Locked doors


There are 11 locked doors between my car and the gymnasium where I sat and listened. 11 doors in, 11 doors our. Each one locked and controlled by a nameless, faceless guard. Some of them opened without delay, others required that my group be herded all together, to have a door behind us close, before the one in front of us would open. 11 doors. The sound of the doors closing and locking, a thud and click mixed together.

The people I was going to see, some of them will never go out those 11 doors. They are inmates in Sussex II correctional facility in Waverly, Virginia. Sussex II isn’t a low-level, minimum security prison. It houses men who are in for life sentences. Sentences like that don’t get handed down for embezzlement or check fraud. They made decision, or were victims of circumstance, that landed them there, and I am unnerved by it.

Before I went through the first locked door, I had a sinking feeling as I drove out to the prison. An hour and a half on roads leading to an increasing rural part of the state, I kept wondering what would happen if I broke down, how long would it take for a tow truck to get to me. I tried to distract myself, but driving alone, there is time to think. When I turned on the road that lead to the prison, it was looming over the trees, closer than I would have thought. I had lived near prisons before. Living in Lansing, Kansas, my room was closest to the Lansing Correctional Facility. At night, there was never darkness in my room, the glow of the prison lights always kept my room softly illuminated. It was never quiet, communication over loud speakers would break the normal suburban background noise. Lansing and Leavenworth, Kansas are home to at least 4 prisons and associated facilities, including the United States Disciplinary Barracks, the only maximum security prison for the US military. Maybe being around prisons during my teen years, set me up for the feeling in my gut. Maybe it was my binge-watching prison documentaries in college. Either way, seeing the plain block buildings rising over the trees, I was filled with a minor chord of dread. That is probably intended for those who will be there for a stay, not for the visitors.

I was going to Sussex II with Kairos, a Christian prison ministry organization. I was going to participate in the closing ceremony for a Kairos retreat. Kairos’ mission is to: "share the transforming love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ to impact the hearts and lives of incarcerated men, women and youth, as well as their families, to become loving and productive citizens of their communities", and I was introduced to it through the church bulletin. “We need 600 dozen cookies,” leads to questions, and I inquired. The answer I got was to come to prison and see the closing ceremony, to see if it was a ministry I wanted to participate in. It was a month away, so I didn’t think much of it. The Sunday before the date, Esther and the kids baked 6 dozen peanut butter cookies, a minor contribution to such a monstrous task. In the recipe for the cookies, one of the most important ingredients is prayer, each batch of cookies should have prayer for the people who will eat them added. I haven't been one to talk about adding prayer to my work, but I know that Esther and the kids did say a prayer that I helped lead before commencing baking.

Six dozen peanut butter cookies. A drop in the bucket of 600 dozen cookies, but it was our contribution.

Sunday arrived. I read the prayers of the people at the 8 a.m. service which included a prayer for the Kairos team, who had been working in the prison since Thursday. After church I came home, ate a light lunch and got ready to go. What does one wear to a prison ministry? The regulations for wardrobe are very specific for women, skirts no higher than four inches above the middle of the knee, no pants that are excessively tight, no tops that have thin straps. For men, the regulations are less specific. A few guidelines, but not nearly to the level of women. I wasn't sure what I should wear, the clothes I wore to church? A suit? Jeans and a polo? I decided for a button down shirt and jeans. I slipped on my shoes and started driving. One and a half hours there. Time to think.

The instructions indicated that I should arrive by two o'clock, so when I parked at half past one, I sat in my car, looking over the parking lot, at the grey buildings situated behind multiple fences and razor wire. I emptied my pockets, removed my wedding ring, and shoved it all in my glove box. I knew I wouldn't have the option to bring my pocket's content in, not that I was carrying a lock pick set, or pocket knives. I brought my drivers license and my car key. And having left my phone in the car, I felt naked. It isn't that I haven't been without my phone before, I leave it when I workout, or when I need it on the charger, but in this instance I didn't know what I was going to be doing or where I was going, so with my lifeline to the outside world left in the glove box of my locked car, I felt vulnerable. In a way that I don't normally feel.

11 locked doors. The first one seemed innocent enough, a door to the visitor welcome center. I tried pulling it open, but it was locked. A guard at the visitor welcome center desk needed to press a button to let the magnetic lock on the door release. There were people milling about in the welcome center and more joined as I stood and waited for our group to be allowed entrance. As more people came to the door, the people inside wanted to help by opening the door, not realized that the door was not under their control. They smashed on the crash bar, thinking that if they hit it just a little bit harder that they would overcome some mechanical fault in the door, allowing it to swing open for the people waiting outside. They didn't know that they were not in control. That was one thing a parishoner said to me when I expressed interest in going to this ceremony: "As long as you remember that you are not in control, things will work out okay." Not particularly comforting when it comes to locked doors, but I think it is a much deeper statement than even the parishoner had intended.

While I was waiting, I saw several people turned away for their clothing. They were not happy. I imagine that some of these people travelled quite a distance to see their loved ones and to be turned away for fashion that is accepted in the outside world must be frustrating. Knowing that you aren't going to get an opportunity to see your loved one for another week, or longer, because of someone's judgement about your clothes, can't be easy.

