Biff Sock Pow

Finding the humor in everyday life.

Archive for the tag “Journal”

All That Jazz, With Some Exceptions

Jazz

It is Friday; a day that, by its very nature is almost always a good day.

Today was no exception.  Except that it was an exceptionally good day.  I accept that except for a few exceptions, today was exceptional, which is not the exception, except in a few rare exceptions.  So, except for exceptional exceptions (which I accept), expectations were high for an exceptionally non-exceptional day, which is in itself exceptional.

It was also hot.  It hit 103 today (37.78 C).  I found this out the hard way.  I have been putting in a lot of hours at work lately so rather than take lunch today, I thought I’d just go sit in my car for a few minutes, recline the seat, and listen to a little quiet, contemporary jazz.  Perhaps you’ve heard the expression “hot jazz”.  Well, I’m here to tell you, today’s jazz was smoking hot!  It is hard to fully appreciate Boney James or Tom Scott or Richard Elliot or Gerald Albright while slowly cooking evenly on high heat.

I turned on the air conditioning and that made for some cool jazz … but it definitely turned the guilt knob all the way up to eleven.  It is hard to relax while extravagantly and obscenely wasting the earth’s precious resources.  So, I heaved a heavy sigh, turned off the jazz and the air conditioning, and schlepped back across the lava-like parking lot and back into work.  I sat in my fabric-covered box and worked on obscenely complex spreadsheets.

To think I once upon a time considered becoming a jazz musician.

But … hey …. spreadsheets are cool, too.  Like jazz, they tend to be free-form and highly improvisational.

Except jazz is jazzy.

Spreadsheets are .. well … not.

 

In a Vacuum, No One Can Hear You Blog

This seems to be getting harder instead of easier.

Writer Cartoon

I was told it would get easier.   All of the successful bloggers I’ve read said that if I just write every day, it would get easier.  Structure would begin to develop.  I’d develop a “voice”.  Likes and followers would begin to accrete.  Some of the successful bloggers went so far as to suggest that literary agents would prostrate themselves in front of me and threaten seppucu on my front lawn if I didn’t give them first shot at publishing my book.

I’m here to tell you; none of that happened.

But I’ll tell you what DID happen.

My wellspring of ideas that I used to think was infinite, turned out to be finite.  Over the course of a hundred-and-some-odd (mostly odd) blog posts, I wrote about just about everything that happens to me in my life.  I began to repeat myself.  I ran out of creative ways to say the same old thing over and over.

So, I even tried making stuff up in the form of short fiction.  It turns out that fiction on WordPress is about as popular as pork rinds at a vegan picnic.

And to make matters worse, now I have a craving for pork rinds!  But I’m already in my pajamas and there’s no way I’m running down to the 7-11 to get me a bag.  It’s not worth getting dressed just for a bag of red hot pork rinds.  Though I guess I could also pick up a Slim Jim and a lottery ticket while I’m there.  And … hell … it’s 7-11, for Pete’s sake!  Like they’d even  notice I was wearing pajamas.  I’d probably be the least crazy looking person in the store.  What kind of world do we live in that a grown man wearing pajamas and holding a Slim Jim, a bag of red hot pork rinds, a lottery ticket, and a Penny Shopper would not even raise an eyebrow at a 7-11?

Wow!  That was a hell of a digression!   Where was I?

Oh yes.  I was wallowing in self-pity.

So here’s my sage advice to you bloggers just starting out.

Write because you love to write.  Don’t write to collect likes as if they’re steps on your FitBit, or Pokemons in your Pokemon Go app.  Write for the sheer enjoyment of writing.  If you don’t get a single like, that’s okay.  You’re writing.  You’re getting better.  You’re honing your skills.

And if you repeat yourself, that’s okay, too.  I can guarantee you that no one goes back and reads your old posts.  Everyone just reads whatever is at the top of whichever tag they’re reading at the moment.  I doubt they’ll notice if you wrote virtually the same blog post six months ago.  And even if they do, so what?  It’s just a new edition of one of your favorites.  Think of it as a “remix” of one of your old songs.  Musical artists do that all the time.

So get out there and write!

