Charles Petzold

“Naked Came the Null Delegate”: Chapter 2. Unhandled Exception

October 13, 2010
New York, NY

Previously in Naked Came the Null Delegate: Chapter 1. "I, Disposable !" by James Curran

When Seymour Sharpton arrived back home, he could barely move, stuck in a Turing tarpit of emotional despondency. As he set down the pizza, the Chipotle take-out, and the half-pound bag of M&M's on the coffee table, he wondered how he could ever unblock the thread that had become his pathetic love-life.

He had started the day with high hopes believing he would get into a little dynamic linking with his hot new intern Vissa Basicova, and finally be able to change his Facebook relationship status from "Suicidal" to "Connection established." But seeing Vissa and Bob-the-mailroom-guy together had triggered a nasty coprocessor bug and a very hard crash. Perhaps this routine was hopeless. Perhaps the cultural barrier between Seymour and Vissa was just too great.

The only thing that could possibly salvage today was an evening spent watching a Caprica marathon in his underwear.

The humongous flat-screen TV was conveniently positioned to block the windows and all unauthorized light sources. But as the TV flickered into life, Seymour suddenly had a creepy feeling that some kind of security violation was occurring. Things were not quite right.

It was as if someone had made myriad tiny changes to his apartment without checking them into source control. The original unopened box containing his Barbie & Ken dolls dressed as Mulder and Scully wasn't covered with its usual layer of dust. His five Simpson family Pez dispensers were no longer slightly askew. The large framed "42" now hung straight. Had he been visited by an obsessive-compulsive burglar? An F# programmer, perhaps?

Quickly switching into debugging mode, Seymour scanned his apartment for protection exceptions and illegal operators, and then got up from the couch and wandered into the helper class known as the bathroom.

Sitting on the edge of Seymour's bathtub was a beautiful woman wearing a black silk jumpsuit and black leather boots. Her glistening straight platinum hair graced her shoulders with a combination of asynchronous delicacy and brute-force processing. She barely acknowledge his presence as she thumb-typed on her phone with a propulsive dexterity that somehow reminded Seymour of his favorite quicksort algorithm.

She paused for a moment and looked up at Seymour with severe bright green eyes that gave him a kick like a Red Bull IV. This woman was not from around here, Seymour knew. Swedish? Danish? Norwegian? Finnish, perhaps? As he stood staring with his mouth slightly agape and perhaps drooling just a little, Seymour performed a massive database search for everything — anything — he could talk to her concerning Scandanavia. Surely, there was something....

"Do you know Anders Hejlsberg?" he finally sputtered.

Even the way she said "No" seemed to fire a property-changed event somewhere between his nose and his toes.

"Bjarne Stroustrup? Linus Torvalds?," he continued. "Lisbeth Salander?" Now he was desperate, he knew.

"Why did Vissa Basicova forward you this email?" the woman asked, holding up her phone to him.

He scanned the screen: Interesting interface, not entirely familiar but oddly reminiscent. "Hey, is that a Windows Phone 7?" he asked, instinctively reaching for the hardware.

"I need you to focus," the woman said, pulling back her hand. "Pop your stack a couple items. You can't deny that Vissa Basicova forwarded you this email, am I correct!"

He didn't have to read the email to know which one it was:

Vissa, Darling

Your schema is excellent.

We must meet soon, by the service port, to enumerate your assertions.

We mustn't name pipes.

"Of course," she continued, "I know she forwarded you this email. I just don't know why. Perhaps you can favor me with a core dump?"

"It's a little hard to explain," he tried to explain. He couldn't reveal that he had forwarded the email himself from Vissa's computer. That was definitely not the right way to impress this gorgeous snow queen. "Who are you?" he asked.

"Who I am is not important," she said, as if those words had never before been spoken, "and we don't have time to waste. Get dressed," she ordered him. "We need to pay a very important man a very important visit." And as Seymour turned to find his pants, she said:

"And you can call me Algol."

Next: Chapter 3. "Heaps of Trouble" by Eric Gunnerson

For links to all the parts, and the story behind the story, visit: