Thursday, December 03, 2015

What Makes Music Good to Me?

Sometimes I get asked what my favorite music genre is. That question has, for years, stumped me. I don't think I have a favorite genre. I like some songs from many different genre. I tend not to like Country, but there are exceptions. I tend to like adult contemporary, but there are exceptions. You get the idea. I also tend not to like rap or hip-hop, and there are no exceptions. But that, in itself, is an exception.

So I decided, in my time of retirement, to give it some thought. What is my favorite type of music? So I came up with a sort of algorithm for determining the odds that I will like a certain piece of music or not. Below, I will outline that algorithm, along with samples of music that provide examples of each point.

1. Does it have a catchy melody? Most people like songs with nice melodies. That provides the hook in a lot of Pop and Country music. I, too, like a catchy melody. Not all songs have to be catchy, but odds are higher that I will like the song if it does.

Example: "Sweet Pea"by Tommy Roe. It also has a couple of my other criteria for a good song but the catchy tune is the highlight.

2. Does it have a compelling chord progression? This is probably a requirement for any song that I like, with few exceptions (America's Horse with No Name comes to mind as an exception, with only two chords in the entire song). Chord progression is essential for a catchy tune as well. Chords are a group of three or more notes (triad) that sound well together. Most songs go through a series of chord changes, including transition chords, that enhance the tune and give it depth. Sometimes, transition chords can be almost virtual. You hear them mostly in your head, but they still must be played with at least one note in the song. If it is left out, it can make a song sound dull and amateurish.

Example: "The End of the World" as sung by Susan Boyle. Listen at this fine example of chord progression. There are 7 chord changes within the line, "Don't they know it's the end of the world? It ended when I lost your love." Followed immediately by a transition seventh chord right before the next line, "I wake up...." The accompaniment is so wisp-like that if there is any background noise the transition could be missed. It's awesome! The original version by Skeeter Davis is also beautiful, but with its faster tempo and a recitation it is not as compelling.

3. Does it have syncopation? Many pieces of music incorporate a certain amount of syncopation of one variety or another, but I tend to prefer songs that highlight this dynamic aspect of music composition. It is a must for most Latin music and Jazz. Syncopation is caused by stressing a note in the rhythm that is not usually stressed. One of my favorite types of syncopation is the triplet, where three equal notes are put in the space where there are normally only two. So, for example, three quarter notes taking up two beats in a 4/4 measure.

Example: "Marshmallow World" by Emmy the Great. This version has more syncopation than any other I've heard. It has it in the intro. It has it within the song in phrases such as, "It's a time for play," and "It's a whipped cream day." And I love the sextuplet in the transition between verses. It's a double triplet! Enjoy this holiday favorite!

4. Does it have nice harmony? Obviously, not all songs are sung in harmony, but the ones that are get a bonus point. I love nice harmony, the blending of voices to produce a chord.

Example: "What's Your Name" from the Flipped Sound Track. This song has decent three-part harmony and it gets bonus points for also having a really nice chord progression.

5. Is it in 3/4 time? Or does it have some other compelling rhythm? Most songs are not composed in three-quarter time. But if it is, it has my attention at least. Waltzes have this time signature, but there are plenty of nice songs that are not waltzes that also have it. In addition, a 2/4 time signature can also be quite captivating.

Examples: "Dandelion Wine" by Blackmore's Night. It's got a catchy tune, some nice chord changes, and has a 3/4 time signature. Who could ask for more?

And here's a good song by Brooke White, "Keep Running," which is in a slow 2/4 time and thus rendered rather hypnotic.

6. Is it contrapuntal? Most modern music isn't. But there are some examples. Counterpoint reached its heyday during the Baroque era. The best and most popular example that's still played today is the Pachelbel Canon. Contrapuntal music has two or more different melodies that play off each other, sometimes in complex ways. That is in contrast to most music that has but one melody backed up by a harmony of broken chords.

Examples: I will give two examples of contrapuntal music. The first one is an adaptation of the Pachelbel Canon but with vocals so that it is easier to distinguish the three intertwined melodies. It's the "Christmas Canon" by Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

The second example is the theme from a classic TV series, Hogan's Heroes. The horns playing the baritone part come in later and form the second melody.

