• The Hawaii State Library recently updated its website to a more dynamic format.  RSS feeds are available, as are .ics calendar imports.  I like it, it's a tad more intuitive than before, but it does require changing your bookmarks and relearning where to find your favorite links. 

    Recently, I visited the library and couldn't find my library card.  I had the number however, so I was able to download their app, available for both Apple and Android devices.  Finding the app wasn't intuitive at all.  To get the app, type in the words "Chilifresh Hawaii."  The app isn't new.  It's been there for two years, but due to a lack of publicity -- even on the new site -- it's underused.

    hspls chilifresh

    On the left hand top, there's a menu.  Enter your account credentials, and you can use your phone as your library card.  It's nice.  Non-electronic resources are all catalogued and you can request and hold your books on the go.  You can also see what you've checked out and extend your due date if you need to.

    On the subject of library apps, there are also digital collections that require different apps.  These lnclude Overdrive for ebooks and audiobooks, OneClickAudio for certain audiobooks, and Zinio for magazines.  You can find links to them on the READ dropdown menu on the library's homepage.


  • Every once in a while, a gem crosses your desk: one of those "how could I have lived without out this for so long" tools.  For me, that's XODO PDF reader and annotator.  Several years ago our family licensed the ridiculously-priced but-feature-packed Adobe PDF Professional XI; XODO competes quite nicely, either as a complement, or as a stand-alone in place of Adobe.  If XODO was available back then, I wouldn't have bought the Adobe version.

    PDF editor, form filler, xodo

    Here's the quick take on what makes XODO a real winner.  You can draw or type on it on major platforms (Windows, iOS, Chrome, Android, as well as an online application launcher) then save it.  You don't even need to sign in to make it work. You can also add and remove pages from your PDF.  Other than esoteric legal functions like Bates numbering, XODO does most of what everyday households need.  In fact, the latest version also includes encryption. Think about how revolutionary this is.  You open the form on your iPad, fill it in as you would a piece of paper, save it, then send it. 

    Here's the mystery: why is it free, and how does the company make money?  Having tried it, I would certainly pay to have this product thrive.

    To get your copy, go to your respective phone or tablet operating system: Apple App Store, Google Play, or the company website, www.xodo.com

  • One of the many things I love about Hawaii is its sense of community, including free flu vaccines for all school children whose schools have participated in the past Department of Health program.  Sadly, however, we were just informed by Niu Valley Middle School that the annual shots are on hold this year.  

    I will update this information as we learn more.  Meanwhile, parents are encouraged to seek out alternative options.  The Department of Health publishes a list of clinics for adult immunizations.  Parents may want to check with these pharmacies and inquire about keiki vaccines.  Then of course, there's always your child's doctor's office.

    So far, there's no word on whether this is a temporary hold or a longer one.  I'm hoping it's the first, but maybe our household ought to check into getting vaccines earlier rather than wait.

  • Enrollment counts for 2016-2017 were just released at Hawaii DOE:


    Regular Education Special Education Grand Pre-K
    School Total Total Total Sped RegEd
    100 AINA HAINA -16 5 -11 -5 0
    108 HAHAIONE -19 -1 -20 3 0
    114 KAHALA -5 1 -4 -1 0
    116 KAIMUKI MID -8 4 -4 0 0
    154 KAISER HI -6 -4 -10 0 0
    119 KALANI HI 26 14 40 0 0
    155 KAMILOIKI 7 6 13 1 0
    127 KOKO HEAD -1 -4 -5 0 0
    139 NIU VALLEY MID -3 11 8 0 0
    153 WILSON -25 2 -23 -2 0
    Regular Education Special Education Grand Pre-K
    School Total Total Total Sped RegEd
    100 AINA HAINA 447 41 488 4 0
    108 HAHAIONE 515 24 539 9 0
    114 KAHALA 336 25 361 10 0
    116 KAIMUKI MID 919 85 1004 0 0
    154 KAISER HI 1049 85 1134 0 0
    119 KALANI HI 1217 154 1371 0 0
    155 KAMILOIKI 368 42 410 8 0
    127 KOKO HEAD 277 29 306 4 0
    139 NIU VALLEY MID 827 89 916 0 0
    153 WILSON 522 35 557 7 0
    Regular Education Special Education Grand Pre-K
    School Total Total Total Sped RegEd
    100 AINA HAINA 463 36 499 9 0
    108 HAHAIONE 534 25 559 6 0
    114 KAHALA 341 24 365 11 0
    116 KAIMUKI MID 927 81 1008 0 0
    154 KAISER HI 1055 89 1144 0 0
    119 KALANI HI 1191 140 1331 0 0
    155 KAMILOIKI 361 36 397 7 0
    127 KOKO HEAD 278 33 311 4 0
    139 NIU VALLEY MID 830 78 908 0 0
    153 WILSON 547 33 580 9 0


