Swallows drop shadows
In heathery fields as I lie
And watch the river.

Today was Knol's offsite; we decided to go whitewater rafting. A few hours on a river is enough to get to know people. I was really glad for the opportunity to spend time with my team, especially since I work so far away from them.

The river involved some Class III rapids, which isn't, you know, really hardcore, but it was definitely a fun day. Some parts were a challenge. Riding in front was great.

At the stop for lunch, there was a hill unlike any I'd seen in California so far. It was covered in some kind of green and purple grass. No trees. There was a rock at the top that I had to hike up to. Seeing the river (which I guess is the busiest in America for rafting) and the surrounding hills and rocks and trees was really peaceful. :)

So my arms are dead from a full day of rafting today, but the rest of my body is dead from a full weekend of biking in San Francisco. There was a critical mass ride on Friday, and that was a good time. A slew of bikers biking wherever they please through rush hour traffic. Hahaha.

Also Friday was a visit to a jazz club for a band that played lots of awesome tuneage, including a jazzy rendition of "Spanish Castle Magic." Awesome.

Saturday was pretty chill: a visit to the Computer History Museum for a look at Babbage's Difference Engine #2 and a trip to the theater to see Wall-E. So sad.

Sunday? The Gay Pride Parade in SF! Super festive and awesome. Also, the best breakfast ever. Hunger is the best spice, and I was starving. A ride (after many wrong turns) up to Sausalito and a ferry ride back to the city rounded out the day.

And now, I need some sleep. I'll try to edit this post with pictures from the weekend sometime.


Big Frickin Weekend

Free-falling to Earth,
Saved by a bright parachute,
My first time. Awesome!

I almost can't believe that I can actually cross skydiving off my list. It was an incredible experience. Seventeen of us interns went for the adventure. It was about $200/person for the whole day (including car rentals, gas, food, etc.), which is nothing for such excitement.

Honestly, the terror was a lot worse in the plane on the way up than it was actually falling. Evan was the first one out of my planeload, and he got the distinct pleasure of sitting next to the open side of the plane as we climbed to 13,000 ft. We each had altimeters on our wrists, and right at 13,000 the plane leveled off and Evan went... away.

My tandem guy (Marcus) scooted me down the bench and in front of the yawning opening at the back of the plane. I saw Evan and his instructor, now just a tiny dot, falling fast. "Dive flow," I thought to myself. I grabbed my harness, did the one-two-three rocking motion ("ready, set, dive!") with Marcus, and I was skydiving! There was so much wind, but I could still hear myself screaming, I think. Mind you: it was screams of joy, not screams of terror! Sooooooo much fun.

At 7,000 feet, Marcus tapped me on the shoulder, and I looked at my wrist. I watched it drop down to 5,5o0 feet, then reached back and pulled the golf ball that released the chute. A satisfying *funf* heralded the opening of the chute, and suddenly we were drifting happily, almost a mile above the countryside.

The canopy was almost as good as the freefall, honestly. Marcus let me steer the parachute for a while, and we spun around in impressively tight corkscrews. I didn't realize how much control there was to be had over falling!

The landing was easy. Marcus did most of it. Instead of landing undignifiedly on my butt, like all the other first-timers, I proudly landed on two feet. :)

After such an adventure, food was necessary. Evan, Taejin, Dean, and I took one of the rental cars that we'd booked for the weekend to Sacramento. I was disappointed with how empty the city was, but I didn't much care after the day's excitements. We had dinner at a delicious Italian place downtown.

All in all, I'm still completely wiped from the weekend. I'm hoping to get a proper night's sleep sometime in the near future, but we'll see whether that happens or not.


Big Basin, part II

Valkyrie and company hiked around the loop one direction, and the rest of us hiked the same trail the other way. So incredible. There aren't words for it... so I leave you with a few pictures. But you should know that even the photos don't begin to capture the size and impressiveness of this place.



Dirt, caked into my skin,
A thousand years of redwoods,
Some burnt, most still grand.

Big Basin is only an hour from here, and the scenery there is phenomenal. I can't believe I hadn't visited there before today! Robby set up a hike for all of us through the park. It was awesome. The waterfalls, the trees... just getting back to nature after spending my week staring at a screen was pretty much the best thing ever.

It was strange to see the ravages of the fire, too. Seeing such majestic towers with dark scars like that...

I'm tired, though. 10 miles through hills was intense. We all got super dehydrated, too, because we didn't realize that we would be going on such a big hike.

