Archive for April 2014

Comics, books, music, and storytelling in Hawaii

April 29, 2014

Coming up is an awesome weekend of comics, books, music, and storytelling in Hawaii!

Free Comic Book Day 2014

* Indulge your love of comic books! Comic books encourage a love of reading, spur our imaginations, feed our appreciation for art, and teach us values – like doing the right thing and “With great power comes great responsibility.” And they’re fun to read!

On May 3, you can get a free special edition comic book for yourself or a friend, courtesy of Free Comic Book Day. Readers can choose from titles such as “Hello Kitty Surprise,” “Transformers vs. G.I. Joe,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Public libraries across the state will give away free comic books, but you must have a Hawaii Library card (free for Hawaii residents and military). On Oahu, stop by a public library in Aiea, Aina Haina, Hawaii Kai, Kailua, Kalihi-Palama, Kapolei, McCully-Moiliili, Mililani, Salt Lake-Moanalua, Waikiki-Kapahulu, Waimanalo, or Waipahu. Be on the lookout for Star Wars costumed characters, who will show up at selected libraries. On the Big Island, check out the public libraries in Hilo and at Thelma Parker Memorial. On Kauai, stop by the Princeville Public Library. On Maui, public libraries in Kihei and Lahaina are participating.

Hawaii Book and Music Festival

* Immerse yourself in books, music, and storytelling! Books and music are doorways to free our minds, as Morpheus might say. They can teach us about history and different cultures, show us different points of view, expand our vocabulary, develop reasoning skills, and improve our writing. Music can improve our mood, help us with visualization, and reduce our stress.

On May 3 and 4, spend the day at the 9th Annual Hawaii Book and Music Festival, on the Civic Grounds outside Honolulu Hale. Watch short movies, listen to authors reading their works and musicians performing songs, and attend panel discussions about local issues. Bring some gently-used books to exchange in the Book Swap, and leave with new-to-you books.

Kids can take pictures with costumed characters like The Cat in the Hat and Curious George; work off their excitement on jumpers and keiki rides; listen to kids reading poetry and prose; and bring in their books to swap with others.

What books and comics are you reading now? Who are your favorite authors?

Earth Day 2014 in Hawaii

April 22, 2014

Earth Day 2014

My son wrote this acrostic poem about Earth Day when he was 6 years old.

Earth is cool
Animals help us
Recycle trash
Trees are nice
Healthy plants

Dig the dirt
Air should be clean
You can save the earth!

The theme for Earth Day 2014 is Green Cities – buildings, energy, and transportation – to create a cleaner, healthier world. Green cities is particularly relevant to Hawaii, where we are trying to design green buildings that incorporate efficiency and design improvements, transition to renewable energy sources, and design safe and efficient transportation – with a focus on city walkability and bike-ability.

While we’re building greener cities, here are some things that we can do today to celebrate Earth Day:

* Pledge an act of green. Teachers and students can take the Seussville.com classroom pledge.

* Share seeds of change. This is a cool seed-packet printable that lets you share a conservation idea with family and friends. Kids can color the envelope, put it together, and fill it with seeds (or candy).

* Teach about the Earth. For teachers, Random House put together a printable Earth Day classroom activity guide, including a letter to Mother Earth, a maze, and a tree planting campaign. The Earth Day Network also has a free downloadable Earth Day K-12 toolkit.

* Turn an ordinary tree into a pledge tree. Choose a tree in your yard or on school grounds. Pass out pledge forms, ask people to make a pledge to help the earth, and hang it on the tree.

* Plant a reading garden. Set aside a space in your yard or on school grounds for reading and relaxing. Use comfortable chairs or picnic blankets, add fluffy pillows, plant flowers, and keep the area clean.

* Host an Earth Dinner. Invite family and friends to an earth dinner prepared with local, seasonal, organic ingredients. Start a conversation about where our food comes from and our connection to food and farming. For more ideas, download “The Earth Dinner” booklet from Organic Valley. Sustainable Table also offers some theme ideas for hosting a Sustainable Dinner Party.

* Turn off the lights. March 29, from 8:30 to 9:30 pm (local time), is Earth Hour, when you can show your commitment to protecting the Earth by turning your lights off for one hour.

