Biff Sock Pow

Finding the humor in everyday life.

Putting the Monday in Mundane

Plumbing-Meeting RM v1

You can’t say “mundane” without saying “Monday” first, unless you’re just being a smart-Alec and deliberately mispronouncing it.

The two words are so similar sounding that I wonder if they didn’t start out as the same word but then diverged over time .  I could Google it, but I’m overcome with mundanity.  Which is just a fancy way of saying I’m lazy.

Before I go any further, here is the link to tonight’s background music.  It is David Sanborn’s The Dream.  I love me some David Sanborn while I write.  It helps chase away the mundaneness.

As the title of this blog implies, today was Monday, and it was also mundane.  You might say, “I had a bad case of the mundanes.”   (Sorry, that was an obscure “Office Space” reference.)

Where was I?

Today was a day full of PowerPoint slides and Excel spreadsheets.  I started out my career with a degree in engineering and spent decades designing some marvelous, highly technical, and extremely complex products, but somehow I’ve managed to find myself in a job where I only refer obliquely to engineering in PowerPoints and spreadsheets and hallway conversations.  It is the equivalent of a plumber being called out to a house where there is geyser in the upstairs bathroom due to a burst pipe.  But, instead of doing any actual plumbing, he presents to the homeowners a slide deck proposing a statement of work and presenting a preliminary plan of execution.  There is a slide outlining a list of potential risks to cost and schedule, as well as any cost avoidance opportunities that may be realized.  There is a slide mapping needed skills to available staff.  A high-level, time-phased budget is presented with material milestones.  There are several slides covering  any applicable building and plumbing codes, as well as an environmental impact assessment.    There are slides covering legal and contract considerations.  There is a mandatory safety slide.  Then there are some boilerplate slides on ethics, diversity, and team-building.  Finally, the plumber stands up and tells the homeowners they have 30 days to review the provided materials and to make formal comments through the plumber’s change management software and to accept the terms and conditions, whereupon formal negotiations on cost and schedule can begin.

I don’t understand how all of this managed to happen to a once-enjoyable career.

But I do now understand why modern office buildings don’t have windows that open.

 

 

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Biff’s Backyard Photography: Pre-Autumn Edition

A few days ago I was feeling guilty for not using the camera that I just had to have several months ago.  I was also feeling guilty for not posting in this blog for awhile.  So I put two and two together and said, “Hey!  Why not take some pictures and post them on this little blog of mine?”  And so, here I am.

The problem with that idea is that I live in a very non-picturesque part of the world.  I am surrounded by literally hundreds of square miles of suburbia.  So, I have to take pictures of what I can find (which isn’t much).  It’s like looking through a thousand pounds of grass clippings hoping to find a rose.

Anyway, below is what I came up with.  How I envy people who live in interesting places!


I found this little fellow in the joint between my fence and my house.  He thought he was hidden, but I managed to sneak a picture of him.  Geckos are very plentiful here, and I encourage them any way I can.  They eat a lot of things that I don’t want inside the house (like roaches and june bugs).  All that twiggy stuff in the background is the remnants of some Virginia creeper vine that I tried to eradicate a few years ago.  However, I couldn’t get rid of all of the tendrils it put down since apparently Virginia creeper glues itself to the wall with the equivalent of two-part epoxy.

IMG_0834bImage copyright ©2017 by Biff Sock Pow

This is the last canna lily of summer.  It has not bloomed fully yet in this picture.  It is amazing how lush these things look in spite of it not having rained in over two months.  I used to think that canna lilies were exotic and delicate, like orchids.  I have since come to learn that they are basically weeds here in Texas and throughout the Deep South and will grow anywhere and everywhere.  They will grow up through cracks in the sidewalk.  They will take over entire sections of your yard and choke out everything else.  All they need is about two drops of water a month to look like what you see here.

IMG_0839a.jpgImage copyright ©2017 by Biff Sock Pow

Here’s another gecko (a different one).   I think he panicked and thought he was a chameleon for a moment.  In his mind he probably thinks he is as red as the brick he is on.  I didn’t have the heart to disillusion him.  I often feel the same way when I’m at work.  I think I am the same color as the cubicle walls and that no one can see me.  I am almost always wrong in this thinking.

