Ask the Grumpies: Schools in the SF Bay area that are good for mathematically advanced kids?


I am moving to the SF Bay area for a new job from a city across the country.  My six year old is currently several years ahead in math at school and I would like to find a school supportive of continued enrichment/acceleration.  Any words of wisdom?

What we’ve had to do when doing sabbatical moves is to call up the school districts of all the places we’ve been thinking of moving to and just ask what is done in DC’s situation.  This has been very informative as some districts are much better than others.  In our case, we didn’t ask about single-subject acceleration which is what it sounds like you need, but instead whole-grade acceleration.  I know we posted on our process, but I cannot for the life of me find that post.  Essentially we looked at a map of a reasonable commute to my sabbatical place and called all the school districts and explained and just asked what their general policy was for our situation.  Some said they would obviously put DC1 in the next grade, some said they’d test DC1, and some said they’d put DC1 in the grade for hir age level.  You would likely want to be asking about single subject acceleration.

In terms of the Bay area specifically, I don’t know if this is still true, but Berkeley schools have always had a reputation for being anti-intellectual.  They’re very into “letting kids be kids” which means bored out of their skulls.  There used to be a forum that you could find online with lots of parents complaining about it.  Sunnyvale is another district that is not great in that respect.

In terms of out of school math enrichment:  Math Circles are great.  DC1 started going in middle school.  Our DC2 hasn’t gone to one yet, but DC2 is only doing third grade math right now.  These are usually on Saturdays.  They get to do fun stuff that often isn’t done within school.

Good luck!

Do any members of grumpy nation have experience or insight with single-subject acceleration at the elementary school level in the greater SF bay area?

What are your current favorite blogs?

What do you love?

You can see our blogroll over at the side, but it hides some of our favs as we tend to mostly link to places with good blogrolls (with a few exceptions).

Missing are: Agaishanlife, bitchesgetriches, dameeleanorhull, ipickuppennies, naturalscientist, retireby40, shepicksuppennies, stackingpennies ,… hey!  plantingourpennies just updated for the first time in a while… I’m sure we’re forgetting some!  (And do we just like blogs with pennies in the name?)

Many of our old favorites have just stopped blogging– they are missed!

I’m sad to say we cut an academic blog when it because abundantly obvious the blogger was a TERF (in fact, prior to her faux-feminist spewing I did not realize such a mind-boggling thing existed, though #2 knew).  I lost my last homeschooling mom blog when there were a series of things in a row showing that she doesn’t think about how actions can affect people who aren’t in her specific hetero-CIS-white demographic (if it had been just one thing I’d probably still be reading… but I can’t in good conscious continue… plus she periodically spreads harmful messages about how you should be jealous of “successful” (craftier/better homemaker/etc.) women but you shouldn’t actually be jealous because instead of being perfect, they’re all messed up in ways they’re not showing you, which is both a way the patriarchy pulls women down and neither true nor helpful… also not everybody’s idea of success).  I’m now scratching that I dunno… simplicity? itch listening to Young House Love Has a Podcast in the car.

What do you still read?  Do you have anything new we should check out?

Not all electricity is the same

California’s new law requiring solar panels in new residential builds has just gone into place.  That’s pretty cool– I’m hoping that the resultant increase in demand will cause technology improvements that will make solar worth it for my house by the time we need a new roof.

California already has cleaner energy which means it’s a great place to drive an electric car.

But not every state gets a lot of energy from renewables and (not great but still) relatively cleaner forms of energy generation such as nuclear power or natural gas.  Some still have electricity generation that may be dirtier than the same amount required to fuel a gasoline-powered hybrid car.  In these places, it’s better for the environment to buy a hybrid than to buy an electric vehicle.

Here’s an article from 2015 that describes this situation in more detail.

And here’s a nifty NYTimes article from 2018 that shows where your state gets the majority of its energy (or at least where it did back in 2017):

The US government also has a tool that’s hopefully more up-to-date (but actually looks like it’s still using 2017 data) that provides a ton of information on energy generation and consumption by state.  You can see why CA is a great place for electric cars, but say, West Virginia should stick to hybrids.

What kind of electricity do you have?  Has this influenced your decision about what kind of car to buy?


Link Love

How a pediatrician had a coordinated attack against here after making a cute and fun video about how vaccines don’t cause autism.

