40 years of faulty wiring

Creepy, Creative, Cringe-Worthy and Crazy Coincidence

albert Einstien-Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous_Coincidence can be a creepy thing. It almost feels prophetic when coincidence happens. Personally weird coincidences happen to me several times a week.  Yes. A week. These are silly incidents that mean nothing but allow me to demonstrate. I had a weird dream one night about a dysfunctional family.  It was a television program.  I wanted to watch it because I found it interesting.  Later that day, I turned on the television and there was a program playing about a dysfunctional family, rather but not entirely like, the family in my dream.  An hour later, my brother telephoned me to tell me that a family member was going to sue me for an extremely similar reason as the television family. Talk about dysfunctional. And coincidental.

Still, these are minor karma infractions compared to these incidents:

Saved Twice by the Same Man
In Detroit sometime in the 1930s, a young (if incredibly careless) mother must  have been twice eternally grateful to Joseph Figlock. As Figlock was walking down the street, the mother’s baby fell from a high window onto Figlock. The  baby’s fall was broken and both man and baby were unharmed. A stroke of luck on  its own, but a year later, the very same baby fell from the very same window  onto Joseph Figlock as he was again passing beneath. And  again, they both survived the event.  That’s a keeper.

Homicide or Suicide?
This case is fiction and in fact has a number of variations to it. It is so hilarious with so many twists I had to include it.  You may be familiar with the name Ronald Opus, a young man who attempted to commit suicide but accidentally arranged for his own homicide.  Ronald Opus decided to commit suicide by jumping from the top of a ten-story building.  He didn’t know that a safety net had been strung below the eighth floor by some construction workers and that whCF1BF77Fould have saved his life.  As Mr. Opus fell past the ninth floor  he was hit in the head by a shotgun blast and killed.  The coroner wanted to decide who was responsible, and this was his line of reasoning:

1.  The shot that killed Ronald Opus was from a shotgun being used by a man arguing with his wife.  He pulled the trigger, missed his wife, and shot Ronald Opus as he fell past his window.
2.  The man who shot the gun said he didn’t know it was loaded and that when he got mad, he threatened his wife with an unloaded gun.  Therefore, according to the coroner, he was not guilty of murder.
3.  The couple’s son had been seen loading the shotgun.
4.  That son was Ronald Opus who knew that his father threatened his mom with the unloaded shotgun so planned on his mom being shot.  He was mad at her for cutting him off financially.
5.  Therefore, according to the coroner, Ronald Opus was guilty of having arranged for a murder, being that of his mother but which turned out to be his own, so he was guilty of murdering himself.  The case was closed as a suicide.  Now if that doesn’t make you split a gut laughing, what will?

The Titan and the Titanic
Of course you have heard of the TitanicoverWreckTitan-mobipocket_com_c but you may not be familiar with the fictitious “The Wreck of the Titan or, Futility“, written by Morgan Robertson  in 1898, 14 years before the Titanic sailed. There are many uncanny coincidences between the sinking of the fictitious Titan and the Titanic.  of course there are many significant differences too.  Similarities include:

  • Unsinkable
    Both ships over 800 feet long. They both were known as “unsinkable”. They  both sunk in the North Atlantic. They both didn’t have enough lifeboats. They both had 3000 passengers.
  • Struck an iceberg
    • Moving at 22½ knots the Titanic struck an iceberg on the starboard side, on the night of April 14, 1912, in the North Atlantic, 400 nautical miles away from Newfoundland.
    • Moving at 25 knots, The Titan struck an iceberg on the starboard side on an April night in the North Atlantic, 400 nautical miles from Newfoundland (Terranova).
  • Sinking
    • The unsinkable Titanic sank, and more than half of her 2200 passengers and crew died.
    • The indestructible Titan also sank, more than half of her 2500 passengers drowned.
    • The Titanic went down bow first, the Titan actually capsizing before it sank. Brrrr.  Mighty cold those waters.  In fact ,many people did drown when the Titanic sank but even more died of hypothermia in the frigid water – they froze to death.  Nasty.
    • This isn’t related to the coincidence topic of this blog, but sadly, I heard a documentary recently, where a sailor who survived the Titanic sinking, claimed that a crewmate working in the telegraph room told him he received a message from another ship, stating that the waters ahead were very icy.  The crewmate took the message and placed it beneath a paperweight, forgetting to deliver it.  Had the captain received the message, the Titanic’s engines would have shut down, the ship wouldn’t have continued on its course, and probably wouldn’t have run into the berg.  Perhaps human error is creepier than coincidence.