IMG_0844a.jpgImage copyright ©2017 by Biff Sock Pow

This is the view looking into the side of a stack of firewood.  It seemed appropriate to the rapidly approaching Halloween season.  Would you stick your hand in there?  I sure wouldn’t!  Firewood is a favorite lair location for black widow and brown recluse spiders.  They’re the reason I let geckos have the run of my house.

IMG_0852a.jpgImage copyright ©2017 by Biff Sock Pow

I’m not sure what these berries are.  They appear periodically in one of the scraggly trees in my backyard.  I haven’t figured out the cycle at which these things appear.  It seems to be random.  Apparently the birds love them, because I never see them on the ground.  The tree itself is not very attractive, but it provides shade, and in Texas, that is like a goose that lays golden eggs.

IMG_0853.JPGImage copyright ©2017 by Biff Sock Pow

 

So there you have today’s installment of “Biff’s Backyard Photography“.  I hope you enjoyed.  And for all you people who live in interesting or picturesque locales, count your blessings!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn Comes to the ‘Burbs

Practically overnight, this tree turned from green to bright yellow.

Autumn happens quickly in Dallas … you have to be ready for it or you’ll miss it.

Notice the trees in the background are still green.

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Image Copyright ©2017 by Biff Sock Pow

A Man Walks Into a Bar …

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I thought if I waited long enough between blog posts that one or two interesting things would happen to me and that I would actually have a backlog of things to write about.  Sadly, that turned out to not be the case.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  When I decided this morning that today would be the day I would post on my blog again, I had so little to write about that I found myself looking back through my archives of things I’ve already posted in order to plagiarize something from myself to post.

Is this, then, where I am in my life?  Am I on that long stretch of highway where there are no memorable sights to see, no interesting little towns to drive through, no witty billboards to look at, no curious animals off on the horizon to comment on?  Not even a cloud that looks like a frog playing tennis?  Just mile after mile after mile of sagebrush and flat terrain and cloudless sky?  And not even really a discernible destination to drive towards.  Just driving in this direction because that’s the direction the road is going in.

I have often said that I am very thankful for the fact that, when I was in my teens and twenties, there was no such thing as the internet.  There was no social media.  There were no blogs.  There was absolutely no practical way to get your writings in front of readers short of physically handing them to your friends or family and saying, “Hey, read this and tell me what you think.”  However, nothing will turn you into a pariah faster and more assuredly than handing your writings to people.  But though I hungered back then to get my writings out into the world, I am still glad there was no way to do that.

I cringe to think back on some of the things I wrote back then and imagine the horror of what would have happened if I had ever posted them anywhere for the world to see.  No, everything I wrote on my trusty  Olympia typewriter back then just moldered away in my desk drawer, never to be read by anyone (not even myself).  If any of that had found its way onto the Internet, I would live my life constantly cringing and sweating and tugging at my collar nervously, living in fear that someone would walk up to me someday and say, “Hey, I stumbled across that short story you wrote back in 1982.

However, I do envy the old me in one regard.  I actually had things to write about back then.  I had crazy friends that I did crazy things with.  I had tragic, comical, and always one-sided romances with girls that I admired from afar (and who did not know I existed).  I did crazy things like street racing, freight train hopping, cycling 40 miles on a whim in the summer heat to a lake (and this was before cycling was even a thing), jumping off of a boat in the middle of a lake while drunk off my ass so I could swim back to shore, sinking a car up to its doors in the mud 40 miles from nowhere on a freezing New Year’s night, etc.)

Then somewhere along the line we outgrow the craziness of our youth and become Responsible Citizens™ and we work every day for 40 years without fail because we were told that if we do, that would be cake and ice cream in the break room and maybe free T-shirts if there were enough to go around.

I always like to keep my blogs humorous, so here’s a joke written by 20 year old Me


A man slides up into a bar and says, “Hey, man.  Beer me.”

And the barkeep says, “Sure thing, man.  What kind?”

And the man says, “Anything you got as long as it only costs a dollar.”

And the beer dude says, “You know what you can get for a dollar?”

“No, what, man?”

“The hell out of here.”

“Man, you’re a trip!  Gimme some skin!”

They slap palms and laugh and the bartender gives him half a beer for a dollar.


