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
“We could see the technology arrive in many form factors, like arm chairs”
-WPC Air Charge Chair Ryan Sanderson, commenting on Ikea's implementation of the Qi wireless charging standard in its furniture
The Audio Engineering Society Publishes Groundbreaking New Standard for 3D Audio Press Release AES.org March 27, 2015 - The Audio Engineering Society is pleased to announce the recent publication of the AES69-2015 standard, which provides an important framework for the growing binaural and 3D personal audio industries. The standard, which describes the format and exchange of spatial acoustics files, is the product of the AES Standards Committee,...
The AES69-2015 standard is seen as a boon to the evolving 3D audio field. Binaural listening is growing due to increased usage of smartphones, tablets and other individual entertainment systems that primarily present audio using headphones. An understanding of the way that the listener experiences binaural sound, expressed as head-related transfer functions (HRTF), opens the way to 3D personal audio. The lack of a standard for the exchange of HRTF data makes it difficult for developers to exchange binaural capture and rendering algorithms effectively. While 3D audio continues to gain popularity among end users, binaural listening could be the very first 3D audio vector with sufficient fidelity of HRTF.
The new AES69-2015 standard defines a file format to exchange space-related acoustic data in various forms. These include HRTF, as well as directional room impulse responses (DRIR). The format is designed to be scalable to match the available rendering process and is designed to be sufficiently flexible to include source materials from different databases.... ...Full Story
ANSI Releases Schedule of Events for World Standards Week 2015 ANSI.org March 26, 2015 - The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has announced the full schedule of events for World Standards Week (WSW) 2015, which will be held September 28–October 2 in Washington, DC. WSW is an annual event where members of the standards and conformity assessment community come together in the spirit of cooperation and collaboration.... ...Full Story
ITU and ETSI agree method to assess energy efficiency of mobile networks Press Release ITU/ETSI March 26, 2015 - ITU and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) have agreed a new standard to measure the energy efficiency of mobile radio access networks (RANs), the wireless networks that connect end-user equipment to the core network.
The standard is the first to define energy-efficiency metrics and measurement methods for live RANs, providing a common reference to evaluate their performance. Its application will build uniformity in the methodologies employed by such evaluations, in parallel establishing a common basis for the interpretation of the results.... ...Full Story
Open networks will be the key to meeting future requirements. Mike Marshall Lightwave March 25, 2015 - The fundamental nature of data-center computing is rapidly changing. Conventional data centers built to support traditional client-server applications are giving way to virtual IT environments that enable dynamic workloads, mobile applications, and on-demand services. Enterprises are leveraging server virtualization and cloud provider services to boost IT agility; support Big Data, high performance computing, and analytics; and improve data-center economics....
With game-changing applications that include cloud computing, mobility, video, and Big Data requiring support of non-stop - and costly - bandwidth demands, cloud and service providers are driving toward a new business model. They seek to reduce skyrocketing operational costs and become more efficient, while continuing to ensure real time response and customer loyalty. To accomplish this new model, cloud providers are migrating to open networks, inside and outside the data center.
Open networks sharply contrast with "vendor lock-in" or proprietary approaches. Predictable, flexible, high performance cloud connectivity is critical to delivering a superior user experience and maintaining a competitive advantage. Open networks enable providers to leverage new open-source technologies and innovations as well as drive new initiatives such as software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) to add programmability, automation, and service agility with new levels of control and orchestration.
Yet defining an open network isn't easy; it can take many forms.... ...Full Story
OpenSSL to undergo massive security audit Latest News Rob Marvin SD times March 25, 2015 - Now that its codebase is finally viewed as stable, OpenSSL is getting a good top-to-bottom once-over in the form of a sweeping audit.
It’s been close to a year since the Heartbleed bug sent the Internet into a frenzy over security. It spurred the software industry to rally behind OpenSSL—sending in more developers, revamping the security protocol, and laying out a revised road map for the ailing encryption protocol underlying much of the Web.
