Biff Sock Pow

Finding the humor in everyday life.

Archive for the month “May, 2017”

Poor Biff’s Almanac: Four Day Weekends, Summer Heat Arrives Early, Artful Pursuits

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Through the clever use of comp time and a Memorial Day holiday, I was able to take a 4-day weekend this week.  It is already Day Three and I am wondering where the time went.  I am not the first person to ask why weekends go by so fast, and the workweeks so slow, but it is just one of those rhetorical questions like “Where did I put my car keys?” or “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?”  The questions are asked, but no answers re expected because, really, no one knows.

But in spite of the weekend going by really, really fast, it has been an enjoyable one so far.  On Friday I went down to the Dallas Museum of Art with my daughter and we had a wonderful day of it.  The only slight pall that was cast on the day was when we walked over to the adjacent Klyde Warren Park to partake of some victuals at the row of food trucks moored alongside.  That also was a fun experience … except for the 99 degree temperature and the 75% humidity.

Some might be incredulous that it is so hot in May.  However, I would point out that it is late May (nearly June).  Obnoxious Summer has pushed sweet, pretty Spring out of the way while announcing her ascendancy with scorching, searing laughter, brimstone and  flying monkeys.  But we Dallasites just quietly capitulated and went about our business with resignation.  We go through this every year.  We know there is no escape.  This will be our life for the next 5 or 6 months.

Hopefully I will work up the energy to post some pictures I took of may day on Friday.  However, after three days off, atrophy is really taking a toll on my energy levels.  Or maybe it is the searing heat.  Or maybe it is just who I am.

Now where did I lay those car keys?

 

Squirrel!

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I was in my back yard yesterday evening and noticed this squirrel on the fence.  He was kind enough to wait on the fence until I went back inside and got my camera.  I was about 20 feet away from him and was using my 300mm lens, so was able to get a closeup of him.

Notice his aggressive stance.  He held that position for a good 3 minutes.  I believe he would have jumped on me if I’d gotten any closer.  The squirrels around here are quite bold and will stand up on their hind quarters at you as if to say, “Come at me, Bro.”

I have a love-hate relationship with the neighborhood squirrels.  I love them when they are outside doing squirrel things.  But if they ever get into my attic, it is war.  They have learned that the neighbors’ attics are much more hospitable places than mine.  The Great Squirrel War of 2014 has entered local Squirrel lore and legend and so I haven’t had any problem out of them in years.   (Lest you think I behaved poorly towards the squirrels, I merely had all of the wood soffits on my house replaced with concrete-impregnated Hardieboard.)

So, since this little fellow is outside, he is a good squirrel and the recipient of my benevolent bonhomie.

Just Scratching the Surface — Beware the Lowly Chigger

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I have lived a long time and have experienced the joy of being stung and bitten by a wide variety of insects.  I have had allergic reactions to various agents.  I have had rashes and lesions.  If something can cause itching, I have no doubt been exposed to it or attacked by it.

But I’m here to tell you, there is no itch in this world like that caused by the bite of the dastardly chigger.

As revealed in my lasts few blog posts, I have taken up photography as a hobby.   In order to find something interesting to photograph this past weekend, I went slogging through a nearby wildlife preserve.  I managed to get a few chigger bites.  Fortunately, I only got a few of them.

A chigger bite will make you want to scratch down through the skin, and any underlying tissue, and right to the bone.  Often even that is not enough.

I consider myself a fairly strong-willed person.  I can and have resisted all sorts of temptations both physical, emotional, and spiritual.

But I, for the life of me, cannot stop scratching these infernal chigger bites!  I try.  It takes every bit of will-power I have.  I have to squeeze my eyes shut tightly.  I have to clench my teeth.  I have to sit on my hands.  My eyes water.  My fingers twitch, just dying to sink my nails into these maddening whelps on my skin.

As an added bonus, chiggers have a predilection to biting people in very intimate areas, so scratching in public requires much subterfuge and caginess.

Over the counter medications only offer very limited relief (usually about 2 minutes).  Hydrocortisone.  Alcohol.  Witch hazel.  Antihistamines.  Vodka.  Nothing works for very long.

One finds one’s self contemplating insanities to relieve the itch.  “I wonder,” I found myself thinking at one point, “If I held a lit candle to my skin if that would lessen the itching?”  But then realizing how crazy that sounded I sought to strike a more reasonable tone in my internal dialog, “Well, not directly against the skin.  Like half an inch away.  Maybe an eighth of an inch.  Maybe the burning would be less distressful than this damned itching!

Fortunately, chigger bites usually only last about two weeks.  Ha ha ha ha ha !  Two weeks!   Ha ha ha ha ha!

I may need to be sedated.

 

 

 

 

 

Thistle Do Nicely

Here are a few more pictures of my photo expedition to the tiny wildlife sanctuary.

Today’s topic is Texas Thistle.  I have always loved how Texas Thistle looks in the springtime.  From a distance, it has a gorgeous bloom and it sends these pink puff balls towering up above everything around it.

