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If you have a Windows based computer, you have the option of having multiple clocks. In the lower right corner, is a digital clock showing time and date. If you click on that, and then click on date and time changes, it will bring up a screen with three tabs at the top. The center tab, Additional Clocks, allows you to add two more clocks which you can set to Eastern Time and Pacific Time, or any time zone you want. Then when you want to see what time it is in another part of the country, just click the lower right corner. It helps if you label the clocks.
I love the multiple clocks! They started with Vista, and there's a video in our Vista series on setting them up. /vistawindows7-learning-series/
As for ahead or behind … I guess it makes sense to say that California is 'behind' New York since they're still asleep when New Yorkers have been at work for a couple hours already.