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 are certain that the Internet of Things will only be successful if it is built on open technologies”
-Eclipse Foundation Executive Director Mike Milinkovich
ETSI bundles standards for EU eID regulation Gijs Hillenius EU Joinup July 26, 2016 - The European Telecommunications Standards Institute has published a collection of standards for electronic signatures, electronic seals, electronic time-stamps, and for trust services providers. The publication coincides with the entering into force on 1 July of the European Union's eIDAS regulation on eID and trust services for electronic transactions.
The bundle of standards was created in April by ETSI’s Technical Committee on Electronic Signatures and Infrastructures. “The set includes a total of 19 European Standards along with guidance documents and test specifications”, ETSI writes.
The standards can be used to audit trust service providers and to assess their conformity with eIDAS Regulation requirements. Others cover the creation and validation of digital signatures and seals.
In April, ETSI updated its ‘technical report on Electronic Signatures and Infrastructures’. This report details the standards that are involved, or could be involved, in electronic signatures.... ...Full Story
Analog 2.0 Specification Available Now Press Release NFC Forum July 25, 2016 - The NFC Forum published the adopted Analog 2.0 Technical Specification today. Members may download the specification from the Adopted Specifications page.
The Analog 2.0 Candidate Specification was published in October 2015 and introduced Active Communication Mode for P2P data exchange and NFC-V technology in poll mode.The Analog 2.0 Technical Specification ensures full interoperability with devices conformant to ISO/IEC 14443 or ISO/IEC 18092 by harmonizing the analog parameter for the contactless communication. This interoperability is important to enable the reliable usage of NFC devices with existing infrastructure using ISO compatible RF readers and/or cards (e.g. for contactless public transport applications).
NFC Forum, 401 Edgewater Place, Suite 600, Wakefield USA, MA 01880
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Sent by email@example.com ...Full Story
A Data Model to Support the Publishing of Legislation as Linked Open Data Jens Scheerlinck EU Joinup July 22, 2016 - Citizens, professionals in the legal domain, businesses as well as civil servants need to know what legislation is in force. Legislation is often amended, repealed and codified, making it difficult to have a clear view of what text is in force at any specific point in time. In this context, the Hellenic Ministry of Interior and Administrative Reconstruction and the Italian Anti-corruption Agency contacted the ISA Programme of the European Commission to develop a pilot that has the two fold objective of making legislation available in both human and machine readable format and visualising the evolution of legislation over time, to enable user friendly consultation.
In order to allow legislative information to be published as Open Data, a data model was proposed to support this publishing process. The suggested data model is based on the ELI ontology and extended with concepts from Akoma Ntoso and the Core Public Organisation Vocabulary, thereby facilitating interoperability with other EU Member States. The full pilot can be downloaded or forked from the SEMICeu Github repository and the documentation on the data model can be consulted on the pilot website.
The data model has been put in public deliberation by the Ministry until 15 July 2016. ...Full Story
TC260 Drafts New Standard for China's Cloud Security Review Regime USITO.org Weekly July 21, 2016 - Recently, TC260 has published the draft "Information Security Technology - Security Capability Evaluation Methods of Cloud Computing Services" for comments. The public comment period will end on August 11. This draft standard aims to provide guidance for third-party agencies on how to conduct cloud service capability evaluation via interviews, inspections and testing.
This standard, along with two others, cover guidelines for cloud service provider's size and operational experience, business dealings between cloud service providers and government customers, cloud computing services cybersecurity management and a range of other issues. The three standards have also been adopted as main references in the CAC's Cloud Computing Services Cybersecurity Review, which was announced on June 26, 2015 and targets services for Party and government departments. ...Full Story
IoT Security: What IoT Can Learn From Open Source Businesses are hugely concerned about IoT Bruce Byfield Datamation July 20, 2016 - When personal computers were introduced, few manufacturers worried about security. Not until the early 1990s did the need for security become widely understood. Today, the Internet of Things (IoT) is following the same pattern -- except that the need for security is becoming obvious far more quickly, and manufacturers should have known better, especially given the overwhelming influence of open source.
The figures speak for themselves. In 2014, a study by Hewlett-Packard found that seven out of ten IoT devices tested contained serious security vulnerabilities, an average of twenty-five per device. In particular, the vulnerabilities included a lack of encryption for local and Internet transfer of data, no enforcement of secure passwords, and security for downloaded updates. The devices test included some of the most common IoT devices currently in use, including TVs, thermostats, fire alarms and door locks.
Given that Gartner predicts that 25 billion smart devices will be in use by 2020, no one needs to be a prophet to foresee a major security problem that will make even the security problems of the basic Internet seem insignificant....how have IoT manufacturers failed to be more security conscious?...
That smart devices, like OpenStack before it, are being built on the shoulders of open source, is too obvious for anyone to doubt. In early 2015, VisionMobile's survey of 3,700 IoT developers indicated that 91% used open source in their work.
This figure suggests that, without open source, the development of the IoT would be much slower if it happened at all. If nothing else, the use of open source and open standards helps to reduce compatibility problems between manufacturers' devices.... ...Full Story
Ultracode Standard Introduced by AIM Press Release AIM July 19, 2016 - AIM announced today the release of the Ultracode international standard, establishing a significant enhancement in barcode technology for the automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) industry and consumerization.
