once in a while, I like to do a lightweight blog post linking my work world of
functional verification with the real world. Regular readers may recall my series explaining MDV using quotes from classic
Hollywood movies. Today I pose a question: if you had assertions available in
your everyday life, where would you use them? Yes, it's a nerdy way of thinking
but it's not as if I actually go around saying to myself "I wish that I
had an assertion available for this situation." In truth, I'm collecting a
series of amusing real-world experiences and then layering on assertions so
that I have a good excuse to tell the stories in my blog.
Case in point: Borders. As many of you have probably
noticed, the brick-and-mortar books-and-media chain recently filed Chapter 11
and has closed many stores as part of its reorganization effort. During the last month or two, I received regular emails informing me about the progress of discounts
as the store in Los Gatos liquidated its inventory. I live in San Jose, less
than three miles from the store in Santana Row, and less than eight miles from
the store in the Oakridge Mall, both of which also closed and liquidated their
inventories at the same time. Los Gatos, on the other hand, is about ten miles
I received numerous email messages about the Los Gatos
store, a few for the Santana Row store, and none at all for the Oakridge Store.
It seems as if Borders needs some sort of assertion that the store targeted at
a particular consumer is actually the closest location to that consumer. Maybe
the lack of such an assertion is a small part of Borders' marketing troubles?
Now that the Milpitas store has been included in the next wave of closings, I
am getting regular emails on the progress. So the marketing has improved, but
I'm sorry to see the Milpitas store go since it was the only chain bookstore
location that I visited on a regular basis.
Here's another example. I was scanning through the program guide
on cable a few nights ago, and noticed a listing for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour on a San Francisco station. That caught
my interest; I've seen almost all of Hitchcock's movies and the Alfred Hitchcock Presents half-hour
series, but only a few episodes of the hour-long show. The description on the
program guide was "The classic series switched to an expanded format in
1962." However, the time slot listed was 11:00-11:30pm. I don't know
whether the station sent the wrong information to the cable company or the
cable company screwed up the guide, but someone should have noted the
inconsistency of a half-hour slot for a show with "Hour" in its title. Another
Here's a dinner story to finish up. I was grocery shopping
last week and checking out the selections in the meat department when I saw
some prepared Chicken Kiev. It's a dish that I have made myself before; the trick
is to get a really good seal all around the rolled-up chicken so that the butter in
the center doesn't leak out. But the grocery's version looked good and the
price was right, so I bought it. When I got home and looked at the cooking
directions, I started laughing: "Pre-heat over to 350 degrees. Bake uncovered
for approximately 20 mins, remove lid, and bake for another 15-20 mins." Who
missed the assertion that you can't remove a lid from an uncovered dish?
So there are a few entertaining examples that have sprung up
in real life and caused me to scratch my head. I'm not seriously suggesting
that we create assertions for these situations, but I do think that Borders, the
TV/cable folks, and the grocery store could all benefit from a bit of the
structured thinking that a design or verification engineer does when
considering corner cases. I'll keep an eye out for more such examples in my
life, but I also invite you to comment and share the odd stories in your lives
truth is out there...sometimes it's in a blog.
Very interesting and innovative outlook on the concept of Assertions, Tom!
Thanks, Anu! I'm really hoping that readers will find this idea amusing and send it some examples of their own...