Archive for February 2014

Read with excitement across America

February 25, 2014

Read Across America - Sink Your Teeth

Grab your hat and read with the Cat in the Hat! On Monday, March 3, it’s Read Across America Day with the National Education Association, so we can all celebrate our love for books and reading!

* In Honolulu: On Monday, March 3 @ 11 am, young children can go to a free Read Across America storytime at Barnes and Noble, Ala Moana Center, featuring the book “Green Eggs and Ham.”

As parents and teachers, we can set a good example as a reader. Let children see us reading every day, whether it’s a book, magazine, or newspaper. In addition to taking kids to the library and bookstore, we can also give kids a subscription to a magazine – my 7-year old son loves receiving the free LEGO Club Jr. Magazine in the mail, and excited to read the comics and do the puzzles.

If you’re looking for book inspiration, check out a booklist that highlights books about each of the 50 states, as well as an Asian American booklist. My son enjoyed reading “Kimo’s Surfing Lesson” by Kerry Germain, where Kimo teaches his cousin Katie how to surf; and “Lin Yi’s Lantern” by Brenda Williams, where Lin Yi goes to the market to buy food for the Moon Festival.

For teachers, Seussville.com offers an updated “Hats Off to Reading” Classroom Activity Guide, with suggested books and activities, a birthday card, and a reading certificate. Reading Rockets has more Read Across America resources.

Read Across America is sponsored by Renaissance Dental, which is promoting good oral health with National Children’s Dental Health Month in March. Help kids practice good dental habits with an oral activity book, a brushing and reading log, and activity sheets. 

Later this week, on March 6, the United Kingdom is celebrating World Book Day. It’s a day to encourage children to read books by giving them a book of their own. Children are given £1 Book Tokens, which they can use at participating booksellers for free books. They have also put together a list of 20 failsafe activities, like holding a book swap, performing a story, inviting a local author, and having a book character parade.

What are you reading now? Where will a book take you today?

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From Star Trek replicators to 3D printing

February 18, 2014

3D Printing

Hawaii is separated from the rest of the world by at least 5 hours and 2,500 miles. Until we have “Star Trek” transporters to beam products and people to Hawaii or replicators to create food, drinks, clothes, products, and spare parts, which would revolutionize the shipping and travel industries, we have to rely on what we can produce ourselves, or ship to Hawaii.

But now we have the desktop computer capabilities to model 3D objects and now we have the “printers” to fabricate those 3D objects in our own offices. It’s not cheap, but it’s also not prohibitively expensive either. And we can do it all right here in Hawaii.

Last month, I saw the 3D printer at the Microsoft Store at Ala Moana Center. The MakerBot Replicator 2 is a desktop 3D “printer” that can manufacture small toys and parts. It uses plastic filaments to build an object layer by layer. It costs $2,200 for the unit and $48-$65 for color spools. I didn’t get to see it in action (apparently, it takes quite a while to print), but I handled some of the sample objects. The plastic is rigid (it doesn’t feel cheap), made of bioplastic filaments, and seems like a good way to make prototypes or custom figures. There’s a companion product, called the MakerBot Digitizer, that can scan a small object and make a 3D model in about 12 minutes – but that’s another $950. (Note: I’m not affiliated with Microsoft in any way, except as an end user.)

With 3D printing, we could make one-of-a-kind figurines, prototypes, discontinued spare parts, dental and small bone replacements, small-scale models, replicas of antique objects, and more.

That same week, I went to the dentist and saw a new desktop crown-making machine. When I asked about it, they explained that first they take a digital image of your tooth to create a 3D model, then the machine fabricates the crown out of porcelain, and finally the crown is fired in a small kiln. It can be done while you wait, in an hour or two, compared with mailing the impression to a manufacturer, having them make the crown and ship it back, and then returning to the dentist’s office to put it in.

Thankfully, I didn’t need to have a crown made, though I would have liked to watch the machine make a crown. My dentist is not entirely pleased with the process – though it’s convenient for the patient, he doesn’t like having to be a lab technician, and it takes him more time to adjust the fit. He hopes that the next generation of desktop crown fabricators will be more accurate and less expensive.

