example 1

This is a collection of my final, edited works.

Intro - Accepting Yourself (As a Writer)

I've improved as a writer – or, at least, I've learned to put more effort into my writing and my editing and have it show. In an e-mail to Andrew, I admitted that my mindset used to be that "I generally [felt] satisfied with my end product to the point where I [didn't] think I [could] add more." In high school, when I had a piece of writing due, I would hand in the final draft and have it be pretty much the same as my first draft – or, of course, there was the occasional low-involvement teacher who would give a due date and provide minimal guidance that wouldn't even ask to see a draft.

It's been hard to make significant edits to my pieces, particularly when you'd be hit with the occasional peer reviewer whose input would be "wow, that's good." I think this class has pushed me and (most) of my peers to become better writing critics – giving criticism that goes beyond grammar and spelling, something more meaningful that applies to both content and style. One of the most recent examples would probably be regarding the U3 researched wiki project – my peer reviewer had enough to say (despite the fact that there were only two of us), that we took up 15 minutes per group member. For my RWP, I was planning to incorporate a few extra pop-out pages, but I didn't know how and where to implement them effectively. By asking my reviewer what parts he had trouble understanding, I had a rough guideline of what to explain (the phases of sleep, and the workings of the specific dream inducing device, the Kvasar) in short pop-out pieces.

It's great and all to have a good editor and to be able to edit effectively, but that's meaningless without material to edit. I've started to draft with editing in mind – using Bishop's method of "fat drafting," where I toss out my "internal critic" and just write (Bishop pp. 16). This gives me more material to edit, and without focusing on making my draft resemble a finished product – which is essentially what my high school style of no draft entailed – I had a low-stress way to experiment with new writing techniques, and if I could cut the material out it wasn't that big of an issue. For example, while writing the first draft of my RWP, I included something I wasn't sure I wanted to keep – the introduction, in the form that I still have it. The hypothetical layout ("Imagine a world where you can do anything…") seemed like it could be a bit too conversational, or so ridiculous it might go over readers' heads, so I included it with a bit of a reservation that I could just remove it. However, when I sent my draft to my friends, peer reviewer, and the English teacher, all seemed to have positive opinions of the introduction – so the technique was effective, and I kept it.

A lot of the changes I had to make for my portfolio pieces were hard, particularly, because in Wendy Bishop's words, I tend to "think thin" and think that I have enough information and explanation in my essay when I don't really (Bishop pp. 17). With my "Why English?" essay, I decided to switch formats – from a individual response to a single advice-seeking, young student, to an editorial that is more generally targeted. Unlike my visual novel/dialogue, the change didn't come naturally from filling in areas that the previous format left blank. Instead, in "Why English?" I had to change the tone from less patronizing and specific to more general.

Although I didn't take all of his advice – a good part of peer reviewing is for the person whose work is being to acknowledge what advice is feasible within a given time frame – the advice dispensed in Andrew's video response to was highly useful. Some advice I didn't take, for example, was the idea to add an extra quote explaining why a Kickstarter is effective. The advice I did take was to do a deep reading of Einstein's quote. More importantly, and what made it difficult, was the fact that I had to add in more detail – specific examples, explanation of quotes – to a piece that I had already previously edited and found satisfactory. It’s hard to accept that there's always room for improvement as a writer.

Although the second format shift I mentioned – taking a piece (a section from my visual novel) from a literal back-and-forth dialogue to a narrative – was easier to make initial edits to, there was a lot of things I had to either add in or take out for consistency. Since the work was almost finished on its own, there was no way to have a "fat draft," and instead, I had to work over it by having people (some who had read the novel in its previous iterations, and some who had never heard of the concept) read the piece, and tell me what makes sense and what doesn't. What I hoped to get out of that process was something immersive, that didn't seem to have too much heavy introduction (because the piece was a snippet of a far larger work), but still gave the reader a feel for these characters that were never really formally introduced.

