Eagle or pigeon? Eagle or Chicken?

Eagles and chickens: Developing testers to their full potential

eagle-cropped

The Fool and the Eagle

A fool saw an eagle perched with the king’s falcons. “You are a strange pigeon” he said. So he cut off the eagle’s talons, and clipped down its beak. He tore off its crest, and shortened its wings and tail. “Now you are a proper pigeon,” he said. The eagle wept remembering its former glory.

Tell me my friends – Are you a fool to your eagles? Are you a weeping eagle?

The Kind Chicken and the Eagle

A chicken found an eagle’s egg, and not knowing what it was, hatched and raised he chick as her own. One day, the eagle was scratching in the farmyard with the other chickens. It looked up and saw a mighty bird soaring above it. “What is that?” it asked. “Oh, that is an eagle. They fly up high, but we stay here, in the farmyard.” “So we do,” thought the cheagle, “I’m glad I’m a free range chicken.” And it scratched the ground.

Tell me my friends – Are you that kind chicken? Or are you the eagle who thinks it is a chicken? In your role as a tester, are you fulfilling your potential? And are you enabling your team to fulfil their potentials?

For me, the lesson from this fable is not to underestimate myself, or others. We sometimes hold ourselves back, through fear, unawareness or lack of knowledge. We also sometime hold others back because of preconceptions about the roles open to people, and their capabilities.

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Picture Quilt: a visit to the Bass Rock

Bass Rock from North Berwick Beach

Bass Rock from the shore

Earlier this year, I went with my pal John to visit the Bass Rock and look at the Gannet Colony. We went out by boat, on the Sula. As you approach the Rock, it looks white, then like velvet, ad then you see a cloud around it, like the electrons around the nucleus of an atom – if there is an atom with ten’s of thousands of electrons in its cloud. As you get closer, these resolve into thousands of gannets nesting on the rock and thousands more flying around it. John had recommended that I wore a hat. I’m glad I did.

On the boat, it looks smoother than it was

On the boat to Bass Rock

On the boat approaching the Bass RockHere is the view from the boat. I was finding it hard to stay upright. The sea was roughish, for a landlubber like me, and there was lots to catch the attention; puffins, seals, kittiwakes, gulls, gannets, the ever-changing sky and sea.

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First sketch of the Bass Rock boat trip

The visit resulted in a design for and the execution of a picture quilt. I managed to work this on really quickly. I made a quick sketch of my impression of the rock and the boat trip:

I bought some materials in a fabric shop in Stirling, and sat on John’s dining room floor playing with the pieces. I had found materials in blacks, greys and blues, and in a range of textures and patterns that reflected the sea and sky colours, the white and black of the gannets, the specks of bright colour from swimming puffins, and the swirl and shift of the sea.  And then I played, pinned, stitched and altered. John showed me a website with a print of the Rock done in the 17th century; I was pleased to see the bird cloud.

first attempt at placing fabric to look like the rock and waves

Initial placement of fabric

Here is the first placement of fabric pieces: I had ruched some of the grey satin to give the idea of waves and billows, and also the black and gold material – a printed cotton in a pattern called flying cranes reminded me of the gannets, puffins and kittiwakes on and above the water around the boat. I used two shades of patterned grey to make the sides of the rock where the gannets nest. And the darker grey and black made the cliff on one side where the kittiwakes next. The top and side of the rock are white with birds and guano. Once I had placed those pieces, I started tacking them in place, and thinking about the eventual quilting. I used a piece of the black and gold to make the reverse of the quilt, and then a mix of hand and machine quilting to hold it together, indicating waves and bird flight paths.

work in progress - machine stitching part done

Bass Rock Quilt part way through machine quilting

Here is the quilt part way through machining it; you can see I have folded the backing to the front to make a border.

 

 

 

 

bass-rock-painting-crop

Watercolour pencil sketch of the Bass Rock

At this stage I also did another sketch, this time with watercolour pencils, to remind me of my initial vision.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, I stitched in the cloud of birds using pale grey running stitch in curves.

completed quilt, all hand stitching done to show the bird cloud

Bass Rock Quilt – completed

 

 

Here is the completed quilt, with hand stitching done, you can see the bird cloud around the rock, and the stormy, grey billows of the sea and foam.

photos for July, August and September

Here are three more photos of water and reflections that I have taken over the years.

9 September San Diego Harbour

July, San Diego San Diego Harbour: the banana boat leaves

July: Here is a photo which, although not taken on July, signifies July to me for its memories of heat and colour.  Taken during a software testing conference in San DIego, USA, this is a photo of the reflection of a banana boa and its pilot boat and tugs in the water of the harbour. A group of software testers, myself included, were watching the boat leaving with one person knowledgeably explaining what would happen and the direction the pilot would go. When the ship and pilot went in the opposite direction an unhappy cry of “but they have gone in the wrong direction” signified that this was indeed a group of software testers, who are of course, always right…

August, Bangkok Garden

Reflected petals, Bangkok Garden

August, and the heat and steaminess of Bangkok comes to mind, as well as the relief of cooler, scented shade, water, floating petals and reflections in a garden.