I’ve also heard of 3D fashion designers (Hawaii 3D print artist Russ Ogi was featured in a Honolulu Star Advertiser article, “Isle artist shows off 3-D printing skills in New York” earlier this month) and 3D food printing (like pizza and chocolate), though I haven’t seen any demonstrations.

I don’t know what’s in store for 3D printing and desktop fabricators, but I’m fascinated by the idea that we won’t always have to rely on out-of-state manufacturers and expensive shipping companies. Hopefully, 3D printing will only get better and cheaper.

Do you think that 3D printing is ready for business in Hawaii? Would you eat 3D printed food?

Marriage matters

February 11, 2014

National Marriage Week

On February 14, we celebrate romantic love and friendship on Valentine’s Day. But there’s an equally important ideal to celebrate on February 7-14:  National Marriage Week. It’s a time to strengthen our marriages and build a stronger marriage culture.

We don’t need to get married to be happy, but I truly believe that being in a loving, supportive, committed relationship has made me happier. I have a partner and a friend; I have someone to share special moments with, to share the bills with, to keep me grounded, to challenge me, to laugh with me, and to raise a child with.

Marriage is not just about romantic love. It is also about our emotional and physical well-being, contributing to a strong society, and raising children who thrive. The Center for Marriage and Families compiled research on “Why Marriage Matters: Thirty Conclusions from Social Science.”

Here are some ideas to express your love and appreciation:

* Show your love with a sweet text, a second “first date,” or a picnic. SheKnows.com suggests 100 romantic ways to show your love.
* Go out on a date night. Honolulu Magazine suggests “50 Great Dates in Honolulu” grouped into themes like foodies, the budget-conscious, outdoorsy, playful, sporty, and more. OpenTable.com chose 10 Hawaii restaurants in their Top 100 Most Romantic Restaurants in the US, including La Mer at Halekulani in Honolulu and Tidepools at the Grand Hyatt Kauai in Poipu.
* Get daily marriage inspiration. ForYourMarriage.org offers daily marriage tips and advice to help keep your relationship strong.
* Practice 7 caring habits. We are happiest in relationships where we are able to satisfy our basic needs, feel supported and loved, and feel that the other person is not trying to control us. Dr. William Glasser, creator of choice theory and reality therapy, identifies 7 relationship habits that can build stronger relationships:
Supporting (being there physically, mentally, and emotionally for your partner);
Encouraging (reminding your partner of their strengths, past successes, and positive qualities);
Listening(being actively engaged in listening);
Accepting(accepting who your partner is even if there’s a specific behavior you don’t approve of);
Trusting(trusting your partner and working to be a trustworthy partner);
Respecting (treating loved ones with dignity and affirming their worth); and
Negotiating Differences (openly discussing what you are and aren’t willing to compromise for the sake of your relationship).

During National Marriage Week and on Valentine’s Day, how will you show your loved ones that you care? If you are married, how do you keep your marriage strong? What could you do to strengthen your relationships?

7 steps to more effective meetings

February 4, 2014

Demand Better Meetings

Businesses are always looking for ways to be more efficient and make employees more productive. Smart phones and tablets connect us to our customers and our bosses; productivity software lets us keep track of orders, complaints, and prospective customers; email lets us share information and updates. But most of us don’t think about how we can improve productivity by improving our meetings.

There are two basic kinds of “traditional” meetings: meetings to exchange information, which are only helpful if we can ask questions and receive correct answers; and brainstorming meetings, which can be stressful and quickly taken over by the most vocal members.

So I was very interested to come across “Read This Before Our Next Meeting: The Modern Meeting Standard for Successful Organizations” (2011) speaker, blogger, and founder of The Modern Meeting Company Al Pittampalli. He states emphatically that we’ve come to accept mediocre meetings, which create a culture of compromise, waste our time, and kill our sense of urgency.

Pittampalli urges us to refuse to tolerate bad meetings, to hold conversations whenever possible, and to follow a new standard for meetings, which incorporate some of the best practices for effective meetings.

