Hello again.

Interacting with other people about non-technical subjects is very difficult for us. That's the main reason why we haven't updated this blog for a while. It's difficult because of a combination of two factors:

  • Asperger's syndrome. We've suspected that we had Asperger's for years, but it's only recently that we've done a test to confirm it. (We're still not formally diagnosed, but the result is quite conclusive; it's actually more stringent than the diagnostic criteria that would usually be applied in either the US or UK.)
The best way we can think of to explain this is that to us, understanding how to interact with other people requires the same kind of conscious effort as does solving a difficult math problem. It's not that we can't learn how to do that, but there's nothing instinctive about it, and we're as likely to get it wrong as someone who doesn't have any natural affinity for math would be likely to get the math problem wrong.
  • At school (primary and secondary), we were bullied mercilessly, every day for years. For a long time, the after-effects of this bullying left us with a very negative attitude toward forming non-professional relationships with other people, which reinforced the effects of the Asperger's. Basically we thought that we were better off without any close personal relationships.
It's only in the last few years that we've realized that was wrong -- in fact that reaction was the worst mistake we've ever made. But correcting it is turning out to be much more difficult than we thought. It's not like in computing where recognizing a bug is almost all the work of fixing it.

The problem isn't helped by the fact that people can sometimes be incomprehensibly spiteful. For instance, here are two anonymous comments to one of our previous posts on this blog. (They're presumably made by the same person, and I'm fairly sure that I know who it is.)
"hi mate are you still a woman, cuz you still look like dave hopwood to
me. at least you still got your balls pal"

"do the think you cud get the married allowance for you and sarah you
could say your a married couple even claim tax credits.you could then get
all kinds of freebies, you can go for a piss in the mens and womens
toilets. you could go into womens changing rooms and perv. fuck this lets
all gets tits and keep our balls. the hight of fassion. go on dave shout
aloud ive got tits bigs balls and im a 35 year old virgin."
This kind of reaction is extremely rare, and the actual content of the comments is nothing to be taken seriously. What bothers me is that I don't understand, at all, people who seem to be motivated only by spitefulness. What do they gain by that? Are they simply psychopaths? I just don't get it.

I'm sorry this post is so negative, and I hope later ones will be more cheerful.
  • Current Mood
    okay okay

Jacaranda, and null references

The verifier for Jacaranda (the security-oriented subset of JavaScript we're working on) just compiled and ran for the first time a few minutes ago:
javac -Xlint:unchecked -Xlint:deprecation org\jacaranda\verifier\*.java

java org.jacaranda.verifier.Verifier test.jac.js
RESULT: Failed
FATAL: java.lang.NullPointerException
        at org.antlr.runtime.Parser.getMissingSymbol(Parser.java:70)
        at org.antlr.runtime.BaseRecognizer.recoverFromMismatchedToken(BaseRecognizer.java:604)
        at org.antlr.runtime.BaseRecognizer.match(BaseRecognizer.java:115)
        at org.jacaranda.verifier.JacarandaParser.top(JacarandaParser.java:1070)
        at org.jacaranda.verifier.Verifier.verify(Verifier.java:48)
        at org.jacaranda.verifier.Verifier.verifyInputStream(Verifier.java:27)
        at org.jacaranda.verifier.Verifier.main(Verifier.java:80)

Hurray! Failing safe is a very good start :-)

Anyway, that gives us an excuse to mention Tony Hoare's Null References: The Billion Dollar Mistake. We have a lot of time for people who apologise for design mistakes.

It's actually the fact that languages such as Java have no way to express a non-nullable reference type that is the problem.
According to this 2007 study by Patrice Chalin and Perry James, "... in Java programs, at least 2/3 of declarations of reference types [for non-local variables] are meant to be non-null, by design." (Edit: The figure they measured for their sample applications is 82% of declarations meant to be non-null. The abstract just means to say "definitely at least 2/3rds".)

First post

We're plural.

Wow, this is a relief. Scary, but a relief.

Hi, I'm Sarah. The guy who writes ever-so-pedantically about computer security is David.

(I'm not that bad, am I?   Oh, right. How come I can't immediately tell when you're joking?)

Together, we are David-Sarah Hopwood. It is almost certainly a very bad idea that we are coming out as plural publically under our real name. We've been told that in no uncertain terms.

So why are we doing it? Because it's necessary. Because we're fed up (more than that, that doesn't begin to describe it) of pretending to be a single person. Because the situation of people coming out as multiple/plural now is much like coming out as gay or lesbian in the 50's or earlier, and that's not acceptable. Because our experience of coming out as bi-gender was overwhelmingly positive. Lots of reasons.

It's very likely that most of what you've heard about "Multiple Personality Disorder" or "Dissociative Identity Disorder" (unless you have direct experience of it) is wrong. Certainly almost all of what we had heard, before we realised that it could apply to us, was wrong. Even just thinking of it under either of those names is a category error.

"The fundamental sign of absence of cultural permission is the lack of words in  the language of the dominant culture which would suffice to describe an experience."  -- Anthony Temple

For a start, there is a much greater range of ways in which multiplicity can be experienced than you might think. (So, don't assume that anything I/we say about us necessarily holds for other multiples.) The stereotypical idea of someone who "switches" between "alters" and has "missing time" (partial amnesia), is only one possibility. That isn't how it works for us; we are co-conscious most of the time, and have no missing time. Some times we are more clearly separate than at other times. Our plurality was not the result of childhood abuse. There are currently only two of us -- David and Sarah -- who want to be publically known, which seems to be fewer than most multiples.

("Plural" is a term often used for multiples with a small number of members, and "median" for systems who experience a varying degree of separateness at different times. Astraea's web is a good resource for information about multiplicity, although we don't necessarily agree with everything there.)

But we don't really want this first post to be just a rant about society's lack of acceptance of multiplicity or plurality or anything else -- as important as that is. This blog is going to be at least as much about the techie stuff that you might expect us to write if you know David from various security and programming language mailing lists, as about being plural or trans.

A few conventions for this blog:
 - orange text is Sarah, speaking for herself
 - blue text is David, speaking for emself
 - black text is David-Sarah (text that is co-written or written when we are not feeling as separate, but that we both agree with).

(Are these colours sufficiently readable? LJ seems to show entries with your own style's background colour on the "friends" page. If this isn't readable for you, we're open to suggestions.)

If we're writing in plain text, we might use "d:" and "s:" instead.
(Stateful rather than delimited? You have no taste :-) Make it "(d: ...)" and "(s: ...)". Yes, that's better.)

Please use "they" as the third-person pronoun when referring to both of us. (Pronouns are, as our sister put it, "a grammatical minefield" when you're plural, but we make do.)

Hmm. "Show this entry to: Everyone (Public)." That seems very final, doens't it. Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound.