N A S A   S T U D Y   -  P A R T   F I F T E E N :   H o m e
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 26, 2009     08:45 pm
I've got more Sherlock Holmes on TV and I’m surfing Facebook for old classmates (most of whom would never remember me in a million years).  Apparently, one girl I went to school with is (or was) on Survivor… who knew?!  I mean, it’s no NASA study but at least she was on television.  This study might make a good reality show but then again, we can't even have sugar in our food, let alone the kinds of debauchery commonly found in most so-called reality shows.  Maybe if some washed up 80s rocker stayed here for a few months...

Lunch was spaghetti with chicken, a slice of cheesecake, garlic bread, and a glass of milk.  I already had this once in the current rotation but, in this case, I believe it was due to the SmartPill.  I don’t know how this will affect future meals but if it results in one less cheese-tinged dish, I'll be happy.

Mona drew up my schedule for tomorrow.  I have more reconditioning at 10:30am, and that's it.  I don’t know if this will be the last one, or whether or not the SmartPill will affect things; if history repeats itself (and it often does), the pill should be out by 9:00 in the morning.  That way, I won't have to do crazy walks with this receiver hanging from my neck.  Mona wrote the schedule with a yellow marker and, considering it’s on a white board, it's not that easy to see.  She offered to redo it but I told her it wouldn't be necessary... it reminds me of some of the badly-designed PowerPoint presentations at Full Sail... 

Dinner consisted of fish, fries, broccoli, apple sauce, sandwich cookies, and grape juice.  Only five more breakfasts, five more lunches (though I'm hoping I get to leave before lunchtime on Thursday), and four more dinners.

I finished the Second City book and I’m done with my water.  I'm watching Life After People on the History Channel right now.  Today definitely feels like a Sunday but nope, tomorrow is Sunday...
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SUNDAY, DECEMBER 27, 2009     11:47 am
I muttered another expletive as I woke up this morning, or rather, as the music prevented me from going back to bed.  I must've been tossing and turning for close to an hour before the music came on.  Arby is sitting outside the room this morning and hers is always a comforting presence.

Breakfast consisted of bacon, a bowl of fruit, hard-boiled eggs, and one and a half bagels with cream cheese on the side.  I took a shower, and I just might have enough clothes to last until Thursday without having to do another load of laundry.

Reconditioning was a little easier this time around.  The covered walkway was closed, so we didn’t do any funny walks.  First, we went down to the second floor and walked around the hospital; I think we walked a little farther this time.  We then went back upstairs, and James had me jump off the first step: first with both feet landing on my heels, then my right foot, then the left.  I did some light weightlifting, crunches, push-ups, stretching, etc.  I also did some walking around and above the orange cones again.  We had some nice conversations... and that's it for strenuous physical activity until Thursday when I have my last functional fitness.

I am not looking forward to lunch... I have a sneaking suspicion of what it might be but, then again, everything I eat here is for the last time.  I spent much of the morning just surfing the net.  I looked up more people from high school and I swear they're all more successful than I am... but on the other hand, they're probably saying the same thing...

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SUNDAY, DECEMBER 27, 2009     07:59 pm
Lunch consisted of pizza, greens, salad, nuts, raisins, Jell-o, and V8 Splash...good deal!  The SmartPill has been inside me longer than usual.  I hope the screening process at the airport isn't too bad after this attempted terrorist bombing over Detroit.  I have no problem waiting in lines and getting patted down, but it's still something that is on everyone’s mind.  I'm going to leave all my liquids here: basically anything I purchased at H-E-B the night before I was admitted.  The next guy to use this room can have the laundry detergent and extra soap...

Jorge posted my schedule for tomorrow and I have absolutely nothing!  They could move my tests up a day and I could go home on Wednesday!  But no, I have to go home on Thursday.  I'm not complaining… another BM and as of 1:28pm, the SmartPill was out!!

I decided to head out to the common room and watch some Simpsons DVDs; I started with disc one of season four and it's still funny... funnier than most of what's on TV now.

