Prison Pete

Sunday, October 21, 2007
  Healthcare in Prison.
Dental Care?

One of my hopes is that I get out of prison before I lose all my teeth. We have two dentists here that do only fillings and extractions. If they cannot fill it, out it comes.

I had one of the molars in the upper left quadrant drilled and filled here several months back. At the time it was drilled, the tooth was not bothering me and did not appear to have any major problem. When the dentist was drilling the tooth it felt like he was using a jackhammer and removed a big chunk of tooth. As he filled it he told me that if the filling did not stay in the whole tooth would have to some out. Sure enough, the filling has fallen out, and I have now been waiting over a month to see the dentist again. Meanwhile I have lacerated my tongue quite a few times on the nice sharp edges of this unfilled tooth.

Yes, if I lose all my teeth the state does pay for dentures, but I hope I do not have to ever face that option.

Medical Care?

I certainly feel more positive about typing the word “care” after the word “medical” than I do after “dental.” I have received two very extensive surgeries in the last year. The first was a major cleaning out of my sinuses, and then in May I finally had my deviated septum fixed. Both of these operations were done at a major medical center by doctors not employed by the Department of Corrections.

The doctor who works here has a great bedside manner, and told me one of the reasons he took this job was to enable him to still treat his private patients, many of whom are without insurance and have limited incomes to pay medical bills.

The few times I have been treated by the Doc, he always takes the time to explain what he feels needs to be done, what drugs I need to take, and is open to any questions I might have.

About a month ago I had what I would consider to be a near death experience. It was around 6:00 PM and I was dozing on my bed. I was in that semiconscious state where I could hear the noise around me but was hoping to drift off rather than be fully awake. I was on top of the blankets and wearing my socks. I felt like my one foot was wet, but I did not wake up to investigate the cause of this sensation.

Eventually I woke up enough to look down at my foot to see what the problem was. At about the same time, an inmate two cubes over asked me what was wrong with my foot. I always wear white crew socks, and one sock was bright red. Yep, soaked in blood.

Now as I slowly became more aware, I sat up and noticed a sizable puddle of blood on the floor of my cube. I am talking about a foot in diameter, and it seemed to have some depth to it. In retrospect I wonder how many inmates walked by my cube and saw the pool of blood on the floor but did not alert the officer or attempt to wake me up. Had this happened while I was under the blankets, I am not sure what would have happened.

What had happened was a small vein "bubble" is very close to the surface on the top of my left foot. I must have banged it on the foot of my bed and it popped open. When I removed my sock, the blood shot out like a fountain. I immediately applied direct pressure and yelled out loud that I needed medical attention.

I was very concerned by the amount of blood on the floor, and was not about to walk anywhere. The first responder was not a medical person but a roving officer who had me wrap my foot in a towel and then put it in a plastic bag so that I would not get blood all over the place. The van does have a one piece plastic stretcher, but he had me walk to the van.

At this point I also had blood on both my hands and I was feeling somewhat lightheaded. By the time I arrived down at medical and the nurse unwrapped my foot, the bleeding had stopped. After washing off my foot and applying a gauze pad with some adhesive tape, I was set free to walk back up the hill to my dorm. At no point did the nurse take any vital signs. I guess the fact that I was still alive was good enough for her. Nor did she offer me any liquids to replace the blood I had lost.

The next morning I saw one of the doctors that covers when our regular doctor is out and he did not seem to feel this was any problem.

It is now four weeks later and I am going to sign up for sick call this week to see if I can get the regular doctor to take a look at it.

The following evening I celebrated my being alive with an extra large pasta and octopus salad complete with fresh tomatoes and green peppers from the vocational horticulture program garden that certain lucky inmates were able to pick from. They sell the vegetables to us other inmates that do not have the access to the garden. In addition to the fresh tomatoes, I added some chopped up sharp cheddar cheese, a can of mushrooms, a little oregano and garlic powder and boy was it good!

More on medical and dental “care” to follow.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
The way shake-downs are done at my current location is that several officers go through each and every locker searching for any items that might be in an inmate's possession that should not be.

Now aside from the obvious no-no's, homemade weapons and the like, little things that one might have acquired along the way would also be tossed out. Like the boxes from the oatmeal and other food products that become handy organizers for the smaller items in our lockers.