I researched an article in der-baader-meinhof-komplexPsychology Today for this blog, called Hunting for Coincidences by Keja Perina.  Perina shed a very intriguing light on what constitutes coincidence.  In fact, he argued that there is actually no such thing.  Our brains are pattern-seeking [and tend to] notice coincidences….strikes people as somewhere between notable and miraculous, even though it can be explained by our brain’s capacity for selective attention. So there it is: there really isn’t any such thing as coincidence as there is our tendency to create it. There’s an old and odd term for this behaviour: the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. This gang was once a German urban guerrilla group. The origins of the group can be traced back to the student protest movement in West Germany. It began in the late 1960s during social upheavals after World War II, and the Cold War. Issues such as racism, and women’s liberation were of extreme importance in left-wing politics. The Red Army Faction in its earliest stages was the BM group – post-WWII extreme leftist military types. RAF described itself as a communist and anti-imperialist  group engaged in armed resistance against a fascist state. Apparently they didn’t get the memo the Second World War was over. Meinhof was not  a leader of the RAF, but her involvement in Baader’s escape from jail led to her name becoming attached to it. Myself, I do not understand the BM’s connection to coincidence. If anyone does, I would love to hear it (kindly quote your source so I can research it myself).

An explanation for supposed coincidence was offered in an article entitled A Skeptic Recalls Uusual Experiences: We forget about all the times when the laws of chance prevail. Over the course of a lifetime, there are a lot of coincidental events that take place just because, well, a lot of things happen to all of us. Belief in coincidence is where many odd superstitions hail from:

  • Dont walk under a ladder or something bad will happen to you (in reality – you will probably bump into it and it will fall on your stupid head).
  • Black cats cause bad luck. This hails back to those nasty Salem Witch Hunts in Salem, Massachusettes. Anything black was associated with evil, due to the pandemonium of a belief in witchcraft. Interesting, considering the Puritan community in Salem usually wore modest black or brown clothing. That’s not a coincidence.  I would call that irony.  Or stupidity.
  • Breaking a mirror causes 7 years bad luck.  How many mirrors have I broken? Probably seven (haha). So far as I can tell, 7 years after the last breakage my so-called bad luck hasn’t happened.  Anyone who can find a pattern in a broken mirror and experiencing 7 years of bad luck must have been the saddest loser ever. of course, it’s all in the perspective and what you define as luck.
  • Stepping on a spider causes it to rain.  By now, every one of us should own our own personal Noah’s Ark.

I do believe Perina and coincidence1his research of Matthew Huston’s theory about coincidence are at the heart of this stuff. All it takes is a person to step on a spider a few times, it rains right afterward, and there you have your oddball myth. It’s quite cool however that our brains seek out patterns to that extent. It means we are intelligent, evolved beings who are constantly making associations based on analysis and experimentation.  In science, for instance, there isn’t an Aha! moment, says Isaac Asimov. Rather, someone says “that’s funny.” Carl Jung believed that such events are not mere coincidences at all, but what he called synchronicity or meaningful coincidence.Synchronicity,’ said Jung, ‘is the coming together of inner and outer events in a way that cannot be explained by cause and effect and that is meaningful to the observer.’ So what that means, then, is that synchronous events are meaningful when they have meaning for you. This is the rational view of coincidence, discovery, and association.

There is an opposing view about coincidence. Dr. Deepak Chopra, author of The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire, argued that, coincidences are a glimpse into the creative mind or the universe or the cosmos. I’ve interviewed leaders of the world ….. [who have said] the secret of their success is, ‘I was lucky. I happened to be in the right chainplace at the right time. ‘ A lot of people work hard and have education but in the end, the difference determines this and this.” There is a deeper insight into everyday minor coincidence and that of the cosmos, of course.  It appears that Chopra sees fate in most of what happens to people. Meh. The jury’s out on that one.  Myself, I attribute much of it to hard work and networking.  And coincidence (ha).

Mind you, both odds and rationality and the cosmos could factor in quite well with 9-1-1.  There are 4 coincidences or pattern-making or creative power of the mind in that scenario that are all inter-related:

  1. The dat9-11 attacke of the disaster – 9-1-1.
  2. 9-1-1 is an acronym for emergency help.
  3. 9-1-1 proved costly in an immediate way to both the government and its people. The US had to beef up national security and has done so with billions of dollars, namely taxpayers’.
  4. The banks dropped interest rates literally overnight to 0%, a godsend for the many millions who were in debt since the mortgage crisis. Interest levels were dropped to ensure taxpayers had enough money to fund increased national security.    Coincidence?  Who knows?

Most people understand and accept that urban myths and weird coincidence is irrational, but somehow we like that little thrill of the “uncanny“, something we endow with the mysticism to surprise. It’s fun.  Silly, but fun. In fact, as I was researching Salem witch hunt for this blog, I accidentally typed in Salem witch hung…most of the accused witches were hung after trial.  Wow.  What a coincidence (not). Now that you’ve read this blog don’t be surprised when a number of coincidences happen to you today or this week. You’re unconsciously seeking patterns more than ever given this information.  Sorry about that. However it makes for entertaining moments.  Enjoy!

May 21, 2013 Posted by | Bizarre yet True | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Psychopaths in Suits – Corporate Criminals in Our Midst

Recently another ponzi scheme was exposed after its evil mastermind,  Jeffery White, passed away in 2011, from a brain aneurysm at the age of56. Lucky for him.   Brown, one of the “investors” whom he bilked out of his life savings to the tune of $250,000.00, has stated “if he wasn’t already dead, I’d kill him.” Indeed.  The truly evil thing about White was that he knew Brown and his wife, Anne, and they were his friends.  Imagine how he treated his enemies?  Brown’s wife used to teach White’s wife, Henny, in grade school, hence the connection between Brown and White. It turned out to be a devastating connection, personally and financially. Too bad Anne didn’t teach Henny about business ethics.

