Prisoners are persons whom most of us would rather not think about. Banished from everyday sight, they exist in a shadow world that only dimly enters our awareness. They are members of a "total institution" that controls their daily existence in a way that few of us can imagine. "[P]rison is a complex of physical arrangements and of measures, all wholly governmental, all wholly performed by agents of government, which determine the total existence of certain human beings (except perhaps in the realm of the spirit, and inevitably there as well) from sundown to sundown, sleeping, walking, speaking, silent, working, playing, viewing, eating, voiding, reading, alone, with others. . . ." It is thus easy to think of prisoners as members of a separate netherworld, driven by its own demands, ordered by its own customs, ruled by those whose claim to power rests on raw necessity. -- Justice William Brennan, dissenting in O’Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 354-55 (1987).

Friday, June 29, 2007

I'm Tired

I slept in today, if you call 8am sleeping in. I had hoped to get some posts entered but I am tired. Also my wife had a long list of tasks that needed done now that I am home.

In fact, on the way home from the airport yesterday, before I even made it home, we stopped by Lowe's and bought a weedeater! So guess what I did today.... I pretended I was still in prison! I guess my wife feels she needs to take advantage of some of my newly acquired skills. (Hopefully she won't think of buying a sledgehammer for me to break up the large boulders in our back yard.)

There is a big party at our house tomorrow night. My whole family (parents, brother, sister, etc) has arrived and neighbors and friends are invited. I expect 60-80 people. It is really just our annual summer, 4th of July party, but it happens to correspond with my release so some may view it as a "welcome home" party. Whatever it is, it means I am not getting any rest because I have a bunch of domestic stuff to do.

I probably will not get much entered till Monday it appears but I am anxious to get started. I have probably 40 entries to post. However, I also have over 2000 unread personal emails and over 4000 unread business emails to sort through (most of which is spam but I still have to filter through it to identify the important ones), not to mention my regular mail.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Home Sweet Home

I'm home. At last.

I have a LOT to post but I'm not going to post anything now except to say that my plan -- and it's only a plan -- is to add the posts I have been writing over the last month, including many in the last fews days as my release date approached and then go back over all the previous posts to edit for clarity, grammar, expression, etc. I then want to post an "update" comment to those posts reflecting on what I said at the time and whether I have anything to add or correct with the benefit of hindsight. Also, I can begin replying to the comments that others have posted as well as reply to emails that have been sent directly to me.

I hope to start tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Week 12 Summary

This will be my last post until I get out on Thursday. At that time I will report on the discharge process and my final few days before leaving BOP custody. I will also continue to post on what it's like returning to "society".

As for prison life this week, it was notable for two events: 1) the commissary was closed due to some sort of computer conversion of the inmate account system and 2) the phones were scheduled to be down Tuesday - Thursday. Everyone was prepared for the commissary. However, a slight miscommunication created quite a bit of inmate anguish with respect to the phone system.

Ms. Lee oversees the inmate telephone system and is responsible for adding new names and phone numbers to your approved list. She is universally liked by the inmates for her kindness and quick responses. Unfortunately she apparently told a number of inmates that when the phone system came back up on Thursday that the 300 minutes monthly quota would be reset for the remainder of the month, effectively giving everyone another 300 minutes for the last 9 days. The minutes would still be charged at 23 cents/minute but most of us don't care about the cost -- we just want the extra minutes.

As a result of this, many inmates intentionally used all of their allotment before the phones went down, expecting a new allotment by Thursday. You know where this is going. There was no new allotment. Ouch.

Fortunately, I rarely act anymore on information from inmates who claim to know how something works around here, especially if the risk of being wrong is a communication blackout for 11 days. I guess there is always the mail. In any case, I still had minutes left.

As it turns out, a memo from Ms. Lee appeared on the door of the phone room, effectively admitting to providing inaccurate information. She apologized and said that she had done everything she could to add more minutes but that it required, literally, an act of Congress!

