Biff Sock Pow

Finding the humor in everyday life.

Archive for the tag “writers”

Habits: the Good Die Young

dying young

It’s amazing how quickly good habits can atrophy when we have to give them up for a mere couple of days.

I had been good for months.  I wrote in this blog, if not every day, certainly every day or two (or three).  However, being away from it for a mere week while on a trip has virtually erased my ability and desire to sit down at dash out a blog post.  I am embarrassed to admit how many hours I’ve spent staring at this laptop screen over the past three days, trying to think of something (anything) to write.  Alas.  Words escape me.  I have an acute case of linguistic blockage.  Or, as they say in Esperanto, la bloko de verkisto.

Bad habits, in contrast, persist long after we stop doing them, even if we stop for years or decades.  We are always one slip-up away from returning to a bad habit.

For example, I can write every day for ten years, but if I miss a single day after that ten years, then I am very likely to never return to it again.  On the other hand, I can pop my knuckles every day for a mere couple of months, but if I miss a single day after those months, on the second day I will break out in a cold sweat and my mind becomes obsessed with popping my knuckles to the exclusion of all other thoughts.

So what am I trying to say?

I’m saying that I gave up some very important knuckle-popping in order to force myself at gunpoint to grind out this horrible blog post.

Pity is expected, but likes are preferred.

 

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac — Friday Edition

Poor Biif Featured

I made it to another Friday!

Every Monday morning when the alarm goes off at the unnatural hour of 6 a.m. and one of my eyes opens (I can’t ever get both eyes to work as a team until about 10 a.m. Monday morning), Friday seems like some mythical event foretold in some ancient prophecy no one really believes in any more.  As I shave and brush my teeth (with the difficulty level set at 10, because of the aforementioned non-cooperation of my eyes) I am giving myself my usual Monday morning pep talk.

Friday is a real thing,” I tell myself.  “It will be here in a mere five days.  Just five days.  I can do this!  I got this!

This is followed almost immediately by, “Aw, who am I kidding?  We all know that by the time Wednesday gets here, time will have slowed down so much that it will actually begin to go backwards and we will have to reset our calendars to be the day before.

And yet, somehow Friday always arrives and I am always surprised and amazed, as if it were a surprise birthday party that my friends planned so cunningly that it was actually a surprise.  On Friday mornings, when the alarm goes off at the unnatural hour of 6 a.m., I always jump, surprised, and then smile and I feel like I should say, “Oh!  You guys!  You really got me good!

I then jump out of bed and reenact the “Good Morning!” song from the 1952 hit musical film “Singin’ in the Rain”.  I play the part of Donald O’Connor since I look better in light gray than dark gray.  Besides, everyone wants to be Gene Kelly.  I don’t have to fight to be Donald O’Connor.  Plus this is St. Patrick’s Day, so I thought it was more appropriate to pick the more Irish-sounding name.

I then wake up and realize that Debbie Reynolds is really the rack I hang my robe on.  And that I’m not Donald O’Connor.  And that I can’t sing.  Or dance.

But I don’t care, because it’s Friday!

 

 

 

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac — Today’s Rejected Blog Post Ideas

Poor Biif Featured

Okay … here we go.  Dinner’s out of the way.  The pajamas are on … which is perfectly acceptable because I have to wear business casual all day long (don’t judge me!).  A hot cup of coffee sits beside the computer.  Basia is playing through my headphones (which is what happens when you put your iPod on shuffle).  The mental list of all the things I should be doing have been pushed to the back of my brain where they won’t pose a danger to anyone (especially me).  Now comes the search for something to write about.

I went back through the game tape of the day looking for anything at all that’s worthy of being written about.  Here’s the list of what I came up with after thinking about it for a few minutes.

