Saturday, 23 November 2013

Went to the Trinity Episcopalian Church on the Green's Holiday Bazaar for old times' sake. And now I really miss Grandma F. and am feeling kind of sad. It was a proper church bazaar (although they couldn't quite live up to Holy Trinity Anglican in my opinion) in the church basement with a tag sale and a bunch of really... interesting... crafts and a bake sale. They had a novel idea, though - a Christmas cookie bar where you could pick your cookie types out and buy by the pound. I would have been all over that as a kid. I also think Grandma would have liked the innovative new scissors-and-pincushion combo with cross-stitch on the top.

Anyway, I may have accidentally spent quite a lot of money on a stack of some of the less-interesting-looking ornaments... Hope it helps them out.

Oh, it was also the Yale-Harvard Game today. (Football, needless today). Town is rife with Yalies and Harvardians (?) stumbling all over the sidewalk and nearly getting run down by the New Haven traffic, which really doesn't care where you went to school. I also saw a live burro walking down the street. Going to have to assume it is related in some way...

Thursday, 21 November 2013


Del's game is out, and it's FEATURE ON ITUNES! With a video! And guess who got to decide what went in the video... Mr Designer himself. So proud!

In other news, I may well be losing it... woke up this morning and the stove was turned slightly on (just the gas, not the flame). Pretty sure it was off the night before - not sure if I'm sleep-rambling again or what. Or did I leave it on and somehow not notice?! I will be so happy when this move to the sublet is over and one huge stressor is removed (leaving only the postdoc, the wedding, the visa, the marriage, the overseas move and the lack of a job come Feb). 

Friday, 15 November 2013


Oh yeah, something else good happened today, though. I put my wood table up on Craigslist for super cheap ($10) and said it was solid but needed refinishing. The guy who bought it gets wood furniture from Craigslist or the side of the road, refinishes it, sells it and gives half to a charity that helps homeless veterans! How awesome is that... makes me so happy that 1). that table will get a new life instead of going in the bin, because I always wanted to refinish it but didn't have the talent, time or tools, and 2). that it will help the homeless at the same time! So glad that guy decided to respond to the ad.


I could scream. Or stab someone. Just ran into the maintenance guy for my building who was having a smoke outside the dive bar next door with one of his colleagues who works high up in the letting agency. I told them the sad story of being forced to move two months early because they are forcing me to sign a long lease, and she said, "WHAT?! That's ridiculous - this time of year it's no harder to rent a place in February than December. Call me and I'll sort it out."

So yeah, great, except I already got the keys off the sublet and sold half my furniture on Craiglist (other half to go soon, I hope! Rock-bottom prices!) Unbelievable. I KNEW if I could just get ahold of the right person it would all be sorted out, but of course if nobody answers the phone it's hard to get the right person... gah.

Anyway, can't back out on the sublet now (super bad karma) so I guess I'm still moving. GRRRRRR.

In other news, met my second mentee today for coffee. They both really seem to appreciate my perspective, which is kind of fun since it's mostly ignored at work. Had a lovely chat about pros and cons and decisions and she said several times that it really helped her. (Trying to decide whether to half-heartedly do a Ph.D. or stay at Masters level and get a job in public health). So that was pleasant.

Birthday tomorrow. Stephanie from work has really stepped up since I am not capable of planning anything right now, and has arranged a three-part celebration: 1). get together and write research statements for job-applying (has to be done!) 2). pedicure and 3). Dinner at the amazing tapas place in New Haven. Cannot express how much I appreciate her doing all the heavy lifting for this and making a fuss over me for the day. She is amazing - hope we don't lose touch after the postdoc. A couple weeks ago we went to the Yale Cabaret (organized by her) which was also super fun - it was actors and foley artists doing old radio scripts from the '50s on-stage, complete with sound effects. Totally different and excellent fun.

Oh, and got my grant in. After much buffeting by the business office. UGH. The budget has finally passed muster and it has been submitted. Blah. Also called the mental health people for Yale and am gonna take my six free sessions of counselling, because I really don't think I'm managing so well right now.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Ugh. Not doing well again this week. I sort of wish I could do this wedding-planning thing like a normal person - i.e., NOT while trying to coordinate two moves (one overseas) and while waiting with bated breath to see if my visa will come through - and maybe with some family to go shopping with or something.

That said, I did get a confirmation that the visa paperwork arrived to Sheffield (everyone else who is NOT trying to get married gets to send theirs to NYC - heck, I probably could have dropped it off there, but noooooo) and then got an email early this week saying they needed some extra things from Del - apparently the six months of paystubs was not enough: they also needed BANK STATEMENTS showing the six months of salary arriving in his account! Anyway, luckily  that was easy enough. Pretty sure there was a page or Appendix somewhere online saying I should have sent that stuff in the first place. I just about drove myself crazy for two weeks trolling through that maze of a government website trying to make sure I had every single thing in order, and apparently still managed to miss something. (I literally did spend two weeks working on that thing, plus took a day off to go to NYC to get my fingerprints taken, and another five days nagging Del for things - and then at the last minute I discovered a sentence in tiny print indicating I had missed what turned out to be another giant Appendix to be filled out and attached, along with extra copies of various other documents!)

Getting the thing to Sheffield was a story in itself too. I took it to FedEx, where I discovered they required I go BACK to the office and print out my own shipping labels. FedEx office dude "kindly" made me an account though, to make it easier to print. So, went back to office (via home for a cup of tea and cake because this stuff is STRESSFUL - that's my passport in that package!) and tried logging into this account. No luck. Phoned New Haven FedEx guy, he couldn't help and made me phone the helpline. Helpline girl spent 45 MINUTES trying to figure out what went wrong before discovering original FedEx guy put some random address on the account (she wouldn't tell me WHAT address) and therefore nothing was matching my actual address so I couldn't log in. Still couldn't fix it though. And couldn't make a new one because my info was attached to the original screwy one.

