Cutting The Cable, Pt 1

A few weeks ago I mentioned to some friends that my wife and I were considering cutting off our cable TV services and simply going with their RoadRunner service for Internet, getting a Roku 3 (about $95) and an HD antenna (about $20 for a basic model from Amazon.com). Weʻre figuring that if we cut the cable TV weʻll be saving $80 or so a month.

The HD antenna has not been all that we had hoped. We get the following Hawai‘i broadcast services from our place just above the new Pu‘u Kukui School and below Wailuku Heights:

4.1 – KITV HD (ABC)
4.2 – MeTv
9.1 – K5
10.1 – PBS Hawai‘i
10.2 – KIKU (I think – Japanese programming)
13.1 KHNL (NBC)
13.2 KHNL (Antenna TV)

imageNo KHON2/Fox at all, no matter where the antenna is hung. KITV is usually OK, but shows some pixelation periodically. Perhaps a better quality antenna would help, but from what I’ve been reading in Hawaiʻi discussion forums, a better antenna probably will not help – if the broadcast signal sucks a great antenna won’t help, and reports are that many truly do suck. Iʻve moved the one we got around and mounted it to various flat surfaces that the cable can reach, and the position to the right seems to get the best reception.

The Roku is getting mixed reviews for now. Maybe it’s option anxiety. Tons of movies, TV shows and other content in there, but hard to wade through it all. The acid test will be when the new television season starts in September, and how quickly those shows are available on HuluPlus. The Roku came with two free months of HuluPlus. Based on whatʻs in there now, I don’t think we’ll subscribe, but see what happens in October when the trial is finished.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that PBS has its own channel in there, and not only features national programs but some local programming, like Leslie Wilcox’s “Long Story Short”. We subscribe to Amazon Plus, so plenty of free movies and TV shows, but new releases take a long time for find their way into Prime, and some never do.

I’m trying to stick to the broadcast channels and Roku to see if that combination will be enough to cut the cable soon. It will take some getting used to.

Nā Hōkū Hanohano 101, Part 3: Award Categories

hokuIt is important for HARA members, individuals who may submit product for consideration, and fans to understand the various categories for which Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards are given each year. There are 34 total awards, and they can be grouped into four broad award categories – General Awards (10 awards), Genre Awards (18), Technical Awards (2), and Adjudicated Awards (4). Please note that this article is current as of April, 2014, and may not reflect any changes in criteria or eligibility that the board may implement after that time.

The following are the General Categories: Continue reading

Nā Hōkū Hanohano 101, Part 2: Eligibility

hokuDisclaimer: I am not a member of the Board of Governors of HARA. What I write here is based on my prior experience as a board member, continuting interaction with them and other members, and continuing service on the selection committee. Hopefully it will help, inform and entertain you, but take it with a grain of salt, and a dash of sarcasm.

The first hurdle to understanding the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards entry process is knowing what determines a release’s eligibility for the awards, and there are several factors that play into this: Continue reading

The Origins of Hawaiian Language Support in Mac OS and iOS: So You Want To Change The World?

BryanFryeOnly a handful of my friends will recognize the gentleman standing in the back of this picture, Brian Frye. He is one of the unsung heroes of getting technology support for ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i to where it is today. I’ve told this story to some folks privately, but never shared it publicly before. Since he’s not at Apple anymore, it’s safe to do so.

Brian was an Apple support engineer for Hawai‘i in the mid-late 1990s. During his time here we became friends, and he tried to help me find the individuals who could assist us in getting support for the Hawaiian language into Mac OS, but with little luck. He returned to work at Apple’s at headquarters after that. One day he was walking through the hallways of Apple’s headquarters, passed a couple of people talking in the hallway, and overheard one say to the other, “what other languages don’t we support?” Turns out they were system engineers working on language support in OS X. He stopped, introduced himself and said “there is a guy in Hawai‘i you need to talk to.” Me. The connection was made, and 18 months or so of email exchanges, swapped files, and testing followed. On August 24, 2002, Mac OS 10.2 shipped, and in it were a Hawaiian keyboard, sorting routines and some translated strings (mostly date and time related).

The fact that iOS’s core software was largely based on OS X meant that a lot of support for Hawaiian that is baked into OS X transferred to iOS. Brian had left Apple by then, but the connections he helped forge remained, and we were able to get them to add the ability to type the ‘okina and kahakō, and eventually a Hawaiian keyboard in iOS. Other friends have helped along the way, but as they are still at Apple it is best if I don’t name names here. But none of it would have happened if not for that chance meeting in Cupertino. Mahalo nui, Brian. If any of you have ever typed an ‘okina or kahakō on any Apple device, you should mahalo him as well. And mahalo Beryl Morimoto for sharing the pic.

