N A S A   S T U D Y   -  P A R T   F O U R T E E N :   C h r i s t m a s    I n    T e x a s
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2009     07:54 am
I did a few laps around the hall while pushing the wheelchair for support.  I'm doing okay, but I can feel it in my calves. If I could grow a beard, I'd probably look pretty cool right now, but I guess that wasn't part of the plan.  It's bright and sunny today so I looked out the window (I can do that now); the Gulf of Mexico is in walking distance, but I don't know what other businesses are around here.  One day, I'll have to come here and just explore...

The balance test went fine.  I was assisted by Julie and another woman whose name I didn't get… I seem to have finally developed a knack for the head movements.  Julie told me she has some friends up in New York who have done improv and will try to find out exactly where they did it.  She's done some improv herself, but admitted she wasn't great at it… small world, huh?  Lunch was a cheeseburger (with half a bun), corn, greens, fruit, and lemonade.  I think I'll only have one more cheeseburger after this (thank God!!!)  For some reason, the cheese wasn't melted so I ate it by itself.  I know if I had left it on the burger, I wouldn't have tasted it as much, but this way I could get rid of it as fast as possible.  I watched most of last night’s SNL hosted by James Franco; it was okay and at least Franco looks like he was having fun... 

The isokinetic test might be the first time where my mind really wandered, if only for a few moments; nothing against Brent and Liz, it just happened... maybe because all of my tests are repeats (I am not discounting their importance).  Or, maybe it's because I'm almost done, and must soon deal with practical matters like moving and car insurance.  I caught myself after a few seconds, and the test itself was fine.  Brent was checking football scores and warned me in advance that, "If I yell or anything, it’s because we scored a goal."  I know I wasn't performing at the same level I was before bedrest (why would I?) but I gave it my all... knee, ankle, and waist...

The massage was very nice; she still had the Out of Africa score playing in the background, but must’ve accidentally hit the "repeat" button since, after five minutes, I noticed the same track playing over and over again.  She moved the CD player closer to me and I hit the button again so it would repeat the entire album.  We talked old jobs... she worked retail and in factories before being touched by the massage gods (I looked up the patron saint of masseuses but Wikipedia didn't have any information).  I told her about Target, Best Buy, and Books-a-Million; she laughed when I said the bookstore had a large Christian section, but also kept the adult magazines on the shelf instead of behind the counter... "I'd call that a win-win!"

Dinner was the salmon cake thing with rice, greens, vanilla ice cream, peach cobbler, and a glass of punch.  Afterward, I went through my movies with Jorge and Todd… eventually, I picked Innerspace and watched it in the common room with Amanda, who seemed to like it (I hope).  Todd didn’t join us, but Jorge did at the beginning and the end.  Amanda goes head down on Tuesday, and we'll be getting a new female test subject that same day... and apparently, I can't walk into the common room without getting glitter on me.  Michelle's art supplies are still there and right now, I'm looking at a nice sparkling dot on my left thumb and another one on my right leg...

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MONDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2009     12:56 pm
I had some weird dreams again and I woke up much earlier than the music.  Tierra wanted to know if the nurses had made too much noise but I told her it was force of habit at this point.  However, I know one morning several weeks ago where I could hear people talking and laughing before 6:00 and it was annoying.  The finger stick lady paid me another visit and I'm almost done with all that… the first part of breakfast consisted of a bowl of fruit, oatmeal, and a glass of OJ.

I wore my flannel shirt to the ECG/plasma volume/tilt test... last time, they put me in a button-down shirt, but the flannel shirt is long-sleeved so it didn't matter and I ended up having to take it off anyway.  The ECG was just like the other ones.  I'm not sure which is more uncomfortable: the cold gel or being filleted by the transducer.  Thankfully, everyone was in good spirits; Tim and Mike manned their usual posts, but I didn't get the name of the woman who monitored the plasma volume test; she had a very mellifluous voice and could easily play the role of "Enterprise Computer" in the next Trek film.  Thank God, it was my last IV!!  Mike and Tim said, "You must be so disappointed!" and I purposely delayed my answer for laughs: "...Yes!"  I also asked if there was a home version of the plasma volume test I could buy.

