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
“This is big. Really big”
-Patrick Moorhead, writing in Forbes about the new OpenCAPI standard
The Democratization of Censorship Brian Krebs Krebs on Security October 26, 2015 - ...There is every indication that this attack was launched with the help of a botnet that has enslaved a large number of hacked so-called “Internet of Things,” (IoT) devices — mainly routers, IP cameras and digital video recorders (DVRs) that are exposed to the Internet and protected with weak or hard-coded passwords. Most of these devices are available for sale on retail store shelves for less than $100, or — in the case of routers — are shipped by ISPs to their customers....To address the threat from the mass-proliferation of hardware devices such as Internet routers, DVRs and IP cameras that ship with default-insecure settings, we probably need an industry security association, with published standards that all members adhere to and are audited against periodically.
The wholesalers and retailers of these devices might then be encouraged to shift their focus toward buying and promoting connected devices which have this industry security association seal of approval. Consumers also would need to be educated to look for that seal of approval. Something like Underwriters Laboratories (UL), but for the Internet, perhaps.... ...Full Story
New RFID Standard for Healthcare Industry Introduced Press Release AIM.org October 26, 2016 - AIM [has]...announced the release of Medical Electrical Equipment & System Electromagnetic Immunity Test for Exposure to RFID Readers, a new standard that provides specialized guidance on the testing of non-implantable medical devices to determine if they are immune to emissions from radio frequency identification (RFID) systems.
The standard provides medical device manufactures and end-users with guidance on how to evaluate their devices for immunity to emissions from radio frequency identification (RFID) systems...Test protocols are included for the major commercial implementations of RFID as standardized by ISO, including LF, HF, and UHF RFID. Both active and passive ISO RFID standards are covered in this document... ...Full Story
Tech Giants Create New OpenCAPI Standard For The Hottest Server-Accelerated Workloads Patrick Moorhead Forbes.com October 25, 2016 - ...Today, a bevvy of tech industry giants announced a new server standard, called OpenCAPI, and includes support from Advanced Micro Devices, Dell EMC, Google, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, Mellanox Technologies, Micron Technology, NVIDIA and Xilinx. This is big, really big.
This announcement comes on the heels of the recently announced datacenter open standards CCIX and Gen-Z, just showing how much is at stake and in motion in the datacenter...OpenCAPI is a new standard to enable very high performance accelerators like FPGAs, graphics, network and storage accelerators that perform functions the datacenter server’s general purpose CPU isn’t optimized for. Acceleration is what all the cool kids are doing... ...Full Story
Major new British Standard for Cyber Risk and Resilience Continuity Forum October 25, 2016 - BSI Cyber Risk and Resilience Standards BS 31111A major new British Standard [BS 31111] is in development to help senior executives and risk managers improve their cyber risk management and build the cyber resilience of their organizations.
Over the past year, the BSI Risk Management Committee has been working on developing new guidance that aims to help top executives better understand and manage the technology risks to their organizations...The new standard is at the public draft stage and comments are being sought...The standard takes a different approach to others covering the technology sector by focusing and supporting good decision making by top management rather than concentrating on technical details... ...Full Story
http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/2474701/new-green-reporting-standard-launched-as-environmental-management-standards-extend-reach James Murray Business Green October 24, 2016 - Global corporate reporting body GRI yesterday launched a new global standard for sustainability reporting, hailing it as the first standard to provide companies with a "common language" for disclosing non-financial information.
The GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards will help companies better disclose information about their impacts on the economy, the environment and society, the organisation said, while also supporting corporate efforts to contribute to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The launch came in the same week as new data from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) revealed adoption of the popular ISO 14001 environmental management standard rose eight per cent last year to nearly 320,000 accredited organisations....
The group said the new standards feature an improved format and new modular structure and will replace the G4 Guidelines, which will be phased out by 1 July 2018.... ...Full Story
How to Hack a Presidential Election David Heath ITWire October 24, 2016 - A recently published novel lays out a very clear path showing how someone might steal the upcoming US election....The novel, The Lafayette Campaign, a Tale of Deception and Elections, is based on domestic protagonists but could easily be about foreign players....[the author] delves into some very cunningly designed hacks (as a security writer, the NFC one is especially troubling)...
As an aside, one has to wonder if this explains how we ended up with the two candidates that we have. Who knows? It certainly offers some food for thought... ...Full Story
Dutch govt ordered to use open standards for comms from 2017 Iain Thomson The Register October 20, 2016 - Government bodies in the Netherlands will have to use open technology standards for communications after next year, following a vote by the nation's parliament.
The requirement for open document standards has already been adopted by the Netherlands Senate, but a motion by Member of Parliament Astrid Oosenbrug has now unified the policy. She said the lower house would be the first government body to standardize around the use of Open Document Format (ODF)...As part of the new legislation, the government will also promote the use of open source code across government and the private sector.... ...Full Story
Study: ‘Open source coders more aware of security’ Gijs Hillenius EU Joinup October 19, 2016 - Developers of open source software are generally more aware of code security issues than developers working for the European institutions, according to a study conducted on behalf of the European Commission and European Parliament. Developers working for the European institutions have more tools available for management and testing of code security, but using them is not yet standard practice.
Open source developers should have more testing environments, and should perform more security testing, the study recommends....To compare code security methods used by open source communities and software development projects in the European institutions, the study looks at ten segments commonly found in software development, such as project management, release management, software testing, and incident management. For each segment, the report lists conclusions and recommendations. For example: project management is more efficient at the European institutions, and the study recommends that, if possible, free software groups improve in this area.
To shore up software security, the authors suggest that the European institutions and free software groups standardise their security definitions and that both use standard authentication mechanisms.... ...Full Story
ETSI releases first SDN software stack as open source Adrian Offerman EU Joinup October 18, 2016 - [Last] week, standardisation organisation ETSI published OSM Release ONE, an open-source software stack to implement Software-Defined Networking (SDN). SDN, or network virtualisation, brings the management of computer networks to a higher level by abstracting the physical infrastructure. This allows network administrators to manage their networks in a more flexible, or even a fully automated, dynamic way.
The OSM software was developed by ETSI's Management and Orchestration (MANO) group in close alignment with the Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) Industry Specification Group, in which industry and ETSI collaborate on standards for SDN.
The OSM community aims to deliver a production-quality open-source MANO stack that meets the requirements of commercial NFV networks. According to ETSI, the platform has been tested and documented to allow rapid installation in operator labs. The OSM group is currently building a network of remote labs connected over a virtual network to test the compatibility and interoperability of multiple types of infrastructures. ...Full Story