A Soggy New Year

by admin on January 18, 2020

Somewhat belatedly, this is my first post of 2020, so I wish a happy New Year to all of you who are (like me) about two weeks behind.

The main explanation for the absence of new posts is that I spent ten days in Hawaii! For vacation? You might wonder. No, in fact I was working quite hard — probably harder than when I am at home. For the first five days I was in Honolulu, attending the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society. For five days after that I was on the Big Island (or Moku o Keawe, for those of you who want an authentic Hawaiian name for it).

The reason for my trip was that I want to write about the controversy over the building of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea. This construction, originally scheduled to start in July, has been delayed indefinitely by protests led by the kia’i or defenders of the mountain — native Hawaiians (mostly) who believe that Mauna Kea is sacred and should not be spoiled by the construction of one of the world’s most enormous telescopes. My hope was to talk with people on both sides: the astronomers and the kia’i, as well as people caught in the middle, such as students and ordinary people.

In fact, my trip was wildly successful; I got lots of interviews and learned a lot about all aspects of the issue. In particular I learned that there is a whole spectrum of opinions on the TMT and about many related issues. It really oversimplifies the problem when you reduce the complicated spectrum of opinions down to a single word, “pro-TMT” or “anti-TMT.”

Because this is a chess blog and not a blog about astronomy, Hawaii, or politics, I am not going to go into any more detail here about the TMT. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to write about it elsewhere. If not, then at least I managed to educate myself.

The rest of the trip was quite an adventure, especially the back half of it when I was on the Big Island. We had monsoon-like rain for three of the four days I was there. I had never seen rain like this! It wasn’t like raindrops dropping from a cloud, it was more like someone dumping a bucket of water on you, and dumping and dumping… The airport in Hilo recorded 3 inches of rain on Sunday, but there were some places on the outskirts that got 7 inches. And some places on the island recorded more than 20 inches in a two-day period. It was insane! All of the main highways across the island were closed due to landslides or floods. This ruined my plan to drive to Mauna Kea on Sunday, and it even jeopardized my plan to get to the airport and fly home on Monday. Fortunately, the rain finally tapered off and Monday was a decent day. I was able to drive to Mauna Kea and spend a couple of hours at the protest camp, and from there I drove to the airport and caught my plane flight.

This photo pretty much sums up my experience in Hilo. The sign says, “Area Floods During Heavy Rainfall.” This was actually the least rainy day of my stay in Hilo; the next day the road was completely underwater.

Another reason for the absence of posts lately is the fact that my laptop finally died, or became unusable (which is kind of the same thing). That means I temporarily have no access to Chessbase and also have more limited means for generating chess diagrams. I can still do it using Shredder on my desktop, but it looks like an annoying procedure where I have to save it as a PDF and then convert it to a JPG. Also, for computer analysis I trust Shredder less than I trusted Rybka.

Anyway, I should have a new laptop and a new copy of Fritz 17 within a few days, which I’m looking forward to very much, and at that point I should be able to get things up and running again much as they were before.

I did get to play some chess on my trip! The public library in Hilo has a board-game afternoon open to the public every Saturday. I found three other people playing chess and had a good time. In keeping with Hawaiian hospitality, they graciously let me win all of my games. 😉

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Mary Kuhner January 23, 2020 at 8:10 pm

Many, many years ago I visited the Maui Chess club and it was discovered that I was almost exactly the strength of their top player. We played ten games in a row, 5/5, by the end of which no one else was playing–they were all watching. Hawaiian hospitality, indeed! It’s a fond memory.

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