My favorite part of the memo was that it began: Dear Gentlemen. Reminded me of the intercom announcement by a female voice, clearly inexperienced at making announcements because she prefaced her request with, "Please." We all looked at ecah other and immediately mouthed, "Please?" Trust me, please and gentlemen are not words usually directed at the inmates by COs. Interesting how common courtesies of speech that are taken for granted on the outside stand out like a neon sign on the inside.

Work was fine this week. I guess I am developing a reputation as a hard worker. I was actually taken off my normal detail of weed-eatinig to assist in breaking up concrete sidewalks. They wanted me to swing the sledgehammer because no one else either could or would do it and I am actually pretty good at it. Thus I spent the last 3 days this week swinging the hammer. I'm feeling it now. But with less than a week to go, I have so much adrenaline flowing that nothing can wipe the smile from my face.

As for my departure, so far everyone has been nice and happy for me. I had read that other inmates pull back as a fellow inmate reaches his out date. I have not experienced that. While I try not to bring the subject up out of respect, it is common instead for me to be asked how much time I have left. They smile when I tell them, as if they are vicariously trying to tap into the feeling -- it gives them hope.

I met another new inmate today who read this blog before reporting. He said that he and his wife read it twice and he wanted me to know that it was a blessing and, to his wife, a source of comfort. Made my day.

Finished Harry Potter's Book 6 on Sunday. Can't wait for Book 7 on July 21.

Read Shawshank Redemption, the novella by Stephen King, in one evening ... only 104 pages. The movie is an all-time classic, actually -- and unusually -- slightly better than the book.

It's been great to see my wife this weekend, after 3 skipped weekends while she was on vacation. The prison received the clothing package she mailed, containing what I will wear to leave FPC Pensacola.

I think this week is going to fly by. Only 2 work days left, then "unit run", then ... bye-bye. The only problem is I'm having trouble sleeping now. No problem when I got here, but now that I'm on the verge of leaving ...

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Week 11 Summary

I have changed.

Actually, looking back, the change probably started about 2 weeks ago but it became clearer this week. Others have also noted it.

I have definitely shifted into cruising gear. Some describe this phase as apathy after the initial shock of prison life; a sort of indifference to life. While there may be an element of truth to that, there is certainly a sense of self-preservation or self-protection that enters into play. I agree more with another friend that it is really a change in perspective, a re-orienting of priorities that focuses on the essentials and no longer wastes energy on the trivial.

The change is most manifest in my desire to spend more time alone. I do not easily fit into the extrovert/introvert dichotomy. I am introverted in large groups and extroverted in small groups. I am not shy but neither do I need to be the center of attention. I have definitely become more introverted in prison. That is, more renewed through aloneness than through social interaction. I prefer to work alone or with one other person. I spend more time reading in my bed or in a quiet or remote location in the camp. I am comfortable in my routine.

Lately some friends have asked why I am "sad" when I don't think I feel sad. While not as cheerful as I normally am, neither am I brooding. I am calm, almost peaceful. Perhaps stoical is the best work. Everything around me has become background noise that I just tune out.

Maybe this is what inmates refer to as knowing how to do time. If so, I can at least understand how some of these guys have done 10, 15 or 20 years. It is amazing how resilient and flexible the mind is. In the same way the human body will hibernate or shut down less essential body functions when deprived of normal energy sources (food or oxygen), the "self" also seems to become more efficient when deprived of normal psychic energy sources.

Since I have less than 2 weeks to go, this change is only relevant to the following question: "How long does it take to return to normal after you get out of prison?"

I fully expect to be scarred by this experience but a scar is not a handicap, merely a reminder (in fact, maybe a tattoo would be a better analogy). Psychic injuries are not, in my opinion, the same as physical wounds. Because you always have a choice how to respond to stressful events in your life. Therefore, the trauma is ultimately a function of how you process the experience.

In any case, it appears that it has taken me about 2 months to hit my stride, although some inmates with much longer time say the whole first year is hard. Likewise I have heard that it can take a year to feel normal again although that will obviously vary by individual and sentence time and I expect it to be much faster for me.

