When Saif Met Sarah
The Perl and Raku Conference 2023
The Perl and raku Conference 2023 in Toronto was an event I was really looking forward to. A chance to rub shoulders with the giants of Perl and Raku, absorb insights and innovations of the nerdy Perly community...everything they said in the blurb. It was very well organised thanks to Alex, Sawyer, Makoto, Amber and Peter, herding an army of volunteers. Such a knowledge-intensive event should be recorded for posterity, trapping the wisdoms and inspirations from the wise and inspiring in the container that is YouTube.
Amber the jolly secretary also brought two additional support workers in tow. Logan, a bright, engaging young sprog immediately announced two critical facts when I first shook his hand. 1) that his younger sibling, Oliver, was extremely mischievious, and 2) he was an expert in drawing and making videos. He had in fact made 4 while I had to admit I had made none. Not wishing to be outdone by an 8-year-old, it was inevitable that I should volunteer to join the video committee; no sooner had I done this did I realise the complexity of the task at hand and my devastating lack of competence.
An operation run with military precision by Sawyer with extremely fine-grained attention to detail (he had 4 pages of narrow typed instructions labelled "Rough Instructions", just for pressing a button the video recorder), the mission objective being reliably capturing 3 days of talks running in 3 parallel streams, each talk in two separate media. The media would have to swapped and rushed off after each talk to the waiting hands of Alan with a production line efficiency that would put Henry Ford to shame, for uploading to various local and cloud storage systems. These would then be picked up by Josh our media manipulating moghul. Sarah, a trained nurse and naturally able to handle critical, life and death scenarios, absorbed the position of lieutenant and took charge. This is going to be easy, I thought.
Do you ever get the feeling that perhaps you shouldn't have tried to compete with an 8-year old? I learnt the hard way. You'd think that as attendee and speaker at a computer programming conference, I would know how to use a laptop. I fumbled, panicked, had no clue how to handle the alien device that was Bruce's laptop. Bruce was Sarah's husband. Alan, ever structured in thought and deed, had developed a "system" and had to take over as I approached hysterics, unable to figure out the two finger click, drag, twist, and tumble that might do the trick without the macbook exploding into flames. It was at this point that Sarah put my hand in hers.
When Sarah took me by my hand, it could logically only have meant one thing. I knew Sarah wasn't blind, I mean she wasn't bumping into walls or anything. I also knew she wasn't a poor judge of character, after all she managed to snag Bruce. I must be dying I thought, and Sarah's nursing instinct must have taken over. Instead she reassured me, gently dragged me away from the computer and let Alan do what he did better than I could. It was agreed I would ferry the media back and forth, and try and minimise the damage I could inflict on the operations. She also discretely ushered in Jonathan who literally saved the day sacrificing himself by taking on the task of Sisyphus at the computer transporting hundreds of gigabytes of data, his fashionably manicured fingers a magical blur over the laptop.
Defeated, this change of plan worked out in my favour. I managed to meet some of the super-brains of the Perl community. Curtis "Ovid" Poe, was a quiet, wise man who listened more than he talked and quietly absorbed my incoherent mumbles as I spoke to him. David Rolsky was there towering over everyone in both stature and his comprehensive expertise in multiple languages, giving a powerful and compelling talk about Rust; he looked around wondering where the sound was coming from as I attempted to speak to his navel. Ingy, the eccentric entertainer, demonstrated his ability to speak in tongues, having memorised the entire Rosetta Code website. The energetic Will "The chill" Braswell was there with his super-chilled partner Bennie. He had menacingly trained his pet workstation to replace all other Perl programmers, at least after we found batteries for the remote control. We even had a remote talk by Paul Evans, who presented the most eagerly awaited feature of new Perl...a new way to do things even more differently than before. The White Camel award went to Mohammed for his magnificent project he had humbly created, The Weekly Challenge. Zaki demonstrated how cleverly he had ported his own cerebral connections into PDL. Sawyer, former Pumpking, gave talks to a full house, standing-room-only, which were personal, thought-provoking and insightful. There was even a quiz, I managed to get 4/30, beat that suckers! Indeed, everyone of the attendees and speakers were celebrities in their own right but unable to split myself in three, I was unable to interact with all. Listing all the talks and interesting delegates would be impossible; the meeting was packed, exciting and managed to deliver a rare combination of education, social awareness and fun.
After 3 solid days I left exhausted, satisfied and proud of being a part of this glorious community. As I type this blog, I realise how easily this group of strangers welcomed me, made me part of their family. I felt blessed.