A twisted story about dealing with health insurance to get a CT scan in the US.


Reading this I felt a little guilty for us finally getting around to the kitchen remodel.  But then I reminded myself I’d just rolled out sugar cookies on the island instead of on the bureau in the dining room and remembered how hard it was to clean the “white” laminate we had previously.  And how the water no longer pools behind the sink.  And how we can afford it.  So I felt better.  But maybe I feel virtuous for putting it off for so long?

The other secret twist: on the political philosophy of The Good Place

I endorse this endorsement

Unsafe pork is likely to make its way to consumers under new loosened regulations

The comparison of these next two is pretty amazing.  Closer!

Ask the grumpies: How can I help save the country when I hate talking to people and I live in Massachusetts [or substitute true blue state]

Introvert from MA asks:

I was talking with a friend and said that I feel guilty for being privileged, but after some discussion, I thought… maybe I really feel guilty for not living up to the responsibility that should come with my privilege.  I should do more political activism.  I have kind of accepted in my case phone calls just won’t happen– it gives me so much anxiety that I just avoid it.  I also honestly feel like activism in MA has very little point.  What can I do that will have an impact and doesn’t require me to get over my anxiety?  Also, I am doing fine financially but I’m not rich– so I do have some extra money, but not enough to make a huge difference in terms of donations to people.  Also, I should know this, but can you donate/volunteer to campaigns you’re not allowed to vote for?


So first, yes, if you are a US citizen you can donate to US campaigns outside your state at any level.  If you’re not a US citizen you can’t.  So if you have no time, you can donate to candidates outside your state.  If you don’t want to research *who* to vote for, SWING LEFT (link not sponsored, we just like them) is an easy place to direct dollars to– they’ve done all sorts of research on which states are flippable and will direct money accordingly.  I have done a lot of random $25 donations, basically any time something gets me riled up or I read a news story or someone I trust suggests a donation.

In terms of what else you can do to put that privilege to use in an impactful way:  It sounds to me like you are a perfect candidate for either postcards or letters.  I have done both of these.


Postcards are used in several ways.  Currently, they have campaigns where they’re trying to get ahead of some massive voter purges in several states like Florida and Texas.  One of the things they’re doing is contacting registered democrats who have moved within-state to update their voter registration (they will followup with a pre-filled form) so that when the purge of people who don’t live at their current address (even if they’re still in the same precinct!) comes, they won’t be caught in it.  Other campaigns are reminding people to vote or asking them to vote for specific Democratic candidates.

Generally with Postcards to Voters (not sponsored, though we’ve given them money), you sign up to write some number of postcards– they recommend 5 when you’re starting out (I usually request 20 and then DH and I each do 10).  Then you text “hi” to Abby the bot (they’ll give you its number) and it will ask you what campaign you want to write postcards for.  Then they send you a link and an email to a page with instructions (including a script) and however many addresses you requested.  You are expected to mail your postcards within three days (so only request as many as you will be able to do– you can request again if you want).

You provide the postcards and the postage.  Currently the US postal service only has two options for postcard stamps– you can get shell coral reef stamps (not sponsored) to put on your own postcards, or you can buy pre-stamped postcards (not sponsored) from the post office with pretty stamp designs (usually flowers or birds).  For post-cards you have a ton of options.  The cheapest options are to get 100 packs from Amazon that say VOTE on them.  This set (amazon link) used to be the cheapest, and the designs are solid.  There’s a blank strip on the front that I like because you can put reminders about early voting dates or a webpage for the candidate on that part.  The one small problem is that you have to be careful with what kind of pen you use on that strip because it will smudge with some pens if you don’t let the ink dry first.  This other set (amazon link) is currently the cheapest per-card, but I haven’t used it yet.  People give it good reviews!  Post cards for voters has a ton of more expensive (and higher quality) options that are just adorable, but I will warn you that you will end up writing more if you choose one of their who/what/when etc. options like this cute one with owls (amazon link).  Options that limit what you can write on the picture side are likely to be less overwhelming, even if they’re not as cute.  All of these postcard sets on amazon have pictures of people’s actual post-cards from postcards to voters, so you can see what they tend to look like when they’re complete.  If you’d rather print your own postcards, they provide a number of great templates (not sponsored).

