It’s been 2 weeks and I’m over the disappointment but still a bit frustrated. At the Defy graduation and business pitch competition on the 20th I not only didn’t win, or make it to the final round, I didn’t even make it past the first round. In the first round we were split into 10 groups with 4 competitors in each group and 3 judges. I realize that I am not exactly unbiased but I believe mine was the best pitch of the 4 but there was one grumpy old man (who sort of looked like Burnie Sanders) on my panel who didn’t seem to like my business concept. During Q&A he didn’t ask questions about market research but rather stated his opinion that there wouldn’t be enough people interested in soap making classes for the business to be profitable. He promptly turned to the 2 women on the panel and said “but I’m not a woman so maybe you’d like it.” One of them spoke up to mention that just last month she had attended a Corky Canvas painting class (one of the businesses I researched to identify my competition and price point) and she was starting a personal business doing bath bombs. So clearly she was on board with my business idea and the old grumpy guy was against me. Apparently the grump must have convinced the second woman to vote against me when they deliberated, completely ignoring my second revenue stream from selling custom soaps on Etsy. Ok, now that I’ve vented over my disappointment I can express my frustration. I got a ballot back from each of the women and neither had any negative comments. The grumpy old man didn’t even give me a ballot so I have NO idea why I lost – in the first round. *deep breath and let go* Maria, the class coordinator, came up to me afterwards and said that when she saw that I didn’t make it out of the first round she watched to see how I would react and she was impressed that not only did I not seem upset (which I was a little on the inside) but that I even assisted one of the guys to give his pitch in the next round. I helped him with his visual aid because the alternative was to sit and mope and I’d rather help those who were still in the competition.

I will say that I was pleased with our performance of the skit I wrote. Mckenzie and I ad-libbed the 4 scenes just fine, he even added a bit of humor. At one point I mention that I am as excited for the pitch competition as I expect I will be on my wedding day when I get out (an allusion to all the weddings in A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and McKenzie said not to let my fiance hear me say that, and he was sitting right in the front row. *chuckle* Brandon, who played Shank, the Puck-like choral character, did a MUCH better job with his lines this time. In our one chance to go through it together, when we showed it to Defy staff for them to decide which performances would get to do the actual graduation ceremony, he didn’t understand the lines so of course he couldn’t convey their meaning to the audience. At the actual performance he knew what he was saying so was able to impart more meaning in his delivery. Over all I was happy with it though I forgot one of the parts I wanted to include in the ad lib about the course being as much work as a college course. The executive director of Defy came on stage after us and commented on how that was the first time he had ever seen a Shakespeare inspired skit at a Defy graduation so at least we stood out. I hope they videoed it but I think they only were allowed to take still images. Regardless, it was fun.

Last week I also gave another speech at Toastmasters. Because I had been investing so much time and energy into Defy and I was scheduled to give my next Toastmasters’ speech a week after graduation I choose to go with a topic that wouldn’t require much practice. I gave a speech on how to make an origami picture frame as everyone in here has pictures of loved ones that they would like to display. The Toastmasters’ objective of the speech was effective use of visual aids so I had a photocopy of the instructions from one of the library books as a handout. I also had to draw on the board to explain the basics of origami notation so they could read the instructions. I had a finished example of the picture frame and then I actually went through the steps and demonstrated the folds in front of the audience. I had made the decision to not hand out paper for them to fold along with me because you have to have the picture to get the measurements right and even though I said this I was interrupted and asked if I had paper for them to follow along. *sigh* Because I hadn’t anticipated the multiple interruptions with questions I ran a little over 1 minute overtime. *oops* There was some criticism over the fact that I actually moved the lectern which we’ve been told we shouldn’t do. But I turned it around for a purpose, so the angled surface was facing the audience in order for them to see the folds I was making. Aside from going over the time limit because I didn’t anticipate interruptions I also didn’t use the visual aids as well as I could have. Since our membership has grown we have been setting up the room with 2 tables directly to the sides of the speaker and those 4 people in the audience weren’t really able to see my demonstration of the folds. I should have accounted for them and shown off each fold after doing it on the lectern. Of course that would have put me even more over time than I was but at least I would have accomplished the objective of the speech more thoroughly. Well, that’s why we give these speeches: to learn from doing. My next speech will focus on vocal variety and I’m going to tell a personal story about visiting the Pantanalin Brazil and photographing a capivara, the worlds largest rodent. There will be plenty of opportunity use vocal variety but I need to come up with a moral for the story to tie the intro into the conclusion.

