It was my first Class IV river, and I approached the infamous Five Falls. In the typically tame Ouachita mountain range, the CassatotIndian for Skull Crusherwas serious. In all honesty, I wasn't ready for the river. Unseen gremlins sent massive jets and waves of water shooting through the waterfalls and toyed with me, smashing my boat against rocks, turning me around, and flipping me over at will.

Yet, my guide seemed in complete harmony with every molecule of the river. He harnessed all the power the rapids threw at him, and danced his boat across the many chutes, waves, and even face of the waterfall known as the Washing Machine.

Throughout the run, every inch of my body hurt as I learned to push off my foot braces to integrate the rarely used leg muscles into every stroke, because on this particular river, I needed all the leverage I could get. At the takeout, exhausted, I slithered out of my boat. My guide hobbled out of his boat, and I couldn't speak. Both of his legs were amputated above his knees. I was stunned. He was able to do everything on the river without the added balance and power that two legs would have given him. Those few seconds completely changed my perception about what was possible in a kayak. More than any other, that moment shaped my paddling. Since I know how far I can come, I've always been looking for ways to use the boat, paddle, body, and river to do more work with less effort.

If nothing else, this tutorial is about changing perceptions. Sure, the Java libraries have legs libraries and community. But the community can be dysfunctional at times, and the culture is leading to increasingly complex libraries. The JCP seems to be getting in the way, valuing politics and committees more than good libraries hardened in the crucible of experience. There's something to be said for a fresh start on a stronger foundation.

So, don't let Java's built-in advantages always lead you to sell the alternatives short. They've come a long way. In this tutorial, I'll touch on the major contenders and some also-rans.