Pipi holo ka‘ao…

Nā Hōkū Hanohano 101, Part 1: Educate Yourself

hoku

Disclaimer: I am not a member of the Board of Governors of HARA. What I write here is based on my prior experience as a board member, continuting interaction with them and other members, and continuing service on the selection committee. Hopefully it will help, inform and entertain you, but take it with a grain of salt, and a dash of sarcasm.

Since last December or so, I’ve gotten a lot of messages, texts, and emails from folks asking for help or advice about their entries for the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards (there is a different season for Grammy requests). Sometimes I feel like I need to add “Music Awards Program Consultant” to my résumé. While it may seem more convoluted than necessary, it’s really not. It is a challenge for the Board and office staff because of the number of categories and variety of criteria that guide them in placing releases in various categories. The changing landscape of the recording industry also requires that they adjust as necessary. Continue reading

He Ahupuaʻa Ke Mele

“Ke Ahupuaʻa” by Mele McPherson.

“Ke Ahupuaʻa” by Mele McPherson.

I was thrilled to have my paper, entitled “He Ahupuaʻa Ke Mele: The Ahupuaʻa Land Division as a Conceptual Metaphor for Hawaiian Language Composition and Vocal Performance”, published in the journal Ethnomusicology Reivew today. I started it over five and a half years ago in a single 10 hour (or so) writing binge that started at about 2 A.M. on a cold morning in Dunedin, N.Z. After many revisions and much restructuring, and trying to weave western academic theory with a Hawaiian conceptual model (the ahupua‘a) it was finally ready to see the light of day.

Mahalo palena ‘ole to everyone who contributed their mana‘o and support doing this long process, and to the editors of Ethnomusicology Review for feeling it worthy of publication..

Cooking Miles 101

airplane-flight-sunsetIt’s been about six weeks since I started my new hobby of maximizing the miles in our frequent flyer accounts, and it’s been a learning experience. With a moderate amount of money and effort, I’ve added about 12,000 miles to my United Mileage Plus account, and have probaby another 5,000 or so in the pipeline. Accumulating miles does take some patience as you don’t always get the miles instantaneously. Some, particular though the MyPoints service, can take weeks or months to show up in your account. There are weeks where miles fly in fast and furious, and others where it it is just a trickle.

Understanding the cost of miles is important here, so if you decide to get into this dust off your math skills. The value of miles varies from airline to airline and program to program. I’ve been focusing on my United Mileage Plus account, and it seems that a lot of folks value them from 1.5 to 1.8 cents per mile. United recently “devalued” their miles. this means that it now costs more miles to fly to certain locales, especially if you want to fly on any of their partner airlines and in better seats (business and first class).

I discovered that my wife’s 25,000 MP miles had expired, but could be reinstated for a fee of $50. This worked out to .02 cents per mile, so it was an easy decision to buy. If you buy miles from the United, you could be paying 3.5 cents or a bit less if you do so during one of their promotions, but concensus is this is almost always a bad deal unless you desperately need a minimum amount of miles to reach a goal.

A lot of folks apply for credit cards frequently for the miles they offer, particularly those that waive the yearly fee for the first year. They earn their miles, and close the cards before being billed for the fee in the second year. This is referred to as “churning” cards, and there is no way I’m playing that game. But after doing some research on the issue, I got a Chase Business Ink card. Why? One, it does have a 50,000 mile bonus after meeting a modest minumum spending goal. Two, it offers 5X miles for every dollar spent at office supply stores and for telecommunication services. I spend about $275 a month for cable, Internet and cell phone service. This means 1,375 miles generated per month (16,500 per year) and simply routing the payments I’d be making anyway through the Business Ink card.

Some folks refer to this as “travel hacking”, a term that others deride, and I can understand why. Compared to computer hacking (i.e., gaining illicity access to computer systems), the activity of accumulating miles by using strategies discovered by miles hardly qualifies. I agree. It takes some skill and creativity to come up with these “hacks”, and when someone used the methods developed by others it was referred to as using “cookbook” methods. Those that come up with the schemes deserve some accolades, like the fellow that earned 2.4 million miles by ordering coins online at face value, with free shipping and miles. If you are simply following the methods thought up by others, you’re cooking miles, not hacking them, at least in my opinion.

For anyone interested in taking up this hobby, I can only counsel that you do your research, follow the blogs of folks who have been doing this for a while and share their discoveries and those of others. I’ve been using an RSS reader and subscribed to about a dozen miles-related blogs that produce regular posts and highlight new methods for cooking miles and carry other news about miles and traveling in general (click here for an OPML file that contains my subscriptions). Start off cautiously but once you’ve learned from small mistakes you’ll inevitably make (frequently caused by failing to read the fine print in some offers), be brave and step up your game.