One of the nurses found me a ceiling tile.  I guess they have a secret stash, though this tile wasn't smooth and I swear it's bigger than the other ones.  The size thing could be an optical illusion, like traffic lights (those things are huge!).  I painted the back of the tile white, then I added a second coat.  Jorge walked in, wondering what I was painting and I'm sure he was disappointed when I asked, “Whaddya think?!” and it was simply a blank canvas.

I thought for the longest time what to paint.  I'm not a good artist and, in fact, I've hated every art class I've ever taken.  There was a bag of small foam letters with stick-on adhesive so I started using those.  I'm just putting down random thoughts about my experiences here: "epic Uno games," "horizontal showers," etc.  I had to leave a border (or "safe area") for when they put the tile into the ceiling.  It’s okay, though I misspelled a word (I caught it in time) and some letters aren't exactly in abundance.  There are no "B"s and I need one.  I e-mailed Michelle about buying more letters and she got back to me: "there's an approval process so it might be a day or two...  once I get more, I can have it done in an hour or less..."

Dinner was tilapia, rice, a sliver of apple pie, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and a glass of grape juice.  I called home and all is well.  Company is coming over and I kinda wish I could beam in and out... but I'll be there soon... 

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MONDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2009     11:39 am
Well, that's that.  They weighed me and took my vitals... now I can sit back and do nothing for the next fourteen hours.  I'm still tired, but I honestly can't remember whether I tossed and turned or slept right up till the music.  I had some weird dreams but I don’t remember much of the details.

Breakfast was an English muffin, a bowl of fruit, sausage, and a glass of OJ.  Right now, I'm watching an episode titled "Last Exit to Springfield" which is probably one of the best Simpsons episodes ever made; after Mr. Burns asks Smithers to get him some 30's-era strikebreakers, Grandpa Simpson proceeds to explain their methods: "One trick is to tell 'em stories that don't go anywhere. Like the time I caught the ferry over to Shelbyville. I needed a new heel for my shoe, so I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on 'em. 'Give me five bees for a quarter,' you'd say. Now where were we? Oh yeah, the important thing was I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn't have white onions because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones…"

Michelle stopped by and said I wouldn't be able to proceed with my tile because some janitor (a bureaucrat in disguise with too much time on his hands) said the foam letters could be hazardous in some fashion... how?  I don't know and I finished Michelle's sentence by calling it all "stupid."  There are two other tiles on the ceiling with foam pieces and no one noticed. Now, when I ask for more letters, some busybody decides to go all power-trippy on our artwork.  The other tiles will probably have to be removed and I'm not sure how I'll continue with mine.  

I don't mind starting over, but I'll still need letters and I'd prefer not to paint them (too messy).  I'd be okay if one of the doctors said something, but a janitor?  Perhaps there's more to this story.  I wonder if this is how observant city workers feel when someone complains about nativity scenes on government property (I'm not religious but I don't care -– a nativity scene is no skin off my back).

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MONDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2009     08:07 pm
Lunch was spaghetti and meatballs, greens, a glass of grape juice, and some Lorna Doones.  I also met a new subject, a female who's starting next week; she seems nice and I was able to answer a few of her questions.  I'm probably gonna head back to my room since this chair is starting to irritate me.  all in all, not a bad way to spend a morning: Simpsons episodes and lunch... 

Dinner was chicken, rice, greens, a bowl of Jell-o, and a glass of milk.  Brian said something about Michelle taking him out to lunch on his last day.  He said it's worth asking, and if lunch at an actual restaurant is in the cards, then I will definitely ask.  If my math is correct, tomorrow will be a tortilla, Wednesday will be the cheese sandwich, and Thursday will be the cheeseburger.  It would be nice if I can get out of here without that last cheeseburger.  If I don't see Michelle by closing time, I'll send her an e-mail (I'm sure she will be around, but I rarely know the schedules around here).

I played a few Uno games and one long Scrabble game.  Brian received Uno Flash for Christmas, and he and I were joined by Sonia and Jonathan.  The basic Uno rules apply, but the trick in this game is that the players go at random.  At the center of the table is an electronic cardholder with lights and buttons; you put down a card and hit your button... who goes next?  Nobody knows!  We played four or five rounds and Jonathan seemed to find himself on the receiving end of many Draw 4 cards, which wasn't intentional because it was random.  Of course, as Brian reminded us, you can eventually detect a pattern if you observe for a long enough period of time.

