So as not to forget

I write a lot about the process of actually coding for Quarto, but it's more rare that I talk about the effort that takes place before any code is written. The notebook holds the rest of the story. Not just the story of Quarto, but the story of virtually everything else that has happened in my life in the past year.

The hardback, spiral notebook was part of a birthday gift from friends nearly two years ago. At first brought out only for sporadic scribbling, it eventually began to be used for more than just story ideas.Most of the pages remain undated, but the changing inks and topics give clues to dates. The short notes, scribbled in heavy black ink date from last Christmas, from the last real conversation I had with my father—

"p.1 on left - GM [grandmother] Wilhite's g-pa called 'Doc Bates'"

"—baby next to flowered grave, Edith. Dad says I look like her"

"—group of six - GPQ [shorthand for my grandfather on my father's side, who died when my father was a child]is 2nd from left"

"big group photo - torn photo underneath on right is my grandparents"

"in car - GM Wilhite's brother George. Had polio. Family sold team of mules to put him through school. Lawyer in OK[lahoma]"

A quirk of timing and fate leaves me with almost no firsthand knowledge about my father's family. When Dad and I started looking through an old photo album last December, I made notes as he described the people in the pictures. Grandfather, grandmother, great-grandparents and great-granduncles, most of whom died either before I was born or shortly thereafter.

I made notes so as not to forget, so that when I scanned the photos in, I'd be able to name them properly.

That page of notes needs no date. Late December 2001, probably December 26.

Next page. Plans for Lists of spices I planned to order with a gift certificate I'd been given. Doodlings made while talking on the phone. List of friends to send Valentines to. How I'd need to structure a CMS to suit my site. Variables I'd need to save and properly identify posts and comments.

Sure, it all goes together, if you squint a bit.

What you don't see are how many nights and Sunday afternoons I dozed off on the guest bed with this notebook in front of me and a pen in my hand. The line between daydream and sleep-dream is not quite so much a gulf as we like to think.

Over the past few months, the notes grew more specific. From "how I'd set up a CMS if I ever got the courage to write one" to "what tables I'd need in the CMS if I decide to write it" to "how I'd set up this particular bit of logic to make it work the way I'd expect" to "display functions I'll want when I finish this display function."

At first, the scribblings referred to "the CMS I might write someday." Then to "the CMS I will write someday." Then to "the unnamed CMS I'm writing right now," and finally just to "Quarto."

From ideas came functions, more names, and more lists. Admin interface bits tried, not liked, and discarded. More specificity: breaking down functions by type of data returned, sometimes by complexity of code needed.

So as not to forget.

Every few days, as one list was partially scribbled out, a new one would begin, usually more specific than the last one. The last few pages contain lists marked with phrases like "critical," "pre-1.0," and "maybe someday." Shopping lists for while Andrew and Joy were here. Things that needed doing before dragon*con.

Now I find myself staring at a list called "bugs and issues," and another marked "wishlist," and it makes me realize that once I polish off the first list, I'm back to a place I haven't been in many, many months: a place to wish.

I'm taking a day away from coding to let my mind rest. As Gareth rather gleefully pointed out, I have pages to fix and new functions to write tomorrow. Given that I have not taken a day (literally—no weekends for yours truly) away from coding in well over a month, I think today I'll take a day away from the code.

The notebook and I will go curl up somewhere quiet. I'll daydream a little. Sketch out a plan. Edmund will find me, and conveniently fall asleep on the notebook. It won't be a setback; I've already met my deadline.

The rest is just gravy.

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I'd say a well-deserved rest. Enjoy!

Ducking wihile pointing out a glitch does not constitute glee. ;-)

It's always fun to mumble an idea for something on Quarto, and then get back a "note taken" or some such comment from Amy. Usually, I'm just musing aloud. The funny thing is, I've never seen this mythical book. Perhaps it's just as good that I haven't.

Congratulations, again. Breaks are diserved. I have this nifty Pocket PC (Microsoft PalmPilot) and in theory it should really take care of most of this kind of idle scribbling; but the tuth is that after the buz and hype wares out (it's taken me almost exactly two years), you realize that a good old spiral notebook does the job just as well if not better. I keep notes, outlines for whatever chapter I'm working on (in addition to a much longer outline in *another* notebook, and whatever other odds and ends (book titles, notes from here and there, math figureing, and the like.) In theory the Pocket PC was supposed to do a lot of these sorts of things. I was supposed to draft on it, read ebooks on it, take notes and make notes, but It's really ineffective if you need to enter lots of information (I'm used to working at 1200x1048 or so and going down to 240x320 is hard), ebooks are ok, but not very avialable and don't have the same kind of charm, and it just isn't as responsive to the kind of short hand I use for note realted options. The truth is that there isn't a lot that can seriously compete with a good pen with real ink (of the liquid variety) and a notebook... Cheers,

Taking a break? Is that allowed in the great scheme of things? Oh yea...guess so. :) And nothing can replace the great notebooks! Well...except for another notebook

This isn't the book Heather and I got you, is it? If so, I disavow any and all knowledge of said book, its contents, or any CMS's deriving thereof. ;)

Yep, that's the book! Start your disavowing now...

Dammit, Jess, look what you started! :p

all I have to say is that when Heather, Jess and I bought you that book for your birthday two years ago, it was with the intention of getting you to write the book you had always been discussing. So, we can not be held responsible for any other results. ;)

Hey, in a roundabout way, it will have worked. :)

/me still awaits a novel ;P