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
“Through this Notice, NTIA seek s broad input from all interested stakeholders...on the potential benefits and challenges of [the Internet of Things]and what role, if any, the U.S. Government should play in this area”
-National Telecommunications and Information Administration Request for Information
MIIT Opens Applications for Cybersecurity Pilot Projects USITO.org Weekly June 20, 2016 - On June 8, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) Network Security Management Department published a notice calling for 2016 Cybersecurity Pilot Projects in the telecommunications and internet industries. This is a continuation and expansion of last year's MIIT-led Pilot Program. Both notices made reference to the Guiding Opinions on Strengthening Telecommunications and Internet Industry Network Security Work (MIIT 2014: No. 368), which was first released in August 2014 and bore a strong resemblance to the original CBRC guiding opinions, emphasizing "secure and controllable" and a cyber review of "critical network products".
The announcement outlines key areas of focus for pilot projects, which includes cybersecurity threat monitoring and risk analysis, anti-DOS, data security and user information protection, domain system security, and cybersecurity solutions for emerging technologies such as cloud, big data, mobile Internet, IoT, connected cars, mobile payment, etc.
For companies interested in submitting a project proposal, the form requires that they disclose their key technology plan, including function chart, key technical indicators, and implementation process. The "Telecom and Internet Industry Cyber Security Pilot Projects Report Form" is available on the MIIT website and the application deadline is August 31. ...Full Story
Open Versus Closed: Addressing The IoT Standards Problem Forbes.com June 17, 2016 - When it comes to developing software for Internet of Things (IoT) projects, some companies are adopting open standards that everyone can share and adopt, while others are building and using their own.
Here, nine technology experts and members of Forbes Technology Council offer their thoughts on how the standards issue will play out as consumers demand devices that can “talk” to each other, and more and more companies get into the game.... ...Full Story
Identity and Access Management for Smart Home Devices: Seeking Feedback on Concept Paper NCCoE June 16, 2016 - Summary
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the ability of everyday objects (things) to connect to the internet and to send and receive data. This includes cameras, home automation systems, and industrial control systems. It is estimated that there are already 6.4 billion connected devices, and by 2020, there will be 20 billion. Industry experts agree that in spite of this projected growth, IoT technology is immature and lacks adequate security safeguards.
The NCCoE is seeking comments from industry on the challenges of identification, authentication, and authorization for devices in the IoT space; specifically requirements for authentication and authorization of autonomous non-person entities (NPE) found in smart home devices. Areas of interest include the following:... ...Full Story
InfoComm International Releases New Standard for Display Image Size Press Release Infocomm International June 15, 2016 - InfoComm International...is pleased to announce the release of a new standard for sizing displayed images for audiovisual systems: ANSI/INFOCOMM V202.01:2016, Display Image Size for 2D Content in Audiovisual Systems....
Display Image Size for 2D Content in Audiovisual Systems determines required display image size and relative viewing positions according to two defined viewing needs: basic decision making and analytical decision making. These two viewing categories are derived from ANSI/INFOCOMM 3M-2011 Projected Image System Contrast Ratio (PISCR). Image height, image resolution, and the size of image content are all prescriptive elements when determining required image size. The standard also addresses closest and farthest viewing distances, as well as relative horizontal and vertical viewer locations. It provides formulas to design and display content when encountering limitations in an environment. In addition to the standard, InfoComm will be providing a calculation/assessment tool on its website for determining proper display image size based on viewer needs....
"Until now, the AV industry has used guidelines that served their purpose in a different era, but whose provenance and basis could not be verified. The task group went back to basics and also referenced leading research and military standards," said Greg Jeffreys, Director of Visual Displays Ltd. and moderator for the standard task group. "As a designer and maker of large-screen displays, this standard will have a significant impact on my professional work. It will enable me to help clients to define what a good user experience comprises, and it gives me the tools and metrics to deliver just that."
"Content has historically been a part of the design consideration for image size. Content description, however, has been vague and its interpretation has been up to the designer," said Dick Tollberg, CTS®-D, Senior Design Engineer for AVI-SPL and member of InfoComm's Standards Steering Committee. "Before the standard, there was no way to quantify content in such a way that the designer could ensure that the image size was correct. The standard gives direction to the creators and presenters of the content, while allowing the designer to use familiar methods to determine the correct image size for a given room. If the designer and the content adhere to the standard, the designer can guarantee that the image size will be satisfactory for all room participants." ...Full Story
National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence Data Integrity Building Block NIST U.S. Federal Register June 15, 2016 - The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) invites organizations to provide products and technical expertise to support and demonstrate security platforms for the Data Integrity Building Block. This notice is the initial step for the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) in collaborating with technology companies to address cybersecurity challenges identified under the Data Integrity Building Block. Participation in the Data Integrity Building Block is open to all interested organizations.... ...Full Story
Government commits to Open Contracting Data Standard UKAuthority.com June 14, 2016 - The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) is to implement a standard for open data in contracting later this year as a first step towards its wider use in government.