And, so, if a piece of music has at least two of these six properties, there's a good chance that I will like it, regardless of what genre someone thinks it belongs to.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

It's All in God's Plan

"I don't know what the fuck God was thinking," Luke thought to himself as he walked out of the house where the body of the best friend he had ever known as a child had lain rotting. "There is only one way to make sense of all this."

Ok, let's go back a few years - twelve to be exact.

When Luke was 10 years old the authorities came and took him from his natural mother and father and put him in a foster home. Luke was happy about that. He had been the victim of abuse all his life from his father. And his mother was ambivalent about the whole thing. She didn't abuse him physically, like his dad did, but she allowed it to happen, and often even seemed unconcerned. Most of the time she seemed to support her husband in the matter, making up excuses for him and blaming Luke for his poor treatment.

"You know you really don't have anyone to blame but yourself," she often told him as she wiped the blood from whatever part of his body had been battered that time. "I would go apologize to your father for your behavior and maybe he won't need to punish you again."

What was the awful behavior that garnered such harsh treatment from his parents. Did he hurt his little sister? No, since he was an only child. Was he caught stealing? Nope. His real crimes were things like forgetting to pick up his skateboard from his bedroom floor, or maybe he had been late for dinner. Whatever it was, it was minor.

His father was a burly, hairy man, standing about six-one and often smelled like old booze. In contrast, Luke was rail-thin, on the short side of average, with pale blue eyes, blond hair, and the cutest dimples any mother could ask for. Well, except for his mother.

One afternoon as Luke walked in the front door from school, his father was waiting for him. "Why the hell did you tell your teacher that I gave you those bruises?"

"I didn't, Dad. I swear. She asked me and I told her I must have fallen down," he pleaded.

But Luke knew what was going to happen next. His step-grandfather had been a barber. And his dad took possession of the leather strap that hung on the barber chair to sharpen his razor. It was called a razor strap. It was his father's favorite torture device. Luke cringed as his father swung the strap back above his head and then flung it forward, striking Luke on the left shoulder. Luke spun around, but his father continued to strap him across his back again and again, probably a dozen times. Luke fell to the floor sobbing.

"Get up, you little baby. That was nothing compared to what you're gonna get if that teacher calls here again!"

His mother was sitting on the couch across the room, watching TV, paying little attention to the beating he had just received.

His teachers at school had been getting increasingly suspicious. But Luke didn't dare tell them because he knew what his father would do to him. But a couple of weeks later, when he came to school with unexplained bruises and a black eye from yet another encounter with his father, his teacher took him to the school nurse. She called Child Protective Services. Two weeks later, after an investigation, he was in his new home, and his parents were in jail.

"I guess God got his revenge," Luke thought after he heard the news that he was being placed with a loving foster family. Yes, Luke had been raised as a Christian. His parents were not very devout, but they did go to church occasionally. Statistically, most child abusers in America are Christian and many attend church. It's also true that protestant pastors are just as likely to rape a child as Catholic priests are. But that's neither here nor there as Luke's father was neither. Luke's father was a whore-mongering bastard with a drinking problem and a quick temper. And no, don't judge me for judging him harshly. He actually was a bastard, the son of a prostitute. Neither he nor his mom knew who his father was. He did have a step-father, though. He was a drunken barber.

Luke's dad had been known to have him some paid-for poontang himself, including his own mother. That's right; after he was old enough to get a job, his mother charged him for what he had gotten free as a young teen.

But let us not digress too much. His father's problems can't excuse what he did to Luke. Not in the slightest. Luke was just happy to finally be out of that situation. And he was truly digging his new digs. It was a large house, in a nice, quiet neighborhood. The streets had large shade trees lining both sides. All the lawns were neatly manicured, and most of them had flowers planted along the driveways. His new home had a large backyard with a playground and an above-ground swimming pool. He noticed two young kids splashing in it and throwing a beach ball back and forth. He could hardly wait to join in.

His new foster parents seemed very nice. They greeted him warmly and gave him a giant hug. The best part is he also was the recipient of four instant foster siblings! He now had two brothers and two sisters. They ranged in age from four to his own age, 10. The oldest foster sibling was Paul, age 10. He was quite eager to show Luke around the place and show him his new bedroom, which the two would now share.

