Caroliena Cabada:

Interesting way of thinking about how to “raise the stakes” in writing. If anything, it’s a great writing prompt!

Originally posted on BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog:

Movie-Trailer-posterWhile editing another author’s work this morning, I found myself wrestling with how to say, “You have 170,000 words, but you don’t have a story.” They are well-written words, they are good words, they are interesting words…but as Gertrude Stein wrote about Oakland, California, “there’s no there there.” Nothing is at stake. No-one is risking their health or happiness in service of a greater goal.

As writers, we’re often told “raise the stakes.” How can we tell if the stakes are high enough in our own work, even before asking for the opinions of our fellow authors or our teachers?

The “In a World” test.

Think about the cheesy movie-trailer cliché. There’s a shot of alien-created devastation. Or a sunrise over a battlefield. Or a sunrise over a castle. A deep voice intones, “In a world…”

That’s the stasis, the situation as it is now, the situation that…

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I have done the impossible this past week and went for a jog every morning, Monday through Friday. Yesterday and today were the hardest, since I felt so tempted to say “Well, I jogged Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and that’s better than before, so I’m just going to not go out this morning…”

But I didn’t let that part of my brain win. I got myself out of bed with minimal snoozing, and I feel pretty damn good about it.

And here are five things that crossed my mind about these little dawn excursions.

A typical scene from a morning jog.

A typical scene from a morning jog.

1. Jogging in the morning is a much better way to start the day than hitting the snooze button seven times, and it’s easier than I realized.

2. New York City is much better when it’s not crawling with tourists. Sorry, sight-seers, but your presence is just a little annoying.

3. Reflections on the water in early morning light are among some of the prettiest things I’ve ever seen.

4. I always feel like I definitely know what I want to do with my life when I finish my jog, since I have the time and freedom to let my mind wander over everything that has happened so far. (I’m still working on keeping that certainty going…)

5. I feel like I’m learning good habits. I’m learning how to do a little bit every day, how to keep track of my progress, how to motivate myself to do things I really don’t want to do, etc.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

A misty morning in NYC, taken on 8 May 2015.

A misty morning in NYC, taken on 8 May 2015.

Arresting Homeless People For Being Homeless Is Unbelievably Wasteful [x]

the report estimates that if the $3.7 million spent enforcing the ordinances were instead spent on housing for the homeless, it would save $2 million a year and more than $11 million over the course of five years.

Lowering the barriers to assistance for those in need ends up being extremely beneficial to all, and is much more desirable than punishing those in challenging circumstances.

A Global Milestone: CO2 Passes 400 PPM [x]

But what makes the new record more profound is that 400 ppm is officially part of the global record. Concentrations will likely remain above that mark until May when blooming plants in the northern hemisphere start to suck CO2 out of the air.

450 ppm is the concentration of CO2 associated with a 2°C rise in average temperatures, which is the maximum amount of warming that the World Bank has recommended if humans want to still survive. The fact that it was 400 ppm for a whole month is extremely worrying.

​The World’s Most Wasteful Megacity [x]

“The New York metropolis has 12 million fewer people than Tokyo, yet it uses more energy in total: the equivalent of one oil supertanker every 1.5 days,” study author Chris Kennedy, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Toronto, said. “When I saw that, I thought it was just incredible.” That’s mostly because New York uses more gasoline and heating and industrial fuels than Tokyo.

This is why I do not ♥ NY.

NYC mayor’s green plan fights poverty and pollution at the same time [x]

In New York City, we know that low-income and working communities disproportionately bear the brunt of polluting facilities, and those communities are also typically located in flood-prone, climate-vulnerable areas. This injustice is further compounded by a lack of access to quality workforce training, good jobs, and affordable housing.

De Blasio’s plan, OneNYC, offers a chance to turn this situation around by harnessing climate sustainability initiatives as engines (clean energy–powered) of greater economic equality.

And this is why I could maybe ♥ NY if this plan could actually go into effect. It may be enough to, at the very least, decrease the gap between NYC and the rest of the megacities of the world when it comes to wastefulness.