Despite my new groove, I did however have a very frustrating commissary experience this week, which illustrates well the annoyances of prison life.

Several weeks ago, the commissary began opening during lunch (11:00-12:00) for inmates who do work on-site, like myself. This new policy helps relieve the congestion for the afternoon commissary time (4:00-7:00p). Inmates are assigned to either Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday for their shopping day. If you miss, you must wait until the next week.

B01, my work detail, recently had our lunch hour shortened to 30 minutes (11:00-11:30a). On Tuesday, my shopping day, I placed my order at the commissary by inserting my sheet in the window and waited outside with the others for my order to be filled.

The CO on commissary duty this week was one of the slow ones. As a result, my order was not filled by 11:30 and I had to return to work.

I re-submitted a new order during the afternoon commissary hours but was refused because the CO had filled it after I left and since I was not there, he considered my commissary privileges forfeited for the week. Making matters worse, the commissary was scheduled to be closed the next week and since I was leaving then, for all practical purposes, I was no longer going to be able to shop at the commissary.

I was angry and explained that I had had no choice but to return to work at 11:30a. He said loudly, "Not my problem." I asked for both of my order sheets back. He again said loudly, "No!"

Angry at this snub, I submitted a cop-out (schedule by the prison to do something else other than the regular schedule) to the head of the commissary explaining my situation and requesting an opportunity to shop on Wednesday or Thursday. As it turns out there was a different person heading up commissary duty at that time which was a good sign. I had also complained to my dorm counselor, who was sympathetic to my concerns and put a call in on my behalf.

I finally met with the commissary head during lunch on Thursday. He explained that I had violated the cardinal commissary rule of walking away from an order. Once I realized that my order would not be filled on time, I should have returned to the order window and asked for my order sheet to be withdrawn.

Fortunately, I had hedged my bets and had another inmate buy some essential items for me in case my request was denied, which it eventually was.

My efforts, however, were not totally in vain. It was then announced that lunch commissary time would be extended by 15 minutes for B01 work detail inmates. The things that become so important in prison!! At home I never even think about shopping times, that's my wife's specialty!

As for work this week, I continued to weed-eat. One of my supervisors has said on a couple of occasions that he is actually going to miss me. Nothing personal, but I can't say the same for him. I hope he understands :).

I did catch some relief from weed-eating on Tuesday ... or so I thought. I was assigned to a new task - breaking up concrete sidewalk segments with a sledgehammer and loading the pieces onto a front-end loader. Some relief. I guess this was my taste of the proverbial prison rock pile experience. Me and Jean Valjean. The opening song from Les Miserables was ringing through my ears.

The weather Monday and Tuesday was oppressively hot (high 90s) but on Tuesday evening thunderstorms seemed to take a little edge off the heat for the rest of the week.

I am half-way through Book 6 of the Harry Potter series and should finish it easily this week.

I have been waking earlier, anywhere between 4:30a and 5:30a, without an alarm. I am usually in bed between 9:00-9:30p, where I read and am asleep usually by the 10p count.

I still work out 2-3 times per week. I think I have lost a few pounds and gained a little muscle during my stay. I have a few ideas to discuss with my trainer when I return.

Part of the reason I have become more withdrawn is simply because I am ready to leave and I know my time is short ... mentally, I have already started checking out.

My wife returned safely from Spain today. I can't wait to see her this weekend after 4 weeks!

Week 10 Summary

The theme for this week is the weather -- hot and humid. Seems like June 1 kicked in the summer season. Glad I won't be here in July and August!

Again, I weed-eated (or is it weed-ate?) every day. I'm getting pretty good at it and have started to view it as a challenge. (That is, trying to figure the most efficient and effective way to perform different weed-eating tasks.) I am writing a separate article on attitudes toward work in the camp and how I chose to approach it. A key for me is energy level. I consume a quart of Gatorade in the morning and snack on trail mix throughout the day. That seems to do the trick.

