The Chronicles of Yanick: Escape from Asheville

Jul 25, 2011 / By Yanick Champoux

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Recap from our previous episodes:

A couple of weeks ago, I wake up, skeedaddle to a different country, meet some wonderful people and let my brain soak up talk after talk for three days straight. Lotsa fun all around.

Everything Else

The talks, of course, are only one facet of a conference. What happens in-between in the hallways, at the pub or the breakfast table is equally important, and often equally enlightening.

The Conference Dinner

There’s already been a strong discussion going around about the dinner and the auctions. In a nutshell, some people found the auctions an overly long affair which, alas, encroached on the social aspect of the dinner. I have to agree on that. Don’t get me wrong: the auctions were entertaining, and I did have a grand time. But it’s true that it would have been nice to have more time to just sit and chat. And have some coffee. Chalk that one up against my inexperience of the YAPC protocol, but I was fully expecting all three after the auction. Indeed, I was periodically stealing loving glances at the upturned cup facing me on the table, thinking how it would presently be filled with some delicious, hot tar-like beverage as soon the auctions would be over. But it was not to be, for as soon as the auctions were concluded, whoosh, the whole room rose as if a single entity and disappeared in record time, leaving nothing behind but me, clutching my bone-dry cup with what could be best described as a slight quizzical expression.

Knitting BOF

“Should have brought my hook.” That’s what I thought as I realized that the lady sitting next to me had whipped out a project and was serenely knitting while listening to the talk (as it turned out, her husband was the Perl hacker, and she was just tagging along). Later, she told me that she saw another guy doing the same thing in another session (oylenshpeegul, perhaps?). If nothing else, I’ll join their ranks next time. And perhaps try to organize a Knitting/Crochetting BOF to both discuss how Perl can purl, and maybe share Perl-themed projects.

The Fat Comma Gains a Few Pounds

Abigail shared with us a new Perl “operator”. What do you do when you want to use the fat comma, but don’t want its auto-quoting behavior? Well, add a little dangling bit to it, of course!

use strict;
use Data::Printer;

sub foo { 'bar' }

my %x = ( foo => 'quoted', foo ,=> 'not so' );

print p %x;

The logic twists the interpreter goes through to manage to Do The Right Thing there are left as an exercise to the reader. As is the task to find a name for this new operator. Personally, I keep thinking of it as the “fat comma (male specimen)”, but that’s.. uh… just a tad unsettling.

Of Poultry Sacrifices and DBD::Oracle Installations

Judging by the number of times it was mentioned, poor DBD::Oracle seems to be the poster child of hard-to-install modules. One person, as I recall, mentioned the necessity of chicken sacrifices to dark gods and bloody pentagrams for successful deployments. As the brand-new maintainer of that beast, I can only say that… errrr, well, yeah, I can see the point.

Between its Makefile.PL that tries to cover all the possible scenarios across multiple platforms and architectures spanning the last two decades, and Oracle itself that doesn’t always make it easy, DBD::Oracle is a little bit of a idiosyncratic singularity. But the good news is that I’m determined to improve on that, and I’m sure a little bit of TLC is going to go a long way toward decipherable outputs, DWIM configuration and sane documentation. We’ll not be able to turn DBD::Oracle from bad boy to lovable rogue overnight, but if we play my cards right, it should get better. It has to. Too many chickens’ necks are on the line.

I Meet With Galuga’s Userbase!

Or, as he’s also known, Tommy Stanton. Tommy started to use Galuga for his own blog a few months ago. A few customizations later, and his blog actually looks much better than mine. Darn him.

We briefly discussed of the future of Galuga. Documentation is in order. As is tidying the code (Galuga is one of those projects that I use as an excuse to try new technologies, and it shows) and the architecture. Also looming big at the horizon is a port to Dancer, more administration goodies and maybe a use of GitStore to interface with the blog entries. Oh yeah, and somewhere down the line there is the tricky question of how to publish a web application on CPAN. All in all, lots of cool, fun stuff. Loooots of it… Now, I just hope that my tuits reserves will be adequate.

Roads to Glory (aka For the Love of Blog)

One thing the conference really reinforced for me is how useful and efficient blogging is for information dissemination. To my great pleasure, a few people did recognize my name throughout the conference. In the majority of cases, they knew me from my blog entries, either because they see them bobbing up and down the Perl feed aggregators, or because gasp they had adopted one of the tools I showcase there. (we already covered Galuga’s thriving community of one, but I also discovered that somebody out there is using DPANneur, huzzah!)

What lesson can we draw from this, boys and girls? Simply: if you want to make a name in the Perl community, join mailing lists, hop on IRC, submit patches, attend conferences, go to your local Perl Mongers’s meetings, and blog. Blog like hell.

It’s easy, and thanks to blogs.perl.org, you don’t even have to worry about setting up a blog engine or website yourself. And the great beauty of the medium is that, with feed aggregators like Perlsphere and Perl Iron Man, you don’t have to be a Perl Elder God to reach a large audience.

Don’t limit blog writing for Great World-Changing Revelations either. See the Perl blogosphere as an never-ending lightning talk session. Tricks and syntax discussions, no matter how simple, are a treasure trove for beginners. That 30-something lines hack that saved you a few minutes? It might be simple but I can assure you that somebody out there never thought of it, and will end up singing your praises when that same script shave the same few minutes off their day. Even wishes, musing and half-baked pieces of framework are good to share, as they are apt to trigger discussions or, and this is the best, draw the interest of people who are orders of magnitude smarter than you are who are likely to grab the ball and run with it in ways you would never have dreamed of.

