Happy holidays from the Qvarfordt-Zhai family! Every year, we've intended to write to friends and family with updates about our lives, but more often than not, we haven't managed to do so. This time, however, we're making it happen! So, here we go.
Lina, in the final (4th, “senior”) year of high school, now drives herself to school every day and takes Isa and Perry to various places on weekends. Between studies of regular and AP classes, extracurricular activities, and varsity wrestling, she prepared her SAT all by herself, achieving a score in the above 99th percentile. A year ago, Lina transitioned from an impressive artistic swimming career to varsity wrestling, quickly excelling in the sport. She has won numerous wrestling medals, earned the Most Improved award, and became captain of the Lynbrook Wrestling girls' team after just one year of training. Meanwhile, she has been exploring her college major interests, with design emerging as her top choice. The artwork she's produced, both in school and independently, is extraordinary. We are hopeful that her creative talents and critical thinking skills will launch her into a successful design career.
Isa is in her second (“sophomore”) year of high school. The 2022-2023 season marked her triumphant final year of artistic swimming with the Santa Clara Aquamaids, winning National Championships in both Senior Team and Youth Combo categories. Overall, Isa received 7 gold, 2 silver, and 1 bronze medal in Regional and West Zone competitions, National Championships, and the Budapest Open. One factor in her remarkable medal count is her participation in two age groups: the 13-15 Team and the Senior Team. This required a significant commitment, involving rigorous daily practice sessions (typically 5 hours a day, 6 days a week) and traveling to various cities and states for competitions in both age groups. Throughout this demanding schedule, she also excelled in her high school studies.
In the fall Isa switched to Junior Varsity Water Polo in the Saratoga High School and got good at it right away, winning the All League Award. In one game we watched she scored 6 out of 7 goals for her team. She is also enjoying the unique and impressive Media and Arts (MAP) program at the Saratoga High School. In the final project her team combined all the media and arts skills and the world history knowledge learned in the semester in a performance where her team played the Radicalism activists during the French revolution. How fun!
Perry is doing great. She continues to advance her artistic swimming career at the famed Santa Clara Aquamaids Club while getting straight A’s studying arts and music at the De Anza College. It is amazing Perry could efficiently pursue two careers at once. She lives with us in the Bay Area but without losing any connection to her wonderful family in Nevada. She talks with her mom in Nevada everyday - more than Lina and Isa with us. Perry is Isa’s and Lina’s best friend. They also grow more helpful around the house. Whenever they can, they do their own share of house keeping such as cleaning up after finishing dinner Shumin or Pernilla prepared. All three of them also take care of their own breakfast and lunch. It is a privilege to be able to host Perry for another year.
Pernilla is enjoying her very engaging Design Research career, busy with meetings, interviews, studies and presentations, with eBay users (sellers and buyers), colleagues, and management. Pernilla has also continued to serve on the Board of Directors of the Santa Clara Aquamaids which has grown back strongly from the pandemic low years.
Shumin expanded his Principal Scientist role to be officially the Director of Gboard which serves more than 1 billion daily active users (DAU) in over 800 languages and language varieties. He works with Gboard engineers, researchers, designers and product managers at many Google offices around the globe to push the frontiers of user input on phones, watches, tablets, foldables via tap, gesture, voice, stylus … all guided by human factors design principles and powered by the ever more powerful AI technologies. The rise of Large Large Models has many roots in what Shumin and his colleagues work on text input. Now LLM and GenAI are coming back to Gboard. The team launched Proofread on Pixel 8 in production that can correct “cek tis otu! yoj ekn smash ob tje keeborrfda ajd itr stels getss wtat you meand perfectlee.“ to “ Check this out! You can smash on the keyboard and it still gets what you mean perfectly.” months before influential AI researchers on Twitter/X realized it as a surprising possibility.
The summer of 2023 was an event-packed season for us. Perry travelled to and won national competitions then to home in Nevada to visit her family. Lina began the summer by taking an Intro to Psychology course at the West Valley College. Meanwhile Pernilla and Isa traveled to Hungary for Isa's Budapest Open. Isa and her teammates outperformed everyone, including the Hungarian National team, securing the team gold. It must have been an electrifying moment when they stood victorious, with the US anthem echoing in the stadium. Afterwards Pernilla and Isa went on a grand Central European tour by train, visiting Vienna, Prague and Berlin, and lastly jumped on a flight to Northern Sweden to visit Isa’s grandfather.
After completing her course at West Valley college, Lina and Shumin embarked on a 3 week journey to Japan and China. Shumin worked in Google's Tokyo and Beijing offices with many talented Gboard engineers and designers. Lina had the opportunity to observe many of the design and review meetings Shumin had with colleagues. Lina also delved into studying the usability of some of the new features of Gboard on tablets. They took a few days to visit Shumin’s Mom, brother, and other close relatives in China for the first time since 2019. It was quite emotional to see them after such a long time and as Shumin Mom’s Alzheimer is becoming ever more evident.
In between the summer travels we relocated our home back to Saratoga. Naturally this meant a lot of packing, unpacking, setting up, painting and repairing - some are still ongoing. With it the move brought more living space, allowing Lina and Perry to upgrade from sharing a single bedroom to a whole suite of their own. Both being cat enthusiasts, Lina and Perry welcomed two new feline friends, Pippi and Hades, into their downstairs suite which importantly is thoughtfully sectioned off from the rest of the house to accommodate Pernilla's cat allergy. With the move Isa got to appreciate the cozier environment of Saratoga High School, conveniently located in the neighborhood within walking and biking distance. We all also enjoy walking a few minutes to the historic Saratoga Village for dinner or just a stroll in the evenings or weekends.
Throughout the year, we often find ourselves deeply concerned with the turmoil, threats, setbacks, and challenges that humanity encounters everywhere in the world. We strive to do what we can in response. Amidst it all, we are very grateful for the opportunities, well-being, love, and friendship you all have blessed us with.
We wish you a merry jolly holiday season and a great new year in 2024!
Isa, Lina, Pernilla, Perry, and Shumin
14320 Springer Ave, Saratoga, CA 95070