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Booster engaged

December 16, 2021 1 comment

I am boosted! I just got back from the hospital, where I got my COVID vaccine booster. I went to the same hospital as last time, but things have changed. The vaccination center was a huge, crowded operation last year, but today it was just in the pharmacy inside the hospital’s little bookstore/souvenir shop, and only a couple of other people were there. I hope that means that most people have already gotten their boosters, or that they’re taking advantage of the free vaccine clinics at the board of health or getting them from their local pharmacies. I tried going to a walk-in vaccination clinic at the board of health a week or two ago, but the parking lot was full so I gave up. A good sign, I guess.

Since it was a relatively warm day, I started to walk to the hospital, which is only a 15 to 20-minute walk from home. But I started out too late, and once I’d gotten a couple of blocks, I decided I wouldn’t make it in time, so I walked back home and took my car after all. As it turned out, what with parking and all, I ended up ten minutes late anyway. I’m not sure I really saved myself any time. Still, that would’ve made more of a difference last year, when so many people were making appointments that a slot might be snatched up between the time you saw it and clicked on it on the hospital’s site. This time, it wasn’t busy at all, so I guess being late didn’t matter.

Another thing that turned out not to matter was the identification number and QR code they e-mailed me and told me to keep on hand. The pharmacist explained that was just a backup if they couldn’t find my name in their system.

Anyway, I got the Pfizer vaccine for my first two shots, but now the hospital only offers Moderna. Apparently the science says it doesn’t really matter which one you get as a booster, and mixing and matching might actually increase immunity a bit. The one cause for concern is that I know I had a mild reaction to the Pfizer vaccine, while Moderna is an unknown quantity. So I might feel kind of bad for the next day or so. No evident symptoms yet, though. My arm isn’t sore, but then, it took some time for the soreness to set in the first time (there was none the second time).

I mentioned before that my first shot hurt significantly (at injection, not later) while the second was so painless that I wasn’t convinced I’d even gotten injected (I never look). I figured the difference was that I was too tense the first time and more relaxed the second. So I made sure to relax my muscles this time too, and I just felt a mild jab and then nothing.

When the pharmacist advised waiting around for 15 minutes, I said, “It’s a good thing I’m in a bookstore, then.” But it turned out to have at least as many of its shelves devoted to tchotchkes, toys, candy, etc. as to books and magazines, I guess for the benefit of patients or visitors buying them gifts. Still, I got to browse through a science magazine, something I don’t do enough anymore.

So now my immune system should be reinforced, which is good, since they’re tentatively planning to hold the Shore Leave Convention in person again in 2022, after going virtual the previous two years. I don’t know if the rise of the omicron variant will force them to change their plans, but for now, I’m hoping to be there if I can. Here’s hoping!

Calculator update (further updated)

This morning, I decided to see if I could find a way to fix the blanked-out row of LCDs on my calculator, after determining that the batteries weren’t the problem. Looking it up online suggested that there was probably a dirty or broken connection in the ribbon of circuits connecting the display to the circuit board, and that it was theoretically possible but extremely difficult to fix.

Taking the long shot, I unscrewed the back of the calculator again — swapping the old batteries back in while I was at it, since they were still good after all — and tried to spot the problem. Seeing nothing, I just generally tried to fiddle with the connecting ribbon and push any loose connections back into place. I have an old irrigation syringe left over from my orthodontic surgery decades ago (since I’m a bit of a pack rat and I often hold onto things just in case they might prove useful someday), and I used it to puff air under the ribbon in hopes of blowing any dust free. But nothing seemed to make any difference. So I figured I’d done all I could and closed the calculator back up again.

Then, just as a last-ditch, token effort since I had nothing left to lose, I resorted to the ultimate fallback — percussive maintenance. I just tried banging the calculator around in hopes of knocking something back into place.

And it worked!!!

I’m not kidding. It actually restored the display to full function, at least for now. Brute force did the job when delicacy failed. I have no idea if it will hold, but at least I have hope that if the problem does recur, I’ll be able to bang it back into place again. Though hopefully there was just a speck of dust or something that’s now gone, and it’ll be fine. Still, I’ll try to remember to be gentle with the calculator lest something get knocked loose again.