As part of the Linux Foundation’s Core Infrastructure Initiative (CII), the foundation and the Open Crypto Audit Project (OCAP) are sponsoring and organizing what may arguably be the highest-profile audit of a piece of open-source software in history. The audit itself will be conducted by the information assurance organization NCC Group, and its security research arm, Cryptography Services, will carry out the code review.... ...Full Story
Z-Wave Alliance Launches IoT Competition to Reward Start-Ups for Their Innovation in the Smart Home Press Release Z-Wave Alliance March 24, 2015 - The Z-Wave Alliance, an open consortium of leading global companies deploying Z-Wave, the world's largest ecosystem of wireless control products and services, is announcing a brand new competition to support and incentivize innovation on the Z-Wave platform. The yearlong Z-Wave Labs Program will accept applications from start-up companies and entrepreneurs looking to bring Z-Wave products to market.
In order to accelerate innovation on the Z-Wave platform and lower the barrier of entry for new companies to develop IoT products, the program will reward one selected individual/company each month starting in May 2015 with a 12-month membership to the Z-Wave Alliance as well as one of the newly available IoT-ready 500 Series Z-Wave Developer Kits from Sigma Designs.... ...Full Story
Dell Targets Network Bottleneck with Switch Interface George Leopold Enterprise Tech March 24, 2015 - In an attempt to move software-defined networking off the drawing board and into the datacenter, Dell’s networking unit is rolling out a switch interface as a standard API that attempts to abstract software between various network operating systems and silicon residing on a physical switch.
Dell Networking’s Switch Abstraction Interface was submitted on Tuesday (March 10) to the Open Compute Project (OCP) for review. Dell said it expects early adoption of the open switch interface by the industry group, which was formed to develop new server, storage, networking and other hyper-scale datacenter components.... ...Full Story
GTSO Opens Talks to Set New Standards for Cannabis Edibles Industry Press Release GTSO March 20, 2015 - Alongside its joint venture partner, Elevated Industries, Green Technology Solutions, Inc. is now engaged in talks to form a new industry association to provide certification, regulation and overall credibility to the rapidly rising cannabis edibles industry in North America.
Elevated Industries is a Canada-based company that owns unique formulations for frozen confections infused with cannabis extracts. GTSO formed a joint venture with Elevated Industries late last year to market and develop innovative new edibles products for the booming medical and adult-use cannabis markets sprouting up across the continent.... ...Full Story
Shake Up of Centuries Old System of Credit in Scholarly Communication: Project CRediT Laura Wheeler Digital Science March 19, 2015 - We are pleased to announce some news that plans to shake up the old system of credit in scholarly communication!
Today, The Wellcome Trust and Digital Science introduce a new Contributor Role Taxonomy to provide a high-level classification of the diverse roles performed by individuals in the work leading to published academic research. The purpose of the CRediT Taxonomy is to provide transparency in contributions to scholarly published work. Attribution and credit will be able to be assigned to researchers undertaking a wide range of roles such as data curation, visualization and software programming.
Furthermore, the taxonomy will be published to the Consortia Advancing Standards in Research Administration Information (CASRAI) Data Dictionary and will lay the foundation for appropriate credit where it is due, fewer author disputes, and fewer disincentives to collaboration and the sharing of data and code....Digital Science and the Wellcome Trust partnered with two information industry standards organizations, CASRAI and the US-based National Information Standards Organization (NISO), to achieve broad community consultation in drafting the taxonomy and testing its fit with a range of scientific fields.... ...Full Story
ANSI Announces Accreditations under Pilot Programs for Eco-Labeling, Environmental Declarations ANSI Weekly News March 18, 2015 - The American National Standards Institute (ANSI), coordinator of the U.S. voluntary standardization system, is pleased to announce the first six accreditations under two pilot programs that ANSI launched in 2014 to address eco-labeling and environmental declarations.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has developed standards that define different types of environmental labels: Type I, Type II, and Type III. One ANSI pilot program has focused on Type I environmental labeling scheme owners and the competence of eco-labeling certification bodies. The other ANSI pilot program has focused on program operators for Type III environmental labels and declarations, and the competence of certification bodies that verify/validate Environmental Product Declarations (EPD).... ...Full Story