Archive for September, 2011

Halloween News & Boos

September 27th, 2011
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We just wrapped shooting for our Halloween Career Changers TV show, which will start running next week, but I wanted to give readers a heads-up on some Goodwill news. For the first time in Hawaii, they will be sponsoring a Halloween costume contest in conjunction with the big Celebrate Kaimuki Kanikapila block party on Sat., Oct. 29. Waialae Avenue will be closed off between Koko Head and 11th Avenue from 9 am to 3 pm that day.

But you don't have to wait until then to enter the contest, which offers a grand prize of one year of free shopping at Goodwill (not sure what the total value will be). As part of their revamped marketing efforts, Goodwill is making a big push into social media and building up their customer database through the introduction of a Goodwill shoppers card program, and a mobile app for smart phones.

If you buy something from Goodwill that is incorporated into your Halloween outfit, you can take a photo and send it in through the Goodwill app. Click here for more info. They hope to have the card ready to go by the end of the month. Besides the high tech upgrades, they will also be unveiling a new window display at the Kaimuki store location on Halloween weekend -- but it won't be spooky stuff, unless you consider haute coutoure glam kind of scary. Which come to think of it, is sometimes pretty bizarre looking.

It's an unusual marketing melange they're putting together: glam fashion events, featuring clothes from their shops, and thrift store mix-and-match costumes. What's cool though is you're only limited by your imagination and creativity when putting together outfits for either look.

Rene, Allie

At left is a photo of stylist Rene Rodriguez, who did the make up for Allie Lee, and created her costumes from items he got at Goodwill for our shoot. For last year's Halloween show, he transformed CCTV host Theresa Tilley into an obake woman, which was a lot of fun. (Video link here.)

At the time, Rene had recently done freelance work on The Pirates of the Caribbean movie that was filmed here (he did wigs and zombie pirates make-up). Since then, he has worked on the short-lived TV series, Off the Map, and is now doing casting for The River series through his job at Niche Models and Talent.

In my next post, I'll have some costume shop options for those who aren't inclined to create their own outfits, or do not have access to a celebrity stylist to do their make-up.

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Did you see the L.A. Times story about UH researchers using maggots to treat diabetes wounds? Sounds a little creepy, but makes sense. Here's the link. I knew leeches were making a comeback in medical circles, but maggot therapy was news to me!

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As for the boos, Wayne Harada hit the nail on the head in his blog about what's wrong with Hawaii Five-O: TOO MANY EXTRANEOUS CHARACTERS AND SUBPLOTS! Seems like every week they're introducing new cast members with more back stories than anyone can follow or care about -- and they have nothing to do with Hawaii, the people or the culture here or actual crime issues. Meanwhile, the core characters spend more time dealing with internal affairs investigations than actually investigating cases.

In the first two episodes, the villains or antagonists are barely even seen on screen. On Monday night's show, I don't think there was any direct reference to the antagonist until the last 15 minutes or so. And do we really need Tom "Celebrity Rehab" Sizemore as another mainland-imported character? Sheesh. The plots of the first two episodes this season were so weak and convoluted, it required major exposition in which the characters literally explain what happened and why.

If you want to see examples of great television writing, check out Breaking Bad and Damages, which are available through Netflix. Both have riveting plots, and truly scary characters -- and that's the "heroes" I'm talking about. My nomination for best TV series ever though is Friday Night Lights. Those series remind me why I wanted to be a screenwriter in the first place.

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For daily viewing times and other useful links, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV. You can also watch video segments from past and current episodes on the CCTV YouTube Channel. So what are YOU gonna be for Halloween?

Weekend Launches New Businesses

September 20th, 2011
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Whew! I was only at Startup Weekend for two hours on Saturday to do pre-interviews, then returned Sunday for about three hours to shoot a segment for Career Changers TV and hear the final presentations, and I was blown away. It is astounding to see what can be accomplished in 54 hours when you have creative minds combined with motivated, skilled individuals in the same room working towards a common goal.

In fact, some of the presenters said they are moving forward with their ideas for new businesses... and I think a couple of them have a chance to succeed not just locally, but nationally or even internationally. If you missed my last post, Startup Weekend is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas, vote on the concepts they like the most, then form teams to create a five minute presentation. The panel of judges included successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, who have been responsible for investing millions of dollars in startups here and on the mainland. They've also made lots of money themselves. That alone made the $100 admission price worth the cost because the judges were on hand throughout the weekend to act as mentors, who offered advice to the different groups.