I’ve also been able to donate some of my beadwork to the Toastmasters’ volunteers¬†for them to auction off at the fundraiser on the 15th of this month. They are trying to raise funds to cover the Toastmasters International (TMI) dues for those of us in here who can’t afford the $45 every 6 months. Lot of guys in here couldn’t afford that with the $1.21/day we earn. That comes to around $24/mo and if someone owes child support then that gets garnished and they only get $10/mo to cover all of their hygiene needs. Even at the full $24/mo after deducting hygiene products and maybe some food you still need to save money for things like sweats, shorts or tennis shoes if you want any of that. So it is very difficult for most guys to save the $7.50/mo necessary to cover TMI dues plus the $1/mo that NDCS charges to attend a club. I really hope the fundraiser is a success but it’s an ongoing problem every 6 mo. and I don’t foresee them running fundraisers every time so eventually the TMI membership is going to fall off. I think NSP’s Toastmasters club has some sort of large endowment which helps cover members’ TMI dues but I don’t think we’ll ever get that much donated for us here at TSCI. Honestly, I think it would be a wise investment of NDCS’s funds to pay for TMI membership for anyone who wanted it because it promotes pro-social activity and skill and reduces recidivism but I know they’ll never do something that productive and logical. *sigh* At least I did my part to try to help sponsor other members by donating my beadwork for the fundraiser. Here’s a gallery of all the items I’ve made so far. Going forward any items I make that aren’t for someone in particular will go to my friend Jeri to sell at her art studio at the 9th street gallery. *woohoo*

It’s now Sept. and time for my annual reclassification. Ever since June I’ve been trying to see the unit manager, Oltroge, who will do my reclassification. In response to my July 20th kite asking to see him he wrote “I will call you back in the near future.” I guess that means something different to him that it does to me. All I wanted was to tell him that last year I was classified by Holly, the former unit manager, to go to LCC (Lincoln Correctional Center) but it was denied by someone higher up saying they were not moving anyone from PC at TSCI to GP at LCC at that time. Not 2 months later they sent at least 2 people off my gallery to GP at LCC and I wrote Oltroge asking to be put on the list. He said we’d discuss it at my reclassification in Sept. I wanted to explain to him ahead of my reclassification that I did NOT want to go to minimum because that would mean I’d end up in the dorms in the back of NSP which are known as the fight club so I want to be put in for LCC again. It would make sense to send me to LCC now anyway because it is the only facility that offers the one program that I must take before I can even be considered for parole, iHelp. Now that it’s already Sept. I guess I won’t be able to give Oltroge any heads up of what I want before my reclassification. I’ve recently heard that several people were just turned down for transfer to LCC because it is too full so it would have been nice to be put on the list way back when people were being moved there but because he’s blown off every attempt I’ve made to communicate with him I may not get back to Lincoln this year either. *grrr* I’ll keep trying though.

Right after Defy ended I started another rehabilitative program called Restorative Justice – Victims Impact/Empathy “Life Skills” Class. It only ran one session a week for 2 weeks but it was an interesting class. The content was rushed through but it was an introduction to the concept of restorative justice, that crimes are not just a violation of laws but are offenses against human relationships and restoring those relationships should be the goal of a “justice” system, not punishment. The class focussed a lot on acknowledging the harm we had caused our victims and that our circle of victims is much larger that the law describes. Between classes we had homework to define our personal circle of victims and to write an apology letter to our direct and indirect victims. This required some work on my part given the particulars of my offense but it was good prep-work because I’m sure I’ll have to do the exact same exercise in the iHelp program I have to take at LCC in order to have any chance at parole. That’s why I kept a copy of the letter for future reference. *smile* This class was useful and I can understand that they want to squeeze it into as little time as possible for administrative reasons but I think it needs to be spread out over more classes, with more content and homework, and more time for discussion and externalization of the material.

