About a month ago something happened at the firm I am working for that really left me stupified -and infinitely amused.

To a gigantic chain email (an email sent to most 5000 of the employees), someone replied: please take me off the list, using the “reply all” function of Outlook.

This simple little email set in motion a gigantic avalance, where, for the next seven or so hours, hundreds of people did likewise; and the more “please take me off the list” message came, the more people decided to ask to be taken off the list -all using the reply all function. You could see how these emails arrived in waves, as the positive feedback created more and more responses. In a way the message behaved as a meme – a self-replicating piece of information.

There were a couple of voices of sanity, begging people to stop replying to these emails, or at least use only the “reply” function, but these were promptly ignored, as the “please take me off the list” message took on its own life, and started to propagate within the company’s email servers. It took a workday for this avalance to die off, while I was watching my computer with my colleagues not believing our eyes. I was half-tempted to respond with the same message the next day in the hopes of reviving this monster, but since I like my job, or rather, I would not like to starve to death, I decided against it.

I believe the idea of choosing the lesser evil to avoid the greater one is an inherently faulty concept.

You can do this once or twice, yeah, that is not an issue. However if you choose the lesser evil habitually, eventually you will end up in a situation which is worse than your original greater evil – or just as bad. I do not want to pick an example from current politics, because that would not be toward in this blog, but Dan Carlin does have a couple of interesting thought on this.

I can, however, show an example in the history: the rise of Adolph Hitler.

My argument rests on the fact is Germany could have been stopped easily before WWII broke out, but was not, because people kept choosing the lesser evil. (The greater one was seen as confrontation -armed and otherwise- with Germany.) This is absolutely hindsight, but that is the point, so bear with me.

Let’s ignore the fact why people in the 30s were reluctant to confront him. The memory of WWI was still fresh; it is perfectly understandable. As is their desire to choose the lesser evil, and keep appeasing him, hoping he will stop when he gets what he wants. Even Stalin was aware of the dangers of a new, militant Germany, and wanted an alliance with Western powers in the 30s. He was snubbed, however, as everyone else hoped these two will bleed each other, and leave everyone else alone. Back then Germany was still very unprepared for war, so a quick military push from both (or either) side would have collapsed the whole system the Nazis built up. But nothing happened, and Hitler was allowed to annex, consolidate and grow as much as his little heart desired, acquiring valuable industrial territories for further war production, growing bolder and bolder in the process. Acquiring the Czech industrial capacity also enabled him to plan for a serious war; before he had voefully little hardware. By choosing the lesser evil, the Western powers made it possible for the greater evil to manifest. Same happened in the Soviet union. Seeing how he was left alone, Stalin eventually looked for a temporary solution to gain time to prepare for the inevitable. So comes the Molotov Ribbentrop pact – again, something that lead to a greater evil  in a few years, but for Stalin (and not for Poland, for sure), at that time, it was the lesser one. Or appeared to be.

But there were other consequences of the Western (and Eastern) inaction as well. There were very high ranking German soldiers plotting several coups against Hitler in the 30s; the inability of the Western powers to stand up to him (even diplomatically) meant that Hitler was insanely successful domestically, which pulled the rug from under the plotters. Had Hitler ran into a wall of resistance when he tried to run over parts (then all) of Czechoslovakia, there would have been a military coup deposing him, as it would have given the plotters an opening (just as the losing military situation did for Stauffenberg et al). Again: choosing the lesser evil led to an even greater one.

And the list goes on. By choosing the “lesser evil” options the world arrived to the global war where 60 million perished.

Now, this could not have been predicted. Chamberlain could not have known what his signature would bring. I am talking about why it was wrong for him (and others ) to choose the lesser evil, and on the long run why it seems like a self-defeating strategy. Perhaps it is something people can think about when they make their choices.

Ever since my daughter have been able to actually do more than eat, poop and sleep, I was astonished by the intelligence behind her eyes. Don’t get me wrong, I do not propose she is some extremely bright, exceptional baby (well, she is, but you know…).