Here’s that same joke written by that same man thirty-some-odd years later.

A man walk into a bar and he says, “Hey, Bartender, I’ll have a beer.”

And the bartender says, “Here you go.  That’ll be 7 dollars.”

The man pays him seven dollars and drinks his beer.

The bartender says, “Would you like another one?”

And the man says, “Nah, I have to get home.”

And the bartender says, “Well you have a good day then.”

“Thanks.  You, too.”

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac: Sunday Late-night Edition

Poor Biff's Almanac Graphic (Colored) #1

According to my watch, about fifteen minutes ago it was Friday afternoon and I was leaving work like a moonshiner in a souped up muscle car trying to outrun a revenuer.

And now … it’s Sunday night and I’m about to have to go back to the place I was so eager to leave on Friday afternoon.   Man, they’d better be glad they pay me!  Else I just wouldn’t bother to show up at all.

On top of all that, it is now officially autumn here in North Texas.  You can tell it is autumn in north Texas because the temperatures have plummeted from 100 degrees all the way down to about 91 or 92.   The leaves have changed colors (changing from green to burnt onyx in less than 24 hours counts as a color change).  The leaves don’t change just because it’s autumn; they change because it hasn’t rained in six weeks and they have just given up on life.  And, while people up in northern climes have perhaps gotten out and raked leaves or grown pumpkins or had a cider press or had a hay ride, I had to get out and mow the lawn today.  In the heat.  And the humidity.  And the mosquitoes.   Ya gotta love living in North Texas.

On the plus side, there are no active volcanoes around here that I know about.   That’s pretty much all the real estate writers can come up with as pluses when they are waxing poetic in the housing ads for Dallas area housing:

  • 4BR / 3BA / 2LA
  • 3 car garage
  • Great schools
  • No active volcanoes nearby
  • Convenient access to plays, concerts, art exhibits (by way of the DFW airport to New York City)
  • No major meteor impacts for at least 1000 years
  • On a clear day you can see Oklahoma with the naked eye

No wonder the Dallas housing market is booming!

 

 

 

 

I Keep Forgetting to Buy a Lottery Ticket, So Here I am Again For Another Blog Post

Lottery-winner

In lieu of winning the lottery and retiring to my private lighthouse off the coast of Maine, I thought I’d come write this blog post instead.  It’s almost as good.

It reminds of of a time when I was a young doofus at around the age of 9.   One day I received a piece of mail that was actually addressed to me.  [Side note:  For you youngsters, back in those days “mail” consisted of pieces of paper that were wrapped up in other pieces of paper, affixed with a small, colorful piece of paper saying that you had paid the United States Post Office to manhandle, abuse, and mislay said pieces of paper, and then hand delivered to someone … eventually.  It was a beautiful system, really, before it was supplanted by email and the internet.)    Anyway, back to the story.

I hardly ever got mail (even back then), so I was a bit gobsmacked.  It was addressed to me and everything.  I tore into it eagerly and found a bunch of brightly-colored pieces of paper assuring me that I had absolutely, positively, guaranteed, sho’ nuff no foolin’ won one of the following prizes.

A multi-caret diamond ring

A genuine ruby pendant

A polishing cloth suitable for polishing jewelry

I was beside myself with exuberance.  I had won!   Me!  A regular, everyday, 9 year old doofus from the backwaters of Mississippi.  Imagine that!  There must indeed be a benevolent force in the universe that looks out for doofi (the plural of “doofus”).

I could barely contain my excitement as I sent off my pre-paid envelop to the sweepstakes company … along with my payment for a year’s subscription to “Gem World Magazine”.  Though I had to deplete my stash of paper route money to subscribe to the magazine, it was only fair since they were sending me valuable jewelry.  It was the least I could do.  And just imagine the look of joy on my Mom’s face when I presented her with her own genuine diamond ring or, worst case, a ruby pendant.

The ensuing days and weeks drug by as slow as molasses at the South Pole, but my eagerness, enthusiasm, and anticipation did not flag at all.  I was the very picture of confidence and optimism.  If ever my hope began to fail me, I just pictured how happy my Mom would be upon receiving her diamond ring or ruby pendant.

I got my first edition of Gem World Magazine in the mail, so I know they had gotten my claim for my guaranteed prize.  That bolstered my enthusiasm, since now I was just waiting for my prize to arrive.