Over 40 people attended the first Honolulu Startup Weekend, which was good enough for the organizers (Danielle Scherman of Social Wahines and programmer Dave Pascua) to announce they will be doing the next one in March, and plan on continuing to do them every six months. Both Danielle and Dave had attended SW events on the mainland, and were brought together by the national SW organization, which also sent a facilitator from Seattle to help run things.

They started with 27 ideas pitched on Friday night, which were narrowed down to 15 before the attendees voted on which they liked best. Out of that, they wound up with eight who worked all Saturday and most of Sunday on figuring out logistics, budgets, marketing angles and tag lines, before getting up in front of the judges to sell their concept and answer questions.

The one that took first place also caught my interest when I heard the pitch: GreatHealthOptions.com, which offers consumers a way to find medical treatment by price -- whether you have insurance or not. Brant Wojack, the idea guy, is a programmer by trade like a lot of the participants. But he saw a need created by the gap in health care coverage and thinks his concept could be an effective bridge between consumers, insurers and medical care providers. I was surprised Brant's team won because the panel asked some tough questions, which I surmised meant they were skeptical of the viability of the business model. Apparently, the judges liked their answers.

Second place went to Burt Lum for HeartMyCity.Me, which had early buzz from the mentors. You know how when you see a big pothole or broken streetlight, and wonder why doesn't someone fix it? Burt figures folks can take a photo with their smart phones or text a message to his site, which would then alert the appropriate government agency or civic group about the problem... other users could also add input or "vote" to prioritize fix-it projects. I love this idea because it also puts pressure on taxpayer-funded agencies and departments to do their jobs in a timely manner. One of the judges, a venture capitalist, told me she can see this rolling out across the country and could even go worldwide. (BTW, you may recognize Burt's name from the HPR radio show he does, Bytemarks Cafe... he's got a great story about what brought him to this event, which I'll write more about in a future post.)

Third place went to Sinful Edibles, which started out as a pretty straightforward, attention-getting pitch: Porn Cakes. The presentation emphasized their adult-oriented food creations would be "tasteful" and they even handed out samples to the judges (um, "things" on a stick if you get my drift).

Another idea that impressed me was Kudos, which began as Best Dishes. It's sort of a more specific Yelp type rating service without the negative feedback. Users choose their favorite dishes and the site will match it up with discount deals from the restaurant or food place. I also liked Fruit Box -- a way for people to share their excess mangoes or farmers markets to sell leftover produce instead of throwing it out.

There's a bunch more I have to say about the event and some of the other startup ideas. But I'll save that for when we run the segment on Career Changers TV. Sorry I had to leave out some of the other groups and didn't have room here to talk about the mentors themselves. You can find out more though by going to the StartupWeekend Honolulu site.

If I skimped on details or got anything wrong in my descriptions above, please feel free to post corrections and additional information in the comments section below. I have to approve first-time posters, however, so there may be a lag time before your comments appear.

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For daily viewing times and more, visit www.CareerChangers.TV. You can also watch video segments from past and present episodes on the CCTV YouTube Channel.

Startup Weekend: Got Apps?

September 15th, 2011
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Got an idea for a web-based business or smart phone application? If so, you might want to check out Startup Weekend Honolulu, which begins Friday, Sept. 16 at 6 pm and continues Saturday and Sunday, 9 am until 10 pm each day. Yep, that's 54 hours to pitch your idea, form groups for the top vote-getters, then do a presentation for judges who have the clout and know-how to actually launch a new company.

During that process, groups will get to work with mentors and do lots of networking with like-minded entrepreneurs. The cost is $100 and it will be limited to the first hundred who register. I'll be there with videographer Stanford Chang filming the Sunday final presentations for a future Career Changers TV show. Click here for more details.

If you can't make it to Startup Weekend, post your mobile app suggestion in the comments section below. Doesn't have to be practical or serious. Make me laugh, and I might just send you a small prize or dinner gift certificate!

