Fifth week: "work hard, play hard", Stanford & Palo Alto

published on November 25, 2011

Work hard, play hard

This week, I worked very hard to get as much work done as possible — as I did the preceding weeks, but with renewed energy and focus — before Anneleen would arrive Saturday that week.

I focused mostly on getting “meaningful” (in that they lead to new, unknown insights) test results from my work so far, because I must be able to convince my manager and colleagues of its potential. Otherwise, it won’t be used and my project may be suspended.
I was not able to produce much test results because I encountered several problems with analyzing the data sets, which were less clean and more skewed in certain ways than anticipated. So I focused on adding features that enable us to deal with these challenges.
Amongst others, I added the ability to perform pattern mining on a subset of the data by allowing “item constraints” (“filtering”, really: “only consider samples that do or don’t contain X”) to be defined for the parser, not just for the pattern miner. This allows one to focus on a subset of the data that may otherwise have been skewed.


Unfortunately, Anneleen’s plane to San Francisco got cancelled due to (repeated) technical problems, so she got stuck in Frankfurt (I will spare you the whole United Airlines ordeal). Thus, I had another day to fill. So I decided to pay a visit to Stanford!


In the morning, I first went to the nearby bakery for breakfast and stumbled upon some amazing pastry: Batman cookies, in the spirit of the then upcoming Halloween! Awesome!

Since I was visiting to Stanford during the day, I might as well take my bike, so that’s what I did. That’s how I stumbled upon “The Sweet Shop” (which sells sweets and ice cream), which appeared to have pulled right out of a Disney movie!

Sweet Shop

Arriving at Stanford (which actually led me to bike right past the Facebook offices), I was stunned. Stunned by how enormous this campus is. My hometown, Hasselt may not be large, but it’s stunning for me to see that the Stanford campus is actually much larger than the entire city center of Hasselt.
Its cleanliness is also breathtaking, as are the building materials and the abundant perfect lawns. Most buildings have an outer stone of a very specific, warm, soft color, that lends some sort of friendliness to the buildings’ looks. Especially in sunlight and most definitely when the sun sets, it results in a very particular look that my point-and-shoot camera is unable to capture accurately.

Oval Park

Stanford entrance

Stanford Memorial Church

Palo Alto

After having visited the Stanford Bookstore, where I got some nice “Stanford Medicine” gifts for Anneleen (who’s studying medicine), I biked to Palo Alto. Having been here for more than a month, and working at Facebook offices that are located in Palo Alto, I actually never visited Palo Alto’s center.

Stanford Bookstore: Medicine section

It was immediately clear that Palo Alto is considerably more expensive than Mountain View: much higher end shops, fancier restaurants, and so on. And very nice street lighting at night!

Palo Alto by night

At long last

With more than a day in delay, Anneleen finally entered the arrivals hall of SFO around 3 PM. I’d been staring at the gate through which arrived people were walking for a long time, so I was used to be disappointed over and over and over again because the person would not be Anneleen. But then, she walked through. I jumped up, crawled underneath the security fence and ran towards her. Needless to say, it was a happy reunion :)

Despite having traveled for so long, having had a crappy night’s sleep and having been on an airplane for over ten hours through 9 different time zones, she didn’t seem to suffer from any jetlag. In fact, she decided she wanted dinner. Considering that I had actually been sick for days, I was amazed by her ability to deal with long-distance travel.
Did I mention it was her first time traveling so long and far, and the first time on an airplane on her own? She handled it like a champ! :)


Pol's picture

Hey Wim,

I was also amazed by the cleanliness of California when I was there. Nice report, keep up the good work :-)

Philip Paeps's picture

There is a reason I call them “untied airlines”… Last time I did UA, my plane also spent most of the morning trying unsuccessfully to leave. They did eventually get it off the ground three hours late, but … doesn’t exactly engender confidence. Glad to hear Anneleen made it in the end. :)

I like the photos of California in November. Much more pleasant than Belgium in November! The Belgian winter also seems a lot less drab if you get to spend a couple of weeks (or even days) in the sunshine partway through.

There’s a very nice breakfasty place in Palo Alto you might like to try: Bistro Maxine. Yummy pancakes (Belgian/French thin style, not the ridiculous things the Merkins prefer ;)).

Wim Leers's picture
Wim Leers

Woah, thanks for the tip! I just might get breakfast there tomorrow morning. And indeed, they tend to make pancakes ridiculously thick here. I actually just had a conversation about pancakes with my Mexican hair dresser an hour ago or so, she also preferred the thinness of Mexican tortilla :P