And then one day it showed up.  I tore into the envelope eagerly.  I was practically shaking in anticipation.  Imagine my joy and my excitement when I opened up my very own . . . felt polishing cloth.  It measured about 4 inches by 6 inches and was a pale sky blue.   Other than the fact it was perfectly rectangular, it looked like something that could have been picked up off of the floor of a sewing factory.

That was the day I realized I was going to have to toil for a living, because Providence did not often smile upon poor children growing up on the wrong side of the tracks in a Southern backwater.

It was that valuable lesson in life that makes me forget more often than not to pick up a lottery ticket on the way home from work on Wednesdays and Fridays.  Why should I when I have this perfectly acceptable blog?  I think of this blog as the felt polishing cloth of life.  It may not be a diamond ring, but by golly, you could sure give it a good shine if you had one.

 

 

My Compact to Compact My Compact Disks

man shoveling CDs.jpg

This is sort of a follow-on blog to my blog of yesterday in which I made a compact with myself to downsize, minimize, and simplify my life.

To put that into action, I decided today that I would go through my CD collection and get rid of as many of them as I could stomach doing.  I should preface all this by saying that there is no earthly reason why I should be hanging onto them at all.  I have ripped them all onto my hard drive and can listen to them any time I want.  Furthermore, the  CDs themselves have for years been packed away on a nearly-inaccessible shelf in my home office closet.  In all that time I have only had to get to them once or twice, and that was usually to add even more CDS to the pile after I’d bought and ripped to my hard drive.

For some inexplicable reason, we can form emotional attachments to these little plastic disks and their beautiful jewel cases and colorful inserts.  As I went through the stacks, I encountered the very first CD I ever bought back in the late 1980s (America’s “View From the Ground”, which was one of my favorite vinyl albums from my college days).  There were CDs I’d received as gifts from friends and family members.  There were CDs that I listened to for hours on end at various points of my life and that are now indelibly associated with those times.   There were CDs that had taken me decades to find and buy (for example, Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” or Harry Chapin’s “Verities and Balderdash”).  So, for some irrational reason, it is hard to part with them.

Do I need those disks to be able to listen to that music?  No.  I do not.  But they are like photos of periods of my life now long since past.  It is hard to bring myself to get rid of them.

But I did it.    Sort of.

I dug all the CDs down out of the closet.  I didn’t count them, but I estimate there are about 700+ CDs.  I went through them one by one and said “yes” or “no” and put them in the corresponding pile.   This system broke down a little when I got to my Yes CDs (particularly “Tales From Topographic Oceans”), but I was soon able to recover and move on.

Again, I did not count them all, but I estimate that I put about 300 CDs in the “get rid of” pile and about 400 in the “keep” pile.   So, my efforts to cut my collection down to a manageable 50 or 100 CDs was a failure.  But … I am getting rid of about 300 of them, and that is a good start.  Maybe in a few months I can get rid of another 2 or 3 hundred.

Here are the ones I’m getting rid of.

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Here are the ones I’m keeping.

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They are just in this shelf temporarily (and, yes, alphabetized by artist).  Tomorrow they go back into the closet.  I will try again in a few months to whittle them down to a mere 50 or 100 … or preferably zero.

Next up on my to-do list of things to get rid of …. my massive book collection!  Will Biff be strong enough to do this?  Stay tuned and find out!

 

 

2017: A Space Oddity

or

How Not To Buy Things

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I am at a point in my life where I am trying to downsize.  I have spent many decades accumulating “things” (which sounds better than “junk”).  There is only one word to describe this stuff.  Detritus.

Or flotsam.

Or jetsam.

Or junk.

(Okay, there are lots of words to describe this stuff …. even “stuff”).

Then one day you cross some threshold and you realize you’re never going to need that factory AM/FM radio you had replaced with a Pioneer AM/FM/Cassette deck in your 1984 Mustang (which you haven’t owned in at least 20 years).  You’re never going to need that package of two replacement belts for a 1990s vintage Kenmore vacuum cleaner (which has been in a landfill for at least a decade).  You’re never going to need that tub full of old USB, printer, and power cables, none of which fit any modern electronic device.  You’re never going to need that ice-maker connection kit that came with a refrigerator you bought when you rented your first duplex in the mid 90’s.

