Prison Pete

Friday, August 27, 2004
  On vacation.
[Editor] I will be on vacation August 28 to September 4. I don't know if I will be able to post from the road, but I'll try. If not, regular posts will resume September 4.

I spoke to Pete yesterday. As you can tell by reading his posts he is a guy who really loves to talk, but he was speechless over the popularity of his blog. He is thrilled and he thanks everyone for reading. I have been sending him all of the comments, and he appreciates the feedback you have given him. He promised to answer as many of the questions as he can, probably not individually, but most likely in a large post. Stay tuned.

  A new approach.
I have spent time watching those parts of myself that may not fit the norm have an adverse effect on people, yet, at the same time, others benefit from my efforts. What seems to be a problem sometimes? Yes, this is an overly simplistic view, but see if you can get where I am heading.

Well, I am back from the 4:30 PM stand up count. Talk about consistency - every day for the last eight years, day in and day out, I have been locked in my cell and forced to stand up while two correction officers pass by the cell, peek in the 8" wide by 3' high window and verify the total number of inmates housed here.

Well, back to my random ramblings, is that people isolate a particular behavior and then use it, assuming other things that are not true. For example, I think I might have mentioned how I was being accused behind my back of some illegal doings here. This accusation came to me through my psychologist. The staff passed on their feelings to her, expecting her to deal with me. When she told me the accusations I was dumbfounded, because they were not true. My psychologist sort of told them that in her opinion I might have not realized what was going on. This indeed was the truth, but again, people assume that my advanced intelligence means that I am smart all-over so to speak. Point in fact, my social skills are not as advanced as my intelligence.

The other point about people wanting the good without the rest: my obsessive desire to be accepted, which before I was incarcerated led to my sometimes working 18 to 24 hours straight to solve computer problems. But this did not necessarily lead to understanding when I showed up late or missed a phone call. I thought that my extraordinary efforts entitled me to some slack. Others did not feel this way.

A new approach for me might be the following. To say that the recreation equipment here is abused is to be kind. Well, I read all the information available and realized we were not using it in a proper way. (God it is tough keeping my train of thought, since I am not printing this, and only have the one-line 80-character window which keeps jumping after each 80 characters.) Instead of going off half-cocked and telling the staff, I first sought out agreement for the work I was going to do. I took control. I know I can wear on people’s nerves, so instead of assuming that because I am so gifted, anything I do will always be appreciated, despite constant evidence to the contrary, and further, that my special talents buys me some slack, also constantly proved false.

But some of us just take longer to get the message.

As I think I mentioned, I work in a room with two others. Well, for better or worse, I take on a lot of the gopher work and staff contact stuff. One night I came in from walking and was in a rush to make the move back to the unit. The guys asked me if a particular Rec cop was outside I said yes, and then they asked me to go get him.

I said no, I was in a rush to make the move back to the unit. They razzed me a bit and my comment back was, "Yeah, it sucks when I want to take care of myself once in a while."

See, what I have been finding is that the most important thing one can learn is who you are and that even the bad parts of you can be OK if you are honest and deal with them upfront.

This would probably make more sense in person, but that is just another excuse. Sure, typing the thoughts out on paper is hard for me, but the reality of the situation is this is the only way at this point that I can share some of these thoughts with you. So I must buckle down and not take the easy way out which is to say, if you came down here to visit, I would tell you this or that.

One of the things I remember growing up was how my Dad would always mimic my whining "That's not fair". The point to me, and that is what is important, is that it was not fair, and one should be grateful that life is not fair. Somehow, somewhere, I thought life was supposed to be fair. Probably one of those misinterpreted Sunday School lessons.

In the Jim Carey movie where Carey is given the powers of God for the Buffalo, NY area, he uses the computer to handle all the prayers. Well, he gets so overloaded that he has all the prayers answered "Yes". The next day, thousands of Buffaloites win the first prize in the lottery. Unfortunately, since the payout is related to the number of winners, the grand prize is like $4 each.

So do you really want life to be fair? Kind of like the anti-bullying thing. Violence is definitely over the line, but how do you get kids to treat each other the same. You cannot. Just like all the bullshit "no child left behind" stuff, do we really need an entire generation of third graders proving they can fill in the right boxes on some standardized test?

One of the few things I do remember my Dad doing when we were younger is he would read to us before bed. It did not happen too often since he was out so often, but I remember reading about Toby Tyler and the circus.

One of the things reading does is it provides a common bond. While my interaction with most inmates is kept to a minimum, when they read the same book we can at least say what we thought about the book and use it as a springboard for a general discussion.

7:00 PM and at six minutes to type a page, I better start the draft printing now. Damn it, this has to be printed or else it will not make it out tonight. So I will keep the draft and compare it to your letters and begin the outline for another letter.
  Sports fans.
The biggest problem I have in here is that I still find the need for some instant gratification, such as an idea that I want to share with someone, and have them tell me how great I am.

I have learned to let out the ideas a little at a time, enabling me to get feedback and take other opinions in along the way.

But how do I do that with snail mail and fifteen minute, $3.00 phone calls? (And not more than one call every hour.)

And how can I learn to change my less than perfect people skills?

Damn, I just ran out of the correction ribbon, went to get a new one, and now I lost the train of thought.

I end up feeling sorry for myself and sort of shut down and retreat into a book, and drift off to a place and a life beyond the razor wire. So, all of a sudden, a few day funk turns into a couple of weeks, and I am not doing my bit to keep the communication/conversation between us flowing.

Maybe flowing is not the right word. You have more resources to generate "stuff", but on the other hand, I have such a rich garden of day to day experiences to harvest from and convert to writing for your reading pleasure.

For example, the "colorful" description of the two top "sport" events played on the TV's here: the RED neck racing and "Basically BLACK" basketball.

The only exception is when a black person shows up to play golf (Tiger Woods) or tennis (the Williams sisters). Then, all of a sudden it is like everyone is a diehard tennis or golf fan. Yes, it is great to cheer on your "ethnic pride", but the reasons are not always so altruistic.

The ogling of the females in tennis and the dream of the big bucks of golf is not my idea of a "sports fan."

A case in point in when BET broadcasts their annual Gospel show, and the scarcity of any inmates to watch except when one of the younger women are singing and happen to be wearing a thigh-high slit dress or other "eye candy" type of apparel.

Then they stare at the TV, ogle away, and as soon as the song is over, that is it.

I do not know if you have heard of a black singer named Alicia Keys. She can actually sing (I think she has one of those four to five octave range voices) and she also plays the piano.

Well, the two videos she has done were more performance type vs. the barely dressed jiggling flesh type, and the music had melody and verses. Thus, the viewing of her videos is not a stop everything and "Hey, homie, watch this joint, it is the mother-fucking bomb" type of experience.

As a matter of fact, if you do a search of her name in the NY Daily News, you would find articles which question her sexuality just because she refused to show up in her videos half-dressed and slithering up against a bunch of black thugs. Well, it turns out she caved in and showed up somewhere with her long-term boyfriend just to shut up the bullshit.

I think it is a terrible statement of the black race, which, when one of their own does not "perform" to the proper standard, they can sit in judgment of that person, yet in the case of Kobe Bryant or Michael Jackson, hell, hero worship is the only thing. Yeah, one is innocent until proven guilty, but in Kobe’s case, he has admitted to cheating on his wife, and where is the outrage in the black community at his blatantly throwing out any type of family values?

Hell, we tried to impeach Clinton for that and spent millions of taxpayer dollars checking all his possible indiscretions. Even in Clinton’s book, the buzz I caught on the news last night was all about who he did, and when, and how often.

This is certainly not quality writing at all, and is all over the place.

I have gotten used to drinking room temperature, unsweetened brewed tea. I brew two bags in a twenty ounce hot cup and then pour it into a thirty two ounce sports bottle that is filled with ice. I can feel the difference in my ability to keep to a task when I have a higher level of caffeine in me.

Could you say it is all in my head? Ha ha, but who knows. Sometimes it does not matter at all.

A.D.D. is a great excuse sometimes.
  Day to day crap.
About the books, it works fine except for the new rule that was the old rule is back in effect. The maximum books per shipment are five!

I thought I mentioned that to you in the last letter I wrote but I guess they crossed in the mail. It does not matter if they are hard or soft cover, just as long as it comes from the publisher or a bookstore. I’m not really sure if they would allow used hard covers. New hard covers are certainly no problem, and Amazon.com is one of the companies that have no trouble getting in. You might want to purchase one used hard cover from the thrift store and include it as one of the five books.

Just for fun, please check the postmark date against the letter. Are my letters being held up for reading by the SIS department? That is the internal investigation people. Well, unless the letter is put in the unit box Friday to Sunday, the postmark should always be the next day.

It is now Sunday afternoon, about 1:00 PM and I just finished doing fourteen laps. The first twelve I averaged five minutes and fifteen seconds per lap. I need to find the exact measurement, but 2 3/4 laps is a mile.

As I finished the laps, I heard the rebroadcast of Prairie Home Companion. WV public radio broadcasts the show live at 6:00 PM Saturday, and replays it at 1:00 PM Sunday.

I got another letter from you Friday and left it in the cell, so I will bring it down tonight and see what else needs to be included. Let me type out a draft of this and see what I have written so far.