Perhaps the quantity of an item might by checked and any excesses taken away. One might have and lose some extra underwear, one too many pair of shorts, too many books or magazines.

In my case although I have very little illegal items, the quantity of books and magazines could be the area I would suffer the losses in.


It is now day 11 and still my new keyboard has not been released from the package room. I am not sure what the holdup is. I had asked one of the officers to check with the package officer on Wednesday, and the response he received was that she "might get to it today." Well that day and five more have passed and still no keyboard.

The gods of inmate happiness were certainly smiling down on me these last three days. I was able to spend seventeen hours working on the database project. I am digging around the disk looking for any documentation that will help me understand the whole method/property/class thing that I need to use as part of the Lotus Script.

I was able to get just one thing to work today by checking out one of the sample projects that were included with the original Approach. I needed to be able to have the script read a value from one of the forms. Now only a couple hundred class, events, methods and properties to check out.

Unfortunately the help file for the Approach/LotusScript seems to be missing. Maybe my editor can do one of his shrink 4-to-a-page things and print them off the internet?

According to the help file I do have, the subjects I am looking for are Approach Classes, Events, Methods and Properties. If that is something that exists on the web and can be printed without too much trouble, great. If not, is there a reference book that contains this information? I would need a phone number and catalog number to place an order. While on the subject, does the same type of reference exist for the Access VBA Classes?

I have a basic Access reference book and Access 2002 Desktop Developer's Handbook, but neither have the listing to the classes etc. Since I have limited access to a computer, it would be a great help to have a printed resource to study. Just another one of those things that is not a problem for those of you on the outside world.

The plan is still to rewrite the project in Access, but for now we are using the work I have done in Lotus Approach. The one little "hook" I found today enabled me to remove nineteen "buttons" off the main screen, each one generated a different day/time count sheet and replace it with one drop down list to pick the day, and 5 buttons for the different times of the count.

In the background I was able to eliminate all the macros that were attached to those now deleted buttons. Where each of the reports has its own background script module, I now only need one for each time, 6 AM, 11 AM, 3 PM and 5:30 PM, and with additional documentation, I could easily condense that down to just one little procedure for all the reports.

I know what needs to be done; I just need the damn owner's manual for using all the tools these current databases products provide. This probably makes no sense to any of you readers that do not work designing databases.

To put this all into prospective, while designing custom database systems was what I did for a living, the software I was using at the time was all text/DOS based. I was just starting to look into migrating to the Windows environment. What a difference a dozen years makes in the computer field.
Friday, October 19, 2007
  You Wanted Real...
Friday night I had gone to bed earlier than usual. I was looking forward to rising before 7:00 AM Saturday to go work on the database project. On weekend nights, the lights go off in the dorm area at 10:00 PM, but the Rec area is open till 2:00 AM. Weeknights it is 11:30 PM bedtime for all inmates.

I was blissfully off in dreamland when I was awakened by the sound of some sort of physical activity taking place between two or more inmates. As I sat up in bed, and looked over the cube divider, sure enough diagonally across the dorm several inmates appeared to be attacking one inmate who was pinned in his cube. Several other inmates had popped their heads up by this time. Since the officer was not in the dorm area at this time, there were some cheers of encouragement. Just like one might hear when the inmates are watching the professional boxing matches on television.

No inmate made any attempt to stop the attackers. This falls under one of the unwritten rules: one does not attempt any peacemaking. The officer might have been aware that something was going on as when he walked back into the dorm there were plenty of inmates sitting up or standing in their cubes looking around to see who was doing what to whom. The officer was in and out of the dorm about three times over a half hour period, and each time he would step out, the dorm door was closed and the attackers would start again. One of the last assaults involved the swinging of padlocks placed inside socks.

At some undefined point the attacks stopped. Despite the rough treatment the one inmate received, he never brought any attention to himself as far as the officer was concerned.

I spent most of Saturday away from the dorm. I was working on the mess hall computer from 7:00 AM until noon, and then went directly up to the chapel for the Protestant worship service.

When I returned to the dorm around 4:00 PM, the victim was no longer in the dorm. Some of the inmates were talking about the attack and said the victim had at least two golf ball size lumps on his head. The attack was allegedly in retaliation for some locker stealing. One inmate commented that the inmate who received the beating was not even the one doing the stealing.

They all had positive things to say about the victim not giving up any names of the inmates that attacked him.