Now I’m done with all the programs that I can take here and without the big time investment that Defy took my schedule is very open. I plan on catching up on the reading that I’ve postponed while I was in Defy. I’ll be able to keep up with the weekly issues of the Economist and the New Yorker and the monthly issues of Reason, a libertarian magazine. I realized that I get one liberal (New Yorker), one conservative(ish) (Reason), and one moderate (Economist) magazine. How well-balanced. *smile* I also have James Comey’s memoir, A Higher Loyalty, and another book, The Righteous Mind – Why Good People Are Divided By Politics And Religion, that I’ve been eager to read. Not to mention beadwork takes a LOT of time. *chuckle* I’ve got several woven beadwork pieces that I want to do for different people by Christmas as well as some beaded decorations I want to make. Maybe it’s just as well that I don’t get moved to LCC. It would just disrupt my routine and I hear the cells there are much smaller than here anyway. *smile*

Oh there was a very interesting piece on Radio Lab last week. They interviewed a neuroscientist named Li-Huei Tsai who was studying the lack of “gamma frequency” brainwaves in people with¬†Alzheimer’s (I’ll abbreviate as Alz) . Something about Alz disrupts the gamma frequency brainwaves, or the lack of those brainwaves leads to Alz . Lee had bred mice that were prone to Alz and genetically manipulated some of their brain cells to fire in the gamma frequency when exposed to light, then she inserted a probe into their brains and shone a light on those cells. Prolonged exposure to the light, and thus sustained gamma brainwaves ameliorated the effects of Alz by activating the micro glia (sp?) which reduced the amount of beta amyloid or plaque. Unfortunately, that is not a viable treatment since she had engineered the brain cells and inserted a probe into the brain but to test alternate treatments she put the mice with Alz in a dark room and simply strobed light at the gamma frequency, approximately 40 cycles/sec, for 1 hour. This non-invasive treatment had the same effect of reducing the beta amyloids. Wow! That is an amazingly easy, cheap and potentially effective treatment for a hitherto untreatable disease. Just sit in a room for an hour a day with lights flickering at 40 cycles/sec and plaques be gone. Lee did warn that mice and people are significantly different and apparently 99.6% of treatments in mice don’t translate to humans (why do we even test on mice then?!?). I’d say it’s worth testing on someone with Alz right away though as there’s not much downside risk.

An interesting study by a subsequent scientist showed that this treatment for Alz in mice not only reduced plaques but also restored memories. He trained Alz prone mice to fear a scent. Whenever they were exposed to the scent the floor of their cage was electrified. When re-exposed to the scent they would freeze up expecting the shock, a natural mouse fear reaction apparently. After a couple of weeks he re-tested the mice and they had no reaction to the scent. They had forgotten the association with the shock. But after the light therapy, when they were re-exposed to the scent they remembered the shock and froze up again. You might say “yeah, of course they did” but block the implications of this result. Alz doesn’t destroy their memories, it blocks access to them. The memories are still there and intact but the connections to it are blocked. This is fundamentally different from how Alz had been thought of before. Most researchers thought that Alz eroded the memories themselves and therefore they were irretrievable no matter the treatment. This study suggests that the memories are still there and treatment can restore access to them, virtually restoring the person to their former state. Of course there’s the issue of 99.6% of mouse studies don’t translate to human…but that’s an exciting possibility. Treat someone with Alz with strobing light for an hour a day and they may be restored to their former selves. Now isn’t that a big WOW?! Go science! *smile*