Biff Sock Pow

Finding the humor in everyday life.

Archive for the tag “Almanac”

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sunday Round-up: Special Father’s Day Edition

Cowboy roping steer

It was a wonderful weekend in Biffville.  And why wouldn’t it be?  After all, it was a weekend.  A weekend, I tell you!  Need I say more?

Well, I must say more, or this post will be entirely too short.

The best part of the weekend was, of course, that I did not have to go to work.  That left lots of time in which to enjoy not being at work.

Secondly, it was Father’s Day weekend, so I got to do lots of out-of-the-ordinary things like sleep in, not mow the yard, and eat at whatever restaurant I wanted to for multiple meals.

Regarding the sleeping-in …. I do so love not having to get up at the crack of dawn in the morning.  I am not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination.  But the down side to sleeping in is that by the time I wake up, shave, shower, dress, and consume enough coffee to become sentient, a sizable chunk of the day is missing and so I have to scramble to cram the rest of the day’s activities into whatever time is remaining in the day.  It is very stressful.  Relaxing does not come naturally to me.  I have to work at it and stress over it.

Regarding not mowing the yard, I think this is self-explanatory.  I have met one or two people in my life who purported to enjoy mowing the yard, but though I did not call them a bald-faced liar right to their face, I did edge away from them slowly while smiling so as not to unnecessarily agitate them.  If someone would lie about something as benign as yard mowing, who knows what else they are capable of?  One shudders to think.

(And by the way, before any of my readers in parts of the world who enjoy moderate, temperate climates get your torches and pitchforks, I am not speaking of you.  I am talking of people who live in Texas.  Doing any sort of work outside in Texas in the summer is akin to dirt farming on the surface of the sun.  I’m sure even _I_ would enjoy mowing the yard somewhere where the temperature was below 100 and the humidity was not 99.9%.)

Regarding getting to choose the restaurants this weekend, that proved to be more stressful than it was worth.  I like food.  Nearly any kind of food.  Furthermore, I am perfectly happy eating the exact same meal every day for decades on end.  On the other hand, others are not so indiscriminate.  Every time I pick a restaurant, what follows is a litany of, “We just ate there last month.”  “What, there again?”  “Their food is too spicy (or not spicy enough).”  “That’s so far away.”   “The service there is lousy.”  “I once knew someone who worked with a person who read a reviewer on Yelp who said they knew someone who had a brother who’s kid went to school with a kid who got sick there one time.”   And it goes on and on.  But then when I don’t pick a restaurant, the toe-tapping begins and the impatient sighs.  So, when it’s my turn to choose a restaurant, the stress usually ruins my appetite.

Also, I got some cool gifts today.  A Bob’s Burgers “World’s Greatest Dad” mug.  And a copy of William Faulkner’s “Collected Stories“.  Okay, that last one I picked out myself, but when I said I’m going to the bookstore, I was instructed “Get something you want and don’t talk yourself out of it this time“, and so it counts as a gift.  I think.  I need to retake the on-line training module concerning gifts and gratuities.

But all in all it was a great weekend.  I hope all you other dads out there had a great weekend, too!  In fact, I hope EVERYONE had a great weekend!

 

 

Hello Summer, My Old Friend

panicking

And by “friend”, I mean “Bane of my Existence”.

In Simon and Garfunkel’s classic song, when they sing “Hello Darkness, my old friend“, you can hear the despair and resignation in their voice.

I feel the same when I welcome summer back to Texas.  From the very first time the thermometer hits 96 (35.6 C) … as it did today … you know it will not be going down again for at least 4 more months.  It will only be going up.  There might be nights when the temperature will creep back down into the mid to low 90s (34 C), but that will be at 2 o’clock in the morning.  It’s not like I’m going to get up in the middle of the night just to go outside just to enjoy some air that is only slightly cooler than it was at noon.  Even if I did, the mosquitoes would carry me away and inject me with a cocktail of West Nile, Zika, Chikunguny, or Dengue (dealer’s choice).

Tomorrow it is supposed to be 98 degrees (36.7 C) with a heat index of 108 (42.2 C).  And it’s only mid-June, folks!  There’s lots more summer fun on the horizon.

I really need to move further north.  I wonder what property values are like at the North Pole.

The Case of the Missing Biff

Biff on Milk Carton

Alright, I’m just going to plunge in and get this over with.