Ponzi schemes are named after Charles Ponzi, an Italian businessman and con artist in the U.S. and CanadaCharles Ponzi promised clients a 50% profit within 45 days, or 100% profit within 90 days, by buying discounted postal reply coupons in other countries and redeeming them at face value in the United States as a form of arbitrage.In reality, Ponzi was paying early investors using the investments of later investors. Some ponzi schemes also pay investors with their own initial investment, masquerading it as accrued profit. An interesting flick that presents a ponzi scheme (without calling it so) is Green Guys, about a group of 20-something hot shots who bilk unsuspecting investors for millions of dollars.

There are 5 main characteristics of a ponzi scheme:

  1. The Benefit: A promise that the investment will achieve an above normal rate of return.
  2. The Setup: A plausible explanation of how the investment can achieve these above normal rates of return.
  3. Initial Credibility: The person running the scheme needs to be believable.
  4. Initial Investors Paid Off: For a time, the investors need to make at least the promised rate of return.
  5. Communicated Successes: Investors need to hear about the payoffs.

Steps in the Ponzi Scheme

The steps are as follows:

  1. Convince a few investors to place money into the investment.
  2. After the specified time, return the investment money to the investors, plus the specified interest rate.
  3. Convince more investors to place their money into the system by referring to the profits of the earlier investors.
  4. Repeat steps 1 through 3.
  5. During step 2 at one of the cycles, break the pattern.  Escape with the money and start a new life. Or, in Jeffery White’s case, drop dead.

White’s known investors say they are out as much as $5 million. The scheme unravelled after White’s sudden death. Trustees of White’s estate became “extremely uncomfortable“with the discoveries they made. White solicited investments from many of his insurance clients, while treating their moneys as funds that were loaned to him for his general use. White’s business and personal accounts were intermingled, making the tracing of investments impossible.  At the time of his death, White was carrying more than $300,000 in credit card debt and was behind his time-share at Diamond’s Edge Muskoka Cottages. The vintage Porsche 911 Turbo he drove around the GTA was leased. There were no red flags but court documents show White had money problems dating back to the early 1990. Reassessment of his personal income taxes of the years 1996 to 2000 resulted in a substantial debt to Revenue Canada. Testifying at his tax court appeal White claimed his sister left him $1.3 million in debt.The judge in the case called White “vague” and his records “woefully inadequate.” By moving funds about through numerous bank accounts, he made it impossible to prove his case. In 2006, he dropped his appeals and paid $400,000 in arrears.

Psychopathy runs on a continuum with white collar criminals falling in the middle. They’re deceitful and egotistical. White-collar criminals might not physically destroy people, but they have no problem financially destroying them. This type of psychopath is high-functioning. They’re intelligent, have great interpersonal skills, are powerfully persuasive and able to disguise themselves very well. A psychopath is all about manipulation. They’re always assessing, “How can this particular job or person meet my needs? How can I exploit them?’” 

The list of white-collar psychopaths is almost endless. To a certain extent, most people compartmentalize and lead different lives. It’s normal for your work persona to be divergent from your family life. With psychopaths the compartmentalizing is much more exaggerated Jim Hammes, formerly a controller with a Cinncinnati-based company, embezzled $8.7 million of company money into a bank account in the name of a second company doing business with his company. He is currently a fugitive wanted by the FBI and has been on the run since 2009. Hammes also abandoned his two families, neither of whom knew about the other: he was married to two women and had children with both.

Frauds can be very deceptive in terms of their appearance, status and age. Joanne Schneider, a 71-year-old woman in Ohio was recently charged with operating a ponzi scheme and bilking $60 million dollars from 900 investors. The scheme unraveled when a Schneider family member became suspicious after his mother was promised a 16 to 20 percent return on her investment. Schneider’s criminal resume is impressive: securities fraud, selling unregistered securities, engaging in corrupt activity, misrepresentations in securities, theft, and money laundering. Schneider’s husband, Alan Schneider, played a lesser role in the scheme, pled guilty to security and theft charges. He got probation. She got 10 years. If she serves the full sentence, Schneider will be 81 when she is released from prison – either that or deceased from natural causes.

August 23, 2012 Posted by | Bizarre yet True, BullCrap, corrruption, Crime and Punishment, Education, Finance, Human psychology, money, Politics, Pop Culture | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Suicide and the Aging Superstar

You know what makes total sense to me?  Aging superstars, no longer relevant, who kill themselves.  Think about that gorgeous thought for a moment.  The media portrays these people as brilliantly accomplished people (which they usually are) who end their own livesneedlessly (probably true) and no one gets it (understandable).  However think about the perspective of the suicidal entertainer:

  1. their time has come and gone
  2. perhaps he or she is a joke from yesteryear
  3. the physical beauty if this performer is fast disappearing
  4. no one would line up to see that show anymore

Aging isn’t fun for anyone.  Most of us are vain.  We want to be young-looking forever.  Who wants crow’s feet and a saggy butt?  I don’t hear anyone jumping up and saying “pick me!”  Now add to that the faded experience of having been a glamorous, sought-after entertainer in one area of the industry or another, be it an actor, musician, model, what have you.  Those flaws are magnified.  Mirrors become torture devices more malicious than those of the Medieval Era.

