This is a stone we found at Seven Sisters: flint and chalk. Also: proof of Starfleet’s existence


I am a late bloomer. Due to certain reasons I do not wish to get into in this post, I only settled down to have a family by the time I was fourty. I got married, and my first baby was born a year and a half later.

And looking at this child my own mortality hit home pretty hard. I used to talk a lot to the sister of my grandmother; she really was a cool lady. She told me at the age of eighty six that she still felt like a teenager; and she felt as if the last fourty years of her life had just disappeared.

I am talking about this because it does drive home a point: your body may age, but it seems like your mind does have trouble coping with this fact; most of us don’t really feel and think like our age. Neither did I feel like I was fourty, that I’m in my early middle age. I was going to concerts, building my career (as it is), enjoying my hobbies, and travel; in all it felt no different from the time I was in college. (Except I had more money.) It still does not. However now I have a time piece by me. A tiny little human that is slowly, but surely growing up. I will be sixty when she graduates high school. I will be eighty when she becomes fourty. Now I have something to measure myself to, and this is a scary thought. When you see your own little baby, you realize that she will not be little for long… and this makes you realize more than anything that you have a finite time to live.

I guess this is the point when people grow up.

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.

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.