In the end I gave up, paid $300 for expedited processing of the visa to make up for lost time, and tried again the next morning when the FedEx website miraculously worked. So then I had to truck the whole thing back up to Whitney Ave to the FedEx office because I wasn't going to leave my precious passport in a postbox. I did, however, inadvertently get Original FedEx Guy in big trouble with his boss (turns out they are not actually allowed to make customers accounts in-store - IN CASE THEY GET THE INFO WRONG! Go figure).

Anyway, at least the $300 seems to have worked. Sounds like the Sheffield office is on the case.

In other news, supervisor did not tell me you have to tell the Business Office WELL in advance every time you apply for a grant, so now the Business Office hates me. Grant due on Friday. They heard about it last Thursday, because that was when I heard about this rule.... yeah. Cue many, many shouty and/or snippy emails sent in my direction.

(We aren't mentioning the last grant I applied for, before I learned about this rule!)

What else... invitations draft is done, looking into printing options in various countries. Caterer is booked. Photographer is not. Dress is ordered off EBay- have my doubts, but it was mega-cheap for a giant silk dress, so everyone cross your fingers. All of this is moot if I can't get my visa. Applied for a job at Oxford on Monday only to find out that while the job ad had a deadline of Monday, the application website had a deadline of the previous Friday. Cue much frantic emailing of screenshots to the Oxford job-website people to convince them to let me upload my CV (everything else was done). Will they actually put my application through? Who knows?

Oh, and ran my first kiddo with coprolalia this week. That was entertaining. I had been working with TS kiddos for a year before I ran into a case, which is why it always annoys me/takes me aback when I see moronic jokes that imply TS just means swearing a lot. In reality, the incidence is about 8-10% of cases. No idea why public perception is so off, but I get weirdly upset about this issue. I think it's hanging out with so many people with TS and those related to them, including parents who are scared to mention the diagnosis to their families because of that bizarre coprolalia-related stigma. Not cool, man.

(Other interesting things about Tourettes: many cases resolve by age 18, probably as the brain's inhibitory control mechanisms develop; and it is the comorbid disorders like ADHD and OCD that are often associated with TS that cause the most trouble/problems with quality of life).

Anyway... yup, so pretty stressed out this week, not doing well with deadlines or executive function, and REALLY not able to make any more decisions or plans until I calm down. That said, still have to move across town at the end of December... somehow. Gah.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Stress Management (probably not recommended by therapists)

I have decided to leverage the power of social comparison to manage stress.

Therefore, I am alternately reading the blogs of a). people who appear to have the most boring lives imaginable and never really seem to DO anything (interestingly this does not stop them from writing about it anyway) and b). people who had something really terrible happen unexpectedly.

I even found one with both elements - a saccharine and cliche-filled few years of blogging from a young wife and mother, followed by a total crisis when her 31-year-old husband dropped dead unexpectedly. (Interestingly, her writing got much better after the latter event - it got right rid of all the cliches and the saccharine).

This has the result of putting my worries totally into perspective: it has the dual effect of reminding me that things might be stressful, but at least there are interesting things going on; and that I better enjoy it because actually overall things are pretty great and you never know what is coming down the road. Something terrible could happen at any moment, and has totally happened to lots of people, which really puts not being able to travel for Christmas (should my visa not come through in time) in perspective.

This is working great so far.

Other, more healthy ways to manage stress include social support (had a nice chat with Judith today), the gym and crocheting like a mad thing. Always very soothing. This will all work out somehow, presumably... and at least I'm doing things and nobody has discovered an undiagnosed heart problem!

Friday, 25 October 2013

I don't feel sorry for the stressful lives of the people in Brides magazine

I read part of a "Brides" magazine at the dentist office today. Apparently I should be worrying about shaping eyebrows and choosing a lipstick rather than about finding a place to live and getting a visa. Sigh.

(Also I should have started my fitness regime about three months ago).

Things I am actually worried about:
- if I apply for the visa now, will I get my passport back in time for Christmas?
- what if I beg?
- will the visa thing work out ok? What the heck am I gonna do if I can't stay in the UK with Del?
- is Pike going to give me back my damage deposit?
- how am I going to get rid of enough stuff to make moving on Dec 1st a reasonable idea?
- will I get proper credit for ANY of the papers I'm working on? (going to try and have this discussion next week so that should be fun)
- what the heck am I gonna wear for this wedding then?
- and a million trillion other tiny (and huge - i.e. photography and invitations) wedding details

Oh yeah, and there's the small matter of making a giant life change next year (bigger than usual, I mean) and being unemployed as well. 

However, things are moving forward on the "place to live" front. Hand-delivered my notice to landlords today and made them sign and date it, so no one can claim I didn't give proper notice. I went to see a place earlier this week - it is the studio apt of a deeply socially-awkward and extremely sweet French guy called Alex, who regularly spends three months in New Haven and then three in Paris. Almost positive I can have the place from Dec 1st - Feb, assuming he doesn't give it to the girl with the two cats (landlady is not big on cats apparently, so have a feeling I am safe there). He was super conscientious and told me about the dog that lives upstairs and walks around, and the fridge that uses electricity too fast if you turn it up. If those are the main problems, I think I am good. 

