blogging is weird.

It’s February 2018, and I’ve not blogged for ages. I feel like it is becoming a regular occurrence that I blog successfully for a few weeks, stop for months, and then start again with a blog post that starts like this one. It’s weird. I don’t know how I feel about it, but I’m going to keep doing it because I like the idea of having a blog.

I often think of blog topics while walking or sitting on a train, then go on to not  write them down, and ultimately forget about them as soon as I sit down in front of my laptop to start blogging. So, maybe that’s what I should write about today.

To be fair, this is how most of my blogging goes – I sit down, think of something, and then essentially free-write for 20 minutes or so. I’m pretty sure this is a good way of getting bad content, but do you know what? It gets my brain thinking in proper sentences, it gets my fingers typing, and helps me feel more enthusiastic about having a blog. All in all, I feel like those are pretty good outcomes.

Furthermore, while I was in a guided writing group session a while ago, that is how we started. Instead of going directly into writing our dissertations, papers, or proposals in the writing group, we were supposed to open a blank document and start typing.

I don’t think I’d ever done that before. So, at first I was quite daunted – how was I supposed to fill a page? What was I supposed to write? Surely, if I didn’t plan my writing properly it wouldn’t be structurally sound or even make any sense?

After a few seconds, maybe a minute, of slight panic and my fingertips gliding over the keyboard without pressing anything, I did however start typing. Even though it wasn’t in a blogging CMS, I started to treat the free-writing as if I were writing a blog post. I had been thinking about what sections I had wanted to write in my dissertation and started on that thought. To get there however, I first wrote out a brief paragraph about what each of my chapters should look like (reading this back after I had actually finished the 15 mins or so free writing we had, I realised that it was complete rubbish and not even accurate).

As soon as I had started to write, my fingers started to move quickly across the keyboard. I didn’t think about what I was writing, and didn’t even properly read the sentences I had just written. I just kept going; barely ever hitting the back button.

Thinking back, I think I started to see the empty document like an empty blog post. This probably says a lot about my blog (but then probably so do my blogpost dates and the number of blogposts that start with something along the lines of ‘so I’ve not blogged for a while, so here’s an update…’), but do you know what. I don’t really mind. This blog is a space for me to get some fingertip-on-keyboard action that only two people actually read: my blogging buddy and myself.

This happens way too often, but while my blogging buddy is sitting next to me thinking and writing about personal experiences, thoughts, and emotions I’m sitting here typing out a stream of consciousness that doesn’t really make sense in the end.

Either way, this disconnected weird blogging style I’m developing is fulfilling its goal and that’s all that really matters. So, there’s that. And that’s this post.

Bullet Journaling

A few months ago, I got myself a Leuchtturn 1917 notebook because I wanted to start bullet journaling. It was an attempt at getting on top of all the things I have to do while simultaneously forcing myself to have a little bit of creative time in the evenings. Since then, I’ve had some good weeks, some bad weeks, and a few weeks where I didn’t even touch the notebook.

For years I have been watching craft videos on youtube (to be honest, it all started with Corinne and Rob’s Threadbanger website and forum when I was 12 or so…). More recently these craft videos turned into art journaling videos, ‘how to make your own notebooks’ videos, and ultimately bullet journal videos. For roughly a week I had been watching way too many ‘plan with me’ videos on an evening, so I decided I would give it a try.

I had quite a few pens, markers, and coloured pencils at home anyway, so it really was just about getting the right notebook. I know I don’t have to have the Leuchtturm 1917 to bullet journal, but I like notebooks and have never had a dotted notebook so wanted to see what it was like (spoiler: it’s amazing).

So I went to Details Arts Centre to get my supplies. Only, they didn’t have what I wanted! So instead, I went to Ryman’s, a good old regular stationary store, and they had what I needed. In two colours. I picked the teal notebook (because teal is pretty), went to the cashier, and then headed into work.

That evening I sat down for a few hours watching more youtube videos and browsing the #bujo world of instagram. After my head was full of ideas I grabbed my pens and notebook and started making a few lists to start off the journal. I did everything I was supposed to do: a monthly log for june, a weekly log for the week, and then made daily logs for each day that week.

I really enjoyed it, but to be honest, I wasn’t going to do that every month…or every week. It ended up taking me a few hours, which I really enjoyed, but I don’t think I’ll be making that much time to organise what is essentially a glorified calendar.