Wow, a page and one third and still nothing really worth reading. I guess I really need a life.

Actually, as I think about it, the day to day crap is the easiest stuff to write. It requires little thought to write, no feedback from you, and little emotional investment on my part. The other two areas I can think about writing are "business" ideas and "personal" stuff.

The problem with business ideas is: either I spend a bunch of time explaining an idea that you then shoot down in the first or second sentence (not a criticism, just a fact), or I write a brief idea down then you need to respond and may not be clear of my thoughts, or worse, you do not have the time or interest.

Again, not a criticism, just a realization of the limits placed on me being in prison.

The problem with the other area, the "personal" stuff, either yours or mine, is the lack of feedback on a timely basis leaves one with a good chance of putting one's foot in one's mouth by saying too much.

The preceding is not very clear at all.
Thursday, August 26, 2004
  Learn to speak Spanish?
Well, it is now 5:00 PM and I have until 7:25 to get this letter typed in, print a draft, edit, and then print the final copy that will hopefully meet all of the requirements that your latest letter mentioned.

Damn it, I went to the store today and forgot to buy the damn picture tickets.

The way the great picture system works, we buy tickets at $1 each on our weekly trip to the great commissary, and then on Saturday or Sunday evening come down to Rec and get the pictures taken. They go out for developing on Wednesday (usually), and are available for pickup on Thursday. So, I will probably get the tickets next week.

Sorry for the delay.

I am thinking that you have gotten two letters from me since I received your last letter, but I am sort of confused as to what I have included it the letters. So, now I will keep the draft copy of my letter and then I will know what I said. If I have sent the two letters, it does appear you did not get them before your most recent letter.

Of course, this whole thing may become academic if I get a positive response from the federal judge, meaning that once we perfect the system, I could be a free man. Yeah, like New York is going to be flooded by global warming.

Wait one minute, I just heard about that on NPR.

So, in the meantime (hmmm meantime, that means hard time as in if someone is mean and ugly), let’s see what we can throw into this letter.

Any peeks into True Love? As I recall, the first story is a good one about what happens to grade school puppy love. Talk about saving the right stuff; I just got a cold shiver thinking of the story.

I think I commented on your "learn Spanish in prison" suggestion. Five years of high school French and I could not even order a meal in a French restaurant in NYC. I do, however, clearly remember the time we caught the French teacher and the headmaster coming out of his office one evening after they had been doing the horizontal rumba in his office.

My ex spoke fluent Spanish and I could never pick up a bit. The interesting part is that some of the nicest guys here in the Leather Shop area are all Spanish speaking, and I wish that I could communicate with them in their language. I always said that I was good at picking up computer languages, but they only have 100 to 200 words and very few grammatical rules.

Well, it is now 6:00 PM Thursday and all of the above was typed Wednesday up until 5:45 PM when they decided to recall the entire Rec area. This was due to an incoming storm. Usually they only shut the outside area, but last night some bright soul decided to send us all in. Then at 6:30 PM they had a move out back to Rec, but I was already comfy and reading one of the books you sent.

They say not to worry, if you do not like the weather here, stick around ten minutes, and it will change.
  It is now the BIG WAIT.
I am trying to listen to an opera of "Of Mice and Men", but this damn Wheelwriter throws static out, so the signal is not as clear. I am going to head back to the unit at 2:30 PM but will be back out at 5:00 PM to type some more stuff.

Well, it is now 8:00 AM and I did not type anything last night. I did go out and walk four more laps on the track, and then went in to take a shower. I just got done listening to "With Heart and Voice" on NPR and "Now the News."

Well, it is now the BIG WAIT. The paperwork is certainly now in County Court, and I hope getting an honest and unbiased reading. The waiting is hell, and my hopes are raised again for the umpteenth time. Well, time will tell.

Without sounding too mushy, we all carry parts of people inside us, and that is the best way of all to remember someone. I remember a post-divorce trip with the kids and a karaoke video of us. I hope Mom and Dad have that tape.

But I guess one of the reasons I have asked you to save my letters is because that is basically all I now have. Mom and Dad have some of my stuff, but most, if not all, of my possessions are gone. I have no prior history. If I am out in November 2004, then I will be able to gather the few remnants of my prior life and move forward.

Funny story about my long hair: I was leaving my job to go and visit Mom and Dad, and the two guys I work with said they could not believe I did not get my hair cut for Mom.

I said that it would be my Dad, not my Mom, who would care about the hair.

Well, as Mom and Dad stood up to hug me, the first words out of Dad's mouth were, "you got your hair cut". I turned my head to the side and showed the pony tail and said, "No haircut".

The last time my parents were here was six months ago, and the time between the two visits for Dad was the length of my hair. I guess I will have to send you two pictures, one with the pony tail, and one without.

Yes, I do remember listening to Jean Shepherd when we were kids and I will read the stuff you sent. I need to use my reading glasses for that one, and even then it is a little tough. The reading glasses are old, so I may need a new prescription.

Sunday afternoon I walked eight more laps, went back to the unit at 1:00 PM, took a nice shower, relaxed, and finished up two books. Then, after the 4:00 PM count, I managed to get the TV tuned to Turner Classics and watched the end of some real oldie, and then the movie Tootsie. Also, while waiting for the flick to start, they had their rant on reformatting movies for TV viewing.

I will try to send this out tonight since the scuttlebutt is that there will be no work tomorrow. Some training thing. Well it is now 3:00 PM and time to head back for the count.

MTF (more to follow)

I am back. More mail for me! The books arrived today. Thank You! I already finished one of the books you sent.

It is a bummer that they are being picky on the five book limit, but at least two of the ones you sent have the small print and should keep me busy for a bit! It’s a nice mix too. We are probably not working until after 4:00 PM tomorrow, so the books came at a good time.
  New kiln.
Another deep thought brought to you courtesy of good old NPR. On the People's Pharmacy they were interviewing Dr. Ed Hallowell on his latest book "Dare to Forgive". He brought up a statement that said "Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past would be different." Maybe it is me, but that is a pretty cosmic idea. The mind is certainly not a simple object. We are very often our own worst enemies.

So, I had a really nice day Friday and it was probably due to a few occurrences that included the minimal exercise I did, five laps of power walking (almost two miles). Minimal because I have basically gotten no exercise, so any expenditure is an increase.

The other thing that made Friday so nice was installing a new kiln in the Hobbycraft department. It cost $2,000, and, no, you do not get a "Thank You" since no taxpayer money is used for recreation equipment. All funds are from the inmate trust fund which is the proceeds from the commissary, telephone calls, etc.

Speaking of telephone calls, they are raising the per minute rate to 23 cents to help raise funds! Quite a rip off when you consider it is really a pre-paid system. What do those prepaid cards go for? Two to three cents per minute?

Whatever - I am babbling.

So the thing about the kiln is treating it as a high tech piece of equipment when all the people around you want to ruin (run would be too kind a word) it like a plug-and-go system. While the kiln itself has few parts, the temperature of 1,900 to 2,000 degrees does require some sort of intelligence, which is in short supply around here. The point is, if we were to properly install the kilns, not only would they last longer, they would produce better glazing.

The kiln thing is really bugging me. It is sort of like the old game of telephone where you still get the message at the end of the line, and it may even still have the essence of the original statement, but it is not the original.

The problem presents a unique opportunity to see how one can gather support for procedures that may actually be a benefit, but the desire of the various parties to learn the proper procedures is nil.

The question is: do I try to raise the knowledge base, and if so, then how does one surgically make the right moves to gather support for the effort?

The outcome is doubtful, and can even end up causing friction.

So I have just answered my own question.

The hell with it.

Let us move on.
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
  Power failure.
I got your latest note today. The letter was received untouched by either the cancellation or bar code machine.

They had a bad thunderstorm here tonight, so I am waiting to go back to the unit and get locked in to be counted. We probably will be locked in for the night since it takes them over an hour to clear the count once they start, and it is now 6:52 PM.

We now get locked in for the night at 10:00 PM. We used to get locked in at 9:15 PM and could come back out from 10:30 to 11:30 PM. At least now we can see TV until 10:00 PM.

Have you seen the NCIS show on CBS Tuesday nights at 8:00 PM? The dialogue is very cutting edge akin to Moonlighting.

Oops, this letter is now in being written in pen due to the power going out mid-word and us being rushed back to the house and locked in for count. Also, I am listening to a program called Fresh Air on NPR. They are talking about the private contractors being used in Iraq, over 20,000 people.

The thing to think about is: if they are in Iraq getting $500 per day, you know that the various companies are getting even more per person. They are making money on war!

On the way back to the unit just now I saw a full rainbow. I cannot remember ever seeing one go truly end to end!

I know you are retyping my letters, but this one is not worth typing, and it will not happen in the future. I will be able to type the rest!

To answer your question, no, I cannot get CDs, but thanks for the thought. The "good news" if I go to NY prison is I will be able to get some of those types of things!

However, the latest NY court status is looking hopeful. I am preparing an answer to the DA’s reply to my initial filing to the US District Court.

The DA was supposed to get an affidavit from my prior lawyer, but she declined to provide one! Since I am claiming ineffective assistance of counsel, and the DA did not actually specifically answer that argument, maybe (ice cube chance in Hell) then I might have the Feds tell NY that yes, my lawyer was ineffective.

