Almost Cut My Hair, Part 2

I did, actually. Got a haircut this weekend. Took Mouse and TeenBot with me and they got haircuts too.  Mouse and I emerged looking Straight Outta Stepford. That part was fine. TeenBot, on the other hand, experienced a haircut fail and insisted on buying haircut clippers on the way home. When we got home, Dino Spouse took charge of the clippers and shaved TeenBot’s head. This inspired him to try shaving his own head. (At this point I should explain that father and son both sport buzz cuts most of the time anyway, TeenBot as a style choice and Dino Spouse as a tasteful response to Soviet Male Pattern Baldness.) Alas, Dino Spouse realized quickly that he could not see the back of his own head and called for help. The last time I cut Dino Spouse’s hair was almost 18 years ago. It did not end well, largely because I used scissors and created a large bald patch where nature had not intended one.  This time went much better, fortunately for all.

The true hair horror came this morning, when I caught sight of myself in the mirror at the doctor’s office and saw … whiskers. Yes, the end of hormone replacement therapy turns out to mean more than just random hot flashes. I took my mustachioed self straight to the nearest waxing emporium and had it torn away. Yikes! That hurts waaaaay more than eyebrow waxing. Time to start researching electrolysis!


Paper Chase

(Claire Kirkconnell was the actress who played Rita Harriman in the HBO series version of “The Paper Chase” in the 1980’s. I wanted to be her so bad when I was 15. Maybe I should be thinking about law school after all instead of pouring my mental energy into learning more science. Does anyone out there think this is a good idea? I mean, I wouldn’t need to take any preparatory coursework to apply, and I am good at the things real lawyers really do, as opposed to the things most aspiring lawyers actually want to do. On the other hand, what about my quest for life skills that will support me in the Zombie Apocalypse?)

Establishing a payment plan with the IRS has not gotten easier since the last time I had to do it, back in 2007 or so. I suppose I should just give up on trying to do it online and just mail in the paper form that says “I would like to establish a payment plan, please.” But according to the website, the IRS seems to really want people like me to request payment through one of its automated services. If only their phone service would stop hanging up on me and their online system for establishing payment plans would quit crapping out! As a Public Service Announcement, Muppet Labs Financial has asked me to let you know: it’s always easier to pay the fine for over-withholding on your federal taxes than it is to pay back Uncle Sam for under-withholding.

The automated systems at NoVA, on the other hand, are perfectly happy to siphon my cash away. So I did sign up for the second semester of Biology. It appears that the final exam date may be during a business trip I already have scheduled, but said business trip involves a visit to Casa Bonita as well as the continued payment of my salary. So I’m sure the professor (the same one I have this semester) will understand. It looks like I will be getting a B for this semester if I do not significantly mess up on the final.

In other paper-related news, Podrostok is trying to enlist in the Army after high school. This is quite a surprise. I am nervous for him but I am also thrilled at the prospect of him having a plan that could significantly broaden his career prospects and earn him some decent money and benefits at the same time. The recruiter came by this weekend to get our signatures on the papers authorizing Uncle Sam to take him away overnight next week and conduct his pre-induction physical. He was somewhat taken back that I did not also sign the portions for the form transferring custody of my minor child to the U.S. Army for the purpose of his immediate enlistment, but he recovered. (Every Army veteran I’ve talked to has been totally enthusiastic about Tim signing up but has also said “SIGN NOTHING UNLESS YOU HAVE READ IT VERY, VERY CAREFULLY. BEWARE OF FINE PRINT.” Even people who don’t normally talk in upper case.)

Games People Play

I attended a Virtual Human Resources Training Conference last week that was offered by the Office of Personnel Management. I don’t currently work as an HR specialist, but I am trying to stay as looped in as possible so that I can eventually find my way back into the HR fold. This was a good investment of $95 In Ur Takses in so far as it provided me with at least two nuggets of information that I can use/share with colleagues – even non-HR ones – and one or two ideas I might be able to use later. The format was novel, at least for me as someone who rarely participates in web chats, and the networking was more robust than I expected for a virtual event. Thank you, OPM.

The last session I “attended” was one on gamification, featuring a case study from FEMA. I don’t know from Game Theory, but I have watched my kids play a lot of Fallout 3 and Assassin’s Creed, and I once played a couple of hours of Cards Against Humanity. I have also taken a lot of online training for my contracting warrant (two more in-person classes to go and I’ll finally be eligible!) and things HR. Friends, online training for office work can be deadly dull. Given the potential for procurement and HR matters to go horribly, horribly wrong, it seems like some game-based training for these disciplines could be reasonably entertaining as well as memorable and effective.

“Bureaucracies create games – they are just games that are in no sense fun.” (Andre Spicer paraphase of David Graeber)

If any attempt to dismantle bureaucracy creates more bureaucracy (Graeber again), and if big fixes create bigger unintended consequences and more fragility (as I understand my other brain hero Nicholas Nassim Taleb to be saying), then maybe the simple introduction of more play into the seriousness of bureaucratic games is the best chance we bureaucrats have of disrupting the system in a positive sense (making the rules of the game more transparent, helping our taxpaying customers “win”) short of simply throwing down our rule books and going off into the woods to live deliberately or whatever.

