Prison Pete

Saturday, July 31, 2004
  Big News!
Oh, I almost forgot the "Big News": after a five-year dry spell, I am actually typing stuff into a computer! I started out using Windows 95 running Microsoft Word 2000.

What a piece of garbage!

I love the way it keeps assuming what you want to do! It feels so weird to be using software without being able to use a programming language to do what I want, but hey, beggars cannot be choosers.

You are not supposed to be able to use macros, but I managed to record one that cleans up a table, formats data, wraps text, etc.

Pretty cool.

I have already typed up a three-lesson, twelve-page sample book using a typewriter and the teachers went ga ga over it! They said I did a good job with the word problems. The bad news is I have no direct access to a printer.

They have about twenty PC’s, but no printers, in a non-networked setup to teach typing and basic word processing. I have to ask the one staff person responsible for the computer to copy my files to a floppy and then load it onto her system to print!

Needless to say, this is not an easy task to accomplish.

I am creating a training book for the GED test. The GED test has two math sections, one with calculator and one without. So I am working on the calculator part. It will hopefully end up being two books of forty pages each. We will be able to print it in-house!

I will send you a copy when I am done!
Friday, July 30, 2004
  On the legal front,
I have written to the Court of Appeals to please reconsider my request to present my appeal.

According to my jailhouse lawyers manual, you have to submit the request within thirty days of being denied the permission. The request goes back to the same Judge that turned you down.

It seems sort of pointless, but I figure I have nothing to lose by asking.

The book states that in 1992, 2,800 requests were made to the Court of Appeals, and permission was only given to 100 cases to be heard by the full court.

Talk about slim odds.

Meanwhile, I have been on a junk food feeding frenzy for the last few weeks. About the only change has been the seven pounds I gained.

I still feel miserable!

Thursday, July 29, 2004
  Some of the _____ who work here.
I got your latest note on Tuesday and more books came on Wednesday. The Far Side book is already bringing smiles to others.

Thanks for continuing the book buying.

I got a really neat book on MIDI, it has some really great educational concepts in addition to shattering the myth that anyone can sit in front of their computer and create music. Yes, you can burn a CD, but you still need to pay your dues to learn how to use all the various facets needed to actually create a work of art!

Speaking of art, I am very impressed by your high-class writing supplies! My compliments to the artist! It fits closely with what I have been studying and self-discovering. We need to support our children! Despite what the MasterCard commercials hints at, there are lots of things that MasterCard cannot do. Tell the artist that his artwork is currently hanging on my bulletin board!

Speaking of bulletin boards (wow, what segues); my bulletin board was assaulted by the Unit Manager today. Although everything in here is defined by policy statements, there is no policy that says what is unacceptable, except for nude pictures, which, since we are not allowed to receive them, are illegal to possess.

I had a 4" X 6" hand-printed Bible verse that read "Be still and know that I am God", a great cartoon that shows the benefit of reading, and a few other assorted headline clippings.

Well, they were all removed!

When I approached the person who was the responsible for their removal, she told me she threw them in the trash, and if I did not get away from her, she would write an incident report. Mind you, I have never had any such report written on me. That is the exception around here. Incident reports and trips to the SHU (Special Housing Unit) are badges of honor for most of my fellow inmates.

I decided not to press the issue because she can simply open my locker and start tearing apart my library! So tonight when I simply look up at my board, I am reminded that there are people who get paid some of those wonderful tax dollars to come in here and act like complete "_____".

Left blank to protect the guilty!

You can pick your favorite noun to fit in there.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004
  Wooster and Jeeves and Plato?
The book selections you send are certainly eclectic, but much appreciated.

As you know by now, books are highly prized around here, and, with your help, I have become a mini-library for my unit of 130 inmates. After we are done reading them, they end up being donated to the prison library! So the books will be well used.

OK, so maybe some have a more limited appeal, for example, The Works of Plato?

Well, I do get a kick out of the forced but yet random nature of the selections.

Then again, we have the ever-popular Gross Jokes book!

One of the books you sent me was Wooster and Jeeves. The Wooster and Jeeves book is very different from the usual US produced pop novel to be sure.

Have you ever seen the Wooster and Jeeves show on PBS? It was a British sitcom that PBS imported. It was a favorite of mine! Did you know there are several episodes of it on BBC/PBS videos? Before my arrest, I bought the complete series along with the complete set of Fawlty Towers videos with John Cleese!

