January 28th, 2008 by k8gu Leave a reply »

My wife, Sarah, is a librarian. As she is fond of saying, she seems to start a career move with one idea in mind and end up doing something completely different. For example, a Biology/Education degree from undergrad became the foundation for a Library (and Information) Science Master’s degree with emphasis on young-adult librarianship. But, the combination of the MSLIS, a Biology degree, and the circumstances of my education (a big one), landed her a job as a “Science and Electronic Resources” librarian at a small college. Fascinating…but, what does this have to do with Perl?

One day when she was still a student, I casually mentioned that I had written a Perl script to fly through an enormous heap of data at work. “You know Perl?! We just talked about it in class today.” She thought it sounded pretty useful. I agreed. The things I do often lend themselves to what she does and vice versa. Time passed. They taught her some Basic at the Engineering Library when she was a graduate assistant there.

Last Thursday, I was collecting my things to leave the office and my phone rang. It was Sarah. “So, my boss wants to know pricing information for 30,000 journals by the end of next month. My student worker is already tired and she hasn’t looked-up more than a few. All of the prices are in the same database. Do you think you could do that with Visual Basic?” I agreed that you probably could; but, I suggested that Perl might be better. She provided a list of subscriptions and we whipped up a quick script to do the job. Most of the time was spent trying to deal with the subscription-only nature of the database web site and managing the associated cookies. I’m sure this was a violation of a ToS somewhere… We let the script run when we went to bed…nothing like having a computer do your work for you while you’re asleep! As far as I can tell, it got every price that was provided…her boss owes me a pizza now.

She set a goal to start learning Perl over the weekend. On Saturday night, we went to a coffee shop on campus with laptops and did some more Perl lessons. (I used to poke fun at people whose dates consisted of writing code together.) She commented that it was “just like Visual Basic” but with different syntax. I’ve got a budding programmer on my hands…excellent (tent hands like Mr. Burns)… I also started teaching her emacs, which should further enhance that!