Here are a few Earth Day events taking place this week in Hawaii.

On Oahu:
* Earth Day Festival: On April 24, 10 am to 4 pm, attend the free 2014 Earth Day Festival at the UH Manoa Campus, Sustainability Courtyard. There will be local food trucks and environmental businesses, a bike sale, plant sale, and seed giveaway. At 6 pm, author and activist Bill McKibben will give a talk on “Reportback from the Frontlines of Climate Change.”
* Learn about Hawaii’s coasts: On April 24, 6:30 pm, the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve will host a free public lecture by meteorology professor Dr. Steven Businger, “From Storm to Shorebreak: Waves Impacting Hawaii’s Coasts.”
* Clean up our neighborhoods and streams: On April 26, you can volunteer at the Kahawai Adopt-a-Stream. Also on April 26, 9 am to 11 am, there is an Earth Day Cleanup along the Ka Iwi Coast in Hawaii Kai (ewa end of Sandy Beach), followed by a talk story lunch at 11:30 am. On May 3, you can volunteer at the Kaimuki Adopt-a-Block or Kailua Adopt-a-Block.

On Hawaii Island:
* Dive against debris: On April 28, 10 am to 2 pm, join divers, kayakers, and debris monitors to record debris in Hilo Bay, starting at Moku Ola (Coconut Island).
* Learn about climate change in Kona: On April 30, 5:30 pm to 7 pm, the Kona Historical Society will host a free community lecture by Hannah Springer, president of Hawaii’s Conservation Council, “Conservation and Changing Climate in Kona: Incorporating Indigenous Ways and Modern Approaches for Research Conservation.”

On Kauai:
* Enjoy an Ohana Day: On April 26, 9 am to 1 pm, the Kauai Museum is hosting an Ohana Day on Malama ‘Aina, Huleia Fishpond.

What are your most innovative tips for reusing, recycling, or repurposing trash? How will you celebrate the earth today?

If Disneyland ran the IRS…

April 15, 2014

Today is April 15, Tax Day, the deadline to file federal income tax returns (or request an extension) in the United States. This year, Tax Freedom Day, the day on which most of us have earned enough income to pay our federal, state, and local taxes, is on April 21 (according to the Tax Foundation). In 6 days, we start working for ourselves!

Last month, I visited Disneyland and was impressed by their impressive locations and productions, efficient operations, and attention to detail. I started to wonder: how would things change if Disneyland were in charge of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)? Would Disneyland be able to simplify tax forms and streamline the tax code? Could Disneyland change our whole experience of paying taxes?

Imagine if Disneyland were in charge of the IRS…

Disney's IRS

* Tax return forms and instructions would be available on a planning DVD with step-by-step videos, hosted by your favorite Disney characters; with a personalized checklist of important forms, deadlines, and tax rates.

* Tax returns would be short, easy to fill out, and linked to your photo ID to prevent fraud. Forms and instructions would be limited to two pages and written so that a sixth grader could understand them.

* Tax rates would be set at CHILD, ADULT, and ORGANIZATION. There would be only three tax credits: a cost of living/cost of doing business credit (the standard deduction), a hardship credit (for the disabled, seniors, and veterans), and a calamity credit (for natural disasters, catastrophic medical suffering, and the terminally ill).

* E-filing would be simple, fast, and secure, with links to upload attachments and receipts. There would be two optional fee-based services: “Front of the Line Refunds” to help you get your money faster and “Back of the Line Payments” to help you keep your money longer. A smiling Mickey Mouse would let you know how to pay your taxes online or when your refund will be deposited in your bank account.

* IRS agents would be cheerful, helpful, and efficient, and sing encouraging songs. A “FastPass” reservation would let you schedule a meeting with an IRS agent – in person, on the phone, or via chat – who could answer your questions correctly, the first time. There would be no penalties if you receive inaccurate information from an IRS agent.

* IRS buildings would be clean and well-lit, with a People Mover to take you on a tour of the building and direct you to the right conference room. There would be copy machines, paper shredders, and video game break rooms on every floor (you could play “AstroTax Blasters” to relieve stress!).

* The IRS would improve its image and generate enough revenue to fund its operations by opening a theme park, with attractions like Star Savings Tours, Big Taxation Mountain Railroad, and Retirement Springs Racers. For kids, there would be a Money Treehouse and a Jedi Entrepreneurs Training Academy.

