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August 14, 2004  

Perls

Due to a bone-headed move by someone at the credit union, I lost my car insurance. Then when the car was stolen, I lost all my various ID cards & papers. Add some dire poverty to the mix, garnished with a tainted credit record, and you've got the perfect formula for riding the bus.

It's a hub/spoke system. Every line radiates from a central point — out and back. To keep schedules temporally close, each run tries to be 45 to 50 minutes duration each way, with two busses per spoke. For me, that mean hiking 1,500 steps (really; it paced out to that number three different times), and catching the second-most southern stop in the system. Then a 40-minute ride to the hub. Then a wait of about 20 minutes for the connecting bus. Then a 40-minute ride to the northernmost stop in the system, and a three-minute walk.


That's when everything runs smoothly. When a train's not parked on the tracks, and the driver won't willingly take an alternate route for fear of the dispatcher. When the road's not torn up in two places. When the 300-pound veteran isn't so drunk he can't maneuver his little maroon We'll-Handle-Your-Medicare-Paperwork scooter onto the lift ramp and around the corner past the fare box. When the driver doesn't have to stop for a pee. When someone decides that her first trip on the bus – ever – should include her bicycle. Which is very expensive. Did I mention that it's very expensive? When the sweet, bent-back granny is willing to let someone help her on and off the bus, and not when she's feeling all fiesty and top-of-the-world that she insists on wrestling her rickety looking little cart, that impossibly holds about 65 pounds of food, cat litter, detergent, and a pillow balanced up-top. And certainly not when it's a busy day on the bus.

Some days it just made sense to bring along a little code. I also had the time to thoroughly read blosxom v3+2i and +3i. Once I'd learned where the smooth parts of the routes lay, I was able to write 3 or 4 lines a day, porting v2 plugins over to v3.

(Strangest thing... we're going down Leonard, and a guy who's got only six teeth showing sits up and wipes something sticky off his hand; then he leans across the aisle. He is in bad shape: his cheeks and neck are jaundiced, his forehead and hands fevered, and you expect to see a Special Effects by credit printed somewhere on his clothes; some body artist's masterful execution of the Most Bloodshot Eyes Ever.

He wants to be a close-talker, but the bus is rattling around too much for him to risk those six teeth. He's getting ready to stare; this is an ice-breaker to folks with repressed social skills. The bus will stop; he'll close-talk. So I flip a page, look up, smile, and say, "Hey."

"Whatcha got?" he wants to know. "Looks like computer stuff."

"Yeah," I say. "It's a major revision to some perl code I was kinda getting to know, and now I've got to learn a lot more new stuff."

He...sniffed. (If you were thinking he was going to snort, you go right ahead). He seemed to be sniffing for spoor, or maybe stinkbugs in the code. "Perl. You know what's up with Perl?" He's going to let his finger do the close-talking, and he's lightly tap-tap-tapping at my chest. "Perl will be what it should be when it allows itself to become Lisp." Then he folded himself back up into the corner of his seat, getting ready for a conversation with the Out There by staring through the window. Then the bus stopped. Then he got off. Someone moved from a bench in the back to take the now-empty seat. The bus rolled.

Wow; great line.)

And somehow I got thinking of cyclz, which I'd done in HyperTalk, and that seemed nice and Lisp-ish. So that was a good day on the bus.