Escape PHEV First Day Review

June 18th, 2023 by Potato

My laptop is 6 years old now, and I got it at just the right time: USB-C was new, so it has USB-C ports, and can charge from a universal USB-C power supply, but also has regular USB-3 ports and headphone jack. My dad got a laptop from the same line but a few years newer, and it only has USB-C, which meant dongles. Dongles everywhere. The new thing is not always ready for prime-time.

A big driver of the price protection troubles I had in getting my new Escape PHEV was that the build delays pushed it to a new model year. And Ford did a mid-cycle refresh of the Escape for 2023, so the 2022 model I test drove and ordered isn’t quite what I received. And the new things are not necessarily ready for prime time.

The 2023 has a larger centre touchscreen, at the expense of almost all the physical buttons. And it feels like that USB-C only laptop with its attendant cloud of dongles — it’s supposed to be new and futuristic but just feels like a janky human factors nightmare, and makes me wish I had the slightly older version.

One of the big set of physical buttons to get removed was for the climate control. Now all of that: fans, A/C, temperature, defrost, seat heaters, etc. is controlled from the central touch screen. And one question I never saw any of the reviews of the new model answer was does the touchscreen work with gloves? I can say that it does not. They did put in one physical button for “max defrost” which may help if you have gloves (or if cold fingers also don’t operate the touchscreen) to get some heat flowing. And with the heated steering wheel I may never wear gloves to drive again… but still, I’d much rather have physical buttons that work in all kinds of conditions by touch alone for some of these basic functions. On the bright side, the climate control buttons are locked to the bottom of the touchscreen so you can always find them. They also set the touch control up so that once you touch a control you can slide up or down anywhere (so if your finger wanders on a diagonal after you touch temperature or fan speed, you can just go vaguely up or vaguely down and it will still register as up or down, you don’t have to go perfectly up). It’s also possible to do some things through voice control, though so far I’ve only successfully changed the temperature set point but haven’t figured out how to change the fan speed (it may not be an option — the manual only has changing the temperature in its list of example voice commands).

Side-by-side pictures of the Escape centre stacks with the 2023 touchscreen-dominated one on the left, and the 2022 one with physical buttons for radio and climate functions.

The touchscreen also requires a surprising number of steps to get to frequently accessed functions. If I’m picking a drive mode (EV now, for instance, which you have to pick every time you start the car if you want something other than EV-auto), to then turn the radio on I have to go home, then sources, then pick radio/Sirius/android auto. And go back I think all that way again if I’m in Android Auto and want to go back to the radio. Though there is a shortcut icon for Android Auto across all screens so going in that direction is fast (just not back to the radio or to drive mode).

Android Auto works like a dream, though. I have a set of wireless earbuds (which I had to get because new phones don’t have headphone jacks), and it’s so frustrating to use them. They connect by bluetooth automatically when they come out the case, which is great… but for some reason you can play music with them but the podcast app can’t find them until Bluetooth has been cycled on and off a few times. Makes no damned sense. Anyway, so far this is not like that — as soon as I’m in the car, my phone connects. It will automatically start playing the music from my phone, over-riding the radio (which I don’t always want, but it’s fast at doing it). I successfully got it to read me a text message and let me compose one by voice, which I’ve had a heck of a time doing with the phone itself in my old car (using the phone’s built-in speaker, as it only used the car’s bluetooth for calls before).

Of course the big reason to get it was to have an EV. And so far, that part works, at least on the car’s side. Even in EV auto I’ve been able to drive around in pleasant June temperatures without the engine ever coming on. However, I’ve tried charging three times now, and each time the cable has given ground fault warnings and shut off several times, and I don’t know if that’s a problem with the outlet by my driveway or the cable itself. After ~5 repeats of unplugging and starting over it worked each time to start charging, so who knows. Today, I came out to the cord again flashing error codes (this time about over-heating), but the battery had charged to 97% overnight anyway so maybe that’s a non-issue. We managed to go ~40 km in near-perfect conditions for EV range, and still had ~23% battery left when getting back home.

