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
“The garden is a good place for testing technology”
-Semcon project manager Anna Funke on testing the new Bluetooth Mesh standards
New Open Standard Makes Home Connection Simpler Semcon.com June 22, 2017 - The lack of joint standards makes home connection of products expensive and awkward. Semcon and Husqvarna have evaluated the new Bluetooth Mesh as part of their GRASS research project. The results show benefits in terms of range, simplicity and economy – and opportunities for broad usage.... ...Full Story
How open source is advancing the Semantic Web Don Watkins OpenSource.com June 21, 2017 - The Semantic Web, a term coined by World Wide Web (WWW) inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, refers to the concept that all the information in all the websites on the internet should be able to interoperate and communicate. That vision, of a web of knowledge that supplies information to anyone who wants it, is continuing to emerge and grow.
In the first generation of the WWW, Web 1.0, most people were consumers of content, and if you had a web presence it was comprised of a series of static pages conveyed in HTML. Websites had guest books and HTML forms, powered by Perl and other server-side scripting languages, that people could fill out. While HTML provides structure and syntax to the web, it doesn't provide meaning; therefore Web 1.0 couldn't inject meaning into the vast resources of the WWW.
Next came Web 2.0 and the emergence of user-generated content like blogs, wikis, video sharing, social media, and so forth. Dynamically generated content created two-way interaction. Sites like Flickr and Twitter employed user-generated tags (called folksonomies) to organize content into categories. While this represented a vast improvement in both interface and interaction over Web 1.0, it's not the full level of interactivity envisioned by Berners-Lee's definition of the Semantic Web.
The urgency to realize the Semantic Web has gained steam with the rapidly expanding Internet of Things (IoT), as each of these devices forms a web of semantic data that can be queried with appropriate tools. The intersection of artificial intelligence, big data, the IoT, and connected web technologies is creating the opportunity to derive more meaning and context from the data we share in our increasingly interconnected world. As this web of data continues to grow, we need software tools and frameworks to create and read this information...How does a web page distinguish information? How can my web content literally talk to other content in a way that the receiver knows my intent? How can information in a wiki's text and multimedia files, for example, be queried to determine what active projects took place in 2016? One open source tool that enables this type of interaction is Semantic MediaWiki.... ...Full Story
Opening up the way to industry transformation Alan Burkitt-Gray GTB.com June 20, 2017 - There’s a deep cultural change rolling through the industry. The way things have been done for the past century and a half – with vendors and operators doing their own R&D and competing vigorously – is being replaced by a new spirit of collaboration. At the heart of this is the move to software-defined networks (SDN) and network functions virtualisation (NFV) – two abbreviations that mean, in short, using IT industry-standard hardware in the network with software to define and run the services...[Historically,} Operators were usually locked in. If you had opted for Siemens switches in your network then it was a big task to introduce Ericsson or Alcatel alongside them. Now, the watchword across the industry is “open source”: software is free, developed by volunteers from the industry, and used by all who want to on standard hardware that is created by IT giants. Competition – for there will still be competition – has moved to different levels...
Full article: https://www.globaltelecomsbusiness.com/article/b13bt7b66lqc2h/opening-up-the-way-to-industry-transformation?copyrightInfo=true
Visit http://www.euromoney.com/reprints for additional distribution rights. For more articles like this, follow us @euromoney on Twitter. ...Full Story
World needs 1.8 million more cyber-security pros in the next five years Dave Neal V3 June 19, 2017 - Companies and organisations across the world will need another 1.8 million more cyber-security pros to protect themselves by 2022.
That's according to market researchers Frost and Sullivan. The deficit of security pros is revealed in the 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study that the organisation has spent some time putting together...
Two-thirds of respondents said that they did not have enough skilled workers in-house to cope with current threats, and it's fair to assume that current threats are only going to get worse... ...Full Story
Potent malware targets electricity systems Business Standard June 16, 2017 - Hackers have developed powerful malware that can shut down electricity distribution systems and possibly other critical infrastructure, two cyber security firms announced today, with one report linking it to Russia.
