Biff Sock Pow

Finding the humor in everyday life.

Archive for the tag “Journal”

I Keep Forgetting to Buy a Lottery Ticket, So Here I am Again For Another Blog Post

Lottery-winner

In lieu of winning the lottery and retiring to my private lighthouse off the coast of Maine, I thought I’d come write this blog post instead.  It’s almost as good.

It reminds of of a time when I was a young doofus at around the age of 9.   One day I received a piece of mail that was actually addressed to me.  [Side note:  For you youngsters, back in those days “mail” consisted of pieces of paper that were wrapped up in other pieces of paper, affixed with a small, colorful piece of paper saying that you had paid the United States Post Office to manhandle, abuse, and mislay said pieces of paper, and then hand delivered to someone … eventually.  It was a beautiful system, really, before it was supplanted by email and the internet.)    Anyway, back to the story.

I hardly ever got mail (even back then), so I was a bit gobsmacked.  It was addressed to me and everything.  I tore into it eagerly and found a bunch of brightly-colored pieces of paper assuring me that I had absolutely, positively, guaranteed, sho’ nuff no foolin’ won one of the following prizes.

A multi-caret diamond ring

A genuine ruby pendant

A polishing cloth suitable for polishing jewelry

I was beside myself with exuberance.  I had won!   Me!  A regular, everyday, 9 year old doofus from the backwaters of Mississippi.  Imagine that!  There must indeed be a benevolent force in the universe that looks out for doofi (the plural of “doofus”).

I could barely contain my excitement as I sent off my pre-paid envelop to the sweepstakes company … along with my payment for a year’s subscription to “Gem World Magazine”.  Though I had to deplete my stash of paper route money to subscribe to the magazine, it was only fair since they were sending me valuable jewelry.  It was the least I could do.  And just imagine the look of joy on my Mom’s face when I presented her with her own genuine diamond ring or, worst case, a ruby pendant.

The ensuing days and weeks drug by as slow as molasses at the South Pole, but my eagerness, enthusiasm, and anticipation did not flag at all.  I was the very picture of confidence and optimism.  If ever my hope began to fail me, I just pictured how happy my Mom would be upon receiving her diamond ring or ruby pendant.

I got my first edition of Gem World Magazine in the mail, so I know they had gotten my claim for my guaranteed prize.  That bolstered my enthusiasm, since now I was just waiting for my prize to arrive.

And then one day it showed up.  I tore into the envelope eagerly.  I was practically shaking in anticipation.  Imagine my joy and my excitement when I opened up my very own . . . felt polishing cloth.  It measured about 4 inches by 6 inches and was a pale sky blue.   Other than the fact it was perfectly rectangular, it looked like something that could have been picked up off of the floor of a sewing factory.

That was the day I realized I was going to have to toil for a living, because Providence did not often smile upon poor children growing up on the wrong side of the tracks in a Southern backwater.

It was that valuable lesson in life that makes me forget more often than not to pick up a lottery ticket on the way home from work on Wednesdays and Fridays.  Why should I when I have this perfectly acceptable blog?  I think of this blog as the felt polishing cloth of life.  It may not be a diamond ring, but by golly, you could sure give it a good shine if you had one.

 

 

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2017: A Space Oddity

or

How Not To Buy Things

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I am at a point in my life where I am trying to downsize.  I have spent many decades accumulating “things” (which sounds better than “junk”).  There is only one word to describe this stuff.  Detritus.

Or flotsam.

Or jetsam.

Or junk.

(Okay, there are lots of words to describe this stuff …. even “stuff”).

Then one day you cross some threshold and you realize you’re never going to need that factory AM/FM radio you had replaced with a Pioneer AM/FM/Cassette deck in your 1984 Mustang (which you haven’t owned in at least 20 years).  You’re never going to need that package of two replacement belts for a 1990s vintage Kenmore vacuum cleaner (which has been in a landfill for at least a decade).  You’re never going to need that tub full of old USB, printer, and power cables, none of which fit any modern electronic device.  You’re never going to need that ice-maker connection kit that came with a refrigerator you bought when you rented your first duplex in the mid 90’s.

No, all of this stuff is less than useless.  It is taking up valuable space.  It prevents you from finding things you are actually looking for.  (Oh, why oh why does the most useless junk float to the top of any junk drawer?)   And, worse still, all this stuff anchors you to shoals that you will never escape from as long as your hull is covered with these insidious barnacles.

