Prison Pete

Friday, April 29, 2005
  Well, it is done.
Not bad, two for two on the promise to type what I do hand-write. This could get to be a habit: consistency and following through on my promises.

Before I get into the questions raised in the last two letters, I had a thought. I am glad we have kept my identity secret. It saves a lot of unintended consequences.

Now that my ability to wait is improving, I had a thought on a possible way to communicate with some of the more faithful readers. Could you set up a second blog, registered uses only, and this one would be explicitly for maintaining an on going dialogue? It would only be updated once every two weeks or so.

You would send me any incoming comments, then I would type responses, that you would post, and allow to gather comments for a week or so, send me the comments, and I would answer them. I am thinking this would probably not need more than once a month to download the incoming and then after another ten days or so, you would post my monthly answer.

This way I could feel like I have some pen pals, still keep my identity a secret and be able to deal more directly with those readers that are reading the posts day in day out. By learning to wait for your letters, I am getting a whole lot more patient.

The other aspect would be that by enforcing a standard collection time, and then freezing the blog till I answer, I would be better able to tell what is being posted.

Make sense?
  Prisoners Have Blogs? Halliburton War Profiteer?
A certain member of the fourth estate seems to find prisoner's blogs something that should be forbidden. This particular journalist, Michelle Malkin, has taken it upon herself to decide exactly when free speech should be allowed. That sounds more like discounted speech. But I will get to Ms. Malkin in a minute.

I was reading the April 6, 2005 edition of the New York Times and came across this tiny story. I will reprint it in its entirety.

"Halliburton Settles Billing Dispute"

"Halliburton Co. said Tuesday that it had struck a deal with the Army on a billing dispute over food service provided to troops in Iraq, Reuters reported."

"The company also said it had completed 27 outstanding orders valued at more than $10.5 billion related to Iraq-related services its Kellogg Brown & Root subsidiary provided the military."

"The Army will pay Kellogg $1.176 billion and retain $55.1 million of about $200 million in payments that had been withheld while those issues were being resolved."

Let me get this straight; Halliburton and its subsidiaries will be getting over $10.5 billion and us lucky tax payers are getting to hold back a whopping $55.1 million to cover faulty billing, overcharges, and services not performed?

Figure 280 million Americans, divided into $10.5 billion, that comes to $37.50 for every man, woman and child in this country. I am not sure what that really means, but if this story is taken at face value, there must be some really sharp auditors that were able to find the minuscule $55.1 million that they, Halliburton, tried to sneak in. Methinks I smell a rat.

Maybe Ms. Malkin could use some of her journalistic talents to find out the true amounts of money that have flowed over, under and through the various doors, windows and other portals over at The Pentagon.

A good story might be to obtain exactly what each of the twenty-seven orders covered and then maybe divide that quantity of each item, per contract by the total amount of the contract. Fifty dollar peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I thought at one point they, Halliburton was getting over $5.00 for a gallon of gas.

I am not sure what the amount was because I do not have access to the internet, but if I did, I would certainly want to know how one company has gotten so much of my tax dollars in such a short period of time. I would certainly want to get into whatever that business was.

If I could steal $37.50 from every warm-blooded American and not get thrown in jail, why not!
  Received some great mail.
We are going to go two for two. The following is the promised typed copy of my Thursday hand scribbled letter. I did take off all day Friday. No typing, no letter writing.

Of course, I did receive some great mail. I received your letter. Mom and Dad checked in with a three page handwritten letter that actually was written based on what I had written to them.

It seems to be feast or famine. I do not hear from them for weeks; the last letter was pretty cold and lacking in any emotional support and then not one but two great letters in less than seven days.

But first let me type the handwritten letter as promised.
  This beast of a typewriter!
Yes, I know you said not to send you a directly typed letter, but if I handle one more piece of carbon paper I think I will explode.

I have reread the enclosed posts and there are a few corrections that will need to be made. If I had typed these with a ribbon, I could do some alterations myself. I am using the handwritten numbers on the back of each page as a reference.

Well, that was a one-line test of a rewound ribbon; it worked for three words. This is the original ribbon that came with the machine which got stuck once in a while. I am now down to two new, unused ribbons.

I have had it. I have been dealing with this beast of a typewriter all day. Let me get this stuff in the mail. I hope they put the damn AC on soon. It feels like there is a shortage of oxygen. I had to even look up the spelling of oxygen.

I do hope the blog has not gotten out of hand!

This ribbon is sticking. I am just going to have to get Mom and Dad to buy a weekly supply of ribbons. I know I still owe you a whole bunch of writing on your latest letters.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
  Current Times.
Well, we are back up to current times. The three pages that grew to six on the retyping are all done. I am thinking of kicking some more emotional stuff around and saving your letter for tomorrow.

I hope you can appreciate that with the exception of a trip to the bathroom, ten minutes for the 5:25 PM count and weekly toilet paper giveaway, I have been sitting at this table typing, editing, and printing since 1:50 PM.

I did see that there are some words missing or in the wrong place on the previous pages. The main problem is not being able to type one or two pages ahead, so that when I am rereading, I have just completed another page and the one I am reading is a little less familiar. Lame excuse, yes, and I will work on getting all the bugs out.

Mom did mention in her letter to me that they had not heard from Smith Corona yet about doing the exchange on this typewriter, but hopefully they will agree to do a cross-ship, i.e. ship a new one to me before I have to send this one out.

Let me see if I can accurately explain my current state of mind. It has a couple of conflicting views that make life complicated for me.

Well it is now 1:00 PM on Thursday. I am going to continue typing. I went for an hour walk and have taken my shower, eaten lunch, and now I will dedicate the rest of the day to writing. I want to write a letter to Mom and Dad, but will use that as a break at some point in the day.

Love Line had a call from a woman married with two kids; the oldest one was around eight. The woman caller wanted to know what they thought of her desire to get into a threesome, adding another woman with her husband. She said this is her idea and not something her husband had first suggested. Sounds like a great wife, doesn't she?

But the host started harassing her about why she wanted to sabotage her marriage. She said she just thought it would spice up their sex life and no, she did not think she was a lesbian.

They asked her about her upbringing. She said she thought he had a good childhood. Further probing unearthed the fact that her parents were divorced when she was around eight years old. The hosts then say "Aha! See, your life was thrown into chaos when you were eight so now you want to through your children's life into chaos!"

I am now sitting on a booster chair. I have taken the double set of Jailhouse Lawyer's Manuals, added the Office Depot catalog to fill the box, and topped it with my fake velour blanket and now my elbows are at table height instead of cutting on the edge of the table. I really want to get all this stuff on paper.
  Prison Pete -- The Formative Years Part II.
I really hooked into life in the new neighborhood. Instead of flying the roost and seeking a college away from home, I ended up staying local and coming home every weekend. I was the momma's boy.

How you match my low self-esteem with my criminal behavior, well, that is another of those discussions about untrained people, i.e. the alleged counselor here making snap judgments. I cannot help but think how different my life is now.

Frank and Roger had homemade spaghetti today. I made no comment. Yesterday when I made the bean salad, Frank was sticking his nose in every few minutes. "What you making Pete? You putting mushrooms in?"

I often joke about how it is a good thing when other prisoners do not want to be my friend. It is actually true. I am happy to be left alone, working on things I like.

I am actually too busy to sit around and talk about the same things over and over. I do not have time to watch TV. I was going to skip the hour walking today and get right to work, but I realized the best thing for me is to not neglect any area of my mind, body or soul. The exercise is not only physically good for me, it gives me time to be by myself and also push myself to exceed the level of walking as far as pace goes.

Okay have we digressed from the subject far enough yet?

One of the aspects of my personality we worked on in the counseling session at Club Fed was my view of myself as a mealy-mouthed little nerd type that was always doing what others wanted me to do. I saw myself as someone that was not exerting my will but working on those things that other people would praise me to do. The old "whatever you want me to do is okay with me" attitude.

The fallacy of that position is that it can setup an entitlement complex. Since I do all this great stuff for everyone else that means I can do this or that. Examples of that could be as simple as me working late into the night at my first job (before I was arrested) and then showing up some time after 9.00 AM the next morning. As my boss, who was only a few years older than me, constantly reminded me, he did not care how late I stayed at work, but I was supposed to be at my desk at 9:00 AM.

Instead of taking his instructions to heart, I would internalize the anger and say "Who does he think it is!?!" Internalize is the key; I would not actually stand up for myself and say "Hey, I am doing the work of two people, plus all the special projects you use me for!" The other thing that begins to develop is a strengthening of my narcissistic personality traits.

Why am I a "healthier" person today? I have lowered my expectations of what life owes me and decreased my seeking of my value solely through the praise of others.
  Prison Pete -- The Formative Years.
We moved from Manhattan when I was about four years old.

We lived in Long Island until I was about to enter the sixth grade and off we went to Brooklyn. I entered the sixth grade at P.S. 20 and was in for one hell of a cultural shock. While I was certainly not raised in a racist household, the fact that P.S. 20 was ninety percent black had to have some effect.

After graduating from the sixth grade, off I went to St. Anthony's and was thrown into an entirely different situation; where I was surround by kids who basically were many steps up on the financial wealth scale.

Not content to leave well enough alone, I remember the day Dad informed me that we were moving yet again. This was the summer before my senior year in high school. Dad actually told me that one of the reasons for the move was they thought it would be good for me!

While living in Brooklyn for five years, the church had little or no kids my age and no Boy Scouts etc., it was a non-issue. While I continued to attend St. Anthony's, the move changed my commute from a half hour bus or bike ride to an hour or more ride on two trains.

