The Coffee House

coffee house

The First Annual JavaRanch Technical Conference

by Solveig Haugland

We don't need to tell you that it can get boring out at the ranch sometimes.

Even through the buzz of a good hard night's debugging and a triumphant finale. Even through the joy of convincing another rancher to stop flirting with .NET and come over to the Light. Even after you've canned your rhubarb and put up a whole mess o'jerky for the winter, and found a great new herbicide for that darned Canadian thistle. Things can get boring.

"And kinda short in the cash flow region, too," added Lacey. (We join this conversation in progress.) "We got this place set up as an Internet Cafe, and a darned nice one too. But these cowpokes just won't go visit the pay sites, if you take my meaning, and the Ella From the Massage Parlor down at the other end of town is givin' it away for free. Dialup, that is."

Zeke piped up from the other end of the cafe, where he was reclining about as languorously as a cowboy can on the green velvet sofa. "You know, all this is because we ain't got no indigenous industry no-how and we don't embrace our inner creative worker."

Brenda sighed. "Zeke, why do you keep reading Kucinich's web site? He ain't gonna win and I think all those years out in the desert made him just a bit tetched."

"Well, you know we ain't got no industry here. We got a bunch of ranchers doin' their own thing, which don't exactly bring out the holiday shoppers or the high-tone clubbers. The only hotel in town closed down two years ago--"

"We had a hotel??"

"--and selling lattes and, well, companionship, are the biggest businesses we got."

"All right, you have a point," sighed Brenda, while Lacey rolled her eyes and busily started writing the coffee specials of the day on the blackboard. "What's your bright idea?"

Sid piped up. "Why don't we put on a circus! I can whip round a rope real good, and I got a real perty cowboy costume in the basement with lots o'spangles, back when I used to ride for the Richard Simmons Ridin' to the Oldies show."

The kind of silence that everyone wants to end very very quickly ensued, and very nearly everyone else in the coffee house started talking busily about the weather, and became fascinated with the buttons on their coats.

Zeke coughed. "That's, um, great, Sid. But what I was thinking is that we got a lot o' space, and a lot o' ranchers, and a lot o' folks who can cut code like there's no tomorrow. Why don't we host a technical conference?"

Sid was annoyed. "And just how is that so different from my circus suggestion?" Everyone ignored him.

"That just might work, Zeke!" said Brenda, surprised even more than she was showing. "I hate to admit it but that's a darned fine idea. Let's get together tonight after the coffee house closes and we'll work on some ideas."

After closing time that night, the midnight soft light bulbs burned, ideas were instantiated and resulting verbal exceptions thrown, and in the morning a tired but happy Brenda wrote a very different list of items on the blackboard and propped it up outside the coffee house for all to see.

First Annual JavaRanch
-Klingon Localization Conference

The Javaranchers were frightened out of their wits as they passed by the sign that morning.  "Klingon speakers?? Klingon speakers who are also into Linux? Do you have any idea what kind of person you are inviting out here? I don't care how much money they have--the sight of somebody in a Klingon forehead and parading around in a wearable Linuxdistro is going to sour the milk! I know we Javaranchers ain't exactly shopping at the Gap and buying Britney Spears albums, but you have no idea what you are getting into!"

These and other comments--thought, yelled, and bombarded at one-minute intervals from anonymous email boxes--gave the planning committee a bit of pause. But they soldiered on. Brenda and Lacey sent out press releases, contracted the Generic Suites hotels extremely quickly and even a riverboat for overflow attendees on the river that flowed through town. Zeke pulled some strings at O'Reilly and got them to publish a new book, Forehead First Klingon Linux Ancient Weapons, to be announced at the conference.  Sid got SCO to sue for infringement on something or other and that got a lot of extra publicity. Lacey
invited all 179 small bluegrass bands from Boulder, Colorado to play at the After Dark parties, and Sid got his friends on the Swedish Swing-Dancing Team to come over and do some workshops at the end of the day, calling out the directions in Klingon (Swedish dialect). By the end of the week, the entire Klingon Linux conference was doing the Charleston with both flair and panache. (Flair and Panache are two Klingon warrior-gods and, by way of coincidence, very powerful Linux scripts.)

The week of the conference passed with incident, as might be expected. More than one unfortunate Klingon speaker was invited out on a snipe hunt by some cruel local Javaranchers, and was left pantsless and alone in the middle of snipeless north 40. The inevitable intra-Linux fights broke out about the merits of SuSE vs RedHat and indeed the pronunciation of SuSE. The 117 attendees were outnumbered by the number of Boulder bluegrass bands, but they promised to spread the word for the next year's conference. A few slightly disgruntled attendees suggested that perhaps next year a companion conference among Precious Moments collectors might be held in order to make the dancing a little more gender balanced.

But the core planning team of Brenda, Lacey, Sid, and Zeke were darned excited about the whole thing, and now had indigenous industry and no longer felt alienated from their inner creative workers. Lacey discovered she had a flair for languages, and got the head of the Klingon delegation from Fargo to set up a branch office resulting in several new jobs. Brenda met a very nice fellow from the Redhat folks who promised to show her his fedora next time. Zeke discovered that he was a negotiations whiz, talking on three different cells phones at once when the delegations from LA disagreed on the pronunciation of the Klingon for Linux. And Sid, in an event best left to the imagination, even got to wear his spangled cowboy costume.

Solveig Haugland is an independent trainer and author near Boulder, Colorado. She spends her time creating learning materials and doing training through her company for those switching from Microsoft Office; Techwriter Stuff: The Single Source, tshirts and posters for techwriters and those who love them; and of course Dating Design Patterns, the original reusable solutions to recurring problems (available, as she is wont to say, through Softpro, Powells, Nerdbooks, and Amazon).  And she is subscribed to the mailing list for the Klingon localization project.