And to t0p it all off, no one wants these people anymore, or at least not to the degree they were once desired and valued. Perhaps the spouse they married years ago, half their age, has been cheating on the ex-superstar, clearly only having married for the money and the lifestyle.  Humiliation cloaks the washed-up performer.  It’s probably an egocentric thing for many, but for others it’s just the understandable torment of no longer being relevant in the public eye.

Donny Osmond, who is neither aging visibly nor unwanted, gave an interview where he stated frankly that “to be famous and loved by millions of people one day then to wake up and find yourself a joke the next was a very traumatic experience.”  No doubt. It was his stunning performance in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat that revived what truly is a remarkable talent.

John Travolta candidly discussed his similar experience.  After his brilliant performances in Saturday Night Fever and Grease his stardom faded rapidly: disco was dead and along with it his career.  He appeared in a string of utterly banal and graceless films after this successful period in his life but his phone didn’t ring for decades after Grease.  Then his unexpected comeback in Pulp Fiction re-launched his career and a new star was re-born.  Travolta and Osmond were two of the lucky few.

Then there are those suicidal stars whose lives are so messed up post-fame that they are no more than walking tragedies waiting to happen: Cory Haim, Don Cornelius, Kenny McKinley, Dana Plato, Savannah, Jonathan Brandis, Andrew Koenig, Peg Entwistle, Ricky Schroder, Rob Pilatus are some pathetic examples.  Of course there is always more to a suicide than one aspect of a person’s life but doubtless the difficult transition from fame and wealth to obscurity and for some, poverty, is a proven formula for suicide.

June 2, 2012 Posted by | Bizarre yet True, Career, Celebrity Chic, Human psychology, Pop Culture | , , , , | Leave a comment

Assisted “Suicide” – Merciful Release or a Slippery Slope?

Dr. Kervorkian considers himself to be an Angel of Death (not of the Mengeles variety).  He thinks he is doing those who suffer a favour by helping them to leave their mortal coil.  Hm.  Interesting. I won’t say there isn’t any positive in what Kervorkian is doing: who wants to live in chronic, debilitating pain?  Who wants to live disabled and unable to enjoy life?  There are as many reasons for committing suicide as there are for clinging to life, I should imagine. watch eye to eye: assisted suicide CBS

91-year-old Charlotte, a grandmother living in Southern California, once designed suicide kits that she sold for $60.00 US on the internet.  She wasn’t making big bucks: she claimed she made the kits because she “cares about people.” Without being aware of it, she fully ascribed to Kervorkian’s philosophy. watch suicide kit

However the state of California outlawed Charlotte’s sale of the device by claiming Charlotte was advertising the kit as a medical solution to a medical problem, and since she had no medical qualifications her claim was false.

The debate about assisted suicide is an arduous one. There are two ethical problems with euthanasia:

  1. “putting down” a person is in itself an emotionally difficult act that may cause postmortem depression and trauma in surviving loved ones  watch amazing! man saves female suicide jumper
  2. relatives who are eager to receive their spoils from an elderly person’s will, or to relieve themselves of the latter’s care,may covertly or overtly persuade the sick that he or she is a burden.  This type of euthanasia is not voluntary: the “suicide” may opt for assisted suicide simply out of guilt.

We don’t like to consider that such people exist in the world, but they do.  There are people who abuse the elderly; surely there must be people who wish for their parent or grandparents’ premature demise? It is this sad reality that fuels the debate about the right to die. It won’t end easily (pardon that choice of words) anytime soon. watch right to die, assisted suicide, euthanasia

April 25, 2012 Posted by | Bizarre yet True, Crime and Punishment, Health and Wellness, Human psychology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Cultural Dynamics of Suicide

When I was an undergrad at York University I took a course in sociology about suicide. The one knowledge I gleaned from the course was that people the world over commit suicide for lots of different reasons. It was the first time I learned about the Jonestown Massacre, which wasn’t truly a mass suicide involving 909 people; it was a killing spree. My professor was Japanese and so I begin my self-directed cultural study of suicide in Japan. Watch Jonestown Massacre: News Reel

Japan has always had a cultural tolerance for suicide. It is regarded as an act of honour and an act of retribution. There is a suicide in Japan every 15 minutes. Watch Suicide in Japan   Japanese views on honour and religion led to seppuku, one of the most painful methods of suicide. Seppuku was intended to be respected as a means to atone for mistakes or failure, or as a form of protest during the samurai era. In the 20th century, suicide in the form of self-immolation has been used as a form of protest, and in the form of kamikaze and suicide bombing Watch Seppuku ceremony. The age of suicides is getting younger;  between the ages of 15 – 35.