  1.  That guy who cut me off in traffic on the way to work.
  2. The person I accidentally cut off on the way to work because they were driving in my blind spot.  Leviathan (my truck) is very unforgiving of people who hover in my blind spots (of which there are many).
  3. How the weather is very similar to what it was yesterday.  And the day before that.  And the day before that.  (Repeat that about 20 more times in your head; my fingers are tired.)
  4. An essay on whether or not I should be concerned about how, every time an organizational announcement comes down via blast email from on high (i.e. from Corporate … and you can’t see me, but I’m genuflecting towards our corporate headquarters), I don’t recognize the names of any of the people they mention.  Or their titles.  Or their organizations.  Or anything, really.  Am I that far down on the org chart?  Who are these people?  Am I somehow inadvertently working for a different company than the one I think I am?
  5. Another essay (or perhaps a haiku) about how, when I went to the vending machine for a snack, I saw a Zagnut candy bar hanging precariously from the dispensing screw.  Obviously someone had been deprived of their much-needed Zagnut.  So I was faced with a moral dilemma.  If I put in my money and pushed C7, I would get two Zagnuts for the price of one.  But would that be ethical?  Perhaps the victim of the Zagnut vending mishap had run back their their desk for some more change.   I would be depriving them of the opportunity to retrieve what they had already paid for.  But what if I walked away with a different snack, but someone else came along and did what I was thinking about doing?  Then two out of three people would have been screwed out of double snacks.  I finally decided on Peanut M&Ms.  I can’t stand coconut and so I don’t even like Zagnut bars.  But it’s hard to turn down a two-fer deal.
  6. My musings about whether or not, if someone were to quietly die during a typical meeting, if anyone would notice.  And if someone DID notice … would they envy the dead person?  They’d be like, “Wow, Bob doesn’t have to have his financial reports in by COB Friday.  Lucky!”   (For those of you who don’t speak Corporate Acronym fluently, COB = Close of Business)
  7. My contemplations while sitting at a red light on the way home about whether cities deliberately mis-time their traffic lights to maximize fuel consumption so as to increase revenues from gasoline taxes.  (Biff can be very cynical while sitting in traffic.)
  8. And now I’m wondering if Basia understood English enough to know  what the songs were about that she was singing.  I love her voice and her accent but I always wonder what people think about when they’re singing songs in a different language.  I mean, their managers could have them sing a song that’s wildly inappropriate and the singer would never know.  It doesn’t matter.  Basia is awesome.  Even if she didn’t  understand a word of the songs she sings, she still sings them as if she does.

Well, now you can see why it is so hard for me to write blogs that attract readers.

 

 

Blog Slog

There are lots of things about blogging that are hard.  Coming up with ideas probably ranks as #1.  Most of the posts I’ve read on here deal with the anguish of trying to come up with something to write about.  I’ve certainly had my share of posts about that!  But there are other things about blogging that are hard, too.  And here is a list in no particular order.

Coming up with a pithy title.  You wouldn’t think something as insipid as “Blog Slog” took a lot of time to come up with, but it took an embarrassingly long time.  Minutes, in fact.  It was just the best I could come up with and I eventually gave up trying to come up with something better.  I’ve seen other bloggers get around this problem creatively.  They simply number their posts.  Or just use the date.  I envy them.  It’s such a neat, easy-to-implement solution.  And yet, I keep trying to come up with titles that will attract readers.  So far, apparently, I haven’t come up with such a title.  They are as elusive as a unicorn

Finding good artwork.  I believe that a post with a good graphic will attract more readers than that same post without the graphic.  But finding something to use as a graphic is difficult.  Most clip-art sites now blanket their artwork with watermarks and logos and all manner of devices to keep people from using them without paying for the privilege.  So that just leaves the sites that have free clip-art, but their artwork looks like it was drawn in the 1970s and offered up for free because it was rejected by the PBS show “The Electric Company” as being too weird.  I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “Biff, just take your own pictures.”  But I am strange in the fact that I don’t really like pictures on my blogs.  I like artwork.  But finding good artwork, especially FREE artwork, is very difficult.

Using Tags.  I tag the heck out of my posts.  I’ve read tutorials that say to use tags sparingly.  Still other tutorials say you should use tags like rice in gumbo: just toss as much in there as you can.  To date, I can’t tell that they are helping much.  They work better than not having any tags at all, but having 10 tags doesn’t seem to work any better than just having one.  Maybe I’m doing something wrong.  Are there some standard tags that people use to find things they like to read?  I always feel like I’m just floundering when I’m tagging things.

Figuring Out What People Like.  I haven’t figured this out yet.  I check out the “Featured” blogs or look at blogs with hundreds of followers to try and figure out what people like to read.  That hasn’t been much help.  I can’t picture myself writing about fashion (no one wants to read about gray slacks and solid-print button-down Oxford shirts).  I will not suddenly trek across Europe or Africa or Antarctica, taking pictures all the way.  I can’t blog about food because no one cares much about Spam-based recipes and I’m pretty sure everyone already knows how to make a grilled cheese sandwich.  I am not good at woodworking or glassblowing or painting or sculpting or … or really anything that anyone would care to read about or look at pictures of.  I don’t follow celebrities or popular movies or TV or popular music.  Political blogs are an instant turn-off for me.  So as you can see, I have sort of boxed myself into corner … or rather, out of the area “Where the Popular Blogs Are”.

