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Thursday, December 15th 2011

It wasn't a Steeler's game. It wasn't the latest Twilight movie. It wasn't LOL cats. And so, sadly, there was no word on Facebook, around the water cooler or from any of the usual sources of information for what is on the minds of Americans.

Today, a war ended and, minor news stories aside, I heard nary a word.

At nine years, the war was the second longest that America has ever been involved (only the Afghan war has been longer.)

4,486+ US troops were killed. 32,226+, more were wounded - 20% of which are serious brain or spinal injuries. (This number excludes psychological injuries.)

Dead in Iraq

ABC News reported "a secret U.S. government tally that puts the Iraqi (civilian) death toll over 100,000.

About $1 trillion of US funds were spent. $6.6 billion of U.S. taxpayers' money earmarked for Iraq reconstruction was lost or reported stolen, CBS News reported on June 14, 2011, by Special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction Stuart Bowen who called it "the largest theft of funds in national history."

With the Shi'ite — Iran’s co-sectarians now dominating the political landscape in Iraq (where they'd once been held subservient under Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Muslim), it is now unclear what level of influence Iran will wield in Iraq.

Saddam hussein, a brutal dictator is removed from power and dead.

History will tell us if it was worth the cost.

But from my perspective, we should never again enter a war without shared sacrifice, and to me that starts with: all americans paying for the war through taxes, war bonds and diminished services (and not hiding these expenses on special budgers that obscure the real costs). And for the next war, there should be a draft. - That ought to wake us up.

"Two more shots
And two more beers
Sir turn up the TV sound
The war has started on the ground
Just love those laser guided bombs
They're really great
For righting wrongs
You hit the target
And win the game
From bars 3,000 miles away
3,000 miles away
We play the game

- Roger Waters » The Bravery Of Being Out Of Range » Amused to Death

"This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."

- Military-Industrial Complex Speech, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961

Monday, November 14th 2011

Zombie with overbite - The Walking Dead

I've been watching the second season of the TV show, "The Walking Dead" and it occurs to me that the zombie epidemic, as depicted in the one-and-a-half seasons to date, would actually not be particularly virulent. They've shown that for somebody to become a zombie, they must be bitten. Over and over they've shown that a mere exposure to zombie blood won't do it and on many occasions, a hero has even punched a zombie in the face and suffers no ill effect from jamming their fist into the exposed, sharp bones of the skull nor from contact with the decaying flesh and rotten blood.

Once bitten, the survivor slowly gets sick over the period of about 12 to 24 hours until 'dying'. After a brief stop at 'dead' they rise up as undead in search of living flesh.

And therein lies the other rub: zombies will eat you if they can. - Which means that for somebody to become a zombie they must be bitten and not be torn limb from limb. - This may be easy when encountering one or two zombies, but if you fall down into a pack of them: they're going to eat you like sharks on chum. Ergo, the more dangerous, large packs of zombies are actually not very good at replication since they are more likely to eat the entirety of their victims.

So, let's imagine how this epidemic would unfold. Presumably some relatively small number of people came down with zombieitis and bite at least some number of people before having their brains staved in or blown out.

Now imagine that there were five mad scientists who were the first exposed through some means to the zombie disease and that they all die and rise up again and bite, say, another three people before somebody bashes their heads in. And allowing that one zombie isn't probably ever going to ever eat an entire victim, let's grant that their 25 victims also become zombies. i.e. They transform 100% of their victims into zombies as opposed to eating their victims.

At the point that you have 25 zombies, somebody in authority is going to start to pay attention: be they doctors, police, government officials, or the army.

So now, let us say that these 25 zombies are as successful as their predecessors and all manage to bite an average of three more people before being put down. Now we have 125 zombies. - Things look grim: right?

Not really. Because once you have 125 people rising from the dead (singularly or in packs) and biting somebody, word is going to get out. - Even if you allow for the classic, (cliché ) over-enthusiastic, military or government bureaucracy that attempts to keep keep the zombie menace from the populace. You have to grant that they, the officials, are going to try and end the zombie tide with extreme prejudice as quickly as possible.

