Winter is coming. And even though I welcome the cooler temperatures since summer this year was so hot and humid, I know that by the middle of January I’ll be more than ready for spring again.

It does warm my heart to watch someone else embrace Chicago winter with such enthusiasm, though. In the latest video on Backseat Freshman, Maura posted about her first Chicago snowfall, and it makes me so happy to see her enjoying it. When the days are so short and the temperatures so frigid, it can be easy to be pessimistic during winter, especially if you’re from a warmer climate like California’s Bay Area.

But Maura instead ran out into the snow and immediately started playing in it, reminding me that winter isn’t all that bad as long as you have the right attitude about it.

So, as November winds down and Thanksgiving comes and goes, I’m going to remember to keep my energy and enthusiasm alive during the coming cold months.

And I am warmed by the fact that I don’t have to experience lake effect snow ever again if I don’t want to.

50,000 wordsThis morning I verified the word count of my first ever NaNoWriMo novel. 50,329 words. So, it’s official: I am a NaNoWriMo winner! And not only did I reach the word count goal, I also reached the end of the novel’s story. I just happened to be lucky that it all seemed to align well, and now I guess I’m done with NaNoWriMo!

Or am I?

During the past few days I’ve been thinking about what I would do if I reached 50,000 words before the end of the month, and I haven’t quite decided what to do. I won’t be making the pledge to edit or even show this novel to anyone; NaNoWriMo this year was more about proving to myself that I can write a novel-length work that somewhat hangs together with some semblance of a plot.

But I have made a commitment to myself that I will try and keep the spirit of NaNoWriMo with me throughout the year. NaNoWriMo helped me get around my creative blocks, and I felt free to just write for the first time in a while.

And I want to maintain this same level of freedom and creative productivity. I’ve even made a chart in Excel to track my progress, because I strongly suspect that part of the reason why I wrote so much is because I had the NaNoWriMo chart to help me visualize exactly how many words I wrote in a day. It’s neato.

Where do I go from here, though? What’s the next step, what’s the next move?

I’ll just have to keep on writing and see where that takes me.

My dear WriMos, there are still ten days left in the month, and I believe that if I can reach 50,000, then you can too! Keep pushing through and make that commitment to your creativity.

Keep writing!

Day seventeen.jpgDuring the past few days, I haven’t been reaching the same huge word counts I hit during the first week, but I have been writing every day. However, in addition to building a better writing habit, I’ve found that I’ve just been building better habits in general.

I’ve long since learned that one of the most powerful, yet simple, ways I motivate myself to do things is to make a list and put check boxes next to each item. The satisfaction I get from checking off something on a list, and subsequently checking off everything on a list, is enough to motivate me into action.

But I also know that it is very easy to fall off the wagon on a particular habit. It’s easy to skip a day, and then one day becomes two, then a whole week, then a whole month. With NaNoWriMo, I was expecting this challenge to upset the delicate balance of my routine, and my habits would fall apart around me in my frenzy to get to 50,000 words.

To my great surprise and relief that didn’t happen. Instead, what happened was that my life ended up getting more structure. I ended up getting more done throughout the day, checking off more boxes on my lists. At day 17, I’m more proud of the way I’ve maintained some semblance of order in my life rather than the number of words I’ve written so far this month.

(Especially since, if I’m honest, the words I’ve written so far this month aren’t very good words, you know?)

Now, we’re more than halfway through November! This month is just flying by, and I’m always surprised by how much time has passed since NaNoWriMo started. But there is still plenty of time left, so even if you’ve fallen behind on your word count, don’t give up! There are still plenty of days left to make a good showing for the month!

Good luck and have fun!

Three years of bloggingIt’s the third anniversary of this blog! Hooray! Thank you to everyone who has been sticking with me these past few years. I know that most of the time I’m just rambling on to myself about whatever is going on in life, but I’m really glad for the community of people that have embraced this blog for what it is.

Last year, I posted a list of the ten posts that I think best sum up this blog. This blog has grown and changed so much over the past twelve months that I think the time is right to revamp that list.

So if you’re curious as to what I think this blog is all about, please check out the posts below. They’re not the most popular posts, but they’re ones that paint the most complete picture of this blog so far.

