Archive for October, 2009


October 24th, 2009

After a two-year effort at getting a CDUA, local aquaculture company Hawaii Oceanic Technology, LLC (HOT) got DLNR approval for its project on Friday, October 23rd. In many ways, this is a milestone and more, it’s an historic event.

This DLNR action is a huge success for aquaculture and technology in Hawaii. Open ocean aquaculture has finally gotten a foothold, the official blessing of a permit, in Hawaii. Good for HOT for braving the slings and arrows over these two years. Good for DLNR for having done the right thing and granted the permit.

HOT’s business is to deploy large fish cages some 65 feet below the surface in state waters off Kona, and to grow locally grown Ahi fingerlings using cutting edge technology in the feed, the cages and in the mechanisms that drive and hold them at their designated locations.

HOT’s plan is to sell these Ahi here in Hawaii and elsewhere. The fact is that the world’s oceans are being fished out and the new technology adopted by HOT comes in the nick of time. We hope things go well from here on out, and that HOT is now able to complete the project and make it operational at an early date.

Congratulations, HOT and Bill Spencer, CEO of HOT. Good luck and Godspeed in this important venture.

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October 20th, 2009

The answer is resoundingly yes. Our K-12 system is in the tank and getting worse with furloughs. On Monday, there was an article in the Advertiser about Virtual Schools, and although it was one of those wire service articles talking about various places on the Mainland, it got me thinking about whether there could be a kind of educational arbitrage between those places and Hawaii.

So what’s not to like. Virtual classes allow for maximum flexibility on both sides of the equation. Kids can learn where and when they want, and schools aren’t burdened because it’s mostly online. Not to say that all kids would do well in this setting – as with virtual offices, some people are better at working online than others. There’s always the possibility of distraction, and you have to discipline yourself. If you do, you’ll learn more and do it at your own pace.

Virtual schools and classes are apparently getting very popular and spreading all over the mainland and beyond. Sometimes they’re private and sometimes they’re run by state governments or school districts. Florida, Kansas and Missouri, are running major virtual programs, and with notable success.

Look at any virtual school online catalog. The courses cover the field, not just in technology subject but in math, biology, physics, marine science, chemistry, languages, culture, geography, history, economics, psychology, and more. The list goes on. Anything you can take in school, you can take in virtual school.

This is just another example of how technology, and especially the internet, can solve problems we can’t otherwise solve. What’s more is that when you develop curricula and software in one state, you can easily scale them up and export them to other states. Where K-12 education can be frighteningly expensive, as in Hawaii, virtual programs are cheap and can save lots of taxpayer money.

The metrics are built in, and that saves even more time and money. There are sophisticated programs to measure progress and share it with students and parents. Achievement data is already on the web, all right there for the taking.

It’s not as if the virtual student doesn’t have the chance to interact in these programs. The kids in these programs have plenty of interaction. The software is available around the clock, and on the web their virtual classmates are easily available too. The teachers in these virtual programs regularly meet with students online and many will do chat outside of school hours. That’s great, and that’s dedication. It must be exciting to be a teacher in a virtual program.

And why not? Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL) in Pioneer Plaza has been organizing distance learning and virtual classes all over the Pacific Islands for years, right down to video graduations involving graduates from all those islands. They’ve had great success in teaching over the miles.

Surely, the graduate research model of collaborating with colleagues around the world would also work in K-12. Why can’t we have a virtual class that crosses national or continental boundaries? Wouldn’t it be great if your kid was in a class with students in a dozen countries around the world? University of Phoenix has developed this for college students, but why not high school too.

Some people worry about lack of physical participation in a virtual program. But you can give a speech, have a debate, present a recital and engage with teachers and other students on the web. When you want do something physical you can go to school and play in the orchestra, go to the gym or a school dance. Certainly, all virtual classes will make Jack a dull boy, so the answer is a mixture where you attend school some of the time and virtual classes at other times. That’s the way it seems to be heading the mainland.

Judging from what’s happening around the country, virtual programs are the wave of the future, and a wonderful sea change at that. Judging from the web, there’s a groundswell of interest and growth. Although Hawaii has the Hawaii Virtual School, it’s a part of Illuminated Learning out of Atlanta. We need to do more. Award winning virtual software has been developed, and it’s low hanging fruit. What are we waiting for? Our kids have plenty of time for virtual courses these days – they’re only getting taught 130 hours a month.

Just as charter schools, we’d like virtual programs to solve all the problems our educational system. That’s not likely to happen, at least not at first. But in many ways, virtual programs could be a magic bullet for at least some students to get to the next level with a minimum of effort and public expense. It’s not “no child left behind”, but “every child has the opportunity to learn at his own pace.”

That doesn’t sound bad at all. And as Hawaii’s schools continue their decline, virtual programs are going to look better and better. So let’s start doing it now. Check it out on Google – search for the Virtual High School Global Consortium, which is comprised of more than 500 member schools from 29 states and 34 countries. Is Hawaii keeping up or are we missing something? You decide.