One way or the other, once word gets out: even if you now have 1000 zombies roaming the country, people (officials or otherwise) are going to learn: gee, my friend has been bitten (if we don't out-and-out put a bullet in your head immediately), we're sure as hell going lock your corpse up somewhere that we can easily shoot you (or incinerate you, etc.) once you rise from the dead.

And all of this is disregarding the issue that the zombies are clearly shown to decay and at some point (measured in weeks if not days), would be so far rotted that their joints wouldn't hold together that they'd stop being ambulatory and quickly fall entirely to pieces.

Conclusion: large packs of zombies are more dangerous to people but also more likely to completely eat those who they manage to catch and consumed victims aren't going to leave any bodies around that would become new zombies. Furthermore, the populace as a whole will quickly learn that once somebody is bitten and survives, they have to be monitored and put down before they can become zombies and claim other victims.

Zombieties is simply too easily spotted, too difficult to transmit and too slow in effect to be particularly virulent. - This is the very same reason that rabies is not a run away disease among humans.

The movie, '28 days later' had the idea of a zombie apocalypse down right: a small exposure to zombie blood was enough to almost instantly turn those exposed into zombies themselves. And even that movie acknowledged that their would be a tipping point where people would get a handle on avoiding exposure.

In spite of all of this geeky (over) analysis, I still enjoy The Walking Dead and manage to suspend my disbelief, because zombies are just too much fun.

Sunday, October 30th 2011

Steve Jobs died this month and Clarence Clemons died in June of this year.

I have my doubts that I’d have liked either of them personally – especially Steve Jobs who had a reputation for being downright mean at times.

- Not that either man was anymore flawed than most of us, it’s just that I didn’t know them as people, so I’m not really qualified to eulogize them holistically.

However, their work meant a lot to me. – Clarence for providing Soul to the E-Street Band: the sound that my heart is tuned.
Even now, I shake my head thinking that I’ll never hear that sax live again and I feel sorry for people who never did and never will.

And Jobs: with his death, I worry that nobody in my lifetime will be able to fill his shoes in consistently bringing elegant, human centric design to the world of computers and electronics.

The Big Man

Steve Jobs and an Apple

"In most people's vocabularies, design means veneer. It's interior decorating. It's the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service."

- Steve Jobs

So, however they were as people, I salute their work and mourn their passing. Both made deep marks on who I am and what I care about.

Interestingly, and probably not coincidentally, these two great achievers had something similar to say about choosing one's path, one's passion in life:

"It's a matter of choosing what is most important to you and putting that first. Once you have recognized your true purpose in life, this becomes much easier."

- Clarence Clemons

"Almost everything--all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure--these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

- Steve Jobs

Wednesday, September 28th 2011

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is really Mr. Landfill

Sometime back I was at Sam's Club and a collection of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers caught my eye. Through Tupperware-like containers I could see them but I didn't know what they were. Judging by their size and the rather heavy duty containers I thought that they might be some kind of large, condensed detergent bricks. So I was surprised when I picked up a container to discover that they were utterly lightweight sponges.

The shame of the matter was that the container probably outweighed the sponges about 5 to 1. Perhaps Mr. Clean should be renamed Mr. Landfill.

Wednesday, August 31st 2011

"It's the month. Weird August. Hallucinatory August. The month that the world escapes from. Not coming in like a lion. Not known for its showers. Not known for its flowers. Not busting out all over. Not. There is no August Song, and if there were one, it would be sung by Yma Sumac in an altitudinous register no one could hear but a dozing dog, who would cock not an ear, stir not a bone. Not. These are dog days, after all, in which the mind, suddenly deserted, goes nuts and nowhere."

- In Praise of August
By Roger Rosenblatt

Saturday, July 30th 2011

The Space Shuttle is no more. The last mission ended on July 21st, 2011. It needed retired but we should have been prepared with the next best thing. As a kid, I was confident that we'd be on Mars by now - probably with a colony. And instead I find that America's manned space program is in mothballs.

June 21, 2011: Just before sunrise, the space shuttle Atlantis made its final landing, putting to bed the 30-year U.S. shuttle program.