In no particular order, I present:

Polyprotic Amory in ten (more) posts

  1. Good journalists and good scientists – A few thoughts I had about the similarities between these two fields, written after seeing Jeremy Scahill and Antony Loewenstein at an event at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe.
  2. Taking chances – On writing and making your own luck when it comes to creative pursuits.
  3. One year after graduation – Some thoughts about life after graduating from college.
  4. Links: Waste and the world – I’m always looking for ways to cut back on waste in my own life, and encourage others to think critically about the issue and work together to find solutions. This links round up covers waste in different ways.
  5. #One NYC: Enthusiasm and skepticism – NYC mayor Bill De Blasio released his plan for New York City back in April. These were my thoughts on the matter.
  6. Links: Three stories that partly explain why I’m vegetarian – What it says on the tin.
  7. 7 tips on keeping a journal – I’ve been journaling for a few years now, and have filled over 30 notebooks over the years. So I thought I would share some advice.
  8. Letters and simplicity – My letter-writing kick is still going, and I’ve exchanged a number of them with old friends that don’t live in New York.
  9. “There is no glory unless you put yourself on the line.” – The best fortune cookie I’ve ever received.
  10. Change your life, change the world – At the end of last year I went through a personal transformation. These are some simple thoughts on what happened.

Thanks again for reading! And happy blogging, everyone!

Day tenWe’re one third of the way through NaNoWriMo 2015! Hooray!

I am making steady progress on my word count so far, and even got ahead of schedule if I want to reach 50,000 words by the end of the month. Last week was a bit of a frenzy, where I really just let loose and got words into my word processor and just let the story take its course, and, as a result, I’ve already surpassed the target word count that I set for the end of this week.

Now, at day ten, I will admit that I’m a little bit worn out. But that’s okay; I’m still making progress every day, even if it’s not the leaps and bounds that I was making last week. And I’m more committed than ever to get the job done; I’m more than halfway through the novel, and if I just keep consistently working at this, then I’ll reach my goal.

During these past ten days I’ve also been having a lot of fun on the NaNoWriMo forums. I’m not usually a huge forum person (I used to go on a few when I was younger, but it just felt so overwhelming at times that I stopped), but I love the outpouring of support that comes from the NaNoWriMo community on the message boards. I’ve come across some truly interesting and inspirational writers who are making steady progress, and everyone is so energized and glad to be doing this challenge this month. I didn’t expect to get much use out of this aspect of the site, but I’m glad that I decided to post a few times and get to know some fellow WriMos.

I hope everyone is making solid progress as the month goes along. The end will be here before you know it, so get to writing!

library loveI’ve been making steady progress on my NaNoWriMo novel, but rather than write some more about my writing, I thought I would write a little bit about my reading.

Because a few weeks back, I finally did something that I’ve never done before:

I finally borrowed a book from the New York Public Library.

Two years ago, I went to the main branch in Midtown with a friend who was living in the city for the summer, and we both got our library cards that day. My friend got plenty of use out of her card in the few months she lived in the city, but I’ve been here for years now and I’ve never actually borrowed anything from any of the branches. There are so many locations throughout the city that there was probably always at least one within walking distance from my workplace, my apartment, or wherever I was living and studying. So it’s pretty inexcusable that I’ve never borrowed a book from the library before my first time just a few weeks ago.

But, now that I’ve started, I’ve found a new addiction. Even though I still like to read books chapter by chapter at the Barnes & Noble near the office, borrowing books is so much better. I like having a stack of books to read on my desk. I like browsing the stacks picking up books that I’ve always meant to read but haven’t yet had a chance. And I’ve been reading a lot more lately (even with NaNoWriMo taking up a significant chunk of my time).

I’ve always loved and supported libraries; my first job in college was as a Stacks Assistant at NYU’s main library, and I volunteer to organize the books at a local branch when I can. But actually using the library has put things in a different perspective. Public libraries provide so much more than books to borrow for free to read at your leisure. They provide computers to rent throughout the day, they provide classes and services to help people of all ages live and work, and they provide a welcoming space that’s open to everyone. Libraries are incredibly important for the communities they serve, and without them, life would be just a little less bearable.

So you, dear reader, go and support your local public library today!

P.S. The image above is a photo I took on Instagram when I was working at NYU’s main library as a sophomore, over four years ago now. There isn’t much text to go by (and the title graphic obscures the most important word in the image), but can you tell what famous book it’s from?

Day Three

It’s day three of NaNoWriMo 2015, and I don’t know about you, but I still feel that initial excitement from day one.

Of course, it’s early days yet, so I have no idea if this energy and enthusiasm will actually carry through all 30 days of this month, but even in this short time I’ve learned two things about how I write:

1) I’m much more comfortable without a plan. Although I have some idea of what I want the novel to be about, I haven’t written an outline, I don’t even entirely know who all the characters will be, and although I have an ending in mind, I’m doing by best to write the novel from the beginning through to the end, and not jump around too much to write later scenes. To me, this makes writing the novel feel more like a casual stroll through the park, and I find myself enjoying writing more if I just let loose.

