Archive for February, 2010

March is Red Cross Month

February 28th, 2010
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The Hawaii Red Cross helps support the people of Hawaii in emergencies and disasters. It's an NGO (non government agency) that depends on your contributions to help others in need. In March, its planned a series of fundraisers.

At a 2008 fundraiser

At a 2008 fundraiser

Hats Off Event (Friday through Sunday, March 12-14)
Saturday March 13: off duty fire fighters, military service members and other volunteers will be collecting donations in hats at various locations on Oahu .  Volunteers will also be at all Walmart stores statewide March 12-14.

Kahala Mall Viva la Diva (Saturday & Sunday, March 27-28)
Shop 'til you drop at Kahala Mall.  Spend $75 at Kahala Mall and earn 3
HawaiianMiles for every dollar spent. For every 3 HawaiianMiles earned,
Kahala Mall will donate 1 HawaiianMile to the Hawaii Red Cross.  Donate
all of your miles earned and get a chance to win a round trip for 2 to
Las Vegas on Hawaiian Airlines.  Visit kahalamallcenter.com for details.
Shoppers can buy items to fill comfort packs for disaster victims, and
earn miles while helping Hawaii Red Cross!

Online Auction (March 8 – 31)
Go to www.hawaiiredcross.org to bid on the all new Suzuki Kizashi, trip to Australia, hotel stays in places like London, Dublin, Puerto Rico, Aspen, New York, Seattle, and  San Francisco, backstage Broadway passes for South Pacific, restaurants, spa, golf, massage, stand up paddle board, Dolphin Quest, Shane Victorino memorabilia, wine tasting, jewelry, and more!  New items every Monday; bids close Sunday.  Great deals for a great cause!  Use any Bank of Hawaii Hawaiian Airlines® Visa® card to make monetary donations through the online auction website and you’ll have an opportunity to double the HawaiianMiles® you normally earn.

http://www.hawaiiredcross.org/

Jan Keno Po fundraiser

Jan Keno Po fundraiser

Tsunami warning

February 27th, 2010
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In a few hours, the state is about to get hit with a tsunami. I figured this out at 6:30 am when Olivia woke me up. My husband wasn't in bed, but I could tell he wasn't exercising either since I couldn't hear the stationery bike and his exercise clothes were on the floor.

Paul's in Hilo

Paul's in Hilo

I hollered to him to see what he was doing. "We have a tsunami coming," he replied. "I have to make arrangements for work stuff (the mortuary is open Saturdays, and weekends are the busiest time for funerals)."

Boy. That got me up!

I was supposed to attend the Kamehameha Schools Ho'olaule'a today. I later heard on the news that the event is still on, but my friends and I decided to heed the Civil Defense request to keep roads clear. I'll hunker down here at home.

"Should I get gas? I only have half tank. Should we go get more food?" I asked Claus, slightly panicky. I'm prone to worry. He is not. That's good. We balance each other out. Dang, that I didn't go to Costco yesterday. I was JUST about to but I didn't.

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"No," he said, and pointed out that I've long ago made provisions here at home. Good thing I just last month bought a PortaChef butane cooker from City Mill, per Paul Drewes' advice.

So I filled up some buckets with water and busied myself at home doing stuff I want to attend to before the power goes out. Here is the difference between me and my husband: I get nervously busy, and he lounges.

He is watching TV in his favorite position on the sofa. I'm zipping around the house distracting myself because I'm anxious. I've already asked him three times if we're about to turn into a scene from Lost.

paul

We watched the television for a bit to get the latest information, until it turned into the same information I've been hearing over and over. I know those days. I was once the one sitting up there doing the rip and read, or the live interviews. I enjoyed the adrenaline of those days.

It still feels weird to be sitting at home, NOT covering an event, NOT having to go to work in a disaster. I am not saying I miss it and want to be working, but it is a little weird, that's all, to break a 16 year habit.

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At some point, I realized there are some Honey Do things I want him to attend to- nailing pictures to a wall, installing racks for our surfboards. Stuff that's been sitting around for six months (that's the typical pattern) before he gets to it.

He works so much, and six days a week, that when he gets home he doesn't want to do chores, so usually he only will do chores on Sunday for a half day before he begs off. Four hours a week. That's all I have from him.