 

 

Solving For X

Red-X-Icon

I went through most of today feeling sort of gobsmacked, much like the fish that float to the surface of a lake when an efficiency-minded fisherman decides to fish with dynamite.

What caused this smacking of the gob, you ask?

Well, it was caused by the fact that I didn’t have to go to work for four whole days due to the July 4th holiday weekend and today was my first day back at work.  Like most people, I loved every minute of being off.  However, there is a dark side to being off from work.  And that is:  you have to go back to work at some point.  And the longer you are off, the more of a shock to the system it is when you have to go back.

I have always heard people say things like, “Man, I loved being on vacation, but after X days I was ready to come back to work.”   The variable X ranged anywhere from one week to four weeks or more.  I have been unsuccessful at figuring out what that X is in my own life.  In the course of my long career, I have been off anywhere from one or two days at a time to nearly three weeks on a row.  In none of those instances did I ever say I was ready to go back to work.  In fact, it is just the opposite.  The longer I am away from work, the less ready I am to go back.

I’m pretty darn sure I was supposed to have been born into the “idle rich” class.  I would love to spend my days practicing falconry, assessing polo horses, taking up yachting, playing chess with living chess boards, having tea on the east lawn, and losing large sums of money in Monte Carlo and laughing it off as being just part of the game.

What I’m NOT suited for is being awakened harshly every morning at 6 am by an obnoxious alarm clock so I can shuffle off to create ephemera for amorphous clouds of management in order to satisfy vague objectives.  When I get home at the end of the day and am asked “How was work?“, my usual answer is, “I’m not sure.“, though sometimes I will answer, “There’s no way to tell.”  To-do lists were created, tasks completed, and then dutifully checked off of the list.  But if someone were to storm into my office and say, “Biff!  Show me what you’ve been doing all day!“, I would have to gesture vaguely towards our company’s server farm and say, “I rearranged the alignment of millions of microscopic bits of magnetic particles.”  More than likely, that person would say, “Good job!  Keep up the good work!” and then would de-materialize in front of my eyes.

This easily explains why I’ve never been able to find the quantity of days in a row I’d have to be off from work before I’d say, “Man, I’ve really enjoyed being off from work for 75 years, but I think I’m ready to get back to work now.

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac — Sunday … er … Monday Morning

I am discombobulated.

Spring Forward

Due to this being a 4-day weekend for me, I have gotten my days all mixed up.  It is always amusing to me that, obsessed as I am with time, it only takes me 2 or 3 days of being off from work to get my days so mixed up that I don’t even know what day it is.  I shudder to think what I would be like if I were off from work for a month or longer.  I’d probably forget what century I am.  (This is still the 20th century, right?)

When I say I am obsessed with time, perhaps that is overstating it.  I wear a wristwatch and I constantly refer to it.  I am fascinated with the passage of time and why some patches of time go quickly, and others go like cold molasses.  How do we get from one moment to the next?  We do nothing and yet somehow time washes by us like we are standing still in a slowly moving river.  Things drift by us through no machinations on our part.  We stand inert, and the flotsam and jetsam of life and time drift by us, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but always doggedly and relentlessly.

I know time (or the telling of it) is a human construct to help us communicate things to one another and to mark off the passage of hours and seasons, but I have always tried to keep fastidious track of it.  I always know what hour it is during the day, and very often the minute within a 20-minute window.  That may be because I am at work and marking off the minutes until I can leave for the day, like a prisoner marking off the days on his cell wall, anticipating the day of his release.  I am also usually on top of what day of the week it is, and, to a lesser extend, what day of the month it is.   What year it is gets a little fuzzy in my head sometimes.  If someone were to suddenly and without warning ask me what year this is, I am just as likely to say “1987!” as I am the correct year.

However, as aware as I am of the passage of time and my fastidiously noting the hour and minute that I happen to be in, if I have off from work for any length of time, I begin to lose all sense of time.  By day four of a seven day vacation, I no longer know what day of the week it is.  I usually have only a vague notion of what hour it is by wherever the sun is in the sky.  The month?  Forget about it!  Year?  Well, I’ve already confessed my difficulty with years.

It makes me wonder, if I were independently wealthy and did not have to work for a living, would I simply stop noting or caring what hour or day or month it was?  Would entire years drift by me without my noticing them or bothering to give them names?