On EV mode, it has enough power to do a normal highway on-ramp and merge ~90-100 km/h. If it needs more it can kick on the gas engine, but so far I haven’t had enough open lane in Toronto traffic to see it do that. For comparison, the Gen3 Prius was not exactly a sports car, but had just enough power to get around (officially ~10.5 s to 100 km/h). So on those same on-ramps with near-full EV mode, I’d be around the top of the Prius power meter (which topped out below what the car could actually do, maybe ~75-80% of full power, but you could keep pushing it beyond what the power meter showed), which is where most of my driving in the Prius ended up. Every now and then we’d have to push the pedal to the medal for a short on-ramp with fast traffic and we’d chant “Go Prius Go!” so if we got into that kind of situation, the Escape’s gas engine would kick in to give us the extra power and then some (~9.2 s for the 0-100 km/h test).

The 3rd Gen Prius had a lot of things going for it that were weird and quirky, but I wish had been taken up by other carmakers and other Toyota models. The high-centre instrument cluster looks super weird when you first get in, largely because no other cars work that way. There is nothing hidden behind the steering wheel in the Prius. But that placement means you don’t have to move your eyes off the road as much to check your speed, etc. It also means the focal distance doesn’t change as much, which as my eyes get older I was starting to appreciate. And the Prius made the effective focal distance even longer by having the actual display under the dash and then reflected off a mirror to the driver’s eyes.

With the Escape, I opted for the fancy technology package to get their heads-up display. It reminds me of Chuck Yeager, a little pane of glass that pops up, and the speed and navigation info is reflected off of it so it appears just on the edge of the hood. That’s better than having to look down through the steering wheel, but is a lot of moving parts and can be washed out in certain light conditions. Plus the speed is not displayed as large as I’d personally prefer, even on the largest setting. I think it would have been cheaper and just as functional if they had just adopted the Prius’ quirky dash (though even the Prius abandoned that concept with the 5th gen redesign that just came out). I’m also not sure why they have all the moving parts (the little pane of glass goes back into the dashboard and is covered when the car is off) when they could just reflect directly off the windshield (which Toyota does in the Rav4 and 4th Gen Prius).

The Prius also had some high-design element to the plain-looking plastic dash that Toyota never really advertised, and I wish I had thought to take a picture of before I sold it. The dash looked like just a big curved piece of plastic, as dull as an efficient driving appliance can be. But it had tiny finger-print like patterns on the surface, which I credit for its incredible anti-reflection/glare properties (but it may have been the material or the larger curve or something else). If you wore polarized sunglasses, the Prius dash was completely black, it was like magic. Even in bright sun, while there was some reflection or glare on the windshield, it was way less than any other car I’ve ever driven. The Escape’s dash is just average in terms of glare.

One good thing about the 2023 redesign is the colour choices for the seats and dash elements. The 2022 had only one choice if you got the package with the HUD, a black seat with two big tan patches on the seat and backrest, with a birch-like woodgrain strip across the dash. The new “space grey” seats look much better, and while there’s still a strip with woodgrain texture, it’s also “space grey” and blends into the whole look much better.

Anyway, some pros, some cons, but as much as I’m annoyed by having to pay more than expected for the Escape, I’m happy with the big parts in terms of how it drives and how the EV mode works (though I’ve got to try someone else’s outlets to see what’s going on with those error messages).

PHEV Dilemma and Shitty Ford Customer Service

June 14th, 2023 by Potato

[Let’s just skip the part where I’ve been AWOL for practically a whole year, I honestly can’t believe I missed that much time and I’ll catch you up on the continued suckitude later]

On the car question, I last left you with this post on the decision. I did indeed wait until the spring, and ordered a Ford Escape PHEV in April of 2022.

It took way longer than the 6-8 months we were told to expect, and in October of 2022 Ford made the call that they wouldn’t get some of the 2022 orders built before the roll-over to the 2023 model year. So my dealer rolled my order over — I had to go in and confirm the colour choices. I only had one question “I’m still price protected, right? I’m in no hurry, so you guys could build it as a 2024 for all I care as long as I still get the 2022 price.” “Yes, it’s price protected” my salesperson said — but I unfortunately didn’t get that in writing.

