List: Watercooler Snippets That Only Occur (Together) At Google

"A friend of mine had a pretty cogent argument for Heinlein being sexist in Stranger."
Passerby, in passing: "He's also racist."
"Well, okay, yes--"
Another passerby: "But that's not uncommon. Look at Arthur C. Clarke."
[This went on for several minutes. Nobody stayed for more than a couple sentences.]

"What's the chirality of your apartment?" [The complex has two mirror-imaged floorplans.]

"So on the right-hand rule, that means the current is passing down through your apartment?" [same]

"Geeks, gamers, polyamorists -- this overlap makes sense, but it doesn't explain the Jews." [...meaning the high percentage of Jewish geeks, not the existence of Jews.]

Yes, those are all tiny, nonsensical, out-of-context fragments of larger conversations. Mmm.


Houston, I have an apartment!

As of today, I have the keys for my new place. So, of course: pictures!

First, the view from the front walk:
Riverstone: Front

Appropriately enough, as you can see, my apartment is sticking its tongue out at you.

Into the living room:

Riverstone: Living Room

Stairs on the far left lead up to the bedrooms. Note the ultra-mod bookshelf on the right, and behind it, the INCREDIBLY LUMINOUS KITCHEN, FILLED WITH FUSION POWER. Or halogen. One of those.

Riverstone: Kitchen

Having TAMED THE POWER OF FUSION, you can see again the bookshelf and the freakishly uniform kitchen. It's relatively open, yet has excellent cabinet space. Yay!

From the kitchen/dining room area, one can access the porch:
Riverstone: Porch

(aka The Place To Which The Smokers Will Be Exiled For Parties.com)

So, up the stairs.

This here's one of the two bedrooms:
Riverstone: Bedroom

Note kickass window and vaulted ceilings. (Note also same shitty vertical blinds I've had in every apartment. Grr. Hate.)

The bedrooms are basically identical, albeit mirror-images of one another. The view from each bedroom: trees. Just trees. Mmm.

Out onto the balcony:

Riverstone: Balcony

The balcony is nice, but as you can see in the far-off duplicates, it's only partially covered. When it rains, I'll be hiding down on the porch.

So, that's the place. The movers come on Thursday to deliver my actual stuff, but my internet connection may take another 15 days or more — and that, after all, is what determines my actual move date.


Tech blog!

When I switched away from LiveJournal, one of my goals was to fold my tech postings into my main blog.

I've realized, again, that this would annoy the hell out of my non-techie readers, particularly without LiveJournal's lj-cut tag to soften the blow.

So, I've forked that portion of my blog again. For my tech rants (including an explanation of what I'm doing to OS X today), go read my tech blog.


I got the apartment! *does the apartment dance*

They remarked "You have such excellent recommendations! How could anyone ever refuse you?" I should get that on my business cards.

The apartment, to clarify, is a two-bedroom townhome about a mile from my office. I will have the two-story layout I'm so fond of, plus an extra room for a home office and lounge!


And today, I'm doing horrible, horrible things to MacOS X! Yay!


Ahhh, Fridays.

Another Friday night alone in my apartment. It's not as bad as I was expecting, but it's not great either.

I've determined that the Mighty Mouse that came with the Quad is actually usable. I was skeptical, but it's become second-nature within two days. I'm really starting to like it, though as the owner of some large fingers, I wish the scroll ball were bigger.

I'm spending tonight wormed deep into Sun's Java compiler sources. Yeah, I'm a geek. It's reasonably straightforward, but contains close to zero meaningful comments, and has some questionable (i.e. evolved) design approaches in parts.

Were this an open-source project, I'd probably refactor it and submit changes. It ain't.


Mac, summer camp, apartments

I'm posting this from the PowerMac. I ordered a monitor from Dell (hiss!), but it actually seems quite nice.

Being from the South, my family uses some odd units of measurement. For example, the canonical unit of distance for car travel is the "pack." In traditional English fashion, packs are not evenly divided: a twelve-pack is twice as long as a six-pack, which is six times as long as a can.

For the execution time of computer processes, I use the "cup" unit. It's all SI, though fortunately I haven't found anything that takes a kilocup. Starting Eclipse for my Java development, for example, is usually a one-cup event: it takes long enough that I can get one cup of coffee.

Well, the PowerMac has it up in under 5 seconds. How will I get my coffee now? Curse you Apple!

Had lunch with some of the other new recruits yesterday. I figured out what this job feels like so far: summer camp.