Throughout the world, medically assisted suicide ( euthanasia, or the right to die) is a controversial issue involving people who are terminally ill and/or have minimal quality of life. A recent controversy in Oregon, U.S.A. involves a 91-year-old grandmother who creates and markets a “Suicide Hood“.  91-year-old grandmother arrested for selling suicide kits The hood is pulled down over the suicide’s head.The hood has an attachment with a hose that is hooked up to a source containing carbon monixide or helium. However Oregon outlawed the hood claiming the grandmother has no medical license and cannot claim the hood is for a medical purpose. See my blog Suicide Hood is no Robin Hood Story in Oregon. Read Oregon votes to outlaw sale of suicide kits

Can this euthanasia thing get out of control? Of course it can. Ailing people might be “guilt-tripped” by relatives over their illness as a drain on the family’s resources. Dr. Death (Joseph Kervokian) was notorious for his “suicide machine” and his fight against the legal system for the right to commit euthanasia. He documented an assisted suicide with a patient and aired it on 60 Minutes. Read Assisted Suicide He paid the price with 7 years in prison. Dr Kerbokian dies            Watch November 22, 1998 Kervokian 60 Minutes Death by Doctor

Russia has the highest teen suicide rate in the world. 4,000 attempts are made annually. What is depression? Emotional stressors include family disagreements, problems with girl/boyfriends and managing academics. A lack of time for parents to become involved in their children’s lives is a significant factor contributing to teen suicide. Some parents do not recognize the signs of suicide and others avoid it purposefully. Luke’s Story – Teen Suicide

In the Western world suicide is looked upon as a tragedy committed when a person is emotionally distraught and without resources for help. Watch Suicide Why? The typical suicide is white people over 85, followed by youth 20 – 24 years. The incidence of suicide increases as people age probably due to isolation, lack of family ties, and  poverty. Suicide is the second highest cause of teenage deaths, the highest being  car accidents. Most people have an increased risk of suicide if a close relative has committed suicide. suicide prevention at risk 

watch 2 swedish twins attempt suicide on camera after being questioned by police

June 24, 2011 Posted by | Crime and Punishment, Human psychology, Politics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Suicide Hood is No Robin Hood Story in Oregon

Interesting article this one. I found it not surprisingly in weirdnews.com.  Oregon votes to outlaw sale of suicide kits  Sounds scary doesn’t it? Actually its a hood with a hose. That’s it. The buyer has to find and purchase a gas such as helium to transfer through the hose into the hood, thereby committing suicide.The state of California sells helium to anyone whether or not it is for medical use.  A 91-year-old grandmother makes and sells the kits, marketing them for terminally ill people who don’t want to live anymore.  Oregon outlawed this hoodie for 3 reasons:

  1. unethical means of making money

  2. false medical advertising by stating it is for terminally ill people and  the manufacturer has no medical license)
  3. mentally ill people may also access the hood to commit suicide


(1) Unethical means of making money? Consider the sale of bongs and roaches. Clearly these are paraphernalia used to smoke an illegal substance yet the sale of these items is legal. A bong is also used to smoke tobacco, but really does anyone buy a bong to smoke cigarettes?  Suppose people did, well the suicide hood doesn’t  have to be used to commit suicide. People into macabre art might hang it up on their wall. Someone else might use the hood as a hat in the winter to keep warm. Consider that the American Constitution allows all Americans the right to “bear arms” (guns).  Is that not only selling someone a means of committing suicide but also murder? It’s not like Granny invented a suicide bomber hood you know.  Watch 91-year-old woman arrested for selling suicide kits.

(2) False advertising since Granny doesn’t have a medical license.  Fine, remove the words “terminally ill” from the product and its advertisements.  Mere rhetoric. Perhaps Granny should replace them with the words “mentally ill?”Is the IRS annoyed that it is unable to tax the 91-year-old suicide angel for the sales? Are the senators involved in the vote against the kit going to be campaigning again soon? I smell a rat. I am not arguing the right or wrong of a suicide kit and making of a profit off it. I am presenting a  logical viewpoint about the sale and manufacture of it. The kit is not dangerous. The use of the kit as it is intended is dangerous and the user is fully aware of that.

(3) The mentally ill may access the hood to commit suicide. Don’t the mentally ill have the same right to commit suicide as everyone else? Or does their “madness” make them second class citizens? If they’re sane enough to go online and order a suicide hood then they’re sane enough to know if they want to keep living or not.  Perhaps the Oregon government would argue that a mentally ill person might be depressed rendering them incapable of making a rational decision.  Wouldn’t everyone who used the hood be depressed?  Can chronic pain or a terminal illness not depress people?Hamlet struggled with these issues…his descent into madness and the right to kill himself …(to be or not to be). Hamlet obsessed throughout the whole first act about taking the easy way out after his daddy’s ghost ordered him to off his uncle. Frankly I think Hamlet wasn’t brave enough to kill himself or his uncle. He wouldn’t have used the suicide hood if you plugged it in for him and he was the government. Maybe the 91-year-old entrepreneur is living in the wrong century. She should have lived in the 1600’s when the law was more current than it is today.

