Prison Pete

Thursday, September 30, 2004
  The little stuff.
I came back to the unit tonight after walking nine laps, took a half-hour, nice, hot shower, (one of the few, or maybe the only, luxury items here) and decided to call home to Mom and Dad.

So I call, Dad answers, I hear "Good Eve...." before the automated voice kicks in and then nothing. The message repeats, still nothing, so I call back, back, and back again about five times. Each time the answering machine picks up. Well, actually it is voice mail, so as soon as the line is busy, the VM answers right away. So I hang up and try, try again.

Dad knows it was me; did he leave the phone off the hook on purpose? Is something horrible happening at home and he cannot talk? Almost weird, though hey, I cannot even call 911 and have someone go check on him. Just a few of the thoughts that show how the mind, okay my mind, works.

Well, after about five or ten minutes of speed dialing I finally get through. Mom answers first and says "Hi, long time no hear from you." (Damn sorry, will try and tighten up). I say, "Is Dad there?" I know better than trying to talk to Mom due to her hearing loss. Dad chimes in. I ask if he get my call five minutes ago. It takes a few sentences back and forth to get the wheels turning. Dad says "Yeah, just as you called, the lights went out" and since he is using a cordless phone, the base station, which runs on AC, goes out, and the connection is lost. Hmmm, here's a thought: why not have a battery in the base station also, just like in the handset (Durr).

Anyhow, it turns out that Mom had been on the phone shortly before I called. So apparently when the lights went out, and then they came back on, Dad decided to check the voice mail to see if anyone called while Mom was talking. There was one message, Dad tells me about it and then interrupts himself and says, "Oops, I guess I should have waited for you to call back." Duh.

Sometimes it is the little stuff.
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
  R. E. S. P. E. C. T.
I take a lot of ribbing being a Yankee. The two guys at work are constantly talking about how the guy before me in this clerk job did a better job. Truth is he did a lousy job, and was considered to be a big-time rat to boot. Well one day, one of the tool guys starts ragging me about doing or caring more about some other part of Rec than doing my clerk job. I go along with the riff and say, yeah, I do not care about clerk work.

Well, at some point, perhaps his clenched hands and red face, I realize he is pissed off big-time at me for not retyping his order at exactly the time he thought I should do it. I thought I had an appropriate time line on handling a roadblock, and he obviously thought otherwise. Up until this point, I did not realize that I was being disrespectful to him. He did not just come out and say what he wanted done, leaving me quite baffled at the outburst.

If nothing else, and having no bearing on a real world definition of respect, one never wants to be in a position of disrespecting another inmate. Of course, the problem of the definition of respect being so fluid is that the only one who knows the "current" definition is the one feeling disrespected. Well, after the wires connected that this time he wasn't kidding even though the words were "exactly" the same as always, I immediately apologized for the error of my ways, and asked him to please let me know anytime in the future if he thought I was not taking care of things the way he wanted it done.

So tonight for example, at 5:00 PM before I started walking, another inmate had said he had an order he was working on. I told him no problem, I would be back to type it after my walk. We are out there walking and they call the move back. I was sweaty, hungry, and buggy as all hell, so I breeze through the office, see the order, and say I will type it first thing in the morning. It should not matter. He is in with me first thing in the morning and the Rec cop who needs to initial the orders would not be in till 12:30 PM.

But instead I went back down to Rec at 7:30 PM and sure enough, the first thing this guy says to me as I am walking in is, "Oh, you’re back to type my order." It has four items on it and only takes a few minutes to type. He signs it and I put it in the pile (PCC) of orders waiting for the Rec cop’s approval.

Well, 8:00 PM comes and the tools are all in, but no cop is around to lock the cages. I tell my coworker I will stay if he wants to catch some air before the 8:30 PM recall. He goes off, leaving me watching the tools. Not a big deal and the important part is that it does not necessarily buy me one iota of respect.

They will use you today, and shit on you tomorrow.
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
  More PCC.
(PC) fuck the cracker! So does any of this make sense? Does it show the true nature of my existence? That is why the books are so vital and the letters you send are so important.

Yes, there are tons of inmates here who we refer to as having been rescued. They generally fall into two kinds: the self-proclaimed rescued who realize they would not be alive today had they continued on the path of physical destruction (i.e. drugs) they were on, and the Lame of Brain that just about manage to keep clean and get to the chow hall to eat the three square meals a day.

Gotta take a break, I am losing all control of thought and hand coordination. Hopefully I will be back in a bit. I still have plenty of pepperoni left! (PCC)

It is now 11:52 PM so I have been at this for two straight hours now. Break Time! (PCC) (PCC) Ah, the joys of living alone. Take two pepperonis; put a smudge of cheese between them, and viola, an Atkins-like pepperoni sandwich. Look Ma, no bread! Off to stretch and rest.

Well, I rested and then some. It is now 8:15 PM Thursday and I realize since I am making a carbon copy I can surely mail this and simply refer to the copy and continue. There is one danger in that you read what I have written so far and I also review and find, Oh shit, I should have clarified that point sooner, but Hey, let us, okay me, see how this works as far as putting (or not) my foot in my month.

The grease stains on pages from here on are not pepperoni but popcorn. The pepperoni ended up as part of my breakfast menu this morning. Yum Yum. Cold pepperoni slices, maple brown sugar oatmeal, and a Diet Coke.

Country song: Live Life Like You Were Dying: See if you can listen to the song or read the lyric! Kinda speaks to how I feel about when I get out!

I have not stopped to read what I have written so far, but the mind has a whole bunch of stuff to dump out. Although you mentioned that I had lots of time, well, today I actually worked almost straight through from 7:30 AM till around 2:00 PM (working lunch too). Even from 2:00 to 3:00 I was trying, unsuccessfully, which is what try means anyhow, to get some staff assistance.

I spent most of the day generating paperwork and creating inmate files and needed to have a staff member put some initials on half the stack and signatures on the other half.

I went back down at 5:00 PM and did a lateral move and got one of the two more cooperative cops to at least sign the weekly Pour Schedules for the Ceramics Shop. They get to pour the clay into the molds on Thursday, Saturday, and Monday, and if I did not take the initiative, well, the person that was supposed to sign, was not going to do it tonight. So even though my status down there is being hit from all sides, I still rose to the occasion to get done what needed to be done.

After I accomplished that, I went out and did nine laps (0.39 mile per lap) and surprised myself when the first lap came in at 5:04. I thought 5:30 was the fastest. True, I was walking by myself tonight and listening to NPR news as I walked. So I ended up doing four laps in 21:07, four more in 20:17, and a cool down lap in 6:54.

Not bad, I was going to skip the walk on account of being tired but I do feel the rush of getting the blood really pumping.
Monday, September 27, 2004
It is 10:00 PM, and I gave up the idea that Diet Coke alone would get me through the night, so I broke open my once-a-week treat, a 5 oz. bag of pepperoni slices. Actually this week I bought two bags. Since it is lockdown time, I cannot heat them up to remove some of the grease. I am having some cold hors d'oeuvres with a Saltine, a dollop of chili con queso (pasteurized process cheese spread with chilies, peppers, and spices), and a slice of the pepperoni. I think there are around 45-50 slices in the pack. As I munch, drink, and get sick as a dog, not to worry, the toilet is only two feet away and I am alone in my room. So I hope you appreciate my sacrifice. Like the one you will make trying to decipher this letter. I just heard the overture to the Barber of Seville. A lively piece to be sure, that makes one want to write faster. The strange "watermarks" on the page are some of the previously mentioned pepperoni grease.

Great, 2/3 of a page and my hand is tired. Bad hand. Work through the pain, feel the pain, use the pain. Hand responds, "FUCK YOU!" Pain is pain, and it all hurts. Hmm, maybe I should give you a cracker count. Each time I smear the cheese and place a pepperoni on a cracker and pop it in my mouth I should put a mark on the letter. Kind of like reading the letter while hearing "100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" in the background. So the logo for the snack of the night will be (PCC), for, you guessed it: Pepperoni, Cheese, and Cracker. So (PCC) let us see where we go from here. Time to start a new page. Better use both sides, cut down on the postage, a stamp saved is... 37¢. The hell with the margins, just work with it Pete, use the space; feel the space (sense a recurring theme here).

