Archive for March 2012

“Leave the stroller at home” challenge

March 27, 2012

My son and I had a great experience with the baby carrier.

When my son was born, we carried him in the infant car seat. We fit the infant car seat fit into a brand-new stroller. But once he was old enough to sit in the stroller, we stopped using it — I preferred my Tommee Tippee EZ Pack Baby Carrier (I’m not affiliated with the company; great product, terrible brand name), a hip carrier that left my arms free, kept me balanced, and let me talk to my son. I carried him with me wherever I went. We rarely used the stroller, and it gathered dust in the garage. When he was old enough to walk, we walked; he quickly built up strength and endurance.

But when I look around, I see more and more strollers, with more and more kids sitting comfortably in their strollers instead of moving around or showing much interest in their surroundings.

So here is my challenge for parents with young children: As soon as your child can walk a fair distance without getting over-tired, generally between 1-2 years, leave the stroller at home. 

Sure, strollers are convenient: tired kids can plop down and relax, drinks go into the cup holders, diaper bags fit into the storage area. Strollers make you feel safer when taking your kids to a busy shopping mall or on a long walk. A lot of kids have to learn to sit quietly in the stroller; it doesn’t come naturally.

When kids walk, instead of ride, they get more exercise and build their leg muscles. Walking helps them become independent and gives them permission to be curious, to explore the world around them. Walking gives kids a chance to talk with their parents, hold hands and share hugs. Walking gives you an excuse to stroll unhurriedly and rest along the way, instead of rushing from place to place.

If you have a young child, leave the stroller at home every once in a while. Watch your child’s curiosity and enthusiasm as you walk down the street, down store aisles, and in the mall. When they get tired, take a break, look around, and watch other people hurry by.

Can you leave your stroller at home, starting with one day a week? Can you suggest that others leave their strollers at home?

Hawaii Legislative Watch: Trivial pursuits

March 20, 2012

In previous weeks, we looked at proposed bills for taxes, education, the people vs. government, and controversial bills during the 2012 Hawaii Legislative Session. This is my last look at the legislative proposals being discussed and debated.

Just for fun, I thought I’d highlight some of the more trivial (in my opinion) bills proposed by lawmakers. I came across these bills just by browsing the enormous list of bills, so I’m sure there are many that I’ve missed.

With Styx’s “Too Much Time on My Hands” playing at the back of my mind, here are 5 trivial proposals that seem like a waste of time:

1. Daylight savings: HB22 institutes daylight savings time in Hawaii. Why do we need this?

2. Spelling “Hawai‘i”: HB709 requires the use of the glottal stop in the spelling of “Hawai‘i” in government documents and signs. Does this have to be a law?

3. Disruptive behavior: HB2751 and SB3026 make it an offense to be disrespectful to a legislator. Who decides what’s disrespectful? What about freedom of speech?

4. Appreciation days and months: HB1595 designates August 26 as Hawaii State Dog Appreciation Day. HB2133 designates October as “Domestic Violence Awareness Month.” HB2809 designates October as “Kalo Appreciation Month.” HB2824 and HB2838 designate February as “Hawaii-Grown Cacao Month.” HB2846 designates August 4 as “President Barack Obama Day.” SB1451 SD1 designates October as “Farm to School Month.” HB1984 and SB2175 designate February as “Olelo Hawaii Month.” SB3007 re-designates “Discoverer’s Day” to “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” We should all show our gratitude and appreciation, but why do these issues, products, and  people get singled out and does this need to be discussed during the regular legislative session?

5. Public health: HB42 and HB254 prohibit public urination and defecation in downtown Honolulu and Waikiki, respectively. HB697 and SB1012 make the prohibition statewide. Do we need a law? Isn’t this covered by public indecency? Will we start ticketing young kids who can’t hold it and use the bushes or trees?

Hawaii faces so many important issues and challenges. What issues do you think lawmakers should focus on? Have you come across any bills that seem unimportant and trivial?

Hawaii Legislative Watch: Up for debate

March 13, 2012

Warning: You may shake your head in amazement. You may get into headed arguments with your family and friends. Your blood pressure may spike.

Here are 7 controversial bills from the 2012 Hawaii Legislative Session that could change our lives, and deserve a lot of civil discussion and open-minded debate. If I’ve missed any important controversial bills, please let me know!

1. Gambling: HB394 legalizes slot machines and video poker gambling in designated resort areas. HB781 and SB1097 grant a 10-year license, and HB2788 and SB2210 grant a 20-year license, for one stand-alone casino in Waikiki (not in a hotel). HB1227 and HB2379 authorize gaming on Hawaiian home lands. SB1528 authorizes shipboard gaming on vessels in state waters, establishing a Hawaii gaming board, an admission tax and a wagering tax, and a gaming fund for the deposit of fees, taxes, and fines. SB2032 legalizes slot machines and video poker gambling in hotels and within international airports. SB2984 grants a 20-year license for one stand-alone casino on Banyan Drive. Each of these gambling proposals would also impose taxes ranging from 6.75% to 15%; and create a new commission on gaming. Gambling tends to attract the poor and may lead to an increase in crime; on the other hand, many people like to gamble, and we are letting gambling dollars flow to other cities like Las Vegas.

