Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Get a glimpse of the future (weight and height)

Ever wondered what your kid's projected adult weight and height is? Here's a really easy way to do it without having to dig up & look at AAP charts and/or cross reference with CDC data. Just to go and type in your query. For example, I typed a sample query below (this is not real data, they're just random number I picked), and search for "projected adult height":

WolframAlpha is an amazing computational knowledge engine in the world! If you enjoy using it, here are 32 other tricks you can do with it. If you like this blog, please share it with your friends and follow me for more goodies in the future!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Hacking for Parents

I saw this site with a bunch of simple hacks that will make parenting a lot easier. It's pretty neat, check out the link!


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Terrible Twos - My Easy Fix

I can't remember a time when my 2.5 toddler doesn't scream and cry and toss stuff a couple of times a day. Actually it was probably last year, but with sleep deprivation and all the commotions that go on each day, that seemed so long ago. We've read books by psychologists and behavior experts and nothing really seem to help. While we await eagerly for the terrible two phase to pass, there are some things we did to provide immediate relief:

Use all plasticware. This seems obvious in retrospect, but you may be tricked into thinking that your cute calm little 1.5 year old baby that you have now will be well behaved in the future, and start using nice-ware. Then, one day, SURPRISE! Tantrum here, tantrum there, tossing of metal fork towards your face and breaking nice glass cup on the table. Lots of things WILL get broken. It's like Gremlins-- it's just a matter of time before terrible things happen, very fast, and you will feel overwhelmed.

No carpet. I'm renting a little 2 bedroom apartment now. I have no choice on flooring, but if I did, I would not opt for carpets. Anything that one can conceive of spilling on the carpet, WILL HAPPEN. In no time, your 2.5 year old will learn to open any drawer (even those with child-proof locks) and toss everything he can get on the floor. If you think spaghetti is hard to clean, imagine a toddler getting into the kitchen and pouring oil, soy sauce, vinegar, EVERYTHING. FUN FUN FUN! However you'll miss all the fun he just had because you passed out from a lack of sleep last night. If you have carpet, get good carpet cleaners (we use the Bissel cleaner, it cleans out 90% of the stains, 90% of the time-- that means you'll probably still see 100%-81% + 10%, or 29% of the stains. ARGH!!!)

Paint your room with a lot of colors. I'm renting a little apartment but if I actually owned a place, I would paint the entire place with colorful walls. This isn't so much as making it look child friendly, but more of serving the purpose of hiding mess. Just remember, anything that you can think of that can be on the wall, WILL BE ON THE WALL. Spaghetti sauce, check. Pen markings, check. Permanent marker, check. Oily, dirty, and muddy handprint-footprint-tongue print, check. If I had colored walls, I would save a lot of time by not having to spend so much time cleaning them. You need all the time you can get to rest/sleep/take a break from the terrible twos.

Wear glasses. My terrible two thinks it's funny to hit people in the face. I can't remember how many times I was doing something on the sofa/bed, and all of a sudden *WHAM* I see stars the next minute. At one time, my left cornea was scratched, leaving my eyes really red and inflamed and I had to go see a doctor who prescribed antibiotics. This happened TWICE. I've learned that wearing glasses around toddlers (especially ones that love to skip nap and get super cranky at night) is the best thing. My glasses makes me feel like a super Marines. I've taken many direct blows since then but haven't had to go to the optometrist. I love it.

Get a good gate and make sure to DRILL IT IN. A lot people simply rely on the friction/pressure of the gate to hold in place. It is just a matter of time before your toddler realizes that he has enough strength to rock them out of place. Also, there are fancy gates that you need to press/pull some special buttons/latches to open. FORGET IT! He will learn how to do these things by the time he is terrible. The only gate that works for my son, is the Dreambaby Gate, which requires a very subtle (imperceptible) upward pressure to open the gate. Even my parents think it's magical! However, I have a strange feeling that my son will figure it out by next week. Terrible babies tend to be clever.

Allocate an adult-only room. You may think you can place valuable and/or dangerous items out of reach by placing them high or by using gates or toddler locks or special toddler door locks (Monkey Door Lock). Forget it. He will learn to climb, get a box/ladder for height, and access anything and everything. My toddler shredded a bunch of really important family papers using the shredder and he thought it was fun. The only thing that kept him out of trouble was to just get a special No Calvin Room.

Get a good sitter before your kid turns terrible. It can feel draining at times to be with a terrible two, therefore you deserve to take a break. It takes time to find a good sitter. Do it early so the sitter can have some bonding time while your baby is still cute. That way, the sitter will more likely help you when your baby eventually turns terrible. If you don't do this early, you may find yourself going from one sitter to another. I mean, how many sitters are looking forward to baby sit newly minted terriblĂ©?

