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Cubist Threads, by Blair Wyman

I don't follow the press much. In my job, an EDUPAGE subscription is about as committed as I normally get, along with slashdot, the DNRC, and a few other regulars. I see this as a personal failing on my part but never worry too much about it; it's just one of a large list of personal failings.

If I were going to worry about a personal failing, it would probably be my apparent and utter incapability to become a legendary rock star. I even had a sort of a shot at it once, a long time ago.

When I was in my early twenties, I fancied myself a sort of folk musician. I had learned a little guitar here and there, and could carry a tune if the basket was big enough. Well, the late, great Roy Orbison was between major gigs and happened to be playing at a local hometown nightspot. As part of the show that night the band arranged an "open mike" competition, where audience members could come up and sing tunes with the band.

Now, I was actually moving out of town the next day - I had my plane tickets in my pocket and was off to see the world - but I figured I'd take my guitar to the open mike and just see what would happen. It was one of those "loudest applause wins the prize" competitions and I didn't know a soul in the room, but I figured a rousing rendition of something-or-other would win them over.

As Roy and his band watched silently, I sat up there with my guitar and sang a couple of Beatles tunes I knew pretty well at the time. Afterwards I waited for the crowd to erupt in an unrestrained cacophony of thunderous applause and spontaneous universal acclamation.

I waited, and waited, and waited; just as I was thinking of how best to tragically and fatally impale myself on the mike stand, Roy Orbison walked up and gently pulled me away from the spotlight to the side of the stage.

"I really enjoyed your music," he said. "Are you going to be around tomorrow? Maybe we could get together, if that's alright, and play some tunes?"

"Actually, I'm moving out of town tomorrow," I said to him. "Sorry."

Mr. Orbison looked a little disappointed, shook my hand, and wished me luck. What might have happened had I changed my plans and stuck around? Nobody knows, but instead of some obscure JNI guru, I might've become a "Traveling Wilbury"!

So, what am I doing here if I'm such a failure? Am I some sort of Java guru? Definitely not: I don't program much actual Java code in my day-to-day work. However, Java remains at the absolute core of my daily labor. How can I be "doing Java" if I'm not writing it? Simple, really. I mostly work on the JVM; the IBM eServer iSeries JVM, formerly known as the AS/400 Developer's Kit for Java JVM.

So, how did I get here? Why do I get this chance to share my innermost while loops and curly braces?

The answer is simply, "Alan Williamson."

I had the pleasure of meeting Alan for the first time at the Java Migration Conference sponsored by IBM Vienna. I don't get to travel all that much - Vienna is a truly exotic locale for a "Midwesterner" like me - so when someone speaking (something like) English introduced himself to me at the catered lunch, I couldn't help but pay attention. Alan introduced himself as being from a company called "N-ary."

Now, I've done some parameter parsing code so I asked him, "N-ary, eh? Is that like 'unary, binary, ternary,' etc.?"

He said, "Spot on!" So I looked at my tie.

I couldn't see anything on my tie or on my shirt, so I looked up quizzically. It was then that I realized "spot on" must mean something like "yes."

To this day, I think that might have been the last time I fully understood something Alan said to me.

So (near as I can tell), Alan has asked me to contribute to JDJ from time to time; either that, or to attend a ritual festival of log-throwing, haggis-munching kilt wearers. I'm not sure. I guess if I see this in print I'll know.

Author Bio
Blair Wyman is a software engineer working for IBM in Rochester, Minnesota, home of the IBM iSeries. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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