Then I would sort of start over in NY and file the double punishment issue! The point is that while the Feds cannot make NY go away, they sort of would not rule "bad counsel" if the double punishment was not a valid argument!

Crap, it is 8:30 PM, the doors are back open, and we got two TVs both showing the same movie, so I cannot catch NCSI.

OK, I should be working on legal stuff anyway.
  Criticism, hard work, music practice.
Seriously, I wish we could spend some time face-to-face to share with each other. You are a real bright spot in my life right now, and you help make this current waiting period a little more manageable.

I have learned to take other's criticism of me with a grain of salt. I listen to the complaint, consider if it has any merit, and even if it does not in my mind, I go to the next step and decide if, in my dealings with that person, a change in my approach is warranted. There are certain times when I find myself telling the person that you can not have it both ways, and remind them that they need to take the rough with the smooth (as opposed to the good with the bad).

For example, if any time a person's car did not start in the church parking lot, I was asked to give a look and try to get it going. This happened so often that I took to wearing "work clothes" to church instead of a suit, and then someone complained that I was not dressed!

The same arguments are often discussed in the mental health profession with respect to the use of drugs. Sure, so and so may not fit nicely in the square hole "society" wants him or her to fit in, but what do we lose by sanding down the rough edges?

What I now realize is that yes, there are times that, no matter the consequence, the task in front of me cannot be completed! Yes, there are always consequences, and as parents, I think the role should be one of being sure which actions are do or die stands.

For example, I clearly remember the pure torture of my thirty minute daily trumpet practice when I was a kid. "Mom, is it time yet?" While I have been playing the alto sax for over a year, and many are impressed at how good I sound, I am still no Kenny G. I wish I could play the trumpet, but I am willing to admit that I currently do not have the combination of physical and emotional energy to put into it. Yes, the sax is easier to master the mechanical side than the trumpet, and the joy of sight-reading a new melody is great on the sax.

But what I really want is to play the piano. In over two years working at the chapel, I spent two or more hours a day practicing the piano. I finally got to the point where I could play the full four parts of "Precious Lord."

(I can not find the answer in my style books. When you are use quotes for a title or other than emphasis, does the period go inside or outside the quotes? I know if you are showing conversation, the period goes before the closing quote.)

I am now back practicing on the piano. I am willing to put the time in as a long range goal that, someday in the future, I will be able to play passable stuff. Even after a break of not playing, it is amazing how quickly I can get back to where I was. Would the same also be true for the trumpet? I am not sure, although I did try to pick it back up in the early 1990's and still seemed to not have the drive to put in the effort needed.

I read an article that seems to speak to the idea that we may enjoy something even if we might have to really work at it, but at the same time what I am saying is that even hard work might not make it right.

I trust the forgoing is as clear as mud.
  Answer from the DA.
It’s 9:00 PM here, and I need to get this in the mail in fifty minutes. We used to lock in from 9:30 PM to 10:30 PM, and were let back out until 11:30 PM. Now we stay out until 10:00 PM and must have our mail done by then!

My headphones died the other day, so I had to plop down $29.95 for a set of Koss all-plastic headphones that would probably cost $15 on the street. Anyhow, they are a noise reducing type of headphone, so I can pretty much disappear into a world of NPR classical music and write this letter with a minimum of distraction.

I received the answer from the DA and he was supposed to get an affidavit from my lawyer, but she declined to provide one! I’m not sure if that is good or bad.

The DA did argue about an issue I did not even raise. Hmmm, could it be I have finally gotten to the point where I am going to get a decent shot?

They spent three pages pointing out that I do not have an issue of double jeopardy. Since federal and state are considered two different sovereigns, they can both prosecute. I knew that, and did not raise it.

The federal issue is that I am guaranteed effective assistance of council. Had my lawyer been effective, she would have raised the issue of double punishment, and I would not have been punished in NY State. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

This letter jumps around a lot, but I wanted to get something in the mail, and this is now the last forty minutes in which to do it. The main problem is the lack of anyone to share my feelings with. Isn’t life grand! Sorry it is so messy, between the time crunch and the need to share so much with you, but anyhow.

On the "you have a life too" front: sorry about the demise of your hard drive, but I’m glad for your fortuitous backup. (Note I have a wonderful Roget’s II New Thesaurus and certainly think you may disagree with the word "fortuitous".) I’m also glad warranties work. As they say, don't you just love it when a plan comes together?

Okay, back to my narcissist self. Yeah, I am supposed to be working on that too!

They say confession is good for the soul, and I believe that might well be true. Your renewed vigor with respect to your letter writing is a gift more than I can say, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Yes, some of it brings pain, but as I said at the start, it confirms to me that I am still a person. Thanks again.

A typewritten letter will follow.


P.S. The jokes you sent are making the rounds.
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
  No sick days in prison.
I have no doubt that I suffer from A.D.D. and would certainly have ended up as a drugged student if I were a kid going through school today. Giving a kid drugs scares the hell out of me. Thanks to a bunch of the books you have sent me and other discussions on NPR (look for web site The Infinite Mind or check npr.org for a link, they have done some shows on A.D.D.) that have given me great insight into the differences between humans and the stupid ways we sometimes misinterpret the actions of others.

By the way, they say caffeine has been found as a useful "drug" with A.D.D., and I certainly feel the difference when I have access to it. I am currently drinking six to eight tea bags worth of tea a day! The caffeine in a tea bag is about the same as a can of Coke.

I have become much more aware of my shortcomings and I know that sometimes it is necessary to put something aside until later because the mind just is not going to get it done now. One good example is the touch-typing. Right now, and for most of today, I have been flying along with no problems; other times I cannot get two words out without a typo.

The other thing is that there are certain things I am very good at and come easily to me, some that I can accomplish with varying degrees of practice and patience, and some stuff that is just not in the realm of possibility. The goal should be to be able to classify the areas as early as possible and be able to let go of those areas that are just not going to work.

Also, one must be aware of those areas others might assume you are capable of handling, but in fact you are not. One only has to look around the prison to find lots of people who have plenty of usefulness if someone would take the time to find the "place" each of us unique individuals fits in.

This does not mean deadlines should not be put in place. I have lived with deadlines for the last eight years, most of which make no sense to me. I grumble at them, but I do them. The point is not all deadlines are bad, not all must be approached cheerfully, BUT, where you may have some flexibility, be sure to be willing to use it.

I have found that I can "let go" of some things, and develop alternatives to provide my own internal balance without getting in trouble. For example, I am not and will never be a morning person, but I must be out of bed and have my room straight by 7:30 AM Monday to Friday regardless of how I feel.

There are no sick-days in prison.
  Banned from food prep.
My cellie is off taking a shower and then he will be whipping up some microwave magic for dinner. I am banned from food prep. I have not cut my hair in over two years. It is eight inches long!

Well, my cellie has found hair in his food twice (he is shaved bald), so I just buy the food and he does all the cooking. But I will type some more specific food stuff as soon as I finish my legal stuff.

From the "It may not matter anyhow" department, my case manager informed me that the attempt to change my release location from North Carolina to my parent’s house was turned down. If I do not have to do the NY State time (yeah, the ice cube in Hell chance), I am subject to a term of three years supervised release. This is a way for the Feds to keep an eye on me and make sure I toe the legal line.

Well, they said that my parents were too old. They actually went to visit Mom and Dad and told them that by the time I got out of NY Prison, they would be over 90 years old. That really made my parents’ day.

How the hell am I going to be able to get back on my feet with no family, no friends, and no resources of any kind? I could push the issue, but the way to survive in the "prison industry" is to go along as much as possible.

Yeah, the system sucks.

I figure as an off chance I am free in November, I could get some sort of cheap apartment. 24-hour grocery stores could use me in night work. Who knows? Just some random thoughts.

Anyhow, this is the basis for a much longer discussion that is impossible to have here and not easy to do in fifteen minute phone calls.

It is just another one of the wonderful things about my current life that sucks.
  Top ten words used in prison.
I am getting better at this touch-typing and I have you to thank for introducing me to the Dvorak keyboard.

The one skill I know has gone straight to hell is my ability to communicate verbally with other intelligent life forms. The problem is that the availability of intelligent life forms is slim to none, and the maximum number of words used in a conversation here at Club Fed is about ten.

You might ask how this is possible.

Well, it is doable based on the fact that several key words or phrases have so many definitions that they eliminate the need to have an extensive vocabulary.

One item of proof of this is how one of the inmates I work with in the Hobbycraft area is still trying to get his GED. Before they give you the actual test, they have a multi-part practice test. The idea is if you score above a certain level on each part, then you are likely to pass the GED.

Well, this person has been trying for several years to pass the test and has taken the practice test several times. He almost had it this last time, but his vocabulary score went down.

True, it is not a very scientific study, but I also had the occasion to speak to the warden this past week and found myself at a loss for the proper multi-syllable words to get my point across.

So you might ask, what are the words most used?

Yeah, you guessed some of them.

I used to say that if they had a satellite photo of this area, where the intelligence of any given area would be shown on a grey scale with the higher the intelligence the lighter the area, well this area would be a black hole to be sure.

