Archive for November, 2014




Of course, Alex’s post yesterday was a disappointment to me. His announcement hardens intention. But given my philosophy, there is little for me do do but to accept his plan to leave and support it to the best of my ability.

Readiness refers to how likely a person is to seek out knowledge and participate in behavior change, and Alex is clearly not ready for what this place—and I—have to teach him. In the three months that he has been here, Alex has never explored the property nor (to the best of my knowledge) left the vicinity of the house except to pay a visit to the neighbors’. Whereas we spoke frequently upon his arrival, this ceased around the time that he began to spend hours of time on the phone each day and night with a young girl who has become his exclusive counsel.

Individuals go through various stages in order to adopt or maintain new behaviors. According to a website I consulted, in the pre-contemplative stage, the person is generally not aware of a problem or not ready to act. In the contemplative stage, the person is thinking about a change, but is not yet taking action. In the action stage, the person adopts a behavior change and is practicing it. In the maintenance stage, the person retains the new behavior as a result of reinforcement. In the last stage, the behavior is part of the individual’s lifestyle and is no longer seen as a change that needs attention or reinforcement.

Interventions work best if they match a person’s state of readiness. For example, if a subject is not even aware of a problem or its consequences, teaching should be directed toward raising awareness of the need for behavior change before any other learning can take place.

Readiness implies a degree of concentration and eagerness. Individuals learn best when they are physically, mentally, and emotionally ready to learn, and do not learn well if they see no reason for learning. Getting people ready to learn, creating interest by showing the value of the subject matter, and providing continuous mental or physical challenge, is usually the mentor’s responsibility. If the mentee has a strong purpose, a clear objective, and a definite reason for learning something, he makes more progress than if he lacks motivation. In other words, when learners are ready to learn, they meet the mentor at least halfway.

Alex appears to believe that he already has learned most of what is relevant to his personal situation. He doesn’t yet know what he doesn’t know. Give him time.


Groove of the Day

Listen to The Fifth Dimension performing “Go Where You Wanna Go”




by Alex King

I am taking a leave of absence from both Estrella Vista and Wandervogel Diary. Neither is indicative of an ending, but rather a new start. Coming here has allowed me the opportunity to truly take stock of all the damage I’ve caused myself. My life is currently in shambles due to many years’ worth of bad decisions. I’m not writing off the dream, but rather getting myself situated so I can be more helpful in the future.

Beginning with the latter, I have created a web profile of myself as a writer an aspiring author. This site incorporates a blog entitled “Ramblings”. Although most of my efforts are going towards building up my portfolio, there will nonetheless be postings that will intersect with the Diary. These I will happily repost here, but for those who want to keep tabs on me personally, I will be on This site is new, so there isn’t much to see, but with a lot of effort and a little luck, this could change soon.

The item of more immediate interest, I’m sure, is my leaving Estrella Vista. Once more, this is only a new beginning. Since being here, I’ve had the time to closely examine my life. In 25 years, I’ve nothing substantial to show for myself, save 2 prison sentences and some accumulated debt. I’ve always been one to believe a person should take responsibility for themselves and their actions. I can’t expect others to wash out my indiscretions for me. I have to do this myself.

The last time I indulged in city life, prior to my second arrest, jobs were all but inaccessible to me. Without probation and with all the time that has transpired, I’m much better situated to work my way into a legitimate position in the workforce. I will need aid initially, but with a dedicated effort I expect to have something going within 2 months.

I would like to offer my sincere appreciation for the refuge that has been provided for me. I came here with nothing to offer and was received. I appreciate everyone reading this, for giving me my voice and for responding. I look forward to a time in the future when I can be an asset, but I need the time if I’m to no longer be a liability.


Groove of the Day

 Listen to “Disturbed” performing “Prayer”



copacetic 2

As I read through the readers’ comments to yesterday’s post, I have the impression that I left some things unsaid which may have created the impression that the problem was greater or more unresolved than it was.

It is not my style to talk about problems until they are resolved. This one has been definitely fixed to the greatest possible extent at this point in time.

Alex did his dirty dishes and even put them away. He did an excellent, non-half-assed job, and I thanked him for it. In the course of the day, I washed some of his things, and he thanked me for doing so, too. It was as if an oppressive pall had been lifted from our interactions. The old friendliness is restored.

