Monday, June 4, 2012

Vanilla and Creme - the worldwide conspiracy

How's that for a eye-catching title?

I've been looking for a way in my brain to tie this post to Quality directly so that it fits my blog theme centrally but i'm having trouble finding that connection.  It may be that by the time i have finished writing it that i have found a way to tie the two concepts tightly together but then again i may not be able to.   

However i definitely do have a connection to one of my sub-themes. One of the future articles that i'm going to write is around my thoughts to the question, 'what makes a good software tester.'  This article that you're now  reading is really an exemplary example of the concept of  'down the rabbit hole.'   One of the core attributes to a good tester is being observant enough to spot something while testing, whether functional, integration, regression or whatever, that is just off enough to tweak something in the brain that says, 'that's not quite right.'  And then to be curious enough to spend effort and time digging into whatever is off until you have a documented reproducible bug.   It's a combination of both of these things observant and curious.  Without the two you don't end up with the all important reproducible documented bug.  

What can all of this possibly have to do with Vanilla, Creme and worldwide conspiracy you might add?  Well, as with all rabbit hole excursions, it's a little bit convoluted. 

It kind of starts yesterday when the wife and i went car shopping.  Not that the process of arriving at car shopping was even remotely simple but not really important here.  We had settled on a few things and ended up being a 2011 Kia Soul in the colour Vanilla Shake.  Vanilla shake is a creamy beige colour.  It was a fairly stressful day, giving up my wife's first grown-up car as a trade in and spending a heap of money on a new one.  As a result of this i came up with a little trick to maybe help my wife relate to the new car a little faster.  We have friends that name their cars, we could name ours.   A brilliant idea.  It would help her identify with the car faster as well as bringing the whole car buying concept into the realm of a little approachable at a cognizable level (could that really be a word?).   

[aside - Ok, we've just hit our second blog sub-theme here, management and what makes a good manager.  Knowing people, how they relate, accept, process and deal with change makes a good manager.  A good manager generally has some pretty strong knowledge of change management and some of the tricks that help people transform with less stress.  Which probably also highlights the quality concept of quality wholeness (my just made up term). Or, to really embrace Quality and make it successful in your work life, you need to make it part of your whole life.  The same is not untrue of your other skills. /aside]

So my next step was to start her off with some suggestions. Nothing obviously right came to mind but i thought maybe i could look up some words for vanilla or cream in other languages and one of them might sound cool.   i started off by going into google translator, throwing vanilla and cream in there and picking other languages to look at them.  As i hit the languages i already sort of knew myself like french or Spanish i wasn't so surprised that the words were essentially the same with a little bit different pronunciation or accent.  i started to go wider afoot and learned a limitation of google translate (in this case probably a targeted feature).  If i ask for english to be translated into Russian, the response i get back is in the Cyrillic alphabet.  This held true for pretty much ever non-latin character language.  It held the same for babel fish and microsoft translate. 

But by this point i had already looked at over a dozen languages and for each and every one vanilla and cream were the same.  Things only started to get weird when i asked one of my employees from the middle east what the words were in Farsi - um...same thing.    By this time translating vanilla and cream had taken on a life of its own and the naming thing didn't matter at all (see rabbit hole).  A side question had come up and some very fast research showed me that vanilla had been brought back to europe from Mexico and was named by the Spanish.  This helped resolve the vanilla part of the puzzle.  The Spanish named it from a spanish root and they were the route into the rest of the world for the product.  A standard name for it make sense, but cream?  Cream is used by everyone that milks cows.  How could the word be the same?  What kind of weird conspiracy could be at work here?

I wandered a little farther afield, my Russian employee - same thing.  Things got really weird when i went to the Ethiopian guy working in our CS group.  Same freakin' words.  there were few more options but i sat down and started writing out an email with this entire story to my wife.  i was nearing a tizzy with how completely absurd things were.  It simply made no sense. 
As i was writing my email, however, everything settled out to a much more standard form of normalcy. 

My Russian employee came back to me and said that she had made a mistake.  Cream, as in the product that was the fat off the top of the milk is actually known as splipky (my own spelling) and that creme is their word for whipped cream.  That makes much more sense for the randomized fashion that language transforms in our world.  Apparently whipped cream wasn't much of a product in Russia until French desserts came into the picture, bringing their word with it.  That was good enough for me and the mystery, although i am sure there is more digging to be done.  One of the important skills as you become more senior in testing is to learn the law of diminishing returns with respect to rabbit holes.  This one had been interesting and exciting but work has to be done. 

[aside - i did come up with a few relationships between this story and my core blog themes so that's cool.  not the least of which are the thoughts flowing around through my head of the different paths for quality that these words have taken through our language.  Vanilla has managed to travel through our languages essentially intact but cream is a completely different story.  Language will never ever be a reasonable example of Quality, but maybe what it is an reasonable example of why Quality isn't always the only end goal. Cause language is a cool mystery to play with all in its own.  There's usually a reason for it's insanity, you just have to find it and that is the fun part. /aside]

To end my little story, my email about the rabbit hole had the desired effect and we are talking names and some calming down is occurring.  Ironically enough, while we haven't chosen a name yet, on her own, my wife threw out the concept that while she wasn't sure why, bunny seemed like an oddly apt name for the car.  i'm not, however, driving down it down a rabbit hole. 

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