June 18, 2011 Posted by | Bizarre yet True, Crime and Punishment, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Didn’t Learn All I Need to Know in Kindergarten – We Didn’t Have iPods and Facebook When I was 5

It’s a nice thought though isn’t it? Robert Fulghum wrote that cool little book All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, some twenty-three years ago (has it really been that long?). It is a collection of 50 short essays by Fulghum about his philosophies on all manner of topics. It’s a unique idea. I haven’t actually read the book although I have read the 16 Kindergarten lessons he espouses that follow us throughout life from childhood through adolescence to adulthood. Of course it is a simplistic, childlike view of the world. In fact, I have to take issue with Fulghum’s list for a number of reasons.

For instance how do you survive a terrible heartache and go about your business as if everything is alright when it isn’t and might never be again?
How do you accept the unfairness of death?
Why is adulthood nowhere near as free as you thought it would be when we discovered you still have to follow someone else’s rules?
Why does everything free always come with a price?
How do you fight prejudice in our community even as you fight it in your own heart?

But before I beat up too much on Fulghum’s essay I have to say that there are a lot of truths to it.  Sharing, flushing the toilet, playing nicely, washing your hands, not hitting people, being full of wonder, knowing that everything dies, saying you’re sorry when you hurt somebody and on and on; these things are and will always be true.

Having been a kindergarten teacher for 3 years I can attest to the fact that many, if not all of Fulghum’s lessons are indeed taught to our 4 and 5-year-olds during their initial year at school. Let me repeat that. They are taught but they are not learned. We repeat the same life lessons over and over to children throughout all of elementary school, middle school and secondary school until most kids get it right. Even then, a lot of students just never quite get it. If Fulghum managed to learn and retain all of these lessons in Kindergarten then he must have been an astute student, indeed. Especially for a 5-year-old.

We know that a lot of students never really learn this stuff and that begs the question of whether Fulghum’s list is relevant anymore in the 21st century. Consider the explosion of bullying in elementary and secondary schools across North America. It is likely you have read or heard about the cyberbullying epidemic and perhaps you are even aware of the term bullycide;  a term that describes driving a student to commit suicide through sheer cruelty, be it physical, verbal, or written. Surely you have heard of the Phoebe Prince bullycide. After being bullied for several weeks at South Hadley High School in Massachusetts the child hung herself. There were no anti-bullying campaigns in place at her school to help prevent her attacks. There was no response from educators when Phoebe’s mother reported the abuse. No one cared. How proud South Hadley High School must be.

However the Phoebe Prince case is unprecedented: it resulted in criminal charges being brought against the 7 or so people involved in her bullying. Adult charges have been brought against those  students who are 17 and older (the age of adulthood in Massachusetts) and juvenile charges for those 16 and under. This is the first known case of bullying and cyberbullying that has resulted in criminal charges. Hopefully this will become a regular, national response to bullying, whether or not bullying results in bullycide.

Click this link for a Larry King Live Interview with a bullying expert (sad that we even need one isn’t it?) brought to you by Xtranormal Movies and Yours Truly : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_6khkEOhMU 

The scary thing about cyberbullying is that the perpetrator is able to hide online behind a false identity in order to torment her/his victim. Facebook has even closed down people’s accounts who have used their site to bully and threaten people, but students (and adults) get around this nuisance by opening another account under another name. Wonderful. Facebook in fact has come under attack by a lot of users and computer professionals alike, and not just for bullying reasons. Click here for link “Five Reasons Why I Hate Facebook (With a Passion)” On the other hand there is a lot of good about Facebook so I cannot entirely agree with the author (Fulghum knows a thing or two about that).

Ah, heck.  Click this link for another negative take on Facebook from Xtranormal movies (not by me) So You Want to Close Your Facebook Account.

Indeed the Phoebe Prince case serves to support Fulghum’s message “don’t hit people” and “say you’re sorry when you hurt someone“. Yet if only it were that simple. What do we do with the kids who don’t learn these lessons and don’t care when they bully a person into  suicide? Should we add “don’t make people kill themselves” to Fulghum’s list? What about children who take a sadistic delight in harming others? New item for the list: “don’t turn into a sadist”. Whose fault is all the bullying, harrassment and hatred our kids are expressing today? Ours? The families? The students? The media?

I want answers somewhere in Fulghum’s wishful list and I am not going to get them. At least none that will satisfy me since long after I graduated from Kindergarten.

Why I’m Starting to Hate Facebook
3 Good Things About Facebook
Facebook Hits 350 Million Users, Closes 3,500 Accounts

March 19, 2011 Posted by | Education, Human psychology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Born a Boy Raised a Girl – The John/Joan/David Reimer Case and Sex Reassignment Surgery

David Reimer , well known in medical and psychiatric circles specializing in gender re-assignment, served as a ground-breaking study in regard to sexual orientation and sexual identity.
Reimer was born a boy with an identical (monozygotic) male twin.  (Yes it is possible for a boy and a girl to be nearly “identical” and to have begun as monozygotic twins in the womb … if you’re interested read my blog Seeing (almost) Double).

