Archive for February, 2012

New Show Premieres March 1

February 29th, 2012
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DSCF0007

PROGRAMMING ALERT: Our new Career Changers TV episode will start running Thurs., March 1 at 8:30 PM on OC16. This month we have an interesting mix of fun and serious stories. The fun part was filming the above segment about the new JetLev activity at SeaBreeze Watersports in Hawaii Kai. They offered me a chance to try it myself... and I chickened out. Actually, I was very tempted to put on the water-propelled jet pack, but since I had to conduct interviews with the SeaBreeze owners about their business and an invention they are involved with, I figured it would be best if I stayed dry and did the JetLev another time.

My videographer, Stanford Chang, also declined the opportunity. His assistant, Lisa Miyamoto, was the only one of us brave enough to try it. It's not as easy as it looks. According to the head instructor at SeaBreeze, about 9 in 10 achieve lift-off during their half hour session. Some get it right away, while others require more time. For beginners, there is always a trained SeaBreeze instructor controlling the apparatus so there's no danger of really losing control. However, you can get a mouthful of water if you dip too far to either side -- which is what happened to Lisa. Although she wasn't able to fly above the water, Lisa said she'd like to try it again. If you're interested, SeaBreeze has special kamaaina rates for that and other activities.

The husband and wife team who own SeaBreeze have a great working relationship. Courtney Krantz handles most of the day-to-day operations. Jeff Krantz is the "outside" guy who designs and builds things like the custom platforms for launching their ocean activities such as parasailing, jet skis, banana boat roads and the JetLev. In fact, he built the special parasailing boats they use, which allow people to take off and land right inside the boat itself. When we were out filming customers, two young ladies from Canada spotted a whale and spinner dolphins while parasailing.

Jeff is also an inventor, who has created an inexpensive filter that goes inside car wheel wells to remove pollutants from the road before those particles get into the air and ocean through rain run-off. He says it's his way of giving back because Hawaii and the ocean activities business has been so good to him and Courtney. Yet his offer to install these filters on State vehicles as part of a proposed pilot project -- at no expense to taxpayers -- was rejected by the State Dept. of Transportation.

As you can imagine, Jeff was upset that the State DOT did not see the value of removing dangerous chemicals and metals from our roads, which is the result of tire and brake degradation (plus other fluids that leak and drip from car engines). Putting filters on just a couple of cars won't make much difference. But put them on a few hundred or thousands of vehicles, and there could be a significant reduction in particles that otherwise will be breathed in by you or your kids. We did a separate segment on Jeff's StreetVac filters, which is also posted on the CCTV YouTube Channel.

Here's the kicker though: as you'll see in the piece we did, OTHER countries are moving ahead with StreetVac and want to use them! Yet here in his home state of Hawaii, Jeff feels like he was given the brush-off. And we wonder why people become cynical or apathetic about State government?

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For daily viewing times of the new episode, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV or check out video segments from past and current shows on the CCTV YouTube Channel. Mahalo for watching!

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Human Trafficking Help Needed

February 23rd, 2012
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As part of the 808HALT coalition's mission to increase public awareness about human trafficking in Hawaii, we've been airing a new video on OC16 that focuses on farm laborers from Southeast Asia. In that piece, we share Samian's story -- but there are hundreds of other immigrant workers like him that have spent years away from their families because they were lured to America with false promises, then abandoned. You can see that segment on the current Career Changers TV show until next Thursday, or watch it on the 808HALT.com YouTube Channel by clicking her. Thanks to immigration attorneys and the Pacific Gateway Center, Samian's tale may have a much happier ending than most trafficking victims.

The other major area of trafficking is the sex trade. Sadly, young people -- mostly women and girls -- are targeted and exploited. At a recent State Legislature hearing on bills related to this subject, I heard a mother tell how she thought her teenage daughter was a runaway... only to find out that she was being forced by pimps to perform sex acts for money. Her daughter sat beside her and talked about the trauma she must live with resulting from the abuse she suffered at the hands of men. We will be doing a video segment on new laws that are being proposed to help stop this growing crime, which is now only second to drugs in the amount of money being generated. In some ways, it's even more lucrative than drugs, for the simple reason that humans can be reused over and over.