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Okay, I’m done ranting.  Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I’ll go look for some great artwork while I’m thinking up a pithy title for my next post.

Meanwhile, here’s a bad graphic of a grilled cheese sandwich to tide you over until then.

grilled-cheese-sandwich

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pye in the Sky

skyscraper-and-moon

Eric got on the elevator and pushed the button for his floor.  The door closed and the elevator ceased looking like an elevator and looked instead like a tiny little room of wood and mirror and brass.  Some quiet orchestral music lilted unobtrusively from speakers hidden somewhere behind the wood or brass.  It sounded vaguely familiar.  He concentrated on it for a moment and then realized that it was one of his favorite songs from high school, the one he used to listen to with the windows down on his car, the song blasting at full blast on the stereo, while he drank beer and traded insults with his friends.  He shook his head.  It was practically unrecognizable now.

Eric’s ears popped familiarly and he glanced up at the big red numbers on the LED display.  The dashes had turned to numbers.  The express elevator didn’t even start counting floors until the 40th floor.  Now it was 68.  75.  80.  84.  88.  The elevator slowed imperceptibly then stopped, very smoothly.  The doors opened and he stepped out onto the marble foyer of Terra Firma Architectural Associates.   His wingtips clicked on the highly polished marble.  The door beeped pleasantly in a sort of subdued greeting as he scanned his badge and then opened for him.  The marble gave way to plush, thick carpeting.  He was now surrounded by cherry paneling, chrome accents, and a sort of 1940s art deco vibe.  Helen was at her post at the high, curved receptionist desk.

“Hello, Mr. Pye,” she said brightly.  Her eyes were preternaturally blue.  Her hair was always perfect.  The perky little flip at the back would probably remain unperturbed in a hurricane.

“Hiya, Helen,” he said, smiling at her.  Then he looked down at the carpet.  He avoided looking at the large glass windows that revealed a panoramic view of the city all around them.  The view stretched out in every direction to the horizon.  But he did not look at it.  He walked quickly towards his office, keeping his eye on the carpet or the potted plants or the art hanging on the walls.  He only glanced upwards when someone would greet him and he would smile and return their greetings, but then he would look back down at the carpet.

He scanned his badge at his office door and when he heard the click of the lock he pushed his way into it.  The light came on as he entered.  But it needn’t have bothered.  The vertical blinds were open.  Sunlight streamed in through the lightly tinted windows.

“Dammit,” he murmured.  The cleaning crew had left his blinds open again even though he had left them explicit directions a dozen times to keep them closed.  He set his briefcase down on the carpet and felt his heart beating quicker as he edged slowly over to the cord of the blinds.  He kept his eyes shut as he pulled on the side of the cord that closed the blinds.  By the time he got them closed and had blotted out the view of the city below, his pulse was racing.  He felt hot and flushed and a little nauseous.  He sat down in his high-backed leather chair and pulled himself up to his desk, his back to the window blinds he’d just closed.

Just then, Tina, his assistant entered his office holding a long tube.  “Good morning, Mr. Pye!” she said brightly.  “How are you this morning?”

“Fine,” he said, though not convincingly.  He slipped his finger between his collar and his neck and ran it along the inside of his collar, as if loosening it.  “How are you?”

“I’m fine, thank you.  I brought this blueprint for you to look at.”

“That’s fine, Tina.  Thank you.  Just put it over there on my light table.  I’ll take a look at it in a minute.”

“Yes, sir.”  She set the drawing on the table and turned to face him.  She was all smiles and perkiness.  “Don’t forget about your ten o’clock.”

“My ten o’clock?” he asked, loosening his tie just a little and unbuttoning the top button of his shirt.

“Yes.  The crew from International Architect will be here to interview you.”

“Ah.  Yes.  I had forgotten.  Thank you.”  He looked at her for a moment.  “Does it feel warm in here to you?”

“No sir.  It is very comfortable.  But I can turn down the thermostat if you like.”

“No.  It’s fine.  I just feel … a little …”  He paused and was stock still as if he were listening for some faint noise.  “Did you hear that?”

“Hear what?”

“It was like . . . kind of a light popping noise.  Almost a ticking.”

“I didn’t hear anything.”