Post hike, Robby, Doug, Evan, and I managed to get lost. Well, mostly me. We found Santa Clara, though. :P

For Mehul's birthday, we went out for dinner at a delicious Indian place. Mmmmmm....



Hidden in gardens
Sparkles something amazing.
Google and elsewhere.

I got the special treat of listening to Dale Chihuly at a tech talk today. He showed videos of installations he's done in places like Jerusalem, which is way awesome. I wish that I knew how to blow glass...

The intern lunch was yesterday! It wasn't so much of a success as I'd hoped for, but definitely everyone seemed to have fun, and the Cool People mailing list and calendar got publicized, and I met a couple new interns. The conference bike races were AMAZING. I think the blue bike is a little faster. There's a video of the race someplace around here... Taejin (the other knol intern; he works with the team in Korea, actually) took one, I believe.

Oh! Right! Google Serve! I went to San Bruno Mountain and helped keep control of invasive plants (i.e. I pulled weeds) for an afternoon. That was a lot of fun. Plus I got another t-shirt. I think I'm up to 7 now. And one guy who I was weeding with said that I can have one of his Google shirts, which is amazing. The shirt in question? All it says is "I have root @ Google". Badass.

New interns came on Tuesday to the farm area that I work in. One of them named his host Jimi. As in Hendrix. He has very much potential to be cool. ;)

Anyway, I think that this little deviation from my regularly scheduled work has gone on long enough. There will be more to post after this weekend, for sure.

And happy 21st birthday to both Pat and Mehul this week!


RoboGames and CalTrain adventures

This weekend a few of us went in to SF to attend the RoboGames. It was supposed to be an awesome event with everything from battlebots to random robotics booths. However, the battlebots was the only thing worth watching, and that had long delays in between little pieces of action. There was one good moment, however, when a hundred pound robot was flipped ten feet into the air and out of the ring by a monstrous bot named 'Ziggy'.

The real highlight of this trip: the food. We found an awesome Chinese restaurant in a basement beneath China Town. I ate a plate of Ginger Squid and Scallops - delicious! Unfortunately I don't think anyone remembers the name of the place, nor the random alley and steps that we went down to get there...

On the train ride back to Mountain View we stopped in Palo Alto for dinner, thinking we would catch the next train an hour later. We were all waiting on the platform for the 10:00 train when we saw it pull up --- on the wrong platform. We were all shocked. We didn't know what to do. Was this a special train that liked to tempt fate by riding on a track going the wrong direction? After a few seconds of confusion, everyone on the platform (about thirty people in all) booked it down the tunnel, under the tracks, past the sleeping homeless man and his shopping cart, and up onto the other side... just in time to see the train pull away. One desperate and angry would-be passenger threw his water bottle at the train. Fortunately he missed, but it represented our feelings quite accurately.

So, we did what anyone would do if they were stuck in Palo Alto for an hour and had already eaten dinner: we got ice cream. More specifically we got gelato, which is just ice cream that you have to pay more money for.

So, for the third time that night we were on the Palo Alto platform for the train. We pondered what our best strategy would be so that we wouldn't miss the next train in the same manner. One suggestion was to wait in between the tracks, but that was quickly vetoed. We looked at the schedule and saw that another train was supposed to arrive at approximately the same time going the other direction, so we guessed that our train would not dare arrive on the wrong track again. We guessed correctly. Half the platform cheered when the train arrived, and the other half looked quite confused.


Extreme Soreness

Gah! My frickin' legs!
At least I got a nice tan
For compensation.

Right. Too bad that isn't good enough. I spent 5 hours (ish) playing Ultimate this weekend against people from Apple, Facebook, and Yahoo! It was an awesome tournament, to be sure, but I was awfully tired afterwards. Which meant, of course, that I had to go on a 20-25 mile bike ride with Steven and Evan through SF the next day. It was gorgeous! I didn't know that LucasArts was based in SF, either, so that was neat to see.

I have to say that biking across the Golden Gate bridge was pretty rewarding, too. Despite the fact that, while going around the columny pillary things, I almost blew off. Ridiculous wind!

And then there was Ghiradelli square. I got the MOST AMAZING ICE CREAM SUNDAE ever! Scoop of mint dark chocolate chip ice cream + dark hot fudge + scoop of dark chocolate ice cream + more dark hot fudge + whipped cream + nuts + little square of Ghiradelli mint dark chocolate = very happy Valkyrie.