    Mirroring the rest of the state, East Oahu public education counts generally held steady with no large changes noted.  The only possible outliers would be Kalani, where special education enrollment increased by nine percent, and Niu Valley, where special education enrollment increased by 14 percent.  I've extracted East Oahu data from two years of spreadsheets and posted it [here], if you're interested in more detail by grade level. 




  • In the first week of his freshman year, my kid's high school math instructor presented him with one of two graphing calculator suggestions.  The choices were the Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX and the Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX CAS.  For a detailed breakdown, visit Texas Instruments' webpage on exam acceptability.  

    ti calculators approved for ap ib act sat

    I presume that the CX is supposed to be the more expensive model, but street prices for either of the two models is about the same, somewhere between $125 and $160 dollars.  Texas Instruments even has a webpage that gives retail price comparisons.

    As for other brands of calculator, they are accepted.  Be sure to check out each test's webpage for details.  In general, (excerpted from the PSAT/NMSQT site)

    Bring One of These Calculators

    • Graphing calculator (most models permitted; see Official Student Guide for list)
    • Scientific calculator
    • Four-function calculator (not recommended)

    Leave These Devices at Home

    • Anything that can connect to the Internet
    • Anything that makes noise or “talks”
    • Calculators that use electrical outlets
    • Calculators with QWERTY keypads
    • Tablets or cellphones
    • Laptops or handheld computers
    • Paper-tape calculators
    • Calculators with a pen-input device or stylus

    Because both the TI Nspire CX and CAS appear to be well-supported, and because my son's math teacher is familiar with either of the two, we went with the CX.  That way he can use it with any of the upcoming tests he may be taking.

  • August 11, 2016 - Vandals damaged Hahaione Elementary School's playground over the August 6 weekend.  The $45,000 structure, paid for with community donations, will have to be removed at a cost of $20,000. [HNN]


    August 11, 2016 - Kila Ka‘aihue tells Hawaii Prep World how uncanny timing delivered him  from Iolani grad to MLB player to Head Coach for Kaiser High School's baseball team. [Hawaii Prep World]


    August 9, 2016 - Niu Valley Middle School has been selected as one of 28 schools in the R.E.A.C.H program. R.E.A.C.H.’s mission is to ensure all public school students in grades 6 to 8 receive the academic and community-based support they need to stay on track toward high school graduation by engaging them in a broad-base of programs and activities, outside of regular instructional hours, in the areas of academic enrichment, arts and culture, and athletics. [Governor's News Release]



  • Your presence is requested.

    Reminder reposted here:

    ESSA TOWN HALL MEETING - August 10  6:00 pm to 8:00 pm @ KALANI HIGH SCHOOL

    Please register at the link below. Here is your opportunity to have an impact on YOUR public school system.  Through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), feedback and attendance is essential.



    If you can't make it, I will livestream just before the event at around 5:45 pm, and also following, at around 8 pm.  You can watch it through Periscope, or through my Twitter feed.  This is my first time working with the technology, so please bear with me as I do my best.


    I will also attempt to report live via Google Docs.  I'm not sure if I'll be able to do it, but if you want to follow along & possibly comment, the link is here. [ESSA Town Hall, Aug. 10, 2016 at Kalani HS]

    Pre-reading materials are available through http://eastoahu96825.com/gpublic



  • Henry J. Kaiser High School continues to work on its website.  Meanwhile, users are asked to use 


    for the latest information.