Finally after 13 months my Escape PHEV arrived at the dealer.

That was a month ago. It sat there for a week while we waited for the one guy who can appraise a trade-in to be on-site, and then I brought my Prius in for him to look at. They offered 1/3 of what it’s worth (and I’m not talking private market sale — I had an two offers from dealers that were ~3X what Ford offered). So whatever, I won’t do a trade-in, just a straight-up purchase of the car I ordered, and sell the Prius separately. Then they needed some more time to figure out what the price actually was, because there was supposed to be price protection on my order, and Ford had gone through several cycles of price hikes in the prior 13 months.

Finally they get back to me with a number… and it’s ~$3600 +tax more than we agreed to when I ordered the car in April of 2022. I simply said “isn’t this supposed be price protected? Here’s a copy of the yellow order sheet I signed, showing the price comes to [price].” They said oh yeah, there is supposed to be price protection, that’s long been Ford’s policy, we’ll call them and get back to you.

Weeks have gone by since. For various reasons, Ford didn’t get back to them, or the manager was out of the office, or they can’t find the adjustment in the system. It’s now a full month since my Escape arrived from the factory and I still don’t have it — they still think I have to pay $3600 (+tax!) more because that’s what the system shows, which is price protection back to the time the order rolled over to a 2023 model, but not back to when I ordered it.

I’ve called Ford’s customer support line, but they said they can’t help and anything to do with orders has to go through the dealer. I’ve tried Tweeting at them with no reply yet.

I’m sympathetic to the dealer here — Ford was the one who took more orders than they could make and/or fell behind on production, so it’s up to them to honour the price. And it seems from what little I can see on the outside that there is a system to do that automatically, but it’s not set up for orders that span model years. But I’m the customer, it shouldn’t be this hard/take this long/be up to me to try to publicly shame Ford into sorting this out (as one forum user put it, “Not your circus, not your clowns”) — the dealer and the manufacturer should be able to sort this out invisibly behind the scenes. Ford had my order in hand in April of 2022, and closed new orders not too long after. They had all summer and fall to get parts for the backlog of PHEVs and hybrids. It was probably only a few days worth of production that ended up rolling over like mine (AFAIK, all gas-only orders got built as 2022s), so they should have just extended the run until those orders were filled, rather than stopping production in November of 2022 to roll over to the 2023 model (which was plagued by start-up problems and didn’t really get moving until March of 2023).

But while it’s shitty customer service that led to this situation, this is where we are. So, dear readers (those of you who are left), it looks like I’m faced with a dilemma. I’m being asked to pay ~$3600 +tax more than I expected or agreed to (or about 8% more), after the adjustment. I’m angry about that. But walking away only helps the dealer: they can sell it for several thousand more (the adjustment that is there plus likely a mark-up because people who don’t want to wait for a plug-in will pay it).
Darth Vader saying I have altered the deal, etc. Taken from and credit to Know Your Meme
And there aren’t really any other options, other than continuing to drive the 2010 Prius into the ground. I dislike Toyota’s redesign of the Prius, and the Rav4 Prime is sold out through to the end of its production run. Any alternative involves paying even more and likely waiting another few years just because of where the car market is now.

So on the one hand, walking away doesn’t seem to be a very viable option. Plus there’s the risk they’d keep my deposit — I should get my deposit back given how easily they’ll resell it and that I have a good reason for walking, but you never know.

On the other, part of why I was going to pay up for a new car is the joy of the experience, and that’s going to be tainted by these shenanigans now. Whenever someone asks me about my new Escape for the next few years, I won’t be gushing “oh yes, I do over 90% of my driving completely on electric!” or “check out the heads-up display!” or whatever, I’ll be going “eh, it does the job, but Ford screwed me out of four thousand bucks for the privilege of waiting longer through their production screw-ups so I can’t exactly recommend one.”

Anyway, after letting the blog lie fallow for so long I doubt anyone is going to read this before I just accept this situation and go close the deal on the car, but I welcome any comments below.