Thursday was particularly exhausting. I weed-eated continuously (i.e. no breaks except to change the string) for 2 1/2 hours in the morning and another 2 1/2 hours in the afternoon. Try it. I took a nap at 5:30p only to wakeup at 11:30p! I hate when that happens.

They changed our work schedule. Normally our bus leaves at 7a after all the buses that travel off-base. The biggest advantage of working B01 (my detail) is that you started 30 minutes later and got back 30 minutes earlier by avoiding the 30 minute bus ride.

Now we leave with the first buses and have to ride the bus rather than walk the several hundred yards. In addition, our lunch break was shortened to 30 minutes, from 60 minutes. They want us out on the base working at 7:15a. The inmates were quite upset. Our supervisors were not happy with the changes either. With less than 3 weeks to go, they could make me work 16 hours a day and I wouldn't care.

We got a new inmate in our work detail -- 51 years old, 350 pounds ... been in prison for 15 1/2 years already. Imagine that poor guy doing groundskeeping in 95 degree weather (heat index).

My May paycheck was deposited on June 8 ... $18.48 for 22 days of work, thank you very much. I'll try not to spend it all at once but it will be hard.

Changing the subject, the warden has been gone for 3 weeks. I'll save the rumours for when I get out. The food also seems to be getting worse over the last 3 weeks. Don't know if there is a connection, but that's how rumours get started here.

Last Friday night, I saw The World's Fastest Indian (very popular with the inmates) and last night Music and Lyrics, which I had seen on the outside, but decided to watch again. As I have stated before, watching a romantic comedy with 250 inmates is a little weird but they seemed to like it.

And then there was Paris ... Hilton, that is. Imagine the sympathy that a 45 day sentence (23 days actually, after good time off, state style) gets from federal inmates. NOT! While I think she is a victim of her own celebrity and it is rather silly to send her to jail, she really does need an attitude adjustment. If she was smart, she would start a blog -- Paris Does Prison -- and make a killing.

I still have to serve 3 months of home confinement when I get out. I will blog about that also. Of course, I will be able to type that myself. I will also review the previous posts and post updated comments with the benefit of hindsight.

Less then 3 weeks to go! My departure plans have been confirmed with my Unit Manager. My parents will pick me up at 8a on Thursday June 28 (that is the earliest you can leave). I have a flight back to Charlotte at 11:25a (arriving at 2p) so we have a little time for breakfast before I get on the plane. My wife is sending clothes to the prison for me to leave in. (Departure clothing can be sent within 30 days of your release date but you have to fill out an authorization form from your Unit Counselor in advance so the mail room knows it is coming.)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Week 9 Summary

Fast week as I hoped, thanks to the Memorial Day holiday.

Since federal holidays are visitation days, I was able to see my wife for four days over the holiday weekend. That was especially nice for 2 reasons: 1) I had not seen her in 3 weeks nor talked to her for 2 weeks (because I ran out of phone minutes) and 2) she will be in Europe with her parents the first 2 weeks in June, which encompasses 3 weekends. I won't see her for 4 weeks after this nor talk for 15 days.

Fortunately phone minutes renew on the 1st of the month so I was able to talk to her twice on Friday June 1 before she left. I also was able to talk to my oldest daughter who has left for summer session.

My wife and I were able to talk through some of the strains this has created, a topic I will write on later. Husbands and wives need to understand the distinctive stresses prison places on each spouse and anticipate and interpret changes in behavior appropriately in order to successfully survive.

Monday night was unique -- concert night in the base theatre. Three prison bands performed. I was impressed. One of the inmates was scheduled to leave prison immediately after the concert. Talk about a send-off performance.

Work was more of the same -- weed-eating, weed-eating, weed-eating. I am actually getting pretty good at this. Nice to know I have a fallback career!

I am continuing to work out and trying to figure out a way to get more protein in my diet, which is a little tricky in prison, especially if you can't quite stomach canned fish.