It's far away from work but Google Maps reckons only a 45-min walk, and it IS on the shuttle line. And I wouldn't have to share with anyone. Plus Alex might want my bed (might barter that one for Feb rent or something). If I can't have it, I want someone nice to have it!

Ooh, on the plus side though I'm on my last physio appt. My knee is so much better it's unbelievable. I can do almost anything without pain - it just twinges if I sit on my knees at the wrong angle (bad habit).  I can even run! Physio says come back in two weeks and they will officially graduate me (or whatever the heck they do). They have been kicking my butt every week, which I will miss in a way (like free personal trainers!) but SO happy not to need them any more.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

P.S. someone from the flat upstairs just went pounding down the stairs, saying in a very loud, very Gen Y accent, "I just want to get all of the property managers in New Haven together in a room, and like, just scold them!"

I heartily concur.

Merely psychosomatic... that boy needs therapy!

Wow, mom is right. Having a blog makes it MUCH easier to try and track down EVERYWHERE YOU'VE BEEN IN THE WORLD for the past ten years for a visa application.

Still not fun, though.

However, I have come to the conclusion that I should post more often.

Finally heard back from landlords. I sent an email to every address I could find on the webpage and someone FINALLY called me back. That is literally the first time that has happened since I first moved in. Usually no one answers the phone, and I leave messages into the void. Or no one replies to email, no matter how grouchy/carefully worded.

Anyway, the dude I talked to says he will only give me a lease till the end of May, June or July. Then I can find my own sublettor. "We can't leave a place in a prime location like that empty, and it is too much risk for us to then have to find someone else". Oh, okay then, please do let me take the risk instead, and charge me extra rent for it! Sounds great!

ummmm, no.

I haven't emailed them though, because I am having weird symptoms and I'm stressed I have tetanus. I know I almost certainly don't have tetanus, but I wish my neck and jaw muscles weren't so tight and my butt muscles would stop randomly twitching. It's almost certainly a combo of stress and psychosomatic symptoms, but still... no fun.

Anyway, I drafted an email but am loathe to send it because not sure what they will come back with. Technically lease ended on Monday. I've started the process of getting the sublet I looked at on Friday (for December 1st) but am looking at another tomorrow night. Guy from the first place sendtme a weird email explaining that there are tons of other people who want the place, so wouldn't feel too guilty about ditching on that as long as there's still lots of time till December for him to find someone else. Second place is miles away up in East Rock so much less convenient, but it's a studio apt, so no random Russian housemate. We shall see. This will all work out okay.... right???

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Forgot the other thing that happened this week, which was cutting my leg open on a metal fire hose connector thing sticking out from the wall at Beinecke Plaza and bleeding all over everything, then crashing the new Yale President's inauguration to find a bathroom to clean it up. Luckily the bathroom in question had a lovely first aid kit and I had Rebecca with me (physicians come in handy), but it was fairly unpleasant. Then the next day Rebecca made me go get a tetanus shot and that took up half of the day. On the plus side, I'm protected from diptheria and whooping cough for ten years as a side effect...

In which everything seems to happen at once

Things are going faster and faster and I'm just trying to hang on and cope as best I can...

Had a grant due this week that took over my life (as they tend to do) and pushed everything else aside for a while. The stupid thing is that it's for Yale, which doesn't work out that great in the grand scheme of things, life-plan-wise. Still, I never get these things anyway so it is probably moot. What happened was, I applied for similar funding last year - or tried to - with someone in London. One of my referees did not submit their letter and I couldn't contact them, so in the end the grant never went in. Horrible situation. Anyway, I agonized all summer about approaching the London person again - I have one more shot at Canadian postdoctoral funding as they give you two years after finishing - and finally got up the courage to email her. Sadly, she couldn't take on another person in her lab at that point. (Or else she thought I was an idiot and was just being polite - hard to say). She suggested a former student of hers as a back-up supervisor. The former student was interested, and we got most of it written - and then her institution said the salary amount would not be enough to meet the minimum standard for postdocs! (Note: the salary award would be more than I make now. Apparently British institutions are far more generous).

So there I was, with a grant but no place to take it up - and it was due in a matter of weeks. I asked a colleague at Yale what to do and he offered to take me on if I got the grant - but then we ended up totally changing the entire thing a week beforehand, and then four days beforehand I had a sudden epiphany about methods and rewrote the whole works once again. So the original idea was not to waste an opportunity to submit an already-written grant even if the location of tenure wasn't the best - and then we ended up basically writing two new ones anyway. Whoops.

Then the latter part of the week was crazy because we ran bucketloads of participants, mostly kids with ADHD and Tourettes, including one this morning (Saturday). Tiring. It takes a WHOLE lot of energy to get a twitchy, jumpy, bored kid through a long and boring EEG task. (And a whole lot of stickers for bribery purposes). We had one little guy with Oppositional Defiant Disorder - that was fun - and today's was lovely but VERY hyperactive. I think the constant injunctions to sit still were actually torture for him.

 I did manage to squeeze in a visit to the seamstress on Chapel Street armed with Mom's/Grandma's wedding dress. I was hoping she could alter it to fit me, saving a lot of trouble looking for a dress. Alas, the fabric is too fragile to alter (and my hips and shoulders are too big not to alter).

"It's too bad your mom didn't take better care of her dress," she told me. "Oh well, the lace is still lovely. It would make a lovely christening gown for a little girl!"

(and I'm thinking, hold up lady, they haven't even managed to drag me to the altar yet!)

I could use the lace to make a veil and it would be awesome, but not sure if it's worth the destruction of the dress. The seamstress did point out a lot of spots where it's torn and stained, though... she didn't think it was really wearable even if I was Grandma-sized. Still, it's really disappointing. Definitely would have been happy to give the ol' girl one more wedding outing. (The dress, not Grandma).

