* I have a new buddy here. He's a psychiatrist, a white-collar offender, who's actually pretty normal. That distinguishes him from all the other psychiatrists I've known who were successfully suicidal. We were recently discussing our lives at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, and I asked him what percentage of the folks he observed here everyday were crazy. Of course, his response was, "What do you mean by crazy?" So, I narrowed my question to what percentage needed to be medicated. He responded, "Easily 50%." That was about what I thought, but I failed to ask the obvious follow-up question regarding which half I fell into, as ignorance is still bliss. Now, I've written before that I thought the inmate population here was on average less crazy than the typical church congregation. With all due respect to the churches I know, that still seems about right. What?...I said "with all due respect."
* C. S. Lewis in his classic book Mere Christianity describes God's incarnate and transformative...
There are all kinds of prisons in this world. The worst are self-created. We can spend our time trying to forget or escape, or we can try to learn what the imprisonment is trying to teach us. If we let it, poetry, the deep and rich language of the soul, can often be an excellent teacher.
David Whyte is a truly gifted Irish poet. He's the author of 9 volumes of poetry, the latest entitled The Bell and The Blackbird. Whyte's poem "Sweet Darkness" reads as if written by someone who has spent some time imprisoned.
When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.
Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.
There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your home
The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Before coming to prison, I had what I felt like was a valid perspective on the criminal justice system in America. I perceived it to be fair, honest, and respectable. Now, after experiencing it closer, that perspective has been turned upside down. This reminds me of a story told by Kevin Dutton in his book Split-Second Persuasion.
The story goes like this: Back in time when there was speculation about the possible death of Osama bin Laden, British Prime Minister David Cameron received a letter in bid Laden's own handwriting just to prove he was still around. In the letter bin Laden had penned the following cryptogram:
Cameron was stumped as to its meaning, so he sent it to MI6, who sent it to MI5, who sent it to Scotland Yard and the SAS. Still nobody could decipher it. Finally in desperation it was sent to the CIA in America.
Minutes later the reply came through to No. 10 Downing Street. "Tell the Prime Minister to look at it upside down."
There's an 80/20 theory for any endeavor which depends upon volunteers for its success. The theory is that 80% of the needs will be fulfilled by 20% of the volunteers. I've seen the theory played out countless times in organizations dependent upon the talent, labor, and financial support of those whose commitment was voluntary. 80/20 is actually the best I've ever seen. Some might call it the 90/10 theory.
When the puppy program was instituted here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, each puppy was provided with a primary and secondary trainer along with a few volunteers. My primary trainer position is a full-time, grade 1 job paying $64 each month. It's supposed to be 160 hours per month, but it's much more. Now I'm not complaining about the time commitment, because it's the best job I've ever had, even though the pay is roughly equivalent to the cost of Freddy's monthly intake of Eukanuba dog food. We were promised an extra $32 per month bonus, but that unfortunately never materialized...
Freddy is supposed to know 13 commands by the time he's 6 months old. He knew them all before he reached 4 months in addition to 6 of the 12 commands to be learned from 6 to 10 months. Maybe I'm biased. No, I am biased. But he is one smart little dog with a gentle and loving personality. He's quite remarkable.
"Let's Go" commands him to walk right by my side on a loose leash. He shouldn't be pulling ahead, lagging behind, or sniffing the ground. He should match my speed and direction with his ear even with my leg. He can walk on either side, remaining on whatever side he starts. When proficient, he should do this anywhere despite any distraction or change in speed or direction.
So far, this was the most difficult command for Freddy. He refused to walk with me anywhere, keeping his nose to the ground, eating acorns, trash, dirt or sticks. If I tried to bend down and give him a treat, he would gobble it up then stop dead in his tracks. When we worked on the command, I would have to walk w...
It's time again for my Year In Review, aka Year End View, aka Rear End View, depending upon one's perspective. As I wrote such a review last year here, this second year now qualifies as a holiday tradition.
* As for my semi-active social life, there were 52 Dr. Pepper Nights on Thursday evening with my inmate buddy who left here on December 31st. He should have a short stay at a halfway house before spending the last 5 months of his sentence in home confinement. He's one of the many here who should have never served any prison time. In fact, his case should have been civil and not criminal. But he's used his time of incarceration to become better in many ways. He's a good man, talented musician, and ardent Trump supporter who predicted before anyone else that Trump would win the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. I proved yet again my pathetic political prognostication prowess by betting him a pint of Blue Bell ice cream that Trump would carry only the great state of West Virgi...