I was thinking that if this actually works, this will be one of the longest letters since the days when I really did have nothing to do down in the county jail of North Carolina. I would send over ten pages at a clip to Karen. Too bad, you say, we do not have any copies of those for the archives. Yeah, well guess what, being the glutton for punishment that I am, and with the help of the US Government, I happen to have a 9x12 manila envelope full of the thirty days of letters written by me to her. How can this be you ask? I told you this might be long letter. (Even typing this, it still raises all kinds of emotions that are proof that I can still feel, but it is mostly pain at this point.) Well, before I got the final kiss-off from her, in a card I will/might/might not sure share with you at same point, even thinking of it now makes my eyes water and that will not be beneficial to getting this letter done. (Sigh) (Now Saturday, this still sucks to retype) So, back to the thirty day supply thing. (PCC)

So I was in the County Jail and had been sending a letter a day to Karen and never got any reply, till one day and a few after that, all thirty days worth of letters came back from the Post Office marked Return to Sender, Addressee Unknown. Damn, the tears. (Saturday as I retype, they are back now too.) So, that is certainly one of those really low, low, low, days. (PCC) Tell the stress level by the PCC, hmmm. I wonder if I should save a calorie or two and just smear some cheese on the pepperoni. Nah, the stomach could probably use the starch! So where is the point? I see back at the top of this page - long letter - scan back up the page and check where the damn train of thought is supposed to be. So this is easier than the Wheelwriter, now if it only came with a spell checker. It does you say, that hunk of clay between the ears -- Oh, that spell checker. Now I know we are doomed. That clay thing is doing the job of holding the headphones in place but anything else. (PCC)

Also need to break out another Diet Coke (PCC). Three pages, countless PCC’s, and I have not even really started yet. (PCC)

First, let us start with a premise gone wrong and then work on some specific parts. The premise I had was that a blog would be cool, anonymous, and a way to share some wit, intellectual points, and some general bullshit. It seems slightly ironic that the blog readers are asking for a lot more "proof" of who I am than they give of themselves. I thought I could convey "Hey, the why I am here is not important to the discussion since I am not at all ranting about innocence."

I sense that there are different types of readers of my blog. One is the ones who are sure I am the scum of the earth, and like to vent self-righteous stuff. Another, the ones I hoped to reach from the get go, are the ones who feel it is the job of the "State" to punish, and society's to deal with the person. But something has been building up and it is not just the blog. To me, it is tough to get into any of this stuff without going into the who, what, where, and when.

I do not have many contacts here (I do not want to use the word "friends") to have someone come up to me and say, hey, you know what so and so, told so and so, told him, etc. Picture if you will standing at a cocktail party and you have toilet paper hanging off the back of your pants. You only find this out when you get home and remove your jacket, take off your pants, and there as plain as day is the toilet paper. You clearly remember using the bathroom at the start of the party, so guess who spent the entire party looking like a real dork.

As a digression, one thing prison teaches you is how to be multi-faced; two-faced is not enough. One can hardly tell when or which "face" is the true self. Someone might be talking about not being able to wait till they get out and not have to deal with the niggers anymore, and in the next breath tell me to look out for a black guy because he is a good guy.
Sunday, September 26, 2004
  Counting calories.
I do not know if you are a fan of microwave popcorn, but the one they are now selling here shows an unpopped/popped calorie count on the package. We just downgraded the brand, and this generic brand has less oil, hence less fat calories, but there goes the taste.

The label states a serving is 3 tbsp unpopped and 1 cup popped. The label shows the calorie packaged/popped as 150/40 and the fat calories as 80/20.

One might ask where the calories go, others might say that your microwave removes all the bad stuff, or my personal favorite around here is "Do not ask questions in the Big House."

The rest of the breakdown shows the unpopped grams, unpopped percent, and the popped percent. So I guess it is up to the consumer to figure the popped grams:

Total Fat / 9 g. / 14% / 3%
Saturated / 1 g. / 6% / 1%
Cholesterol / 0 g. / 0% / 0%

I guess a bunch of the oil remains in the bag, so one better be careful not to eat the bag for roughage, and not lick the fingers.

Well I wolfed down the bowl of mackerel and rice and now I am sort of stuffed. Each can of mackerel is 130 calories with 35 of them from fat. I had less than that since I drained the oil off the first can. The rice is 140 calories per serving with four servings per bag, so I average 315 calories per bowl plus the 130 for the fish, and we have a nice, healthy meal.

But I do miss the candy!
Saturday, September 25, 2004
  No jailbreak, the "escapee" was found inside!
Since you are reading this in typed form, one would be correct in assuming that we are indeed no longer in lock down condition.

The real story is that an inmate decided to play hide and seek by somehow prying open a 5'x2' access panel that leads to the pipe chase behind the showers. I am not sure when they actually found him, but they did.

This morning we were locked in until around 10:30 AM. During the morning they welded a 5' metal strip on each of the 24 panels, and then let us out for lunch. They served hot dogs for lunch, but I had my usual mackerel and rice, albeit heated due to the availability again of the microwave in the unit.

We eventually had work call at 1:15 PM. The door to the tool room was locked until around 2:30 PM. My co-workers are getting sort of pissed off at me for getting stuck in the crossfire since it was the SV that skipped opening up the room at the work call.

I did receive the five books today and will certainly pass the joke books around. It is amazing how some of the gross jokes were indeed around when we were kids. True, the book is copyrighted 1983, but the point is I heard the jokes. This book would certainly never have been in my Mom and Dad's ibrary, but then again the ex-in-laws would have liked it. Wait a minute, that's probably where I heard a few of these jokes.

So now things are back to normal around here. I am hungry, but I know I better walk tonight or else. I think that is what I will do now. It is 6:00 PM and they are about to have the first move back, so to avoid the temptation to go back to the unit I will go out now and walk till at least 7:00 PM and then come back in and type a few more lines while waiting for the 7:30 move, or maybe I will walk even longer, and stay down here till 8:30 PM. The cop that usually kicks everyone out at 8:00 PM is not here tonight. So off to walk I go.

Well, I did five laps in 27:30 and one more in 6:30. Then I ran out of gas! I came in and popped opened a can of mackerel, drained off the oil, and mixed it with some mustard and Mrs. Dash. I devoured that and decided to make a bowl of rice and have another can of mackerel. So now that the rice is soaking and it is now 7:16, I guess I will stay till 8:30 PM. I need to drop over to Education on the 7:30 move and then will come back and write some more.
Friday, September 24, 2004
  Linux magazine?
I skipped all candy and doughnuts this week at the store and have walked each day mostly at least an hour, which is three to four miles, and my appetite jumps right up. I have burned through a good portion of the six 6-packs of Diet Coke to replace (not quite) the "comfort" value that was previously available in the M&M’s and Hershey’s.

So I did finish the first of the four James Bond books, No Deals Mr. Bond. Unfortunately I have the other three books down at Rec due to a space shortage here in my locker. Not to worry, I am reading Dead in the Water by Dana Stabenow, which is one of the two mysteries in the last batch. I finished the other mystery which was by Jonathan Kellerman called Monster.

As far as books go, I can usually find purpose for most anything you send and have even been pleasantly surprised myself by reading stuff I would have normally passed over! So I leave the selection to you and say as long as the shipments have some gender variation all will be well.

See that, the printing is going downhill. I will slow down and see if that helps! Right, like this is so easy to read! Ha Ha.

I am smiling now thinking about how it is like all of you reading this blog are on a fast, spinning ride, able to shout out to each other as the ride spins, and here I am jumping on saying something, getting tossed off into the darkness, and then some words get tossed off to me which I then try to respond to, but by this time, the rest of you are many revolutions (and revelations) ahead.

Jealous, yes, but that is life as I know it, and I am so very grateful for even a chance to jump on once in a while, and yes, I even enjoy in an intellectual sort of way being able to monitor the feelings this causes!

One thing I note, having spent the last eight hours locked in, my sinuses are starting to swell up and clog up the old nose. Hmm, am I allergic to prison air?

OK, I was going to quit writing several pages ago, but I hope you can read all this so far. As I write more, stuff floats into the gray matter. I was just about to tackle another subject, but it seems to have left me.

You know what I have been thinking? Maybe we could get me a subscription to a Linux magazine? Computer books are a problem, but I do get PC Magazine. If you know of one that could send me a sample copy direct or else maybe you could print a sample and then I could have Mom and Dad subscribe. No need to go overboard if you catch my drift, but first I need to find if it does me any good, then see if it makes it in.

Kind of like the Electronic Musician magazine I get. It has lots of reviews that make little sense to me, but then it has great articles on everything from the workings of the ear and microphone placement, to small business music setup, etc.

So perhaps a magazine that is Linux-oriented would be possible. Just another one of those things for you to do in your spare time! This of course is relevant to me if I am going to be joining the working public any time soon.

Thanks for the pages on the foundations. I will be sending them a letter to get any info they can send me. Another hopeful thing, I have asked Dad to start a subscription to the local newspaper so I might begin to get a sense of what is happening in the real world!

Well, I better get this in the box so the CO will pick it up and it gets in the mail tonight. It is now 9:30 PM.
Thursday, September 23, 2004
  An inmate is missing!
It is 8:00 PM and Pipe Dreams is about to start. So I thought I would try and get a letter out to you!

Today has been a very strange day. The one thing true of good old Club Fed is that nothing is for sure. We had fog this morning, so breakfast, which was two small blueberry muffins, a cereal bar, and a four ounce OJ, was served through the food slot in the cells.

The doors were finally opened for the first time at 10:30 AM. Then around 11:00 AM I proceeded down to Rec to type some stuff for the blog. I will enclose the draft, which is typed on scrap. Due to the shortage of ribbon, I used carbon paper as ribbon. I was going to, and still will, edit and then retype.

Why did I not retype you ask? Well, since around 1:30 PM, we have been locked in our cells. The start of this lockdown seems to be the failure to find an inmate that was supposed to go to visitation!