I think you would probably enjoy the Wooster and Jeeves videos, and then when reading the books, it is real easy to get a picture of the characters. Having never been to England, it is hard to truly picture a lot of their mannerisms!

So Wooster and Jeeves (or is it Jeeves and Wooster?) was a great selection.

I know you said you did not open the box of books I sent you. I do wish you would give the Dancing Corn Dogs book a look. It is a pretty accurate account of some of the issues I have been dealing with. Hey, the writer turns out to be a pastor’s kid too, so please try to find the time to look at it.

Other than that, things are moving along here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004
  Thanks for keeping contact.
The 9/11 articles you sent were very interesting. One of the things a couple of us inmates talk about here is how the news never digs deep into issues and stories. Knowing NYC and the World Trade Center as I do, it is actually amazing that so few people died! Still, it certainly was a tragedy. I do not know if I mentioned it to you before, but I was on the good old LIRR heading into NYC the day of the first WTC bombing in 1993!

Anyhow, I have passed around the articles, and many inmates enjoy them. The books you send are also getting well-read, and we might have to name a library shelf or two after you!

Ever listen to Car Talk, Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, on NPR? We get it on the WV public radio station on Saturday morning at 10:00 AM. Funny. That is the lock down time for our Saturday and Sunday special morning counts, so I just lay back and laugh for most of the hour.

Write back soon and do not worry about the length of the letters. Length does not matter. Unless of course you have been listening to some of the commercials they run on E! during the Howard Stern Show!

One of the things I would like to be able to do is be able to "conversate" as the locals here say. Meaning I write about some subject that grabs you, and then I get to respond back. Feel free to pick and choose and schedule things also.

So be happy and smile.

Monday, July 26, 2004
  I would really go crazy were it not for NPR.
I am listening to some awesome festival music on NPR, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Soloist, The Utah Symphony, and The Salt Lake Children's Choir. Now the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is singing "Bridge over Troubled Water".

I would really go crazy were it not for NPR.

I am also doing my laundry. I’m using two washing machines, one for my white wash, and one for khaki uniforms and "pink sheets".

I heard there was an article about a "blacklist" of songs that one media holding company which owns 20% of all radio stations in USA, "suggested" the program managers not play. Among the over one hundred sixty songs on the list were: "Bridge over Troubled Water", Louis Armstrong’s "What a Wonderful World", and also John Lennon "Imagine".

Let me know your thoughts on this if you look it up!

The box of books should be mailed from here next Tuesday. The one book on the top, "Dancing Corn Dogs", is a neat book on creativity and actually reads something like a biography of my feelings.

I would be interested in your thoughts on the book. Halfway through the book, I found out the author is also a Pastor’s kid! Please give it a read.

I think my Mom and Dad have one or two of the CDs that came with the books. Unfortunately, the CD that came with the UNIX book got sent back to Hamilton, and I could not get it resent to my Mom and Dad. Having all the info on one CD sounds cool.

Well, back to check on the laundry. OK, it is doing the rinse thing. I’ll be fine just as long as I can get it in the dryer before 2:00. I think that will happen. I’m now listening to Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto #3, "Autumn."

Well, I guess I’ll drop this in the box now. I hope all is well!

Sunday, July 25, 2004
  From the humor department,
have you heard anything by the Capitol Steps? I heard them on NPR when they did a half hour show. They have a web site, capsteps.com, where you can hear their audio clips.

I was hoping to get some of the lyrics for the various parodies they do, but the last time someone looked for me, they only had the sound files.

I suppose if you had a good speech program you could feed in the audio files and get a text file of lyrics.

Yeah, right, some day soon, coming to a computer near you. 

I am still reading all those jokes you sent down, and am glad I have reading glasses. The West Virginia Residency Application is dead-on for some of the staff here. 