I have learned that a bag of trail mix (1400 calories!) and a quart of gatorade -- both can be purchased in the commissary -- give me all the energy and hydration I need at work. My weight is stable. Hopefully I'm adding some muscle.

As for medical care in prison, a scary topic I will write on later, the only thing I can suggest is DON'T GET SICK. I just developed a small chest cold, which is almost impossible to avoid in a room of 12 men. At the commissary, for cold or allergy-like symptoms, you can purchase: Claritin, allergy tabs, ibuprofen, nasal spray, cough syrup, aspirin.

I had not purchased any in advance as I rarely get sick so a friend gave me 6 aspirin to last the weekend. I'll just have to treat the symptoms and hope I beat the cold over the next week.

Less than 4 weeks to go. I feel like a runner who has just caught his second wind as he starts to sense the finish line ahead.

Week 8 Summary

Note from Bill's wife: sorry for the large gap in posting, I was on vacation with my parents for two weeks. It was nice to be away and it has helped the time go faster, for me, anyway, sorry Bill, but he'll be back at home next Thursday!

Wow, the week flew by.

It was wonderful to see my oldest daughter last weekend.

This weekend is Memorial Day so we get Monday off and it is also an extra visitation day so my wife and parents will be visiting Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. That should help next week to fly by, too.

My phone minutes ran out May 17 so I haven't been able to talk to anyone in 8 days. Not only is 3 weeks the longest I have not seen my wife but I don't think I have ever gone this long without communicating by phone.

My work detail was pretty consistent this week -- weed-eating, weed-eating, weed-eating, weed-eating. Weather has been nice -- the wind and clouds have softened the effect of the Florida sun. Twice this week I had my Harry Potter book seized while trying to take it to work. Sigh.

Had a few minor spats with other inmates but nothing major. It is really quite remarkable how "on edge" some guys are here -- they have hair-trigger tempers.

Also met the inmate who arrived May 17, having read this blog on the outside. His feedback has encouraged me to keep plugging on.

Oh, I also had a birthday on Monday but no cake from the prison :( 5 weeks to go.

Note from Bill's wife: I couldn't send a cake, but I did send him 14 funny birthday cards, one each day starting the Monday before his birthday)

Friday, June 1, 2007

Week 7 Summary

Monday was my half-way point (day 46 out of 91) but who's counting. It was a good week.

Last weekend my parents visited along with my brother from St. Pete. This weekend my oldest daughter, 20, who just finished her sophomore year in college, is here. I'm excited. We will spend all day Saturday together.

My work detail involved clearing out an "outfall" area outside the base fence. This is a 20' concrete ditch that drains storm water out to the bay. There is a grassy easement on both sides that needed mowing and trees trimmed back. We had a crew of about 10.

Monday and Tuesday I weed-eated a 5' buffer along the edge of the ditch that was too sloped for the large mower to get to. It was hot and dirty and the horse flies were biting but I got it done.

Wednesday and Thursday we trimmed back the trees and fed them into a medium-sized wood chipper. A litte easier work. Wednesday afternoon, a thunder shower cancelled the work detail which was a nice respite.

Friday was equipment maintenance day and the weather was near perfect, almost fall-like. Cool breezes and clear skies. Since I only had two small pieces of equipment to clean, I had several hours to relax in the shade and finish Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azhaban (Year 3). Hopefully I will finish all 6 before I get out, just in time for the final book due to be released on July 21.

Last Saturday, I saw The Queen at the base theatre, a little slow for most imate's tastes. It's hard to believe it has been 10 years since Diana died and Tony Blair became Prime Minister.

Monday night I watched 24 in the base theatre. Only one 2-hour episode left.

Tuesday and Wednesday night I watched American Idol in the visiting room. We missed the first 20 minutes due to problems with the satellite. I thought all contestants had a good night and was, of course, shocked when Melinda was sent home. I was almost as shocked as when Daughtry finished 4th last year. Go figure. I now predict Jordin wins it all.