Yesterday my friend Dusty called and expressed interest in what had been going on. He asked me if Alex had seen yesterday’s post, and I replied that he saw it before it was published and had an opportunity to input. Dusty said that he was impressed that Alex was willing for me to air our disagreement, and commented that such practical experiences could be valuable “teaching moments” for young people who grew up the way that Alex did.

He asked me to convey to Alex that most people who read this blog are not interested in judgment or assigning blame, but are supportive and “in it together with him.”

They know that prison is a tough place to learn and practice cooperation.

They know this shouldn’t count against them.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Velocity Girl performing “Copacetic”


que sera, sera


Living with former inmates has its ups and downs. People sometimes tend to romanticize the experience, but I think it is high time for me to burst that bubble.

We have recently been through a “down” which has consumed a lot of energy, and it has been over an issue that most people (I think) should think of as pretty minor: doing the dishes and otherwise cleaning up after yourself after eating. But big doors swing on small hinges.

My own feeling is that a person can best recover from a childhood spent behind bars by exercising personal freedom to do (or not do) everything it takes to survive daily life, but that this freedom must be accompanied by personal responsibility for actions chosen.

Alex used a recent example of “disrespect” (I don’t agree) to justify eating but not cleaning up after himself; however the practice had begun long before the incident of supposed “disrespect.” I had begun to think that Alex would begin to take me for granted as his “bitch” if I continued to clean up after him, so I drew the line one night last week after he had created an especially large number of dirty dishes in the preparation of a stew for his consumption. After first asking him a few times to do his dishes and receiving evasive answers (“I’ll fit it in sometime”), I finally piled his dirty dishes at the base of the ladder to the sleeping loft, so he would literally have to step over them in his frequent comings-and-goings.

He accused me of being “childish” and hardened his resolve not to do his dishes. The dishes remained in place for a couple days until I reminded him that doing one’s dishes is as basic as being responsible for cleaning out one’s own shit bucket, and that his practice prevented me from preparing my meals. I told him that I was not asking him to leave (it is his free choice being here; he is not a prisoner), but that living at Estrella Vista involves making a commitment to a minimal level of pro-social behavior. I said that, unlike him, I do not have a taste for conflict and believe that being in a state of constant conflict does not lead to desirable results. I said that he has got to decide to either “get along or get out.”

Alex agreed that conflict usually results in terrible outcomes, but said that he would never back down (it is not in his nature) and that we had reached an “impasse.” He told me that, given his history, moving constantly was no big deal, and even though he would be leaving with “less than nothing,” he was prepared to return to Pensacola (on my dime), resume going to school, and living with his dysfunctional family.

Even though I’d asked him to take time to think about it before making his decision, I was astonished by his willingness to immediately choose an option which is so clearly not in his self-interests. But he has repeatedly made decisions in his life that he says he knew would turn out badly, almost as if the sub-optimal results were proof that life would always turn out that way.

Now let me be clear: I would prefer that Alex stays at Estrella Vista. I recognize that I am not the most fun person to live with, that Alex has difficulty relating to men, and that life at Estrella Vista can be difficult for anyone. I did not ask him to leave, only to decide that he would make an effort to get along. I didn’t even ask that it be a perfect effort, only that he try.

I gave it a night to think, and I realized that it takes at least two to be in an impasse. My highest value is that however this turns out, it should benefit Alex. I decided that if his remaining here should hinge on my doing his dishes, I would be willing to make the sacrifice. I have no overriding need to “win” a disagreement. So the next morning before he began cooking some eggs, I told him as the older and presumably more mature person in this impasse, I would be willing to do his dishes if he stayed.

However, Alex cut the conversation short and announced that a girl he has been talking to since around the time of his last posting here had convinced him to relent about the dishes—but he was still moving back to Pensacola. As if to prevent me from feeling too magnanimous about my decision, he told me I had her to thank for his change of mind.

We don’t even have the money right now for a bus ticket, so maybe he will or maybe he won’t bail by the time we can afford it. Que sera, sera. Time will tell.

Of the 12 juvenile parricides currently served by the Redemption Project, Derek and Alex are the only ones who received developmentally-appropriate sentences and have been released from the clutches of the System. (Through our involvement, one boy had no charges filed against him and at least two other boys received more lenient sentences, but they are still serving their time.)

My experiences so far have led me to the conclusion that the prison system leaves young people raised in it ill-equipped to deal with even the most basic things that make for a successful life outside the confines. Derek once told me that the rules of survival are all upside-down: what gets you ahead in the outer world can get you killed or injured in prison.