We had the traditional 10:00 AM stand up count so one presumes that since we were let out by 11:00 AM, things were OK. Then they called for those inmates that wanted to skip lunch to head to Rec and then started feeding lunch. This went on to around 1:00 PM.

Sometime after 11:00 AM an inmate was paged to go to visitation. Now there are technically only three places he could be: his housing unit, the Rec area, or the chow hall. For some reason yet to be determined, he never made it to visitation.

Well, by 1:30 PM the powers that be became concerned and ordered everyone back to the housing unit and then we were locked in for a count. Now so far this type of thing has happened once or twice in the six years I have been here, though in the past it was usually the Lieutenant’s office that was looking for someone, and the inmate being sought knows he will end up in the Special Housing Unit so he is "settling his affairs." Mind you, even those times in the past once the count was done and the "missing" inmate was found, things returned to normal (whatever that is here).

Well today once we were locked in they did what is known as a "bed book count". And no, this is not where they read us bedtime stories. Each housing unit has a book with index size cards that contain a digital picture of each inmate and name and number, in pages by room. Two officers go room by room asking each inmate to say his name and registration number. The second officer has the computer list by room number to double check the book. Well, this still is not a first. We usually have a bed book once every couple months.

It is now around 2:30 PM and they still have not let anyone out!

Now around 4:00 PM they have another bed book count and this time there are three staff people doing the count and two of the three staff were supposed to be off duty by 4:00 PM. So now something is truly amiss. We never had two consecutive bed books, and when they force staff to stay past shift, something is very wrong. All because someone did not go to visiting?

Then at 5:30 PM or so the food slot opens and two meat package style wrapped trays are deposited along with two more four ounce containers of orange juice. This is definitely not looking good. Yes, we have been locked in through a meal in the past, but it was usually due to a rumble in the Rec yard or something, and never with two bed book counts.

Dinner was a joke. Thank God for our lockers with real food. The trays consisted of two white bread sandwiches and a cereal bar. Certainly the definition of sandwich is being stretched here. The first sandwich was one small, thin slice of cheese between two pieces of white bread. Nothing else. We are not talking a slab of cheese here. A single thin slice. No condiments either, not on the tray and not on the sandwich. The second sandwich was a piece of breaded truly mystery meat which crunched when I bit into it. I think it might have been fried but it was hard to tell.

I made some tuna salad and shared it with my cellie so that we added it to the cheese or should I say cheesy sandwich.

So now at 8:30 PM as the sun sets at Club Fed, one still does not know what is up, and when the doors will be open again. At this point, my feeling is either a person has assumed room temperature or otherwise disappeared. Both would be a first for this place since even in the past if an inmate suffered some sort of physical damage, knuckle checks were done, never two bed books, which are done without even opening the cell doors!

Unfortunately I still do not know why we are in lockdown mode. Although it may all be over by the time you read this, you might try to look into the BOP.gov site to see if they ever report stuff like this, whatever this is!

Wednesday, September 22, 2004
  Things are sort of down here.
I just got cursed at by one of the Rec cops when I asked if he had made the computer entries yet. Then one of the inmates that works in the tool room said if he was me, he would quit and go lay down in the unit.

That is what I mean about nobody giving a shit about whether you do a good job or not. They will use you to get what they need, but when it comes to any kind of support, forget about it.

So let us hope I get a letter from you today to cheer me up a bit. Plus the inmate that started the shit with SV is still trying to stir up the pot. If it were not for the $80 plus the typewriter, this would be a done deal.

I still may be forced out of this job shortly anyhow, since between the staff and inmates continuing to stir the shit, it may just be that the easy solution to all their problems is to kick me out.

So there you have it.

5:17 PM mail call and YES! A NICE FAT ENVELOPE FOR ME!

I was pleased that even thought there was no more than around ten letters for the whole unit, I saw a real juicy envelope at the bottom of the stack. And as the pile dwindled, then I saw my name on it!

I have read the letter once while waiting for the Rec move and am rushing to type some more before the weekly Pack-Out begins. Pack-out is when the crafters can send their projects out to people on their visiting list.

I am responsible for entering the data of each package in the great green log book and the Rec cop checks to be sure all the rules are followed, so I do not have access to the typewriter. This takes place from 6:30ish to 7:30 PM. So I will have from then till 8:00 PM to type this letter and add any last-minute comments.

Tomorrow morning at 8:30 AM I am due for my once every three weeks hour with the psychologist.

How many times have we said "If only", so it is like the books you send. Some of them sit around for a bit unread, and then when I read them I wonder what took me so long. It turns out to be a great book.

I know sometimes I might drone on, it needs to get out of here, the release is therapeutic, and it might mean something down the road for the book or it might by just truly useless drivel and a real waste of a few inches of one-strike typewriter ribbon.

I do appreciate you "listening". I am not sure, but hopefully I am getting better at not just whining, but it certainly a challenge to know how much one needs to give to try to get the other person on the same page. Ah, this whole section is probably babbling. You just want all the juicy prison stuff, strip searches, working on the rock pile, and other thrilling stuff!

Let me see if I can print this before I have to abandon my desk. I'll do the Pack-Out and then go mail this stuff.
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
  The silent treatment continues.
We had a delayed work call yesterday, Monday, due to fog. It was the first day back for the SV of Rec after his week off for training. I do not know what they were training him to do, but I do not see any difference.

This morning there was no fog, so work call occurred at the usual time, 7:30 AM. The Rec cop that normally works today must be on vacation, so the SV is filling in. He usually works noon to 9:00 PM on Tuesdays, but today he will be gone after the 4:00 PM count.

Well, since he is here all alone, he did manage to open all the doors that needed to be opened, except the one where I work. Well I showed him. I went outside and put in eight laps on the track. I also did over ten laps Saturday and Sunday evening, so maybe I will keep it up for a bit.

At one point, the inmate that started the current shit storm came in with the daily time log and said the SV said something to him about we were not using them anymore. We were supposed the go back to the log books.

The SV has said nothing to me, and I know my direct boss was shown the log books when he took over back here and was told by the SV that whatever way he wanted to do it, that was the way it was done. He has no problem with the log sheets so that is the way it has been.

I think I might have mentioned this subject before. Now that you have all my letters on disk, you could search for the words "log books" and see what you get.

Well, I am alone back in the tool room and have switched the radio to NPR and started the rice for my lunch. I will go ahead and mix up the rice and mackerel now and be back to add some more stuff after lunch.
Monday, September 20, 2004
  From the "Who is stupider?" file:
I guess I can write this knowing that Alexis, who has the distinction of being the first blogger to link to my blog, will think the following is justice. To me it is just another example of the vast wasteland that Club Fed is.

We get to watch two movies each week. They must be rated G, PG, or PG-13. Although we have cable TV, the only two commercial-free channels we have are PBS and TCM. Neither channel is the ones selected by the inmates, so the weekly movies are the rare chance to watch commercial-free entertainment.

Each Friday and Saturday, the control center is responsible for playing the movies. The movies are picked up from the local Blockbuster by a member of the Recreation department and delivered to the control center each Friday afternoon.

Two very important facts are: (1) we have to purchase a special license to allow us to show the movies in the housing units. The cost of this license is over $5,000 a year. If you have ever read the FBI notice at the start of each movie, it clearly states that the movie is only to be shown in private homes. Well, even though this is "Home Sweet Home" to 1,600 men, according to the government’s definition it does not qualify.

The concern for copyrights is not always topmost in the prison system. When I was in a county jail, one day after a championship boxing match was broadcast, it was shown on the jail TV's for the inmate’s enjoyment. Mind you, the copyright law is a Federal law so the local county jail's attitude is "copyright permission, bah we do not need no stinking permission."

Also, one should not look too closely at the majority of the output from our 30,000 copy per month leased copier. We here in Fedville must be sure to obey all the Federal laws. (Well, some of the laws all the time, and all of the laws some of the time.)

So back to tonight's movie, "13 Going on 30". Well, the question was (you do remember this started with a question) "Who is stupider?"

The control center puts the video in the player, and then it is available on the 144+ TVs in the day areas in the housing units. No, we do not have TVs in our cells. Each housing unit, twelve in all, has five TVs in their day areas. The sound is broadcast over the FM radio band so that depending on which TV you are watching, you simply tune your radio to the frequency for that TV.

Unfortunately, the movie tonight played the entire time with the skew/tracking messed up, so the picture had wavy lines all over it and the soundtrack kept skipping. Now it would be nice if an inmate could just pick up the phone and ask the control center to adjust the VCR, but that is not an option.

We do have a corrections officer in each unit, and he has the ability to reach the control center via radio or telephone. Well, there were a total of twelve corrections officers working in the units last night and apparently not one of them called the control center, or if one did, the officers in the control center did not care to remedy the problem.

So I sat there the entire time and watched the entire movie, all the time hoping the problem would go away. Needless to say, the problem did not clear up.

As mentioned above, the money used to pay for the movies is not taxpayer dollars, so here is a case where my money was used to provide something for my entertainment, and I was powerless to control the outcome.

