocket watch really stuck beyond the days of the fad. Adam Smith, the Scottish Enlightenment economist, wrote about such things as pocket spyglasses, pocket globes, and pocket sewing kits, saying they were appreciated more as art than as practically functional items.
Braille Is Alive, Well, and Ever-Evolving | Sophia Stewart, The Millions
Braille publishing is largely the domain of specialty printers issuing reprints of popular works, but major publishers are starting to do Braille printings in-house. The biggest challenge Braille faces is the rise of ebooks, but an economical Braille e-reader is sure to come soon.
Every Sport a Bowling Ball | Sam H. Buchanan
[FICTION] [VIDEO] A short, humorous film envisioning a world in which every sport is played using a bowling ball (2:37)
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