Well, my wife has found this gem of a series on Amazon Prime. Not really to watch it, but it’s something that runs in the background completely muted with subtitles on while she is sitting immobile with the baby attached. (Since said baby is quite young it happens quite often and for a prolonged period of time.)

But you can’t help but pick stuff up while it is running in the background. My observations are the following.

How can surgeons discuss their private lives (both on emotional and sexual level), and even argue with each other over who banged whom, while elbow deep in a patient? When I do something that needs my focus, even if it is just cutting up my food, I normally can’t deal with other issues. These people must be really amazing at multitasking.

How come they make such crappy choices in their private lives? I think they should not be allowed to make decisions regarding the color of their socks, let alone on matters of life and death based on their everyday lives.

There are a lot of series about the glamorous side of medicine: ER, Dr House, Scrubs, Nemocnice na kraji města, and so on and so forth. How come nobody made a series about proctologists yet? I demand justice!

I really felt that this series (and all other medicine-based soap operas) are, in their basic form, suffering porn. You watch people struggle with real conditions, having their lives torn away from them, while you sit in front of your screen hoping that it will not happen to you. Maybe it is just me and my morbid fear of death, but I found a lof ot the scenes a bit too real for comfort. I did not find the same escapism as I find in other series/movies. At least with Game of Thrones, however bloody it is, I know there is little chance of me being immolated by a big-ass dragon. (Or being swarmed by naked concubines, but that is a different topic for a different day.) As long as I don’t hurt random dogs (and I would never do that), I know I am safe from John Wick. It’s all just entertainment. I am not sure I can be (or should be) entertained by actors playing people struggling with pancreatic cancer. And the worst thing is that all this suffering is meaningless when it comes to the main characters – no matter how gut-wrenching and tear-inducing a patient’s fate was, by the next episode it’s all gone. It’s tabula rasa, baby; the characters did not grow, change or were affected in any way by it.

And finally (and it ties to the whole escapism part), my wife does not like the more action-packed movies I prefer, saying that they are way too bloody. Well, at least those people die healthy, moreover I do think Grey’s Anatomy has more gore than your regular action flick. So there you go.

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So we have a baby now. She is quite young, so she does not yet move around on her own, but the time will come when we will have a small human running around the house like a tiny banshee.
So I plan.
The stairs will obviously need to be protected with a set of baby gates, the shelves need to be fixed to the walls, the edges and corners will need to be coated with some sort of soft material. The doors, however, do pose some challenge: they are the fancy, glass door type. All of them have large, opaque windows set in.
Which does pose a challenge; after all, I can picture someone carelessly run into them.
When I shared my worries with my beloved she looked at me exasperated (she does think I fret too much): “perhaps we could attach those bird-of-prey decals to the glass they put on windows” she said rolling her eyes.

Since we have our baby, I noticed a weird reflex that had built up: I automatically slew the stroller whenever I stop for something. Even when it’s empty because my wife took the baby out for a quick change.

Or even if I have a shopping cart.

I noticed something weird. Most of our everyday products, such as lotions, washing liquids, etc. are full of fragrances, stabilizers, and other compounds that you do not actually need (or want) in stuff you put on your skin or use to clean your clothes. Or god forbid, eat. We could talk about the horrible bread you can buy in supermarkets, but the worst example is in your salami. Nitrate salts are incredibly bad for your health and most processed meat products contain them. Which makes eating those products unhealthy, making this example the worst case of this trend.

So how much extra chemicals do we put on ourselves? Here’s a commercial baby lotion’s list of ingredients:

Water, Propylene Glycol/Myristyl Myristate, Glyceryl Stearate/Stearic Acid/Oleic Acid, Polysorbate 61, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Sorbitan Stearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol, Benzyl Alcohol, Synthetic Beeswax, Dimethicone, Isopropyl Palmitate, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben, Carbomer, Fragrance, BHT, Sodium Hydroxide, Red 33

Mind you, “chemical” does not mean “bad” automatically, just as “natural” does not mean “good” (just try to eat grains contaminated by natural aflatoxins when they are not treated with chemical fungicides…

I am not a tree-hugging vegan hippie; I’m a biologist. Most of the above stuff is harmless or not dangerous in the low concentration you apply it in. But still, I do have a minimalist approach: I want only what is absolutely necessary. I don’t want extra fragrance in my shampoo (which I wash off in 20 second anyhow), and I do not want extra stuff in my bread, either.

So let’s take a look at the handmade version’s list

cocoa butter, coconut oil, beeswax, vitamin E oil, Lavender essential oil

That’s it.

There are options, though.  You don’t have to make your own toothpaste if you are unhappy with the commercial ones. You can opt to buy products that have fewer ingredients… and surprise, these products are actually more expensive than the ones filled with different compounds derived from crude oil.