For the first couple of weeks I really enjoyed it and I sat down on a Sunday afternoon to plan my week ahead. But after that I started to crumble. I had a few weeks where I didn’t do anything, and then had a Sunday where I spent more than 3h working on a weekly spread and daily spreads for each day that week. Since I hadn’t worked on my bullet journal for a while, I really enjoyed that process.

In August, I made a monthly tracker page that I really liked. I used elements from June and July that I really liked and wanted to keep going, and used a different design for my mood tracker. I didn’t use this page. At all. To be fair, I wasn’t at home fore 2.5 weeks that month, but still. I didn’t use the tracker before I went on holiday either. When I came back at the end of August, I used my lovely Leuchtturm 1917 as a to-do list. It really wasn’t an appropriate use of the expensive notebook!

So last week I decided to pick it up again. This time however I spent a little less time on it. I used what I had learnt from the various different types of weekly logs that I had made and created something that combined the best elements of each of these. It’s a new month now, but I don’t have a monthly log. I’m not even tracking everything I’m tracking in a monthly cycle. I’m trying a weekly cycle of tracking. I don’t know how it’ll go. And I don’t know if it’ll work. But I’m giving it a try.

I like the way the spread looks, but it didn’t take ages to set up. It’s got enough space for personalisation (I’ve got two little doodles in the bottom corners of the spread), and I’ve got everything I want to track on the page. I’ve also got a section of ‘notes’ for things I need to do at some point during the week (or at some point later) but that I don’t have a designated day to do the things on. I’ve got a ‘focus’ section for three things I need to focus on this week, and a meal planner (because I liked it the one week I had it and used it previously – I’m not sure if I’ll actually be following / using it…but we’ll see).

For each of the days I have an outlined column to write my daily tasks in: daily tasks are a bit strange for me. I love a good to-do list, and like to be very precise about the tasks that I need to get done when I have a lot of things to remember and get done. But when I’m working on a few different big tasks, that becomes hard to do. So I then go through a cycle of writing down fewer tasks that end up taking more time. It’s weird, and I don’t fully understand why I do those two completely different types of to-do lists, but I do. And this week felt like I’m not going to be writing down every little thing I need to do but rather the big tasks I need to work on. It’s weird because it’s harder to tick things off, which in turn makes me feel less accomplished at the end of the day or week. At the same time though, this kind of meta-to-do list is the only thing I can really do at the moment. I’ve got three big things I’m working on, and while each of those can be split into micro tasks, even those micro tasks will take a few hours each to complete – so I don’t have very ‘much’ on my to-do list this week even though I’ve got a fair bit of work to do.

Okay, that’s enough of a rant on to-do lists. Ultimately, this was just a check-in for myself on my bullet journaling. It’s not been the super productive, beautiful notebook I’d hoped it would be, but it’s been a nice learning journey that I hope to continue. I like the process of setting up the pages (even if I don’t do it properly every evening / week), and I like that I can make it look as pretty and detailed or as to-do list-y as I want. It’s a nice thing to play with, and I really really like the dotted notebook. How have I not ever had a dotted notebook before?!

The Sprint

Again, I start by saying that I’ve not been blogging recently. This time however I have at least a bit of an excuse: I was on holiday and didn’t take my laptop. I took my phone, but only to take pictures with. No work, no wifi, no electricity. So, that’s my excuse.

Now I’m refreshed and back in the lab, so hopefully my two-posts-a-week schedule will come back soon.

Today I want to write about something I did a long time ago: from the 30th of May until the 5th of June, to be exact. That was the week that things started to get very serious in my project with National Ugly Mugs (NUM). I have been working with them for a long time (since December 2015, actually) to support them in their technology use and development. To do that, I carried out an evaluation of their services that resulted in some small changes in their service delivery (like slightly changing the ways in which they title their alerts), a CHI paper, but also the decision to not only give their current website a new look but rather to redesign their digital systems. With this redesign we hope  to make some of the work that those in the office do every day just a little bit easier. By bringing together a number of different services and technologies that they use we centralise the process and in turn shave off a couple of minutes from each membership sign up, leaving a little more time for the vital parts of service delivery and advocacy work they carry out.

So during this week from the 30th of May until the 5th of June we started working on the website. I guess that’s not really true since I had been working on the website since the beginning of 2016 (what with my considerations for research ethics, field work, thinking, and writing…), but this was the first time that pieces of code were written for the new system. Tom Nappey and I had been working for a while on some design options for the look of the new website, and it was particularly in the weeks running up to the re-development of the website that we finalised all the requirements. This means we worked very closely with NUM staff to compile all the necessary features, all the features we’d like to see on the website. We had been doing this for a while, but now was the time for final decisions; what was initially a two-page skeleton of the website turned into a roughly 30 page requirements document.

