The following is a short story introduction to LoveBot. [Read how he was created here.]
You can change his battery. You can change his motherboard. But you can’t change his heart.
LoveBot powers up in a dark hallway. The red heart on his chest slowly lights up from the bottom to the top. When the heart is full, his eyes turn on like the powering on of an old television. Once he is on, his eyes grow dim like he is tired. He lowers one of his arms and removes a plug from an outlet near the ground and it recedes into the back of LoveBot’s left foot.
LoveBot looks around and sees rows of other robots up and down the hallway, all plugged into the wall. He moves forward slowly and walks down the long hall to a doorway. He opens the door and sunlight overtakes him. LoveBot steps outside.
LoveBot walks down a street of large, dark, windowless buildings. They all have signs flashing saying “₡30 a Month” and “Outlets starting at ₡25.” He hears something coming from near one of the signs and walks over to it. Behind the sign is a birds nest and some baby birds are tweeting. He watches them sweetly and his heart starts to glow. Suddenly a mother bird swoops in and it throws LoveBot off balance. He falls onto the ground. The bird flies to the nest with worms in its mouth and gives a glare at LoveBot. He gets up and continues on.
LoveBot comes upon a stairwell leading into the ground and walks down. He joins a large group of other robots waiting for a train. When the train pulls up, it’s just a grated floor with bars for frames. LoveBot walks onto the grated floor and grabs one of the bars. The train moves forward. LoveBot can see the lights from the eyes of other robots illuminating the dark subway tunnel.
When LoveBot reaches his destination, he walks up a tunnel and onto a urban/suburban area. He walks down a sidewalk designated for robots. He can look to the other side of the street and see humans using a different sidewalk. LoveBot walks past a fenced playground where children are playing. He stops to watch them. The heart in his chest starts to glow bright. Another robot on the sidewalk bumps into him and it breaks his concentration. He looks to see who did it, but the sidewalk is too busy. Right as he’s about to turn back, he is hit in the head with a rock. He turns and sees the kids on the playground standing in a group with folded arms, staring at him. He turns and continues walking.
LoveBot arrives at a large black building with a smokestack pushing out steam. He goes in and walks over to a time clock. He opens the door to his body, pulls out a car, and punches it in the time clock. He puts the card back and walks over to an assembly line. A furry, empty pouch appears in front of him on the assembly line. He presses a button and stuffing comes out from above the pouch and fills up what is now clearly a body of a teddy bear (minus the head). He presses another button and the next body appears. He hits the first button and it gets filled. He hits the next button and is goes down the line. Zooming out, you can see the entire factory of robots hitting buttons along a twisty assembly line. At the end, teddy bears end up being piled into a cardboard box. The box is then moved to a spot where it is closed and taped. The box is then put on a truck that drives to a toy store. The box comes off the truck, a person unpacks the box, and they put the teddy bears on a shelf. A mom and daughter walk up to the shelf and the girl pulls the teddy bear off the shelf and gives it a big hug.
LoveBot clocks out of work and begins walking home as the sun is setting. He’s hit in the body with a rock when he’s passing the playground. A small group of kids is picking up more rocks and throwing them, so he has to run a bit to avoid them. When he can finally begin walking again, he looks at a human family walking down the opposite sidewalk. The little girl in the family is holding a teddy bear in one of her arms. They looks so happy to be with each other. LoveBot gets on the subway train and takes it home. When he is walking down the road of apartment buildings, he looks behind the sign to see how the baby birds are doing. The nest is no longer there.
As LoveBot is coming up on his building, a glimmer of light hits his eyes. He turns and looks down a narrow alley between two buildings. Something is shining a light at him from down the alley. He turns sideways and walks slowly so he can fit in the alley. He isn’t as careful as he had hoped, and he scratches a few of the LEDs that make up the heart on his chest. Finally, he comes upon a small teddy bear with one eye—the eye that was catching some light and attracted him into the alley. He reaches into his body and pulls out a needle, some thread, and a machine nut. He sews the machine nut where the other eye of the teddy bear should be. He holds it up to inspect his work. The heart on his chest glows a little brighter. He pulls the teddy bear close to his body and the heart of his chest is so bright that it floods the alley with red light.