Past performance IS indicative of future results

If there is one thing that is tougher than having a baby, that would be raising a baby/kid. Almost everyone I've talked to has had a really rough time during the first 1-2 years of raising a kid. In many cases, I've seen people move closer to their family or even move parents closer so that they could get help more easily. We are very very thankful for some of our family members who helped us through everything. I can't imagine raising kids without help!

Is there is some correlation between people's past and future willingness to help? For me personally, the people who were able and willing to help with our dog (2007) and our wedding (2009) [as denoted by "pre-kid helpfulness score"] were also the same people who were willing to help taking care of my son Calvin (2010) [as denoted by "post-kid helpfulness score"]. Here are the scores, real names anonymized:

Scoring methodology: everyone in the column is able (e.g. they are capable of help and they have time) who are family members, and the score per row represents willingness to help. A score of 10 is that he/she has consistently and eagerly volunteered to help with chores even when not asked. A score of 7 is that he/she has occasionally volunteered to help with chores. A score of 5 is that he/she has occasionally helped after occasional requests for help. A score of 3 is that he/she has, in a few instances, helped with chores after being asked a few times. A score of 0 has never helped and comes up with excuses or runs away, even when asked repeatedly. I've split the chart in two sections: pre-kid chores (dog help, wedding help) and post-kid chores (diaper, feed, shower, ...).

Below I plotted pre-kid helpfulness score against post-kid helpfulness score. The size of the circle is relative to a person's age. Based on limited data points, one sees that those who are helpful pre-kid (helped with dog/wedding) also tend to be helpful post-kid (helped with baby/kid chores). There is no data point on either extreme side of the line as denoted by the orange text.

In summary, raising a kid is super tough and that is why many couples are desperate for  help. If you're counting on help from your family members, then based on my personal life and observations: 1) his/her past willingness to help IS indicative of future results 2) women tend to be better helpers  than men.

Do you observe the same thing in your personal life? Let's hear about it!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Good Ways to Encourage Children to Talk

I saw this article from io9 by Katharine Trendacosta that I really liked and now sharing with you guys. If you don't have time to read it, here is my summary. You still have to read the article for specifics:

  • You can start training children to have a conversation by asking the right questions and by responding "properly".
  • Try to ask open ended questions.
  • There are good and bad ways to ask open ended questions to children.
A few things struck me:
  • Children will actually respond to non-sensible/silly questions (e.g. "where do circles live?").
  • Children don't have a good grasp of time, try to avoid asking those.
If you have kid(s), how do you encourage him/her to have a conversation? Are you doing what the article suggests?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Plotting the Optimal Fun Age

My son is 2.5 years old. He is interacting a lot more with other kids than a year ago. Throughout year 2013, I've been taking notes on how much fun he has had with other kids during play dates. At each play date, I note the gender and age of the other kid, the duration of the play, the frequency of interactions, and subjective "fun-ness" (whether my son is copying, jumping, and/or laughing with the other kid). For each kid he played with, I compile these various numbers into a composite final value called Fun Score, and plotted against the age of the other kid. While data points are sparse and data is only gathered in a span of 4 months, a pattern emerges:

There is some correlation between the age of the other girls (pink circles) he played with and how high the Fun Score is.  In general, the older the girl he played with, the higher the Fun Score on that play date. For example, AA (girl) at age 7 scored a Fun  Score of 10, whereas LK (girl) at age 2 scored a Fun Score of only 4.5 (see the pink best fit line). He doesn't seem to have much interactions with a 3 month old MC and the Fun Score is nearly 0.

The same is true when my son plays with other boys, though the correlation isn't as strong (and also, there is lack of data points). For example, CK and CK2 (who are close in age)  only wanted to play with each other and ignored my son most of the time despite repeated attempts of getting them to play together. Then there is an outlier (EP) who was older and score a high Fun Score of 8. He was the most friendly and well-socialized boy of all the boys we've met to date and scored nearly as high as AA (girl).

Subjectively, I noticed that with my son, the boy-girl interactions tend to be a bit more constructive especially with older girls where she would often help or guide my son to do things. On the other hand, boy-boy interactions tend to be a bit more violent and more destructive, where they often throw things or destroy stuff (pull off legos, kicking block castle down, etc). Many times, they just ignored each other or simply co-played (defined as playing the same toys, but not interacting directly with each other via verbal or visual communications).

Note that my observation is subjective and that data points are sparse and self selected. Most importantly, my observations are mostly relevant for a 2.5 year old boy-- my own son. If you have [anti] anecdotal tales like "This report is flawed, I know this one particular case where x year girl/boy would score y", then feel free to email me personally. On the other hand if you have more data points (10+) that you'd like to share, then I'd really really really love to hear from you!