(I’m being a bit of a demagogue here. Obviously for a commercial product the cost of production, shelf life and batch-by-batch consistency are very important, but a lot of the stuff going into these cremes, lotions and whatnot are still unnecessary and are there to make the product more appealing for customers.)

The whole point of this post is the following. I was looking for baby wipes; and even those are laced with all sorts of chemicals which may not harm the baby, but I still feel that it is completely unnecessary to put them onto the bum of an infant.

Except for one. This wipe has wipes made out of cotton and pure water packed into the usual self-dispensing package.

Guess how much it costs.

If you guessed double the price of the others, you guessed right. Apparently you can sell pure water for more than a mixture of ten different chemicals. Which may make sense from a market point of view (people want the scented/disinfecting/colored stuff so you can sell more of that), but it is absolutely insane. In this case you can’t argue about production costs and consistency. You literally leave 2/3rd of your ingredients out of a product and double the price.

Madness.

It turns out I have been lied to all my life. Apparently the well-known baby-smell is how the Johnson and Johnson baby products smell like. Since we do not use them our baby smells completely differently.

Now I feel cheated.

Well, about 9 months ago I made a move and took up a job in my old country, Hungary. I would like to write a couple of posts about my experiences; not to trash my country but to put a mirror up from the perspective of someone who has been away for 16 years.

Let’s start with the main issue here that will surely come up: bureaucracy.

The company I am working for decided to make a leap, and enter into the 20th century, and institute the option for home office working. It is a big leap; we still are clocked in and out as if we were factory workers, and our overtime is not actually paid. (But you do get hell in a handbasket if you are below your time. It is also expected to put in about 5-10 extra hours a month. It’s all charmingly antiquated and socialist, I have to say. I feel as if I was in this weird mixture of a strict highschool and the ’80s Hungary.)

Anyhow.

Home office. 6 months of trials.

First, you need to fill out a risk assessment form. The first thing on that form is the need for a complete examination and certification of your home’s electrical systems. Which costs a lot of money. And it’s not as if you were doing anything else but sitting in front of your computer, anyhow. (This was not a deal-breaker; apparently they did treat it flexibly, even though they did say going to be enforced with an iron fist. I guess the outrage made them double down.)

We got a 10 page of document detailing all the rules concerning home office; this is normal for this place. There is a weird disconnect between the whole point of home office, and how my company sees it, though. Home office is supposed to be a flexible option for you to do your work from home when/if needed or wanted. It implies trust, and allows you to actually have a better life quality. It also makes sure you don’t come into the office sick since you can just work from home, and don’t have to get sick days off (for which you would need a doctor’s note even for one day, so it is a pain in the ass to handle. As I said: bureaucracy.) So the company’s idea is that you only get two of these day a month, and you have to file a request two weeks prior of these days. Let’s make the flexible option as inflexible as possible.

And then the kicker: I did get the permission to work, but not the VDI option. (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure: the thing that allows you to actually work from home, and connect to the system at work. Why this antiquated system? Well, because, unlike other places, we have desktops, not laptops, so no option of taking the laptop home. As I said: antiquated. We can be happy we don’t have to use telegrams any more.)

In fact, all VDI requests were suspended, because of the home office initiative.

Yes. You read it right. This is the email I got from the IT:

“Dear User. Your ticket 22321 was suspended for the following reasons:

Dear (Fossilyellifish)! We would like to notify you that your home office request has been accepted! As you might have read on the Intranet the IT department currently will not fulfill new orders, but we thank you nevertheless for supporting the home office initiative with your request. This will help us to survey the infrastructure needed for the system. As the capacity is extended we will gradually grant requests, until then we would ask for your patience. If you have any more questions, please contact us at …” and so on and so forth.

So they actually did not do an assessment prior of setting up the whole system; on the other hand they explicitly said it would run for 6 months. So, in other words, the system is set up for failure – after the six month period, they are free to point at the low number of people actually taking the opportunity and declare the whole thing a failure.

To make matters even more interesting, they actually took away the VDI access of a new starter (returning from maternity leave) upon her request for home office (she did get a permission for the home office, though), and granted VDI for the deputy of my boss, who does not even have a home office permission yet, since he did not submit the paperwork. He submitted a request on all our behalf I might add. So his was approved, the rest were not.

Interesting.

Somewhat Kafkian, but interesting nevertheless.

Gmail has recently added an autofinish option to their mail service, which is annoying as hell. It does a pretty good job anticipating what you intend to write, and suggesting it, but I keep myself trying to reword my sentences so that I do not have to write the suggestion down.

It might sound childish to do so, I do not want to be spoon fed my lines by a freaking program.