Apparently, there has never been a golden age. When we think of the past it is very easy to see things with rose colored glasses, but if one scratches the surface, an ugly side is revealed. Fond of the 19th or 29th century? Sure, it had a lot of great things but it also had genocide, wars, children working in factories, inequity for women, rampant racism, poorer medicine and any number of maladies.

But sometimes, it feels as if we're not making as much progress as we should and even sliding backwards. I think we suffer from short term memory. And it isn't just individual memory but the loss of generational memories. The lessons of hard fought wars (some literal, some figurative), are lost as the generation that fought them die.

I'm writing this in dismay now, as stories of the debt ceiling, Norway shooter and famine in East Africa (to name but a few) occupy the popular news.

Perhaps striking: I've heard people discuss the debt ceiling and the shooter but I've not heard another person mention the famine in East Africa. I'm afraid that tragedy will be lost in the noise and we'll do very little about it.

Cartoon: Children in East Africa react to reports that leaders in Congress still can't agree on a deal to raise the U.S. debt ceiling.

There has always been avarice, cruelty and tragedy but tonight, I also feel the loss of our aspirations.

"What the people want is very simple.  They want an America as good as its promise."  ~Barbara Jordan

Tuesday, June 28th 2011

This last week New York became the sixth state to allow gay marriage. I'm happy about this. (Although I really don't believe that the government should have any say on who marries who as long as they are consenting adults - and this includes plural marriage.) But I'm sad that Obama, who I so often support, is still behind the curve on this. It is all the more disappointing and ironic since it was in1967 that interracial marriage in the United States was deemed legal in all U.S. states with the Supreme Court decision that found anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional.

Are some more equal than others? Straight versus Gay

- I'm confident that Obama will find himself on the wrong side of history on this human rights issue.

Thursday, May 26th 2011

I have a few items of business to tend to, first: we’re still here. Who would have thought it?

Apparently though, the rapture did take place - it just didn’t have the special effects budget that was originally anticipated so there were fewer, and less dramatic earthquakes than originally scheduled and the sun barley dimmed, let alone turned black, nor the moon turn red and very few stars were reported falling to earth (Revelation 6:12-6:13). – These are tough times though and there are fiscal worries everywhere, so it isn’t a really a surprise if you apply logic to it And frankly, it wouldn’t have been responsible to have spent so much on the showy aspects of the apocalypse that actually, you know, - indicated that the rapture had occurred.

According to doomsday prophet Harold Camping, “We were convinced that on May 21, God would return in a very physical way by bringing in an earthquake and ushering the final five months of judgment. When we look at it spiritually, we find that he did come.”

According to Mr. Camping, we now have until October 21st before the world actually ends in the proper sense of the word.

I’m sure that all of those Harold Camping followers who gave up their life’s savings will be relieved to know that they don’t have to live in a cardboard box for too many more months. – Such a relief.

Doomsday prophet Harold Camping
Also, this convenient delay in dramatic aspects of the end-time allows me to tend to my second point of business:

Sun May 22nd, 2011 was the 10th anniversary of GlenGren.com ! – Woot: a decade of blogging and my thanks goes to you: my kind readers.
Hopefully I can give the site a facelift before the next 10 years is up. – Shoot, I forgot – I don’t have 10 more years, I only have 5 more months. Damn.

Saturday, April 30th 2011

Marie Exley - It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.

This will probably be the last post I'll ever do for this website. - Perhaps for any website, except maybe Twitter. - I can probably swing 140 characters before the end time: May 21st.

I'd read about Marie Exley - a sadly delusional woman - some time before. But I was reminded again after work when I saw no less than five UPS styled trucks trundle into town - all decked out in professional level paint and decal jobs, reminding me and my fellow Pittsburghers that May 21st is the rapture.

Smile, doomsday is at hand but at least Allison Warden and her buddies will be okay!

Supporter of Marie Exley, Allison Warden looks so happy. The apocalypse is going to be a blast!

It was a helpful reminder. Now I'll not waste any money on extending my car insurance another 6 months. - And I think that I'm going to go ahead and cash in my 401k and have a party. Because, if she is right, I'm screwed anyway so I might as well have a good send off.

"The worst of madmen is a saint run mad."

- Alexander Pope

"Throughout human history, the apostles of purity, those who have claimed to possess a total explanation, have wrought havoc among mere mixed-up human beings."