So yeah, now I have to add "finding a wedding dress" to my to-do list. 

I also joined a mentoring program this week through Women in Science at Yale, just for the heck of it, and now have two Ph.D. students from Public Health to mentor. Not sure how much use I will be as I've taken an EXTREMELY non-traditional route, but it will be fun to try.

But the main crazy stressor this week was housing. This is a long and stupid story, as so many seem to be.

Basically, the (jerk) landlords sent me a letter in September claiming to not have received September rent. It was quite a mean letter full of eviction threats. I called and emailed (I had sent the cheque mid-August) and nobody ever replied, so eventually I went in person, with printed evidence that the cheque had been sent in hand. However, because I was worried about these eviction threats, I also sent another, replacement cheque (with REPLACEMENT in large letters on it).

I spoke to the accountant, who claimed never to have received the original cheque but who promised to destroy it if found.

I'm sure you can see where this is going.

Three days later - bam, two lots of rent taken out of my account, plus a bonus extra lot of October rent (which I sent early due to the accusations and threats from September). She blatantly put through the original, "lost" cheque.

I went back in to discuss and she said it would be applied to November. Then, in passing, she asked if I was renewing the lease (ends at the end of Oct), or was I leaving? Well, no, I said, you've just taken November rent. But I could sign a lease until the end of February. Oh, no, we don't do short leases or month-to-month.

But the lease I signed says that's what happens.


But I will check if you can do a short lease.

So I sent several emails to follow up and finally got one back saying I could sign a six-month lease. I wrote back to say I can't do that as I'm leaving in February. I asked if they'd be willing to do that.

No answer.

Follow-up email, no answer.

So now I'm left totally uncertain whether they will try to evict me in November (for which they took rent via cashing the cheque when they promised not to) since the lease is up, or what. If they hold firm to "six-month lease or nothing' I am kind of screwed. So... ALSO spent the week on Craiglist looking for short sublets. I found a Russian dude called Nikolay who is willing to sublet from Dec-Feb. The place is tiny and furnished, so I would have to spend November downsizing and packing. Still, I would be free of ridiculous landlords who won't pick up the phone or answer email. (Never rent from Pike International). That said, I am a bit worried they would try to hold the damage deposit hostage, despite the fact this is clearly illegal in CT. Argh!

So yeah. Opinions? Current plan is to try once more with Pike to get some sort of clarification on how firm this "six-month lease only" thing is. Then, if they won't tell me or refuse to let me stay till Feb, I guess Nikolay it is. I could live without another stupid move, but if I have to I will.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Currently holed up on the futon drinking the Walgreens version of LemSip/Neocitran and making cool stuff out of crochet. (Christmas presents, if I can bear to give them away!) Caught some sort of horrible swollen-throat thing, probably from the kiddies at work. Tis that time of year.

Think I am finally over my bout of crazy-brain anxiety, which is good, but bad because there was a lot I should have accomplished. I just felt paralyzed. Very annoying. Thanks for the supportive comments, by the way, which I couldn't read at the time because I was worried about what they would say. Crazy-brain. Anyway, the wedding is sort of on the way to being planned in that we're busy contact registrars, applying for visas etc. Judging by Pinterest most peoples' wedding planning is taken up by much more fun things (then again, apparently envelope liners are a thing - "a skilfully lined envelope hints at the elegant invitation within!" - so maybe not).

I did manage to get one paper submitted thanks to my rock-star buddy at Regina, who spotted me some data and let me do the write-up for the first-author slot. No word yet, but just to have something submitted is huge. No sign of anything out of the postdoc, and in fact feel actively blocked by supervisor everytime I try to do something, so that sucks. I have told him I'm leaving at least, AND got my US visa extended, so two huge stressful things are out of the way. Currently applying for postdoctoral funding (that I don't really want due to location, but you can't NOT apply) and trying frantically to dig something publishable out of the terrible collection of EEG data I've been handed.

Del was over to visit for a few weeks, which went a long way towards dissipating stress. We didn't actually get all that much done but he is a calming influence. Plus, I guess it's harder to be crazy-brain when you're not alone all the time. We had lots of adventures involving transit (it turns out that to go to the outlet mall in Clinton, you can take a train THERE but there are no RETURN trains. There are literally no return trains from Clinton to New Haven. None. It didn't show up on Google Maps but I figured, there's no way there's NO return trains ALL night from an entire town, right? Wrong. Welcome to America. We had to take a train the wrong direction for three stops, get off, wait an hour and then take a train back the right direction. And then Del left his bag/wallet in the pub just as the train pulled up and it all got very exciting for a second) and went to the Pez museum! Bet you didn't know the Pez museum is in Connecticut.
Actually we did quite a lot of stuff. I shall post some photos:

New York, stayed in awesome hotel, ate scary American food at Virgil's BBQ with Del's best friend Kate, who happened to be in town from Edinburgh (!)

(that is some sort of bourbon milkshake on the right, if I remember correctly).
Went to Top of the Rock finally, saw the musical Matilda with Del's friend Delphine, who ALSO happened to be in NYC from Oxford, went out for BBQ yet again... good times.

Then the next weekend we went to Cape Cod/Martha's Vineyard because it seemed a shame to briefly be an East Coast girl and not have gone. Saw Plymouth Rock. Giant rock with date carved on it. Americans very excited anyway. Also saw a big ship and messed around the harbour for a bit. 
Went to Hyannis on Cape Cod. Stayed in the Princess Suite, which was basically a 70s porn director's idea of what a classy motel room should look like. Got to watch a large American dude throw a giant tantrum in the lobby upon check-in: he had wanted to propose to his girlfriend and somehow got the impression from the website that this place was an upscale hotel. Ummm...


