Friday, November 30, 2012

A Quick Trip to the UK

My trip to London is already over. I arrived on Wednesday afternoon and I'm already snug in the Sofitel at Terminal 5 at Heathrow.

That's not my usual standard for travel, I realize. But 1) this is a work trip and 2) I got it on Priceline so work didn't even have to pay that much for me.

I aimed for this hotel by bidding for 5 stars at Heathrow—it's the only hotel at that level, and I wanted this particular hotel because I wanted to be able to stumble to Terminal 5 at 6:30 AM tomorrow rather than catch a bus from some other hotel. I didn't get it on my first try, so I waited 24 hours, upped my bid from $125 to $137, and got it.

On Wednesday and Thursday, I had typed 4 stars and Kensington into Priceline and ended up at an all right Hilton. Nothing special, but I've definitely stayed in worse in London. This is a tough city for decent hotels.

I put away my luggage in my room on Wednesday, then raced over to the British Library to see the original scroll manuscript of On the Road. This is madness—120 feet of single-spaced prose.

I wasn't allowed to take photos of the scroll.

I headed to a Christmas market and stumbled over the big Ferris wheel by Waterloo.

And on Thursday, I went to an all-day meeting in Bristol for work. Mr. and Mrs. Fixit and I went to dinner back in London, and then today, I met my friend Peter Moore for a stroll about town before heading to the airport.

This was a whirlwind trip, but we got a lot done in the meeting. And I got to see Mr. Fixit and Peter, so that worked out just dandy.

Off to Barcelona in the morning.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Finishing Up and Starting

I'm sorry I've been so quiet. The crunch at the end of writing the Iron Man novel was intense, and I had no time for anything, including posting here. I didn't go to the gym for three weeks, and only left my house to teach or pick up a sandwich. I can't say it was harder than I expected it to be, because I fully expected it to be hard. I can say that I'm very proud to have finished and I think I did a pretty good job. My editor, Stuart, had to do a bit of hand-holding at the end and just chatting with him about options for adding in new material would calm me down. Steve Pugh and Marc Siry both gave me ideas once in a while, and those helped push me through too.

And it's a good thing I finished when I did, because I'm going to a meeting tomorrow in Bristol. And as a precursor, I had the joy of sleeping on a plane, stumbling into a Priceline Hilton all jetlagged, and also, of taking the Heathrow Express train to Paddington. I wouldn't do this on my own money but I'm on a business trip and already saving a fair bit through my tried-and-true London techniques: Get Boingo for the month of the trip (avoid hotel wifi fees) and use Priceline to get a 4-star place.

I *loved* taking the Heathrow Express. I'm never going back to the Underground. At least, not until I'm not on a business trip.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

World's Stupidest Itinerary

I stumbled over this suggested itinerary while booking a flight to London for a business trip. I was reviewing options for a quick stopover in Barcelona.

This one popped up first. I refreshed and started again.

It still came up.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Morning Commute

The PATH train has been packed this week, because it's down to one line after the hurricane. Traveling at rush hour means being stuffed in the car—if I'm lucky enough to get on—so the two times I've had to go into my office this week, I've taken the ferry.

The ferry is not cheap—the ride takes eight minutes and is a dollar a minute.

But it's eight minutes of spectacular.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

My Climate Has Changed, Don't Know About Yours

Deceptively beautiful, isn't it? This is the kind of stuff that screws up electricity, school openings, and snarled traffic in an area already hit hard by a giant hurricane.

We're having a hard time catching a break around here lately.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Them's A Lotta Books

I bought 100 of these from the publisher, who had something like 400 extra.

I don't know what I'm going to do with them, but here they are.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Consider Yourself Lucky: Your State Probably Has Electricity

Voting: If you are cynical about the Presidential election, then consider your own state and city ballot questions. You vote on these directly, and the popular vote determines if YES or NO takes the day. Google "ballot questions" and your state if you need to read up on these.