FOOD FETISH: On our farms, in our stores, and at our dining tables, aesthetics and efficiency are at war. Everybody loses. [x]

This insidious habit of throwing out any food that appears less than perfect—a habit shared by farmers, retailers, and consumers—can be traced to both marketing and human instinct. For retailers, creating the illusion of endless abundance and perfection is key to their work; it’s how they sell more to us. But the mirage of an infinite supply of fairly affordable food makes it easy to simply toss aside anything that doesn’t live up to our idealized vision of it. In turn, say farmers and retailers, this generates in consumers an expectation that they’ll always be able to find flawless food any time of the year, any day of the week.

After having read this article, I’ve been slowly training myself out of throwing food away because I fear that it may have gone off. Just this past weekend I cooked with some greens that started wilting and made a really delicious egg scramble. And let me tell you, it’s at least way cheaper to use less-than-perfect food.

Caroliena Cabada:

If you have ever wondered what exactly a Permaculture Design Certificate was, take a look at this post I wrote on Food Forests Forever. A quick overview of what a PDC is, what it’s not, and how to determine if a PDC course is worth it.

Take a look! And Happy Friday!

Originally posted on Food Forests Forever:

WP_20150507_18_58_03_ProA Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) is a certificate of completion earned at the end of a permaculture course, indicating that an individual has undergone adequate instruction in the practice of permaculture [8].

This certificate is not a degree or a professional certification; earning a PDC does not automatically indicate that an individual is an expert, but does indicate that an individual has knowledge in designing and implementing a regenerative agricultural system [1].

Although there is no single organization that sets universal standards for earning this certificate, there are some common elements of a PDC curriculum [1][2][3][4]:

  • The course must be taught by a professional practitioner of permaculture.
  • The course must involve a minimum of 72 hours of active instruction (lecture, study, and practical).
  • The curriculum must include a practical design project.
  • The curriculum must follow the chapters of…

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In mid-April, NYC mayor Bill De Blasio released OneNYC, a plan to decrease income inequality while also decreasing emissions. Specifics of the plan include goals like retrofitting all buildings to comply with energy efficiency standards, installing 100 MW of solar on public buildings, and updating public transportation and infrastructure.

And you know what? I think it’s a great effort and a necessary step in the right direction.

(But it’s just a step.)

OneNYC maps

These two maps, showing the increase in employment in each neighborhood compared to the percentage of people in poverty, were particularly striking, and demonstrate the need for economic reform in NYC. Images from the full OneNYC report.

According to a November 2012 report from the World Bank, if emissions continue at current levels without plans for mitigation, current projections and scenarios indicate that there will be warming in excess of 4°C by 2100. This level of warming corresponds to a concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere of 800 parts per million (800 ppm). At this concentration, there will be a 30% increase in ocean acidity compared to pre-industrial conditions, extreme precipitation events will increase by 20%, and the general climate change trend will be along of the lines of wetter regions becoming wetter while drier regions get drier.

Projections and scenarios that take into account emissions reductions promises and goals made in 2009 indicate that there will still be warming of more than 3°C by 2100.

From the World Bank’s November 2012 report, “Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided”

What OneNYC seems to recognize is that an increase in energy consumption (and namely, consumption of fossil fuels) isn’t necessary to create a robust economy. According to recent data from the U.S. Department of Energy, energy consumption in the U.S. is expected to grow just 0.3% from now until 2040, though the economy is projected to grow 2.4% in that same time.

This information counters the old belief that increased fossil fuel consumption is necessary for increased economic activity and growth. Instead, providing incentives to invest in alternative energy can both foster innovation (which die-hard believers in “The Free Market” seem to hold up as its crowning glory) and decrease emissions.

There is still the worry that the initial emissions investment to put this plan in place will not be offset by whatever is saved in the future. Consider all of the resources that must go into building the solar panels, retrofitting the buildings, and building additional subway lines. Unless one can guarantee that all of the materials brought in are made using renewable energy and recycled materials, then the initial resource investment must be extremely large. Will in be worth it to put the plan in place?

I would love to see these numbers. I would love to know if the initial investment is worth it, because I think that the plan to decrease both emissions and the income gap in New York City is a noble one.

I want to see my neighborhood thrive and not have to increase emissions to do it.

I want to see my neighborhood thrive and not have to increase emissions to do it.

But this plan doesn’t seem to be well publicized. Though the description of the research undertaken to compile the plan included meeting with community leaders in the different neighborhoods and receiving survey data from thousands of residents, I feel like I found out about it surprisingly late.