LoveBot leaves the alley, but he doesn’t seem to be carrying the teddy bear. He walks into his building and down the hallway that leads to his outlet. He lowers his arm to plug himself into the wall. The light of his eyes dims and turns off, but the red glow from his heart is still bright and it pulses with light. Looking through the door to the robots body, you can see the teddy bear is inside.
So, that’s LoveBot’s first story.
His physical design is still in version 0.3. I’m working on bringing him up to 0.5 by the time I’m able to find an illustrator willing to take on LoveBot’s story.
This is the story of how I went from doing normal things in a normal part of my day to creating a character, a story, and a new writing project.
Last Friday, I was alphabetizing a list for work, and I decided to write it out by hand instead of typing it. While I was putting pen to paper, a quote from an episode of The Office came to mind from a scene where Michael pretends to be a robot. Watch the clip below.
Then I imagined a robot in a field of other robots with a giant, red heart on his chest. And, before I knew it, I drew him—LoveBot 0.1. Read more →
For those that don’t remember reading Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises in high school literature class, the novel is about a veteran of World War I (Jake) traveling to Spain with his friends to watch the bullfighting that takes place every year. His travel companions include the woman he loves (Brett), a friend he is in silent competition with (Cohn), and a few others. At the end of the novel, the entire group splits up after a fight between Jake and Cohn over Brett.
But the final title of the book was not the first title that Hemingway considered.
At first, it was Fiesta—a name that gives away the location behind the book with (what I’m assuming is) some sarcastic flair. You can’t have a good party without a fistfight, right?
Then it became The Lost Generation—a nod to a term Gertrude Stein coined when speaking of the post-World War I generation. But Hemingway didn’t stick with that title for publication.
The final title, The Sun Also Rises, is credited with coming from the passage in Ecclesiastes that is one of the novel’s epigraphs:
One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth forever . . . The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to the place where he arose . . .
While I won’t disagree that the title’s origin can be found in Ecclesiastes, I think Hemingway was also giving away a bit of underlying information to the reader.
In the novel, the group travels to Spain separately, but readers follow Jake’s path from Paris to Spain. The journey is primarily made by train, where Jake bumps into some Catholic students who are visiting Europe to make a pilgrimage to Rome—a small detail that doesn’t have any clear implications to the plot.
But what Hemingway doesn’t make clear is that Jake is following the path of another old Catholic pilgrimage—the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (aka the Way of St. James). The trip that Jake makes follows the path from Paris to Pamplona, which covers more than half of the pilgrimage.
But it gets better.
For most writers (including myself), one of the hardest things to decide is what to name the characters. Even more so for the main character, because that person is usually the on-page representation of the author. So Hemingway carefully names his character Jacob, which is the Latin version of the English name James (and the Spanish name Tiago). Hemingway named his main character after the journey he is making.
When most people make the pilgrimage that Jake is on, they don’t travel by train; they travel by foot. This can be difficult, especially back when there were no maps. So, to let people know they were on the right path, land markers with seashells were placed along the route. It can be explained that since the pilgrimage ends in Santiago de Compostela, the seashell represents the Spanish coast that resides just miles from the destination. But that’s not all. The seashells are a reminder about the sun.
The pilgrimage is a journey from the east to the west. All of the hope and joy and expectation that comes with a rising sun is constantly at the backs of pilgrims. Instead, day after day, they watch the setting sun as they continue westward. And while the sun sets to close another day, the pilgrim’s journey is still not complete. And if a rising sun is a sign of happiness and rejuvenation, then the setting sun is a sign of sadness and exhaustion.
But the seashell—with the line at the bottom marking the horizon and the lines upward and outward in a circle representing the sun shining—is a reminder that the sun also rises.
Days come and go in life.
Some days we are up early, excited for what is new and exciting.