The tilt test was agony, followed by elation... my legs were buckling much of the time and apparently, I have a habit of breathing in, holding it for a few seconds, then breathing out.  Tim said I did that about every third breath, but I didn't notice.  I almost asked to stop the test but the woman eventually called out, "End tilt!"  As the table was leveled flat again, I asked, "Did I make it?" (thinking she stopped it on account of my movement) and she said, "Yes, you did the whole thirty minutes!"  Son of a [gun]!  I honestly thought they ended it ten minutes early.

When I got back to the room, the bed was made, the other bed was reset to its original position, and everything just looked a little nicer.  The second half of breakfast was toast, hard-boiled eggs, and OJ.  Shortly after I finished, it was time for my second-to-last T-reflex test.  This time, Yuri did most of the work while Liz monitored.  After glancing at a poster of the Solar System on the wall, I mentioned a YouTube video where a digital artist speculated what Earth would look like if it had rings like Saturn... it's a beautiful video... first we see Earth from orbit, complete with a nice set of rings... then we see images of major cities around the world, looking skyward. "My God, it’s full of rings!"

We also talked about holiday shopping and food; Liz and I both love our Coke Slurpees!  Lunch consisted of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, pretzels, a glass of milk, and cookies.  I also watched the rest of SNL on Hulu.  Right now, I'm half-way done with my first pitcher and all is well... I have functional fitness in an hour and we'll see how that goes.

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MONDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2009     09:09 pm
My functional fitness test was quite arduous, though I'm not sure Brent would agree.  Just like before, I had modified sit-ups, pull-ups, push-ups, and the leg press.  For the various "up" exercises, I basically performed more or less the same as before bedrest.  For the leg press, I swear Brent said I was able to push a few pounds more than I could before… odd.  We chatted, too… talked about improv and where I'm going after the study… talked about some trivial things (does everyone pay too much for cable?).  It was nice, though my self-deprecating sense of humor didn’t help... at one point, I was describing the last time I rode a bicycle (read: I looked retarded) and Brent said, "Ya know, you're not really helping," or words to that effect.  And he was right.  Unfortunately, no matter how hard I try, I always revert back to that style of humor.

She did it!  The masseuse stopped by early and said she was ready anytime and when I walked into the other room, there was the CD for Somewhere in Time.  Per my recommendation, she went to Barnes & Noble (Best Buy wouldn’t carry it in a million years) and purchased the original score.  The music is quite beautiful and for a second, I was afraid of getting misty-eyed... but only for a second.  The massage itself was fine and, at one point, she forgot whether or not she worked on my feet… I couldn't remember and she reminded me that I'm only twenty-six and should still have a good memory!

Dinner consisted of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry sauce, along with the usual greens and peach cobbler.  I spoke to Sanjurjo as well as the folks back home... also spent some time in the common room where Todd and Brian were watching The Hangover.  It's a very funny movie and the laughter in the theater was positively contagious, but that effect didn't quite work this time around.  I stuck around for a while until I had to use the bathroom… and since I promised Jerry I'd play Scrabble with him once I went ambulatory, we did just that; we were joined by Todd, but Jerry had to go back and forth to attend to his duties.  I ended up winning, but Todd and I were neck and neck for a while.

Right now, Brian and Amber are playing Uno out there (I hope Brian does better with her than I did at that game) and Tierra just finished my heart+breathing assessment.  I noticed a red spot on my right calf and neither of us knew what it was or even if it had anything to do with my current situation.  A few days ago, Tierra said I might get a slight case of petechia: a small red spot on the body as a result of some kind of physical trauma, but this doesn't seem to be it.  She measured it and made a note in my file for future reference.  Oddly enough, I drank four pitchers of water today.  Tierra said I more than exceeded my goal for the day.  I also cranked up the old iPod earlier and listened to a few film scores...

