Receiving the Second Covid-19 Vaccine Dose: My Experience

You may remember that I wrote about my experience receiving the first Covid-19 vaccine dose. Yesterday, I received the second dose. I’d like to chronicle the event for those who are interested.

Due to no fault of their own, the McLean County Health Department had to twice cancel my appointment because of weather. Of course, this was quite distressing. To their credit, however, they were very good about emailing me and keeping me informed.

Although it seemed to take forever, I eventually got a date and time assigned to me. They urged me to try to make that particular date and time, and I was more than happy to comply.

I finally received the second vaccine dose yesterday morning, once again at Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington, IL. Because the MCHD had several days of missed appointments to make up, there were many more people present than during my first visit. Fortunately, the MCHD once more kept it well organized and moving as quickly as possible. Though I had to wait in line several times, I never waited more than a minute or two until things started moving again.

Just like last time, I made my way down the stairs to the floor of the arena and soon sat at a technician’s station. I may have had the best technician in the world because I barely even felt the needle. I actually wasn’t totally sure she’d even given me the shot.

Again, I waited a few moments in a holding area to make sure I didn’t have any immediate adverse reactions before making my way back to work.

Because I know of several people who had a very rough time after receiving their second dose, I made sure to be as prepared as possible. I had several bottles of water and Gatorade waiting for me at work and sipped on them all afternoon in order to stay hydrated.

After coming home, I made a point to try to keep to business as usual. I didn’t sit down and rest much: I kept active and stuck to the typical routine. Though my arm was a little sore, I didn’t feel any negative symptoms other than being tired. Of course, it had been a busy day, so I might have simply been … tired. Around 7:30 p.m., I laid down on the couch for a few minutes and took a quick nap.

My wife and I watched a few shows, and by the time I went to bed around 10:30 p.m., I still didn’t feel all that different other than having a sore arm. To be honest, I fully expected to wake up feeling sick because that seemed to be the case with many people I know.

I’m happy to report that when I woke up this morning, I felt pretty much fine. At this point, I still do. I received my second dose well over twenty-four hours ago, so I don’t expect any side effects at all from here on out. My arm is still sore, I’m still drinking lots of water and Gatorade, but I think I was fortunate enough to escape the fever, chills, headaches, and body aches others seem to be enduring.

My sincere thanks to the McLean County Health Department. This is a gargantuan task they are executing. Yet, from the arena workers to the technicians, everyone I encountered were friendly, cordial, and professional. Other than the initial sign-up process, everything pertaining to the operation has been exemplary.

The Legend Of Zelda: Link’s Awakening – A Few Thoughts

I should begin by noting that I am not even close to being a serious gamer. In fact, the last time I consistently sat and played video games was circa 1989.

However, my children have a Nintendo Switch, and, as time passed, I couldn’t help but notice a game for sale called The Legend Of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. As a kid, The Legend Of Zelda proved one of my all-time favorites. (I had the gold-plated cartridge with my NES.) Honestly, it was one of the only games I ever beat. To this day, I have very fond memories of that game.

My household has been spending a lot more time playing video games during the pandemic because, you know, the pandemic. My interest in Link’s Awakening grew. I watched a few videos showing the gameplay and saw that it really seemed to mirror the original. I decided to take a risk and buy it.

I’m so glad I did. Link’s Awakening was an absolute blast for this middle-aged guy. Because it mirrors The Legend Of Zelda in many ways, it felt very familiar. Of course, the graphics are obviously far better. But the maps, the dungeons, the weapons–much of it hearkens back to the source material. I adored the nostalgia of it all.

However, I got a little impatient with trying to figure things out. Since my subscription to Nintendo Power ran out three decades ago, I thought I’d see what the Internet had to say about getting through certain levels and defeating certain villains. A lot, as it happens. Temptation overtook me and I pretty much used the Internet from that moment forward and blazed through the game. Upon reflection, I wish I hadn’t. It was so much fun, I should have made it last a little longer. In all honesty, though, there were some parts to the game I don’t think I ever would have figured out on my own.

Link’s Awakening is a family friendly, innocent, entertaining game anyone can enjoy. It definitely rekindled a love of video games in this old man’s heart. I’ve heard good things about Breath Of the Wild, but I also hear it’s an immersive experience. I might have to save that one for the summer when I have more time.

