Biff Sock Pow

Finding the humor in everyday life.

Archive for the tag “Write”

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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My Compact to Compact My Compact Disks

man shoveling CDs.jpg

This is sort of a follow-on blog to my blog of yesterday in which I made a compact with myself to downsize, minimize, and simplify my life.

To put that into action, I decided today that I would go through my CD collection and get rid of as many of them as I could stomach doing.  I should preface all this by saying that there is no earthly reason why I should be hanging onto them at all.  I have ripped them all onto my hard drive and can listen to them any time I want.  Furthermore, the  CDs themselves have for years been packed away on a nearly-inaccessible shelf in my home office closet.  In all that time I have only had to get to them once or twice, and that was usually to add even more CDS to the pile after I’d bought and ripped to my hard drive.

For some inexplicable reason, we can form emotional attachments to these little plastic disks and their beautiful jewel cases and colorful inserts.  As I went through the stacks, I encountered the very first CD I ever bought back in the late 1980s (America’s “View From the Ground”, which was one of my favorite vinyl albums from my college days).  There were CDs I’d received as gifts from friends and family members.  There were CDs that I listened to for hours on end at various points of my life and that are now indelibly associated with those times.   There were CDs that had taken me decades to find and buy (for example, Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” or Harry Chapin’s “Verities and Balderdash”).  So, for some irrational reason, it is hard to part with them.

Do I need those disks to be able to listen to that music?  No.  I do not.  But they are like photos of periods of my life now long since past.  It is hard to bring myself to get rid of them.

But I did it.    Sort of.

I dug all the CDs down out of the closet.  I didn’t count them, but I estimate there are about 700+ CDs.  I went through them one by one and said “yes” or “no” and put them in the corresponding pile.   This system broke down a little when I got to my Yes CDs (particularly “Tales From Topographic Oceans”), but I was soon able to recover and move on.

Again, I did not count them all, but I estimate that I put about 300 CDs in the “get rid of” pile and about 400 in the “keep” pile.   So, my efforts to cut my collection down to a manageable 50 or 100 CDs was a failure.  But … I am getting rid of about 300 of them, and that is a good start.  Maybe in a few months I can get rid of another 2 or 3 hundred.

Here are the ones I’m getting rid of.

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Here are the ones I’m keeping.

IMG_0803a

They are just in this shelf temporarily (and, yes, alphabetized by artist).  Tomorrow they go back into the closet.  I will try again in a few months to whittle them down to a mere 50 or 100 … or preferably zero.

Next up on my to-do list of things to get rid of …. my massive book collection!  Will Biff be strong enough to do this?  Stay tuned and find out!

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac — A Laborious Day

writer

That title is a lie.

I did no labor today.  Or very little labor.  Honestly, I did as little as possible.  I am taking a little sabbatical from our society’s constant pressure to constantly be doing something.  Go to work.  Mow the yard.  Vacuum the carpet.  Shampoo the dog.  Wash the car.  Go buy groceries.  Take those shirts to the dry cleaner.  Fold those towels.  Unclog that drain.  Fix that squeaky floorboard.  Replace that burned-out bulb.

It never ends!  And on those rare occasions when I flop in my favorite easy chair (which also needs to be steam cleaned) and reach for my laptop (which really needs to be backed up and have all the latest updates installed) and navigate to my blog (which I haven’t posted anything in for two weeks), I am made to feel guilty.  No, not by anyone in particular.  Just by Society (with a capital S).  Society frowns upon downtime, even while telling you to take more of it.  Society stares at you like a disapproving schoolmarm when you sit down for a moment to rest (Rest is for the weak!), even after she just told you to rest for a moment to get ready for that Next Big Chore that’s waiting for you.

If one more person tells me that I need a hobby, I think I will make a Biff-shaped hole in the wall and run screaming down the street.  Who has time for a hobby?  And even when I sit down to work on a hobby, there is that schoolmarm-ish Society looking at you disapprovingly again as if to say, “Shouldn’t you really be cleaning out the attic instead of sitting there fiddling with those doo-ma-flitchies?”   I have found hobbies to be very stressful.  There is nothing like sitting down to enjoy a bit of hobby-time to make you remember all of the other things you should be doing instead.

So, I am rebelling.   I am taking a page out of 11-year-old Biff’s playbook.  Man, I knew how to shirk responsibility back then!  I was a master at it.  Nobody could avoid responsibility like I could back then!  My mom could barely get the CH sound of the word “chore” out of her mouth before I was bolting serpentine down the street like a rabbit who just had a canon go off near his warren.

If you need me, I’ll be sitting in my pet-stained chair, not writing a blog, not updating my laptop, but just listening to iTunes and staring off into space.

Oh … and by the way … happy Labor Day.

 

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.

 

 

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.

Mind the Gap

Mind the Gap

You might have noticed that there has been a slight gap between my last post and this one.  A tiny little gap of … oh … about 21 days.  For those of you who enjoy math puzzles, that’s three weeks.

What led to this gap, you ask?  Was there a medical emergency?  Did a Texas tornado sweep my house away?  Did my computer fall victim to a Windows update?  Was I merely lazy?

It was none of those things, but it was lots of other things.  Life, mostly.  For example, there was a week-long vacation down at the Gulf of Mexico.  That took up a lot of my time.  I’ll try to post pictures someday soon if I can work up the energy and enthusiasm.  (Remember when one could blame the Fotomat for not developing one’s vacation pictures in a timely fashion?  Now we just have to admit that we’re too lazy to move them from our phone to our laptop.)

Let’s see.  What else?  There was that haircut I got a few weeks ago.  Ummm … and I had to take my slacks to the cleaners.  And … let’s see …. I got the oil changed in my car.

Hmmm … what else?  It seems like there was something.

Oh!

I know.

I moved my daughter 1500 miles away across the country so she could start her new job.

I knew there was something!

One day I’m sitting on the beach with my feet in the surf, trying not to think about sharks, flesh eating bacteria, or jellyfish.  The next day I’m loading five metric tons of clothing, books, cat toys, and furniture into a ten-foot rental truck and hitting the open road.  (By the way, four of those metric tons were about fifteen flat-packs of unasssembled furniture from Ikea.  I’m pretty sure when scientists finally discover what is at the center of black holes, they will find an Ikea flat-pack.)

What a week it was!  Driving a groaning rental truck up and down the sides of the mountains in Tennessee and Virginia, dodging runaway semi trucks (or … at least … they appeared to be runaway trucks judging by their high rate of speed), hitting bumps guaranteed to reduce boxes of laminated particle-board to so much sawdust, assembling said sawdust into something resembling furniture, flying home in a state of exhaustion and stupefaction.  Then returning to work the very next day.

So, think of this post as my note from home that goes something like, “Please excuse Biff from his past 3 weeks of posts.  He has been running a fever.  And frankly we’re not even sure he belongs to us.

 

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!

 

 

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