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TUESDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2009     09:07 am
More tossing and turning, and I don't remember any of my dreams from last night.  Breakfast consisted of pancakes, OJ, yogurt, and fruit.  Amanda paid me a visit... she goes head down today and was probably more than a little apprehensive.  I couldn't blame her.  She told me about some difficulties she had during her last blood draw, and I simply cringed and told her she'd be fine… I'm no expert in any of this but I appreciate that she values my opinion.

Julie said I did just fine with the balance test and that, depending on the results, it might've been my last one.  She also took my e-mail address so her improv friends can reach me later, if they are so inclined.  Keena assisted with the harness and electrodes.  I didn't slip or fall, but I felt I did better the last time.

After that, I had my first reconditioning experience; a nice guy named James took me out of the ward (for the first time since I arrived, I was allowed to walk out the door!) and into the stairwell.  We walked four flights down to the second floor, through a hallway, and over to the elevated walkway that leads to the adjacent building (the Shriners Hospital).  He had me walk while raising myself on my heels for each step... then with one knee touching the ground for each step.  I performed a variety of stretches and balancing acts like standing on one foot and reaching down with my opposite hand -- many of these moves were harder than they sound.  Afterwards, we took a long walk through the hospital and this afforded me my first glimpse of civilization since the first week of November.  I saw actual doctors and patients and even civilians going about their business!  We eventually turned back around and took the elevator back up

A few doors down from my room (where they do the tilt test and functional fitness routines), I had to lift some weights --  nothing heavy.  I did some modified pull-ups and basic sit-ups, as well as more stretches.  It wasn't anything I couldn't handle, but I could feel my muscles (slightly) ache and will most likely wake up sore tomorrow.

Lunch was spaghetti with chicken, a slice of cheesecake, garlic bread, and a glass of milk.  The massage was fine and very much needed after the reconditioning.  This week has been going by kinda slow, unlike last week which seemed to go by fast by sheer force of will.  I'm on my second pitcher of water and I think I saw the new girl walking by earlier but I can't be sure.

Did my laundry, and played another epic game of Uno with Jerry, which I won.  I think that might've been the fastest dinner ever... it consisted of chicken, fries, broccoli, apple sauce, and a couple of Famous Amos sandwich cookies... man, if breakfast included bacon instead of yogurt, this could’ve been the best food day ever!

More trips to the bathroom... a BM... and I'm on my last pitcher of water... I'm listening to the score for Batman: The Animated Series... it's actually a compilation of scores from specific episodes, mostly composed by the late Shirley Walker.

I paid Amanda a visit since she was nice enough to visit me during bedrest; her room has slightly cooler artwork and a better view out the window.  She seems to be doing okay, watching TV and all that… we had a good conversation.  I just got off the phone with my friend Steve... he finds it ironic that, once I'm home, the first meal I want to eat is pizza, yet the one thing I've been incessantly complaining about has been the cheese... oh well.  He thought I was in Houston but, when I told him I'm in Galveston, he asked, "Wasn’t that place wiped off the map?"  "Almost," was my reply.  He said it would be the perfect place for a zombie attack...  man, that mind of his never stops working... (smile)... 

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WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 23, 2009     01:39 am
Man, I woke up tired this morning... I guess getting up early is the new norm for me.  I believe the wake-up music was a Christmas song, which I guess makes sense.  Another finger stick.  Dana did another blood draw and it was not as uncomfortable as the last one.  I had some odd dreams last night; a friend of mine back at film school had one of those dream dictionaries but I don't subscribe to any of that.  Either the meaning is totally wrong, or it's totally right, in which case I don't want to know!