Update: I paid the extra and picked the Escape up.

Rare Disease Day: TTP and Caplacizumab

February 28th, 2023 by Potato

It’s rare disease day, so let’s look back on TTP, the rare disease that Wayfare had/has.

Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia Purpura

The tense is hard with TTP. It’s a sudden, short-term, life-threatening blood disorder. But even once the antibodies retreat as mysteriously as they appeared and the platelet count goes back to normal, it’s never really gone. There’s a good chance a survivor received organ damage from the clots or bleeding during a TTP attack, which may manifest as brain, kidney, liver, or heart damage — or just about anything else.

But beyond that, there’s the fear that it will come back. Roughly half of patients will at some point have another TTP attack, each of which carries with it a risk of dying during the episode, and accumulating more permanent organ damage and disabilities.

Wayfare essentially has PTSD from her rare disease. It took over a week and several visits to urgent care and the hospital before her TTP was finally diagnosed correctly and treatment started. By that point, she had so few platelets remaining that they had to call a vascular surgeon in to the ICU to do a cut-down on her leg to access a vein. They couldn’t run a central line because if it happened to bleed, she’d bleed out before they could stop it. In the leg at least they had the option of sacrificing the leg and tourniquetting it if the line went poorly.

We can’t afford to wait that long if she has a relapse, but the first signs of a potential relapse are fairly every-day occurrences. So any headache, any mysterious bruise (or one with a known cause that doesn’t look to be healing fast enough), any splotching on the skin, any time she feels maybe more tired than normal… these are all potential medical emergencies and we have to get her blood taken. Every few months we are off to the blood lab on short notice, or sometimes straight to the hospital to check.

Fortunately, there’s a new drug available that can help. She was part of the clinical trial, and was out of the hospital weeks sooner than they had predicted when she went in. Who knows how bad the strokes may have been if she hadn’t got it?

In Which Potato Learns How Drugs are Approved

Being in medical research, but not drug development itself, I thought I had an above-average idea of how drugs get to patients: Someone has an idea, it goes through pre-clinical testing, then clinical trials (Phases 1, 2, and 3) then reviewed by Health Canada, then ta-da, new drug on the market!

Caplacizumab went through all that. It’s safe and effective. Health Canada approved it. But TTP patients in Canada still can’t get it.

We can’t even choose to pay out of pocket for it.

There’s one more critical step: the drug has to make it onto a provincial formulary, the listing of drugs available for purchase somewhere in the province.

A big influence there is CADTH, which makes a cost-benefit analysis. In our case, they decided to recommend against caplacizumab, which as someone with expertise in a related field, who’s done a lot of reading into TTP for obvious reasons, I cannot understand why. Nearly every other nation that’s completed their equivalent review has approved it — if Wayfare gets sick again, we may be best served by putting her on a flight to the US or UK, ’cause their patients can get caplacizumab.

Reading their report, they seem to have mis-understood the feedback patients sent in, saying that we were concerned about the risk of a relapse but the clinical trial didn’t address that question. The subtext is that the company is welcome to fund another clinical trial to answer that question, after which CADTH may re-visit the decision. But that’s insane, no company is going to do that for a rare disease, especially for a tiny country like Canada if the big countries have already approved it!

And that isn’t the point we were making! The point is that caplacizumab works. It works to stop the early disease process where the platelets are forming tiny clots just fucking everywhere and ruining your very best brain tissue and nephrons. It gives you time for the conventional therapy (plasma exchange) to do its job and clear the bad antibodies that kicked the whole cascade off. It gets people out of hospital sooner and with fewer long-term disabilities.

And not just the first time. Half of TTP patients will have a relapse. Some of them have multiple relapses per year. Every time they relapse, they run that permanent organ damage and disability gauntlet: will it be a stroke this time? Will they lose a kidney? Will it affect their energy levels a little, or will everything get all scrambled so much they put the sugar in the coffee maker and the coffee in the cup in the mornings and just cry about how awful their coffee is, unable to make the connection about how to fix the problem?

We wanted them to consider that these risks don’t hit TTP patients just once, they’re a risk every relapse. Cutting those risks down by some significant percentage (the exact number would need more trials but the anecdotal evidence suggests it’s somewhere in the 50+% range) is huge if you have to face that risk over and over again — it compounds. A 10% risk of disability with each attack becomes a 40% chance after 5 relapses. Cutting just 5 percentage points off that risk doesn’t sound like a big deal when you only consider the initial attack in the cost-benefit analysis, but after a few years that’s half as many TTP survivors with a disability.

And more than the hard economics of the cost-benefit analysis: nobody out there knows if they might get TTP. It’s super-rare, you may not have heard about it before now. But once you’ve had your first attack, you live with that constant fear that you might be one of the unlucky ~50% who will have a relapse. You live with PTSD, the constant triggers that any little every day thing might be the first sign of a relapse. Knowing caplacizumab is there to improve your odds if you do relapse would be a huge mental benefit even if you never actually need the drug yourself.

The other side of the cost-benefit was also hard to understand: it’s a niche, antibody-based drug, so it’s somewhat expensive, yes. But it’s not like a take every day forever kind of drug, more like an epi-pen: an emergency rescue medication taken during an acute episode to help buy time for other treatments to work, saving lives and tissue in the process.

Political Action

Right now, the patient group Answering TTP is sending a letter to some of the provincial leaders. It’s still possible for these leaders to choose to make caplacizumab available in their province — CADTH’s report is a recommendation only, it is ultimately a province-by-province decision.

Rare disease day doesn’t just have to be about awareness, we can also help improve treatment with a small step of getting a Health Canada-approved drug for a rare disease into the hands of the Canadian patients who need it.

So please, fire off an email to your province’s health minister, and CC your MPP. Or tweet at them and tell them CADTH made a whoopsie, it happens, but maybe they can go ahead and add caplacizumab to their formulary this rare disease day.

Thanks in advance from me.


Screw it, I’m clearly never getting a job at CADTH, let’s burn some bridges and nitpick that CADTH report to show you why I just don’t get why this wasn’t instantly approved and lauded as a modern medical marvel!

“During the overall study period, a statistically significantly (P = 0.0004) lower percentage of patients in the caplacizumab group (nine patients; 12.7%) compared to the placebo group (28 patients; 38.4%) experienced recurrence of aTTP…”

Holy fucking shit, how is this not approved on that alone?!?! Yes, above I focused so much on the part they missed, about reducing the risk associated with each relapse, but it also pretty convincingly reduced the risk of relapses themselves in a statistically significant way!

“The submitted price of caplacizumab is $6,200 per 11 mg dose. Assuming 37.2 days of therapy (i.e., the mean exposure to caplacizumab for patients in the active treatment group of the HERCULES trial; the reported maximum was 65 days), the cost of caplacizumab for an aTTP episode is $236,840 per patient…”

That’s the worst-case cost. And like in many clinical trials, they didn’t really know what dosing regimen to use. I would place a sizeable bet that caplacizumab would give almost all of the benefits in a 10-day course costing just $62,000. The mechanism of action strongly suggests to me that it works best early on, and the anecdotes from other patients we’ve heard of include many dramatic turn-arounds in the first week or so. But if you’re running a clinical trial you’re not going to take a chance on that, you’re going to flood the study participants with the medication and be sure it works, and do some real-world evidence gathering to fine-tune the dosage later. More to the point, if Wayfare had a recurrence, she would instantly pay $62,000 out of pocket to get a 10-day course of caplacizumab… if it were available to Canadian patients to purchase in the first place. But CADTH only considered the all-or-nothing case of using the same dosing regimen as the clinical trial.

Indeed, the real-world experience in the UK is that they are tapering down the dosing regimen, stopping when levels are normalized, rather than continuing all the way through plasma exchange. A few years ago their average days of use was already down to ~30, and is likely lower now (as a non-expert pointing to the outfield, I tell ya, 10 days).

Hey Potato, You Dead?

