4th and final shot!

Wednesday, May 19th 2021 at 8:51 pm
by Jonah

Yesterday was my fourth and final Novavax trial shot. Berck got his last week. That night he reported that his whole back hurt and he felt terrible, although that was a pretty good excuse to not have to drive home from Serrano’s. Also, he couldn’t sleep on his arm.

The fourth shot felt about like the third one, hurting going in. Then my muscle felt like it was hurting a little bit while I waited for the 30 minutes before I could leave. It felt like I had worked out really hard at the gym.

Then last night I woke up around 2:30 a.m. with my arm hurting really badly and I couldn’t go back to sleep. I had told my boss that I would plan to work from home the day after my shot just in case, but then yesterday I got an e-mail saying there would be mandatory COVID testing at work today. So I dragged myself out of bed and headed to work. My low back and neck and shoulders all ached, and felt lousy. I worked until 11:15, when the testing nurse showed up. She asked me my name and then asked if I had any symptoms. I told her I’d had my second (real) shot the day before and felt pretty lousy. And she answered that I couldn’t be tested because I might present a false positive. So I clocked out for lunch and drove home.

Even though I’d had two cups of coffee that morning, I crawled into bed and fell asleep. The cat was happy to have a napping partner. I slept lightly for a couple of hours and then felt a lot better and went back to work.

So I’m fairly certain I had a placebo the first two shots and the last two were the real thing. Berck is too.

I’d say I’m pretty relieved to now be fully vaccinated, although I don’t know if anyone knows how long it takes after the second (fourth) shot to be fully activated. I’m not proud, just relieved.

My next appointment for the vaccine trial is in December. They will be continuing the study for another year after that to take my blood and study the long term effects.

He isn’t really that big.

3rd shot!

Monday, April 26th 2021 at 8:00 pm
by Jonah

Today was my third Novavax trial shot, in the crossover trial. So if I got two placebo shots previously, today I got a real Novavax vaccine. And if I got two shots of the Novavax vaccine previously, today I got a placebo.

Today’s shot seemed to hurt worse going in and then started hurting/burning within a few seconds, which went away after a few minutes. Then a couple hours later, my arm really started hurting for a couple of hours. It’s calmed down quite a bit now and isn’t really bothering me as much.

If I compare this reaction to my first shot, it is very different, and they both hurt! So now I still have no idea when I’ve received a placebo and when I’ve received a vaccine. My final shot is scheduled for three weeks away, and then I’ll finally be fully vaccinated.

Here’s an interesting article about Novavax and their reliance on Chilean tree bark: https://endpts.com/as-fears-mount-over-jj-and-astrazeneca-novavax-enters-a-shaky-spotlight/

Science

Tuesday, March 30th 2021 at 8:03 pm
by Jonah

The governor has announced that everyone in the state is eligible to get a vaccine as of Friday.

On the other hand, we have appointments to receive our third injections in the Novavax crossover trial in three/four weeks.

Do we abandon the trial and get some real shots? (The Lynn Institute instructed us to let them know if we had the opportunity to get an approved vaccine, and they would un-blind us to let us know if we are already full vaccinated or not.)

Or do we stick to the schedule? I put myself on a waiting list for a vaccine the other day because I figured I qualified under two or three qualifications under tier 1B.4. But I didn’t get a notification for an appointment.

I wonder how long it would take to get a notification for a vaccine appointment being in tier 1B.4. It seems like I might get an appointment before the general populace, which can start trying to get an appointment in three days. Would that be before my next Novavax appointment on April 26 at 9 a.m.?

When I signed up for the Novavax trial, it seemed like a good way to cut in line. I either got a vaccine months early or I qualified to be in tier 1B.4, one step ahead of everyone else. And it made me look like a hero! It didn’t seem like a hard decision.

Also, science!

But now that it comes down to it, I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing for a year and two weeks now. I could keep doing it for four more weeks and help scientists who are developing a highly effective and easily storable/transportable vaccine and help protect the world.

Or I could take my place in line, rightfully so according to the state, and get a “real” vaccine (which I might or might not actually be able get in the next four weeks anyway). And I could give up my status as a hero, as little as my part to play is.

So I took myself off the wait list.

Science.

Of course, I might have been fully vaccinated since January.

(Berck will tell you this is not a hard decision.)