While at St. Anthony's I did not develop any really close friends, but by virtue of my love for the theater, I usually hung out with the group that did the tech work, and while I was actually one of the leaders of the gang so to speak, I never really fit in.

The other kids' fathers and mothers were lawyers, medical doctors, etc. One guy had twenty or thirty different fish tanks in his own room, which was three or four times the size of the nine by fourteen foot room my brother and I shared in our apartment. This kid's father was a director for National Geographic, and his family vacations were to places all over the world.

When we arrived at St. John's that first Sunday night and I learned that they have a senior high youth group of thirty plus teenagers, well my mind was blown.

The two neighborhoods I would now be spending all my waking hours are as different as night and day; the rich, gifted, liberal school high, and the blue collar, Archie Bunker mentality, community where essentially the kids have been together from birth. Yes, now I was an outsider in two places at the same time.

Convinced that everyone at St. Anthony's was getting laid but me, well the first time my future ex-wife started to pay some serious attention to me, I was a goner.

Yes, there were brief starts with a few other girls in the church but my style back then was wow, a female paying attention to me, I have to be with her 24/7. Most of the girls had the good sense to tell me to get lost. She on the other hand thought I was her ticket out of her horrible home life.
  ADD -- Catch 22.
Way back in December 2004, Summer posted a question asking for more insight I might have as respects ADD. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

Seriously, I actually started to write out some thoughts for her in January 2005. So yesterday I was digging through my papers, and found the four pages I had written out. It is now March 22, 2005 [actually it is now April 17, 2005 and I am finally typing the handwritten notes] and I start typing what I wrote; fifteen minutes into typing I put it aside. Maybe today I will type some more.

Hang on Summer, it will get posted soon.
  Physically tired and emotionally drained.
I am physically tired and emotionally drained. I am enclosing seven typed pages. Today I worked from 1:00 PM till 5:20 PM typing.

I was awakened at 5:45 AM for sick call. I needed to get some more decongestants and also wanted to check my weight. The nurse gave me fifteen or so of those two pill packs. Last time a different nurse gave me a whole handful.

The one bright spot is that I am down to 209 1/2 pounds. That is great considering the fact that I basically am sitting or lying down twenty to twenty-two hours per day.

I hope you understand the difficulty I have writing some of the enclosed stuff, especially since I have no other human to be able to "check-in" with. No comforting visits with a psychologist here.

I am okay with you using your discretion as to what to post from my letters to you. I have kept the drafts of these pages to use for reference on further writings.

I was starting to say why I was tired. I stayed awake from 5:45 AM on. After breakfast I finished the Nora Roberts book, walked from 9:00 to 10:00 AM, showered, read some more, had lunch and then it was off to type. (One of the nicer inmates has been referring to my going off to type as going off to work.) I am lying prone on my bed now using every last ounce of energy.

I promise to retype this before I do anything else. Do not send it out for typing. I wanted to get this out tonight.

I am listening to a broadcast of the NY Philharmonic playing Mendelssohn's "Midsummer Night's Dream."

The CO's have a microwave, we inmates do not, and one of them just scorched a bag of popcorn to the maximum. The dorm smells like a three alarm fire. There are no windows to open.

Okay read and enjoy.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
  Back to Frank.
There are two new guys that have arrived in the last two weeks. One guy, Hispanic, is now on the top bunk over Frank, right next to me. The other guy, white, is also on a top bunk one over from Frank. The three of us have already agreed to pool together on a few rice and bean meals.

This morning while waiting for chow, one of them made a comment about Frank being a real pain in the ass. The other guy agreed and I did not even solicit that remark. Sometimes it is the other guy. Although, if I was to mention this escapade to Mom and Dad, they would immediately make a comment to the effect, "What did you do to him, Pete?"

Damn, I just realized I not only have not gone back to print what is now three pages long, I forgot to start a new file for each page as I have been doing in the past to prevent any data loss. Oh well, I am on a roll now. Let us hope the typewriter will cooperate.

(Be careful what you wish for. Not only did I not stop what I was doing at this point and get what I had typed printed out, I continued to fill this page. I have made changes to the original letter, but the above paragraph was originally on the top of the fourth page. I had been beginning to edit page two when the machine ate my work.)

Last night when the commissary sheets were handed out, I did not make any attempt to see what foods Frank wanted me to buy. I got together with the two new guys and asked them if they wanted to chip in for some bean and rice meals. They only had $5 and $10 to spend, but at thirty-four cents for a can of beans, they each brought three cans. I will kick in some rice, cheese, and chips. (I did do up a bean and rice dish today for lunch, and they seemed to like it.)

Frank did make a comment to his bunkie, not me, if he could get in on the bean deal. He said sure, and then Frank said he could not eat beans.

When my Sunday NY Times arrived, I still gave Frank the Book Review section to read. The point is, I am still giving those things that I have in the past to Frank, so as not to get into a "you're not my friend anymore" type of mindset. I have given up hope of joining in on the spaghetti meals and downgraded my involvement with Frank and he may or may not change the way he is dealing with me. I am losing the hot meals that I liked, but I am getting stepped on and put down a lot less.

I am still not being as clear as I want to be, and perhaps I should actually "study" (as in formal class work) the subject of human relationships, but I do feel I have some qualifications that allow me to speak to the subject. Yes, occasionally I put my foot in my mouth, or based on some of the feedback I get from you, fail miserably to clearly make my point.

The one thing I do feel is that even when I try a new approach to a situation, there is still some of the old behavior there. For example, even though I wrote that I was not worried about your recent gap in writing to me, toward the end I mentioned, "I hope the silence was due to you being busy and not some lame ass thing I wrote in one of my letters."

At least I did not whine (did I?) in every letter. If nothing else I think whatever I did write was certainly a lot less manic then in previous letters. If that is not true, then I am just as delusional as ever and not working at my more annoying character traits.
  Hot Pot Restrictions.
I am a little distracted from Mom's letter since it did not answer some of the bigger questions that I have tossed out there. But patience. I am going to take a short break. I will return with a clearer head in a few minutes.

A moment to whine a little bit. Frank got a package today, some fresh tomatoes etc. He yelled in my face "Did you get your hot pot yet?" I do not know if I am being clear, but it is really turning into a battle of wills; although I am not fighting back, he is obviously jealous of me for some really stupid reason.

I got a ton more time than he does; he gets more books and food packages, etc. About the only thing left to hate me for is my ability to be able to do my time without resorting to picking on others around me.

It will really blow him out of the water if I do get the pot in. He is being so defiant about the pot not being allowed. Let me quote you the memo I am basing my opinion on about the hot pot. Be right back, going to have to handwrite it out first.

"The Department currently requires that all hot pots, electric fans, and inmate television sets sold in the commissary be constructed of clear see-through material...."

"In an effort to expand this policy, effective immediately, all radios, tape players, radio/tape player combinations and typewriters offered for sale in the commissary or received in the package room must have clear cases."

Even though existing policy said hot pots sold by the commissary had to be clear, we were able to have the metal pots sent in. The second paragraph, which is pretty specific as to what units, and states items brought through commissary or package room, it does not add hot pots to the list in the second paragraph, nor does the first paragraph mention "package room." Since this memo is not just one written at this institution but came out of the main office, I would think they would have included hot pots in the second paragraph or added package room to paragraph one.

The other point is that at the current time it is my understanding that the Max guys can not order hot pots from the street. They are limited to only commissary pots. Also just as an aside, only the Max's can get TVs.

Now that I have burned off a bunch of energy and negative waves, and hopefully reassured you that spending your time and money purchasing the hot pot is not a lost cause, let us return to more important matters.

I have to be honest and say at this point I would rather dive back into my bunk and read the Nora Roberts book. But I will keep typing.
  The Mystery of the Hot Pot.
This just in: I got not one but two envelopes from Mom, both postmarked the same date. One letter was dated five days earlier and the other was "a corrected copy" dated the same day as the postmark. Both handwritten by Mom, and contain basically the same info.

The mystery of the hot pot has been solved. They had brought me a ceramic one (anything made of a glass-like substance is a definite no-no in any prison) that was actually brought to the post office the day they received my letter to not send one. Dad went back to the post office and got the package back.

Another miscommunication since I was very specific that the Russell Hobbs pot was the only to get. Good thing, I would not have been allowed to get it anyhow. If you would go ahead and order the Russell Hobbs pot you sent me the fact sheet on that would be GREAT!

Yes, there is still a question of if they will let it in, but at this point it is worth a shot. The clear plastic pot would not do any cooking at all and can not handle things like sauce, etc.

I would say there is a fifty-fifty chance the pot will be allowed in. Even if it is initially refused, at that point I can appeal to a higher authority, as it were, to see if that person reads the memo the same way I do.

By the way, according to a few of the other inmates here they will accept packages sent via United Parcel or Fed Ex. Apparently the companies all have the ability to translate a PO address to a street number. This means you do not have to specify they send the pot via US Post Office. In addition, this will give the ability to prove when it is received.

Clear? I hope so.
  Romance Novels and Relationships.
I am reading the Nora Roberts hard cover you included in the last shipment. I am constantly reminding myself that an individual can not change another person.

The romance novels are full of great ways that males and females relate to each other. Included in the story are the thought processes that each character has before he or she acts. I know one can only go so far to please a partner, but as my current actions with Frank show, the way I am currently dealing with him is decreasing his control over my life here.