The most practical applications for this improved outlook on writing, drafting, and editing is probably in terms of the visual novel my friends and I are working on. A visual novel, somewhat like a cross between a video game and choose your own adventure book, is a dialogue heavy game that often has romantic undertones. This project is something we're doing for fun, but I think my experiences with drafting, fat drafts, and adding extra detail (even if I previously believed that a minimal level of detail was adequate) will help me create more detailed narration, establishing a more realistic fictional setting and characters. While a visual novel, of course, has the aid of visuals, which I mention in my BTS for the visual novel ("changing character sprites expressing a shift in emotion, and a background drawing or photograph establishing a setting"), rich visual description can only enhance a scene. I think, to that end, transforming my script into a short story-style narrative helped me understand visual description more effectively. Hopefully, over the course of the visual novel – which is not even close to done, I can let loose, give myself (and my friends) more material to edit, and have an even more polished, descriptive end product.

Works Cited:
Bishop, W. (2004) “Revising Out and Revising In”. Acts of Revision: A Guide for Writers Heineman: p. 13 - 27.

Midterm Project - Why English?

Draft

Hey, little buddy. I went to a "gifted school" with plenty of folks like you, the "I wish English class could be replaced with supplementary math/science classes" types. You might think your stance is cool now, and maybe you'll think it's still cool in MIT, but you'll be bound to change your mind some time in the future.

First of all, kiss MIT goodbye. Science geniuses are a dime a dozen, and what good is an 800 on math if you got sub-700 reading/writing scores? Colleges look for interesting people, with good essays (Which you typically learn how to write in, you guessed it, English class), well-rounded life experiences, and varying worldviews that can be articulated effectively. But this isn't about college, it's about life. Nobody gets hired after mumbling through an interview for a job (even if it's a so-called "nerdy" job where people need a degree in the sciences or engineering). If, by some miracle, you get that dream job at Intel or Google or whatever, don't expect to last long if you can write reports on what you're doing or can't decently express your progress to your supervisor.

English class isn't just about reading some "old Shakespeare books" and writing five-paragraph essays. It's speech classes, and if you're half as talented as I'm told, you're going to be giving a whole lot of speeches in your time. You can't mutter or stumble, and if you want people to believe your theory/invest in your technology/give you a research grant, you're going to need to be one heck of an orator. Having the right ideas/knowledge is useless if you can't organize your thoughts or be engaging. To avoid a reputation as snobbish or being a typical ivory tower intellectual, you need to make your work accessible – not only to other scientists (who might want to work with you), but also to the layman.

To make your work accessible, you have to know how to write. In this age of information, the average person wants to know what's up in the science world. They don't want to feel isolated. You might think, "Who cares about the plebeian masses, too uncultured to take advanced science courses?" Well, for one, people have money, even the "unintelligent" ones. If you're good enough, some rich guy with money will fund you and your great ideas. Today, thanks to this thing called "the Internet," and online resources such as Kickstarter, you don't even need some rich guy; you just need a bunch of average people that believe in you and your ideas to get going. Crowdsourcing only works, though, if you can market your ideas and products effectively. These people who are giving you money – they're not all scientists, engineers, or patent lawyers who work with them and understand the jargon. To get people on your side, you need those English skills to describe your developing idea, product, or software in an appealing jargon-free manner that will make people want to open up their wallets.

Now let's talk life. There are things everyone's expected to know, and with that comes some general knowledge of "the classics." I'm not saying that you need to have memorized the Iliad in the original Latin, but if you don't read at all (be it the Times, or whatever's on Oprah's Book Club), you're going to have a hard time making small talk or understanding the literary references that people make casually. I'm only partially joking when I say small talk is the basis of Western culture. Everyone makes small talk – world leaders, people on their first dates, potential best friends, and perhaps of biggest interest to you, you and your boss. Books, or magazine articles, or "this thing I read on Yahoo! News," are all viable sources of small talk. Small talk can lead to big things (pardon the pun) in all aspects of your life, and makes you more approachable. If you labor to read a single article from The Economist (and trust me, it's going to be incredibly difficult for you once your reading skills fall into disrepair post-English classes), you're going to have a hard time finding things to talk about. It might sound shallow, but people will judge you based on your taste and awareness (or lack thereof) of the literary canon.