I'm enjoying the sense of camaraderie that's beginning. Randomly on the train Evan, Steven, and I started talking to some guys who happen to be interns at Apple. We even had lunch with them. Gasp. But I think that all the inter-company intern things could be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to the currently-nebulous Google-Apple soccer game or CTF game. :D


Another Day in the Life of a Google Intern

I met an important Googler today: Alfred Spector, VP of Research. He used to be the CTO / VP of Research & Software at IBM, and also used to be a professor at CMU (where he founded a company that popularized an important distributed file system -- there are lots of Googlers with CVs like this!) He's Stanford alum, too ;)

Anyway, I was having dinner outside with some other interns and he overheard us talking about the ACM ICPC and came by to introduce himself! We had an interesting talk. Google Research presents a pretty remarkable opportunity: Google has amassed talent that bring to mind Bell Labs half a century ago (in fact, Google already has two Turing Award winners on staff: Vint Cerf, who invented TCP/IP at Stanford, and Ken Thompson, who created Unix at Bell Labs). Google Research Labs could very well be the next PARC, IBM Research, or even Bell Labs. I remarked that, although Google has already touched the lives of millions of people today, it could be Google Research that impacts millions of people's lives for decades to come, just as Bell Labs has with the transistor, the laser, information theory, Unix/C/C++, the solar cell, and so many other contributions!

So there you have it, my first blog post: just another day in the life of a Google intern!


Sports Galore

Only thirty-eight?
You make a respectable
team, Neo Edgers.

So today brought an inter-company intern soccer game: Google vs. Neo Edge. I guess Neo Edge has only 38 employees, plus 15 interns. Crazy! It was a fun game. We won 7-2, but they definitely played aggressively, and a couple of their players were awesome.

I can't wait for the GAFY Ultimate Tournament this weekend. Google, Apple, Facebook, and Yahoo FTW!! :D



Tis a silly thing
To walk on a rope twixt trees
But I am da bomb!

I can't believe I forgot to mention this, but in Golden Gate Park on Sunday there happened to be tightrope walkers. Alex, Evan, Sarah, and I all tried our hands (or feet, I guess) at tightrope walking. I took, like, 4 steps! ^______^

Traffic Jam

On my way to work I got into a traffic jam... of bikes. The bike lane was full. People were obeying keep right unless to pass, but with their bikes! It was a culture shock moment.


Being Away

Alas, Ind'ana,
Your floods still touch me out here,
Where there aren't clouds.

So my house flooded back home. It seems weird to think that there's been 18"+ of water collected on the ground back there while I'm here in the land of run-sprinklers-all-night. It's rough.

But I guess that isn't what this post should be about. My weekend! The BFD concert was phenomenal. I'd never really done the techno thing previously, but I was thrilled to be introduced to it by DJ AM, who did remixes of classic rock. <3!!! MSTR KRFT was pretty sweet, too, and I even got to touch Moby's head after his stage dive at the end of the night.

My music was there, too, of course. Flogging Molly? Woot! I crowd surfed for the second time. ;)

The street festival in the Haight wasn't particularly impressive for me. It was... a street festival. Music. Food. Little overpriced shops. More homo- and transsexuals than I'm used to, certainly, but it wasn't so different from anything I could've found in Indiana.

The Japanese tea garden in the middle of Golden Gate Park was pretty neat. A little piece of serenity in the middle of a crazy city. And the tea wasn't bad. There was an amazing bridge! It was, like, super curvy and high: nearly stairs. But it was sweet!

And then there were some people with bells and sticks and accordions. They danced.

Hiking to the top of Twin Peaks was really neat, also. The view from up there was basically right down Market Street, and the whole city was bisected dramatically. Plus it was a gorgeous (not cloudy!) day for a nice long walk with friends.

Did I have any other adventures? I don't think so. I'm still way sore from headbanging at the concert and being semi-crushed in a mosh pit, but I'll get over it. Especially because I participated in a Google psychology study this morning and got another massage credit. ;)

Uhhhhh..... yeah. I'm hoping to get some pictures up here, but I didn't take any, so we'll see how that turns out.

Oh, right. Work. Work is going great. I was floored when I got an email that requested that I do a midterm evaluation with my host. Have I really been here 6 weeks???


A Comment on Public Transit

I love public transportation. This feeling has been intensified now that I'm living in a suburb without a car (and with the price of gas solidly over $4/gallon). I must give props to the San Fran transit system. Although it is a strange mix of diesel locomotives, buses, light rail, cable cars, and a slew of other systems, it will get you wherever you need to go... eventually.