The other thing I am thinking is that when a female comes out with some really outlandish ideas, it is too easy to just shut out any discussion. One could take the issues as a signal of unhappiness and come up with some "new" ideas that might be considered revolutionary, but do not actually involve moving from your current residence. It is easier to just consider the request as outlandish and not as clues to maybe come up with something new in your relationship.

They are doing the begging and pleading thing this week on the classical station so I am listening to a commercial station that is very eclectic compared to most other stations. They just played "Silly Love Song", and right before that a Country song I have mentioned to you before: "Live Like You Were Dying".

I realize, at least with my relationship with Karen, my usual reaction to some of her "complaints" was to deny her feelings, diminish them or the worst, go off the deep end and start a big fight.

PATIENCE, which is the word I keep coming back to and the hardest thing to reconcile my feelings to. I am suggesting that when one is willing to not expect instant results, but keeps working to deal with the unhappiness of one's partner, amazing things can happen.

It is certainly much easier to simply try changing your partner. It does not work, but it is a great way to get stuck in a rut and at the same time absolve yourself of any responsibility for your partner's moods.

No, there is not a magic wand, spell, or pill that if you were to make one change overnight, you life would he great. That actually is the powerful reason to accept that little changes over time can drastically affect one's relationship.

Little steps and time also mean you can make mid-course corrections without going all the way back to square one.
  Hot Pot.
I am not sure if my Mom and Dad actually managed to find a non-internet source for the pot. I have not gotten a letter from them in over three weeks. I did get a few cans of soup and one pack of Milanos. Their last letter, three weeks ago, said no more extra food would be sent, and then this package arrives. It was only ordered a few days ago so I am just a little confused.

I have been writing to them regularly and sending them clippings from the New York Times weekly. I know I will eventually get a letter. I had sent them the address of a store that one of the other inmates had that allegedly would ship the pot. A few days later, I sent them the letter to say forget about the pot if they had not already ordered it. The question is if they had mailed the check before they received the letter I said not to bother

(Frank just came over and told me my bunkie was crying and would not talk to him. He got some bad news while calling home. I guess I better see what is going on. I'll be back in a minute.)

I am back, It actually only took two minutes. His Mom has COP, a chronic breathing problem. She works someplace that uses glue that aggravates it. She apparently had an attack at work today and went home early. I asked him if his Mom would take a few days to rest and he said no, she is too stubborn. I told him to take it easy on himself; there is not much he can do while in here and if she is as stubborn as you say, even if you were home you would not be able to do much. Armchair psychology.

Back to the hot pot. On a more careful reading of the memo stating the change in policy, it does not specifically mention that hot pots sent in must be clear. It only says typewriters and radios must be clear whether they are bought from the commissary or purchased from an outside vendor. Asking a staff member to clarify the memo which came out of the main office in Albany would be useless and might actually cause a problem where there is not one yet.

I will let you know by the end of the week if my parents did not order the pot, then I would certainly appreciate you purchasing the one off Amazon. If there is a problem with me actually receiving the pot, I will be able to have it sent back to the company and will pay the postage. I just wonder if Dad sending me the cans of soup was his way of telling me that they ordered the pot.

I am gaining patience. I have waited this long for the pot. I can wait a few more days.
I think I know why my recent correspondence may be a little spotty. I have been putting off writing for a day, and then another day, and before I know it, three days may even pass. Worse, if I decide that since there is no difference between sticking a letter in the box on Friday night or Sunday night, all of a sudden Sunday night creeps up and oops no letter has been started.

Yesterday, Monday, for some reason I made a conscious decision to not take the beast, the typewriter, out of its box. Now it is 6:30 PM and I am just starting to type. I did realize, as I did some solo speed walking this morning that retyping the handwritten letter was not too challenging.

I am going to do some rough draft handwriting. This would be in lieu of the way I have been doing it, by just typing off the cuff. By doing a rough handwritten draft, I noticed as I typed the letter that there was actually another step of editing that went on. You will notice some minor changes that were obvious as I worked from the handwritten carbon copy.

That used up a third of a page. I just took a peek at the first two pages of your last letter, and already the funny feeling has returned to my stomach. Very much like the feeling one gets as a roller coaster goes down that first hill. I am not sure what joke you are referring to. I thought I told you not to worry, and may have pointed out that it was one less thing for you to do. I am sure I did not mean to add any sarcasm, but if some leaked in, I am sorry.

Hamilton has a 708 page book, Fundamentals of C++ for $8.95. That looks really cool. I am going to put that on the next order I place. They might even let it in. Time will tell. I know you are not looking for more stuff to do for me, but in the abstract, could I type a C++ program and would you be able to OCR it into a file and then compile and run it?

It is now 1:50 PM on Wednesday. I have had a nice big bowl of rice and beans, walked for an hour this morning, and have showered. Essentially I am all set for the rest of the day.

I surprised myself today by starting off my walk at top speed. I was able to keep the pace up for twenty-five minutes. My usual super speed walking endurance is thirty minutes. Not too shabby considering I have not been doing all that much walking of late. That and the fact I am back to wearing the Keds wannabe sneakers. I am going to get the three pages that got zapped last night typed and printed first, then go on from there.

Hmmm, I guess I should start looking at the letter, and I will include a "to do" list this time including some of the things I have asked for in the past.
  Memory scramble!
This was supposed to be at least four pages. It was already typed in. But instead of printing each page I had gotten four full typed pages in. I proofed the first page. It is enclosed.

When I went back and made a correction to page two, but all in the same file, I deleted one character and Boom! Memory scramble!

So it is now 9:00 PM and I am screwed. Sorry. I know better. I screwed up. I will have to retype the next three pages tomorrow and add more.

Since I now have less than six days backlog on papers, I think I will write out the rest of this letter so that all I have to do is type from a draft tomorrow.

I need to get an office catalog that carries carbon paper. The Office Depot catalog does not.

Actually if we can find a good ribbon place, I would rather use that for final copies, keeping carbon just for my use. I think I get the OCR scanner issue. You can not feed papers with printing on both sides, because backside interferes?

This page is ribbon; the other page is carbon paper. I trust this is still scanable? The carbon paper has been used about five or six times. The other letters were certainly were lighter.
  Spam sandwiches.
Okay it is now 4:00 PM on Sunday. Yeah I know, I was going to work on your letter. Well I spent all of yesterday knocking off some of my NY Times backlog. I have read through all the papers up to and including half of Wednesday. I read through at least eight or nine days of papers! I have also sorted through a monster pile of clippings.

I was all set to start typing at 1:00 PM and then Frank, A.K.A. control freak, ex-state trooper, decides he wants to cook! I should have passed. His bright idea was to make Spam sandwiches. YUCK. My mouth feels like I have sucked down a quart of 1OW30 Motor Oil.

They are doing pledge drive on the classical music station. They got only one pledge call in the last hour!

I just got done hearing Rhapsody in Blue, by George Gershwin. It is a newly released "Super" formatted CD. It sounds very crisp on my lousy mono radio. On a real audio system it would really be a blast.

It is interesting since this station is not a "state" radio station; they actually exist pretty much on only donations from listeners. It certainly speaks well of the people in this area. They are willing to give varying amounts of money, and support a classical music station. Not everyone is looking for the cheapest way to spend their money! I am certainly grateful.

Have you tried to listen in on the web yet? They said they actually got a pledge from Alaska and another from England. That is certainly pretty cool.
  Cheer up, things could be worse.
From the "Cheer up, things could be worse" department. (I cheered up and they got worse.)

The case I thought was so great was overturned by the Appellate Division. Basically, they said the lower court was too broad in defining ineffective counsel.

Good thing I found that before I used the case; the District Attorney would have loved telling the court that the case I was using to base my appeal on was already overturned!

I am back to being confused as to what to put in this last chance to the courts. (Made carbon copy of this too.)

As the Elvis song says, "I feel so lonely I could die." (Not a direct whine to you; your letter has made my day.)

From the really dumb and stupid department: (At least this time I got the carbon paper set up right.)

I was reviewing my "legal file" about to write a follow-up letter to the court and found the original Poor Persons affidavit, notarized back in February. I never mailed it out to the courts!


I just dropped it in the mailbox and hope I have not blown my last chance at seeking relief by forgetting to mail a form in on time.

Now I really feel like shit.

I am going to take a shower and hide under the covers. I will be working on letter this weekend.

Wish me luck on the court accepting my paper work.
  In desperate need of a hug.
4:50 PM. Just finished reading your letter. Okay, not really just finished, I did take a few minutes to get tears out of my eyes, then walked to bathroom, took a piss, discovered my zipper is gone on my only pair of clean pants (only three pairs are issued) and now I am writing this note. I am using carbon paper and will type it up and send it to you.

I am writing because I do not know how much I will type tonight and want to get some of the emotional power carried in your letter out of me so I can sit down and type. (I never did get to type any thing to you.)

Your letter is full of great stuff. Like a Chinese menu. Take two from column A, one from column B and a whole bunch from column C. In this barren wasteland, I have gotten to an oasis!

While I was eagerly awaiting your letter, I kept reminding myself that it would eventually arrive and today it did. So many things to write about, old issues that I thought I was clear on that still confuse you, new stuff to write on and a heap of stuff about you.

I was in desperate need of a hug and your letter delivered it! I wish I was able to sit down and type a two-page response to you but you know it does not work that way. The specific questions you raise and the overall response to you letter is going to kick off a whole slew of typing. I am not even thinking of all the blog stuff I want to type.

