The pattern in the Loom (a blanket statement)

The 2019 JVM Language Summit handed out a tapestry blanket as a gift to conference participants. As in previous years, the gift included some artwork appropriate to the creative, informal mood of the conference, and specifically to technology currently under development. This year we chose to celebrate Project Loom.

the blanket

It was a popular gift, and | has | received | public | comment. Here are some questions and answers about it.

What’s the meaning of…

…the funny loom shape?

That’s a lambda, which (as of Java 8) is a foundation stone for parallel notations in Java.

…the carpet Duke is weaving?

It looks like a chip micrograph. Must be the design of the next big thing in computing!

…the pile of books in the foreground?

Duke makes continuous reference to certain books as he works, especially the core specifications of the Java ecosystem, the JLS, the JVMS, and even the esoteric JMM, from which the Voynich manuscript was decoded. If the Java ecosystem suddenly lost its specifications, it would be as if the fine structure constant were randomized, leading to false vacuum decay and the destruction of all life. But for Java programs. And more slowly.

We can’t say he keeps his office very tidy, but those books must be ready to hand at a moment’s notice. We don’t know what happened to his bookcase. Actually we don’t see the JLS, but we know it’s in there somewhere, because the JVMLS is the JVM Language Summit, and the JLS covers the “Language” part. It’s been a few years since we took away his copy of C++ for Dummies.

…the all-seeing eye on the JVMS?

To the JVM, nothing is private.

…those big spools by the back wall?

Those are moldering spools of surplus giant thread. In the old days you had to buy it in huge lots and bring it in by forklift, and you only got one color. In Duke’s new shop, you can buy your thread in small spools and in any color you like. And, it’s easy to weave it together into whatever textile you need, such as the next big thing in computing.

…the electric crystal?

Nothing can easily be known concerning the lambent crystal sphere abiding atop Duke’s hand as he commands his loom. Perhaps it is in some way the fountainhead of Duke’s obscure power to create the future. Rumor says it is a cherished gift from Nikola Tesla or Captain Nemo.

…the belts and the gears and the pipes and the valves?

That’s steampunk for you.

…steampunk, really?

You should see the year we riffed on M.C. Escher, or Leonardo da Vinci, or the Sorceror’s Apprentice, or the Alchemist (of SICP fame).

…the deep sea suit in the wall picture?

Could be one of James Gosling’s seagoing robots.

…the sad Rhino?

That’s our old friend Rhino the JavaScript engine. Good times…

…the lovely ruby?

That was given to Duke by his pals on the JRuby project.

…the potted brain?

Not sure; isn’t that a Victorian mad-scientist thing? Could be our friend Descartes is about to make an error in judgement.

…the quill pen?

Just a souvenir from the days before good IDEs.

What is the writing…

…on the side of the loom?

Every monstrous steampunk contraption needs a maker’s mark. This one says “LAMBDA SPECIAL MACHINERY COMPANY, REDWOOD SHORES, CA.”

…on the back wall?

It says “JVMLS MMXXIX ← Duke was here”, a reminder that this was made for the 2019 JVM Language Summit.

…on the big spools beside the back wall?

Those old spools of giant thread are festooned with warning tape marked @Deprecated. The term “deprecated” means “you can use this if you need to, but you shouldn’t need to”. Looks like that kind of thread isn’t used much in Duke’s loom business, although clearly the spiders enjoy it.

…on the back door?

It says “CAUTION: SHORT STACKS ONLY”. There’s no room for dinosaur threads in those back rooms.

…on the bust of the frowning guy?

That’s Duke’s hero Babbage. He invented a computing engine. Like Duke, only before.

…on the base of the ruby stand?

That says @code. You’ll find that all over javadoc, but it’s nothing specific to rubies.

…on the lever Duke is pulling?

It says @Override, which is a term in Java code that means “this method is replacing a previous one”. Also, every monstrous steampunk contraption needs an override lever, just in case.

…on the certificate on the wall behind the brain?

I can’t tell; my eyes aren’t that sharp. And Duke has won too many awards for me to guess which one it is.

…on the calendar item with the “X” in it?

Couldn’t say; maybe Duke’s next appearance at the JVMLS? Pilates?

…on the open book with the wave?

That says, “CHAPTER 1, Loomings” and “Call me Ishmael” (with the last word cut off in the middle).

Those words, as everyone knows, are the chapter title and first sentence of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. We don’t know why Duke is consulting this tome, although perhaps there is something to learn there about looming and calling. After all, to “call” something is to bring it into at least notional presence, just like a Java call site “calls” a Java method, either indirectly or directly in-line. To modify the “call” by saying “call me -ish” might mean “call me if you feel like else ghost me because we might not be friends”, or it might refer to Ahab’s blandishments to the white whale, but in the context of these particular loomings, the idea of “calling” with an ironic “-ish” certainly refers to the fact that in Loom fibers, the cost of coroutine switching has been brought close to the cost of a plain call. Thus, we see, that in the context of Moby Dick, an “-ish call” in one’s “loomings” is a friendly informal shout-out from one small fiber to its obliging and cooperative peer, rather than a risky summons of some bristling Leviathanic dinosaur thread from the vasty heap. Or not.


Who is the designer?

The graphic was designed by John Rose and the JVMLS steering committee, while the artwork and textile design are from Anatoly Artemov and Ken Wash of The gratuitously extravagant wisecracks must have happened because someone’s account got hacked.

I heard it was a blanket, but it just looks like a GIF.

Nowadays it’s not all that expensive to convert digital art into any number of different physical artifacts. The JVMLS gifts, each with their own artwork, have taken various forms over the years: shirts, hoodies, beach bags, towels, steel mugs, and now tapestry blankets. Such a blanket is made from many small threads of brightly colored thread, cleverly woven together so that the exposed threads will collectively present some desired image. It’s almost as if we chose a medium which would exemplify our message! By the way, digitally programmed cloth is old technology: In Queen Victoria’s day they used punched cards to run their Jacquard looms.

So it’s a blanket. Any other details?

It’s a tapestry throw blanket, about 50 by 60 inches, made via an inexpensive commodity process. You can buy many such things easily; just search for “tapestry throw blanket” on Google, Amazon, Etsy, etc. Here’s what it looks like:

proof #1: nerd test
proof #2: cat test

Can I have one of these blankets?

Sorry, it was a limited run specifically made for attendees of the 2019 JVM Language Summit. Everybody that was going to get one has got one already.

Cool, is there art from other years?

There has been a custom themed artwork created for each yearly JVMLS, starting in 2008. There’s no online catalog of this artwork (as of 2/2020). Here are a couple of teasers:

OK, there’s also this cache here:

Is the image online?


the blanket