You do not put your full name (I sign with my first, but I’ve been at parties where people sign with a made-up first name, and sometimes DH doesn’t sign at all), and you don’t know the name of the person you’re sending to.  They give you a list of suggestions for who to address it to, and I’ve settled on VIP Voter because it nicely balances a short salutation (good for my wrist) and not sounding stupid.

You can mail these by taking them to a mailbox, the post-office, or just leaving them in your mailbox for your regular mail carrier to pick up.  I usually drop them off at the post-office on my way to work.


Another option is to send letters with vote forward.  These tend to be general letters not for any specific candidate sent to registered democrats reminding people to vote.  You will have people’s names and addresses.  Generally you’re writing by hand Dear Ms/Mr/etc. LASTNAME and signing and possibly filling in some other bit of information by hand, but the rest of the stuff is printed out.  Then you hand address the letters, using a PO Box return address that they give you.

You can request addresses at any time.  You use your own paper and envelopes and stamps and can choose any stamps you want.  The post office has put me on their philatelist mailing list.  Now I want all the stamps.  Currently they have SESAME STREET(!) (not sponsored)

Then you hold onto the letters until the time to send them… which is currently OCTOBER 27th for reminding people about the general election.  Personally I’m going to focus on postcards until this summer, but I will definitely be doing letters closer to the time period.  I may buy more stamps before then though.


If you’re ok with texting, Indivisible has a Texting team that you can join.  I personally hate GETTING texts from political campaigns, so I was a bit leery about joining up, BUT they have a 4 prong texting program for the candidates they’re targeting.  The first two texts sound AWFUL as an introvert– they’re “listening” and “persuading”.  But my sister convinced me to sign up to do “let people know that early voting has started” and “GOTV”.   We’ll see how those go… I’m a little intimidated about it.  Also, all the texting is done from your computer, not your phone and they won’t have your own phone number.  I’m not entirely sure how to get connected with this (it all seemed super secret when I was invited), but here’s their web form that I didn’t use.

Grumpy Nation:  Are you doing any of the above?  Do you have other suggestions for ways to get involved?

Books books books

Read Bramble and Blood and really enjoyed it– the first chapter is pretty clunky, but by chapter two the writing is smooth.  The world building was really neat.  I liked it so much that I immediately bought Birdsong and Bone which was also excellent.  Then I bought Shadows and Souls.  These were a nice break from the maybe too predictable stuff I’d been reading lately.  (Note:  The third book had a completely unnecessary Pathos death.  Disappointing, given the second one made a different choice about another potential Pathos death.)

I returned Destiny’s Embrace unfinished because ugh… the hero force kisses the heroine who his mother has employed as his housekeeper on the first day that she meets him after they get into a verbal argument.  I am just OVER “heroes” kissing women they barely know without consent, and doubly over “heroes” kissing the heroines they employ.  Kissing strangers is not normal and kissing employees is harassment.  The book didn’t get better after that, so I gave up.  Which is a shame because the set-up was interesting.  (I’m willing to give some leeway for the hero and heroine being in a working relationship while falling in love if the author can make it work in a way that’s not squicky– not the case here.)

Chance of a Lifetime by Jayne Ann Krentz was similarly terrible, by which I mean the hero force kissed the heroine he has employed as his housekeeper on the second day she meets him after they get into a verbal argument.  I wish the first goodreads review had been on amazon– I wouldn’t have bought it!  I’m considering recycling the used copy I have instead of passing it on.  I need to be better about checking all reviews, though in fairness I thought this was from 1994 (Krentz was mostly better by then, so long as it wasn’t a Stephanie James reissue), but it’s actually 1987.

Merry Inkmas was similarly irritating though not quite as bad.  I did finish it, but I deleted it off my kindle.

Lady Osbaldestone’s Plum Puddings was better than the second in the series (which I do not regret reading and have not deleted, but definitely dragged a bit) but not quite as good as the first.

Death Beside the Seaside was another fun Lady Hardcastle.

A Delicate Deception was a nice meandering book, though the ending seemed kind of abrupt.  It would have done well with a five years later epilogue, though I know that sort of goes against the message of the book.  Still… life does go on, and it’s nice to get a peek into the happily ever after.  I assume they’ll show up in a future book as minor characters but by then I’ll have completely forgotten who they were.