  • Just posted at DOE Hawaii: Military Recruiting Opt-Out Notice [pdf]

    "The Federal Every Student Succeeds Act, (ESSA) requires the Department of Education (DOE) to provide to military recruiters, upon their request, the name, address, and telephone number of secondary school students. Although military recruiters focus their efforts on high school juniors and seniors, the law allows for the gathering of this information from the broad category of "secondary" students. Secondary school students are defined as students enrolled in middle, intermediate and high schools. It also applies to students in grades 7 through 12 in combination elementary/secondary schools (e.g., K-7, K-8, K-9, K-11, K-12, 7-12). If any secondary student or the parent/guardian of a secondary student does not want the DOE to provide the requested information to military recruiters, the secondary student or the parent/guardian must "opt out" of providing such information. To do this, a legible, signed written request needs to be submitted to the school office. The request must contain the school name and the student's name and birth date. Although not legally required, the DOE has developed an "opt out" form for military recruiting to facilitate response from students or their parents/guardians."


    Military Opt-Out Form

  • I just returned from an all-day conference on Hawaii's public education system.  The symposium, called the 2016 Hawaii Education Summit, was hosted by Governor David Y. Ige's office.  It was open to any stakeholder in public education.

    I'd like to start off with a heartfelt mahalo to the Governor, the First Lady and the office staff.  Putting together an event of this size in just a few months is phenomenal for anyone.  It's nearly unprecedented in government.

    As for the event itself, it was well-organized and quite well attended with 1,000 participants.  Material was pertinent and informative.  Best of all, everyone -- including parents and students -- had the opportunity to provide direct feedback to the Administration.


    The Friends of Kaiser PTSA just held a plant exchange at their Tuesday Farmer's Market.  It was definitely a success and we'll be doing it again on August 2, 2016.  So, until further notice, FIRST TUESDAY, 4-7 PM, school parking lot, we'll be there.  

    Here's how it works.  You bring a plant and exchange it for something else.  Or, you bring pots or other gardening supplies.  Alternatively, just leave a donation to the PTSA in an amount of your discretion.  It's all good and everyone benefits.

    I must say I was pleasantly surprised at the turnout and participation at our first event.  We may have had over dozen or so people show up with exchanges.  I even received these plants shown above, which by some miracle remained at the end of the event.  They're going to be perfect for my natural rock landscaping: a little color among a sea of red rock and lush green ferns.

    The point is that there's a little something for everyone.  The Christmas cactus brought in was scooped up promptly.  The pink pommelo (jabon) has a new yard.  The mint, thyme and green onion went to homes needing culinary herbs.  You just never know what will turn up.  We even got a fresh supply of pots.  

    I've filled them with new plants for August and here's what I'm planning on bringing.

    • Papaya (seedling) - highly prolific.  We've been eating fruit and giving away for years now.
    • Alocasia - Excellent landscape plant, tolerates indoor sun.
    • Lemongrass - Good to have on hand for SE Asian cuisine.
    • Oregano - Excellent edible ground cover.  Grows well in partial shade.
    • Ti Leaf (green) - Lovely tropical plant for landscaping, leis and cooking.

    The list is subject to change, of course, but I'll keep this post updated so you have the latest information.  Again, for those that participated this week, MAHALO.  It was a huge success and thanks to generous donations -- both in plants and cash -- there's also some extra money for the PTSA to use in the school community.



  • Niu Valley Middle School has a world language core requirement, either Mandarin Chinese or Japanese.  Once that language is selected, if your child goes on to Kaiser, they must continue in that language unless that language is spoken regularly outside of school.  It's all part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum the two schools are a part of.

    It drives me crazy to no end because one of my children has absolutely no interest in learning Japanese: it's just a "dumb" requirement that he struggles with and doesn't excel in naturally.

    Short story: I'm determined to show that it can be done with just a minimal commitment.

    As part of my learning plan, I committed 30 minutes a day to some form of learning Japanese.  I use the term "committed" loosely because I'm willing to give myself credit for nearly anything involving Japanese language.  That includes things like quizzing myself on my phone while standing in line at the supermarket or passively listening to language tapes in the car.

