Archive for May 2019

A view of Honolulu views

May 28, 2019

“Each time Honolulu city lights stir up memories in me
Each night Honolulu city lights bring me back again”
Honolulu City Lights, Keola Beamer and Kapono Beamer, 1979

The City and County of Honolulu is conducting a Honolulu Public Views Study. The goal is to prioritize views of natural and manmade features that we need to protect. It’s a chance for us to share our opinions about what we want to see when we look out a of a high-rise building, glance out the window of a rail car, drive along scenic roads, or hike along mountain trails.

I was curious about the study itself. Would we get to comment about building height restrictions? Would they ask what we wish we could see when we step outside our front door? Would they ask about the trade-off between affordable housing and building higher condominiums?

Not quite. The survey literally asks us to identify mountain ranges, manmade buildings, and ocean views that we think are important and should be protected. It seems to be written to future residents of high-rise buildings, with the goal of approving building permits for more high-rise buildings in the future.

Here is my view about Honolulu views:

Protect views of nature. In the study, manmade features (buildings and landmarks) are weighted equally with natural features. Buildings age and neighborhoods change over time. We are already protecting valuable sites – there are 1,384 designated historic places in Hawaii, according to the State Historic Preservation Division (as of 4/25/19). The view of the sites from somewhere else isn’t protected.

Instead, we need to focus on protecting views of nature. Our mountain ranges, valleys, marinas, ocean views, and islands are what make us Hawaii. Like some homeowners’ associations, we can focus on protected “view channels” to ensure that new buildings minimize their impact on existing buildings – including impacts on trade winds, utilities, traffic, and parking.

Enforce existing building height restrictions – with graduated limits. The study asks us to choose between Mauka or Makai, sunrise or sunset, one mountain range over another. It suggests that if the public doesn’t prioritize a view, Honolulu would be open to approving even more building height limit variances.

I think we need enforce the building height restricts we have and create more graduated building height limits. For example, Waikiki increasing building heights, from 220 feet on the Diamond Head side to 350 feet on the Ala Moana side, according to a Honolulu Magazine article.

Protect Honolulu’s natural skyline. The study asks whether we want a recognizable urban Honolulu skyline. I think we already have several iconic skylines: the view of Diamond Head, the view of Waikiki Beach, even the view of Hanauma Bay. Almost instantly recognizable, and set apart from other urban skylines. Older than the Golden Gate Bridge, more tranquil than the Eiffel Tower, more verdant than the Great Pyramid.

There’s still time to take the online survey, which closes on May 31, 2019 at

Have you taken the Honolulu Public Views Survey? Do you believe Honolulu should have a recognizable skyline? What views stir up memories in you?

Great friendships at work

May 21, 2019

“Members of the good-to-great teams tended to become and remain friends for life,” Jim Collins wrote in “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t” (2001).

He was writing about the importance of finding the right people for your organization, and added this observation the last two paragraphs of the chapter. It’s not even highlighted as a “key point,” but I think it’s an important insight.

Our co-workers don’t need to be our friends, but it helps when we are. We spend so much of the day with our co-workers, and sometimes evenings and weekends too.

Looking back over the years, some of my co-workers became strong friends. We share similar interests and a similar commitment to our jobs. And some of our most personal moments involved sharing a meal.

At one job, four of us played golf together almost every weekend, starting as beginners and improving together. We played nine holes at sunset or made day trips to local courses on Saturdays.

At another job, a co-worker became one of my best friends. We ate together, met on weekends, and I even helped to teach her to swim.

“Friends are wonderful to have,” my then 11-year old son wrote. “Friends are people who can help you and who you can rely on… You do not need to have friends, but it is more fun if you have people who can keep you company.”

Recently, two co-workers and I volunteered for a charity walk. We walked together and then ate lunch under a tree, listening to music.

Collins stated, “If we spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect – people we really enjoy being on the bus with and who will never disappoint us – then we will almost certainly have a great life.”

Who are your closest friends? Do you have co-workers who are your friends? How easy or hard is it for you to make new friends?

Teen depression and suicide

May 14, 2019

In Hawaii, 11.97% of teens (ages 12-17) had a major depressive episode in the past year, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2016-2017. Even more alarming, 16.0% of teens (ages 12-17) reported that they seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) data, 2017.

Suicidal thoughts don’t have to be literal, but they’re always dangerous.

That’s one of the first things that I learned at a panel discussion about “Teenage Depression and Suicide” at the 2019 Hawai‘i Book and Music Festival.

Moderated by comedian Pashyn Santos, the discussion talked about how teens (and adults) can respond to sadness or depression. “Happiness is not defined by success or achievement,” Santos reminded us.

Psychiatrist Sonia Patel emphasized that “Suicidal thoughts really mean, ‘I want to feel better’ or ‘I need a break.’” We can help teens recognize their feelings by teaching them to be in the moment and slow down.