Paul was the product of a broken home and also some parental abuse, though not to the extent that Luke had endured. His father left more than a year ago and his mother was a drug addict. Paul had been taken from his mother only three months earlier and placed in the foster home run by Mr. and Mrs. Kelsey. The Kelseys encouraged all their foster children to call them "Mom" and "Dad." They had no clue how long each child would be with them, but as long as they were, they wanted to make it seem as much like a real family as possible.

The Kelseys were more religious than Luke's real mom and dad. They went to church most every Sunday; they had an actual bible in the house - the King James Version. The house was also decorated with some religious paraphernalia. There were a couple of bible verses engraved into ceramic plaques hanging on the kitchen wall. There was also a ceramic "praying hands" sculpture on the mantle.

Mrs. Kelsey read stories from the bible once or twice per week to the children before bedtime. Luke's favorite bible story was Noah's Ark.

"Were there dinosaurs aboard the ark?" he asked Mrs. Kelsey one evening. "My teacher says all the dinosaurs were killed by an asteroid. Did that happen before or after Noah?"

"It's complicated," she replied. "Some of the stories in the bible are meant to deliver a deeper message than what the words say on the surface. We need to keep searching for the real meaning in the stories. Not all of them really happened just in that way."

"But how do we know what the real meaning is?" he asked.

"We just have to trust in God's divine plan," she answered. "One day it will all become clear to us."

"No offense, Mom. But that kind of sounds like an excuse people tell when they don't know, or when things don't make sense," Luke said with a shitty grin on his face.

"Don't be so smart!" Mrs. Kelsey snapped back. "God has a plan for us. But nobody really knows what that plan is. We can't tell the future, but God can."

The Kelseys and their foster children were a very happy family. They did things together. They had picnics in the park. They went to the local street fair. They went to church events. And during Christmas, each of the Kelsey foster children had a part in the church nativity play.

Luke and Paul had become best friends. They stuck together like they were pasted with putty. They were the same age, the same height, shared many of the same interests (astronomy and baseball), and they were even in the same classes in both fourth and fifth grades. Paul's eyes and hair were brown, which is how their foster mother could tell them apart. Well, at least that's what she would jokingly tell them.

"Do you think it was part of God's plan that Paul and I both got to come to the same foster home?" Luke asked his "mom" one day after school. His query came out of nowhere, but Mrs. Kelsey never skipped a beat.

"Of course," she quickly replied. "Nothing happens that's not part of God's plan. And you can see how He rescued you from where you used to live, and your old family. God just knows what's best for us."

Over the ensuing years Luke and Paul had had to get used to changing out their younger siblings. At least three times during the past six years they had lost all three younger siblings, which were quickly replaced by three more. First one kid, then another would be adopted out. Others would then show up to be included in the Kelsey household as foster siblings. And Mr. and Mrs. Kelsey would always welcome them with love and devotion, just as they had with Luke and Paul.

When they both were in the tenth grade, Luke met a young lady named Lilith. They shared a history class together while Paul was in math across the hall. Lilith was very pretty. She also had dimples, long blond hair, blue eyes, and a smile that could launch a ship. She was adorable. And Luke was really crushing on her. He was 16 and hormonal. He couldn't help it. It's a teen thing. All he knew was that Lilith was beautiful and he wanted some of that thing.

Along with his spiking hormones, Luke had also developed into a striking young man with no pimples. Behaviorally, he was still a bit awkward around girls he thought were cute, but then who isn't, right? He did manage to work up enough nerve to ask her on a date and was a bit surprised when she told him yes without him having to beg or anything.

So how did his best friend feel about Luke making plans to have fun with someone who wasn't him?

"Wait, what? You're going to fucking take a chick to see Space Squalls? We had plans to see that movie. What the fuck, man. Shit!" Yeah, Paul wasn't too pleased. But when Lilith told Luke that she could arrange for her best friend to go with them to see the movie, on a double date, and a blind date for Paul, Paul accepted. Paul had not matured physically as fast as Luke and so had had little success trolling for arm candy. So he jumped at the chance.

And then it happened.