In 1966, a botched electrical circumcision left David Reimer (then named Bruce) without a penis. A malfunction in the doctor’s equipment (electro-cautery needle) caused the needle to burn Reimer’s penis from tip to base. The Reimers were left with a dilemma: a son with no penis. They visited several medical experts who assured them that penile reconstruction would prove worthless. The Reimers were at a loss as to how to help David. One afternoon when the Reimers saw Dr. John Money, a so-called expert in sex reassignment, on television they contacted him and brought their son to see him. It would prove to be a tragic decision.
Money persuaded the Reimers to reassign their son as a female by having his testes removed and naming him Brenda. Dr. Money assured the initially reluctant parents that after the operation was complete raising him as a girl would be successful and no one would be any the wiser. Watch video The story of David Reimer – (Born a boy brought up as a girl)

Money met with “Brenda” once a year throughout the following years to report on her progress. In spite of growing evidence that Brenda was not adjusting well to her gender reassignment, Money published papers to the contrary. In psychiatric circles to protect Reimer’s identity Money referred to “Brenda” as John/Joan . Money’s experiment became well-known in psychiatric communities worldwide and partly as a result of Money’s publications, a number of infants  born with ambiguous genitalia underwent gender reassignment. However many psychologists were unconvinced about the John/Joan experiment. One of these was academic sexologist Milton Diamond, who, in a bold move against Money reported to the psychiatric community that Reimer never identified as female, and that he began living as a male from the age of 15.

Sexual reassignment in the Reimer case is not a gender identity disorder. He was born male unlike than intersex (hermaphrodite) individuals. Intersex is a term that usually defines discordance of the biological aspects of sexual gender.  Traits related to the genitalia, such as internal organs, gonadal tissue, or chromosomes that are more typical of the other sex, or incompletely differentiated define the intersex individual.  Sub-types of hermaphroditism include:

  1. Pseudohermaphroditism Typically a female  has a clitoris that is greatly enlarged to the point that they are categorized as intersexed. These people are identified immediately at birth as intersex because those with the condition have a sexual organ larger than a clitoris and smaller than a penis.
  2. Simultaneous hermaphrodite (intersex)  A simultaneous  hermaphrodite (homogamy) is a person that has both male and female sexual organs.  This definition tends to be misleading since there have been very few human beings with fully developed male and female internal and external genitalia and female breasts. Normally one genitalia is more prominent than the other.

Some people who are intersex individuals, such as those with Klinefelter’s syndrome and androgen insensitivity syndrome, appear completely female or male without realizing they are intersexed. An intersex person may express diversion from typical XX-female or XY-male chromosomes, for example a sex reversal of XY-female and XX-male.
Sometimes an intersex person who is born with partially formed dual genitalia prefers one gender over the other. Sometimes they don’t. Their commonality with David Reimer is that the assignment of their gender should be their own choice rather than that of the medical community. Watch video I’m 80% girl, 20% boy In effect their message to family, medical doctors and the community is: no cutting. Watch video Hermaphrodite – The Documentary

 One of the most difficult experiences Reimer faced due to his increasingly unusual looks and behaviours was rejection from his peers. He became a pariah during his elementary school years. From as early as kindergarten, he was a target for bullying by both male and female. “As [I’d ]walk by, they’d start giggling. Not one, but almost the whole class. It’d be like that every day. The whole school would make fun of [me] about one thing or another.” In his early teens Reimer attended a technical high school. Right away his peers dubbed him Cave-woman and told him, “You’re a boy.” But it was his habit of urinating standing up that caused the greatest problem between Reimer and his schoolmates. The girls prevented him from using their bathroom. When he tried to use the boys’ room he was threatened with a knife. By December, he dropped out of school.

When I say there was nothing feminine about David” Brian told John Colapinto, a writer for Rolling Stone magazine, “I mean there was nothing feminine. She walked like a guy. She talked about guy things, didn’t give a crap about cleaning house, getting married, wearing makeup…. We both wanted to play with guys, build forts and have snowball fights and play army.”
Along with struggling against emotional uncertainty about his life and his innate attraction to females, Reimer made no friends and was forcibly a loner. During puberty Reimer’s erroneous belief that he was a lesbian added to his emotional angst. The David Reimer case also serves to reinforce the scientific hypothesis that sexual orientation is not one of choice. Sexual orientation is innate, not solely a result of environmental influences although the latter may have some bearing. Watch video Science & Homosexuality: Nature vs Nurture No single cause for sexual orientation is conclusively proven. Researchers suggest that a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental influences, along with biological factors, genetics and the early uterine environment bear significant influence on sexual orientation. I tend to favour the physio-neurological theory myself. I didn’t choose to be straight. I just am. Watch video Gay Twins and the Science of Epigenetics

Reimer finally reached a point where he told his parents if he had to visit his psychologist Dr. Money anymore he would kill himself. It was then that his parents chose to tell him the truth about his gender. Surprisingly, Reimer took the news well. It answered a lot of difficult questions and he began to live his life as a male. He did not use his birth name of Bruce. He chose David. Throughout his teens Reimer seemed well-adjusted and was much happier than he’d been as Brenda. Watch video David Reimer Pt 4

  Eventually Reimer met a woman named Jane Fontaine, a single mother. They married and Reimer became both a husband and father. It was during this well-adjusted time in his life that Reimer discovered Dr. Money was still claiming that Reimer’s sex reassignment was highly successful. Money  encouraged the medical and psychiatric communities to conduct the same procedures on children with genital deformities or ambiguous genitalia. Most likely it was due to two factors that Reimer chose to go public with his personal experience in an effort to contradict Money’s publications: he was secure within his marriage to a supportive spouse and he was determined to expose Money as a fraud. Reimer took part in public television and magazine interviews such as The Rolling Stone .Read David Reimer’s interview with John Colapinto.