If you're on the North Shore, there will be a special showing of a movie on this important topic, Friday night (Feb. 25). Jessica Munoz of Courage House Hawaii sent me the following info on "Sex and Money":

Where: Historic Haleiwa Gym
66-434 Kamehameha Hwy Haleiwa HI 96712 (across from Pizza Hut)
When: February 25, 2012 @ 6:30pm
Enjoy Special Music from Local artist Tyler Nakamura

About the Film:
Sex+Money: A National Search for Human Worth is a feature length documentary that follows a group of photojournalists as they travel in an RV on their second journey, this time across the United States, seeking to understand how the sexual exploitation of children has become the nation's fastest growing form of organized crime and what can be done to stop it.

Jessica's goal is to find a house somewhere in Oahu for treatment of juvenile victims. Here's what they are looking for:

"The point in which we are at now is finding a location for the home.  Whether it be land that a home can be built on or a property with an existing house, we are looking for a donation, a generous price mark down, or land lease. This is where we hope you can help.  Please forward this information on to anyone in a position that may be able to help us.  The vision for Courage House Hawaii is a ranch style setting in a rural location. Safety is a concern for our girls. Courage House Hawaii will employ equine therapy, art and dance therapy, gardening, and other therapies that require land and open space. A rural setting with spacious land, aids in the healing process. We are interested in looking into any non-urban properties that can offer a safe and secluded environment for the girls we will be housing."

If you might be able to help, please contact Jessica. Her email address is jessica@justiceprojecthawaii.org.

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You can still catch our Feb. CCTV show until next week! Check out daily viewing times at www.CareerChangers.TV, subject to change though because of high school sports this week.

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Err Australia

February 20th, 2012
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St. Kilda spaceship

The above photo was taken in a trendy little area near the ocean, called St. Kilda, and is not meant to be a metaphor related to the sudden crashing of Air Australia, which left hundreds of Aussie travelers stranded in Honolulu last week. I wasn't really surprised by the demise of that airline because we tried booking a flight with the company about six months ago when they were called Strategic Airlines. They were offering $500 one-way flights to Honolulu, so we went online to see if we could take advantage of the low introductory rates.

We immediately ran into problems. First, we couldn't complete the transaction because our Hawaiian Airlines Visa credit card (through Bank of America) flagged it as possibly a fraudulent charge because it was for a business outside the U.S. However, we didn't know that until after Strategic Airlines was already warned it might be fraud... then we got an automated call from BOA informing us we had to contact BOA before we attempted to use our card. On one hand I like BOA was taking a precaution. On the other, it bugged me they informed Strategic that we could be criminals without explaining this was how BOA routinely handles foreign transactions. (BTW, if you're traveling abroad, make sure you call your bank and credit card issuers before you go, or you could find that you will not be able to use your cards overseas without encountering major hassles.)

The bigger problem with Strategic became apparent when I called to see if BOA did or didn't put our transaction through, since we tried it a couple of times prior to getting the automated call explaining their policy. Although the Strategic reservation taker confirmed our transaction was aborted for suspected criminal activity, she could not tell us whether the special $500 one-way offer was available going from Honolulu to Sydney. She had absolutely no clue as to what was going on with the airline's Honolulu routes.  A couple of months later, they changed their name to Air Australia and did offer the same rate for flights departing Honolulu, but by then we had already booked the next lowest fare on JetStar, which is the flying bus division of Quantas. They charge you $7 for a blanket if you ask for one. And $4 for a bottle of water -- even after they make passengers wait a half hour or more due to delays caused by their own overbooking. As you can tell, I am not a fan of JetStar.