2. Lottery: HB2422 and SB2980 authorize Internet lottery and gambling. The big question is: does Hawaii have the power to regulate and tax the Internet? SB2156 creates a state lottery limited to nonresidents. Raffles and informal sporting betting are legal. How is a lottery different? And how can Hawaii prevent residents from participating?

3. Minimum wage: HB168 raises the minimum hourly wage to $8.50. The question is whether an entry-level job should have a “living wage” (enough to pay your bills if you live frugally) or whether it is meant to be an entry-point for teenagers and unskilled workers to gain experience. Also, a higher minimum wage may make it harder for small businesses to retain current workers or hire new workers.

4. No state income tax; general excise tax (GET) increase: SB2329 proposes that Hawaii repeal the income tax code, while increasing the general excise and use taxes and repealing various general excise and use tax exemptions. I support lower taxes and fewer forms to fill out, but a GET tax would affect everyone, especially the poor, and we would end up paying higher taxes on everything from wholesale to retail. I would whole-heartedly support this bill if the GET were changed to a sales tax on retail-level goods and services, excluding food, drugs, and medical services.

5. Reverse sensors in cars: HB81 requires all new motor vehicles sold or offered for sale in Hawaii to be equipped with reverse sensors. This bill could prevent injuries and property damage, but it would also make cars more expensive, hurt the used car market, and leave us with a lot of cars that couldn’t be resold.

6. State ferry system: HB191 establishes the Hawaii state ferry system for people and cargo. Hawaii needs an alternative to airline travel between islands, especially for travel with large groups, cars, and pets. However, the interisland Hawaii Superferry was shut down because of unresolved environmental issues; and both the Wiki Wiki Ferry and TheBoat between Iroquois Point/Barber’s Point and Aloha Tower were too expensive. Can Hawaii effectively run and maintain an affordable state ferry system?

7. Tax credits: There are proposed tax credits for agricultural processing facilities, biofuel facilities and production, business headquarters relocation to Hawaii, business improvements, college savings, construction and remodeling, corporate mentoring of students, corporate wellness programs, elderly care, electric vehicles, emergency room physicians, ethanol facilities, food and medical services, gray water systems, high technology, hiring senior citizens, historic businesses, historic preservation, hotel construction and renovation, interisland ferries, Ko Olina Resort and Marina and Makaha Resort, light-emitting diode lighting systems, medical research, motion picture/digital media/film production, new hiring and job creation, ohana residential construction, parenting and child development classes, pro-bono legal services for the poor, renewable energy, small business investment, solar water heaters, teacher expenses, telecommuting, undergrounding utilities, and vermicomposting. Tax credits are one way to promote fledgling industries and “good” business practices; but they are also hand-outs to “favored” organizations and make the tax code unnecessarily complicated.

Please think about these controversial issues and how they may affect you and everyone around you. If you feel strongly about an issue, speak out! Talk to your family and friends, let your Hawaii legislators know about it, and write letters to the local newspapers.

Hawaii Legislative Watch: People vs. Government

March 6, 2012

Barry Goldwater said, “A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away.”

We’re half-way through the 2012 Hawaii legislative session… Today, let’s take a look at bills that affect our freedom – bills that give power back to the voters, and bills that attempt to grow the size and power of government.

There are 5 proposals that ensure our freedoms and check the power of government:

1. Initiative, recall, and referendum: HB195 establishes the initiative process. HB187 allows for the recall of elected public officials. SB76 provides for citizen assembly and the power of referendum. This would make elected officials more accountable to voters and encourage voter participation.

2. Term limits: HB539 limits state senators to two consecutive terms and representatives to four consecutive terms. We need citizen-legislators, not career politicians.

3. Fiscal notes: HB449 requires the cost estimates when bills are proposed. A proposed bill tells us why we need it and how it will solve a problem; but the big question is: can we afford it?

4. Nonpartisan voting: HB415 allows voters to vote for any candidate, regardless of party affiliation; the two persons who receive the highest votes in any primary would advance to the general election. I think we should vote on character and values, not party affiliation.

5. Nepotism prohibited: HB252, SB662, and SB994 prohibit legislators and state employees from appointing, employing, or advancing an unqualified close relative. This shouldn’t even need to be a law; we should hire the people who are the best for the job.