[Interruption. I'll be right back. I just got called to visitation. My daughter is here...Told you I'd be right back. Nice visit from 8:30a-2p. It's amazing we can talk that long - 5 1/2 hours.]

Thursday night just hung out, did some reading and writing, worked out.

Unfortunately, I also ran out of minutes on the phone for the rest of the month -- only 17 days in, with 14 to go! Yikes.

Note: Inmates are limited to 300 minutes per month. Individual calls are limited to 15 minutes. You must wait 15 minutes between calls. See earlier post on Crack House.

Week 6 Summary

Almost halfway home.

Last weekend, my wife, parents, sister and brother-in-law visited.

After several days of weedeating last week, I have already progressed to the manual push lawn mower! :)

The weather is getting quite warm. Clear and sunny. Thank God for the wind.

My wife celebrated her 50th birthday on Wednesday. I typed her birthday letter here and arranged before I left for prison for 5 dozen roses to be delivered on her birthday. They both got there on time.

The AC has not been working in the dorm. Something to do with the chiller. I don't know anything about AC but apparently they pump 42 degree water through pipes and blow air across the pipes through the vents. When I got here I froze (I wore 4 layers of clothes). Now I sleep in shorts on top of the covers. I am also getting bug bites from the no-see-em's (invisible bugs). Sigh.

I have really settled in now and am used to the routine. I have been determined to be myself, for better or worse, and not allow myself to be sucked into the prison culture. Some people like me, some don't and others couldn't care less. Oh well. I can see however that if I had 3 years rather than 3 months, this could get old.

Monday, May 14 will be day 46 ... the halfway point. My official release date is June 28, one day earlier than I thought it would be. My case manager is completing my release paper work. I gave blood today for DNA required of all federal felons. Nice. Now I'm in the federal database. Do they think I might leave DNA evidence on a computer? (Note to BOP, FBI, DOJ, George Bush, Alberto Gonzalez: Lighten up, it's just a joke.)


Smoking was banned in all federal prisons in 2004 (except for staff, who can smoke in designated outdoor areas. If movies are to be believed, cigarettes functioned as a form of currency.

Money is disallowed in prison. Indeed it is a violation of BOP rules to give, borrow or sell any item or service to another inmate. This must surely be the most widely violated rule in prison. While I understand the purpose of the rule, it is impossible to function practically without some prison economy, which necessarily involves an exchange of items or services. Where an economy exists, something inevitably will function as a form of currency.

Believe it or not, the new currency is mackerel, that is, fish bait. A can of mackerel can be purchased for $1.20 in the commissary.

I don't know the going rate for very many services but I know the standard rate for a haircut is 2 cans. In addition, some rooms agree to contribute 2 cans per inmate per month to pay someone to clean their room every day (instead of each roommate taking a turn.)

Some inmates literally have no one on the outside to fund their commissary account. And you only make about $17/month working. Therefore, they basically will offer their services in exchange for mackerel, which they can then offer to another inmate to purchase items from the commissary for them.

Most of these kinds of exchanges are harmless at worst and helpful at best. Thus, as long as they are handled discreetly, the COs don't go on witch hunts looking for violations.

While I have not witnessed it, I am told there are more sinister exchanges. The worst being when one inmate extorts goods or services from another with physical threats. I think this is more an issue in higher security prisons than the camps where physical violence is rare.

2 Year Rule

There is no dispute that prison puts a strain on marriages. I have wondered how long a man should reasonably expect his wife to wait. Actually I don't just wonder, I ask other inmates what they think. Most guys laugh. They say she always says she'll wait forever ("I love you baby!") but she's gone in six months.

Of course, each case is different. There's one guy here on a ridiculous 4 year sentence for an absolutely absurd charge. He is 55, been married 30+ years and is a devout Mormon with 7 children. His family moved from Orlando to Pensacola so they could visit every week. I have no doubt they will make it.

Then for some guys' families, this is like the final straw. She's gone the day he walks through the prison door.