Ah, such is the existence of a federal prisoner. Not all punishment has to be of a physical nature. To some of us, the non-physical stuff can be quite painful!
Sunday, September 19, 2004
  What my day was like.
We are going to fly without a net here: writing by hand, small size paper, no lines, no spell check. Let us see how long I can keep up the readability.

Like everything here at Club Fed, today was really drawn out. There was some fog at 6:00 AM, and by 6:45 AM the food slots in our door were opened and a small blueberry muffin, low fat mixed fruit cereal bar, and a 4 oz. container of reconstituted orange juice were passed in.

Even though the fog was gone by 7:00 AM, our doors were kept locked till 9:00 AM. Then they dawdled away the rest of the morning till they started calling lunch at 11:00 AM. They never had the usual lunchtime move to Rec, so I was stuck in the unit till 1:45 PM when they finally called general work call.

The other way this is sometimes handled is the doors open around 9:00 AM and work calls are called so quickly that one does not have any time for the old "S, S, and S" morning tasks!

The point is one never knows which way the day will run!

I did get five books in the mail, thank you, and found two excited inmates for the Western and the TEXAS books. I am going to start the Kellerman book "Monster" today. I still have to read the James Bond books.

I did six laps this evening down at Rec in some pretty humid conditions and got all nice and sweaty. I returned to shower and make some rice and mackerel.

I called Mom and Dad at home this morning. Mom tells me she "thinks" she fell asleep at the wheel driving home from church, and totaled her car! She walked away from the crash and did not seek medical attention. She said they would not be replacing the car, and Mom said she would not be driving for a while! Dad echoed, yes, a long while!

This is just what I was afraid of. So much for the visits from Mom and Dad.

So that was what my day was like.
Saturday, September 18, 2004
  Hugs and Kisses.
Well it is Wednesday evening, and we actually worked all day. On Monday there was no work from 10:00 AM till 3:00 PM, and on Tuesday there was no work from 7:30 AM till 3:00 PM, so I did some of the necessary paperwork today and have more to do, but thought I would go ahead and write you a letter.

I am feeling sort of emotionally adrift after writing to you, doing the list for the web site and the turmoil with the "job". Well, I do have some defenses, junk food (M&M’s and Hershey Bars), plenty of Diet Coke, and books.

But there are plenty of times that a warm cuddly hug would do more than all of the preceding items can begin to do. Of course one might ask how I know a hug would do any good, having had so few in the last eight years.

One major one from girlfriend Karen while I was still doing the pre-trial county jail shuffle down in North Carolina, Mom and Dad hugs received at the start and the end of each of their visits, and one in the middle of the walkway back to the units the night my friend Dave was being transferred, and one the last Sunday service that Chaplin Bartel preached here.

Yeah, it’s a pretty poor life when one can account for all of the hugs one has had in the last eight years.

Kisses, they are another thing. One sisterly kiss from Karen. She was supposed to be my sister since only immediate family members were allowed to visit in the county jails in North Carolina. All the visits were done behind a glass window, but this one time I needed to sign some paperwork, so Karen and I were in this small office with a female county sheriff officer.

Oh yeah, there was one other Karen hug late one Sunday night in the hospital parking lot while I was wearing handcuffs and leg cuffs after being treated for an asthma attack. I was escorted by the male county sheriff. I had been locked in the county jail for over three months and could not see the outside at all. So this trip to the hospital was the first time I had seen the real world in over three months.

That was very weird. By the time I was being returned from the hospital it was close to 11:30 PM on a Sunday evening. The town we were in was one that seemed to roll up the sidewalks at night. Well as we were returning back to the jail, the officer asked me if my "sister" was married or had a boyfriend. As we were about to enter the jail building he parked out on the street for a bit so I could soak up the "outside", a random act of kindness!

Although I was in a county jail, I was technically in the custody of the U.S. Marshals. Well, before I could be taken to the hospital, they were supposed to call the Marshals for permission. They reached an answering machine, and after leaving several messages, the highest ranking officer in the jail said the hell with the Marshals, take him to the hospital.

The hospital was weird since the deputy knew all the staff, and several others coming and going were talking about their next golf date, etc. There I was handcuffed to a gurney, watching Mayberry RFD go about its day to day existence.

So here I sit at the typewriter and typing out "woe is me."

I did disassemble the Wheelwriter, popped all the keycaps off and let them soak it in some Simple Green. Now it is cleaner, there are no extra parts left over, and it still works. I did not end up with the memory being cleared. I was going to rearrange the key caps, but all the "code" keys do not change when I select the alternate Dvorak keyboard layout and there is one part in the "merge" process where you set the field values for record selection where it also ignores the keyboard layout. I suppose if you ordered the typewriter with the Dvorak layout all the functions would be consistent.

So it is 7:00 PM and I am not typing this in the memory so I think I will type some more and then head back into the unit on the 7:30 PM move. But my fingers are really not under operating control and it is almost time for the recall.

Saved by the bell so to speak.
Friday, September 17, 2004
  Fall in West Virginia.
Yes, football season has started. There are five radio stations that come in clearly. Friday night finds three of those stations broadcasting high school football. That leaves the West Virginia Public Radio station and the oldies station.

The four TVs that face the front of the Day Area are showing BET's Friday night movie, NASCAR Bush race, professional preseason football, and boxing. If you are a sports nut with a love of football, well, Friday night is now your night!

Me, I listened to the Friday night lineup on WV Public Radio. At 8:00 PM it is An American Life, a program that varies each week, but carries some great stories. At 9:00 PM, it’s Music from the Mountains.
  The Rat.
Well, it is 7:49 AM and I am sitting at my desk. That would be logical, since that is where the typewriter is.

I am down here with only one other inmate, the "rat" as a matter of fact. He is trying hard to get a conversation going but not having much luck.

Damn, I am weak. The aforementioned rat just pumped me for some info on the kiln. Damn. It is hard for me to be a hard ass, but then I know that there are some areas/people in my life that would say there are places I am a real hard ass. Such is life. Now he will try to keep the channel open, but it will not be there.

Well that is how things are this morning.

They sent us all back to the unit at 10:00 AM since they were going to bring in the gas-powered tractor to cut the grass. They are having the training in the Rec yard, and the Rec cop was afraid of what the warden might say about the grass. They do not allow any inmates to handle gas, even the Briggs and Stratton training class is not able to ever use any gas, so they work on dry motors.

It turned into an entire afternoon project, so I spent the time in bed reading and sleeping. Okay, more sleep then reading.

Now I will be up for a while tonight, since I got the latest PC magazine, four James Bond books, and no work in the morning. Life is good.

Too bad I am no longer alone in the cell, but there is an upside. I think I mentioned he is Mexican and also just got his job changed to unit orderly, so now I have my cell cleaned top to bottom every day. It makes me want to take a shower before I go in the room!

I do shower every day, but a sweep here and there and a rag mopping of the floor once a week was good enough for me.
Thursday, September 16, 2004
  Interesting personnel problem starring The Stupidvisor.
There was an interesting personnel problem here this week, and after three or four days, I have gotten to the bottom of it. It is truly a great study of the interpersonal relationships that exist on so many levels, and how one must be ever vigilant in the workplace for back-stabbing bullshit.

You can skip the following paragraph if you have already had your fill of Peyton Place soap opera hysterics for the year.

The players: (Okay, the guilt worked, you can stop sticking the pins in your Prison Pete doll.)

The scene involves my job at Rec, and actually started to unfold while you and I were talking on the phone. As I told you, Rec was closing early that afternoon. Before all the inmates left, it appears that one of the inmates that works down here in Hobbycraft apparently took the time to speak to the SV (yes, I do recall typing those initials, but was it after this sordid event started? A mind is a terrible thing to waste.)

So, as near as I can now tell, he must have told the SV that I constantly criticized him (the SV). The inmate could not rat me out about any illegal stuff, since I do not do anything like that, and he did not make anything up, since I still have my job. So, by the time I came back to work (yes, now it is clear, I have told this to you, so let me cut to the chase).

Bottom line: most of the Rec cops think the whole thing is funny and even said they were going to nominate me for "Employee of the Month" for as long as I am here just to piss off the SV. Sure enough, the inmate that seems to have ratted me out for my criticism of the SV and started the shit, was working on the kiln and asked me for my advice, I told him sorry, that I was not allowed to work on the kilns. He said he knew that, he just wanted me to tell him how to do something. I said, sorry, no can do.

Well, the SV is off all this coming week, so I will have to wait a week and then get to practice my people skills and see if I can repair the damage done by the inmate. There is this pervasive attitude in prison that if an inmate is having too much fun, not constantly miserable, and doing things that, even though they benefit the inmates, that happy-go-lucky inmate must be taken down a peg.

So bottom line, life goes on here at Club Fed and another day passes into the sunset.
  Exercise regimen.
We have had torrential rain and the odds of fog in the morning are good, so it could be after 9:00 AM before the doors are opened in the morning. Remember, the doors usually open at 6:00 AM.

So, now I am back to the old style of living and scheduling the taking of a shit. Yeah, that is life in the big BOP. It was raining tonight when I came down, so I left your letter under my pillow.