The Flaming Lips Bubble Concert

Wednesday, March 24th 2021 at 10:21 pm
by Jonah

The first year we were married, I worked in an un-airconditioned warehouse in Oklahoma City while my husband worked his way through flight school. Whenever I was having a bad day, my husband would put on Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, and it never failed to cheer me up. Despite being in the same city as The Flaming Lips, we never saw them live; we certainly never could have afforded tickets to one of their concerts, as I made just over the amount that would have qualified us for food stamps.

Seventeen years later, after moving to Colorado and after going a year without attending a live concert due to the COVID pandemic, we finally bought tickets to a Flaming Lips in Oklahoma City for their final space bubble concert, for a night we happened to be in Oklahoma for a Formula Vee race.

We’d reserved a hotel room within walking distance of the venue so we didn’t have to worry about parking our truck and trailer hauling the race car. Normally, this would have meant we could both drink at the concert and then walk back to the hotel, but it turns out there is no open bar at space bubble concerts. We did walk to a nearby restaurant and enjoyed several craft beers ahead of time. My husband ordered an enormous antipasto platter that we couldn’t finish and two pizzas, including a surprisingly good brisket and poblano pepper pizza. (“Tyler would tell us to order it,” he said, referring to the economist Tyler Cowen’s advice to order the most seemingly out of place item on a menu, because there is probably a good reason it is on there. Fortunately, the pizzas only came in one size, so that I didn’t antagonize my husband by order the largest size, per engineers’ advice.) The antipasto platter included some roasted broccoli, which I couldn’t help trying. I will point out that I resisted eating all of the roasted broccoli, which I really wanted to do. More on that later.

The concert tickets said that doors opened at 7, so we made our way over to the venue around 7:30. “Doors open” meant we could collect an envelope with wrist bands and then stand in our assigned rectangle chalked marked into the sidewalk out front. We were in row 2, bubble 2. I have to say that having a place to stand and not having people on either side of you in a regular line was nice.

chalk square
BUBBLE 2

We each got wanded. I was instructed to just take the things out of my pocket that would set the wand off, and I responded that probably all of it would set it off. Out came the usual (wallet, sunglasses case, money clip, fingernail clippers, lip balm, phone) and two items in the deep pockets of my BDU trousers brought especially for this concert: a pulse ox meter and a CO2 meter.

Around 8:15 a guy came out and explained to all of us what would happen next and encouraged us to use the bathroom NOW. At 8:30 we finally went inside. The floor of the venue was covered in deflated plastic bubbles. Row 1 were still getting into theirs.

deflated bubbles

We followed the people in front of us almost all the way to the far side of the room and found our bubble. We stepped through the unzipped slit and pulled the plastic up around us and over our heads. This was pretty claustrophobic. But right then a staff member with a leaf blower started inflating our bubble. We zipped up the zipper so only the tip of the leaf blower was sticking in our bubble.

just the tip

The bubble filled up with air quite quickly, and we zipped up the zipper the rest of the way as soon as the guy with the leaf blower pulled it out.

leaf blower dude

We were now alone in a bubble with some stuff at the bottom of it. We could take off our masks!

goodies

This whole time an instructional video was playing on a screen on the stage. It explained that we had a little battery operated fan, a bottle of water, a commemorative bandana, a towel, and a sign (on the other side it said, “IT’S HOT IN HERE”),

I didn't really

There were some also some glasses that made the lights look cool.

cool glasses

The last item in the bubble was a wireless speaker with which the fan caused interference when run next to it.

crappy speaker

Pretty much immediately after closing the bubble, it became uncomfortably hot, and we took off our flannel shirts. At this point, the carbon dioxide meter began alarming, so we had to turn the alarm off. Pretty soon the carbon dioxide stopped displaying anything but zeros. We finally figured out that it wasn’t malfunctioning but that it had reached a CO2 level so high that it couldn’t show a reading.

0000
26° C is 78.8° F

But once the concert started, it was easier to put up with how uncomfortable it was in the bubble. The band started playing from inside their individual bubbles, and confetti and beach balls dropped from above.

confetti and beach balls

An advantage of being in the bubble was that we didn’t get confetti in our hair or get bonked in the nose with beach balls. We did have fun trying to punch our bubble at exactly the right time a beach ball was landing on it to launch the beach ball back into the air.

The band started off with a great song to start the set, “Race for the Prize.”