That left the question of what to do with the unnecessary replacement batteries I got. Amazon doesn’t let you return batteries, because they’re technically hazardous materials, but it does allow refunds. I didn’t feel right about getting a refund on perfectly good batteries I still had, but if the calculator had proven irreparable, I might’ve done it anyway. As it is, though, since the calculator is still working (for now), I might still have use for the batteries in the future. So no refund — I just put the batteries back in the pouch they were shipped in, taped it back up with a note saying “For calculator” so I wouldn’t forget, and put the pouch in the closet where I keep my other spare batteries. I figure if the original batteries have lasted for so many years (the manual is copyrighted 2003, apparently the last year this model was sold, so it’s probably about 18 years old), the new ones will keep. Though it’s just as possible that the old batteries will last longer than the calculator.

(Also, if I’d remembered earlier that the manual was still in my drawer, instead of just now when I decided to check the copyright date, then I wouldn’t have had to look online for battery replacement instructions. D’oh!)

EDIT: Well, that didn’t last long. I just tried using the calculator, and the LCDs went out again after a few moments. And no amount of banging was able to fix it this time. So basically forget what I just said an hour ago. Yeesh.

UPDATE 12/10: Turns out I can return batteries after all, as long as they aren’t defective. Since the calculator’s busted and the old batteries are still good, I had no reason to keep the new ones. I just had to print out the shipping and hazardous materials labels, tape them onto the return package, and walk them up to the Amazon pickup/drop-off center a few blocks away. I’ve been notified that my refund has been issued — all five bucks and a penny. Whee!

The replacements

Last week, I had trouble getting my electric kettle to go on, and when I fiddled with the cord, the power light on the kettle flickered intermittently… and another light glowed from within the cord, evidently from an electric arc, so I immediately unplugged it. The wire inside must have broken. In retrospect, that must be why the cord kept getting hot there, and I should’ve realized there was a problem. Dodged a bullet there.

So I ordered a replacement online; I couldn’t find an exact match, but I found the most similar one I could. While I was at it, I also ordered a couple of replacement batteries for my calculator, whose display has been fritzing out in places (basically the whole second row of LCDs from the bottom, the ones that make the lower half of the vertical strokes in the numerals).

Anyway, for the past few days I’ve had to microwave water for my coffee and tea, since I don’t have a coffee maker (I use coffee bags that work like tea bags). But the new kettle came yesterday evening at last. It was too late in the day to try it out, and I had to wash it and prep it first according to the instructions. But today I’ve successfully used it to boil water for morning coffee, midmorning tea, and ravioli for lunch. (I like to boil half the water in the pot and half in the electric kettle so it goes faster.) I just have to get used to the power switch being underneath the handle instead of on top of it in easy reach of the thumb, and to the top opening being smaller and not quite as easy to pour water into.

As for the batteries, I’m embarrassed to admit that I forgot they were for my calculator and thought they were for my bathroom scale, which also needs new batteries, though I didn’t think to order any. So I was really confused about how I could’ve ordered the wrong size batteries for the scale, and was planning to go to the local Amazon storefront and return them in the morning — and then I glanced toward my desk drawer and it finally hit me that I’d gotten them for the calculator instead! D’oh.

So I followed the instructions I found online to unscrew the back of the calculator and swap out the batteries, and at first I got no result. Did I get the wrong kind after all? Did I break a connection? I swapped the old batteries back in and they worked, and then I tried again with the new batteries and the calculator turned on. Okay.

But — that lower row of vertical LCDs is still out. So the batteries weren’t the problem after all. The calculator must just be getting old. But I don’t think I can get a refund for the replacement batteries now that I tore open their packs. Can I? If not, then I’ve wasted my money.

I guess there’s not much point in buying a new calculator either, since I can just use my phone app for that. I feel a bit sad about that. (I happen to use the exact same model calculator as the late Grant Imahara of Mythbusters, as I recently learned.)

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