- Salman Rushdie

"The fanatic is incorruptible: if he kills for an idea, he can just as well get himself killed for one; in either case, tyrant or martyr, he is a monster."

- Emil Cioran

Monday, March 28th 2011

The other day I was perusing some online house listings. As I clicked through interior shots I stumbled across this terrible vision.

Raggedy Ann nightmare room from doll hell.

Raggedy Ann nightmare room from doll hell.

A witchly coven of redheaded dolls arrayed for some orgy or dark rite.

A witchly coven of redheaded dolls arrayed for some orgy or dark rite.

A collection of other dark haired dolls look grimly onto the  massacred Raggedy Ann bodies stuffed into a trunk. Perhaps the dark ones are the ring leaders who pass judgment on the redheads condemning them to internment.

A collection of dark haired dolls look grimly onto the massacred Raggedy Ann bodies stuffed into a trunk. Perhaps the dark ones are the ring leaders who pass judgment on the redheads condemning them to internment.

I think that I'd rather move into a home that somebody was murdered in than this doll house horror.

Monday, February 28th 2011

I'm enjoying the new vehicle I bought this month but I have a single point of dissatisfaction.

I did my research and looked at a number of vehicles. It was winter and shopping wasn't as enjoyable as it could have been. I'd researched the vehicle I'd finally purchased both online and at dealership. I found that the online listing for the vehicle didn't include all of the features (even though it had about 50 line items: everything from power steering to floor mats. And yet, to my surprise, the online listing didn't include some of the niftier features that the vehicle obviously had such as blind spot detection which was very evident when I sat in it, turned it on and saw the indicators. I also found Blind spot detection was listed on the sticker in the window.

I provide this context because it illustrates the fact that not all of the documentation matched creating a natural tendency to believe what you saw manifest in the vehicle itself.

So, the reason I'm disgruntled is because of an experience that I can only call deceptive.

Chrysler has an optional feature called 'UnConnect" - essentially a series of options from Sirus Radio to Navigation to Phone, etc. If you go to Chrysler's website, you can see a visual that includes the Voice Command / Phone Uniconnect. Note the phone icon and and the person speaking icons. Notice also that they can be seen as buttons on the radio interface in this screen grab.

Chrysler's Unconnect Phone Voice Command web screen shot

Chrysler's website screen grab promotion of Unconnect phone.

Now compare these shots from my vehicle. Note that on startup, a Uconnect splash screen is displayed. More importantly, note the person speaking icon and the phone icon. Now, what do you think? Would you have thought that this vehicle had the phone system? What if you'd mentioned it to the salesperson and they'd agreed?

Screen shot of Chrysler Unconnect splash screen seen when I start my vehicle. Photo by Glen Green.

Unonnect startup splash screen on my vehicle.

Close up of voice activation and phone buttons on my Chrysler vehicle.  Photo by Glen Green.

Close up of voice command and phone buttons on my vehicle.

Well, I wouldn't be writing this if it had those features so, you can easily guess that it didn't.

Of course I didn't figure this out until I got home and started to check the manual, and prepared to try and hook up my phone. (This is not the kind of thing you do at the dealership after all.) I called the dealer and was told that if it wasn't on the window's sticker, it wasn't included. I checked and indeed, it wasn't on the sticker.

I'll own a certain degree of culpability here - buyer beware and all, but I'll also say that standing in sub-freezing weather scrutinizing through tinted and snowy glass does make a point for point check of every items you see in the vehicle unlikely. For example: I also saw a steering wheel and brashly assumed that it was included without cross checking it against the many bulleted features on the sticker.

Simply speaking: if a vehicle doesn't have a feature, it shouldn't have the button that would make you think it has that feature. Every time I look at that button, I'm taunted. Does Chrysler really want it's buyers to approach their vehicles so wearily? Must I try every single button and cross check it against a list to ensure that it is actually enabled before I buy it? The salesperson also said that it is confusing to them as well.

I intend to write Chrysler and voice my dissatisfaction and will report back on any word or action I might hear in return.

Monday, January 31st 2011

Dear Hollywood,
Making a movie complicated does not make the movie deep.



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