When released to the public Reimer’s story loosed an unexpected reaction. Intersex people born and reassigned after the publication of Money’s false protocols came forward with their stories. Among them was a San Francisco activist named Cheryl Chase/Brian Sullivan. When she was born Chase displayed ambiguous genitalia with a phallic structure of a size that, if she was female, could be an enlarged clitoris or if she was male, a micropenis. Her doctors assigned Chase as a boy and her parents named her Charlie. But 18 months later, her parents consulted another team of experts. Based partly on the fact that Chase had a fairly normal vagina, this team of doctors reassigned her as a girl. They amputated her phallus and her parents named her Cheryl. After the operation Cheryl refused to speak for 6 months. In 1995 Chase changed her name again to Bonnie Sullivan. In her mid-30’s Cheryl experienced a mental breakdown due to the reassignment of her gender. She made Hermaphrodites Speak! (1995), a 30 minute documentary film in which intersex people discuss the psychological impact of their conditions. Chase advocates a complex perspective of intersexuality, namely that gender difficulties cannot be eliminated by early genital surgery.
Years after Reimer’s public appearances, John Colapinto conducted a telephone interview with John Money, who refused to meet in person. His response to Calopinto`s observation that scientists and psychologists have disproven his book Man & Woman, Boy & Girl wherein he discussed the John-Joan experiment was,  “It’s part of the antifeminist movement. They say masculinity and femininity are built into the genes, so women should get back to the mattress and the kitchen.” Money stood by his original summary of the Reimer case and dismissed Colapinto’s suggestion that he “misperceived” Reimer’s psychological condition. Colapinto reiterated that significant scientific evidence leaned towards the hypothesis that gender assignment was not as simple as reassigning gender, and asked Money if he was considering making some alternations to Man & Woman, Boy & Girl to which Money replied flatly, “I’ll be dead by then.” Suitably, an ambiguous answer from a man who spent most of his career misleading parents and children about ambiguous genitalia. Money also published a book still available for commercial purchase entitled Gay, Straight, and In-Between: The Sexology of Erotic Orientation

As with many family traumas Reimer’s sex reassignment deeply effected his whole family. “My parents feel very guilty, as if the whole thing was their fault,” Reimer told Colapinto. “But it wasn’t like that. They did what they did out of kindness, and love and desperation. When you’re desperate, you don’t necessarily do all the right things.” Reimer could not possibly have forseen the effect his public appearances would have on his brother Brian. Unable to accept Reimer’s openly candid description of his life, and still unable to accept that what was once his sister was now his brother, Brian committed suicide by drug overdose. watch born a boy raised a girl

After Brian’s suicide Reimer experienced a series of unfortunate developments:his marriage disintegrated; he found himself unable to maintain stable employment; he experienced financial difficulty after making a poor investment; his anger at Dr. Money and the medical doctor responsible for his gender reassignment intensified; and his depression returned to haunt him.  In May 2004 at the age of 38 Reimer committed suicide with a shotgun.

For several decades provinces in Canada have provided funding for people in need of SRS surgery. However the provinces differ in the amount of budgeting for intersex and reassignment surgery they offer, and also in its priority within the context of Canada`s medical community. Newfoundland, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and B.C. currently cover SRS operations. Since 1969 SRS was covered in Ontario until funding was cut by Mike Harris and his Conservative party on October 1, 1998. Read Egale Canada >Ontario Isolated and Alone in Refusing to Fund Sex Reassignment Surgery. In June 2010 Ontario’s premier Dalton McGuinty refused to reinstate funding for SRS, although he stated the Liberal party will study and fund health programs for the queer community. Read Province stalls on SRS funding. In 2009, Alberta, the wealthiest province in Ontario, cut financial support for sex reassignment services (SRS). Watch video Laurie Blakeman in Question Period: Gender Reassignment Surgery In response the Public Service Alliance of Canada petitioned that Alberta reconsider its decision.  Read News PSAC urges Alberta to reverse its decision on gender surgeryPetition to the Alberta government to reconsider its decision is located here. 

End Note: Not everyone who undergoes sex reassignment surgery lives a more satisfying life. Read Transsexual lottery winner regrets paying for gender reassignment.
Read Sex Change Regret

Further Reading and Videos

Read The Scientist – a perspective from Cheryl Chase is included.
Read CBC News – Montreal sex-change clinic attracts patients from around the world.
Watch videoIntersex True-Hermaphrodite
Watch video Living A Lie – An Intersex Woman Tells Her Story
Link to the Intersex Society of North America 
Watch video Quagmire’s Daddy


November 5, 2010 Posted by | Human Biology, Human psychology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments