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
“In 2009, the government spent £16bn on IT services. That is 1% of the UK economy – a lot of money”
-UK Government CTO Liam Maxwell, announcing a move to "Government as a Platform"
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
Patents and Standards Public Consultation Enterprise and Industry European Commission October 14, 0214 - Standardization and intellectual property rights are key contributors to industrial innovation and industrial competitiveness. Standards ensure rapid diffusion of technologies and interoperability between products. Patents provide incentives for research and development and facilitate knowledge transfers. Many standards comprise innovative technologies that are protected by patents.
Public authorities and the standardization community have developed rules and practices to ensure the efficient licensing of such standard-related patents. These rules and practices aim to give patent holders a fair return on investment in research and development and to allow all users of the standard fair access at reasonable cost.
Public consultation (14/10/2014 - 31/01/2015)
The European Commission is interested in your views on:
– how the current framework governing standardization involving patents performs
– how it should evolve to ensure that standardization remains efficient and adapted to the fast-changing economic and technological environment... ...Full Story
Government as a platform will be fully ready in three years, says Liam Maxwell Archana Venkatraman ComputerWeekly.com October 14, 0214 - Government CTO Liam Maxwell has outlined the UK government’s digital transformation vision of delivering “government as a platform” – moving to common, shared technology platforms and ending silos....According to Maxwell, there are more than 300 websites across the government delivering public services, which is confusing for people. “Every part of the government has been a silo. Everyone is doing the same things, such as hosting and publishing,” he said.....
He added that the government is progressing quickly towards achieving its common platform vision by offering services such as the Public Services Network (PSN). Other services such as shared hosting and shared desktops will be launched soon and the idea of government as a platform will be fully functioning in two to three years’ time, he said....Talking to delegates at IP Expo, Maxwell also called for an end to “big IT” in government services.
“In 2009, the government spent £16bn on IT services. That is 1% of the UK economy – a lot of money,” he said.... ...Full Story
Central Military Commission Issues InfoSec "Opinions" USITO.org Weekly October 13, 0214 - Cnstock.com reported on October 8th that the China Central Military Commission recently issued a document entitled "Opinions on Further Strengthening Military Information Security Work."
According to the report, the "Opinions" require that the military thoroughly implement multi-level
information security risk assessment, with an emphasis on information security implementation and management. The "Opinions" also require that the military work to advance domestic indigenous technology and its applications.
This is the latest set of "opinions" designed to improve information security in key sectors of the economy and society, following recent guidelines from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) for network security and from the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) for banking industry network security. ...Full Story
It’s an IoT standards shakeup as Broadcom dumps Intel’s Open Interconnect Consortium Stacey Higginbotham Gigaom October 13, 0214 - Standards formation is a messy business, and that’s proving true for the internet of things, as Broadcom leaves Intel’s Open Interconnect Consortium after a disagreement over IP.
Broadcom, one of the founding members of the Open Interconnect Consortium, has left the group over a disagreement on how to handle intellectual property, according to a source involved on the OIC. The standards group was formed this summer as a competitor to Qualcomm’s efforts to push AllJoyn as a device-to-device protocol that would help identify and assess the capabilities of connected devices.... ...Full Story
OpenForum Academy releases 'Research On Open Innovation' OpenForum Academy October 8, 2014 - The Fellows of the OpenForum Academy have published the second book in our series exploring the latest thinking around Open Innovation in technology, information and standards. 'Research in Open Innovation' is a "deeper dive" than our previous book entitled 'Thoughts on Open Innovation,' and is intended to help policy-makers, business leaders and researchers consider key issues in the field.
'Research on Open Innovation' was launched in September 2014 as part of OpenForum Academy's programme of Open Access research. You can learn more about it and download a free copy from our website. You can also buy a professionally printed copy on Lulu for 12.99 USD plus postage ...Full Story