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
“Pulling an open-source project upon which people may depend is total jerk behavior”
-Anonymous hacker commenting on Apple's pulling the FoundationDB codebase off of GitHub
“Apple is essentially saying that everything that FoundationDB, and its community, created during the lifetime of the project is now wrapped up and for the sole benefit of Cupertino. Ouch”
-Ben Keppes, writing in Forbes Magazine following Apple's acquisition of open source vendor FoundationDB
UK Government Now Main Driver of ODF Advance: Kudos Glyn Moody ComputerWorld.uk April 17, 2015 - Back in July last year, I wrote about an incredible opportunity for the open source world. After years of disappointments, and despite the usual lobbying/threats by a certain large US software company against the move, the Cabinet Office announced that it was officially adopting the Open Document Format (ODF) for sharing or collaborating on government documents. At the time I exhorted everyone involved to do their utmost to make this work, since it was the biggest chance to show that open standards and open source were not just viable as a government solution, but actually better than the alternatives.
Since then, we've heard very little - either in terms of the move being a raging success or a dismal failure. That makes this update from Francis Maude, who has been one of the key people driving this move, particularly welcome, as it seems that real progress has been made:..."A number of departments are starting to publish in open formats, including the Department for Transport, Department for Communities and Local Government, Department of Health, Department for Work and Pensions, and HM Revenue and Customs. Many more departments will follow by the end of the year."
Clearly, those are huge wins.... ...Full Story
Core Technology for WhiteSpace Alliance Wi-FAR™ Specification Approved to Become ISO Standard Press Release WhiteSpace Alliance April 17, 2015 - The WhiteSpace Alliance (WSA) ®, a global industry organization enabling sharing of underutilized spectrum, today announced that the core technology underlying its Wi-FAR specification has been approved to become an ISO standard.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), an independent, non-governmental membership organization and the world’s largest developer of voluntary International Standards, announced this decision on 8 April. The approved standard will be referred to as ISO/IEC/IEEE Std. 8802-22:2015.
Wi-FAR, a derivative of the IEEE 802.22 Standard, provides industry-recognized, cost-effective broadband Internet access through dynamic allocation of underutilized TV band spectrum (“whitespace”). Wi-FAR is an inter-operability and certification point-to-multipoint wireless broadband specification optimized for operation in the VHF and UHF TV bands, in the frequency range between 54 MHz and 862 MHz. Incorporating learnings from the TV broadcast community, the Wi-FAR specification is the first and only specification that has seriously addressed the requirements of long distance, non-line of sight transmission for Internet traffic to provide cost-effective backhaul and middle mile solutions.... ...Full Story
HDMI Forum releases 2.0a specification that adds HDR support Jan Willem Aldershoff MYCE April 16, 2015 - The HDMI Forum has announced the HDMI 2.0a specification has been updated to enable transmission of High Dynamic Range (HDR) formats. Users can likely upgrade their devices to the updated specification through a firmware update.
HDR should provide enhanced picture quality by simultaneously enabling greater detail for both the dark and bright parts of an image. The HDR-related updates include references to CEA-861.3, CEA’s recently published update of HDR Static Metadata Extensions.
The HDMI Forum isn’t really clear on whether the new standard requires new hardware, however TP Vision previously stated that it should be possible to get support for the new standard through a firmware update. HDMI 2.0 was announced in 2013 and allows 4K video at 60FPS. Most Ultra HD TVs released in 2015 will support HDMI 2.0....Although the first TVs with HDR support were demonstrated at CES this year hardly no HDR content is available. ...Full Story
Linux Foundation to Host Open Encryption Project Press Release Linux Foundation April 16, 2015 - The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the growth of Linux and collaborative development, today announced it will host the Internet Security Research Group (ISRG) and its Let's Encrypt project, a free, automated and open security certificate authority for the public's benefit. Let's Encrypt allows website owners to obtain security certificates within minutes, enabling a safer web experience for all....A tremendous amount of data is passed over the Internet every minute of every day. This data includes usernames and passwords, credit card information, cookies and other types of sensitive or personal information. Encryption can help ensure this information doesn't land in the hands of hackers or identity thieves. However, the SSL certificates required for encryption on the Internet have historically been very difficult for website owners to obtain. Let's Encrypt will allow website owners to obtain SSL certificates through a free and simple process that will take no longer than a few minutes to complete.... ...Full Story
Please welcome the UHD Alliance: We've enjoyed assisting this broad representation of industry players create and launch a new consortium whose impact will be reflected in televisions worldwide.
UHD Alliance Calls for Contributor Members to Define the Next-Generation Entertainment Experience Press Release UHD Alliance April 15, 2015 - Founding members of the UHD Alliance, representing leading companies in entertainment, technology, consumer electronics and distribution, today issued a call for contributors to join their mission to advance a new and differentiated entertainment experience for Ultra HD including high dynamic range, wide color gamut, high frame rate and advanced audio.
The goal of the Alliance is to ensure these technologies, coupled with performance metrics, will deliver a premium entertainment experience throughout the Ultra HD ecosystem from content creation to consumer enjoyment.