Two scientists are racing
For the good of all mankind
Both of them side-by-side
So determined

Locked in heated battle
For the cure that is their prize
But it’s so dangerous
But they’re determined

Theirs is to win
If it kills them
They’re just humans
With wives and children

Upwards to the vanguard
Where the pressure is too high
Under the microscope
Hope against hope

Forging for the future
But to sacrifice their lives
Both of them side-by-side
So determined

This song was released in 1999, and I’ve listened to it multiple times, but tonight it made me think of Dr. Katalin Karikó and Dr. Lisa Jackson.

Wayne Coyne, the lead singer, emerged from his bubble to hold up a couple of custom balloons.

Oklahoma City

Wayne had to get a new bubble every so often to sing in because his bubble kept fogging up. Ours started collecting condensation as well, thus the towel provided.

Wayne's world

The leaf blower guys came by regularly, and they would mercifully aim the leaf blower at each of our faces, which felt so good. We only requested more air by holding up our sign a couple of times.

our savior

It was during one of these fresh air feeds that I couldn’t hold it in any longer and let loose the result of eating the broccoli earlier. So, yes, we were then trapped in a bubble with my fart.

The worst part was when the concert ended and we had to wait for all of the people in the back to exit first, which made me rethink the wisdom of getting a bubble in the second row. At some point our little fan had stopped, so I tried fanning with the sign, until my husband said, “That just causes you to produce more carbon dioxide.” Still, we were checking our oxygen levels with the pulse ox meter, and our oxygen levels were fine.

Still, it was an amazing experience, and I’m so glad to have done it. I also never want to do it again.

The band played a song off their new album, but most of the concert was their old hits, including several songs from Yoshimi. The sound quality was predictably not good, and I’m not sure that our portable speaker played anything but canned applause (you couldn’t really hear the people in the other bubbles). I don’t know if I can explain why I enjoy Yoshimi so much. A bit part is the lyrics, which are often sad but hopeful at the same time. (They also played “She Don’t Use Jelly”, which possibly has the most vapid lyrics of the entire 1990s.) The hit song off Yoshimi is “Do You Realize,” which, of course, they were going to play. But having lost someone important in my life five days previously, was especially poignant.

One, two, three, four

Do you realize
That you have the most beautiful face?
Do you realize
We’re floating in space?
Do you realize
That happiness makes you cry?
Do you realize
That everyone you know someday will die?

And instead of saying all of your goodbyes
Let them know you realize that life goes fast
It’s hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn’t go down
It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round

Do you realize?

Ever to chance

Wednesday, March 17th 2021 at 10:46 pm
by Jonah

Cliff Bennett died today. He and his wife had just sold their home in Georgia and bought one in Arizona to retire and be near their youngest daughter and youngest grandchild. But both of them caught COVID-19 around the beginning of the year. His wife recovered. Cliff was admitted to the hospital, eventually intubated and put on a ventilator, then given a tracheotomy. In February he was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital to try to wean him off the ventilator. But then he had to return to the hospital with a fungal infection and sepsis. He recovered from the infections, but his lungs were too far gone to be able to survive off the ventilator for long. His family made the difficult decision to take him off the machines keeping him alive on Saturday. He had been so healthy before catching Covid that his body lasted until today.

Cliff was my dad’s best friend, the principal of my small church school, later my pastor, and the officiant at my wedding. He and his wife agreed to be in my mom and dad’s will to take care of me and my siblings in case something happened to them while we were still children. Cliff had an astonishing ability to talk to and listen to anyone. He loved shopping for antiques, entranced by the story each little treasure held. He seemed to love all things old: old music, old movies, old baseball, and old pickup trucks. But maybe most of all old friends.

My favorite part of school as an elementary student was when the whole school would gather in assembly (there weren’t that many of us), and Cliff (back then Mr. Bennett) would read to us. He would read long engaging books to us, one chapter at a time. Sometimes he would read shorter pieces, and I’m pretty sure that’s where I first heard “Casey at the Bat”. The job of principal obviously called for being serious a lot of the time, but when he’d get to an especially funny part in a book, he’d try to keep reading while starting to uncontrollably laugh, before eventually having to stop, catch his breath, and exclaim, “Oh, me!”

I think it was Cliff’s first e-mail address that was tinkertoeverstochance, and he loved explaining its meaning. It was a baseball announcer call whenever Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance performed their signature double-play while playing for the Cubs between 1902 and 1912.

Baseball’s Sad Lexicon Franklin Pierce Adams

These are the saddest of possible words:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double-
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

I think I have to disagree. These are not the saddest of possible words.