Blogging is in no way like riding a bike.  The conventional wisdom regarding bike-riding is that one never forgets how to do it, no matter how long one goes without riding.  But one can most definitely forget how to blog.

I feel like, if the blogosphere were a gym, a pumped up blogger with 20,000 followers would be standing over me, sneering, and saying, “Do you even blog, Bro?

And me, the skinny, pasty, feeble blogger struggling to lift up the bar that doesn’t even have any weights on it, would say defiantly, “I used to blog every day.  Then I forgot how.

The pumped up blogger, now with 5,000 more followers than he had when this conversation started, would just shake his (or her) head in  disgust and walk away from me, leaving me to struggle with my weightless bar.

Because, let’s face it, when it comes to blogging, most of us are our own worst enemy.  Every day, when the time we set aside to write comes around, it is so easy to talk ourselves out of writing.  The excuses are endless.

  1. Nothing interesting happened to me today.
  2. I’m too tired to write.
  3. I can’t think of anything to write about.
  4. The one thing I did think to write about, I just wrote about a few weeks ago.
  5. No one actually reads my blog anyway, so no one will notice if I miss a day.
  6. I would write, but I really need to go fill up the car / pay bills / work on that thing for work / walk the dog / shampoo the carpet / change the air filters / re-grout the tile / etc etc.
  7. Any number of other excuses

My own nemesis is #1 with a side order of #3.

And then one day becomes two.  Then three.  Suddenly a week has gone by.  Then two.  Then a month.  A year.

But as writers we have to avoid the temptation to not write.  No matter what the excuse is, we must keep at it.  Because, unlike riding a bike, you WILL forget how.  Maybe not the mechanics … but the flame we have inside us that compels us to write will grow dimmer and dimmer until, one day, it just goes out.

So keep the flame alive with your own writing.

 

[Do I get a blogger award for mixing a bike-riding metaphor with a flame-going-out metaphor?]

 

 

 

Musings On Writing Plus a Little Shameless Self-Promotion

I’m afraid I’ve gotten out of the habit of writing in my humble little blog.  There are several reasons for that, all of them lame.  I guess the main one is that it is so darn easy to fall out of the habit of writing.  As I mentioned in one of my posts several weeks ago, you can write every day for months, but skip a day or two and you run the risk of never writing again.  One must push themselves to write.  Or, at least that is true for me.

In spite of that, in the very peak (valley) of my non-writing, I received notice that I’d received my 1000th like.

1000th Like Award

How’s that for irony?  I stop writing and get a gold star for writing.  Maybe WordPress has a sense of humor.  Or else it’s trying to encourage me to write less.

Or, I could stop being cynical for just a moment and maybe take this as a sign that I should keep on writing.  And that’s what I’m choosing to do.

So, I want to thank everyone that pushed me over the 1000-like mark.  I do enjoy knowing you are reading my humble little postings and thinking enough of them to like them.  So, I truly do thank you for sticking with me all these months!

 

 

Scenes From Downtown Dallas

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent several hours Friday in downtown Dallas visiting the Dallas Museum of Art.  After visiting the museum, we walked the short walk to Klyde Warren Park.  The picture below is a view from the outside of the DMA looking towards KWP.

01 KWP from DMA.JPGImage © 2017 by Biff Sock Pow

Klyde Warren Park is very unique in that it is built on 5.2 acres of “land” that was created over a freeway.  The Woodall Rodgers Freeway (aka Spur 366) has always run through a concrete valley carved out of Dallas between I-35 on the west side of Dallas and highway 75 on the east side.  They recently put a top over a portion of this sunken freeway and built a park on it.

Here is a picture taken from the edge of the park facing East.  You can make out traffic on the freeway in the center of the picture.

03 KWP and Woodall Rogers.JPGImage © 2017 by Biff Sock Pow

Below is a zoom on the above picture to show the traffic more clearly driving under the park.

03a KWP and Woodall RogersImage © 2017 by Biff Sock Pow

This was my first visit to the park and I was really impressed.  They did a very good job of this.  Throughout the decades I’ve lived near Dallas, the downtown area did not have much in it to attract visitors at nights and on weekends.  It was a joke here that they rolled up the sidewalks at five o’clock.  Except it wasn’t much of a joke.  Downtown Dallas was built for business and commerce, and outside of business hours it was largely deserted.

However, within the past five or ten years Dallas has made a concerted effort to attract visitors and residents to downtown Dallas.  They built a lot of condominiums, both traditional, and high-rise ones such as Museum Tower, shown in the next few pictures.

