Adventures in barbershopping

The boy’s hair is getting into his eyes, and we have been threatening him with a haircut for a few weeks now, but higher-priority things keep getting in the way. This morning, as my wife is leaving to take the Great Old One to the vet for a check-up, she asks me if I can get his hair cut. Yes! I can do that, and for once we do not have ten thousand other things that need to be done today.

I call the place we’ve been using. Someone answers the phone.

“Hi, do you have appointments available this afternoon?” I ask.

“We’re open until three,” the person on the other side says.

That is … not what I asked, and something about her tone gets directly on a nerve for some reason. A moment or two of slightly confused but pointed questions reveals that yes, they’re more or less free all afternoon and I can pick whatever time I want, and I make an appointment for noon.

The correct response here, by the way, is something along the lines of “We’ve got open spots all afternoon, what time would you like to come in?” I feel like this isn’t a complicated interaction, y’know? Probably happens a few times a day, at least? I asked about appointments. If you’re wide open, say that. Don’t get snotty with me and tell me your hours as if they weren’t right there on the website I used to find your phone number.

We’ve been using this place for a while, because they’re nearby, reasonably priced, and kid-friendly. There has always been a bit of Jesusiness about the place, but it’s never been too terribly overwhelming; they sell shirts and the shirts have a Bible verse on them for some reason along with the logo of the barbershop. That’s been about it. I live in fucking Indiana; I’m used to it.

Today when I got there their front door had been redone to include the two images in the above picture, and, well, welcome to the Don’t Want None Won’t Be None zone, folks. If I were to deliberately design a logo for American Christofascism I could not do much better than a cross with a thin blue line graphic imposed on it. My rule for when I allow my politics to influence decisions that shouldn’t be political (like where should I get my kid’s hair cut once every two or three months) is that if you make sure I know where you stand, I’m going to judge you accordingly, and if you don’t, I’m not going to go looking for trouble. And these folks have now officially crossed a (thin, blue) line that makes it perfectly clear that my business isn’t wanted there, and they’re going to get what they want from here on out.

Now, note here that 1) I have never had any problem with any of the employees, and I’m not even certain who actually owns the place; and 2) I am perfectly willing to let this rule apply to me; I wear my politics on my sleeve around here and anyone who is, say, unwilling to buy my books because of that is absolutely encouraged to make that decision. Everyone is welcome to not spend their money on my work for whatever reason they like, regardless of what I might think of the reason. I don’t actually get to have a say here! It’s your money!

And, well, when it’s my money, if you’re gonna make sure I get greeted with Jesus and Blue Lives Matter before I walk into your place of business, well, I’m gonna keep on walking. Sorrynotsorry, I guess.

In which I give up already

It’s January 3rd, Goddammit, and everything about 2020 is already bullshit, from Castro dropping out, to Australia being on fire, to the shitgibbon starting a war with Iran, to the Ongoing Medical Calamity suddenly accelerating to the point where the phrase “eleven thousand dollars a month, paid in advance” was said in my presence by someone who wasn’t kidding, to, oh, because of course, runaway stomach flu today and yesterday.

Fuck this. I’m alive, dammit, but I’m not fucking happy about it.

Y'all cain't kill me, Chapter 16

How many years have I taught for again? Is this sixteen? Seventeen? I think it’s sixteen. At any rate: I have certainly had harder Last Days Before Winter Break, and I survived this one without any real stress or even any particular stories to tell.(*) My main problem at the moment is that I keep forgetting that, yes, I do have to go to work tomorrow for the teacher record day even if my grades are all already finished. I’ve got some stuff to finalize, some redecorating to do, and a classroom to rearrange as I’ve grown tired of my current layout. That should keep me busy through the district-mandated half day; I was already planning on leaving early as I currently work in a building whose principal isn’t going to be watching us, but they’ve officially announced that anyone who showed up for Parent-Teacher conferences can go home at lunchtime if we want.

And I do, and I will.

I have, as per usual, all sorts of plans for shit I want to accomplish over the next two weeks; we will see if I get around to any of it, and whether I’m much inclined to care about what I didn’t get around to at the end of the break. I’d like to get at least a little fiction written; I’ve been off of that particular horse for far too long and I need to either start writing again or start removing any references to being an author around here. It’s time, damn it.

Then again, maybe I’ll spend a week playing video games and sleep for an entire day at some point. That wouldn’t be bad either! Not bad at all.