Git::CPAN::Patch is a good example of blog-driven development. First mentioned as a list of manual steps by brian d foy, it was turned into a script by your truly, which then got a full dose of nothingmuch‘s expert craftmanship. Eventually, it would also be revisited by Schwern, who niftied it some more as he was working on the guts of Gitpan.

The Perldoc bash autocomplete is another good one. First mentioned as an aside, it tickled Aristotle’s fancy, who cleaned it up and… well, by now it’s a tool that I could hardly live without.

There are many more examples, but the point is: you never know what any given snippet of code is going to trigger (my personal crowning moment of awesome was when I cracked open a certain book, and thought “geee, why is this code looks so famili– ooh…“), but there’s much to bet that it will trigger something. So blog, friends. Blog till your fingers hurt.

Mad Props to the YAPC Peeps

And I couldn’t conclude without thanking the organizers for an amazing job. A huge shout out also go to all attendees, for being a real, honest-to-gawd community. YAPC is as much a family reunion than a conference, and by Joves, if I can do it, I’ll sure be there next year.

The End

Asheville airport logo

the red-hot plane with the trail of fire should have tipped me off

… or is it?

By now, we are Thursday. My returning flight is in the late afternoon, which gives me the opportunity to wake up at a civilized time and leisurely take my leave from the hotel. I cross Mike in the lobby, which allows us to make our good-byes (he’s staying for Dave Rolsky’s Moose workshop). At around noon, I pile up in the shuttle with Tommy and a few other fellow YAPCers. At the airport, I pick up my tickets, and waltz through security (Asheville, I must say, has the nicest bunch of security officers I ever met).

I spend a few minutes with the Californians, who soon have to board their flight. So I’m left to my own device and proceed to rock away the few hours before my flight in those nice rocking chairs peppered throughout the airport.

By then, I’m beginning to worry about my Karma. Such smooth and pleasant proceedings couldn’t be good for the cosmic balance. And as, eventually, everything has to even out, I’m kind of dreading the potential backlash when Fate will finally wake up and snap.

I’m eventually joined by Robert Blackwell, who is sharing my flight. As it happens, we exchanged a few words earlier at the hotel, and so we continue where we left of. He’s a darned nice guy and it’s all fun and interesting. This is not helping my karma at all. I peek at the schedule screen, and see that our flight is slightly delayed. Good. it’s not going to make a major dent in my karmic balance, but it’s better than nothing.

And that’s when we are joined by Stevan Little and Eric. Oh my. Karma is going up like a pinball score–

The lady at the gate pick the phone/intercom thingie, clear her throat and announce that our plane had small mechanical difficulties and was a teensy bit on fire. Consequently, the flight is cancelled.

— ah, okay. Nevermind. Fate decided to flush out the buffers, it seems.

Dramatization aside, the situation is more of a minor hindrance than anything else. First, the plane nicely caught fire before anybody got in, which is always a big plus. It’s still relatively early, and we’re stuck in bucolic Asheville, as opposed to, say, Snake Plissken’s New York. So we queue to be processed by the routing engine (the aforementioned lady at the gate) and wait for our turn.

And wait.

And wait.

It’s apparent that the throughout of our routing engine is abysmal. Why aren’t they firing up a second instance and use a load balancer between them? Oh well..

Finally, finally, it’s our turn. Robert is lucky enough to be redirected on a later flight that evening. For the Moose master, his mate and me, no such luck. But we could get flights the day after (yay!), and the airline is nice enough to give us rooms in a hotel across the street.

The hotel is nice enough. Unfortunately, and even though it was now non-smoking, it had absorbed enough tar from generations of smokers to have a ever-present… aroma conjuring images of Patty and Selma to mind. brrrrr

Anyway. Meanwhile, thanks to the wonders of iPhones, Stevan had localised a nice Thai place within skipping distance, and offer me to join the party. But I didn’t feel like, so declined and stayed in my room for the rest of the evening.

Just kidding. I mean, come on. Yummy Thai? Eaten in company of wonderful chaps? One of them the brain from which all the cool antlers of the Perl world grew? Who in their right mind would pass on that?

And, indeed, it would have been a shame to miss it. Amongst other things, we briefly discussed Dancer, but… more details about that in a future blog entry.

The morning after, I wake up from a weird dream where mst was inexplicably arguing with my dad, and then went to take a nap with a gruff little teddy bear (my psychologist assures me that subconsciouses aren’t required to make up sensed stuff, which would reassure me more if he wasn’t always saying that between sobbing fits).

Eric had an early flight, but I was able to share the shuttle to the airport with Stevan. We pass the time with some more chit-chat, and then take off to the sky. I’m left to my own device, with a few hours to rock away on those comfy rocking chairs peppered all over the airport. Hmmm… Déjà-vu.

So time passes and, uh, did the schedule screen just displayed “cancelled” beside my flight number?

Yup. Sure did.

By now, I know the drill. Happily, the airline upgraded their system since the day before, and this time we have three routing processes. We are processed much faster, and to my relief there is a second flight leaving for Charlotte a little later, but still early enough for me to get my connection.

Woohoo!

That plane, I’m happy to report, didn’t explode, get canceled or dropped in an unknown cranny of the space-time continuum. Without incident, I made it to Charlotte, and still without incident, I was to touch down in Ottawa a mere few hours later. I celebrated the last bit of Canada Day by having a beer at my favorite pub with my love, and a few hours later I was sleeping in my bed. Which didn’t smell anything like Patty, or Selma. Bliss, truly, is home.

Last Word

Again, much kudos go to the organizers of YAPC::NA 2011. You guys rock.

Big shout out to everybody I met during the conference. You were all fantastic.

And a huge thank to Pythian for letting me go in the first place. I’ll make sure the ROI on the expedition will be well worth it. :-)

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