Joel Kitching Engineer and creative mind

Amazon intern day 7: getting comfortable

May 06 2011

Today was quite a long day. It started out with me considering whether or not to go look at Moda Apartments which Aboda had suggested (their ulterior motive likely being that they like Moda because it rhymes with their name). But, after seeing some of the reviews of the place, and noting that the square footages of the units are sometimes half that of the place I am currently in, I decided that it wasn’t worth it.

So basically I have decided (and I think convinced myself) to stay at my humble Sydney abode from Aboda, and now it just remains to see if I can get them to give me a lower rate for putting me in the wrong-sized room (which I very sincerely doubt would ever possibly happen).

I can has bank account?

Notable event number one: I stopped by this bank called Chase (I really wasn’t sure it was a bank until I was right outside the window and I peered in cautiously) and asked if they would open an account when I hadn’t yet received a social security number. They said yes, and gave me some pamphlets, and I hurriedly said I needed to leave to get to work on time so they wouldn’t try to sell me on an account.

Interesting fact (provided it is true): the federal government mandates that only six withdrawals (or possibly transactions?) can be made on a savings account per month. Annoying. What the hell, America.

“I forgot my ID badge”

Notable event number two: walking up to the ID-checking podiums and realizing that I forgot my ID at home. I had to get a temporary replacement which says “I forgot my ID badge” on the front. Of course. Apparently I have to bring it in with my old badge in order to get it reactivated, which is slightly irksome since it means I have to bring both in on Monday. Ah well, I’m sure it’ll happen at least a few more times by the end of the summer.

A strange bug-fixing pizza jam

Notable event number three: some strange bug-fixing-lunch-with-pizza-jam. It was more like testing—we were looking to see if there were any problems with this new way of showing Prime-eligible purchases on product pages.

Actually, for me, it consisted of first of all trying to set up a Prime trial account, second of all realizing that I couldn’t until I purchased an item, third of all looking for an item to buy (which would actually be my first ever Amazon purchase, embarrassingly enough), fourth of all realizing that the item I had chosen was Prime ineligible, and finally realizing that after deciding on something that might remotely be useful (a book by Will Ferguson, an awesome Canadian author) and inputting my credit card, my Prime trial membership was activated without even completing the purchase!

So, instead of being useful, I spent the entire hour shopping on Amazon.com. All of the above could have been easily prevented if people working in Prime were just given Prime memberships. Simple as that.

I should probably still make my first purchase at some point since I work there. I should take advanage of the fact that I get a 10% discount (of up to $100 for the year), that I have an American address, and that I now have a free Prime trial.


I spent most of the rest of the work day setting up an Arch Linux chroot environment, and figuring out a set of toolchain packages that would be compatible with the ancient ones in the Red Hat Enterprise Linux distributions used on our desktops.

At the very end of the day, I had success, with the latest git snapshot of mpd running with Last.fm streaming radio support, so I could do things like mpc load lastfm://artist/Beatles and then stream Beatles music. Super cool, although probably not the best use of my time.

I did have a long chat with Chris about the distinctions between the internal package management systems, and they are starting to make more sense.

The interns convene to feed

The talk of going out for dinner was continued over the interns mailing list, and it was decided to go to the Tap House Grill [Yelp]—the same one I went to on the first night with my parents, after having moved in. Somehow I ended up in charge of this event, and called and made reservations for fifteen at 6:30 PM, based off of the number of people who responded to the invite in Outlook.

So I dashed home after work to drop my stuff off, and then headed over there and arrived only ten minutes late (read: on time). I chatted with the girl who broke the mailing list ice (Jenny) for a bit while waiting for people to arrive, although when I got there we were already about thirteen altogether.

Shortly after that we headed downstairs into the restaurant, and proceeded to have a very nice dinner. I got to chat with about five or six other interns in my general vicinity, and luckily they all turned out to be the cool ones (the other table left early, although I can’t make any reliable judgements on how cool they really are since I didn’t even talk with them).

It turns out that people come from very different backgrounds. Almost no one had semi-extensive prior experience with Linux, and most were Windows users. I think I may have alienated myself a little when I tried to explain tiling window managers to them (I love and use xmonad everywhere).

Also I am not sure if this is just an edge case, but I spoke with one of the guys from Waterloo a bit about his university, and he very strongly broadcasted the opinion that his university is amazing solely based off the fact that it has very important and knowledgeable professors, whom he openly admits can’t teach worth crap. Seems a bit of a strange way to valuate your school. Well, I had Steve Wolfman, and he is one of the best CS teachers I have ever had. So there.

To the theatre, my friends!

After dinner, I took my friend Steven Noble’s advice, and I stuck around, saying “yes” despite the proceeding plans not necessarily sounding riveting. Said plans were to go see Thor at the nearby theatre.

Now I’m not a huge fan of sitting in theatres, spending money on doing so, or seeing movies I haven’t heard much about that potentially might not interest me. But I am glad I took Steven’s advice. It turned out to be a good bonding experience, wandering around, finding the theatre, heading inside, waiting for the movie to start. In fact, I quite enjoyed the movie, for what it was worth as a shoot-’em-up humans and aliens type of film. And afterwards some amusing times were had trying to find our ways home via late-night busses.

One thing to note is that on our way to the theatre, this homeless man stopped us (which turns out to be quite common with the exceedingly vocal homeless of downtown Seattle) and said he would tell us three jokes. I couldn’t quite hear them properly, but I was told afterward that he said, “Did you hear about the guy who lost his left arm and his left leg? [silence] He was going to be all right.” That’s gold right there. Absolute gold.

All in all, I am finally starting to settle in. At least at the current moment, I’m very confident that I’ll do fine and have a great summer.