You're missing out on a lot more than just brownie points and small talk by not reading. You're also denying yourself a joy by not just partaking in the simple pleasure of reading a book. If you've never really read a book, I mean, found yourself so enraptured in a novel (or short story, etc.) that you've read and reread it and found yourself amazed by its pages each time, you're not allowing yourself to enjoy the pleasure of reading as people have been doing for generations before you. Reading is one of the most enduring forms of entertainment. Maybe that's not important to you, though.

Let me start my last example before I let you go with a memorable quote. "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." Something I've read countless times, this quote capitulates a fear of the arms race – of a weapon that will obliterate the human race – that summarizes the thought process behind a generation of pacifists.

You know who said that? Not a writer, artist, or anything like that. It was Albert Einstein – famed for his theory of relativity and work in quantum physics, but also for being a generally entertaining man with a vast quantity of quotes on science, love, and life. People might have called you "Einstein" in the past, but the truth is that you're no Einstein. Until you can express your thoughts in such a way that can still inspire wonder and amusement long after your death, established a vast written record of your achievements in science and life, you will be no Einstein. You need English in your life, an ability to write and speak and impress people, if you want to do that.

Imagine a world where you have no prestigious college degree, no coveted intellectual job, no spouse or close friends, and no enduring body of work respected by scientists and laymen alike. You can be the smartest person in the world, my friend, but that's still going to be you, if you don't take your English classes seriously.

BTS Statement

What I tried to go for with the editing of my "Why English?" piece was to add more specificity in my work – something mentioned in my response video from Andrew. I changed the format from a response to a single student – which is what the initial prompt (the diagnostic essay within the first week of class) tells writers to do. In editing, I made it a newspaper editorial type thing – essentially broadening my argument, making the response more generalized, and altering the tone. The tone was originally a little patronizing – intentionally, of course, because I was speaking to someone younger – but it wouldn't work for a newspaper editorial.

I had to balance this specificity with a certain level of brevity. A lot of this came out of the shifting formats – a letter of personal advice can be as long as you want. A newspaper editorial, on the other hand, needs to be concise because of physical limitations.

Like I mentioned in my intro, I got more acquainted with the concept of fat drafting over the course of this English class. I treated my original "draft" (actually my midterm project) as a "fat draft," and I cut whatever I felt like needed a lot of reworking to sound passable. For example, I cut a lot of my paragraph about small talk – it seems a lot like something that needed a lot of additional editing to seem appropriate for the new format, and it wasn't as effective as I hoped it would. That said, I think my execution worked out in the end.

Final - Why English?

Hey, all future engineers and scientists. I went to a "gifted school" with plenty of the "I wish English class could be replaced with supplementary math/science classes" types. Those people might think that stance is cool now, and maybe they'll think it's still cool in MIT, but they'll be bound to change your mind some time in the future.

First of all, it's not even a sure thing that people can get into MIT with science and math skills alone. Science geniuses are a dime a dozen, and what good is an 800 on math if the accompanying reading/writing scores are sub-700? Colleges look for interesting people, with good essays (the skills you need to write are found in English class), well-rounded life experiences, and varying worldviews that can be articulated effectively. But this isn't about college, it's about life. Nobody gets hired after mumbling and stumbling through an interview for a job. If, by some miracle, someone gets that dream job at Intel or Google or whatever, they won't last long if they can't write reports on what's going on, or they can't decently express their progress to supervisors.

English class isn't just about reading some old Shakespeare books and writing five-paragraph essays. It's speech classes, and any reasonably talented scientist is going to be giving a whole lot of speeches in their time. If scientists want people to believe their theories/invest in their technology/give them a research grant, they're going to need to be one heck of an orator. Having the right ideas/knowledge is useless if one can't organize your thoughts or be engaging. To avoid a reputation as snobbish or being a typical ivory tower intellectual, scientists need to make their work accessible – not only to other scientists (who might want to work with you), but also to the layman.

To make their work accessible, science students have to know how to write. In this age of information, the average person wants to know what's up in the science world. They don't want to feel isolated – plus, more practically, even average people have money. If a scientist's ideas are good enough, some rich guy with money will fund them and their great ideas. Today, thanks to the Internet, and online resources such as Kickstarter, people don't even need some rich guy; just a bunch of average people that believe in a scientist and his/her ideas to get going are enough.