So yeah, he was horrified and kept screaming, but as far as we could tell there was nothing actually WRONG with the room, it just... wasn't exactly classy/upscale. Funny but cringe-inducing. Saw him (alone) the next morning at breakfast down the street, confiding in the ladies at the next table his tale of woe!

Oh, and Del tried his first Slurpee at the most upscale Sev I've ever seen.

Oh yeah, this one was for Grace.

Always thinking of my dear sister.

Anyway, the next day we headed over to Martha's Vineyard - basically chasing the ferry schedule all over the Cape. With our usual sound planning we missed the one out of Hyannis (well, the cheap one anyway) and headed down the Cape - nope, missed that one too, better go to Woods Hole. In the end we got a way faster, cheaper ferry and a free parking spot, so all worked out quite well.

Twas gorgeous and the ice cream there was INSANE. Basically we just poked around the first town we came to and hung out on the beach - pretty sweet for September.

And since then I have basically been working working to catch up (and then being ill and undoing it all again). Anyway, tomorrow is Yale Day of Service, so going to go plant some trees or something in a community garden...

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Crazy, I'm crazy for feeling so blue

So I have been in super crazy anxiety mode for the last few weeks. Very unpleasant, and also ironic because I am anxious because I have so much to do and am not accomplishing much (relatively speaking), but the anxiety makes it really hard to actually do anything useful. Bah. Been avoiding everyone (except Del) in case they stress me out more and trying to go to the gym. This week was feeling a bit better but still way behind - not by any objective deadline, just in my own mind. Hence I am at the lab on a Sunday night trying to get some stuff finished. (So far, so good!)

Went to Boston this weekend with labmate Stephanie and her husband Justin. Feel like I should have stayed and worked, but this was long-planned and didn't want to ditch out (so did Friday and Sunday lab nights instead...) One major highlight was meeting up with former WISEST big sister Jennie. Man that was great. I haven't seen her in AGES but she hasn't changed at all. Still trying to big-sister me, too. She's a neuroscience role model hanging at MIT messing with mice genetics. She's also been in an EIGHT-YEAR long distance relationship while doing her post-doc, making my five years look fairly shoddy. Still playing hockey, still super hard-core in everything she does. That made me really happy - definitely need to try and get back up to Boston more often. (Jennie says she will sneak me into the good MIT talks if I want!)

Apart from that, went on a duck tour - we got one of the original WWII ones! - which was pretty awesome, especially the river bit. Then we went to visit Stephanie's mom in Marshfield, stayed over and hit up the beach in the morning. I slathered my top half with sunscreen but forgot to do my legs, with predictable results...

Anyway, fingers crossed I will get enough things done this week to calm my brain and also forestall any catastrophes. Going to Ontario on the weekend to see Sandeep and Christine, which is super exciting but also stressful to figure out how to get to Newark etc. Sandeep and I are trying to write a paper, so should be productive as well as fun.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Another Essay from the Train

Another crazy journey, another blog post from the train. Trying to get back from Manchester this time. During my recent Month of Rejection, one of my rejections was from the Bangor University ERP Summer School. Naturally I had ulterior motives for hitting up that one, but there were very genuine reasons for wanting to go: I need some formal training in EEG at this point, I was pretty sure that smart and generous Bangorites would be able to offer some insight into the specific problems I am having with the data analysis Denis wants, and of course my poor CV could use some new entries.

But more of that later. Since I am on a train, it seems like a good idea to start with journey stories. The trip over was fine – annoying, as I had a layover in Washington Dulles and had just had surgery so was terrified of blood clots/DVT/strokes – but the nice man beside me ran the MRI unit somewhere in the North of England, so he was quite happy to let me out often during the flight to walk up and down the aisle in my fetching white surgery support stockings (lovely!)

The trip back, however, is still in progress. The first leg was pretty bad, as I was in the window with a socially awkward, smelly adolescent in the next seat. He spent the whole trip leaning into my mandated 1.5 cubic feet of personal space to crane his neck out the window at nothing (maybe he likes clouds). Finally I closed it to “sleep” (scared to actually sleep due to DVT) to stop him, which worked until I opened my eyes to find him IN MY SEAT opening the window shade himself. NOT COOL on a plane – one must guard one’s tiny area as best one can, and I know for a fact there was a window seat open further back so he clearly couldn’t be bothered to actually book one. Blah.

Anyway, got to Dulles, usual horrible ordeal through customs and whatnot, lugged my luggage to check it back in, went to the gate and emailed Del to moan about Window Boy. I looked up half an hour before the gate closed and noticed that suddenly it was indicating it was a flight to Cincinnati. Crap. So found the new gate, needless to say a million miles across the airport, and plonked myself down. But what’s this? Delayed? Yep. Delayed and delayed and delayed. Finally they just cancelled it. I joined what must have been a several hundred strong queue for the Customer Service (bucketloads of flights cancelled) and then it got interesting.

In short, I was making decisions based on inadequate information and kept making the wrong ones. They had rebooked me to the next morning to LaGuardia, but were not offering accommodation. So I got them to send me to Hartford that night instead. But after multiple calls, it turns out that there is no transit from Bradley Airport after midnight. My only option would be to book a car, at a time my brain thought it was 6am and had been awake for 24 hours. Once I discovered this I stood in the giant queue again to rebook and then again to find out what they did with my luggage. They claimed to have sent it to Baggage Area 5, which I found out after about an hour was a total lie. Finally (11.30pm) I gave in, took the airport “discount” and booked a Comfort Inn that promised shuttles upon demand. Needless to say that took hours, and so crawled into bed for five quick hours sleep before hopping up, finding out the 6am shuttle was missing, taking the 6.30 shuttle and getting back for the 8am flight. At which point I found out someone totally lied and my luggage had been on a 5pm flight to LaGuardia the night before.