January 17th, 2023 by Potato

I left off with a post about sustaining a head injury, then haven’t posted in over 4 months so some people are — perhaps rightly — worried about what’s going on here and whether my stuff is up for grabs.

I’m merely mostly dead.

Since that post in the summer, CIHR once again went on a denial-of-service attack against researchers, launching a major national competition with a deadline just over 4 weeks after the initial announcement. I picked up another tendon injury, managing to somehow injure the tendon in my elbow sweeping in my first curling event of the year. It’s fine with a tennis elbow brace, and a little over 6 weeks after hurting it I figured it was feeling ok, so I played a game without the brace, and immediately re-injured it. So I’m playing with the brace anytime I’m not skipping now, and will wait until next season to test how well it does on its own, but fortunately it’s not hurting in regular activities any more and I can turn doorknobs again. My ankle has healed enough that I don’t feel any weakness, but I still have a palpable bump in my Achilles tendon.

And after nearly 3 years of managing to avoid it, I finally caught Covid this year and was sick for nearly 3 weeks over the holidays (and still haven’t fully recovered my energy level or brain fog). It hit me somewhat hard — on day 2 I had a decent fever that tylenol & advil combined could not get rid of, and I was uncontrollably shivering to the point I was afraid I was going to break a tooth. So I got paxlovid, which got rid of most symptoms (just tired and then paxlovid mouth), but I got rebound covid just a day or two after my prescription ran out, and had another two weeks of testing positive and having just generic cold symptoms and some brain fog. And even though I’m “better” now, my energy level and focus is still noticeably under 100%. Perhaps not so bad to say that I have long covid/PCC, but it is not all the way back yet.

I got almost nothing from my big 2022 to-do list done, and some of them are getting rather ripe. I had wanted to set up a new dedicated site for the directory of fee-for-service planners, and Google is making that more urgent as someone keeps flagging the spreadsheet as a phishing attempt. But other than a few bullet points in a journal that’s gone nowhere.

I have a bunch of modules for the course to still either add or re-record/update, and I’ve been holding off on promoting it until that’s done. Those are all sitting around 3/4 done and I just haven’t quite been able to polish them enough to upload.

But a webinar I recorded with TD is going live this week — a promotional opportunity that I won’t have the promotion ready for yet! (Feel free to sign up and attend — the interview is on sticking to a simple index investing plan and what can get in our way to obstruct that).

I also wanted to update the rent-vs-buy spreadsheet’s default values. Way, way back in 2011 I had thought that it was important to make a rent-vs-buy calculator that could include the effects of interest rates going up in the future. It’s a risk factor I’ve repeated in many lectures, and while I was disappointed at how long the BoC was able to drag their feet and put off raising rates, even I was surprised at how fast they raised rates when they finally did start moving — the current default scenario assumed 10 years to get back to mortgage rates over 5%, and we did it in 1. So now the starting rates are too low (and the starting prices and rents could likely use some fresh listings searches for updated prices, not much left at the $500k price point these days). I may also need to make the instructions for editing it larger as I still get several requests per week to edit the template.

I had intended to release a 3rd edition of The Value of Simple in 2022, mainly to re-jig things for the all-in-one funds that came out right as the 2nd edition was published. All the material is there in the course already so it wouldn’t be too hard, but I was also debating whether I needed a chapter to go all super-skeptic on crypto since it’s such a common question. Fortunately interest seems to be waning lately so I may just skip it… but there’s still a lot of work to do to spin up another edition and I don’t know when I’ll have the time and mental sharpness coinciding to do it. In the meantime, don’t forget that the errata exists for a reason.

Anyway, I have a few draft posts I hope to finally push out to resuscitate the blog in the next few months, but for now, just know that I’m merely mostly dead but still hanging on.

Oh, and The Bird Site and The Space Toddler — I’ve opened a Mastodon account, but haven’t started using it yet. Hopefully I’ll figure it out before The Bird Site goes down.

The Summer of Suck

August 29th, 2022 by Potato

There are still a few days of the summer left, and it hasn’t been all bad, but 2022 has been right up there with 2020 as a summer that was not good for me.

Head Injury

It was after getting a head injury that I coined the term “Summer of Suck” in my mind.

Selfie from outside emerg after being stitched up

It’s not even a very good story to tell: my indoor cat ran outside when my neighbour came to the door. So I tore out after the cat, with my hands making contact, just about to snatch him back up… when I ran head-first at full speed into the overhanging bay window. What they say about scalp wounds is true: they bleed a lot. Within a breath or two I had a big puddle of blood at my feet. My neighbour grabbed some paper towels for me, collected the cat from under the bush, took her dog back home, and kindly drove me to the hospital for some stitches and glue. No cracking under pressure with that one!

I had a ~3″ long slice across the top of my head, deep enough to bleed ridiculously but not showing bone. Thankfully I was seen fairly quickly, and was in and out of emerg in just over 2 hours.

In a bit of comedy, my mask’s straps ended up inside the bandages the doctor put on, so I had to wear it the whole way home until I could cut it off.

The wound healed up fairly well — I’ve got a small pink scar (with a palpable dent) where the stitches were, and the other ~1.5″ of the cut that was glued together seems to have healed without a trace.

Amazingly, I didn’t seem to get a concussion, even though it seems like I exploded my head from the force of the impact — I was wearing a hat which didn’t get cut, which casts doubt on my theory that I got sliced open by a sharp part on the siding.

Grant Conjunction

It was also an insanely busy period at work, another one of those projects where you’re thankful for work-from-home because there simply weren’t enough hours in the week to fit in commuting too (assuming, as we do, that running on 3-4 hours of sleep/night was already on the wrong side of the insane line and that there was nothing left to cut for train time).

It is not done to bite the hand that feeds you and criticize the agencies that provide research funding. But I have to note how crazy this summer was, and it was not because of so many researchers demanding my services. This year an agency launched a call on top of another agency’s major call (they often attempt to coordinate their deadlines better than that), and even just the one competition was so over the top on the work required and the lack of time provided that it was essentially a denial of service attack on the administrative hearts of the research institutions involved.

But the response was their hands were tied because their funding agreement with the federal government required such insane timelines on our end to make it work. And perhaps they have the same don’t-bite-the-hand-just-suck-it-up attitude we have (esp. as we’re the ones dealing with the fallout), but, like, funding agreements can be amended if you realize there isn’t enough time to complete the project on time. Just sayin’.

And that’s all I’ll say about that SNAFU for now.

Site Attack

Oh and speaking of attacks, I also had someone decide to attack the Value of Simple shop with hundreds of fraudulent orders, which soaked up what little blog/writing/side business time I set aside this summer.

Thankfully, Stripe, my main credit card processor, flagged the fraudulent transactions and stopped them after a handful had gone through.

You may not know this about running a small business, but when you issue refunds, you’re still on the hook for the credit card processing fees for that transaction. So if you buy my $7 e-book and then demand a refund (say for the very legitimate reason that someone stole your credit card), and I refund your $7, I still have to pay the credit card processor roughly $0.50 for handling that non-transaction. So I was out about four bucks, which is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

But here is where things get ironic: you cannot pay your bill to the credit card processor with a credit card. They want a wire transfer. I haven’t actually ever done a wire transfer, so I went to Tangerine to see what I should do (and how much they’d charge me to do one). While I was afraid it was going to be like a $20 bank service charge to pay my $4 debt, it turned out to be even more of a Catch-22: they don’t offer wire transfers, period.

Eventually my (concussed?) brain caught up with the obvious work-around: I bought a copy of my own book to get money into my Stripe account to cover the deficit.

At the moment, direct sales are suspended until I can figure out a way to help prevent a future attack — Stripe suggests adding a captcha, and I honestly can’t believe that’s not included as an out-of-the-box option in WooCommerce. There’s a third-party plug-in that will do it for $38/yr, which is right in that valley of being much more than the economic loss I’ve suffered while also being less than the brain damage and time I’d have to commit to re-learn a minimal amount of PHP to functionally drop in the code snippet myself.

