The Java Specialists' Newsletter
Java version: Java 8
Why Crete?by Dr. Heinz M. KabutzAbstract:
In this newsletter, Heinz answers the question that he gets asked most: "Why Crete?" "Because I can" could be one answer, but the reality is a bit deeper than that.
Welcome to the 231st edition of The Java(tm) Specialists' Newsletter, sent to you from the
Island of Crete, where last week we had our fifth edition of
JCrete. All the
attendees I spoke to told me it was the best JCrete to date.
We even made a TreeSet of Java Geeks. Check my Twitter Feed
and see if you can find it (July 22nd 2015).
Since I am officially on my summer break after working like a
slave for the first 7 months of the year, I am sending you
something to inspire you to solve problems quicker and become
a better Java programmer. There are other more technical
newsletters in the queue, don't worry :-)
We have revised our "Advanced Topics" course, covering Reflection, Java NIO, Data Structures, Memory Management and several other useful topics for Java experts to master. 2 days of extreme fun and learning. Extreme Java - Advanced Topics.
I speak at a lot of conferences, mainly in Europe. At the
beginning of my talks, I usually have a short introduction
slide of "Who is Heinz?" On it I list my amazing
achievements *cough cough* - PhD Computer Science (relevance
to Java - none), JavaOne RockStar Speaker (albeit without
groupies), Java Champion (not sure what that means), etc. I
also mention that I live on the Island of Crete in the blue
Mediterranean. After my talks, the most common question that
I get asked is: "Why Crete?"
It is an interesting question indeed. First off, no one
cares about what I've managed to wangle over the years. But
they do want to know whether there is a particular reason why
I chose Crete over, let's see, London, Vienna, Paris, Rome,
Berlin, New York, San Francisco, Zug and a dozen other places
I could have relocated my family to.
Last week, we ran our 5th JCrete
unconference. As always, it was held in the "Open
Spaces" format. To an outside observer's point of view, it
might look like things are fairly well organized. They'd be
wrong. We don't have organizers - we have disorganizers.
Everything is pretty much chaotic. But with small numbers
and smart people, it still somehow works. Actually, it works
extremely well. The most organized bit was Steven Chin live
streaming and recording the main room's discussions.
(WARNING - despite airconditioner, it gets a bit heated at times.)
Wielenga, who goes to even more conferences than I do, sent me this comment
"Thank YOU. Best Java conference on the planet." He prefers
it to JavaOne. Amazing. Marcus
Lagergren told me that JCrete ranked as
#1 for him, together with the JVM Language Summit.
The secret does not lie in Crete per se. Instead, I found it
last night when I was reading Natural
Born Heroes: How a Daring Band of Misfits Mastered the Lost
Secrets of Strength and Endurance Hardcover - by Christopher
McDougall. In Chapter 28, it talks about the value of
being exposed to nature in stimulating our minds. It was
even shown in a scientific paper that "Simple and brief
interactions with nature can produce marked increases in
cognitive control." At JCrete, we do that all the time.
Usually, conferences are held in soulless buildings in ugly
areas of the city where land is cheap. At our conference, we
wake up every morning to an unbelievable view of the sea
right in front of our conference center. Some of the best
discussions we had were held down at the beach underneath
some shady trees. There's something about nature to activate
our brains. Here's a relevant
tweet by our fellow disorganizer Giorgos Saslis.
We also stretch the JCrete experience out over many days.
At most other conferences, attendees' brains are saturated in
the first hour. They pretend to work, but actually it's just
an excuse to get out of the office and eat some cookies. At
JCrete, we pretend to not work. We only have three
sessions per day and then we head off to the beach. But out
there, in the waves, the really serious discussions are
taking place. Cay Horstmann described it very nicely in his
recent blog entry: Back
from the JCrete Unconference.
This correlates well with my personal experience. As a
teenager, when I had a difficult programming problem to
solve, I would take some paper and pen and go sit on the
rocks of Bantry Bay below my parents' house. Within a very
short time, I would have a solution. It's amazing how the
brain wakes up when it encounters nature. So if you are
reading this, sitting in a cubicle without any interaction
with the outside world, you have my sympathies. It will be
very hard for you to engage your brain to its full capacity.
I have also had to work in a cubicle without a view. But
fortunately there was a golf course nearby, so when I got
stuck, I'd hop on my bicycle and ride over there, just to sit
underneath the trees, listen to the birds chirping and come
up with some Java poetry.
The reason why Crete was good for me is that it gave me the
opportunity to live in a lovely house surrounded by nature at
a price that I could afford. We have some of the finest
beaches in the world right on our doorstep. Yesterday I swam
from Marathi to Loutraki and back, totaling about 2.3 km.
The lifeguard at Loutraki beach did give me some funny looks,
probably wondering where I had come from. Not many people
swim that far here :-)
Last year, Marc Hoffmann (mtrail) flew his
Java programming team from Switzerland to Crete for
advanced training. I don't think they realized what that
meant when they signed up! Extreme Java - Concurrency and Performance
in the mornings, followed by hours of clambering over rocks in the
Stavros mountain range behind my house. Often the hikes and
swims in the sea would lead to further in-depth discussions
about what we had spoken about earlier, throwing about
use-cases from their business and clarifying some points that
might have been misunderstood. I saw Marc several times
afterwards at various conferences and he told me every time
how much that week had helped his team move forward. Now
that's the type of company I would want to work for :-)
P.S. If you want to get the ultimate geek watch, forget the
Apple Watch and instead have
a look at the Garmin
Fenix 3. It tracks activity in the open sea, running,
cycling and a bunch of other activities. But what I really
like as a geek is that it also tracks how long I've been
sitting on my backside. If I sit for too long, the watch
vibrates and issues a stern warning - "Move!!!" Great
reminder to keep moving, even if only to the coffee machine.
You can even write your own app for it in a Java-like
language. Not cheap, but brilliant. I can wear it hiking
and to a business meeting.
Some gotchas - the tracking is not always accurate,
especially in open water swimming. It is also large, so if
you have spindly arms it might not look so good on you :-)
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