Last Name: _______________

First Name: (Check appropriate box)
____ Billy-Bob
____ Billy-Joe
____ Billy-Ray
____ Billy-Sue
____ Billy-Mae
____ Billy-Jack

Age: ____

____ M
____ F
____ N/A

Shoe Size:
____ Left
____ Right

CB Handle: _____________

____ Farmer
____ Mechanic
____ Hair Dresser
____ Unemployed
____ Coal Miner

Spouse's Name: ____________

Relationship with spouse:
____ Sister
____ Brother
____ Aunt
____ Uncle
____ Cousin
____ Mother
____ Father
____ Son
____ Daughter
____ Pet

Number of children living in household: ___

Number that are yours: ___

Mother's Name: _____________

Father's Name: _____________ (If not sure, leave blank)

Education: 1 2 3 4 (Circle highest grade completed)

Do you (__) own or (___) rent your mobile home? (Check appropriate box)

____ Total number of vehicles you own
____ Number of vehicles that still crank
____ Number of vehicles in front yard
____ Number of vehicles in back yard
____ Number of vehicles on cement blocks
____ Number of refrigerators on front porch

Firearms you own and where you keep them:
____ truck
____ bedroom
____ bathroom
____ kitchen
____ shed

Model and year of your pickup:
 _____________ 194_
Number of empty beer cans on floorboard or in bed of pickup: ____

Newspapers/magazines you subscribe to:
____ The National Enquirer
____ The Globe
____ TV Guide
____ Soap Opera Digest
____ Gun World

____ Number of times you've seen a UFO

____ Number of times you've seen Elvis

____ Number of times you've seen Elvis in a UFO

How often do you bathe:
____ Weekly
____ Monthly
____ Holidays
____ Not Applicable

Color of teeth:
____ Yellow
____ Brownish-Yellow
____ Brown
____ Black
____ No teeth
____ N/A

Brand of chewing tobacco you prefer:
____ Red-Man

How far is your home from a paved road?
____ 1 mile
____ 2 miles
____ don't know
____ can't get there from here

Reason for continued residence in West Virginia:
____ can't bear to leave brother's behind
____ daddy won't give me my pants back
____ liberal wife beating laws

Bumper Stickers:
____ Eat more Possum
____ My other car is a piece of shit too
____ Honk if you love Jesus
____ If you ain't a cowboy, you ain't shit
____ Red-man Chewing Tobacco
____ Wave if you're horny

Favorite Recreation:
____ Square Dancin'
____ Possum Huntin'
____ Skinny Dippin'
____ Craw Daddin'
____ Gospel Singin'
____ 4-Wheelin'
____ Drankin'
____ Spittin' Backy
____ Bull Chip Trowin'
____ Honky Tonkin'
____ Noodlin'
____ Other

Number of Dogs: ____

____ Blue Tick
____ Beagle
____ Black & Tan
____ Bird Dawg

Cap Emblem:
____ John Deere
____ McCulloch Chain Saws
____ Budweiser
____ Vo-Tech
____ Skoal
____ Coors
____ NAPA
____ Smile if you're Not Wearing Underwear

____ KKK
____ NRA
____ Moose
____ PTL Club
____ AA
____ Bass Club
____ VFW
____ Quiltin' Bee
____ American Legion
____ United Sons/Daughters of the Confederacy
____ John Birch Society

Medical Information:

Do you have at least two of the following:
____ B.O.
____ Crabs
____ Head Lice
____ Rabies
____ Trench Mouth
____ Runny Nose
____ Bad Breath
____ Chafing


Saturday, July 24, 2004
  I am still awaiting the bus ride to my new location.
It’s just another lazy Saturday afternoon here at Club Fed. Thanks for all the books and your letter and most of all for being in contact with me.

The threat of my transfer is still looming out there in bureaucratic hell. After packing up most of my books and getting rid of excess comfort items I cannot take with me, they are holding us here without letting us know when we will be going.

Should be sometime in the next four weeks. They shipped forty inmates last Thursday with last names A through J so I will be in the next batch (two of three). Will advise my new address soon as possible. Meantime, they will forward mail for thirty days! (Hint)

I am hoping that if they are going to do it, they do it next week. This way, I do not end up spending my remaining months in a new place with no personal property, no money, and no phone access. All those things have to be established all over again and do not occur overnight.

Thursday, July 22, 2004
  Hurry up and wait.
The transfer seems to be one of these "hurry up and wait" things. I am almost all packed and ready to go, but I am not traveling yet!

