Editor's Page: You-niversity

Our guide to self-improvement in Honolulu.

Photo: Linny Morris

This issue could change your life. Usually, we direct you to the best products, professionals and services in town, through such features as “Best of Honolulu” and our Hale Aina Awards. This month, we introduce you to experts in Honolulu who can make you better. In “Get Smart!,” we’ll tell you where you can get an MBA while working your day job, or become a better home chef, a safer driver, a calmer dog owner, a better gardener and much more.

Working on the piece was an education, as writer Maria Kanai uncovered more and more courses. The University of Hawaii and its community colleges, we learned, are probably an underappreciated resource for adult education, offering quite a few of the classes we’ve included here.

One of these classes I’ve taken myself—though some 20 years ago—and it is an example of how the right class can make a huge difference even in our recreation. The national Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers a beginner’s riding course, currently offered at Leeward Community College. The class is terrific. For one thing, it’s a great way to find out if a motorcycle is right for you before you buy one, as the class has a stable of bikes the students use. More important, the class will make you a safer rider, a more alert car driver and could even save your life.

I vividly remember the first day of class—before we even got to touch a motorcycle, we spent hours learning about the statistics of motorcycle accidents and fatalities. Grim, perhaps, but necessary, because one thing the victims of motorcycle accidents most often had in common was that they were self-taught.

The other unforgettable statistic: one of the most common dangers the motorcyclist faces is getting hit by a car making a left turn, usually violating the biker’s right-of-way.  Drivers either don’t see the bike, or think it’s further away than it is.

It helps to have someone tell you these things before you hit the road.

I haven’t ridden in years and, though my motorcycle qualification automatically renews every time I renew my driver’s license, I wouldn’t dream of buying another bike without taking the class again.

We’re big on self-improvement at the magazine, always looking for ways to make our monthly departments more fun. For example, this month we’re retiring Field Guide, which always closes out our Calabash section, and replacing it with a new department being pioneered by senior editor David Thompson: Field Notes. Field Guide started out as place-based snapshots of interesting neighborhoods. It debuted in March 2007 and, after some 67 installments, we were itching for something new.

Field Notes is geared around people—scenes, clubs, organizations. Thompson will act as a kind of gently wry anthropologist, observing the behaviors, concerns, lingoes and dress codes of the smaller communities within the city. No two people live in exactly the same Honolulu, after all, and we thought this would be a fun way to explore the differences. Check it out. Feel free to drop me a line, too, and suggest some fun groups of people we should meet. akamn@honolulumagazine.com.