If on the other hand you were to use the same type of shading based on the frequency of certain words, and if those words were mother-fucker, nigger, big man, homeboy, holler at you, and joint, well this area would be white as snow.

(FYI the word "nigger" is unique in that the blacks can say this out loud but the whites only use it amongst themselves. Also, nigger is not included it the politically correct spell checker on the Wheelwriter.)

The word mother-fucker has so many different meanings (and yes, as George Carlin would say, it is a compound word) they are impossible to list. It is not even consistently positive or negative: something can be as hard as a mother-fucker to do, cool as a mother-fucker, or my all time favorite, one bad mother-fucker. The last one is applicable to all things, living and dead, good or evil, hard or easy, etc.

Another good example was the conversation I heard on the way down to Rec this evening, as one inmate said something to the effect of "that was a valuable mother-fucker to learn from".

Well, enough of this rant.
Monday, August 23, 2004
  Reading list.
I am at my new work site and thought that I might get this letter finished and in the mail tonight. I started typing and decided to trash those two pages and start again. The reason for the rewrite is I was trying to delve into some emotional issues and the slippery slope that is, well, let us just say that you should be thankful for the rewrite.

I have so many ideas for possible money making projects, but you must remember that I am currently working for $.60 per hour, so perhaps my expectations are a little on the low side.

One certain moneymaker is coming up with a product or service that you can get the U.S. government to pay for. Think Halliburton. Seriously, I do seem to be good at finding ways to use technology for the common man. Think niche markets.

There was a story on NPR about a guy in California who has developed on economical book binding process. The process took him forty years to develop, and instead of franchising the system, he wants everyone to have access to it. An inventor with a conscience. The story even mentioned a satellite-equipped truck in Africa downloading and printing books in remote areas.

From the "this really scares the prison staff" department comes this item: there appears to be a mutant staph infection infecting some of the inmates. So today there was no work call and we are all supposed to scrub our cells down.

This has all the makings of a cluster fuck.

I have still not heard anything from the Appeals Court in NY. I have asked them to give me permission to get the full Appeals Court to look at my case. I expect them to say no, but at this point, no news keeps the hope alive.

So I have started the final step on the road to seeing if I can get any relief from my pending NY State sentence. This step involves asking the Federal Courts to see if I did indeed receive ineffective assistance of counsel. That is a violation of my Federal constitutional rights. The actual issue of the double punishment is not something the Feds can rule on.

NY State has refused to rule on the issue, saying that since I pled guilty, they do not have to look at the issue. My point is, had my attorney raised the issue, the outcome would have been different. So, if the Feds rule that my lawyer was ineffective, I still need to have NY State then look at the double punishment issue.

Ice cubes in hell have a better chance of surviving.

From the "I know you are busy, but this might be important" department comes this great book: Brain Fitness: Anti-Aging Strategies for Achieving Super Mind Power by Robert Goldman, M.D., D.O., and Ph.D. He has enough initials after his name to make one think that he might like school!

The book covers all aspects of brain development, including A.D.D., depression, sleep disorders, and old age afflictions such as senility and Alzheimer's. The book also covers the dangers of not properly dealing with stress. The book shows some very interesting links to proper brain function and food, and the intake of vitamins and minerals. I found it on Hamilton Booksellers for under $5.00. I think it is an important read for those of us who make a living using brain power.

I do not want my brain to go on the fritz.

If one actually looked at my reading list, it covers everything from Sandra Brown, John Grisham, David Baldacci, Dale Brown, Michael Connelly, Patricia Cornwell, Catherine Coulter, Michael Crichton, Jeffery Deaver, Nelson DeMille, Janet Evanovich...

Well, the list goes on, but I am out of memory on the typewriter, so let me wrap this up and get it on its way to you.
  Touch-typing with Dvorak keyboard layout.
I thought I would add a little update on the new and improved typing skills thanks to your prodding. I do want to acknowledge your mention of trying the Dvorak keyboard layout.

This entire letter is typed using the Dvorak keyboard layout, and I am thankful to you for the challenge that got me started on it.

As I have told you, I never really learned to properly touch type, and now I can. I still occasionally want to resort to the old way, but the lack of properly labeled keys keeps my fingers on the home row.

Well, it is now to the point where I can almost keep a steady rhythm without too many typos. I do find that I know when I hit the wrong key, and do not need to wait for the beep of the spell checker.

I think I finally got it down, but not ass the oops all the time.

The typos are interesting.

Speaking of typos, the following is intentional.

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, olny iprmoetnt tihng is that the frist and lsat ltteer are in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by itslef but the wrod as a wlohe and the biran fguiers it out aynawy. No siht!

Is the above true?

I thought it was interesting.

Fun to type also.
  My database reports.
I am having lots of fun with my "database" and am burning through the one-use ribbons with a vengeance.

Do you realize how slow daisywheel printers are for printing database reports? It takes about six minutes to type a page! Good thing the master list is only 1 3/4 pages.

Then I do a set of craft reports for Art, Leather, and Ceramics, the three subgroups. The master report is alphabetic on last name, and then I re-sort the eighty records by the locker number, for example L-01 or C-01 for Leather and Ceramics, and run a report selecting where craft is equal to Ceramics, Leather, or Art.

So, each week it takes about an hour to print the four reports, but at least I can do it without waiting for a staff member to update them on his computer! Actually, technically the typewriter is more functional, since the only "office" application they have on the computers here is WordPerfect.

Each department must buy a license for a spreadsheet or database program, and the computer services department turned down the Rec department’s request for a spreadsheet program. They do have a main database called "Sentry". It is mainframe in format, and the report generation is cryptic to say the least. They bring up the report access via windows, but it is just a text window through to the main database, I think.

We just need to verify name and ID number for inmates who sign up for various programs. Anyhow, they print a roster that has the names of over 2,000 inmates, more than forty pages.

It is obsolete in two weeks!

So I suggested, why not print an "update list" of those that arrived here after the date the last master list was printed?

Well, it took over a week to get the report, and then the first one was sorted by arrival date. Not very useful for looking up names!

Anyhow, my direct boss reran it, figured out how to get the time period right, and even sorted it alphabetically on last name.

But this time he forgot to print the first name field! Hopefully next week it will run OK.

The other staff solution was to just run another roster. Kill more trees.

We could really use a truly gifted application programmer, but instead we have him sitting around playing with a Displaywriter!

Well, anyhow, 11:00 PM and I must get this in the mail.
Sunday, August 22, 2004
  I have read four books in just eight days.
The autobiography of Richard Feynman, Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman! turns out to be very interesting in terms of his boredom with school due to his high IQ!

Another book I got through the outside library, and I would strongly suggest you look at, is Thinking like Leonardo DaVinci. It talks specifically about recognizing the learning styles of one’s children and contains lots of activities to strengthen both children’s and adult’s thinking processes.

So, off I go to finish one of the last W.E.B. Griffin books you sent, The Murderers. Your generous donations to the cause brought joy here in Mudville, and I miss the book shipments.

The line of inmates knocking at my door for books to read is longer than ever. Just this evening, one of the inmates here returned the set of Ian Fleming James Bond books to me, and tomorrow I will hand it off to another inmate to enjoy. Thank you for all your efforts.

I thought you were going to send some pre-wrapped books and see what happened, but I guess you meant you would wait for me to get the "official" word. Well, I have sent the written question to the proper staff, but I have received no answer in two weeks so it’s time to resend.

Of course, the request has to pass through the mailroom on its way to the proper desk, so maybe it never even made it there! I will try again and again.

The random-act-of-kindness killers are a bitch to fight! I was in a funk, and now I am trying to get back among the "hopeful".

I am going to hunt down the warden and share your letter with him. As I mentioned, I did send a "cop out" to the mailroom supervisor. But I am willing to bet that it got misfiled, and if we could find it, we would find the same fingerprints and/or trace DNA on it as on the book package you received.

It shows you how petty the mailroom can be. They handle mail for 2,000 inmates, and yet they are able to single out one guy for questioning their operation.

As a side note, that is why I have discovered personally how much my mental health improves by bypassing as much of the staff and operations as I can. For example, why do I eat mackerel and rice five to seven days a week for lunch and PB&J for dinner? So that I am not forced to see otherwise-palatable food ingredients be destroyed by basic stupidity and a total lack of an iota of caring.

Well, I am off to solve the book problem in the next forty eight hours or so and will advise you of the response I get.

If you notice a different return address in the next letter, you know I did not make out too well HA, HA.
  Writing is both pleasure and pain.
I have had more false starts starting to type these letters than I care to say, and I curse you daily as I work back and forth between the QWERTY and Dvorak keyboard layouts!

I know we each have our own set of life’s toils and troubles to deal with, and although mine are certainly very limiting, that is no excuse. The problem is one of running in place. On the one hand, the act of having to put pen to paper sometimes merely increases the feelings of depression here at Club Fed. It does not make sense, but I suppose it is kind of like a good way of avoiding the reality one is living in.

Remember the excerpt from "Dark Horse" I sent to you? I hope you might understand what it is saying about HOPE. The words practically jumped off the page at me as I read the book. It relates to both why I take so long to write but at the same time what having your friendship at this time means to me. The concept of counter balance; writing is both pleasure and pain.