What is your opinion of the IRS? What changes would you make if you were the IRS Commissioner?

Business lessons from Disneyland

April 8, 2014

Welcome to Radiator Springs

We just got back from a three-day trip to Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure Park in Anaheim, California. I haven’t been there in many years, and this was the first visit for my 7-year old son. We had an amazing time! I was exhausted at the end of each day, but my son was still had a lot of energy.

I had a lot of time to look around and see how Disneyland operates – while waiting at park entrances, walking from one “land” to another, and being herded through convoluted “stand-by” lines.  Disneyland showcases a lot of good business practices that we can learn from (or re-learn).

Here are 7 business lessons I learned from Disneyland:

1. Make a good first impression. Even before we started our trip, Disney Parks sent us a free vacation planning DVD. My DVD came with a personalized “Welcome to Radiator Springs” insert and a link to a special web page “created just for you.” The brochure and DVD showed us what we would experience at Disneyland, and made it easy for us to find out more information and order tickets.

2. Pay attention to the details. Disneyland is amazingly clean. Employees wear themed uniforms and ID badges. Each “land” is decorated with logos, props, backdrops, and storefronts that fit the theme. Everywhere you go, there is something to look at or some small detail that ties in with the “land” you’re in. There are ample restrooms, trash bins, and recycling bins – all in excellent condition.

3. Keep customers in the know. Despite long wait-times, Disneyland excels at keeping people moving – and giving them interesting things to see along the way. The wait doesn’t seem as long when you’re learning about something or getting immersed in the journey. On Star Tours, you can watch a travel video and see C3P-O, R2D2, a customs droid, and droids packed for cargo. At the Indiana Jones Adventure, we feel as if we are walking through underground chambers and even watch a newsreel about the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. At Radiator Springs Racers, the line snakes past the original Radiator Springs, a radiator cap shop, and an oil bottle house.

4. Promise what you can deliver; then deliver what you promised. We watched two live musical productions. In Fantasyland, we watched “Mickey and the Magic Map,” which included appearances by Mickey, costumed characters, and princesses. In Hollywood, we watched “Disney’s Aladdin,” a surprisingly full-scale production with set changes, genies, a flying carpet that soared above our heads (or just below us from the balcony seats), and a towering serpent.

5. Go beyond your customers’ expectations. At the Jedi Training Academy, we were happy when our son was chosen for the show and given a brown padawan robe and lightsaber. Then two stormtroopers appeared, the stage rose with smoke and music, and Darth Vader and Darth Maul appeared! The whole experience went completely beyond our expectations. Participants even received a Jedi-in-Training Certificate! We hadn’t read anything about this experience, so everything was a complete surprise.

6. Don’t miss an opportunity to cross-sell. More than just theme park admission, Disney sells us on everything from hotel packages, character dining, photographs, ride photos, themed restaurants, drinks and snacks, and merchandising.

7. Acknowledge your early supporters and champions. The Captain EO movie adventure was under-promoted, sparsely attended, and dated – I mean, nostalgic. I’m sure they could do a lot more with the large theater, but Disneyland keeps it open as a tribute to Michael Jackson and early 3D films.

Have you traveled to Disneyland recently? What are your favorite (and least favorite) memories about Disneyland? What do you think that Disneyland does exceptionally well?

“Soul Surfer” by Bethany Hamilton

April 5, 2014

Soul Surfer

“That’s all it took: a split second,” reflects Bethany Hamilton. “I felt a lot of pressure and a couple of lightning-fast tugs. I couldn’t make out any of the details, but I knew that the huge jaws of a fifteen-foot tiger shark covered the top of my board and my left arm.”

On October 31, 2003 at Tunnels Beach on Kauai, Hawaii, 13-year old Bethany was surfing with her friend Alana when she was attacked by a 15-foot tiger shark that bit off her left arm and a huge chunk of her surfboard.

“Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board” (2004) by teen surfer Bethany Hamilton, is an autobiographical account of her shark attack experience – and her determination to return to surfing.

