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 need to adopt ODF is a no-brainer”
-Nico Westpalm van Hoorn, chairman of the Netherlands government body responsible for selecting IT standards for government
The Dutch government is determined to speed up ODF adoption Swapnil Bhartiya IT World October 2, 2015 - Governments across Europe are steadily moving away from vendor-locked, non standard technologies towards open standard and vendor neutral technologies. One such example is the adoption of Open Document Format (ODF) across European government agencies.
In a recent interview with ITworld, Italo Vignoli, the co-founder of TDF gave us a glimpse of massive adoption of ODF and LibreOffice in Europe:
"In France, 15 ministries for a total of 500,000 PCs, in Spain the region of Valencia with 120,000 PCs plus the region of Extremadura with a smaller - but always large - number, in the Netherlands the Ministry of Defense with 45,000 PCs, in Denmark the hospitals of Copenhagen, in Germany the city of Munich with 15,000 PCs plus a number of local governments.
In Italy, Regione Emilia Romagna with 3,500 PCs, Provinces of Perugia with 1,200 PCs, Cremona with 500 PCs, Macerata with 500 PCs, Trento with 4,000 PCs, Bolzano with 6,000 PCs, cities of Bologna with 3,000 PCs, Piacenza with 600 PCs, Reggio EMilia with 500 PCs, Galliera Hospital in Genoa with 2,500 PCs (now at their 10th migration anniversary), healthcare ASL 5 with 2,500 PCs, and many others."
Now, the Netherlands government is looking to speed up the adoption of ODF.... ...Full Story
Open source ‘essential for heritage preservation’ Submitted Gijs Hillenius EC Joinup October 1, 2015 - Working together on open source tools based on open standards is very important for those involved in the preservation of digital information, says Barbara Sierman, board member of the Open Preservation Foundation.
The foundation, some 15 libraries in Europe and the US, is maintaining a growing collection of open source solutions used for digital preservation....The Open Preservation Foundation is stewarding dozens of software tools. Some of these are mature; the result of research projects funded by the EU, others are still being developed in new and ongoing digital conservation projects....Another example is Jhove, an extensible software framework for performing format identification, validation, and characterization of digital objects. Development of JHOVE was funded in part by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in New York.... ...Full Story
London boroughs back common standards-led data approach Neil Merrett Government Computing September 30, 2015 - Ensuring the wider availability of open standards and common platforms will be vital to ensure local authorities are better able to engage in collaborative and shared service technology and data initiatives when opportunities arise, a London-based council ICT lead has said....
The Tri-borough partnership, made up of Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham councils, was formed as part of a strategy to combine services across specific areas to ensure public funds go further.... ...Full Story
Please Welcome ODPi We've been rolling out new collaborative project initiatives at a pretty impressive pace this year at The Linux Foundation. Please welcome the latest one to join the club.
Linux Foundation and ODPi Promise Open Source Hadoop Big Data Standard Christopher Tozzi Var Guy September 29, 2015 - One of big data's biggest problems is lack of standardization. Today, the Linux Foundation announced a strategy for addressing that challenge by promoting open source standards for Hadoop big data in collaboration with ODPi.
ODPi defines itself as "a shared industry effort focused on promoting and advancing the state of Apache Hadoop and big data technologies for the enterprise." The group has grown its membership steadily since launching last February under the name Open Data Platform Alliance....Today, ODPi takes a major step forward by securing official endorsement by the Linux Foundation, which promotes Linux and other open source software. The support turns ODPi into a Linux Foundation collaborative project.
It also signals the launch of a new platform called ODPi Core, which aims to become "a common reference platform that enables users to realize business results more quickly," according to the Linux Foundation. The Foundation adds that ODPi Core development will proceed under "an open and transparent planning and release" process directed by the Apache Software Foundation.