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Before I return to regular programming and blogging on career-related stuff, I had some quick thoughts about biz opportunities in the Land Down Under. Compared to Hawaii and other visitor destinations that have been catering to tourists a long time, Australia still seems full of possibilities for entrepreneurs. For instance, when Americans travel, they like to pick up Christmas ornaments and picture frames that have the name of that place on it. Yet nary a store in Sydney, Melbourne or Cairns had any ornaments with those city names on them. There were some generic koalas and kangaroo things, but that's about all. Tons of refrigerator magnets and keychains though for some reason.

When we stopped to see the Aborigine dance performance at one visitor attraction, after we bought our staged photo with the troupe, I asked where their picture frames were -- you know, something with aboriginal art designs. When we went to Venice and took pictures on the island of Murano, famous for their glass art work, we bought a picture frame with hand-blown glass designs since it was the only thing we could afford. It made a nice keepsake -- us posing in Murano, framed by Murano glass work. However, the Aborigine in Charge, scratched his chin and said they didn't have any special frames for the photos they were selling. "I'll talk to the Boss about it," he said, cheerfully. I shook my head and said, "Don't talk to the Boss. Do it yourself and make some money!"

The other business I would like to launch over there if I had the time (and capital) would be manufacturing high quality t-shirts for women. My wife was frustrated because out of all the t-shirts with Australian designs or themes, she could not find a single one designed for females. They all had the same crew neck, same cut for guys. Why is that? It made us think of the original Crazy Shirts stores and designs too. In Oz, nearly all the stores carried the same stuff. Not much variety or sense of a true "local" style like we have on each island. Which is too bad, because when you get out of the major cities, you see the Aussies have a quirky, fun-loving nature... and plenty of odd or offbeat things that would look cool on a shirt. Take croc signage, for example.

Crocs sign

The sign above was at a beach across from the timeshare resort near Cairns we stayed at. When I asked one of the resort housekeeping staff about the likelihood of seeing a hungry crocodile in those waters, she assured me that it was rare for them to climb over the plastic barrier and netting that surrounded the swimming area. But, yes, it did happen now and then. "We don't like to alarm the guests," she said, forcing a tight smile. We did not go swimming there.

For foodies, I'd suggest someone start a taco restaurant and/or taco food truck. Something like Camille's on Wheels (here's the video we did on her). I don't recall seeing any Mexican or Tex-Mex type food places in the cities we visited. And trust me, we saw a lot of restaurants for just about everything else -- plenty of Japanese, Chinese, other Asian cuisines. But with such a strong surf culture, you'd think there would be a few taco joints. They did have a lot of burger fast food places, such as Hungry Jacks.

My only regret is we didn't try any kangaroo or crocodile dishes. We were told fresh 'roo tastes sort of like venison. And of course, everyone knows crocodile tastes like chicken.

Roo special

For daily viewing times of our Feb. episode of Career Changers TV on OC16, please visit our website. You can also watch low-res video segments on the CCTV YouTube Channel. Mahalo for watching!

Golliwogs and Aborigines

February 14th, 2012
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Golliwogs

Tell the truth: if you came upon a bin of dolls like the ones above in Hawaii at an open market, what would your reaction be? When my wife and I saw these at a visitor destination in Australia, we were a bit stunned. The sign above the dolls says they originated in the late 1800's when Egyptian laborers worked under British supervision. Children of the Egyptian workers played with black handmade dolls, and then British soldiers bought them or were given Golliwogs as gifts to bring home to England. What they have to do with Australia, I have no idea.

But it did bring to mind this image of an Aborigine man we met on our Blue Mountain bus tour...

Aborigine

It was a somewhat awkward encounter. To begin with, we had been told earlier that Aborigines used to forbid taking of photographs of them because they felt it was stealing their souls or something like that. I've heard of other native tribes in different cultures that had similar beliefs. But before this fellow hopped on our bus, the driver announced that we would be given a special opportunity to watch authentic Aborigine dance -- and we might be able to take pictures of them too. For a price. The fellow above in the white face paint was quite charming. He spoke in a perfect Aussie accent and told us how he danced for Queen Elizabeth at David Bowie's estate in England, and also performed for Justin Timberlake recently.