Anyway, made it to LaGuardia, collected luggage (!!! Total win at this point) and got in line for the “every half hour” shuttle. Yep, more lies. After an hour the bus finally showed up, and we crawled towards Grand Central. At this point it really got surreal, and I realized that it’s not just me screwing up figuring out what best to do – life is really just trying to mess with me today. The bus driver tried to gun it across an intersection before the red hit, missed, got stuck in the intersection, suddenly an ambulance was trying to get through perpendicular to us, and the cops pulled us over for obstructing an emergency vehicle! So that took a while for Mr. Cop to diligently write out his ticket. So he lets us go, and – we don’t go. The bus is making crazy noises and it will jerk forward but not actually move, and we’re crawling jerkily backwards down the hill in midtown Manhattan. You can imagine how much the other traffic liked that. We were stuck for 20 minutes with the driver trying to engage the hydraulics (I assume) and they just wouldn’t go. There was mutiny among the angry Americans on the bus, who started shouting, “Let us off! We want a refund!” as we lurched another half-inch down the hill backwards. FINALLY, excruciatingly, the driver managed to catch both a bit of boost to the engine and a green light, and we inched up the hill and through Manhattan at a snail’s pace.

After that I ran for a train on my bad leg trailing luggage everywhere, and here we are!

Anyway, the summer school was really good. Got in totally exhausted due to the aforementioned fear of sleep, although I did get stuck at Manchester Airport for a few hours, so sort of napped there. Checked into the Frioedd site and had a nap there, then hit up the welcome reception and the free wine. Monday and Tuesday were lecture-based, so got some good tips about EEG with developmental populations. Monday after lunch, however, the girl sitting next to me asked me as we walked back to the Wheldon building for a painkiller. Of course I had my crazy American post-surgery ones, but I also have a ton of aspirin to thin my blood and ward off clots. So I handed her my pill bottle as we walked up the stairs (still painful for me, so I was distracted) and said, “Sure – the round ones are aspirin, have one of those.”

I think you can see where this is going.

We got upstairs and I said, “Did you get an aspirin?”

“I think so – I took one of the long ones.”

“Uhhh, I think those were my painkillers that the doc said to take half of when I really needed it.”

This girl was roughly half my size but it was a bit late to say anything at that point.

Long story short, she rushed out of the room shortly after and I got a message from A&E later that night. :/ I spent the night horrified I had accidentally poisoned someone. Luckily, it turned out she just had a bad reaction and all was well, although the next day’s class was awkward.

Anyway, between very merry dinners (including a departmental one with more free wine), a departmental ceilidh (Bangor throws the best ones) and many lunch-time meetings about EEG coherence, the week went extremely fast. It was exhausting as I was “on” from 7.30 till I collapsed into bed, either learning EEG analysis or trying to be a decent guest. Saville from fencing and my lovely Thandiwe were both kind enough to host me, which made the whole thing much more pleasant as well as more affordable!

After that mad week, we decided to push through and hit up a festival on the weekend. It’s called Ymuno and is tiny – 500 people in a farmer’s field in North Wales, one tent and lovely music and art. Lowri from the Masters course mentioned she was going and I couldn’t resist. The weather was incredible. However, camping in a field is not really conducive to the lie-ins I was hoping for!

Luckily Del had a plan up his sleeve – he brought all the necessities for camping and then booked us into a studio apartment for the last two days in Manchester! After things wrapped up on Sunday afternoon, we packed up the car, reshuffled everything to make room for a small Australian hitchhiker, and set off. Had a relaxing couple of days and on the last day, Gok Wan was filming Gok Live right outside our apartment! So that was pretty interesting. We joined the unofficial audience and got to see how a TV show is made. All in all, it was expensive and kind of a risk to go on the trip, but an amazing week in terms of useful learning, Del-seeing and fun - so totally worth it!

Monday, 18 February 2013

Win some/Lose some

Bah. My awesome gym headphones from Del seem to be broken. No TV today, so would have been a very boring cardio workout... if not for the tiny bespectacled Asian girl off in the corner, doing a full-on hip-popping Gangnam Style quietly by herself. It was incredible. She did this for about 20 minutes and then went off to do some weights. Made my day...

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Well that sucks. Steph tells me that my former housemate Marc died. I guess he ended up marrying Constanza after all the drama of the year I lived with him. Man, that was ten years ago! I remember specifically that he was 32 that year, and I have to say I would NEVER have guessed where we would both end up ten years later. (Apparently he was pretty up in the hierarchy at Grant Mac). He was a great housemate and taught me a ton about music, cooking and graphic design. Sad news...

Friday, 8 February 2013

Mad Scientist

Sounds like I have been added to the Autism group's HIC (ethics thingy). I guess this makes me an evil autism research so decried by certain Facebook "friends"! Bwah-ha-ha-ha. Not sure if I will be working with them - think it might just be my supervisor's way of making sure people know who I am - but should be interesting nonetheless.

In other news, there is a giant blizzard on. I sat on my bed and watched the snow for as long as there was light. It was gorgeous. Work cleared out around noon, but I stayed till 4pm or so because I was having a perversely productive day. Not sure why stupid brain always waits until times such as these to find some focus, but I wasn't going to waste it. It's been a struggle this month so I will take the rare bits of productivity where I can get them.

