IMR: 1999: March: 14 — Sunday, 8:10 p.m.
Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i

I think the fates have resolved that I'm not to have a day of peace for a while.

After last week's adventure with the governor and the misbehaving PowerPoint file, I figured I'd had my trial by fire for the season. I figured I'd have a month or so to catch my breath before things pick up for the annual meeting in Hong Kong in May.

Then one of our interns, Marcin, went and got hired by Microsoft.

Marcin is, in fact, the intern, at least when it came to database development. And, as what can best be described as the administrative center of an 'international membership organization,' said database is one of the vital organs of our office. Unfortunately, like anything built over time, organically, by two dozen people of varying abilities, it was also a mess.

As soon as Marcin came aboard, I couldn't believe we'd found someone like him without raiding another company or putting up heaps of money. He lives, breathes, and sleeps programming, from SQL to Java to DHTML, and I have no doubt his brain is actually wired like a RISC processor. In the five months he's been with us, he's whipped the computer equivalent of gouda cheese into something just short of filet mignon.

So. After rebuilding and redesigning this monster of a database essentially from the ground up, he's leaving us to work for Bill's Empire in Redmond, Wash.

Thus, my new and current mission: learn everything he knows before he goes.

Actually, that would be impossible. Instead, I've just got to become a proficient user of Microsoft Access — an evil construct cooked up, ironically, by Marcin's future employers — in 90 days.

More than anything, this means homework. Because I'm certainly not going to have time at the office to do something as impractical as learning, given everything else I've got to do.

So I've dumped Access and its heaps of templates, wizards and tutorial files on this poor laptop. And I've already built an impressive library of manuals and do-it-yourself programming books (on the company tab, of course). Although "Microsoft Access for Dummies" didn't make the cut, I picked up a few other phone-book sized texts that have been pretty helpful.

This is the first time I've done anything like this, essentially studying something on my own time and initiative. I barely study for school, after all. And when I sat down with "Teach Yourself Microsoft Access in 21 Days" the first time, I had to stop myself from throwing it out the window when it insisted on leading me through the simplest of tasks step-by-tedious-step.

Suffice it to say, I ground my way through seven days on my first night.

At least at the end of all this I'll have one more marketable skill under my belt. Though more and more, it's a little distressing to think that the Bachelor's degree in Journalism that will eventually grace my resumé will be just about the only thing listed that's related to that field.

In all honesty, I now see my future more closely tied to new media and computers than with reporters' notepads and layout tables. If I somehow manage to make all my boss' dreams come true, one year from now I'll be running three sites and planning live video and audio webcasts. Will I retain enough writing ability to even get published on a cereal box? Or even in Ka Leo?

(I know, that's just mean. The stuff on cereal boxes is generally credible.)

Speaking of journalism, things in this town have suddenly gone from sedate to hysterically bizzare. Seeing the front pages of both dailies practically burst with 120-point headlines over the last four days, and imagining the buzz undoubtedly gripping my former colleagues at media outlets around town, almost make me miss the smell and smudge of newsprint.

I mean, just when the town's response to the nearly two-year-old Bishop Estate scandal was an almost unanimous "enough already," something so unthinkable happens I still wonder if things in this town are suddenly being scripted by a disgruntled writer from "Melrose Place."

Even the way the story broke, and how details tumbled out, was dramatic. To get the whole story, reporters had to work their way backward through a series of unusual events that suddenly connected.

  • March 11:

    Bishop Estate trustee Gerard Jervis, 50, is rushed to the hospital after taking an overdose of sleeping pills.

  • March 10:

    Jervis steps out of a courtroom in which long-running proceedings to have him and the other trustees removed from their positions continue. A waiting reporter asks Jervis about his relationship with an estate attorney. Jervis storms off.

  • March 3:

    Rene Ojiri Kitaoka, 39, is found dead at her Kaneohe home after an apparent suicide. Kitaoka's husband found her in their car, parked in a closed garage with its engine running. She was general counsel for Kamehameha Investment Corp., a subsidiary of Bishop Estate that Jervis managed.

  • March 2:

    Security staff at the Hawaii Prince Hotel detain a couple after finding them in a "compromising position" in a men's restroom. They are identified, issued trespass warnings and photographed, as is standard procedure. They are Jervis and Kitaoka, both married to other people.

With journalism still in my blood, this collapse, this cascade of scandal has left me breathless. And I say this knowing that, yes, there are real people suffering here. To that end, I was glad to see the Star-Bulletin, in its wisdom and perseverance, pulled from the madness what, in my mind, was the most compelling untold story. That of Kitaoka's husband.

What's especially amazing about this week is the fact that even without Jervis' overdose, it would've still been busy for local newshounds. Former state senator Milton Holt — for whom my current coworker Lacene once worked — is apparently losing his battle with an ice (crystal methamphetamine) addiction. A new gas company in town has sparked a price war by lowering its prices to an unheard-of $1.39 a gallon. State legislators are throwing Jesus fish, Stars of David and pictures of Buddha on their doors in a show of support for a representative threatened with a lawsuit for not separating church and state. And depending on who you talk to "Baywatch" definitely is or is not relocating to Hawaii.

Figures. One day you're padding the page with five-column photos of people walking their dogs, and the next day you've got so much news you wish you could print everything in six-point text.

Speaking of my degree, I met with Professor Keever on Wednesday for my regular advising appointment, and she put December of this year as my expected graduation date.

I actually laughed out loud. I mean, after all these years, putting "Ryan" and "graduate" in the same sentence is sure to get a guffaw out of anyone in the journalism department. And though I eventually realized I had to graduate, I never expected it to happen before 2001.

"That can't be right," I said. She insisted it was.

After some debate, we called it a draw.

See, in reviewing the paperwork, there were a few things that would make my original estimate more accurate. After all, I never went to my junior-year advising session with the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, and for all I know I still have to take World History 151 or something. And although I seem to need only three more classes — one upper-division Hawaiian Studies course and two more in journalism — I would have to carry more than my current six-credit load to finish them all next semester.

Keever figured I could do it, easily. (She also figured I'd move right into graduate school soon afterward.)

I walked out shaking my head. "She's nuts," I thought. "No way I'm that close." Then I stopped myself. I remembered the wise words of the sage William, and I again wondered if I just didn't want to graduate. If I was indeed afraid of leaving school.

If so, I've seriously got to grow up.

© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 14 March 1999 · Last Modified: 18 March 1999