They had been a part of the Kelsey family for six years and no prospective parents had ever shown more than a passing interest in adopting either of them. But all of a sudden, on the day of their double date, two couples - that's right, two - came to the foster home in search of teenage boys to call their own. Both sets of parents had been cleared by Child Protective Services and referred to the Kelsey household. When the two boys got home from school, their new parents were waiting for them.

"See, I told you. God has a plan for us all. And today is when his plan for you gets fulfilled," Mrs. Kelsey told her two foster sons.

The boys had some major mixed emotions. They were very happy and excited that they would finally be adopted and be part of a real family. At the same time, they were heartbroken over having to leave the only parents they had known for the past six years - not to mention they would have to take a pass on the date they had arranged with their newly-found hardbodies.

But the worst part about it, as they soon discovered, was that Luke would be going to Scranton, PA and Paul would stay with his new parents in Bangor, ME, only about 12 miles from his current home. That's not exactly walking distance! How the heck were they supposed to be friends now?

But, such is life. You take the good with the bad, right?

Luke became friends with another young lady he had met in Scranton. They graduated high school together and shortly thereafter he asked her, Beth, to marry him. Yes, he was young. But he had taken an apprentice position with his adoptive father's software business. Luke had become quite the coder and had plans to attend a local tech college while working part time with his dad. Beth would attend college full time at the same school. She had received a full scholarship. So they saw no real reason to put off getting married. They had been going together for almost a year, since the beginning of their senior year.

Things seemed to be working out quite well for them. They did get married; they attended college, and Beth was hired by a local law office as a clerk. Luke had moved up in his father's company and was now senior programmer. Things were working out so well for them that they decided, at age 22, to try to have a baby.

"My foster mom, Mrs. Kelsey, was right after all, I guess," Luke told his wife.

"How so," she questioned.

"She always told me that God had a plan for me, for all of us, and that one day I would see that His plan would work out. I love you so much, Beth. And I want to raise a family with you. This all has to be part of God's divine plan, don't you think?"

"I'm sure it is," she replied, and then gave him a big kiss. Beth believed in God but had never been that religious. After she married Luke, they had started to attend a local non-denominational church. The congregation was small and everyone knew everyone else. It was rather close-knit.

Luke had not really kept up with his friend, Paul, while he was in Pennsylvania. Oh, they were still Facebook friends, but Paul didn't post very often. He didn't talk much about his new family or what it was like in Bangor. He mostly just talked about video games or how he sucked in school.

When Paul went to live with his new adoptive parents he was at first happy with his new family. He no longer had any siblings, so he felt lonely at times, but his new mom and dad gave him a lot of attention. About a year later, though, his new parents started showing him the wrong kind of attention. They actually started to make Paul feel uncomfortable. They did things in front of him that most parents would be reluctant to do in front of their child: They made out while watching porn videos. Eventually, they even started having sex right in front of him, and invited him to stay and watch.

At some point, his parents started insisting that he participate in their love making. The father even started threatening him if he refused. This began about a year-and-a-half after his adoption.

Luke was puzzled at first why his friend would no longer post anything on Facebook, or even reply to his messages. He thought about going to visit his best friend, but his life had been very busy lately, with college, graduation, being married, planning a family. Then,one evening, he did get a Facebook message from Paul. But it wasn't Paul. It was his foster mother, Mrs. Kelsey. She was on Paul's account that he had created on her laptop when he was living there. She told Luke that something was wrong with Paul. She had heard about it when inquiring with Family Services, but they were coy.

Luke knew Paul's address in Maine. Paul had shared that with him a few months back, hoping that maybe Luke would come visit him sometime. He told Beth that he needed to go check it out. He owed his friend that much.

Beth agreed. They would both go.

In Bangor, the house where Paul had called home for the past several years, since his adoption, was a crime scene. His adoptive parents had been handcuffed and taken away. When Luke and Beth arrived, the police were gone but the tape was still up, around the house. They crossed it and stepped into the rickety old house. It smelled awful. Once, when he and Paul had gone fishing, they had captured several nightcrawlers and put them into a jar with a lid. The next morning they were going fishing, but their foster parents insisted on taking them clothes shopping instead. They forgot about the worms. When they returned, they remembered. They opened the jar, which had been sitting in the sun, tightly closed, and the smell almost knocked them down. It was the worst odor Luke had ever smelled - until now.

