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:
   hysteria-based decisionmaking
Thursday, March 26 2009

This afternoon Gretchen and I drove down to Eastern to do our respective jobs, which happened to coincide in the same time and place. We'd heard that for some reason the computer labs at both Woodbourne and Eastern had been closed down, effectively throwing a monkeywrench into the prison-college partnership we both work for (it's how both Gretchen and I have health insurance in these troubled times). People tend to take computers for granted until they are either broken or unavailable, at which point nothing can be done. They've become as essential as electricity.
My job today was to do more software and hardware work in the program's new computer lab. I'd brought some software CDs and a few other little things. But when I went to the gate, the woman handling gate clearances told me that none of my things had been approved. I'd been led to believe they had been approved, so it seemed as if this woman's information was wrong. I said as much, but when she continued with her view, I became angry. What was I going to be doing all day without this stuff? "I'm not happy," I barked. And then, to Gretchen, I said "I don't know what the hell I'm going to be doing." And then I went out to the car.
Gretchen followed me out and said that I'd overreacted, that the woman I'd been talking to is an officer with real power, and that she (Gretchen) has to deal with her every day and she was not a good person to piss off. Gretchen said she'd already apologized on my behalf. That's the thing about prison: it's an authoritarian regime where respect means more than it does in a more tolerant paradigm.
We called the head of the program to see what to do and he made some calls. Evidently Albany had flipped out about something in the computer labs and desperately wanted me in there to deal with it, but, in a classic case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing, Eastern itself had failed to clear the materials I needed to do my job. As for the woman at the front, as Gretchen had told me, she'd just been doing her job. I do very poorly in such logically failed situations. I want to cry out for reason. But Gretchen and everyone else who knows anything about how prisons work know better.
Eventually Gretchen told me to go back and wait in the lobby (the unfiltered side of the security gate) for instructions. So I did, but by then Gretchen had disappeared into the prison and I was left alone with the woman Gretchen had told me I'd "yelled at." It was uncomfortable. Eventually I went back out to the car, where at least there was a cellphone and I could stay in touch with the people in the program trying to deal with this difficult situation.
But nobody seemed to know what to do and there I was in the car, eating peanuts I'd found in the cupholder. At this point the situation seemed so absurd that I was trying to experience it as one of life's lessons, a lesson at odds with the orderly, logical world portrayed in American History and Civics classes.
At a certain point Gretchen joined me and said, "let's go." She hadn't been able to meet with the students she advises and all the prison's decisionmakers were off in some important meeting, perhaps related to the clusterfuck at hand. So off we went. We'd decided on stopping in at Skatetown for a veggie burger and a skate (if it was open) when the cellphone rang and we learned that my gate clearance had finally come through. We were only five minutes from the prison at that point, so we turned around and drove back.
In Eastern's school block, there wasn't anything for Gretchen to do but help me with the computers. So while I was setting permissions and installing software, she was lugging computers in from the old computer lab. At some point the Director of Programs came up and gave us a nervous rundown about why the lab was closed and what must be done before it is ever to reopen. One of the biggest freakouts coming from Albany concerned the presence of media drives in some of the computers, and supposedly they were most freaked out of all about writable DVD drives (yeah, I don't know why the computers had been ordered with this feature, but there you go). So yanking drives out of computers became just one more job for me to have to do today.
As Gretchen and I were doing these things, a very plump corrections officer sat in the room with us, doing nothing but sitting on his dumper. He was the guy who'd been assigned to us, and in this one person was every trait from every irritating person I have ever known. He was lazy, boorish, chatty, ignorant, and was fond both of ill-fated attempts at humor and deeply-unsatisfactory yarn spinning. On top of all this, he had sadistic streak. In the course of talking about other prisons, he mentioned a more-repressive facility further upstate where he'd worked before. "It must not have been fun for you," said Gretchen optimistically. "Oh no, I liked it," the boorish corrections officer said. He implied that this had something to do with the fact that it was the norm there for corrections officers to whack inmates with their sticks without suffering epercussions from their superiors. "So you liked to whack inmates?" Gretchen clarified, and only then did the fool realize he needed to qualify what he'd just said.
We worked until about 6:00pm and then I began wrapping things up. We'd managed to move all the computers to the new lab and get all but one of the CD-type-drives out. [Only the next day would we learn that the only drives' we'd been required to remove were the writeable ones; in fact, now that there were so many gaping rectangular holes, I'd probably be made to put the non-writeable drives back in. This is precisely the kind of chickens-with-their-heads-cut-off fuckup that inevitably results from hysteria-based decisionmaking and communication (the most common kind in prisons).]

On the way back north, Gretchen and I stopped to pick up Chinese takeaway in Stone Ridge (at that little Chinese restaurant near Emanuel's).

For linking purposes this article's URL is:

previous | next