"Hey," I called over to the sofa. "Since you're home today, can you please put up the surf rack?" He didn't love the idea, but he didn't complain, and he went to the garage and did it. I was pleased.

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I went out 15 minutes later to tend to the laundry, just as he was wrapping it up. He had put away the drill and was cleaning up. "Oh. Why are you doing that? Don't you want to put up the pictures, too?" I asked. "I mean, since you're home."

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He made his lips tight and looked at me flatly. "Do you have Ed's cell phone?"

"Ed who?" I asked, and considered what Eds I know and why he wants their number. There's Ed at Oceanic. There's Ed the photog. There's Ed Teixiera, vice director of State Civil Defense.

Me, Ed Teixeira, Paul Drewes- at a mock drill

Me, Ed Teixeira, Paul Drewes- at a mock drill

"Teixeira. I wanna see if I can call off this tsunami event." And he walked into the house with the drill kit.

AARP Date Night

February 26th, 2010
By



We end up having date night about once a month. We are often tired by evening and lack the energy to go out on weekends. When we have the energy, we don't have a sitter. Now and then, it all comes together and we get to go out on the town.

Well, that's a relative term, I guess. I asked my mom to babysit on Friday night so we could have a date. We like to start early, because we like to be in bed by 9 p.m. "Come at 6," I requested.

"How long will you be out?" she asked.

I calculated how long dinner at the little restaurant down the street would take. This is America. People don't linger like they do in Europe. An hour should do it.

"Um... till 7:30," I replied.

There was a pause. And then snickering. "That's all?" she asked, poorly hiding her incredulity.

I actually felt a little embarrassed. This, after all, is an 80 year old woman who regularly stays out way past my bedtime. "Oh. Welllllll. 8 o'clock, then."

"OK," she said in a more approving tone.

Next thing you know, my mom will be picking out a sexier dress for me and making sure we book at a romantic restaurant instead of the casual neighborhood cafe. I'm in my 30's and I still need my mom.

IT'S ALL DARK AT THE AKO HOUSE

My dad makes fun of me, too. He, on a more regular basis. He has regular meetings for his various clubs, symphony tickets, or social dinners. They are often just starting their night at 7, when I'm wrapping mine up.

I see or talk to my parents five to seven days a week. About once a week, a conversation goes like this: I ask "How'd your dinner go?" My dad will say, "We drove by your house on our way out. I guess you were sleeping. It was all dark in the Ako household." Then he'll chuckle.

I know my world is small and dull. I still like it.

I blame Olivia. We get into the night time routine at 5ish. We eat dinner, clean up, shower, brush teeth, blow dry hair, and scramble into my bed for a story. When the lights go out by 7:30 p.m., I cuddle with her for at least five minutes.

On Claus' two nights a week that he leaves for jujitsu, I usually fall asleep in bed with her. He comes home and puts her in her room. I love those nights. I love the feel of my little girl lying next to me, all sleepy sweetness, in that big, cushy bed. This is partially why I've stalled in returning to jujitsu myself.

The other nights of the week, he gives it a five minute time limit then carries her, drowsy, to her room. Then he comes back to our bedroom and tries to make me get out of bed and hang with him in the living room. It doesn't always work. Sometimes I insist on staying in bed.

*sigh* So many of my evenings start with big plans. I think I'm going to get up and do more work or get through that stack of magazines, after we put Olivia to sleep. And then I get in that warm, cozy, wonderfully soft bed and I'm a prisoner to its charms. Aah, there's always tomorrow.

***

Also reach me via DianeAko.com

Identity theft

February 25th, 2010
By



As the economy sours, identity theft has risen. Unfortunately, about half the people I know have been victimized in some way in recent history. Now, I've become the unfortunate victim of ID theft.

The upswing: it's made me a little smarter about how to operate in today's world. I revamped and rethought outmoded methods of mine; habits I've accrued over the years, which are no longer appropriate. I'll share the story in hopes you can learn from my misfortune.

Monthly, I check my bank statements. I was excellent at this before I had a child, but I've gotten a bit sloppy. I still do it, but sometimes I do it every other month. In this case, in early February, I had sat down to look at my January and December statements, and noticed a very out of sequence check. I was getting debited $27 a month for the past two months.