Usually when an inmate suffers a non-accidental injury, the rest of the inmates are subject to upper body searches for possible incriminating marks that would show one was a participant in the fight. Each inmate reports to his cube and removes his shirt. An officer checks the upper body, hands and mouth area for any possible damage. This procedure was not done this time.

As mentioned recently some physical altercation is expected, it is unusual for an occurrence where only one inmate is "caught" and he obviously is on the losing end of a battle not to cause some sort of reaction from the staff. Since this was a three day weekend, it is quite likely that our entire dorm will be subject to a shake-down on Tuesday morning.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
  Singing the Praises of Alicia Keys.
One pair of individuals has taken a real liking to me for my ability (thanks to both Mom and Dad, for paying for the daily subscription to the New York Times, and the editor for reproducing the photos) to obtain some photos of Alicia Keys.

There happened to be a nice review of her career up to this point (she is only 26) in a Sunday New York Times. When I shared the article with two other inmates, they both wanted the pictures of Alicia. One was of her sitting on a couch in her mother's home; the other a still from her part in "Smoking Aces".

At this point, while I have received two sets of the photos, one of the photos is on my cube wall. The one inmate only has the "Smoking Aces" photo, though I noticed the other day they are currently sharing the posed shot of her sitting on the couch.

There was a question from my editor as to who Alicia Keys was. This goes to show he missed the story on the front page of the Arts section that had the story. While I have not had a working radio for several months, and the one station I could get when it did work did not play Ms. Keys' music, I had originally heard her back in my days at Club Fed. She had a top ten video on BET, and it was not your typical rap video.

Alicia is a gifted keyboard player and song writer, who for a while started doing more mainstream type compositions, but from what I read in the article is back to doing some really unique music. She has her own recording studio somewhere on Long Island. Amazingly I was able to put my hands on the article which is among the way too many clipped articles I have collected over the last three years or so of NY Times reading. Even though I tossed out several hundred articles when I was transferred here eighteen months ago, and have recently tried to be more selective in what I keep, it is still way too much paper.

The article is titled, "A Neo-Soul Star as She Is: Nurturing her Inner Rebel". That title alone certainly catches my attention. The article quotes Alicia Keys as saying her next album due for release on November 13, "As I Am", "'Rebellious' at every opportunity." "I was really adamant about doing things that were not expected," she said. I guess this means she has not shown up a various clubs in a state other than sober, had her picture taken as she exits a car in a way that proves she was not wearing any underwear, or resorted to being on national television and performing with malfunctioning wardrobe.

No, her latest album according to the Times, "While some of its songs reaffirm her connection to 1960s and '70s soul, others lean closer to rock -- from Beatles to U2 -- than she has before."

Although this may not sound the way I want it to, I am glad to see that the rich history of Black music in this county is not solely being represented at this time by the rap and hip-hop community.

Since we do not have BET on our televisions and her music is not likely to be played on the one radio station I can receive, I wonder if this latest album will be issued on cassette. That is the only way I will be able to hear it. If not, I will be forced to read the printed reviews and imagine the sounds, just like I do with most of the articles in the Arts Section. And she is only twenty six. That is just some of the reasons I have her picture on my cube wall. She also happens to be quite pretty. Plus it is a subtle way to show my fellow white inmates that I can appreciate the talents of a member of a different race.

Speaking of the rich history of black music, I am currently reading "Louis' children: American Jazz Singers." It is a great book and clearly documents the paths that were not easy, that many musicians have taken all in the name of art, without a guarantee of financial security. It seems such a far cry from today's rap and hip-hop artist. But I have already said that once.

This all started while I was trying to explain the high value us inmates place on things, that might not even be a blip on the radar of some of you blog readers. On this case we are talking about the value of a couple, okay three, hopefully soon to arrive 8x10 enlargements of Alicia Keys' picture from a New York times article that no one here would have ever seen if not for me receiving the Times every day, thanks again Mom and Dad, and then the generous time and paper donation from my editor to send me copies, and hopefully the enlargements.

This issue gave rise to another way I thought I could practice a random act of kindness is if I was to obtain an address for Ms. Keys, 1 could send a letter that might just generate a response that I could then share with the other two inmates that are such fans of Ms. Keys.

Yes I said that was relating to two other inmates, what about the other forty-seven.

