Monday, July 09, 2007

Noogler, Day 9: Freedom!

I showed up at work at about 10:30 or so, and most of the desks in my part of the building— where my team all is— were unmanned. I made a mental note to ask about what the team's typical hours were.

Since I now have my starter project, I figured I should start learning about the systems I'd be working on. I'll be working with a guy named Jason on this project, so I looked over at the desk where he sits. (Our offices have mostly glass walls. There's furniture, markerboards, etc. in the way, but I could still barely see Jason's desk from mine.) He wasn't there, so I sat down to study the systems I'd be working on for this project. It's not on my existing to-do list, but it seems important, and a good way to be going. There's several hours of material for me to work through to learn it.

My knee was bugging me that day, so I pulled my icepack out of the microkitchen's freezer where I left it Thursday. (My trainer and PT both tell me I need to be icing it daily anyway.) Unfortunately, some sort of syrupy substance had dripped on it. It was quite icky, so I carefully put it on my desk and went back to wash my hands. By the time I got back, my officemates were present. No ice today, sigh.

At lunchtime, I went off to lunch. There's a lot of options on campus, and I hadn't really been doing a lot of exploring in that vein. Although Charlie's has four to six different stations— depending on how you count— there's still plenty of variety around. I looked over the menus online, and picked out a place called American... er, something.

I hopped on one of the bikes and started going over to the building where it was located. I took off my headphones as Dirk's advice regarding them echoed through my head. (Dirk was the one who helped me when I first started biking.) I wish I'd remembered another part of his advice... the part involving shoelaces.

The shoes I was wearing that day have long, floppy laces. I double-knot them, but they're still too long. As you've no doubt figured out by now, one of them got tangled in the pedal. Being long, it was able to twist around the pedal several times before I felt the tangle— i.e., when my foot suddenly was stopped by my own shoe.

Naturally, my first instinct was to pedal backwards to untwist my shoelace. Bad idea. These bikes don't have the handbrakes I'm used to. They've got coaster brakes, i.e. the kind where you pedal backwards to stop. Instead of untwisting my shoelace, I came to an abrupt stop at the corner of the intersection I had been crossing.

I couldn't pedal forwards because of the shoelace being tangled, and couldn't pedal backwards with the coaster brakes. The pedal was at a rather inconvenient angle, and I couldn't dismount the bike. All I could do is hobble along awkwardly until I was well away from the corner, and then work out how to lower the bike to the ground without falling myself. I hope you're getting an amusing Charlie Chaplin-esque picture of this in your head, because I'd hate to have gone through all that silliness without getting some entertainment out of it.

Eventually, I did manage to disentangle myself from my bike, tucked my shoelace into my shoe, and rode on. I took a bit of a scenic route to get to the building I was going to, since I hadn't really explored campus much.

The cafeteria in question had a long line— unusually long, from what I overheard one of the chefs saying. There were also a high percentage of guests that day. I'd heard that a number of people had family visiting for Independence Day. Talking to somebody near me in line, I theorized that this could be the cause for the long line. She pointed out that many of the employees were taking vacations for the holiday.

I acquired and ate my lunch, and considered going to the next room over, where there were a number of classic arcade games like Defender and Robotron. But I had my work cut out for me, and I had taken a relaxing lunch, so I went back to work without playing. I considered taking the bike trail, but decided to do that sometime when I'd have proper time to check it out.

I considered these things. What I should have considered was tucking my shoelaces in this time. Feel free to incorporate by reference the relevant paragraphs here, because it all happened again.

Are you done laughing yet? Take your time; I'm not offended.

I went back to my desk, again checking to see if Jason was available. Not around again, so I sat down to continue on with my studies. I went through these for a few hours, and came across some questions. Karl, my officemate, was the first one I'd go to, since he knows that system, but he wasn't in the office today. Eric, my mentor, wasn't around at the time, so I went to Alex, my boss. He gave me the names of a few people, one of whom I knew: Chip, who had interviewed me. I asked Chip, and he referred me to somebody who knew more than him. I went to that guy, asked him my questions, and he referred me to somebody who knew yet more. In an intellectual environment like Google, it's quite flattering when you've got questions that nobody can answer. (One writer on the culture (esr) once wrote that "Good question" is a high compliment indeed.)

Finally, I did meet somebody who could answer my questions, and a few others that I thought of while I was talking to him. There's a number of programming styles that Google uses regularly to deal with the scale they work on, and these are styles that I just haven't ever had to think about much. In some ways, it's like I'm starting over with programming... just with enough experience to get up the learning curve quicker this time.

After I got back, my mentor stopped by to talk to me about how things were going. We chatted a bit, and I asked him about the time that most people start their day; he said about 10:00 or so.

I also asked about a few things regarding communication. First, I asked if I would be expected to have my pager around when I'm not on-call; he said it wasn't necessary. He did say that I should put my cell phone number in the internal directory. That's something I haven't done, because at Juniper I knew that there were people who wouldn't respect my personal time. Eric, however, told me that in the years he's had his cell in the directory, he's only had a very few calls— and all of them were very appropriate. Okay, that makes me feel better.

It also doesn't hurt that if Google wants me to put my cell number in the directory, then I can get reimbursed for my cell plan.

Speaking of such things, I had heard back from Speakeasy on Thursday. They were calling to ask whether I wanted the reimbursement put as a credit forward on my account, or returned to my credit card.

After the conversation with Eric, I spent a little more time working, then took off to start my weekend. Unfortunately, I forgot to take the balloon picture. All I got was a picture of my shoelaces wrapped in my bike pedals, and it wasn't really that interesting.

Next week, I have more classes, so I'm off to bed.

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