Cooper Hawk on the Back Fence

I was heading out to grab lunch this past Wednesday when I was alerted to the fact that a Cooper Hawk was perched on the back fence. I ran to get my camera and was able to snap a single, slightly blurry photo before he flew off. Still, it was pretty cool as I’ve never been this close to one, nor have I seen one this close to the ground.

Cooper Hawk on the Back Fence

Cooper Hawk says, "I don't like you takin' no pictures of me... I'm gonna fly away now!"

He’s an absolutely beautiful animal (I’m pretty sure, based on the size, that it’s a male.). Right below where he’s sitting is a slight hill that drops down from the back wall into some shrubs and bushes that then becomes a grassy greenbelt between our home and the people the next street over. Living in those shrubs are rabbits. Lots and lots of rabbits, so I’m pretty sure why he picked that spot and why he took flight when he did.

Osama bin Laden Dead

I woke up this morning to the news that Osama bin Laden was killed in a gunfight with members of the Navy SEALs and CIA counter-terrorism forces in his compound in Pakistan (in the suburbs! I thought he was in a cave somewhere…). My first thought was good riddance to bad rubbish. My second was congratulations to our hardworking men and women in the military for the perseverance and hard work they put in to end this ten year long hunt for the terrorist leader.

There are others far more in the know than I am that have covered the fallout of this in both world and American politics, but I have to say, I think it will make it that much harder to oust President Obama come November 2012. He’s shown he’s not a soft (Like the GOP would like to have the public to think.) and that the man has a poker face like you wouldn’t believe. Trading jabs with buffoon-in-chief Trump at the National Correspondents Dinner while all this is going down? I’m not sure that even Howard Lederer would be willing to go all-in on him.

Also, on the plus side for our country, instead of the long pursuit of Bin Laden being seen as American folly it will now be seen as American determination. Having the world see the latter in us is always a good thing for American interests.

So, as President Obama said earlier today, it’s “a good day for America.”

Portal 2: Wait Listed

There seems to be a bit of backlash against Portal 2. According to Metacritic the score for Portal 2 is currently at 94/100, but only if you look at the critics’ scores. If you look at user ratings the average score drops all the way to 7.1/10.

Like Blizzard, Valve is a group of people who are committed to the “we’ll release it when it’s finished” school of design. They’re one of the few development teams that can still get away with this attitude. Almost without exception, they’ve released incredible games; Half-Life and all its add-ons and sequels, Left 4 Dead, the original Portal.  They’ve also been incredibly open to the mod community. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent with the original Half-Life playing Counterstrike, Team Fortress or Day of Defeat. I believe Portal started out as student project and was purchased by Valve. Allowing people to mod their game and release content for free is one of the ways that Valve grows talent. They see who’s creating a brilliant mod of their game and bring it on to publish it professionally or let it grow the fan base.

Because they don’t release unfinished products, release only high quality games and support the mod community, they seemingly had built up an incredible amount of goodwill with consumers. But with Portal 2 they seem to have stumbled. I have no doubt the game is fun. The original Portal was brilliant and would probably, if I actually created a list, simultaneously be in both my top 10 for puzzle games and first-person shooters. Portal 2 may even be more fun and challenging than the original. The critics seem to think so. Yet I won’t be buying it until it hits the bargin bin.

The reason is quite simple, and where I think Valve has stumbled, the original Portal was an undiscovered gem of a game that was bundled with Half-Life 2, HL2: Episode 1, HL2: Episode 2 and Team Fortress 2 in the Orange Box. When included with four other games for 50-$60 getting the 5-7 hour Portal was an incredible bargain, but now having bought or being asked to buy the 5-7 hour Portal 2 for $50-60 by itself has people balking. It’s the reason I’m not running out and buying it.

Valve has generally done a good job of meeting or exceeding expectations with their products. With the Orange Box they set a really high bar and releasing a game with so little content in comparison has disappointed a lot of fans. Had they bundled Portal 2 with a couple of other games (Where the heck is Half-Life2 : Episode 3 anyway?) I think that the response would have been very different. Valve is a victim of their own success and being unable to clear a hurdle they set for themselves with the Orange Box. A good number of people just don’t seem to think that Portal 2 meets their expectation of value from Valve. Some may also be frustrated because they’ve been waiting years for the continuation of Gordon Freeman’s fight against the Combine and instead we’ve gotten Left 4 Dead, Left 4 Dead 2 and Portal 2 since we last saw Mr. Freeman in action.

