Scientists and philosophers have struggled for years to define our relation to reality, or even to decide what “reality” might be. The rest of us mostly muddle through the daily experience of our existence. For a writer, perceptions of reality are also important, as it’s easier to write about what we have perceived than what we have persuaded ourselves to imagine.
Man's ability to affect the land is all too evident in these times of climate change, pollution and habitat destruction. Happily, the landscape can change man as well.
The weather finally broke last night, dropping 30 degrees by dawn, and thanks be for that. The night before I had camped in the Sheyenne National Grasslands, heavy with heat and humidity. But the next day it was pleasantly cool (upper 60s), albeit overcast rather than sunny.
Nor was this the only change. It took over 2400 driving miles to finally leave the Eastern, and then Midwestern terrain behind, but today I reached the beginnings of what I think of as the West. More than anything else, in my mind that means “dry.” For the last 800 miles, the landscape had been primarily flat, lush - and transitionally post-glacial. That last factor means an area where the great ice sheets completed their periodic southward pulses, dumping rich, black earth born of thousands of miles of ice grinding down stone, some deposited by glacial steams, and other as windblown “loess” – very fine mineral particles.
In 2001, I took a one month solo cross country trip, driving from Massachusetts across the Northeast, the Midwest, and then the prairie states, until I reached what we generally think of as “the West” – the land of canyons and buttes, deserts and mesas. Once there, I spent the rest of the time backpacking in the canyonlands of Utah, and then meandering North on dirt roads until I reached Glacier National Park, in the Northwest corner of Montana. After that, I zigzagged back East until I reached the Mississippi. Then, it was just a straight highway shot till I arrived back home once again. It was during that trip that I began writing in earnest, although I haven’t (yet) posted anything from that journey to the Web.
It was an interesting trip, in all, providing a cascade of often starkly diverse images. How varied a range? On the natural grandeur list, I would add spectacular sunsets, wildernesses of soaring, broken redrock, and broad vistas of pristine desert.
And at the opposite end of the spectrum, I might begin with the sights that greeted me when I crossed the Colorado early in the trip, and threaded my way through the 27th Annual Laughlin River Run, a meet that draws over 40,000 leather-clad, mostly aging bikers to what Motorcycle-usa.com calls, “one of the more popular events on the West Coast rally scene, packing bikini contests, custom bike shows, demo rides, poker runs, freak shows and tattoo contests into four-days of 24/7 fun.” I can attest to the fact that it also packs in what is presumably one of the largest assemblages of multi-story, inflatable Jim Beam bottle and Budweiser can replicas to be found anywhere in one place.
The southwestern landscape hosts a variety of signature geologic forms, some of which have become iconic as the backdrops for countless western movies. If you should find yourself channel surfing late tonight, a single frame of a mesa, butte, spire or hoodoo will instantly lock you on to the genre, even before the dusty characters ride into view.
The desert rock garden is a less well known type, but it will be familiar to anyone who has spent any time knocking about the southwest, and around Arizona in particular. Unlike the angular, striated spires and hoodoos that erode out of sedimentary formations, rock gardens are more often volcanic in origin than not, usually granitic, and rounded in form, characteristically resembling enormous blowups of the sand dribbles that a child makes at the beach by allowing a slurry of water and sand to slip through her fingers.
Long-time readers will know that whenever I can, I disappear into the desert for as long as I can. Often, the opportunity arises to cadge a lift out west on the back of a business trip, and so it is that I write this in northwestern Arizona a couple days after spending a day in a conference room buried deep within the bowels of the raucus, random, blaring, unworldly nonsense that is otherwise known as the Mandalay Bay Casino and Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada.
Some of the nonsense worked to my favor, or at least amusement, as my $143.95 room was somehow traded up into a penthouse suite on the 62nd floor of the hotel – a suite that was bigger than the first floor of my admittedly small house, with 18 foot ceilings, a wall of glass behind motorized drapes, bar, living room, two bathrooms (one palatial), four flat screen TV sets (more than I have owned of any type in my entire life), and no coffee maker.
My first day back in the desert, a brisk wind was blowing.In the ordinary course, I would expect that its strength would decline with the sun.And so, rather than looking for a protected cove among the rocks to camp, I shopped for thebest view instead.The view delivered nicely, and I enjoyed watching the sunset fade into darkness until the rapidly falling temperature sent me to bed.True to form, the wind abated.
But only for a time.Around midnight, a front moved in from the west, and with it came the wind.Soon it was gusting 30 and 40 miles per hour, rushing by and rattling my ground cloth between the tent stakes I had driven to hold it down.On each downbeat, the edge of the ground cloth would scoop up a scatter of grit. And on each upbeat, it would rain those particles down like sleet on my head, causing me to pull the top of my mummy bag ever more tightly down over my face.But as the wind rose, the half moon set, and with the fading of its light the constellations blazed forth.Orion shone almost directly overhead, and was soon joined by the Pleiades, the Milky Way, and numberless points of light in between.
