Do you own what you buy?

In this ever complex world in which we live the rules are always changing, and usually getting more complex. A modern, information society has many rules that govern who owns what. Copy a photograph from the web and you are probably breaking the laws concerning copyrights. There is a complex and sometimes contradictory set of laws that governs all manner of ownership in this technological age.

Hay Baler Engine
The engine on a hay baler offers a view of mechanical paraphernalia
Do you know the rules?

Buy a CD with your favorite tunes… Can you copy the tracks onto your phone? Can you create a video with the music and post it to YouTube? What about that expensive photo software package? Can you put it on your laptop and desktop? The rules are often complex, and often the answer is not clear cut.

Increasingly we do not actually own what we buy. At least that is what many corporations will tell us.

You would think that the answer is easier if the thing we are talking about is a physical object. If you buy a car, can you re-paint it, install a new stereo, or ignition system. Of course you can do that. Can you? Sometimes the answer is no.

Increasingly corporations attempt to maintain control of a product after the sale. They use many tools to do this. One is intellectual property, copyrights and copy protection on the software that is now embedded into many of the things we buy.

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TMT Contested Case Decision

I have to admit I was worried that the decision could go against the TMT project.

It did not.

Retired Judge Riki May Amano
Retired Judge Riki May Amano presides over the TMT contested case hearing
Earlier today hearing officer Judge Ricky May Amano recommended that the TMT project be granted a Conservation District Use Permit or CDUP.

The decision is nearly three hundred pages long, none of us has had a chance to do more than skim some of the more interesting sections. Indeed most of us opened the document and skipped straight to page 260 to read the Recommended Decision and Order first.

TMT Rendering
An overhead view of the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope, credit TMT Observatory Corporation
What I have read appears to be a straightforward reading of the law involving land use. Yes, it is a conservation district, that means that there shall be sufficient management of the project, but does not mean that the project cannot proceed.

We have yet to see the outrage from TMT project opponents. I expect it will be shortly forthcoming and quite vehement.

Where do we go from here? As I understand it the next step is for the DLNR board to vote on the acceptance of the hearing officer’s recommendation and reissue the permit. Of course the next thing to happen after that is the inevitable court challenge. This will go straight to the state supreme court as recent legislation set that as the path for land use cases, skipping the lower courts.

First Fish

Among the tribes of the coastal northwest there is a ceremony that surrounds the first fish of the season. These ceremonies might vary from tribe to tribe, from family to family, but every tribe had such a ceremony.

Black Bear Fishing
A black bear (Ursus americanus) fishing at the Anan Wildlife Observatory
Life once depended on the yearly return of salmon to the rivers and streams each summer. For bears, eagles, and humans the annual bounty of salmon provided the nourishment that would see them through the long winter. The forest itself benefits from the nutrients carried from distant seas into the trees where the salmon would spawn and die.

Upon catching the first salmon of the season the tribe will stop and celebrate. They celebrate the life of the fish, they celebrate the cycles of the natural world, they celebrate their connection with nature. Some protocols insist that the first fish be released, to continue upriver to spawn, to ensure the salmon continue to return each summer.

That one idea is the critical bit, our connection with nature. Any fisherman understands that he takes from the natural world. A good fisherman stops and considers what he takes. He takes only what he needs to feed his family. This is the entire point of the first fish ceremony, it serves to educate the community in the act of taking, to limit what you take to what the environment can provide.

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One More RadioShack Closes

Our local Waimea RadioShack shop is closing.

RadioShack Pile
A pile of RadioShack components purchased at the local closing sale.
Our local RadioShack has survived several rounds of store closures as the chain has moved in and out of bankruptcy court. Time has finally run out for the store and it is liquidating the stock and will close by the end of the month.

I have commented on my view on RadioShack before. As an electronic hobbyist I have mixed feelings about RadioShack. In my younger years it was a decent place to buy electronic components. Some of the early computers I learned on were RadioShack products like the TRS-80 and Tandy 1000. I even worked as a RadioShack sales clerk one summer during high school.

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A Walk in the Park

Several hours without transportation. My vehicle is in the transmission shop for a checkout, have been having some rough shifts. Stranded for the morning without wheels in the old industrial area I had no intention of sitting in the shop’s waiting area for a few hours.

Old Airport Beach Park Kona
Looking down the old runway at the Old Kona Airport Recreation Area
Just up the coast from the old industrial area is a large beach park. Called Old-A’s or Old Airport, it is the site of the original landing strip just north of town. Abandoned when the jet age rendered this airstrip far too small. The area was used for a while as a drag-strip, the old airport was eventually converted to a park. The old terminal building was renovated into a multi-use pavilion. The old runway is still there, now an enormous parking lot that fronts the rocky shoreline along one side and a community garden on the other.

