Archive for May, 2011

Sandcastles in the Courtyard

May 29th, 2011
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Sand Masters 2

The first time I saw Waikiki Beach was in 1983, when I came to visit my brother, who was stationed at Hickam Air Force base. During that trip, I took photos of the guy who used to build elaborate sandcastles in front of the Royal Hawaiian. After I moved here, I later learned the hotel actually hired him to do the sand sculptures because it drew so many tourists to that location, and the photos were great publicity for the Pink Palace.

Flash forward to 2011, and there I was with our Career Changers TV host, Theresa Tilley, and co-producer Rob Reynolds, shooting our May show introductions at the Royal Hawaiian. You can still catch that episode on OC16 until Thurs., June 2 when the new program begins airing. While I was telling Jim Palank, the resort's Director of Sales & Marketing, about how seeing that sandcastle display on my first visit hooked me on Waikiki, he gave me a scoop of sorts. It turns out the Sand Masters television show had just filmed a segment there for the Travel Channel -- except they did it in the interior courtyard instead of on the beach.

According to Camilla Carboni, the Sales/On-line Marketing Coordinator for the resort, they brought in approximately 40 tons of sand for the Sand Masters shoot. They're not sure when that segment will air, but the series begins in June and you can find more information on the Travel Channel website by clicking here. BTW, I'd like to give a big mahalo to Jim Palank and the Royal Hawaiian for allowing us to film there! It's a beautiful setting, plus they have fine dining and entertainment that locals should check out when they want to take a mini-vacation here at home.

Somewhere in my closet, stashed away with my old photo albums and mementos from bygone days, are those pictures of sandcastles on Waikiki Beach that I used to look at back in New York City during cold winters when I dreamed of living in Hawaii. Although the fellow who built those fantastic sand sculptures is long gone, I've gotten to live my dream. Perhaps, some day the Royal Hawaiian will bring back that tradition for new generations of locals and visitors to appreciate the grandeur of the Pink Palace and its rich history.

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For daily viewing times and links to the CCTV YouTube Channel, visit www.CareerChangers.TV. Enjoy the holiday, and please take a moment to reflect on what Memorial Day is really about. Mahalo.

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Self-Discipline and Sustainability

May 26th, 2011
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Only in America is it considered "bad news" when we consume less or cut back on spending for non-essentials. I was reminded of this by two unrelated things in the past week. One was the Sunday Star-Advertiser story about local prisoners complaining they're being underfed, which is causing them to lose a lot of weight. The second was the Green Workforce Development Conference and Expo on Tuesday. On one hand, you have convicted criminals -- who were obese to begin with -- grumbling they aren't getting enough food by their standards. On the other, we have people telling us we need to alter our lifestyles and find better ways of producing healthy food right here in Hawaii.

As different as those two stories may be, in my mind they share a common theme: self-discipline. People object to heavy-handed government rules and regulations. Yet left to our own free will, we often succumb to the "I want, I need" more-more-more mentality that drives the American economy. It's all about instant gratification. And so is addiction, something I'm well acquainted with through my experiences as a recovering alcoholic. I've been sober now for 22 years, nine months and seven days. Whatever success I've had as a writer or in business, is a direct result of principles I learned in rehab and at 12 Step meetings. I stay sober by reminding myself daily what my priorities are, and sticking to routines that keep me grounded.

So when I read that an inmate's relative compared his physical condition to concentration camp prisoners at Auschwitz, it bothered me a great deal. I consider myself to be a fairly liberal-minded person on most social issues. I believe rehabilitation programs for non-violent offenders and addicts is a far better approach than just locking them up. But the first lesson I was taught in rehab is that my way of doing things wasn't working, so I had to be willing to take direction and change my thinking. That meant following a strict daily schedule set by the treatment center, getting up early, going to AA meetings, and eating nutritionally-balanced meals at set times.

Any recovering alcoholic or addict will tell you they had terrible eating habits -- either dispensing with food entirely for long periods while binging, or subsisting on junk food and high calorie stuff. During my 28-day stay in rehab, the food wasn't great, but it was healthy for the most part and I started to feel better once I was on a regular three meal a day routine. I'm not saying the inmates mentioned in the Star-Advertiser article have drugs or alcohol problems. However, a large percentage of our prison population is doing time because their offenses were related to drugs or alcohol one way or another. And many are obese, which reflects a larger social problem that I feel is connected to our culture of addiction in America.

Here's the link to the aforementioned Star-Advertiser story on the prison weight loss program... er, I mean "controversy." I don't mean to sound glib, but it seems to me like these were men who could stand to lose a few pounds to begin with. Putting them on a 2,600 to 2,900 calories per day diet, doesn't seem unreasonable. In fact, I know of people who voluntarily have been restricting their intake to 600 calories per day as part of one weight loss plan -- and the results are startling when you see them in person. They aren't comparing themselves to POWs at Auschwitz though. Maybe someone at OCC should publish their weekly meal plans for people who DO want to lose weight safely -- call it the Halawa Miracle Diet or something like that.