However this incident turns out, it reinforces the need for something like Estrella Vista to ensure that life outside the prison gates can be successful for juvenile parricides.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Doris Day performing “Que Sera Sera (What Will Be, Will Be)”


faith in freedom


This is going to be a short post today. I can’t really go into the events leading up to it, but the last several days have been testing my beliefs… most especially that exercising freedom and self-responsibility are more important than any other ideas behind young people seizing the potential of second chances.

It is extremely difficult not to be directive in specifying how you want other people to be. But I resist doing it, even though not telling others is about as natural as water flowing uphill. I think people wanting to do a certain thing is more important than their complying with someone else’s idea of what they should do.

It is the basis of true pro-social behavior.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Aretha Franklin performing “Think (Freedom)”


keep calm


This will give you an idea of the rock I have been hiding under for the last several years. For some time I had been running across “Keep Calm” posters and products of a wide variety, but had not researched the origins of the fad (which had never made much sense to me) until last night.

It seems the first posters were born in late 1939, when the Ministry of Information was the department of the British Government responsible for wartime propaganda. After the outbreak of the war, the Ministry was tasked to design a number of morale boosting posters that would be displayed across the British Isles during the testing times that lay ahead.

The posters were required to feature bold colors, be similar in style, and feature the crown of King George VI along with an identical font. These are the first two first two posters:



They were posted on public transport, in shop windows, and upon notice boards across Britain. The third and final poster of the set was “Keep Calm and Carry On.” The plan for this poster was to issue it only upon the invasion of Britain by Germany. As this never happened, the poster was never officially seen by the public.

Most of the 2.5 million “Keep Calm” posters produced were destroyed and reduced to a pulp in 1945 at the end of the war. However, in the year 2000, bookseller Barter Books stumbled across a copy hidden among a pile of old books bought at auction. The co-owner with his wife framed the poster and hung it up by the cash register; it attracted so much interest that Barter Books began to produce and sell copies. Other companies followed suit, and the design rapidly began to be used as the theme for a wide range of products.

A small number also remain in the British National Archives and the Imperial War Museum in London, and a further 15 were discovered on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow. No record remains of the unknown Civil Servant who originally came up with the simple and quintessentially British poster.

Said Barter Books co-owner Mary Manley: “I didn’t want it trivialized. But of course now it’s been trivialized beyond belief.”



Groove of the Day

Listen to Cocteau Twins performing “Lazy Calm”




Not much of a message today.

Just aware of the passage of time until Alex’s earbuds arrived on Wednesday and as we’re still waiting for this cold snap to pass.

Only two things remarkable about a second day spent under the covers: I know it’s slightly warmer than yesterday because the pond is not iced over… and second, I woke up this morning with this old song from 1966 running through my head.

I’m sure Alex’s earworms are much different, but thankfully, I no longer have any first-hand knowledge of that.


Groove of the Day

Listen to The Easybeats performing “Friday on My Mind”


so cold


It is so cold here, ice has skimmed over the surface of the pond. The propane heater is working full-time to make the house barely tolerable against the elements, but one can still see his breath as he sits at the desk. Looks like this will be a day spent mostly under the covers.

I hate days like this, not so much because of the discomfort they create, but because they result in an involuntary lack of productivity.

Aliana just called and offered me a ride into town. Even though I have no pressing business there, I took her up on the offer. A chance to buy breakfast at the motor lodge, if nothing else.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Snuff performing “Do Nothing



4 simple steps to ensure you’ll never, ever be tricked by an internet hoax again
You’re too smart to share this nonsense

On Saturday, millions of internet users spent the day mourning the death of Macaulay Culkin. He wasn’t actually dead, but that was a minor detail in the story, which spread across the internet like all too many other stupid hoaxes that spread across the internet every day.

The fake story reporting Culkin’s death was tweeted 23,000 times, and shared more than five million times on Facebook. By the time Culkin responded, the story had already picked up too much steam for anyone to stop it—including Culkin.

Where did a hoax so unstoppable come from? A Facebook memorial page and a poorly written, six-paragraph story from “,” which doesn’t even bother to resemble an actual MSNBC page. The Culkin case was hardly an abberation. This is the kind of thing that happens with distressing frequency, from the “death” of Breakfast Club star Judd Nelson to the “arrest” of graffiti artist Banksy.