The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics was pretty good except for the heroines losing each other for no good reason.  I hate it when the drama has to be achieved by sensible characters not talking things out.  The end was a bit wishful, but still nice.

I liked the novella One Bed for Christmas.  IIRC this also had some stupidity drama, but it was resolved much more quickly, and in a way that’s more realistic– sensible characters had sensible friends who told them to stop being dumb.

The Magician’s Angel was a good library read but I didn’t feel the need to buy– very much a novella.

I reread Lord Perfect and decided to buy it.  I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t the first time around.  (Maybe because it’s overpriced for an older kindle book and we were on half salary at 2x expenses at the time?)

I impulse bought My Fake Rake and wish I hadn’t.  It took all my favorite tropes… and then was just kind of dumb.  It would have been an ok library read if I didn’t have better stuff, but I think I may have deleted it off my kindle.

Devil Take me was a great selection of m/m short stories.  Some of them were astonishingly good.

I bought a series of four super silly m/m novellas by Jordan Castillo Price.  They probably weren’t worth what I paid for them, but they hit a silliness spot that I needed.

Restless Spirits by Jordan L. Hawk was fun.  I find most of Hawk’s books just really easy to read, even though they’re not entirely predictable.  I’m hoping for more omnibuses to be available in the future.  You can already get some of their series in omnibus form, like SPECTR, the complete first series, which is a steal at $4.99.  Did I say that in the last books post?   Must not have– it’s been a long time since the last one of these posts!

Charmed and Dangerous was fine, but not as good as Devil Take Me, even though many of the authors were the same across the two anthologies.

I can’t remember what I thought about the Duke I tempted by Scarlett Peckham.  Obviously this feature needs to be done more frequently.  I think it had some unnecessary angst, but… I can’t actually remember.

I do remember that A Rogue by Night and Night of the Scoundrel, both in the Devils of Dover series were delightful, though I do think there was more that could have been done with the hero in Night of the Scoundrel– usually the mysterious King in these books is given a full novel finale rather than a short novella with a Mary Sue heroine, but that’s an interesting direction to take the trope.

Gilded Cage by K J Charles was wonderful!!!  Not anywhere near the mindflip as the first book in the series, but I think the simpler nature of this book nicely parallels the differences between the two different Lilywhite boys featured as heroes in the two books.  There’s also some nice followup to the characters in the rat catcher’s daughter short, which is an excellent read.

Flowers in the Storm by Laura Kinsale was Gawdawful.  Just don’t.

I think I liked Lady Isabella’s Ogre by Emily Larkin.  I read it way back in October though!  I bought it before I read a huge dud of hers, and haven’t bought anything else from her.  I wish the library had more of her stuff so I could try before buying.

What are you reading?  Anything you recommend?

When to buy a new computer? And the laptop I ended up buying

My laptop has some sort of hardware issue that causes it to occasionally die even when it’s just sitting there.  This wouldn’t be such a big problem but my work computer, over which I have zero administrative control, has been pretty unworkable for months because of some sort of disagreement Symantec is having with Dropbox and our university IT’s unwillingness to install a patch.  At least that’s my understanding as to why my work computer will just randomly blue screen of death.

The laptop is only 4 years old, but I need a computer at work that won’t up and die on me when I’m in the middle of a complicated Stata thing.  It is a huge PITA to get everything open again and back to where I was when I’m in the middle of programming, especially when I’m trying to balance an away server with my desktop Stata.

Update:  The choice was taken from me– on January 6th, 2020, my laptop met its final end after half a day of shutting itself down every 20 minutes.

I ended up getting a Dell XPS 13, which is on the top of several “best laptops” lists and DH says has the best components of any of the best laptops at a similar price.  Irritatingly, it has also updated its ports and only has two thunderbolt ports and a newfangled little usb.  But DH says we’re better off buying new cords and other accessories than getting a worse computer with more ports.  It does mean that I will have to get a wireless (bluetooth) mouse, which I find somewhat irritating and I went with a 1TB harddrive so I could just not have an external dropbox harddrive, which was not cheap.  I paid an additional $25 to expedite shipping a week earlier because I need a working computer at work.   After taxes and without any software or accessories other than a 3 year subscription to McAfee (my university no longer provides discounted anti-virus software), my total cost was $1,834, which is not cheap, but also not as bad as it could have been.  I really hope it lasts longer than my previous laptop!