He asked if we had any questions before we stopped at the center where his troupe was going to perform for us. So I asked him why the Aborigine chose to live in the Outback when Australia had so many lush, beautiful lands near the ocean, where it seemed game and fish were plentiful. I thought he might talk about the genocide that occurred when British settlers arrived or how they moved further inland out of necessity. But he smiled and tactfully explained that where we see nothing but barren desert land, the Aborigine saw ample resources, which they knew through their songs. It reminded me of how Native Hawaiians talk about hula. So I asked if the British also tried to eliminate their language and songs, the way missionaries in Hawaii originally tried to put an end to hula. Again, he smiled -- a little sadder -- and said there were "misunderstandings," but the Aborigine were still here. Which is true, sort of... it depends on your definition of Aborigine. In Australia, in the late 1800's they passed the Half-Caste Act, which was meant to "assimilate" Aborigine of mixed races by forcing them to relocate or taking children with mixed blood from their natural parents.

It really was an effort to isolate full-blooded Aborigine with the idea that they would eventually die off, and mixed Aborigine would eventually just blend into modern Australian society. In the 1960's the Aborigine and progressive-minded whites pushed for equal rights, much the same way as African-Americans did during the civil rights movement in the U.S. With that came a resurgence of Aborigine pride -- similar to what happened in Hawaii, with more people who were part Hawaiian taking ownership of their heritage. Just as we have many Hawaiians who don't look like the idealized version of Native Hawaiians, there are many Aborigine who actually look white. Here's the photo we paid for (when I first saw the "No Photos" sign, I naively thought it was for cultural reasons):

Aborigines pix

Not quite the image you probably had in mind when you think of Aborigines, am I right?

As it turns out, there are increasing numbers of white-looking Aborigines who are staking claim to their bloodline. While we were there, on Australia Day I read a piece by a conservative newspaper columnist who asserted that they were doing it mainly because of the generous government benefits that are available to Aborigines. He felt Australia had already done enough to make up for the genocide, the deaths from diseases introduced by the settlers, and abject racism they were subjected to for decades, and the pendulum had swung too far to the left. While I disagree with his blanket assessment, I do think there are people with very little Aborigine blood who are cashing in on it for monetary gain. But so what? If they are keeping the culture alive and helping preserve Aborigine traditions or art/music, does it matter what their motive is? Isn't that what we do in Hawaii with our tourism marketing efforts?

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Eventually I'll get back to blogging about career stuff -- got some ideas for business opportunities in Australia I want to share in my next post! Until then, don't forget to tune in to see the February episode of Career Changers TV on OC16. For daily viewing times, please visit our website. You can also watch low res video segments from past and current shows on the CCTV YouTube Channel.

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Aussie Race Issues

February 9th, 2012
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Aus Day

When I saw the poster above, which was displayed at nearly every tram or train stop in Sydney and Melbourne during my trip to Australia, it really moved me. I thought about Hawaii, and how we too are a place where people have come from all over the world. What I'm about to write, however, might offend Native Hawaiians, Chinese, Japanese and just about any race or nationality you can think of. That's the problem about talking about race or ethnicity. You don't want to generalize or judge people based on stereotypes... yet, sometimes stereotypes exist because there's a kernel of truth in those slanted views. Maybe that's why Frank De Lima has been popular for so long here.

Mind you, these are just my personal impressions from a recent two-week visit. My wife and I talked to Aussies, other visitors, and people in Hawaii upon our return to compare notes. Being half-Japanese myself, I was subjected to teasing and taunts while growing up in New Jersey, so I'm especially sensitive to jokes or stereotypes about Asians in general. That said, I gotta tell you the elephant in the room when you visit Australia is the huge impact the Chinese are having on the big cities and tourism. It was amplified -- literally -- by the timing of Chinese New Years when we happened to be there. Someone told us about 16,000 Chinese had come for that one week, most on package tours. And it seemed like half of them were everywhere we went. Airplanes, airports, shops, stores, tours, boats, snorkeling, sightseeing.

