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
“[D]o you want to [hand] a 500-page specification...to a light bulb manufacturer, or do you want source code that you can hand to that manufacturer that enables interoperability?”
-Linux Foundation Jim Zemlin on why open source software is replacing open standards
ITU Plenipotentiary Conference elects Houlin Zhao as next Secretary-General ITU.org October 24, 0214 - The ITU Plenipotentiary Conference roundly endorsed Houlin Zhao of China as its next Secretary-General. Zhao will take office on 1 January 2015 for a term of four years, with the possibility of re-election for one additional four-year term.
The election took place in Busan, Republic of Korea, during the Plenary session of the PP-14 conference this morning. Zhao won the position with 152 votes, with 156 countries present and voting. He contested the position unopposed. Full election results are available here.
Addressing the conference after the vote, Zhao told some 2,000 conference participants from around the world that he would do his best to “fulfil ITU's mission, and, through our close cooperation, ensure ITU delivers services to the global telecommunication and information society at the highest level of excellence."... ...Full Story
Who Open Source is Replacing Open Standards Glyn Moody ComputerWorld.uk October 23, 0214 - ...Here's [Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim] Zemlin's perspective on why the Foundation is becoming involved in so many collaborative industry projects:
"Companies are now as the norm using open source to shed comunity R&D, to do collective innovation, particularly at the infrastructure layer, for almost every aspect of technology, not just Linux - SDN, IOT, network functions virtualisation, cloud computing, etc. What you have seen as a result is this proliferation of organisations who facilitate that development, on a very large professional scale. That's a permanent fixture of how the tech sector operates. We launch a new one of these about every 3 months. Next year we'll have many many more of these type of projects....The largest form of collaboration in the tech industry for 20 years was at standards development organisations - IEEE, ISO, W3C, these things - where in order for companies to interoperate, which was a requirement in tech, they would create a specification, and everyone would implement that. The tech sector is moving on to a world where, in the Internet of things [for example], do you want to have a 500-page specification that you hand to a light bulb manufacturer, or do you want source code that you can hand to that manufacturer that enables interoperability? I think that's a permanent fixture. People have figured out for a particular non-differentiating infrastucture they want to work on that through open source, rather than creating a spec."... ...Full Story
Bitcoin Foundation’s Financial Standards Working Group Underway Eric Calouro Bitcoin News Service October 22, 0214 - In effort to help standardize bitcoin and the bitcoin protocol, the Bitcoin Foundation has announced that the Financial Standard Working Group is well underway, led by Chairperson Beth Moses of Virgin Galactic (and formerly with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration).
The group’s priorities for the fourth quarter of this year into the first quarter of next year will be to apply for ISO 4217. In other words, the group is working to establish and get approval for a bitcoin currency code. They are looking to adopt “XBT”, despite the fact that “BTC” is more commonly used in the community.... ...Full Story
Dutch Parliament urges increase of open source Submitted Gijs Hillenius EU Joinup October 22, 0214 - The Dutch government must increase its use of open source software, recommends the country's parliament. It wants to make open standards mandatory and use open source when equal to or better than proprietary solutions for all ICT projects over 5 million euro.
The government must enforce compliance with its existing policy on open source software and open standards, the parliament recommends in its final report on failures of government ICT projects. Enforcing the ‘comply or explain’ policy is to become a task for a new agency, overseeing all government ICT projects....The parliament wants the government to report the savings it realises by using open source. This is to become part of the annual business reports of the government.... ...Full Story
W3C Launches Web Payments Initiative W3C.org October 21, 0214 - W3C announced today a new Web Payments Initiative to integrate
payments seamlessly into the Open Web Platform. W3C calls upon
all industry stakeholders –banks, credit card companies,
governments, mobile network operators, payment solution
providers, technology companies, retailers, and content
creators– to join the new Payments Interest Group and leverage
the unique ability of the Web to bridge ecosystem diversity and
reach users everywhere, on any device. The result will be new
business opportunities, an improved user experience for online
transactions, reduced fraud, and increased interoperability
among traditional solutions and future payment innovations.... ...Full Story
China Celebrates "World Standards Day" USITO.org Weekly October 21, 0214 - Last week, the General Administration of Quality, Supervision, Inspection & Quarantine (AQSIQ) andStandards Administration of China (SAC) co-hosted a conference to mark World Standards Day, embracing the theme of "Standards Level the Playing Field, Standards Construct Unified Market Rules."