Broadchurch – A Few Thoughts

My in-laws recommended that my wife and I watch Broadchurch–we’re glad they did!

Originally a British mystery series, Broadchurch is a fictional seaside town where two detectives, Hardy and Miller, must solve three brutal mysteries over the course of three seasons.

David Tennant plays Hardy, a troubled detective who has moved to Broadchurch out of necessity. Olivia Colman plays Miller, a local detective who knows every nook and everyone in the small town. If that seems like an incredible pair of actors, you’re right. There is no doubt that they are the reason Broadchurch shines so bright.

The first season centers upon the murder of a child. There are eight episodes and they do a masterful job of finding a way to make many, many people possibly guilty of the crime. Jodie Whittaker brilliantly plays the child’s mother. I now understand why so many people were excited when she was cast as the new Doctor Who. Arthur Darvill, also a Doctor Who alum, plays a local priest who works hard to offer comfort to everyone involved. (I think the entire cast appeared in Doctor Who at some point in their lives. Must be a British thing.) Again, the actors in this series are excellent. The first season’s conclusion truly surprised us when they revealed the murderer.

The second season builds upon the first while introducing a new story line. It can’t quite match the novelty of the first season, but it does flesh out the first season as it also explores the very crime that sent Hardy to Broadchurch. The second season, in my opinion, is the best in terms of acting, story, and pacing.

The third season is largely disconnected from the first two with lots of new townspeople coming into focus. While I liked it well enough, it just didn’t compare to the first two seasons in terms of plot cohesion or pacing. I also didn’t care for some of the directions they took with established characters. However, Tennant and Colman are a FORCE in the third season. They are mesmerizing together with each also having a firm hold on their respective characters. Seeing them act so well more than made up for any of the third season’s shortcomings.

If you’re looking for a quick mystery series to watch, I absolutely recommend Broadchurch. It deals with very heavy plot points that can be frankly quite depressing, but the acting and the very (mostly) tight storytelling make for a thrilling experience. You can currently find Broadchurch on Netflix.

On Receiving My First Dose Of the Covid-19 Vaccine

Today I received my first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington, IL. I’m happy to report that it was a very smooth, easy experience.

I’ll detail the entire process for you.

Quite honestly, the most difficult aspect of the situation occurred during the sign up. McLean County Health Department opened up a few dates at their website for the vaccine and they filled up within minutes. Luckily, I had a friend on top of things and he notified me that the sign up was happening. I visited the site (found here), and managed to secure the 19th. However it was a bit of a free-for-all and I know of several people who didn’t get signed up in time. The great irony is that I had signed up to receive notice when those dates would become available, but I didn’t receive that notice until about thirty minutes after they were all gone. Thank goodness for my friend who messaged me! The good news is that the MCHD has reacted to the overwhelming response and would like you to call this number with any questions about scheduling an appointment when more dates become available.

My time arrived and so I headed to the arena. I pulled right into the arena parking garage (found here in green) and easily found a space on the first level–free parking during my visit, by the way. From there I walked to the back of the garage and moved along the side of the arena towards North Madison Street. Once I reached North Madison Street, I walked a few feet along the front of the arena and entered a small set of doors about twenty feet before you reached the main doors to the entrance.

Once inside, make sure you have your state identification, your insurance card, and a work badge of some sort. As an educator, I’m part of the Phase 1B, so I had to prove my credentials.

Someone greeted me at the door and asked my appointment time. I told them, they asked if I had any trouble with stairs, and then I moved along to a second table about thirty feet away. There I had to name my appointment time again and show my identification. They also had a form for me to fill out with basic information about my insurance, contact information, and general health. My work provided this sheet ahead of time, so I had it all filled out and ready to go. Finally, they wanted to know if I had any trouble with stairs. I followed a series of markers on the floor and noticed there were places to stand six feet apart if waiting in line.

They moved me along to a third table, this time about fifty feet away. Again, they asked my appointment time, verified my identity, and asked if I had any trouble with stairs. They also made sure I had correctly filled out my form. Again, there were plenty of markers on the floor to guide my way, though it was pretty obvious where to go.

I’d like to take a moment to say that everyone I encountered to that point were extremely friendly, helpful, and capable. (This would be true of my whole venture.)

I was then told to use a particular set of doors which would lead me down to the arena floor. I had to descend several steep stairs, as you would expect at an arena, and all of the questions about stairs suddenly made more sense.