I will be sending you a few books that I will not be able to travel with. I’m not sure if you have any use for them, but at least you can take a look at them. The paperbacks could eventually be sent back to me. More on the books later.
Enclosed is the last-ditch effort by my NY lawyer. We first need permission to present the case. If this judge says OK, then we (OK, the lawyer) would present some more detail briefs (oxymoron), and then they would hopefully decide that, indeed, I couldn’t be double punished, and set aside my NY State sentence.

The chance is very slim.
I am sending copies of this letter to a few of the people who I share with, and am asking for your prayers of support. Do what you feel comfortable with.
Thanks for all your support and for being willing to struggle along the road of life with me.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004
  What a great legal system!
I was not going to write tonight, but hey, I’ll give this a try.

I got two items in the mail today. Item one was your latest batch of books. The Gross Jokes book is gross, obviously pre-political correctness. I have already stated spreading that one around! The other item I got was an envelope bearing the return address of my lawyer in NY State.

In case your scorecard is not up to date, I am supposed to serve five to fifteen years in NY after I am done with the ten years of Fed time!

Well, the news in the letter was not good. The Appellate Division turned down my case. They actually stated that by pleading guilty, I had waived my right to question any portion of the case.

Think about that for a minute! I, a layperson, am "allowed" to give away all of my rights to question the way my case is handled, even if it is the State that did something wrong.

Stated yet another way, the issue I was asking the court to look at was: since the bulk of my Fed time, 8½ years of the ten, was specifically allotted to the same events NY State was also trying to punish me for, was that not in violation of NY State legislation which states that, with the exception of a few really major crimes such as murder for hire or murder planned over or across state lines, that no person should be punished by two separate governments for the same activity?

So I wanted the court to see if my case did that.

Their response was: sorry, you gave away your right to have us look into it. They therefore do not even have to look and see if I got something that, had I not pled guilty to but rather had gone to trial over, they would have had to look at.

What a great legal system!

So, how am I feeling? Well, four hours ago, I had some hope that I would be out of prison by November 2004, now the chances of me getting out before November 2011 are slim to none!

That sucks.
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
  The Invisible Man.
The ability to share any actual feelings in here is really limited. The idea is to try and stay as invisible as possible. So I have been doing a lot of fiction reading thanks to someone who sent a whole bunch of books. Thank You!
Gee, what happens if I just ignore the little beep of the spell checker? Who cares, life is short and the funk I am in does not lend itself to properly typed discourse. Not that you are not worth the time to type out a proper letter, but I am suffering from a severe case of ADD. So this is enough for now.
2:30 here, one more hour until time to return to my unit for the great 4:00 PM stand up count.
Oh, one good bit of news. I did manage to lose 4 1/2 pounds in the last two weeks or so. See what happens when the commissary is closed? I got $10 worth of junk food last night and managed to not eat the whole thing in one sitting. I did finish off $.99 of super loaded potato chips, one bag of M&M’s, two Cokes, and one pack of those large chocolate chip cookies.
Then I shopped tonight, and had a pint of cookie dough ice cream.

So much for the weight loss.