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On a related note, Newsweek recently ran a cover story on Steve Jobs and how Apple revolutionized the computer industry by tapping into the social aspects of the internet. When I bought my first iMac, I told my wife we should invest in Apple stock. It was about $6 per share at the time. I wasn't even thinking about iTunes or the iPod though, which were the real game changers -- I just thought that transparent Bondi Blue egg-shaped iMac looked so damn cool. Instead, we spent the money on a trip to Vegas. Now Apple is trading at close to $400 per share! Sigh...

But how did Jobs make Apple such a success? Here's a link to "The 10 Commandments of Steve" that appeared in Newsweek. The folks who attend Startup Weekend should read them over and think about what they can do to make their apps not just useful, but "cool" too. Among his rules: keep teams small, shun focus groups, simplify and prototype to the extreme. Also, be ruthless. That last part is more about being tough on yourself and killing your "babies" or ideas that aren't working. It's important to remember, even Apple has had flops over the years.

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For daily viewing times and other links, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV. You can also watch videos from past and current shows on the CCTV YouTube Channel.

9/11 Overkill and Energy Issues

September 12th, 2011
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Although I've lived in Hawaii since 1985, I will always consider myself a New Yorker at heart. After graduating from Montclair State College in New Jersey, just across the George Washington Bridge, I eventually wound up living in Manhattan for about four years. It changed my life and the way I viewed the world. But I had no desire to read the pages and pages of reflections on 9/11, or watch the TV specials or the red, white and blue festooned tributes before football games over the weekend. It's not a day I want to relive or dwell upon. I think many New Yorkers feel the same way.

I didn't want to write about it either. What changed my mind was checking my calendar and seeing that the Asian Pacific Clean Energy Summit is taking place Tues., Sept. 13 through Thurs., Sept. 15 at the Hawaii Convention Center. Ironically, it seems that despite the media overkill devoted to the events and aftermath of 9/11, not much has been said about what really caused it: American dependence on foreign oil. If not for that simple fact, the U.S. would have no reason for being in the Middle East or making deals with Saudi Arabia and other countries that don't want us there, other than for our petro-dollars.

Yet here we are ten years later, and what have we done to wean ourselves off the oil habit? Sure, there's been some progress as far as increased use of solar energy. But there are more cars than ever on the road, guzzling more gas, and even rational people are opposing the rail project on the grounds that it's "too expensive" despite the heavy cost we've already paid in blood and cash to continue our insane culture of consumption. Instead, we focus scorn on the terrorists and attackers who perpetrate violence, when the real enemy is the way most Americans have chosen to live: I want what I want now, and screw the future or those whiny granola-eating liberals!

In that regard, nothing much has changed in our national mindset. Which is a shame because going green could lead to more jobs while cleaning up the environment. Even if you're a flat-earther who doesn't believe in global warming or science, the truth is there are economic benefits to pursuing alternative energy sources and means of supply. As seen on the current Career Changers TV, something as small as a solar bollard (lighting fixtures) can save local businesses thousands of dollars since you don't have to dig trenches to install electrical lines. Stuff like that pays for itself in a relatively short time span. (Click here for that video.)

Anyhow, here's the link to the Asian Pacific Clean Energy site and information about scheduled speakers. I don't know if the timing with the tenth anniversary of 9/11 was intentional or coincidental, but it seems appropriate nonetheless.

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The one thing I do want to remember about the World Trade Center buildings was the restaurant Windows on the World. It was in the early 1980s, I was on my way up in the business world, living on the Upper West Side near Central Park, and one magical night a young woman I knew from college met me for cocktails and dinner at Windows. She looked beautiful, and I was wearing my best suit. We felt like we were sitting on top of the world, gazing out at the surrounding skyline below and New Jersey on the other side. We had both come a long way since school. Our entire future was ahead of us, and we were filled with grand expectations...

It's funny though. In reality, the city back then was much different. Times Square was seedy and nothing like the Disney-fied version you will find today. The subways were dirty and dangerous after dark. Everyone, it seemed, was drinking to excess or doing coke. Many gay men, including friends of ours, were dying from AIDS. Yet we were oblivious to reality in that setting, hundreds of feet high above it all. It never occurred to us that it could all come crashing down, or that I would be thousands of miles away from Manhattan when it happened. Despite the terrible tragedy and years of heartache that have followed, even now I can still see her smiling face.