Crowdsourcing only works, though, if one can market his or her ideas and products effectively. These people with money – they're not all scientists, engineers, or patent lawyers who work with them and understand the jargon. To get people on their side, you need those English skills to describe your developing idea, product, or software in an appealing jargon-free manner that will make people want to open up their wallets.

Now let's talk life. There are things everyone's expected to know, and with that comes some general knowledge of "the classics," as well as a general awareness of what's going on in the world. If someone labors to read a single article from The Economist (and trust me, it's going to be incredibly difficult for you once your reading skills fall into disrepair post-English classes), they are going to have a hard time finding things to talk about. Plus, keeping up with the news - knowledge usually gained from perusing Yahoo! News, The New York Times, or else - is something you need to do, if you don't want to be judged for being oblivious or unaware. It might sound shallow, but people are judged based on their taste and awareness (or lack thereof) of the literary canon.

People miss out on a lot more than just brownie points and small talk by not reading. They're also denying themselves joy by not partaking in the simple pleasure of reading. If they've never really read a book, I mean, really found themselves so enraptured in a novel (or short story, etc.) that they've read and reread it and found themselves amazed by its pages each time, they're not enjoying the pleasure of reading as people have been doing for generations before you. But maybe that's not important to some people.

Let me start my last example before I let you all go with a memorable quote. "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." Something I've read countless times, this quote capitulates a fear of the arms race – of a weapon that will obliterate the human race, leading to a complete rebuilding of society – that summarizes the thought process behind a generation of pacifists.

You know who said that? Not a writer, artist, or anything like that. It was Albert Einstein – famed for his theory of relativity and work in quantum physics, but also for being a generally entertaining man with a vast quantity of quotes on science, love, and life. People call science geniuses Einstein, but the truth is, it takes more than smarts in those fields to put someone in the same field as Albert Einstein. Until someone can express their thoughts in such a way that can still inspire wonder and amusement long after their death, established a vast written record of their achievements in science and life, they will be no Einstein. Science students need English in their life, an ability to write and speak and impress people, to become like Einstein.

Imagine a world where someone is completely qualified in the fields of math, science or engineering, but they have no prestigious college degree, no coveted intellectual job, no spouse or close friends, and no enduring body of work respected by scientists and laymen alike. Someone can be the smartest person in the world, but, if they don't take your English classes seriously, they will still ultimately be unsuccessful in life.

Dialogue/Narrative - Visual Novel

Draft

(Note: this script is written for Ren'Py, a visual novel engine. I'm not sure if any of the markup overlaps with Wiki markup, but I just want to cover all my bases, which is why I formatted it as a game block and removed some sections of the code because I felt like they didn't really contribute much.)