There are two other groups that have been beating a path to my cube. We have recently started some college classes, with instructors coming from one of the colleges in the area, and leading some of the introductory classes in business, English and psychology. My involvement has ranged from several hours of individual attention with three of the inmates taking the writing class to typing the homework for several others. Speaking of typing, I have been standing up and typing this entire post since around 5:00 PM and it is now six pages and three and a half hours later.

The other group of inmates has been those seeking assistance dealing with the labyrinth of rules, regulations, and the tangled mess they have found themselves in. While it would be yet another rule violation if I were to offer and "legal" assistance, I certainly am able to write out letters and memos to staff to begin to unravel the knots they have tied themselves into. In some cases I am also able to explain there is not much they can do at this point but just move on down the path and know better days are coming.

Last night I attended a special six-week seminar sponsored by Contemplative Outreach of the Adirondack Region. This is another attempt to see if I can connect with the outside world, in that this group is apparently a worldwide organization with chapters in many countries. They specifically are leading us in the way of contemplative prayer. It is done by sitting silently for up to twenty minutes at a time and just allowing the Holy Spirit to minister to us. As we were practicing this last night in the chapel I realized how hard it is to be able to sit in a prison setting where you do not have the luxury of a closed door and trust those around you not to attack you.

An inmate mentioned he wanted to learn how to play the keyboard. I asked if he wanted to learn how to read music and how much effort was he willing to put in, and he said whatever way you want to teach me, that is how I will learn. Meanwhile, my new keyboard with the six track sequencer arrived here last Friday and it still has not made it out of the package room and into my cube. The plan is that once I get my new keyboard, and donate my old one to the chapel, the chaplain will then write a special pass so that this inmate can take the keyboard back to his dorm to practice. Since we are not in the same dorm, and no one can go and visit someone in another dorm, we will be able to arrange a time to meet together up in the chapel. This could be lots of fun.

My latest recommendations for additional equipment for the chapel sound system were approved by the administration, and within the next few days we should be the proud owners of some new Shure PG58 Microphones, and a dual wireless lapel mike system. Over the last year, between funds provided both from regular prison budget, and inmate donations, we have spent over $750 upgrading the equipment. All of which was done based on my recommendations.

Due to the work schedule of the officer that I have been working with on the database, I have not had a chance to do any work in the last two weeks. I am scheduled to get some quality time this weekend and will get my first real crack at using Access as opposed to Approach, the Lotus product.

I am going to wrap this up now and catch a quick shower before 10:00 and will use this wild, rambling narrative to delve even deeper in to the happenings of prison life.

Coming soon, gays in prison, medical care, how much longer will my tooth with the missing filling go untreated (one month so far). Why prison food is bad for you, and why are there so many black Jews in prison.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
  Home Sweet Home.
I am lucky to have one of the two best cubes in the dorm. Out of 50 cubes (ten of which contain the double bunk bed) there are four rows of cubes. The back row, which has four single cubes and the ten double bunks. The single cubes in this row are found at each end, and two more in the middle of the row, where there is the aisle for the fire door.

While it is true that each of the corners has windows on the side and back edge of the cube, they also have a double bunk neighbor on their other side. Since the cube walls are only four feet high and the top bunk is five feet, there is no privacy at all in these corner cubes. Plus since the double bunks usually contain those inmates suffering punishment for some rule infraction, you can see why even with the extra widows they are not all that great.

The other two corner cubes are on the opposite wall and while this wall is also the wall for our Rec area, there are windows for two and a half cubes at each end. Since the middle two rows have an aisle at each end, they do not have any direct access to windows.

If you are following all this and I have successfully painted an accurate word picture, now you may see what a prime location my little piece of real estate is. I have some relative privacy when lying in my bunk as long as my nearby neighbors are lying down too they cannot see into my cube. With the aisle from the center row directly in front of me, this and the other corner cube are the two best.

Now those of you how are thinking ahead probably already see where this is going.

There are sixty inmates living in this dorm. With a few rare exceptions, everyone would like to have their own cube, and furthermore why not have the cube with windows on two sides. All it would take is for an unlucky occupant of the prime corner cubes to incur some sort of rule infraction and all of a sudden the corner cube has a vacancy sign posted.

Yes it is true if you manage to have some ill wind blow upon the occupant of the corner cube, you might not be the one to get it, but for some inmates as long as you get the current occupant out, that is good enough.