04 Museum Tower (Condos).JPGImage © 2017 by Biff Sock Pow

In the photo below, it’s hard to believe that there are about 8 lanes of freeway traffic about 20 feet below!

05 Museum Tower from Klyde Warren Park.JPGImage © 2017 by Biff Sock Pow

06 Museum Tower (Condos).JPGImage © 2017 by Biff Sock Pow

07 Museum Tower (Condos).JPGImage © 2017 by Biff Sock Pow

In addition to these new high-rise condominiums, there are a plethora of other beautiful office buildings.

08 IMG_0320.JPGImage © 2017 by Biff Sock Pow

Below is the Hunt Oil Building.

09 Hunt Oil Building.JPGImage © 2017 by Biff Sock Pow

Back at Klyde Warren Park, we decided to eat at food truck alley.

02 KWP Food Truck Alley.JPGImage © 2017 by Biff Sock Pow

About 12 food trucks were lined up along the park offering anything from ice cream to barbecue to lobster.  I chose a nice chicken quesadilla with a spicy avocado drizzle on it.  It was very tasty!  Unfortunately, the weather was not very spring-like but instead was 99 degrees in the shade with the humidity nearly 80%.  It was quite steamy!   It was still a nice visit to the park, though.  I’m sure I’ll be going back soon!  (Probably in the autumn.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Trip to the Dallas Museum of Art

To celebrate the start of a 4-day Memorial Day weekend, my daughter and I decided to take a trip down to the Dallas Museum of Art on Friday to spend a few hours.  I haven’t been there in probably ten or more years and even in all the decades I’ve lived in Dallas, I’ve only been there maybe five times.   I am definitely one of those people that give credence to the axiom that people who live near well-known sites never go to visit them.

I found that a lot has changed since my last visit.  Much of their collection was new (to me), but also some of my old friends were still there, such as Church’s “Iceburgs” (see below).  It was a wonderful visit and I highly recommend a visit to anyone who finds themselves in Dallas with a few hours or a day to spare.

Below are some of the pictures I took while I was there.  I took well over a hundred photos and there were thousands of things I didn’t take photos of, but these are my favorites.  I apologize for the poor quality.  Flash photography is not allowed and so I had to do the best I could without a flash and with a camera that I’m still not familiar with.

01

Oscar Bluemner

Space Motive – A New Jersey Valley (Wharton)

01 Oscar Bluemner's Space Motive

I really like the clean lines and lush coloring in this painting.  Bluemner used color for emotional expression rather than literal renderings, and that really comes through in this painting.

 

02

Charles Demuth

Buildings

02 Charles Demuth's Buildings

Demuth blended common renderings of everyday objects with cubist aspects.  I’m not a big fan of cubism, but, as he kept the cubist elements to a minimum, using them as accents rather than making them the star of the picture, I like what he’s done here.  The painting as a draftsman-like quality to it and, like the Bluemner above, I like the evocative colors and clean lines of the painting.

03

Edward Hopper’s

Lighthouse Hill

03 Edward Hopper's Lighthouse.jpg

What’s not to like about an Edward Hopper painting?  I love how the strong contrasts between light and shadow capture a very specific moment in time.  The sun, though we don’t know if it is rising or setting, is in a very specific place in the heavens.  It may be telling us the day is young and rife with possibilities, or calling us home for dinner and warning us that it will soon be dark.  But even if it is telling us that darkness will be coming soon, the lighthouse itself strips the darkness of any real power over us.

04

Alexandre Hogue

Drouth Stricken Area

04 Alexandre Hogue's Drouth Stricken Area.jpg

I live in Texas and drought is just a way of life here.  Hogue has captured this perfectly.  Brown is the color of summer here.  The vulture, while here perhaps symbolizing death, to me represents the trepidation that people in drought-prone areas live with constantly.  Whether it is raining or sunny, we live with the ever-present dread of each rain shower perhaps being our last for a while.

05

Thomas Hart Benton

Prodigal Son

05 Thomas Hart Benton's Prodigal Son.jpg

I just enjoyed the imagery of this painting.  While in the Biblical story the prodigal son returns home after living a life of excess and debauchery and was welcomed with open arms and lavished with all manner of gifts and honors, the artist returned from living in New York to his home in Missouri to find things bleak and dour.  Such was life in the south during the depression.   The pain and surprise of Benton’s realization is obvious in this painting.  Even the clouds have a kind of sinister, predator-like look to them.