Humble. Undaunted. Those are the two words that jumped to mind when I read Bethany’s words. Her autobiography is conversational (it’s based on conversations with her pastor Rick Bundschuh and writer Sheryl Beck) and stream-of-conscious. I found it amazing that a young teen would have the confidence, courage, and commitment to face her fears and return to something she loves.

Bethany really comes alive, living in a small town, an athlete, a prankster, and a person of faith. She was homeschooled, loves surfing, art, and seashells, and considers herself ordinary. “I don’t think much about it or worry about how I look with one arm.”

Her family is her number one fans. Her parents, Tom Hamilton and Cheri Lynch, are dedicated surfers who inspired her love of surfing. Her older brothers Noah and Timmy challenged her, pushed her to try things she might not have done on her own, and cheered her on. Noah became her promoter and helped her get her sponsor, Rip Curl.

Even before she got out of the hospital, Bethany was talking about surfing again. She credits her strength and endurance to her relationship with God and the love and encouragement of her family and friends. “I want to use my story as a way to tell people about God’s story,” she says. And she wrote her story to highlight her faith, family, and supporters.

“Surfing is a force that moves you body and soul,” she explains. “It’s hard for me to describe the joy I felt after I stood up and rode a wave for the first time after the attack. I was incredibly thankful and happy inside. The tiny bit of doubt that would sometimes tell me ‘You’ll never surf again’ was gone in one wave!”

Bethany’s words to live by: “Life is full of what-ifs. You can’t let it hold you back.”

Learn what Bethany has been up to over the past 10 years, read her blog, and find out about the “Soul Surfer” movie on Bethany’s website, http://bethanyhamilton.com.

5 ways to add a little more poetry to our lives

April 1, 2014

National Poetry Month 2014

We all need a little poetry in our lives. When I was younger, I wrote poetry. I enjoyed poems by Robert Frost and William Blake and Langston Hughes. In middle school and high school, I remember participating in the Language Arts Showcase at the Leeward Community College on Oahu, submitting poetry and attending workshops. After I started working, I didn’t have as much time for poetry. Or I didn’t make time for poetry.

April is National Poetry Month, a celebration of poetry established by the Academy of American Poets.  It’s a good time to remember how much we enjoy poetry, whether it’s musical ballads, humorous limericks, short haiku, or epic sonnets.

There is poetry for all ages in the songs we hear on the radio and iTunes, the jingles we hear on TV (like Kit-Kat’s catchy “Gimme a break” and Coke’s inspirational “I’d like to teach the world to sing”), and the books we read (from Mother Goose to Dr. Seuss).

Here are five ways we can add a little more poetry to our lives:

1. Read a poem a day. You can sign up to receive a free daily poem by email.

2. Put a poem in your pocket. The Academy of American Poets offers 30 ways to celebrate. Memorizing your favorite poem, carrying a poem in your pocket, and writing a poem in chalk on the sidewalk are just some of the ideas to make poetry a part of our lives.

3. Cheer for Hawaii poets. On the first Thursday of every month, HawaiiSlam hosts a slam poetry competition with poets from around the islands. It’s held at the Fresh Café Warehouse in Honolulu ($3 admission). On April 3 at 7:30 pm, there is a special HawaiiSlam Finals with a three-round elimination match ($15 fundraiser). Also on April 3 at 5:30 pm, the Manoa Public Library in Honolulu is hosting a Celebration of Words and Poetry. The 2-hour program features authors Gail N. Harada, Brenda Kwon, Wing Tek Lum, Christy Passion, Cathy Song, and Joseph Stanton (free, recommended for ages 12 and older). On April 10 at 7:30 pm, the UH Manoa Library hosts a HamSlam! session in the Hamilton Library Sunny Alcove (free).

4. Teens: go to a writing workshop. Every Wednesday, Youth Speaks Hawaii offers a free slam poetry writing workshop for teens at the ARTS @ Marks Garage in Honolulu (free ages 13-19). There’s even a 2nd SATurday monthly poetry slam and open mic.

5. Kids: get excited about poetry. Seussville.com offers a “Hats Off to Poetry” activity pack with rhyming worksheets and creative writing.

My 7-year old son wrote this haiku about summer:
The waves cheer with joy.
The birds fly in the blue sky.
The sky has no clouds.

What is your favorite poem and favorite poet? Is there a poem that you wish you had written?