2) I’ve only ever tried to write short stories and poems, but I’m enjoying writing something considerably longer. I was worried that I would get distracted by other story ideas, or lose interest part of the way through. Even though it’s only day three, so there’s plenty of time for these things to happen, I’ve gotten a considerable word count so far, and I’m not detaching from the novel quite yet. That’s reassuring.

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this year, I hope you’re enjoying the month so far! (And if you’re not participating in NaNoWriMo, I still hope November is treating you well!)

Good luck have fun on the days to come!

FROM LUMBERJACKBLOGThis year, I will be participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time ever! Hooray!

I’ve tried to challenge myself in the past to write 50,000 words of a novel in one month, but I’ve never completed this particular feat. Now, I have an idea of what I want to write about, and I’m determined to make it happen this time around.

I still plan on posting regularly to this blog, but I won’t be doing NaBloPoMo as I did last year. But if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this year too, please feel free to add me as a writing buddy on the NaNoWriMo site! We’ll keep each other on track :)

Happy writing!

Edit 1 November 2015: I’ve figured out the link to my profile page on the NaNoWriMo site, so feel free to add me as a writing buddy! Yay!

Learn something new

I plan on going to grad school at some point, but until then I’m exploring different ways to continue my education. I’ve taken advantage of a lot of education alternatives, and I thought I would share with you some of my favorites that I’ve encountered so far. All of these tools are free to use and require a computer or smartphone.


Probably one of the most popular online learning platforms, Coursera is one of the most extensive online learning communities I’ve come across to date. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of students participate in every course, allowing for interesting discussions and connections to be made around the world. With everything from the humanities to mathematics, a free account gives access to a number of courses from some of the top colleges and universities around the world, both self-paced and regularly scheduled. These classes serve as an introduction to a variety of topics that pique students’ curiosity. Opportunities for certificates, both verified and not, indicating completion are available, and can make a great addition to online professional profiles like LinkedIn.


OpenYale posts lectures from popular Yale courses, providing people with the opportunity to peek inside a lecture hall from this prestigious university. No account is required; anyone can access the materials from anywhere there’s an internet connection. Although there isn’t the same kind of learning community that can be found on a platform like Coursera (for example, there aren’t any discussion forums for collaboration between students watching the same lecture), the main course materials like reading lists, syllabi, and the lecture videos and transcripts are available freely. The topics the courses cover vary widely, and more lectures are added all the time on the YaleCourses YouTube channel.


I’ve taken a few computer science and coding classes during college, but I’m sorry to say that I haven’t kept my coding skills as sharp as I probably should. CodeAcademy is an extremely useful platform for not only learning new coding languages, but refreshing those basics I learned as an undergrad. With a free account, I have access to a number of short, self-paced courses that provide an introduction to a number of languages, and I can complete the assignments at my leisure. For anyone interested in dabbling in coding, I definitely recommend CodeAcademy.


I downloaded Duolingo for my phone and I’ve been using it to re-learn all the French I’ve lost since high school. The app takes a very interesting approach to teaching a foreign language. There is a diagnostic test that you can take at the beginning to place you in later lessons if you’ve already had some experience with a language, but you are immediately thrown into learning with phrases that are combined with simple illustrations and an audio recording of the pronunciation. Rather than spending time conjugating verbs with charts and vocab quizzes, as is typical with a classroom environment, the conjugation comes gradually, learned over time as you learn more and more words and phrases. It feels more organic, in a way, similar to how one would learn their first language, by simply hearing phrases over and over and figuring out the rules as time passes. Although I haven’t yet explored the later lessons, from what I can see, more complex grammar and style is introduced as you get more familiar with the language. I definitely recommend it to anyone who’s interested in a more casual learning environment for learning a language.

Have another suggestion for education alternatives? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Caroliena Cabada:

I’m starting something new on Food Forests Forever, and I hope that this will help me post with more regularity. Check out my first links round-up for Food Forests Forever, a collection of stories about local food and soil health!

Originally posted on Food Forests Forever:

In this round-up: Soil plays a vital role in our food systems (after all, 2015 wasn’t declared the international year of soils for no reason), and local food helps strengthen communities (among other benefits).

Urban farming in the Bronx, run by the people who drive NYC

“A Patch of the Bronx Where the Corn Is as High as a Cabdriver’s Eye”, Kate Pastor, The New York Times

Urban farming and gardening can go a long way in solving the problem of food deserts in the city. This story is a great example of the benefits a community can receive from having these dedicated spaces. Urban farms can build up a community, provide cheap and local alternatives for food, and educate people on a myriad of food topics from how food is grown to making healthy choices.

SOS: Save Our Soil

“Human security at risk as depletion of soil…

View original 238 more words


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 511 other followers

%d bloggers like this: