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...