I looked back at the November statement to see how far it goes. Appears it started in November. When I had checked that statement, probably in December, I was rushing through the holidays, and was busy. I had circled and written a question mark near an unaccounted for $27 fee in November too. I assumed Claus wrote a check using our old starter checks, and didn't question such a tiny amount.

But now that I see it took on a monthly pattern, I was curious. I squinted my eyes to read the teensy microfilm copy on the back of my statement, something I could have done back in December, but was busy and harried. I saw that it was a remotely created check to someone in my name, but whose information totally didn't match mine. I assumed it was a mistaken identity, and didn't worry.

From the police report

From the police report

The next day, I went to the bank to file a check dispute. As the staff started looking into it, they then got worried. Apparently, this was a remotely created check (no signature needed) to a debt counseling agency in the mainland. So every month, this collection agency was taking $27 from my account to cover a minimum payment for someone else's account. This person - a total stranger to me- had a name nowhere similar to mine, and was a former customer at my bank, whose contact information now lead to a dead end.

Theoretically, and most likely, the culprit got hold of my name and account number, and to get this agency off her back, told them to take the bills out of my account. The agency only cares that they get their money, so they went ahead with it. It's called a remotely created check. My signature or approval was not needed. Had I not checked my statement, this could go on indefinitely. All she needed was my name and account number. Scary!

I had to do two things: file a dispute with the debt agency in hopes they would give me my money back, and file a police report with the Honolulu Police, so that if the debt agency won't give me my money back, my bank will. It was conditional; I had to agree to prosecute the thief and testify in court, if she is caught, for the bank to agree to give me the money back.

The officer, and the bank employees who helped me, say they've noticed a severe spike in this type of fraud in the past six months. The bank staffers said they have the procedure memorized, because they deal with ID theft so often now. Sad.

That took an hour. Then, I had to sit around for another hour to close my old accounts and reopen new ones. I didn't expect this to happen, so it's a good thing I happen to have babysitter coverage for the two hours I was at the bank.

This happened yesterday. Today, I have to set aside a couple hours to call all the other companies (utilities, phone, etc) that I have on auto-pay, and re-set those accounts up with a new bank account number. Then, put a fraud alert out with the credit agencies. What a royal pain.

This criminal is an idiot; all she did was buy herself a few months' worth of time from being hassled by the collection agency. I know, however, people messed up on drugs really don't think that far ahead, so I'm sure she'll worry about it when she gets to the next bump in her road.

What's sad is that there are so many predators out there trying to scam good people. I never understand human nature- all the time people are putting into devious endeavors could go towards something productive. Why are people such louts? It left me slightly sleepless that night, feeling a bit of anxiety. I'm lucky this was a small and recoverable episode, but it made me feel vulnerable. If it can happen, what stops it from happening in a very devastating way?

I have no idea how the thief got my information, but I am going to guard it more closely in the future. I changed the name on my checks to just initials, and when indicating in the Memo line what account it's for, I now just write "for account ending -1234" and only list the last digits.

Lastly, I used to endorse the checks and add "for deposit only to account #123-4567-890" but I learned that's an old-school practice that, for at least five years, bank tellers have been discouraging. I'm not sure how I picked that up, but at some point I'm sure I was told it was a good idea. She said if you really want to, write "deposit to account of payee" on the back instead. But you really don't need to unless you have a third party depositing your checks for you.

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I had to ask specifically if this was a bad practice; I asked why no teller has actually taken the initiative to tell me to stop doing it, and the answer was that "We can't tell you what to do." Well, I'm not beholden to bank staff rules, so I'm going to tell my readers to stop doing that! Checks pass through many hands, and who knows who saw my information? Given the fact that this account was 28 years old, that number's been circulating in the community for a long, long time.

What brings me to my next point: I'm not at all sentimental about getting a new checking and savings account, but it is, in a small way, a little bit of a bummer that I had to let go of an account that I've had for decades. I had those numbers memorized. When I rattled off the numbers at lightning speed, the staffer helping me actually stopped and said, "Wow!"

So in recap:

1) Make sure you check your statements every month and that all the charges are ones you recognize. I still know people who don't do this. Do it!

2) Check your credit history regularly. I used to and then I just got caught up with work and kid. This is my kick in the pants to get back to my old habit of quarterly checks.