Taking the time to write is something that I have no specific monopoly on. I am forced to remember that even before my arrest I was not good at keeping in touch. We are part of the "me generation" and certainly one of the downsides is the lack of taking time to feed and nourish our souls with real human interaction.

Sorry about the spelling, handwriting, and general messiness, but it is a bitch to keep up with what my mind wants to communicate. Ah, a good old mind meld would do nicely.

I was listening to a one-hour show called "Wait, wait, don’t tell me!" They used a line from the Letterman show about telling the President that there were two "L’s" in Halliburton when it came to making out the check for the latest $$$ billion in aid.

I was breezing through a copy of the NY Daily News that one of the inmates gets mailed in. The difference between the News and the NY Times is that the Daily News still has all the NYC news in it. There was an article about a robbery at the subway stop I used all the time when I lived in Brooklyn.

I wanted to get my own subscription to the NY Times because I realize how hungry I am for "realer" news. Given the Times’ problems last year with fudged stories, who knows what is real these days, but certainly the Times is still ahead of the sanitized yet sensationalized "produced" stuff of CNN. The little things I have picked up from The Times do give me lots to think about.

Also enclosed are renewal requests for a couple of the free computer magazines you signed me up for. Please delete the job title from the address. That would help a little. The mailroom seems to get pissed off at that, because I am not supposed to be running a business, which I am not, so the job title thing confuses them, and we do not want to confuse the gatekeepers as far as any contact with the outside world goes, do we?

From the "You know you have no life" department, comes the joy we inmates are experiencing over the new items the commissary is stocking. They are going to have a four ounce chunk of Mozzarella cheese! They are also selling a whole dill pickle in its own plastic pouch. I am looking forward to nuking the cheese over the three ounce pack of pepperoni and then rolling it in a soft burrito shell.

Hmmm, maybe I will try it over the mackerel and pretend it is an anchovy pizza pie!
  That which does not kill you, makes you stronger!
Sunday morning here, and we are locked in for the 10:00 AM standup count. This count occurs only on Saturdays, Sundays, and Federal holidays.

My diet of eating mackerel with rice each day actually worked. Over a six-month period, my cholesterol went from 204 to 176. My triglycerides and the bad cholesterol number were also lower!

Not an easy feat in prison!

Somebody started a rumor that the wheat bread sold at the commissary could be used to make white liquor! I’m not sure how true that is, but now right off the bat the bread goes, so my third meal, which was PB&J, is now PB&J on Saltines!

Not as comforting to be sure!

The bad news is I have been as sick as a dog due to an upper respiratory infection. The health services department decided that it might be a virus, and declared that I did not need antibiotics.

My illness is made worse by the mold growing in the carpet in the day area.

One of the brighter inmates decided to use the sprinkler head as a coat hanger. When he went to pull his sweater off the hanger, the sprinkler head popped.

It was a Saturday evening and it took the staff here over 45 minutes to figure out how to turn off the sprinkler system!

Do you have any idea how many gallons of water this was?

The mold smell is still bad four weeks later.

Meanwhile, I have managed to have my immune system beat the bug.

That which does not kill you, makes you stronger!
Saturday, August 21, 2004
  Deacon Blues.
I have really gotten into the alto saxaphone playing and I practice for one to two hours Monday through Friday from 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM each day. Through some divine stupidity, they will only open the music room during lunchtime.

So it is either eat lunch or play the sax.

Besides the music room, my choice is playing in the Rec Yard (think wind, hundreds of inmates, dust, etc.) or playing amidst inmates working out on stair steppers, bicycles, or else in the pool room (pool tables, not swimming pool!).

None are healthy alternatives.

So I need to buy my lunch, which is currently the old mackerel and rice, with mustard, honey, and hot sauce. It’s tough to buy food with the loss of my job, but hopefully I will develop some additional funding sources.

By the way, they actually showed the second Harry Potter movie this past weekend, and since I was not down at work, I got to watch it.

It must be really good to see on a real movie screen. The effects are really awesome.
Life sucks and then you die, and then there is prison.

Since I have yet to hear back on my latest attempt to cut or eliminate my NY sentence, I am in a La La land feeling that the next few months can either be a journey to freedom or an oasis before entering a darker and more physically threatening Hell!

My wonderful cellie just dropped into the room to tell me what other people are telling him about me. They are worse than a bunch of old ladies!

I am no longer working in the print shop and am currently "unemployed". While I miss a few of the aspects of the job, the addition of nine hours a day to do things for me is an interesting change of pace! The lack of pressure and stress has already reduced my asthma, and I am sleeping better.

To say that I took my job here seriously is to put it bluntly. My "stupidvisor" told me that he did not care how nice I made everything look. I was not a staff member and he was pissed at me for not removing a "code" on the printer.

First of all, I did not put the code on there and I printed the code in big letters right on the machine and told the Supervisor of Education (my stupidvisor’s boss) that it was there! He went off the deep end when a repair guy came and stupidvisor could not find the code. The real irony of it is, of course there is a "factory code" that the repair guy knew (I saw him use it, so I knew it too), but stupidvisor did not know enough about the machine to go to the "paper menu", which shows all the codes.

I told this fact previously to all of the staff in Education, but again, none of this mattered and it was entirely my fault. So bottom line, I am a "free man" from that job. Getting fired for being smarter than those you work for does not bother me, and would generally not happen in the outside world!
Friday, August 20, 2004
  Prison on September 11, 2001.
[Editor] I was going to post this on the anniversary of 9/11, but someone asked the question today about what was it like to be in prison on that terrible day. So what the hell, why wait, I will post it now. This is from an old letter dated a couple of days after the attack, the first letter Pete wrote to me after 9/11.

September 14, 2001

What a difference a few days can make. Just when you thought the world was on an even keel.

I am still having a hard time picturing the scope of the damage, since I am obviously very familiar with the WTC area, and the view through the window of a 21-inch TV screen does not give a wide enough view. I assume you have already gotten a look of the new skyline in your travels? Where were you when the events started?

We were actually locked in our rooms due to some pretty heavy fog, but when the events started to unfold, they decided to keep us locked in our rooms and kept the TV's off. All of a sudden the noise level started to rise as some of the inmates that were listening to the radio started to hear of the terrible events unfolding.

So up I jumped from bed, and on went the headphones. They eventually let us out into the day area, but not before feeding us lunch in our rooms and having some restricted activity for the rest of the day. They had the telephones turned off for the whole day, but I was able to call Mom on the 12th to wish her a Happy Birthday.

I have been listening to some of the NYC AM radio stations from 11:00 PM on for the past few nights to see what is really going on. I was actually on my way into NY the day back in 1993 when terrorists first bombed the WTC and my girlfriend at the time was going crazy beeping me every ten minutes while I was on the good old Long Island Railroad oblivious to anything going on.

I remember driving into Manhattan many years ago after one of those major blackouts when the lights were just coming back on. I do not remember exactly, but I seem to recall either watching the lights work their way back on as floor after floor of the World Trade Center got power, or the fact was so much of the towers were still dark.

Missing loved ones is probably going to be the hardest part for a lot people. The fact that even now, one of the nurses who worked some of the triage sites was also looking for her boyfriend, and each time she saw a characteristic of her boyfriend, the hairstyle, the shirt, or some other trait, her mind would go into the "is it him?" mode.

And like the old saying goes "to err is human, but to really screw things up you need a computer", imagine all the heartbreak as names of possible survivors keep popping up on the list, but then when loved ones try to track them down, no one knows how the name got on the list.

On a slightly morbid note, boy what a great chance to disappear if you were supposedly in the area that day and just so happened to be walking around with a wad of cash in your pocket. Since it appears that a lot of the bodies will never be found, one could certainly be just assumed to be among the missing.

I have not heard yet if anyone I might have known is missing in the devastation and I hope and pray that you do not have anyone close to you involved in the mayhem.

This cannot be good. It is only 9:10 AM and they just announced for all Facilities workers to report back to Facilities. That is where all the painters, plumbers, landscrapers (SIC) work out of. Usually, when they call inmates back it means something is wrong, so let us see if we are going to be locked down or not. Time will tell. I will keep you updated. Stay tuned, film at 11.

Well, sometimes you do win some. It turns out they only wanted to feed us before 11:45 AM. Usually lunch starts at around 10:45 AM and ends anywhere between noon and 1:00 PM depending on what is being served. So the reason for today's schedule change was so that we could experience the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance.

They made the COs turn all the TV’s to the CNN coverage of the services from Washington. It was pretty neat, but they ended up calling us back to work just before Bush started speaking, but the good part was they had the service on at Education, so I got to see the end.
  Wholesome lunch.
On a more upbeat note, but also bittersweet, you mentioned pizza with anchovies.

Damn, anchovies are my #1 favorite pizza topping! The best is when you get the pre-cooked slice piled high with extra cheese and anchovies. All that white mozzarella and fish, yum, yum. Mackerel is not too far from anchovies, although it was not until two years or so ago that I had my first mackerel, and now I have it almost every day!

Talk about some instant wholesome lunch:

Take 3 oz. pre-cooked rice
Add hot water from water cooler in 20 oz. Rubbermaid bowl
Nuke 1 min.