    So far, I'm doing better than I expected.  Here's what has been the most effective for me:

  • June 29, 2016 Body Found in Hawaii Kai Identified as Missing Man

    After two months, the body found in the Hawaii Kai Marina several days after John Cousino was reported missing has been identitied as his. [KHON]

    June 27, 2016 Thielen Candidacy Challenge Tossed

    A 1st Circuit Court of Hawaii judge ruled that state Sen. Laura Thielen properly filed her nomination papers for re-election this year.

    The court rejected a lawsuit from Fritz Rohlfing, chair of the Hawaii Republican Party, who argued that Thielen’s paperwork was incomplete and thus disqualified her.[Civil Beat]

    June 26, 2016 Teens Repeatedly Trespass Portlock Home while Posting Pics on Social Media

    Surveillance video captures a group of teens walking right up to the beach front home on Hanapepe Loop. You can see them checking the locks, climbing up the house and jumping into the pool -- and they keep coming back for more.

    The owners live out of town, but a family member watches over the place while they're away. He tells us thanks to social media, such as Instagram and the Stolen Stuff Hawaii group on Facebook, they were able to track down the teens. [KITV]

    June 24, 2016 Girl Seriously Injured at Makapuu Tidepools [Star Advertiser]

    June 24, 2016 Hawaii Kai, home to one of Oahu's dog parks, again highlighted as pet-friendly. ProService Hawaii workers at Hawaii Kai Town Center are featured in this piece on Take Your Pet to Work Day. [KHON]

    June 18, 2016 Released by the US Census, Public Education Finances, 2014.  

    Hawaii, along with Washington DC remain the only debt-less States among the 51 (including Washington DC).  The report provides detailed state level analysis on the fiscal condition of public schools across America. [US Census]

  • Niu Valley Middle School just updated its list for 2016-2017 school supplies.  Kids need to have these for classes, but unlike elementary school, do not need to turn them in on the first day.  Rather, they hold on to them to use as instructed and bring as needed.

    This list can be found at:

    http://niuvalleymiddle.org under documents.

    I've also updated 2016 Checklist for new Niu Valley Middle School Students and attached the pdf file to the article.

  • I find the Hawaii State Library's website logic about as good as it gets when it comes to libraries -- that is, not at all intuitive. I, however, am of the belief that more is always better. You just need to be able to find what you need. The following instructions are for anyone who has ever wanted to be alerted on just the parts of the Honolulu Star Advertiser that interests them. And, for what it's worth, you can ONLY do that through the library system. Even the newspaper's own website doesn't allow you to do what Newspaper Source Plus does.


    These tips are also extremely useful to my mainland transplant friends that only want bits and pieces of local news. For non-residents, all you have to do is request a library card when you're back home visiting family, then pay the incredibly small fee of $25 for five years.



    How to create an automated search of the Star Advertiser

    (requires Hawaii State Library card)


    First, have your library card and PIN handy. Then, access this list of databases.



    Although it may be tempting to use the database that says “Star Advertiser,”


    resist the urge.  Instead, access Newspaper Source Plus by EBSCO.  The site comes with the ability to create customized email or RSS feeds.  The ProSource version does not.


    From here, it’s more simple.  Enter your library card number and PIN, then create an EBSCO account within the database.  Now, do a search for the item you’re interested in, and click the button that says “Create Alert.”  You’ll be given options for creating automated email alerts as well as an accompanying RSS feed if you use those.  Here are a few screen shots to help you out.


    In the example above, I pre-selected the “SO Journal Name” from a dropdown and entered “Honolulu Star Advertiser.” I also typed “Hawaii Kai” in quotations for the next field, and from the dropdown selected “TX All Text”  The quotations around Hawaii Kai helps the computer know that those two terms need to be next to each other and are part of a phrase.  Depending on your research you may also choose not to select the journal name.  If you skip that field, you’ll get all of the results for “Hawaii Kai” from every source in this database. Or, if you're a glutton for all the data you can gather, go to databases and select all of them. This includes all EBSCO data ,Newspaper Source Plus and others.

    You can’t miss the giant button that says “Create Alert.”  Click it and you’ll get results like the one below:


     See the line about Email?  If you want to be alerted when new material comes in, click the "sign in" link next to the Email instructions. Select your options. Your alert is good for up to one year, then you need to re-create it.

    Google Chrome users may need to install an extension to read the feed link that is sent, or use feedly.com or other online RSS reader. Other browsers read RSS by default.


  • I'm in heaven.  Today I stopped by at Don Quixote on Kaheka Street and discovered that Book Off used bookstore has opened inside the supermarket.  I bought a set of Karuta from them.

    Karuta is a child's game for learning the Japanese alphabet.  Players race to find the right card as the leader (who has a separate set of reading cards corresponding to the alphabet) reads a passage containing the letter the kids are looking for.  It's a great game concept I've adopted for other learning tasks too, like for teaching the kids multiplication.

    Book Off sells used books and other media such as videos, CDs, and video games.  A little more than half of their stock is Japanese.  Book Off has been in business for some time at Shirokiya.  However,  with the new renovation they opted to move to both the Don Quixote store and Ward Warehouse (next to Hakubundo),  

    My great news is that I scored a practically new karuta set for me and the kids for just $5.  I'll have to read and understand the cards before using them, and that will help my Japanese studies.  The kids will learn from the game itself, where they will race for the right card.

    Book Off is not the only source of great printed material for learning Japanese.  Hawaii Kai Library has a used bookstore in their basement   It is run by the Friends of Hawaii Kai Library and it has a plethora of material, mostly in English but with a handful of Japanese books as well.  Of the Japanese books, a good number of them are children's books written primarily in hiragana and katakana.  Kanji is usually accompanied by alphabet script known as furigana, essentially clues for the reader.  Amazingly, these books usually cost no more than a dollar, with some as inexpensive as 25 cents.

    Another great source of printed material is NHK's "easy news" website.  This site contains a lot of Kanji, but it's all accompanied by furigana.  Additionally, it's also a transcript of audio which you can play while reading along.  For adults like me, it's a good way to learn relevant material you might actually get a chance to use.  As much as I like reading children's books from the Hawaii Kai Library bookstore, I doubt I'll ever have to discuss talking dogs, cats, and mice with other adults.  This site takes me a bit longer to translate because the vocabulary is mostly unfamiliar to me.  In any case, it's completely free and there are usually 3-4 current event pieces for every weekday.  

    (For translation, I like Jisho.org.  I just cut and paste the Kanji from NHK to find what I need to know.  A word of caution on Japanese translation, Google Translate isn't a very good source and I would never use it to directly translate from English to Japanese and send it out.  For individual words, Google will work in a pinch, but I still prefer Jisho.org.)



  • In order to type Japanese characters on an English keyboard, you'll need to install language packs.  The link below will guide you through the steps for either a Macintosh (Apple Computer) or Windows PC.

     Japanese Typing Practice for Beginners (Windows and Mac installation instructions included)

    for those who use Linux, you can use the following instruction set to install fonts, then use the keyboarding guidelines for Windows.

    Adding Japanese Fonts and Typing on Linux


    The first link will also take you to a practice site where you can test your ability to type in Japanese.  I'm excerpting the important shortcuts you'll need to know here.  These are tips I wish I had taken the time to learn earlier.

    1.  If you need to create a small character such as the っ in あさって, hit "x" or "l" before the letter that you would like to make small.  You can also do double letters, such as asatte, if that's easier for you. 

