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.
I'm currently hiking and camping in New Mexico and 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.
Summer is the time of storms in the deserts of much of the Southwest, just as it is the time of intense heat. Except for its mountainous areas, the Southwest receives most of its meager precipitation in this way. The weather systems that form the thunderstorms of summer are thus vital to the cycle of desert life, and were they ever to fail, so, too, would most of what lives in these dry regions.
There are two essential elements to the weather system that produces these storms. The first is the uneven heating of the desert surface by the sun, which creates variable updrafts that can rise high into the sky. And the second is a summer wind pattern that regularly carries moist air from the Gulf of Mexico into the Southwest – the technically accurate, but rather misleading name given to this element is the "Southwest Monsoon."
When desert updrafts meet this moist Gulf air, they carry it skyward into cooler altitudes, where the moisture condenses into white, decorative cumulus clouds reminiscent of cauliflowers. If the air is sufficiently moist, the clouds can grow in height, becoming "towering cumulus" clouds. And if the updraft is strong, the air more saturated with moisture, and the differential in temperature between warm updraft and cool upper air sufficiently great, then you have all of the necessary elements to create a cumulonimbus cloud - also known as a potential thunderstorm.
Quote of the Day
“The most absurd thing you can say”
-Document Foundation co-founder Italo Vignoli on the belief of some developers that good products don't need marketing
RISC-V: An Open Standard for SoCs The case for an open ISA Krste Asanović & David Patterson EETimes August 14, 2014 - Systems-on-a-chip (SoCs), where the processors and caches are a small part of the chip, are becoming ubiquitous. Thus many more companies today are making chips that include processors than in the past. Given that the industry has been revolutionized by open standards and open-source software -- like TCP/IP and Linux -- why is one of the most important interfaces proprietary?
While instruction set architectures (ISAs) may be proprietary for historical or business reasons, there is no good technical reason for the lack of free, open ISAs....We conclude that the industry would benefit from viable, freely open ISAs just as it has benefited from freely open versions of the software stack. For example, it would enable a real, free, open market of processor designs, which patents on ISA quirks prevent. This could lead to:
Greater innovation via free-market competition from many more designers, including open vs. proprietary implementations of the ISA.
-Shared, open core designs, which would mean shorter time to market, lower cost due reuse, fewer errors given many more eyeballs, and transparency that would make it hard, for example, for government agencies to add secret trap doors.
-Affordable processors for more devices, which would help expand the Internet of Things, whose target cost could be only $1.... ...Full Story
Updated NIST Guide Provides Computer Security Assessment Procedures for Core Security Controls NIST Techbeat August 13, 2014 - The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has issued for public comment a draft update of its primary guide to assessing the security and privacy controls that safeguard federal information systems and networks. Public comments are due by Sept. 26, 2014.
NIST publishes two complementary publications that together provide its basic guidance and recommendations for ensuring data security and privacy protection in federal information systems and organizations, a role assigned to NIST under the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA). The publications are so famous they are generally known just by their numbers.... ...Full Story
LibreOffice is coming to Android Jack Wallen TechRepublic August 12, 2014 - I've been hoping to see this headline for some time now. At the first LibreOffice Conference, the Document Foundation announced its plans to migrate LibreOffice to mobile devices. The plan didn't include a total rewrite of the code, but repurposing at least 90% of the current code base. That meant the majority of the work was already done. That last remaining 10%? The user interface. The 90% already compiles on Android -- so there is a working model. Of course, what good is a working model without an interface to go along with it?