Today is Thursday; your letter was delayed one day. It was "hand canceled" with a pen scribble on the stamps (I think the mail room here does that) and the P.O. bar code got double printed so was unreadable.

This has got to go out in the mail tonight, Thursday, or you will not get it till next Wednesday.

I am not sure why you are missing mail? I go through twenty thirty-seven cent stamps every two weeks and I figure you are good for a least half of that. I better start keeping track of the dates I send you stuff.

In an effort to keep only useful paper, I have been shredding and tossing all the drafts of my typing. From now on I will hold them until you confirm receipt of them.

I am currently so low on emotional "gas" that I am still shaking from the warmth and love in your letter. I will expand, but for now know that you can relate to people, and you do it well. Do not sell yourself short!

Just as the blog has shown, some people really do care about what I write, and even what my feelings are. One must just search out for those people one can relate to. Figure this, 280 million Americans, the blog interests seventy to eighty people a day. Not great odds, but seventy is not bad.

I do not know about you, but from my perspective, our current relationship is more open and honest than any relationship I have ever had. We both seem to be able to bitch at the other when needed and then we get to work through it.

True the delay sucks, and some of the specific bitching would be less on the phone or face to face. We would be able to stop the other person from going on and on once the point was made. On the other hand, that same delay allows for some pretty open and in-depth revelations.

Damn, legal mail is here and still no news from the courts. I have some questions I am waiting for answers on, still have not typed the actual brief yet.

They have not kicked on the coolers for the AC yet. One of the four industrial fans blows right on the tables where I type. It makes for a very messy, (papers blowing) and distracting time. (Well, I am sitting at one of the tables now. Thankfully they have moved the fan so it no longer blows directly on the table)

Consider this the readers digest version of a response to your letter. The full-blown response will follow. I will probably not get anything out tonight but will have this weekend to prepare an opus.

I got the legal search thing I needed tonight and need to go show one of the other inmates how to use the information now that I have received it. I also definitely need to type a letter to the courts. I was supposed to do that last night but became too frustrated with the working conditions.

Sorry about the "light" copy. I need to order a whole bunch of carbon paper and was trying to get all I could out of the ten sheets I was given. I will have to ask for a couple more to hold me over. (I did receive an Office Depot catalog thanks to Mom and Dad, on Friday. It is the full, thick catalog and they do not have any carbon paper at all? Please see if you can find a catalog, Staples or Office Max, which has carbon paper.)
  Global Warming?
It is April 4, 2005 and we here in western New York have had almost twelve inches of snow. A few days ago I was out walking the track in a T-shirt. Reminds me of good old Beckley, WV, where the weather and the seasons seemed to change every 24 hours.

I showed the officers here my bloody socks on Friday. The blood is from walking two hours in the wrong size sneakers. The nurse took one look at my abused toes and quickly wrote out a note to the state shop (supplier of inmate clothing and footwear) telling them to provide me with the proper shoes as soon as possible.

Like things in the federal system, a note from one department to another department does not carry much weight, but my feet are eagerly awaiting the results of this latest attempt to get properly fitting footwear.
  Sense of Humor MIA? You Make the Call.
Having skipped the first two movies this weekend, I just finished watching "Taxi". This seemed to be yet another of those "Lite" movies. They are light on plot, character development, and heavy on product placement. I wonder how much NASCAR paid for the last five minutes of the film.

There were some laughs among my fellow inmates, and although I cracked a smile once in a while, overall I felt I was wasting my time.

One other thing, the movie was supposedly set in New York, but I don't think that a lot of the chase scenes were even New York City streets.

Just some quick thoughts, I do not expect these views to be the same as the general public, and perhaps if I did not feel so down right now, I would have found the film funnier.
Yes, one can be alone in a roomful of people. True, using the word people to define some of the occupants here is stretching the definition a bit, but I am very lonely. I am working through it. Slowly and not necessarily all that surely.

I did a couple of Monday and Tuesday New York Times crossword puzzles last night to get feedback as to my existence as a thinking and somewhat intelligent person. I think tonight I will pull out the Sunday NY Times magazines which I have been saving and see how many Sunday clues I can get!

I am reading a book a day, and struggling to not get ahead on my soda and candy budget! Yes, it is true, sugar is a drug. Of all the weeks to screw up and not get the diet soda! It seems to me that I am better able to nurse a can of diet soda, and it does not leave me with as strong and urge for more sugar.

It could be all in my head but then again that is exactly the point; this place is all about messing with your head.

Talk about cosmic link ups, I had just finished reading one of the books you just sent in the day it arrived. Go figure the odds on that one. I had not read the Patricia Cornwall you sent and am working on that and the "Encounters" book now.

They have just changed the rules on all electric items. From now on all such items must be in a clear case. This includes the hot pot. I am not sure if my parents were able to order that metal pot yet; if not, I will have to go with a plastic one. The clear case typewriter costs over $200 and does not have any of the features of the one I own. At least I got this in before they changed the rules. I can eat cold food if I have to.

It was getting a little warm here in the dorm; my chocolate bars were a little soft. But tonight it will be on the chilly side since they have apparently shut down the heat but not yet turned on the chillers. So I am glad for my extra blanket tonight!

I hope life is treating you well and that I will hear from you soon. Just a gentle nudge, I know you will write, and the books this past week show me you are alive!
Monday, April 25, 2005
  Let us try Snail Mail.
I recently received "Common Nonsense" by Andy Rooney.

I opened the book and the following is on the first page for Part One:

"Further proof of the fact that hope springs eternal is everyone's anticipation that the mail will bring something wonderful even though it almost never does."

I was wondering if the readers of this blog would humor me and take a few minutes to print out the above paragraph, add a handwritten sentence or two, and send it off in an envelope to a friend.

No big deal, but please do not just go get a Hallmark card and NO, you cannot just cut and paste and send an e-mail. (Well of course you could send an e-mail, but I am asking you not to, please.)

I have existed over the last eight plus years standing by at each mail call, waiting for any piece of mail. Today, with email, I venture to say that the odds of getting something nice in the regular mail are pretty slim. But it does not have to be that way.

Go ahead; make a difference in someone's mail. Drop them a line and let them know you were thinking of them.

You could possibly ask them to send the sentiment on, but that is up to you and I do not want to start a chain letter. Think of this project under the heading of random acts of kindness.

I was thinking of the song "Alice's Restaurant"; toward the end where lyrics urge everyone to go into their local draft board and sing a chorus of the song. The lyrics go on to say what would happen if two people do it, a few more people do it, and still more people.

Well, the dreamer in me is asking each of you to give it a shot.

Hey, all you Moms and Dads out there send a letter to you children. Show them what life was like before email.

I sent out ten letters myself. That is $3.70 worth of stamps. If I can send ten, could you all please send one or maybe two?

Be sure to post if you do send one, and let us know if you got a reaction back!

Go spread some joy today! Thank you.
  Does Anybody Read What They Print?
A recent short article on a tuberculosis scare in Amsterdam contained the following two statements which I find to be slightly contradictory:

"The city began a large-scale testing program this month after a supermarket cashier was found to carry the bacteria, which can cause hard-to-treat and sometimes fatal lung infections. [emphasis added]"

The next paragraph states:

"The disease can usually be cured with antibiotics. [emphasis added].

Is it a fatal disease or is it usually cured with antibiotics?

Could be me but I think the two sentences are not on the same wavelength.
  It is a "Dirty" job but someone has to do it.
- or -
Your spent my tax dollars on what?

This item was carried by the NY Times, but credited to the AP:

"TENNESSEE: INFORMANTS PAID IN SEXUAL ENCOUNTERS The Nashville police have paid confidential informers thousands of dollars to engage in sexual encounters with prostitutes as part of a crackdown on the sex business in Nashville, drawing criticism from the top prosecutor. The police spent almost $120,000 in three years to foster the encounters, which involved sexual touching and sometimes more. The evidence helped the city close more than 35 businesses believed to be selling sex. 'Certainly having video and audiotapes of the transactions is valuable,' District Attorney Torry Johnson said. 'But going beyond that once the transaction has been completed is unnecessary from our point of view.'"

Perhaps they could now sell copies of the video and audiotapes on eBay or use them on some of those 1-900 phone-sex lines to recoup the $120,000. They may even be able to make a profit. No point just leaving all that stuff sitting around the DA's office gathering dust.

Must have been a good one to try to explain to your wife what you undercover job entailed? Then again, they probably used only single men.

Maybe some lawyer will file a class action job discrimination suit on behalf of all the married men in Nashville who did not get a chance to apply for the job and now demand to be "compensated". Probably a hit country song is in the works right now. "Where Has All the Loving Gone?"

I will move on now.
  Interesting Advertisement Placement!
On page A16 of the Friday, March 11, 2005 edition of the New York Times, an article starts off with:

"The National Association of Evangelicals, with 30 million members in 45,000 churches, opened debate on Thursday on a document intended to expand the political platform of the evangelicals beyond the fight against abortion and same-sex marriage."

The article fills almost one quarter of the page, but right under that story is an advertisement for the Better Sex For a Lifetime Company. The ad carries a title that reads:


Could be me, but I think it would be great to have the evangelicals follow an e-mail posting to this specific page on the Times website, and inadvertently their eyes travel down to this advertisement and the two free videos offer.

By the way there is a warning at the bottom of the ad that reads: "Warning: The Better Sex For a Lifetime Video Series is highly explicit and is intended for adults over the age of 18 only."
  Anyone Else Find This Ironic?
I was sitting up on my bunk last night enjoying my daily Hershey bar with almonds (don't we all feel like a nut sometimes?) and noticed some writing on the inside of the wrapper. It says:

Sorry, please try again.

