While I enjoy and appreciate the company of many people, I can count only a limited number of deep, soul searching conversations I've had in my life. I can be a decent listener, even empathetic in a pinch, but often the words I need to express much depth simply don't come out when I need them. However writing comes easier. In the written word I can organize and express my thoughts in ways that seem more linear than circular. The words make more sense, at least to me.
In that way, writing this blog has been the product of soul searching: admitting defeat and claiming victory, convicting and forgiving myself and others, acknowledging pain and loss and being seized by joy. I've written myself out of anger, hurt, abandonment and out of deep and dark funks.
From the beginning of this writing experience, I've sensed that I was not alone in my need for introspection and direction. It's my hope that in some small way, I've positively impacted those who read this. If I'm anything of a writer thou...
* I was called back yet again for an encore of my Spanish language singing in the Catholic service here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp. Except this time, instead of a solo, it was an unexpected duet with another inmate. Even the band was surprised that he decided to sing with me. He's a good man who unfortunately can't sing a lick. He was off key, both sharp and flat at various times, and had no rhythm. But he more than overcame those limitations by singing really loudly in my ear. Apparently the Catholics will let anyone sing. Oh, wait...
* I've heard various writers explain the difference between happiness and joy, but none better than David Brooks in his latest book The Second Mountain. Brooks writes "We can create happiness, but we are seized by joy...Happiness tends to be individual; we measure it by asking, 'Are you happy?' Joy tends to be self transcending. Happiness is something you pursue; joy is something that rises up unexpectedly and sweeps over you. Happiness comes from...
If you're going to spend 48 months in Federal Prison, which I can't recommend to anyone who's not a jerk, you might as well try to learn something. So what have I learned at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp since my unceremonious arrival in August, 2015?
1. Patience: Nothing, other than punishment, happens here when it should by any normal "free world" standard. How long does it take to fix a urinal? That sounds like the opening line of a joke. So far, it's about 9 months.
2. Gratitude: Going to prison has been not unlike attending my own funeral. Thankfully, I had more friends show up than I expected, but they weren't exactly the ones I thought would be here for me. It's been profoundly enlightening to see who signed the Guest Book and who didn't.
3. Skepticism: The federal criminal justice system, particularly the Bureau of Prisons, cannot be trusted.
4. Humility: As bad as it was here financially at times, I found it impossible to ask for money for commissary expenses. Nevertheless, perc...
I recently had an inmate explain to me how banks loan money. He couldn't have been more wrong, and I should have just let it go. But instead I stepped off into the tar pit. When I tried to explain where he had gotten a little off track, he replied, "Well, you know what you know, and I know what I know." Perceptive comment? Probably not.
Research indicates that when we are ignorant about something, let's say something like climate change, immigration, religion, criminal justice or banking, we still self-assess ourselves as competent . It's called the Dunning-Kruger Effect, named after the researchers who identified the concept.
This research begins to make sense when I consider it because, with any topic, I'm evaluating my ignorance about that topic with the same ignorance I used to come up with my ignorance in the first place. My ignorance feeds my confidence, which only feeds my ignorance, which feeds my...you get the point...hopefully...unless you're...
If you have been recently watching Fox News, which I don't and I pray you don't, I'm told you heard Senators Tom Cotton (R-AK) and John Kennedy (R-LA) whining to Tucker Carlson and anyone else who would listen about the hundreds of murderers and rapists released from federal prisons into the neighborhoods of America in late July by the First Step Act. I don't know if they're ignorant or just intentionally twisting the facts, but I guess their capacities or motives are irrelevant. The facts are they're wrong. At this time, Federal prisoners have been released under the FSA for only 1 of 3 reasons.
1. Existing law has always allowed inmates to earn 54 days of Good Time Credits for each year of their sentence during which they exhibit exemplary behavior. However, the Bureau of Prisons, in it's limited wisdom, has calculated 54 days to mean only 47 days. In the FSA, Congress told the BOP to fix its faulty math. The BOP delayed this fix for 7 months, but on July 19th finally started giving i...
One of the best guys I know here, actually one of the best guys I've ever known, is my buddy Bounce. He has that Yard Name, aka Nickname, because he walks with a slight limp, a result of having cerebral palsy at birth. I still remember when we met him, and he said I could call him Bounce. Finally, after almost 4 years, it occurred to me to ask him if he liked being calling that. He replied, "Not really. I just picked it up in prison and it stuck." So now I have to try not to call him that, which is really annoying.
I've written about yard names before, but there are some here that are nowhere near politically correct. They just ain't right, but are readily accepted by the person. With these names it's typical to hear, "Hi, I'm _____," often to where nobody knows his real name. A few examples include the following:
Simple Paul (Mentally challenged)
Osama Buck Laden (Muslim with big teeth)
Tourette's (Self explanatory)