However, for those guys that are married and here on a first offense that they are truly guilty of, there is something of a consensus that the 2 year mark is a watershed. The wife starts wondering if it is worth it after 2 years. Or the relationship simply runs out of gas.

I would certainly expect my wife to wait 2 years. I would not expect her to wait 10. Between 2 and 10, I don't know. Probably somewhere around 5 would be the cut-off.

I would tell her to divorce me, take the money (leave me a little to start over with) and get on with your life. If she's still available when I get out, we can deal with that then.

What do you think?

Wachovia Championship

For the uninitiated, the Wachovia Championship is the PGA golf tournament in Charlotte this week. This is the 5th year and I always get 2 tickets for the whole week. Of course when I purchased mine last fall I didn't know I was going to prison this year.

My favorite day is the Wednesday Pro-Am because I can bring my camera and I like to follow Tiger the entire round (he always seems to get the 7:30a tee time) and then send the pics to the 2 amateur partners.

This year, they paired Tiger with Michael Jordan and Skipper Beck (who owns the Mercedes dealership that gives each player a car to drive for the week). I spent my day weedeating the stormwater drains of an old Navy airfield when I could have been following Tiger and MJ around!

American Idol - Down to 4

Well, I think I got the final 4 right in my predictions several weeks ago although I didn't get the order of elimination for 5, 6 and 7 correct (Sanjaya, Chris and Phil).

Too bad Gina Glocksen could not have been around for Bon Jovi night.

When Sanjaya was eliminated 2 weeks ago, the inmates erupted. Loudest cheers I've heard yet!

Final Four Review

Blake's "You Give Love a Bad Name" rendition was amazing. The inmates loved it.

Jordin is amazing for 17 but had some problems singing a "boy band" song.

I had never heard the Bon Jovi song LaKisha sang. I wish she had picked a more well-known song. The Simon kiss was cute.

Finally I didn't like Melinda as much as the others tonight. "Have A Nice Day" is a defiant, almost contemptuous, kind of song that I can imagine Tina Turner pulling off but Melinda can't generate the kind of edge that Jon Bon Jovi did with the song. She is just too nice.

I think LaKisha goes this week.

After that it's really tough to predict whether Blake or Jordin will face Melinda in the finals. Normally, when it gets to the final 3, each judge picks a song for a contestant. Jordin and Blake are so different.

The only shocker would be if Melinda doesn't make it to the finals.


After 4 weeks of raking leaves and picking up trash, I finally got a promotion -- junior weedeater specialist!

FPC Pensacola is next to an old Navy airstrip which I am told they are going to start using again to train Navy pilots flying prop planes. The runways have been cleaned and repainted.

The last two days I have been cutting the overgrown weeds around all the large stormwater drains. We use gas-powered Husqvarna weedeaters. I probably cut about 4 hours/day. Unfortunately there is not much shade and the heat radiates off the ground.

Initially I was using it improperly because I preferred to cut with the backside of the weedeater. However this sprays all the debris right back at me. I finally figured out how to use the front side at the correct angle. Nonetheless, after just two days (that feels like a week) my shoulders and neck are sore and I am physically drained at the end of the day.

Hopefully I will get another promotion soon -- I don't know if I can do this for 8 more weeks unless I figure out how to work smart (looking like I'm really working but not really working). It seems like all the other inmates have the smart work routine down pat. One guy collected 3 cups of blackberries yesterday while weedeating.

Paul and Joe supervise the work details. They ride around on a little 4x4 John Deere Gator checking on the different crews (there are maybe 30 inmates at this work location). Joe is a big guy and reminds me of a circus bear on a tricycle!

Both guys are pretty cool. They assign tasks to each person in the morning but they treat everyone no worse than a foreman for a company would. In fact, they are probably more lenient since the work doesn't require a great deal of productivity.

Hopefully, I won't get reassigned to one of the off-base details. I save at least an hour on bus rides by staying at Saufley Field. I would however like to get promoted to a new task. I want to be the guy that signs the equipment in and out to the inmates! Unfortunately that job is taken and he's not letting go.