I think you may have hit the nail on the head.
It would appear that if you modify an lvalue ref, it gets converted to a normal scalar before the modification.
Which is annoying and counter-intuative (to me anyway), but maybe work that would be involved in allowing the underlying scalar to be modified through a substring of an lvalue ref is too complicated?
Maybe I will have to code my own lvalue-ref-on-steroids to achieve my purpose?
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In reply to Re^2: Scalar refs, aliasing, and recursion weirdness.