IMR: 1998: July: 30 -- Friday, 3:43 p.m.
Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i
Jen: The Kid Commando.

That's what she is, you know. A defender of infants and children everywhere.

Upon reading my account of Katie's less than pleasant visit to the hospital lab on Monday, she waited until I'd gone to work yesterday morning before calling Straub and giving them a pice of her mind.

She recounted the tale to her doctor, the receptionist at the lab, and ultimately got to talk to the rude man who had "rejected" Katie. Turns out the guy was a supervisor.

He told Jen, however, that he had carefully explained to me that he didn't want to take Katie's blood because he didn't know how to work with a baby.

Hah. First, it was obvious that the people who ultimately did perform the test were not baby-savvy either. Secondly, he didn't explain squat to me... he said what I said he said and disappeared. Finally, if he's never worked with a baby in the lab, how the hell did he become a supervisor?

Anyway, Jen got their attention. The lab called back to make sure everything was cleared up, and even Dr. Boyens followed up a couple of times, assuring us in his second call that he'd speak with the folks in the lab to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Woo! You go girl.

And I call Jen the "Kid Commando" because her tenacity isn't limited to our daughter. She gets all worked up any time she sees a baby out exposed to the noonday sun with no protection, or a child on a leash, or a kid being spanked and yanked around.

Heck, if I didn't hold her back, she'd be one of those people who walk up to complete strangers and tell them how to raise their kids. You know, the people who any parent -- including Jen and I -- hate, but the kind of person we all probably are deep down inside.

About a month ago, we were driving home from Mililani when Jen spotted an infant in a passing van. This baby was not in the back seat, nor even in a child seat. He was in front, facing front, being held on the lap of a woman in the passenger seat.

I could practically hear Jen's claws come out. "How dare they," she growled in disgust. "Let's get their license plate."

I glanced into the rear view mirror and caught Jen's eyes. They seemed to be glowing a crimson red. "Sure," I said, meekly. "Okay."

So we tried to catch up to the van, getting into the same lane a few cars back. We managed to figure out the first three letters, but the rest were a blur. I noticed the van was preparing to turn off at the Moanalua Freeway exit.

Thinking quickly, I jumped one lane over and took the Halawa Heights exit, which was considerably less congested. The offramp also had a turnoff to join Moanalua Freeway. As we headed up Red Hill, we saw the van again, coming on the freeway right beside us.

We got the rest of the plate, and the van disappeared at the Tripler overpass.

The next day, Jen called around and found the number for the police hotline where you're encouraged to turn in folks who have improperly secured kids in their cars. She rattled off the plate and description like a pro, and no doubt a few days later Mr. and Mrs. Van got a scolding in the mail.

On one hand, it's a little scary. On the other, I'm glad Katie has her as a mom.

Why do I have the funny feeling that if we ever play "Good Cop, Bad Cop" with her as a teen, I'm going to be "Good Cop"?

[ Daddy ]Dad mailed me some pictures he took at the HESC picnic Katie and I attended this past weekend. Although Katie was still fighting a bug that day, she still looks ridiculously cute in the photos.

Jen particularly liked this photo, and frankly I should probably get a copy of it for mom. Why? Because it's one of the few pictures of Katie that also includes me.

Mom is particularly peeved that I'm practically absent from any photographic record of Katie's early days. With only her album to go by, you'd think Jen was a single mom. The explanation is pretty simple, though: I'm usually the guy holding the camera.

Well, that and Jen's considerably cuter than I am.

I mean... ugh. Has it been that long since I've seen myself in a picture? The first thing I thought when I saw myself was, "Good god, I'm old!"

They say having a kid ages you, but I didn't realize it happened so fast, so soon. Jen still has people tell her she looks too young to be a mom, that she can't possibly be a day over 19. Even two years ago, a friend of ours guessed that I was about 30. I can only imagine what she'd guess today.

And what the hell is up with my neck? ("What neck?" Jen once cracked.) I've lost nearly ten pounds since Katie was born, but only from my arms and legs. From the shoulders down, my mom says, I look malnourished. From this picture, you'd wonder how many Whoppers I eat a day.

Things at the university, like anything affiliated with state government, usually happen very slowly. Thanks to its muli-layered, frequently duplicated bureaucracy, a request to have a leaking faucet fixed takes half a dozen forms and as many weeks.

But one thing cuts through the muck like nothing else: the possibility of injury, and (more directly) a subsequent lawsuit.

Case in point? The window of the office in the College of Business where I work has been cracked for years.

It was probably first caused by a pellet from an air gun (there's a tell-tale divot). But thanks to a slowly settling foundation and the historically poor architecture of campus buildings, the damage has been getting worse.

Last week, my boss noticed that the huge pane of glass -- five feet wide and running from floor to ceiling -- now sported a veritable spider web of fissures. She called Facilities, as she has several times in the past, to have someone come out and look at it. They said they'd see what they could do.

After everyone else in the office had a look at it, though, we determined things were more serious than the folks at Facilities thought. Seperate pieces seemed to have developed, held together only by a thin membrane of window tinting film.