Brian, Jerry, and I played Scrabble and this time, I used the laptop to look up words.  I ended up winning, but we all got some good words in there.  We also used abbreviations and proper nouns, which technically aren't allowed; with abbreviations, you open up a whole can of worms because almost anything can be abbreviated... states, colleges, elements, etc.

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TUESDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2009     12:08 pm
Almost there.  I tossed and turned again this morning before the music.  I have my last cycle test today, and hopefully I'll last longer than four and a half minutes.  Before closing the door last night, Jonathan looked at my schedule for Thursday and told me that I leave at 11:30am. I won’t believe it until I see it, but if that is indeed the case, then woo-hoo!  I'll get to eat lunch on the outside but, on the other hand, I'm gonna be wandering aimlessly around Hobby Airport for several hours if they can't bump me to an earlier flight.

Breakfast consisted of one and a half blueberry muffins, eggs, sausage, and a glass of OJ.  Jaci sent me another letter which was most appreciated.  I can't tell you the last time I received an actual hand-written letter on stationary.  The nurse actually had to watch me open it in case there was some contraband in the envelope (like what?).  I also sent some blog highlights to the family back home; it's getting to the point where I'm having to say "Good-bye" to the people here... both Nurse Veronica and Jonathan won't be back until later in the week after I'm already gone.  All I can do is wish them well... everyone here is really nice... some are less communicative than others but all are nice.

The first half of lunch was a bowl of fruit and a small glass of OJ.  Ghostbusters II is on AMC now (again).  I played a few rounds of Uno with Kennisha... she's good.  We didn't keep score, but I'm pretty sure we both came out even.

And then there was one.  Brian left, waving as he walked by my room.  I also got another peek at my schedule for the next two days, courtesy of Kennisha.  It's as I expected: isokinetic test tomorrow and on Thursday, a split breakfast with an ECG in the middle along with functional fitness afterwards.  48 hours from now, I will be in a van heading to the airport (with a stop for lunch along the way).  The Hunt For Red October is on right now (again)... I guess you can call it one of those "if it's on TV, I have to finish it" movies... 
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TUESDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2009     08:30 pm
I did six minutes in the cycle test.  Shortly after the third three-minute segment began, Brent stopped it.  Apparently, when my RPM goes below sixty, that's a sign I'm working too hard.  Sue did the ECG, and Alan took care of the electrodes and monitored my blood pressure.  Brent understood when I told him I was okay for four minutes, and then all of a sudden I felt it in my legs.  "Everyone has a wall," he said.  

I'm back in the room now and Nikki gave me my second water pitcher.  I like it when a plan comes together... lunch was a tortilla, salad (sans cheese!), some sandwich cookies, and a glass of grape juice.  Red October ran again.  The last shot in the film has Alec Baldwin (who played Jack Ryan before Harrison Ford) on a plane heading back home.  Early in the film, he has a line about having trouble sleeping on airplanes but, by the end of the film, he's doing just that.  With any luck, that will be me in a couple of days.

Dinner was lasagna, one and a half dinner rolls, broccoli, carrots, a wedge of apple pie, and vanilla ice cream. I went into the common room to watch Simpsons episodes.  Jerry joined me for one.  I'm just hanging.  Michelle is gonna bring in something for me to work on tomorrow for the tile; she mentioned something about stencil letters that I can paint in.

Arby and I had a nice chat for an hour while the Simpsons DVD played in the background; we talked about the study, relationships, Star Trek, and my imminent departure. I showed her where I live on Google Maps.  I also showed her a few photos on Facebook... it was nice, and I thanked her for letting me babble.  Eventually, I had to use the bathroom and the laptop had to be recharged.  I've been in the room for the last hour or so.  I had my last assessment, and I'll be done with my last pitcher within thirty minutes.  Sanjurjo called and we chatted for a while... it's really quiet out there... just me and the two women on the other side...

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WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2009     11:14 am
Odd... I was listening to music on my headphones last night, but I could still hear the 9:00 and 9:30 "time until lights out" announcements.  However, I was sitting in bed with the lights on waiting for the 10:00 "lights out" announcement, but it never came.  Eventually, Nurse Dana peeked her head in, and said she made the announcement twice but I couldn't hear it.  Before that, they couldn't hear the chime when I hit the call button.