So, I have reached that point in my life where I have no trouble throwing these things away.  (Okay, I have a little trouble throwing them away … but I am getting over those hesitations more and more every day.)

But the other side of that coin is that, in order to empty out those junk drawers, mysterious boxes in the attic, and groaning shelves in the garage, you must stop adding new stuff to the pile!  This part is much harder than getting rid of things that are unarguably useless.  Our entire society is based upon us being good and faithful consumers.  Merchants prey upon our weakness by making things in stores look so inviting.  They are the painted ladies down by the docks when the ships put down anchor.   (I play the part of a hapless, gullible sailor in that metaphor.)

But I am getting better at resisting the come-hither gesticulations of the bright, attractive, products upon the well-lit and comely shelves at the stores I frequent.

Tonight, I resisted the urge to buy the following:

  • A softbound version of William Faulkner’s work of staggering genius “The Sound and the Fury”.   (The $20 price tag made me start and bolt like a frightened deer.)
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  • A Criterion DVD of “The In-Laws” with Alan Arkin and Peter Falk.   (The $26 price tag had me staggering like a drunkard around the video section of Barnes & Noble while rending my clothing.)
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  • A Criterian DVD of Michael Cimino’s “Heaven’s Gate” with Kris Kristofferson. (The $49.99 price tag had me clutching at my heart and making gurgling noises like a man who had just finished a bacon fat, lard, and Spam salad.)
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  • A Panasonic beard trimmer.  (The $100 price tag had me sobbing like a child whose ice cream had just fallen off the cone and plopped on the ground where it was promptly eaten by the dog.  Besides, my old one works just fine … except that the battery only lasts for about three and a half minutes, so I have to trim fast.  This can be a challenge while staring bleary-eyed at the mirror having just woken up in the morning.)

So, I can’t decide if I am trying to minimize and simplify my life . . . or if I’m just a cheap bastard.

I prefer to think of myself as a shrewd consumer.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac — Now In Color

Poor Biff's Almanac Graphic (Colored) #1

I was so bored this past weekend that I used a freeware graphics program to color my Poor Biff’s Almanac graphic.

So tonight’s question, dear readers, is this:  how bored do you have to be to use a freeware graphics program to color in a stupid graphic?

Answer:  Pretty damn bored.

You might have also noticed that it is now transparent (the graphic, not my motives).  Now, the bits of the graphic that are not actually in the foreground are invisible and so allow my wallpaper theme to show through.

So, not only was I bored enough to color in the graphic, I was bored enough to eliminate everything that wasn’t actually graphic.

Man, I gotta get a life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday Ramble

 

Biff Hiking #3.png

I have not done one of these rambles for a while.  Or much of any writing at all, for that matter.  I won’t bore you with the details.  I’m sure you’ve suffered through similar dry spells yourself.  Every writer has.  And if there is a writer who hasn’t, we all hate that writer.  Stop showing off!  It’s bad enough that we struggle to write … we don’t need to be scoreboarded, too.

Today, as the title implies, is Saturday.  It is a nice pre-autumn day.  By that I mean the thermometer is well below the normal temperature of a hundred degrees (~ 37C) and is a much more reasonable 82 (28 C).  However, it is still nice and toasty outside if someone were to do something foolhardy like, say, mow the yard.  It’s the kind of day where you can sunburn very easily because it doesn’t feel so very hot, but the sun is beating down directly on you from a sneaky angle that lulls you into lowering your guard (and sunblock) for awhile.  Next thing you know … BAM! … you look like a lobster.

But I haven’t been outside much today, so I am safe from the wiles, seductions, and charms of the sun.

However, even as I write this, the suburban air outside is filled with the sounds of lawnmowers, leaf blowers, hedge trimmers, and electric edgers.  It is like living at an air port consisting of tiny little gas-powered airplanes that are constantly taking off, landing, and doing fly-bys.  But I will not be shamed into mowing my yard today.  I mowed it last week and it has had the decency to not grow at all since then.  I would go outside and thank it, but I don’t like to encourage it.  Profuse praise is a form of fertilizer.

I’d like to write more, but every blogging how-to article I’ve read said to keep things short and pithy.  People don’t want seven course meals any more.  They want fun-sized Snickers® bars.

Here … have a Snickers® bar.

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Well … There’s That …

I read somewhere that short posts are better than long posts.

ant with big post #1

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.

 

 

A Lesson In Time

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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.
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  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.
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  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.

 

 

 

 

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