sun/navigation tricks

I’ve been busy lately – actually working on book-type writing. Also deleting a million mail messages an hour because of spam generated by that latest virus.

Two neat things I learned today:

  1. If you want to find out what direction is north, hold the 12 on your analog watch facing the sun. North is halfway between 12 and the hour hand.
  2. To determine when the sun will set, measure the distance from the sun to the horizon using the width of your four fingers held at arms’ length. Each of these four finger widths is an hour from the current time to when the sun sets. Each finger width is 15 minutes

I need to sleep now.



Well, I had an interesting day yesterday.

At about 4:30, me and another guy were getting on the elevator to go downstairs for a drink/snack. As we got on the elevator, the lights started flickering, so we immediately got out before the door closed. Right then, the power went out on the whole fucking eastern seaboard. I got to see the emergency procedure of shutting down about a dozen machines that require heavy-duty AC, beeping and complaining as their backup power supplies tried to crash-land them. The machine room was prepared for the contingency – except for not having any backup lights. Oops.

We thought it was a building problem, but within a few phone calls, found out power was really out all over New York, New Jersey, even as far away as Detroit and Ohio. Without a computer, I had nothing to do, so I hit the road. I really didn’t want to walk, but at least I had my iPod, and I was lucky enough to wear shorts that day. Unfortunately, I only had about $2 in cash on me, and the ATMs weren’t going to be working with no power.

The walk reminded me way too much of 9/11, and I even took the same route for the first part of the trip. This time, there were way more people flooding the streets and sidewalks, and the temps were much higher, probably in the mid-90s. I was instantly dehydrated, and cut over to Park to hump my way north to 59th street. People on the street from bodegas and restaurants were selling their bottled water for about 100% above retail. I hope these bastards get anally gang-raped by well-hing, syphilitic SARS patients in the near future.

I finally bought a can of Sunkist for $2 before I hit the Queensborough bridge. (If you saw Spiderman, this is the bridge at the very end, with the battle with Green Goblin.) I have rode my bike across the bridge many times, and there is a separate lower deck for pedestrians, so you don’t walk as high, and it has no cars on it. As I followed the swarm of people to the bridge, I realized we weren’t going the right way. And a second later, I found myself walking on TOP of the bridge, on the upper deck, next to cars. It was very freaked out, being up there with no guard rails or sidewalks, marching next to a line of pretty much parked traffic.

After the long bridge, my body was ready to shut down from dehydration. I barely managed to cross the 39th street bridge over the Sunnyside rail yard and was desperately trying to find a way to simply give up and carjack someone, when I ran into a spa on 39th and Northern that was scrambling to give away all of their ice and big tubs of water with dixie cups. I drank about six glasses of water, the best water I’ve ever had in my life, and then saw that next door, a firehouse had a hose set up with a sprinkler. I put aside my bag and completely drenched myself from head to toe, which immensely helped me stumble the last few miles home.

Round trip: 8 miles. Just over 3 hours. Not too shabby. Of course, I can barely feel my legs today, but I made it.

I didn’t have anything to eat other than snack food and powerbars when I got home, but I really didn’t feel like eating after all that walking. I drank as much water as I could, and luckily I still had running water. I finished reading Skunk Works by flashlight, made a few phone calls (that still worked, miraculously) and tried to sleep. And tried. And tried. Outside, it was a fucking party until after midnight, so I put in earplugs, soaked a towel, and covered myself with it. No fans = sucks.

The power kicked in at about 4AM, turning on my lights and fans. I got a few hours of good sleep, until my boss called and told me to stay put. Turns out a big chunk of Manhattan is still screwed, as are the subways. So I get a day off. Too bad half of the cable channels are out.

I’m going to go take a nap in front of a fan, then hit an ATM and get a bunch of real food. Hope all’s well where you’re sitting.


