Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Back in Google Ireland

I'm back in Ireland now and back in work. Now is time to get stuck into my new job and really find out what it's all about. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the guy heading up the catering in Google in Dublin both remembered that I was vegan and somehow knew I was coming back today. There was vegan Thai Red Vegetable Curry on the menu for lunch. Not great, but much better than I was expecting. He even checked later on to see if I liked it - I didn't want to hurt his feelings or discourage him!

We have a public tech talk come recruitment open day tomorrow evening. Apparently there's a large crowd in the offing. Ironically, even though I was on holiday for the last two weeks, I found out about it at the same time as the other guys in the office, on the ILUG mailing list. Way to go internal communication. Hopefully it'll go well, I'm sure to bump into some old friends. Here's the blurb:

On Tuesday, November 30th, Urs Hoelzle, VP of Operations with Google, will be hosting an evening tech talk for Unix/Linux sys admins and engineers at Google's headquarters on Barrow Street, Dublin 4. It will also be a chance to talk to Google about engineering jobs in Ireland. The talk will start around 7pm, and will be followed by drinks and food. They want it to be a lively session, so questions and views are welcome on the night.

Interested people can e-mail irelandengineers@google.com to register their attendance.

In the talk he will describe some of the challenges in search, discuss some of the interesting applications related to search that Google has developed over the past few years, and highlight some of the behind-the-scenes pieces of infrastructure that Google has built in order to operate Google's services. He will also cover issues from lower-level systems issues like computer architecture and distributed
systems to applied areas like information retrieval, machine learning, data mining, and user interface design.
My new domain got activated over the weekend, I have to try to find time to start putting together a new website now and migrating the existing content over, as well as getting some new stuff together. So alongside Ruby I need to get to know PHP. I guess I'm in the mood for new things this weather!

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Vegan Thanksgiving

We're having a lazy day today, what with being on holiday and most stuff being closed. We should make it up for lunchtime though, if we can get in, Millenium is having a five course vegan thanksgiving meal. First come, first served, as the main restaurant was booked out a while ago (they've some tables available at the bar area).

We had a sort of thanksgiving related meal yesterday in Google - tofu and lentil loaf with mushroom gravy, organic fried pak choi, candied yams with pecans. Rose-Anne was duly impressed and made like a new Googler in trying to fit six meals onto one plate at once. She held back once she figured out it wasn't all going to fit. There were a couple of other vegan options, but the queues were longer for those ones!

After saying hello to the few sysadmins who weren't mysteriously sick the day before Thanksgiving and collecting our laundry - mission successful - we headed to the cinema to see something that wasn't animated. Unfortunately it was Bridget Jones 2. After a dinner at the fine Bay Leaf Café in Palo Alto, one of the few towns with a real downtown around here, we headed back for more punishment in the form of the film Alexander. I then realised just how good Bridget Jones had been, even if I had seen the one or two jokes it had to offer in the first film.


Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Under the trees, on the road to the Googleplex

Yesterday we visited the redwood forests in Muir Woods outside San Francisco. It was nice not to be driving long distances, walking for 10 minutes and then driving back again for a change. Whilst there were bus loads of school kids visiting, taking one of the slightly longer trails we went for 20 minutes at a time without meeting anyone. It's a fantastic place, unbelievably close to such a big city as San Francisco. It seems strange that it's been a protected forest for about 100 years now. That's not a side of America that's as well known as some of the other aspects of this country. Although in Death Valley one of the volunteer rangers was telling us that funding in at least that national park is less than it was 5 years ago. So perhaps these great natural resources aren't as well appreciated as they used to be. Maybe if oil was discovered in Muir Woods....

We had a great time emptying our credit card in an all vegan shop called Otsu. The guys running it were really friendly. We even found vegan marshmallows and bought their entire stock, a paltry 3 bags. Vegan marshmallows are hard to get. These ones are from Vegan Supreme Marshmallows. They pointed out a completely vegetarian supermarket not far away called Rainbow, a workers' co-operative. It was a bit busy to even get parking nearby so we passed on it yesterday. Apart from the sheer novelty value that such a thing actually exists, I'm not sure that being on honeymoon we have much business going supermarket shopping,but we might go back before we leave anyway!

The guys in Otsu made a funny comment, which I guess is mostly universally true. We were talking about how great San Francisco was for vegans and all the restaurants, shops, supermarkets and facilities there were to make life easy, especially compared to Dublin, which incidentally isn't that bad at all for vegans. Their immediate reaction was "New York is much better for vegans, it has 55 vegetarian/vegan restaurants, the most in the world". The grass is always greener!

We spend some time and a lot of money in a posh nightclub place upstairs in the hotel we're staying in, called Harry Denton's Starlight Room. If you're not dressed up you're allowed in from 6-8pm and they strongly encourage reservations for later in the evening. We were undecided as to whether it was a Betty Gable or a James Bond kind of place. But it's on the 21st floor sitting at a table with a view across the San Francisco skyline sipping cocktails. We had a good time. It's nice to have time to actually talk, with children around going out is an enjoyable experience, but very different. We made yet another resolution to find a babysitter and Do This More Often.

So in a few minutes we're off to Google where Rose-Anne can experience the delights of Charlie's cooking. The Google canteen must a contender for one of the best vegan cafes in the Bay Area, except that it isn't open to allcomers. it usually has two or three main dishes suitable for vegans each day, with lots of standbys (like the salad bar and the Middle Eastern food) which are always available. I was surprised to still fit into my wedding suit when I came back after a month of this cooking. Rose-Anne's not really a meet the work mates kind of person, so I hope she enjoys it. Plus we get to do our laundry for free!


Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Back in San Francisco

We got back into San Francisco last night after a mammoth 12 hour drive from Death Valley. In hindsight there could have been more planning there, but when you want to cram as much as possible in.... We're now staying in a pretty fancy hotel near Union Square with a Beefeater guarding the door. Very authentic and historic.

I managed to get the hire car stuck in mud in Death Valley, we probably found the only wet patch in the driest part of California. We had plenty of help to push it out, luckily we were right beside civilisation at the time. We even drove back through snow - I guess even though it's pretty much winter time, but we were expecting Death Valley to be a bit warmer!

Today was a little more relaxed, our major struggle was with the huge choice in Herbivore, a vegan restaurant in the Mission district. I think Rose-Anne asked the waiter three different times whether a particular item was vegan. We were like kids in a sweet shop with too much to choose from!