That's all. Short, sweet and to the point. I did give some thought to how that message might not be a good phrase for prisoners to read. The more appropriate message would be:

We are NOT sorry, do not try again!

By the way, the last time they ran a contest, I did manage to win two or three prizes. Since I was not able to have the free candy sent in to me, I passed them on to my overworked and drastically underpaid Editor.

Some work for peanuts; this time he could be working for almonds. That sounds so much richer.
  Finally got my Jailhouse Lawyer's Manual.
I sent a letter to the Columbia Law School yesterday asking about the Jailhouse Lawyer's Manual and sure enough it showed up in today's legal mail. That is one less thing to worry about.

My Dad placed the original order for it two months ago and the invoice they enclosed shows FCI Beckley as the address. Oops, I wonder if Dad made the mistake, having a senior moment or what.

I opened a can of tuna; I was too lazy to cut up any onions so I just mixed in some mustard and a little lemon juice, did the quarter piece of American cheese thing on crackers, and dinner was served. I was still hungry when I exited the shower and added a peanut butter and honey sandwich. I am full now.

I have now been here for two months. Time flies when one is having fun. NOT.

I really need the ability to be self-affirming in my stay here. That is where the various puzzles will certainly come in handy. Positive feedback. There is so little of that here. Okay forget little, try none.

I have used the ribbon for my last few letters since I would rather not ask for more carbon paper, but I am rapidly eating my way through ribbon number two of four. That is one of the reasons I need an office supply catalog; so that I can make up a specific order for Mom and Dad to buy. Left to their own devices, they get too confused.
  Wide Feet.
I got your eight books today. Thank you.

I see you have taken my "do not rush to write" suggestion, since I have not gotten any letter from you since your letter two weeks ago. I am assuming it is your busy schedule and not my lame attempt at humor that is causing the drought.

I spent two hours walking the mud-free yard this morning and have done severe damage to my toes. The state-provided sneakers are called walkers and have a great arch support. The fact that they are only EEEEE width instead of EEEEEE is a major problem. It is said you get three benefits from walking: cardio workout, burning off some calories, and the release of endorphins.

At the end of the first hour the pain in my toes was negating any hope of getting some of those endorphins to help raise my blue mood. After coming back in and putting on the flat Keds wanna-bes, well that really threw my feet and ankles into a strange pain/what the hell are you up to now cycle.

I am going to walk tomorrow if the rain holds off, but I am afraid I must return to the size fourteen no-support canvas sneakers. I am going to try to get them to buy me the right size.

I am not sure if I have asked you this before, but if you could look for a company called "Hitchcock Shoes" and get them to send me a catalog I would appreciate it. That was the company Club Fed brought my boots from. At this point I would settle for the same pair of boos and let the sneakers go.

Also, while speaking of catalogs, I would appreciate a Staples or Office Depot catalog, provided you could request one without any cost to you. If you get your hands on one, you could include it with you next book order.

It appears that the second Hamilton order I have been waiting for got returned. My Dad got the confirmation that it was sent, but I have not seen it yet. The bummer is that it included the crossword puzzle book I like, along with the NY Times Puzzle dictionary so I could start working on the Wednesday through Sunday puzzles. I have asked my Dad to send me the order confirmation so I can follow-up.

I am still waiting for the damn courts to figure out if I qualify as a poor person and send me some answers so I can get started on the paperwork. Hey, the clock is running, it is my time now and I want to get out of here!

I was so out of it this week that when I filled out my commissary sheet I marked down thirty cans of Regular Coke instead of the Diet!

I had a pita bread cheese sandwich for lunch today and will be taking a break shortly to make some tuna fish with crackers for dinner. Then I will take my shower and come back over to type. The NY Philharmonic concert tonight includes Ravel's Bolero, so that will be my entertainment from 8:00 P.M. to 10:00 P.M. tonight.

They did not show any movies this weekend due to technical difficulties, but ran them Monday through Wednesday. One was "Cookout", a reshowing of "Alien Vs. Predator", and the third movie was "Saw". I managed to skip all three.

Okay I am back. Showered and fed. I am real tired, no real nap at all today. I will probably try to write a few short posts and see how it goes.
  Is it All Fiction?
Another day, another book. Well, three quarters of a day is probably more accurate. I started "Are You Afraid of the Dark", by Sidney Sheldon alter midnight early this morning, and finished it before 3:00 PM the same day. I even caught a few winks in between reading.

I do not know it I am the only one, but occasionally when reading a work of fiction, I wonder if any part of it is possible or may ever be a true event. The controversy that surrounds the DaVinci Code is certainly a prime example of this.

On the copyright page of Sheldon's book, the following paragraph appears: "This book is a work of fiction. References to real people, events, establishments, organizations, or locales are intended to provide a sense of authenticity and are only used fictitiously. All other characters, and all incidents and dialog, are drawn from the authors imagination and are not to be construed as real."

Logically, let us see what that paragraph says. First, it says that the story in just that, a story, a work of fiction. Next it says that real people, events etc., are in the story to make it seem real ("authenticity"). Anything that is not part of the preceding (authentic) is from the author's imagination. Plus, the stuff that is or was authentic is used fictitiously. Finally, the stuff that is from the author's imagination is "not to be construed as real." Is that clear?

Now you read the story, it comes to its conclusion, the last chapter is number forty-six, but then we have an "AFTERWORD."

In the afterword there are several references to possible real events. My first question is: does the disclaimer cover the afterword? The next question is: are any of the events that are referred to real?

Yeah, I know, just do a Google search. Remember, I have no direct access to the Internet.

Even if the events have some basis in fact, is the author using them in a fictitious manner? See what happens when I let my mind wander? Truth be told, in the environment I am in, it is the only peace I can get.

If anyone cares to do some research, let me know if you can find any references to any of the following.


If you have not read the book and are going to, you might not want to read any further so as not to have too much of the plot revealed before its time. You have been warned.


The ending of the book involves the use of a machine that is able to control the weather anywhere in the world. The evil mastermind of the story is using the machine to extort billions of dollars from various governments around the world. He even causes a massive flooding rainstorm when one country decides to call his bluff.

So I am all wrapped up in the story, but realize it is a work of fiction. The ending certainly suggests yet another reason not to screw with Mother Nature. Up pops the afterword. The copyright of the book is 2004.

The following are some of the things the author lists. This first one really caught my eye in light of the horrifying tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean at the end of 2004.

"In the early 1970's, the U.S. Congressional Committee on the Oceans and Internal Environment held hearings on our military research into weather and climate modification, and found that the Defense Department had plans for creating tidal waves through the coordinated use of nuclear weapons."

Is this just one of those wild stories that the conspiracy theorist love to grab on to?

He goes on to list three patents:

1969, "a method of increasing the likelihood of precipitation by the artificial introduction of sea water vapor into the atmosphere."

1971, issued to Westinghouse "for a system for irradiation of planet surfaces."

1971, issued to the National Science Foundation "for a weather modification method."

In 1978, the United States launched an experiment that created a downpour of rain over six counties in northern Wisconsin. The storm generated winds of one hundred seventy-five miles an hour and caused fifty million dollars in damage."

One last one to check. "In 1992, the Wall Street Journal reported that a Russian company, Elat Intelligence Technologies, was selling weather control equipment tailored to specific needs."

There they are; fact or fiction? If someone out there cares to look into any of them, I would be interested in what you find.

Finally, my paperback dictionary does not even contain the word "afterword"; is there a "legal" definition that says when an afterword is included in a work of fiction, it is not part of the fiction, or is it fiction too?
  Down so low everything looks up to me.
I meant to send your letter today but I got wrapped up in a letter to Mom and Dad.

I have been down so low lately it's been hard to do much but vegetate.

I hope all is well with you.

I hope my letters are taken with a large grain of salt. I am your friend and am not jealous of your life (much)!
  Wireless Notebook $1.03!
I thought that might get your attention! I wonder if it will be picked up by a search engine as a good deal.

It is a true statement, right off the commissary sheet. The listing reads: "Wireless Notebook $1.03".

You can rant about how good we prisoners have it here in prison. Wish you could get a good deal like that?

The $1.03 wireless notebook is what they are calling the old standard black and white marbled cover composition notebooks. Most of us remember them from grade school when we would need several of them, one for each subject.

Why they do not just list it as a composition notebook and not torment me every two weeks as I check off the items I will be buying from the commissary, I do not know.

In keeping with the goal of proving myself creative even under the adverse condition of prison, I took one of those full-page ads for an IBM ThinkPad and used it as a book cover. It is folded over the book in such a way that the front of the notebook now shows the full ThinkPad keyboard.

I even purchased a second notebook, at $1.03 who could resist, and that one has a cover that shows the question from a Macy's ad, "What inspires you?"
  New Words.
I have begun an honest list of words that I really do not know the meaning of.

While one can usually get the sense of a word from the sentence, I have decided to go through the steps of writing the word and then copying the definition from the dictionary.

Inculcating - to tread on, to trample; to teach and impress on the mind by frequent repetitions and admonitions.

Aeon - an indefinitely long time. (Eon is a variation of eon) [Yes I do know the word eon. Hey, I have been in prison for an eon. I was not making an assumption that aeon was the same word.]

Prestidigitation - Sleight of hand. [Yes, I sort of knew this one, but hey it is a. great word to write out]

Bellicose - warlike, pugnacious, syn; belligerent, quarrelsome.