Also, Del is definitely in the running for fiance of the year, as he has ordered me the yarn I need to finish my cape! Very exciting. I shall be crocheting up a storm for as long as the storm lasts....

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

House Update

Took some pictures of my new furniture (and some old furniture lugged down from Ontario!) in its current setup.
Here's the place when I moved in:

Here's the updated version!

We have the bed (thanks Tim), two chairs my supervisor did not have space for in the lab so shuffled onto me, a lamp from Freecycle, a shelf made of boxes and duct tape, a lamp that was a housewarming gift from Sandeep and Christine, a small table from Craigslist, and the only Rubbermaid that I managed to haul from Ontario subbing in as table #2. And of course the futon, lovingly stuffed into a small car and dragged down from Ontario as well.  I also have a shelf from the discard pile at work and a seen-better-days kitchen-ish table from Freecycle and a shelf made of milk crates (not pictured).

At some point I plan to invite Stephanie from work over, as she has a stepladder, a tall and helpful husband and an uncanny ability to hang pictures straight. Thus will the curtains be hung and hopefully some pictures as well. Exciting! I will be sure to update.

Monday, 28 January 2013

 I was just waiting for this to happen and it finally did: an American attempted to kill me. Well, pretty sure it wasn't deliberate, but made my heart beat a bit faster anyway. I have to cross a busy highway-ish bit to get to work, and both lights go at once so pedestrians can cross diagonally. So both walk lights were on and we were crossing, and some idiot on a cell phone (naturellement) went halfway through the intersection and stopped three feet away from me. Right in front of me was a granola-looking mom with a baby carriage, and man was she not impressed. Lots of yelling - and the woman on just sat in the intersection on her cell phone! Unbelievable. I got across without incident after that and then the honking started as she was just sitting there blocking traffic from the other direction (and Connecticut drivers take no prisoners).

Other than that, things continue, in a Januaryish manner. Someone hacked my credit card, so once again (AGAIN!) I don't have access to it until it shows up in the post. So no booking flights to go see Del (or train to go see Rebecca in DC, so I missed out this weekend) and no buying anything online or paying my phone bill. Deeply annoying but on the plus side the fraud people caught it right away. I got a call during a meeting asking if I had been buying electronics in Burnaby, BC and then selling them on Kijiji. Um, NO.

It is finally cold here, which is unfortunate because my heating still doesn't work. The registers don't go on and the thermostat does nothing. Luckily it seems to get heat from the rest of the building so it stays around 60F, albeit with a gale howling through the crappy old windows (although I have done my best with blackout curtains and that cling-wrap stuff, it's still pretty draughty). However, I have crocheted most of a large shawl which should help... except that I can't order the last of the wool I need due to lack of credit card!

On the very strongly upside, though, my bed has arrived! It is SO MUCH WARMER sleeping off the floor (it turns out). I used my new drill and it is pretty awesome as well. It comes with a light! This will come in handy for the next hurricane/ice storm. The downside was that my bed arrived sans slats. Apparently they are sold separately. But I couldn't stand having it there and not being able to use it, so I jury-rigged it using bits of wood molding from next door's basement (I found it stuck off in a corner - I have access to use the laundry since our building doesn't have any) and cardboard. There was a metal beam down the middle, so I was able to sort of criss-cross bits of wood to more or less support the mattress. In a stroke of luck, though, my labmate Stephanie took me to IKEA this weekend to get the proper slats, which are now in place, so after a week of being very tentative and sleeping carefully down the middle of the bed over the metal beam, I can now sit on my bed without fear of falling through! Exciting times indeed. (I could have ordered it from IKEA but they charge $50 shipping on a $30 set of slats... I did think of joining Zipcar, but whoops, no credit card!)

Oooh, I also made myself an excellent toque. Sparkly sequinned yarn! (left over from Jude's present). In case you couldn't tell, I have been in procrastination mode all month. Sorry to everyone I still owe presents to. I will buckle down soon! In the meantime, toque picture!

Learned a new stitch with that one, was quite pleased.

Apart from that, work and gym and not much else. Except making crazy stuff for my house. I'm trying to make a sort of screen/room divider thing out of tin cans and stuff off Freecycle. We will see how that goes. Helena is back - green card in hand, having had a January Christmas with her family.

January, blahhhhh....

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

No matter how annoying life is at that moment, every time I open my Guelph email and see an announcement of a NACS talk (weekly seminars where everyone has to report on their research once a year), I have a moment of pure glee, occasionally accompanied by dancing around the room. I NEVER HAVE TO GO TO ANOTHER NACS TALK AGAIN. Never no more do I have to watch the same people talk about the exact same research, usually three people from the same lab in a row so it's basically the exact same talk. Generally about cannabinoid receptors or some such thing, which is only interesting the first time. And the names listed in the email are usually people who were there when I started and who often ignored me during my years there, and who are still there. And I'm a postdoc! That last bit is still exciting to me.

This really helps when applying for yet another grant that I probably won't get (as I did today). Came up with a cool project, though, and at least everyone is expected to write flattering things about your potential as a young scientist for the applications. On the bright side.

(The talks they have here are much cooler. Today's was about some gene sequencing work suggesting that a gene involved in histamine might underlie some of the problems with Tourettes. It's the H3 receptor, brain-only, not the peripheral ones that mediate allergy attacks. Crazy, no?! Very cool genetic and animal work backing up the hypothesis).

Other than that, this is shaping up to be a deeply boring month, with Helena gone. However, my clinical colleague Stephanie has invited me over for dinner this week, so looking forward to that. I have to bring dessert, and her options for dinner sound incredible so I have to step it up. Any suggestions/ recipes??