The move towards implementation of the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) is one of the core features of the third Open Government National Action Plan, covering 2016-18.
It highlights the potential of the OCDS, which defines a common data model for the disclosure of data and documents at all parts of the contracting process. Developed by the international Open Contracting Partnership, it emphasises the iterative publication of data, making it reusable and creating summary records for the whole contracting process.... ...Full Story
Open Data 2.0 Adrian Offerman EU Joinup June 13, 2016 - Although there are large differences between countries in terms of the maturity of their strategies and levels of implementation, open (government) data has really taken off. After the initial phase of publishing as many datasets possible, attention is now shifting to the actual use of open data and the value that can be created. These new perspectives on open data were one of the main topics at the Digital and Open Government conference in Amsterdam last week.... ...Full Story
ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee on IT Seeks Global Experts for Working Group on Big Data ANSI Weekly News June 9, 2016 - As big data continues to inspire innovative changes in industry and enhance the way organizations and stakeholders work together, standardization supportive of this field remains a top priority in 2016. Last year, efforts to support standardization related to big data were set in action when the International Organization for Standardization / International Electrotechnical Commission (ISO/IEC) Joint Technical Committee (JTC) 1, Information Technology, launched JTC 1 Working Group (WG) 9 on Big Data....The JTC 1 WG 9 active programs of work under development include the following:
- ISO/IEC 20546, Information Technology-Big Data-Definition and Vocabulary, is an international standard that provides an overview of big data along with a set of terms and definitions. It provides a terminological foundation for big data-related standards, with the anticipated publication date of October 2018.
- ISO/IEC TR 201547-1, Information Technology-Big Data Reference Architecture-Part 1: Framework and application process, is a technical report that describes the framework of the big data reference architecture and the process for how a user of a standard can apply it to their particular problem domain....
- ISO/IEC TR 20547-2, Information Technology-Big Data Reference Architecture-Part 2: Use cases and derived requirements, is a technical report that decomposes a set of contributed use cases into general big data reference architecture requirements,...
- ISO/IEC 20547-3, Information Technology-Big Data Reference Architecture-Part 3: Reference architecture, is an international standard that specifies the big data reference architecture (BDRA). The reference architecture includes the big data roles, activities, and functional components and their relationships,...
- ISO/IEC 20157-4, Information Technology-Big Data Reference Architecture-Part 4: Security and Privacy Fabric, is an international standard that specifies the underlying security and privacy fabric that applies to all aspects of BDRA, including the big data roles, activities, and functional components.... ...Full Story
ITU hosts Conference on Space and the Information Society Press Release ITU June 8, 2016 - The Global Conference on Space and the Information Society – GLIS 2016 – was held at the International Telecommunication Union in Geneva, 6 - 7 June 2016 drawing attention to the fact that space and space applications have a major role to play in the shaping of a future “connected” world. GLIS 2016 was organized by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF)....
The international community faces substantial challenges: digital divide, disaster management, cybersecurity, big data analysis and climate change, to name a few. The next years will see governments, industry, academia and NGOs work together in a new era of connectivity. A combination of factors, such as the implementation of the UN Space Development Goals, the deployment of new mega constellations and the launch of new digitalized systems will strongly contribute to reaching this goal. International organizations, such as the United Nations and its agencies, ITU and UNOOSA, along with the IAF, aim to extend cooperation in space to achieve a better connected world.... ...Full Story
Mozilla Foundation creates fund to improve open source security John Leonard V3.co.uk June 8, 2016 - The Mozilla Foundation has launched a $500,000 fund to improve the security of key open source projects.
The Secure Open Source Fund is intended to "provide security auditing, remediation and verification for key open source software projects", according to Chris Riley, head of public policy, writing on the Mozilla blog.
Riley said that the initial funding, which will cover audits of some of the most widely used code, is just the start and that he hopes other organisations will contribute to the Fund.... ...Full Story