narrator "To look less conspicuous, I decide to get myself some food despite having a sandwich earlier. I grab a carton of milk and a small container of onion rings. Even the school kitchen couldn't ruin that."
narrator "I scan the lunchroom, and there she is. She sits in the corner, eating lunch while looking over a notebook."
narrator "With my mostly empty tray, I walk over to her table hoping I don't look too weird."
narrator "As if Rivers detects my presence and nervousness, she looks up from her notebook straight at me. She looks down for a moment, puts away the book, and plays with her food s I approach her."
Pl "Cereal, huh?"
Rivers "Cap'n Crunch. I don't know why the lunchroom has any, but it tastes good."
Pl "I'd hate to know how the top of your mouth feels."
Rivers "Huh?"
Pl "You know, how Cap'n Crunch is really sharp, and if you eat a lot of it, it scratches against the roof of your mouth, and…"
Rivers "Never happens to me, and I eat this stuff almost once a day."
narrator "I refrain from making a diabetes joke, considering how badly my cut-up-mouth one went over."
narrator "I've already given her a lecture on her sugar consumption anyway."
narrator "Is now a good time to drop the question? Should I try to be smooth? Do I just ask her point blank?"
narrator "I wish this was like a sitcom, and I had a little earphone where Richard would secretly give me advice on how to be smooth."
narrator "But it's not a sitcom, and I had to rely on my own, terribly stunted sense of instinct when it came to girls."
Pl "Yeah…well…"
Rivers "You know, this dance thing is coming up…"
narrator "Phew. She did it for me. Now this is clearly my cue to ask her to the dance. Ask her, Elliott. Look into those gunmetal gray eyes and tell her your feelings."
narrator "She clearly wants you to."
narrator "Do it."
Pl "Yeah…are you…I mean do you…"
Rivers "Want to go to the dance? Are you kidding me? Do I look like the dance type?"
narrator "Rivers, unaware that she had interrupted the culmination of weeks of crushing on her, gave me an exaggerated look that screamed \"no, I wouldn't do that in a million years are you kidding me dude shut up.\""
narrator "In other words, suspiciously specific denial."
narrator "Time to play along."
Pl "Yeah, I know. Dancing's for chodes."
Rivers "Mega-chodes."
Rivers "Actually, I have plans on that day and thought you might want to join. Conspiracy business."
Pl "Something to with the swim team?"
Rivers "No. This is an even bigger conspiracy. It's like comparing apples to oranges. Only a dumbass would do it because apples are clearly the superior fruit."
Pl "So this conspiracy's an apple?"
Rivers "Yeah."
Pl "Is Jack coming along for this adventure?"
Rivers "No..."
narrator "Rivers' eyes darken, telling me that I should have avoided bringing up the topic."
Pl "Nah, it's ok. Jack knows how to have a good time, and I'm sure everyone else will be entertained when it's time to watch them dance."
Rivers "Oh. Maybe he can finally try out some of the dance moves he practiced on me."
narrator "Man, life's unfair sometimes. I can't even ask Rivers to the dance, and Jack gets to dance with her for \"practice.\"" 
Pl "Yeah, I bet everyone will love that."
narrator "I try to bring the topic off of Jack. It's uncomfortable to see Rivers this…emotional."
Pl "So can you tell me about the big apple conspiracy?"
Rivers "No. Just be prepared to work at something tedious for a very long period of time."
Pl "Sounds fun."
Rivers "It's not." 
Rivers "I suggest you bring some coffee."
Pl "Where are we meeting for this? When?"
narrator "I leave out the more important questions like, \"Why?\" \"Can't we just go to the dance like normal people?\""
Rivers "The regular room, from 7 pm to 1."
narrator "The same time as homecoming."
Pl "Will the classroom even be open that late?"
Rivers "Don't worry your pretty little head."
narrator "She dangles a set of keys on a janitor's keyring."
Rivers "I've got it covered."
narrator "She puts the keyring away and proceeds to finish her slightly soggy Cap'n."
narrator "Nothing left to say, I watch her demolish her cereal while I sip at the dregs of my milk. I consider finishing my onion rings, but they've gone soggy and stale."
narrator "As usual, too busy staring at Rivers. I can't help but think that Jack was right."
Rivers "Oh, and bring your laptop. You'll be needing that."
narrator "She throws out her trash, and we exit the lunchroom."

BTS Statement

I feel like this requires a little bit of background information. This excerpt comes from a writing project between my friends and I – a "visual novel" (like a choose-your-own-adventure book, but with a more heavily visual aspect to it, almost like a dialogue-intensive video game), set in a high school for the gifted. Elliott, the protagonist, wants to ask his friend Rivers to a school dance, but her singleminded determination to bust "conspiracies" means she misinterprets his attempt.

The most obvious change I've made to this piece was to switch formats. The original format is a piece of a video game script (in both the senses of a play-like dialogue, and in the sense of something that a computer runs), and that means that it can be hard to read on its own. There's also a dearth of visual description, because a lot of that comes from actual images (changing character sprites expressing a shift in emotion, and a background drawing or photograph establishing a setting), so I had to put some extra descriptive text in. Sometimes, it was hard to figure out where exactly to implement that description, but a lot of time, there would naturally be a pause – created by where the narrator would have initially spoken, or just before blocks of dialogue. That was replaced by actual narration (rather than having a "narrator" character contribute dialogue), from the perspective of Elliott at a later time, rather than Elliott in the moment.

