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Semi-helpful advice for a 90-day 'vacation'


Sometimes it's hard not to be entertained by other people's calamities. Such was the case recently when a member of the group blog Ask MetaFilter announced that he had run afoul of the law.

Ask MetaFilter, which I've written about before, is as simple a blog as they come: People post honest questions, and any of the site's 30,000 members can attempt an honest answer.

Questions vary from the routine to the downright bizarre. But a question posed a few weeks ago by a member who goes by the name Cedar seemed to enter new territory for the normally civic-minded site.

"I find myself in the awkward position of spending ninety-days incarcerated," he wrote on June 27.

"Because the jail is so small there are absolutely no programs, outdoor exercise or other activities to keep me amused," he added. "Aside from endless rounds of pushups, reading and writing, what on Earth am I going to do to keep from going out of mind with boredom?"

Inventive and amusing answers - and a few questions - started flowing in almost immediately.

Though several people asked what he was being jailed for, Cedar didn't elaborate, other than to say: "This is not a prison or felony type thing but rather a civil matter involving the charming legal term 'contempt of court'."

Many people suggested he take a philosophical approach.

"This prison doesn't sound too far from a meditation retreat or monastery," wrote Salvia. "Can you seed your mind ahead of time with some self-growth books (or bring some in) and then spend the time meditating and practicing Buddhist acceptance of everything?"

"Think about that which will have mattered most when you are near death and look back on your life," added Pastabagel. "In a way, you are very fortunate to have this opportunity."

Others were more practical.

"Learn to play guitar," wrote Cortex.

"Correspondence course," suggested Acoutu.

"Chess is traditional," added Flabdablet.

And others tapped into personal experience.

"When spending my days in ISS (In School Suspension) in high school, I would doodle buildings - stadiums, sky scrapers, etc," wrote Unixrat. "Man, I killed days doing that. I had some really nice ones too."

A few people even offered to help.

"Start [a] snail-mail correspondence with a stranger. Email me for my address," wrote Dobbs.

"Maybe somebody will start selling 'Free Cedar!' t-shirts," wrote Hildago.

Not surprisingly, many suggestions for Cedar were Web-centric - earnest in nature, but maybe a little uninformed. Lots of people suggested he bring along a laptop and blog about his experience. Others suggested he take along a digital camera and post daily photos on Flickr.

"Some of you are incredibly naive," interjected Cochise. "Hate to break it to you Cedar, but you're not going to be allowed any of this. Books can be sent to you, same with pads and stuff. But laptop? Flickr accounts? Are you kidding me? I know it sucks, but you're going to jail. And even if it's a nice jail, it's still jail."

Cedar began his sentence July 1. Check Ask MetaFilter in early October to see if any of the suggestions were worthwhile.

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