I will be getting additional software, but through the university.  It’s about time I upgraded to Stata 16 anyway.

The new laptop is super tiny.  It’s about the same size as my ipad pro though shaped a bit differently.  Very bright, good resolution.  A high quality product all around.  All the random cords we bought seem to be working– plugging in a second monitor just worked without any jiggling… it was almost Mac-like.

How do you decide when to get a new personal computer or laptop?


Link Love

How Rupert Murdoch is influencing Australia’s Bush Fire debate (the link says “fires-murdoch-disinformation” in case you only read headlines…)

Texas is making it more difficult for public employees to donate to planned parenthood, but they can still donate to religious orgs easily.

US Textbooks: Texas vs. California edition. I grew up in a Midewestern state that used CA textbooks… I remember thinking that’s where a lot of Obama’s basic beliefs (that I shared) came from. Currently I live in a state that uses Texas textbooks and they are awful. Fortunately we’re bypassing a lot of that in high school by DC1 only taking AP history classes which use AP textbooks. But it’s in the water. (We also bought Lies my Teacher Told Me for DC1 which is full of history not twisted to the TX state board of education’s specifications (amazon link=> we get small cut).)

An oldie from Miser Mom: Do not read the book.

The cost of mental health hospitalization. Protip: Do not say you want to kill yourself while in a doctor’s office lobby unless you mean it. Especially if you’re under 18.

Compare candidates plans for Social Security

A really good commentary on the types of roles that black actors get Oscar nods for, and the kind they don’t. This needs to change.

Nobody I know likes the results they got from this Washington Post quiz: Which candidate agrees with me… I think because a 20 question quiz that has selected policy positions and doesn’t account for the strength of how much you care about things . I am FAR less progressive than Elizabeth Warren, but I’m FINE with her positions and I think she’s the candidate most likely to rid the federal government of Russian Spies and to address important monopoly and privacy issues. And ALL of the candidates other than Trump are going to do the things I care about: stop selling our country, stop hurting children, stop torturing immigrants, stop committing major crimes, and so on… In any case, it says I agree with Bloomberg most and Biden second. Which does make me think a little bit more seriously about Bloomberg’s candidacy. But with Biden I’m concerned that if he can’t stop touching women for a single week, then there’s probably other really important things he is also not capable of that could continue to put our country in danger.

I have not had a working desktop at work since NOVEMBER. This is a university-wide problem for anyone who uses dropbox since they decided to encrypt our harddrives with Symentec.

Free fun family talks about living values a bit better.


Ask the grumpies: How does a Gay woman in her mid forties date?

Anoninmass asks:

How does a Gay woman in her mid forties date….when only a small part of her wants to date in the first place?

Great question.  We’re both introverted, and near our mid-forties.  But neither one of us is gay and neither one of us has dated for a long, looonnnnnng time.  None of our lesbian friends have dated in a loooong time either (and yay marriage for those who want it!).  Hetero people we know seem to mostly be using dating apps and going on lots of dates of various levels of fun vs. terrible (or have decided that they don’t want to date at all).

You might find some wisdom over at Captain Awkward.

Here’s a blog post that we did not write.  Everything else google is giving me is either about people realizing they’re gay in their 40s or webpages for dating apps.

Do any grumpy readers have better advice for Anoninmass?

How does GPA work in your local high school?

So today I discovered that if DC1 gets a 90% in a non-honors class (like JV orchestra), that is a 3.0.  Not a 4.0.  Not a 3.5.  A 3.0.  DC1’s 99% in orchestra this semester is a 3.9.  A 90% in an honors or AP class is a 4.0.

When I grew up, any kind of A was a 4.0 if there weren’t + or -.  If there were + and – then an A+ and A were both 4.0 but an A- was like 3.67 and a B+ 3.33 or something.  That’s the same way it still works in most colleges I’m acquainted with.

So at DC1’s high school, a kid can get straight As and have a 3.0.

That seems so weird to me.

Are all high schools doing it this way, or is DC1’s different?  And will everything have to be recalculated when applying for colleges?