This document alongside some mock-ups of pages on the website were what we started the week with. At the end of the week, we had a brand identity document (to outline the new logo and design of the NUM ‘brand’ as well as how to use the new logo), a justification document (that brings together the research I carried out and the design decisions we made as a team), and a half-finished website (the core features and design work is finished and functions as it should).

The core team was made up of 4 people, though we had a little additional help on one of the days from one more person, and of course we had a lot of contact with NUM office staff to make sure they were kept up to date with what we were doing, how we were doing it, and why we were doing things in this way. Throughout the week, we worked for roughly 338h, I visited the office twice, and had 10 phone calls with them.

We documented the week in a number of different ways:

  • we put up a GoPro on the wall of our main working space to create a time-lapse of the week
  • we had a whiteboard on which we wrote the goals of each day, crossed them off, and took a picture each evening
  • we took pictures of the progress throughout the week
  • I took notes on the conversations, phone calls, and impromptu meetings we had
  • we documented much of our work in the shape of screenshots of the website we had made up to that point
  • and finally, we produced the brand identity guidelines and the justification document (though the latter is still not entirely finished as we have a bit of work left to do on the website before its launch).

Overall, it was a really long and tiring week; but also a week in which we got a LOT of work done. We worked until Sunday the 4th of June, after which the three guys I worked with travelled back to Newcastle. I stayed in Manchester for one more night since the NUM board was having a meeting on the 5th of June. I attended a part of this meeting to show them what we had been working on and where we were up to. This resulted in a walk-through of the brand identity guidelines and justification document, as well as a whistle-stop tour of where we were up to on the new system (both the front-facing website, and the admin-login that staff would be working on to manage membership, reports, and alerts).

We’ve still got a long way to go until everything is finished, but things are getting there. We are moving forward and now it’s about delivering. It’s about documenting everything correctly and ensuring that training for current (and new!) staff is appropriate, useful, and complete; about producing documents that outline the technologies used, the reasons for their use, the Special Operating Procedures, and instructions on how to use each of the elements of the website. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, but we’ve gotten this far, so things are not too bad.

cookie recipe

Today’s going to be a short one because I was late to blogging-hour and don’t know what I’m supposed to be writing. What I like to do when I’m stressed, or trying to destress is cook or bake. This weekend was a bank holiday weekend, and I’ve got loads of things happening at the same time in May, so I wanted to make sure I could properly destress this weekend. I ended up cooking a lot, and baking some cookies. Not only is cooking and baking fun, but you usually end up with something delicious in the end too!

So, since I made cookies this weekend, and I don’t know what to write about, so you’re getting the recipe today. It’s something I kind of made up, but is based on my chocolate chip cookie recipe (that I initially found somewhere online, and then played around with until it was just how I liked it).

So you’re going to need:

1c butter
1/2c dark brown sugar
1/2c caster sugar
a little bit of Almond extract
2 1/4c flour
1/2c Müsli with nuts
1/4c cranberries
1/4c raisins
some baking powder
a handful of freeze dried strawberries

Preheat your oven to 180C

As with every good cookie recipe, you start with soft butter and beat that until it’s super soft and doesn’t have any clumps (until it’s pale if you want to be super fancy, but I don’t have an electric mixer and use a spatula to make my cookies, so I don’t really do that most of the time). Then you add both the sugars until everything is well combined. Add in the almond extract and turn your kitchen into what I imagine a marzipan factory to smell like.

Once all of that is well combined and smooth, add in 1c of your flour. Then add the müsli, cranberries, raisins, baking powder, and freeze dried strawberries and combine. Then add the rest of the flour. Don’t over-mix at this stage, as you don’t want your cookies to go too flat when baking.

If you can resist the urge to immediately bake them, let the cookies rest a bit before baking them.

Then dollop them onto a baking sheet and bake at 180C for 15-30 mins. depending on the size of your cookies. I ended up baking mine for around 20 mins.

Happy baking!