 So I heard from Q Conn shuttle. They called me last week.  Apparently the driver didn't read the whole email he was sent, so he only had my work number. He tried calling that (once) and obviously I wasn't there, so he gave up and went home.

Oh, ok, that makes it ALLLLLLL better then. GAH.

Their explanation for picking me up at 2.15 for a 3.30 departure was that they didn't want me to miss my flight. Their explanation for calling with this news just before picking me up? Didn't have one.

I imagine I will either get a refund from them or the credit card company without too much trouble, though. That was blatant. I emailed Yale and told them my sad sad tale, and today a scathing email went out from the director of travel for Yale to the shuttle company asking them what the heck (with me copied). Apparently they haven't had other complaints (find THAT hard to believe) but they want Q Conn to explain themselves. I suggested maybe they could refund part of my outward journey too. Hey, worth a try - I must have had a Dad moment (what's the good guy price?) So far no response but I don't imagine they'll be happy!

Monday, 7 January 2013

Safe Home at Least

I had a great Christmas with Del and the family and now I am back in New Haven.

Not without drama, though.

Here is the rant penned on the train up to CT:

Wow. Never again am I using Q Conn shuttle. What a crappy outfit. On the outward journey, when I needed to get to LaGuardia airport to go to Edmonton, they called me at work at 1.30pm. This surprised me as I had confirmed a 3.30 pm pickup at the hotel by my house. I missed the call and called back but the guy didn’t pick up until my third call at 1.50pm, at which point he told me he was picking me up at 2.15. I was still at work and hadn’t finished packing (plan was to go home at 2.30 and spend an hour doing last-minute things and throw everything else in the suitcase) so I tried to at least negotiate a 2.30 pickup and he wouldn’t do it. Told me 2.15 or no ride.

So, I rushed home like a mad thing, leaving my computers at work with stuff all over the place, and threw some stuff in a bag and was more or less ready at 2.15 (of course I later found out I left a number of key things behind – I forgot a whole pile that was ready to throw in because of the last-minute change to being picked up more than an hour early).

So I rush outside at 2.15 and the guy is there, but he then stands talking on his cell for 15 minutes outside my house. This is driving me nuts because I REALLY could have used that 15 minutes for packing! THEN he drives BACK to the med school (the workplace I rushed home from ) and circles it a couple of times before finally picking up some other guy, so now there are four of us crowded into a random SUV. Oh, which also smelled of weed.

THEN the guy stops on the highway ten minutes out of New Haven and shoves us all out and into another van full of other students. At this point someone asks if he will make his 6.30 flight out of JFK and the driver shrugs.

We drive to NYC and it transpires that half of us are for LaGuardia and half for JFK, and the JFK half are on track to miss their flight because we drove around for so long. Another girl tells me she waited outside her house for half an hour for the driver to show up and she’s STILL going to be late for her flight. The driver gets on the phone and arranges for another car to pick up the JFK half of the people. We pull off at Dunkin’ Donuts and wait around. For twenty minutes. The JFK people are now well and truly screwed. Other driver never shows. We drive on down the road (with the driver muttering darkly under his breath) and pull over, this time on the side of the highway. Another SUV pulls up and those of us for LaGuardia are dumped into it. I make my flight (I might be the only one who did) but had to wait around the airport forever because buddy picked me up so early.

Fast forward to last night… I get an email confirming my pickup at LaGuardia at 5.22pm. Perfect. I get my bags and wait by the shuttle pickup until 5.22. No shuttle. I wait 20 more minutes. No shuttle. I text Helena to get their number and call about ten times. Nobody answers, and it goes to a voice mailbox that is full. I get the airport people to radio the other terminals to make sure no one there is waiting for me. No such luck. Finally, an hour later, I give up and cram myself onto an M60 bus into the city. I don’t really know what I’m doing and I don’t have the right change and I can’t manage my luggage that well (since I expected to be picked up) but some New Yorker takes me under his wing and explains the route and where to get off. The bus driver is insane – at first I think it is just me and my sheltered country ways, but everyone else on the bus is also clinging on for dear life and muttering about taking their lives in their own hands.

Then the bus driver makes a totally unintelligible announcement, but my new friend tells me the bus is ending and to get on the bus right after it. There is no room at all for me and my huge bags but some guy in a uniform tells me to climb in the back door. I try but I have a LOT of luggage. Someone boosts me up and I sort of climb on top of my luggage so as not to block the aisle. Eventually the bus stops, and I ask if it’s the train station and someone says yes, but it turns out not to be, but by then I’ve been semi-shoved off the bus so I run the next few blocks through Harlem to the train, hoping I will see the station when I get there. I do, but I spill everything everywhere trying to get a ticket. The New Haven train leaves. I look for an elevator but don’t see one, so struggle up the steps bag by bag. Some man takes my bag for me and asks what the heck I think I’m doing. I thank him profusely and then see the sign for an elevator somewhere at the end of the platform. Looks like a good day to depend on the kindness of strangers.

But I finally got the train and so far so good. No thanks to Q Conn, those jerks. Unbelievable.

Anyway, this one’s for the search engines and anyone who is googling this and wondering: Do NOT take Q Conn Shuttle from New Haven/Yale University. Q Conn shuttle is terrible, unprofessional and really on my hate list right now. I’m now wondering if there’s any way to contact Yale and get them taken off the officical “suggested ground transport” page, since that’s how I found them in the first place. Bad, bad news.

p.s. I disputed the shuttle charge on my credit card. Fingers crossed they will just refund...