The Kuraoka Family Weekly Journal

The Kuraoka family, August 2011
Us in the Redwoods, August 14, 2011: John, Ondine, Roy, Leo, and Buddy

Saturday, September 10 2011

Thursday afternoon was the Big San Diego Blackout! The power went out at about 3:40 and stayed out until after midnight, a little over nine hours. It was the biggest power outage ever in the history of San Diego County, an unprecedented event affecting some five million people from the southern edge of Orange County down into parts of northern Mexico and east into southwestern Arizona.

Early evidence indicates it was caused by human error – some poor utility worker in Yuma, Arizona moved something or changed something during a repair that caused one thing to shut down, and that started a cascade of shut-downs that took everyone by surprise. So, the good news is that it doesn’t look like sabotage or an actual problem with the system – other than, perhaps, a training issue or some overly sensitive automatic shut-off parameters.

Anyway, up the street Brett and Ilana fired up their generator. John received a cell phone call from Roy saying PrimeTime released them, so he’d gone home with Alex and was at their house. Shortly after, when John prairie dogged out to chat with the neighbors, he learned that no one else’s Verizon phone was working. So, either Roy’s T-Mobile network managed to punch through to John’s Verizon phone, or Roy made his call moments before everything shut down. Anyway, John told Roy to come home around 4.

Ondine, meanwhile, couldn’t call home. In fact, she’d just successfully finished a particularly challenging task and was heading back to the office when the power went out. She arrived to a darkened office and a front desk manned by a solitary silhouette. Ondine and the receptionist peered at each other in the dark, then burst out laughing.

Meanwhile, the medical staff was flying into action all around. Ondine found a nook by a window to write her reports. Then, with nothing to do – or, at any rate, no way to do anything – she came home early. By “early” this week, that meant around 5:30, in time to join everyone for dinner.

John had made a sort of Tuscan tuna salad for dinner – something that required cans only, some fresh basil from the garden, and no opening the refrigerator.

After dinner, Ondine and Leo took Buddy for a walk before bedtime. Leo was excited about the music class starting up again later this month.

We unplugged and turned off everything big, but left a lamp on in the living room. When John got up around 1 am, he noticed the lamp had come on. He padded down the hallway and turned it off.

Friday morning everything was back to normal. We had electricity. The San Carlos area, though, remains under a “boil order,” meaning we should boil water – apparently the low water pressure may have allowed contaminated water to backflow into the system. That sounds pretty remote, but John boiled up some pots just to be sure, and discarded into the plants the unboiled water that he’d stored.

Ondine went in to work. But, school was cancelled for the first time since the wildfires! John cancelled a breakfast meeting and stayed home. He gave Leo a multiplication worksheet and Roy a reading and writing assignment using the newspaper articles about the blackout.

He also gave them both n enrichment item: figuring out to the nearest minute how long the power was out at our house, without using the Internet or asking other people. Haha! That occupied them for a long time. He even gave them a clue: if they were 9- and 11-year-olds living 40 years ago, in 1971, the puzzle wouldn’t be a puzzle! Ha ha!

Do you know how John (who, by the way, was Leo’s age in 1971) knew to the nearest minute how long the power was out at our house and our house only?

Now, back to the regularly scheduled journal …

It’s Week Two of The New Order here at the Kuraoka household. We’ve settled into a routine. John makes lunches while everyone eats breakfast. Then he punts Roy out the door for Pershing and drives Leo to Hearst, where he runs with the Hounds. Ondine leaves for work about the same time, sometimes earlier. Then, he works until it’s time to pick up Leo. He sits with Leo while Leo does his homework – usually working on his own projects. Roy walks home –either on his own or with Alex – after the PrimeTime after-school program. By then it’s time to get dinner on. We’ve kept our usual dinnertime schedule. This week, Ondine was still getting the hang of documentation, so she missed out on some shared meals. When she gets quicker at the paperwork stuff we’ll all be together at the dinner table again.

More about Roy’s school. Roy is in “Team Puma,” which is a set of four core teachers: Mr. Akasian (Humanities), Mrs. Tucker (Humanities), Mrs. Decker-Wells (Math), and Mr. Bullington (Science). Each teacher has his or her own syllabus and expectations. Roy and Michael are in the same pod – they share class times and schedules. Alex, Stephen, and Max are in different pods.

Roy will get a netbook in a couple weeks, on which he’ll download all his class assignments, upload projects, and do his work. This is thanks to a Federal grant awarded to just ten schools nationwide!

He’s been managing to take care of all his homework during the PrimeTime homework hour, so he hasn’t brought any to do at home so far.

More about Leo’s school. Leo is still going to Hearst Elementary. His teacher is Mrs. Vasquez, in Room 5. The class is mixed fourth-fifth grade Seminar, with more than 30 kids by count. There is now no single-grade-level Seminar class – they are all mixed, a third-fourth and a fourth-fifth. Most of the kids in Mr. Guadarrama’s third-grade class are in Mrs. Vasquez’ class, so most of Leo’s friends are there. He’s sad, though, that Charlie is in the third-fourth class, because now he seldom sees him in school.

Mrs. Vasquez started out right away with homework – Leo had just a few minutes worth of math the first day but nearly an hour’s worth of “Literary Luminary” the second day of school.

Ondine is still getting the hang of the documentation requirements, so this week she often had to work late or bring work home to complete. As she learns the system, though, her speed will improve. She’s looking forward to getting home in time for dinner again!

She has found the GPS to be worth its weight in gold. It actually allows her to relax and gather her thoughts as she drives from place to place, free from worry about how to get there. It lifts a huge weight off her.

John lost most of this week to Labor Day, the power outage, and a broken washing machine. He tried his usual things to fix it – the problem is usually Legos in the drain pump – but even after he pulled everything out of the drain it didn’t work right. After checking the drain hose as well, he decided the pump was broken and called a repair service.

The appliance repair service we normally use wasn’t answering its phones on Wednesday, so John picked a name out of the Yellow Pages that sounded like a person: Schuster Appliance Service. Schuster turned out to be Jerry Schuster, a cheerful guy who at first said it probably wasn’t the pump that broke. (“In 33 years, I’ve almost never replaced a pump.”) He got thoughtful, though, when John described what he’d already tried. Hmm, maybe it is the pump, he said.

Schuster determined that the impeller in the pump had a burned-out bearing, so the whole unit had to be replaced. He ordered it and came out Thursday morning to install it – and we have our Whirlpool washer back! The repair cost less than $200, which seems like it’s about half the price of the last pump we’d had replaced on our previous Frigidaire HE washer.

Even better, we found a great appliance repair guy! Schuster Appliance Service, Jerry Schuster, (619) 698-2990.

Cool washing machine draining trick! John watched Schuster and learned a great way to drain the washer. In the past, he’d carefully place a pie tin under the drain plug, unscrew the drain plug slightly, let water drain slowly into the pie tin, close the plug, transfer the water to a nearby bucket, replace the pie tin, and slowly unscrew the drain plug again. He’d repeat this a dozen times or more until the tub was empty. This week, because he was manually draining the washer so often, he just let the water flood out over the garage floor, sweeping it away from boxes with a push broom, with the result that the garage floor is sparkling clean! But, Jerry Schuster simply drained the water into a trash bag. No mess, no fuss, and a lot quicker than the pie tin technique.

The weather was spectacularly hot and humid, especially early in the week when it set records. Monday we had thunderstorms in the morning and hot, muggy weather all day. Tuesday there were heat advisories in effect, with temperatures soaring to 100 degrees in nearby Santee and El Cajon. Wednesday was hot too, but by Thursday things had started to dry out and cool down. The night the power went out was really the first night all week when it was possible to sleep without fans blowing. It is much cooler now, thankfully.

This weekend Roy is on a Scout campout to Silver Strand, Ondine is attending a weekend Spanish immersion course, and John and Leo will do whatever they get up to.

And here’s the puzzle answer: John simply looked at a corded electric analog clock. The difference between the time it showed and the actual time is exactly how long the power was out at that specific outlet. We have a corded electric clock on the living room bookshelf and another built into the stove. Roy figured it out a second way: Knowing that the digital clocks reset to 12:00 when the power came back on, he used that to calculate how long the power had been on. Then, knowing from the newspaper when the power went off, he could calculate how long the power was off.

Neighborhood gas prices are about $3.99 per gallon.

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