Clinical psychologist Sid Hermosura said that mindfulness can help us look at our thoughts, not just feel our thoughts. He emphasized the importance of social connection, relationships, and gratitude.

Associate professor Thao Le said that just as we eat healthy foods to feed our bodies, our thoughts are a form of “mental food.” For every negative thought we have, we need to bring up five positive thoughts to balance it!

Interfaith minster Rev. Bodhi Be challenged teens to identify their “core wound,” the hole that they are trying to fill. When we find out what we love, we can fill that hole and “forget about ourselves” by serving others.

Le shared a mindfulness practice that can help us feel compassion and strengthen our relationships with others. Think of a person (or yourself) and wish them well by saying, “May you be happy, peaceful, and free from suffering.”

What are your happiness tips? Who can you reach out to when you feel sad or depressed?

A better work-life balance

May 7, 2019

Working for a growing nonprofit, I struggle with balancing the things I should do, but can’t do within a “normal” workday; and taking work home. Sometimes it means that my work-life balance is more work than home, and that’s okay – but only if it’s an occasional thing. It’s not okay if it becomes the new normal.

Taking work home is easier than ever because technology and social media are 24/7. It has an even greater impact on millennials, because this is the world they grew up in.

So I was really interested to attend a panel discussion about “Millennial Work/Life Balance” at the Hawai‘i Book and Music Festival last weekend.

Moderated by comedian Pashyn Santos, the discussion centered on how panelists “escape” from social media, their favorite “failure” story, and some of the initiatives that companies are doing to create a better work-life balance.

Psychiatrist Sonia Patel shared that she is no longer on social media at all. She stressed the importance of having structure outside of social media, like getting enough sleep and healthy meals. We have to learn to be advocates for ourselves and our time.

Clinical psychologist Jeff Stern suggested that we use social media as a reward after completing a task or achievement, rather than using it as an escape or avoidance. We need to learn to manage our time, or companies will try to manage it for us. He wondered if companies will start requiring employees to leave their phones at the door.

Stern mentioned an intriguing idea: some companies are offering a pre-cation, a vacation before the first day of work as a way to give employees breathing space before starting a new job.

Jade Snow of Jade Snow Media admitted that “I only realized my [social media] addiction when I experienced burnout and reminded us that we need to set healthy boundaries. She said that we need to appreciate being with people in the moment, and then be more intentional about the time we spend on social media. We should practice gratitude and surround ourselves with people who are like-minded.

Snow speculated that perhaps we are not looking for a work-life balance, but a work-life integration. The goal is to incorporate healthy practices into our daily lives.

KHON2 TV personality Mikey Moniz stated that we need to stop comparing ourselves with who we think we should be. “Have a strong group of friends,” he said. “You become who you surround yourself with.” Moniz added that when going out to eat, he and his friends are trying something new: they put their cell phones in the middle of the table, and the first person who touches their phone has to pay the bill.

Is social media a “reward” or an “escape” for you? Do you think about work at home and think about home at work?

“Hyperbole and a Half” by Allie Brosh

May 4, 2019

“Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened” (2013) has an intriguing title and eye-catching cover art. And Microsoft founder Bill Gates put it on his reading list. I plunged into blogger Allie Brosh’s life, as she explains depression in a way that everyone can understand and relate to.

“Hyperbole and a Half” is a collection of autobiographical essays with new material and selections from her Hyperbole and a Half blog. The essays are colorful and humorous, illustrated with simple and expressive drawings. The chapters are color-coded and talk honestly about living with depression, and there is some swearing (kids, skip those sections). The book itself is heavy, printed on thick paper, as if to counter-balance some of Brosh’s irreverent humor.

Here are 10 thought-provoking things that Brosh taught me:

  1. If time travel is possible, Brosh’s 10-year old self would already have proof of it.
  2. We love dogs for who they are, not for what they can do.
  3. Find what motivates you in life (like cake) and pursue it.
  4. You can’t will yourself not to be sad or depressed. In a strange way, apathy can be a temporary superpower – you start to feel invincible because you stop caring about society’s expectations.
  5. The need for parental approval can spiral out of control – and may lead you to eat 6 spoonfuls of hot sauce. Don’t eat the hot sauce!
  6. Have you ever exceeded your capacity for responsibility? You are not alone.
  7. Geese are descendents of dinosaurs.
  8. Sometimes we try hard to be people we are not.
  9. Advice for dogs: most of the things you know are wrong, and most of the decisions you make are bad.
  10. There are times we feel good about ourselves for thinking we might do good things and for stopping ourselves from doing bad things.

Brosh reminds us that being healthy is more than physical well-being, it’s also mental well-being. Read Brosh’s blog at

Remember that humor, social connections, animal friendships, and a good work-life balance are important for everyone.