Spring, of course, is the premier time to be in the desert.That’s when all that lives and was grey begins to blush with green, and when the cactus blooms.It’swhen the normally drab as dishwater creosote bushes that stretch on for entire states at a time become enpixalated with tiny yellow flowers nestled amid new green leaves no larger than a bee's wing.And most memorably, that’s when the seeds of annuals sprout throw rugs of purple, white, orange and yellow in washes, sandy bottom lands, and other places moist enough to germinate seeds deposited a year, a decade, even twenty-five years before.
When to arrive at a given part of the desesrt depends on many things.Altitude will play its part, as will, most crucially, how much rain has fallen over how long a period during the winter months.And also on what you wish to see, as different types of plants have their respective seasons to flower, and not all of these overlap. As a generality, for annuals, come early.For cactus, come late.
Life and the exigencies of earning a living being what they are, my arrival in the Colorado and Mohave deserts of southern California had all to do with opportunity and little to do with floral optimization.I had agreed to speak at a couple of open source conferences in San Francisco that conveniently fell about a week apart, and that provided a reasonable excuse to hold over and head out.
There is a 100 mile long, unpaved track that circles the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park, called the White Rim Road. That circuit has become a favorite of mountain bikers, who noticed some years back that it was conveniently located not for from Moab, Utah, which is a popular jumping off point for such activities. But previous to their discovery, and still for all but a few months of the year, the White Rim Road is a largely deserted dirt and slickrock, four-wheel drive track with consistently world-class scenery, and plenty of privacy.
It's also long, slow, bumpy and monotonous driving, when you're not looking at that scenery, but more on that later.
I'm currently hiking and camping in Utah, which explains this off-topic post. I'll continue to cover big news when I'm able to access email, and will also upload and time-phase these entries for posting when I come into town for gas and supplies. To find more of this type of writing based on past trips, look to the folder link at left titled Not Here but There: A Wilderness Journal.
As I took my morning walk today and watched the canyons fill with sunlight and shadow, it occurred to me: If I ever become deaf, I would move to the desert.
Not so surprising, when you think about it. The desert is a place of great stillness, and a place that silence suits well. And after all, sound is the most evanescent of all sensations – here and then gone in an instant, leaving no trace. To be deaf in the desert would be to become more a part of it - a place that displays time and timelessness in its every ancient feature. The events or sensations of an instant – or indeed of a lifetime - don't cut much mustard in such a place as this.
But let me not mislead you: soundless does not equate to lifeless. The desert is a vibrant place, especially at night, as the tracks in the morning sand make clear. Even during the day, any walk through a brushy area will flush cottontails and jackrabbits, the former hopping tentatively away, the latter moving on with greater determination, though both noiselessly. Lizards, large and small, are ever present, and freeze or silently scamper off, depending on what you do. And birds, while scarce, are often in view if you look for them, if not in earshot.
Nor is the desert really silent, actually, though it certainly is in contrast to the rest of the world. So it must especially seem to those that visit the desert briefly in air-conditioned cars to snap a few pictures and then move on. Which is to say almost everyone, including most that move to the rapidly growing cities of the southwest, looking for inexpensive real estate and winter sun, and not for the desert itself.
Quote of the Day
“The need to adopt ODF is a no-brainer”
-Nico Westpalm van Hoorn, chairman of the Netherlands government body responsible for selecting IT standards for government
HPC Leaders Form OpenHPC Collaborative Project DE November 30, 2015 - The Linux Foundation, an organization dedicated to accelerating Linux adoption and collaborative development, has helped form the OpenHPC Collaborative Project at SC15. This consortium will work to provide a new, open-source framework to support HPC (high-performance computing) environments.
The framework, according to the organization, will consist of upstream product components, tools and interconnections to enable the software stack. This community plans on providing an integrated and validated collection of HPC components that can offer a full-featured reference HPC software stack for developers, system administrators and users.
The outline of OpenHPC is to:
- Create a stable environment for testing and validation;
- Reduce costs;
- Provide a robust and diverse open-source software stack;
- Develop a flexible framework for configuration.... ...Full Story
NIST Offers Guidance on Using Technology to Prevent Intrusions, Malware NISO.org November 30, 2015 - The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has published a guide to deploying automated application whitelisting to help thwart malicious software from gaining access to organizations’ computer systems. Guide to Application Whitelisting (Special Publication 800-167) explains the basics of the technology and provides step-by-step instructions.
Automated application whitelisting regulates what software can load onto an organization’s network. It is one of a number of techniques that can help prevent malware infections, and it complements other security technologies that are part of an enterprise’s defense-in-depth resources.... ...Full Story
MIIT Vice Minister Huai Provides Overview of Big Data Strategy USITO.org November 25, 2015 - Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) Vice Minister Huai Jinpeng participated in a discussion forum in Shenzhen on big data development, offering keynote remarks that were subsequently published on the MIIT website. In his remarks, vice minister Huai emphasized that data is one of China's strategic resources, a critical factor behind modern innovation and an engine of China's future social and economic development.