My visit to Bangkok I treasure for the fabric shops, where I bought yards and yards of silks and chiffon in bright and delicate colours, as well as vibrant printed cottons with goldfish, that became part of the big quilt project.

The heat, the smells, the noise: all startling. And here, quiet. I saw an enormous lizard, maybe a metre long. When the garden attendant saw me looking at it, he ushered me away. Then gardeners drove it out. It looked safe, but maybe it was dangerous.

 

11 November Australia

Stream near Meribula

September: Stream near Meribula, Australia.

The heat, the dust, and then this stream in woodland, clear water bubbling across the brown stones under spicy air of eucalyptus. A waterfall nearby, and then sudden rain, and a dash for shelter.

 

Photos for April, May and June

Here are three more of the photos featured on the website and blogs.

4 April NZ

Stream bed New Zealand April

I used a crop of this on the website, on the Learn with Isabel page.

Garden in Bangkok May

Garden in Bangkok May

6 June Australia

Shallow sea bed Australia June

This one I cropped into three sections and used on the website on the About, CV and Blog pages.

Photos used on my website and blogs

I have used several photos on the website and blogs as backgrounds and features photographs, often heavily cropped. These have come from photographs I took for a calendar. Here the January, February and March photos from the calendar.

1 January Worcester

Icicles January Worcester UK

2 February Worcester

Canal Edge February Worcester

3 March Worcester

Lake in the Park – March Worcester

As you can see, I am interested in light, water and reflections. I have used cropped versions of the February and March photos on my website on the Home and Connect pages.

It really is soft ware, it’s very like IT…

I built a patchwork quilt. When I look back on that 10 years of work, it has been rather like an IT project. What I have built is literally soft, and very cosy. It is soft ware. The process of making it has taken me through decisions around unclear and changing requirements, design and prototyping, and a final delivery with some compromises and some surprises.

Even though I was the customer and the maker for the quilt, I still managed to have unclear requirements. At each stage I did not know what I wanted until I saw it, my requirements and expectations have changed. In fact when I started collecting fabric, I did not know that I wanted a quilt. And, I certainly didn’t expect I would up with something so large.

It’s a software project that got out of control, but still, it delivered, and the ending is beautiful and used every day. Uncertainty was part of the story – uncertainty drove the creativity. The User eXperience (UX) for the quilt is excellent – the journey to get to that UX was at times terrifying. At each mistake and uncertainty I had to think “do I unpick or stop or do I go on?” How much more difficult UX is when you are not your own customer. Be aware that uncertainty is natural.

The pre-history of the quilt

Over the years I have travelled to many places for work and for pleasure. I started to buy fabric and patchwork squares in different places, and to make small patchwork projects.

The first project was done with my friend Susan, when I visited her in California. She is very good at patchwork and quilting so it was natural for her to take me to her local fabric shop, where I was overwhelmed with the deliciousness of the fabrics on offer – the colours, the designs, the possibilities…. we got fabrics with patterns of things like chillies, sweetcorn, wine, cartoons, woodwork tools… and Susan helped me make a patchwork curtain for my artist husband’s studio door.

On a technical note,  using a small number of very big fabric squares to make the curtains made learning easier. Susan encouraged me to concentrate on a small number of new skills, for example using an overlocker machine (serger) for the first time, and to keep the project simple.

back home, the next project was to make some more curtains in patchwork, this time for the Kitchen cupboard instead of having doors.  I got myself an overlocker machine for making patchwork, to use alongside the sewing machine. They are both good little machines, but I get myself in a tangle when using them; slow and steady work is best or I end up in a flurry of broken threads and confusion. The interlocker is particularly difficult to rethread and some sessions with it I seemed to spend more time puzzling over how to set it up than actually using it.

For the kitchen curtains, I decided to make the pattern more complex, still square pieces but smaller, using symmetry to build the patterns in the piece placement. Also it seemed important to make the symmetry imperfect so that the curtains were similar but not identical. I needed 3 curtains.

The method is to decide on the placement of the materials, looking at colour and pattern, then cut the squares all to the same size using a straight edge, set square and cutter blade. Then place the materials again to recheck the pattern. Press the pieces and sew into strips, then press again. The strips are joined together, press again. And voila! Curtains.

If only it was that easy in reality… Well, it is easy, I just made it difficult for myself. I made several mistakes such as sewing the piece in the wrong order, putting the pieces together and realising I had seams showing on both sides, not managing to do a straight line on the sewing machine and interlocker… These mistakes were caused by a mix of absent minded carelessness, not rechecking at every stage, inexperience, gung-ho overconfidence and misunderstanding instructions / guidance gleaned from the internet and books. All the mistakes required me to unpick the seams and start again. Each time the lessons were the same: slow down, check every step, don’t try and skip things. Eventually I got the curtains made and hung. They have lasted well and survived the washing machine too.

Those early projects gave me confidence to start on the big quilt.

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Simple “four pieces a side” patchwork cushion cover