The internet keeps playing the same tricks, and we keep refusing to learn how to spot them. It’s never been easier to throw together a halfway-convincing story and make it go viral—and since the perpetrators of these annoying hoaxes have no reason to stop, it’s up to readers to develop a keener sense of whether a story is actually true before they share it. Fortunately, that’s a pretty easy thing to do. Here are four simple steps you can start following right now:

1. Check for additional sources before you share anything

The death of a celebrity like Macaulay Culkin at any age—let alone at age 34, with absolutely no warning—would be major national news. But anyone who bothered to search for his name after seeing the original “death” story would have discovered that the news of his death hadn’t been reported anywhere else. By Sunday, the only stories about Culkin would be the ones debunking the reports of his death.

A Google search is usually enough to determine the veracity of a story. But before you share anything even a little dubious, it is always worth checking—an independent website that has spent more than 20 years fact-checking every rumor that comes across its desk. Snopes is as efficient as it is accurate; they debunked the Macauley Culkin death rumor the day it went viral. Here’s their “What’s New” page, which gives you a feed of the most recent stories they’ve tackled.

2. Learn which websites not to trust

These are a few of the bogus websites you should never trust:

  • Empire News
  • The National Report
  • Huzlers
  • Daily Currant
  • Free Wood Post

While posts from The Onion and Clickhole are occasionally mistaken for legitimate news, their primary goal is genuine satire, not trickery — and by and large, they’re pretty great at it. That’s not the case with these lesser rip-offs, which use the paper shield of “satire” to justify the real reason they exist: tricking people into sharing fake stories they believe are genuine.

Many of these posts go viral because they play on the fears, biases, and stereotypes of politically polarized readers both conservative (“Congress Approves Bill That Will Offer Free Automobiles To Welfare Recipients”) and liberal (“Mitt Romney: I Can Relate To Black People, My Ancestors Once Owned Slaves”). Other popular variations traffic in hopes (“Vince Gilligan Announces Breaking Bad Season 6″) and fears (“Meteorologists Predict Record-Shattering Snowfall Coming Soon”). They’re all fake.

3. Unfollow any website that lies to you

So you’re scrolling through your Facebook news feed, and you discover that one of your friends has shared a hoax link from one of those annoying websites. What should you do?

On the top-right corner of any post in your Facebook news feed, you’ll see an arrow. Click on the arrow and select “Hide all from [insert name of terrible lying website].” No matter how many shares they get from your gullible friends, you’ll never see a story from the offending site again.

4. Use common sense

These hoaxes exist because click-trolling people write them—but they thrive because thousands of people thoughtlessly share them. Would Buzz Aldrin actually tweet that the moon landing was faked on a soundstage? Would casino owners actually try to legalize dog-fighting? Would the Kansas City Royals tap George Zimmerman to throw out the first pitch at the World Series?

Whether or not you have time to carry out the proper due diligence, these stories—and many stories that seem shocking or flattering to a specific political perspective or worldview—are designed to manipulate you into thoughtlessly sharing them.

Remember: Sharing something is the equivalent of a personal endorsement. It’s an implicit guarantee from you that a story is genuine, and that reading it is a valuable use of your friends’ and followers’ time. Take 30 seconds to determine whether something is real before you blast it out to hundreds of people. We’ll all have a better internet for it.


Scott Meslow is the entertainment editor and film and television critic for He has written about film and television at publications including The AtlanticPOLITICO Magazine, and Vulture.


Groove of the Day

 Listen to B.B. King performing “Fool Me Once”


meteor strike


Last Saturday, at about 8:45 pm, there was a bright flash that filled the sky to the south. It reminded me of those films you sometimes see of nighttime artillery barrages during World Wars I and II. Alex and I both witnessed it. It was like sunrise for just a couple seconds, and then gone.

But it wasn’t until yesterday morning that I learned what it had been: a meteor 4 feet in diameter and weighing 4,000 pounds had struck at Piedras Negras in Coahuila, Mexico near the border town of Eagle Pass TX, about 325 miles from here.

Hundreds of skywatchers from California to central Texas reported seeing a meteor that “rivaled the sun” in brightness—the American Meteor Society alone received over 200 calls, and local news stations received many hundreds more. People remarked about its size and speed.

It is really remarkable that an event so far away could have such a dramatic effect here. It drives home the fact that a larger asteroid or meteor strike could have a devastating impact on the whole Earth. NASA says over 100 tons of meteorides enter the Earth’s atmosphere every day, but most of them are small enough that they burn up before striking Earth. This was an unusual occurrence.

I’m glad we happened to see it.

meteor strike


Groove of the Day

 Listen to Perry Como performing “Catch a Falling Star”