Some days (or weeks or months or years) we are on a seemingly fruitless journey. All we can see is the sun setting, mocking us for our difficulties or our apparent stagnation.
And it’s in those times that we need a seashell along our path to remind us…The sun also rises.
I imagine that if I lived fifty years ago, I’d be the sort of person who would read the newspaper every morning before work. But in today’s world, I get most of my news from online articles—some that can be found in newspapers and some that cannot.
My issue has been recalling where I read a specific article or details about a topic. I can google the article, but I only remember certain details, not where the article was published or what the title was.
So, starting January 1, I decided I would catalog every online article I read.
First, I made a Readability account. Readability allows people to save online articles to be read later. It has a Firefox extension, a Chrome extension, and an iOS app, which allows me to add an article no matter where I read it.
Next, I went to IFTTT and created this recipe:
And with that, all of the articles I read and tag as a favorite in Readability will be added to a spreadsheet. I now have a catalog for all of the articles I read.
Now I’m finding any reason to read more articles so I can add them to the list. It’s not a bad problem to have.
In my line of work, Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year with some of the largest and most important projects coming due all at once. This was my fourth Christmas, and it’s safe to say that it doesn’t get easier over time.
But looking back to the first Christmas working for the church, I’ve learned a lot. It was at that first Christmas that I understood the importance of excellence within the organization.
I was sitting in my cubicle working on the position of an image on the Christmas website we were making, and the head of my department, Ted, stopped by to ask me a question about something. But he paused mid-question as he stepped closer to my computer screen.
“Can you add five pixels of padding on the top and eight on the left?” Ted asked.
I thought the image was in a good position, and some additional padding would help, so I quickly flipped over to the HTML, wrote in the code, saved the changes, and refreshed the web page.
“Can you add two more pixels of padding on the top?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said, and I made that change and refreshed the web page.
“Can you add one more pixel to the left?” he asked.
I was a little surprised. One pixel? Really? There are over three quarters of a million pixels on my computer monitor, and he wanted me to move this pixel over by one?
In total, Ted spent about five minutes directing me in getting that one image in the right spot on that page, and I had to repeat those changes on the dozen or so other pages with an image in that same spot.
When I was done, I went into his office and asked him to refresh the site so he could see my work. He said it looked great, but then started asking if I could change the position of some text in another place.
Being that this was my first job out of school and I wasn’t married, I spent way more time than I ever should have working on little things for that Christmas website. I looked at every object on the web page as an individual piece and as part of the whole. I went in early and stayed late making sure everything was in the right spot, even if it meant moving it one pixel.
That experience changed me. Since then, I’ve used painstaking effort to try to make all of my work “one pixel perfect.”
To be totally honest, there are times when a lot of work piles up and I need to move through it quickly, and those are the times when it’s obvious that my work has missed the mark because I don’t have the time to be “one pixel perfect.”
Having missed the mark several times, I’ve learned two very important things about being “one pixel perfect:”
- “One pixel perfect” work takes dedicated time and focus. It should be any surprise that getting things right takes time, but my organization moves very quickly and I’m never working on one project at a time. This makes “one pixel perfect” work extremely difficult as emails, other projects, and coworkers pull me (and my time) in different directions.
- After turning in “one pixel perfect” work, any other level of work suddenly becomes unacceptable. This is true both for myself and my superiors. I have found that I can obsess over something and put in extra time to get everything just right, but that can take a toll on my marriage. But if I don’t put in that extra time and I get distracted by other work, my boss can recognize it right away.
I’m not to the point where I’ve figured out how to avoid the problems those two points raise. Maybe that’s something I’ll never figure out.
What I do know is that I enjoy making “one pixel perfect” work. It’s very satisfying and comes with a feeling of pride that I’ve finished a job the best way possible.
This is going to be brief, but allow me to set the scene…
The world is in chaos and those with power are making absolute decisions. Dissent and revolution are in the air.
