Writing a book turned out to be a lot like building one of those classical arches. It started with two pillars in my life that leaned towards each other, one technical, and the other personal.
On the technical side, I have the greatest appreciation for Larry Wall, who not only created Perl but imbued it and the Perl community with the spirit. I am thankful to the great Perl teachers, Tom Christiansen and Randal L. Schwartz, who have helped me and countless others learn all the twisty little passages of the language. Further up on this pillar are the kerjillions of programmers and hackers who poured countless hours and energy into the language and then chose to share their work with me and the rest of the Perl community. Wherever possible in this book I have tried to give these folks credit, but my thanks go to all of the named and unnamed folks who enrich the Perl culture with their efforts.
Moving further up the tech column past the Perl section, we come to the system administration section. Here we find another vibrant community that has helped to shape me, this book, and the whole computing field. The members of Usenix, SAGE, and the people who have contributed to the LISA conferences over the years deserve our thanks for cultivating and sharing the best the system administration field has to offer. In particular I'd like to acknowledge and thank Rémy Evard for being such a great influence on my professional and personal understanding of this field as a friend, mentor, and role model. He is one of the system administrators I want to be when I grow up.
Towards the top of the professional column are those directly responsible for the creation of this book. I'd first like to thank my reviewers and other commentators who sacrificed many hours on the alter of this text (in alphabetical order): Jerry Carter, Toby Everett, Æleen Frisch, Joe Johnston, Tom Limoncelli, John A. Montgomery, Jr., Chris Nandor, Michael Peppler, Michael Stok, and Nathan Torkington. Even towards the end of this process, they continued to teach me the finer points of Perl. I am grateful to Rhon Porter for his illustrations, to Hanna Dyer and Lorrie LeJeune for the most amazing cover animal, and to the O'Reilly production staff listed in the colophon. And finally, I am barely worthy to thank Linda Mui, my editor, whose incredible skill, finesse, and care allowed me to birth this book and raise it in a good home. She's the greatest.
Just as an arch is not built from a single column, so too did this book arise from another, more personal base. I need to thank all of the people in my spiritual community, Havurat Shalom in Somerville, Massachusetts, for their constant support during this whole process. They have taught me the meaning of community. Thank you, M' kor HaChayim, for this book and all of the many blessings in my life.
On a separate spiritual front, I am indebted to the Shona people of Zimbabwe for their incredible mbira music, the playing of which kept me sane during the writing process. I am thankful in particular to the many people who shared this music with me, some as teachers, some as students learning/playing beside me. Erica Azim, Stuart Carduner, Tute Chigamba, Wiri Chigonga, Musekiwa Chingodza, Forward Kwenda, Cosmas Magaya, Naomi Moland, Solomon Murungu, Paul Novitsky, and Nina Rubin have all had a special role in this process.
I am grateful to my friends Avner, Ellen, and Phil Shapiro, and Alex Skovronek for their encouragement. A special thank you goes to Jon Orwant and Joel Segel, two friends whose sage council and support gave me the opportunity and courage to wordwrestle. My thanks to the faculty and staff at the Northeastern University College of Computer Science. I'm extremely grateful to the folks in the CCS Systems group, who gave me the space, time, and patience I needed while dealing with this book. Larry Finkelstein, the Dean of the College of Computer Science, also deserves special recognition. I have never met a person outside of the system administration field who better understands system administrators, their needs, and the field in general. Dean Finkelstein continues to teach me, especially by example, what it means to be a true leader.
Let's return to the arch metaphor, because we're almost at the top. Here we find my extended and immediate family. I'm thankful to them all. My nuclear family, Myra, Jason, and Steven Blank, are the folks whose nature and nurture (and love) over the years allow me to be here today. My thanks to Shimmer and Bendir, my two late night/early morning companions during many a writing jag. Thanks also to my TCM pit crew, Kristen Porter and Thom Donovan.
If you're familiar with arches, you've probably noticed that I left out one key part: the capstone. The capstone is the stone at the top of the arch that keeps the whole thing together. Cindy Blank-Edelman was that capstone for me in the writing of this book. If there is anyone who sacrificed more for this book than I did, it is she. Without her love, support, care, humor, teaching, and inspiration, I could not be the same person, never mind write a book.
This book is dedicated to Cindy, love of my life.
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