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
TC260 Increases Standardization Efforts on Data Security Protection USITO.org Weekly May 25, 2016 - On May 12, the National Information Security Standardization Technical Committee (TC260) held the commencement meeting of the Personal Information Security Standard Drafting Working Group in Beijing....The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) Cybersecurity Bureau Director-General, Zhao Zeliang,attended the meeting, and stated that this standards project is designed to implement President Xi's cybersecurity strategy to focus on protecting the people. In addition to personal information security specifications, the Drafting Working Group will also work on personal information protection guidelines. Gao Lin, TC260's Secretary General and Deputy Director-General for the MIIT Information and Software Department, announced that China's personal information protection standards and policies will focus on two aspects:
- Data collection requirements on information service providers and software design (the relevant national standard has already been submitted for approval)
- Big data management
According to Gao, standardization on data security protection needs to find a balance between regulation and industry promotion. Standards will act as a baseline, while upcoming policies in this area will determine how the standards are used and implemented. ...Full Story
SIPO Releases New Patent Guidelines USITO.org Weekly May 23, 2016 - On May 12, the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) issued three patent related guidelines: the Guidelines for the Determination of Patent Infringements (for Trial Implementation), the Rules of Evidence on Patent-related Administrative Law Enforcement (for Trial Implementation) and the Guidelines for Administrative Mediation of Patent Disputes (for Trial Implementation). The three documents are combined into a 176 page PDF document, which can be found here. These guidelines will be adopted and enforced by local patent administrative authorities.The guidelines for infringement have two major changes:
1) It deleted the clause about standard-essential patents (SEPs)
2) It deleted the clause about joint infringement
These changes were made to avoid controversy. ...Full Story
Public Comments Sought on Proposed Guidelines Regarding Cybersecurity Information Sharing ANSI.org Weekly News May 20, 2016 - The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) encourages all members and interested stakeholders to comment on nine recently released Request for Comment (RFC) documents regarding the development of effective voluntary standards and guidelines to foster information sharing on cybersecurity risks and incidents among private-sector entities and the federal government. Reflecting the work of the Information Sharing and Analysis Organization (ISAO) Standards Organization (SO), the RFCs were developed in response to the White House’s Executive Order 13691, Promoting Private Sector Cybersecurity Information Sharing....The development of voluntary standards and guidelines will help companies work together with the federal government to quickly identify and protect against cyber threats. The RFC documents, which span a range of topics represented by the ISAO SO’s six Standards Working Groups (SWGs), are still under development, and ANSI encourages suggestions from stakeholders at this stage.
Comments are due by Friday, June 17, and can be submitted to the ISAO SO via the Draft Products page.... ...Full Story
SES Conference to Spotlight “New Frontiers in Standards and Conformity Assessment” ANSI.org May 19, 2016 - SES-The Society for Standards Professionals has opened registration for its 65th Annual Conference, which will take place August 8-11, 2016, at the Grand Hyatt in Denver. The event may be of particular interest to managers of company standardization programs; people who design standardization programs or apply standards; government agencies applying management and standardization techniques; and organizations trying to improve their standards development process....Attendees will hear from expert panelists and moderators representing government, associations, academia, standards boards, and leading organizations and companies on a number of topics, with headline session topics to include:
- Harmonizations and Conformity Assessment—Challenges and Opportunities
- The Impact of the Legal and Regulatory Environments on Standards and Standardization
- On the Frontier: Standards for Tomorrow
- The Changing Landscape of Standards—Technological and Societal Impacts
- The Invisibility of the Virtual World—My Microwave Is Also My Smart Phone
- Bridging the Gap—Leveraging the Value of New and Seasoned Standards Professionals
- New Frontiers and Strategies with Digital Publishing.
Educational courses will be offered in conjunction with the conference. On Monday, August 8, attendees can register for “Fundamentals of Standards and Conformity Assessment: Basic Knowledge and Tools for Today’s Professional,” [AND]...“Industry Update on Intellectual Property Issues—Birds Eye View and Interactive Workshop"... ...Full Story
European Unified Patent Court goes Open Source Submitted Paolo Vecchi EU Joinup May 18, 2016 - The Unified Patent Court is the institution that will unify the management of patent claims across the member States reducing costs and complexity especially for the smaller patent holders.
To manage the workloads that will derive from managing claims and cases coming from many nations and in many different languages they need a set of tools that are extremely efficient and that can be adapted over time to the changing requirements of the stakeholders....
