Monday, March 24, 2014

Welcome Home AcaDecathletes*

We welcomed home our little competitor from the state championships in Sacramento.

A Los Angeles Daily News story about the tournament includes a picture of the three "honors" students of Iris' school.  Iris is the one with the long, wavy hair on the left.
They came in 9th in California and 3rd in Los Angeles County excluding LAUSD. That's the first top-ten finish for her high school.   Although only the top two teams in California advance to Nationals, their team had a phenomenal season.  Because Southern California is the most competitive part of the nation, many of the teams whose seasons ended today actually scored twice as many total points as qualifying teams from less competitive states.

She's home.  She's exhausted.  She came down with a cold and an excruciating ear ache coming over "the Grapevine" aka Tejon Pass, elevation 4144'.  I'll be busy babying her tomorrow.

While she was competing, Bad Dad and I drove up to the SF Bay Area to help my mom with a move and her taxes.  Finding a "moderate" rent apartment for a senior on a small fixed income in Silicon Valley is an experience.  If you have a lot of time, I can tell you more about that journey.

Although our trip was mostly family work, we did take some time to hang out in Berkeley.  I bought a linen shirt at the Bryn Walker boutique (made in Berkeley!) and a book of poetry at Black Oak Books.

Life will be extremely busy chez BMGM as I prepare our LA home to function without me, pack,  and move 1000 miles away for a full-time job that is just too good to pass up.  Life just gets more and more complicated.

I am glad I had time out of the paid labor force to help my mom and my daughter through challenging times and our local school district through severe budget cuts, to facilitate my husband's career as a field scientist, and to pursue self-study in statistics and modern programming languages (Perl, Python, R).  But, I am also very grateful to have found a fantastic (and paying!) job that uses my very unique (odd?) skill set and past work experience.

* Addendum
The LA Times story adds:
The only other LAUSD school to place in the top 10 was Franklin High, which finished eighth. Beverly Hills, South Pasadena and Redondo Union, all representing Los Angeles County, also finished in the top 10.

California has won the last 11 national titles and 15 of the last 18. In the 32 years of national competition, the state has placed first or second every year but one.
Academic Decathlon has its roots in Southern California and the region dominates. The competition is stiffer at the California championship than the National one.

The complete CA results


  1. Congratulations, Iris! I imagine the apartment search as similar to finding one here in DC for our daughter, who works in Union Station. There aren't enough, and the supply is kept small to keep prices up. They could build more affordable apartments, but don't, for political and other reasons.

    1. Yup. Obtaining an affordable apartment is like winning the lottery. Only why should security about living arrangements be only for a select and lucky few?

      Never mind that the large REIT-owned apartment complexes get huge tax breaks from Proposition 13 and use software robots to reprice apartments every night. The rent on a small apartment can literally jump $300/mo overnight!

      The bots scrape competitor's websites for prices and then use proprietary (secret) algorithms to calculate the "correct" price for your apartment. If the rent on your lease is above their "correct ", you pay the lease rate.

      But, if your lease is up and your old rent is higher than the "correct" price, then you are NOT allowed to sign a new lease at the lower price. You either have to move out or go month to month at the higher price. "Heads I win, Tails you lose."

      That continues until you get a letter one day saying that your rent is going to go up--sometimes 10-15%.

      Engineers brought in on H1B visas populate these giant apartment complexes. They are insulated from these price shocks because their employers negotiate bulk rates on the dozens of apartments they lease. Many of the foreign engineers don't pay rent; it's factored into their paychecks.

      That's what is behind many of the job ads asking for statistical and natural language processing software skills. That's the data revolution for you.

  2. Congratulations to Iris, and to you! And good luck through this tumultuous transition. How exciting!

  3. Is this the data science job? Congratulations! Very exciting.

    1. I'm not sure which one you mean. I'm taking the one in Boulder, not Palo Alto. While this one is farther and pays less, it's the better job fit. It's the difference between a .edu and .com worlds. The two-body problem for two PhD families is such a soap opera...

  4. I don't think I'd heard about the one in Boulder. Adventure!

  5. Does this mean that now you will need to be four places at once? I hope plane fares between Boulder and LA are cheap, and that you have reasonably priced housing available in Boulder.

    My daughter is currently finishing up a PhD in statistics, and is well aware that her skills could be used for evil.

  6. Congratulations Grace and Iris. You've both done an excellent job. It's no wonder Iris had a cold after that event.

    Congratulations on your new role too. I'm really pleased for you and I hope you can all settle into your new home fast but do share your adventures:)

  7. Julia19:06

    Delurking to say congratulations!!

    I've been reading your blog for several months and going through the archives--I cam here from Wandering Scientist and love what you write!

    You are a huge inspiration to me in so many ways (I'm a scientist and soon to be mother and I love to ski and travel--and I also bought a Kwik Sews sewing for baby book because of your blog....I could go on). I look forward to reading about your coming adventures.

  8. Oh, this is very good news! Congratulations :-). It'l be chaotic for a bit, but don't worry, it'll work out..

  9. Congrats to Iris and her team mates! I never did the Academic Decathlon, but I did some other academic competitions, and I remember them fondly. It is a good experience, I think, win or lose.

    Can't wait to see all the blog posts about hiking in Boulder!


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