Monday, July 22, 2013

Dream Big, It's Free!

Over the years, I think most people who know me would say that I am a pretty upbeat, optimistic guy. Don't get me wrong, I have a cynical and sarcastic streak a mile long, but I think it is tempered by my ultimately positive outlook.

I am often telling people that they can reach their goals, accomplish their dreams or persist toward their objectives.

On any given day, I am feeling pretty good and even on the not-so-good days, I often say that I have no complaints. Friends who have known me for a while have heard me say, "At least I don't have to dig ditches or clean crime scenes for a living..."

Not to be glib, but that is my way of reminding folks that I don't feel I can complain when there are people in this country who have genuinely difficult or thankless jobs to perform every single day. And I know that there are people out there who are far less fortunate than I. But that is just part of it.

I am happy most days because I realize what an amazing time we live in. We have greater access to information, food, culture, and travel than at any other time in recorded history. In fact, in all but the most oppressive countries (and even many of those pale in comparison to societies past), people can connect to the world. And today that means having access to more resources and opportunities than most can even grasp.

Sure, it is not all rosy. We still suffer from war, famine, and injustice. But in today's connected world, it is hard to imagine that we cannot do something about those things, if we only decide to do it.

Think about it, in the past forty years we have seen the end of the Berlin Wall, the Soviet Union, apartheid in South Africa and many autocratic regimes around the world. In those same years we have also put an international space station in orbit, landed a rover on Mars, criss-crossed the planet with the World Wide Web and mapped the human genome. And that's what makes me optimistic.

As was once said by Napoleon Hill, advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt,  "What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve." And perhaps there has never been a time in the history of the world where that has been more possible.

So maybe that's it. The reason at the heart of why, on any given day, I can be happy is because every day I know there is the hope that we can each achieve those things we dream about, if only we allow ourselves to dream.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

In a Rare Defense of the Oblivious

So today on, a story ran depicting the apparent obliviousness of a ring girl working a recent MMA event. The article openly mocks this girl and the comments posted reinforce a basic idea: How could anyone miss the obviousness of the fact that the fight was over?


The writer of the Yahoo article paints a picture of the situation and wonders out loud, how in the world could someone miss any detail of a fight when all eyes are clearly on the ring for the entire duration of the bout? This observation makes a lot of assumptions including that everyone who is working at a fight has the opportunity to be watching the fight as if they were a paying customer. But even beyond that, there can be a couple of very simple reasons why this girl appears to be completely oblivious to the situation unfolding around her.

She may not know very much about MMA bouts or how her role fits into the bigger picture. This is a situation where compartmentalization of information hamstrings a single part of the whole. In this case, her instructions may have been limited to a simple, "When the bell rings, take your sign and walk around the ring." That's it. And why? Perhaps because the promoters and organizers of these events treat these girls as unintelligent in the same fashion that the readers of Yahoo! apparently concur.

She may not care much for the actual fight: it's a modeling job. If you are a young woman with few prospects but big dreams about being discovered, you may believe that any exposure is better than none. And for the ring girl given the "Round 2" sign, I can imagine that she wasn't counting on the fight being over before she got her moment in the spot light.

She may be just like any of one of millions of working people; if it's not part of her job, it's not her concern. This is the point that I think is most important. Readers of the Yahoo! article, or even those who saw the fight, feel free to criticize this girl forgetting on simple fact: it's a job. I can tell you from my own experience that there are many, many people in every walk of like who treat their own jobs the exact same way. Many people go to work, clock in and then do what they are tasked to do. No initiative. No observing the rest of the company. And most time, people just plain don't worry about what else is going on in the world around.

So why did this girl miss the fact that the fight was over? Probably because she is just like most of us. Too busy thinking about what we need to do to notice what anyone else is doing.

Friday, February 15, 2013

On the Good Ship Hyperbole

This week, the Carnival Cruise Ship Triumph ran into some trouble at sea. Was it a plague? Was it marauding pirates? Did the ship hit a shallow reef?(Costa Concordia)

Nope. Instead there was a fire and a power outage. Don't get me wrong, a ship fire is a very scary thing. Clearly it can wreak havoc upon a ship in unexpected ways and I do not mean to devalue the genuine issues that faced the ship and its passengers.

However, I do take issue with it being referred to as a "nightmare" cruise. It makes me wonder by what standard are we calling this a nightmare? Carnival-Triumph-Cruise-Returns-Sewage-New-Yorkers-on-Ship

I don't think it would take more than as moment to find examples of true maritime "nightmares" from our own past, some not so distant.

On June 15, 1904, the PS General Slocum sank in New York's East River after experiencing a fire. The ship's lack of safety equipment and presence of flammable materials doomed 1,037 out of the 1,358 people on board that day.

