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
“[C]ustomers will be on a first class journey to disillusionment”
-Joe Costello, CEO of sensor and analytics platform company Enlighted, on the consequences of not "future proofing" IoT lighting
Apache Foundation Suffers Money Problems, Organizational Headaches Linda Hardesty SDXCentral May 23, 2017 - ...The all-volunteer board of directors of the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) oversees more than 180 diverse open source projects, including Apache HTTP Server — the world’s most popular Web server software since. The foundation also hosts other significant open source projects, including the Hadoop distributed storage platform and the Cassandra database management system. ASF is a non-profit organization comprising over 680 individual members and over 5,800 committers across six continents.
But apparently, at its ASF conference in Miami this week, ASF President Sam Ruby was bemoaning the fact that ASF is losing money fast.
According to an article in The New Stack, ASF’s most recent IRS Form 990 reports a deficit of around $130,000 on revenues of about $1.2 million. Ruby told the audience at the conference that the organization has about one year in reserves.... ...Full Story
The New Standards Competition: Wireless Charging Chantelle Dubois AllAboutCircuits.com May 22, 2017 - Wireless charging is the next natural step for mobile electronics. However, there is an ongoing race among a variety of charging standards, making it this generation's Betamax vs VHS....
Currently, there is no universal charging standard, although the European Union did pass a bill in 2014 requiring all phones to use a common charger by 2017. (This was not put forth as a way to increase convenience but rather as an effort to reduce electronic waste.)... ...Full Story
Lighting manufacturers and IoT companies form new alliance Nicholas Fearn Internet of Business May 19, 2017 - A range of lighting manufacturers, connected technology companies and industry groups have come together to form a new industry alliance.
The IoT-Ready Alliance is aimed at making the installation of Internet of Things technology in luminaires easier for now and in the foreseeable future.
It’s currently going through the process of creating new industry standards that can make LED lighting IoT-ready, facilitating the quick installation of connected sensors.
The companies involved say they want to make installing IoT technology as easy as changing a lightbulb... ...Full Story
Creating Interoperable 5G Networks Carl Weinschenk IT Business Edge May 16, 2017 - Mobile carriers want to be able to use equipment from multiple vendors in their networks. An attraction of open source and standards-based approaches is the promise of this capability.
At least two groups are trying to establish ecosystems of vendors to create standards-based 5G networks. One of them consists of Samsung Electronics America, Cisco and Verizon. Yesterday, the trio announced what it said is the successful deployment of a multivendor, end-to-end 5G trial network. The trial occurred in Ann Arbor, Michigan....
Deutsche Telekom may take exception to the claim that the Cisco/Samsung/Verizon group was the first. In late February, the carrier announced that it, with the help of Huawei, Samsung and Stanford University, had set up an interoperable 5G network capable of a number of cutting-edge tasks and functions. Indeed, the press release contains a blizzard of buzz words. The bottom line claim is that the E2E network will provide extreme levels of functionality and flexibility... ...Full Story
A new VR and AR standard would set the bar for rewriting reality Adi Robertson The Verge.com May 14, 2017 - The IEEE Standards Association is working on a series of standards for virtual and augmented reality. It announced the news ahead of this year’s Augmented World Expo, listing eight initial areas to work on. A working group will establish definitions and categories of VR and AR devices, as well as standards for video quality, user interfaces, and file formats.... ...Full Story
Apache OpenOffice: Not dead yet, you'll just have to wait until mid-May for mystery security fixes Thomas Claburn The Register May 10, 2017 - Apache OpenOffice, sized for euthanasia by one of its own last year, still lives and should see an update before the end of May, allegedly.
The open-source productivity suite has been referred to as "a shambling corpse" by those appalled at its languid update schedule and those skeptical that its skeleton crew of volunteers can keep it animated.
Apache OpenOffice 4.1.3 – the latest available version, and released in October – contains at least one undisclosed and so-far unpatched security issue: this is mentioned but not explained in the minutes of a meeting of the Apache Foundation Board of Directors in January.... ...Full Story
Finland’s Oskari GIS platform aims to go global Gijs Hillenius EU Joinup May 9, 2017 - Oskari, the online geographic map-building tool that was originally developed by the National Land Survey of Finland, is joining the OSGeo foundation, hoping to become one of the world’s standard open source Geographic Information Solutions. “The Oskari network now includes 33 members, mostly public administrations but also 13 companies, and the software is translated into 14 languages”, said Jani Kylmäaho, head of development at the land survey... ...Full Story
Linux Wants to 'Harmonize' Open Source & Standards Carol Wilson Light Reading May 8, 2017 - Open source projects and telecom's standards development organizations must work together to speed production of multi-vendor interoperability and automation for NFV and SDN, according to a Linux Foundation whitepaper released today. Such an effort requires close coordination, however, as well as a realization by each side of what it does best and careful attention to legal and intellectual property challenges.
The time is ripe for such an effort, because open source projects are proliferating as standalone projects, and need to be "better aligned with end users that maintain common technology stacks," according to the whitepaper "Harmonizing Open Source and Standards in the Telecom World."... ...Full Story
Linux Foundation and Free Software Foundation Europe Introduce Resources to Support Open Source Software License Identification and Compliance Press Release Linux Foundation May 5, 2017 - The Linux Foundation and Free Software Foundation E urope (FSFE) today announced new resources to help with free and open source software (FOSS) license identification and compliance. They include:
- The availability of a new, free online book, "Practical GPL Compliance: A guide for startups, small businesses, and engineers," by Armijn Hemel, MSc and Shane Coughlan.
- The open sourcing of "cregit," the underlying tool used at cregit.linuxsources.org, provided by The Linux Foundation. cregit enables easy access to and improves the visibility of details in the history of changes in source code files.
- The 3.1 release of FOSSology, a tool licensed under the GPL that helps engineers and office staff understand the free and open source (FOSS) licenses associated with a project... ...Full Story
Haivision and Wowza Form SRT Alliance to Support New Open Source Low Latency Video Streaming Initiative Press Release SRT Alliance May 4, 2017 - Wowza™ Media Systems and Haivision announced the founding of the SRT Alliance and the open source availability of SRT™, a video transport protocol to enable the delivery of high-quality and secure, low-latency video across the public Internet.
Despite advances in internet streaming, live video transport has faced a variety of latency challenges. This includes complications from origin network conditions, CDN caching and video transcoding, and last mile network congestion, among other issues.
To solve these challenges, Haivision and Wowza are making SRT available as an open source full-stack protocol that provides a secure and reliable solution for low latency video transport with packet loss recovery, end-to-end security with AES encryption, network health monitoring between endpoints, and simplified firewall traversal. Developers can use SRT to send video over any network, including the public internet.... ...Full Story