To turn my dialogue into a narrative that could stand on its own (sort of), I had to make a lot of changes. I had to edit out was a lot of the straightforward, repetitive narration (turning "To look less conspicuous, I decide to get myself some food despite having a sandwich earlier. I grab a carton of milk and a small container of onion rings. Even the school kitchen couldn't ruin that." into what is now present in the second paragraph of my final piece), which seemed acceptable within the confines of the dialogue, but not in a narrative-style short story.

Final - Visual Novel

I think it's time that I asked Rivers to homecoming. We basically spend all of our time together anyway, on investigations for the conspiracy club. Her best friend, Jack, told me to go for it today, while she's at lunch.

It was 1:55. Rivers gets lunch at 2 every day, so I had to get there fast. I dashed to the lunchroom, with its perpetual scent of stale milk and utterly unappealing culinary offerings.
To look less conspicuous, I got myself some food despite having a sandwich earlier. A carton of milk and a small container of onion rings: safe choices, made on the basis that even the school kitchen couldn't ruin those.

There sat Rivers, eating lunch while scanning a notebook. She was in the corner, on the very edge of the cool plastic bench. With my mostly empty tray, I walked over to her table hoping I didn't look too weird. As if Rivers detected my presence and nervousness, her gaze shifted from her notebook straight to me. She looked down, shoved her notebook into her bag, and played with her food as I approached.

"Cereal, huh?" I questioned, hoping that my questioning masked my nervousness.

"Cap'n Crunch. I don't know why the lunchroom has any, but it tastes good."

"I'd hate to know how the top of your mouth feels." Rivers shot me back a questioning glance, and it's clear I need to further explain myself.

"You know, how Cap'n Crunch is really sharp, and if you eat a lot of it, it scratches against the roof of your mouth, and…"

"Never happens to me, and I eat this stuff at least once, usually twice a day."

I refrained from replying with a diabetes joke, considering how badly my cut-up-mouth one went over. I've already given her enough lectures on her sugar consumption anyway.

My failure of a joke created a lull between the two of us, and I couldn't help but wonder if this was the perfect opportunity to ask her. I wished this was like a sitcom, and I had a little earphone where Richard would secretly give me advice on how to be smooth.

But it wasn't a sitcom, and I had to rely on my own, terribly stunted sense of instinct when it came to girls.

"You know, this dance thing is coming up…" Rivers piped up, interrupting my own thought process. As usual, she threw me off balance by seemingly reading my mind and bringing up the exact topic that had been stuck on my mind, seemingly for years.

Ask her, Elliott. Look into those gunmetal gray eyes and tell her your feelings. She clearly wants you to.

"Yeah…are you…I mean do you…"

"Want to go to the dance? Are you kidding me? Do I look like the dance type?"

Rivers, unaware that she had interrupted the culmination of weeks of crushing on her, threw me an exaggerated look that screamed, "no, I wouldn't do that in a million years are you kidding me dude shut up." In other words, suspiciously specific denial. I had nothing to do but play along.

"Yeah, I know. Dancing's for chodes."

"Mega-chodes," Rivers reaffirmed with a slight nod. "Actually, I have plans on that day and thought you might want to join. Conspiracy business."

"Something to with the swim team?" I alluded to a previous conspiracy of hers, involving performance enhancing drugs among Henderson's swim team.

"No. This is an even bigger conspiracy. It's like comparing apples to oranges. Only a dumbass would do it because apples are clearly the superior fruit."

"So this conspiracy's an apple?"

"Yeah."

"Anyway, is Jack coming along for this adventure?" I innocently asked, not expecting Rivers' response to be so immediate and emotional.

Rivers' eyes instantly darkened, making it abundantly clear that Jack had better things to do on the night of a school dance. Jack, her best friend for the past two years at Henderson, had done the unthinkable – put a date ahead of finding evidence to support some harebrained conspiracy cooked up in the depths of Rivers' vast imagination.

"No. He has…a date."

What gave Rivers great sadness gave me a little glimmer of hope – if it's just the two of us working over conspiracy business, no Jack third wheeling, it'll almost feel I'm on a real date with her. That said, it's uncomfortable to see Rivers so emotional.