Though I understand that the announcement came at a time in which the death of Freddie Gray and the resulting protests against police brutality took the nation’s attention (except for CNN), the only way that I found out about the plan is because of an environmental news blog that I follow. AM New York, Manhattan’s highest circulation newspaper, barely mentioned the plan in one story about the city’s subway plans, and AM New York is a newspaper that focuses on just New York City news. (The Baltimore protests were barely mentioned until the rally in Union Square on April 29th.)

Environmental issues need to be at the head of political discussion. How else will we be able to hold our policymakers accountable for the promises and goals they set? How else will we be able to influence what those promises and goals should be?

On April 1st of this year, I quite suddenly decided to take on a Blog Every Day challenge. And today, April 30th, I have completed that challenge.

There wasn’t a particular point to completing this challenge — I mostly just wanted to see if I could do it. No one challenged me to do this, no one else that I knew was doing this. I decided on my own to blog every day this month because I wanted to.

But even though I wasn’t induced by some external force to complete this challenge, I ended up learning more about what motivates me, and how I can apply this motivation to the larger life goals I have. In particular, I learned that looking back on what I’ve done can be just as effective of a motivator as visualizing the future.

An old picture I took back in October 2014. One of my many (now filled) notebooks.

An old picture I took back in October 2014. One of my many (now filled) notebooks.

I blog, I write, because when I look back on the old entries, on the old posts, I am constantly being inspired by myself. I don’t wait around, wishing for story ideas.

I write because it is the only thing that is keeping me from forgetting everything about the past.

I blog because sometimes it isn’t enough to keep these things to myself, because I want to share my experiences, but I want to share them on my terms

I write and I blog because I remember what it’s like to feel excited for something when I consider the possibilities of a blank page.

And old photo from March 2013, taken in Sydney.

And old photo from March 2013, taken in Sydney.

It’s important to keep trying to do different things. Even though a Blog Every Day challenge isn’t new to me, I do this when I feel my writing or blogging has become a bit stale, if anything to at least keep my quick writing chops limber. It’s a different experience, every month, to make myself put something out there every day.

But I’m looking for new ways to challenge myself, to go beyond the borders that have been formed as a result of my writing habits.

It’s the only way to grow.

These are the things I’ve been trying to get into the habit of doing every day: Exercise, write, learn something new, and work on Food Forests Forever. I haven’t been exercising regularly, so these past few weeks when I have been going for jogs in Central Park, I’ve been telling myself that even if I don’t get anything else done that day, the morning run would be enough to make me feel like I did something.

The weird thing is, even though I would be perfectly fine if my only accomplishment of the day was getting some exercise in, I find myself getting more things done when I complete the one task of running in the morning. This small accomplishment has convinced me that I can do more than getting a run in.

Getting one thing done, even if it’s something small, can have a fantastically positive impact on how you treat the rest of your day.

And that is a good feeling.

The view around the Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy Reservoir in Central Park, taken 29 April using my Nokia Lumia Icon.

The view around the Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy Reservoir in Central Park, taken 29 April using my Nokia Lumia Icon.

Sunday night, I got to see the final show of the Tour Because Awesome, featuring Hank Green and the Perfect Strangers, Driftless Pony Club, Harry and the Potters, Andrew Huang, and Rob Scallon at the Gramercy Theater!

It was a fantastic night, and it was the most fun I’ve had in a while.

I love listening and watching live music. It’s not just that it sounds better than any recording you can find, but I love watching the performers and feeling their energy.

And it was an incredible show. Rob Scallon is an amazing guitarist. Andrew Huang’s solo performance was fantastically funny. Seeing Harry and the Potters perform was like a childhood dream come true. The Driftless Pony Club was lively. And, of course, Hank Green and the Perfect Strangers was a perfect way to end the night.

I almost wish the tour didn’t have to end so that I could try and plan a trip to see another show…

Regardless, DFTBA!

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This post was in response to this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Motion.

This was originally posted on April 1, 2013. You can view the original here: 01 April 2013: When things don’t go the way you plan.

When I got my license when I was sixteen, I felt very little anxiety. The rules of the road were pretty straightforward. Roundabouts were lightly touched upon. Residential driving was heavily emphasized, highway and expressway driving as well.

But this? Nothing could really prepare me for driving in New Zealand.

My travelling mates and I had a super fancy dinner the first night as a reward to ourselves for being generally amazing.

