Well I got some good answers in the perl-gtk IRC channel.
in reply to Alternatives to threads for maintaining GUI app responsiveness
11:59:09 <metaperl> i'm wondering about alternatives to threads for keeping a perl/gtk app responsive - http://perlmonks.org/index.pl?node_id=928823
12:03:31 <LotR> simple. don't do anything that takes more than a few microseconds :) and if you do, split it up in tiny pieces and stick those in an idle handler.
12:03:34 <LotR> also, see POE
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12:46:31 <metaperl> i'm wondering about alternatives to threads for keeping a perl/gtk app responsive - http://perlmonks.org/index.pl?node_id=928823
12:46:43 <metaperl> oh sorry
12:46:46 <metaperl> for the repeat
12:46:52 <metaperl> My window was smushed down
12:47:20 <metaperl> lotr - what is an idle handler? is this documented somewhere?
12:49:21 <metaperl> this looks relevant - http://search.cpan.org/~rcaputo/POE-Loop-Gtk-1.305/lib/POE/Loop/Gtk.pm
13:09:56 <squentin> metaperl: Glib::Idle->add(\&my_function) see http://gtk2-perl.sourceforge.net/doc/pod/Glib/MainLoop.html