Java creator James Gosling was wearing a custom-made T-shirt for the opening day of the JavaOne show in San Francisco, a blue number which features Duke the Java mascot surfing across a watchface, trailing behind him what appears to be a bunch of blue asparagus.
Is it asparagus, we asked? At this point Gosling told us that he'd created the design himself, using a scanned image of his grandfather's watch, and this put a rapid halt to our friendly provocations.
"The asparagus effect is what happens sometimes when you render 2D images into 3D," he said. "And we do have professional designers at Sun, I'm just not one of them," he added modestly.
Not having interviewed Gosling before we had the sense that he could be an awful interviewee: a no-nonsense prickly genius, a kind of Californian Bjarne Stroustrup, who regards humdrum hacks as a tedious irritation.
Far from it. Over beers later, we spent an amicable hour ranging over topics such as Doran Swade's terrific reconstruction of the printer for Babbage's Difference Engine (you can see it at the London Science Museum, and check this out: it outputs 3D stereoscopic glyphs), cool stuff from the recent CodeCon, the suckiness of the GNOME Desktop, and Gosling's love of Multics.
But what you probably want to hear about are his views on the state of the Java rainbow nation, and The Beast's response: C# and the common language runtime.
With technology industry at a crossroads, the superstar Gosling's pronouncements carry great weight.
So in true Register fashion, let's start with some ancient historical trivia first.