They had divided the arena floor in half. Half of it contained about twenty-five stations with health workers administering the vaccine. The other half of the arena floor consisted of several chairs divided up into quadrants–these were recovery areas. Some of the chairs were solitary and six feet away from any other chairs, some were set up for couples but also spaced away from any neighbors.

They again had marked the floor for people to stand. They had us following the edge of the arena floor from our entry point upon the floor to the entrance to the vaccine stations. I didn’t wait long at all. Before I knew it, I was seated in front of a health care worker (and, as it turns out, a former student). I got my shot, got a reminder card for the second dose, got some information for getting an alert when that second dose would be available, and then got sent to the recovery area.

Again, I followed very clear markings on the floor to the second half of the arena floor. They wanted me to wait between fifteen and thirty minutes to make sure I didn’t have any adverse reactions. Once seated, a worker suggested that I take a picture of my reminder card in case I lost it. Good advice. After about ten minutes, I told them that I felt great and asked if I could leave. They double-checked that I felt okay, then they let me go.

I was then pointed to an exit from the arena floor which clearly led me through a few halls and kicked me out pretty close to the back of the parking garage where I left my car.

For me, the entire process took about half an hour, but it wasn’t very busy and everyone seemed to have their credentials in order which kept the lines moving quickly.

Though the sign up process proved to be a bit of a hiccup, I found the entire experience in the arena to be friendly, professional, well-organized, and appropriately paced. I honestly don’t have any complaints at all.

My thanks to all of the people who made it possible.

Have any other questions? Feel free to ask in the comments.

WandaVision – My First Impression

The long wait is over and the MCU streaming shows have finally arrived at Disney Plus!

First up? WandaVision.

Personally, the wait was well worth it. I don’t know what I expected from WandaVision, but it certainly exceeded whatever I had in mind.

I’d like to initially say that the show is most delightful because it displays what we’ve all suspected to be true–Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany have great chemistry together. We were made to believe that these two were in love during the MCU movies, and while they did their best to convey that storyline, it simply proved too hard to deliver what with all the stones and purple aliens and things blowing up.

But now we get to see them–just them–and they are a ton of fun.

I’m also pleasantly surprised by Elizabeth Olsen. I don’t think I’ve seen her in anything other than the Marvel movies. Frankly, they didn’t give her much to work with while playing Wanda Maximoff. She often felt shoehorned in. And though she always had some cool action scenes, I never saw her being much else than angry, sad, or mopey. With WandaVision, we get to see a very full range from Olsen. Her voice, her body language, her eyes–she’s using them all to let us know what Wanda is feeling. Best of all? Olsen’s funny!

The premise of WandaVision … I don’t really know how to explain it nor do I really know much to explain. They are living within the realm of sitcoms. The first two episodes are in black and white with all the sitcom tropes and clichés you experienced during Leave It To Beaver, I Dream Of Jeannie, and I Love Lucy. They’ve got a full cast of delightful characters, especially Kathryn Hahn, and the first two episodes center around Vision’s boss coming to dinner and then a neighborhood talent show.

Yes, you read that right.

Yet, amidst these familiar events, there are moments of real foreboding, discomfort, and even suspense. WandaVision slips into something more like The Twilight Zone, but only for seconds at a time.

For me, the real joy of WandaVision is that I have no idea what’s going on, I have no idea what to expect, and I have no idea where they derived their plot. With most of the MCU movies there is a comic book somewhere out there that laid the groundwork. This feels totally original.

The tone is perfect, the acting is a blast, the story is unpredictable, and the show is just plain fun. I never had any doubts, but if WandaVision is any indication, the MCU has flawlessly transitioned to the small screen. Furthermore, they’ve already proven that they have no fear. These MCU shows will be given room to breathe, and these shows will break the mold previously set by the MCU.

Lovecraft Country – A Few Thoughts

Lovecraft Country started out as a brilliant genre mashup of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, history, and social commentary. The first episode thoroughly impressed me because it mixed fantasy horror with real life horror quite effectively. 

The second episode seemed to be a strange break from the first, and each subsequent episode always felt a little disjointed from the series as a whole. There were so many zigs and so many zags that I couldn’t synthesize the overall plot. 

In the end, these inconsistent storylines proved too much for me to say that I enjoyed the series. 

