Essay House Contest Promoter Makes Comments

I just received the following comment:


Why is it that you don’t think the Hawaiian Home Essay Contest is “legit”? Skill contests like this are legal in all 50 states as long as no element of chance enters into the selection of the winners. Having a panel of unnamed judges (unnamed to all but the Attorney General’s office so as to avoid possible judge-tampering) evaluate the essays on a set of pre-selected judging criteria is not considered chance for this type of competition.

Is it that you don’t like the idea because it is not a ‘traditional’ method of selling a home? Does it all seem too easy? It really isn’t. Hiring a real estate agent and then sitting back and awaiting an offer to come in is easy, albeit not always successful.

Running an essay contest takes a lot of hard work and money over a long time period (minimum six to nine months). Most essay contest organizers don’t seem to realize this, which is why most contests fall way short of ever ending successfully, and the entry fees end up getting sent back to the rather disappointed contestants. Hardly a scam, just poor implementation of an innovative idea. I only know of one contest, held in California a few years ago, that appears to have possibly been some sort of scam (no criminal charges were filed), and in that instance, the state Attorney General, along with the Los Angeles County Superior Court, stepped in and all contest entrants received their entry fees back. In the scammer community, the word is out that there are much quicker and easier ways to scam money than with an essay contest, and with a much greater chance of getting away with it!

I’ve been working with essay contest organizers for over twelve years. My website offers tips and advice on running such contests, information that I’ve gained over the years, and that I provide free of charge. My website also draws a steady stream of folks that wish to enter skill contests and who do so on a regular basis because the odds of winning are always so much greater than that of winning a state lottery. On my website there is also a list of some big winners of homes, restaurants & pubs, businesses, cars, an airplane, cash money, a pre-paid funeral and even a cryonic body-freezing after death!

I’ve talked with Sheri Smith by phone, and she definitely knows how much work her contest is going to require, and seems quite willing to invest the time and money to do it correctly. I wish her well with her contest. As this impartial observer in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where the temperature is currently down near 0 degrees, a home in Hawaii sounds mighty inviting right now. Of course I am ineligible to enter for obvious reasons, darn it. But hopefully, some lucky person will be handed the keys to their new “Sweetheart Cottage” later this year by Oprah. I’m rooting for a cold Northerner to win – you folks in Hawaii are already in Paradise!

So tell me Damon, besides posting innuendo about the contest organizers, their personal lives and their entrepreneurial ambitions, what is it that really bothers you about this contest?

— Mark Samwick,webmaster


The following is my reply:

Interesting you found your way to my website Mr. Samwick. Can you show me a list of verified winners?

I mean you say yourself the following:

“Mark Samwick of Allentown, Pa., who runs, estimated that only about 5 percent of the win-a-home essay contests launched by private citizens end with the keys being passed. Most offers die out from lack of interest, he said.”

Or is it:

Ninety-eight percent of these things don’t work out, and that’s because of the way people go into them,” said Mark Samwick, creator of the Web site, who is writing a book on the subject.”

Did you forget your own rule?

Essay contests are illegal in a handful of states and restricted in others; however, in ALL states it is illegal to incorporate any element of chance in an essay contest.

And what ever happened with the results of this one?

“Claudia Johnsen is giving away more than $3 million in property for a song. Or a poem. Or an essay.

“I don’t care what it is as long as it isn’t anything vulgar,” said the 79-year-old Alexandria, Va. resident and sponsor of U.S. Dream Properties, the largest essay contest of its kind.”

Samwick you have been taking people for a ride for nearly half a decade now. Please show me a list of winners that I can verify and I’ll get off your ass.

Until then… Keep your scams out of Hawaii!

“…it reads like at any time they can just call the whole thing off and send everyone their money back minus $11 “administration fees”

Hell that’s $66000.00 right there…

Not bad money for a very little work..”

Second Person Now in Coma From Lungworm

I previously blogged about the Lungworm problem that hit Puna here.

I just read the following:

The second person of three who was diagnosed with angiostrongylus cantonensis in Hilo hospital just got taken to Honolulu. Both are in a coma due to extreme brain swelling or meningnoeocephalitis.”

Storm Updates:

I’m trying out some twitter feeds on this storm… but I’m not sure what the ping reply time is between wordpress and twitter so I may just pull the twitter feed if I don’t find it suitable.


Lingle Closes State Offices Tomorrow… Does This Include the Big Island?

I just got the following tweet from the former Starbulletin Webmaster:

“Just got the call: Lingle has closed state offices tomorrow. OHA administrator followed suit.”

Curious if this includes the Big Island. Will find out more and post as soon as I can.

I just received this tweet from a UH Hilo professor that states:

The “State Employee” stories I’ve read have been unclear. Read the state release & Hawai’i island employees are not getting off tomorrow.

State Capitol to Shut Down Tomorrow

*update* It’s now official.

Just got a tweet that said:

“Hawaii State Capitol will be shut down tomorrow due to weather…”

Kua o Ka La Charter School on Big Island Closed Tomorrow

So far this is the only school that I have heard that is closing on the Big Island tomorrow due to the pending weather.

Dog Nappers in Paradise?