Monday, July 19, 2004
  Cheating on the weekly safety report?
I have to type the X's in on a double-sided weekly safety report and then run 100 copies.
I thought the idea of these types of forms was so that you actually checked off each item as you did it? Preprinting the form with all the boxes already checked "OK" seems a little like cheating.
But that could not be the truth, could it? Life goes on (and on and on and on).
So I printed the forms, loaded up some new paper, and helped check a misfeed problem with the super-duper Xerox machine. The have one of the five-bin Konica’s and they go through paper like a thirsty camel at an oasis.
One of the major bummers in here is the inability to get any decent information. I am still waiting for the assistant supervisor of Education to let me know about getting Internet access.
I’m also trying to get some cost info on the printing machine. The staff here told me what they paid for a case of the masters, but the problem is: how many rolls are in a case?
It’s like searching for the Holy Grail.
Sunday, July 18, 2004
  Life here sucks big time.
I want to write about two other incidents that happened to me in the last two days which are somewhat related to each other.
Having no life to speak of and very little positive feedback that I am a "somebody", I decided to strip the floor of my office. Mind you, it is really little more than a closet, but it is my space.
So, after cleaning out all the moveable stuff: printer, collator, stripper/folder, desk, drawer file cabinet, etc., I started laying down the floor stripper.
I started off mixing it about five parts water to one part stripper. I let it sit on the floor for twenty minutes, and then started scrubbing the floor with the electric machine.
But no wax came up.
So I vacuumed up the liquid and tried again - and then again. Two hours later and there is no improvement in the 10’ X 6’ part of my office. I then lay down a fresh batch mixed one-to-one, and, after letting that sit, I pour a healthy glob of the full-strength stripper on the area. I run the stripper machine, produce lots of noxious fumes, but alas, no wax comes up.
This is about 3:00 PM Saturday and I am feeling really sick by now. Think enclosed space, ammonia-based product, vacuuming up fluid, pumping in more fumes; you get the picture?
Well, I get back to the dorm at 3:25 PM and rush to rinse off before they lock us in for the daily 4:00 PM count. The lock-in usually occurs around 3:30 PM, so taking the fastest shower possible, my skin stops itching.
However, my gastrointestinal tract begins to let me know that it is not a happy camper. Well, having to share a cell and having the runs is not a winning combination.
Suffice it to say, by 7:00 AM Sunday morning I was in dire need of a toilet. Our cell doors are open at 6:00 AM, but by 7:00 AM my cellie still had no signs of getting up. So I call his name twice and tell him that I need to use the toilet. He gets up, pouts, and tells me that his official position is, if he is asleep and I have to go, so be it; don’t wake him.
Well, I don't know about you, but sharing my case of the runs when it is not absolutely necessary sort of turns my stomach. And if he somehow gets his jollies that way, I certainly do not want to be a part of his enjoyment.
So, you asked for it, you got it. Life here sucks big time and the small glimmer of hope that it would be over in three more years went almost totally out today, so yeah, I am pissed off to the gills.
Oh, the other thing was, I asked one of the staff in our Safety department if I did indeed have the right solvent. He said yes, I did. I told him that it did not seem to work at all. He said, yeah, he had heard that it smelled powerful but did not do much good. Yet he was still giving it out. That is a safe procedure!
Enough venting for now.
Saturday, July 17, 2004
  One of the things a couple of us talk about around here
 once in a while is how the heck are we supposed to go back out and get jobs and pay taxes knowing how much money is wasted here day in and day out? Kind of like a political action group of former inmates of federal prisons all banding together to protect our newly recently legally acquired wealth. Perhaps that is why they do not let ex-prisoners talk to one another.
Friday, July 16, 2004
  Cheer up, things could be worse!
From the "cheer up, things could be worse, so I cheered up, and they got worse" department, comes this latest list of woes.

I think I mentioned that my NY appeal was turned down, and then last Monday I found out that I am being transferred to a new prison just opening in Virginia.

They may have three-man instead of two-man cells, plus, being new, you are sort of guinea pigs to help get the bugs out. Not at all the same as getting software debugged!

So, after spending five years developing a HEALTHY relationship with my psychologist, I am forced to pack up my tent so to speak and move out. I will probably be on the move within the next two weeks, so hold off on any letters or book sending until I give you my new address.

I am only allowed to move with a very limited amount of stuff, such as five books. Not too tough since my personal library, both fiction and non-fiction, totals around forty books! The paperbacks can be shipped out and sent back in, but no such luck on the hard covers!

Then there are also the little creature comforts that one acquires such as highlighters (good for schoolwork), extra blankets (we are only supposed to have two), and other little things that I will have to reacquire once I get to the new place.

The only good news is that hopefully we will go directly there by bus (five hours), instead of the usual transfer that directs everyone to Oklahoma and then back out again, sort of like a FedEx hub deal.
Although we will travel in a modified Greyhound-type bus, we get to wear that special "Fed jewelry" of handcuffs locked to a chain around the waist, and leg irons which are more like handcuffs with an 18" chain between them. 
Sunday, July 11, 2004
  Another issue I have been dealing with
is the whole delay gratification thing. A key case in point is waiting to receive letters from the outside world. You have mentioned how much easier e-mail would be, but, again, one must learn that some things in life require a certain amount of effort before the pleasure phase kicks in.

I remember always complaining, OK, whining, to my Mom about people making fun of me, or teasing me about stupid things I did. She would always lay the old "sticks and stones" thing on me. Of course I sort of agree more with the revised version: "but names will really kill me"!