Should I type more to you? Questions, questions. Let us take a stretch and see where that gets me. Be back.

Okay, I am back. It is now 7:41 PM and I have just returned from walking, sugar fueled to be sure. My current exercise regimen is walking laps in the Rec yard. Some I walk alone, some with a partner. On the solo trips I use my radio for company. I just did eleven laps. Each lap is a little less than a half-mile (0.39 miles to be exact). I did the first four in 20:35, the next two in 10:51, took a 3:48 bathroom break, four more laps in 22:06, and the last one in 5:77.

I am listening to a program called "Fresh Air" on good old NPR. Very interesting.

In the meantime, back to my current work predicament. One of the other Rec cops just asked me what I did to make the SV so mad at me. So much for one of the theories the Doc floated that this might be a result of power plays above my head and I was just a casualty of war so to speak.

The particular cop asking me for the reason of SV's snit could still be over head. But methinks I smell a rat, let me go see about the copier.

Well, it is now 8:21 PM and I am going to pack it up.

I do agree that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are any shinning angels. Ralph Nader, anyone? But we will type more on this when the old mind is clear.

TTFN (Now that is certainly a tiny tot type of farewell maybe beyond a ten year old. Ha Ha Ha good thing you and I are not getting older!

Wednesday, September 15, 2004
  Lusty Lady.
I read your letter before coming down, and scanned the attachments. Hmmm, a blog from Lusty Lady. I did not get a chance to read it yet. I could have stayed home and read it, but then this letter would not have occurred (at least not in this typed form).

I also lost my coveted single cell, so I will not be alone tonight. The guy who moved in is Spanish, and was recommended by the inmate that I work with down here at Rec. Maybe I will get him to teach me some Spanish? Probably not.

I am going to treat myself to some pepperoni and cheese wraps and then spend the night regretting my gluttony and the fact that I now have a cellie. Hmmm, maybe I should skip the wraps.

So I finish off my work for the day, and then at 11:30 AM, hit the commissary. Another bummer about last night was the fact that I was out of Diet Coke and had no chocolate to serve as comfort food. So at the commissary I ended up overloading on the treats: six six-packs of Diet Coke, ten M&M’s, five Hershey bars, and five 450-calorie, single-serve doughnuts. As I unpack the goodies and repack it into the locker, I have one Hershey bar, one doughnut, and one Diet Coke. I return to Rec and share the quart of sherbet with a coworker.

Can you say "up the blood sugar?"

Oh yeah, right before I left to go to the store I had my usual rice and mackerel. I had a bag of M&M’s and another Diet Coke around 2:00 PM, and then headed back to the unit at 3:00 PM for the count and another Diet Coke. Now it is 6:30 PM and I am nursing a regular Pepsi (a freebee, but I prefer Coke) and yet another bag of M&M’s. Yeah, not quite as extravagant as a sushi lunch, but one works with what one’s got. I would prefer the fish. This reminds me of an hour or so I killed at the raw bar eating clams on the half shell and jumbo shrimp at a Comdex I attended down in Atlanta many years ago.

Ah, the good old days of living on an expense account!

I am beginning to feel a little better. I know I have mentioned before the lack of any caring humans to be able to reach out to and get support from. The Doc is a real gift. True, she is paid to listen to me, but at least she makes it appear she cares. I think I might have mentioned my friend Dave, the one person that I was actually able to share all things with. He was shipped to another institution a while ago.

Hmmm, I am running out of storage space on this typewriter. I will not have time to retype this, and I am doing some corrections as I go along, so I am now typing without storing. Between the re-editing and over six minutes per page typing speed, let us just go for it.

Wait I minute, I am sitting here typing this letter when I could have been reading Lusty Lady. Hmmm, what was I thinking? (That is also the title of a current country music song.) Yeah, is not every sentence a possible country music song?

Actually, I have been listening to either one or the other country music station as I have been typing this. NPR is all news and the damn oldies station is all that is played in the tiny two inch speaker clock radio. It kind of ruins the music. My headphones are nowhere as good as yours. They are Koss CL 20. They are all plastic and carry all sorts of "noise" of the headphones themselves, but they do shut out the outside noise. Let me know if you can find them on the web. They charge $29.99 for them here. You can probably get them for $9.99.

It is now 7:08 PM and I am going to take a walk for a few minutes. Not bad, I have not gotten up since I started typing this. Not bad for ADD.

Should I get back to typing to you, or read Lusty Lady?

Will she be there at 8:30 PM?

  Nothing enjoyable.
I am down here at Rec on a Thursday evening all pissed off to hell, but I need to send a letter to you, and in my current state (yeah, I know I have been in West Virginia the whole time) if I hand write it, you would probably give up.

So, what is the state? Well, we went back to the unit early yesterday afternoon, and everything seemed normal with my Rec job. By the time I came back to work at 5:00 PM, I was told by the Rec cop in charge of Hobbycraft that from now on I was not "allowed" to do anything that was not directly related to the job of Hobbycraft clerk. No floor mopping, no sound system, no kiln repair, no staff office supply purchases, in other words, all the good things that I "enjoyed" doing - such as anything in prison can be enjoyable. Also, those things that it is clear to the "stupidvisor" that I get pleasure from.

The fact that he did not take the time to tell me himself is just another poor people person skill item, and raises my blood pressure as I type this. So, after muddling through till this morning's work call, I arrived at Rec to find both my direct boss and the SV (stupidvisor) standing by the gate checking all of us in. I refrained from asking SV what the fuck was up and proceeded to wait an hour until he finally showed up in his office, which, as luck would have it, is directly next (yeah, redundant) to the room where I work.

I knock at his door and wait till he acknowledges my presence. He waves me in and I ask him what the problem is. He repeats the message of the previous day and as to the specific item of working on staff office supplies I tell him that the Supervisor of Education (SV's direct boss) had actually requested that I prepare a list of the usual supplies and the prices. By the way, the catalog shows a price of $26.58 for case of 11"x17" paper. That is five reams, or the equivalent of ten reams of 8.5"x11". Tell me if you can find 8.5"x11" for $2.66 a ream.

His response is that he is my boss, not the Supervisor of Education. I tell him I think he is being unfair (but without whining), and he responds that he has his reasons and he does not care to discuss the issue with me any further.

This is the same man (using the word loosely) that at l:00 PM yesterday agreed that today he would review the sound system with me. So, I am still feeling bummed out, and at 9:30 AM I make a trip up to my friendly neighborhood shrink (PhD, not MD), and, as luck would have it, she was free. I gave her a quick update and we kicked it around for about twenty minutes.

In a nutshell, the dilemma is that the logical side of me knows this whole thing is beyond my control and what is the downside of being told to do less work; but the emotional side of me is pissed, hurt, and puzzled. It felt good to be able to kick it around with someone that has gotten to know me over the last six years, and I always feel a little better after I leave her place. Yes, I do realize how lucky I am to be able to leave my job site and get twenty minutes of staff time without an appointment.

Yes, all this happened from the time we talked on the phone.
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
  Humbled by the success of this blog.
Okay, now that the blog has really taken off, I am forced to take a step backwards. Actually, more like a few steps backwards.

This is actually the first chance I have had to see and respond to any posts. The blog has ballooned so rapidly that it is awesome. I will have the time in the next few weeks to attempt to respond to the posts. My schedule will provide me with access to a typewriter for three hours per day, Monday through Saturday. The rest of the time I will work on the rough drafts, do some exercise, read, and feed myself.

I have been amazed at the responses that have been posted on this blog. The original intent was to find a few people that would care to read my ramblings, maybe post a comment or two, and then I would have a direction in which to head. This certainly has shown the power of the web! I am very humbled by the responses, amazed at the variety in content and style of the comments, and sorry that I can not respond in "real time" to the comments posted.

In the interest of fairness to my editor -- yes, there are two people doing this, and I am the one in jail -- please do not expect him to respond personally to any post. While there was some doubt expressed as to the reality of my being a real prisoner, I am real, I do get all the posts, but the fact remains we are talking about a turnaround time of two weeks between the time you post a comment, I get to see it, and then offer a response.

I will try to respond to some of the comments in the postings where that makes sense. As I type this, I have less than 80 days left here at Club Fed. I appreciate the offers to send books, create wish lists on Amazon.com, etc. After being incarcerated for over eight years, the fact that this part of the journey is coming to a close is very hard to wrap my mind around. No, I am not talking about Stockholm syndrome. I am still in limbo as to exactly what will be happening some time in the next one hundred days.

No matter what is the outcome of my current legal appeals, I will be going to a county jail in NY State. The best possible outcome would be that I am released from the county jail due to a favorable judgment from my appeal. There is the possibility for one other legal question, but the worst case is that I begin the trip from county jail to state prison. This is certainly not something I am looking forward to.

I want to make it perfectly clear that I have never failed to accept responsibility for my actions. I am not whining about being innocent! I have only questioned the legal aspect of my sentencing. One thing those that have not come in contact with the justice system may not be aware of is that there are rules and regulations to be followed. The problem is that there are so many rules and regulations it is next to impossible for you, the defendant, to know if you are getting a fair shake.

