Biff Sock Pow

Finding the humor in everyday life.

Archive for the month “December, 2016”

Morning Ramble (the Last One of 2016)

new-year-ahead

Here I sit, coffee in hand (and hand on keyboard) for this, my final Morning Ramble of 2016.  As has been quite frequently the case through out the year (and other years before it), I was rousted out of bed at an indecent hour by an insistent cat who claimed to be near death’s door due to starvation and neglect.  I stumbled to his food dish to find that it still had a little food in it.  His real complaint was probably with the quality of the food or that it wasn’t fresh out of the bag.  He seems to only enjoy eating food if he watches someone scoop it out of the bag for him.  After that initial meal, whatever is left in the bowl apparently becomes inedible swill.  I’m sure if he had an opposable thumb, he would pick up his tin cup and rake it back and forth across the bars of his cell in protest.  Luckily, he does not have opposable thumbs.  Or a tin cup.  Nor does he live in any kind of cell.  I’m pretty sure he thinks he owns the place and only lets us stay here due to his largess and sense of charity.  Plus I think we are a source of amusement for him.  And what tyrant is complete without lackeys?

Speaking of indecent hours (which I was way back at the beginning of this post), I wonder where that term came  from?  I grew up hearing  my mom using it and, based on the context in which she used it, I gather it had something to do with a body (particularly my body) staying out later than a prescribed time, or getting up at an hour that was much earlier than anticipated (never an issue in my youth) or that was far later than anticipated (a much more likely occurrence in my youth).  When I heard the phrase as a child, I speculated that it might have something to do with one’s state of dress if awoken too early.  At three in the morning, one is not likely to spring out of bed wearing a top hat and tails.  But ironically, coming home at three in the morning whilst wearing a top hat and tails would also be considered indecent.  As a child, after pondering it awhile, I probably just shrugged my shoulder and marked it down as one of those weird things parents say that don’t really mean anything.

Well, it is the last day of 2016 and it is mandatory by law for bloggers to wax poetic about the passing of one year and the arrival of the new one.  As I’ve gotten older, the bar for what constitutes a good year has gotten lower and lower.  (That is, if the bar referred to is part of a high jump competition.  If it is the one in a limbo competition, then the bar has gotten higher and higher.)  But the point I’m trying to make is that at my current age, a good year is one that I make it to the end of.  It is one in which my doctor doesn’t diagnose some new age-related ailment or condition that I have (or will soon have).  It is one in which someone that is close to me doesn’t pass away or become very ill.  It is one in which I remain employed throughout.  By those measures, 2016 was a very good year for me, though I did lose a couple of relatives who were very old.  So, I have no grievance with 2016.  I did not do all that I wanted to, but that is my fault, not the year’s.

As for 2017, I plan to give the little tyke a chance before beginning to judge him.  I would want someone to do the same for me.  Imagine laying in a cradle and some old codger shaking his finger at you and saying, “You’d better not behave like that ne’er do well that was born last year!  By golly, I’ll give you a good drubbing!”   And as the wide-eyed innocent on the receiving end of this threat, my first thought would have been, “Drubbing?  Sheesh!  What century are you from!?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Best-Laid Plans

I was out today, browsing around various stores in search of some post-Christmas bargains.

Okay, that is a lie.

I was the chauffeur for others who were out searching for post-Christmas bargains.  I am generally not very enthusiastic about shopping in general, and am even more intensely disinterested in picking over the tawdry, gaudy, garish leavings of what looks to be the aftermath of a rioting and looting spree (though a very festive one).  I am always amazed (and somewhat depressed) that something that seems so darling and adorable and Christmassy in the weeks leading up to Christmas can seem so meretricious and tacky and shopworn just few days after Christmas.  It’s as if we get caught up in some mass delusion that makes tinsel seem like gold.

But even among veins of fool’s gold one can sometimes find an actual flake or nugget of real gold.

I had stopped to look (mostly out of boredom) at some day planners, desk calendars, and project planning notebooks that were on sale.  My particular strain of disorganization makes me immune to the miracles promised by most day planners and other organizational tools, but I am oddly drawn to them for some reason.  Maybe for the same reason that raccoons like shiny objects.  Who knows?  But anyway, there I was, staring at an array of organizational notebooks like one of the hominids staring at the monolith in the opening scene of “2001: A Space Odyssey“, when, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a project planning notebook, but with a printing error on the cover as follows:

projects-book-1

 

Here’s a closer look for those of us who have failing eyesight:

projects-book-2

What a fantastic find!  My heart leaped for joy.  This is what I imagine Charlie Brown felt like when he found his special little Christmas tree.  Except what I had found was the perfect metaphor for every project I have ever undertaken.  I always start projects with enthusiasm and wide-eyed optimism.  I always think I have the project all mapped out, every detail accounted for, all contingencies accounted for … and then I actually start the project.  I rarely get more than 2 or 3 steps into said project before the train begins to leave the rails and seek alternate paths through ditches and underbrush and alligator infested swamps.  Soon I am standing amid all of the burning wreckage while consulting my project planner to see where things began to go awry.  It usually turns out to be right around the time I got the inkling to start the project in the first place.