If you are an experienced travel hacker who has a blog on the issue, feel free to leave a comment and let me know about your site. I realize that what I have here is miles hacking/cooking 101, so no snide comments, please. I’m just posting as I’m learning.

Facebook Vacation

facebook

I decided to take a vacation from Facebook for a while. It’s been a week and while I miss my friends there I don’t miss the amount of time I tend to spend on it. Dealing with the Institute of Hawaiian Music, my music classes at UH-MC, trying to put together my contract renewal document (due Nov. 1), and my new travel hacking hobby, I have plenty to keep me busy.

Just as a quick update on the travel hacking – I’ve padded my United Miles account by about 5,000 miles with modest effort in less than a month, have another 3,000 or so pending, and using a couple of other mileage accumulation sites, should have another 5,000 or so within the next we weeks. It’s mostly fun work, sometimes tedious, but I’m looking at is as thought I’m creating a travel savings account, using my time rather than money (mostly).

If you are a Facebook friend of mine, feel free to leave a comment if you like. But life is good, and I’ll probably stay off of FB for another few weeks, at least until my contract renewal document is completed and submitted.

2013 Hawai‘i Grammy Entry Update

I really don’t mean to be “Grammy Awards Central” when it comes to news and information for Hawai‘i artists, but posting here will help me keep from repeating myself in emails.

The HARA office and I prepared and submitted entries for 36 or so CDs and songs in a variety of categories. All releases are reviewed by a committee of individuals knowledgeable in those categories and the genres included in them. In searching out our entries, it seems that these committees did reclassify some entries. There was at least one releases entered in Regional Roots (where Hawaiian music releases go) that was moved to folk. Two Hawai‘i releases that were submitted to “Americana” were moved into “Pop”, and one “Alternative” entry was moved to “Rock.”

Sorry folks, but this is the Academy’s prerogative. You can call and inquire of complain, but the final entry list is final and they won’t change it. All you could do if you are unhappy with your placement is tell them “remove my release from contention”, which means if you were to receive enough votes to make the final ballot, you would be kept off. Would anyone really want that?

I think that our local Alternative community is a great example of a group that is defining what “Alternative” means in Hawai‘i. But that doesn’t mean that the national would agree with the music fitting their criteria of “Alternative.” Same goes for“rock.” Does anyone thing that most of the country thinks of Jack Johnson as a rock artist? He won Best Rock Album at Nā Hōkū Hanohano a few years ago. That’s not a criticism as all, but another example of how we define genres differently.

Fortunately I believe that all but one of our Hawai‘i releases in Regional Roots was kept there. Good luck to all of our Hawai‘i entries.

Travel Hacking

Travel HackI’ve been a member of a couple of frequent flyer programs for as long as I can remember, including Hawaiian and United Airlines, Avis Rent A Car and a few others. If we’d take a long trip and find a better fare on a different airlines, we’d sign up for that airlines program, book it, and not think about it again. There was no real forethought about the value of the miles, concern if they were lost, or planning made to maximize them.

Last week I made a trip to LA for business. I took Hawaiian as they had a flight at a decent price that got into LA late in the day, and enabled me to get a good night’s sleep before the next day’s meeting. Flying United from Hawai‘i at a decent fare almost always means catching a red-eye that arrives in LA early AM, resulting in a red-eyed Keola at meetings later that morning. I am rarely able to sleep on airplanes.

I was booked at a Hilton hotel for the trip, and forgot to check my Hilton Honors status before leaving. I hadn’t used it for years, and apparently my account was purged from the system. Arriving at my room I found that they charged $14.95 a day for Internet. I can’t work without it, so out came the credit card, got online, and one of my first acts was to reestablish an HH membership. I noticed that Hilton provides free Internet for HH members who have Silver status, but clearly didn’t qualify. When I returned to Maui, I did an online search, and found a link that provide a free upgrade to HH Silver status. The site also mentioned a term I had heard before but didn’t think too much about – travel hacking.

Travel hackers take a systematic approach to maximizing the miles they earn and minimizing the amount they use while traveling. I was surprised to discover how many sites are dedicated to this endeavor, and the extent to which these folks will go to earn and save them. There are also some interesting sites that offer miles for filling out surveys online.

It seems that there are some folks out there who are as obsessive about this activity as some “extreme couponers” area, and I have to admit after a few ours I found myself wrapped up in it all. I got my HH Silver Status, joined a few airlines that are part of the three major frequent flyer alliance programs to make sure I don’t miss out on any opportunities, and started filling out some surveys. A few hours work netted a few thousand miles in my United account, though that includes a few “signup bonus” rewards that won’t be awarded again. Hopefully it will be worth it somewhere down the road. The other component of this activity is maximizing the miles you travel using at minimum cost in cash and FF miles. But I’ll worry about that part when I get the miles.

If any of my friends out there has any experience with this activity please feel free to drop me a note.