Here are 7 principles for more effective modern meetings:
1. Meet only to support a decision that has already been made. Be open to conflict (even foster conflict that hasn’t occurred yet) and coordinate an action plan.
2. Move fast and end on schedule. Politely shut down distractions and tangents. “Strong deadlines force parties to resolve the hard decisions necessary for progress” (page 27).
3. Limit the number of attendees. Invite people who have strong opinions, a vested interest in the outcome, and are instrumental for any coordination that needs to take place.
4. Reject the unprepared. Meeting leaders must have an agenda, and meeting attendees must prepare beforehand and be ready to participate.
5. Produce committed action plans. Decide what actions to do, who is responsible, and when it will get done. Then follow up.
6. Refuse to be informational. Read the memo, it’s mandatory. Communicate effectively before the meeting, with well-thought out information and true priority.
7. Work with brainstorms, not against them. For brainstorming sessions, invite people who are passionate about the idea but have nothing to lose; praise liberally; have fun; and write it all down.

The Art of Manliness blog has one tip that I would add: bring bagels or donuts. But don’t let people eat until the meeting is over.

How productive are your business meetings? In your experience, what are the key ingredients of an effective meeting? How much more could you accomplish if you didn’t have to attend meetings? 

“‘Ewa Which Way” by Tyler Miranda

February 1, 2014

'Ewa Which Way

“You and me, Luke, we bruddas. We gotta stick together.”

In the 1980s, 12-year old Landon De Silva and his family moved from ‘ĀlewaHeights to Pupu Street in ‘EwaBeach, Oahu. He is coping with a distant father and a resentful mother who fight all the time; a younger brother, 8-year old Luke, who does impulsive and “mental” things; and taunts of “chicken” at school because he was caught between the need to stand up for himself and walk away from a fight.

He finds freedom on the ocean with a surfboard and his best friend Toby, and receives support from Toby’s understanding mother, Mrs. Ka’ea, and his GT (gifted and talented) teachers, who encourage and challenge him. When Luke challenges him to do something about their family, Landon is alternately angry, hopeful, ashamed, suicidal, and determined. While Landon looks at divorce as a solution, he learns that all along Luke’s outrageous behavior was to distract their parents from fighting.

Written in the first person, “’Ewa Which Way” (2013) by Tyler Miranda is a novel about brothers sticking together, responsibility vs. the longing to be free, holding on to the good and letting go of the bad (Toby’s surfboard and Jason’s ankle-weights), choosing to act, and making your own second chances. Much of the dialog is written in “pidgin” English, which takes some getting used to (I find it harder to read than listen to). We see racial tensions against haole in school, contrasted with Landon’s mother’s admiration for everything haole even as she seems to disdain her Portuguese heritage. There is physical and verbal abuse (slaps, caning, name-calling, and Landon is implicitly blamed for being born).

Landon thinks that his mom is willfully blind, only able to lose her roses and the bird Rosie, but not able to love her sons, who love her. He seems uncritical of his father, or perhaps he doesn’t care as much about him. Despite his dad’s big, exuberant family and his mother’s church, Landon’s parents seem alone, unwilling or unable to ask for help, and still scarred by their own parents’ betrayal. Landon seems to be a passive and serious character, always watching things; but the actions he does take (choosing to be in the GT program, suggesting to his mom that she needs to file for divorce, deciding to return home) are mature and optimistic.

Though Landon and I both grew up in Hawaii in the same decade, we had very different upbringings. Landon’s childhood was a raw glimpse into another world of broken families and prejudice.

If you are reading this with young adults, it’s a great opportunity to discuss family relationships, brotherhood, and friendship – and science. Here are a few suggestions:
* Draw your family tree and share family stories. For young children, Disney has a three-generation Tigger family tree. For large or extended families, DLTK’s Bible Crafts for Kids has a family tree template with apples that you place on the tree.
* Do an oral history project. FamilyArchives.com has a helpful list of questions kick-start an interview.
* Learn more about hurricanes, severe weather, and preparing for storms. The American Red Cross has a printable “Watch Out… Storms Ahead! Owlie Skywarn’s Weather Book.”