Biff Sock Pow

Finding the humor in everyday life.

A Lesson In Time

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Today I found myself visiting a building that I used to work in about ten years ago.  That’s not unusual.  It happens every few months or so.  The building is largely unchanged from when I used to work in it long ago.

At one point I was walking down a hallway I have never had much reason to walk down, then or now.  I passed a conference room and for some bizarre reason my brain decided to have a memory of a meeting I attended there about ten years ago.  It was a departmental meeting and I can quite vividly see in my mind a photograph of that assemblage that day.

Thanks, Brain!  I can’t remember what I had for lunch today, but by some quirk in the way my brain works, I can access a still image of a meeting I attended ten years ago.

I began to muse on what would happen if I could somehow teleport back to that meeting and tell the people in that room a few things.  I pictured myself standing up at the front of the conference room table and saying things like:

  1.  None of you in this room will ever work on a project together again.  You will all drift off to other departments and other programs and other projects, and this unique collection of people will never, ever work together again.
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  2. This room, its wall color and carpet and decor, will look exactly like it does now ten years from now.
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  3. This project you are all working on at this moment, the one that is keeping you up at night, demanding long hours of you, stressing you out, making you wish you were working on anything but this … this project that seems so important, that seems as if it will make or break careers and the financial health of the company … will largely be forgotten in ten years.  Virtually no one in the company will know what you did here or even care.
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  4. A handful of you will be retiring within a few years and the company will move on without you.  You will be forgotten by all but a few people.
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  5. At least one of you will not be alive in ten years.
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  6. The skills you possess today, the ones that are in high demand and that caused this program to woo you aggressively to get you here, will be hopelessly obsolete in ten years.
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And then I will pause and say …

But this is an awesome team.  You will do amazing things.  This moment … this assemblage … is unique in the whole of the universe and of history.  This moment, we are here … together … working for a common goal.  Enjoy this moment, for it cannot be judged from the future.  It’s value lies here, in this moment, with these people, within these walls.   Time will devalue this moment.  The future will depreciate this moment and diminish it.  So enjoy it now.  Do not wait to enjoy it later, for it will have no meaning then.

And then I will return to the future, as I did today, and hope that the lessons I learned during my visit to the past will stay with me here in the present.

 

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac — Biff Wins the Day

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I often wonder why we pronounce Wednesday as “Wins day”.  Or “Wynn’s Day”.   Or “When’s Day?”.  Or “Wind stay”.   Or any other number of phonetical ways to spell it.   We never pronounce it Wed-nes-day … unless we are being silly.  Which I often am.

Never underestimate the laziness of humans when it comes to speech.  When it comes to the spoken word, we will abbreviate, truncate, abridge, shorten, clip, trim, dock, prune, curtail, pare, lop, and bastardize until what comes out of our mouths bears not the slightest resemblance to whatever collection of letters we use to represent said sound.

But making sounds is easy.  Writing is hard.  And since humans as a rule are quite lazy, why don’t we truncate the way we write down sounds and leave the sounds alone?   Instead we will minimize the sound of a word to the point that it retains none of its original meaning, while giving its written-down form enough letters to fill up a small pamphlet.

No wonder no one writes any more.  It flies in the face of our basic laziness.

Poor Biff’s Almanac — Saturday Evening

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It’s been quite awhile since I sat down and just pounded out a rambling, “I don’t really have anything to write about” post.  So, here I am.

I apologize in advance.

It is Saturday here in Dallas.  I suspect it is also Saturday nearly everywhere else in the world, so I can’t claim any sort of uniqueness there.  That particular well is also dry in terms of inspirational writing prompts.  So, shall we move on?

It was a quiet day today and, given the craziness of the past month, that was a good thing.  I enjoyed sleeping late, getting up, having a cup of coffee, and being in no hurry to be anywhere or do anything.  I did eventually get moving and took care of a few things around the house and ran a few errands.  However, I think I would been just as happy back at home, wearing pajamas, sipping a cup of coffee, and taking a slow, desultory stroll through the internet or maybe staring at a good book without really comprehending anything I was reading.

And why not?  It was near 100 degrees today (37.8 C) and steamy.  There is nowhere to go within 50 miles of here that doesn’t involve spending money (and lots of it) or finding myself rubbing elbows with ten thousand other people who also felt compelled to get out of the house and find something to do.    My inner hermit was trying to persuade me to just stay home.  And so I did, for much of the day.  Always listen to your inner hermit.  They know what’s what.