My last T-reflex test!  Jodi and Igor (is that a cool name or what?) ran the test, applied the electrodes, and monitored the signals.  We talked about the holidays and at one point, I mentioned I had put together a nice photo album on iPhoto for my mom last year and the subject then turned to genealogy.  Igor is from the Ukraine (and he's Jewish –- the first one I've met so far!) whereas my ancestors are from Russia and Austria (or at least the country that later became Austria).  It's an interesting subject. and something I wish to research in the future.  I'm a little sore from yesterday but otherwise doing okay...

Lunch was a turkey sandwich with corn chowder, trail mix, and a glass of some orange-mango-tangerine concoction.  Dr. Seton came bearing gifts: a post-test questionnaire and a pamphlet about the effects (both physical and mental) of getting out of bed and going home.  I told her I appreciated the pamphlet, especially since one of my big concerns going home is the inevitable post-study funk I'll find myself in a week or two later.  I always get pensive and moody before a big life-changing event (moving, going to college, etc.) and I had already anticipated this reaction.  Hopefully, knowing about it will help me to combat it.  I also mentioned that I really don’t know which is worse: going back to no job, then moving to a new city with no friends (and no job); or going back to my same job and continuing as if nothing happened.  

In the end, we both agreed moving to New York was the better option.  As per usual, we talked food and family... she said my refusal to watch my own movies or listen to my own music during bedrest was interesting, a sort of "using the tools you're provided with" desert island scenario... not exactly.  I filled out the questionnaire and our whole conversation took place during lunch… thankfully, it was a good meal though I yelled "Finished!" and they picked up the tray before I realized I hadn't finished the drink. I sheepishly gave Amber the empty glass a few minutes later...

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WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 23, 2009     09:49 am
Reconditioning was a bit of a hassle. James is a nice guy, and it's great to be out and about, but some of this fancy walking takes the wind out of me.  I even muttered under my breath, "It's just walking," but my calf muscles, glutes, and hamstrings are getting quite the workout, possibly the best workout they have ever received.  Once again, we walked around the hospital and I performed my Ministry of Silly Walks routine in the elevated walkway.  This time, we walked upstairs (instead of using the elevator) and I had to take a break half-way through.  Even James said it was a bit of a workout... he also had me jumping off steps, landing on my heels.  Once back upstairs, I did some more weightlifting, a little different from yesterday. 

My penultimate massage was very nice...  I recommended a few more romantically-tinged film scores: Time After Time by Miklós Rózsa, and Fahrenheit 451 and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir by Bernard Herrmann.  I was thinking (uh-oh): they should send Heather and me to sci-fi/comic conventions where we could set up our own NASA Pillownaut booth, with applications and brochures and everything... at the San Diego Comic-Con, they could place us right between the guy who sells swords and the table with the bootleg DVDs of the old Batman show!

Dinner was chicken, broccoli, carrots, a glass of punch, and a bowl of Jell-o.  Hulu added a very funny British sitcom called Black Books, from the producers of Spaced and Shaun of the Dead, featuring Dylan Moran as a misanthropic bookstore owner and Bill Bailey as his “rudderless hippy” assistant.  I highly recommend it, and even though some of the jokes are downright bizarre at times, it isn't nearly as dry or dark as, say for example, the British version of The Office.

Where does the time go?  I finished my water, used the bathroom several times.  I've just been wandering aimlessly around the web, not looking for anything in particular.  I found the trailer for Cop Out, Kevin Smith’s next film (a throwback to 80s-era buddy cop movies starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan); it's not the best trailer in the world, but it could be very good.  It's also unlike anything Smith's ever done.  I think tomorrow night I can start watching A Christmas Story for twenty-four hours... 

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THURSDAY, DECEMBER 24, 2009     09:16 pm
When the finger stick lady asked if I had a good night's sleep and I replied, "I got up early again," she asked me if I heard the storm.  My only reaction was, "What storm?" ... so that answers that.  It was a relatively quiet hurricane season this year but, if I had participated in the study in July and August instead, I'm sure there would have been more rain...