At the Weed & Seed meeting the other day, one of the members asked the police in attendance if the police had noticed an increase in dog thefts lately in Puna.

Specifically purebreds were allegedly being targeted.

Anyone hear anything about about some dog nappers in Puna?

There was even talk at this meeting about how valuable some of these dogs can get.

The police said there was nothing that indicated that it was becoming a problem, however, they do suggest people call the police if they suspect their dog was stolen.

Windsurfers vs. The Superferry… What Buffer Zone?

I could have sworn that the coast guard promised to prosecute anyone that got this close to the Superferry.

Good thing these windsurfers didn’t have terrorist thoughts. :roll:


EOTO to Rock Pahoa Village Cafe Tomorrow


The duo known as EOTO will be rocking Pahoa Village Cafe tomorrow night.  Their myspace page announces that they will begin performing at 9:00 due to “Curfew”.

Jason and Travis

Jason Hann and Michael Travis

Jason Hann and Michael Travis (percussionist and drummer from the band The String Cheese Incident) make up this 100% improvised live Breakbeat/ House/ Drum n Bass/ Trip Hop project. Drawing from the ethos of some of the great DJ’s and computer artists of the world, they use cutting edge technology to create truly original and melodic dance music in the moment, with the undeniable power of live drums. The music is all created on the spot, recorded, then mixed and remixed LIVE to create an ever evolving musical experience. Since the project is 100% improvised, every night promises to be a unique dance experience. Hann and Travis play different roles in this band than in SCI. Jason plays the drum kit, percussion and sampler, while Travis is in charge of the tonal elements, playing bass, guitar, keyboards, as well as hand percussion and live mixing.

Michael Travis is a pioneer in the art of modern improvisational jam-rock drumming. He is especially known for his groundbreaking work on playing both hand drums and the drum kit simultaneously. As the drummer for the highly accomplished band, The String Cheese Incident, he has developed a unique style that is very supportive of a free jam aesthetic while still always laying it down. He further develops that approach in EOTO by being super solid to the point of emulating grooves that some of the best programmers and DJs would create, except with that elusive human feel. Travis has played along side some of the worlds greatest drummers while playing with String Cheese including Trilok Gurtu, Babatunde Olatunji, and Bill Kruetzman; & he has collaborated with many other artists including Keller Williams, Karl Denson, Steve Kimock, Warren Haynes, & Bela Fleck. With EOTO, he gets to stretch-out into brand-new territory; Handing over the rhythmic element to Jason, Trav is finally able to test out his melodic chops, playing the electric bass, electric guitar, keyboards, & samplers in addition to his EOTO mini-kit during the duo’s spontaneous compositions.

eoto2Jason Hann is an accomplished composer/percussionist/ drummer who has been playing professionally since the age of 12. Growing up in Miami, Florida, he was exposed early to international music through his father, who is also a musician. Combined with his Colombian heritage through his mom, Jason grew up embracing rhythms from all parts of the globe. Music has taken him around the world, studying first hand in countries such as Mali, Ghana, Haiti, and Korea, both learning and performing folkloric and contemporary music of the land. A dynamic performer, Jason has also produced, composed, recorded, and toured internationally within many different genres of music including Rock, R&B, Pop, Hip Hop/Rap, Jazz, Latin, Latin-Jazz, Flamenco, African, Persian, Electronica, Techno, Brazilian, Indian and other fusions of World music. In addition to his current musical project EOTO, Jason has recently expressed his musical energy through The String Cheese Incident and each of his fellow band members’ respective side-projects, through his solo electronica and all-percussion recordings, and through working with other artists such as Loreena McKinnet and Vinx . Jason continues to hit the road with legendary soul man Issac Hayes when possible. With a diverse background of musical collaborations that include Youssou N’Dour, Keller Williams, Rickie Lee Jones and Dr. Dre, it is evident that Jason will continue living in the musical moment for a long time to come.

Here is a clip of a recent performance by EOTO:


What’s New Hawaii County

I got to give a hand to the new Kenoi Administration for working hard on updating the county on what has been going on of late. While the Counties website itself is still archaic the information being provided of late is solid.

If you haven’t checked out the  “What’s New” section of their website, you will find many things have been added and updated since Kenoi’s administration has taken over.

I mentioned previously that the County would soon be getting an updated website previously. It looks like they are tying lose ends and getting ready to upgrade soon enough.

It will be nice to see what the new layout looks like and how user friendly it might be.

Mahalo Mayor Kenoi for keeping things open and easily accessible.

(I’ve even been seeing updates on projects that were done long before Kenoi’s administration took over… yet it’s only getting taken care of now)

Mauna Kea Team Discover Methane Gas on Mars… The Video


…The team found methane in the Martian atmosphere by carefully observing the planet throughout several Mars years with NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility and the W.M. Keck telescope, both at Mauna Kea, Hawaii…

More Here

Puna Man Wanted by Police

Mark Yun Jin McCurley

Mark Yun Jin McCurley

Hilo detectives are requesting the public’s assistance in locating a man wanted for an outstanding warrant. Being sought is 25-year-old Mark Yun Jin McCurley, last known to live in Puna. He is described as being of Korean ancestry, 5-foot-7, about 130 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. He has a tattoo of the word “PUNA” on the back of his neck.