You’re approaching the Post Office and notice the brick building has been whitewashed. Some vandals have spray painted the silhouette of a crowd with one person raising their fist in the air. Above the crowd, in all caps, it reads, “JOIN THE MARCH.”
And now, my cover.
November is almost here, and I’ve already told almost everyone I know about my participation in NaNoWriMo. I’ve also shared how important it is for me that I meet the 50,000 word goal, because I will be taking care of a six-month-old next year and may not have the time to participate.
Just like last year, I plan on blogging as I write my novel. I’ve found that to be a huge help with developing my characters and scenes.
So if you’re sick of reading about NaNoWriMo, I’ll see you in December.
On a slightly different—but slightly similar—topic, I’ve been running a writing prompt blog on the side for the last year or so. It started as an attempt to see what all I could automate with IFTTT, so I set up a WordPress, Blogger, and Tumblr accounts to update with content from an RSS of a writing prompt subreddit. It worked fairly well, and I was putting no effort in.
The next phase has been cutting off the RSS feed and writing the content on my own. With that increased control over what the content is and when it goes out, I’ve seen followership increase a little. I’m going to run special NaNoWriMo prompts over the month of November, and hopefully that will help.
Here are the links to the different outlets for the writing prompts:
It’s October, and that means that it’s time to plan for National Novel Writing Month (AKA NaNoWriMo). The good news is that I’ve got my idea nailed down. The bad news…well, so far, there isn’t bad news.
This year’s novel is going to be familiar, because it’s going to be based off of last year’s novel. As in it’s going to be the exact same novel, except I’m planning on winning with it this year instead of only reaching 8,000 words.
To keep me motivated to write throughout November, I’m going to make a timeline with detailed notes for plot points. I’ve done this before and it’s been very helpful. I’ll be sure to share photos when I’ve got everything laid out.
Here’s the basic rundown of the novel:
Title: Day of Calamity
Genre: Mainstream fiction
One-line: It’s like Occupy Wall Street meets The Walking Dead (minus zombies) meets The Book of Eli.
Short description: The apocalypse has started. The world is ending. But would you know it if you lived it? Tate McLeod and his friends survived the natural disasters, but they soon find themselves in the middle of a war over Chicago. Will they join the side that wishes to maintain the old ways, or will they choose to start society with new rules?
That is something I do on a daily basis because I recognize the power of the hardware and software I use, and I want to stretch them to take full advantage of their capabilities.
Then something hit me: Am I stretching myself to the extent of what I can achieve?
The answer to that is a little difficult. Yes, I’m in a place right now where I’m creating writing content five nights a week. I’m not really challenging myself to learn technical stuff (like jQuery and JavaScirpt). And I’m not running as much as I want to right now. But I guess I’m okay with the last two not being stretched as long as I’m writing.
A little later, something else hit me: Am I stretching my friends and coworkers to the extent of what they can achieve?
I don’t mean that to seem like I want to use my friends to benefit myself. I mean that, as a good friend and coworker, I need to be helping others realize the potential in themselves, or I need to be helping them with stuff they’re working on.
This was a huge gut-check moment, because the answer is an embarrassing “no.” I can take an easy cop-out and say I’m just not wired that way. But I’m man enough to take this one on the chin. I’m not doing much to help or encourage my friends—and there’s no amount of writing I can do for myself that will make me feel better about this answer.
So I’m going to try to ease into turning my “no” into a “yes” by asking close friends and coworkers How can I help you? and taking things forward from their.
I was trying to get some writing done last night, but I couldn’t get started. Then I had a thought that stopped my ability to focus on anything at all.
Am I living my life in a way that I would want to write about myself? Am I interesting?
I mean, I’ve met some great people and experienced some extraordinary parts of life. But would I write about my own life?
And I guess this could be any writer’s/artist’s dilemma.
Look at J.J. Abrams. How can that guy’s life be more interesting than LOST or Fringe or Super 8? It can’t.
So maybe I don’t need to worry about whether or not I’m living an interesting life. I don’t have to live an interesting life to be a writer. Then again, maybe that would help me to be a better writer.