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.
I'm currently hiking and camping in New Mexico and 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.
Summer is the time of storms in the deserts of much of the Southwest, just as it is the time of intense heat. Except for its mountainous areas, the Southwest receives most of its meager precipitation in this way. The weather systems that form the thunderstorms of summer are thus vital to the cycle of desert life, and were they ever to fail, so, too, would most of what lives in these dry regions.
There are two essential elements to the weather system that produces these storms. The first is the uneven heating of the desert surface by the sun, which creates variable updrafts that can rise high into the sky. And the second is a summer wind pattern that regularly carries moist air from the Gulf of Mexico into the Southwest – the technically accurate, but rather misleading name given to this element is the "Southwest Monsoon."
When desert updrafts meet this moist Gulf air, they carry it skyward into cooler altitudes, where the moisture condenses into white, decorative cumulus clouds reminiscent of cauliflowers. If the air is sufficiently moist, the clouds can grow in height, becoming "towering cumulus" clouds. And if the updraft is strong, the air more saturated with moisture, and the differential in temperature between warm updraft and cool upper air sufficiently great, then you have all of the necessary elements to create a cumulonimbus cloud - also known as a potential thunderstorm.
Quote of the Day
“Whilst communications technologies have evolved drastically in the past five years, the story of the black box remains unchanged from 30 years ago”
-Malaysian Minister for Communications and Multimedia Ahmad Shabery Cheek, urging ITU to update "black box" standards following the loss of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370
SCTE Launches ‘Corporate Alliance Program’ Jeff Baumgartner MultiChannel News April 16, 2014 - In an effort to drive new technology training tools and education programs while also expanding its base of individual members, the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) has launched a Corporate Alliance Program, naming Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Suddenlink as the initiative’s charter members.
According to SCTE, the new program will focus on the development of training and education for emerging technologies, and offer discounts on individual employee memberships, access to online courses, and seats at the SCTE Leadership Institute programs at the Tuck School of Businesses at Dartmouth and the Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business.... ...Full Story
NIST Advisory Committee 2013 Annual Report Highlights Cybersecurity and Manufacturing NIST Techbeat April 16, 2014 - The Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology (VCAT) of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has sent its 2013 annual report to Congress. The committee focused its primary attention on NIST's role and programs in two key administration priorities—advanced manufacturing and cybersecurity.
The committee report supports NIST's ongoing and planned work in cybersecurity and recognizes the level of effort and planning NIST puts into its outreach and partnership mechanisms for cybersecurity. The report applauds the success of NIST's execution of Executive Order 13636—Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity and other collaborative efforts. The committee recommends NIST continue its involvement in the framework's future.... ...Full Story
Take F2: NIST’s Latest, Most Accurate Time Standard Debuts NIST Techbeat April 15, 2014 - The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has officially launched a new atomic clock, called NIST-F2, to serve as a new U.S. civilian time and frequency standard, along with the current NIST-F1 standard.
NIST-F2 would neither gain nor lose one second in about 300 million years, making it about three times as accurate as NIST-F1, which has served as the standard since 1999. Both clocks use a "fountain" of cesium atoms to determine the exact length of a second.
NIST scientists recently reported the first official performance data for NIST-F2, which has been under development for a decade, to the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), located near Paris, France. That agency collates data from atomic clocks around the world to produce Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the international standard of time. According to BIPM data, NIST-F2 is now the world's most accurate time standard. ...Full Story
World's first Water Stewardship Standard is released Click Green April 15, 2014 - The first international Water Stewardship Standard, a global framework to promote sustainable freshwater use, has been released by the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS).
The Standard defines globally applicable, consistent criteria for sustainable management and use of the world’s limited freshwater resources.... ...Full Story
ITU to work on standards for future Flight Data Recorders Press Release ITU-T April 14, 2014 - The Malaysian Minister for Communications and Multimedia called upon ITU to develop leading edge standards to facilitate the transmission of flight data in real time. He was speaking at the opening of the ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference taking place in Dubai.