Pragmatist - concerned with practical consequences of actions or beliefs.

Alacrity - cheerful readiness.

Pemmican - dried meat, ground fine and mixed with fat.

Roistering - to engage in noisy revelry.
  Great Music on WNED.
Over the past three weeks I have heard some great music courtesy of WNED. I encourage everyone sitting bored at their computers to check out the website wned.org. They advertise that they broadcast over the web.

I have heard the September 11 commissioned piece "Transmigration of Souls" and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony back to back, live performance recordings from the New York Philharmonic.

One Saturday I caught the last half hour of Schubert's Eighth, The Unfinished Symphony, followed by the live broadcast from the New York Metropolitan Opera "The Barber of Seville."

Please let me know if you are able to pick up the broadcast.
I am willing to give you all the space you need. I am feeling more secure in our relationship; you said you would tell me when you wanted to cut off all communication, so I do not fret waiting for one of your letters. I know I have been sending you a bunch of stuff because my stamps keep disappearing. Do not feel compelled to write unless I send you a specific request, and I would only do that in an emergency.

I am becoming comfortable with the duality of our relationship and not tying it to the quantity of the letters. Yes, in the past I have whined and cried about not getting mail from you, while at the same time you would be very quick to complain about the lack of any letters from me in your mailbox.

Now I am comfortable with the fact that you do like to read my letters and do miss them when they do not flow into your mailbox. This does not mean you owe me a letter for each one I send. Yes, I finally understand that. Really I do.

As a matter of fact, except for the fact that the typewriter has been deleting stuff before I can triple-check it, I have been working hard at making all the letters I send error-free. This means that while I am hopefully sending you read-worthy letters, I am learning or getting something out of each one I type.

I was amazed at the difference between my typing and the handwritten letters you sent me to type. One thing I discovered pretty quickly was the inordinate amount of sentences I started with the word "So." Now I use the search option to look for "So" and nine times out of ten I end up deleting the word.

I just got interrupted and lost my train of thought. One problem using the carbon paper. Also, in the print mode you cannot go back up in the memory past the current line. I am almost at the end of the page anyhow. Let me start proofing and printing.
  Relating to me as a person.
I could be wrong, and I am not goings to actually go back over your last few letters, but it is my "feeling" that lately your letters have contained a lot of stuff about you, and except when your are bitching at me for being too dependent on you, very little about your relating to me as a person. I think I have gotten less whinny lately, save a few peaks, and I am much more tolerant of your responsibilities toward family and work.

Please try to understand what I am saying. It has sunk through my thick skull; I am not the only person in your life. Sometimes without me doing anything different, I get a completely different reaction from you. That is good. It proves we are both living, breathing, feeling humans. Your feelings may not match mine. That is also okay.

I have left a whole bunch of things you could respond to when you get around to it. True, I have not given you any "To Do" list lately, but I have certainly brought up enough issues that you could drop a comment on.

Damn, this is getting long winded, and not what I felt like doing tonight at all. For some reason the spirit has deemed this the way I should spend my evening.

As an aside, I now have the two previous pages in memory and have not typed the final on either one yet. This afternoon the typewriter barfed while I was typing the third page. Luckily, I had already printed the two pages out in final form. I am now flying without a net hoping the machine does not decide to get me twice in the same day.

Things I know I have mentioned and am awaiting your comments on include: the future of blog, in there a "paid" option that would make your life easier, giving out my name, can you find food catalogs on the Web and sign me up for them or send me their addresses, could you find a discount ribbon supplier that does mail order. I am not sure, but maybe I have not put too many of either my "ideas" in lately or made comments about dealing with the "pressures" of my new environment.
Friday, April 22, 2005
  Check Please, Ms. Malkin! Fact Check, that is. Prisoners Do Not Blog!
I can only speak to the Federal and New Yolk State prison systems. No inmate has direct access to computers that would enable them to post to blogs or send E-mail.

Where do these prison blogs come from? They are a labor of love done by law abiding citizens who are not in prison.

They are done by individuals exercising their constitutional right of Free Speech. To say that Michelle Malkin is a journalist and she apparently feels it is within her rights to decide who should be allowed free speech seems a little disingenuous.

Writing specifically about Prison Pete, the original postings in this blog come from years of personal letters written by me to a long-time personal friend.

The letters were transcribed by my friend (the originals were mostly in hand-written chicken scratch), edited and then posted to the blog that he created. While the information, ideas and thoughts are those of a prisoner, I actually have no direct control over what is posted on the blog.

By what law now in effect (or what law would Ms. Malkin propose) would stop an American citizen from writing about prison life while he or she is not a prisoner? Yes, again the devil is in the details.

First you would have to stop the information coming out of prison. Is she assuming that one could limit what a husband in prison could write to his wife? In my case, is she suggesting that I should be limited in what I can tell my parents about my day-to-day existence? How about a father in prison being able to write to his children, letting them know that being in prison is no bed of roses. Maybe, just maybe, the message getting through to that son so that he does not repeat the sins of the father?

Yes, I am being very specific to prove a point. Ms. Malkin's comments are not only shallow, but show that no thought went into them.

If we can agree that even prisoners need to be able to write to family and friends on the street, how are you going to limit what they do with the information they have. This is Debating 101; before you state your premise, be sure you can back it up.

Even famous people in jail have had trouble being heard. Are you suggesting that if Martin Luther King, Jr. were in jail today, he would not be allowed to send out information that could be posted on a blog? Did Ms. Malkin complain about Martha Stewart's greetings and letters from her recent incarceration being posted on her website?

If you say, certainly, those people would be treated differently. Okay, so now who decides whose words can be put on a blog and whose cannot?

The internet has certainly changed the definition of what the press is. The prisoner blogs are a good example of information that is otherwise unavailable.

You would have to have been an actual prisoner to know what goes on inside a prison day in and day out. Whenever reviews are made in an institution, whether by an outside accreditation group or from the regional supervisors, the prison is put on high alert. Everything that does not move is given a fresh coat of paint, the meals that day will be a few steps up from the usual, and most of the trouble makers are kept out of sight.

The chapel at Club Fed was having its program review, which consisted of three or four other federal prison employees going over the paperwork and operations of the chapel department. I was asked by a staff member if I would only say nice things if they let me be one of the ten or so inmates to be interviewed by the stiff reviewing. Yes, that is right; the local staff was allowed to pick the inmates who were interviewed.

Who should tell what really goes on in prisons if not the prisoners themselves? I often thought of the prison system as the ultimate business to be in. Never a shortage of customers, and guess what, if the customer is not satisfied, there are no repercussions.

The fact that humiliating inhumane conditions are allowed to exist in the Arizona desert shows that the average American really does not care what conditions behind the barbed wire are. So why rail against a few blogs that might be able to provide a different perspective?

While there might be some prisoners with support from a person on the outside who use the blog for purposes to annoy or taunt their victims, the prison system has a very effective way of dealing with that issue.

I take exception to that blanket characterization since I have consistently admitted my guilt, and while I may taunt an unnamed prison employee now and then, it is only in relation to his or her performance of the job that is supposed to be done.
  A Reply to Michelle Malkin.
Ms. Malkin states:

"I thought the Zimmer amendment, which banned prison luxuries and has withstood constitutional challenges, was supposed to stop this nonsense. Maybe it's time for someone in Congress to update this law."

First of all, the Zimmer amendment only applies to Federal prisons. In this country we have the Federal Prison System for those who violate federal laws, residents of Washington, D.C., and most Native American Reservations. The remaining prisons and jails are run by the fifty states and the multitude of counties and cities throughout the United States.

While there may be some basic laws that all jails and prisons must follow, each system has its own rules and regulations.

For example, at the North Carolina State Prison in Raleigh, inmates are allowed one or two phone calls a year. In the New York State prison I am currently at, I can place phone calls seven days a week, from 8:00 AM to 11:00 PM. The calls can last up to one half hour, and are placed collect at a cost of around $9.00 for the full thirty minutes. The calls may only be placed to pre-approved numbers, and are subject to recording and direct monitoring by prison staff.

In the federal system, an inmate was limited to 300 minutes of calls per month. They could be pre-paid at a cost of 23ยข per minute or placed collect. At the particular Club Fed I was at, each call could be up to fifteen minutes in duration, and once you hung up the phone you could not place another call for sixty minutes. These calls were also monitored and taped. You also had to submit the phone numbers you wanted to be able to call to the staff for approval first.

The point of explaining the various methods is to show how there is not just one way things are done in prison. It is important, in my humble opinion, that all prisoners be able to tell what their life is like on the inside, so as to allow the public to separate fact from fiction.

Even the federal laws governing basic treatment for all prisons and jails in the United States must often be fought for by the prisoners themselves in the courts before they are enforced. Think about Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Of the more than two million persons currently incarcerated in the United States, only 170,000 are in Federal Prisons.

The federal inmates are the only people directly affected by bills passed by the United States Congress. Is micro-managing the day to day existence of prisoners a worthy expenditure of effort?

There have been two major amendments passed in the 1990's that applied to the life of a federal prisoner. It is my contention that these amendments were passed more for political bragging rights than any actual need to become involved in the day to day existence of prisoners.

The fact that Ms. Malkin was under the impression that just one of these amendments cut out luxuries for all prisoners shows it had its intended effect. I would have hoped Ms. Malkin, as a journalist, would be better informed on the scope and actual effect the Zimmer amendment had.

