Biff Sock Pow

Finding the humor in everyday life.

Archive for the tag “Almanac”

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac — Et tu, Monday?

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Another Monday is behind us.

A word of advice:  Don’t ever let Monday circle around and get behind you.  Always keep Monday within eyesight.

It was not a bad day as Mondays go.  I am still suffering from a cold … or allergies.  It is hard to tell which.  It all started last Thursday morning when I thought to myself, “Hey, I think I’ll take off on Friday.”  This was because I had put in a boatload of hours last week and had my 40 hours in by Thursday noon.

Well, as soon as I’d said that, even though it was an internal monologue, the cold (or allergy) goblins said, “What?  Who said that?  It’s showtime!”

Long story short, by the time I headed home Thursday after work, my throat was killing me.  I spent all day Friday in bed, laid out with whatever this is.  Saturday and Sunday is just a fog of hazy memories.  So, my long weekend turned out to be no weekend at all.

The moral of this story is:  If you’re planning on taking a day off of work, don’t tell anyone about it … not even yourself.  Those darn eavesdropping allergy goblins will ruin everything for you.

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac — Friday Recap, Rain Threats, B&N, Half-Priced Books

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Tonight’s Background Music is provided by Paul Hardcastle.
Album:  Hardcastle 1
Best Song:   Forever Dreamin’ is tied with Feel the Breeze

Yes, it is Friday evening.  I am finally home … finally in my pajamas … finally drinking a cup of coffee … finally writing in this blog … finally listening to some soothing music.

Outside it is mostly dark, but every few seconds the whole world lights up as if lit by a giant Klieg light with a wonky power switch.  A few seconds after each flash I hear a distant booming, like a Civil War cannonade.

They are predicting rain, but I’ve learned not to get my hopes up.  I love rain more than any of Mother Nature’s other gifts.  For Her part, she withholds it as a matter of course.  Apparently, she doesn’t like me very much.  Much of the sparkle has gone out of our relationship.

Earlier this evening, Lady Luck smiled on me and I  got to enjoy a visit to both Barnes & Noble and Half-Priced Books … all in one evening!   It was like winning the lottery ……  except without all the money, of course.  I love walking around Barnes & Noble.  It is like a miniature sabbatical to me.  It soothes my soul.  However, I can’t bring myself to pay fifty dollars for a soft-bound book.  So, much like going to Tiffany’s or to a Rolex store, I just look but don’t buy.

So I went to HPB and browsed around.  I found the book I had almost bought at B&N for $30, but it was only $7.99 at HPB.  It was about two years older so not as up-to-date, but good enough for my needs.  What book, you ask?  I am extremely embarrassed to admit that I bought “WordPress: The Missing Manual” by Matthew MacDonald.

Wordpress book

After 4 months of diddling around with WP, I still feel like a novice.  I feel I need to jazz things up a bit.  In other words, it’s time to figure out what I’m doing.

I also bought a DVD of “The Outlaw Josey Wales“, which is one of the greatest western / post Civil War movies ever made.  I paid a whopping $2 for it.

I found a fascinating book.  It is a coffee table book about Alexander Girard’s works.

Alexander-Girard-Book

I had never heard of him before and the book looked fascinating, so I hefted it down off of the upper shelf where it was displayed prominently.  And when I say “hefted”, I mean hefted.  According to Amazon.com, it weighs 15 pounds!  It was chock full of pictures and reproductions of his textiles and furniture and interior designs and architecture.  It was fascinating, but I couldn’t bring myself to pay the $50 price for it (though that is only $3.33 per pound).  Also, my arms were getting tired, so I had to set it down.

Also, as part of my continuing “What Year is This?” series, I overheard yet another conversation at HPB that made me want to go home and check the calendar to see what year this is.  As I’ve mentioned in another blog post (as well as this one and this one), vinyl albums are all the rage, so it wasn’t surprising to me that tonight a fairly large section of the music department was devoted to vinyl albums.  I was also not surprised that there were quite a few “young folk” (i.e. people in their 20s) flipping excitedly through all of the albums.  But I heard a snippet of conversation that nearly made me drop my teeth.  A young-ish woman exclaimed excitedly, “Oh look!  I found a Slim Whitman album!”