This morning (I woke up an hour early and I know because I checked my watch this time), I couldn't hear the music.  I thought I heard the click of the intercom, but I didn't hear anything after that.  Thankfully, I was up anyway so all I had to do was wait for the knock on the door.  Then the scale needed to be recalibrated... the first two times I was weighed, it was about eight pounds more than it should've been.  Everything is designed so that doesn't happen.  They got the scale to work, but the intercom is still malfunctioning... it really only matters at night.  During the day, I can wave at the camera or ask the monitor to get a nurse.  Thankfully, this is all happening now as opposed to, say, the first day of bedrest... 

Breakfast was a bowl of fruit, a glass of OJ, and my last cheeseburger quiche.  I have an isokinetic test at 1:30 and that's it... Michelle will be in later and we'll work on a tile together (somehow).  After my shower, I'll lay out my clothes for tomorrow and start packing... one less thing to worry about later.  I'm gonna have to throw out my shampoo and soap, but the laundry detergent will stay (along with everyone else's)...

Lunch was my last cheese sandwich, along with salad, vegetable soup, and rape juice.  Amanda was right: I should've been dipping the sandwich in the soup this whole time -- made the sandwich much more palatable.  I'm in the common room watching my favorite film, The Blues Brothers.  Leticia joined me for a while but then went on break.  Michelle hasn't shown up yet, so I don't know when I'll get back to my tile... oh well, I tried... and they finally fixed the intercom in my room...

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WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2009     09:07 pm
Last full day and I'm still meeting new people.  Brent and a nice lady named Peggy performed the isokinetic test.  My intercom has stopped working for the time being but I guess I'll know for sure once I use the bathroom again.  I already finished my second pitcher of water and this might be a record.  I'll ask for my third pitcher shortly and maybe even a fourth one later. I don't know if I'll have a water requirement tomorrow.  I also got a peek at my cell phone bill for last month... yikes!!!

Dinner was chicken with rice and corn, greens, peach cobbler, vanilla ice cream, Lorna Doones, and milk.  Michelle stopped by with some letter stencils and we went to work on a new tile.  Sure enough, they plucked a tile from the ceiling, and it is the same size as the other ones... they really look larger at eye-level.  I did the same thing, painting in some statements:
epic Uno games, cheese, my arch enemy, we need a newer Trivial Pursuit, horizontal showers, bedpans!!!, finished your water?, loud wake-up music, time for the SmartPill, what are ya gonna do after the study?, and finally, Mission Accomplished.

I also freehanded my subject ID number in the corner.  Jerry hung out, offering me suggestions that I didn't use.  Michelle and I had a nice conversation about a little bit of everything.  When the clock struck 5:00pm, Michelle left and I had to retreat for dinner.  After dinner, I came back and finished the tile (the first five statements were done before dinner, the other ones after).  Carmen also helped and seemed to dig what I was doing (my words, not hers)...

So Jerry and I played our Uno game.  We played five games and I won three to his two... so there!  I also paid Amanda a visit; she wished me luck.  She's got personality, I'll say that for her.  I'm back in the room now.  I was informed that, after my first urine in the morning, I won't have to use the bottle again, and I'll get one pitcher of water but it's optional.  I already packed my luggage.  Tomorrow, I'll pack my laptop bag with all my other tchotchkes... 

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THURSDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2009     11:17 am
Welcome to day 57!  Ever since they fixed the intercom, the music and announcements have been much louder than they were before, so the wake-up music this morning was even more annoying.  The next occupant of this room is in for a surprise.  Theresa and I had a nice conversation about anything and everything.  Karina's here and she, like everyone else, said, "You must be excited today."

The first half of breakfast consisted of cereal, a bowl of fruit, OJ and milk.  I urinated into a bottle for the last time; from now on, it's back to the toilet.  I also have a full pitcher of water with ice but it's not required.

A nice woman named Donna performed my ECG, and she was much lighter with the transducer than Mike... other than that, it was uneventful.  The second half of breakfast was small(er than usual): a burrito, a bowl of fruit, and a glass of orange juice... my last meal!  I'm tuned into AMC’s New Year's Eve Three Stooges marathon; it's a western-themed Curly short right now, but I've never seen it before and I can tell from Curly's speech that it's definitely not one of their earlier shorts...

