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Joel Kitching Engineer and creative mind

Amazon intern day 14: retail website and foosball

May 13 2011

Today I didn’t accomplish particularly much. I messed around with setting up the retail website on my machine, and got it working. It looks very strange without the regular Amazon content in it.

Local retail website magic

When you run the retail website locally, it has a very neat feature where you can add ?isConfig=1 to the end of the URL, and it will show you each component on the page, how long it took to load, and some other cool information. It will also point you directly to the Mason code and the HTML used to generate it, in case you are trying to debug a component that might, for example, be taking a really long time to run.

chroot progress

I also messed around a lot with trying to get a Gentoo chroot working. I actually had a lot more luck than I’d had with Arch Linux, which was an utter pain, since everything had been compiled for a newer kernel version which had some new function available that everything expected, but which my ancient RHEL 4 kernel did not have.

But I think that for whatever reason by compiling everything from source it figured out which kernel I’m using and dealt with it? Or something like that? Anyways, I’ve got it running and just compiled xmonad in it, so we’ll see if I have any luck using it as my X manager.

I can has decentralized currency?

I also went to a talk with Chris today in the eyebrow building from a professor at MIT. It was all about some kind of decentralized currency system, whereby users build trust in one another by “loaning” them money, and then there was all of this complicated theoretical business about gaming the system, using it for other applications, etc.

I sort of started to doze off within the first half hour or so (which later became my signature move during lunch talks), not necessarily because it wasn’t interesting, but mostly because it was a little beyond my understanding, and also the guy speaking was an Indian with a very heavy accent.

A small intern lunch

After that I had lunch with a few interns (specifically, ones I’d hung out with last Friday after our impromptu intern dinner). I’d asked Peter if he wanted to eat lunch together, and then I also invited Joshua, and then when I was in the cafeteria waiting for them I found Nathan, so he joined us too.

It was sort of funny because after talking about our jobs and school and whatnot, we all were basically sitting there, not saying much, but avoiding going back to work. It was a while before someone finally decided to break the ice and get up, at which point there was a mass exodus of everyone heading back to work.

Symlinks and interviews

Then, Chris headed down to a CLOE meeting (his pet project, and in part my future intern project), and told me it was optional. I stayed at my desk for a while, then got lonely and bored, so I wandered down there. (Although it took me a while—I went to the wrong building first, then went to another floor that didn’t connect two “sister” buildings, then finally found the floor that did, and then headed up to the right floor in the other building.)

It was just him and one other guy, and apparently a few others had stopped by but it was not very busy. They were trying to get some service to start on Chris’ machine, but he was having trouble because of a bunch of weird symlink issues or something. There was also some discussion about interviews and interview questions, which seems to be a very common topic around here! (I later discovered this is a pretty universal topic engineers love to discuss, sometimes to challenge or boast, sometimes to derail productivity.)

Foosball invasion!

We returned to discover that a foosball table had been retrieved by Mark and his manager, Al! Apparently it had been in the works to buy one for a while, and this Friday just so happened to be the day it was brought in. I played quite a number of games, and I think started to improve pretty quickly after some embarrassment. It is kind of scary when you play a game against your manager’s manager though!

After a while, there was one game where I was playing with my manager’s manager, against my manager and my mentor. Oh such interesting situations! They also bought a bunch of beer too, so I was able to drink some and relax a bit after a long week.

(I later realized that our company hierarchy closely matched foosball skill levels, based on a ladder competition that had been started. It was definitely the case that myself, my mentor, my manager, and my manager’s manager all had increasingly high skill levels.)

Bring on the cheesecake

There were plans to go out to the Cheesecake Factory [Yelp] tonight, so I headed down to the purported meeting spot at the foot of SEA27 (my building), but I didn’t see anyone. I headed over to check the eyebrows, because I think someone else had mentioned that as a meeting spot, but no one was there either.

So I returned to SEA27, and passed by this kid again who seemed to be looking for something. He of course turned out to be an intern. Patryk was his name, and he was very outgoing and interesting. Shortly after that, Nathan and a bunch of other people arrived, and we all headed to a bus stop that took us downtown.

We headed there amidst some conversation about different cities in North America, and arrived to a huge crowd of interns waiting outside the restaurant. Apparently they didn’t take reservations past a certain time, so Jenny (who was off work that day since they were moving her department’s office to the new SLU campus) simply walked down there at 5 PM and asked to make reservations for 25. Apparently they lied to her and said it would only be an hour wait, when it actually ended up being two hours. But we did end up getting in there eventually!

Too. Many. People.

I thought dinner last Friday was crazy, but this was just getting ridiculous. We had an entire row of maybe seven tables to ourselves, despite the fact that you could really only talk to the four or so people around you during the dinner.

I was sitting beside Patryk, Peter, a kind of hick guy in front of me, and then an amusing Indian dude beside him. Conversation was had, food was eaten, cake was ordered, and payments were made. So many things.

Patryk’s apartment

After that, there was some question as to what to do, but Patryk invited people over to his place (which, incidentally, is a block away from my apartment, and I pass it every day on my way to work). We headed over there, and slowly but surely, our group dwindled from 25 down to 9. Once we arrived there, another guy left since he had to let his roommate into his apartment or something, and Peter left to go get his bike, but he returned pretty quickly.

Patryk’s place is really cool! He’s on the top (fourteenth) floor, and has a gorgeous view of the space needle, which looks especially amazing at night. It is a two-person place, and I was slightly surprised to see that it is smaller than my own single-person place.

We bought some beer at a nearby convenience store, and hung out for a while, comparing apartments, work, and universities. After a while, they decided to head over to another intern’s apartment, since it has great rooftop access. Along with a few other people, I bailed—since my apartment was right next door, and since it was so late, it didn’t really make sense.

Onward and upward

From here on out, my social life snowballed in a great way, I made leaps and bounds of progress at work (once I finally got started on my project), and I had tons of amazing Seattle adventures. I even started dating someone (an intern, but not from Amazon) after a while! My internship at Amazon provided a summer full of awesome experiences that simply can’t be expressed in a mere two weeks’ worth of blogging. If you’re here trying to get a sense of whether you’d like to intern at Amazon, my advice to you is: do it!