Here is what a patch of Texas Thistle looks like from a bit of a distance.

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Image © 2017 by Biff Sock Pow

And here is one of the puff balls that the Thistle sends up into the heavens to attract bees.  (Bee sold separately.)

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Image © 2017 by Biff Sock Pow

Beautiful, isn’t it?

But the thing to remember about Texas Thistle is that every part of it except the puff ball is prickly.  And not just a little bit.  I mean tear-through-your-jeans prickly.  Buds … stalks … leaves … everything about it will hurt you.  Here’s a close-up.

 

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Image © 2017 by Biff Sock Pow

Even the buds look a little daunting.  It’s hard to believe these turn into the pretty puff balls.

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Image © 2017 by Biff Sock Pow

But the most insidious part of this plant is when it is just a fledgling and just starting its life.  In its larval stage, it consists of a starburst of leaves that are almost perfectly flat against the ground.

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Image © 2017 by Biff Sock Pow

They are green, so they blend in well with grass.  Stepping on one of these in your bare feet or sock feet will introduce you to a new level of pain you didn’t know existed.  We used to call these “Devil’s Tongues” when I was a youngster, and they flat cured me of ever going anywhere outside barefoot.  I have not been barefoot outside since I was in the second grade just because of the memory I have of stepping on them.

So there you have it:  Texas Thistle, ladies and gentlemen.

I think these should be featured on the “Don’t Tread On Me” flag instead of the snake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Help Stamp Out Non-Relaxing Weekends

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It was a good weekend in Biffville.  I achieved the perfect balance of getting things done and not doing too much.

In this modern age, even after our forefathers and foremothers fought so hard to bring us the five-day workweek, we tend to violate the spirit of that hard-won battle by filling up our weekends with chores and errands and to-do lists and must-do lists, obligations, duties, and drudgery.  Now, I realize we can’t completely shirk our responsibilities on the weekend, but I do try to maintain a balance.  For example, what’s wrong with taking a well-deserved nap after mowing the yard?  Why not, after fixing that phantom-flushing toilet, engage in a little calligraphy or philately or toy-trainery?  (It is too a word!)

Do I always follow my own advice?

No.

But, gosh darn it, I try to!

Maybe I should take up philately.  I need a hobby I can stick to.  Or vice versa.

 

 

Bee On a Firewheel

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Image © 2017 by Biff Sock Pow

Here’s a busy little bee going to town on a Firewheel wildflower.  I used the macro setting on my Trusty Canon T6.  The lens was about 6 or 8 inches away from the industrious bee as she was busy pollinating like all get-out.

It wasn’t until after my photo excursion that I realized these could very well have been Africanized bees.  Lucky for me, they weren’t.  I was very happy to see that the honey bees were in abundance at the tiny wildlife preserve where I took this picture.  They  were almost literally swarming around the patches of Texas Thistle, Firewheel, Bastard Cabbage, etc.  It was a good day to be a bee.  And a good day to be a photographer.

I left the colors, saturation, contrast, etc. alone.  It’s beautiful just as it is.

 

 

Rambles Through the Brambles

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Image © 2017 by Biff Sock Pow

Here is a picture I took with my trusty Canon Rebel T6 while out taking a ramble through a tiny wildlife sanctuary in one of the surrounding suburbs.  It just goes to show that there is beauty even in a dauntless stalk of prairie grass that has somehow risen above the chaotic melee of Texas brambles and has raised its arms to the heavens as if to say, “Here I am!  Do your worst!”.

I juiced up the saturation a bit to bring out the colors, but not much.  I love the cinnamon colored seed pods against the blue of the Texas sky.

The yellow flowers speckling the background are, I believe, Bastard Cabbage.  Even though I dearly love that name, it is an invasive species.  In fact, I believe most of the plants in this shot are invasive species.

I’m not sure about that lone red flower.  It looks like a Drummond Phlox, but that seems highly unlikely.  More likely it is a Firewheel or a Trumpet Creeper.  Whatever it is, it seems a little out of place.

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac — Saturday (Finally)

Busy Office Worker

I have not written one of these rambling almanac posts of mine in a while.  I find that when I write too many of them in a row, it reminds me how insufferably dull my life is.  If I space them out a bit, I can trick myself into believing that I live a life that, though not exactly exciting, rises to the level of having a normal level of activity.  I like to have just enough excitement in my life wherein people stop grabbing my wrist to check for a pulse..

But lest I, in my attempts at light comedy, lead you to believe that I am completely sedentary and near comatose, nothing can be further from the truth.  I always seem to be on the go.  My life is filled with a seemingly never-ending series of activities.  I feel I rarely have time to sit and take a breath and relax.  And yet, when considering all of those activities and trying to glean through them to find something to write about, I find that the vast majority of them are embarrassingly dull and workaday.  The word “banal” comes to mind (only because it has always been a favorite word of mine and I try to work it into conversations frequently.)