However, Lovecraft Country’s secret weapons are the cast. In the end, I’ll watch anything with Jonathan Majors and Jurnee Smollett in starring roles. These two were fantastic. Furthermore, the show just looked good. The costumes, the sets, the props, the cars–everything was topnotch. 

And, though we only got to see them in one episode, Topsy and Bopsy proved to be the breakout superstars of Lovecraft Country. These charismatic fiends are the stuff of nightmares, yet I can’t wait to see them again. 

I appreciate everything Lovecraft Country set out to do. It tackled social issues, historical tragedies, racism, sexism, abuse, and many other important things, all while telling a story based within the worlds of magic and horror. 

In the end, though, it simply couldn’t tell a streamlined, coherent story that stretched across all ten episodes. No matter how great the acting, how beautiful the sets and costumes, and how noble the intent, the writing has got to be the best aspect of any show. 

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The Third Day – A Few Thoughts

I wanted to like The Third Day–I really did. I stuck it out. All six hours. Kept hoping it would get better.

It didn’t.

The Third Day had so much going for it. Beautifully shot. Excellent locations. Charismatic acting. An interesting concept. It’s just … it didn’t make any sense to me at all.

The Third Day jumped around so much that the plot became a muddled mess. The characters made such irrational, ludicrous decisions that I simply couldn’t suspend my disbelief. The show contradicted itself at every turn.

But … the actors! The actors were so good! Naomie Harris, Jude Law, Emily Watson, Paddy Considine, Katherine Waterson–these are quality actors doing quality work!

It just didn’t work.

As much as I want to, I simply can’t recommend The Third Day.

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The Haunting Of Bly Manor – A Few Thoughts

I enjoyed The Haunting Of Hill House, but I love its successor, The Haunting Of Bly Manor

The Haunting Of Bly Manor follows the story of Dani Clayton, an American tasked with caring for two young orphans in the massive estate known as Bly Manor. She is joined by Jamie the gardener, Mrs. Grose the housekeeper, and Owen the chef. Together they form a sort of surrogate family for Flora and Miles, the orphans. Soon enough, however, we learn that Bly Manor has some very dark secrets, and that history can literally come back to haunt you.

I found The Haunting Of Bly Manor to be very well crafted. The pacing struck me as nearly perfect, which is unusual for a Netflix show, and they stuck the landing exceptionally well with the final episode, which, again, is rare for Netflix. 

There are some jump scares in The Haunting Of Bly Manor, to be sure, as well as a general tone of creepiness, but I’m not sure I would define the show as “scary.” Yes, it’s a ghost story–no doubt–but I’m not convinced it’s a “scary” story.

In fact, I think you would be hard pressed to find a more likable group of characters than Dany, Jamie, Mrs. Grose, and Owen. These four characters are the heart and soul of the show, and the actors are a pleasure to watch. I considered them my friends by the end of the series, which doesn’t happen to me very often.

The Haunting Of Bly Manor plays with time, structure, and perspective quite a bit, but this serves to strengthen the overall story. Sometimes these narrative breaks are simply to elongate a series, to stretch it out, but I can reassure you that every episode is vital.

I only have one complaint about the show–just the one–and it involves a personal haunting that Dany is suffering early on in the series. Unless I missed it, I’m not quite sure that subplot ever got resolved.

I completely recommend The Haunting Of Bly Manor. I looked forward to every episode. I think it could be appropriate for the family if you have older kids. There’s no nudity, very little bad language, and while there are jump scares, there’s not much gory violence to speak of.

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Cobra Kai: Seasons One and Two – A Few Thoughts

I’ll admit it: I thought it was a terrible idea when I heard YouTube planned to release an original series furthering the Karate Kid story. But, as time progressed, I heard some positive things about the show. Some were even calling it a hit.

Cobra Kai, the show in question, came to Netflix a few weeks ago. My wife and I thought we’d preview it to see if it was appropriate for our twelve-year-old. First of all–it’s not appropriate for a twelve-year-old due to sexual references; second of all–we LOVED it and binged the whole series.

Cobra Kai is a magical blend of nostalgia and modernity. For middle-aged folks like me (I’m 43), it brings back all of the incredible feels from the original Karate Kid. It even goes so far as to provide literal cuts from the first movie during flashbacks.

However, it’s novel in that it provides a completely different take on the prototypical teenage bad boy–Johnny Lawrence. Johnny is no longer the archetypal golden boy villain. He’s now relatable, sympathetic, and even likable. Sure, he’s still rough around the edges, but I think the older crowd sees a lot of themselves in him … for better or for worse.