The team in charge of the project, led by Mark Craddock at Newport's branch of the UK Intellectual Property Office, had to create a brand new web site, Case Management System and a Collaboration platform from the ground up and after having consulted several vendors and suppliers they came to the conclusion that only Open Source based platforms would allow them to complete the difficult task at hand without having to invest a very large budget, depend on vendors proprietary platforms and wait for the long delivery plans dictated by large consulting companies.
The result is that...the UK IPO team has been able to deliver the project earlier than planned and under budget to the Unified Patent Court team.... ...Full Story
Finance industry bodies call for tech-neutral measures to address cyber risk Out-Law.com May 17, 2016 - A group of trade bodies representing businesses from across the financial services sector has called on regulators and standards-setting bodies to ensure that measures they draw up to enhance cybersecurity are technologically neutral.
The bodies have drawn up new international cybersecurity, data and technology principles that they hope the Financial Stability Board (FSB) and the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) will consider when setting "policies and standards regarding cybersecurity, data and technology"....the bodies said. "Policies that require specific technology requirements, detailed technical reviews or other processes by regulators will be reactive to the threat environment and to adversaries that seek to take advantage of vulnerabilities....The best approach for developing technology policies is open and transparent formulation and implementation, which allows stakeholders to provide meaningful input to regulators...." ...Full Story
IEEE Rebooting Computing Initiative Press Release IEEE May 16, 2016 - IEEE today announced the launch of the International Roadmap for Devices and Systems (IRDS), a new IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) Industry Connections (IC) program to be sponsored by the IEEE Rebooting Computing (IEEE RC) Initiative in consultation with the IEEE Computer Society. Together, this group will ensure alignment and consensus across a range of stakeholders to identify trends and develop the roadmap for all of the related technologies in the computer industry.
The IRDS represents the next phase of work that began with the partnership between the IEEE RC Initiative and the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors 2.0 (ITRS 2.0). With the launch of the IRDS program, IEEE is taking the lead in building a comprehensive, end-to-end view of the computing ecosystem, including devices, components, systems, architecture, and software. The Methods of governance, reports, and strategic roadmaps developed by the ITRS and ITRS 2.0 will inform the IRDS within the IEEE-SA IC program.... ...Full Story
TC260 Sets Focus Based on President Xi's Recent Cybersecurity Meeting USITO.org Weekly May 16, 2016 - On May 7, the National Information Security Standardization Technical Committee (TC260) held a symposium in Beijing to study and implement the main components of President Xi's recent speech on China's cybersecurity and informatization development.
At the discussion, TC260 committee members acknowledged that cybersecurity standards are a core component for national competition in cyberspace. Furthermore, the relationship between development and security, open and indigenous innovation and management and service all need to be considered when developing and implementing standards. ...Full Story
The Benefits, Challenges, a nd Potential Roles f or the Government in Fostering the Advancement of the Internet of Things US National Telecommunications and Information Administration May 13, 2016 - Recognizing the vital importance of the Internet to U.S. innovation, prosper
and cultural life, the Department of Commer
ce has made it a top priority to
encourage growth of the digital economy and ensure that the Internet remains an open platform
for innovation. Thus, as part of the Department’s Digital E
conomy Agenda, the National
Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is initiating an inquiry re
the Internet of Things
(IoT) to review the current technological and policy landscape.
this Notice, NTIA seek
s broad input from all interested stakeholders — including the private
, and civil society
— on the potential benefits and challenges of
these technologies and what role, if any, the U.S. Government should play in this area. After
he comments, the Department intends to issue a “
green paper” that identifies key
issues impacting deployment of these technologies, highlights potential benefits and challenges,
and identifies possible roles for the federal government in fostering the advancement of IoT
technologies in partnership with the private sector.... ...Full Story
Open wireless standards could chop city costs by nearly a third David Curry ReadWrite May 13, 2016 - Choosing open standards could cut costs by 30 percent and promote more cities to utilize IoT, according to Machina Research.
The market intelligence firm predicts that by 2025 smart cities may spend $1.12 trillion on deploying smart tech, but might save up to $341 billion if they use open wireless standards instead of proprietary.
On top of the lowered cost for deployment, Machina also sees 27 percent more connected devices by 2025, if open wireless standards are adopted by smart cities and IoT providers.
Machina makes mention of two open standards, Bluetooth Low Energy and OneM2M, that are available to use without license....The current issue is IoT providers are bundling proprietary wireless tech with their deployment software, instead of utilizing open source alternatives....
230 companies — including AT&T, Samsung, IBM Europe, and Verizon — have backed the OneM2M standard. Even more have backed Bluetooth Low Energy, especially smart home manufacturers.... ...Full Story