On April 27, 1865, the SS Sultana sank in the Mississippi river. It was a steamboat paddlewheeler in the region and tragedy struck when three of the ship's four boiler exploded sending the Sultana to the river bottom. An estimate 1600 people died.


And perhaps most famous of all, the RMS Titanic struck disaster when it could not avoid an iceberg in the North Atlantic. Infamously, 1,532 people died in the freezing waters unnecessarily due to an under-equipped ship and an under-trained crew.

RMS Titanic

Given the tragic disasters and nightmare scenarios that have been experienced in the long history of shipboard travel, I pose the question: Where exactly on the nightmare scale does the Triumph truly rank?

Give Blood!

So this morning I find myself heading down to the Blood Bank of Hawaii to give blood. They called me earlier in the week stating that they had a critical shortage of my blood type and having given in the past, I was on the roster to give again.

I am happy to give blood especially in a time of need, but don't get me wrong, I don't really like it. I have never been fond of getting any kind of hand injuries so the hemoglobin test is kinda scary to me. I realize that it is only a small stick, but the anticipation really gets me. I am surprised that my pulse rate is so low after getting jabbed in the finger. On top of that, the idea of voluntarily sticking a needle in my vein, when I am perfectly healthy, even for the best of intentions, seems counter intuitive to me.

So why give?

I don't to tell you all the statistics about how much blood is needed every day or that each donation can potentially save three lives. The Blood Bank does a good job of getting the word out on the need for blood. In my case, I do it because of my family.

Like a lot of things in life, being a husband and father has given me a new perspective on the need to do the right thing especially in the face of your fears.But it was when I took my 11-year-old son with me to donate blood that it really hit me why I need to give, in particular.

My son was with me for my donation in December really out of necessity. He was off for the day and I had a commitment to go give at the new blood donation center. Whenever I take him to do things that are new to him, I take the time to explain things and answer his questions.

On this trip, I was explaining the need for variety people to give because of their different blood types. As it turns out, I am AB+. I told him that people call that the "Universal Receiver" because people with that type of blood can take any type in an emergency. On the other hand, people call type O folks, "Universal Donors" since anyone can receive their blood.

To this, my son said that I am lucky because I can receive any blood type. He was right.

However, I told him that it was because other type AB+ people can get any blood type that I really must donate. He looked puzzled.

I told him that because type AB+ folks can use whatever blood is available, I wanted to make sure that there would be sufficient blood of the appropriate type so that they would not deplete the supply for others.

Still puzzled.

Then I told him, imagine we were having a pizza party and we had three types of people showing up. One group were lactose-intolerant, one group were vegetarian and the last had no dietary restrictions. As a consequence, we order three types of pizza: cheese-less, plain pizzas with just crust and sauce; vegetarian pizzas with cheese but no meat and then supreme pizzas with the works.

I reminded him that there was a time when he could not eat dairy at all and asked, "So how would you feel if I showed up at the party and ate the plain pizza with no cheese?"

He answered, "But then what would I eat?"

"Well, I got to the party first and saw that I could eat any of the pizzas since I have no dietary restrictions, so I ate the plain pizza. In fact, I ate some of the vegetarian pizza too."

He looked concerned.

"So do you think it is fair if I eat all the different pizzas just because I can knowing that there are people who cannot?"

"No. Because then the other people will have nothing."

I explained to him that if you have fewer limits that it does not entitle you to more. That instead it means you have an obligation to do your part to make sure that you are not infringing on access to the same basic things that you may otherwise take for granted.

Who knew that a mere two months later, I would get the call that would confirm my theory. That there are too few AB+ people giving blood and although I will never be at a loss should I need blood, there are many others who could be right now.

So if you are healthy, give blood. It can be a little scary, but I promise that it is worth it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Aloha Hon. Senator Daniel K. Inouye

This week, the Honorable Senator Daniel K. Inouye passed from complications related to respiratory illness. He was 88.

I won't pretend to know a lot about the senior senator from Hawaii. He was a peer to my grandparents and part of the "Greatest Generation." He is well known through the islands and the nation as a war hero and a staunch defender of the little guy. He served the State of Hawaii as a senator for 50 years and was a key member of the Democrat Revolution post-statehood.

What little I know of the senator comes from newspaper articles and stories people here tell about him. I met him once by pure chance while living back on the Big Island. I say that it was by pure chance because I happened to be working as a temporary hire at Hawaii Community College during a visit he made there.

The senator was visiting the campus to see the work completed under a program he had funded called the Rural Development Project. I was working with the coordinator at the time and was a part of the ceremony to welcome Sen. Inouye to Hilo and the college.