06

Francis Guy

Winter Scene in Brooklyn

06 Francis Guy's Winter Scene in Brooklyn.jpg

I just liked this painting.  Not sure why.

07

Robert Preusser

Tonal Oval

07 Robert Preusser's Tonal Oval.jpg

I only have momentary and fleeting interest in abstract art.  This one caught my eye and it was interesting for a minute or two, but it is ultimately forgettable and looks like something that would be hanging in the reception area of a corporation.   I do like that this painting has depth (as in the cylinder-like shapes and the ribbing in the elements), and is not just random swirls of pattern and color.

08

Jackson Pollck

Cathedral

08 Jackson Pollck's Cathedral.jpg

I’m not a huge Pollock fan.  I feel his work is mostly a deliberate mocking of the pretentiousness of the art world (and maybe rightly so).  The art world, however, doesn’t seem to get the joke.

I’m not saying I could do what he does (I probably couldn’t), but I also don’t think I could gaze upon his work for any length of time with anything approaching enjoyment.  But since this was the closest I’ve ever been to one of his paintings, I decided to take a picture of it.

09

Gerald Murphy

Razor

09 Gerald Murphy's Razor

Though this is a cubist work, I also feel it has certain art deco elements.  Art deco is my absolute favorite art style, bar none.  I also find myself drawn to pop advertising art for some reason.  I guess that is just the very root of advertising art.  It is a deliberate play for our attentions.  This one succeeds on that account, though it is not an advertisement per se.

10

Gerald Murphy’s

Watch

10 Gerald Murphy’s Watch.jpg

As an engineer, I was immediately drawn to this work.  I love intricacy and detail in art, and it is here in abundance.  I also drawings that have a mechanical drawing vibe to them.  I like artwork that has a schematic diagram feel to them.  This is a beautiful combination of all that, plus contrasting symmetry and non-symmetry.

It is also a surprisingly large work (78  square inches or about 2 square meters), which I thought was a contrast in itself:  a giant depiction of a tiny watch mechanism.

11

Leon Frederic’s

Nature or Abundance

11 Leon Frederic's Nature or Abundance.jpg

 

12

François–Auguste Biardh

Seasickness on an English Corvette

12 François–Auguste Biardh's Seasickness on an English Corvette.jpg

I love well-done comic scenes that contain a great amount of detail.

13

Frederic Edwin Church

The Iceburgs

13 Frederic Edwin Church's The Iceburgs.jpg

This is my favorite painting at the DMA and has been ever since I saw it a few decades ago.  This picture of it does not do it justice.  It is a huge painting.  Its framed dimensions are 85 x 133 x 5 inches (2.16 m x 3.37 m x 12.7 cm) and weighs a whopping 426 pounds (193 kg).  The DMA used to have it in its own separate room with viewing benches in front of it.  They also used to have special lighting on it to enhance the eerie green glow of the ice.  Now, however, it is just hanging on a wall in a huge gallery with other paintings.  But I still love this painting.  It is gorgeous and haunting all at once.  I could feel the isolation of the scene and the tragedy that no doubt happened here a long, long time ago.

14

John Singer Sargent

Dorothy

14 Sargent's Dorothy.jpg

Just thought I’d toss in a famous painting.

15

Claude Monet

The Seine at Lavacourt

15 Claude Monet's The Seine at Lavacourt.jpg

Monet is my favorite impressionist of all time.  His paintings always fill me with serenity and peace and a desire to go back in time and view the scenes that he was painting.  Things always seem so placid in his paintings.

16

Claude Monet

Water Lilies

16 Claude Monet's Water Lilies.jpg

One of Monet’s water lily paintings.  It was so odd to be able to get within inches of this (or any) famous painting.  One would think that they would cordon it off with velvet theater ropes or something.

17

Claude-Joseph Vernet

Mountain Landscape with Approaching Storm

17 Claude-Joseph Vernet's Mountain Landscape with Approaching Storm.jpg

Another one of my old favorites from the DMA.  Vernet beautifully captures an approaching storm.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

And thus concludes my day-trip to the Dallas Museum of Art.  It was a wonderful day and the museum, while not the Louvre or the Metropolitan Museum, has a lot of very interesting items in it.

Also, it is the only museum I know with a sense of humor!

18 Van Gogh Vana

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

writer

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!

IMG_0202a.jpg

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

Itching Man 2

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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