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For daily viewing times on OC16, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV. You can also watch video segments from past and current episodes on the CCTV YouTube Channel.

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Too Many Choices

September 7th, 2011
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Years ago, I wrote a script that was optioned by the co-writer of ROBOCOP. It was a bizarre punk rock musical comedy about a loser named Igor Grabowsky, who becomes the poster boy for the ultimate lifestyle makeover company. In a way, Igor was an early prototype career changer. There's a scene in which prior to his meeting with Lifestyle Consultants and Developers (LCD, as in "lowest common denominator") he stops at the supermarket to buy cereal... but he's overwhelmed by the choices. Hundreds of boxes of cereals and breakfast foods line the aisle. Paralyzed by indecision, Igor grabs the most familiar brand and puts it in his brief case -- an unused high school graduation gift from his parents -- then locks it.

When he gets to the Hoboken shopping mall where LCD has set up its recruitment offices, the receptionist asks Igor for his resume. He goes to open his brief case and can't remember the combination. It's as if the trip to the supermarket has caused his brain to overload. During his interview with the LCD counselor, Igor says he just wants someone to tell him what to do with his life. Free choice has become a burden, and life would be simpler if he didn't have to make so many decisions. There are times when I feel just like Igor. Too many choices!

As it turns out, scientific research shows there is a phenomenon called "decision fatigue" that affects everything we do from buying cereal at a store to making life or death judgements. It also explains why it's so hard to stick to a diet or lose weight because it's directly related to glucose levels and the need for sugar. I first read about it in the N.Y. Times (Aug. 17) in an article by John Tierney, "Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?"

Naturally, I had to read it since I felt it applied to me. For anyone in a management position, decision-making goes with the territory. But for writers it goes even further. I tried explaining this to my wife back when I was working on two different scripts simultaneously, and my mind always seemed to be somewhere else -- because it was. It was processing all the fictional characters I had created, and in my head I was making every single decision or choice for them. So when my wife would ask me to make a real life decision about mundane matters such as what type of cereal we should buy, I would either say I didn't care or just grab a familiar box.

The N.Y. Times piece says there is a reason for this kind of behavior. It's because in the course of a day we expend a lot of mental energy, which burns up sugar. In the morning we start out with fairly strong willpower and self-control. But as the day wears on, the constant drain of making choices takes a toll on our brains and bodies. Stress also depletes mental energy. That makes sense. The article noted how being poor makes it much harder to choose what to buy at a grocery store -- less dollars to spend means more pressure since poor people are aware of their plight. However, that actually weakens willpower and self-control, while increasing the craving for sweets to satisfy the need for glucose that has been depleted by stress and decision-making. Supermarkets figured this out a long time ago. That's why you see candy and impulse buys next to the cash registers... they know that by the time a shopper has had to go up and down all those aisles, their self-control has been weakened and the shopper will need a sugar fix.

The rise and fall of glucose levels affects our decision-making at work or even on a moral level. If your levels drop too low, you'll find yourself becoming irritable or prone to make snap judgements -- or conversely, choose to do nothing instead of doing something that could make things more complicated. It explains why we're often more comfortable with the status quo as opposed to being proactive.

There's a paradoxical Catch-22 for dieters too: to lose weight, one needs willpower... but to maintain willpower, the dieter needs to eat and maintain their glucose levels. And having to exercise self-control actually burns up mental energy, making the dieter more hungry. Quite the conundrum, huh?

Studies have also shown that efficiency matters. Top performing executives/decision-maker types organize their daily routines in a way that minimizes choices for small stuff. That frees up mental energy for more important tasks. I think that's probably why I make so many lists and prefer to stick to familiar routines each morning while I'm working or preparing to get down to business. But it's later in the day when I'm tired or hungry that I tend to make rash choices or put things off until the next day -- which may be the better choice after all.

Anyhow, I'm including links to the aforementioned article and a related book review below, but you have to be registered to view NYT articles and they have a limit now on how many "free" pieces you can read. So choose wisely when you browse the NYT site.

Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?

The Sugary Secret of Self-Control

Reminder: You can watch our new September episode of Career Changers TV daily on OC16. Visit www.CareerChangers.TV for viewing times and other useful links. You can also watch video segments from the show on the CCTV YouTube Channel. Mahalo!

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