My 2¢:

> assert(p);
> int x = *p;
> …

> assert(ptr);
> int x = strlen(ptr);

Both of these should either check for null, be in a situation where p is 
obviously good (e.g., p is data() from a stack-allocated std::vector), or use 
references.  The assertion to my mind is like an admission "I'm not 100% sure, 
so let me crash if I'm wrong..." – if we're making that admission and not doing 
error handling, we're already a little shady.

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