Collapsing World

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

We've moved!

Yes, indeed! Only several years late, Collapsing World has moved into the 21st century and onto the ever-so-much-more flexible Wordpress platform! It's got a new look! It's searchable! It's categorized! Best of all, all of this site's posts have been imported, so you never need switch back and forth to find an old entry. There are lots of new features to come, so check it out!

Monday, September 11, 2006


Originally uploaded by olivander.

In the span of a few hours, 2,973 people--of many nationalities--died in the terror attacks of Sept 11, 2001. In this week of memorials and tributes and renewed debate, let's not forget that long after the towers fell, the dying continues.

Total US servicemen and -women who have died in Afghanistan since the October, 2001, US invasion: 302

Total US servicemen and -women who have died in Iraq since the March, 2003, US invasion: 2,670

Minimum estimated civilians who have died in Afghanistan since the October, 2001, US invasion: 3,485 (since civilian deaths are not officially tracked, this number may be much higher)

Minimum estimated civilians who have died in Iraq since the March, 2003, US invasion: 41,650 (since civilian deaths are not officially tracked, this number may be as high as 280,000)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Insomniac's Hideaway

Insomniac's Hideaway
Originally uploaded by olivander.

Where do you go when it's 3:30am and you can't sleep? Denny's!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

So long, Mickey

Kiss Me Deadly
Originally uploaded by olivander.

Detective novelist Spillane dies

Friday, July 14, 2006


Originally uploaded by olivander.

(storm-prize) tr. v.: stepping outside in the morning to unexpectedly discover that it rained during the night, and you completely missed it.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Unamerican Activities Committee is back--and it's automated

You may recall the NSA's Total Information Awareness (TIA) project. The brainchild of convicted Iran-Contra conspirator and all-around wackjob John Poindexter, TIA was to compile every available data snippet on every US citizen and mine it to find out if you do or say anything that the government disapproves of. The public furor over the idea of such an invasive domestic spying program caused the Pentagon to withdraw the program, and Poindexter was ultimately forced to resign (but not before proposing a terrorism "futures exchange" which would have allowed people to bet on, and profit from, the probablity of future terrorist attacks, assassinations, etc.).

From this debacle, the Pentagon learned that if you are going to implement a Gestapo- or Kremlin-like dossier of your citizens' activities, you don't make it public. TIA was dismantled, and its core components renamed and spread out among other agencies. Now New Scientist has learned one of these renamed components has been reactivated. This one will scavenge and compile all of your online postings and identify relationships between you and everyone else you come in contact with on the web:
...the NSA is pursuing its plans to tap the web, since phone logs have limited scope. They can only be used to build a very basic picture of someone's contact network, a process sometimes called "connecting the dots". Clusters of people in highly connected groups become apparent, as do people with few connections who appear to be the intermediaries between such groups. The idea is to see by how many links or "degrees" separate people from, say, a member of a blacklisted organisation.


No plan to mine social networks via the semantic web has been announced by the NSA, but its interest in the technology is evident in a funding footnote to a research paper delivered at the W3C's WWW2006 conference in Edinburgh, UK, in late May.

That paper, entitled Semantic Analytics on Social Networks, by a research team led by Amit Sheth of the University of Georgia in Athens and Anupam Joshi of the University of Maryland in Baltimore reveals how data from online social networks and other databases can be combined to uncover facts about people. The footnote said the work was part-funded by an organisation called ARDA.

What is ARDA? It stands for Advanced Research Development Activity. According to a report entitled Data Mining and Homeland Security, published by the Congressional Research Service in January, ARDA's role is to spend NSA money on research that can "solve some of the most critical problems facing the US intelligence community". Chief among ARDA's aims is to make sense of the massive amounts of data the NSA collects - some of its sources grow by around 4 million gigabytes a month.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Quote of the day

Local news guy: "[Tropical storm] Alberto is expected to make landfall somewhere along the coast."

As opposed to making landfall elsewhere??