1 can mackerel (4.25 oz. size)
Add mustard and ½ Tbs. chili garlic sauce

Sometimes add cheese dip, and lunch is served!

With over 23 grams of protein, it sure beats the high starch/carbohydrate diet in the chow hall. They never even heard of protein!

As a special treat they are adding 4.25 oz. cans of "broken shrimp", "crab meat", and smoked baby oysters! The mackerel is $1.15 per can. The special cans will run around $2.50 per can, but I am going to try one of each to see if they are worth the money! Stay tuned, will advise.

Hopefully, someday you and I can have an anchovy pizza pig-out!
  Is Prison Pete For Real? Part 2.
[Editor] I thought I answered this question once before, but apparently some people are still not satisfied. So let me try again.

The short answer: Yes.

If you believe me, you can stop here and go back to reading the blog. If not, keep reading this post.

The slightly longer answer: Yes, he is real. But even if I post his personal information as some have requested (which I will never do), it proves nothing.

It would be easy enough for me to make up a name, or even search the web for a real prisoner's name and use it, and since prisoners have no Internet access, they would have no knowledge that any of this was going on. Neat scam, isn't it? I wish I had thought of it, but I didn't.

Given other scams with fake blogs, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that people don't believe this one. You just have to take my word for it that it's real.

Satisfied? If yes, go back to the blog. If not, keep reading.

The even longer answer: Let's assume that Prison Pete is for real (he is), how do you know he is really the one writing the blog? You don't, and I have no way to conclusively prove otherwise.

Some have said he sounds too smart to be a prisoner. Yes, he is smart, he claims to have an IQ of 140 (but I can't prove this either). IQ may not be meaningful to most people, so I will ask him what he got on his SAT. But how will you know I didn't just make that up too? You won't. OK, enough of this.

Smart people do stupid things sometimes and end up in prison. It sounds like Pete had a lousy lawyer, but even a good or expensive lawyer will not necessarily keep you out of jail if you did something really stupid. Just ask Martha Stewart. I digress.

Pete is a good writer, and has even thought of writing a book about his prison experiences. I guess this blog proves there is interest in his miserable life. Myself, I find it like a train wreck. I can't look away. Maybe it is the human fascination with someone else's misery. I don't know, I am a computer guy, not a shrink.

All that I do besides scanning his typewritten letters or typing handwritten letters (a real pain) is split up his letters into blog posts. Most letters are 6-10 single-spaced typewritten pages, and contain 4-7 blog posts (an entire letter would be way too long for one post, I try to keep posts to around 400 words (2,000 characters) for readability.

Lately I have been getting 3-5 letters per week from Pete, and I am having trouble keeping up with his writing pace, and dealing with the blog comments and controversy. Then there is the time lag problem. More about this later.

What I do is what any good editor would do, which is mostly clean up spelling and punctuation. I remove personal details he doesn't want posted and stuff I don't think is particularly interesting (but I will say there is very little that I don't think is interesting to someone on some level). I occasionally reword something that is confusing, for example if I read a sentence or phrase two or three times and say Huh? I have a choice: I can either leave it as is and let you say Huh?, remove it entirely (but if it is important to the story I can't do that), or reword it slightly (and I do mean slightly) so it makes sense.

I am not a journalism major or a writer as someone suggested, but thank you, I am flattered by the compliment. Someone asked if I have a blog. No, I have no desire to have one. I don't think my life is particularly interesting, in fact Prison Pete is about the most interesting thing that has happened to me in a very long time. I didn't even ask for it, but here it is. But that's enough about me, the blog is about Pete in prison, not about me. Satisfied yet?

The very long answer: I think I just gave it!

Obviously there are talented writers who can create entire elaborate fantasy worlds and write hundreds of thousands or even millions of words about it. The success of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter come immediately to mind. I am not one of those creative people. Just writing this long-winded explanation is tedious to me, and I hope the matter is put to rest, but I don't care because I don't have time to keep writing these explanations which will not convince the skeptics. After all, there are people who believe that we didn't really land on the Moon or that Lee Harvey Oswald was not the lone gunman.

Let me expand on this time lag thing. Prison Pete only became a Blog of Note this week (and thank you Blogger for this honor, I am new to blogging, but learning fast, and did not even realize what an honor it was until reading some of the comments). But ironically, Pete (if he even exists, ha ha, still not sure? I give up.) doesn't even know how popular his blog has become! After some sporadic posts in April and May, I started regular postings for him in June, and up until two weeks ago Prison Pete was averaging one reader per day. I think yesterday alone there were over 2,000 hits!

I sent Pete a letter Wednesday 8/18 informing him of this activity, but at best given the US Postal Service he will receive it today, but more likely not until Monday 8/23. By the time I get his reply, another week will have gone by. Maybe this is Pete's 15 minutes of fame, and it may all be over before he even learns about it!

Lest anyone think that Pete's posts appear on the day they are written - they do not, this is impossible given the fact that we rely on US mail, not email. Yesterday I received a letter with something he wrote 8/5, two weeks ago. I am having trouble keeping up with his voluminous writing, and am currently running several weeks behind.

As it gets closer to November, I will just post all remaining letters even if they are huge posts because this will all end in November, one way or the other. Either he will be a free man and can create and manage his own blog and relieve me of this chore, or he will end up in a NY prison and I am not sure if I want to continue what has become like a second job for me, one that I really don't have time for. This whole blog thing started out as a way for him to get some discussions going and put him in touch with people who might want to write to him. I guess it has done that, in spades.

Bottom line: Do you enjoy reading the blog? If yes, keep reading, lead a clean life, and don't do anything that will land you in jail. It sucks. If no, nobody is forcing you to read, so stop reading the blog, lead a clean life, and don't do anything that will land you in jail.

Finally, you do not need permission to link to this blog. Feel free. I link Prison Pete to blogs that he has heard about or blogs that I like. I regularly print all of these blogs and mail them to him in prison. I also print out and mail him all comments from his blog, even negative ones.

Regarding these hateful comments, I have thought about disabling anonymous comments, or comments altogether, but that would sort of defeat the entire original purpose of the blog, and for now I am managing to keep up with it (barely), so keep posting your comments if you are so inclined. Even negative ones. Pete will just have to deal with them.

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.
  "Pen" Pals.
Besides Mom and Dad, I write to one 99-year-old former church member from NY, one 60-ish single woman with four kids, twelve or so grandkids, and ten great-grandkids who is a "pen pal throw away" from another inmate, a Presbyterian minister from NC, and last but not least, but certainly the youngest, you.

It is up to me to keep the various relationships moving. One of the many issues I have looked at in my life is what a two way relationship is really about.

I feel very grateful and hopeful about how our communication has grown in substance. Yes, patience is something I have certainly been getting better at with each passing day.

Please realize that what I am writing would be a lot easier to say in person, since instant feedback would assist me in understanding what you are "hearing" and to note which points are clear and which are not.

This is NOT meant to be a cop-out, that if something I write pisses you off I can say, well, what I meant was, BUT it is true that when one talks about feelings and all that great MUSHY stuff which I have come to realize is the stuff money cannot help cover or strengthen, communication is, or can be, a very slippery slope.

First of all, let me say that I have things I am dealing with that you cannot possibly understand on the surface, but as our communication continues, will become clearer. It is not, I realize, as easy as saying that I would expect you to say, oh, I get it, just like it is hard for me truly understand your fear or whatever you want to label the general ill feeling you have had since September 11.

What I have learned is that it would be easy for me to say to you: hey, snap out of it, you have no problems like I got. But life is not like that. It is much harder, but more life affirming, to be able to not seek to solve a life problem by looking at it through tunnel vision.
Thursday, August 19, 2004
  I am busy costing-out the use of the printer.
I have been weighing the amount of ink I use on each job, and I figured out that the stencil costs $.29 per use. Obviously, the initial setup charge is the cost of the stencil and the amount of ink that goes with it when it comes off the drum, but for example, remembering that I use 11 x 17 inch paper, I have come up with some interesting costs for the printer vs. the copier.

If the copier uses 11 x 17 paper, it counts each side as two copies. In other words, a 4-sheet, 16-page booklet on the copier would actually be sixteen copies. But on the printer I would use two stencils, one for each side of the paper, two pages on each stencil.


For example, to make one hundred copies of an 8 ½ x 11 form takes fifty sheets of 11 x 17 paper.

Cost of consumables: stencil $.29, ink $1.67, average per copy cost is $.0196 per page. If I had another single sided form I could run it on the same stencil and end up using one hundred sheets of paper, but it would have been a cheaper per copy cost.

Next, I ran eighty copies of a forty page booklet on the subject of parenting teens called "Teenagers guide to the real world". It was actually printed off the web by one of the teachers. It is interesting reading about what kids may be in for down the road.

Well, since I can handle ten sheets of paper directly from collator to stapler/folder, I will end up with three books of ten sheets each when I am done. Anyhow, I not only used black ink but I also did the title pages and charts in brown and orange ink respectively.

So, by the time I was done, I used $12.47 in stencils and $22.02 in ink to produce eighty booklets. Dividing the total cost of $34.49 by the eighty books, I end up with a cost per book of $.43.