So, instead of picking up the phone, my boss booted up Microsoft Word, and wrote a letter to Facilities and copied it to the dean. In it, she described the damage and further speculated that the whole thing could just fall out.

Since our office is located directly above the building's main walkway, it was a distinct possibility that the glass could neatly slice open the skull of some poor, unsuspecting student below.

The very next morning, one of the two long ramps leading up to the College of Business Administration had been roped off with yellow tape and planks of wood. When I got up to the office, I discovered that the window had been practically covered over with duct tape.

Unfortunately, there are already a couple of flaws with the university's damage control here. First, should the window fall out, it could land considerably further out from the building than on the ramp closest to it. And secondly, the window tint currently holding the glass together is already on the inside of the window. Applying duct tape on top of it is pretty pointless.

They say it'll be a while before they can actually fix it, and when they do, it'll involve disassembling much of our office and require three -- count 'em -- three different contractors, all of whom have to somehow coordinate their schedules so they can be on the scene on the same day.

I hope there aren't any major storms in store for the island this summer.

The whole affair reminds me of my years at Ka Leo. Throughout my two-year tenure as editor, I pushed and pushed and pushed to have the building air conditioned.

While certainly it would have made the newsroom a more pleasant place to spend 50 hours a week, I knew the Board of Publications didn't place much value on student comfort. So I argued that air conditioning would help extend the life of the many new computers ('new' being IBM 486s instead of NEC 286s) and other equipment in the office.

But ultimately, the only thing that made the board sit up and take notice was our final approach: holding the building up to federal laws governing acceptible work environments and proving that it failed miserably. And considering that earlier that year a high school girl in a visiting tour group had fainted and fallen into a garbage can, we had strong evidence that sooner or later, someone was going to get sick and sue.

Unlike the CBA window fiasco, though, nothing happened. The word "lawsuit" caught the board's attention, but they quickly assigned a subcommittee to it and made the whole thing disappear.

(Oh sure, Building 31-D does have a few air conditioners now, but only on one end -- the end where full-time UH staff, not students, work.)

Speaking of Ka Leo, I just read the most amazing essay on why it sucks.

Oh, sure, most people think it's always sucked. And certainly, I'm no different than countless generations of Ka Leo alumni in thinking that it was only a good paper while we were running the place. But this piece did a pretty good job of pointing out how, these last few sememsters, unforgivable harm has been done to what little reputation the paper had in the first place.

While I don't think I can reproduce it here, chances are it'll be making the rounds eventually. I do want to share one of its points, though. The top three news stories Ka Leo completely failed to cover:

  1. A professor arrested for downloading child porn on his office computer. We're talking federal agents coming on campus and arresting the guy. It was all over The Honolulu Advertiser.
  2. A denial-of-service attack paralyzes internet access systemwide, and even affects some state and federal offices. Every single television station and newspaper had the story.
  3. Our very own Dr. Ryuzo Yanagimachi is the first researcher to successfully reproduce the cloning technique that made headlines a year ago, and even develops "The Honolulu Method" to allow for clones of clones. For crying out loud, this was reported on CNN and was discussed on Nightline.

Bad writing, bad layouts and bad photos are one thing. Failing to serve a newspaper's basic purpose is entirely different. What have we had on the front page? The Rainbow Dancers cheerleading squad, an interview with a homeless man who lives at the airport, and a feature on a summer camp for 14-year-old kids.

I know, I complain so much, most people these days ignore me.

Some folks, however, do argue back. "Hey, you had it easy," they say. "You had real news to cover! That march on the capitol, that fire, those volleyball championships. Usually this campus is boring!"

Well, that argument's pretty much out now. Frankly, we never had it this easy.

Tomorrow's the Obon Service at my family's church in Waipahu. William, Japanese religion and philosophy guru, will be joining me.

Because I have to pick Jen up at work at 9 p.m., we're going to have to dig out barely ten minutes after the bon dance starts. That is to say, most of my evening at the Waipahu Soto Zen Taiyoji will be spent in the temple, breathing incense and chanting.

Still, I'm looking forward to it.

That's odd. Ten years ago, I would have rather eaten a whole can of beets than go to church. I mean, I didn't understand a word anyone was saying, and as a kid, it was sacriledge to spent any minute of a weekend indoors.

And even more recently, going to church was more a family duty. I didn't resent it or anything, but to me it was just one of those things you do as an older and wiser son.

But since Katie was born, and particularly since Jen suggested we start going to the Catholic church down the street, I've felt a weird, deep-down urge to work on my spirituality.

There could be several reasons. Maybe I just don't want Christianity to dominate Katie's first religious experiences. Maybe I feel compelled to better fit the mold of a good father and family man. Maybe -- now that I've a real, live descendant -- I realize how important it is to know one's ancestry. Maybe it's all these things, and more.

I still don't understand Japanese very well (and probably never will). And I'm a long way from committing myself to the Eight-Fold Path, or becoming a devout Buddhist. I stubbornly cling to the thought that I'll somehow live my whole life without having to quantify my faith.

Even so, there's Something Important to be gleaned from chanting gya te gya te hara so gya te, go ji so wa ka, hannya shingo, and I no longer feel silly doing it.


© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 30 July 1998 · Last Modified: 3 August 1998