The Kuraoka Family Year In Review

The Kuraoka family, December 2008
Holiday card photo, December 2008: Roy, Ondine, Leo, John,and Buddy

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Here’s a look back at 2008, which was an historic year in so many ways. We’ll start big then work our way down.

In galactic news, 2008 marked the discovery of at least 50 planets outside our solar system. One, Fomalhaut b, was even photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope. Here in our solar system, the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity kept working, and the Phoenix Mars Lander landed near Mars’ north pole, and collected samples of water ice! And, on another planet entirely, NASA’s MESSENGER probe made its first Mercury fly-by early this year; its mission is to image the planet. It showed evidence of volcanoes and massive shrinkage!

Here on Earth, two stories dominated world news this year. First, the election of the first Black American president, Barack Obama. Second, the global economic meltdown that saw Iceland going bankrupt, more bank and industry bailouts and nationalizations than you could shake a stick at, a passel of CEOs and money managers going to prison for fraud, rising home foreclosures and unemployment, and the price of oil rocketing up to $147.27 a barrel in July, then plunging to a low of $33.87 in late December.

Amid all the financial turmoil, troops from the U.S. and our allies remain in Iraq, and now there’s increasing trouble along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, making continued war 2008’s unfortunate constant.

The Summer Olympic Games were held in Beijing, China. One stunning high note was achieved by American swimmer Michael Phelps, who won a record 8 gold medals.

In national news, the election and financials dominated. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 6,600 points from a record high of 14,164 on October 9 2007 to a low of 7,552 on November 20 2008; it’s currently around the 8,600-8,700 mark. Over the calendar year, the Dow dropped 33.8%, the third-biggest percentage decline in its history. The U.S. Treasury’s ‟Troubled Asset Relief Program” injected the first half of $700 billion into a banking industry bailout. GM and Chrysler got federal funds, too, after teetering on the brink of bankruptcy; Ford seems intent on going without federal relief. Unemployment hit a 15-year high of 6.7%, and mortgage foreclosures increased 23%.

In California, voters approved a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage; the results and its effects are being contested in court. California also became the first state to ban trans-fats in food sold by bakeries and restaurants. Statewide unemployment rose to 8.4%.

Here in San Diego, the city, like many, has made dramatic cuts in an effort to balance its budget. One cut, the elimination of fire rings at the beach, was spared by an anonymous contribution. Our City Attorney, Mike Aguirre, was voted out of office in a contentious election. We elected a new city council member for our district, replacing the outgoing Jim Madaffer. The winner, in a very close race, was former television news personality Marti Emerald over local CPA April Boling.

Our San Diego Chargers again made the Super Bowl playoffs, winning the AFC West title by beating the Denver Broncos 52(!)-21. The Chargers are the first team in division play history to come back from a three-game deficit with only three games left to play.

In 2008, San Diego experienced its fastest population growth in five years, up 1.5% (most of which came from births rather than people moving here). Yet, housing prices continued falling, down 26.7% for the year.

Now we come to our little world. Thankfully, we are ending the year fine.

The recession has our various retirement accounts down 44%, 52%, 40%, and 44% from their high points in late 2007. As dismal as that sounds, on average our portfolios actually beat the overall market, which was down some 47% over the same time period. We received an ‟economic stimulus package” check for $1,800 in June. John moved his Dean Witter/Morgan Stanley account to UBS, following a new broker. John had had that Dean Witter account since early childhood. We applied for a temporary property tax reduction based on the decline in home prices; we’ll see later how that turns out. (John, always a unique case, has done this twice before for his old house in Normal Heights.)

Major events included our usual week at Sand Pond this summer – a little later than usual, but we had great weather and Ulli and Cathy were there too! Roy had several Scout trips, including two overnight campouts at Indian Hills Camp and one at Camp Balboa. Leo was able to join Roy and John on the two Indian Hills trips, giving Ondine some alone time. Barbara and Bill took the boys to Big Bear in May. We surprised the boys with a two-day trip to Disneyland in late August, right before school started. That was fun!

Roy ended second grade in a combined second/third grade classroom (Mrs. Hayes and Mrs. Sinkovitch). He was the #3 runner in the entire school, racking up 303 miles with the Gage Running Club. In September, he started third grade; his teacher is Mrs. Dalton. He is in the Bear den in Cub Scout Pack 951. Roy’s soccer team was the Red Mario Bros. In August, he went to his very first sleepover, at Alex’s house! In orthodontic news, Roy’s upper palate expander was removed. He’ll have the braces for a while longer though.