The book is still available from Kobo, Amazon, Indigo, Google Play, etc., so I’m not in a hurry to make my direct-from-the-author webstore work again, so that may be a while.

I Was Once an Adventurer Like You

I picked up another fun injury this summer: apparently from sitting too long at my desk in suboptimal positions (hundred-hour workweeks will do that), I have blown out my ankle. It certainly wasn’t from physical activity or sports! Too busy to see anyone about it, of course, it seems to be healing slowly (very slowly). Nice big lump in my Achilles’ tendon, and it kind of gives out and won’t hold my weight if I lean to the right. I just hope it’s fully healed by curling season!

Road Trip

Once the grants were in, I was off to PEI on a road trip with Blueberry! This was actually a really nice part of the summer, I’m sure she’ll remember her daddy-daughter road trip for a long time. I was really nervous about it — I used to drive 2 hours at a time every week before she was born, and did the trip out East almost yearly. But in the last 10 years the longest road trip I’ve taken has been 3 hours, and I felt worn out after that. So on the way out I decided to space the ~19 hours of actual driving (plus meal breaks and pit stops makes it even more in the car) over three days, which also gave us a bit of time to hit some tourist attractions.

The driving itself was fine, and she was a great little passenger. So on the way home I decided to do the drive in two days.

And we’ve been home for 8 days as I write this and I still have motion sickness — like when you’re on a boat all day then feel as if you’re swaying when you get back on land, I feel as if I’m rumbling along the highway and get dizzy if I look anywhere but straight ahead. I keep hoping one good night of sleep will fix that… and am just waiting for that one good night of sleep to happen!

The Cat

Not too long after our return, the cat got sick. He threw up in every room of the house (more than once in a few), and stopped eating. I took him to the vet, and he had all the signs of a blockage in his digestive tract. A quick surgery found a section of diseased intestine, like bowel ischemia… but no foreign object causing it! Quite the medical mystery.

He’s forbidden from any climbing or jumping activity, not even going up or down stairs for 14 days while he recovers. Yeah, try telling a cat that. The first few days he was so sick and tired and low energy after not eating for a day and then surgery that it was easy to comply, but we still have the better part of a week to go and he is done with recovery.

More Injuries

And then I fell down the stairs randomly. I’ve tried to replay what happened but while I remember the landing, I don’t recall exactly what caused me to fall in the first place. I don’t think I was dizzy from my weird road trip motion sickness, but it could have played a part. I don’t think my weirdly injured ankle gave out, but it was the one that I fell on.

I managed to land pretty much on my kidney, catching a riser across that lower back area. On the plus side, I didn’t hit my hip or a rib so no broken bones. On the down side, everything hurts. And honestly, who lands on their kidney?

The Next Quadrennial

The past few years I’ve gotten more serious about curling (by which I mean, I play more often. I’m still plenty silly on the ice). I even have a team in the team-entry league! We have matching jackets!

Or, had. After the Olympics, many of the pro teams broke up and re-formed for new configurations to try to win their medals in the next 4-year cycle. And I guess that happened to us, too? So now I’m sad because I have to find a new curling team.

My Mom

And of course the worst for last: in case you weren’t aware, my mom has MS, and has been living through the gradual loss of function for years, but up until recently was still walking with assistance (i.e. a walker), could stand up, etc. Early in the summer she very suddenly and unexpectedly lost a lot of lower-body function and requires significantly more help in the daily activities of life. She apparently didn’t want to tell any of her relatives out on the east coast, and had just mysteriously cancelled her planned trip out there on them. So I got to be the herald of bad news while I was out there.

I had originally written that we were waiting on PSW support from the Province, but before hitting publish (and after two months) we finally got coverage for two visits, five days a week, which should help with some of the burden (which is falling mostly on my sister).

The Summer of Suck Comes to a Close

So, as August comes to a close, hopefully that is it for injuries and stress and bad news and health problems.

I haven’t had a chance to work on any of the site/side business goals I had for this year yet. No fun blog posts. And the health goals are way out the window, there’s no getting those back.