A scary email to receive less than a week before the thesis submission deadline

I bet you thought I was done posting about my thesis. Last Friday (6 days ago), I received this email after I had the pleasure of submitting my thesis electronically.

[Your supervisor] approved your e-thesis on September 23, 2011 at 11:51.

If your thesis has been accepted by all your supervisor(s), it has been sent to GPSO for processing.

If your thesis has been rejected, please make the changes requested by your supervisor(s) to your original document*, and create a new pdf, delete the file on the server, and upload the new file.

You can track the progress of your thesis on Minerva.

Hooray! It was good news to receive this email, and I tweeted about it immediately, of course.

Then, this morning, I received the following email.

Dear Benjamin, … We [at the philosophy department] have been told that you haven’t submitted your thesis electronically, and this is one of the graduation conditions. Can you do this immediately? The conditions have to be met by Tuesday, 4 October. Best wishes.

October 4th is on Tuesday (5 days from now). I’m pretty sure that my thesis has been submitted electronically. Here is my evidence:

  • Minerva lists my thesis as being uploaded and approved
  • I received the aforementioned email from the e-thesis computer

So I really don’t know what this fuss from the philosophy department is all about, but now I’m nervous that something’s messed up.

Why not volunteers [sic]?

"Why not volunteers?"
"Why not volunteers?"

As an MA student in bioethics, I am very interested in the advertisements on the Métro for participation in phase I drug studies.

And that’s not just because they were very tempting back when I had no job and no prospects at the end of the school year in April.

I have found the evolution of this particular advertisement to be very notable indeed. A few months ago, when I first noticed it, it went something like this:

“Up to $4000 for healthy men, 18–45 / A clinical trial? Why not!”

It would run in English first, then in French, and in the version that they were running a few months ago, there was no translation problem.

Now, it is the same message, except instead of “A clinical trial? Why not!” it says, “Why not volunteers [sic]?”

English mistranslation aside, the emphasis of the message has changed. At first, the tone was more on the “Why not?”—it was more like the advertisers were saying, “Yeah, we know it’s a clinical trial, but let’s throw caution to the wind! What could go wrong?”

Now, the emphasis has changed. It’s like the advertisers are now trying to go for more of the “It’s for a good cause” feel. “Volunteer. Why wouldn’t you? It’s so that these kind people can develop drugs that will help all of us.”

“Why not volunteers?”

La Gare Centrale

Montréal's Gare Centrale
Montréal's Gare Centrale

Here is Montréal’s central railway station, all decked with Christmas lights and decorations. When I was there, I overheard some very loud, somewhat creepy laughter from somewhere in the station.

I looked around, and caught the eye of an elderly woman who also heard the laughter and found it disconcerting. We saw each other’s confusion and shared a moment.

McGill O-Week

O-Week at McGill
O-Week at McGill

It’s O-Week here at McGill, and I’m reminded of that every time I pass through campus. There are a few tell-tale signs:

  • Students are wearing matching t-shirts, and the girls have cut their shirts up so that you can see more of their skin.
  • Students are drunk in the middle of the day.
  • Students are walking around in groups based on their faculties and yelling at each other.

James McGill

The statue of James McGill on the McGill campus
The statue of James McGill on the McGill campus

Here is James McGill. Or rather a statue built on the McGill University campus in his honour. After his death, his money paid to found one of Canada’s oldest universities by royal decree. While this statue isn’t actually James McGill, his real body is kept only a couple hundred metres up the hill from where the statue is, along with half of his accountant’s body.

That’s not a joke, actually.

Back in the seventies, when DNA was all the rage, some science students at McGill decided to test James McGill’s remains, which were kept on-campus, in front of the Arts Building. What they found is that there were actually two men’s bodies there, which is in fact, double the expected number. The best explanation that anyone has been able to give is that when McGill’s body was exhumed and moved from what is now the train station to what is now the campus, the people who did it had a hard time distinguishing where one man’s body ended and the body of the next man’s began.

What they should have done is have James McGill taxidermied, and then, when the technology was developed, motorised. That would have certainly prevented the mess-up that ended with him having to share a grave with half of his accountant until Jesus comes back.