It was at this ceremony that the senator shared a story about his mother. She had been orphaned as a child on Maui and taken in for a time by a Hawaiian family. As you can imagine, there was little formal system to handle orphans back then and this family came forward and simply took her into their home. The senator went on to say that his mother impressed upon him how big an impact that was on her young life and that she expected him to fulfill a commitment to supporting the Hawaiian people.

This a story that I do not think everyone has heard. I don't think that it is the kind of story he is often called upon to tell except when folks are interviewing him about his personal life. His life away from World War II and from the politics of Washington D.C. He told it as a story that underscores a philosophical belief that he held and reveals a side to his own upbringing that he held close.

No one is perfect and Sen. Inouye had his own political ups and downs. However, I will always think about that story he told in my hometown and take to heart the message of living up to a lifetime commitment.

Mahalo e Sen. Inouye. You will be missed.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Power & Politics

So watching the conventions, I made one realization. The rich are anti-government because they don't like the idea of anyone having any power over them. The government is the great equalizer. And it is the great equalizer in this country because it is us. We, the people. It makes me wonder if you can be considered a patriot when you hate 90% of the people with whom you share the country with and who are the country?

Okay, maybe I have gotten a little ahead of myself. Perhaps you don't believe that any politician or political wannabe could possibly hate other Americans. Sure they can. And do. They do it in that same mental illness afflicted way that anyone who wants to externalize blame does it. They demonize them and say that they are not "real Americans."

I know, now you are thinking, "I don't recall ever hearing a politician specifically refer to someone as not a real American." That may be true. However, have you ever thought about what they are really saying when a Mitt Romney says that he was talking to some "real Americans" in middle America?

Now this does require a little logic and rational thinking and maybe even a little math, so hang in there. If Mitt Romney has to go halfway across the country to speak to some "real Americans" then what does that say about the people who are right there in his home state? Or any other state? Are there only "real Americans" located in certain parts of this country? What does that make the rest of us?

Maybe I am being a little oversensitive, but I get a little offended when someone who has not met me can so casually strip me of my citizenship and my loyalty. It's strange that the same guys who will blast the majority of people living in this country as unAmerican can turn around and wrap themselves in the flag. The flag that, by the way, they seem to value far more than anyone of us.

And so goes the battle between the right and the left. It's too bad both sides don't fight fairly. And I will say it, the GOP does a great disservice to us all with its draconian attitude toward helping the majority of Americans. All us little folk need to stay in line and tow that barge and tote that bail.

Since I first started this post about two weeks ago, it has come to light that presidential candidate and former governor Mitt Romney does indeed hate a big chunk of Americans. Perhaps not so high as 90% but a fair amount at 47%. 

What started out for me as an entry into pure speculation about the true feelings of those who seek to rule us has become instead an oddly accurate summary of how little some politicians think about so many of us. And to their credit, the GOP is finally letting their true colors show.

Now to those of you who will say that the Democrats are not any better, you are entitled to your opinion. I think that both parties have their flaws but I would rather put my trust in the party that is open about expecting all Americans to help all Americans through a judicious use of government than a party who would like to help themselves by eliminating our greatest mechanism to work together.

To put it plainly, the American people don't need to get their country back. We need to get our government back. We need to wrestle it away from those who would use it to serve themselves at the expense of the rest of us. We need to recapture a government that was designed to work for all of us because it is all of us.

Tricks and Treats

Whoa! That was a quick month!

Okay, so it would seem that the busier things get, the less likely anything will get posted here at 73 percent. This is not that unusual though. I can recall back when I used to do this the old-fashioned way in a marble composition tablet that there would be huge gaps in my "journal" (let's be honest, it was a diary) whenever anything more interesting was going on. Translation: I only used to write because things were slow.

Back then, it meant that things were slow socially. These days, it means that things are slow professionally.

However, I discovered this writing device that I like to employ whenever breaks like this take place. It's called the "recap."

This past month was really all about a couple of things. One, a big trip to Seattle to visit colleges to learn more about learning community best practices. Believe it or not, I found it quite interesting. Not only was the subject matter compelling to me but the people I met were also very engaging and generous with their time. And hey, I am not mostly nerd for nothing.

The second big thing was getting my father-in-law over and situated at our apartment so that he could watch over my son while my wife was also on a business trip and I had an accreditation site visit to participate in. One of the challenges of having two professionals in one marriage is scheduling conflicts. In our case, this was the big one for the year. Luckily, my father-in-law came through like a champ!

All in all, we ended up very fortunate. Despite the crazy schedule, we were both back home in Honolulu by October 26. As it turns out we just missed an earthquake, a tsunami and a Franken-storm all within one week!

More on the my Seattle adventure later. For now, I hope everyone out there had a Happy Halloween!