Biff Sock Pow

Finding the humor in everyday life.

Archive for the tag “Write”

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.

 

Sunday Round-up: Special Father’s Day Edition

Cowboy roping steer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Case of the Missing Biff

Biff on Milk Carton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So keep the flame alive with your own writing.

 

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

 

 

 

Musings On Writing Plus a Little Shameless Self-Promotion

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

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

1000th Like Award

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

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

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

 

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac — Saturday (Finally)

Busy Office Worker

I have not written one of these rambling almanac posts of mine in a while.  I find that when I write too many of them in a row, it reminds me how insufferably dull my life is.  If I space them out a bit, I can trick myself into believing that I live a life that, though not exactly exciting, rises to the level of having a normal level of activity.  I like to have just enough excitement in my life wherein people stop grabbing my wrist to check for a pulse..

But lest I, in my attempts at light comedy, lead you to believe that I am completely sedentary and near comatose, nothing can be further from the truth.  I always seem to be on the go.  My life is filled with a seemingly never-ending series of activities.  I feel I rarely have time to sit and take a breath and relax.  And yet, when considering all of those activities and trying to glean through them to find something to write about, I find that the vast majority of them are embarrassingly dull and workaday.  The word “banal” comes to mind (only because it has always been a favorite word of mine and I try to work it into conversations frequently.)

I know I am not alone in this.  I think a vast number of us in the world, whether we blog or not, have our lives filled with the ordinary, the mundane, the banal, the prosaic.  Our lives are filled with …. well … with life.  By merely existing, we are given a never ending to-do list that consists of such exciting things as taking out the trash, vacuuming the carpets, paying the bills, mending things that squeak, replacing things that no longer do what they’re suppose do (or, conversely, have started doing things they’re not supposed to), cleaning up the endless series of messes that Life puts on our desk with a sticky note on it that says “Please take care of this”.  So we sigh and we take care of it, because that’s what we do.  The alternative is chaos and bedlam and a surefire path to end up on an episode of “Horders”.

And I don’t know about you, but I have spent my life avoiding chaos and bedlam.  I like things around me to be quiet and serene and pacific.  I know others thrive on bedlam and, if it is missing in their lives, they will create it.  I’ve never understood that, but I have always shrugged my shoulders and said something along the lines of “to each their own”.  I’m sure they, in turn, can’t understand why I avoid pandemonium.  They associate noise and mayhem with life being lived to its fullest.

I suppose that difference is, as the saying goes, what makes the world go round.  I just wish it would go round a little quieter sometimes.

 

Rusting On My Laurels

angif-rest-on-your-laurels

This is my 124th post (yay me!), which is about 120 more than I thought I’d be able to create when I first started this journey at the beginning of the year (2017).  Sticking to projects is not my strong suit.  I get bored easily, which, I suppose is just a euphemism for “I’m lazy” or “I have a very short attention span“.

But honestly, I never thought I’d get this many posts written.  (high fives myself)

So I’ve been wondering when it gets easier.  When will I be able to just sit down and dash off something and post it?  When will I post 2 or 3 times a day just because I have that many interesting things to say?

It’s a struggle to write even once a day.  My days don’t change much from day to day.  I’m firmly ensconced on the work-home-sleep-work treadmill.  Whatever flashes of brilliance or genius I have while in the car on the way to or from work tend to either get forgotten by the time I am sitting in front of the computer, or else when I really start to ponder them and try to flesh them out as a blog post, they take on a sort of ridiculousness or insipidness that makes me just wad them up and throw them in the trashcan (figuratively speaking).

But if there’s one thing I’ve discovered, blogging is definitely a “what have you done for me lately?” medium.  One can post every day for a month and the likes and the follows roll in (relatively speaking), but stop posting for a single day and they drop to zero quicker than you can say Jack Robinson.  It’s definitely not like a musician who has a hit song or an actor who’s on a hit TV show that goes into syndication.  The royalties don’t keep rolling in decades after the song or show was first released.

So, there’s no resting on one’s laurels.  It is, to borrow a phrase from academia, publish or perish.

The problem is, I don’t have enough interesting thoughts or experiences to post every day.  I may have to resort to just making things up.

But I’d hate to be mistaken for a journalist or politician.

 

 

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

writer

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.

I’m a Centenarian!

100 Posts

This is a momentous day for me.  I reached my 100th blog post!

I have had other blogs in the past, but I don’t think I got anywhere near 100 posts in any of them.  Heck, maybe even if you put them all together I didn’t have 100 posts!

So, I’d like to thank everyone who has encouraged me with your follows, your likes, and your comments.  You have put the fun back in blogging for me and I am very grateful to you all!

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