I have learned a lot about myself over the last eight years, not all of it easy to accept, and I know I will be a better person for the experience. Most of the lessons I have learned have come despite the system. Yes, I have learned them because I was locked up, but not because of any specific programs the system provided. As a matter of fact, part of my concern is the lack of constructive use of most of the time an inmate spends in prison.

My growth and progress has come from the support from a few special individuals. Mom and Dad certainly are at the top of the list. The editor of this blog is another. There have been a few inmates and one or two staff members that I have come in contact with that have also shown me how life works, and how I can be a useful part of it. Most of the staff members that have had a positive effect on me have done so not as a direct cause of their job in the system, but by the way they add that little bit of themselves to the job. The BOP runs on written policy and procedure. However, as I frequently explain to my fellow inmates, most of the policy is written just so they can take pleasure in proving that "policy, we don’t need no stinking policy."

The next ninety days or so will be devoted to telling some of the day to day comedy this place provides, answers where possible to your questions, and preparing me for my transfer to NY State.
Let me give you a brief description of my latest acronym, I.I.S.S, It Is Software, Stupid.

We have three different amounts in our cash accounts: Account Balance, Available Balance, and Spending Limit.

Account balance is the total amount of money that the BOP is holding for our benefit.

Available balance is the cash we can spend. It can be less than account balance because some money might be considered unavailable funds.

There are two types of unavailable funds. Money we receive that is not a US Postal money order or cash is held for fifteen business days to clear, and is thus considered unavailable. The second type of unavailable funds is for Special Purchase Orders (SPO’s), which are used for the few things not sold in the commissary, for example, hobby craft supplies.

When they are ordered, a hold for the anticipated amount of the SPO is placed on the inmate’s account. Otherwise an inmate could order $50 of supplies, and then spend the money next week on candy and soda! Fortunately, the computers allow for the dollars to be put on hold.

I hope this is clear so far.

The third amount, the Spending Limit, is an amount of money we are allowed to spend each month, provided you have the available funds. Based on the last digit before the dash in your number, e.g. 12345-678, your spending limit is reset on the (n*3) + 1 day of the month. So in the example above, the limit resets on the sixteenth of each month.

Well, since there is someone new processing these SPO’s, she is now refusing to approve any SPO that exceeds the spending limit. Even if the inmate has $500 on account, if his spending limit is $96 and the SPO is for $130, the order is refused! The fallacy of this is that the order may not arrive for four to eight weeks, and during this time, the limit will reset one or two times! But when you actually pay for the SPO (when it is received) it will go against the spending limit at that time.

Is this clear?

So, obviously, the software for creating SPO’s has to only check that the order amount does not exceed the $290 spending limit, since if that was the case it could never be picked up, and that there is an available amount equal to the SPO.

When discussing this today with both the person that inputs the orders and her supervisor, they both said, yeah, that is the way it has to be, and so from now on instead of returning those orders, she will hold them till the individual’s spending limit is reset.

One guy had his spending limit reset, had an SPO for over $100, but went to the store the following week and spent the whole limit in the store, $290, regardless of the SPO.

So now I need to go over the supervisor’s head to get someone with 3/4 of a brain to figure out the false logic of the system.
  Ask a simple question.
I just spent thirty five minutes talking to a fellow inmate who stopped by to ask me a simple question: "Can you print information off a CD ROM for a computer?"

Instead of giving him the short answer, I said yes and no, and I asked him for the specifics.

He shows me one of those newspapers that "challenge the Establishment", and an ad which stated that the laws which govern the incarceration of federal prisoners were never voted into law. Supposedly Congress was not in session at the time!

Well, send them a $100 postal money order, and they will send you a CD.

I told him the warning signs to me were a statement that said "hard copies of cases were available on a case by case basis", and also the request for a postal money order, no checks or charge cards which would give you the possibility to fight the purchase of the CD later.
Monday, September 13, 2004
  Pissed off inmates.
I tore my whole locker apart and I could only find a pad with a few steno pages left.

It’s been a really strange day. It is store day, so my locker was all stuffed full, and then I just emptied it looking for paper.

Then I stuck my nose into working on the tile floor in the Rec pool table room. I put two coats of wax down, finishing at around 3:30 PM, and went back for the 4:00 PM count.

At 5:00 PM the floor was still "tacky", so I ended up closing the whole inside Rec area for the evening. That means in addition to no pool (seven tables), I also locked out one ping pong table, the "band room", and sixteen leather workers and fifteen to twenty five ceramics people (and tonight was a "pour night" for molds).

So, I have a "few" inmates pissed off at me.
  Walking for exercise.
I ended up walking from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM with one of the few inmates that can hold up his end of a conversation. It’s the first time in a while that I have walked. I came back, took a shower, and gave my face the once a week shave.

I actually feel pretty good. I hate when that happens. It was not even a fast walk. But I do know that I need to get back to track walking. Using Hershey bars and Diet Cokes to relieve stress is too expensive!

I also know that I am still pretty short on including stuff that is not "me, me, me" related, but I promise to keep the words flowing, and hopefully get on a "healthy" level in our correspondence.
Sunday, September 12, 2004
We spent the whole day locked in our rooms. I am not sure of the reason, but one rumor was that some inmate got stabbed during the breakfast hour (6:00 AM to 7:00 AM) and we got locked in at 7:30 AM. They finally let us out into the day area at 5:00 PM, but we will not be going anywhere.

Since I do not go to breakfast, this means I will not be outside for over thirty hours! Kind of like the County jail.

The nice part was having the room to myself. I finished off "The Deceiver" by Frederick Forsyth, one of the books you recently sent.

I will be taking a shower in a bit, and then heading back to bed. I am catching up on some much needed rest. I still have trouble sleeping most nights, and find I do better on the "sleep a little, wake a little" plan. One would think that after more than eight years I would have adjusted by now, but, alas, I have not!

I hope the last three letters (including this one) have made it to you directly. I will get in the habit of not making such grand productions of my communication with you. I will use the typewriter when I can, but not limit myself to it, since it would appear that adds to the likelihood of putting too much time between letters.
  Lead poisoning.
It is 7:30 PM and the lights went out at Rec again. The system did not reset, so I headed out to the unit. Five minutes later, they called "recall" anyhow. So, now I am finishing up this note to you.

I have been listening to an NPR program on lead poisoning called "The Secret Life of Lead." Symptoms of lead poisoning include: attention deficit disorders, poor impulse control, and a general antsy-ness. Hmmm, I spent the first four years of my life in a NYC apartment before moving to the suburbs. I wonder if I was a paint chip muncher?

Take a look at livingonearth.org on the web if you get a chance. They talk about how paint companies knew of the exposure, and how the USA was fifty years behind in setting standards that Europe already had.

I used to do some work for a lead company that also owned a well-known brand of paint. They sold it off pre-1970’s to (allegedly) get out from under the possible lawsuits to come.

Oh boy, Pipe Dreams is on, and they ore previewing Buffalo Organs which is where the American Guild of Organists will be holding a convention. At least part of the show will be theater organs!

P.S. Why not try sending the books one more time! Let us see if it will get through this time, now that I have put the mailroom on notice!
Saturday, September 11, 2004
Damn it man, I peeked at the TV’s, and just starting is Good Morning Vietnam. Well, not just starting. I have been watching for twenty minutes before we start the five minutes of movie and ten minutes of commercials.

I will probably pass out shortly. Well, the good part is since I am alone, I can even take a dump! This may be too much info for you, but one of the cute parts of two in a room with a locked door, is you try not to take a dump during lock downs! I only had to do so two or three times in six years. Of course, most of my cellies farted so often it was not really that different!

Well, OK, it is still different. There is nothing like lying in bed while someone takes a dump six feet away! It’s tough to ignore.

The commercials are over, and the movie is back on.

And now more commercials! Damn, even a great movie can suck with all the commercials.

Well, I can either watch and write or sleep. I choose sleep! Nite, nite!
  Supervised release.
As I have mentioned, the Feds have this thing called supervised release. In my case, it will be three years.

One of the guys who recently left here tells about how his officer on the street keeps ordering him to take a piss test for drugs.

Well, it turns out that you need to keep $30 in your pocket at all times, because if you are told to get tested, you pay.

This guy is working ten hours a day, is married, and has two step-kids. He is not using drugs but is getting tested twice a week. That is $60 a week out of his pocket.

Well, time will tell what awaits me.
  September 11th.
[Editor] In case you missed it, here is Pete's experience in prison on September 11, 2001.

Friday, September 10, 2004
  Ah, research.
Yes, the web spoils some of the fun. Then again, as all the research I did for my NY case shows, you can not beat a computer for searching. Reading from a book is still the best way to absorb something, but a good search is worth its weight in gold.

The thing I think is wrong with all the "search" engines today is the idea that the computer can figure out what you want. For example, even though the legal software I was using had a "natural" language interface, it was only when I used the actual search language that I found the one case that I needed.

So, in my mind, instead of writing tons of software to find what we want, we should be teaching people how to search. For example, I think that when I found the one case out of thousands on file, I was able to specify a search that had "federal sentencing guidelines" and "double punishment" in the same sentence. I might have broken it down further to include the word "departure" within two or three words.

