Valan Q. Wood

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Who I am

I grew up in Los Osos, a small town near a small city about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco in California.

I went to college at University of California at Santa Barbara with the College of Creative Studies . While there I learned a rigorous and mathematical approach to physics. I also learned enough about chess to be competitive. And I hooked up with the Santa Barbarian Hash House Harriers (thanks to my long lost friend Alfred Vargas - are you out there, Al?). This is also about the time I learned that I was a wiz with computers. It wasn't a big surprise, since I'd had more exposure to computers than most while growing up. But it was a revelation to me when I realized I could be even better than some of my brothers who had made a business out of computers while they were younger than any ordinary college student! The reason this was possible was because of my superior talent with mathematics!

In 1993 I began graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh. People tend to look at me incredulously and ask, "Why the hell did you go from California to Pittsburgh??" Well, I know everyone loves the weather in California, but I kinda wanted to see what it's like on the other side. I'd never been in a snow storm, ya know. I took to the cold pretty readily, and I enjoyed learning the nuances of the culture. But after about 2 years I was ready to go back. After about 7 years, I finally went back, and it's good to be back in California!

Currently, since Oct 2000, I'm working for Nielsen Mobile, a division of The Nielsen Company. I manage a small group of analysts, we focus on the data streams from the Service Quality platform. What is that, you ask? Well, the easiest way for me to describe this is to refer to the Verizon commercials that say "Can you hear me now?" We do what that guy does, my group looks at the data that comes in from the field and interprets it for the business guys.

What I do


A few summers ago (1999) a friend said "Hey, want to do a triathalon?", to which I replied "You'll teach me how to swim?" "Sure, you'll help me train to run?" "Ok." So I did a couple triathalons that summer. They mark up your body with permanent markers so that you can have a visible number for the swim/bike/run regardless of what you're wearing and how wet you get. The one I did solo was a sprint (400m swim/20km bike/5km run) in which my bicycle derailer fell apart and I ran in the last mile plus... total time was 1:29:14. The team triathalon I did was international length (1.5km swim/40km bike/10km run)... our runner came too late, so I did the bike leg and the run leg (in my bike shoes!)... total time was 2hours 55minutes. I may not have these triathalons figured out yet, but at least I always finish!


Check out this pic of me and some friends on our way to North Carolina in 1997. (Left to right: Jim, Dave, Amy, Me). We stopped at this scenic overlook just south of the West Virginia/Maryland border. But I regret to admit I dont own a bike anymore. Cool Pic


I am an analyst. I have strong math and computer programming skills. I have been trained well in research, and know the fundamentals of physics very well. At Nielsen, I apply myself to measuring the quality of service of cell phone providers.

Where I live and work

I live in
Lafayette, CA with my loving wife Susan and two cats Cloe and Buddy. I work in San Francisco, CA. I quite like Lafayette; it's a small sub-urban town where racoons raid my garbage cans and deer occasionally wander into my front yard at night. I'm not so much a city person, and while I enjoy my job I hate walking through the city from the train to my workplace.


... when what?! My life is relatively timless right now.

How to contact me

I use a service from
http://www.pobox.com. My username is valan.

My resume

My thesis


Los Osos

I grew up in Los Osos, if you look on a map you'll see it's located on the coast of California about halfway between SF and LA. Los Osos is Spanish for "the bears". It's a small town, pretty much created while I was growing up, near San Luis Obispo. When I saw "created", I mean that when I was born it had a population of less than 1,000, and by the time I got out of highschool it was 10x that. One of the interesting things about Los Osos was that the soil was almost all sand.

It has the biggest line of sand dunes I've ever seen, bigger than the one's in North Carolina that boast to be the biggest on the East coast. I would dare say they are the biggest on the West coast, but I do not really know if there are any bigger. As a kid, I would ride on boards down them like sleds or like snowboards. I didn't realize how unique they were, but I did enjoy them! Also, being close to Morro Bay, there was a beautiful view of Morro Rock. I wish I had a picture of the rock from a hill in Los Osos, but here's a site that has some good pictures.

Woods Edge

My parents owned a fairly large plot of land. They were not rich, remember how small this town was. Land was cheap. It was right on the edge of an oak wood forest. I think that oak tree's are the most climable tree's there are. You can probably imagine, I took to them at a very young age. Although I don't remember this, my mother told stories about how I would terrify her by climbing high into the trees when I was 2 years old. I do remember from around the age of 6, while playing follow-the-leader with my two next older brothers:

Luke was 12, and Victor was 7. Luke was the leader, and he took three fast steps along a low-lying branch that contained no hand holds. This terrified me, actually. I was used to having hand holds. I had learned to always have one hand firmly grasping a branch, and this stunt that required balance scared me. With a little coaxing, I did manage to do it. It opened up a whole new technique to me. And there were many more years of tree climbing ahead of me.

The Meaning of Life

It is interesting to look back at oneself, remembering the times when profound thoughts were first considered. This particular story starts when I was 12, one day when I was feeling lonely. I do not remember if there was no one at home, or if everyone was just busy doing their own things, I only remember that I was by myself with nothing that I could think of to do. So I went to climb tree's and wonder about my life. This was not the first time I had wondered about the meaning of life. I don't remember if I really thought of it exactly in those terms, nor do I remember if it was a question that had already been planted in my head or if I had actually come up with it myself.

So there I was, climbing tree's to pass the time, wondering what made life interesting. This was before puberty for me, so my judgement was not influenced by girls at all. My answer was: challenge. We live life in search of challenges.