The 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
"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
"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.
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 Klingon.org 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.
is an independent trainer and author near Boulder, Colorado. She spends
her time creating learning materials and doing training through her company
GetOpenOffice.org 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 OpenOffice.org Klingon localization