3) Don't write anything on the backs of the checks you endorse.

4) Guard your account numbers carefully!

Lastly, and this is just something I'm doing- I'm going to write to my local lawmaker to see what can be done about tightening up regulations on remotely created checks. I think it's really sloppy that some jerk can find out my information and call it in to scam a free ride off me, without any accountability from either corporation taking, or giving, my money.

Does anyone have a story to share? Or any suggestions or additions to my advice list? Because I certainly am not the expert on this, and I think we as a community (even if it's just a blogosphere community) can help each other out with an exchange of tips and ideas.

***

Also reach me via DianeAko.com

Kailua Verde consignment store

February 24th, 2010
By



A new consignment store in Kailua is big on style as well as the green movement. Kailua Verde, owned by Lilian McDonnell, sells upscale gently used womens' and mens' clothing, as well as some high end furniture and accessories. Some of her inventory is actually new, and consigned by craftspeople. That includes cute shopping bags and koa furniture.

Kailua Verde

Kailua Verde

Lillian Mc Donnell

Lilian McDonnell

Womens and mens clothing

Womens and mens clothing

Kids clothing must have original tags if you want to consign it.

Kids clothing must have original tags if you want to consign it.

New shopping bags for sale

New shopping bags for sale

New furniture

New furniture

Fashion eyewear

Fashion eyewear

McDonnell opened the store in November 2009. The store has broad appeal; here, you'll find some trendy items alongside some classic styles. You just have to browse through the immaculately kept racks to find your own treasure.

To consign, make an appointment to bring your clean, ironed items for inspection. It will make your session faster if you write down a list of what you have, or else you will have to hand write it while there. Include the brand, size, detailed description of the color and style, and your asking price. This is not always a fast process. Allow a half hour to an hour if you have a dozen items. If you get out sooner, great.

If she accepts your items for consignment, you get 50 percent of the sale price after the item sells, or 60 percent of the price in store credit instead.The items usually get sold at full price for a month and get reduced to the sale rack after that.

McDonnell or her staff take consignment items only by appointment, so call first at (808) 261-6190. Store hours have changed since she opened; now it's noon-6 p.m. Mondays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, closed Sundays.

GOT GENTLY USED SHOPPING BAGS?

In staying with the recycling theme, McDonald even recycles shopping bags. If you buy an item and want a bag, she uses shopping bags donated by other customers. I really like that. I shop with canvas bags, and if I forget to take them out of the car and into the store, I usually just put the item in my purse, or even walk out with the item in my hand. It confuses a lot of cashiers, but I hate taking a bag. If you have extra shopping bags in your house that you don't know what to do with, bring them to Kailua Verde!

Donate clean shopping bags!

Donate clean shopping bags!

Kailua Verde
111 Hekili Street
Kailua, HI 96734-2800
(808) 261-6190

RECYCLE YOUR PACKING SUPPLIES

Along the line of recycling, when I go to Kailua Verde, I also pop over to the UPS Store right next door to recycle packing peanuts, bubble wrap, and foam. Not everyone will take recycled supplies, but UPS Stores will.

UPS store recycles your packing peanuts

UPS store recycles your packing peanuts

RECYCLE YOUR FLOWER VASES

Also while there, I take extra flower vases to Picket Fence Florist, owned by my friend Sadie Akamine. If you don't know what to do with your old flower vases, florists are happy to re-use them!

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http://picketfenceflorist.net/

Picket Fence Florist
111 Hekili Street Suite 106
Kailua, Hawaii 96734

1-877-PICK-770
(1-877-742-5770)
Oahu: (808) 262-7727
Fax: (808) 262-6096

info@picketfenceflorist.net

RECYCLE YOUR PLASTIC GROCERY BAGS

Also while there I recycle my plastic grocery bags outside Foodland. While I usually use canvas bags, I do accumulate some #2 plastic bags from time to time. Sometimes I have takeout food in a plastic bag. Or I make a spontaneous shopping trip in someone else's car so I didn't bring/have my canvas bags, and I then have to accept plastic bags.

This so bad bugs me

This so bad bugs me

By the way, I love that Foodland and the R. Fields connected to it. I think that's the best Foodland on the island. I sometimes go out of my way to shop there. If it's Safeway, I like the one on Kapahulu.