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 new Standard Swedish shows in a slightly absurd way that there is no such thing as correct Swedish”
-Asst. Prof. Mikael Parkvall of Stockholm University’s Department of Linguistics, announcing gthe release of "New Standard Swedish"
ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 32 Publishes Updated SQL Database Language Standard ANSI.org March 2, 2017 - The International Organization for Standardization / International Electrotechnical Commission (ISO/IEC) Joint Technical Committee (JTC) 1, Information Technology, Subcommittee (SC) 32, Data management and interchange, published nine updated parts of the SQL Query Language (SQL) Database Language standard, ISO/IEC 9075:2016, Information technology - Database languages – SQL in December 2016. SQL is a data sublanguage widely used for access to relational databases.
Major new features in the update include Row Pattern Recognition, Support for Java Script Object Notation (JSON) objects, Polymorphic Table Functions, and Additional analytics.... ...Full Story
Interoperability suite of information: new NIFO factsheets NIFO Editor EU Joinup March 1, 2017 - The National Interoperability Framework Observatory (NIFO) community has published an updated series of European countries interoperability factsheets and analytical models on the Joinup platform. The documents provide the latest information on implementation and monitoring of the National Interoperability Frameworks and interoperability initiatives.
Every year, the NIFO community gathers data on the progress made by EU countries in the field of interoperability. When making this annual snapshot, the three following aspects are in focus:
- Alignment of National Interoperability Frameworks (NIFs) with the current version of the European Interoperability Framework (EIF);
- Implementation of the NIF into concrete national projects;
- Monitoring of NIF elements as part of the overall national interoperability approach.... ...Full Story
EP: Govt, science clouds should use open standards, source Gijs Hillenius EU Joinup February 28, 2017 - European cloud computing should be built on open standards and open source, says the European Parliament. Last week, the EP adopted its motion on the European Cloud Initiative, emphasising the importance of open standards and open source for security, data privacy, government openness, and for innovation.
The resolution aggregates the Parliament’s views on government and science cloud computing plans such as the European Cloud Initiative....
With the European Cloud Initiative, the European Commission and the EU Member States will concentrate their efforts on building a high performance cloud infrastructure for scientists, industry and the public sector. As part of the plan, first, all data produced by the science projects co-funded by the EC’s Horizon 2020 Programme should be made open by default, to boost interoperability and reuse. Secondly, the EU will also fund the development of cloud computing hardware and networks. A third aim is to create a “Government as a Service” platform for European public authorities, where they can open their data and services. ...Full Story
SAE International Publishes New Standard to Certify Radio Frequency Identification Tags for Aerospace Batteries p SAE International February 28, 2017 - SAE International has published a new technical standard on the criteria for the certification of active and battery assisted passive radio frequency identification (RFID) tags for use in aerospace industry.
AS6023 provides guidance on the environmental tests that the tags need to comply with to meet the certification requirements. This will form the basis for a new FAA Advisory Circular (AC) to be released soon....Active and battery assisted passive RFID tags are being widely promoted for several aircraft applications. Some of the applications include: sensing temperature, vibration, stress, fatigue, switch state, cargo monitoring, etc. Because these tags have a battery and transmit RF there is a possibility they could interfere with safety of flight.... ...Full Story
Kaspersky launches 'secure operating system' -- with no trace of Linux in it Mihăiță Bamburic BetaNews February 27, 2017 - Every once in a while a major software company takes us by surprise by releasing an operating system of its own. Kaspersky has done just that with its new KasperskyOS, which is designed for control systems, Internet of Things devices, and network devices. The most intriguing thing about the 14-year project? It has no Linux. If you want to create your own operating system, basing it on Linux is an obvious choice. The open-source kernel is tried and true, after all, and best of all it's free, so if you want a solid foundation it is a great option. But, "for different applications and purposes," Kaspersky went a different route....when it comes to our target audiences (hardware developers, SCADA systems, IoT, etc.), this approach is a no-go: What matters most here is security," explains Kaspersky CEO Eugene Kaspersky.... ...Full Story
Everything You Need to Know About the New PoE Standard Maria Guerra Electronic Design February 27, 2017 - As Power over Ethernet (PoE) continues to grow in popularity, so does the demand for applications with higher power. The current standard, IEEE 802.3at, allows for maximum power at the powered device (PD) of 25.5 W, while the upcoming standard will allow maximum power of up to 90 W.
The new standard will increase the maximum PoE power by using all four pairs of the wires being useful for applications where more power is required, such as pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras, VoIP phones, security-card readers, LED lighting, and point of sale... ...Full Story
Banks Build a New Standard for Cross-Border With SWIFT (And Not Blockchain Grace Noto Bank Innovation February 24, 2017 - Instead of distributed ledger technology, banks like Citi, Wells Fargo, and BBVA, are looking to projects like SWIFT’s global payments innovation service — or gpi — which went live today, following its January launch....SWIFT gpi enables banks to offer transparent and traceable cross-border payments. Through a Tracker feature, corporate treasurers will have an end-to-end view on the status of their payments, including confirmations when payments have been credited to beneficiaries’ accounts (about time?). At the moment, there are 12 banks exchanging live on the network, including Bank of China and UniCredit, plus more than 100 member-banks, like Citi and Wells.... ...Full Story
The Linux Foundation Announces Merger of Open Source ECOMPTM and OPEN-OTM to Form New Open Network Automation Platform (ONAPTM) Project Press Release Linux Foundation February 23, 2017 - The Linux Foundation...today announced the merger of open source ECOMP and Open Orchestrator Project (OPEN-O) to create the new Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) Project. ONAP will allow end users to automate, design, orchestrate, and manage services and virtual functions.
AT&T, China Mobile and the world’s leading operators are driving ONAP with a diverse group of founding members. Founding Platinum members include Amdocs, AT&T, Bell Canada, China Mobile, China Telecom, Cisco, Ericsson, GigaSpaces, Huawei, IBM, Intel, Nokia, Orange, Tech Mahindra, VMware and ZTE. Silver members of ONAP are ARM, BOCO Inter-Telecom, Canonical, China Unicom, Cloudbase Solutions, Metaswitch and Raisecom....
The Linux Foundation will establish a governance and membership structure for ONAP to nurture a vibrant technical community. A Governing Board will guide business decisions, marketing and ensure alignment between the technical communities and members. The technical steering committee will provide leadership on the code merge and guide the technical direction of ONAP.... ...Full Story
Open source human body simulator trains future doctors Gijs Hillenius EU Joinup February 22, 2017 - SOFA an open source human body simulator used for training medical students and for preparing medical interventions, is being used by an increasing number of research centres and companies,...A human body simulator is just one of the many uses of SOFA, says Talbot. SOFA is a framework for multi-physics simulation. “Our software aims at interactive and real-time applications, with an emphasis on medical simulation”, he says....The simulation software can combine patient data to create simulations of, for example, eye operations, neurosurgery, liver surgery, or to create anatomical models....Inria, France’s computer science institute, began developing SOFA in 2006, with initial funding from the Department of Defence in the USA. Last year, the developers founded a consortium, aiming to increase the number of researchers and attract start-ups and other companies interested in using the simulator. The growing SOFA community includes both universities and medical and robotics start-ups in France and Germany.... ...Full Story
Understand Your Distributed Apps with the OpenTracing Standard Ian Murphy Linux.com February 21, 2017 - Microservices and services-oriented architecture are here to stay, but this kind of distributed system destroys the traditional type of process monitoring. Nonetheless, companies still need to understand just what’s happening inside the flow of an application. Ben Sigelman, Co-founder of LightStep, said at his keynote at CloudNativeCon that by adopting a new standard for distributed applications called OpenTracing can tell those stories without building complex instrumentation, or fundamentally changing the code of your application....OpenTracing is a vendor-neutral API standard, not something that one deploys, Sigelman said. Instead it’s something you program against, something you build into your microservices architecture. The OpenTracing API sits in the middle of the microservices process, like application logic, control-flow packages or existing instrumentation, and tracing infrastructure like LightStep, Zipkin, or Jaeger.... ...Full Story