It was all I could do not to chuckle out loud.  When I was a young man way back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, every 3rd commercial on television was by Suffolk Marketing flogging a Slim Whitman album or by Heartland Music hawking a Boxcar Willie album.  We all collectively rolled our eyes when any of these commercials came on.  They were viewed as poorly made albums by artists that were, shall we say, not at the peak of their careers.  So, it was quite amusing to hear people in their 20s fawning over these albums nearly 40 years after the point where the artists were 20 years past their prime.

I really don’t know what is going on nowadays.  Vinyl albums.  Polaroid cameras.  Slim Whitman albums.  Lava lamps.

If 8-track tapes come back, I’m moving out into the wilderness somewhere.

Poor Biff’s Almanac: The State of the Blog Report

It’s hard to believe that we’re already halfway through April.  It seems like just a day or two ago that I was bemoaning the fact that the Christmas holidays were over and that I had to return to work after being off for two weeks.  It was January 3, 2017 and the new year yawned in front of me like that stretch of desert highway that is used ubiquitously in movies and pictures to signify a long, arduous (and probably interminable) journey ahead.

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And yet, somehow it is already midway through April.  We are already more than a quarter through the “new” year.

Except that it isn’t that new any more.  It is a slightly used year.  One owner.  Low miles.  Non smoker.  Maintenance records upon request.  Shimmies slightly when accelerating.

If I was a business (and thankfully, I’m not), I would have had to write a quarterly report, explaining our losses to date and presenting plans for recovery in the second quarter.  It might go something like this:

Blog post inventory was high, but low foot traffic led to a year-over-year loss in same-blog readership over the same quarter last year.  A slow January start (seasonally adjusted) was followed by a strong February.  Month-to-date (MTD) data for March looked impressive, but when scaled to account for the 5-week month, performance was slightly below February’s numbers.  April is shaping up to be disappointing, especially among new readers.
An unusually warm 1st quarter led to declining rates of torpidity among readers as they sought more fulfilling activities out of doors.  Long term forecasts indicate seasonably warm temperatures for the 2nd quarter and so torpidity rates are not likely to increase, and thus readership is expected to continue declining.

So there you have it.  That’s how empty the well of ideas is.  I’ll try to come up with something soon.  If I can’t find something interesting in my real life, I may have to resort to writing more fiction.

(No, that was not a threat.)

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac: Monday Evening Edition

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It is Monday evening and my blog has gone to hell.

Not literally, of course.  Who does it think it is:  Dante?  It certainly isn’t Virgil!

No, I just haven’t written much in it lately.  This was because I decided I needed to correct a shortcoming I saw in my blog, namely my repetitiveness.  I tend to write about the same things over and over and over.

My attempt to correct that problem resulted in me having nothing to write about.

That’s when I realized that my life is very repetitive.  However, I prefer to think of it as my life having a particular rhythm all its own.  Unfortunately, the rhythm of my life is a series of never-ending quarter notes played in 4/4 time with no varying of the tempo or pitch.   But hey, that counts as a rhythm!

So there you have it.

Now I’m having this nagging feeling that I’ve written this exact same blog before, not so very long ago.  So stop me if you’ve heard this one before . . .

 

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac: Tuesday Evening Edition (and Some Talk of Disco Music)

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It was another good day in Biff-land.  And by good, I mean I survived it without experiencing too much corporate absurdity.

Or maybe the reality is that I’ve been subjected to corporate surrealism so long that it is now my normal and I just don’t notice it any more.  I sure hope that isn’t true!  It was never my intent to become one of the inmates at the asylum.  I thought I was merely passing through.  But I’m sure all of the inmates say that when they first arrive.

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I am embarrassed to admit that I am listening to the soundtrack from “Saturday Night Fever” at the moment, in particularly the Bee Gees (“Stayin’ Alive”, “How Deep is Your Love?”, “Night Fever”, etc.).  I didn’t even know it was on my iPod, but here it is.  Boy, this sure takes me back!  Saturday Night Fever came out when I was at the height (or depth) of my teen years.

You never would have believed it, if you’d known me back then, that I would ever have been caught dead (or severely maimed) listening to disco music.  I was staunchly in the “Disco Sucks!” crowd back then.  Around my friends or in my car, I listened to real rock (as we referred to it back then) at top volume.  I listened to Nazareth and Rush and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Rush, Boston, Kansas, Yes, and Judas Priest, Pink Floyd, and the Who (to name some of them).  I sneered most superciliously and derisively at disco or anything disco-like.

