I bow to tilly!
I am going to REALLY study this: it works! correctly! it's one-third the size! it looks tricky but not f**** insane! and NO POINTER ARITHMETIC!!!!
This is the sort of answer that shows that i'm a tyro at perl AND why! I'm obviously still stuck in some sort of tunnel vision caused by programming in c/c++.
To me this is a great Zen Koan to meditate on!
Thanks tilly, and everyone who responded to this query!
---madams :) x $POSIX::LDBL_MAX
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