There are 5 trends and proposals that expand the size and scope of government:

1. More bureaucracy: There are a number of bills that propose the creation of a new agency, committee, commission, authority, board, or task force. Just to name a few: a Commission on the Year 2050 (HB185), an emergency response vehicle noise task force (HB233), the Hawaii Health Authority (HB272), a Coastal Memorials task force (HB501), a state-owned bank task force (HB1840), a school immunization task force (HB2087), a Hawaii sports task force (HB2135), a Super Bowl task force (HB2136), a school garden task force (HB2245), a Commission to create a roll of qualified Native Hawaiians (SB1), and a commission on transit-oriented development and affordable housing (SB697). These bills create more layers of bureaucracy, create more duplication of services, and make elected officials less accountable for their decisions.

2. More bans: HB77 bans foie gras. HB95 bans the complete operation of leaf blowers. HB490 and HB969 impose a statewide ban on consumer fireworks. HB604 bans novelty lighters. HB2113, SB171, and SB2152 ban aerial luminaries. SB827 bans aspartame. HB891 bans non-compostable checkout bags. HB903 bans caffeinated beer beverages labeled as “pre-mixed drinks” and SB639 bans caffeinated or stimulant-enhanced malt beverages. HB1157 bans Pacific blue marlin. SB677 bans blunt wraps (tobacco). SB724 bans carbon monoxide (or other gas to preserve color or texture) in raw fish. SB746 bans audible motor vehicle alarm systems. SB1059 bans plastic bags. SB2232 bans bear gallbladders or bile. HB2352 and SB2923 ban opihi harvesting. Individuals and businesses should be able to make their own decisions about products and services.

3. More vocational licensing: HB337 and SB155 regulate athletic trainers. HB559 regulates music therapists. HB2108 regulates body piercers. Okay, I don’t have a problem with this – it’s about health and consent for minors. SB738 regulates beekeepers. Does the government need to get involved? Can each occupation regulate itself?

4. Hawaii wants to watch our odometer: SB819 and SB1131 establish a “Vehicle Miles Traveled” pilot program to evaluate a vehicle miles traveled user fee. In many cases, a pay-per-use fee makes sense. But I don’t know if I want Hawaii to check my odometer. If I don’t pay the miles traveled fee, will they ignition-lock my car?

5. Hawaii wants to check our trash: HB1527 prohibits the “knowing disposal” of fluorescent and CFL bulbs in the trash and requires recycling programs for retailers or wholesalers. Can we start by recycling lightbulbs in the “blue” trash bin instead of creating a new law?

Please think about these government issues and how they may affect you and everyone around you. If you feel strongly about an issue, speak out! Talk to your family and friends, let your Hawaii legislators know about it, and write letters to the local newspapers.

“The Art of the Aloha Shirt” by DeSoto Brown & Linda Arthur

March 3, 2012

There are a lot of books about the history of the Hawaiian aloha shirt, but I picked up “The Art of the Aloha Shirt” (2002) because of its clever cover: a blue aloha shirt, covered with Hawaiian words and illustrations of the Kamehameha Statue, hula girls, fish, flowers, and coconut trees, with the title and authors discretely revealed on the designer label. The older cover, a luau scene with a man in a red aloha shirt, a woman looking coyly at him, and hula dancers, is more colorful, retro, and flashy.

Written by DeSoto Brown, Hawaiiana collector and author, and Linda Arthur, professor and curator of the University of Hawaii’s Historic Costume Collection, “The Art of the Aloha Shirt” is filled with color graphics, historic photos, and trivia that takes us through the origins of the aloha shirt, from traditional kapa cloth in Hawaii, to historical clothing trends, fabric printing, and clothing design.

Aloha shirts as we know them were invented in the 1930s, part of a resurgence of Hawaiian awareness and “local” pride. Ellery Chun first began selling pre-made aloha shirts at his family’s store, King-Smith, while his sister Ellen Chun Lum created Hawaiian fabric designs printed onto silk a few years later. Aloha shirts were popularized outside of Hawaii by celebrities like John Wayne, Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby, and surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku, who invented the straight-hemmed shirt (meant to be worn loose).

The early aloha shirts were heavily influenced by Asian and Polynesian designs. Alohawear has evolved from tropical foliage in the 1940s, vivid and complicated “chop suey” designs and abstract and geometrical patterns in the 1950s, to the subtle reverse prints in the 1960s that are still popular today, and accepted as business attire in Hawaii.

Aloha shirts are full of meaning, as a notable development in men’s fashions, as an iconic symbol of Hawaii, and as a reflection of “local” identity and Hawaiian pride.

“The Art of the Aloha Shirt” is interesting and eclectic, but somewhat formal in tone. I enjoyed the vintage aloha shirt photos and aloha shirt-inspired souvenirs, like greeting cards. My favorite bits of trivia: United Airlines flight attendants first wore alohawear on flights to Hawaii in the mid-1960s; and Aloha Friday (a once-a-week casual dress day) began in 1966.

The aloha shirt’s influence continues: this year, to celebrate the spirit of “aloha,” the United States Postal Service issued a series of five aloha shirt postcard-rate stamps, designed by art director Carl Herrman and based on photos by Ric Noyle.