The Coffee House

coffee house

Half Cowboy Plus Protocol

by Solveig Haugland

It was a cold, snowy December in JavaRanch land. Brenda and Lacey had switched the coffee house's wooden swinging doors for reinforced double-pane storm swinging doors. The cowboys' long oilskin dusters were gone and western-yoke North Face coats predominated on the back of coffee drinkers' chairs. Even the most self-consciously rugged cowboys were asking Brenda and Lacey for Peppermint Patties and Irish Coffees, open and unashamed.

It was, in fact, a December like any other on the ranch. There were just two new things. One of them was the new green velvet sofa from Silo and Barrel that Lacey had ordered late one night after too many Moroccan Dark Roast espressos. The other wasn't.

Her name was Christine, and she wasn't green or velvety, but a lot of the cowboys thought about doing stuff with her wherein a couch might come in handy. She had dark brown hair, light brown eyes, and kind of looked like Sandra Bullock in those movies where she's supposed to be unattractive and lonely but there's no way she would be in real life. She was helping Lacey and Brenda turn the Coffee House into an Internet Cafe, putting in some Samba servers and upgrading to Redhat 9, and she spent the rest of the time chasing away Steve Ballmer with a shotgun whenever he came sniffing around the back door.

All this would have been fine except that the chairs, the new sofa, the floor, and a little ridge halfway up the wall that was apparently wide enough to sit on if you sat real still, were filling up every day about 7 AM and weren't emptying til closing time. Normally that would be fine but there wasn't any turnover. Everyone ordered one cup of coffee and sat there mooning. The ranchers had nothing to do all day but look at the sky and say yep and nope and it shore did look like snow, and so they did that inside with the extra twist that they were mooning all day looking at Christine.

"Lacey, if we don't do something about the Christine situation, our margins are going to be zilch," said Brenda, as she stumbled over a slender dark-haired cowboy who was standing behind the broom closet door. "Even during haying season we get more business." She reached under the counter for some cups and surprised Zeke and Sid who had camped out there overnight."

"Tarnation, Zeke!" Lacey shouted. "You and Sid know better than that. The health department don't allow no cowboys with the cups. You wanna hang out with cups, you go help Christine set up printing."

"Dagnabbit, Lacey, don't you shout so loud! You're going to embarrass me and Sid here. Not that that newfangled silky shirt of his ain't embarrassment enough already."

"That lady at the dry goods store said that I looked like Ed Zander in it, so you just shut your mouth, Zeke. Besides, that new haircut o'yours makes you look like a diseased Shetland."

"Oh, shut your trap," Zeke had a sneaking feeling that Sid was telling the truth, and vice versa. "Lacey, we'd love to go make polite conversation with Christine but I don't know what the heck to talk to her about. How am I going to woo a lady like her when all I got to talk about is boll weevils, winter wheat, and how once upon a time I got 98% on my SCJP?"

"Oh, for Pete's sake," sighed Brenda. Pete prairie-dogged his head up out of the Moroccan Roast bean barrel and Brenda pushed him back down again. "Christine's a girl, ain't she?"

"Well, yes, that ain't really a topic of dispute," said Zeke.

"Then get out your notes from that Dating Design Patterns talk we done gave you a few months ago and sic'em on her! Why I heard her muttering about how she can't make that Samba server hook up with some of this ol' cranky hardware that we're makin' her work with. That points clearly to a standard implementation of  goTo Guy! A guy like you could be troubleshootin' her USB in no time, if you take my meaning."

"It ain't hard to establish simple conversational state," Brenda added. "It ain't hard in Java and it ain't hard with the FEMALE platform. Heck, you can just implement Dating Savant and ask her opinion about anything. You know darn well if you got ears that she'll talk forever about that danged SCO thing." 

"Anyone in the county with ears knows that," grumbled Pete. Brenda wacked him back down into the bean barrel.

"And she's new around here, that's for sure," nodded Lacey. "Why don't you go ahead and do a Peters Inverse Newbie strategy of Encapsulated Big Fat Opening? There's that Forty-Fifth Annual Snowshoe Race for Peace and Wheat Subsidies comin' up next month and you could sure invite her to just come along with the gang."