It is easier in today’s world for sure to label, poke fun, and generally build one’s self up at the expense of others. The strength lies in being able to have your own sense of self-worth, and in the process, to be able to bring others up with you, or at the least not lower them any.

I will probably jot some more thoughts down over the weekend since it is now 10:00 AM Friday and the mail does not go out until Monday morning at 6:00 AM. We need to have it in the unit mailbox by 11:30 PM Sunday. Then the night shift CO (Corrections Officer) gets to read it and seals it up for mailing the next morning.
Saturday, July 10, 2004
  The idea that a relationship could not be working
despite my best efforts was a real eye-opener. It actually applied to the way things were going with my job here at the chapel. I felt personally responsible for any friction between me and the staff or other inmates. This is not to say that one bears no responsibility for holding a relationship (be it work, friendship, or romantic) together, but there is a line between what each person is truly responsible for. I do think that in terms of marriage the line needs to be much more flexible, especially if children are involved! But in all other relationships, including parent/child when the child is an adult, it is becoming clear to me that there are things that will not work no matter how I act!

Cosmic! Yes, one of the things I discussed with my counselor was what happens if I make changes in my life with respect to my personality and my way of dealing with people, and as a result, I find myself a happier person. That would mean I wasted the first 45 years of my life! But on second look, now I do not want to waste another minute being an unhealthy, miserable, human being.

While most people say that those who were abused become abusers, I am not looking to claim victim hood. I am willing to admit that I am never too old, too smart, or too anything-else, to learn, grow and become a better-rounded, healthier, human being.

Parenting is an impossible job with no clear-cut, black and white way to do it. I hope you have even noticed, and therefore celebrated, the different ways children react to different crises and other life events, and even more, how the interaction can be different if the parents are present. There are a couple of books of the 25-plus I am currently working though that I think you may find of interest. I got them all from Hamilton, but I am not sure which ones I may have already mentioned, so I will send you another bibliography with the important books marked with an asterisk.
Friday, July 09, 2004
  Can I ask what you are in prison for?
Yes, you can ask, it is a free country, and this blog has an "ask any question you like" policy, with no specific free speech zones. But that does not mean I can or will answer them.

At this point, I would like to be able to deal with the outside would as if I am not an incarcerated person. The web allows a certain amount of anonymity, and I ask the reader's indulgence in allowing me to exist as a non-felon at this point.

I am not proud of my criminal background, yet I am forced to deal with it almost every waking minute, and am looking forward to this blog being a way to escape (Attention Corrections Officer reading my mail before it is sent out: I mean escape mentally, not physically!) my surroundings from time to time. The one thing the prison system cannot take totally away is one's mind. Oh, they make it difficult to exercise it, but not impossible.

So, since society is well-protected physically from me, I see no harm in allowing my thoughts to run free as it were. You all as the readers of this blog, also have the right to remain somewhat anonymous.

So, I ask you to take me as I am less the criminal aspects. At some point in the future, I do intend to fully discuss all aspects of my life, and I do think that knowledge of the whole is important. But for now, I am asking for a little leeway to enable me to get my feet wet in dealing with the free world from my razor wire encircled existence.

[Editor] Updated Dec. 17, 2004: The good news is Pete is no longer a Federal prisoner. The bad news is that he is now a New York State prisoner. His NY appeal is still pending. If this appeal is unsuccessful, he will not be a free man until 2009 at the earliest.
Thursday, July 08, 2004
  I sound literate and well read.
Yes, I am well read, and that is only a result of spending the last eight years in the various aforementioned gated communities. Before my location change, it was either computer related magazines and manuals, or the daily newspaper. I very rarely read any book, fiction or non fiction.

My current location is not the easiest to have access to current titles, but yes, I have read some of Janet Evanovich and do find her to able to make me laugh. No small feat in prison to be sure. I have not read "The Five People You Meet in Heaven." The Sue Grafton Alphabet series is a great way to present your titles, and I have read a few of them.

At this point, I would like to plug a company called Edward R. Hamilton Bookseller; it is located in Falls Village, CT. They have an incredible variety of books, and the prices start from $1.95 and go up. You can find them on the web at EdwardRHamilton.com. The site contains all the titles they have available, and you can print the order form, list the books you want, add flat $3.50 postage, and mail the order using good old fashioned snail mail. Within two weeks you have your books. They are offering a separate web service at HamiltonBook.com that adds a $.40 fee to each book for credit card purchases.