Also, the House races are vital this time, and to a lesser extent, Senate races. Yes, we all know (because Gore vs. Bush wasn't that long ago) that the Founding Fathers built in an anti-tyranny of the majority measure that inadvertently holds POTUS and the majority hostage to special interests in the heartland, some of which are distinctly anti-science, anti-equal rights, and anti-women. We all know it's *not* one person, one vote, and we are disgusted with the implication that the vote of a woman or minority is somehow less important than that of the white male. I've read many articles implying that by "getting out the vote" of poor people, the votes are somehow invalid. That's nonsense—last time I checked, being born wealthy didn't make you more human than being born poor.

I too tire of the horserace aspect, of the way we fetishize celebrity, or the way we simplify things to overlook nuances of compromise. I get annoyed by the debates—these guys aren't able to cancel Big Bird or bully China. It's all a dog-and-pony show, a ratings event for those who don't understand three branches, corporate lobbying, and complications of competing needs.

I vote anyway, without apology and I do not accept the judgement of those who would inform me that I must be sub-human or an idiot for voting.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

The Line

The gas lines—human and car—for the few open stations at the Holland Tunnel went on for blocks when I took a look there the other day.

Friday, November 02, 2012


I'm working on a book that is due on November 12, and I can't really stop to go to the gym, my office, or write on my blog at the moment, but I really should point out that I'm fine.

I lost power from about 11:30 on Monday night to about 1:30 AM, 26 hours later on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. I had hot water (gas water heater), my phone landline, and my gas stove working fine the whole time. I haven't had water problems (yet). I'm on the fourth floor of a solid brownstone rowhouse built in 1880. It's been through many storms, and I didn't really feel the wind in here.

On Tuesday afternoon, I'd taken my car up to Jersey City Heights to check on Michael Kraiger. He was fine aside from this giant tree having taken his power out for a day. He got power back later Tuesday evening, though we charged his phone up in my car, not knowing how long it would be.

Shops near me started reopening on Tuesday, with Basic up and running on Wednesday morning. That was a bit zombiepocalypse, with people and their devices plugged in all over. I got power back before much of the neighborhood, apparently. The grocery stores opened back up quickly, though there was a rather pointless and stupid lockdown in JC on Wednesday, where everything closed and we all had to be home by seven at night.

My food didn't even have a chance to go bad. Plus, I'd done laundry and filled up my car with gas, gotten out a hundred dollars in cash from the ATM, so I was ready for longer stint without power. But I'm now ridiculously grateful for electricity and glad to have it. Like when I lived in Uganda, I found that as soon as the power went out, I wanted to go to sleep.

I walked over to the Hudson yesterday, and the Newport to West 39th ferry is running constantly. Of course, it's eight bucks a pop so I probably won't be running into Manhattan on a whim. But today Roberta caught the jitney in—that's only $4.25, or $2.50 if you buy a ticket at the window and then walk down the hill from Journal Square.

In the Newport Mall, there were power-squatters at every outlet, and the places that were open in the food court were packed with people ready to eat whatever they were cooking. And over at the highrises on the waterfront, giant dumpsters were being filled with ruined furniture, books, wood.

The Hudson came to visit us here on Monday night during high tide. I am two blocks from the new water line, fortunately, and my car was fine this time, but pretty much all of Paulus Hook appears to have been flooded, along with the lower levels of Newport. And god. And just now people are starting to realize what Staten Island endured along with Queens and the Jersey shore.

The situation is not over for people who lost everything, or even some things, and people who were nowhere near the shore are still lacking power in parts. But I am fine. Roberta is fine. My pocket of Jersey City is fine. We have food, stores are open, and the only problem here now appears to be lack of gasoline. I have plenty, but I don't need to go anywhere so at some point, I might just lock my car back in my garage in case people start getting carried away.

So all is well here. Certainly, relative to other parts of New Jersey, we made it through pretty well. People are pumping out their basements and sorting out the damage. The rail tunnels aren't looking great, nor is the Holland Tunnel, but in time, they'll get things up and running.

Here are some photos I took on Wednesday and Thursday.