My preconceptions before having a baby were that they were essentially kind of like little dumb animals who get progressively smarter and smarter as they grow and mature until you end up with an annoying, loud little kid. What I see, however, is more like having a tiny little alien who is essentially an explorer on this planet. You can see that she is learning how to use her little body, and who is very keen to explore her surroundings; it does not feel at all like she is less intelligent than I am. She may know less, and she may not have as much experience as I do, but it does not mean she is stupid or incomplete. It really feels like there is a complete little person inside this baby I can connect with, interact with in a very deep, meaningful way. She has her own sense of humor, she has her preferences, her likes, and she really does know what she wants to do, how and when. And what makes me really sad that this little person inside her will change as time passes. Not necessarily develop – change. Her happy disposition, her sense of wonder of the world, her trust in people will change as she gets her experiences of life: the slaps, the small and big betrayals, the disappointments – she will have to build up the shell that protects her just like everyone else does. And if I am not careful as a parent, it will completely change this amazing little alien explorer. I will do my best to make sure it will not happen; she will be happier for it.

We were at IKEA buying some smaller furniture when suddenly the face of my one and a half year old daughter just lit up, and she grabbed a little stuffed husky from a shelf that someone left there… It was as if the toy was waiting for her: the pure joy and happiness on her face was just amazing. She immediately started hugging and kissing the dog, so yeah, it came with us.

Since then it (she) gained a name (Brumma -for some reason the same sound a bear makes), and it takes part in every activity she does. She shows her how to drink, how to eat, and in general, she is making sure that the dog is cared for.

It looks as if she feels the need for someone to teach now. It is pure speculation but I think she is big enough now to consciously learn about the world around her, to observe everything, AND have the need to pass on this knowledge to someone else. I really think this dog fills up this need for a smaller friend she can teach.

Who knew it would change the way you look at the world? Or how you eat and dress?

For one, I feel absolutely emotional when I see a baby in a movie. I also wear T-shirts at home which are full of stains since it would make little sense changing them- they will get dirty immediately, due to the small human enthusiastically engaging in everything that might leave stains. Then comes eating… I used to be quite fussy: didn’t eat food that come out of other people’s mouth, did not eat food from the floor, and did not usually consume leftovers. Now it is completely the opposite… the small human decides she does not like something -off it goes to daddy. I also used to feel repulsed by poop and pee; a normal reaction I think. Now I am changing nappies happily, washing bums, and if the accident happens and I get peed on, I am not freaking out.

Incredible.

In GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) environment, where I work if you make a mistake on a form, there is a procedure to follow. You cross out the mistake once, put the date above it, and sign it.

 

Now, I realized I created an infinte loop when I mistakenly signed my name in the box where the date should have been… The signature was crossed out, I put the date in, and also my signature. I think this could go on to infinity if I wanted to keep it up.

 

 

Rage Against the Machine is my all-time favorite band, since they came out. Never had a chance to see them, so when a concert was announced in more than 20 years after the band broke up I was excited as hell.

The tickets sold out to the Vienna show in less than 14 minutes -and I promise you it wasn’t fans eager for their tickets. Concerts, just like sport events are not dominated by scalpers who work hand-in-glove with the official ticket selling sites.

Enter Viagogo… I managed to find tickets, that cost 90 EUROs for 160; and the dupe I am, I actually bought one. Even though my salary in Hungary is siginficantly less than in a Western country (or how it was in the UK), I thought a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see my idols would be worth it. I had misgivings, but my loving wife told me I should not worry, but go for it. So I did, and was happy.

That is until I saw the screen after payment. Apparenlty I paid an extra 70 EURO for handling fees. Handling fees that were not indicated in the pre-payment screen, unless you knew where to look – and I did not. And I am not the only one falling for this. Heck, there is even a booklet about this.

