Calling All Geeks of All Kinds

A medieval knight family, an astronomer, radio operators, photography fanatics and even a rocket maker got together for the first Hawaii Geek Meet recently at Magic Island to share with the public knowledge of their life’s passions.

Friday - June 27, 2008
By Kerry Miller
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Nothing like a little jousting in the park on a Sunday afternoon
Nothing like a little jousting in the park on a Sunday afternoon

A medieval knight family, an astronomer, radio operators, photography fanatics and even a rocket maker got together for the first Hawaii Geek Meet recently at Magic Island to share with the public knowledge of their life’s passions.

And, of course, to eat their fill at the lunchtime potluck.

MidWeek stopped by to see what all the geeky fuss was about. Geek, apparently, is the new cool.

Organizer Ryan Ozawa came up with event because he wanted to get all of his fellow “geeks"together, giving folks with similar interests a chance to share information and also allowing those from different ends of the spectrum to meet and learn new things.“Everybody’s got a cool story to tell,” he says.


Ozawa started the online forum Hawaii Threads to discuss things or leave messages that people can respond to, he explains.Visitors can ask questions about anything from “life in Hawaii” to “what is your favorite food?” The craziest question he’s seen lately he says is “Which do you prefer - the Batmobile or the Oscar Meyer wiener mobile?” (Hmmm ... Batmobile - it’s way cooler.) Through the forum is how he’s familiar some of the Geek Meet attendees.

Drawing a lot of interest were members of the local chapter of the Society of Creative Anachronism. The SCA is dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th century Europe. If you travel through Kailua often enough, you may have seen husband and wife Andrea and Keith Merriam dressed in full authentic gear,practicing their medieval jousting at Pohakupu Park. The Merriams held a jousting match at the meet, much to the delight of passersby at Magic Island, making it one of the highlights of the day.

In 1999, Andrea noticed a coworker doing some unique embroidering and discovered the woman was a member of the SCA. From there, she learned about the society and is now the treasurer for the local chapter. She and Keith met at an SCA convention in Phoenix. Her SCA name is Medhbh Eilegnach; his SCA moniker is Aberhardt Wendlander. Keith grew up in Kailua, but lived in California for a time,where he learned of the SCA.

Proud geeks: Rich Fewell, Paul Lawler, Ryan Ozawa and Burt Lum
Proud geeks: Rich Fewell, Paul Lawler, Ryan Ozawa and Burt Lum

“I started hanging out at fighter practices,put on armor and said this is kind of fun,” says Keith. “It’s big in Southern California. I got much more active there.”

The SCA was formed in 1966 and is now a worldwide organization with 50-60 active members in Hawaii.(For more information,visit www.sca.org.)

Elsewhere at the Geek Meet - and also on the other end of the “hobby spectrum” - were Wayne Greenleaf, by day an operations manager for a taxi company,and his friend Chris Colquhoun. Both are amateur radio operators and members of the Emergency Amateur Radio Club (EARC). Greenleaf took a moment to explain to MidWeek just what is they do.

Greenleaf and other EARC members operate and maintain Digital Smart Technologies for Amateur Radio, or D-Star, as it’s commonly known. D-Star is a digital voice and data protocol specification developed by the Japan Amateur Radio League. It’s one of the first on-air standards to be widely developed and sold by a major radio manufacturer designed specifically for amateur use. Compatible radios are available on VHF and UHF and microwave amateur radio bands. In a nutshell, Greenleaf explains, D-Star uses VoiP Internet technology to connect repeater stations together through a gateway system. There are currently two repeaters on Oahu and they’re associated with the Hawaii Private Repeater Network club (www.hiprn.com).

“European streams have really taken off in the last six months,“adds Greenleaf.

Currently, he says, there are 177 gateways in the D-Star system, with 27 new ones in May alone, connecting repeaters in the U.S., Canada, UK, Europe and Australia. For more information on EARC, visit www.earchi.org.

Rich Fewell, whose booth neighbored the EARC guys,also is a “radio guy” - a ham radio operator. Because he and his son received their ham radio licenses together, Fewell made his call number “KH6DAD” and proudly wears a hat with that inscription.

Paul Lawler of the Hawaiian Astrological Society looks at the sun
Paul Lawler of the Hawaiian Astrological Society looks at the sun

“I’m connected to South Africa on the radio.They’re the exact opposite of where we are in the world,” says the Mililani resident.“It’s pretty neat to make that connection.”

Besides ham radio, Fewell is into geocaching and blogging, and works full time as a motion graphic artist for a local TV station. Geocaching,he explains with a smile, is “geek treasure hunting.” For example, on the website www.geocache.com coordinates are posted for geocaches (aka treasure). Search for cache coordinates in your area by entering your ZIP code, punch the coordinates into your GPS and it will guide you to the location of the cache. The hidden treasure could be anything from a stick of gum to a coupon for free food - that’s the fun of it, you never know what you’ll find. Once you locate your cache you’re supposed to leave something new behind so that other geocachers can find new treasure at that same spot.

Fewell, like many geocaching enthusiasts, heard about it from a friend. “Kids love it,” he says. “People who’ve done this a lot have thousands of numbers. On Oahu alone there are probably several hundred geocaches.”

Also at the meet, attendees peered into a telescope pointed directly at the sun. Paul Lawler, a member of the Hawaiian Astronomical Society, was the keeper of this special instrument that was getting so much attention. The telescope,he explains,is designed to look only at one star. A filter cuts out all the light surrounding the image you’re viewing so you only see what you’re trying to see.


The Hawaiian Astronomical Society holds two star parties each month - one is held always at Dillingham Airfield and the other at Kahala Community Park or Waikele Community Park. Everybody is welcome, and you can bring your telescopes if you’ve got ‘em. The HAS also meets once a month at Bishop Museum.

“We have to do it when there’s a full moon,“says Lawler, whose day job is building computer networks. “Some club members take astronomy photos, travel to Neighbor Islands and have joint parties with clubs from other islands. Molokai is so advanced because it’s really dark. The Southern Cross - it’s the only place in the U.S. where you can see it. It’s the smallest constellation in the sky.”

Ozawa says the Hawaii Geek Meet will probably be an annual gathering, noting that “it could be much bigger next time.“Many of the meet’s attendees are currently “starting to work on a pod camp,” he adds. “It focuses on new media stuff, pod-casting, journalism, online publishing. They’re actually pretty big (pod camps).”

That camp could happen as soon as October.

For a recap on the first Hawaii Geek Meet, visit www.hawaiigeek.com to check blogs by some of the attendees and read their thoughts on the day.

 

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