The mail service works great and the prices for the books range from reasonable to flat out bargains. They have all types of books, so give them a look. They also carry some very reasonably priced tapes and CD's. They have an incredible array of art and architecture books at great discounts. They print a newspaper style catalog of their selections which is great for us web challenged types, and provides hours of reading entertainment just looking at what is available. They have a very simple business model and no customer service number. It shows that you do not have to have all the bells and whistles of an Amazon to sell books.

I had recently asked my friend (the editor of this blog) about a title I heard about on a show on NPR. The book was on the subject of forgiveness (something particularly near and dear to us prisoner types). Well, he finds the book title on Amazon and sends me a copy of the six to eight pages of unnecessary (IMHO) verbiage.

I ask: do you want to know eight people’s opinion of the book, or which other books purchasers of the book also brought? To me, it seems that this is part of the information overload we are all suffering from. And who do you think is going to pay for all those great bells and whistles? The beauty of books to me is "finding" books on your own. Yes, there are the bestsellers like "The DaVinci Code" (currently $14.95 from Hamilton), but think about the books you have found on your own. Viva the individual!
Wednesday, July 07, 2004
  The unmistakable sound of gunfire.
I’m in one of those funky moods here. I just caught part of a conversation between two staff members about how she shot a perfect score. You see, at the start of each new fiscal year, October 1 for the Feds, all of the employees have to qualify on the firing range. And I mean all the staff. The only ones supposedly exempt are the Chaplains, and I am willing to bet that the ones here would love a chance to fire at us. Even the secretarial staff must qualify.

Something new and exciting this year is the new onsite firing range. They used to have to go into the town and use the local police range. Well, although we cannot see this range, it is only a couple hundred yards from our Rec Yard.

So as I was walking back to my unit before lunch today, I could hear the unmistakable sound of gun fire. While there are no firearms on any of the staff inside the fences, the knowledge that they all are shooting at targets on the grounds makes one think that someday they might have to shoot at us prisoners.

So you keep asking what it is like here, so there you have it, another wonderful Kodak moment brought to you by yours truly and those wonderful federal tax dollars that you so generously contribute.
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
  Holiday weekend at Club Fed.
Well, another holiday weekend here at Club Fed is winding down.

Since I normally work weekends and spent seven hours doing some waxing and buffing, the weekend mostly means no mail for three days and a somewhat special holiday menu today.

Breakfast included chocolate milk. I had two 16 oz. cups. First time since Easter 2003 - tells you what kind of life I have when I can remember the last time I had chocolate milk!

Lunch was a double hamburger and two hot dogs, watermelon, fries, and various salads. The usual lunch portion is either a single burger or two hot dogs, so today was a day to eat heavily.

For dinner we were treated to two deserts: two cookies and a 4 oz. Dixie cup of ice cream. My friend Dave has a problem with Lactose and I was the lucky recipient of his ice cream!

Dave works for the psychology department, which shares the building with the chapel. We both spent today enjoying being "alone" and in peace, working along with one officer to keep us out of trouble. Finding peace and quiet among the 1,600 plus inmates here is not easy!

Well, that’s the news from Club Fed for now. I hope you all had a pleasant 3-day weekend and I hope life is treating you well.
Monday, July 05, 2004
  My Dad
is supposedly going to "re-retire" after doing about two years of semi-part-time ministry at one of the local churches near where he lives. He says he wants to spend more time with his family and his hobbies. At 73, he certainly deserves it, but the danger for him is that Ministry has really been his whole life and I hope he can find peace and comfort without the Church to give his life purpose.

For example, the average life expectancy of a corrections officer after retirement is five years. Considering most have to retire by age 55 and only put in 20 or 25 years on the job, well, that points to how much "LIFE" some jobs actually give to people.
Sunday, July 04, 2004
  I am starting this letter to you at 8:16 AM,
because I am basically in a fog. I have received back both my latest assignments from the college classes, the one of which is included with this letter, and I am having a little motivation problem getting started on the next assignment.