I took a stroll around the neighborhood this evening when the sun began to set and the temperature dropped down to the low 90s (33 C).  There was a slight breeze, so it was almost pleasant (except for the 75% humidity).  It was eerily quiet and deserted.  I didn’t see anyone else while out on my walk.  I would occasionally hear the hiss of a water sprinkler or the very distant sound of a lawn mower, but it was eerily silent.  I was reminded of a Twilight Zone episode I saw one time in which a man was walking around his neighborhood and it was completely deserted.  I felt that way tonight.  I half expected Rod Serling to step out from behind a tree to narrate the growing creepiness.  Sadly, he didn’t.  I would have asked for his autograph.

It suddenly occurred to me that I had been walking along these concrete sidewalks for two decades.  Small children that used to walk or run along these sidewalks to go to school or to trick-or-treat or to fund-raise for their school band or scout troop were now grown, graduated from college, and busy being adults out in the real world.  This realization did not put a spring in my step.

It put me in mind of a passage from Mark Twain’s “Life On the Mississippi” in which he, after many years, returned to Hannibal, Missouri where he had spent his boyhood.

Naturally, I was a good deal moved. I said, ‘Many of the people I once knew in this tranquil refuge of my childhood are now in heaven; some, I trust, are in the other place.’ The things about me and before me made me feel like a boy again– convinced me that I was a boy again, and that I had simply been dreaming an unusually long dream; but my reflections spoiled all that; for they forced me to say, ‘I see fifty old houses down yonder, into each of which I could enter and find either a man or a woman who was a baby or unborn when I noticed those houses last, or a grandmother who was a plump young bride at that time.’

I circled back home as the sun set and the light faded.  My inner hermit commanded me thusly.

 

 

 

 

Mind the Gap

Mind the Gap

You might have noticed that there has been a slight gap between my last post and this one.  A tiny little gap of … oh … about 21 days.  For those of you who enjoy math puzzles, that’s three weeks.

What led to this gap, you ask?  Was there a medical emergency?  Did a Texas tornado sweep my house away?  Did my computer fall victim to a Windows update?  Was I merely lazy?

It was none of those things, but it was lots of other things.  Life, mostly.  For example, there was a week-long vacation down at the Gulf of Mexico.  That took up a lot of my time.  I’ll try to post pictures someday soon if I can work up the energy and enthusiasm.  (Remember when one could blame the Fotomat for not developing one’s vacation pictures in a timely fashion?  Now we just have to admit that we’re too lazy to move them from our phone to our laptop.)

Let’s see.  What else?  There was that haircut I got a few weeks ago.  Ummm … and I had to take my slacks to the cleaners.  And … let’s see …. I got the oil changed in my car.

Hmmm … what else?  It seems like there was something.

Oh!

I know.

I moved my daughter 1500 miles away across the country so she could start her new job.

I knew there was something!

One day I’m sitting on the beach with my feet in the surf, trying not to think about sharks, flesh eating bacteria, or jellyfish.  The next day I’m loading five metric tons of clothing, books, cat toys, and furniture into a ten-foot rental truck and hitting the open road.  (By the way, four of those metric tons were about fifteen flat-packs of unasssembled furniture from Ikea.  I’m pretty sure when scientists finally discover what is at the center of black holes, they will find an Ikea flat-pack.)

What a week it was!  Driving a groaning rental truck up and down the sides of the mountains in Tennessee and Virginia, dodging runaway semi trucks (or … at least … they appeared to be runaway trucks judging by their high rate of speed), hitting bumps guaranteed to reduce boxes of laminated particle-board to so much sawdust, assembling said sawdust into something resembling furniture, flying home in a state of exhaustion and stupefaction.  Then returning to work the very next day.

So, think of this post as my note from home that goes something like, “Please excuse Biff from his past 3 weeks of posts.  He has been running a fever.  And frankly we’re not even sure he belongs to us.

 

All That Jazz, With Some Exceptions

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It is Friday; a day that, by its very nature is almost always a good day.

Today was no exception.  Except that it was an exceptionally good day.  I accept that except for a few exceptions, today was exceptional, which is not the exception, except in a few rare exceptions.  So, except for exceptional exceptions (which I accept), expectations were high for an exceptionally non-exceptional day, which is in itself exceptional.

It was also hot.  It hit 103 today (37.78 C).  I found this out the hard way.  I have been putting in a lot of hours at work lately so rather than take lunch today, I thought I’d just go sit in my car for a few minutes, recline the seat, and listen to a little quiet, contemporary jazz.  Perhaps you’ve heard the expression “hot jazz”.  Well, I’m here to tell you, today’s jazz was smoking hot!  It is hard to fully appreciate Boney James or Tom Scott or Richard Elliot or Gerald Albright while slowly cooking evenly on high heat.

