Second week: indoor skydiving, Alcatraz & scavenger hunt

published on October 23, 2011

On the Tuesday of the second week, I started feeling very much at home here in the sunny Silicon Valley.

Not because the mobile phone reception is so poor here and because that reminds me of my parents’ place, which is probably the only spot in a wide area where you’re guaranteed to lose reception when you drive by.
The reception is very poor here though, apparently especially on AT&T’s network, with calls being dropped very frequently — I saw it happen three times with my own eyes.
That’s right, you peeps in Belgium envying me because I’m in Silicon Valley. It turns out that in Silicon Valley of all places, mobile reception is worse than in Belgium! (Although, when it works, mobile internet is much faster here.)

I failed to mention this in the blog post about my first week here, but at the Zen Hotel, I’ve also had the worst Wi-Fi access ever.

And more than once, my Skype video calls to my girlfriend back home from within the Facebook offices have been dropped. Call quality is generally pretty poor. 1

Also, Google Wi-Fi for Mountain View?2 That’s just terrible. Timeout galore.

So, in Silicon Valley — arguably the epicenter of the internet:

  • Wi-Fi is crappy in many places
  • mobile reception is incredibly spotty

Don’t get me started on the public transport system.

Anyway, I said that I started feeling at home, remember?

It’s the weather!
Lots of rain, gray skies. Refreshing wind. Puddles everywhere.
Ah, la Belgique!

First rain — looks and feels like Belgium!

I’m told that Silicon Valley doesn’t have four seasons, it only has two thanks to its very unique geography: a season with virtually no rain and a season with barely any rain. Right. Sounds like paradise to most Belgians, I think :)

Indoor Skydiving

Very regularly, intern events are organized. One of them was indoor skydiving at iFLY — definitely watch their video, it accurately shows what you can expect.

Skydiving is nothing for me, but in such a strictly controlled environment, there is theoretically nothing that can go wrong.
It’s pretty impressive how it works: four 250 HP fans create a recirculating airflow that is smooth and consistent. And that airflow is circulating at over 200 km/h! (It can handle about 300 km/h.)

Everybody went in twice, two times 60 seconds. The first time, you’d only learn how to “fly” in a stable manner. The second time the instructor would grab you and adjust his body position in the airflow to spin around and create enough resistance to “fly high” in the (vertical, duh) wind tunnel.

iFly positions: holy shit!

I ended up in the last group. I was nervous. In no small part by seeing the instructors perform the most amazing tricks such as walking upside down, walking on walls, catapulting themselves 6—8 meters high, then rocket back down, only to fly up again just a dozen or so centimeters above the floor.
But after 15 or so seconds, I was enjoying it. It felt amazing, exciting, liberating!

I'm flying!

I'm flying and LOVING it! :)

Back at Facebook

Now, while the contents of this blog post may seem to suggest otherwise, I did work (hard, if I may add) this week. But I can’t bore you with the details of that every week.
Basically, I built an initial prototype that already showed some interesting results :)

When I left the office late on Friday night, I couldn’t help but notice two amazingly cool stamps:

Awesome Like and Dislike stamps

Apparently you can just buy these on ThinkGeek.

Alcatraz & San Francisco scavenger hunt

On Saturday, there was another intern event: a scavenger hunt (some kind of treasure hunt) in San Francisco, but first there was pizza (yes, at 10:45 in the morning…) — early lunch.

Before starting the Scavenger Hunt, there was a (brief, unfortunately) visit to Alcatraz. There was an unusual amount of traffic, due to Fleet Week: our trip to Alcatraz coincided with a spectaculair air show. And since the Alcatraz island lies right in the middle of the bay, we had a unique point of view!

Arriving at Alcatraz

The Alcatraz tour is also pretty cool: the highlights of its history are told through a personal audiotour, which guides you around while telling the most memorable stories.

Some of the airplanes were flying in incredibly tight formations.

Incredibly tight flight formation

For the San Francisco scavenger hunt, we were divided in four or five teams of about 7 interns. We got a list of about 50 landmarks and street artists that we should take pictures of with “n-1 team members, n being the team size” (thus a geeky way of saying: “make sure everybody is in the picture except for the photographer” — love it :P). You get 1 point for getting a shot of one of the targets, 2 points if it’s a funny photo, 3 points if it’s an awesome photo. Our team ended second in the ranking! We had the highest-rated picture of all, with the off-the-charts rating of 4, thanks to this awesome license plate that I’d accidentally spotted:

SF Scavenger Hunt: Chinatown license plate!

  1. To be fair, Facebook provides a super fast wired network, but I do the Skype calls on my personal laptop, which I’d rather not connect to the corporate network. ↩︎

  2. I live in Mountain View right now. ↩︎


David Jennes's picture
David Jennes

Love the (not) sky diving :-P

Wouter's picture

I’m actually pretty damn jealous about the (sort of) skydiving :( Also nice to see there are quite a few intern events, good idea to build the teamspirit.

Wim Leers's picture
Wim Leers

There’s a lot of intern events :) I skipped a rock climbing thing already, for example. Next week (week 6), there’s a charity event going on to help the homeless (IIRC).

And in several weeks, there’s maybe going to be a barbecue … with Mark Zuckerberg!