Additionally, detectives would like to question him about a burglary investigation.

Police ask anyone with information on his whereabouts to call Detective John Rodrigues at 961-2382 or the Police Department’s non-emergency line at 935-3311.

Hawaii Public Radio Announces 12th Annual Art Song Festival Entries Being Accepted

Hawai’i Public Radio proudly announces the requirements and timetable for the Twelfth Annual Art Song Festival (2009). The mission of the contest is to acknowledge the excellence of Hawai’i’s art song vocalists and encourage art song performance in Hawai’i.

Singers of all ages and levels are invited to participate in this competition, which is judged on a recording of one art song.

The Art Song Festival is open to state of Hawai’i residents only. Former contestants and semi-finalists may enter again. Former Winners are not eligible. Singers of all ages and levels may enter.

“Art Song” is poetry set to music by a classical composer for unamplified voice and piano. Opera and oratorio arias, popular, folk, rap, commercial songs, and musical theatre are not included in the definition. Transpositions are acceptable, but selections must be performed in the original language.  Any one selection of Lieder (such as Schubert, Schumann, etc.), mélodie (Fauré, Debussy, etc.), or art songs in other languages such as English, Spanish, Russian, Italian, etc. are acceptable. While no operatic arias are permitted, selections from the Anthology of Italian Song of the 17th and 18th Centuries are acceptable.
If you have questions or concerns regarding repertoire, you may email to have your selection approved prior to the application deadline.

Special outreach is offered to singers new to art song. Resources such as PDF files of sheet music with suggested songs in English, Italian, French and German; MP3 samples of songs; and MP3 piano accompaniments are all available on HPR’s website. Please note that these songs are suggestions, and they are not required.

1. Singers submit their recorded entries by May 31, 2009 (see application deadlines below).
2. The judges review the recordings and select 12 semi-finalists.
3. Four winners are chosen from the semi-finalists.
Singers will be evaluated on:
1. Technique: basic sound, breath management, intonation, etc.
2. Diction: language ability/accuracy, clear understanding of the meaning of the words
3. Musicianship: rhythm, style, interpretation
4. Presentation: communication and appropriate presentation of character
Recorded entries

  • Entries must be submitted in the form of a CD recording of good quality that is an accurate and current representation of who you are as a singer and artist.
  • Singers may submit their own recording or they may record at HPR’s Atherton Performing Art Studio (O’ahu) or other venues (Neighbor Islands).
  • The CD need not be professionally recorded; however, all attempts should be made to eliminate distractions such as outside noise, etc. Live recordings are acceptable as long as the judges can make a fair assessment of the entry. Excessive reverberation or other added affects may result in disqualification.
  • If you cannot record yourself, free recording sessions on all islands are available. Copies of the recording are available at no extra fee.
  • A pianist may be available for an extra fee.

Semi-finalists will have their entries broadcast on HPR’s Great Songs program on
Sunday July 26, 2009 at 7:00pm.

  • Winners will sing in the Winners Recital on September 11, 2009, which will be broadcast on Great Songs Sunday, December 27, 2009 at 7:00pm.
  • Winners should arrange a program of 3-5 songs, not to exceed 15 minutes.
  • In preparation for the Winners Recital, Winners are offered five free coaching sessions with pianist Beebe Freitas, Associate Artistic Director of Hawai’i Opera Theatre. The coach will help with language, interpretation, stage deportment, ensemble, performance practice and other elements pertaining to art song performance.
  • Neighbor Island Winners will have their air and hotel costs covered for the trip to Honolulu for the Winners Recital.
  • Samples from the Winners Recital will be published on the HPR website.

The application deadline is April 15, 2009. All recordings must be received by
May 31, 2009. Judging will take place in June and semi-finalists and winners will be notified once judging is complete. Application forms and other materials can be found on the HPR website at under HPR: Events, or through HPR’s Great Songs page.



  • Semi-finalists will be heard on HPR’s Great Songs
  • Winners receive 5 coachings from Beebe Freitas
  • Winners share a public recital that is recorded for• April 15, 2009 application deadlineon HPR’s web site

Broadcast on HPR’s Great Songs

  • Cyber-coverage on HPR’s web site


  • Open to all ages
  • Open to amateurs, professionals, teachers, and students
  • Previous contestants and semi-finalists may re-enter
  • Free recording services included/Free CD of your session
  • Sample songs, sheet music, recorded piano part, etc. available

More Info Here

Electric Car Firms Push Alternatives to Project Better Place

I’m still not a big fan just yet of this proposed Project Better Place idea that will be sweeping through Hawaii in the next few years.

Representatives from Miles Electric Vehicles, Phoenix Motorcars and Global Electric Motorcars say they believe the future is fast-charging stations, not battery-replacement stations, for electric vehicles.

…representatives of several electric-vehicle companies said fast-charging stations would be more successful in the United States than Project Better Place’s plan to exchange empty batteries for charged ones.

I was the first to blog about this project coming to Hawaii way back in September and I’m still skeptical about it.