On the personal side, me, my typing, my three foot long keyboard and lots of books and other property would have a tough time existing in a double bunk cube.

Just one more point on the double cubes: the person on the top bunk may not find it necessary to remove his boots or sneakers before climbing up on his bunk and will often sit on his bunk with his feet hanging over the side. There is no way to have your feet over the front or back of the bunk. And the one side is up against the cube wall, which is the air rights of your neighbor.

In my case, one little infraction and all of a sudden I would be forced to eat three meals a day in the mess hall, lose the ability to move around in my cube without considering how to hit two bodies in a space already too small for one, and never have the peace to practice the keyboard.

For example, some inmate wanting to see me move could toss a can top under my locker and drop an anonymous note and all of a sudden my cube is searched, the can top found, and out I go.

Gangs, did someone says gangs? Yes they exist here. As a matter of fact one of the prime methods for inhibiting gang activity is to keep the inmate population in a constant state of motion. We have a weekly turnover here of twenty to thirty inmates a week. This is out of a total population of 840 inmates. In addition to inmates arriving and departing the compound, we have movements between dorms. I would say that les than one third of the inmates in this dorm have been here been here as long (or longer) than the eighteen months I have accrued.

Allegedly, one of the times I was attacked in my cube while I was asleep was part of a gang initiation right. If it was not for my hard head I would have suffered some serious physical damage. The logic of proving you are a good candidate for a gang by attacking a sleeping victim while the dorm is in relative darkness and the officer is not in the immediate vicinity escapes me.

What a difference a few months makes and some turnover of both inmates and staff. At this point, all the officers that were working in this dorm on a regular basis over the last eighteen months have left for other posts. That is why one cannot place too much importance on any one officer. If you are known to be a favorite of a particular officer, when he leaves often that is the cue for some sort of retaliation for being too close to "the man".
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
  Sitting by the computer, waiting for the blogs to jump.
It is Thursday here, and it has been over a week since I sent the "Short Answer" blog post. After receiving 3 letters written in less than 7 days from my editor, silence. True it has only been less than eight days since I have heard from him it now seems like months.

That is a very large part of what prison life is about. Contact with the outside (and caring) world. The unreality of a prisoner's life leaves one thirsting for any sustenance from the real world. But alas as much as I hunger, those of you on the outside want to feed off my life. Now I fully understand, and obviously appreciate, your attention. Without it there would be no blog. Which of us does not slow down and look at the crash sight along the road? Yet, if we are involved in the crash we are easily pissed off by all the gawkers.

They just called our dorm for chow, and as usual I am not attending the repast. Tonight's gastronomical delight is BBQ Chicken .Cubes served over rice. Desert is a 4 oz. cup of raspberry sherbet. I have already had my dinner meal at lunch time today. I had the deluxe version of pasta and octopus, which in this case included a four ounce can of sliced mushrooms, about half a can of tomato paste, one chopped jalapeno pepper and one third pound of pasta

I am enjoying somewhat of a golden boy moment in my dorm. Unfortunately that has not transferred over to two other major area of my life here at Camp Run-a-Muk. The reason things are looking so nice in the dorm area is for some reason several divergent inmate groups all have been able to tap into me for support in some way. At the risk of telling on myself, one area is the popcorn concession.

I recently posted my "grocery list" from my bi-weekly trip to the commissary. Patrick suffered some mild abuse from AD for commenting on that post. My usual popcorn consumption is one 3.5 ounce (unpopped weight) a day. The articles about how the artificial flavoring used in most microwave can cause some irritation of the lungs, even eating as little as one bag a day has found me cutting my intake in about half.

Oh yeah, concession. While I pay twenty-three cents for each bag, my fellow inmates are willing to donate a forty-one cent stamp (selling anything to another inmate is a gross violation of the rules I live under) toward my mailing fund. I know they post a copy of the package list on the NYS DOC website but I was wondering if they also post a copy of the rules we are subject to? If not that will be something I will enlighten my readers on as we go along.

Meanwhile while violating the rules is not a question of when you might violate them, but if the powers that be will decide to look upon an inmate and issue him a ticket. It is next to impossible to go through a day here and not violate a few rules. For example the simple act of me doing the popcorn exchange thing could be looked at as a violation of the following rules: 113.14 - An inmate shall not purchase, sell, loan, give or exchange a personally owned article without authorization.