My travelling mates and I had a super fancy dinner the first night as a reward to ourselves for being generally amazing under pressure. This was the citrus lemon tea that we had at the end of our meal. We freaked out over the beautiful color of it.

Honestly, the compilation of the lack of sleep, the rocky start, the hunger, and the pressure to get things right the first time made me break down and start crying to my travelling mates. I feel horrible for letting them down. The car was a huge part of the money saving aspect of this trip, and not only did I make them lose the money they spent for the car, but also had them spend money on their bus tickets to and from Queenstown. I don’t know why I didn’t feel this anxious about driving when we were planning this trip. I actually felt pretty confident, despite having not driven a car in a while. It was one of those things that you never forget, like riding a bike.

But maybe driving in Christchurch was too much of a challenge for me. I didn’t take into account an outdated GPS that didn’t have the capabilities to show us where construction was being done after Christchurch’s earthquake. The place is still beautiful, with old buildings mixed with new structures, but the challenge was too stressful, too much to worry about, too much too soon.

I assumed that everything up until the moment I took the wheel would go according to plan. I assumed that I would get a good night’s sleep, get some decent rest on the plane, that my travel anxiety would have eased itself somewhat since I had everything packed and placed the night before. Having a good driving experience required everything to go off without a hitch, with very little room for deviation.

Alas, that is not how life works.

I still feel terrible that the first day was so rocky and that my being on edge was a facet of that. But we’re flexible. My travelling mates and I have taken a bus to Queenstown, rearranged our hostel stays, lost some money because of cancellation/no-show fees, and we’re ready to really start our vacation. A few days in Queenstown isn’t enough to do the country of New Zealand any justice, but so far we have seen amazing sights along the road, without the anxiety that accompanies the driving experience.

No photograph could ever do the beauty of Lake Tekapo justice.

No photograph could ever do the beauty of Lake Tekapo justice.

And Queenstown itself is a beautiful city. Our hostel is located extremely close to the lake, and the view of the mountains is gorgeous, and we’re already in love with this city. We’ve planned a few excursions and now that we’re significantly de-stressed, things are looking up.

Seriously, Queenstown is amazing.

Seriously, Queenstown is amazing.

So, despite the rocky start, this is going to be an awesome vacation.

This was originally posted on February 6, 2015. You can read the original here: There is no glory unless you put yourself on the line.

I don’t know how long this has been going on, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I am a very anxious person when it comes to talking about who I am and what I do (and what I want to do).

For example: I blog. A lot. I have many blogs. I always put my writing out there, from short stories to the smallest thoughts to lengthy descriptions of how a particular day went. I talk about the future. I talk about things that have happened (without diving too far into the realm of the super personal when it comes to writing in a public blog like this). I have very strong opinions on food that I’m slowly getting into the habit of articulating via this blog (and, in some ways, on Food Forests Forever).

But if anyone ever came up to me and said “Oh, you blog? Can I read it?” and started having a conversation with me about my writing, or even asks about my writing at all, I clam up. “Oh, yeah, it’s nothing special, I just write whatever…”

That’s not true, though! My writing is extremely important to me, and I have this mixture of pride that I sometimes write damn good things, and fear of showing anyone my writing because no, this particular piece of writing isn’t ready to be seen by other people yet.

So what do I do? I know that I can’t stay in this place forever, where I do the things I do, but then don’t own up to them. Where is that attitude going to get me?

I got this fantastic fortune from a fortune cookie on Tuesday. "There is no glory unless you put yourself on the line."

I got this fantastic fortune from a fortune cookie on Tuesday. “There is no glory unless you put yourself on the line.”

“There is no glory unless you put yourself on the line.” I don’t often get fortunes in fortune cookies that are actually helpful, but this one came at a surprisingly fitting time. These past few weeks I got myself into a weird headspace, one where everything ended up being more exhausting than it really needed to be. The turning point in my attitude happened before I got this fortune cookie, but this little slip of paper felt like the last sign I needed to really solidify my determination to just do things.

I’m not necessarily looking for glory, or any kind of external recognition. The “glory” that I’m seeking is a very personal kind: the satisfaction of having done something new and different, the excitement of meeting new people, the contentment of living a good life that is more in line with my personal beliefs, the relief of taking care of myself and doing what I can to take care of others.

But even in the smallest steps, I have to take the leap to get myself out into the world and do things.

Even in the smallest goals, there is an element of having to put myself on the line.


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