I have recently recovered from a cold. For about a week I was wiped out from being sick but one benefit of being in here is that if you’re sick you can just rest all day as there are very few scheduled obligations. *chuckle* However, on the down side, it is like being in a fish tank, a closed environment. Which means if one person gets sick it will likely go around through the entire gallery eventually. I just hope it doesn’t come back around to me again.

I came to the realization that I am far more creative when I am either feverish or depressed. While recovering I applied to be in a creative writing lab sponsored by UNO. The samples I submitted to get accepted were the 2 articles on NDCS and overcrowding that I’ve written for the forum, not exactly “creative” writing, but they said they would accept non-fiction. *shrug* After applying though, my fever-induced creative juices started flowing and I wrote out a few haikus and started a (still non-fiction) story about my grandmother. Here are the haikus:

Years of pure boredom
Then seconds of sheer panic.
Time dies behind bars.

Dead grass, muddy track,
Razor wire fence, blue sky.
The yard behind bars

Eighty square feet shared.
Best friend and worst enemy.
Cellmates behind bars.

Monkey mind chatters.
Yogic meditation helps
Sit in emptiness.

Once I finish the story about my grandma Heist I’ll include it in a post too. I’m finding it hard to write that one because every time I try to remember a particular visit with her I end up crying. I also had a creative writing spurt while I was in San Quentin and clearly depressed. I wonder what it is about the changes in the brain that make me more creative when feverish or depressed.

I was accepted to the UNO creative writing lab and today was the first class so I guess I’ll have to work on being creative on demand for the next couple of months. My ultimate goal in the class is to improve the persuasiveness of my 2 articles, or future articles on the prison system. The instructor said we could submit whatever we want and he posts our weekly submissions to an online forum for his students to review and give feedback. I look forward to seeing what they say and to reading one of my pieces to an audience of people from the public at the final class. *smile*

McK and my friend Colin have been coming to visit me every weekend since my parents left for AZ. They have been very dedicated to visiting while my parents are gone. I’m happy to get the visits but I’m afraid McK is imposing too much on Colin. Especially since I already impose on Colin by having him post my blog and maintain the forum. (This segway becomes clear later) There was a recent article in the Economist about a kid born without his cerebellum, the part of the brain responsible for creating feedback loops to help learn things like how to walk properly. As he didn’t have a cerebellum his family had begun to act as a “prosthetic” cerebellum, continually reinforcing proper movements, etc. The article further discussed some psychologists theory of mind which incorporates our social networks (in the traditional sense of the people we know) as part of our mental construct of our selves. Not only do we choose the people in our social network mostly because they align with some internal mental construct but the social networks we make reinforce and create mental constructs too. Everyone you know is part of who you are, an extension of your sense of self. In the kid’s case it was very literal, as his family compensated for a mental deficiency. In my case McK, Colin and my dad have very much become the prosthetics through which I am able to express many of my mental goals. For many then, incarceration is also like amputation because they are cut off from their social support networks. They are handicapped because they don’t have a fully functional social “organ” and as it atrophies with lack of use they are at a serious disadvantage when they get out. How’s that for having too much time on your hands to think about things while also being somewhat feverish? Hahaha!

I think the forum stands a chance of actually working now. I finally got ahold of Denise, the friend I wanted to be a moderator for the forum because she had also spent time in the NE system. When I originally spoke to her she was enthusiastic about the idea but then I was unable to contact her for months. It turns out she had accidentally blocked me on her phone. With the holidays and the new year she started thinking about me and looked me up in her contacts and saw a huge number of missed calls. LOL! She was very apologetic when I finally got through but I told her I totally understand that people have lives out there and that I don’t expect everyone to be able to pick up every time I call. Denise is the kind of person who is great at networking and advocating for something she feels passionately about so I am glad to have her on board with the forum. Not only can she provide first hand information for any questions posted but she can promote the forum as a resource for the community in a way that I can’t from in here. Again, my social network helps me compensate for my incarceration. The flip side of that are the many people in here who have no support or contacts on the outside. If their social networks only extend to the people they get to know in here then who should be surprised when they are comfortable with coming back to prison?

My attempt at leading a yoga class is teetering on the edge of failure. The guys have been more and more sporadic in their attendance, to the point where I’ve only had 1 student for the past week or two. Granted, it’s been one guy on Sunday mornings and different guys on Wednesday mornings so there is still interest from a few guys, just not on the same days. I guess as long as one person is interested I’ll continue leading the class and maybe more will eventually show an interest. I think tomorrow there may be 2 guys comings. We’ll see. At least it has been good practice at teaching the postures so when I go to write out a manual I can anticipate where others may have problems.

I gave the last speech I needed in order to complete my Advanced Leader Bronze (ALB) certification with Toastmasters. Now all I have to do is give the last 2 speeches for my Competent Communicator (CC) cert. and I get the ALB too. Luckily, I can deliver 2 of the speeches for the CC outside of the club so even if I get transferred to LCC I can still finish both certs. Now that’s planning. *smile*

My last speech for the ALB was from the Leadership Excellence series and was titled Delegate to Empower. When I gave my first ALB speech from the Successful Club series on Evaluate to Motivate I realized that I came of very lecture-y. This time I decided to related it to the audience as much as possible to make it more engaging. I started with an anecdote about being told by the guy who founded the Flat Iron Startup Incubator in Lincoln that there is a difference in creating a job for yourself and creating a business. I was teaching programming online and that was a job because it wouldn’t grow past selling my services. A business requires scalability and thus delegation. The maximum productivity for 1 person is 24hrs/day so if you want to be more productive, and thus make more money, you have to learn to delegate. That was my intro. After going through the scripted content I then ended with an example of how any of us could practice delegation. You don’t have to start a business, or be a club officer. I explained that I’m petitioning the admin. to increase our base pay rate which has been $1.21/day since 1993. I had written the petition but my handwriting is lousy so I needed someone to type it up and some other people to collect signatures. Any one of us in here can practice delegation, we just have to think of a cause larger than ourselves. *smile*

I already have a petition in to ask the admin to arrange for a secure way for us in PC to have our personal laundry cleaned as I have had 2 pair of sweatpants stolen by the GP laundry workers in the past year. I am also working on a petition to reduce the charge for photo tickets. They have been charging $2/photo for as long as the Photo Project has been around and as best as I can guess it costs around $0.60 in materials to print a photo. They should be willing to reduce the price if they are consistently making extreme profits of the Photo Project. To find out if they are making regular profits I asked for a year’s monthly reports that they are supposed to create for the Photo Project but I was told “this information will not be provided.” That has led me to research the NE statutes on public records. Anything produced by a public official should be publicly available except in specific narrow cases, which don’t apply here. So now I’m going to start doing public records requests of the central admin on lots of different topics to try to increase transparency and public awareness. Funny how one small project, decreasing the photo ticket price, has led me to a larger crusade for transparency and awareness. *chuckle*