A police officer walked up and told Luke he would have to leave. He asked what had happened. He explained to the officer that he and Paul had been foster brothers. Hesitantly, the officer began.

Paul's adoptive parents had been abusive to him, the officer said. And not like it was with his real father years ago. That was bad. This was almost ineffable. The officer choked back a catch in his throat and wiped an eye with his forefinger. He was one of the prime investigators of this case and he was privy to all the information from Paul's former parents, his foster care, and his adoption.

According to the reports, his adoptive father would regularly burn him all over with a lit cigar. The mother would force him to have sex with her, while the father video taped it. They would tie him up and both of them would rape him at the same time. The father would hold his bound arms behind him while his mother sucked his penis. When he couldn't get an erection, his father would tighten the handcuffs around his wrists until they bled. He couldn't scream because they gagged him.

Then it was his father's turn. The mom would bend him over a chair and hold him down while his father had anal sex with him. The father would also force him to do oral sex with him as the mother watched.

They kept him out of school. When they were not molesting him, they would lock him in a small, hot closet. Sometimes he would be in there for days. They fed him cat food, if they fed him at all. If he refused their sexual advances they would beat him with the handcuffs they used to restrain him. They even pushed him down the stairs on numerous occasions, just for the fun of it. And what is even more curious about the incidents, the parents were not drunk or on drugs. They were simply abusive because it turned them on. The father would get an erection from seeing his son in misery. The mother would slap Paul around just to watch her husband's penis get hard.

Finally, after abusing him to within an inch of his life one night, they threw him in the closet and left him there for days, with no food or water. He was sitting on the floor in the closet, alone, in his own bodily filth in temperatures that reached into the 90s until his young, frail body finally gave out. He was 22 and should have been able to fend for himself. But years of abuse and lack of nourishment had stunted his growth. He was weak and frail, his ribs easily visible through his slim torso.

When he died, alone in the closet, his parents just left him there to rot. He was there for a couple of weeks before one of the neighbors noticed a weird smell coming from the property and called the police.

Luke walked away from the house and sat down on the curb. He was traumatized. He stared blankly into the street while Beth tried to comfort him the best she could. Luke could say but one sentence. He kept repeating, "There is just one way to make sense of this."

Luke was forced by his own mind to consider the plausibility that the same Divine Plan to which he had given credit for his own life with his new wife, new job, and new home could also be the Divine Plan that allowed the heinous torture and death of his best friend. There was no reconciling this. No excuses could be made for the God he had always believed in. If he was supposed to give credit to God for watching out for him and allowing his life to turn out so well, then he had to give blame to that God for the unbelievably tormented life of Paul. To believe otherwise would be fomenting a self-delusion.

After an hour, Beth convinced Luke that they should go back to the hotel. Beth drove, because Luke was still in a stupor. But after they had settled in, and Luke had washed his face, he said to his wife, "Mrs. Kelsey always told me, 'Nothing happens that's not part of God's plan,' and I believed her. Was Paul's unspeakable torture and...and the way he died, was that also part of God's divine plan?"

Beth looked stunned. She didn't know what to say at that point. Nothing she could say would help anyway. They sat in silence, caressing each other's hands, thinking about what it all meant.

Finally, Luke spoke, soft and gentle. "I've lost two friends today. Paul was my best friend since we were 10. I will miss him so much." He paused. His voice broke a bit as he uttered, "I've also lost the friend I used to call God. I know now that the God I believed in can't possibly exist. It's impossible for this to happen in a world where God exists."

Luke looked into his wife's eyes and he knew she couldn't join him - not today anyway. Her lips twitched, a sure sign she wanted to say something. But something held her back. She loved him enough to let him grieve. And he loved her enough to give her time to realize what he had just realized. They again clasped hands, as tears streamed down their cheeks.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

How Do You Know You're a Democrat (or Republican)?

Are you a Democrat or Republican? Maybe you're a Libertarian. Perhaps you belong to some fringe party. Or it could be you have no party affiliation at all.

Although many voters belong to a political party by choice, some have been thrust into one by default. Since I was raised by parents who called themselves democrats, I always considered myself one as well, without actually knowing what a democrat was. I'm sure the same thing happens in republican families.

