Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   four computers from freedom
Thursday, January 24 2008

setting: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, New York

At around noon, Gretchen and I drove down to the Eαstern Correctιonal Facility with the four computers I'd picked up from Bard College yesterday (it turned out I'd picked up the printer in error; it was for another prison). We parked in front of the Eastern entrance gate and unloaded the boxes onto a cart, which I wheeled in through the door. The boxes were opened and inspected, though it's hard to imagine how an inspection of this sort could ever be thorough enough to detect anything a determined smuggler would want to smuggle. It's not like you can gain any insights by sending a computer through a metal detector, though I'm sure it's been done.
There was at least one other level of security staffed by a no-nonsense woman who insisted on doing everything by the book, though I was curious to note hesitancy in this inclination, a response to being outranked by the administrator who was walking us back to the computers' destination.
At a certain point the boxes all had to be carried up a flight of stairs, and for this the staff said we could use folks they matter-of-factly referred to as "porters," an imperialist 19th Century term perfectly suited to the American anachronism of incarceration. These "porters" were just whatever prisoners happened by. They gladly carried the boxes up the stairs and set them down in the classroom and disappeared.
Before long it was just me and Gretchen and a few of the BPI students (that is, prisoners). They were genuinely excited by the new computers; all they'd had up until this point was five or six yellowing Windows Millennium Edition machines topped with bulbous CRTs.
To provide a firm desk surface for the new computers, one of the staff located a couple of brand new tables, but it turned out that these would require a drill to put together. Interestingly, one of the prisoners had been tasked with the job of table assembly and he'd been trusted with an electric drill and other tools.
I'm not especially familiar with the way prisons work on the inside, but I'd thought they were more regimented than it seemed today that they actually are. Inside this prison, within the innermost ring of security, the prisoners seemed to have remarkable freedom to come and go, fetch things, and informally socialize. The place didn't seem to have even as much regimentation as, say, my old high school. And once on the inside, Gretchen and I were pretty much left on our own among the prisoners. There were scheduled times when we could emerge from its bowels, but if we missed one of these times we could take the next one instead.
Because the new computers lacked legacy ports, I couldn't use one to replace the main "print station," the place where files were carried (via sneakernet) to be printed. At first the problem was the lack of a USB cable, but one was found and then the problem became the lack of a working printer driver (the printer's CD had been lost and there was no internet with which to get a replacement).
As I worked, the prisoner-students marveled at the bulklessness of the LCD screens, although one of them had seen something on television (they get basic cable) about Apple's new super-thin laptop. The computers had been loaded up with a number of interesting applications, including Mathematica and a collection of documents written in German. As the students excitedly explored these new worlds, I was reminded of the kid-in-a-candy-store feeling I used to have back in the pre-internet days when encountering a computer loaded with software. Sure, with the internet, that candy store is vastly bigger and my expectations have grown to accommodate it, but when you have a hungry mind and you're locked in a maximum security prison you'll take what you can get. And with today's hard drives, a modern computer can hold an awful lot of stuff. (I know mine does! Fuck the RIAA!).
I hadn't brought any power strips with me, but using what I found in the lab I was just able to get all the new computers set up. I then spent a good half hour tidying up the wires with tape and zip and twisty ties. I didn't do anything to secure any of the computers in place, though I got the feeling that this lab received a good amount of informal security.

After we emerged from the prison, Gretchen and I drove back north up US 209, stopping for an early dinner at the Egg's Nest in High Falls. It was here that I discovered my new favorite beer, the Dogfish 90 minute IPA. It tastes exactly the way I want beer to taste.

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