As we are waiting, the person from my church that leads our Kairos ministry, Jim, said that I might have a problem. I thought it was because I didn't fill out some paperwork, or my beard or haircut violated some unknown to me rule. "Well," Jim tell me, "I should have told you not to wear blue jeans." I am curious, I'm sure I screwed my face into a question. He explained that with a light blue button down shirt and blue jeans that I was dressed like an inmate and that because of that the guards might not let me in. I hung my head in shame, I probably missed that part of the dress code.

I didn't know if I would be let into the sallyport with the rest of our group. The twenty of us were broken up into groups of 5 to go through what can only be described as a TSA style screening with the optional "enhanced screening": X-ray machines, metal detectors, and pat downs. The last part of the entrance procedure was to hand over our driver's license. If I was dressed like an inmate, isn't that the last shred of evidence that I wasn't scheduled for a longer stay? What would stop a guard from pulling me away from the group or questioning why an inmate was headed toward the exit? "As long as you remember that you are not in control, things will work out okay."

While inside, past the 11 locked doors, I did look like a resident. I was nervous that I would be stopped when I tried to leave. But I also realized that while I wasn't in control, there was a higher power working there. The stories that I heard from the men there were personal and moving. They truly experienced a growing connection with God, and built an accountability with other men. They kindled friendships, they broke down barriers and got cookies. The cookies draw them, the message keeps them.

I blended in while I was inside, and it made for a humorous story, but I got to exit. Through the 11 doors, no questions. The men who didn't get to exit, they got something, something that I hope I can attain, with out the need for so many locked doors, a closeness to God.

Delegate and Defer AppleScript


“Turns out…” that the OmniGroup linked to my Delegate AppleScript on their Inside OmniFocus page, which has lead to a lot of traffic to the site, but also a lot of questions/bugs being found in the script. I took some time to get those bugs squashed and add some other features.

Version 2.1 Release Notes

2.1 - 20150413

One issue I’m having with the script is the subject line it assigns to the email. I’ve examined the script and can’t see where the problem is coming from, and I’ve quit and restarted both Mail and OmniFocus 2 Pro, and keep having the same problem, as follows: When I run the script in OmniFocus, I finally get to the email that has a subject line beginning with Delegated Task from ----. (I changed your name to mine in the script.) But instead of then continuing with the name of the task being delegated, each time I run the script it just adds the name of the new task to the list of all the prior tasks. So I get something like this in the email subject line: “Delegated Task from ----: test action 1test action 2test action3test action 4” Each time I run a new test, it adds the name of the new test action at the end of that list.

2.0.1 - 20150407

2.0 - 20150403

Get it on GitHub

Things I like

Merry →

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John Gruber:

…how much will I be willing to pay then to be able to go back in time, for one day, to now, when he’s eight years old, he wants to go to movies and play games and build Lego kits with me, and he believes in magic?

A short post that hits "being a parent" nail on the head.

The Future: A Cat Litter Box and DRM →

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Jorge Lopez:

Seriously CatGenie, you added fairly sophisticated DRM to a litter box? I’m a tad hurt you spent my money on building in a restriction instead of figuring out how to avoid constantly cooking poop.

This made me realize that I don't actually own a CatGenie, I'm renting it. Though I paid for it, I have to pay per use yet I’m still responsible for all repairs until it craps out and I have to get another one. A tad disheartening.

I had written up a much longer post about DRM, advertising-driven monetization and where we are headed, but never published it, I couldn't find the right way to express it all.

Jorge hits the nail on the head: manufacturers want us to rent the hardware we buy, whether it is the CatGenie or Keurig. They want to make money on every interaction with their product. And it isn't just makers of disposable pod coffee makers, but every company. Microsoft and Apple working on patents to insert advertising into their operating systems is one example, the music industry salivating at a chance to charge every time one hears a song in their catalog, whether you own it or hear it in an ambient way.

Frank Chimero in the post Boring Future, Volume 1

Boring Future #3

Ten years after the introduction of Google’s self-driving car, it still shows ads for businesses in other cities. Everyone complains, but we’d be terrified if the ads were too good. There’s a mutual interest to retard the platform. You want a dumb ad network so you can believe Google doesn’t know too much. Google wants it to seem dumb so they can keep some knowledge for themselves. After watching a 15-second YouTube ad for bail bonds, the car starts driving you to the Google grocery store without you telling it you needed milk. When you arrive, the car makes you sing the grocery store’s jingle to unlock the doors.

This is the future…

Using Evernote (the right way) →

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Thomas Honeyman:

When I first started using Evernote, I used it the way I’ve always used physical notebooks: a note goes in a notebook.

Of course!

So I created a bunch of notebooks. One notebook for a school class. One notebook for my parking tickets. One notebook for reminiscing about coffee. Unfortunately, this is a fine way to miss out on perhaps the most powerful way to use Evernote: the tagging system. I discovered this system through a wonderful Michael Hyatt post. He noticed that tags are essentially the same thing as notebooks, except with a lot more power (and a lot less visual reinforcement).

Related to my Productivity Late 2014 post, the secret to using Evernote successfully is to realize the notebook - note relationship is one-to-one, but the tag - note relationship is many-to-one. Notes can be trapped and lost in a notebook, but be more fluid and accessible with the use of tags.