At the conference, SAC announced three immediate standardization reform measures:
- Promote information disclosure of mandatory standards
- Initiate pilots on enterprise standards self-declaration disclosure system
- Expedite systemic reform of code allocation to organizations
Mr. Tian Shihong, Director-General of the SAC, highlighted three key medium and long-term goals:
- Efficient management of mandatory standards
- Development of consortia standards
- Improving participation in international standardization work... ...Full Story
ANSI Seeks Input on the Possible Revision of ISO/IEC Guides on the Adoption of International Standards and Deliverables ANSI Weekly News October 17, 0214 - The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Technical Management Board (TMB) is seeking respondents for a survey connected with the possible revision of two ISO/International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) Guides providing information on the adoption of International Standards and deliverables. As the U.S. member body to ISO, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) invites interested parties to respond to a brief ISO survey on this matter.
The two guides are ISO/IEC Guide 21-1, Regional or national adoption of International Standards and other International Deliverables – Part 1: Adoption of International Standards, and ISO/IEC Guide 21-2, Regional or national adoption of International Standards and other International Deliverables – Part 2: Adoption of International Deliverables other than International Standards. The results of the survey will be used, in conjunction with similar surveys taking place in thirteen other ISO TMB member nations, to inform the TMB’s decision-making process regarding the potential revision of the guides, which were last updated in 2005. Further consultation with the IEC regarding the revision is expected following the end of the survey period.
Stakeholders are asked to complete the survey form, available online, and submit it to Steven Cornish, ANSI senior director for international policy, at email@example.com by close of business on Friday, November 7, 2014. ...Full Story
HIMSS seeks specific guidance from NIST on cybersecurity framework Susan D. Hall FierceHealthIT October 16, 0214 - The healthcare industry needs the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to get specific about how to implement its cybersecurity framework, HIMSS writes in a letter to NIST Acting Director Willie E. May....In the letter to May, HIMSS said healthcare entities have long been focused on HIPAA compliance, yet compliance does not equal security....It also asks for specific guidance on what an ideal "target state" would be for a healthcare organization and standard metrics or tools to measure progress toward that goal. In addition, both privacy risk management and information security risk management should be addressed.... ...Full Story
AQSIQ and SAC Push for Reform of Enterprise Standards Management USITO.org Weekly October 16, 0214 - On September 30th, officials from regional quality supervision bureaus and the Standardization Administration of China (SAC) convened in Chongqing to discuss a new system of self-declaration of compliance for commercial product standards....Tian reiterated Premier Li Keqiang's objectives of "completing the national standards system, pushing forward the reform of mandatory standards, and improving the effectiveness, progressiveness and adaptability of standards, inspection and testing." Self-declaration of compliance for commercial product standards is seen as an important step in deepening the reform of the standardization regime, Tian said....Implementation of the new system will take place gradually, with an initial series of pilot initiatives. ...Full Story
Can We Talk: Creating a Common Language for Cybersecurity Brian Heaton Emergency Management October 15, 0214 - As hacking attempts become more complex, governments continue to improve their cybersecurity presence through sophisticated firewalls and expanded procedures. But while high-profile data breaches have focused more state and municipal attention on cyberintrusions, a decidedly old-school problem continues to plague efforts to beef up security — communication.
With a variety of security options available, public-sector agencies often are deploying tools and using strategies that utilize different terminology and principles. These differences can lead to frustration when trying to compare cybersecurity programs and address the latest digital threats across agencies or jurisdictions. Without a standardized language, it’s difficult to gauge how strong another organization’s cybersecurity is.... ...Full Story