Monday, June 3, 2013

"A is for Array" - a book to level up your kid

I stumbled across this on Amazon and I gotta get this book! My son's too young for this, but in a year or two this book will be essential to have for him. A is for Array - Click here now to check it out on Amazon!! It makes a great gift too.

If you have kids younger than 3, here are some things you could get instead.

Friday, May 31, 2013 (School district web site with API scores)

I just saw this site that gives you the API scores & maps, I love it! It appears that elementary schools/middle schools tend to pretty high (900s) and clutter up the maps, so by only looking at the high school scores, you get a pretty good idea where good school districts (and they also tend to be more pricy homes):

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Where is a good place to live in "San Fran"?

Over the last few year, countless number of my friends moved to the Bay Area. Once in a while someone would ask me "where is a good place to live in San Fran?" (it's funny that people in LA thinks the entire Bay Area is called San Fran). Even though I'd lived in the Bay Area for 9.5 years (4 in Berkeley, 1 in Emeryville, 1 in Union City, the rest in Sunnyvale), I still feel that I'm not qualified to give advice. So to better help out my LA friends, I started asking my other friends that have been residing in the Bay Area since undergrad. Below are conversational snippets I've had that may be helpful for people [with kids]:

... As for schools district, there aren't that many in the affordable range. Not sure about you, the entire Palo Alto, Los Altos, Los Gatos, Saratoga, most of Cupertino, the good part of Mt View and Sunnyvale are out of reach for me.  Unless you want to spend 500k-700k for a townhouse ~1200 sq ft, then you will have plenty of options. There are plenty of 600k-700k townhouses in Sunnyvale, Mt View and even Palo Alto. But one thing you need to know is condos/townhomes don't appreciate much. That is why people live single family home and that's why they are $1M for 1500sqft and 80 yrs old. It is what it is, can't fight it... 
SF, Burlingame, San Mateo, Redwood Shores are expensive without good schools. Yeah, people who already bought homes in these areas get pissed whenever I say this. Just look at the list. Alameda, Contra Costa, SF, and Kern (and sorry to tell you this Kevin, LA also) are rated amongst the worst. 
That gives you Fremont Mission, Fremont Warmsprings, SJ Almaden, SJ Evergreen that are still reasonably close to the Silicon Valley. I am sure they have places that are nicer and places that are worse. Mission is just as expensive as Sunnyvale, but you get slightly better home. Evergreen is a steal compare to all of them but the schools are just not as good since there are lots of bad Asians here, their API scores are just not as high yet. Almaden homes tend to be above $1 mil. Evergreen will be about 800K, commute is not as good though. So really, SJ only has two good area, Almaden and parts of Evergreen, the rest can be a dump. Almaden is south of 85, Evergreen is where I stay, south east 101. I think it is just a classic case of grass is greener on the other side. Some areas of SJ can be just as bad as LA.  But the worst place in CA is probably Oakland.  
If you are willing to drive a little to San Ramon, then it is heavenly if you like new houses, open land and open floorplan with lots of upgrades. I personally like walkable places like Berkeley, but lots of my friends with kids are moving to San Ramon. That's basically it, Bay Area is small. Having said that, there are still deals out there... you just need to look harder... Just a warning though, interest rate is super low now. It feels like it is bubbling again.  Some homes went up 30% in 6 months.

There are, of course, some dark sides of Silicon Valley. Not all of it is about Google/Facebook and the glamor associated with technology. Bay Area residents, what do you think?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Things You Must Get For Your Nerdlings

Do you have a nerdling and/or have friends who have nerdling(s)? Does your nerdling live in the vicinity of Nerdvale, Nerdain View, Nerdo Alto, Nerdotino? Is he/her going to be surrounded by other nerdlings in a highly competitive school and fear that he/she will not be able to out-nerd his/her schoolmates? Fear not! Here are some must buy items if you want your kid(s) to grow up to be well adjusted and successful nerdling(s)!

1) Hi-tech ABC Poster.

 A is for Apple. B is for Blogger. C is for Cisco. I originally made this for a friend of mine who moved to the Bay Area, now I will donate to the public for free! I printed this on a 16x20 poster at Costco, it is pretty cheap to print there and the postboard is professional grade. FREE download the high-res file (2MB) and print it. There's also a 8MB version if you can handle it. Your nerdling will love it!

2) Star Trek book of opposites. 

Remember those Happy<->Angry, Empty<->Full books you read as a toddler? Now it is available in Star Trek edition! Get it now!
Available from

3) Input Output baby shirt.

You can get it from ThinkGeek.

4) The book of Ping. 