Today's reconditioning wasn't as arduous as the previous ones: walking up and down the stairs, a nice walk through the hospital with all the normal people, some light weightlifting, more walking in the elevated passage, including taking extra large steps (forwards and backwards) and squats.  Back upstairs, I did some abdominal exercises as well as more walking, this time sideways over small orange cones... and more stretching.

I went in for my massage and it was all right; instead of a gurney, I was on a standard hospital bed.  We didn't talk as much, and the masseuse knows all her guys are leaving... oh, well.  It was interesting while it lasted, and I'm sure our paths will cross again this week before I leave.  She's still playing the Somewhere in Time score, which is nice.

I'm not an action movie connoisseur... I haven't seen any of Chuck Norris' stuff (except for Sidekicks) and I'm way behind on my Van Damme and my Seagal, not to mention John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, etc.  However, I love love love Die Hard...  I also enjoy the second and third films (the fourth was okay).  Since it's the closest thing to a Christmas movie I have, I decided to watch it in the common room.  It never gets old, and there is much to appreciate in terms of craft and storytelling.  It also spawned a whole genre known as "Die Hard on a (blank)" be it bus, plane, train, cruise ship, ad infinitum... oh, and lunch consisted of meat and noodles stuffed in a bread pocket, greens, carrots, a couple of sandwich cookies, and a glass of lemonade.

Dinner consisted of quesadillas with refried beans, rice, corn, salad, and grape juice, and right now, I'm on my extra pitcher of water.  I never ask for more once I meet my quota, but this time, I really needed to wash the bean taste out of my mouth. Mom called and we spoke for a while; things are just fine back home and they were even talking about ordering a pizza and bringing it to the airport... and I would have no problem with that.  Right now, I'm listening to the audio commentary on the Die Hard DVD... I anticipate a quiet night.

My schedule tomorrow is a breeze: vitals, breakfast, hygiene, lunch, and dinner... that’s it!  That's more uneventful than even the most boring bedrest days.  I just finished watching a movie online titled Lifeforce, a mid-80s sci-fi film from the B-movie production factory known as Cannon Films.  I was expecting a horror movie in space (like Alien) and not a zombie-slash-vampire film mostly set in London... it wasn't a very good movie...

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FRIDAY, DECEMBER 25, 2009     12:41 pm
We were awakened by "On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me..."  I had a dream I was working at Target again, ten years later, and my old register access code – 1379 – still worked.  I was ringing up a customer in the electronics department, and I must have done something very right or very wrong since the total was a dollar less than the actual price of the item itself... believe me, this was quite different from the dream I was hoping to have.  They took my vitals and weighed me and that's pretty much all I have to do until the next time they check my vitals sometime this afternoon... 

Breakfast was nothing spectacular… it was simply oatmeal, one large peach slice, some raisins, OJ, and a glass of milk (less than one inch).  Maybe I was hoping we'd get some special Christmas breakfast, whatever that might be.  TBS must be in their seventh or eighth hour of A Christmas Story.  I might flip over to AMC later for their umpteenth showing of Christmas Vacation.  It's kinda chilly in here and I might have to break out the sweatpants... we'll see.

One of the nurses bought us some gifts!  What a pleasant surprise!  Nurse Kathy plucked out a nice little package from her bag and I opened it... it was a book: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days.  How appropriate, given my current situation.  I'll try not to read too much into it (is she saying I’m wimpy?) but I definitely appreciate the sentiment.  I thanked her and she went on to the next room.  All those other test subjects who never stayed here during the holidays don't know what they’re missing.  Earlier, I saw Kathy walking by, holding a foil-covered tray of (I assume) home-made holiday treats.  I almost jumped out of bed before I realized we couldn't eat any outside food.  If I were home, I'm sure I would've purchased a few bags of Reese's Pieces and/or Hershey's Kisses in the red and green wrapping.  When Easter rolls around, I love buying Cadbury Eggs; other than that, I have never needed the excuse of a holiday to indulge in something sugary.

