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All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

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  • A lead researcher thought he'd give me busy work to keep me out of his way for three months, so he put me in a room full of print-outs and told me to go through each one and pull out numbers in certain positions and give him a list.

    Well, I walked down to the sysadmin shop, got the digital versions, wrote a quick Perl script, and was done by lunch.

    The researcher was a complete ass about the whole thing because this project had been sitting on his desk for months with no movement and some new grad student finished it on his first day. So on the sly, other scientists started coming to me asking for the same thing with slight differences. They always had to sneak in so the lead researcher wouldn't realize I was solving the problems for other projects.

    I ended up working for this lead reasearcher later, too. There is a particular simulation code written in FORTRAN IV that everyone used. It was solid and it worked, but only one machine could run it, and only one at a time. A run took about 30 minutes. Scientists were constantly queueing to run this simulation code.

    So, I wrote a program to take lists of all possible parameters and made input files for all conceivable situations. At 5pm, when everyone went home, I took over the computer and ran simulations until 8am. Eventually I had a binder of all outputs and turned it into a matter of simply looking in the binder rather than running the program.

    He didn't like that so much either, and again other researchers had to sneak over to me to ask me to do similar things for them. Since it was pretty easy and didn't take much time to write simple shell scripts, it wasn't a big deal.

    However, I never told anyone in the military that I even knew how to type.

    • That's an interesting anecdote! Guess who's currently paying my bills. In all fairness, though, I have to say it's a great place with great people otherwise.