Bad day

Here is what a passenger-side window looks like when it's broken
Here is what a passenger-side window looks like when it's broken

Sunday was, without qualification, a bad day.

For a few days in a row this week, Pickles has been waking up with a fever, which goes away by the afternoon. It got as high as 104.7ºF on Saturday and so that night, we decided that if she had a fever the next morning, we would skip church and go to the Emergency Room at Montréal General Hospital instead.

When we first arrived at the Emergency room on Sunday morning around 9h30, it wasn’t too busy, but after a few hours, there were a few more people there to wait along with us. The nurses took some of Pickles’ blood, and put an IV in her with saline. Then when that was empty, another nurse eventually changed the bag for one with some sugar in it. A doctor came to see her, and ordered a CT scan of her bowels, to see what’s going on in there.

While we were waiting, I periodically went out to the car to put more money into the parking meter. I was parked right outside the hospital, within view of the hospital doors. Sometime between 14h15 and 15h35 someone came and smashed the passenger-side window, rifled through our glove compartment, and took our GPS. I know it happened during that time because the parking meter prints out tickets that indicate when exactly you pay and how long it lasts for.

Back in the hospital, a doctor finally came to see Pickles again, to follow up her CT scan. I guess they forgot to call Pickles for her CT scan, or perhaps they didn’t tell the CT scan people about it, because Pickles hadn’t had one yet, which was surprising for the doctor. Pickles went to radiology, where I found her, and told her about the car.

I called the police, who told me to take the van into the police station. This was something of an adventure, as we had become very reliant on the GPS to tell us how to get anywhere. Fortunately, the thief hadn’t stolen our trusty map of Montréal. I only went the wrong way on a one-way street for about thirty seconds. After filling out a report, I went home and vacuumed the shards of glass out of the passenger seat, making it much safer even for me to drive in. This way, I don’t have to worry about pieces of glass going flying every time I make a turn or stop too quickly.

Pickles' elbow, after a long day at the hospital
Pickles' elbow, after a long day at the hospital

Pickles phoned me to tell me that they wanted her to stay overnight. “For observation,” they told us. What that means is that she had to stay in the hospital, and they took her temperature in the morning. I packed a backpack with a blanket, her toothbrush and some clothes for Monday morning and brought it to her. A GI doctor came by in the morning when I came to pick her up.

The only thing that gave the doctor any hesitation about releasing Pickles was that he said they really ought to have done some blood cultures, considering that she came in complaining about a fever. What was strange about that is that the nurse did take Pickles’ blood for a blood culture earlier. As proof, Pickles pulled up the sleeve of her shirt and described the pop-bottle shaped vials that they put her blood into when they took her blood.

The doctor went to a computer to try to find out where the blood went, to no avail. It’s still a mystery, but fortunately the doctor let us go anyway. After a 25-hour visit to the hospital, I took Pickles home and we had a nap for much of the morning. Sunday had been an extremely stressful day.

On the upside, while we were waiting in the Emergency Room, I got to re-read the first 130 pages of Hursthouse’s On Virtue Ethics, which is helping me to clarify my thoughts on some of the bioethical issues that I expect to face this year.

Creepy statue

Creepy statue in downtown Montréal
Creepy statue in downtown Montréal

I went to the gym by Métro on Monday, and on my way there, I came across this statue. It’s supposed to be a crowd of people. I didn’t read the plaque that explained what it meant. I prefer the sense of mystery.

What is the man pointing at? Why is there a little gremlin person, crouching at his butt? Why is everyone standing so close together? Why are they all white people?

Creepy statue in downtown Montréal
Creepy statue in downtown Montréal
Creepy statue in downtown Montréal
Creepy statue in downtown Montréal

Another interesting thing: This statue was pristine. There wasn’t a bit of graffiti anywhere near it. Maybe this is because it’s right in the middle of downtown Montréal, and people would notice. But still, I see lots of buildings around there that have been vandalised.

Anyway, I like the contrast that the white crowd of people gives to the dark glass buildings behind them. And how creepy those gremlin-people are.