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The TMT Contested Case Winds Down

We are now in March, looking back to October when the TMT contested case began. Five months of hearings endlessly repeating the same details about every aspect of the case.

Yes… My patience has run out long ago.

Retired Judge Riki May Amano
Retired Judge Riki May Amano presides over the TMT contested case hearing
After all that has been said and done it is clear that the actual substance of the case could have been thoroughly discussed in a couple weeks, not five months.

Among the endless hours of testimony there have been occasional moments of fireworks. We have heard wild theories, mangled science, inexcusable ignorance, evidence of unemployment claims fraud, and several very likely incidents of outright perjury by telescope opponents.

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To Play in the Snow

There are days when it seems like the entire island population comes to Mauna Kea. This is certainly the case on a snow day, the first day the road is open after a fresh snowfall will see a crowd of folks ascending to the summit to play in the snow.

Loading Snow
Loading pickup trucks with snow for export from the mauna.
This winter the snow came for Christmas, several feet of snow just before the holiday. MKSS was able to plow through the snowdrifts and open the road for the public on Christmas Eve. The result was predictable, hundreds drove up to the snow to enjoy a white Christmas.

One local tradition is the hauling of snow from the summit to the beach. On some days dozens of pickup trucks can be found on the summit, or filled with snow making their way down the mountain road. The snow will be the basis of parties and games on the beach or in green tropical lawns. Online you can find photos of snowmen under palm trees or snowball fights and smiling keiki on Hilo yards.

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TMT Opponent’s Alternative Facts

A number of other commentators are noting the use of alternative facts by telescope opponents. While I have commented a few times here on DV about the issue, it is heartening to note that I am not alone in this.

Ahu
An ancient ahu (shrine) at 11,000ft on Mauna Kea
Environment Hawaii has published a number of articles that cover the ongoing TMT contested case. The latest is quite critical of Sierra Club Director Marti Townsend’s recent testimony. The article is quite forthright in noting a list of factual errors in her testimony.

Many of the witnesses have testified on cultural and religious issues, no problems here, these are personal matters where there is no objective truth. But over and over we have seen witnesses make very specific physical and scientific claims that are simply wrong. It will be interesting to see how these inaccuracies are addressed in the findings of the hearing officer.

No, Mrs. Townsend, there are no glaciers on Mauna Kea. There used to be, about ten thousand years ago, but they are gone now.

Distanced from Reality

On Monday I tuned back into the TMT contested case hearing, it is a soap opera that has become rather addictive over the last few months. I will often keep the video feed up in the corner of my monitor, attempting to pick up the more interesting bits through the day.

Michael Lee
Michael Lee testifies at the TMT contested case hearing Jan 24, 2017
Mr. Lee claims to be a papakilohoku, a star priest, I tuned into his testimony with some interest. As an amateur astronomer who has spent countless nights under the stars observing with hand made telescopes, or simply my unaided eyes, I am very familiar with the sky. I hoped he would relate some interesting Hawaiian sky lore while on the stand, a new legend or two. What I heard instead was a mangled version of astronomy that would embarrass any ancient Polynesian navigator.

Mr. Michael Lee was offered as a witness by Harry Fergerstrom, one of the more extreme participants in the ongoing contested case hearing. It is no surprise that this witness would espouse some of the more interesting claims made against the TMT project. I expected some wild claims, I was surprised at just how wild.

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Professional versus Layman

With a few notable exceptions the petitioners in the ongoing TMT contested case hearing are lay people with no background in astronomy or the natural sciences around which much of the testimony concerns. Sometimes this disparity results in innocent misunderstandings, something to be expected. Unfortunately in this case these misunderstandings are all too often used to justify ugly insinuations or even accusations of misconduct by telescope opponents.

The Thirty Meter Telescope
An artist concept of TMT at night, with the laser guide star system illuminated.
It is usually the terminology that starts these misunderstandings… During cross examination of master navigator Chad Babayan petitioner Mehana Kihoi asked, “Do you have a degree in astrology, Mr. Babayan?” You could see a moment of confusion on Mr. Babayan’s face “Astro?” Not deterred she asks again, “A degree in astrology?” There is only one response to this… “No, I don’t.” Mr. Babayan answers. This is not the only time that the pseudoscience of astrology has been confused with astronomy in these proceedings. The vast difference between the two completely escaping the notice of so many laypersons.

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