I don’t know, but I’d sure like to find out!

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac — Stimulating Simulations … or Simulating Stimulation

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It was a quiet day if Biffville.  I spent most of the day with my head buried in a spreadsheet that was so complicated that I began to doubt my sanity.  After all, no sane person would attempt to simulate real life within the pivoting matrices of a recalcitrant spreadsheet.  That’s what Visio is for.  With Excel you can, at best, create some crude 2-D simulations of rudimentary real-world processes.

Later in the day, I began to question my own existence.  I have read that the universe as we know it is just some grand simulation that a race of super beings is running for purposes we cannot fathom (my guess is a government grant).  If that is true, then why am I creating simulations within an Excel spreadsheet that approximate portions of real life … or what we think of as life?  Are there little people running around in my spreadsheets who believe they are thinking, living beings, but who are, in reality, merely references to other tabs and other cells (and probably the wrong ones, at that)?

It was too much for my feeble brain to churn on so I was glad when 5:00 rolled around and I was able to flee the scene of so much simulation.

Or did I flee the scene?  Perhaps I’m still there and the grander simulation is able to have me in both places at once: at my desk at work and also at my desk here at home.  Is the code of my life re-entrant?  Or is my stack about to overflow?

Perhaps my employer misunderstood me at my job interview many, many years ago when I mentioned that I wanted a job where I was constantly stimulated.  Perhaps they heard “simulated”, for I am pretty sure the past several years have just been a poorly constructed simulation.

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac: Clearing Out the Backlog

Caution!  Long, rambling post ahead!  Please have a spotter.

writer

It has been a while since I posted anything on here.  You may pick only one from the following excuses.  (Please don’t be greedy.)

  • I’ve been too busy.
  • I’ve had nothing to write about.
  • My carpel tunnel syndrome flared up (an old caber-tossing injury)
  • I’ve been out of town attending Banjo-Con
  • I have been unbelievably lazy (even more than usual)
  • My lethargy biorhythm was in phase with my apathy biorhythm and there was a resonance in my indifference biorhythm

But I’m here now and I’m willing to give this thing another shot if you are.  After all, what do we have to lose, except a few minutes of our lives?

The Weather Report

It was a good weekend.  It rained over three inches in a span of about ten hours from Friday night into Saturday.  This dropped the average daytime temperature from 100 (~38 C) down to the low 80s (~28 C).  That is about as close as one can get to heaven in Texas in the summertime.  As an added bonus, it was too wet to mow the yard afterwards.  That was like winning the bi-fecta (rain + no mowing).

One Man’s Trash

On Saturday I went estate sale-ing.  (Hey … I said it was too wet to mow, not too wet to go to estate sales!)  I found a few things that qualified as “finds”.  I found some children’s books (including “Stuart Little” from the 60s that I think may be first editions.  At about 25 cents a pop, I was willing to take a chance.  I found a CD of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” for a buck.  It’s hard to believe that I’ve never owned this on CD, since I’m as avid a fan of Pink Floyd as ever longed for a giant inflatable pig.  I do, however have it on vinyl.  Little good that does me.  I don’t have a turntable mounted in my car.

But the find of the day was a print of the Mary Petty painting that appeared on the October 20 1962 edition of the New Yorker.  The print itself is copyrighted 1962, so I think it is from that era.  I didn’t know what it was when I saw it since it did not have any of the New Yorker tagging on it.  It just looked like a print of a painting and I liked it a lot, so I bought it.  I haggled the haggard owner down to a mere eight dollars.  The frame that I need to buy for it will cost much, much more than that.

Mary Petty New Yorker Cover

The above is not an direct image of the print I bought.  It’s just something I found on the Internet.  Image is copyright 1962 by Mary Petty.