Looking at apartments, in the hopes of getting out of this temp housing (which is about 10 miles from where I want to be). Found some nice places; I'll keep y'all updated.


Couple neat photos I'd forgotten to post

Woke up Saturday to find it cold, gloomy, and rainy. Which is good.

(As always, click any photo to see it bigger.)

For some reason, we got a rainbow before the rain, and I woke up just in time:
Rainbow over Santa Clara

And later that morning, I noticed an odd phenomenon in my coffee cup. Any time I let my coffee sit, it left a ring on the cup (due to the creamer, I suspect). This left me with a record of my drinking pattern.

Like rings on a tree.

...well, I was amused.


Java, Vonage, Mac, and stuff

I'm getting closer to having an official project at work. Yay!

Had lunch with Dr. Bloch yesterday, after a week of scheduling conflicts. I have tremendous respect for this fellow. He even said one of my proposed extensions to Java was "not unreasonable." ...now, I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not, but hey, it's something. :-)

Got a Vonage line yesterday, so I now have another phone number. I'm thoroughly impressed with Vonage. The setup was something like this:
1. Vonage sends me a box.
2. I plug the box into my network.
3. I plug a phone into the box and pick up the handset.
4. The voice from the box tells me, politely, that I've plugged it into the wrong jack. I move it to the adjacent jack.
5. I have a phone line.

I used it to call my parents earlier today, and while the conversation did get choppy at one point, it was far clearer than a cell phone. (You can tell that I've used only cellphones for some time: when the conversation got choppy, I instinctively raised the phone up higher into the air. Needless to say, that doesn't work with normal phones.)

Now, I ordered Vonage because I wanted a real phone, but also because I'm a hacker and the service seemed neat. True to form, I've already modified things slightly. A few minutes of programming later, I had a plugin for Address Book on the Mac:
Screenshot of my Dial-with-Vonage plugin
It works like this:
1. Click on a phone number in your address book. A menu pops up.
2. Click on the brand-new Dial With Vonage option.
3. Your Vonage phone rings. Answer it.
4. You hear ringing, as Vonage calls the number you selected.

It's that easy. (Now if I could just get my phone numbers to quit being so blurry! :-)

Speaking of being a hacker, my shiny new Quad G5 showed up today. I like it when people offer me discounts. Now, if only I owned a monitor -- it's not the same ssh'ing into a machine like this.

It's raining.


Robot elves?! Just like in the stories!

One thing that's consistently floored me about Google: it really is the way they say it is. Both the good and the bad — or at least, the bad-ish.

Like the whole "don't be evil" thing. I've heard it cited three or four times as justification for the way something works. People really seem to have taken it to heart.

For the people who've freaked out about GMail "never deleting your email," they've stated publicly that the disclaimer is because they can't guarantee it will instantly vanish, not because they're saving it up. I doubt anyone would seriously want to keep old emails; that's a lot of storage.


Woke up Tuesday to a semi-sunny day in Santa Clara. Got ready, got on the road, and hit a fog bank.

Apparently, about halfway between here and Mountain View, there's a semi-biome-shift. (According to my coworkers, north of the line you don't need residential AC; south of the line, you do.) So, on this cold Norcal morning, that translated to an opaque wall of gray across the freeway.

The down side: it really didn't help my cold. The up side: it felt like Phoenix. In Phoenix, the fog is brown, and is called "dust storms," but other than that they're quite similar.

...well, except that in Phoenix, if you breathe the "fog," it hurts. But that's okay, we never get out of our air-conditioned cars anyway. :-)

Spent most of Tuesday in orientations of various sorts, learning about all sorts of internal stuff. Stayed for the free dinner. Mmm.

Wednesday we learned about the web search system. We have quite a smartass group of new recruits, but, judging from my coworkers, this isn't unusual.

Presenter, talking about odd things the search engine must deal with: "We're not sure why, but some guy keeps gzipping his hard disk and putting it out where we can find it."
Me: "Yeah, so I can quit having to back it up. Just use the Google cached link."
Presenter: "..."

Most of Wednesday afternoon was free, and I spent it learning more about our source-control system, network architecture, and the like. Someone emailed me out of the blue to see if I was interested in working on a project, so I guess some folks have heard of me. (No, I can't tell you what.)

So, things are starting to ramp up. If my cold clears up the rest of the way, I'll be a happy camper.


Day One

Started at Google today. The day was mostly orientation, punctuated by snack breaks and lunch. Met some neat folks and learned a lot about internal operations and policies.

It seems that I'm going to be working, at least at first, on Google's advertising system. I've met the team I'm working with, and I know what they do, but I don't know specifically what I'll be doing.

And I can still make a latte.

That is all.


Something I'm noticing.

Arizona's sunsets rock.

During my time at ASU, I had plenty of outta-staters say Arizona sunsets were unbelievably colorful and varied. A friend of the family, who lived in Minnesota, used to photograph sunsets in Phoenix and paint them in oils; she kept the photographs on hand to prove that the paintings weren't fanciful.

I've spent a total of a month in California over the past year, and the sunsets are uniformly boring. (San Francisco is the worst offender: between fog, terrain, and buildings, there rarely is a sunset.) Today's sunset was the prettiest in a while:
Sunset: California

Still, I find myself nostalgic. My Phoenix folks will recognize this as a beautiful, but not at all unusual, Phoenix sunset:
Sunset: Arizona

Neither of these photos have been altered since leaving the camera — I normally increase the color brilliance in my photos, because my camera tends to record less vivid colors than the eye in a given situation.

First full day in CA

I've arrived, unpacked, and started to settle in.

I'm in a nice, albeit dinky, furnished apartment while I find my real digs. It's in Santa Clara, which is not exactly my choice of locations; so far, the place seems half Scottsdale, half industrial park. But it's pretty, it's cool, and there's an Indian place across the street, so I'm not really complaining.

First, the kitchen:
River Terrace: kitchen
I like the kitchen. Nice cabinets, roomy, etc. I just bought a load of groceries, some of which you can see on the counter.

The living room:
River Terrace: living room
The room does double-duty as a dining room and living room, and isn't really large enough to be either. I'll have to move the table away from the wall to seat more than three, and this will block access to the couch.

The distance between the couch and TV is less than my height. I can nearly poke the TV with my toes from the couch, if I stretch out funny.

The apartment did not include any sort of radio or sound system, so you can see some cheap computer speakers strewn atop the TV stand. I must have music.

The bedroom:
River Terrace: bedroom

It's very large, but it's arranged to make the space useless.

The bathroom, of which there will be no pictures, is also huge.

Astute readers will have noticed one element, conspicuous in its absence: any sort of desk or workspace. Seems odd, for corporate housing.

Last night, I drove into San Francisco, to attend a party with Jason Schupp. We went out for Eritrean food — which, to me, is indistinguishable from Ethiopian, but I'm sure the Eritreans would take issue with this.

The party was deep in SOMA, leaving me immersed in hipsters. I find this subculture vaguely amusing; fortunately, several people were dressed nicely, so it didn't look like an entire room full of boys trying on daddy's suit coat or dress shirt.

The people themselves were great, though, and most seemed to be geeky — law students, programmers for Wordpress, Flock, and Flickr, and a bunch of others I didn't actually meet. Fun party, though talking over the music exacerbated my already sore throat.

So, I'm about to head out to a late lunch. The Indian place across the street has received thoroughly mixed reviews online, but there seem to be a lot of folks of evident Indian descent eating there — reminds me of Copper Kettle. The lunch buffet is probably safe, I figure.


Don't go knocking on the cash cow now

I arrived at the airport right on time, taking my seat in Starbucks by 0707 MST.

My flight, of course, is at 0820, leaving me with nearly an hour until boarding. Why does he do this? you (my dear reader) might ask. Does he like spending time in airports?

Well, yes, actually, but that's not the real reason. It comes back to why I don't like tailgaters.

I spent last night at my parents' house, as my car, bed, and stuff were scarfed by a large truck yesterday. As I was effectively homeless and carless, my dad picked me up in Tempe and drove me up to my ancestral home of Cave Creek. On the way, he noted what he perceived to be a dramatic increase in aggressive driving among women. This isn't a new observation — I remember him pointing this out about the time I graduated from high school — but his point still holds. More often than not, these days, when a car aggressively tailgates me and then whooshes around me at its first opportunity, it's a female.

But now, many years later, my dad has a theory. Evolutionary psychologists might ascribe it to a stress response, brought on by being in a situation (viz. freeway traffic) for which we are biologically unprepared; Christian fundamentalists might point to women's liberation, gender equality, and other insidious liberal institutions that are destroying what it means to be a woman. But not my father.

My father blames soccer.

