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Tuesday, August 23rd, 2005 @ 12:40 PM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 2,972

I decided to take my last post a step farther, and to look more deeply into the historical and current definitions of the word "Wilderness". You can find an essay I've just written on that topic in the "Consider This..." section of this site, where it finds a more natural home. It's a bit redundant with the August 20 post, but also, I hope, adds some new thoughts worth reading.

Saturday, August 20th, 2005 @ 12:46 PM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 4,039

Public land is just that - public. Who should be able to decide how it is maintained? One man's wilderness policy may be another man's folly.

John McPhee (one of my favorite authors) once wrote a book called The Control of Nature. His theme was man’s hubris in attempting to contain the power of nature, and his propensity for forgetting how limited his ability to do so really is. One of three examples that McPhee describes highlights the heroic nature of the quest, as the inhabitants of a small town on an Icelandic island try and save their homes and harbor by turning fire hoses against the lava flow that is about to overwhelm them. In another, he demonstrates the foolhardiness of those that build houses in California canyons that periodically are the site of flashfloods that hurl bus-sized boulders through anything that stands in their path.

 

Unfortunately (depending on your point of view), nature isn’t always that powerful, and submits with a whimper. All too often, it can be tamed with a tool as simple as a cow.

Thursday, August 18th, 2005 @ 12:47 PM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 2,636

If you want to really get away, you should consider Nevada. Esmeralda County is one of Nevada’s smaller and more populous counties (leaving the Reno and Las Vegas areas out of this equation). In 1996, its 1,344 inhabitants had 2,284,800 acres all to themselves. Nye County looks to be the size of Maine, and has far fewer (you can’t accurately include the headcount for the secret Air Force test facility in Area 51 that officially does not exist). In all, Nevada has more than 70 million acres, 60 million of which are federal, state or local public land. 50 million of those acres are owned by the federal Bureau of Land Management (the BLM).

"Public Land," though, doesn’t mean the same thing everywhere. In Nevada, it means that you’ve got 50 million acres to choose from when you’re looking for a place to wander during the day and unroll your sleeping bag at night. The landscape may be a bit repetitive, it’s true, but on the other hand no one puts up signs that say they’ll shoot you if you enter their "public" land, as they do a couple states over in New Mexico. Some of them mean it.

Wednesday, August 17th, 2005 @ 12:48 PM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 2,853

If you look at the Northwestern corner of Nevada, you’ll see that it’s bounded on the south by Interstate 80. Depending on the map you’re looking at, you may or may not see any roads at all in this quadrant. If you do, what the map is showing you are all gravel roads, with the exception of state route 447, which in turn converts to gravel at Gerlach.

 

Normally, Gerlach has a couple of hundred inhabitants in and around town (maybe). There’s a gas station, a small motel, a bar (of course with slots, this being Nevada, and that’s about it. But that’s enough to make Gerlach the hub of this neck of the woods (except, of course, there are no woods -- too dry), with only a handful of isolated ranches scattered across the whole corner of the state like buckshot. Stop at Bruno’s Texaco before you leave Gerlach, and take a look at the small photo tucked away on the back wall. You’ll see Bill, the man in charge, and a very impressive mountain sheep he’s just taken. If you look carefully down the mountain behind Bill in the picture, you’ll see the Gerlach. Probably Bruno’s Texaco as well, if you look hard enough. You have to be pretty isolated to shoot a mountain sheep in your back yard.

Tuesday, August 16th, 2005 @ 12:49 PM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 2,591

This trip had its genesis some four years ago, when I was flying back from San Jose on a nearly empty flight to Boston. Looking down, I saw the usual mountains, canyons and rugged terrain of the southwest: there were no jeep trails. In most parts of the West, jeep trails are everywhere, snaking across deserts, scaling mountains, and leaving their scars behind for decades even if the area is declared off limits to vehicular travel.

 

When I landed, I pulled out a map and saw that it was Nevada I had been traveling over: the state that's easy to forget, because there is so little there (quick -- name five things in Nevada. Odds are you couldn't -- unless you’re from Nevada). It is one of the largest and emptiest states in the country, with areas as large as some eastern states without a single town, and more than 100 miles between gas stations more often not.

Monday, August 15th, 2005 @ 12:50 PM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 2,960

Blogging by its nature is a self-indulgent enterprise, which represents both its primary virtue as well as its greatest weakness. By this I mean that the blogging ethos revolves around sharing one’s uncompromised perspective with whoever finds it worth her while to read it — take it or leave it (that’s the virtue).

Tuesday, August 9th, 2005 @ 12:51 PM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 7,759

A long-running drama has taken a new and relatively unusual turn that is worth noting. That drama is the long (and ultimately unsuccessful) struggle that was waged within EPC Global to maintain a royalty-free environment for RFID standards. And that new turn is the announcement today that a patent pool is being formed by some 20 companies to establish royalty rates and manage royalty payments on implementations of EPC Global RFID standards.

Saturday, August 6th, 2005 @ 12:52 PM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 3,053

The current U.S. patent system is something that just about everyone loves to hate, particularly if they have anything to do with software. Now, there is hope, as well as some trepidation, that significant reforms will take place. Hope, because there is a bill in Congress to take such action, and trepidation over whether Congress will get it right.

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2005 @ 12:54 PM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 3,346

Announcing the answer before knowing and understanding the facts is an increasingly popular pastime. My, but it does get tedious living in a world filled with experts.

Sunday, July 31st, 2005 @ 12:56 PM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 2,593

An article by Randall Stross in the Sunday Business Section of the New York Times today called Why Bill Gates Wants 3,000 Patents put me in mind of the classic John Lennon song, "Imagine", one verse of which reads as follows:

Imagine no possessions,
I wonder if you can,
No need for greed or hunger,
A brotherhood of man,
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

Unlike a world with no possessions, though, a world with no software patents isn't really that hard to imagine -- especially by those of us that can remember what it was like when there were no software patents, or those that live in Europe today, where software patents are not accepted, as reaffirmed by a recent vote by the European Parliament, despite a protracted effort by the software industry to drop this restriction.