Homelessness in Montpelier, France

I found out from a Facebook Forum, that Babeth is doing a great project for people experiencing homelessness in Montpelier, France this christmas. I got in contact with her about her project, and this is what she had to say:

Ever since I arrived in Montpellier, I noticed the amount of homeless people in the streets. Every single time I pass them, I feel bad, especially with Christmas coming up. When I see them sitting on the floor, with a paper cup in front of them, begging for money, I can’t help but wonder what they will do with Christmas. Will they be on the streets, begging for food and money? Or will there be a person who provides them with food. So I thought, why not be that person. Why not make this into a project and give those people a Christmas they will never forget.
My goal is to raise at least 500 euro’s, to be able to buy all the nessecary supplies to make great dishes with a few amazing volunteers on the 1st or 2nd day of Christmas in Montpellier center. I’m going to try to convince my boyfriend to let me use his restaurant to be able to prepare for everything with the volunteers.

Why should you help?
With your help, we will be able to give the less fortunate an amazing Christmas with some wonderful food. To provide a light in their already dark days. The more money we raise, the more we will be able to buy and make for them.
Don’t you think that everyone deserves to have a wonderful Christmas? A Christmas that is about peace and sharing? This will be your opportunity to help and make this happen for them.

On my blog I will keep everyone updated, about the entire progress, the funds and ofcourse the day itself will be documented as well. To share to the world that we need to be there for eachother.

Anyone can help, from anywhere in the world. Even 1 euro can already make a difference, if 500 people are willing to give just 1 euro, this project will be able to come to life and bring happiness to the people in need.

I think this is a brilliant way of giving back to the community. Sadly, I am not in Montpelier, so I can’t really help out physically. I did however want to get involved, so I wanted to spread the word. I urge you to help out if you are in the area!

World AIDS day

Today is World AIDS day, and as you might know if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, I’m interested in homelessness, drug use, sex work, and all sorts of ‘deviant’ behaviour…sadly, a side-effect of much of this is AIDS, so today deserves a special place on this blog. Instead of boring you to death with all sorts of statistics, and facts and figures on the issue, I’m going to let the TED community do that for me.

I’m only joking.

I’ve done some research on the website, and came up with my two favourite talks on the topic. One is by my long-term quantitative data crush (which I’m not supposed to have because I breathe qualitative research, constructivism…) Hans Rosling. He has a LOT of really cool data talks on a huge range of topics on the TED website, but what’s even cooler is that the data is open-source, and that you can access them and play with the data on Gapminder. I wouldn’t suggest going on there if you have lots of stuff to do…I’ve wasted a good few hours on that site…so don’t say I didn’t warn you!
So, I’ll shut up and just give you the TED video. Here it is: Hans Rosling, Insights on HIV

As the second video, I’m going to post a rather long TED video. Don’t be put off by it’s 20 min length, it’s DEFINITELY worth it. But let me introduce it first. Elizabeth Pisani is one of my academic crushes. I found out about her from a friend I met in a hostel in Albania. We got talking about academic interests, and I told him that I had just come back from Romania, researching homelessness, and that AIDS and Hepatitis were extremely prevalent. He recommended a book titled “The Wisdom of Whores” to me. Of course, I went on my trusty kindle as soon as I had reliable Wifi to download it. I finished the book within two days. It’s great academic reading that feels like you’re reading a story, Pisani’s journey in finding out the truth, rather than reading a dry academic text. So it’s definitely worth a read…If you don’t want to give up a day of reading, at least give up 20 mins. of your day to watch her talk about her findings. Her talk might be even better than her book!

So remember, today’s World AIDS day. Protect yourself and others.
“The Protection is Prevention” Foto Credits: Jacinta Lluch Valero

American Vagabond, an opinionated review.

Sunday, the 23rd of March 2014 One World Romania Film Festival: American Vagabond.

I was so lucky to see this movie! I had seen the trailer a couple of months ago and had been waiting for it to be online to watch. I really wanted to see this movie about a young boy, who once his parents found out was gay ran away from/got kicked out of his parents’ house to go live on the streets of San Francisco with his boyfriend. It was only on Saturday that I realized this movie was playing at One World.

I had to see it.
And I was not disappointed.

Again, I do not know much about cinematography, but this movie touched me somewhere deep inside. It stuck with me and despite having been talking to many people who are homeless over the last week and quite a bit a few years ago, despite having read many stories, biographies, after having watched Children Underground, despite having seen people who are homeless on the street for my entire life, this movie shocked me. It’s quite different to read and hear from different sources that anyone can be put into a situation like this faster than you can think, but it was this boy’s, or should I say man’s (?), story that enraged me. It made me upset, it scared me, it pissed me off.