This follows the tragic disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 on 8 March while on a routine flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing....whilst communications technologies have evolved drastically in the past five years, the story of the black box remains unchanged from 30 years ago....“ITU will invite avionics and aircraft manufacturers along with satellite operators and airlines to work on new standards to track aircraft in real time,”... ...Full Story
Cloud Industry Forum partners with Data Centre Alliance to push for industry transparency Cloud SaaS Joe Curtis CBR April 14, 2014 - Non-profit bodies representing the cloud and data centre industries have partnered in order to hold cloud computing companies to account.
The Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) and Data Centre Alliance (DCA) said they hope the move will help create common standards of transparency, trust and security across cloud and data centre providers.
The bodies are formed of industry experts, and another goal of the partnership will be to educate end users of cloud and data centre services on the issues they need to be aware of.
The DCA's executive director, Simon Campbell-Whyte, said: "The widespread adoption of cloud computing has highlighted the need for a common standard that ensures transparency, capability and accountability amongst both cloud service providers and data centres.... ...Full Story
ITU Conference sets agenda for future ICT development Press Release ITU-T April 14, 2014 - The Dubai Action Plan, adopted today by the ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference, sets the agenda for telecommunication and information and communication technology development over the next four years.
Under the theme ‘Broadband for Sustainable Development’, the Conference focused on development priorities and agreed on the programmes, projects and initiatives to implement them. The theme underlines ITU’s commitment to leverage broadband as a catalyst to meet the goals of sustainable development.
The Dubai Declaration states that “Universal and affordable access to telecommunications and information and communication technologies is essential for the world’s economic, social and cultural development, and contributes to building a global economy and information society. Widespread access to and accessibility of telecommunications and information and communication technologies applications and services provide new socio-economic opportunities for all people.”... ...Full Story
Wireless Innovation Forum Announces New Spectrum Standard Specification Project Press Release Wireless Innovation Forum April 11, 2014 - The Wireless Innovation Forum, a non-profit international industry association dedicated to driving the future of radio communications and systems worldwide, today announced the approval of a new project aimed at the development of an open, cross-domain standard specification and an open-source reference implementation of that specification available to the public.The Open Standard Spectrum Resource Format (Open SSRF) is a project of the Forum’s Spectrum Innovation Committee....SSRF is a government specification published by the Military Communications Electronics Board and is issued under the authority of DOD Directive 5100.35. SSRF is aligned with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Office of Spectrum Managements Data Dictionary (OSMDD) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Spectrum Management Allied Data Exchange Format – eXtensible Markup Language (SMADEF-XML). The specification defines standard data elements for the automated exchange of radio-frequency (RF) spectrum-related data.... ...Full Story
ISO 20022 Payment SEG Approves Standalone Remittance Messages Submitted by IFX Forum Press Release IFX Forum April 11, 2014 - The Interactive Financial eXchange (IFX; http://www.ifxforum.org) Forum, which took the lead role in a collaborative effort to develop a new international standard for standalone electronic remittance messages, today announced that the ISO 20022 Payment Standard Evaluation Group has approved this submission, and the messages will soon be published as part of the ISO 20022 standard.
The IFX Forum, a submitting organization to ISO 20022, is an international non-profit industry association whose mission is to develop and promote the adoption of its open, interoperable standard for financial data exchange. Remittance information is exchanged between a buyer and a seller to "explain" a payment. ISO 20022 is an international standard for financial services messaging, with a repository containing descriptions of messages and business processes.... ...Full Story
AIM Partners with Industry Leaders to Launch RAIN RFID Alliance Chantal Polsonetti AIM org April 11, 2014 - AIM, a leading industry association and worldwide authority on barcode, RFID, RTLS and mobile computing, announced the formation of the RAIN RFID Alliance, bringing together industry leaders dedicated to promoting the international adoption of UHF RFID.
The name RAIN, which stands for RAdio-frequency IdentificatioN, symbolizes the synergy between UHF RFID and the cloud as well as the infinite presence of UHF RFID tags and applications. The RAIN RFID Alliance (RAIN) will promote awareness, education, programs, and initiatives to accelerate the growth and adoption of ISO–IEC 18000-63 / UHF Gen2 RFID in business and consumer applications worldwide.
Founding Alliance members, Google, Impinj, Intel and Smartrac join AIM to launch this effort.
The Alliance will begin accepting members immediately,... ...Full Story