More specifically, the now-cliché "soccer mom" role. Scottsdale (the closest major muni to Cave Creek) has an unusual percentage of stay-at-home or part-time moms, due to its generally high standard of living. A lot of these moms wind up in the "soccer mom" position: keeping the household running, frantically running errands and picking up the kids and possibly running a business on the side.

These women, my dad believes, have such packed schedules, such intricately constructed days, that even a small deviation from the plan can effectively ruin the day. The women are aware of this — subconsciously, if not consciously — and may even have already suffered that slip, earlier in the day. Thus, under tremendous stress, they frantically drive from point to point in a tremendous hurry. The resulting behavior is interpreted, at least by us Southern folks, as aggression.

I think there's something to this, but it doesn't explain Tempe. The women who tailgate and cut me off in Tempe are usually of college age — Tempe's dominant denizen, demographically. My father (I haven't asked him) might well point to the same underlying phenomenon, but brought on by professional and academic stress, rather than family stress.

Personally, I have a simpler explanation: they're bitches. :-)

Members of my family are not, generally speaking, bitches. In terms of driving, my parents and I prize style highly, thinking it important to park correctly, drive fluidly, and just generally do it right. This is both a game to entertain ourselves (if not our passengers) while driving, and a demonstration of personal ability. I suspect it stems from my parents' background as pilots. (Ever noticed how, when an airliner banks into a turn, your drinks don't slide off your tray — in either direction? That's a coordinated turn, where the angle of the airplane and the rate of turn are precisely synchronized to keep the effective "gravity" perpendicular to the floor. Just one example of many.)

We also don't typically find ourselves in tremendous hurries. This is related to the style issue in two ways. First, it helps us maintain it, by not forcing us to speed, tailgate, and be aggressive to get things done. Second, it is, itself, an aspect of style. Tailgating and rapid lane changes suggest, to us, a driver incapable of properly negotiating traffic and driving courteously; arriving late to an appointment, or having to ram your way through traffic to get there on time, suggest a person incapable of properly scheduling and planning.

Which is why I'm at the airport an hour early.

The airport is a big temporal question mark. From curb to gate may take one as little as 10 minutes (as it did today), or as much as an hour — between delays in airport traffic, construction within the airport, TSA screening, and general airport confusion, there are a lot of factors that come into play. The easiest way to reliably get somewhere on time is to plan for the worst likely case. (The worst unlikely cases — usually involving meteor impacts or cataclysmic floods — are acceptable causes of lateness.)

Now, this is not to say I'm never late. (People who know me just giggled.) Nor does it mean that I judge others based on their driving style or scheduling prowess: these are values to which members of my family hold themselves. Many of my friends are chronically flaky or crappy drivers and have never heard a word. (On the other hand, some of my friends — hi Jeannette — are pretty good drivers and get crap from me all the time.)

Of course, members of my family also tend to have absurdly good luck at navigating byzantine processes, like the airport. Which leaves me with a lot of time to burn here at the airport Starbucks.

As astute readers may have inferred, from my repeated mention of airports, I'm heading out to Mountain View today. I should have internet as soon as I get into my apartment. I've got the weekend to track down anything I forgot, and then I start at Google at 9AM (PST) on Monday.

Here goes.


Everything in its right place

So, as I posted a few weeks back, I'm moving to Mountain View, California.

The relocation company assures me I don't have to pack. This is weird. I'm having trouble accepting this.

Just to spite them, I've packed two small boxes. HA! Granted, I did it because they don't really know how to pack an SMT soldering station, or the robots. But then, Google hired this company — maybe I'm underestimating them.

This past weekend, I was in MV, looking for apartments. Jeannette was in San Francisco visiting friends, but we managed to intersect for a couple days and go see some amusing stuff.

And now, my last week as an Arizona resident (for a while, at least). I have so many people from my past competing for my time that I'm having to schedule timeslots. I'm also having to prioritize, which breaks my heart, but my time is not infinite and I've still got a lot of stuff to get done. (Sorry, folks. You know I love you, and I'm sure I'll be back to visit soon.)

We're having a Cliff-is-leaving get-together tonight, just a casual affair at my place. If I've forgotten to tell you, don't take it personally: I've been so busy that I've relied on mailing lists and word of mouth to distribute the news. Feel free to drop by, though if I don't know you, I'll leave you on the porch. :-) Call if you need directions.

My stuff leaves Friday. I leave Saturday. Google starts Monday. Wish me luck!