The fact that you type in "Apple" and Google comes back with thousands of hits is to me no big deal. To find some reference to the use of an apple as a fruit used in cooking sauerkraut would be much more effective.

But it should be up to the searcher, not the search engine, to set the parameters of where to find the info he or she wants.

The internet may be a great technical highway, but the stops along the way still need lots of work. As a custom programmer, I still feel that there is a wide market out there to develop systems that meet the needs of the individual without them having to fight through a pile of useless shit to find what they need.

It sounds like I have a lot to catch up on, but hey, that will be one advantage I will have and that is I can only go up.

So, working for the little guys at a low rate can let me kill two birds with one stone. I get the experience I need, and I can see if I can really help the little guy.

I just retyped the price list for the pool table recovering. The CO in charge of that project will be off for the next two days, so nothing will happen until Wednesday on that unless the boss decides to jump in when he returns from his two week vacation on Monday.

Time will tell.

My boss is off till Tuesday, so I do not know if I will get the chance to blow the whistle on the kiln stuff or not. The stupidvisor may be too busy dealing with his bosses to worry about us inmates on Monday. I will plan to bring the rough draft stuff down tonight and type it.

So all will be in the mail tonight, and if it doesn't take a side trip, you should have it Wednesday.
  Web searching by proxy.
I left the draft of what I wrote last night back in the unit, since I thought that I would be working with one of the officers tonight on what is needed to re-cover the seven pool tables we have. He is currently supervising the picture taking, and then we will work on the pool table project.

At 7:10 PM I went to see if the officer wanted to get some work done. He was sitting on the bench outside with the two other Rec cops who are working tonight. He said, "We could start at 7:30 PM, would that be enough time?"

Unfortunately, you never know around here.

Besides the time it will take to search the web for info, there is the always the threat that we will be sent back early. We did get sent in at 1:30 PM this afternoon due to the threat of a storm. The storm actually materialized, and we did lose power twice.

In this case, the early recall was justified.

It was raining still at 5:00 PM when we came back to Rec, although now it has stopped raining and is quite nice out, hence the officers sitting outside on the bench, working hard (ly).

The search of the web ultimately proved useless.

First of all, I am not even allowed to touch the computer, so I have to dictate what to search for. This is frustrating to be sure. I had the addresses of two sites I needed to look at: "poolndarts.com" and "bsnsports.com". I wanted to see if we could find any information on how to re-cover the pool tables.

I used both MSN and Yahoo with search terms of "pool table recovering" and got a list of all sorts of pool table companies. One entry actually had recovering in the title, but I could not find the info on their site.

True, I did not have the smartest searcher, and I am not up on web searching tricks. The point is, that since the boss made the 240/208 volt mistake with the kiln, I would at least like to start with the correct information if I could get my hands on it.
Thursday, September 09, 2004
I will try to add last night’s scribbling to the bottom of this letter, and, if not, I will mail it "as is" to you tomorrow night.

OK, so we did have fog this morning, and they did not even open the cell doors till 11:00 AM. I took a quick shower, and I am now back at Rec.

Boy, I really love the writing of Frederick Forsyth. "The Deceiver" is great, and I am dying to read some more of it.

Oh, another way you brightens lives here in prison: one of the inmates collects cancelled stamps, so the letter I got today had two nice stamps which I tore off and gave to him right at mail call. He was really happy, so keep up the good work there.

You continue to reach out to people you do not even know.

Your misdirected letter is certainly interesting. The bar code zip code shows 32896. That is not even close. One could suppose that it is part of Homeland (or BOP) Security that mail is misdirected for "special" handling.

That reminds me of the time I mailed a letter from here to the company that supported the printer. I got yelled at for sending it. This was during the Anthrax scare. Since all of our mail is read and sealed by the staff before mailing, I missed the point where it was wrong to send it, but you know how small minds work.

Oh no, the runny nose and hacking cough of overtiredness is setting in. I have got to lie down before I fall down. That would not be good, since I am all alone in the cell.

The vanilla wafers, Hershey bar, Coke, tuna salad etc. are beginning to churn in my stomach, so off I go to bed.
  All in a day’s work.
I have resolved most of the problems on the sound system we use for our inmate concerts. We are not allowed to have any electronic instruments, so the system is based on microphones and acoustic guitar pickups. Now I have to present the way it should be, as opposed to the way the stupidvisor, who was not present for the concerts, said it should be.

He recently purchased a second Pyramid amplifier that proudly boasts of having 1,000 watts. It turns out that the actual useable watts for an 8-ohm system is only 130 watts per channel. It does not even have the power to drive the big speakers that we use. I ended up using the Mackie amp that has 250 watts per channel.

I also reviewed a GSA version of the Staples catalog, and found out that some stuff they have been driving into town to buy from a store, wasting over two hours of work time, can be bought at drastically cheaper prices.

For example, Brother P-Touch label cartridges should be $8.00, but they paid $18.00.

Typewriter ribbons should be $2.50, or $1.90 for no-name brands, but they paid $8.00.

I am working on making a catalog of those supplies we regularly need, so that they can order the correct stuff in the future.

All in a day’s work.
Wednesday, September 08, 2004
Even though we received over thirty new arrivals, and six of them came to this unit, I am still the proud owner of a single cell. It’s a real luxury to be sure.

I am going to try to write the 7,000 different things that are bouncing around in my head, and see if the night owl in me can get it all out.

The real outcome might be the sugar, caffeine, and, yes, I am smarter than average (three things all working to drive me to write you this letter).

Let us see, Thursday was store day. I got stuff loaded in the locker and am already down eight cans of Diet Coke out of the four six-packs I budgeted for the week. Thirty-six hours into 168 hours, eight cans out of twenty four, hmmm, not even the new math can pull this one out.

We fill out a list each week at the commissary and slide it through a slot in the window. An inmate who works in the commissary takes a shopping cart and goes up the one aisle and down the other, tossing the items we requested on the list, into the basket. The items are scanned by the officer, and slid out the chute for us to put into our laundry bags. That is right, no annoying question: "Paper or plastic?"

Just for fun, let us see what $52.08 brought me this week.

4 Six pack of Diet Coke @ $2.20 each $8.80
1 New Rubbermaid bowl $3.15
(I lost the top of my old one)
4 cans Starkist tuna in water 6 oz. @ $1.10 ea $4.40
Chunk Light - I think they call it light because while it is a 6 oz. can, it is certainly light on the tuna. You can get a can of the solid tuna for $2.20.
2 Jars of chili Sauce w/ garlic (8 oz.) $3.70
Nice hot sauce that adds zest to the rice and mackerel.
1 Garden mix hot pickles $1.85
Lots of cauliflower, some sliced carrots, a pearl onion or two or none, and maybe a strip of red pepper (16 fl. oz.)
1 8 oz. Jalapeno Wheels $1.65
1 15 oz. squeeze bottle Mayo $2.30
1 32 oz. Rainbow Sherbet $1.65
(I share it with another inmate because there is no place to save it.)
7 Keefee Microwave Popcorn bags $3.50
1 15 oz. Squeeze bottle of Salsa $1.60
1 Box of 40 Keefee teabags $1.65
Supposed to be Diet Coke replacement. No Way. I brew two tea bags in a 20 oz. hot cup and pour over ice filled 32 oz. sports bottle. No Sugar added.
1 Pint of Cheap Ice Milk $1.30
A favor for one of my co-workers
1 pack AA batteries $2.20
Payback for a 6-pack of soda that another inmate brought me on Monday. He works in UNICOR and gets to shop on Mondays.
1 pack AAA batteries $2.20
My radio uses this size. I always make sure I have several packs on hand.
1 5 oz. package of quarter size pepperoni $1.80
1 Kaiser Dill Whole Pickle in pouch $.60
10 Hershey’s w/ Almonds @.50 ea $5.00
Supposed to last seven days, but I think I have had five so far.
1 package of four wraps $.80

Damn, I just realized that I did not get my 8 oz. of cheese! As I write this, I realize that I have no cheese to make my weekly treat of four pepperoni wraps. We only get to shop once a week, and there are no 24-hour groceries that I can just run out to. Then again, given the fact that I am locked in my room for the next six hours, it does not matter about the 24-hour store.

(As luck would have it, there was fog Sunday morning and the doors did not even get unlocked till 11:00 AM)

See, I write you a letter, and I end up getting bummed out. Rats! Just kidding, I will keep writing. (And now, at 6:54 PM on Sunday, I will keep typing)

Damn, an empty coke can. I still have half a bottle of plain tea and will try to hold off on having another soda. That's a laugh! Back to the list.

1 1 lb. bag of vanilla wafers $1.75
Supposed to be a good "munchie" to last all week. Hmmm, let us see, half the bag is gone already (by Sunday evening, the bag is on its last leg.)
1 bag of pretzels $.99
A great low fat snack, until you dip them in the 8oz cheese, and all the health benefits go out the window. Also, one can only eat so many plain pretzels at a time. With cheese, it is a hopeless cause.
1 bag of Steak & Onion potato chips $.99
That bag did not even last 24 hours. Actually, it made it till Friday 6:00 PM, so that was actually 36 hours.