The 1995 Zimmer amendment basically was added to some other piece of federal legislation and banned the use of any kind of electronic musical instruments inside the federal prison system. Prior to this ruling, inmates were allowed to own their own instrument, paid for with their own personal funds.

Some recreation departments may have also had some electronic instruments. Recreation equipment was usually purchased using funds from profits generated by use of the inmate telephone system and money spent by inmates at the commissary. A suit was brought about this ruling applying to the Chapel Departments. It was decided that it did not, so the prison chapels were allowed to have electronic musical instruments.

The second amendment was known as the Enson Amendment. It prohibited the use of any federal funds to buy or distribute any nude pictures of humans. It was supposed to ban pornography from the prisons. Again, this only applied to federal prisons. The net effect of this was that magazines such as Playboy, which were paid for by inmates or their families, were now prohibited simply because they had to pass through the prison mailroom and be handed out by the correction officers at mail call.

Since it is federal dollars that pay the salaries of the mailroom personnel, they could not legally handle Playboy. This ruling has made FHM and Maxim two of the most popular magazines in federal prisons.

The second part of the Enson bill was that the prison system was forbidden from showing any movie that carried an R or X rating. The weekend movies shown in all federal facilities had to carry PG or PG-13 ratings.

The New York State system allows the showing of R rated movies and I just watched "Hotel Rwanda", a very powerful movie. This movie, along with Schindler's List, can not be shown in a federal prison.

Both of these issues could have just as easily been handled by regular Department of Justice rule making authority, and did not require "an act of Congress" as the saying goes.

A third example of Congress putting forth meaningless bills just to obtain some political capital is the annual attempt to increase the current good time allotment from fifteen percent to thirty-five percent.

I am not sure at what point the current fifteen percent good time allowance was enacted. Every year I was in Federal prison, without fail excitement would sweep through the entire prison with yet another attempt to increase the good time. I finally caught on to the reason this was an annual occurrence.

Each year the House of Representatives would introduce legislation increasing the good time available to federal prisoners, from the current fifteen percent to thirty-five percent. I can only assume the poor House member forced to put his or her name on the initial bill either had no possible opposition come election time or was so low on the totem pole she or he had no choice. The bill would be introduced on the floor, and promptly voted down.

Obviously, it was never going to pass. Yet each year the House members could send home to all their constituents how they were tough on crime and put a stop to a bill that would have let prisoners out after serving only sixty-five percent of their sentence. It is a non-news news story. Yet it seems that the American public buys the myth.

I know a lot of the federal prisoners certainly got their hopes up each and every year. I am not sure exactly how many times in the last ten years this bill has been introduced, but I would like to know if someone is able to search the Congressional Record and verify that the bill has been introduced several times in the last ten years.

This long winded post is meant to show that Ms. Malkin was off base in her comments. The Zimmer Amendment is a lot narrower in scope on two counts. The first being it only applied to Federal Prisons. Now either Ms. Malkin did not know that basic piece of information or she neglected to read my blog or my profile to discover that I am not currently a federal prisoner.

The second point is that the amendment dealt pretty explicitly with electronic musical instruments and not "luxuries" of prisoners.

I rest my case or at least my poor fingers for a little bit.
  Be careful what you wish for.
Wow, talk about be careful what you wish for. I wonder what has been happening over this last week on the blog. Do I hope it has gone unnoticed by the rest of the world? Have the comments of the three blogs you sent me sparked greater interest?

The main problem as I see it is by the time you get this it will already be many days past the start of whatever has been generated by the mention of Prison Pete on the MSNBC show.

I have already typed one full page in response to Ms. Malkin, but do not think it is really what I want to say. I suppose I could just ignore her comments; however, it is part of what I hoped the blog might accomplish, that being a chance to dispel or correct some misconceptions that exist about prison.

I spent an hour this morning before breakfast writing a rough draft of what I wanted to say. I thought I might type one page of a letter to you to get my creative juices flowing. Actually it is not the creative juices; it is the work ethic, and consistency of work that need the push and pressure.

One of the other inmates here, who has a brother that works for Microsoft, used to have a blog. He said it was too much work for him to do. He does keep busy, and is currently working on a full length "comic book." He is thinking of doing the blog via the newer pod casting. Lazy snot.

I actually watched all three movies this weekend. "Cellular" on Friday, "Unstoppable" on Saturday, and I just got finished watching "Hotel Rwanda." I will put my comments on that one into a blog post over the next couple days. It is ironic that for once we get a thought provoking movie and all of a sudden no one wants to watch it.

We had bagels for brunch today. I ended up with two this time. I had one with cream cheese, and another with four slices of American cheese. I will be skipping the alleged baked chicken tonight. I will take a break around the 5:25 PM count to make some tuna for my dinner.

I am thankful for all the catalog requests you have put in for me. I really need to order the carbon paper.

Did you email a request to those UpNorth guys to send me one of the food catalogs? I appreciate your research on the ribbons, but Mom and Dad refuse to order anything over the Web!

I assume that the newer the carbon paper, the better? The fuzziness of the letters is due to the carbon paper. You have gotten a few letters typed with the ribbon. Once I order the carbon paper, I will be able to use a newer sheet more often. I will also buy the guy I have now borrowed over twenty sheets from a new pack!
  So much food coming in.
It is now 3:50 PM and the calling for legal mail, packages, and chow are all about to start. Mail call is not till 4:10 PM or so. I am going to take a break and get some water to drink and make a quick pit stop. Then since I am not eating their meal tonight I will return to do some more typing and figure to feed myself sometime around 6:00 PM.

There is a special cantata on the ratio at 4:00 PM tonight so I will probably shower right after the 5:25 PM count, eat some dinner, and then return to do some more typing!

Well, I did get four books from Hamilton today and also the Saturday and Sunday New York Times. The label still shows the old date, so go figure what that means.

I did not get in the shower yet and will try again right after the count but if not, I can skip a day. I did not break into a sweat at all today.

I know it is selfish, childish, and a couple of other "ishes", but it is nice to get stuff in from the outside. I am not complaining about anything. I am working hard at getting back into my blinder mode.

While the array of stuff you can get sent in here is much greater than the feds, I was good at Beckley at recognizing that while I would love to have eaten all the chips and other junk food, my body would hopefully last longer in the long run for not having all that crap poured into it. Here with so much food coming in from the outside the variety is harder to ignore.

I am having a hard time deciphering the mood of the two guys that I have been cooking with. On the one hand I get the feeling of a change in acceptance, but at the same time recognize that Frank in particular seems bothered by my ability to keep myself busy. I am not overly worried about it.

I did ask Roger before the last commissary buy if I could use his hot pot on occasion and he said it was okay as long as he and Frank were not cooking anything. I sort of felt that the three of us were cooking together. I was a little puzzled by that statement. I have not asked for the pot, and just used the hot water out of the communal coffee pot to soak my rice. It would not work for the pasta.

Another problem is that most of the sauces and add-ins to a meal all come in cans too large for a single serving. Unless you are sharing with another inmate, the choice is to not use mushrooms, sauce etc. or to end up with too much. As an example, I used a whole four ounce can of mushrooms with my can of tuna and rice tonight. That really was too many mushrooms. I know, another one of those food issues that does not really amount to much in the overall scope of things.

I am going to try and retype the two-and-a-half pages the typewriter ate yesterday. That way one letter will actually be finished.

Well, the little engine that could, cannot any more tonight. I am tired and I am getting a headache. I am not sure why, but let me get this out to you and call it a night.

The ribbon is really nice looking when it works. I need to find a generic supply place and order a dozen. I would still use the carbon paper for the drafts, but the ribbon is definitely the way to go for final output.
  Media Review Guidelines.
I have finally gotten a copy of the "Media Review" guidelines. While they claim they are not reading individual letters that are sent, they do say while they encourage differing points of view in printed form, they will scan them to be sure that the articles do not contain any specific threats or directions that might interfere with the security of the prison.

For example, you can get Anarchy Publications, but specific articles talking about specific acts a prisoner should do to storm the administration building would be deemed unacceptable. Naked pictures are allowed provided they do not depict S&M, bestiality, etc.

As far as a limit to the number of articles that can be sent in a letter, they do say five articles is the limit, and that they should not be stapled together. The point seems to be that they do not want to be responsible for holding up a personal letter in order to properly review "Media" publications.

So one thing you could try, only if you find yourself with a bunch of free time and decide to print a bunch of blogs, is to put them in a separate envelope and mark the outside "For media review." That might blow their mind or not.

The rules call for a weekly meeting of the review committee and stuff is only forwarded to them if the mail room thinks it may not meet the standards. The bottom line is as long as you send in five or less pages (two and a half pages printed on both sides), there will be no problem. Mind you I have only had one note from mail room so far, so for now I do not see it as a major problem.

There is no mention as to acceptability of computer programming books and I might try to order one or two from Hamilton down the road. Once I get the appeal done, I would really like to get a basic programming book on Linux. But that is down the road.
I hate to admit it, I'd like to continue the pity party; but between the uplifting classical music and the thrill of seeing my words printed neatly on paper, in addition to the fact that someone who gives a damn about how I am doing will be reading this, well life is looking up a bit.

This upswing is subject to change at any moment. Mail call is only forty-five minutes away and I can still have my work dumped into the celestial bit bucket.

I notice that Rosie now has a blog and she seems to feel that she is far too famous to use any grammer (grammer not in the spell checker?) conventions.

I always feel a little bit of flutter whenever I read a story about blogs. I am hoping that maybe someone will mention Prison Pete. The downside to that would be the increase in traffic that would probably blow your mind.