Boys and Girls

I’m somewhat depressed. I just watched this movie called Boys and Girls on TV while I was sitting at home on a Saturday night, eating canned ravioli and frozen garlic bread for dinner. It’s one of those college comedy/romance movies, starring Freddie Prinze Jr. and Claire Forlani as these two college students that are opposites but very paired together. They keep running into each other by chance and don’t entirely click, but over the course of their college career, become the best of friends. Then they semi-accidentally sleep together at the end of Act II, insert cliche commotion, and the whole thing ends with her giant soliloquy as he’s on the plane leaving for home at the end of the year, about how she needs him and really does love him, etcetera.

It all sounds very cliche, and it is. But I guess it was very well done, at least as far as these sort of teen college movies go, and it caught me for some reason. Maybe part of it is Claire Forlani, who is not only very easy on the eyes, but also had this role where she seemed to be the perfect, down-to-earth female, the kind of girlfriend one would really want, both very sexual and beautiful, yet very carefree and open. But part of the reason the film stuck in my craw was the same reason I spent so long writing Summer Rain: I really do feel nostalgic over my years in college. Even if the fairytale romance like the one in this movie (or, for that matter, the one in Summer Rain, which was fictional) never happened, that era was the playing field for something like that to happen. So I did enjoy the movie, but it also brought this weird funk over me that I can’t seem to shake.

(Weird aside – the movie also briefly featured Heather Donahue, who was in The Blair Witch Project, although I didn’t even know it was her. It also had Jason Biggs as Prinze’s roommate, and Alyson Hannigan as Prinze’s first girlfriend. And then in the American Pie movies, Biggs and Hannigan end up married. Weird.)

So I got audited AGAIN, by the State of New York. They claim I did not file a tax return in 1999, which is humorous considering I DID file a return, and I’ve got a copy of it sitting right here, and then they later audited said return to squeeze a bit more money out of me. Fuckers. I would like to send them a letter saying “Dear NYSIRS: it appears your records are FUCKED. I did pay my taxes, you pieces of shit. You now owe me a refund of 25% of the amount of taxes paid for wasting my fucking time and another stamp to mail this stupid letter, you pieces of shit. Love, Jon.”

I got Command and Conquer: Generals and it is the most perfect way to destroy any writing ethic I may have remaining. It’s a pretty cool game, albeit a slight bit sluggish on my machine.

Not much else is going on. The weather is a bit shitty, and I am broke, so I’ve spent most of the weekend sofar either running errands or trying to clean the house. I am slowly making progress on the apartment, and there are a few new patches of floor visible from the shifting of things. I’m throwing out junk, trying to shuffle the bookshelves a bit to get things off the floor, and just trying to put things away as I can. Nothing major, but it’s getting there.

I should write, but I don’t know if I can. Either way, I should get something done now…



I’m back, and I had a pretty good four-day weekend in Boston. The weather was nice (albeit a bit rainy on one day), the subways did not reek of piss, the restaurants had working public restrooms, and the cashiers actually talked to you, as if having paying customers was a virtue. Quite different from my home town, and a nice change.

The main event on Friday was the reading, and finally meeting my writer friend John Sheppard. He read last, from his book Small Town Punk. I read from Rumored to Exist, the first time I ever read from anything, and it went okay. After that, we went to a bar called Bukowski’s. I met some cool people, sold some books, gave away some books, traded some books, and got some books. So that went cool.

I also saw some old IU friends. Jeff Sumler showed up at the reading and had a few with us there and at Bukowski’s. I hung out in Harvard Square on Saturday afternoon with Brian Smith and his wife Sarah, where we ate some Mexican food and walked around the Harvard campus for a while. And even though our plans didn’t pan out, I got to chat a bit with my old friend Drew. So there was a lot of the conversation about where persons x and y were, and what it was like back in Bloomington, and how the campus has changed in a decade, and all of that. And that sometimes feels a little childish, like I’m one of those high school football player types stuck in the past. But sometimes it’s good, too.

And now I’m back. And I’m dead tired, and I’d love to tell more details or upload the pictures and make a web page, but I really need to crash…