"So can you tell me about the big apple conspiracy?" I asked, in the hopes of lifting Rivers' spirits and changing the topic.

"No. Just be prepared to work at something tedious for a very long period of time."

"Sounds fun."

"It's not." My badly executed sarcasm either went unnoticed, or Rivers chose to ignore it.
"Where are we meeting for this? When?" I omitted the more important questions like "Why?" or "Can't we just go to the dance like normal people?"

"The regular room, from 7 pm to 1." In other words, the same time as homecoming.

"Will the classroom even be open that late?"

"Don't worry your pretty little head," Rivers reassured me, dangling a janitor's keyring in front of my nose. "I've got it covered."

Putting her keyring away, Rivers proceeded to finish her slightly soggy Cap'n. Nothing left to say, I watched her demolish her cereal while I sip at the dregs of my milk. I considered finishing my onion rings, but they've gone cold and stale. As usual, too busy staring at Rivers.

"Oh, and bring your laptop." Rivers punctuated her comment by offhandedly dumping the contents of her tray into a trash bin. "You'll be needing that."

U3 Project (Unedited)

My unedited U3 Project on lucid dreaming can be accessed here.

A North American Future (Unedited)

The year is 2106, and America has returned to a mainly industrial economy due to increased distrust with Chinese production systems following various cases of food poisoning with imported food. This follows the life of Solomon Cheng, a foreman at a jewelry factory in Southwest Texas.

It’s 5:30. I hate waking up early, but I guess that’s the price to pay for my coveted role as foreman at the local factory (as the years have progressed, white collar jobs – even ones as lowly as a foreman at a factory – have become increasingly uncommon). Eyes still a little groggy, I slip on my shock bracelet. Far more effective – and way cheaper – than coffee, the bracelet sends slight shocks through my body. Nothing damaging, of course, just a little immediate jolt, pardon the pun, of alertness.

The shock bracelet's something new we’re dabbling in. Like every other factory town, Hendersonville’s factory has a specialty. Due to a deal with a manufacturer up North, we’re in possession of the most up-to-date 3D printing technology, with precision down to the nearest 1/100th of a millimeter. Unlike some factories, which utilize printing to create larger and larger mundane pieces – car parts, furniture, etc. – we work on a far smaller scale. We work in something a little bit more extraordinary – our printers layer miniscule layer upon miniscule layer of shining gold, silver and other precious metals into rings, pendants, and other works of jewelry.

You know, I remember when 3D printed jewelry was first becoming a thing. The traditionalists would argue that it wasn’t the right way to treat these precious metals, the gems, that the beauty would be lost through the utilization of technology. The realists, however, discussed the truths – with an increasing dependence on East Asian sources for fine jewelry, it wasn’t as if local artisans were toiling away to create handcrafted works of art. In fact, due to the routine nature of foreign factories, the jewelry produced was not only of inferior quality, but also dull and lacking in unique design. With 3D printing, craftsmanship still went into making each piece of jewelry, but instead of directly working with metal, artisans would be working from a CAD program. The realists quickly won over as costs lowered and quality of 3D printing increased. Slowly, the number of traditionalists began to wane. Of course, once in a while, I’ll still run into a protest outside of the factory – overblown tales about how such-and-such chemical is actually leaching into the water and poisoning the local farms.

Thanks to the police, these troublesome protesters can easily be contained. I don’t know what law enforcement does with those hippies, but I’ve never seen the same protesters twice. What offends me most about their protests, though, is the basis of these protesters' arguments. First of all, our factories produce close to zero emissions, due to increased legal crackdowns. I take pride in our strict adherence to the law. And even if we did produce emissions, there are no farms for hundreds of miles to affect – they’re all in South America. My mom used to speak nostalgically about how she would get farm-fresh bacon every weekend near her childhood apartment in Atlanta, but even then I knew she was just exaggerating. Even in the early 2000s most farms were heavily centralized, commercial operations, nothing like the quaint images you get from a child's e-storybook.