The only reason James had to go through all the hardships he went through and will probably have to face for the rest of his life was that he was gay. The only reason his parents no longer accepted him under their roof was because he loved another boy.

How, in today’s society, can something like this be a cause for homelessness? How can homosexuality be seen as something so horrible that you send your own child away to live a life of begging, stealing, poverty. Of hiding from the police, of scavenging for food and change.

Maybe it was the voiceovers with the scenes of where James and Tyler lived that made me cringe inside, maybe it was the story of these two individuals, and maybe it was because I have spent so much of my recent time with people so similar to them. I am not sure what it was exactly, but anyone who is interested in documentaries or homelessness should definitely watch this movie!

Something else that might have caused my closeness to this film is the fact that we were able to have a Q&A session with Susanna Helke [inert link to website] at the end of the film. It was amazing to see this woman in the flesh, and to hear her perspective on making the film. To hear that it took her four years to create this masterpiece, that it almost couldn’t have been finished because of certain situations James had gotten himself into…namely jail. It was great to hear about the hardships she saw and endured to make this movie. Truly inspiring.

If you are interested in these kinds of films, make sure to check out my new documentaries [insert link to tab] tab.

727 Days without Karamo, an opinionated review.

Saturday, 22nd of March 2014: 727 Days without Karamo

I really did not know what to expect. I did not read the movie description, all I knew was that it was in German with English and Romanian Subtitles. The timeslot fit, the cinema was not far from my house and it was a documentary about something human rights related.

Sounds good, no? Let’s go.

The movie ended up being about intercultural marriages in Austria (how fitting for me, no? Austrian national, with a boyfriend from Venezuela…if we ever decide to get married and live in Austria this is what’s ahead of us…oh god. Well thank god that’s not happening any time soon ^^)

The movie followed several different relationships at different stages in the work permit, and visa bureaucracy. I knew it was difficult to get married to a non-Austrian as an Austrian person, but I didn’t know that the state made it THAT difficult for people. Much like the couples in the movie, I thought that once you got your work permit and your official marriage out of the way you would be able to stay in the country for as long as you wanted. Guess not. Even if you are married, you have to renew your permits first every year and after a couple of years, every two years…for the rest of your life. WHAT?

The best part comes next though, if you want to get a divorce…because how DARE you want to get a divorce? You must have only gotten married to stay in this country and now that you have your permit you want to get divorced! It has nothing to do with the fact that the divorce rate in Austria is at 50%. How dare international marriages want to get a divorce!

Anyway, if you want to get a divorce…no matter if you have a job, friends, a life, etc. in Austria you will be kindly asked to leave the country.

Now I dare someone to tell me that Austria’s not really racist.

On top of all of these problems, as a couple (or family) you need to have a certain amount of income. And this is a number that’s quite high (For a couple E1200). Now if two people work that isn’t too bad and can be easily reached, but the problem is that unless you have a work permit, you are not allowed to work. You only get the work permit after you have successfully found the exit to the bureaucratic maze that is created by the government. So, it is up to the Austrian in the relationship to make all the money.

Good luck.

Something that stuck with me from this movie are the colours yellow and orange. I am still not sure why, but there was a LOT of yellow in the film. Every scene that showed the different families and partners they were either wearing yellow, the background was yellow, even the bicycle one of the women was riding was yellow. If someone knows the answer to this, please let me know what it means!

After having sat in the cinema for around an hour and a half, I was very glad I randomly picked a movie to watch. It seemed like fate to see such a great movie about a topic that usually isn’t broadcasted at any human rights events. I liked that the festival didn’t only focus on the usual suspects like China, India, Congo, etc. but that movies from countries like Austria were also shown. A country that despite its surprisingly bad Human Rights Record is not seen as a country of huge concern in this area.

Thank you One World Romania curators!

One world Romania



This past week was the One World Romania  Film Festival. The picture above was taken in the Muzeul Taranului (Peasant Museum).

I am not a film critic, and will not pretend to be. I don’t know much about films. I just know I enjoy watching documentaries and somehow end up at different film festivals. If you want a proper review of this festival or the movies I am going to talk about, this is not the place to go. I will simply give my opinions and impressions from the two movies I watched: 727 days without Kamaro and American Vagabond. Stay on the lookout for them on a new segment I am calling Thoughtful Thursday...even if my writing wont be particularly thoughtful. I like the alliteration, okay?