Sid looked puzzled. "But there is no gang. Nobody ever goes to it."

Lacey sighed. "Well, she don't know that, now, do she? You get yourself through her firewall by just pretending it's a group activity, you get a couple of us to say yeah sure, we're going if we can, and then on the night in question it's just you and Christine snowshoeing your way along in the moonlight."

"And if you talk to us real nice --- I mean real nice, and you fix that fence out back for us too so Steve Ballmer can't sneak in no more with that dagnabbed Windows Server 2003 --- we just might let it slip that Brenda here used to date one of you and it was real nice, but she wasn't ready to commit at the time. Women trust other women when we talk about fellers."

Sid and Zeke looked at each other, hope dawning in their eyes.

"You mean, we could just talk to her about regular things at first, help her out with stuff, pretendin' like we ain't just tryin' to woo her? Won't she know that we've got Exterior Motives?"

"Heck no," Brenda assured them. "Women would go insane if we knew what men were thinking. If you say you want to help her with that router, she's gonna think, hmm, this guy wants to help me with my router. And then she'll owe you a favor, and she'll buy you a cup o'coffee, and then you'll go to that snowshoe thing, and so on. When we say Encapsulated Big Fat Opening, we mean Encapsulated Big Fat Opening."

"Well, that sounds like fun and all, but excuse me, when do I get to kiss her? All that sounds like somethin' I might do with my nephews. Nice but, you know, not all that satisfying." Sid was looking a little skeptical.

"Oh, that's easy. Well, first you ask me and Brenda if we done heard anything from her. That's a little Mediator action. And you also go back to Kansas City and you go to a good store this time, and get good haircuts and good pants. That'll turn her head a little; you men let yourselves get a little crusty but, as much as I hate to admit it, Sid, you got a well formed set of gluts, and Zeke, this might surprise you but you got a twinkle in your eye that can make a girl feel kinda friendly." 

"Back on topic, Lacey! You don't wanna blow them up too much ahead of time. Anyway, the point is, you get pretty with the self decoration strategy of Decorated Visitor Honeypot, you get to know her, you check with us every few days, we put in a good word for you once that fence is fixed, and then one night when she's here late you just show up with a couple bottles of wine and go all the way running the 30% Solution strategy of Interested Listener. Just ask her about herself. Brothers, sisters, high school prom, what in the world she personally thinks Sun's strategy is, just all about her. And then about an hour and a half in, you're gonna be switching to promiscuous mode and after that you're on your own."

"That's it?" Sid and Zeke wanted to believe but this was all new territory, actually being on the reference implementation team.

"That's it. Oh, and if you want a refresher there's a nice big dating design pattern relationships poster on the door of the bean storage shed out back."

Brenda wanted to reassure them. "This whole dating design patterns system is straight from the Gang of Four Cowboys. They dated all over the Chisholm Trail for ten years. You've heard the stories. You've seen the dating design pattern study groups. You've heard about the refactorings in the divorce groups. You've seen Larry Ellison showing up at hostile takeovers with a blond on each arm. It's all about proven reusable solutions to recurring problems."

And it was. Sid and Zeke flipped for it and Sid tried his luck first. He did goTo Guy which contrary to popular articles is not harmful. Supplemented with some Interested Listener, he and Christine became an item and soon were instantiating each other regularly.

Zeke, disappointed that he lost the flip, went back to Kansas City for a new haircut anyway where he met a dancehall floozy with a heart of gold who had never met a guy who wanted to hear her talk about herself, and who coincidentally had always wanted to get her SCJP. She moved back with him and they're very happy, reading Head First Java together in the mornings and walking the fenceline spraying thistle in the afternoons.

And Brenda and Lacey's margins went back up to even better than before, and they had enough money to hire Ellen to help Christine out, and the whole thing started all over again.

"Dating Design Patterns" is available through SoftPro, Powell's, Nerdbooks, and To read excerpts, visit

Solveig Haugland is an independent trainer and author near Boulder, Colorado. She spends her time working on training through for those switching from Microsoft Office (; Techwriter Stuff: The Single Source, tshirts and posters for editors and techwriters and those who love them; and of course her satire of the whole patterns thing, Dating Design Patterns, the original reusable dating solutions.