On the other hand, Danny LaRusso has changed as well. He’s still trying to do the right thing, but we learn Johnny has his own ideas about how things happened back in the 80s which casts Danny in a different light. Furthermore, in his own way, and despite being very successful in life, Danny can’t let go of the past, either. He is every bit as paralyzed in time as Johnny Lawrence.

This kind of complex characterization was COMPLETELY unexpected and riveted us.

Also, the show struck gold with casting their new karate kids. In my opinion, Xolo Maridueña, who plays Johnny’s first protégé, is the heart and soul of this show. He’s a likable, charismatic actor who makes us care about the ups and downs of his character. In fact, though talent varies a bit, all of the “teenage” characters are extremely engaging in their own way. Each one of them has a distinct personality and unique motivations. The days of one-note teen archetypes are over in the Karate Kid saga.

Most surprisingly, Cobra Kai is truly funny. Johnny, though always completely serious, is absolutely hilarious. He’s so disengaged from the modern world to such a degree that he doesn’t understand contemporary civility, technology, or even medical conditions. He utters some horrifically crude lines, but I can’t deny how funny they are.

Finally, the action is fantastic in Cobra Kai. Ralph Machio (Danny) is currently 58. William Zabka is 54. Both of these men can still sell the martial arts. Xolo Maridueña seems to be a natural as do the other lead karate students. There are some great fight scenes in this series, particularly in the final episode of Season 2.

I’m not surprised Cobra Kai is taking the world by storm now that it’s on Netflix. It’s the best of something old and something new. I’m so happy for this second chance at stardom for the original cast, and I love that the new blood is forging their own fame. As you’ve probably guessed, I highly recommend Cobra Kai.

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HBO Max’s Harley Quinn: Seasons 1 & 2 – A Few Thoughts

I subscribed to HBO Max because I am DC Comics for life and I could not resist the Zack Snyder Justice League Director’s Cut. 

Okay. There, I said it.

However, there have been some very welcome surprises since subscribing to HBO Max, and Harley Quinn is very much among them.

Let me explain. DC Comics launched a streaming service about two years ago featuring original show content such as Swamp Thing, Doom Patrol, Titans, and Harley Quinn. I heard rumors that, with the advent of HBO Max, the DC streaming service might get absorbed, at least in terms of shows. To my great advantage, that is happening even as we speak. 

Harley Quinn never struck me as a must-watch, but I’d heard good things about it, and so when it popped up on the HBO Max “just added” page, I gave it a shot.

I instantly loved it.

At just about 23 minutes apiece, this animated comedy regularly made me laugh out loud as I powered through the first two seasons. The show is cartoonishly bloody and relentlessly profane, but it is absolutely hilarious.

It features Harley Quinn played by Kaley Cuoco, Poison Ivy played by Lake Bell, Batman played by Diedrich Bader, Clayface played by Alan Tudyk, King Shark played by Ron Funches, Dr. Psycho played by Tony Hale, and Commissioner Gordon played by Christopher Meloni.

You’ve also got substantial voice appearances by J.B. Smoove, Jim Rash, Jason Alexander, Giancarlo Esposito, Michael Ironside, Wanda Sykes, Rachel Dratch, Wayne Knight, Will Sasso, and Alfred Molina. These are NAMES, people!

However, I’m not sure how funny this show is to anyone not deeply steeped in nerd culture. There are a ton of inside comic book jokes, parodies, and satires squarely aimed at the last eighty or so years of DC Comics.

Furthermore, they make everyone hilarious. Clayface makes me roar every time he talks, Bane is comedy gold, and King Shark is adorable. Kite Man has become the most sympathetic character going, and Poison Ivy is cooler than anyone ever imagined possible, and also bitingly funny. Don’t even get me started on Commissioner Gordon. 

Harley Quinn is such a fresh take on these characters and so unusual that you have to watch it for the novelty alone. For anyone who says DC is too dark, I dare you to feel the same way after watching Harley Quinn. (Just don’t pay attention to the blood, the maiming, and the general anarchy.)

Best of all? HBO Max just announced that Harley Quinn: Season 3 is coming exclusively to HBO Max.

If you have HBO Max, I highly recommend that you give Harley Quinn a try.