So naturally I bought this project planner.  How could I not?  With the large list of projects I have made for myself in the form of New Year’s resolutions, this is the perfect planner.

This shall be my “banner with the strange device, Excelsior!

Or, in my case, Pprroojjeecctss!

I can hardly wait to get started.  Now where did I put my planner?

 

Day Three: Cautiously Optimistic

optimism

So here I am for my third post in as many days.  I have nothing to write about, but I’m hoping that will change as my fingers move randomly across the keyboard and my morning coffee works its magic.

I am cautiously optimistic regarding this blog’s progress so far.  (The title above might have conveyed that without me restating it here, but I needed a segue into this paragraph.)  My New Year’s resolution wasn’t to write something every day, but merely to start a blog and be somewhat active on it.  So, I’ll consider three posts in three days an accomplishment.  However, the new year isn’t actually here yet and so I hope I don’t stumble coming out of the gate and fall onto the track and have to be euthanized in front of a horrified crowd before the race (i.e. the new year) even starts.  Sorry for that unpleasant metaphor, but it is early in the morning and I’m not fully awake.  My coffee’s magic has been underwhelming so far and has consisted of merely pulling a quarter from behind your ear.

Today is Thursday and I can’t believe how quickly this week is going by!  I will be returning to work this next Tuesday after having been off from work for a little over two weeks.  During that period, my sleep cycle has slipped its moorings and drifted away from the dock.  So, it will be quite jarring on Tuesday morning when I have to get up at 6 a.m.  But that will be nothing compared to how jarring it’s going to be having to go to work and sit at a desk and pretend to be enthusiastic about spreadsheets and PowerPoints and meetings and corporate procedures.  I mean, talk about slipping off my moorings and drifting out to sea!  My job, though important at a macro level, at the micro level seems to have only a tenuous connection to reality.  It has a thin veneer of purpose and significance, but peel back that thin film of relevance and there is a sloshing, churning cauldron of absurdity and insipidity.  But I am very fortunate to have such a job in this economy and so Tuesday morning will find me in my office (painted with a selection from Sherwin Williams’ “Corporate Blandness” series of stultifying, insipid shades of taupe), sitting at my desk and staring at a spreadsheet or PowerPoint that is an abstruse abstraction of a fragment of reality that exists only within jejune corporate walls.

But, hey … it pays the bills.

 

But I digress (again).  My original point in starting today’s blog entry was to pat myself on the back for writing three blog entries in as many days while hopefully not suffering a back-patting injury such as wrenching my shoulder out of joint, pulling a back muscle, or some other injury that I would normally only suffer within the brilliant taupe walls of my perfectly cubic (and vapid) corporate office.

All Sales are Vinyl

vinyl-album-image-1

I was at a well known national bookstore chain tonight wandering aimlessly among the shelves hoping to find something not geared to a 20 year old (or younger).  I was mostly disappointed in my search, for it seems everything nowadays is published in the form of Manga, or, as the younger generation calls them, Graphic Novels.  In my day (shakes my walking stick angrily in the air), a graphic novel was a book that contained scenes of such horrible violence or such detailed sexuality that it caused parents or educators to say things like, “That book is far too graphic for someone your age.”  The irony of those words, of course, was that there was nothing in those books but words; no pictures or illustrations at all.  All of the graphic stuff would have appeared in our heads as images inspired by those words (or question marks if we did not understand what the words were saying).  But nowadays, the books are actually graphic (i.e. they contain lots of pictures, and comparatively few words).  I wonder what goes on in the heads of the youth that “read” them, since the images are there for them to see.  Perhaps the images in the books cause typewritten words to appear in their minds.

But I digress (which is not unusual for me).

I was roaming around the bookstore looking for something that would be of interest to a person my age.  You know, something in a stone tablet, perhaps; or a papyrus scroll.   I didn’t find either of those things, but when I went over to the music section, I was very surprised to see that there were almost no CDs at all.  They had all been replaced by vinyl albums.