But the single most important question to ask is "why"? Why is it so important for LibreOffice to make it to the mobile platform? I can answer that with three simple words:
Open Document Format... ...Full Story
The Connected Car, Part 1: The Future Starts Now - Will Linux Drive It? Jack M. Germain LinuxInsider August 11, 2014 - Tomorrow's connected cars will go beyond infotainment apps provided by Microsoft, Google or Apple. They will combine cloud-based services that enhance automotive safety and driving convenience with a broad range of supplemental services. These connected cars will be shaking handles with all the appliances in the Internet of Things that car owners will be able to control from behind the wheel.... ...Full Story
TIA is Pioneering New Standard to Address Cybersecurity Concerns of Telecom Networks Press Release Telecom Reseller August 6, 2014 - The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), the leading association representing the manufacturers and suppliers of high-tech communications networks, today announced that its TR-42.1 Engineering Committee on Commercial Building Telecommunications Cabling is developing an American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-accredited standard, known as TIA-5017, to address the physical network security of information and communications technology (ICT) networks.... ...Full Story
Cybersecurity should be professionalized Jaikumar Vijayan ComputerWorld August 5, 2014 - The time is ripe for industry and government stakeholders to consider professionalizing cybersecurity, according to a report from Salve Regina University's Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy (download PDF)....
Demand for cybersecurity skills is increasing exponentially, but the educational, training and certification processes to prep people for careers in the field continue to be highly decentralized, ad hoc and non-standard.
"We not only have a shortage of the highly technically skilled people required to operate and support systems already deployed, but also an even more desperate shortage of people who can design secure systems, write safe computer codes" and create the tools needed to prevent, detect and mitigate attacks and system failures, the study said.
Too many organizations lack the right skills for building and managing secure infrastructures and for dealing with attacks. And those wishing to pursue careers in cybersecurity as a career, have few clearly defined roles and career paths, the authors of study noted.... ...Full Story
LibreOffice makes its case as open source alternative to MS Office Charles Cooper C/Net.com August 4, 2014 - After a headline lull, LibreOffice on Wednesday renewed its drive to replace Microsoft Office with the newest version of its open source suite of applications.
The latest update comes as the organization behind LibreOffice says that its products are now being used by some 80 million users around the world. In contrast, only 10 million users had downloaded the software by Sept. 2011....Executives from The Document Foundation expressed confidence about getting 200 million active users worldwide before the end of the decade. Italo Vignoli, one of the founders of The Document Foundation, also expressed hope that a decision governing the use of open source software by the UK government will prove to be a harbinger of more rapid adoption....the French government has already deployed LibreOffice on about a half million computers while Spain's Valencia region has installed the program on 120,000 desktops....he most absurd thing you can say. You need marketing for every product. Even if you don't use marketing, you need a strategy on how to bring the product to market.... ...Full Story
ISCC Selects American National Standards Institute as an Accreditation Body ANSI.org August 1, 2014 - International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) has selected the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as an accreditation body for its certification system for sustainability and greenhouse gas emissions.
ISCC and ANSI signed an MOU to cooperate in an independent third-party program to accredit certification bodies that will be conducting ISCC certification. ANSI and ISCC will regularly assess, monitor, and oversee these certification bodies for continuous compliance with ISCC EU and ISCC PLUS certification scheme requirements.... ...Full Story
Deepening Reform of Standards Requires Overall Planning and Breakthroughs USITO.org Weekly July 31, 2014 - On July 17, the Standardization Administration of China (SAC) held a meeting to discuss the further reform of the standardization system. During the meeting, SAC director general Tian Shihong (also a member of the Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine Administration (AQSIQ) leading group) summarized previous achievements and reviewed the overall reform process.
According to Mr. Tian, standardization system reform has made positive progress on technical standard system construction, consortia standards development, enterprise standardization management, social credit code system reform, standardization system planning and standardization law amendments. He identified a number of areas requiring further progress in 2014, including technical standard system construction, social credit code system reform, social group standard development, and enterprise standard filing-for-record system reform. ...Full Story
Bernard F. Collins II, Senior Advisor with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Speaks about the Value of Standardization and How Standards Boost Business ANSI Weekly News July 31, 2014 - Standards and conformity assessment activities impact almost every aspect of life in the U.S., they are inseparably linked to all facets of our national economy, and are vital to the continued global competitiveness of the U.S. In fact, they influence an estimated 80% of global merchandise trade – or about $14 trillion.
Bernard F. Collins II, senior advisor for the Director of Science and Technology in the Acquisition, Technology and Facilities Directorate for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, recently spoke with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) about his work evaluating the space industrial base and improving satellite acquisition through the use of standardization....The following is part one of a three part interview.... ...Full Story