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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Hawaiian Enough?

As the TMT contested case drags on we continue to watch. Thanks to the efforts of the staff of Nā Leo TV the entire proceedings are streamed live. Several of the latest witnesses for the University are Hawaiian supporters of the telescope project, it is these voices that I am most interested in hearing.

Retired Judge Riki May Amano
Retired Judge Riki May Amano presides over the TMT contested case hearing
It is when the questioning begins that things get ugly. Question after question challenges the integrity of the witness. The questions challenge their personal values as if to say “You are not Hawaiian.” Over and over the questions were repeated, each successive question designed to attack the cultural identity of the witness…

“Where did you grow up?”
“How old were you when you learned that?”
“Who taught you that?”
“When was the last time you were on Mauna Kea?”
“When did you last worship on Mauna Kea?”
“Where did your family worship?”
“Do you pray to Poliʻahu?”
“Who are the parents of Poliʻahu?”

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Online Outrage

What is it about online commenting that enables people to make totally racist and insulting comments?

TMT Protest in Waimea
A protest against TMT in Waimea, May 27, 2015
This is something I have been seeing all too often in the recent round of local controversies. This is nothing new, we all know and see it if we participate at all in online forums. But I can not just let it slide, I cringe every time.

I make a point of following the pro/anti TMT issue. It is an issue that reveals some of the simmering tensions here in the islands, among those are issues of race and cultural identity.

You cannot reason with zealots. They deify a pile of rocks and worship a mythical past which was in reality a Hobbesian fantasm of violence, disease and poverty. – Richard Johnson Esq. in a Civil Beat comment

I have neglected to include the most egregious comments here, they are just too rude for me to re-post. You will just have to settle for the moderately insulting comments here. Want to see the worst? Just wait for another TMT article in the local press and read the comments.

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