I’m of an age where I remember a time when vinyl albums (or records, as we called them back then) were pretty much the only format you could buy music in (save sheet music).  Edison phonograph cylinders had pretty much gone the way of the horse and buggy.  Even though I loved music passionately and considered myself something of an audiophile, was not particularly fond of vinyl albums as a medium.  They were fragile; being very prone to warping, being scratched, and even breaking.  Even when they were pristine, right from the record store, they tended to have a lot of unwanted “noise” on them in the form of hiss, pops, and some more technical issues caused by playback, such as “wow” and “flutter”.  Those of us who appreciated high fidelity recordings, handled our records with kid gloves (sometimes with actual cotton gloves) by the edges only.  We bought special anti-static album cover sleeves to replaced the paper ones they came with.  I cleaned each album before I played it with “D4” and a special brush from a company called Discwasher.  I painstakingly balanced the tone arm of the record player to a very precise number of grams.  I even “shot” the album with a special “ion neutralizing” gun from Zerostat that purportedly neutralized the static charges on the albums to eliminate pops during playback.  Each time I played an album, I died a little inside because each playing of an album removed a little bit more of its life and its fidelity.  And, worst of all, you could not play albums in your car, but had to record them on a cassette tape (which had a whole new set of problems on their own).

In short, I was not a big fan of vinyl albums even though I loved music and that was the best medium available at the time.

Needless to say, I was ecstatic when compact disks (CDs) came along.  They produced crystal clear music with no hiss or pops, wow or flutter.  There was no needle and tone arm that had to be meticulously adjusted before each playing.  CD players would fit in the dashboard of your car and on the shelf of your home.  And, best of all, you could toss a CD in the floorboard of your car or jam it into the crack between the seat and the seat back of your car and it could stay there for a month and would sound just as good after that month as it did when it was brand new.  CDs were not indestructable, of course, but they were certainly much more robust than vinyl albums and would take a surprising amount of abuse before they began dropping portions of the music.  Even then, a good polishing would probably fix them right up.   Also, you could play a CD a thousand times in a row and it would sound as good on the thousandth playing as it did on the first.  Therefore, it was no surprise that CDs supplanted vinyl albums in a very short amount of time (less than two years, if my memory serves me correctly).

So now, suddenly, everyone is vinyl album crazy.  Tonight there were literally more vinyl albums at the book store than there were CDs.   What’s worse, some of these vinyl albums were ridiculously priced.  I saw a Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon” album that was selling for $42!  I couldn’t believe my eyes.

As I looked out across all these shelves of vinyl albums, I was reminded of the phrase, “Everything old is new again.”  That is certainly the case here!  I was also reminded of a couple of other phrases.  “Not all advancement is progress.”  And, of course, “A fool and his money are soon parted.

 

I wonder how long it will take the hipsters to realize that vinyl albums are more trouble than they’re worth.  Perhaps the first time their $42 copy of Jud Strunk’s “Daisy a Day” album develops a skip or gets warped because the summer was too warm, they will trade in their vinyl albums for some good ol’ CDs.

 

 

Higher Resolution … or Highly Resolute … or Just High

In a fit of something that can only be called end-of-the-year ebullience (a form of transient insanity), I sat down the other night and wrote out a list of resolutions for the new year (i.e. 2017).   The creation of resolutions for an upcoming year is as old as the calendar itself (either Julian or Gregorian, it does not matter).  As soon as humans figured out that after 365 days they started counting all over again, they said, “Hey, why not make some outlandish promises to ourselves of things we’re going to do when we start counting over again?”  And thus was born the New Year’s Resolution.

I only mention all of that nonsense because one of my resolutions was to start writing a blog.  I have attempted this feat no less than a dozen times over the past ten or fifteen years (as an example, see my four entries below from 2012).  Each attempt ended the same … with a blog with a half-dozen entries in it, each one more insipid than the one before it.  After the requisite six (or fewer) entries, I’d give up on the blog and turn my attentions to other, more important activities, like sorting all the random nuts, bolts, nails, washers, and unidentified doodads that have accumulated in the Mason jar out in the garage.  (I would also give up on that eventually and just chuck the whole jar in the recycling bin.)

Anyway, here I am for my tenth or twelfth attempt to get a blog up and running.  But unlike Edison’s 12th light bulb, Bell’s 12th telephone, or the Wright brothers’ 12th aeroplane, I’m not overly confident (or ebullient) that this one will light up, reach out and touch anyone, or get off the ground.  But hey …that’s what new years are for: for trying new things.  Or trying old things in a new way.  Or old things in the same old way, but with new energy.

So, sit back.  Relax.  Enjoy this year’s six (or fewer) entries.

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