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October 13th, 2009

Ever walk around the Manoa Campus on a Saturday or Sunday? It’s only for brave, lonely or misguided souls. Silent tumbleweed prevails – just as across the erstwhile biotech campus at Kakaako – with nothing happening. So quiet, you can hear a pin drop.

But there is life inside the corner of Sakamaki Hall – where Pacific New Media (PNM), vital and still going strong after all these years, has its cutting edge software lab. PNM is dedicated to teaching media software, and well, to our community - a gem to those who know about it, and an eye-opening discovery to those who don’t.

I wasn’t there for drill. Let me tell you about the class I attended at PNM over the past couple of weekends. It was a great learning experience, well worth being there and worth mentioning here.

It was a class in Final Cut Pro 7 (FCP), which is one of the many fabulous programs in the new Final Cut Studio. This is flagship software from Apple. It’s a leader in professional video editing.

There were about a dozen in the class. My guess is they all had professional experience with FCP. They were all good natured, and always willing to help the person next to them. The classroom was bristling with good ideas, tips and tricks you wanted to take home.

The teacher, from whom I have taken a number of courses at PNM over the years, was Steve Szabo, a leading video editor in Hawaii. He is steeped and fully credentialed in FCP and in teaching FCP. One student called him an “officer and a gentleman” who gave the class “knowledge and power” and “brought it together as a team”.

That student found the class a “thrilling and exciting boot camp” where they started on varying levels of knowledge but finished as a “united front of warriors capable of capturing and rendering footage until it was useful.”

He said the “chicken skin” moment was at the end when they did a group cheer. “Forming a circle, fists clinched and in each of our own native tongues, we yelled FINAL CUT PRO, screaming at the top of our lungs so loud that the veins were popping out of our necks, we knew this class had changed our lives forever.”

This was not an ordinary class, and Steve Szabo is not an ordinary teacher - he can perform any task and answer any question. His style is casual but structured. He refers to the text, which helps you when you forget something later, and his own rich experience.

He’s quick to see and deal with your level of comprehension and respond to class quips. He shows you wonderful movies from his editing business and makes FCP come alive. He takes you through the powerful menus, buttons and boxes, from miracle to miracle.

You can’t appreciate the astonishing power and complexity of these programs until you’ve taken a course in them. I’m self-taught in FCP among others, with a Swiss cheese kind of understanding. A class like this brings things together for me, as nothing else would.

Most of the students went on to take the FCP test that was offered this week. Good luck to them. If they pass, they’ll have better prospects in the job market, which is a little sketchy right now.

Do we have a video editing post production industry here? Are there jobs? Yes, but it’s a conglomeration of small shops, and editors who move around. If we made more movies here, and if producers were willing to hire more local rather than mainland editors, we’d have more shops and more jobs. That’d be great.

Until that happens, all we can do is train and encourage those who would be editors, and make them competent and creative so they can form the nucleus of a post production industry, waiting for word of their talent to get around and for a wave of local movies.

FCP is only one of many excellent courses offered at PNM. Just Google “Pacific New Media” and you’ll see their delicious catalog - a curriculum as good as this doesn’t happen overnight or by accident.

Credit goes to Susan Horowitz as PNM’s prime mover and muse there, and to her many talented teachers, local and visiting, who keep us coming to Manoa during these quiet weekends, including Steve Szabo and, one of my other all time favorites, Colin MacDonald.

Keep up the good work, you guys, you give great training and you nourish the development of an important industry. Good for you.

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October 6th, 2009

In last Sunday's Advertiser, I wrote about credit card technology in tolls and restaurants in Europe and in the new generation of extraordinary vending machines. There wasn't enough room to cover one other aspect of the subject - credit card terminals in the passenger seats of taxicabs - and I'd like to mention that here.

New York taxis are different now. You can use credit cards to pay your fare. There’s a touch screen facing the passenger that provides news and entertainment, your GPS location and your current fare. When you’ve arrived, a bill pops up. You add a tip and swipe your card, and presto you’re done.

These devices are now required for yellow cabs, the ones you want to take. The touch screen lets you automatically add a 20%, 25% or 30% percent tip the fare. You can calculate the tip manually, but it takes longer and many people who might be inclined to tip less just push 20% to get on with things.

The system also allows managers track the taxis and send text messages to driver screens with emergency alerts, traffic conditions, lost luggage and information about fare opportunities. As they go forward, the scope and value of this message traffic will undoubtedly expand and further improve the driver and passenger experience.

This system was designed by Creative Mobile Technologies (CMT) and has been in use in New York since 2007, when the taxi union struck and unsuccessfully sued to stop the changeover on the basis of driver privacy concerns over the GPS. Since then, it has also been installed in Chicago and Boston.

To its credit, TheCab in Hawaii provides credit card machines to its drivers, but as far I know they are the only one and their approach isn’t nearly as advanced as the CMT system. That system is a great idea that was waiting to be found, and we should close the gap on it. As a hospitality-based economy, it’s the least we can do.

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