I turned on the air conditioning and that made for some cool jazz … but it definitely turned the guilt knob all the way up to eleven.  It is hard to relax while extravagantly and obscenely wasting the earth’s precious resources.  So, I heaved a heavy sigh, turned off the jazz and the air conditioning, and schlepped back across the lava-like parking lot and back into work.  I sat in my fabric-covered box and worked on obscenely complex spreadsheets.

To think I once upon a time considered becoming a jazz musician.

But … hey …. spreadsheets are cool, too.  Like jazz, they tend to be free-form and highly improvisational.

Except jazz is jazzy.

Spreadsheets are .. well … not.

 

In a Vacuum, No One Can Hear You Blog

This seems to be getting harder instead of easier.

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I was told it would get easier.   All of the successful bloggers I’ve read said that if I just write every day, it would get easier.  Structure would begin to develop.  I’d develop a “voice”.  Likes and followers would begin to accrete.  Some of the successful bloggers went so far as to suggest that literary agents would prostrate themselves in front of me and threaten seppucu on my front lawn if I didn’t give them first shot at publishing my book.

I’m here to tell you; none of that happened.

But I’ll tell you what DID happen.

My wellspring of ideas that I used to think was infinite, turned out to be finite.  Over the course of a hundred-and-some-odd (mostly odd) blog posts, I wrote about just about everything that happens to me in my life.  I began to repeat myself.  I ran out of creative ways to say the same old thing over and over.

So, I even tried making stuff up in the form of short fiction.  It turns out that fiction on WordPress is about as popular as pork rinds at a vegan picnic.

And to make matters worse, now I have a craving for pork rinds!  But I’m already in my pajamas and there’s no way I’m running down to the 7-11 to get me a bag.  It’s not worth getting dressed just for a bag of red hot pork rinds.  Though I guess I could also pick up a Slim Jim and a lottery ticket while I’m there.  And … hell … it’s 7-11, for Pete’s sake!  Like they’d even  notice I was wearing pajamas.  I’d probably be the least crazy looking person in the store.  What kind of world do we live in that a grown man wearing pajamas and holding a Slim Jim, a bag of red hot pork rinds, a lottery ticket, and a Penny Shopper would not even raise an eyebrow at a 7-11?

Wow!  That was a hell of a digression!   Where was I?

Oh yes.  I was wallowing in self-pity.

So here’s my sage advice to you bloggers just starting out.

Write because you love to write.  Don’t write to collect likes as if they’re steps on your FitBit, or Pokemons in your Pokemon Go app.  Write for the sheer enjoyment of writing.  If you don’t get a single like, that’s okay.  You’re writing.  You’re getting better.  You’re honing your skills.

And if you repeat yourself, that’s okay, too.  I can guarantee you that no one goes back and reads your old posts.  Everyone just reads whatever is at the top of whichever tag they’re reading at the moment.  I doubt they’ll notice if you wrote virtually the same blog post six months ago.  And even if they do, so what?  It’s just a new edition of one of your favorites.  Think of it as a “remix” of one of your old songs.  Musical artists do that all the time.

So get out there and write!

 

 

Solving For X

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I went through most of today feeling sort of gobsmacked, much like the fish that float to the surface of a lake when an efficiency-minded fisherman decides to fish with dynamite.

What caused this smacking of the gob, you ask?

Well, it was caused by the fact that I didn’t have to go to work for four whole days due to the July 4th holiday weekend and today was my first day back at work.  Like most people, I loved every minute of being off.  However, there is a dark side to being off from work.  And that is:  you have to go back to work at some point.  And the longer you are off, the more of a shock to the system it is when you have to go back.

I have always heard people say things like, “Man, I loved being on vacation, but after X days I was ready to come back to work.”   The variable X ranged anywhere from one week to four weeks or more.  I have been unsuccessful at figuring out what that X is in my own life.  In the course of my long career, I have been off anywhere from one or two days at a time to nearly three weeks on a row.  In none of those instances did I ever say I was ready to go back to work.  In fact, it is just the opposite.  The longer I am away from work, the less ready I am to go back.

I’m pretty darn sure I was supposed to have been born into the “idle rich” class.  I would love to spend my days practicing falconry, assessing polo horses, taking up yachting, playing chess with living chess boards, having tea on the east lawn, and losing large sums of money in Monte Carlo and laughing it off as being just part of the game.