Remembering that on the copier, it would be forty copies per book. Even at the low end of $.0207 per copy, it comes to $.83 and that would not have any color highlights.

The per hundred rate for the book is $1.08. Total cost $34.49, divided by total copies, i.e. forty pages multiplied by eighty books times one hundred equals $1.08. Copier beat, and plus, if you do not use your supplies, you still have them to use another day.

Sounds simple, but obviously the copier people do not want you to know that.

The numbers get better the higher your number of copies goes.

I ran 150 copies of another ten sheet, forty page book, and it worked out to a per booklet cost of $.27 and a per hundred cost of $.66

So, here is the business plan in one hundred words or less: you set up the systems on a value-added basis. The printer can be interfaced directly to computer.

Certainly takes care of the smudged original. Plus, then you could easily change font colors on the fly to get a title only master by changing all 12-point text to white and then change the 36-point text to white and run your black ink.

Following me so far?

The goal would be a foundation that would work with under-funded schools to allow them to print their text on an as-needed basis with constantly current text available without those nasty copyright hassles. So here is the perfect system to enable schools to print only the number of books they need, and in small, specific subject related bites. No more fifty pound backpacks for the kids or big bucks losses for stolen or misplaced hardcover texts.

I am not sure how good the software is to interface to the printers, but that is certainly an area that could be tinkered with also. Not to mention all kinds of small business niche marketing, such as small circulation specific magazines.

Maybe the Pinewood Derby monthly?

True, this will not do color photos, but it does a pretty decent job on black and white photos.

Maybe since Bush is so interested in education, we could interest him in developing a way for the prison system to design and print workbooks for the poorer schools.
  No soup for you!
From the "We cannot allow random acts of kindness to go on without fucking with them" department comes this late breaking news item.

I was called down to the mailroom today to be told that I could only have five of the nine books you recently sent.

I was told to choose which five I wanted, and then I would have thirty days to bring them stamps and an address to send the extra four books out.

I asked them where they were getting the five-book limit from, and they said the policy statement for inmate property.

I gently informed them that the property list clearly states that we are allowed a total of ten books. Only five of them would be allowed to be transferred, but we could have ten total.

Never one to let a possible out slip by them, they then asked me how many books I had in my locker.

Lying to staff is on the list of the two hundred or so things we are not supposed to do, so I told them that I did have more than ten books in my locker.

So they said, fine, then you get none of these books! (Think "No soup for you!" from the Seinfeld show.)

See what a debate with someone with the mind power of a gnat can do for you?

Well, after still trying to get them to confirm what rule they were using, I caved in and said, OK, let me see the books, and I picked five. I told them I was donating the other four and by rights they should show up in the prison library, but I doubt it.

I have two different publications, official BOP statements that clearly show we are allowed ten books. There is no specific policy statement as to allow the mailroom to limit incoming mail except if it is deemed a danger to the institution such as by being pornography, or dealing with weapons making, escape plans, or heaven forbid, computer programming.

So, for the short term, please send only five at a time. I realize this sort of increases your mailing costs, but I am on the case and I am going over the mailroom supervisor's head to get a definitive answer.

Of course, part of this process has the sure-fire possibility that all of my future mail will be held, folded, spindled, and mutilated.

Stay tuned for further updates.
  Some stuff gets lost in the mail.
Do you have any idea what it is like to type with only a 16-character display and no ability to go back over what you have typed without using the good old destructive backspace I believe it is called? So yeah, the spellchecker beeps at you, but by the time it beeps I am already 3/4 of the line down.

The way this typewriter works is the daisy wheel actually moves across as I enter each character, and then when I get to the end of the line, it goes back to column one and types the line. The display freezes and buffers my next line until it has finished typing. Then it spews out the line I am working on, beeping as it comes across a typo, but not stopping.

So the only thing to do is backspace until I come to a word that might be misspelled.

Never mind, as the song says: You got your trouble? I got mine.

As I think I have mentioned, we have a copier in this building, one of fourteen or more just on the compound, that rents for $629 a month. 30,000 copies works out to around $.0207 per copy. If you do not use the full 30,000 copies, then the cost per copy actually goes up.

Lately we have been using 15,000 to 22,000 per month. Due to George’s great war effort, they have taken all our budget money, yet they still want to build twenty-eight new Federal prisons.

So, last month I tried to convince my boss to run some of the printing jobs on the copier since we already paid for the copies and I could "save" the ink and stencils for later use. No such luck, she did not want to burn out the copier!

But isn't that why we spend so much money each month on a copier that can handle the workload?

Anyhow, I am really struggling with the heavy burden of trying to appeal my New York State sentence. I am now getting close to the end here in Fedville, and if I do not get going with this latest legal move, in November 2004 I will be transferred to the NY State prison system to start serving the five to fifteen year portion of my state sentence.

By then I will have served over eight and a half years in the Feds.

Well, as I have tried to share with you on the phone, it is almost impossible to deal with the issues in a cold, legalistic way. The issue I have to raise is that I... oh the hell with the issue, just suffice it to say that I am much more likely to find stuff to do here in my little print kingdom than deal with anything from either the legal stuff or the two college classes I am signed up for through Indiana University.

In summation, what I really need to do is focus first on finishing the legal work, then the English class, which has only four of the ten lessons to go, then bite the bullet and wrap up the other class, which also has only four of the ten lessons done.

I did see on the latest CNN college poll that Indiana University was rated a top party school.

Funny, I never noticed that, but I guess some stuff gets lost in the mail.
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
  Test Your Digital IQ
1. Did you buy your computer online?
My computer is original factory issue. I have had it since birth, and although it is over 40 years old, it has never required a hardware or operating system upgrade. Also, no payments have been made to Bill Gates.

2. Do you have broadband Internet access at home?
I live in a federally-sponsored, single-sex, gated community and have no direct access to any broads (so much for political correctness). It does not matter if they are in a band or not.

3. Do you have a firewall at home?
I’m not sure which definition to use here. My home is a 7'x12' cement block, single room occupancy home, and each wall will certainly withstand plenty of fire. On the other hand, the staff has a place with walls that are used to hold up targets that they then fire at with hand-held gizmos that, when activated, cause a metal projectile to fire at incredible speed. Is that the firewall they are asking about?

4. Do you read your office e-mail?
Most of the monitors in the offices here have protective screens that make it difficult to read anything on the screens. The staff tends to treat us residents like mushrooms (in the dark and covered with bullshit).

5. Do you read your personal e-mail?
I have the first generation of mail before Al Gore created the Internet that turns out to be more annoying than telemarketers - snail mail! I do however read each and every piece of mail I get. Feel free to send any mail you want and rest assured that it will get my undivided attention.

I started the above creative writing and it got off to a great start.

OK, maybe it is not that great a start.

But then the old A.D.D. kicks in, and it was put in the "Round Toit" pile.
  Dark Horse.
Well, let us get into some of the meat of my existence here at Club Fed.

I came across the enclosed quote while reading. It tells of the two ways I have certainly "done my time". The existence thing is the no letter writing/phone call type zombie thing.

Like one of the current country songs says: "I breathe in, I breathe out! Put one foot in front of the other." You’ve got to love those country lyrics.

But when I have hope, I reach out to people. I put my thoughts on paper and look for a connection with another human being.

Dark Horse
By Tami Hoag

"Hope" is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And songs without words
And never stops - at all
-- Emily Dickinson

I didn’t want to have hope for myself.
I wanted to simply exist.

Existence is uncomplicated.
One foot in front of the other.
Eat, sleep, function.
Living, truly living, with all the possibility of both success and failure.
Every emotion has a counterbalance.
Fear cannot exist without hope, not hope without fear.
I wanted neither.

I had both.

Now I am back at work after surviving the 4:00 PM standup count. In order to get an eight hour day in, it takes me three times, that is six round trips, from the dorm to the library. I have printing to be done and also the "will I ever finish" correspondence classes I am taking. But hey, writing to you is much more fun.

First of all, it was great to get your letter so soon after the last one. But I am a captive audience provided that I feel a part of the experience. That is what is most important in that your letters not only share what you are doing day-in and day-out, but they acknowledge my humanity if you will. Thanks again for being there for me. Better you being there than being here, Ha Ha Ha.

Your books are becoming a welcome addition to our library and we have even put a few of them into a special section that is tracked more carefully to be sure the books are actually returned.

It's 6:42 PM, and damn I am hungry. I had lunch in the chow hall today and then treated myself to a pint of sherbet. Actually it was a quart, but I split it with another inmate.

Anyhow, I thought I would skip dinner and trap myself down here until 8:30 PM and then go back and sleep without eating. Well, as my friend Dave says, we need some "happy food". I did buy one Milky Way bar today as I did last week. This is way down from my ten or so candies a week, but up from my last two months of no-candy dieting.

OK, now 7:19 PM and I am going to head back to the dorm. I hope to catch Boston Public on Fox at 8:00 PM. It’s a very interesting show, have you ever watched it? It deals with a lot of current issues in not too shabby a way, considering it is TV and FOX at that.

OK, I came back. I made some rice and mackerel with garlic, and am probably going to eat the one candy bar!