There you have it, $52.08
  The "I am so smart" part:
I told you that we recently purchased the kiln. Before we did, I asked the Stupidvisor of Rec if he was sure that we had 240 volts instead of 208 volts. He said he was sure we had 240.

Well, today I found out that we have 208 volts. Actually, I knew this a couple of weeks back when I borrowed a volt meter from the Vocational Trades building.

So, now we have to buy about $300 worth of new heating elements to replace the 240 volt elements. We also need to replace the wires in the old kiln, since the wrong ones were ordered for it also.

As I understand it, if you run a 240 volt heating appliance on 208 volts, it never reaches the full temperature. If it has a motor, it can lead to a premature failure.

So, that is the "I am so smart" part.

Meanwhile, one of the Rec cops gave me the billiard supply catalog and asked me to figure out how much it would cost to re-cover our seven pool tables. Then he can type it up and hand it to the boss. Well, I finished it up earlier today, and he decided to just use the page I originally typed. I retyped it based on updated prices from a web search Saturday evening.

Yeah, they know who to go to, to get the work done!
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
  Blog comments.
I got your letter with the blog comments included. The reader's comments and your e-mail raise a whole slew of emotions that I cannot deal with in the next twenty minutes. Yes, it is now 8:11 PM. I got your letter at the usual time, but felt the need to still do my walking. There is a person that is available on some nights to walk with me, and it makes it a little more pleasant. He is one of the few people I can sort of have an intelligent conversation with. By 6:15 PM I was hungry, sweating and still in a funk that is simply not something I can dump out here.

So here is the plan. As luck would have it, my cellie ended up going to the SHU today, so I have the room to myself tonight. I went to the store today, and while I did not buy any candy for the second week in a row, I do have six 6-packs of Diet Coke. You will eventually be getting a long, handwritten, hopefully legible letter. There is a whole bunch of stuff I will try to write out.

One of the major problems is this time lag thing. I understand it, I know you are trying to keep the blog up without timely feedback from me, but in the process it seems to me that it is like the old spinning ride in some of the better playgrounds when we were kids. You got a bunch of kids to take a hand hold and run like hell and then all jumped on. The part that is more like today is when you would try to jump on an already fast spinning one and end up having to bail out. So the thing is spinning with all you e-connected people on it, and I get a quarter turn or a half turn on, and then I bail out, but it keeps spinning.

Hmm, listening to something about how kids are giving up high school to become pro golfers. This includes the damn corporations that that milk these almost-stars to become spokespersons to increase their marketing.

Just like all the people that took three days to compete for a spot on the next American Idol. You must be one of the .0001% of this country or you are nothing.

They just said that a golf high school in Florida might get one or two of the more than 100 students into the pros! 1%!!! So what are the others doing, dreaming?

Hmm, one father/son team, kid dropped out of high school, dad sold share in business. One year later, son married, travels to golf tourneys in Winnebago, and father and son do not talk, and father calls him a "golf gypsy".

This country is ass backwards to be sure!

I am going to drop this in the mail now, and begin to make a list of the items I want to cover. This may turn into a crap out, with me falling asleep! We will see.

May the force be with you! Or with me I guess.
  Celebrate the individual!
I can only tell you my thoughts from my growing years was that the feeling of not fitting in is a really hard thing to deal with, and my parents’ tendency when I was able to vocalize it was to say keep trying. The hardest job a parent has is getting in touch with a child's fears and questions about life.

Hindsight tells me that it was OK to not have lots of friends; there were other things that could have made me stronger. Celebrate the individual!

I have leaned a lot about human relations and self worth reading the autobiographies and biographies. The one you sent me on Feynman is a good example of someone who did not fit in, and how it affected his life.

Does any of this make sense? There is more, but I will let you tell me if you want to kick it around some more.

Hmmm, this letter was six handwritten pages and it only filled two typed pages, and I cheated at the margins at that.

Now I am listening to a jazz song featuring an alto sax. Boy, my playing does not sound like that at all.

Practice, practice.
Monday, September 06, 2004
  NY news:
I am still waiting for the response from the Federal Judge. The latest US Supreme Court ruling on that Blakely Case has all the inmates here on the edge of our seats.

Actually, it applies in my case but does more harm than good to me.

When we Fed types get sentenced, the judge has a specific formula to follow. The thing they are all complaining about. The Supreme Court ruled that if you are not originally indicted for an offense, the judge cannot give you time for it. The funny point is that if the guidelines did not exist, the judge could still give you whatever time he wanted to, as long as it was less than the statute amount.

In my case, without the guidelines, the judge could have given me anything between zero and ten years, and not had to actually "prove" how he arrived at the amount. That is how my NY Sentence is. The judge did not have to justify the amount of time he was giving me at all, as long as it was less than the maximum. If the eight and a half year part of the ten years of Fed time I was given could now be erased, I would also lose the double punishment argument.

On a last hope basis, if I do lose the current battle, I could file to have the eight and a half years declared illegal, and force the time to be credited to my NY Sentence. That would then open up the "plea" deal which was based on the fact that the NY time was consecutive to the ten year Fed sentence.

The net result is that if Congress throws out the sentencing guidelines, the judges would be free to give any amount of time they want and there would be no constitutional error.

So, can you follow any of that?
  On writing.
Please, it is not always the "time" that prevents me from writing; it is often the emotional state that I am in. I know that this is not a good excuse. I have all these great things to share, and then I have to sit down and slowly type them out and not lose the train of thought.

As I am sure you can tell from some (or all) of my handwritten missives, the brain tries to speed the hand, and any hope of legibility is lost. I suppose it would be a little easier if I could see the whole letter at once and be able to jump back and insert text. Yeah, it would always be better on the other side of the fence.

Unfortunately, I find that the times I really would like to sit and write are often those times that I am not near the typewriter. So draft some notes and then type them later, you say. That is one of the things I am really trying to get through the thick skull of mine.

The things that I cannot just sit down and do the first time, the things I need to work on for several rewrites to see the finished project. That is not a great excuse, but I am writing it more for my benefit to remind me that I do have to spend the effort to get the finished product I want, and there are no short cuts.

So, why not do it the old fashioned way, double spaced draft, and then edit and re-type?

Because it is too much work, and the A.D.D. kicks in.

Boy, if that is not lame.
Sunday, September 05, 2004
  Yet another problem with the mailroom.
I got your letter about the returned books on Tuesday, and actually went to lunch today to find a mucky muck to explain what happened to the books. As you can tell from the policy statement, they are supposed to send some sort of paperwork when they return books. Well I never got the notice.

Do you think "they" forgot to send it to me? So, now I have to find out what the problem is. But since I have no paperwork to prove that the mailroom ever saw the package, WTF am I supposed to do?

You will note also that with the exception of porno-type stuff, the only person who can reject a book is the Warden. Well, I will try to talk to some staff people on Thursday.

Yes, I did get the other books! Things were getting slim in the locker, so I appreciated the delivery. As it happens, one of the inmates was bitten by a spider and his leg is twice the normal size. He is confined to his bed and likes Westerns, so I gave him the one Western type book and the Baldacci book also. I have already read it and love his writing. As luck would have it, I never did read Primary Colors, and the Frederick Forsyth book is also one that I have not read!

Let us go ahead and try sending me the hardcover James Bond books as long as it is five or less. For now, that seems to be OK. I noticed that the policy does say that the warden may set limits locally on the number or volume of publications an inmate may receive or retain (page 6/f). You can get the national list if you get PS 5580.06 Inmate property list.

The inmate property statement does say five books is the amount we can transfer, and the institutional supplement says that we may have an additional five books, the Catch-22 is that if I push the issue, "they" could decide to make sure my locker never has more than ten books or anything else that is not specifically on the list of official property. My thought is to ask the warden informally what his opinion is on the number of books.

Life sucks and then there is prison.
Saturday, September 04, 2004
  Commissary Day.
It is now 8:30 PM on Wednesday.

There was a fight in the Rec yard between two inmates, and so at 5:30 PM we were all sent back to the cells. We have not been locked in the cells, but there is not much to do.

I was yearning for something sweet. Tomorrow is Commissary Day, and although last week I bought ten Hershey bars and four Honey Buns, I ate them all in five days. And I am stuck in the damn unit with nothing to munch on. So the last two days have been sweet-less!

Well, this is prison.

The enclosed typed two page letter took me the better part of two hours to complete. Is that slow or fast? Doesn’t really matter which, since it is what it is.

I had hoped to edit the pages and send out you a clean copy. I thought that what I would do is type some rough draft during the day, print it out before 3:00 PM, take it to the unit during the 4:30 PM count for proofing, go back to Rec at 5:00 PM and make corrections, and then type a good copy.

Well, that plan failed immediately, so then the letter was delayed a day, and who knows what tomorrow will bring. Well, I will edit the enclosed letter and send you a cleaned up copy so you can see the difference.

Actually, I will probably end up standing an hour waiting in line at commissary. It is post week when the inmate pay is posted for the month.

Most guys blow the whole load in one week.

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