Functional fitness was fine, just as I thought it would be.  Liz took charge in Brent's absence: the push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups were okay but the leg press was tough.  I knew I reached my limit when I couldn't push up anymore.  Liz took ten pounds off and I just barely made it.  When it was over, she wished me luck and walked me back to my room.  I just got out of the shower and I am dressed in jeans and t-shirt for the first time since I got here.  Watched more Three Stooges on AMC and I'm pretty much ready to go... I just need to pack a couple more things... 

Karina stopped by; they're working on my paperwork now and, yes, I told her I wish I had met her under different circumstances, that she's sweet, and that I have a thing for girls with glasses.  She said "Thanks" and that was it.  She asked me what I was gonna do with the money; I told her I've ordered a few items from Amazon but other than that, I need to save it since I'll be moving in a month or two.  Of course, I couldn't tell her what I'd do with the money if I wasn't moving.  One of the best Three Stooges shorts is on right now: Disorder in the Court, which has been quoted at the family dinner table on more than one occasion.

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FRIDAY, JANUARY 1, 2010     06:51 pm
Michelle came by, accompanied by the van guys, and I left... that was it.  Everyone had sort of gathered around, wishing me luck and hoping I'd return for a future study.  I was able to get my lab results and Michelle had an envelope full of paperwork and other educational materials for me but, considering my luggage was bursting at the seams, I asked her to mail it to me and she happily obliged.

I walked out of the ward, down the hall, and into the elevator; before I knew it, I was outside, breathing fresh air, reacting to the elements.  It was cold but not too cold... the fog had started to lift.  I put my stuff in the backseat and off we went. Michelle and I chatted about this and that; she's never been on a cruise before, and I recommended Royal Caribbean, based on previous experience.  Eventually, I started seeing signs for the airport and I asked, "Aren’t we stopping for lunch?"  We did just that a minute later... we went to Chick-fil-a, then ate in the van before taking off.  I ordered a twelve-pack of nuggets, fries, and a lemonade (super-sized), along with a second helping of nuggets.  "Melts in your mouth, doesn’t it?" Michelle asked me... "No" was my reply...

We got to Hobby Airport and I said my good-byes.  I managed to get a flight out of Hobby four hours earlier than the original one -- the only downside was a stop in New Orleans.  I travelled the same route on the way in, and I'm always a fan of symmetry.  I bought a pack of Reese's Pieces and they were good... very good.  

Both flights were packed; the first flight to New Orleans had me sitting in the last row, just a foot away from the lavatory and galley.  It was a little uncomfortable, and even though I had the aisle, I had gotten used to having an empty middle seat... no such luck this time.  The layover wasn't bad... I simply read my Star Trek novel.  The flight to Florida was also uneventful.  I had the aisle seat about two-thirds of the way down.

We landed and I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face!  My folks were waiting for me and we hugged.  I'm still talking to them about the study, even at dinner which just ended a few minutes ago.  We stopped off for pizza at a little hole in the wall called Angelo's; we ordered an extra large pie and half a dozen garlic rolls... and yes, I had a Coke to drink.  I stayed up till 2:00 in the morning, downloading computer updates, ripping music, going through my mail...

So here I am... I've slept in my own bed and driven my own car (in both sun and rain).  I seem to be doing okay, but I'm still ambivalent... this year should be interesting to say the least.

I just want to thank all the doctors, nurses, technicians, and subject monitors… as far as the monitors go, they were all fine though some were less communicative than others (and one was a little too communicative at times).  My fellow subjects were all nice people, and now it'll be Amanda's turn to help the new woman with any questions she might have.

I'm also indebted to the geniuses behind Google, Facebook, Hulu, Wikipedia, and YouTube for making life much easier (and entertaining) during bedrest than it might've been fifteen years ago.  I'd like to thank the lovely Heather for her helpful advice and for publishing my nonsensical diatribes on her otherwise respectable and dignified website (smile)...

And to my family and friends for the support, thanks.

This is Scott Saslow, #7132 orange, signing off.

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