Small curtains between
windows and eyes,
the only thing that separates
you and me.
You and me,
we’re a pair of stars
light-years distant
circling each other,
feeding off of each other,
catching planets and asteroids
in our wake.
I watch your light
from behind patterned cloth,
and through panes of glass
meant to keep the cold out
while letting your image through.
I wonder how cold you are
shining there outside my home.
I wonder if this orbit will decay,
if we will someday collide
and meld
and become too massive
and explode to shed off
unwanted weight
and collapse to form
some naked singularity,
hot and exposed
and pulling into us everything
that passes by.
They would call us black and nothing,
but I would know better.
I would see our light
shine through
far beyond the bounds
of our event horizon.
And the universe would watch
until they’re blinded
by the glory
of what nothing can truly be.

The posting of this poem inspired, in no small way, by the recent postings of another everythingian

A hybrid of the Same Game. Collapse was developed by Game House, and is available for play online at Yahoo!. For $20, you can also download a full version of Collapse with added features and be able to play offline.

Each level begins with blocks of different colors occupying the bottom of the screen. More blocks are added from the bottom, pushing the stack upwards. If the stack reaches the top of the screen, the game is over. The object of each level is to prevent the stack from reaching the top by clearing away clusters of blocks that are of the same color. Each cluster must have three blocks in it in order for the cluster to be removed. Big bonuses are awarded for clearing large clusters of blocks, and also for clearing the screen of blocks. Once the line counter of lines of blocks to be added reaches zero, the level ends. The player then recieves a bonus based on how low the stack is.

Tips for high scores
  • Use the bombs: Occasionaly, a bomb may appear in the stack. Detonate it to clear away a large group of blocks. Colored bombs will remove all blocks that are of the same color as the bomb.
  • Focus on a single color: Removing blocks by color will allow the blocks from above to fall into the gaps created by the removed blocks. This will create large clusters of blocks which can be cleared for massive points.
  • Wait before clearing: When starting a level, wait a few moments for the stack to build to increase the number and size of clusters to be removed.

Collapse, in full entitled "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed" is a work by anthropologist/scientist Jared Diamond, detailing the myriad social and environmental factors that have caused societies, at various points in history, to fail or survive. It was published in 2005 and is something of a Magnum Opus. The book is wide in scope, deep in insight, and the result of deep research. It will probably become a classic of social science.

The book is presented as a series of case studies, in places as diverse as Iceland, Greenland, Easter Island, Haiti, Rwanda and Hamilton, Montana. In each case, Diamond looks at the various factors that led to changes, and sometimes a catastrophic collapse, in the societies. Some of these changes were environmental: (climate change, soil exhaust, overfishing), some were internal and political (usually having to do with a society being too conservative to adjust to changing circumstances) and some were external and political (such as a foreign invasion). The interplay of these factors is describes in some detail.

The book had two major problems for me. The first is probably inevitable: given the great amount of information about both social and natural science, there is a great deal that the reader needs to take on faith. Although science can tell us a lot, many of the results about, say, climate change in 14th century Greenland are probably the result of conjecture, and are not a matter of total consensus amongst the experts. And if that is the case in the physical sciences, the case in the social sciences is even more so. This brings up a second problem, which is that the sociological picture that Diamond paints is somewhat deterministic, and also could be seen as lacking in a humanistic, democratic view of human societies.

But for all the problems, I think it is a valuable book, and one that changed my thinking, because it had a central thesis that seemed to combine some different schools of thought. In Marxist sociology, a societies ideologies and power structures are shaped by its means of production. However, in post-modernism, the means of production themselves are viewed as just the products of cultural definition. What Jared Diamond has done is shown that both of these views are true, and that they can sometimes feed on each other disastrously. For example, the culture of the Norse in Greenland was shaped by the fact that they tried to continue an economy based on cattle. But this was itself a culturally defined pursuit: from an objective standpoint, the raising of cattle was not an efficient use of resources. In this case, the culture was shaped by the need to raise cattle, but the need to raise cattle was shaped by the culture. A similar case could be made for the use of automobile and air travel in the contemporary United States. And also, just as none of the Greenland Norse would say that they believed in eating beef because it gave them a sense of cultural prestige, air travel in the United States is often treated to be an "obvious" necessity, rather than a cultural artifact. And it is this lens that the book gave to me that I consider to be the most valuable thing about it.

Col*lapse" (?), v. i. [imp. & p. p. Collapsed (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Collapsing] [L. collapsus, p. p. of collabi to collapse; col- + labi to fall, slide. See Lapse.]

1.

To fall together suddenly, as the sides of a hollow vessel; to close by falling or shrinking together; to have the sides or parts of (a thing) fall in together, or be crushed in together; as, a flue in the boiler of a steam engine sometimes collapses.

A balloon collapses when the gas escapes from it. Maunder.

2.

To fail suddenly and completely, like something hollow when subject to too much pressure; to undergo a collapse; as, Maximilian's government collapsed soon after the French army left Mexico; many financial projects collapse after attaining some success and importance.

 

© Webster 1913.


Col*lapse" (?), n.

1.

A falling together suddenly, as of the sides of a hollow vessel.

2.

A sudden and complete failure; an utter failure of any kind; a breakdown.

[Colloq.]

3. Med.

Extreme depression or sudden failing o all the vital powers, as the result of disease, injury, or nervous disturbance.

 

© Webster 1913.

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