(*) This is not quite true, as I distinctly remember at least one conversation with a student that led to me thinking remember this and blog about it later and as I sit here I swear to you that I can’t even remember the gender of the student I was talking to much less any actual content of the conversation. Perhaps it’ll come to me tomorrow, who knows.

PS: I am as startled as you are that I appear to have nothing to say about the impeachment of the piece of shit in the White House. It may be that I will have something to say about it soon, or this may fall into the same hole that the piece about Kamala Harris dropping out of the Presidential race fell into. We’ll see.

#REVIEW: Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto, by Alan Stern and David Grinspoon

Longest post title ever? Possibly. Gotta love nonfiction books.

This is known: there exists an alternate-universe version of me who has a Ph.D and works as either an astronomer or a planetary geologist. I’ve been fascinated by this stuff for as long as I can remember, and every now and again I really wonder how it is that I didn’t take all that much math and science in college.

(Actually, I know why that’s true. My current enjoyment of mathematics dates to realizing how fascinating statistics was when I had to take a stats class for my … oh, wait, I was a Psychology major, among other things, so I guess I did have to take a fair number of science classes in college.)

(Let’s say “hard science” classes and piss off the psychology people. Like, science with math, which– other than stats– Psychology really doesn’t trouble itself all that much with. Shut up you know what I mean.)

Anyway. I followed the New Horizons mission with no small degree of fascination, and the data they’ve acquired about Pluto and its associated moons is endlessly interesting. Earlier this year the spacecraft did a flyby on a Kuiper Belt object now known as Arrokoth, and I believe there’s at least one more KBO flyby planned before the craft is shut down. Stern and Grinspoon’s book isn’t so much about the science, or about Pluto, however; it’s about the 20-plus-year effort to get the mission to explore the ninth planet(*) approved and the political and scientific process by which the mission itself actually came to be. As it turns out, there were a lot of people who for one reason or another didn’t want New Horizons to happen, and the mission was either actually cancelled or nearly cancelled five or six times, to say nothing of the number of times where something went wrong with the craft itself. For example, I wasn’t aware that they lost contact with the craft just a few days before the Pluto flyby began, and the book’s description of the mad scramble to not only reestablish contact with the by-then-several-billion-miles-away craft but to then slowly re-upload a bunch of mission-critical code updates before the thing sped by Pluto at thousands of miles per hour is compelling as hell.

So, yes– this book is less a work of popular science or a textbook about Pluto than it is a book about history and politics. It’s about the mission, not the planet, and while I wasn’t quite aware of that when I picked it up it’s no less of a good read for it– I’m always down to read something about NASA’s inner workings, and some of the squabbling that takes place between Caltech’s JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) and the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) at Johns Hopkins over who was going to actually design and build the spacecraft that eventually became New Horizons is pretty damn cool. One way or another, while I haven’t read a ton of nonfiction this year I’m glad I finally let this stop languishing on my shelf and picked it up. You’ll probably see it mentioned again in a month or so, when I write my 10– or possibly 15– best books of the year post for 2019. In the meantime, check it out.

(*) For most of the book, Pluto is very much considered a planet, and the authors’ open derision toward the new definition of “planet” that reclassified Pluto is hilarious. Needless to say, for these guys Pluto is the ninth planet and it ain’t going anywhere.

In which I miss out

There were apparently something on the order of fifteen thousand teachers protesting at the Statehouse in Indianapolis today. Most of the public districts across the state, including mine, cancelled school today when it became clear that it would be utterly impossible to staff the buildings given the number of people taking personal days to attend the protest. I was not personally among them; I know a bunch of people who went, obviously, but given that my mother is currently back in the hospital and the only viable transportation to the protest was by bus (I am not about to fight fifteen thousand extra out-of-towners for parking in downtown Indianapolis) I was deeply leery of being three hours away from home and not actually personally in charge of when I could come back.

So I didn’t go. Which, honestly, is probably for the best; I have Twitter and my blog when I want to talk and/or think about politics, the governor wasn’t there anyway, and I really didn’t need to spend the day in a simmering rage. If I could have had a guarantee that no one would try to talk to me while I was there it might have worked out okay, but that seems unlikely. Instead I stayed home and played with cats and also played the new Star Wars game on my PS4, which is not the most productive use of my day but possibly the most sane.

The new cat’s name might be Dr. Doofenschmirtz, by the way.