Their presence wasn't just felt as visitors. Throughout Melbourne, Sydney and Cairns (the main city by the Great Barrier Reef) there were many people of Chinese descent working in retail, restaurants and hotels. A lot of them barely spoke English, indicating they were relatively new immigrants. But the Chinese have a long history in Australia, and sadly, it involves one of the uglier chapters from the early days of colonization: Chinese who came during the Australian Gold Rush were the victims of prejudice and violence. Despite all that, the Chinese (and other Asians) have established a strong foothold on the continent through hard work and perseverance. Appearances can be deceiving because you'll see someone who looks Chinese or Japanese, and when they start speaking with that Australian accent, it seems a bit incongruous.

In Hawaii, our tourism industry has been wooing China because they represent a potentially huge market. I don't know how else to put this, but having witnessed the flood of Chinese visitors in Australia during Chinese New Years, I'd say be careful what you wish for. The Australians were happy to take their money, but they were also pretty frank about how they perceive the Chinese tour groups. On our boat ride out to the Great Barrier Reef, the Aussie crew talked directly to non-Chinese guests on board and warned us: "They can be very pushy. So stand your ground when you get to the buffet line and don't let them shove you around. Better yet, go snorkel first and do the buffet later after they're done rushing for the food."

The crew person wasn't being nasty when she told us that. It's just the way it is, and that is exactly how things played out when we anchored near the outer reef. Other travelers we met in Australia -- and people in Hawaii -- were even more blunt about their experiences around large groups of Chinese travelers. "They're loud, and they're rude," is what we heard repeatedly. Yes, they were loud. Very loud. On airplanes, in airports, on boats. It bothered me they would talk when safety instructions were being issued -- apparently, since they couldn't understand what was being said, they didn't seem concerned if others heard the announcements. (To be fair, when we were traveling in Europe, the same "pushy, loud, rude" label was most often applied to Germans. I had to explain to my wife the concept of "boxing out" when we lined up to enter venues.)

Of course, not all Chinese travelers are like that. Just as the old image of timid Japanese tourists traveling in large groups, snapping photos of everything in sight is no longer valid. As Japan's economy became more prosperous, they became more experienced travelers and less dependent on tour guides. They became more sophisticated and independent. My guess is the same will probably hold true with the Chinese market.

Life has a funny way of slapping you upside the head though whenever you make snap judgments or brand people. We were on a bus tour to the Blue Mountains, which is about a two hour ride from Sydney. I'll be honest: we were praying there would be no large group of Chinese getting on board with us -- not because they're Chinese, but simply because we can't stand being around loud chatterboxes in movies, theaters, wherever. White, black, I don't care. If I pay to see or hear some form of entertainment, I do not want to listen to someone else giving a running commentary.

Anyhow, we were the first on, so we sat up front to hear the guided tour better. Sure enough, after we picked up a few other people, a Chinese couple got on and sat right next to us. I thought: Oh, no... they're gonna be translating whatever the guide says back and forth the entire time in Chinese! But no, they were quiet. And quite nice as it turned out. While we were stopped at a wildlife park, they saw me taking a picture of my wife with a koala. The husband smiled and asked me if I would like him to take a picture of us together. It's one of my favorite photos from our trip.

Koala and us

There's another racial element in Australia that I'll write about in my next post: the Aborigines. What's surprising is how many appear Caucasian... and according to some news commentary I read over there, there's a reason why many seemingly "white" Aussies are identifying themselves as Aborigine.

Some of what has happened in the past to them, and what's going on now, is reminiscent of the treatment of Native Hawaiians. History is a tricky thing... there are those who want to embrace and celebrate select episodes from the past. But with that comes the knowledge there were many wrongs done as well, which can never be undone.

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The new February episode of Career Changers TV was preempted by high school sports again this week, but as they would say Down Under (and say it frequently), "No worries, mate!" That's because there are plenty of other times during the day you can watch or DVR the show. Just check out your onscreen TV guide for OC16 or go to our website. You can also check out low res versions of segments from past and present episodes on the CCTV YouTube Channel.

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