This was a pretty thought provoking read for me; it put into words some of the beliefs I have operated by. However it's also important to remember that to be 'doing' you need to have a clear picture of why you're doing what you're doing. A lot of people I've met(and myself at times) do not know what they want to do; they've only learned about things they don't want to do in their experiences. I do agree it's best to gravitate towards projects that truly interest you though; if you don't believe in what you're doing you risk drifting into complacency.
I had similar experiences with pairing; often it was mandated by folks in charge who didn't seem to have a great grasp of what the benefits were. Productivity/velocity tended to suffer noticeably on many teams. It worked for others, but I think most times it wasn't understood fully why it worked for a given team.
What bothered me about how I saw pairing used was that people seemed to make blanket assumptions about it's benefits. Many times I saw people pairing up on trivially easy tasks. Seemed to me that pairing was a lot like everything else, it can be done well or poorly.
Pairing should be a naturally occurring process IMO; ie I don't know how to best accomplish a task or 'story', so I ask a team member w/expertise or experience to help point me in the right direction. If I need help beyond that, it becomes a pairing/knowledge-transfer exercise. I came to refer to it as "informal pairing". In general I tended to gravitate toward pairing on the exceptionally difficult tasks or ones that would have far reaching design implications.
This was initial thought as well, seems like both would fit the needs specified, multiple column search etc. I've had good experiences with both ES and Solr. They both have pretty healthy user bases and are well documented. Only hang-up is if you use primarily reg-ex style searching; turning on n-grams could work there, but it might be too slow.
I'll agree with the working out regularly being good for your health, both mental and physical. Exercising has gotten me through some tough spots in my life and it has always been a major coping mechanism.
Another thing that has always worked for me has been laughter. Whether it's watching a classic movie like Dumb & Dumber, reading reddit/r/funny, or catching The Colbert Report, laughing eases all the little things that otherwise might eat you up.
I mostly have a case for the extra grip. I had issues with dropping it and have basically a grippy rubber sleeve for a case. I've probably dropped 10 or so times and I'd guess 1 or 2 of them would have have caused cracks with out the case.
I work in a very large company that has primarily Java for web apps and back end processes in COBOL/Mainframe environments. I've been steering things towards Groovy or Ruby for new projects, largely using productivity as the justification. Top push backs from upper management have been:
1) Universities we recruit from teach Java & most prospective employees already know Java
2) Costs of retraining workforce
3) They don't understand those langs can be utilized with our current JVM ecosystem
I feel pretty much all those reasons are specious and really shouldn't be holding things back. We've got a foothold established with success of some smaller projects using Groovy and Ruby to "prove" their viability. I'd like to try Scala next to see how it would fit for some of our other projects.
TLDR: At least one large company is making efforts to evolve beyond just Java in the JVM.
There's a novel I read years ago that had a similar idea. It was a Clive Cussler book: The Mediterranean Caper. The smuggling plot had a modified submarine containing the narcotics attached to cargo vessels & it would detach from the cargo vessel at inspection times. It wasn't a great book and it felt kind of James Bond villain-esque but the concept is sound.
I've been that interviewee before and I was much the same. For me I realized it has to do with viewing the time spent in the interview as some kind of unspoken contract. You both felt good about the interview but you aren't accepting. Feels like you're letting them down.