Biff Sock Pow

Finding the humor in everyday life.

Archive for the month “August, 2017”

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Eclipse …

Eclipse

Okay, not really.

But I’m not one to waste a good title, especially one that just pops into my head for no reason while I’m driving home.  It was like manna from Heaven, or a tax refund.

Now comes the hard part.  I have to hang some sort of blog post on that puppy.

Okay … the eclipse.   Let’s jump on board this hype train and see where it takes us, shall we?

I was in an interminable meeting as the time for the eclipse drew close.  I was just about to see if I could commit seppuku with a white board marker when someone in the room suggested we end the meeting and go outside and look up at the sun.   That room cleared out quicker than the bridge of the S.S. Valdez during happy hour.  I found myself alone in the conference room still trying how to figure out how to get the cap off of the white board marker.  I quickly surmised that ritual seppuku with a blue white board marker (completely dry now for at least 6 months but left in the conference room as a sort of homage to the deceased marker) would no longer be necessary.

I was going to go back to my office and sink my teeth into a particular zesty pivot table I’d been working on, but instead I found myself caught up in a stream of people making their way towards the elevator and onwards to the parking lot.  If only we could exit the building this efficiently during a fire drill!

Once in the parking lot, I found myself with a group of coworkers discussing the protocol for staring at an eclipse.  No one got the special eclipse glasses.  No one brought paper to make a pinhole in.  No one even had sunglasses.  Everyone looked at me as if seeking guidance.  I’m not sure if that was because I am purportedly an engineer, or if it was because I was the eldest.  Sometimes being the eldest sucks.   No, I take that back.  Being the eldest ALWAYS sucks.

I tried to think back to everything I’d been hearing on the TV for the past month.  The problem is, I always zone out when the TV is on.  It is a protection mechanism.  It is either zone out or throw a vase through the television.  And have you priced televisions lately?  Or vases, for that matter.

“I remember them saying something about staring up at the sun,” I said to the group of 20-somethings who were staring at me agog.  I felt like I should be sitting on a mountaintop and holding a wooden staff.

“So we should stare up at the sun?” said the hipster from the purchasing department.

I stared at him a moment, trying to recall exactly what I’d heard … or rather, NOT heard on TV.  “Ummm …. mayybbbeeeee,” I said uncertainly.    “Let’s try that, shall we?”

[Two seconds later … ]

“Okay, okay,” I said as we all rubbed our eyes and made large, slow blinks at the ground.  “Probably not the best idea.  And, in retrospect, I do remember a Dick and Jane story when I was in the 2nd grade in which Dick warned Sally against staring up at the sun, even though it was smiling and winking at the time.”

They stared at me blankly (a few with still-watering eyes).

“Who are Dick and Jane?” asked Kim from Contracts.

I stared at her, a little non-plussed (my eyes also watering a little).  “Who … are Dick and Jane?” I asked incredulously.

“Are they that couple in sales?” asked Kip, from Business Development.

“Ohh,” ooohed Jane from Legal.   “I like them.  They are such a cute couple.”

“Um, no,” I said, feeling that the situation was getting a little out of hand.  I can understand why those chaps on the tops of mountains always look like they’re a thousand years old.  “They’re not the couple in Sales.”

“I’m pretty sure they are,” Kip said through his Captain Obvious beard, a Starbucks swilling hipster if ever there was one.  “I was just talking to them this morning in the break room.  We were faux fighting over the last kale bar.”

“Of course you were,” I said.

“People,” said Nancy from Supplier Management, raising both her hands in a placating manner.  “I feel we are getting off topic.  Biff was telling us that Dick from Sales recommends not staring at the sun.”

“No,” I said.  “That’s not what I was saying.”

“So we SHOULD stare at the sun?”

I sighed and addressed the restive crowd.   “Did staring at the sun a few minutes ago teach us nothing?   What would all of our rigourously proscribed corporate on-line training modules teach us in a moment like this?”

There was some murmuring as they pondered my question.

“That we should attempt to quantify the risk and develop a mitigation plan?” came a voice from the back.

“That we should form a committee of diverse voices and map skills to needs?”

“That we should perform a gap analysis of resources?”

“That we should apply six sigma concepts to the problem, perhaps in the form of a fishbone diagram?”

“Ooh … ooh!” came an excited voice.  “We should create a scatter diagram and determine a confidence interval!”

I snapped my fingers and stared excitedly at the scatter diagram suggester.  “Yes!  Precisely!  A scatter diagram!”

“We’ll need a whiteboard,” said Tammy from Tax Accounting.

“No,” I said. “We just need to look down.”

“Look down?” asked the murmering crowd.

“Yes!”   I pointed to the ground underneath the tree we were standing beneath.  There, at our feet, were thousands of shimmering, blinking dapples of light as they filtered through the leaves of the tree.  Each one of them was a miniature half-moon shaped image of the eclipse.

We stared at the ground for a bit and then shuffled back into the building.

Eclipses were not all they were cracked up to be.

 

 

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A Lesson In Time

time-machine-1974990_960_720

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.
    ⋅ 
  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.
    ⋅ 
  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.
    ⋅ 

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

writer

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

writer

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.

 

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