by brian d foy

I've been walking around with my microphone asking people "You're at a party and someone asks you what Perl is. What do you say?" I thought this would be an easy question for everyone, but more than a couple of people have immediately gone deer-in-the-headlights at the question. Surely everyone has gotten this question before.

The ones who don't immediately go into shock fall into some distinct categories. There is the "maps my mind" crowd. I started to wonder if everyone had read the same queue cards. Is there a memo that I missed?

The clever crowd talks about oysters. One guy told me that his wife bit it a raw oyster to discover a real life pearl. He ended up setting it in a ring.

Then there are the salesman, which we may have called the evangelists long ago but have since then polished their pitch and can speak in complete sentences without steaming at the ears. I'll come back to that later.

Chris DiBona assures me that the computer language Perl comes from a tawdry romance that Larry Wall had with Minnie Pearl (ayep, there really is a miniperl, too). She suffered a debilitating stroke in 1991: the same year that O'Reilly & Associates published Programming perl, the first book about Perl. Coincidence? Or not? No one seems to have any answers for this. What is everyone hiding?

There is an undercurrent of the B word here, although I dare not say its treasonous name. Most of the Perl people I talk to are not going to the Perl talks, and most of them give the same reason for it. When I ask people what they aare want to see, they tell me about things in the Emerging Technology track. Today's favorite seems to be "Darwinian Software Programming". One Perl hacker ended up there because he hadd the wrong room, but he stayed there because he liked the talk. Despite the many talks with "Perl 6" in the title, the Perl track seems ho-hum. I'll have to catch Nicholas Clark's Perl 5.8.5 Was Boring (And Why You Should Be Excited by This)" later today.

Today's free lunch is from Microsoft, and it's one of those carbohydrate-hysteria-wrap menus. I don't think they get to choose the menu, but leave it to them to put their name on crap. What I could really use is a grilled cheese sandwich on sourdough bread. This is the left coast after all.

It's time to walk around again. I'm the silly guy with the microphone and the headphones. If you want to tell me something about Perl, just come up to me and I'll listen (and record). :)