Lunch was chicken pitas with cheese, a bowl of egg salad, salad with cheese on it, a bowl of Mandarin oranges (yay!), a banana (yay!), a bowl of Jell-o, and a glass of lemonade.  I've spent much of the morning surfing the net, contemplating a trip to Vegas for my birthday (fat chance), and alternating between A Christmas Story and Christmas Vacation.  I also started reading the Second City book I brought with me… good stuff.  Right now, I'm on the chapter that introduces the more familiar faces who performed there, like John Belushi and Harold Ramis.  Dad called me... we chatted for a few minutes... I'll probably call mom later since apparently, she's not feeling well... 
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FRIDAY, DECEMBER 25, 2009     06:24 am
Found out I’ll be getting the SmartPill tomorrow for the fourth and final time, which means I won't be able to shower.  I assume Amanda is doing okay in bedrest and I still haven't met the new woman yet.  I see AMC will be airing a Three Stooges marathon on New Year's Eve so I know what I'll have on TV when I'm getting ready to leave... 

Dinner consisted of brisket, greens, casserole-style mac and cheese, dinner rolls, and two Fig Newtons.  I have a headache and the nurses are working on the Tylenol.  Usually, my headaches are related to food or the lack thereof, but occasionally, they'll be stress-related (at least I think so).  Since I already had dinner, I have to assume this headache is stress-related... of course, why should I be stressed out right now?

I'm almost done with the study –- a major accomplishment!  I'll be going back home where I can eat bad food and play with my toys... so, he asked again, what do I have to be stressed about?  I'm making a conscious effort not to think about New York and all that it entails (moving, job, meeting people, etc.) until mid-January at the earliest.  Right now, I should probably think about where I want to take my Orlando friends to eat... there's a hamburger joint downtown called Hamburger Mary's... it's, uh, rather flamboyant.  I've been there before and the food is good and reasonably priced... and they have s’mores on the desert menu!  You actually get to roast the marshmallows at the table!

Jorge brought in two movies: Taken and Push.  Amanda wanted to see Push, which I didn
't care about one way or the other, but I would've seen Taken again.  Eventually, I paid her a visit and she pushed the matter (pun intended).  I reluctantly decided to join her, but about thirty seconds into the film, Amanda said, "I’ve seen this before!" so we watched Taken instead.  It's not pretentious or overly-complicated like so many other movies today.  They could've made Taken thirty years ago and it would've been R-rated and Charles Bronson would’ve played the lead character...  ditto twenty years ago with Seagal or Stallone.  Not the best movie ever but there is a certain efficiency to be admired when an action film is done well (see: Die Hard).  Toward the end of the film, Amanda had to get a finger stick and it was weird watching the action from a location that wasn't the tilted bed.

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SATURDAY, DECEMBER 26, 2009     08:24 am
I think I slept right up until the music but I honestly can't be sure… if I did, then it’s definitely a good sign.  I had yet another dream where I was back at my old job and my replacement was leaving, turning things back over to me, telling me about all the people he said I'd "call back" because he wasn't sure what to do.

The SmartPill went down as well as could be expected.  For some reason, I was nervous this time and even I was asking myself out loud, "Scott, why now?"  Camille turned her head, presumably because she couldn't look at the slightly pained expression on my face... but it's in there now, doing its thing.  Camille and I had a nice talk, not as lengthy as our previous ones, but still appreciated.  The topic was Christmas/Chanukah and gifts and all the ridiculous traditions families have (like my grandfather who still sticks the bow on his forehead after opening a present)... 

TCM is airing the original Sherlock Holmes films with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce.  I've only seen bits and pieces of The Hound of the Baskervilles and that was in freshman English class; I'm sure my attention was focused elsewhere at the time. The Soup will be re-airing at 9:00 and I forgot about it last night.  Well, aside from the SmartPill, I have absolutely bupkes today... 
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Continue on to Scott's Journal : Part Fifteen


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