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Sometimes the Real World Needs Assertions Too

Comments(2)Filed under: Functional Verification, ABV, formal, assertions, asssertion-based verification

Every 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 away.

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 missing assertion!

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 as well.

Tom A.

The truth is out there...sometimes it's in a blog.


By Anu bohra on May 16, 2011
Very interesting and innovative outlook on the concept of Assertions, Tom!

By tomacadence on May 17, 2011
Thanks, Anu! I'm really hoping that readers will find this idea amusing and send it some examples of their own...

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