Roy grew a couple inches to 50-3/4” tall and weighs 59 pounds by our aging bathroom scale.

Leo ended Kindergarten (Mrs. Youngman) as the top Kindergarten runner, with 130 miles! In September, he started first grade; his teacher is Mrs. Ferris. His entire Kindergarten class moved into first grade together in a controversial technique called a ‟cohort.” Leo is very attached to his classmates. Leo’s soccer team was the Blue Sharks, and he’s in an after-school basketball program.

Leo grew a couple inches to 44-1/4” tall, and he weighs about 42 pounds on our old bathroom scale.

Buddy has had a quiet year. The most exciting development was that raccoons started visiting the back yard, investigating Buddy’s kibble container, and jumping to the top of the fence to eat persimmons from Barbara and Bill’s tree.

Ondine continues writing for magazines, including Living In Style and San Diego Family. One of her articles, about starting and keeping a family journal, was nominated for a PPA award! She completed the first draft of her novel, and is now in rewrite mode. She also has submitted poems and short stories – but no sales yet.

John had a bout of pneumonia/Valley Fever/whateveritwas that started in August and ran through October. He’s fine now, and very grateful that his business continues to go along; new clients in 2008 included Qualcomm, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, AutoTec, Link It Software, and Barona Resort and Casino.

Achievements and Events of Family and Friends Dept. Barbara retired from the school district! John’s niece Amanda got engaged! John’s Uncle Leon was featured in a movie: Passing Poston, about the Japanese American internment experience. John’s cousin Lynne’s daughter Kate got married, the first of that generation of the Ishida clan to marry. Ondine’s cousin Sam graduated from Oregon State University with a BS in Microbiology, Magna Cum Laude. Among Ondine’s friends, Jill had a baby boy, Braeden, and Kirsten sold her novel – it should be in bookstores in 2009!

Passages: John’s Uncle Henry died early this year, the first of that generation of Ishida siblings to go. Other passages in 2008 included watch and clock club member Ray McBride,

Material Departures Dept. John got rid of almost all his 35mm photography gear, a lot of Nikon film bodies, lenses, flashes, and attachments representing maybe five or six years of his life as a photography geek. Our old Sharp microwave made a dramatic departure in a shower of electrical sparks and a cloud of toxic fumes, killed by John’s over-enthusiastic attempt at ‟cleaning.” Finally, John’s mustache vanished this summer, immediately after our Sand Pond camping trip. The funny thing was that Ondine didn’t notice for a couple days, and the kids never seemed to notice at all! Yeah, who wants to look at that silly mug?

Major acquisitions included a replacement microwave oven – much smaller and less powerful than the old one, but bought for $20 off Craigslist. It’s a GE. John put over $1,600 into office equipment in 2008: a new HP P2015dn laser printer (replacing his HP LaserJet 4+, which died), a refurbished Dell 1525 laptop computer (replacing his IBM Thinkpad T22, which died), and a refurbished Compaq triple-core desktop computer. He got a new AlphaSmart Neo, replacing his AlphaSmart 3000 which died. (He later combined parts from his two dead AlphaSmart 3000s to create one salvaged unit.) He hadn’t intended to do a forklift upgrade, but equipment kept dying! One money-saving decision, though, was to switch from Microsoft Office to

The boys also got a new refurbished computer, an HP Pentium 4. We got a new electric kettle and a subscription to the Wall Street Journal. We replaced the hose bib in the back yard with one that requires a key, and had a new lighted fan installed in our bathroom. We finally got a nice patio set for the back, and a ‟good” digital camera, a Canon PowerShot A590IS. We got new beanbag chairs for the family room. And Buddy got a new dog bed for his crate and dog pillow for the family room, replacing his beat-up old dog bed and rancid bean bag chair. It took him a while to get used to his new dog pillow, which tends to sort of roll him off if he’s not perfectly centered on it.

Ch-ch-ch-changes Dept. Ondine painted the kitchen a cheery orangey yellow, and also painted walls in the boy’s rooms a deep blue. We started participating in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), so for about $35 a week we get a box of locally grown, organic fruits and vegetables every week.

Neighborhood gas prices peaked at about $4.69 per gallon, and are now about $1.81. Other neighborhood news in 2008 included the opening of a Fresh&Easy grocery store.

This journal started the year with about 27,690 visits logged and ended with about 29,760, for about 2,100 unique visitors over the year.

Remember, photos from 2008 can be seen on our 2008 photos page. To see what we’re up to now, visit our regularly updated weekly journal!

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