Huai then introduced the seven key objectives for China's big data industry development, as articulated in the Action Plan to Promote Big Data Development, which was published in early September 2015:
- Implement China's Big Data national strategy, starting with top-level leadership coordination
- Support key Big Data technology R&D and commercialization
- Integrate China's Big Data strategy into the Internet Plus and China Manufacturing 2025 strategic framework
- Promote the establishment of a Big Data standards system
- Encourage the application of Big Data technologies, including through the creation of special experimental or pilot areas
- Strengthen Big Data infrastructure development
- Improve the legal system governing Big Data ...Full Story
IEEE Introduces New Regulations to Standardize 3D Printing Software Used in Medical Settings Clare Scott 3DPrint.com November 24, 2015 - 3D printing is becoming a pretty player in the medical industry, with 3D printed prosthetics, surgical models, and implants being used with increasing regularity in hospitals, dental offices, and clinics. With new technology, of course, comes new regulation. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standards Association (IEEE-SA) has recently unveiled new interoperability standards for 3D printers and other electronic devices used in the medical field.... ...Full Story
IoT Groups Merge Efforts OIC taps UPnP, eschewing rival AllSeen Rick Merritt EETimes November 23, 2015 - The Open Interconnect Consortium will acquire assets of and combine its technologies with those of the Universal Plug and Play Forum, a fifteen-year old group focused on automating links between PCs and peripherals typically over Wi-Fi. By adopting the UPnP’s widely used service discovery software and likely many of its members, OIC will bolster its position as an applications-layer software stack for the Internet of Things.
All sides agree the IoT is encumbered with too many competing and overlapping platforms, networks, protocols and frameworks as the result of a land grab for what is seen as the next big thing.... ...Full Story
How open source can bring agencies to the cloud Gina Loften Federal Times November 23, 2015 - Cloud computing has fundamentally changed how the world works, innovates and connects .From businesses and governments to individuals, we are all finding ourselves interacting in new and meaningful ways .Yet, according to IDC, only 6 percent of federal government applications run in the cloud.
Open source could be the key in spurring more cloud adoption across federal agencies. Here are two examples:
- GSA’s internal digital consultancy, 18F, recently launched Cloud.gov, a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) built on the open source framework Cloud Foundry.
- The Department of the Interior recently relaunched DOI.gov using the open source software Drupal as a PaaS to create a better approach to managing website content.
With open source comes open standards and application programming interfaces (APIs) that enable the extensibility, interoperability and portability needed for federal agencies to meet higher expectations in launching new services quickly, adding infrastructure when needed and identifying new opportunities to engage citizens .The GSA and DOI examples represent a dramatic shift for the federal government as many agency innovators seek to employ agile methods and drive faster cloud adoption.
The open architecture that open source provides is critical for agencies to build, ship and run applications across the cloud .New applications can be spun up in seconds, dynamically changed, scaled and are portable across different cloud environments.... ...Full Story
ANSI Requests Comments on SAC’s “Association Standardization—Part 1: Guidelines for Good Practice” ANSI Weekly News November 20, 2015 - The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) requests stakeholder comments on the draft guidance document “Association Standardization-Part 1: Guidelines for Good Practice,” published by the Standardization Administration of China (SAC). The promotion of association standards is a key component of China’s plan for deepening standardization reform. ANSI members interested in contributing to ANSI’s submission should use the linked form and provide their comments to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than Wednesday, November 18.
Earlier in 2015, China’s State Council released a plan for deepening the reform of China’s standardization system....While association standards are a relatively new category of standards in China, the guidelines, which ANSI has been closely monitoring, will play an important role in shaping their growing influence under the reformed system.
ANSI will use the ANSI Essential Requirements and accreditation of U.S.-based standards developing organizations as the basis for its feedback and encourages members to submit their comments to ANSI for consideration while developing its submission. ANSI also encourages members to submit comments through their own organizations, or to send comments and feedback to ANSI for information, rather than inclusion in its submission.... ...Full Story
Home › Policy & Industry News Policy & Industry News MIIT Issues Cloud Standardization Guidelines USITO.org November 19, 2015 - The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) published the "Cloud Computing Comprehensive Standardization System Construction Guidelines," a detailed plan aimed at enhancing China's cloud computing development and standardization.
The Guidelines include a section that compares China's cloud technology development levels with foreign technology, as well as sections covering hardware, software, services, networks and security.
The Guidelines also identify four cloud areas in which China is aiming to develop a total of 29 cloud-related standards. The four areas are:
- Cloud foundation
- Cloud resources
- Cloud services
- Cloud security ...Full Story
Book Review: The Lafayette Campaign Dave Piscitello The Security Sceptic November 18, 2015 - ...The Lafayette Campaign is entertaining beyond how Frank discovers and ultimately thwarts election fraud. It's quite the maze of twisty turns passages. But Updegrove mercilessly lampoons primary campaigns and campaign funding, and given how the 2016 presidential campaign is proceeding, you may find yourself wondering just how closely art is imitating life here. Frank's investigation is technically credible yet plainly explained for Average Joes and Josettes. And Andrew's character development of Frank and the supporting cast continues to be refreshing. The good guys are people you'd like to meet in real life and the villains are manipulative, greedy bastards you'd like to avoid.
Andrew Updegrove has veered from the customary formula for a suspense novel but his formula is fun. I'm looking forward to future adventures with Frank Adversego. ...Full Story