I’m sure Portal 2 will be a triumph (I’m making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS!) and I’ll be getting it myself once it drops to a more reasonable price. Once that happens I’m sure I’ll be happy with my purchase.

iPads and American Jobs

Over on Engadget today they posted a video of Jesse Jackson, Jr. railing against the iPad and how it has impacted American jobs. I think many of the commenters over there have missed the point.

It’s not in dispute that technology kills industries; cars killed the buggy whip industry. What’s happened in the past is that the shift in technology has created new jobs to replace those lost because of whatever technological revolution has occurred. During the industrial revolution farmers moved into factories and saddle makers started making seats for those new-fangled automobiles.

What Jackson is arguing isn’t that we should force people to buy paper books to save the publishers and librarians (Though he seems to go off the rails a bit and imply that I don’t think that was his intention.), or that technology is bad, but that it’s no longer the United States’ workers that will benefit from this new technology.

His argument is that these new technologies will lead to jobs for other countries labor forces, enriching them, not us. And to a degree it’s true. If you look at China’s rise in global power it has a lot to do with the money that’s poured into their economy by corporations using their cheap labor forces to build our cars, gadgets and knick-knacks.

What Jackson is not acknowledging in this video, or at least the part we’re seeing, is we generally don’t want these jobs here. Often factory work, mining and other jobs of their type are dirty and dangerous and have a negative impact on the environment.

What Jackson should be asking is not how we prevent the loss of jobs for the printers (Publishers won’t actually go away, in fact ebooks might help them.), librarians and factory workers, but how do we create new jobs outside those areas that benefit from the revolutions in technology we will continue to experience.

In the past, part of the answer for how to create new jobs was education. With the cuts to public school funding and the rising costs of a college education that may no longer provide an answer for some.

It’s something that our politicians need to figure out. With their focus on deficits and budgets and a desire from one side of Congress to continue cutting education and services for the poor to the bone instead of focusing on the welfare of the American people I fear it’s not something their likely to figure out soon.

A Dance With Dragons!

Today famed author George R.R. Martin announced the hard date for “A Dance With Dragons”, the fifth book if his Song of Ice and Fire series. Fans will know that this has been a long wait. Originally it was supposed to be released in 2006 but Martin has been wrestling with several difficult plot points that Martin has referred to as knots that needed to be unraveled.

I’ve been looking forward to this novel for a long time. I haven’t been a fan of fantasy since I was a teenager but there’s something about the world that GRRM has created that sucks me in where other fantasy novels have failed. the only way I can refer to the series is low high-fantasy. The world is low on magic compared to other series in fantasy. Courtly intrigue and back-stabbing is rampant, but it’s not obvious or handled ham-handedly. Relationships are complex and often disturbing (I don’t think it can get more disturbing than Jamie’s and Cersei’s relationship…) and it’s all told with the gusto of a an adventure novel.

Needless to say, I’m putting my pre-order in as soon as they are available.

iPad Numero Dos

Apple officially announced the iPad 2 today. Looks good. I like thinner and lighter. I think the cameras make sense from a using it for video calls standpoint. Using it as a camera for still photos or video would be, what’s the word… awkward. Faster processors, new update to iOS, etc., etc., all great, but no mention of an increase in RAM? This seems much more like an incremental improvement. More akin to the iPhone 3G to the 3GS. Not enough maybe for all but the hardest core Apple fans to replace their existing iPad. It may be enough for those ont he fence to finally tip and get one.

As of right now? I’ll be waiting for iPad 3, unless, of course, someone wants to buy it for me.

What!?! The Super Bowl Was Yesterday!?!

Totally forgot. It’s the first one I’ve missed since high school I think. That’s a long time. Honestly though, with me giving up playing fantasy football my overall interest in football has dwindled to almost nothing. I keep abreast of the headlines and still follow the Giants to a degree, but that’s it.

I heard that the Green Bay Packers won. Well, congratulations Green Bay! Seriously, I do still love that one of the things that does make football the greatest sport here in the US and the most competitive in all of sports is that the revenue sharing of the league allows a city of 100,000 like Green Bay the opportunity to be on even ground with big cities every year. Take that baseball!

I may skim through the game for the highlights. I found out my wife recorded it to DVR. Why? For the commercials…


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