These are the things I think as I sit here in my resort hotel on the edge of the Dead Sea in Israel after the JavaEdge 2009 conference on Thursday:
- The JavaEdge hosts (Alpha CSP) are, without a doubt, the most gracious hosts I think I've ever had at a conference. And considering the wonderful treatment I've had at the hands of the 4Developers and JDD hosts in Krakow (Proidea) and the SDN hosts in Amsterdam, this is saying a lot. But the Alpha CSP folks have simply floored me, top to bottom, with their generosity and warmth.
- The JavaEdge crowd is a great one. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, because in the US we don't hear much about the tech going on in Israel, so I was a bit concerned that (a) my English was going to be difficult to grasp or that (b) my humor was going to sail over their heads due to the language barrier, or worse, (c), the developers at the conference wouldn't be ready to hear the keynote message ("Why the Next Five Years Will Be About Languages"). I shouldn't have been concerned on any of those points—this crowd understood me perfectly, laughed at most of my jokes (hey, not even my family gets all of them), and more importantly, not only accepted the thrust of the message but also came up to me afterwards and either sought clarification, challenged one or more points, or simply said they enjoyed the keynote. It was as engaged and enthusiastic a crowd as just about any I've had.
- Fan(tom) is something worth looking into. Some of the speakers at the conference were talking with me about Fan (recently renamed to Fantom, to make it easier to Google/Bing), and I've realized that Fan's too interesting a language for the amount of press that it gets. I think this is something I'm going to pursue in the coming calendar year, maybe put together some presentations and/or workshops on it.
- Israel is ready for Groovy, Scala, and closures in Java. These folks were chomping at the bit at the thought of using one or all of these, at least based on the comments and questions I got after the keynote.
- Swimming in the Dead Sea is a truly bizarre experience. To be honest, one doesn't really "swim" in the Dead Sea—one just rests on top of the water, because the salt content in the water is so high that it is (quite literally) impossible to go under the water. It's like lounging on an inflatable raft in the water, except without the raft. It borders on the creepy. Still, my skin is much softer now than it was before. ;-)
- Jerusalem is a fascinating city. Alpha CSP set me up with a tour guide (Ido Notman), and we toured Jerusalem yesterday: all four quarters of the Old City (the Christian quarter, the Jewish quarter, the Moslem quarter and the Armenian quarter), the "Tomb" of King David, the Holy Sepulchre (where Christ was supposedly crucified and buried), the Western Wall, and then back to Tel Aviv for the night. Throughout the entire day, Ido kept up a running commentary about the history of the city and the three religions that are centered there (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) and the stories/legends that each holds about the city's place in their religious beliefs. I came away just flat overwhelmed, and, once we got back, flat on my back—we walked for most of the day, and Jerusalem is not a flat city like you might expect—it's nestled in some serious mountains, which makes it a bit rough on the calves. But it was well worth it, because there's nothing like standing and looking at pillars right in front of you—excavated from beneath a high-rise apartment building, just there for anybody to stroll up to and see and touch and take photos with—that were built back when Rome meant the center of civilization. Wow.
- The Palestinian-Israeli and Arab-Israeli conflict(s) are a lot more "real" when you're in the middle of it (geographically). Seeing armed Israeli guards, driving through security checkpoints, even just driving past the wall that Israel is building to keep a physical barrier between them and Hamas/Hezbollah is all a vivid reminder that the nine-o'clock news is more than just something that's happening "over there" when you're "over there" too. The highway we took (the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, the same one mentioned in the parable of the Good Samaritan—and, yes, we passed the Inn of the Good Samaritan on the way here, which was just a little creepy and exciting and weird all at the same time) drove right alongside that wall for a stretch of about five or so kilometers, and I couldn't help but wonder if somebody in one of those apartment buildings over there, who had a clear line of sight to our car zipping by on the freeway, was looking at us through the scope of a sniper rifle. It's a creepy feeling, and even worse knowing that there may well have been an Israeli sniper looking back across the wall as well, into somebody's apartment. I won't weigh in on one side or the other here, because that's not my point; my point is that we in the US take our physical security way too much for granted, compared to some other parts of the world where it's not such a given.
- And no, in case you were wondering, I was never concerned for my safety. Yes, it's something I thought about. But you have a better chance of dying on a New York street corner from a runaway ice cream truck than you do from a rocket attack or a terrorist suicide bomb (or something like that). I'd come back in a heartbeat.
- Israelis really know how to party. First the after-conference party on Thursday night, then a quieter speaker dinner last night, but each time, the company was excellent, the food was amazing, and the wine/beer/liquor-of-choice was flowing fast. I don't know if it's just the Alpha CSP folks or Israelis in general, but these people really have a work-hard-play-hard mentality that I just love.
Thanks again to Miya, Ety, Shlomi, Roi, Alex and Ido for a wonderful combination work/vacation trip.