No, all of this stuff is less than useless.  It is taking up valuable space.  It prevents you from finding things you are actually looking for.  (Oh, why oh why does the most useless junk float to the top of any junk drawer?)   And, worse still, all this stuff anchors you to shoals that you will never escape from as long as your hull is covered with these insidious barnacles.

So, I have reached that point in my life where I have no trouble throwing these things away.  (Okay, I have a little trouble throwing them away … but I am getting over those hesitations more and more every day.)

But the other side of that coin is that, in order to empty out those junk drawers, mysterious boxes in the attic, and groaning shelves in the garage, you must stop adding new stuff to the pile!  This part is much harder than getting rid of things that are unarguably useless.  Our entire society is based upon us being good and faithful consumers.  Merchants prey upon our weakness by making things in stores look so inviting.  They are the painted ladies down by the docks when the ships put down anchor.   (I play the part of a hapless, gullible sailor in that metaphor.)

But I am getting better at resisting the come-hither gesticulations of the bright, attractive, products upon the well-lit and comely shelves at the stores I frequent.

Tonight, I resisted the urge to buy the following:

  • A softbound version of William Faulkner’s work of staggering genius “The Sound and the Fury”.   (The $20 price tag made me start and bolt like a frightened deer.)
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  • A Criterion DVD of “The In-Laws” with Alan Arkin and Peter Falk.   (The $26 price tag had me staggering like a drunkard around the video section of Barnes & Noble while rending my clothing.)
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  • A Criterian DVD of Michael Cimino’s “Heaven’s Gate” with Kris Kristofferson. (The $49.99 price tag had me clutching at my heart and making gurgling noises like a man who had just finished a bacon fat, lard, and Spam salad.)
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  • A Panasonic beard trimmer.  (The $100 price tag had me sobbing like a child whose ice cream had just fallen off the cone and plopped on the ground where it was promptly eaten by the dog.  Besides, my old one works just fine … except that the battery only lasts for about three and a half minutes, so I have to trim fast.  This can be a challenge while staring bleary-eyed at the mirror having just woken up in the morning.)

So, I can’t decide if I am trying to minimize and simplify my life . . . or if I’m just a cheap bastard.

I prefer to think of myself as a shrewd consumer.

 

 

 

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac — If Today Is Tuesday, Can Wednesday Be Far Behind?

Poor Biff's Almanac Graphic (Colored) #1

We’ve made it to Tuesday with no help from anybody.   High fives all around!  By golly, we deserve it!

Ahh, Tuesday!   A day that has somehow become synonymous with tacos.  Thank you, Alliteration!  (And Rosa’s Cafe!)

And while it may be Taco Tuesday, I still chose to eat a burger at Whataburger.  Yeah, that’s right:  a burger!  What can I say?  I’m a rebel.    Nobody tells ME what to do!  Not even Rosa.  (Sorry, Rosa.)  I’ll have tacos, not on Tuesday, but on Wednesday just to prove that I’m my own man.  Actually, I’ll probably eat at Whataburger again.  I may be my own man, but I am also a creature of extreme habit.  Sure I want to stop at Wendy’s or Chic-Fil-A or Rosa’s Cafe, but I can’t.  The car won’t stop until it comes to a stop in the drive-thru of Whatburger.  Curse you, habituality!

The only other thing Tuesday is known for is being the gateway to Wednesday, which, as you know, is the portico to Thursday, and Thursday is the antechamber of Friday.

And that’s what I like about Tuesday . . . it leads inexorably to Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac — Now In Color

Poor Biff's Almanac Graphic (Colored) #1

I was so bored this past weekend that I used a freeware graphics program to color my Poor Biff’s Almanac graphic.

So tonight’s question, dear readers, is this:  how bored do you have to be to use a freeware graphics program to color in a stupid graphic?

Answer:  Pretty damn bored.

You might have also noticed that it is now transparent (the graphic, not my motives).  Now, the bits of the graphic that are not actually in the foreground are invisible and so allow my wallpaper theme to show through.

So, not only was I bored enough to color in the graphic, I was bored enough to eliminate everything that wasn’t actually graphic.

Man, I gotta get a life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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