As well educated nerds, we all know that it is really the story about the network stack/TCP/UDP/IP. This is a must have item! Here is a review from one of the online reviewers: "Using deft allegory, the authors have provided an insightful and intuitive explanation of one of Unix's most venerable networking utilities. Even more stunning is that they were clearly working with a very early beta of the program, as their book first appeared in 1933, years (decades!) before the operating system and network infrastructure were finalized. The book describes networking in terms even a child could understand, choosing to anthropomorphize the underlying packet structure. The ping packet is described as a duck, who, with other packets (more ducks), spends a certain period of time on the host machine (the wise-eyed boat). At the same time each day (I suspect this is scheduled under cron), the little packets (ducks) exit the host (boat) by way of a bridge (a bridge). From the bridge, the packets travel onto the internet (here embodied by the Yangtze River)."  Buy your copy now!

5) Nerd rubber ducks. 

Cute!!! Your baby will have lots of fun with it in the shower!

Did I miss any other must buy item for your nerdlings? Please let me know.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Distance to 99 Ranch vs. School Ratings

Someone on Facebook asked me to do a scatter plot of city distance to 99 Ranch and School Rating. For those who do not know what that is, 99 Ranch Market is an Asian American supermarketchain owned by Tawa Supermarket Inc.

BTW I saw this recently from an internet humor site (I didn't create this):

Out of curiosity, I used Google Maps to find the distance of Walmart and Whole Foods from these areas. Suppose the followings: dm=closest distance to Walmart, df=closest distance to Whole Foods, then Snob Score is defined as (dm-df / average(dm, df)). The size of the circle is defined by how expensive a home is. The above humor site has a point, but unfortunately Saratoga and Los Altos ruined the best of line fit in the scatter:

I'm not sure how this is helpful to anyone especially given the fact that the cities here are hand-picked and subject to selection bias. At any rate, what do you think, is there anything you can make out from these plots?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Home Prices vs. School Ratings

As my son turns 2, we are starting to realize the importance of location. In particular, location will in large determine how good a school/district he will get into. Here are some of the scatter plots I generated. I picked the cities that many of my friends/family live in. I got all the data from Redfin (older Feb 2013 data) and Google Maps. The scatter plot below shows a strong correlation between the $/sqft of home vs the average school rating (taking an average of all the schools in the area, listed on Redfin-- make sure to read the disclaimer below). Note that when taking area into account, there is a big distinct best fit line between the Bay Area and SoCal. BTW the size of the circles throughout the scatter plots below correspond to median home prices:

Below is a similar plot based on the median home price vs average school rating:

I was curious to see how the average number of offers drive up the listing price. For example, does a city with an average of 12.3 offers/home end up with a higher-than-original listing price than the city with average of just 1.5 offer/home? Look at the scatter plot below and judge for yourself (poor Milpitas, with so many competing offers, it is still significantly lower than listing price):

I was curious to see how strong the correlation is between the median price of a home and the $/sqft, and I find it interesting that the more expensive homes also happen to cost more $/sqft. In another word, you can pretty much interchange the median price of a home and the $/sqft on any of the scatter plot here and see very similar results:

Here's the last plot, and let's play devil's advocate here. Countless university grads look at education as a must-spend-at-all-cost expense. But there are many other people who look at education in terms of ROI (return on investment). For example, someone who goes to a vocational school isn't thinking about his career but instead thinking about getting a job. He is trying to justify spending [limited] money on certifications/AA degrees that will hopefully help him get higher paying jobs. Assuming all high school degrees are nearly the same, then degrees from the left side (San Ramon, Simi Valley), are much cheaper than degrees from the right side (Palo Alto, Santa Monica).

In another word, nobody ever cares about what elementary, middle, high school you went to... what is the point of bidding up home prices? Why spend so much in Palo Alto when cheaper San Jose homes will give your kids the same degrees? Is the housing rat-race really worth the hype?

Are you still convinced that good school districts are worth every single dime? You may be surprised when you read the Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents Are Going Broke by E. Warren. Piaw has a good review on this book as well:

Please share this URL with your friends/family members if this link is useful and/or entertaining. Thanks!


I understand there are many flaws to the methodology, including: "a few bad apples ruined my area", a big city will tend to incorporate many other neighboring (and sometimes less desirable) schools, student population is not taken into account, loss of precision in Redfin when they mapped API scores to integer values, typos/mistakes in data entry, so on so forth. I recognize that this blog is subject to all of the above problems and more, and that they need to be addressed to make a more accurate report.

On the side, I find it interesting to hear a lot of strong emotion-based criticisms about my "research", as if a lower score on where a person already invested in becomes a personal attack! All I can say is that everyone has a valid point, so please calm down and take these scatter plots/data with a grain of salt. If you want to see raw data, I've shared it publicly here.