I know I am not alone in this.  I think a vast number of us in the world, whether we blog or not, have our lives filled with the ordinary, the mundane, the banal, the prosaic.  Our lives are filled with …. well … with life.  By merely existing, we are given a never ending to-do list that consists of such exciting things as taking out the trash, vacuuming the carpets, paying the bills, mending things that squeak, replacing things that no longer do what they’re suppose do (or, conversely, have started doing things they’re not supposed to), cleaning up the endless series of messes that Life puts on our desk with a sticky note on it that says “Please take care of this”.  So we sigh and we take care of it, because that’s what we do.  The alternative is chaos and bedlam and a surefire path to end up on an episode of “Horders”.

And I don’t know about you, but I have spent my life avoiding chaos and bedlam.  I like things around me to be quiet and serene and pacific.  I know others thrive on bedlam and, if it is missing in their lives, they will create it.  I’ve never understood that, but I have always shrugged my shoulders and said something along the lines of “to each their own”.  I’m sure they, in turn, can’t understand why I avoid pandemonium.  They associate noise and mayhem with life being lived to its fullest.

I suppose that difference is, as the saying goes, what makes the world go round.  I just wish it would go round a little quieter sometimes.

 

A Field Guide to Dishwater

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I have sat here for over an hour staring at this screen trying to think of something interesting to write about.  I was unsuccessful.

So then I thought I’d try to think of something less interesting to write about.  Again, I came up empty handed.

I suppose I could write about something that is downright uninteresting to write about, guaranteed to be as dull as dishwater and half as entertaining.  But I believe that is called “my journal”, and I still haven’t gotten over my fear of posting anything too personal on this here internet contraption.  I don’t know why I worry, though.  As dull as my life is, I’m pretty darn sure I don’t have to worry about identity thieves or stalkers.  Such miscreants would no doubt take up a collection and give it to me, saying, “Here, Dude.  Go buy yourself a life.”

So what is left to the man who’s life is too dull to write about?  And now you know how and why fiction was created.

Elegy for the South

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According to my quite depressing stats page, it has been 9 days since I last posted anything on this blog.  It is painfully obvious that this here humble blog of mine is not on cruise control yet.  I’m not sure what the opposite of cruise control is (expiring free-fall?), but whatever it is, that is what my blog is on.

Some of you may be wondering where I have been for 9 days.  I flatter myself, of course, to think that anyone wondered.  Self-flattery a hobby of mine.  The flatter the better.

Well, to answer the question that no one asked, I was on business travel last week.  Most people that get to travel for their jobs get to go to exotic places, like New York, Chicago, Boston, London, Las Vegas, San Francisco, etc.  I get to go to unexciting places like Podunk, Georgia.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love Georgia.  I grew up in Alabama and Mississippi and I consider Georgia to be in the blessed trinity of the Deep South.  But glamorous it was not.

As I drove from Atlanta far out into the treed hills surrounding Podunk, I noticed through the rental car window the red clay, the towering pine trees, the magnolias, the mimosas.  The ground underneath the pines was brown with a bedding of pine needles.  The air was thick with the scent of pine and magnolia and honeysuckle.  I saw a patch or two of kudzu.  The air was warm and humid.  All of this conspired to give me flashbacks to growing up in Mississippi.

Georgia, like Alabama and Mississippi, is beautiful.  Outside the big cities, the pace of life in the Deep South is a peculiar kind of slow, on the surface seeming to be dawdling, plodding, and lackadaisical.  But it is none of those things.  It is a deliberate kind of slowness, measured and ponderous, inspired by sweltering heat and thick humidity.

People are a little more friendly.  Southern accents abound.  And I don’t mean those fake Southern accents you will hear in movies and on TV.  I mean an honest-to-God Southern accent, lyrical and lilting, seemingly unschooled and unpolished, but in reality ingeniously cadenced and nuanced and efficient and seductive.

But Georgia, like Alabama and Mississippi, has been overrun with modernity.  There are Targets and Krogers and Hiltons and Sports Academies and Chili’s and Dillards.  Stand in the “good” part of town and it is indistinguishable from any other mid-sized or bigger town in America.

Such a pity.

Our culture is becoming homogenized.  Generally, that is a good thing.  High quality and good service and variety have become uniform across the land.  But the price we paid for that was a near complete loss of regional identity.

If, rather than boarding a 737 for a 2 hour flight to Georgia, I had been somehow teleported from the suburbs of Dallas to my destination in Georgia, I would have been at a loss to tell you where I’d ended up.  Had I even left?  Was there a reason to go back?

I have been watching the dissolution and the erosion of the Deep South all of my life.  Some of that is for the better.  I am more than eager to see poverty and racism be eradicated.  But it saddens me that the good has been erased with the bad.

But I can close my eyes and smell the magnolia and honeysuckle and, for a moment, I can forget that I am surrounded by homogeneity and indistinguishability.  The bland is replaced with the colorful.  Modern aloofness is replaced with Southern hospitality.  The corporate is replaced with the homespun.  Hotel lobby chairs are replaced with front porch swings.  Bottled water is replaced with sweet iced tea.

But only for a moment.

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