Maybe this was not such a great example, but if a real live inmate as opposed to Prison Pete were to engage in any of the above actions, which could include "lending" a fellow inmate a can of tomato sauce till the next time he goes to the store, or even practice a random act of kindness and give a new arrival a Ramen Noodle soup (cost 10¢) he could find himself suffering one or more of the following punishments:

1. Loss of recreation privileges - This would mean that an inmate must stay in his six by ten foot cube at all times with the exception of going to meals, school and work assignments. It should: be noted that one result of being on loss of recreation is being moved to the double bunk cube so you now share this 6x10 space with another inmate that might also be on loss. Since the microwave and stove top are considered recreation activities-, you are not allowed to use either of those, nor the toaster. The length of time this punishment is in effect can vary from an average two to four weeks.

2. Loss of commissary privileges - This is usually the second of the basic trinity of punishment that a bad boy inmate will receive. In addition to the above, the inmate on loss of commissary is limited to purchasing some really basic items. Soap, toothpaste, shampoo and stamps and writing supplies.

3. And yes, since I did say trinity, the third punishment is loss of packages. This means that not only can you not visit commissary to buy any edible food items, you cannot have any sent in. Hopefully there is a link to the website showing the package list, but basically an inmate is allowed to receive up to 35 pounds of sealed food items each month. Since one of the other rules of the prison system is that if you owe two or more fines or surcharges they can take 100% of all incoming funds and 80% of your prison earnings (average between $10.00 to $20.00 per month at 100%) packages are the only way for some inmates to receive even the most basic of supplies. Shampoo, deodorant, soap and okay a treat or two.

Hopefully your eyes are not totally glazed over, but as part and parcel of divulging more intimate parts of prison life it is important you understand the domino effect one tiny misstep might have.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
  So you want to know what it is like to live in prison?
I received your letter today along with the comments from AD and David. I certainly agree that the blog has been lacking in excitement of late.

It is funny how individualistic comments can become. One of my newer pen pals mentioned that while there are some questions that he may have, he did not want to become “just another voyeuristic hanger-on.” Then comes AD's comment and bingo, he wants to live vicariously through my experiences.

Personally I find parts of Jons Jail Journal short on the reality of prison life. Talk is very cheap in prison. And even among "friends" a wrong word spoken on a bad day and fists start flying.

The last nighttime brawl we had in our dorm was between two neighbors and friends. I am not sure what started the trouble but after one inmate jumped over the cube wall to start beating on his erstwhile friend on and off over a fifteen minute period, the officer finally caught wind of it and the two were carted off to the sergeant’s office for interrogation.

The bottom line was the two combatants ended up not going into the special housing unit but were simply moved to two separate dorms.

So for Jon to allege that he can talk shit to other inmates and not be shanked or have his nose flattened, he either has one hell of a ring of protection around him or he is full of bull.

Now I do not want to start a pissing contest over which prison blog is more real. Part of my hope for the blog was to enable me to speak my mind and vent without suffering any physical repercussions if I made some of the same statements to my fellow inmates here at Camp Run-A-Muk. I also pride myself in not using the local dialect to express myself in the blog.

Do you want to know what it is like to live in prison?

How many readers of this blog go to bed each night wondering if any of the inmates that have just moved into this dorm will decide they can prove how tough they are by swinging a “lock in a sock” at you while you are asleep?

How about the fear that someone will decide you are to be the third inmate in this dorm to have his bunk set on fire. We are now tied at one and one. One cube fire started while the cube was empty and one while the inmate was asleep on his bunk.

At the time of the second fire, the superintendent took me and another inmate aside and told us to pass the word that he was not going to tolerate any more fires. He mentioned he could understand an occasional physical altercation now and then but the fires had better stop or else.

While hard information is tough to come by and rumors are full of inconsistencies, the physical damage done to some inmates this year has include several hospitalizations, and at least one or two spent time in an intensive care unit.

The inmates who have been seriously injured have had various criminal backgrounds. Most fights are spur of the moment type affairs. Very few are planned over a period of days. Most inmates just do not have that long an attention span.

I do not know how much you heard, but a penitentiary near us was locked down for over a week a little while back and tear gas was used twice within the week on the Rec yard there.

I am not saying any of this to illicit a pity party. This is just what my reality is. Talking about it makes it more real and makes me less able to control my day to day emotional involvement with the chaos that exists here.