Even the 160 EURO was higher than what I was comfortable with, but now I have literally spent a sinificant part of my monthly salary on a ticket, without given a chance to actually decide if I wanted to spend this much. This is a predatory and immoral move even in the shady world of ticket scalpers. This is against all sorts of laws, but illegal practices are unfortunately not a problem in the wild west of the internet, unless you fight hard to contest them. And it really poisoned the well for me; now a childhood dream have been soured by these vultures. And yes, I can see the irony of a leftist, anarchist band’ tickets being sold out in a wild, neoliberal pricing frenzy.

The moral of the story?

Do not ever use Viagogo and similar websites. Even if there are no tickets available from official sources due to the scalpers. Just go to the shady looking guy standing by the venue and buy a ticket from him. You will have a smaller chance of getting scammed.

 

I wanted to talk about one of the big disillusionments in my childhood: the Miraculous Mandarin.

I have a confession to make: I never liked Bartók. It is scandallous, I know, but there’s that.

The reasons are not difficult to understand: he was pushed onto me when I was very young in the form of Microkosmos, a piano teaching method, which is incredibly unsuited for young children to learn piano. (I also had a real terrible piano teacher, and also my mother was very fond of reminding me how much it cost for her to rent the freaking piano, which also added to my enthusiasm for learning it… after all, emotional blackmail is incredibly helpful to kindle one’s interest as we know.) So I had this really big aversion to anything that was piano-related, especially if it was also Bartók-related.

His music is also something that is definitely not geared to appeal to children, yet it is something that was made compulsory for us, since he was one of the few Hungarian composers who are actually internationally recognized. So we are made to watch Bluebeard, for example, which is neither very child-friendly in music, nor a child-friendly story.

The real reason, however is deeper. When I was even younger, around eight, my mother took me to see The Miraculous Mandarin. Now, at that young age I had no idea how a mandarin could be miraculous, since the only mandarin I knew of was the mandarin fruit, but I was very excited about it, and open to the concept; after all, Nutcracker was a thing, too, right?

And then I was sitting on a ballet where an old Chinese guy was chasing a young prostitute (I did not even know what a prostitute was at that age) and dying at the end. It was confusing, the music was dissonant, the dance was violent and not at all like a children’s tale. And the biggest let-down of all: there was not a single mandarin there, miraculous or not, as far as I was concerned. Frankly I felt cheated, and the dislike of Bartók was born.

 

 

 

Lately I have been thinking a lot about babies, which is perfectly understandable, since there has been a small human living with us for the past year. I am trying to see things from their perspective to help me understand their world, their reactions. Obviously this has serious limitations; they are not tiny adults. Yet, they are humans, however unformed they may be, and it is fascinating to watch how their minds develop.

Take temper tantrums, for example. Yes, you can read a lot about the psychology, how to deal with it, and so on and so forth, but nevertheless, no matter how much you know in theory that it is a normal part of their development, it can still be grating on your nerves when you face it in practice. (Especially if it someone else’s spawn who does it.) One thing I that helps me sympathise with these little humans during one of these emotional storm is to simply understand their position in this world.

They are born helpless: almost blind, unable to move, unable to fend for themselves; they are utterly at the mercy of gigantic beings, who -normally- are benevolent, yet may not understand all their needs. Their minds open up real quick during development, but their little bodies do not follow as fast; they are constantly frustrated by not being able to get to things, not being able to do things, and having these gigants decide almost everything for them: when to sleep, when to change nappies, when to feed; everything. They also get twarted regularly by these giants; every time they manage to get hold of those shiny thin things, or climb to the edge of the steps, or finally get their fingers close to those tiny holes on the wall. All in all, it must be pretty upsetting: not only you are unable to do certain things you want, you are not even allowed to do things you actually could.

Over two or three years this can build up some serious levels of frustration. It is a wonder they are not throwing temper tantrums every hour of the day, to be honest; most of them are more patient than you or I would be.