Ultracode is the first 2D, error-correcting color barcode which can either be displayed on smartphones or printed by using a digital color camera or smartphone app. Its development was motivated by the ubiquitous use of color electronic displays, digital cameras and especially the development of the smartphone. Using Ultracode, standard color technology can create an image that encodes the same data in less than half the area of a QR Code, minimizing display space required.
The effort to develop Ultracode as a formal standard began more than a decade ago.... ...Full Story
ITU announces new standard for High Dynamic Range TV Press Release ITU July 18, 2016 - ITU has announced a new standard for High Dynamic Range Television that represents a major advance in television broadcasting. High Dynamic Range Television (HDR-TV) brings an incredible feeling of realism, building further on the superior colour fidelity of ITU’s Ultra-High Definition Television (UHDTV) Recommendation BT.2020. ITU’s Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) has developed the standard – or Recommendation – in collaboration with experts from the television industry, broadcasting organizations and regulatory institutions in its Study Group 6.
This latest ITU-R HDR-TV Recommendation BT.2100 brings a further boost to television images, giving viewers an enhanced visual experience with added realism. The HDR-TV Recommendation allows TV programmes to take full advantage of the new and much brighter display technologies. HDR-TV can make outdoor sunlit scenes appear brighter and more natural, adding highlights and sparkle. It enhances dimly lit interior and night scenes, revealing more detail in darker areas, giving TV producers the ability to reveal texture and subtle colours that are usually lost with existing Standard Dynamic Range TV.... ...Full Story
New NERC Rules for Critical Cyber Assets Expand the Scope of U.S. Federal Regulation to New Facilities and Practices Hogan Lovells Lexology July 15, 2016 - As a result of federal legislation enacted after the large Northeast/Midwest blackout in 2003, electric utilities and other electric market participants in the United States are subject to mandatory reliability standards developed through stakeholder processes by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) and enforced by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) with substantial financial penalties of up to US$1million per day for each standard violation.
Among the categories of mandatory electric reliability standards are Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) standards that were first adopted in 2008. Those standards required owners and operators of “Critical Cyber Assets” (CCA)1 to develop, maintain, and implement cybersecurity policies that cover, among other things, training and access restrictions for personnel with access to CCAs, procedures for managing electronic and physical security perimeters, software security, incident reporting and response planning, and recovery plans to restore CCAs following an incident.
In 2013, NERC proposed and FERC approved version 5 of the CIP standards, a wholesale revision and significant change in approach under the standards. The new standards will be phased in, starting on 1 July 2016. The most significant change in the version 5 standards is the methodology to be used and the requirements for identifying assets subject to the standards, as described below for standard CIP-002-5. The scope of the new standards are significantly broader than the prior version and owners and operators of smaller electric generation and transmission facilities and generation control centers will now be subject to the CIP standards for the first time.... ...Full Story
Automotive Grade Linux wants to help open source your next car Jack Wallen Tech Republic July 15, 2016 - ...The [Linux Foundation] started Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) to create open source software solutions for automotive applications. Their initial focus is on In-Vehicle-Infotainment (IVI) and their long-term goals include the addition of instrument clusters and telematics systems. Already AGL has the likes of Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mazda, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota on board and that list will only continue to grow....Instead of depending on a separate device to serve as the operating system to drive the platform, AGL will be a stand-alone platform...Because AGL is open source, car manufacturers won't be dealing with a collection of proprietary code that will work for a single model, only to have to turn around and purchase another collection of proprietary code for the next model. Instead, the manufacturer downloads the source for AGL and makes it work to their exact specifications each time. Couple this with the idea that, according to Emily Olin, senior PR representative for the Linux Foundation, most auto manufacturers don't want to hand over control to the likes of Google or Apple and AGL starts to make a lot of sense.... ...Full Story
A Call for Developing—and Using—Consensus Standards to Ensure the Quality of Cell Lines NIST July 14, 2016 - Mainstays of biomedical research, permanent lines of cloned cells are used to study the biology of health and disease and to test prospective medical therapies. Yet, all too often, these apparent pillars of bioscience and biotechnology crumble because they are crafted from faulty starting materials: misidentified or cross-contaminated cell lines.
Writing in the June 2016 issue of PLOS Biology, scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) call for “community action” to assemble a “comprehensive toolkit for assuring the quality of cell lines,” employed at the start of every study.
As important, they assert, more researchers and laboratories should use the tools that already exist. The NIST authors point to the American National Standard for authentication of human cell lines, which can be implemented to detect cell-line mix-ups and contamination before embarking on studies of cancer or other research using human cells.
Unfortunately, the four-year-old standard has not been widely adopted, even though cell-line authentication is a growing priority among funders and publishers of research.
Cell lines are populations of clones: genetically uniform animal or plant cells that are bioengineered to proliferate indefinitely in culture....A “high level of confidence” in published research results requires valid underpinning data on methods and materials—cell lines, instrument performance and more, explain the researchers, who work in the Biosystems and Biomaterials Division of NIST’s Material Measurement Laboratory. “One might argue that these control data are as important as the study data themselves.”...The authors advocate using inclusive, consensus standards-setting processes—like the one used for human cell-line authentication—to address these needs as well as to seize new opportunities that are arising with the commercialization of genome-sequencing technologies.... ...Full Story