Eric stared at the “executive toy” on his desk, which was a chrome pendulum mounted on a mahogany base.  He stared at it intently for several moments.  It was completely motionless.

“Yes.  Okay.  Thank you, Tina.  That will be all for now.”

“Yes, sir, Mr. Pye.  Don’t forget.  Ten o’clock!  The world wants to know all about the world’s youngest designer of skyscrapers.”

“I don’t know why anyone should be interested in anything like that,” he said as he popped open his briefcase and began removing papers.

She looked incredulous and amused.

“Not interested!  Of course they are!  Just imagine … 28 years old and sitting on the 90th floor of a building that you designed.  That’s pretty amazing!”

But he wasn’t listening to her.  He was frozen like a rabbit that had heard a twig snap nearby.  His eyes were glued on the pendulum on his desk.  Tina stared at it as well, but it wasn’t moving even the slightest little bit.  He was quite pale.

Tina shrugged and turned to leave.  Geniuses were so strange.

“Tina … one more thing.”

She paused and looked back at him.  “Yes, Mr. Pye?”

“Tell the crew from International Architect that I will … um … meet them in the coffee shop in the atrium on the ground floor.”

Tina stared at him a moment and then said in her practiced professional voice.  “Yes sir, Mr. Pye.”

.

.

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©2017 by biffsockpow.wordpress.com

Sixty Second Fiction #4

1953-chevy-pickup

Rory pulled the beat-up old pickup truck off of the red dirt road and onto the county blacktop and floored it.  It chugged loudly, the engine hesitating occasionally, and seemed to resist going too fast, but Rory kept his foot pressed all the way down on the accelerator, only letting up when he had to mash the clutch and yank the gearshift mounted on the steering column to the next gear.  He could see the smoke behind him in his rear view mirror.  It was a combination of red dust and burning oil.  He looked down at the speedometer.  The needle climbed steadily, if slowly, upwards.  Past 40.  Then 50.  Finally 60.  He couldn’t seem to encourage it to go much higher than that.

This had been his grandfather’s truck.  He’d bought it brand spankin’ new in 1964 from Belden’s Chevrolet over in Marcusville.  It had been a work truck, a farm truck, and a go-to-church-on-Sunday truck.  It had somewhere north of three hundred thousand miles on it, though it had never been more than fifty miles from Grampa’s farm.  It didn’t have air conditioning or a radio or seatbelts or much of anything, really.  Grandpa had told the salesman back in ’64 “I don’t want no dern fool contraptions on it.  Just gimme a plain ol’ truck.  All I want’s an engine, a bed in the back, a seat, and a heater in the cab.”  And that’s exactly what he’d gotten.

And now it was Rory’s.  Grandpa had passed away a few years ago when Rory was too young to drive, but he’d given it to Rory’s father and told him to give it to Rory when he was old enough to drive, which he now was, but just barely.

There was a loud, dull thud from under the hood that jarred the entire truck and his speed rapidly decreased.  He looked in the rear view mirror and saw that the smoke had changed from light gray to black.  The speedometer read 40.  Then 30.  Then 15.

Rory eased the truck over into the tall, dry grass on the side of the two-lane blacktop road that wended its way through the white-pine forest.

Dammit!

He turned off the key, though there was no need.  The engine was already dead by the time the truck came to a stop in the tall weeds.  Rory got out into the stifling heat of an Alabama August.  Cicadas were wailing.  The dry blades of the thigh-high Johnson grass raked against each other in the slight breeze.  The pine trees moaned low from way up high in their tops where the breeze filtered through them.  He opened up the hood, but couldn’t see much through all of the smoke that came billowing out from under it.  It wouldn’t have mattered.  He didn’t know anything about engines.

Rory went and let the tailgate down on the truck, hoisted himself up on it and just sat, looking down the empty, lonesome road he’d just come down.  He lit up a cigarette and flicked the match out onto the blacktop.  He drew on the cigarette and blew out the smoke listlessly.

Grampa’d have a conniption fit if he thought one of his kin was smoking a cigarette.  “Smoking’s the devil’s calling card,” he’d always say.  “That’s how he gits ya,” he’d say.  “One puff at a time.

“Crazy old coot,” thought Rory to himself.