I’m sure I was just overcompensating.  My aversion to disco was mostly to hide the fact that I couldn’t dance a lick.  And I that was painfully shy around girls.  So, given those two handicaps, disco was anathema to me.  But secretly I liked it.  I was (secretly) a big fan of the Bee Gees.  I think their music was amazingly complex to be dismissed as being so simplistic.  Their harmonies were stunning.  And they invented voice vibrato.  Their melodies were engaging and complex.  Even their lyrics, in spite of having to fit into a disco format that demanded overly-simplistic phrasing, were surprisingly sophisticated (again, given the format).

But like anything that becomes popular, disco music began to become a parody of itself and it was easy to wean myself off of it.  But even now I cannot listen to “Stayin’ Alive” without walking like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever as he walked down the street carrying the paint cans.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go listen to a little Who to cleanse my palate.

 

Less is . . . Less

Man and Machine

I had an epiphany today.

My epiphany is that all of human history has been driving towards writing humans out of the human equation.

This came to me today at a meeting at work while we were discussing ways to do things better and more efficiently.  What does that mean if not “How can we change what we do in order to do less of what we do?

From there I realized that I have spent the past 6 or 7 years in my current job trying to make my department run more efficiently, to do be able to do more work with less effort and fewer resources.  Things need to be done as quickly as possible with as little human intervention as possible.  I suppose, in an ideal process, the process would run quite on its own and humans would merely observe to make sure nothing went wrong.  Even more ideally, the process would be infallible and no humans at all would be required.

As I reflected back further back in my career as an engineer, I suddenly realized that the vast majority of the decisions I’ve had to make at my various jobs have not been technical decisions.  They have been efficiency decisions.  How can we make this circuit cheaper?  By making it simpler.  Why do we want it to be simpler?  So it will be easier to build, easier to test, easier to set up, easier for the customer to use.  What does that boil down to?  Fewer people.  Fewer people required to build it, test it, set it up, and operate it.

Then I reflected back even before I was old enough to have a career.  Back through history and time.  Every new innovation required lots and lots of people to bring about, to operate, and to maintain.  But then the pressure appears almost instantly to make it simpler.   Cars used to take hundreds of people to build.  Now they can probably be built with a few dozen people and some robots.  It used to take millions of farmers and millions of acres to feed the human population.  Now it takes a few hundred thousand farmers.  Soon it will require even less.

As the humans who create these products and processes, we must ask, why are we trying to write ourselves out of the equations it takes to build them?  Or even use them?  What is our ultimate goal?  What are we going to do with all of our free time if we become so efficient at everything that we are no longer required to do any of the things we strove to make so efficient?

Will we have a sense of accomplishment if we accomplish our goal of arriving at the point where there is nothing left to accomplish?

How will we feel if we create a world that can continue on its own without us?

Will that be heaven?  Or hell?

 

Spring Has Sprang

Sun and gardner

I have successfully made it to mid-week and a little beyond.  More precisely, I am 60% done with my workweek.  It is time to start making the list of all of the things that I’ll say I’m going to do this weekend, but end up not doing.

For instance, I need to put down some weed-n-feed in the front yard to send a strong message to the dandelions that they’re not welcome here, while at the same time sending an engraved invitation to the St. Augustine grass to please stop by at its earliest convenience and to stay as long as it likes.  So far, the grass is being fashionably late.  In fact, if it were a goldfish, it would be floating upside down at the top of the fishbowl and I would be rubbing my eyes with my fists and saying things like, “But it’s just sleeping, isn’t it?”

The trees are all doing well so far.  In fact, I noticed a redbud in the back yard that I did not know I had.  Welcome to the neighborhood, little buddy.  You’re welcome here as long you keep making those pretty red blooms.  Once the blooms are gone … well … we’ll just have to see.

The crepe myrtles are creating snowdrifts of their pollen or blooms or whatever that stuff is.  And, like real snow, it’s pretty at first, but quickly becomes annoying when it gets wet or turns brown or gets into places where you prefer drifts of crepe myrtle pollen not be.

So, yes, everything is blooming.  And those are just the plants that I can identify!  There is a veritable Garden of Eden in my back and front yards, assuming the Garden of Eden was filled with flora (a latin word meaning weeds) that is native to Texas.  And why wouldn’t it have been?  Did not God say to Adam and Eve after the unfortunate Apple incident:

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
    blah blah blah …
It will produce thorns and thistles for you”

Hey, if that doesn’t describe land in Texas, nothing does!

 

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