What I’m NOT suited for is being awakened harshly every morning at 6 am by an obnoxious alarm clock so I can shuffle off to create ephemera for amorphous clouds of management in order to satisfy vague objectives.  When I get home at the end of the day and am asked “How was work?“, my usual answer is, “I’m not sure.“, though sometimes I will answer, “There’s no way to tell.”  To-do lists were created, tasks completed, and then dutifully checked off of the list.  But if someone were to storm into my office and say, “Biff!  Show me what you’ve been doing all day!“, I would have to gesture vaguely towards our company’s server farm and say, “I rearranged the alignment of millions of microscopic bits of magnetic particles.”  More than likely, that person would say, “Good job!  Keep up the good work!” and then would de-materialize in front of my eyes.

This easily explains why I’ve never been able to find the quantity of days in a row I’d have to be off from work before I’d say, “Man, I’ve really enjoyed being off from work for 75 years, but I think I’m ready to get back to work now.

 

Soon …

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Poor Biff’s Almanac — Sunday … er … Monday Morning

I am discombobulated.

Spring Forward

Due to this being a 4-day weekend for me, I have gotten my days all mixed up.  It is always amusing to me that, obsessed as I am with time, it only takes me 2 or 3 days of being off from work to get my days so mixed up that I don’t even know what day it is.  I shudder to think what I would be like if I were off from work for a month or longer.  I’d probably forget what century I am.  (This is still the 20th century, right?)

When I say I am obsessed with time, perhaps that is overstating it.  I wear a wristwatch and I constantly refer to it.  I am fascinated with the passage of time and why some patches of time go quickly, and others go like cold molasses.  How do we get from one moment to the next?  We do nothing and yet somehow time washes by us like we are standing still in a slowly moving river.  Things drift by us through no machinations on our part.  We stand inert, and the flotsam and jetsam of life and time drift by us, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but always doggedly and relentlessly.

I know time (or the telling of it) is a human construct to help us communicate things to one another and to mark off the passage of hours and seasons, but I have always tried to keep fastidious track of it.  I always know what hour it is during the day, and very often the minute within a 20-minute window.  That may be because I am at work and marking off the minutes until I can leave for the day, like a prisoner marking off the days on his cell wall, anticipating the day of his release.  I am also usually on top of what day of the week it is, and, to a lesser extend, what day of the month it is.   What year it is gets a little fuzzy in my head sometimes.  If someone were to suddenly and without warning ask me what year this is, I am just as likely to say “1987!” as I am the correct year.

However, as aware as I am of the passage of time and my fastidiously noting the hour and minute that I happen to be in, if I have off from work for any length of time, I begin to lose all sense of time.  By day four of a seven day vacation, I no longer know what day of the week it is.  I usually have only a vague notion of what hour it is by wherever the sun is in the sky.  The month?  Forget about it!  Year?  Well, I’ve already confessed my difficulty with years.

It makes me wonder, if I were independently wealthy and did not have to work for a living, would I simply stop noting or caring what hour or day or month it was?  Would entire years drift by me without my noticing them or bothering to give them names?

I don’t know, but I’d sure like to find out!

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac — Stimulating Simulations … or Simulating Stimulation

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It was a quiet day if Biffville.  I spent most of the day with my head buried in a spreadsheet that was so complicated that I began to doubt my sanity.  After all, no sane person would attempt to simulate real life within the pivoting matrices of a recalcitrant spreadsheet.  That’s what Visio is for.  With Excel you can, at best, create some crude 2-D simulations of rudimentary real-world processes.

Later in the day, I began to question my own existence.  I have read that the universe as we know it is just some grand simulation that a race of super beings is running for purposes we cannot fathom (my guess is a government grant).  If that is true, then why am I creating simulations within an Excel spreadsheet that approximate portions of real life … or what we think of as life?  Are there little people running around in my spreadsheets who believe they are thinking, living beings, but who are, in reality, merely references to other tabs and other cells (and probably the wrong ones, at that)?

It was too much for my feeble brain to churn on so I was glad when 5:00 rolled around and I was able to flee the scene of so much simulation.

Or did I flee the scene?  Perhaps I’m still there and the grander simulation is able to have me in both places at once: at my desk at work and also at my desk here at home.  Is the code of my life re-entrant?  Or is my stack about to overflow?

Perhaps my employer misunderstood me at my job interview many, many years ago when I mentioned that I wanted a job where I was constantly stimulated.  Perhaps they heard “simulated”, for I am pretty sure the past several years have just been a poorly constructed simulation.

 

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