The Linux Foundation says this initiative will bring badly needed standardization to the Big Data world—particularly the one centered around Apache Hadoop, the open source big data platform. According to the Linux Foundation, the next major steps in ODPi Core's development include the release of a specification and reference implementation, as well as the launch of an ODPi Certification Program. The open source community can follow ODPi's progress via its GitHub repository.... ...Full Story
Have your say on standards to help achieve a Digital Single Market European Commission September 29, 2015 - Standards are important tools for making different systems work together and stimulating the emergence of new eco-systems across a digital single market of more than 500 million people in Europe. They can boost innovation and reinforce the competitiveness of the European industry. Today the Commission launched a public consultation on Standards for the Digital Single Market (DSM). With this consultation, the Commission seeks input from Standards Development Organisations, companies, researchers, stakeholders' associations, public authorities and any interested party. The public consultation is open until 16 December....The contributions to this consultation will serve to build an ICT Priority Standards Plan, as set out in the Digital Single Market Strategy presented by the Commission on 6 May.... ...Full Story
ANSI Issues Response to CEN CENELEC White Paper ANSI Weekly News September 28, 2015 - As coordinator of the U.S. standardization system, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has published today a response to a CEN CENELEC white paper entitled “Risks of mutual recognition of voluntary industry standards within the context of a future EU-US trade agreement (TTIP) and alternative approaches,” which was published in June 2015.
The CEN CENELEC paper raised a number of issues that ANSI and the broader U.S. standardization community strongly felt could benefit from further clarification.
ANSI’s response is available.... ...Full Story
Worldwide information security spending to grow almost 4.7% in 2015 Press Release Gartner September 25, 2015 - Worldwide spending on information security will reach US$75.4 billion in 2015, an increase of 4.7% over 2014, according to the latest forecast from Gartner. The increase in spending is being driven by government initiatives, increased legislation and high-profile data breaches. Security testing, IT outsourcing, and identity and access management present the biggest growth opportunities for technology providers.... ...Full Story
New standard to manage mixed equipment fleets Jodie Wehrspann Farm Industry News September 24, 2015 - ...One of the new capabilities of telemetry packages is called mixed-fleet management or the ability to the monitor the vehicle parameters of different brands of vehicles from one interface.
This capability is quickly becoming a reality thanks to the work of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers and the Association of Equipment Management Professionals, which are spearheading a standard for manufacturers to follow. That standard will enable different telemetry software packages “talk” to each other, a software-to-software solution broadly referred to as API, which stands for application programming interface.... ...Full Story
ISDA Launches New Industry Initiative for a Derivatives Product Identification Standard Press Release ISDA.org September 22, 2015 - The International Swaps and Derivatives Association, Inc. (ISDA) has launched a new industry data project, aimed at developing an open-source standard derivatives product identification system that can be applied consistently and comprehensively across all derivatives facilities, including trading venues, clearing houses, repositories and other infrastructures....ISDA is overseeing the symbology project, which involves a consortium of buy- and sell-side market participants, vendors, platforms and trade associations. London-based capital markets technology consultancy Etrading Software is acting as project manager.
The initiative comes in response to a variety of regulatory changes, including the European Union’s revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive/Regulation (MIFID II/MIFIR) and the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) reporting rules, which require a standardized means of identifying derivatives instruments at a granular level. A common methodology for classifying and identifying derivatives instruments across all platforms will also cut complexity and costs for market participants that need to connect to multiple trading venues, and simplify the distribution of liquidity....The consortium will initially work to produce globally standardized symbols for credit, rates and equity derivatives in 2015.... ...Full Story
How open source can help businesses reclaim control of IT Ben Rossi Information Age September 22, 2015 - In an age where data availability and visibility is crucial, many organisations have found that their existing infrastructure has severely limited their options. Sometimes this is down to poor system design that prevents interoperability, but in others the intention is deliberate – a practice known as ‘vendor lock-in’.
The specific goal of vendor lock-in is to limit a customer’s choices for future IT developments. If the customer wants to extend its system or add new functionality, it will need to ‘choose’ the relevant equivalent from the vendor or one of its ‘certified partners’....Today, 45% of organisations cite a lack of supplier dependency as a reason for choosing open-source software (OSS). This is fractionally behind increased ability to innovate (47%), open technology (also 47%) and cost savings (46%), all of which are closely related and essential to building an agile, competitive business infrastructure....Knowing the value of a customer’s data, some vendors employ proprietary data formats that are specifically designed to make data export difficult. Should an organisation try and move away from the service, it may find that there are significant secondary costs involved, not least the time spent trying to maintain data integrity throughout the process....When considering potential partnerships, businesses should always keep the following factors in mind to help avoid vendor lock-in:... ...Full Story