Slovakia-based ESET said the malware is the most powerful threat to appear since Stuxnet, the hacking tool used to sabotage Iran's nuclear program believed developed by US and Israeli intelligence...
The company said Industroyer's potent threat is that it works using the communication protocols designed decades ago and built into energy, transportation, water and gas systems around the world...
Making use of these poorly-secured protocols, Industroyer can take direct control of electricity substation switches and circuit breakers, giving hackers the ability to shut down power distribution and damage equipment. ...Full Story
Public sector benefits from LibreOffice bug hunting Gijs Hillenius EU Joinup June 15, 2017 - The software development community working on LibreOffice have greatly scaled up their bug-hunting efforts, using automated software test tools made available by Google. Beneficiaries include the many European public administrations that use up-to-date versions of this suite of office productivity tools.
The Internet search engine giant is sharing some of its computing capacity to help open source projects find bugs. This markedly increases the number of tests, and so turns up software problems much faster...These tests are helping to improve the upcoming next version of LibreOffice, says Michael Meeks. All users of LibreOffice, including the many European public sector organisations, can reap the benefits. “If they stay up-to-date”, he adds. “Public administrations should make sure they have support and long-term maintenance for LibreOffice.” ...Full Story
Deadline Approaching: ANSI Nominations for 2017 Leadership and Service Awards ANSI.org June 14, 2017 - Reminder: Nominations due by Friday, June 16, for the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)’s 2017 Leadership and Service Awards. The awards, which are presented in conjunction with World Standards Week (WSW) 2017, honor individuals who have made significant contributions to voluntary consensus standardization and conformity assessment programs and have consistently demonstrated a commitment to their industry, their nation, and the enhancement of the global standards system... ...Full Story
Cybersecurity in an IoT and mobile world: The key trends Charles McLellan ZDNet.com June 13, 2017 - As ever more mobile and IoT devices connect to the internet, the potential for damaging cyberattacks can only increase. How can organisations begin to get the upper hand over the burgeoning cast of 'bad actors'?...The chart shows that 'Ransomware evolution & escalation' took fourth place, behind 'IoT security (business & consumer)', 'Security automation & orchestration' and 'Malware & bad actor evolution', while 'Mobile security' came in eighth and the 'Industrial IoT & critical infrastructure' made a separate appearance in tenth place. There's little sense here that the 'good guys' are getting the upper hand, although the prominence of predictions around behavioural analytics, threat intelligence, machine learning and artificial intelligence as weapons in the cybersecurity armoury may point the way forward. (Having said that, such tools can just as easily be employed by the 'bad guys'.)...
By Charles McLellan ...Full Story
ENISA and Semiconductor Companies Seek Cybersecurity Standards from European Commission National Law Review June 13, 2017 - The European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA), along with three semiconductor companies, recently released a position paper proposing a position for the European Commission (EC) on security and privacy standards as they relate to Internet of Things (IoT) devices. ENISA is an agency established by the European Union to assist the EC, its member states, and businesses in addressing, responding to, and preventing cybersecurity issues. The paper points out that as IoT devices expand into all aspects of everyday life, including critical infrastructure and health systems, cyberattacks are becoming more threatening and more risky. The paper includes four key recommendations... ...Full Story
ANSI Submits Response to USTR Request Notice on NAFTA Modernization ANSI.org June 12, 2017 - On behalf of the U.S. standardization community, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has submitted a response to an Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Federal Register Notice, with a statement of intent to testify at the June 27, 2017, hearing at the U.S. International Trade Commission, on negotiating objectives regarding the modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico...
ANSI submitted comments addressing the following key topics:
- ANSI’s role in facilitating U.S. companies’ competitiveness and their access to foreign markets
- Issues related to technical barriers to trade
- The role of market-driven standardization activities in enhancing trade and competitiveness
- Priorities for the modernization of NAFTA and examples from previous texts... ...Full Story