Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Monday 19/08/2003You may remember that last Friday's entry was brief indeed, as I wasn't actually there to write anything. Instead, I was in Amsterdam with two other journalists, a keen and eager PR bod and a scattering of Compuware people.

Monday 19/08/2003
You may remember that last Friday's entry was brief indeed, as I wasn't actually there to write anything. Instead, I was in Amsterdam with two other journalists, a keen and eager PR bod and a scattering of Compuware people. We got in to that fair city on the Thursday night: for some reason, the early start on the Friday morning was a mite more challenging than perhaps it should have been. I blame jetlag.

It doesn't take many cups of coffee to revive, however, and soon I find myself in a large meeting room paying rapt attention to a variety of eager suits talking about application programming. I'll spare you the details (if you're interested, I wrote about them earlier this week), but for some reason I began to have some difficulties decoding the Dutch accent.

I hold no nation in as much respect, and with as much fondness, as the Dutch. I find their pragmatism, tolerance and bloody-minded refusal to suffer fools entirely to my taste, just as much as I find their tongue as easy to decode as the chest sounds of a bronchial one-lunged horse. Fortunately, the Dutch are as proficient at languages as the Brits are hopeless, and the speaker talking about Compuware's software had excellent English. But something in my deep linguistic cortex had gone on strike.

Our friend was talking about patron-based testing. I fiddled with my mental tuning, but he was definitely saying patron. Hm. New one on me. But in an industry that's happy talking about clients, servers, masters and slaves why shouldn't there be patronage? Perhaps a test patron is one who sponsors a cricket match -- the Dutch play the noble game, after all.

There's more to this patron than meets the ear, though.  I try to concentrate on the important details of middleware and model architectures, but the mental images become increasingly bizarre. The plucking patron is testing the goat? And where are they driving the rule-based Indian?

Then another PowerPoint slide hits the projector. The magic software was generating an input screen with fields for "Name, address and zip goat". Zip goat? Ah. Zip code.

When you're listening to an unfamiliar accent, there can be an epiphany where the wax falls from your ears. With me, it was the zip goat that did it: Suddenly, the plucking patron became a plug-in pattern. Chief Legal Eagle, the rule-based Indian who was inhabiting my inner landscape in a rather fetching judge's wig-cum-feathery head dress, turned into a much duller but probably more useful rule-based engine. The sort that generates goat - er, code.

From that point on, the day made much more sense. Shame.