I continue to toil in obscurity with the grateful knowledge that too much attention could blow a good thing. I am on a roll now, no problems so far.

From the "No wonder I am an idiot sometimes" department, of course grammer is not in the spellchecker; the word is "grammar."

Another case of thinking I am smarter than the machine.
  Pretty good writing?
The following was what I typed in last night after the typewriter burped all my hard work away. It would probably make a good post.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Life is a bitch and then there is technology. I just spent three hours typing my handwritten letter.

God, this is cruel and unusual punishment. I no longer wonder why you would be pissed off after typing one of my letters. Bad enough you had to put up with the whinny tone of most of my letters, but typing them out is surely pure agony. Having tortured myself, the typewriter decides to add to the mayhem and my agony by dumping all data in the memory. Two-and-a-half pages gone into the celestial bit bucket! So now what to do? I know, wait for mail call and see if I can get dumped on some more.

I am typing this directly into memory without printing. I am sitting on my bed feeling real sorry for myself. I was able to borrow a screwdriver and I opened up the beast hoping to find a loose chip. I did not see one but I pushed and shoved all the connections anyhow. Did I fix it? Who knows? It is only as fixed as the next time it dumps all my data. I could send you the scratch copies and see if you could scan them, but I think I will type them all again. I need the practice. At least this time I can type them from the typed copy. Maybe I will just lie down and read something.


Could be I am a little biased, but I think the above is pretty good writing. Certainly it is a much better description of the mood than the first paragraph I wrote today.
  Nothing Newsworthy about Al Sharpton.
I am a little behind in my reading of the Times. I did receive the papers for Thursday and Friday on Monday. The label for Friday's paper still showed the old expiration date. I am not sure what that date means anymore.

I was just reading the Monday and Tuesday papers. The funk I am in seems to be slowing me down in all areas. I was not going to even type this letter to you, but now that I have started it, and as long as the typewriter behaves, I am feeling a little better. That is what friends are for.

I have sent two separate Hamilton orders to Mom and Dad, and hopefully they have been sent on and I will be receiving them soon. Also, I hope that Dad did manage to get word to the Columbia Law students about the proper address for that Jailhouse Lawyers Manual.

Do you remember reading about a Supreme Court ruling about prisoner lawsuits? They made it easier to file Section 1983 claims. This might help me in the long run if I am forced to deal with the parole board.

It is great to have the Times. I was reading the article about Dan Rather and that reporter who recently committed suicide. The article mentioned the lack of any real news these days.

That is something I have written about before, but I had to laugh when I read that the Times is starting a new column called "Ink." The first story was on Al Sharpton's weight loss plan. Gag me.

This man is not even newsworthy on a regular basis, except maybe to point out how he has not held a real job in how many years? Now he is also making "sidelines!"
  My Cousin Died.
One advantage of typing at the tables is that the radio reception is much better. There is a row of glass at a forty-five degree angle at the top of the thirty foot cement block wall. That and the fact that I doubt the walls here are reinforced with steel like the cells at Beckley.

Lunch today was three large stuffed shells with tomato sauce and a side dish of spinach. It is one of the best meals they serve here. I will probably have my own tuna for dinner.

Yesterday I had crab meat salad for lunch, and chicken in honey mustard sauce for dinner. Both meals were from the canned food shelf in my locker. I just used the lemon juice for the crab and made two sandwiches, each with one slice of American cheese. For dinner, I also used one quarter of a slice of cheese on top of a Saltine cracker with a fork full of the chicken salad on each cracker.

So far, so good. I have just completed the cycle for page one of this letter. I entered the draft, printing as I went along. Proofed and made the corrections in edit mode, then printed the final copy. Once it was printed, I even deleted the file. Now with a clean memory, I am starting page two.

I received a package and letter separately from Mom and Dad on Friday. The letter had on one side a typed thank-you note my parents were sending to all the friends and relatives they visited on their recent trip down south.

My Mom actually wrote a note on the back side of the page informing me that one of my cousins, Tom, died on the operating table while having heart surgery. The number of relatives on Mom's side of the family that have died from heart-related disease is not a good sign.

This particular cousin actually lived in the Arlington, Virginia area. They were planning to drive down to the funeral. I have not talked to them in over ten days, and am going to wait to call them till they have gotten my last letter. Between Mom's deafness and the pact that they seem to have about not talking to me one at a time, phone calls tend not to be the best way to exchange information.
  Torturing myself.
Okay, it has not reset yet.

I spent three hours yesterday, Monday, torturing myself and dutifully typing my old letters into the memory. I do not know how you or the other readers did it. The whining, sniveling, and on top of that, the chicken scratch that I passed off as printing; thank you one and all. It will be interesting to see the change, for the better I hope, now that I am able to type my own letters.

After the memory dump yesterday, I managed to get a screwdriver, and opened up the typewriter case. I had hoped to find a loose connection or a chip that needed to be more firmly inserted into its socket. I do not know if my attempt to be sure all connections were proper will have any effect, but time will tell.

I am certainly going to be sure to print out the final copy of this page as soon as I fill it. No putting it aside while I type page two.

I have noticed that I am taking your style comments to heart. I typed a five page letter to my parents Sunday and found myself typing out all the numbers in words! I know I still will let a few slip by, but just send me a reminder once in a while and eventually it will sink in.

I look like hell and have not been sleeping all that well. The blanket and sheets are great and at this point it is not the physical aspects of my surroundings that are at fault. My brain is just not very much into relaxed mode. The legal standing of my case at this point is the seed of my sleeplessness.

I have still not heard back from the district court on the poor person motion and the last three letters to the Appeals Court have yet to be answered. Certainly the #1 problem of fighting a legal issue while incarcerated is the inability to have direct access to the proper tools and research. Add to that this being my last chance at freedom, and well there you have the reason for the majority of my stress.
Thursday, April 21, 2005
  Legal Rulings.
I will be working on a bunch of posts this weekend. Hmm, I was supposed to type the court case. Since it is now 9:30 PM I am not sure it is going to make it tonight. I will work on it over the weekend.

This does bring up one question (yeah, I should have quit at the end of the last paragraph). First a brief explanation. Once a court "publishes" a case, and other people use it, sometimes the original ruling is modified. This can be good or bad. A good way is they actually use the newer case to broaden the application of the older case; or negatively, they restrict the effectiveness of the case by saying some portions of it no longer apply.

I think you have found, and I have mentioned, that my federal case was sent for resentencing due to an appeal and several other federal appeals have since used my case to get relief for themselves. Ironic, since part of my double punishment problems was the lame excuse my lawyer in NY used that since my federal sentence was appealed and I needed to be resentenced, I was not actually sentenced any longer.

If you could figure out a way to search for the case number, also know as its cite, whenever it appears in the NY case law database and give me a list of those cases, then I could pull them out of the books we have. That is all we have in the law library. What I am asking you to do is actually called shepard and they print books that do it, but I do not have access to those books.

I am not sure WTF is going on. It is now 9:10 PM and I am just typing the draft of page three. The preceding page decided to do all kinds of strange stuff including paragraphs inserting themselves inside other paragraphs. Well, hopefully this page will go smoother.
  Media Review.
As far as I can tell the rules around here are enforced randomly and without too much reason.

As I understand incoming mail, they are not supposed to read incoming letters, but they do need to review printed matter for acceptability. I have requested the actual directive on "media review" to see what they approve of or disapprove of.

Of all your mailings, I have only received the message about no more than five pages of printed matter that one time.

Yes, I did get the blog letter. In the future, just put the date you send stuff to me along with the number of sheets and that way I will confirm receipt.

Thanks for checking the weight of my letter; I will be sure to put the extra postage on anything more than four pages.

I do not really need to see the IMDB movie reviews, although I did note that the person talking about Anchorman thought it was very funny. This proves that he or she is on same plane as the idiots in here.

I did get the Pipe Dreams schedule; thank you very much. YES, I DO KNOW YOU ARE THINKING OF ME OFTEN! I do think that a lot of the negative wave type stuff, me whining about you not doing "enough" or you being burdened by the flood of my requests, would be a lot less if it were not for the time lag of the US mail.

Yes, in the old days it was all there was and everyone realized that time sensitive stuff was bound to become a problem, but now since you have multiple communication options available, the slowest one, which is the one we are stuck with, tends to not be as expedient and the rest of your contacts happen more in "real time." Plus since I may indeed be sending two or three letters to your one, my otherwise simple requests pile up.

I think I should get back to making those "to do" lists; if nothing else it shows me clearly how many things I am asking you in any given letter. But enough off this; well almost. I state loud and clear that I am truly blessed by all your efforts and I apologize for all the times my requests tend to snowball into a whole mountain of to-dos for you.

One aside on you figuring out how to type the "cent" sign [Ed. Hold down the Alt key and type 0162 on the numeric keypad.] (see, I used the word so as to not confuse the OCR). One of the inmates here had a lawyer e-mail a brief to his wife. When she printed it out, all the words that ended with "'s" became "=s". It sounds like a bad translation of the font. One font's "=" is another's "'"?

So let me know about doing double-sided by first typing page one to four on the one side, then printing five to eight on opposite side.

I am assuming that I can use actual numbers for times, and following months for dates any other digits will be replaced by the proper alphabetic equivalent.

Okay, I have printed page two. It is now 8:40 PM. I turned in the seven books tonight and have sent the paperwork down to the package room to reduce the number of books they think I have.

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