But public transit isn't just about the modes of transportation, it's also about the interesting people you meet on the rides. Today I met a talkative woman coming back from the same rock festival that I was at in Haight-Ashbury. She told me that she had met someone at the concert that she hadn't seen since 1967 (this gives you some idea of her age). Then discussion ranged from the weather and what train stop we needed, to the bottle of vodka she had in her purse for the next leg of her trip, and finally to how annoying people my age can be. She said, "All these frat guys do is drink and go crazy. When I was your age we just got stoned and did acid. So much more mellow." While I agree with her on the menace of drunken frat boys, I'm not sure that switching to acid trips would be any improvement.


Shopping in CA

I usually consider mall shopping to be a good rainy day activity. But it never rains here. Perhaps that's why I haven't been able to make myself go to the mall until today. It's just like any other mall - directories, food courts, department stores - but in between the stores there are no ceilings. It's not like the outdoor malls in the midwest where everything is stretched out in a strip. The outside looks like the inside of any other mall, potted plants, benches, etc. And the walls are decorated to match, so it truly looks like a normal, indoor mall, minus the ceilings. Amazing.

Also, it's quite likely that when you're bending down to look at a folded shirt, a little dog will come up to you looking for attention. Evidently there is a large population of shoppers who can't leave their puppies at home. I almost stepped on the first dog I ran into. Certainly wasn't something I was looking out for.

Finally, in case you're wondering, the shopping selection out here is SO much better than in Indiana. It also seems to be marginally cheaper. Go figure.



Whoa! Holy crap, dude!
It's as though billionaires are
People just like us!

So if playing Ultimate with Sergey wasn't enough, he actually sat down to dinner with me and the other Frisbee folk yesterday. AMAZING. I guess he's kind of a health nut, but he's also (obviously) really cool. We talked about what I'm doing this summer, and it sounds like he wrote some perl scripty stuff in grad school that might help me out. :D Standing on the shoulders of giants!

Oh, and I'm excited about today's fieldtrip to YouTube. San Bruno, whoo!

I can feel the Google 15 starting to settle in on my hips... oooooof!


Roller Derby & Life Organization

Well, it's hard to say
How things got to be like this.
Guess I'll roll with it.

Hm. I feel pretty good; mostly recovered after a weekend of nightmare travel and junk food. My hippy dippy Google food has cleared out my system, and I've had a chance to sleep and lock back into my own time zone. My weekend was a blast, though.

I managed to run into my AP US History teacher, which was quite a treat, as well as a friend from high school who's working in Columbus for the summer. We went rollerskating. At a roller rink. An activity I don't think I've partaken in for 6-8 years. But some women approached me, complimented my skating skillz, and asked me to join their roller derby team. :D

My trip home was pretty nice. I rode in a smallish plane from Indy to St. Louis, which had a very private-jet sort of feel to it. And the St. Louis airport is strewn with rocking chairs for people to enjoy. And, oh, I enjoyed them.

I now have a proper bank account (BOA has amazing good deals for Googlers), and a passport on the way. I'm pretty excited! Now I'm almost as real a person as the Canadians I work with!

I can't believe that this summer is already more than a quarter gone. I feel like I'm just now getting the hang of being here and doing all the Google stuff. There aren't enough weekends left to have all the fun I want to have! But I guess I shouldn't let the big picture get in the way of my enjoyment for the moment. :) It's great to be young!


Prisoner of Azkaban... I mean Alcatraz

Yesterday we lugged our bikes onto the Cal-Train and rode it to the end of the line in San Francisco (about an hour ride). We then biked along the piers until we got to a cruise ship (really a ferry, but whatever) that made trips out to Alcatraz island. After a short and windy ride, we got to the island. Not as impressive as I would have expected it to be... just a few buildings and rubbish piles. They gave us headphones that directed us through an audio tour of the main cell block. I've never seen such tiny jail cells (not that I've seen many to begin with...). Looked pretty miserable. However, the view of San Francisco was unbeatable. I suppose that would be the worst part of being imprisoned there - being able to look out at all the people freely living their lives just a mile and a quarter away.

When we got back we watched The Rock -- an awesome movie starring Sean Connery as John Mason, an escape artist who was the only prisoner to successfully escape from Alcatraz. Amazing!

Now I'm off to procure a library card.

Watch Out, Dad

I played several awesome games of racquetball today with another intern and a guy from my team. It was SO much fun. I even won a game of cut-throat! I'm hoping this turns into a weekly thing. If so, my dad had better find someone to practice with, or I'll be able to beat him when I get back.