Things are better now, I imagine. Food’s more expensive, sure, but that’s only because the government’s finally stopped babying all of us and our failing farm system – no longer pumping wasted money in the form of subsidies to corn and soy farms. Sure, that means animal feed costs more and that subsequently meat’s more expensive, but I can make do. Beans fill me up just fine, and if you cook ‘em right they don’t make you toot. I actually remember reading something in the newspaper about a reduction in overall rates of colon cancer over the past 75 years. All that fiber, I’m sure, from the increase in legume consumption across the board. Fiber's some good stuff.

Even the fancy restaurants I’ve been to, they don’t use much meat. I guess, now, it’s not cool to eat meat. Eating a slab of rare steak isn’t satisfying or “manly,” it’s barbaric, unhealthy, and means you have no environmental consciousness. In fact, greenhouse gases have slowly been going down, because of the diminishing cattle industry and the lowering amount of cattle waste. That's something we all learn in elementary school biology classes – in the 2000s, 18% of greenhouse gases were produced by cow waste, more than every form of transport (cars, trains, etc.). Pound-by-pound, we're only producing 1/6th of the farm-related waste that we did 100 years ago, in 2006.

Myself, I’ll eat a little meat once in a while. A burger, when I crave it and have the extra cash. When I cook at home, though, it’s mostly vegetarian.

After making myself a simple breakfast of eggs, toast, and some sautéed mushrooms, I hop on the train to the factory. I don’t live in Hendersonville anymore – I live in a high rise in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. That's a little story on its own, a cute one if I do say so myself. Thanks to the wonder of the Internet, I had been arranged to meet Raquel. Those partnership algorithms work pretty damn well, because within a week I had already picked out which engagement ring I was going to print for her. But she lived here, in Mexico, and I lived in Hendersonville, Texas. Eventually we came to a compromise and moved to the border, so she could continue working at a local technical college as an adjunct lecturer.

Even with the regulation of currency among all of North America imposed in 2070, the costs of living are better down here than they were back up in the US. Of course, not everything’s the same, but it’s a far cry from the Mexico of the early 2000s and before – when tourists would be afraid to leave cordoned off “safe” areas. Now, it’s the opposite – as long as we avoid certain districts, we’re safe as can be. When Raquel and I are ready to have them, I know that we will be able to take care of our children safely in Ciudad Juarez.

The train takes about thirty minutes to cross approximately 100 miles. It’s not the most up-to-date rail line, but it gets me there just fine. When I get there, it’s still kind of dark – partially because the lights are still off in the factory, and partially because of the weather conditions in the late fall. Nobody’s at work yet. I look at my watch, and I realize why. It’s food stamp day. I can’t believe I forgot.

It’s kind of upsetting to think that my employees, who have a job (and often also a spouse who's also employed), need to resort to government assistance to get to eat. However, it’s only life, and it's the only way we can lower prices to compete with Chinese factories. Of course, not everything from China’s bad or potentially poisonous – we still get most of our fabrics and other clothing from factories in East Asia. However, a lot of production’s moved to North America – particularly of specialized cutting-edge technology, and highly regulated goods like food and drink just for safety reasons.

I don’t know when the minimum wage became inadequate, but around the same time, taxation on the upper bracket of earners (myself included) began to increase to create a more extensive safety net for the poor. I don't really mind much (unlike many of the other foremen I know), because I still get to live an easy life with the few creature comforts I want without feeling guilty about the plight of the lower class.

Left with nothing to do as my poor employees toil through the bureaucracy of the food stamp office, I pull out my second pair of glasses – the computerized ones that only the dorkiest of dorks wear in public – and I put them on. I play a couple of games of solitaire, dragging cards using the movement of my pupils. After a while, though, solitaire can get kind of boring, so I switch to reading a book on my glasses. Some purists insist that the glasses don’t compare to the old e-readers, or even more archaic, paper books, but what do the purists know?

Sources/Further Information:
Lean, Geoffrey. "Cow 'emissions' More Damaging to Planet than CO2 from Cars." The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 10 Dec. 2006. Web. 17 Oct. 2012. <http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/cow-emissions-more-damaging-to-planet-than-co2-from-cars-427843.html>.
Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. New York: Penguin, 2006. Print.

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