In addition to working discussions around technical specifications and certification details, the UHD Alliance will help develop industry-standard branding so that consumers can clearly identify certified premium UHD content and devices offered in the marketplace....Companies that want to join the UHD Alliance as contributing members can request membership information from the UHD Alliance at www.UHDAlliance.org/ ...Full Story
Eclipse Announces First Release of Eclipse OM2M Project Press Release Eclipse/OneM2M April 15, 2015 - The Eclipse Foundation and the Eclipse IoT Working Group announce the first release of the Eclipse OM2M open source project. OM2M, led by developers from LAAS-CNRS, implements the ETSI SmartM2M standard and plans to migrate to the new oneM2M standard.
OM2M is a standardized service platform that implements critical service capabilities required for M2M and IoT applications. It allows these services to be implemented independently of the network and the underlying hardware environment, making it easy for M2M and IoT developers to develop applications that integrate different types of devices and networking protocols.
OM2M 0.8 implements the ETSI SmartM2M standard. Later this year, OM2M will migrate the implementation to the global oneM2M standard. oneM2M is a global standards organization involving over 200 companies, including the key regional ICT standards bodies ARIB, ATIS, CCSA, ETSI, TIA, TTA and TTC, and the leading industry consortia Broadband Forum, Continua, HGI, Next Generation M2M Consortium and the OMA. oneM2M released its first specifications in January 2015.
A key issue for IoT is interoperability between different devices that use different protocols. This is particularly important for industries such as eHealth, Industrial Automation, and Home. OM2M 0.8 supports out-of-the-box integration and protocol interoperability with HTTP and CoAP enabled devices. OM2M’s extensible framework allows for easy integration with devices using protocols such as Zigbee, Zwave, 6LoWPAN, Modbus, and more.... ...Full Story
State Council Strengthens Energy Saving Standardization Work USITO.org Weekly April 15, 2015 - On April 4, the General Office of the State Council published the "Opinions on Strengthening the Standardization Work on Energy Conservation," setting 2020 goals for establishing comprehensive standards on energy consumption limits for all major energy-intensive industries, and ensuring 80% of China's energy efficiency standards are internationally competitive.
The Opinions called for an accelerated development of national compulsory standards for energy efficiency and energy consumption limits, which would serve as market access regulations and force industry transformation. The Opinions require the State Administration of Standards, National Development and Reform Commission and Ministry of Industry and Information Technology to improve the mechanism of state-led mandatory standards and guiding technical specifics development, and explore ways for government to directly adopt market-driven consortia standards as national standards, so as to drive rapid transformation of new energy-saving technologies, products and services into standards.
The Opinions require all relevant government agencies to take responsibility for promoting and enforcing energy efficiency standards, and mandate that enforcement of mandatory energy efficiency standards will be included in all levels of government energy-saving performance assessments. ...Full Story
Five Stars: A skillfully crafted cyber-terrorism thriller Jeff Dwyeron Amazon Reader Reviews April 14, 2015 - I found Mr. Updegrove's book from a posting on the Passive Voice website. I've found several good books written by indie authors on this website. This was an exciting thriller with well developed interesting characters involved in a timely cyber-terrorism attack. Updegrove knows his subject well, so the information about Internet security or the lack of it has been presented clearly and woven skillfully into his story. I found myself jumping to Wikipedia and Google Maps to dig deeper into the setting and movements of his characters as well as read further about some of the information Updegrove used to develop his plot structure. I look forward to his next book and encourage anyone seeking a well written contemporary thriller to give this book a read. You will not be sorry. ...Full Story
SIPO Seeks Comment on Fourth Draft of China Patents Law USITO.org Weekly April 14, 2015 - On April 1, the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) released another draft for public comment of the China Patents Law with a deadline of April 28. This is the fourth comprehensive revision since SIPO started revision work in 2011. Previous drafts were released June 2016, November 2012 and January 2013.
The new draft includes substantial revisions to 30 articles, and adds a new chapter on patent applications. The major changes include:
- Expansion of administrative powers in investigating patent infringement, issuing injunctions, and levying fines
- Introduction of "punitive damages" and double or triple the compensation amount for the purpose of "punishing," rather than just "compensating," in the case of willful infringement
- Strengthening the legal system for patent attorneys and patent agencies and imposing strict regulation on patent attorneys/agencies without administrative licensing ...Full Story
Dash Industry Forum Publishes Version 3.0 of Its Interoperability Guidelines Press Release Dash Industry Forum April 14, 2015 - DASH Industry Forum (DASH-IF)...announced today the publication of Version 3.0 of its Interoperability Implementation Guidelines.
The new DASH-IF V3.0 guidelines include interoperability points for enhanced live, on-demand and time-shifted video streaming using AVC/H.264 and HEVC/H.265 codecs. The guidelines support default HE-AAC and optional multichannel audio codecs, SMPTE-TT and CEA-608/708 closed caption formats, as well as common encryption (CENC) to support various digital rights management (DRM) systems.
Based on the second edition of the ISO/IEC 23009-1 (MPEG-DASH) standard, and incorporating enhanced live and ad insertion features, these guidelines enable deployment of live services and dynamic ad insertion with a single set of technologies. This means that a common DASH client implementation can be used to receive content for various streaming use cases and applications, enabling service and content providers to reach more DASH clients with the same set of publishing guidelines.... ...Full Story