Book ’em, Biffo

As if sifting through other people’s belongings were not enough fun, I also went to Half Price Books (HPB) on Sunday.  I didn’t really intend to buy anything; I was just killing some time.  However, for me to say I didn’t intend to buy anything when going to HPB is like jumping in a lake and saying “I did not intend to get wet.”  I am never so weak as when I got into HPB.  I ended up buying William Faulkner’s Snopes trilogy (The Hamlet, The Town, & The Mansion) in paperback.  I read The Mansion many decades ago when I was in high school and it didn’t make much sense to me at the time, but then I found out much later that it was the final book in a trilogy and that explained my confusion.  Not that Faulkner has ever written a hard-to-understand novel before.  Anyway, I’m going to give it another chance.  I don’t usually buy used paperbacks since they don’t age well, but the Faulkner estate keeps the prices of his new books so high that I have been forced to buy pre-loved versions of them.

I also found a paperback version of Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey novel, “Busman’s Honeymoon“.  I love Dorothy Sayers’ writing and especially her Lord Peter Wimsey novels.  As I stated above, I don’t usually buy used paperbacks, but this particular book looks like it just rolled off the presses yesterday even though it was printed in the 90s.  It was a steal at $3 (even though I have the receipt).

I also browsed through the clearance CDs and came away with a handful of finds (each for about $2).

  • The Rippingtons (featuring Russ Freeman) — Black Diamond
  • John Jarvis — Pure Contours
  • John Jarvis — Whatever Works
  • Dave Koz – Off the Beaten Path
  • Nelson Rangell — Playing for Keeps
  • David Benoit — Full Circle
  • The Bangles — Everything
  • Peter White — Caravan of Dreams

That last CD was such a fantastic find for me that I was nearly beside myself with excitement.  For those of you who don’t know, Peter White is best known for his multi-decade collaboration with Al Stewart (of “Year of the Cat” fame).  He is also a helluva guitarist in his own right and has lent his considerable talents to a huge variety of artists, such as Basia.  But the reason I was so excited was because not only do I love Peter’s music, but he wrote the song “Caravan of Dreams” about a club I used to go to in Fort Worth all the time back in the late 80s and early 90s.  Ah, man!  The Caravan of Dreams was the best venue ever!  It was a very small, very intimate club.   I remember one time (wavy flash-back graphics go here) …  I had never been there before, but I heard on the radio that Kirk Whalum was going to appear there during his “The Promise” tour, so I bought tickets on the phone (this was before the internet).  I got there and handed my ticket to the hostess and asked her where my seat was and she said, “Anywhere you want.”   I could hardly believe it!  I got a table right by the stage and so when Kirk came out and started playing I was like 4 feet away from him!  I had the same experience when Acoustic Alchemy played there.  Acoustic Alchemy also honored Caravan of Dreams in a song called “Reference Point”

So, yes, Peter White liked Caravan of Dreams enough that he wrote a song about it.  I only wish I could have seen him perform that song at that venue.  That would have been beyond awesome.  Damn!  I miss that place.

 

The Dismount

Okay, that’s about all I have for now.  I could ramble on, but frankly this thing has gone on long enough.  I have probably lost half of my readers, who have rambled off to find something to eat or to re-hydrate or just to shake their heads and say, “What the hell was all that about?”

For those of you who stuck it out this far, I humbly thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go re-hydrate.

 

 

 

Crazy From the Heat

[Background Music:  “107 In the Shade” by Alex Bugnon]

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On the way home from work today, the readout in my car for the outside temperature read 102 degrees (38.9 C).  Earlier I’d looked up the temperature online and it said the heat index was 117 degrees (47.2 C).

If there had been any doubt in anyone’s mind that summer was here, it was removed today.  The doubt was literally baked out of them.

This is the time of the year when Dallasites (and Texans in general) become hermits.  I mean, honestly, what can you do outside when it feels like 117 degrees?  What can you do that won’t kill you or make you wish you were dead?  I can’t think of anything.  There are no sports, no hobbies, no chores … nothing that I would care to do when it is 117 degrees.  Absolutely nothing.

Speaking of bizarre activities, it is not unusual to see people out jogging when it is well over 100 degrees.  Jogging!  I can only conclude that they are insane.  The heat probably made them snap and they just tore off their clothes (luckily they were wearing jogging outfits underneath) and just took off  running down the road like madmen.  I feel sorry for them.  I think the city should drive around in buses and when they see onw of these poor, unfortunate souls, they should get out the tranquilizer gun, tranq them, and put their unconscious bodies in the back of the air conditioned bus to cool off and regain their sanity.  Once they’ve regained their senses, they can be set free in a mall or big-box store somewhere where it’s air conditioned.