I spoke to one of the deputy superintendents today about my newspaper delivery problems. He was puzzled that I should have any problems, as he said "it is all the news that is fit to print." His first comment when I mentioned that I received the paper was, “Boy that is expensive.”

When I mentioned I still had not received last Sunday's paper he agreed that it was not right. Today I did get last Tuesday and Wednesday's papers. But still not Sunday's.

Ironically they misdelivered a Wall Street Journal on Friday to our dorm and the date of the paper was Friday. Same day service! The question is: am I being singled out for delayed delivery? It is incompetence? Who will I piss off by now pressing the issue?

There are no unrelated issues in prison. Something as inconsequential as telling one inmate you do not have any extra popcorn to sell, but then giving one of the other inmates who has done favors for you in the past your last bag till you go to the store could very well be the start of something ugly.

I am not complaining about the comments on the blog. I take them to heart. The problem is that given the interdependency of the prison world it is really hard to know which things I write that may cause me problems down the road. And what those problems may be.

But in a never-ending quest to satisfy the thirst for the goings-on behind the bars and razor wire, stay tuned, lets see what I can come up with.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
  Transported up the mountain of happiness.
Your letter arrived at 3:00 today but as I ripped open the envelope, they called the move for music practice up at the chapel. I just about read the "Dear ..," and noticed the graphics of the last page to know you found something about the keyboard. I put the letter back info the envelope and stuck if under my mattress where if patiently awaited my return.

I had a great music rehearsal working with a younger inmate who plays the guitar but cannot read music at all so he plays the chords without being able to get any melody or timing information from the music. Everything is as he has heard it before. We were singing a song familiar to him, but new to me and at several points in the song we were singing in harmony. This was not on purpose, but due to the fact that what he was singing was a more linear version of the song based mostly on the chords he was playing.

As I "sight-sung" the words based on the melody line printed all of a sudden there was harmony. I tried to explain this to him without sounding too judgmental and comment that it was a good thing as our voices tended to complement each other.

So at 5:00 I left the chapel and came back to the dorm to read your letter. As usual, I started at the beginning and read all the way through. Okay I could not swear to the fact that I did not peek at the keyboard page first but I do not think I did.

After reading your letter and then the comments, well I was lifted up and transported up the mountain of happiness. Boy did I need that. Not to take anything away from the power of your letters, but when I finally reached the email from a pen pal I had not heard from in way too long well that put me right up there on the top of the mountain.

I will hopefully stay energized all weekend and be able to type plenty of posts for the blog.

The officer I am working for on the computer is off Saturday and Sunday, so other than my four hours of church and practice on Saturday, and the hour and a half for the Catholic mass on Sunday I will put the bulk of the remaining time to typing.

I was going to type this out and also save if then send you how I would have edified it but once I am in the memory mode I can not go back and correct anything on the previous line like I would like to. If I do not use the memory, I can go back up a line or two and make minor corrections.

Let me leave this subject for a moment and get back to my day.

After absorbing all the positive vibes in your letter, the blog comments, and the keyboard info, I was on cloud nine. This can be a tenuous position in prison since falling off the cloud usually leaves one with a really hard landing.

Next I decided to place a call to Mom and Dad and see how they felt about buying the new keyboard. They agreed. They asked what I would do with the keyboard I now have and I suggested I could donate it to the chapel or send it home to them. They thought it would be a good idea to give it to the chapel. Not only will I now be getting a keyboard with a 6 track sequencer. The model I now have has only a two track sequencer.

The first time I called home, there was no answer. I was so wound up; I ended up blowing a couple weeks of healthy eating in one little meal.

I started with a round 20 oz. size Rubbermaid bowl. On the bottom of the bowl I put three halves of English muffin, cut in quarters to fit the bottom of the bowl. What happened to the fourth half? It got smeared with some margarine and then sprinkled with garlic powder and devoured in much haste. Yum. Yum.

I should probably mention that I ended up spreading each of the quartered muffin pieces with margarine and then sprinkled them with the garlic powder. Yes, it would have been smarter to put the margarine on before I cut them up but I can not always be thinking of the best way to do things.

Next I chopped half of the 8 ounce block of sharp cheddar cheese into thin pieces, and at least three ounces of a pepperoni stick. It is a five ounce stick and through some miracle of self control I did not just eat the entire five ounces.

I just noticed I forgot to mention that the English muffin was toasted first.

Now the assembly of the meal. You have the toasted, margarined and garlic powdered English muffin quarters on the bottom of the bowl. I poured about half a can of tomato sauce over the muffins, and then added one four-ounce can of mushrooms.

Next came the pepperoni, exquisitely cut using my trusty plastic knife. I had to break out a new knife as they do lose their sharpness after a while.

Another one of those facts the average Joe might not notice. We purchase our "silverware" in a box of eight place settings. Each setting consists of a fork, teaspoon, and knife. These utensils are not the even the high quality plastic style that seem too good to throw out. These are the ones most people would not think twice about tossing out after a single use.

Although I pay wholesale for my utensils, I do wash them after each use. Most times after many uses the forks will lose a tine as I mix up some tuna salad, or the knife will break in half while I dig out some peanut butter for a sandwich.

Meanwhile, having spread out the pepperoni over all the above mentioned ingredients, I then added the four ounces of cheddar cheese. It was heated, uncovered in the microwave on 60% power for four minutes. Let sit for two or three minutes; rushing in can lead to a burnt tongue, and then dig in.

I could certainly devour a similar bowl of items each and every day, but good thing I have a modicum of self control. And if you believe that last sentence, I have some the title to a certain little bridge spanning the East River in NYC that I could sell you.

Having stuffed myself I then called home again and this time reached my Mom and Dad.

Tonight the waiting starts. When will the keyboard arrive (and how long will it take the package room to release it to me). When will the long awaited, and now promised pen pal letter arrive? And will those that asked for my address follow through with a letter? Stay tuned for further developments.

In the meantime I have plenty of other doings to write about and that is what will be happening this weekend. If all goes well, this is just the start of a deluge of thoughts, big, small and probably a few inane ones too.

I have just fished my laundry out of the dryer and have nice clean sheets for the bed tonight.

I was just going through my files to find my file of movie reviews, and have not found it, but did find the envelope that contains my bi-weekly commissary receipts. The plasticware mentioned above cost me 44¢ a box.

Let me dive back into my locker and see if I can find the movie review file. The late movie tonight is Lucky You.

I found the review and even the full page movie poster in the Sunday NY Times Summer Movie section from May 6, 2007.
Monday, October 01, 2007
Hello again. I was reading through the latest PC magazine, it and Monday's NY Times were my only mail today, and they had an article about using Linux. Apparently they have decided to begin some minor support for it, such as include a column for user questions.

They listed several free packages, one being Rosegarden, a music recording and editing program. The website is rosegardenmusic.com. Could you check out the site and send me any product description they might have? I am specifically interested in the capabilities it might have as a music sequencer. This is only the ability to edit MIDI files.

The difference between a sequencer and a sampler is that the sampler would deal with actual sound files, while a sequencer is more like a player piano, with the sequencer being the way the piano rolls are created. The most useful interface would be if the software would convert MDI file into graphic music notation.

I am confusing you? Feel free to simply disregard this entirely. I will not be insulted at all.

Here is my overall thought. I convince the powers that be to allow the chapel to load one of the older PC's with Linux and this Rosegarden software. The system would not have any other software on it or even be attached to a printer. That way the computer would be limited to holding MIDI files.

I would be able to enter a hymn into my keyboard, then bring my instrument up to the chapel, upload the song, edit it for any errors and then build a library of songs on the computer.

The basic midi standard allows for 16 different tracks to make up one song. Although my keyboard can only play 32 different notes at one time, higher priced units have 64-note polyphony. Visually what you would see on the monitor would be multiple staffs, like the Conductor's copy of a score.

Each of the 16 parts would be a different instrument. A simple example, would be how most of the old standard hymns have four basic parts; soprano, alto, tenor and bass. You night have the soprano, (melody line) played by a trumpet sound, the alto by a trombone, the tenor by cello, and the bass by organ.

The software probably has lots of features we would not need but since it is free it does not matter. You efforts would not be totally wasted as I think you would be able to have lots of fun with this type of software.

I am hopefully going to increase my writing output and also will be tossing out a few questions for you. Instead of putting things on the to-do pile I am going to move them out so to speak. As always, it is left to your own choosing as to which, if any of my questions/request you decide to deal with.

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