I have gotten most of the documentation done as to how this print shop should be utilized and am at a point where I need to get some of the staff here to implement my suggestions. I'm not sure if I sent you my little study of how we can be more efficient in the use of the printer, but I will throw a copy in with this letter. I have worked hard on my documentation skills, something I have always been pretty lax on. I am probably going to write an essay for the English class, titled "Technology, are you using it, or is it using you?"

I realize that we keep trying to limit the need for any human thought in doing a particular task, but in the long run, as long as you have some human interaction involved, you have the possibility that something can go wrong. So even though this printing machine can do high quality work, it boils down to the human who is watching over it.

So I have accepted the challenge to see if I can document the proper use of the machine in this particular setting. Okay, so maybe I have dragged you into the battle without your consent, but hey, it is your tax dollars I am trying to save. Although lately, saving tax dollars is becoming a moot point. I guess maybe you should cash that tax refund check, if you got one, before they recall them.
Saturday, July 03, 2004
  True Love.
I do not know if you are familiar with the author Robert Fulghum. He wrote a couple of books such as All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten and It Was On Fire When I Lay Down on It.

His latest book is titled True Love. It is a $20.00 hard cover that I ordered from Hamilton for $1.95. I tried to order a bunch more, but alas, they were out of stock by that time. What I had wanted to do was send each of the people who share their love with me by corresponding with me, a copy of this simple, yet profound, book.

So I ask that you please buy and read the book. I mean for you to read it to your spouse. It is supposed to be a couples experience as you will see from the intro and first story.

Please humor me and try it, and let me know how it goes. I have no one to read to, and I still got something from the stories. Here is hoping that perhaps my efforts to spread some LOVE around might be a useful endeavor. Hey, you can never have too much of it.
Friday, July 02, 2004
  Speaking of dumps,
the other evening my gastrointestinal tract decided it was in need of some very rapid relief. The downside to this event was that it was 12:30 AM and we were locked in the room until 6:00 AM the next morning, so it was time to do the constant flush routine.

Of course this is a sure-fire way to wake up your sleeping roommate.

Well, he got revenge the next day by taking a dump at noon while I was trying to catch up on some sleep.

Common sense (courtesy?) would have had him see if I wanted to leave the room, but he just decided to do his thing. It was not a pleasant thing to be around.

But hey, that is half the fun of sharing a bathroom - literally - with another human being of the same sex and not of your own choosing!

So meanwhile, back to more intellectual pursuits.

I did mange to get an official Indiana University library card and my very own user name and password! Fat lot of good it is doing me. I am trying to get one of the staff people down here in Education to go online on my behalf so that I can do some research or at least order books from their library.

Cool, now on NPR we have Virgil Fox playing Ave Maria on the Riverside Church Organ. I think you (but not me) can listen to the shows via streaming audio, but I guess only if you have good speakers hooked up.

Well, let me sign off for now, we will probably be heading back to our unit shortly.

Later & peace,

PS we did get sent back to our dorms but we are not locked in our rooms so far.
Thursday, July 01, 2004
  Strip search, just another day in the Big House.
A fellow inmate just popped in to tell me that we are probably going to be locked down. They are strip-searching everyone as they exit the Rec yard. This wonderful procedure is done when some lucky inmate gets the Shinola kicked out of him and hopefully his attacker would have some sort of telltale scratches or other give-away marks. Then they will clear out all the other areas and lock us in our rooms while they individually question every one of the 1,600 plus inmates.

This wonderful procedure happened just two weeks ago. We ended up locked in until around 2:00 PM Monday. Although I never got questioned, my buddy Dave was awakened at 3:00 AM and asked if he knew anything about what happened. Since he was not even in the Rec yard that night, he asked the guy to tell him what happened. Well, just another day in the Big House.

I am listening to one of the best hours and a half on NPR - Pipe Dreams. It is all pipe organ music. Sometimes they do a whole show on just the theatre pipe organ.

Let me go and check what is up outside my nice quiet office.

Well, they are still exiting the Rec yard one at a time. This alone can take a while since we are talking several hundred people at Rec.

Since this is an unusual occurrence, I will not be able to leave Education until they figure out what they are doing with the Rec yard.

Normally (although that in itself is a tough word to use around here) I would have been heading back on the 7:30 PM move. The library is open from 5:30 to 8:30 on Sunday evenings. I was toying with just staying in the unit after that delicious dinner, but I took my dump while my roomie was out and then arrived here at Education at 6:30.

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