And, just for science, perhaps they could tag their ears and track their migratory patterns.  Since there is science involved, there may be grant money to be had.

 

 

 

 

Vintage Technology: The Bone Fone

Move over MP3 players!  The Bone Fone is here!

(Please try to contain yourself.)

Bone Fone #1

This past weekend I was flipping through a vintage magazine (a March 1980 edition of Panarama, which was a magazine all about the TV industry).  When lo!  My eyes fell upon a Bone Fone ad!  (See full advertisement at the bottom of this post.)  I was instantly teleported back to the late 70s when I was a teenager.

Back then, there was no Internet, so we  were forced to read magazines for entertainment and also so we could be told by the cognoscenti what we were supposed to be buying in order to be considered cool.  I could barely afford the magazines themselves, let alone any of the products that the advertisements promised me would make me the coolest kid in the world, so these magazines kept me in a perpetual state of hopeful despair.

Sometime during that era, I saw an ad for the Bone Fone and was instantly fascinated.

This proved once and for all that advertising works.  My teen-aged male eyes were drawn instantly to the picture of the pretty woman in the ad (just as the advertisers knew they would be).  This woman was wearing what appeared to be the world’s most awkward and poorly designed ascot.  Obviously I did not notice the ascot at first.  It took a few minutes for my adolescent brain to realize there was something other than a pretty girl in the ad. But eventually I noticed the Bone Fone.

Intrigued, I read every word of the ad.  The Bone Fone utilized the principal of bone conduction, which is actually a real thing.  I thought, “This may be the greatest invention in the history of mankind!”  This was several decades before the invention of ear buds, so the very notion that you could wear a device that would allow you to hear music when no one around you could was simply astounding!  It was mind boggling.

I wanted a Bone Fone so badly I could taste it.  I bought the story of its invention, as told in the ad, hook line and sinker.  Of course, I also believed those little ads in comic books that said I could buy a pair of X-Ray glasses that really worked.  I was a highly desirable demographic for advertisers peddling cheap, crappy, and borderline fraudulent products to gullible and highly susceptible teen-aged boys (of which I was one).

But … Alas!  The $69.95 price tag (plus $2.50 shipping and handling) put the Bone Fone well out of reach for me.

Time went by.  I eventually forgot about the Bone Fone, though I would occasionally think of it and wonder if it truly worked as advertised.  I read a few message boards about the Bone Fone this weekend and saw mixed reviews.  Some people said they worked just fine.  Some said it was completely worthless.  Now I’m more curious than ever.

A quick look on eBay this weekend showed me that these things have held their value amazingly well.  Prices ranged from $69.95 all the way up to $99.95.  Perhaps I should have invested in them way back when I could have gotten in on the ground floor.

Unfortunately, I still can’t afford one.  Some things never change.

 

Bone Fone #20

 

 

 

 

Less Cool Advertising: Thanks, Windows!

Something else I saw at the Dallas Galleria yesterday.  There was a large rotating video display hanging over the ice rink.  Apparently one of the panels was suffering through a Windows update.  I’m glad Windows doesn’t single out my devices for punishment!

Broken Display #1Image ©2017 by Biff Sock Pow

Broken Display #2Image ©2017 by Biff Sock Pow

 

 

 

 

 

Cool Advertising: Free Chris-Craft Boat With Purchase of Wristwatch

I saw this in the window of one of the stores I walked past at the Galleria yesterday.  I forgot which store it was.  Sorry.  They all kind of blur together after a bit.  But how cool is this?

Wristwatch & Boat

Apparently, if you buy this (probably very expensive) wristwatch, you get this really cool miniature of a classic Chris-Craft boat.  It even comes in a handy carrying case, so you can take it with you wherever you go.

Now, I wear a wristwatch and I very much like complex mechanical objects as much as the next engineer, but what I’d really, REALLY like is this miniature boat.

But not enough to buy the watch to get it.

And for the record, I don’t know anything about boats or boating.  I just like miniature things.  And cool carrying cases.

 

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