Seriously, if those convicts want to turn their lives around, they need a big time attitude adjustment. They must accept responsibility for their crimes, and admit their way of doing things wasn't working. They -- and their families -- must look in the mirror and admit they need help, and be willing to start following a different path. That includes changing unhealthy lifestyles and bad eating habits. Lest you think I'm picking on the prisoners, I'm not. We all have to change our mindset about what we really need versus what we want. That's what true sustainability is about.

I'll be writing more about the Green Workforce Development Conference and Expo in the weeks ahead, since we'll be doing segments on that topic in future Career Changers TV episodes. Until then, please watch the current show, which airs daily on OC16. You can find daily viewing times on our website, and view videos from past shows on the CCTV YouTube Channel.

Best/Worst College Majors

May 20th, 2011
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Had to chuckle when I was watching the news and they interviewed a young local woman at her college graduation ceremony. She said it was like a huge weight had been lifted from her shoulders now that she had her degree. I thought: Whoa, you think college was tough? Good luck finding a job!

But who knows. Maybe she majored in a field that requires little or no experience to get hired and pays a high starting salary -- or at least enough to afford the rent on a studio apartment that isn't an hour's drive from Downtown. I do not envy the current crop of college grads. More than ever, I think the major you choose has a direct impact on your career potential. It's not like it was in the 1970s and 80s when you could get a liberal arts degree and still find a decent job related to your interests. I majored in political science (intended to go to law school) and minored in journalism (which derailed my law school plans). However, none of the companies I worked for seemed to care much about what I studied in school. They looked at what I did as a college newspaper reporter and editor, and took note of my actual work experience. Even if it was just part-time or summer jobs, my resume at age 22 showed I had a track record of being a reliable employee.

Anyhow, came across this ranking of "most useless" college degrees on the Daily Beast website, based on average career salaries, job openings in that field, and projected job growth through the year 2018. (Link goes to main article and slide show). For those who are too lazy to read the article, here are the Top -- er, I mean Bottom Ten majors, according to the Daily Beast's criteria:

Most Useless Degrees

1. Journalism

2. Horticulture

3. Agriculture

4. Advertising

5. Fashion Design

6. Child and family studies

7. Music

8. Mechanical engineering technology

9. Chemistry

10. Nutrition

Figures something I care about deeply is at the top of the list. I've also been in advertising and have friends who are struggling to stay afloat in that line of work. Also had many musician friends, who wound up in desk jobs. I'm surprised to see mechanical engineering, chemistry and nutrition on that list though. With obesity being such a major problem these days, you'd think nutritionists would be in heavy demand. And if you look at the "most useful" degrees below, you'll see engineers and certain types of math and science majors are listed:

Most Useful Degrees

1. Biomedical engineering

2. Business

3. Education

4. Software engineering

5. Petroleum engineering

6. Multimedia and web design

7. Nursing

8. Finance

9. Biochemistry

10. Management information systems

Biggest surprise for me was seeing education listed so high, especially in this anti-teachers political climate. But can you really "rank" majors in relation to personal satisfaction, long-term? Eg., as a writer, I've met many lawyers who are working on novels and screenplays, while itching to get out of that profession (law isn't even in the Beast's Top 20 Useful Degrees). My younger brother graduated from M.I.T., known for their engineering programs -- yet he had no real desire to go into that field after he got his degree.

Me, I have no regrets about majoring in poli-sci and studying journalism. What I really got out of college was an education about life-long learning, which I continue to use to this day.

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For daily viewing times of the current Career Changers TV episode on OC16 and other useful job-related resources, please visit our website. You can also view video segments from the show on the CCTV YouTube Channel. Enjoy the weekend!

Disney and More at Weds. Job Fair

May 17th, 2011
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Aulani project

JOB FAIR ALERT: Weds., May 18, 9 AM - 3 PM, Neal Blaisdell Center. Details on WorkForce 2011 can be found here.

Among the featured employers who are in serious hiring mode, will be the Disney Aulani Resort at Ko Olina. Although you must apply online, I think it's a good idea to hear firsthand what their top execs and managers have to say at their job fair presentations. They will tell you what they're looking for in "cast members" they are hiring. And that's important when you're competing with thousands of applicants for 800 open positions.

Last week, I was invited to attend the sneak peek that Aulani arranged for the media. The big take-away points I got were twofold: Disney really wants to promote an authentic Hawaiian experience at Aulani; and "the Disney Difference" is in the details of how they do things.

So if I was applying for work there, I'd emphasize attention to detail as one of my strengths. I'd also play up whatever local ties to Hawaii I have, as well as my interest in Hawaiian history and culture. If you speak Hawaiian or other languages -- Japanese in particular -- those would be major selling points you should tell them about. Formal education is NOT the most important thing for many of the positions they are seeking to fill.

