are there books, or possibly online resources or even brain exercises (?) that you experienced Perl/Techie masters would recommend to help me develop the left-most parts of my gray matter?
I am not an experienced Perl/Techie master but I would like to recommend you to have a look at the MIT Open CourseWare. In particular, I would suggest going to the course list on Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. In there, you will find a list of courses taught at MIT. Each course has all the material (lecture notes, assignments, projects, etc.) freely available. For example, if you look at the course Laboratory in Software Engineering, Fall 2005 you will find a wide range of material including: Lecture Notes, Recitations, Assignments, Project, and Description of the Tools used in the course.
I hope this helps,