I spent the weekend in San Francisco and hung out a with a few friends. After last month's project I needed a couple days to myself in another city I could easily explore, so SF seemed like the natural choice. I spent a large part of it by myself just walking until I felt like turning and walking in a different direction. I even spent some of my nights programming. I turned the television off, ordered up a hefty room service bill, and wrote some code I'd been meaning to write. It amazed me how much I could churn out, and I think in the future I'll make another trip like this if I ever need to get a lot of work done.
I have a couple of friends who work at Google, so on my drive back to Long Beach I had a chance to eat lunch (in the Google cafeteria of course) with Kevin and Brian--after Brian graciously walked me around the offices and showed me all sorts of cool Google things that I have no idea if I'm allowed to talk about since I signed some long agreement that I didn't read when I got my badge. I'm sure the agreement covered that alien life-form with wires coming out of its brain I saw in the basement, and not the butcher paper with the search engine's build history and milestones, but I'm not prepared to take that risk.
Google was a very interesting place. Nobody appeared to be in a hurry or stressed, and as we walked towards the cafeteria I noticed everyone walked like they were on a stroll through a park, like we were going to see a band play (which, there actually was for part of lunch). I had kind of expected Google to be like a college, but very little of it is like any college I've seen.
The free food was the most noticable difference. There seemed to be food around every corner. Bins of nuts and cookies, specialty sodas (a couple days ago I had paid $7 for) were available for free. Maybe because it was lunch and I was hungry, but I kept seeing (free) food, (free) food, (free) food.
But it wasn't excessive in a dot-com way. Each of the conveniences were there to remove that stress from your work day. The cafeteria, the on-site doctor, the day-care, the free food. I always thought working at home would be the ultimate way to work stress free, but I can see now after my time in my hotel room and my tour of Google that I just need a better work environment at work.