He swung his legs back and forth as he sat on the tailgate.  Just like he used to do when he was a young’n and Grandpa’d let him ride into town sitting on the tailgate.  Nobody thought anything of it back then; kids always rode in the beds of pickup trucks.  He’d just hold on tight to the tailgate chain and swing his feet back and forth and look down at the blacktop that was a gray blur beneath his feet.  He’d be all happy because he knew Grandpa’d get him a coke and a little bag of Tom’s peanuts if he behaved.  Grandpa showed him how to pour the peanuts down into the Coke bottle.  The salt and the Coke and the peanuts was the best thing Rory’d ever had in his life.

He flicked his cigarette butt out onto the blacktop and hoisted himself down off the tailgate.  He sure would love a Coke and some Tom’s peanuts right now.  That’d make everything better.

 

 

Getting Around the Block

writer

Okay … stand back.  This could get ugly.  I must tell you of my secret shame.

I have been suffering from writer’s block for several days now.

(I’ll wait for the gasps to subside before continuing.   All done now?  Okay … fine.  Here we go then.)

I know that is nothing new to anyone here.  Everyone who calls themselves a writer suffers from it from time to time.  There are no less than 3,753,216,891 blog posts written about writer’s block.  The posts are written by people who are either suffering from it, who have recently recovered from it, who fear it, or who are just writing anything at all in an attempt to rid themselves of it.

Which begs the question:  Is there anything more boring than reading someone else’s post about writer’s block?  I think not.  If that’s true then that means I am boring you to tears right this very moment.

Perhaps that is my superpower.  I have the ability to bore people unconscious by talking about my writer’s block.  This could come into handy.  For instance, if there was a bank robbery in progress, I could sidle up to the miscreant and, speaking in a lilting tone so as to lower his guard, I could say, “Have I ever told you about the time I had writer’s block so bad that I couldn’t even write my name on a credit card receipt?”

By this time the malefactor would be sleeping soundly and I could pluck the zip gun or shiv (whichever he prefers) from his relaxed hand.  Someone would call the gendarmes.  Reporters would descend on me looking for a statement, etc etc etc.  You get the picture.

So see, writer’s block can be a good thing.  (This blog post notwithstanding.)

And make that 3,753,216,892 and counting.

Best .. Day .. Ever!

best-day-011117

I’d like to give a warm and heartfelt “thank you!” to all of my friends, fellow bloggers, and fellow WP readers for helping me have my best WP day ever yesterday.

While I know it doesn’t compare the the hundreds or even thousands of views that some bloggers get on a typical day, I consider myself to be in my “crawling before I walk” phase, and so this milestone means a lot to me and is very encouraging.  I know I will get there.  After all, it’s only been about 5 weeks since I started blogging in earnest.

Thank you all!

 

P.S.  Sage and constructive advice on how to get better is always appreciated.

 

Sixty Second Fiction

14-running_stopwatch_2

Eddie glanced up from the spreadsheet that gridded his computer screen, speckled with obtuse numbers and company sanctioned cell colors.  His desk clock said it was 3:27.  It was time.

He stood up, not even bothering to lock his screen … or to save his work.  There was no time.  He slipped on his sports coat and as he strode from his small cubicle and down the hallway, he straightened his tie.  He shot his cuffs.  He glanced at his watch.  It was 3:29.  But his watch was one minute faster than his desk clock.

There was still time.

He walked past the break room.   “Hey, Eddie,” called out his friend Hank, but Eddie just waved distractedly and slightly dismissively (though not rudely).  He did not wish to be engaged in a conversation at this moment.

Past the copy room.  Left … down the hallway past legal.  Past Marketing.  Then right, past the coffee kiosk.  He walked purposefully, but not quickly.

There was the intersection in the hallway that led to Mahogany Row.  He paused.  Looked at his watch.  3:30 on the dot.

Then he suddenly started walking again with purpose.

Just as he got to the intersection, Edna turned the corner putting on her hunter green winter coat and clutching her purse awkwardly under her arm.  There was a jangle of car keys somewhere within the coat as she slid it on her arm.  They nearly collided as they both reached the intersection, but didn’t.

“Oh!” she exclaimed.  “Pardon me.”

“Pardon me,” said Eddie, smiling disarmingly.  If hats were in fashion, he would have touched his brim.  But they had been out of style for half a century, as so many things were.

And then Edna was gone.  3:30 was her quitting time.

Eddie did not look after her as she departed.  He just paused a moment in the middle of the intersection and smiled.  The hallway was filled for a few moments with the fragrant medley of shampoo and perfume and springtime.

He sighed, adjusted his tie again, turned left, and made his way back along the circuitous route towards his desk.  There were still three more hours of budget analysis in his gray office to get through before quitting time.

 

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