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I'm just back from vacation, and after six days of sun on the beach in the morning and on the tennis court in the afternoon, sun addled is a good description of my frame of mind. Also account for liberal quantities of beer throughout the week, and I'll be happy if I'm somewhat coherent in this editorial. I'm also in a post-vacation funk, so forgive me if I wax philosophical while I strive for coherency.

The vacation's one of the reasons I didn't go to JavaOne this year it would have been hard to justify two weeks off so close together, and this time play won out over work. On some occasions work and play have mixed without undue harm to either I've written J2ME code while on a ski vacation in Tahoe and on vacation in the Caribbean but that was due to extraordinary circumstances (the rollout of the first J2ME cellphones in the U.S.). This vacation was completely disconnected from the Internet I intentionally left my laptop home, and my cell phone was for emergency calls only. I'm a bit of a Luddite in that I don't want to be connected and available 24x7, and don't spend large amounts of my free time playing with the latest gee-whiz gadgetry. There are a lot of other things to do in life, and you only get one shot at it (reincarnation notwithstanding).

I think that the rate of technical change in our industry puts developers at a real risk of early burnout. Alvin Toffler wrote that "Future shock [is] the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time." As a Java developer you may sometimes feel that you're experiencing such future shock. If you've been in the Java business for more than a few years, consider the changes that you've seen in that time. New APIs proliferate like rabbits XML, JAXB, SOAP, CLDC, MIDP, JDK 1.4, the list goes on and on. At 992 pages, the current issue of Java in a Nutshell is over twice the size of the first edition. This nutshell has grown from a hazelnut to a coconut, and in a few years I expect to have one bookshelf devoted just to all of the editions of this book that I've acquired (yes, I could throw out the old editions, but then I'd have to transfer all of the highlighted items and dog-ears from the old editions to the current one).

If you don't keep abreast of the latest changes by reading technical journals and making frequent book purchases you can quickly find your skills becoming, if not obsolete, certainly in far less demand. If you're content to specialize in a single area say, JSPs or EJBs you can save yourself some of this, but then you limit yourself career-wise, and you won't experience the satisfaction of architecting larger solutions.

Of course, change is part of what keeps our work interesting, and keeping abreast of these changes helps give you the hot skills that bring in the bucks. But trying to keep up with what's coming out from Sun can leave you Sun addled. Add in a desire to keep current in object-oriented analysis and design, UML, design patterns, and the full complement of related technologies, plus the pervasive "need it yesterday" mentality of modern organizations, and you can easily feel overwhelmed.

You really can't expect to know everything about everything in the technologies we deal with, so know when to go full bore and when to throttle back. As The Specials (and many before them) sang, "enjoy yourself, it's later than you think." If the alternative is getting so burnt out that you end up considering a career change, wouldn't you rather chill out every now and then by sipping a Corona on a beach somewhere?

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In last month's editorial I surveyed the MIDlet marketplace. Fortuitously, next month's issue of JDJ will contain an article by Greg Schwartz that takes you through the process of actually getting your MIDlet published via various outlets. So if you've thought about selling MIDlets, keep an eye out for this article.

About The Author
Glen Cordrey is a software architect working in the Washington, DC, area. He's been using Java for five years, developing both J2EE and J2ME applications for commercial customers. [email protected]

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