Disney Vacation Club & Resort, Hawaii Vice President Djuan Rivers told me it's not necessary to have a high school degree if the person is fluent in Hawaiian. They want guests to become immersed in the language during their stays, and even have an "Olelo Room" (a bar actually) where one wall displays various things with the Hawaiian word below them. Djuan said it's his favorite place in the entire resort, presumably because of its connection to Hawaiian culture -- not the bar. They will also have people demonstrating and teaching Native Hawaiian arts and crafts. (I suggested he contact the UH Center for Hawaiian Language, which does a Star-Advertiser column every Saturday written completely in Hawaiian, since those readers would probably be qualified candidates.)

As with all things Disney, the media tour was well organized. Each cast member, as they refer to employees, displayed tremendous enthusiasm. You can bet anyone they hire will have to show that same kind of positive energy. But they want to hear your personal story too, because at its core, Disney is all about story-telling. One manager spoke about her local roots and how amazing it was to see this resort standing on land that once was a sugar cane field when she was growing up. Another supervisor talked about the Disney Difference being reflected in the resort suites themselves, right down to the carefully-folded "honu towel" in the kitchen (photo below). It's a small detail -- but in all good companies, the difference boils down to taking care of the little things.

Honu towelThe new Career Changers TV segment on Disney Aulani jobs will air in June. In the meantime, please check out our current show on OC16 (click here for daily viewing times).

You can also watch videos from the current episode and past shows on our CCTV YouTube Channel. Here's the link.

To all who have submitted names for Mark Bell's motor cooler scooter thing, he's still looking them over and waiting for a few more suggestions to roll in. We'll be picking a winner next month, so stay tuned!

Don't Call it Gilligan's Island

May 13th, 2011
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Coconut Island field trip

Who doesn't love field trips?

I felt like an excited kid when Rob Reynolds and I got to film a high school science class at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) research facilities on Coconut Island in Kaneohe Bay. It took three months to set up the shoot with Malia Rivera, who oversees the high school outreach program. First, we needed to get approval from the University of Hawaii, since HIMB is part of that system. Then we had to get Kamehameha High School's consent, along with signed release forms from parents to film the students for an upcoming Career Changers TV episode. But it was well worth the wait. I'll have more to say about the experience next month when we air that segment. Here's a few quick notes I jotted down that I don't want to forget...

Unexpected Hollywood connections: You probably know Coconut Island was in the opening credits of the 60s sitcom, Gilligan's Island. You might also be aware scenes from Lost were filmed there too. But I bet you didn't know one of the HIMB staff was in the Waterworld movie. I was chatting with Fritz, the skipper of the boat that transported us to the island, and he said he was part of the trimaran crew in that big budget Kevin Costner bomb, which was filmed off the coast of the Big Island.

It came up because I mentioned I had written a sci-fi screenplay about genetically-engineered super crabs that take over the Big Island, which got some interest from the Waterworld producers a few years ago. Turns out that two of the HIMB researchers we interviewed specialize in genetic studies. However, they did not think my scenario of GM seafood making food of humans was very plausible. I guess they don't watch the Syfy Channel, which regularly shows movies such as Mansquito and Sharktopus.

Moku O Lo‘e is Coconut Island's real name. Malia grew up on the Windward side, and now has a PhD that brings her full circle to the bay she loved as a child. But she frowns whenever the Gilligan's Island references come up, mainly because there's so much more to its history and place in Hawaiian culture. (Click here for more on that.)

Malia told us it was Princess Pauahi who had the coconut trees planted in honor of Queen Emma, and there are over 370 of those trees on the 28-acre island. In fact, the coconuts are now a hazard and she had us walk on certain paths to avoid being conked on the head by falling fruit -- or are they actually nuts?

Sea life studied spans the gamut: Everything from invasive algae (they're experimenting with urchins that feed on gorilla ogo) to tiny snapping shrimp, dolphins (sound experiments related to the sonar controversy) and sharks -- not just hammerheads, but sand sharks, reef sharks and tiger sharks that we saw swimming around in enclosed pens.

Cool dolphin story: Staff saw dolphins outside the pen and thought some of the research animals had escaped. They were actually wild bottlenose dolphins. Malia doesn't know if it was a coincidence, or if the dolphins were somehow attracted to the pregnant dolphin inside the pen that gave birth two days later.

Budget cutbacks impact field trips: The HIMB outreach program to get more kids interested in the marine sciences has been a big success, reaching thousands of students from the fifth grade up to high school seniors. Some we interviewed want to pursue studies in that field as a career path. Others come to appreciate and respect our environment more when they get this kind of hands-on experience by performing simple experiments under the HIMB staff's guidance.

But last year, due to furloughs and No Child Left Behind requirements, many students were left behind in classrooms and not able to take part in this program. That's  too bad, because what we saw were students who were engaged and learning in ways you don't see in a standard classroom setting. Cutting back on things like field trips may save a few bucks, but it kills dreams and aspirations for children who could grow up to be scientists and researchers like Malia Rivera.

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Keep the motor cooler thing name ideas coming! That segment and new features on the Pacific Gateway Center kitchen incubator for start-up food businesses are airing daily on OC16. Visit our website for viewing times or check out the CCTV YouTube Channel for video segments. Have a great weekend!