Biking in the States
On Monday, I biked to Facebook and back. Since I left early, it was cold. Very cold. Belgium cold. What’s worse though, is the state of biking. There’s no such thing as separate biking lanes here, like in Belgium. If there are bike lanes, then they’re simply part of a super wide parking lane. Far from safe.
But I knew that. I could deal with that.
Plus, there are a few bike trails (many for such a small region by U.S. standards, it appears). So what can go wrong?
These bike trails are nice, very nice, even somewhat idyllic during daytime, but at night, they’re absolutely horrible. What I did not anticipate, was the complete lack of lighting on these bicycle trails. Sure, there is no risk of you getting hit by a car. But there’s all the more risk of you hitting a pedestrian, or that pedestrian’s dog. (Yes, that actually almost happened…)
There are maybe five street lanterns along several kilometers of bike trail. And to be fair, those few street lanterns serve little more purpose than a lighthouse-at-land.
I realized I also hadn’t sent a picture of the awesome Facebook bag yet. It’s very, very awesome. Very handy, lots of pockets, very strong, and it even splits in two halves to speed up the airport security scrutiny. It’s a Facebook-branded ProStyle BP-XF backpack. It’s awesome. I love it. You can get it too, at the Facebook swag store.
I’m now officially part of the U.S. bureaucracy: I received my Social Security Card (and number)! :)
More importantly, I also received my first paycheck! That’s right, a cheque. But the fact that people tend to get paid every two weeks in the U.S., instead of the European standard of once per month more than makes up for that archaic, insecure payment method. Great timing, too: next month’s rent was due the next week.
What happened at Facebook this week
On Thursday, during my lunch break, I booked a flight for Anneleen, during a very hectic (and for her late at night) Skype call. I found it through http://kayak.com, as I did many times before, but unfortunately Kayak redirected me to CheapTickets dot com1 this time. Let’s just say that that was a big mistake of mine. Confusing e-mails, crappy communication, warnings about additional fees that should still be paid directly to the airline, and so on. Avoid at all cost.
On Friday, I had an exciting insight: an additional 4 lines of code would allow me to find correlations between episodes2, instead of only finding frequently occurring circumstances for each of the episodes separately. Hurray!
In the afternoon, I had my weekly one-on-one with my manager, while walking in the sun along California Avenue.
Besides discussing my (solid! :)) progress on my intern project and (unrelated) tasks assigned to me, I told him I felt like I was far below the level of the software engineers around me. Obviously, I can’t expect to be working at the same speed as them because they’re fully ramped up and it normally takes about six months on average to ramp up completely (so he told me). I’m here only one and a half month.
He told me I was doing well so far and that I was just suffering from the Impostor Syndrome, which is a common thing for engineers in high-tech companies. It basically happens when you set your expectations too high, too soon.
After that, it was time for Mark’s weekly open Q&A. That’s where he gives the highlights for that week in terms of what Facebook has released and has worked on, but also which tech news events affect Facebook. When he is done covering the highlights, anybody can ask questions.
At some point during the Q&A, somebody asks when there’s going to be another intern BBQ that Mark will attend. He says: “Next summer! But how many interns are there right now anyway?”. All interns raise their hands. “Okay, make it happen and I’ll be there. […] Are you all from Waterloo? Where are you guys from?”. Short silence. Then I shout out: “Belgium”. He asks: “What’s that?” — this time I answer with a louder voice: “Belgium!”. He stands there, not quite sure what I mean — “Oh, I thought that was a school or a company or something, now I know what you mean!”
Afterwards, a certain Benoît comes to me and lets me know I’m not the only Belgian guy there :) So there’s at least two of us :P Hurray for Belgian insignificance!
This didn’t mark the end of my day though, I continued hacking away. As did two fellow Site Speed team members. But nobody else was on the entire floor, around 21:00:
My landlady told me an amusing story on Saturday, about how Palo Alto’s main street has power outages whenever it rains — which obviously stresses how little rain Palo Alto has. Apparently Palo Alto is one of the only cities remaining in the U.S. that owns the distribution networks. But they won’t fix it until a something breaks, because “it’s too much work to test all of them and too costly to replace all of them”. The irony of one of the richest cities in the U.S. to have a flaky power distribution network stuns me.
On Sunday, I went karting with my landlady’s son and went for dinner afterwards, with some of his friends. That oddly also included a Facebook employee. Whom just bought a new car — an Audi S4. But most importantly, he has a Facebook-inspired license plate… :)