Next Question

Time is coming to decide whether to sign up for next semester of biology. I am trying to be financially responsible because we have some increased expenses to deal with (taxes, Babushka move to apartment in Alexandria, Podrostok graduation) and the class is like $700. So I think maybe I should wait til fall or even spring. But taking classes makes me happy and it is a wholesome endeavor which supports my mental health. What should I do, internet?

Moments in the Culture

This post by (apparently) a professor at a British university highlights some of the aspects of Utopia of Rules that I found most striking. It also draws attention to a university protest in Europe that I didn’t know about. The More You Know and all … In keeping with the Graeber FanGirl motif, I recommend his recent Baffler piece about neckties and the strange gender/power language of business clothing.

My cultural quandary of the week: The novel Gone With The Wind and the film adaptation thereof were two formative cultural influences on my life. I recognize that both were appallingly racist and that no reference I make to GWTW will ever scan as culturally appropriate to a person of color. The issue is that one of my friends with whom I share a guilty love of GWTW is coming to work in my office next week. He occasionally addresses me as “Katie Scarlett” in a fake Irish brogue and I say “Pa!” If one is not an obsessive GWTW expert, this is a fairly obscure reference. Is this going to create a hostile work environment? Related question: is there a term of art for things one loves even though one recognizes that they are philosophically appalling? (Other than “grandparents,” of course.)

Binge-reading everything I can get my hands on by Erich Maria Remarque (except All Quiet On The Western Front for some reason). So far I have read two of three novels I found at the Alexandria City Public Library – Three Comrades and Arch of Triumph are the ones I’ve finished, and I still have A Time To Love and A Time To Die to go – and have had my heart broken by two. It’s just a festival of emotional catharsis over here. Does Philip Kerr channel Remarque’s heroes consciously in his Bernie Gunther novels?

Skipped biology lecture on Thursday night to attend an Art Jamz event at the Sackler Gallery with Turtleduck, marking the first time since grade school that I have attempted to actually paint a picture. Picture was awful and is living in the back of my car, but the process was fun. In related news, now procrastinating from my biology homework to write a blog post.


Boss turns out not to have had a duct-tape auto body kit, just a roll of regular tape and a good sense of how the wheel-well liner and the front bumper fit together. Today I shall attempt to replicate his work in purple duct tape.

This Day So Far


Mouse to me: Mom, you have to read this book (Ed: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell) I just finished. You will love it. It’s full of doomed romance!

Me: What about my life choices is it that suggests I love doomed romance?

Mouse: It’s just the kind of thing I think you like.


(Somewhere between the car wash in Columbia and the parking garage at work in Washington, the wheel-well liner of my car attached itself to my front tire and the front bumper began to tear. Happily, my boss has a duct-tape auto body repair kit and has offered to help me reconnect these pieces so I can drive home without further damage. I wonder how long duct-tape auto body repair actually lasts.)

White Tennis Shoes

One of two things attributed to Ayn Rand that I don’t hate is her lecture on procrastination. (The other is Anthem.) The white tennis shoes in question belong to the former. Rand cleaned her white tennis shoes as an act of writerly procrastination; moi, I try to clean out the music on my iPod so that I can have non-distracting* music playing while I write, specifically while I write for the paying gig. Then I blog about not writing. An hour has passed** and no words have been added to the document, which I need to send out by lunchtime or so. Good job, self. Good job.

* Distracting music is apparently all music with words. Could someone please invent a tagging system in iTunes that allows me to sort songs into “distracting,” “non-distracting,” and “only suitable for staring wistfully into space”? The iTunes radio algorithm seems to work for this sort of, but that’s only helpful when I have wi-fi.

** A small part of that hour went into making oatmeal for Mouse, who woke me with a hug and “Oh, you’re so warm and you smell good!” I make no apologies for being distracted by flattery. Screwing with my iTunes library, on the other hand, is a sure path to Hell.

Side Hustle

After several months’ drought, I got some business at my side hustle. This naturally leads to blogging instead of writing for the gig that pays. Good job, me!

(Muppet Labs is now reporting that over-consumption of Easter candy can lead to sudden drops in energy levels.)

Dino Spouse and I left work early today – using precious leave hours – to meet with the Army Reserves recruiter who has been encouraging Podrostok to consider enlisting after graduation. Said recruiter wound up calling us 20 minutes before the scheduled meeting time to tell us he would be 45 minutes late, then failed to materialize at the newly appointed hour. And so on until I called him 20 minutes after he didn’t show. Upshot being (a) grr and (b) now we have rescheduled to Friday evening.

It turns out that my employer is actually going to send me on more business travel, this time to Denver in the summer. And thus I learned that Casa Bonita of “South Park” fame is actually a real place! If only they had a theme hotel to go with it…