I did plop in front of the TV and watched Boston Public. So it is now 9:49 PM. I spent the last twenty minutes proofing this letter and it is still a lousy typing job. But I hope you get the thoughts! I will send more words soon!
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
  When was the last time you used a typewriter?
Let us see, should I type this on the memory typewriter without the spell checker, or on the no-memory typewriter with the "beep-if-you-misspell-the-word checker?" Well, let us try the memory typewriter, and see how good my proofreading skills are.

Already this first draft is a mess, but you will not see it, so that is not yet a problem. The memory typewriter only has a forty character LCD screen. Plus, this only has a 10-CPI wheel as opposed to the other typewriter, which has a 12-CPI.

I am only "working" until 7:30 PM and then heading back to the unit to read and probably rot my brain in front of the TV for a bit. It has been a tough week.

Despite my usual upbeat, can-do attitude, various staff persons have "hit me" [Editor] not literally a few times this week just because they can, like the mailroom story. I know it is my fault that I am in this fix, but anyway, let’s see what other great news we can impart.

Sorry this is so messy, but today was my weekly shopping trip day and I finished off the two or three treat things that were supposed to last me all week, in the last eight hours instead - plus a pint of ice cream and four or five cans of Diet Coke - so I am sort of wired on caffeine and sugar.

Now, if I only had a computer program to debug, I could probably break the 4,000 lines of code per hour record!

Speaking of the print stuff, I am also enclosing two of my more creative projects. Not bad considering I did both of them with only a typewriter and a copy machine to get the masters. The colors are done at printing time. It takes three passes: one black, one red, one blue. Not bad lineup!

Sure, a computer would be helpful, but hey, you work with what you got. The multiplication chart is actually being used by all of the teachers here. They are all teaching GED classes. That is the only goal for the staff here, GED’s. It keeps eight staff people busy full time.

OK, let us clean up what we have typed so far and see what that leaves us time wise. Stand by while we do the proofing.

Hmmm, by the time you read this sentence, you will have already read the proofed part, but will you actually notice it?

OK, we came, we read, we proofed.

I have not printed, I just scrolled the entire thing past the forty character window!

High tech, right?

Well, it is now almost 7:00 PM and I had better print this out and get it all ready to mail.
  Arguing with the mailroom.
Sometimes one man's problem is another man's joy. Like the nights I would be working till I literally dropped onto the office floor and the client comes in the morning to find me sleeping. Oops.

The comments your Mom made about me ("I still can't believe it. It's so sad, so tragic, what a waste of a life.") are tough to hear and are something I am sure that I will need to deal with in the future. It is that proverbial rock and hard place, to try and explain the whole thing, and now is not the time to dwell on it.

Ah, the empty house syndrome. I went through that a few times. My take on that as a prisoner is how fleeting and temporary physical possessions can be. Your letters, and the thoughts contained therein, are more valuable.

The fact that some of my letters grab you more than others is okay. I do not mean that your time should not be considered as a valuable commodity, but one must also be willing to take risk, and say things that may not be what the other person wants to hear, either because it may be painful or something as simple as the "yeah, so what did you write that for."

One of my parent’s friends lives on Long Island and for over two years was sending me the crossword page from Newsday. She would simply pull the entire page and not tear it in half, but fold it up and send me a batch every two to three months.

Then, one day I get the envelope with only her note that says "Hi Pete, here are some more crosswords" but no crosswords were enclosed.

What I did get was a form that said the contents were returned since the only way to receive newspapers is direct from the publisher.

Fine and dandy, but this was only a page from a newspaper.

Well, after trying two more times to send them in and me arguing with the mailroom, the bottom line is, I no longer get the crosswords.


The argument was that what she was sending counted not as a page, but a "section" of a paper, and as such, could only come in via the publisher!

My Dad ordered a new Lutheran Hymnal from Augsberg Fortress Press (The Lutheran Supply Store) last year for me. The mailroom returned the book three times before I was able to convince them that Augsburg Fortress was indeed a publisher and thus they should have allowed the book in.

$20 of shipping charges later, I finally got the book!
Monday, August 16, 2004
  Legal Motion.
It is Monday 9:30 PM and we are being locked in our rooms for the 10:00 PM count.

My cellie, and his constant farting, left for the free world Friday morning at 6:30 AM and I have been blessed with my own space since then. This also means that I have to go through getting a new cellie, and there is not anyone I can pick from right now.

It is bittersweet in that one of the things I have learned is to not get used to the difference that something that is out of my control makes in my existence. I may even have a new person by tomorrow evening.

After all, this is a very popular place with the big WELCOME ALL sign out front!

I have actually managed to get most of my last-ditch NY legal motion done. The dealing with the specifics is not at all pleasant. But the logic of the "double punishment" is hopeful, so the hope is there, along with the fear that if this fails, I may end up serving an additional seven or more years!

I do not know if you remember an article in the NY Times on the DC sniper case. It mentioned something called the Petit case.

Even though it is technically OK for the Feds and state to prosecute for the same acts, the stated policy of the U.S. Attorney General is that it is not to be done lightly. So if a truly awful case like the DC sniper might be jeopardized by the Feds going first, what they do is drop the changes, i.e. turn the suspects over to the state, in this case, Virginia!

My point is, if it is supposed to be exceptional, not the norm, should not my lawyer have raised the issue?

She did not.

The argument I make has nothing to do with guilt, only my constitutional right to effective counsel. If the court agrees that my lawyer should have raised the issue and did not, then I would still have to argue the actual double punishment.

It’s still a long way to go and they can still stop me at the start by refusing to agree that I was not properly represented.

Stay tuned for further hoped-for progress.
  The Mighty Mailroom.
You have been formally introduced to the mighty mailroom.

We had a good run; you have been sending books for how many months and no problems, and all of a sudden BOP!

While B.O.P. may be the initials for Bureau of Prisons, a few of us here have come to realize the only way to describe why some things happen around here is to simply say BOP! If it is a really boneheaded, stone-cold fucking idiot type of occurrence, it is a BOP.

Now, your books were not rejected by the official paperwork route, since when that occurs, we would each get an official form with the official reason for rejection. So, since we have not been told the official reason, and thus been able to argue the point, we are forced to surmise what happened.

The lack of a "Reading Material" label could be enough for them to return to sender and not have to fill out any paperwork. The problem with this is if the package is a bomb or some other type of "bad" mail, and you actually labeled it "Reading Material", would they open it?

This seems to have been my week to get BOP’ed by the mailroom. Dad also ordered me a music book to be sent direct from the publisher, and it seems it may have been returned, since when I got his letter today, he said I should have received the music.

Now, since he ordered it direct and the mailroom may have refused it without telling me, is the company probably sitting with this package of something ordered but refused?

Confusing is just the tip of the iceberg.

I told Dad to have the book sent to him and then make sure it does not have spiral bindings, which he would need to remove and then send me only loose pages.

Well, ours is not to question, so let us be sure to have the words "Authorized Reading Material" and "Paperback Books" clearly labeled on each package. Next, let us just use eight to ten as the maximum number of books if there are some thinner books included, and less if they are all 500-pages plus.

Yes, this seems to be a waste of postage, but the return to sender and reship is costly too!

As far as the packaging, it has not been a problem so far. I usually get the part of the wrapper with my address and sometimes the return address. Boxing the books is unnecessary and should actually be avoided.

So I know doing nice things for me can be fraught with unforeseeable problems, but keep the faith, do not give up, and know as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, that you will be BOP’ed again when you least expect it.

Sunday, August 15, 2004
There seems to be a spit forming in the public broadcasting world. I noticed in PC Magazine that XM satellite is carrying PRI (Public Radio International) and the other company carries the NPR feed.

Bob Edwards, the AM man for NPR for over 25 years and recently kicked up to senior correspondent role, is supposed to be going on to anchor a show on XM. I noticed the tag line on some of the programs has changed from American Public Radio to PRI.

I was supposed to get a $30 bonus this month, but when the pay got posted, the bonus was MIA. Then, Mom and Dad "forgot" that they had agreed to send me an extra $25 each month. The last two months they had sent an extra $50, and they were supposed to drop back to an extra $25 this month.

It sounds like a lot of whining, but that little extra money enabled me to stay out of the chow hall more often and also to make more phone calls home. It is hard to say which is better, more phone calls, or less phone calls.

The point being, that it is not like I waste the money on gambling, etc. It all goes to mostly healthy food.

I have cut the junk food portion of my diet down to one pint of ice cream a week and two candy bars. My one current vice is the four six-packs of soda (three Diet Cokes, one regular Coke) that I am consuming each week.

My friend Dave and I were walking the track the other night. We usually end up passing most of the other groups walking, and as we pass, we hear pieces of conversations. Between the stupid stuff and the four-letter words, well, it gets pretty sickening fast.

The "Beam us up, Scotty!" line gets old.

Yesterday, I brought up our favorite fantasy, how we would behave on our first day out of prison. Dave has a great and very supportive Mom. She is 81-years-old but lives very frugally so that she can send him money.

Anyhow, I was saying, picture yourself sitting at home on Day One of freedom, just him and Mom, and about 6:00 PM he suddenly starts going into seizures! Mom would slap him and say, "Hey, what the fuck are you doing!"

On hearing the familiar four-letter word, the seizures instantly stop.

Withdrawal can be a bitch sometimes.

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