    2.  To toggle between modes for Hiragana, Katakana and English, on a Windows PC you can use:

    • Alt-Caps Lock for カタカナ (Katakana)
    • Ctrl-Caps Lock for ひらがな (Hiragana)
    • Either Shift-Caps Lock or Alt-[tilde] toggles AlphaNumeric English and Hiragana
    • Alt-Shift will toggle between language packs, e.g. Japanese Microsoft IME and English

    On an Apple PC you can use:

    • CTRL+SHIFT+j switch to hiragana input
    • CTRL+SHIFT+k switch to katakana input
    • CTRL+SHIFT+; switch to romaji (standard English) input 
    • APPLE + SPACE switch between English/hiragana/katakana

    3.  If you hit the space bar, the computer will suggest a series of different Kanji for your typing.  To avoid using Kanji (I'm at the stage where if I use it, I have to look it up to make sure it hasn't changed into something else), don't use the space bar.  Use [enter] instead. Or, you can hit F6 to accept the typing entirely in hiragana or F7 to accept the typing entirely in katakana. F8 will also toggle between Kanji choices.

    4.  “Reconverting” is essentially calling back the kanji selection list for a word that has already been entered. Select the word you want to change, right click and choose “Reconversion.” On a Mac you can use two fingers on the touchpad to simulate a right click.

    4.  If you make a mistake, don't worry.  In Windows you can still use Ctrl-Z to undo your work.  On the Mac, use Command-Z.

  • It's a pretty amazing statistic.  Niu Valley Middle School, serving grades 6-8, grew 86 percent over the past ten years.

    Fortunately some relief is on the way.  The State Legislature just appropriated $3 million in capital improvements for the school.

    If you're curious -- as I am -- about time series data for Hawaii's public schools, check out NCES data from the Federal Government here. [http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/elsi/]

  • I could very possibly be the worst advocate of an educational foreign language requirement.  That would apply to any level of education, be it junior high, high school or college.

    For me, the issue is context and need.  As the internet has proven to us, you can learn anything, anywhere, and pretty much free.  The question is whether what you learn is valuable.

    When my son was five, he was frustrated because his teacher sent him home with a fresh new coloring page as homework.  Apparently, his initial effort was too messy for her taste, and his assignment was to do a better job of it.  He wanted to know WHY he needed coloring skills.  Today, I could probably give him a better answer than I did then -- perhaps he might lose out on an important internship when they found out he couldn't color in the lines?

    Again, my son has faced me with the WHY of foreign language learning.  For me, I took French in high school. Since then, I have never used French in any meaningful way, and I have not had to look for the French library either. (Où est la bibliothèque?).

    With regard to Japanese however, I must say that living in Hawaii my son does have context; additionally we've added context by scheduling a trip to Japan in the near future.

    It is for me, the upcoming trip that fuels my desire to learn conversational Japanese.  That, and perhaps one of those middle-aged -- if only I had tried harder moments.  In any case, if there is one thing I have learned about motherhood, it is that when your children are suffering in their classwork, you are too.  It's better for me to stay at least a few steps ahead so I can be a little useful.

    With that, we embark on this foreign language journey in the new era of technology.

  • Niu Valley students wear uniforms, t-shirts purchased from The Custom Company Harbor Center: 98-027 Hekaha Street, Building #3 Unit #12, located in Aiea.  Phone number is 845-8811.  Shirts will also be available on Payment Fee Day, July 18, 2016.

    April 29, 2016: Transition to Middle School Parent Night 5:30pm - 7pm School Cafeteria

    July 14, 2016: Parent Orientation Night for New Students 5:30pm - 7PM School Cafeteria

    July 18, 2016: Fee Payment Day

    Payment Fee Day for 2016-17 School Year

    Monday, July 18th, 8:00am – 10:00am, School Cafeteria (12:00noon – 4:00pm School Office)

    Purchase school uniforms (The Custom Company is now located in Aiea), 

    Make deposits into meal time accounts,

    Go on student led school tours, and

    Pick up Student Schedules (Because the DOE will be having some system changes in July, there is a  possibility that schedules will not be ready – only Team assignments. Please check the NVMS website for updates.)

    There will be two lines on Monday, July 18:

    1)  Payment Line:  For those who haven't paid school fees yet (EXACT cash or check)

    2)  Pre-Paid Line:  For those who already paid all their fees in advance of the June 26 prepay deadline - please bring white receipt to enter cafeteria in order to deposit into meal account, pick up schedule, take school tour, etc

    August 2, 2016: First day of school.  Have school supplies available.

    Information deemed reliable on the date printed.  For updates, please check the Niu Valley Middle School website.