What does it mean to be a Democrat or a Republican? The two terms represent different, though fairly similar ideologies. Although their ideologies seem to be farther apart than they were a decade or two ago.

But to understand what the two major parties represent, it might be helpful to take a broader look at the entire political spectrum. It might help to visualize a long stick, like a yardstick, that is balanced in the middle by your finger. Everything to the right of your finger represents the "Right Wing" of the political spectrum, and everything on the left of your finger represents the "Left Wing."

Starting on the far right would be political parties such as the Nazi Party. Far right-wing ideology is generally termed fascism. Fascism, as it is typically defined, is marked by extreme nationalism, with a tendency toward a desire to create ethnic purity. However, it is also marked by varying degrees of capitalism, but not democracy.

On the opposite end of the stick--the far left--there is communism, an extreme form of socialism. Communism is the philosophy that the community (or nation) is central, and that individuals are not so important. It contains the premise that each individual should labor according to his abilities and be paid according to his needs. Nobody gets ahead in the world." Nobody owns property, land, or businesses. The government owns and operates everything, and divvies out the production equally to the populace.

Even though fascism and communism are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, they both require an authoritarian form of government. Both forms of government repress the individual in favor of a centralized and all-powerful government.

Closer to the middle of the yardstick you will find the radicals on the left and the reactionaries on the right. These are the typical "left-wing" or "right-wing" fanatics. An example of a reactionary might be a member of the Ku Klux Klan or the Neo-nazis. A less extreme example might be someone associated with the religious right.

An example of a radical might be a member of the Black Panthers or the Animal Liberation Front. A less extreme example might be someone who is a member of the feminist movement or gay rights movement.

Near the center of the yardstick lie the more moderate forms of government that most Western nations enjoy.

Most people say that America is a democracy. However, this is not exactly true. In a true democracy, everybody votes for everything--all laws of the land must be put to a referendum. The U.S. is actually a republic. We elect representatives to pass laws for us. If we don't like the laws they pass, we vote for someone else in the next election.

But everybody in America is not exactly dead-center on the yardstick. Those that tend toward the right wing are republicans, and those that tip the balance slightly to the left are democrats.

Although this is an over-generalization, democrats tend to be more liberal. They tend to favor equality of status. And to achieve this goal, they vote in favor of laws that create social programs such as welfare, Medicaid, and affirmative action. Democrats tend to favor more government regulation. The emphasis is on the society as opposed to the individual, although individual rights are considered a just goal.

Republicans are more conservative. They generally believe in equality of opportunity, as opposed to equality of status. They are more capitalistic. They believe that everyone should have an equal chance to succeed, but that government has no place helping them out. Republicans also tend to restrict certain freedoms that democrats tend to grant. These include things such as abortion rights and certain extreme forms of expression, such as flag burning. Emphasis is placed on the individual, but more importantly, on the corporate individual. Republicans have become much more conservative since the George W. Bush era. And Democrats have become more centrist.

Conservative Republicans are more likely to denigrate the idea of separation of church and state. They tend to be more religiously conservative and are supported by a majority of the evangelical faiths. Democrats are more religiously liberal, or not religious at all.

Some views of the political spectrum also include a vertical component, with the top representing total governmental control and the bottom representing anarchy. A libertarian would be near the bottom right of this spectrum.

So there you have it. You can now go back to the first question and find out where you really stand on the political spectrum. Are you a Democrat, a Republican, or neither? Personally, I tend to think of myself as an extreme moderate! That's because I tend to hold a very liberal view of some issues and a quite conservative view on others. As examples, I am very much in favor of things like abortion rights, gay rights, gun control, and separation of church and state. But I tend to go very conservative when it comes to issues such as affirmative action or welfare.

Monday, May 04, 2015

The Conscious Mind and God

While having breakfast with my daughter this morning she confided that she had finally given up trying to believe in a god. She was a Christian that became a pantheistic. But recent events involving loss of a student of hers caused her to give up the idea of God altogether. She was a bit surprised to learn that even I, the family atheist, hadn't completely abandoned the idea of God.

I'm an atheist, but sometimes I hesitate to call myself that because it is a very misunderstood word. Some atheists will tell you that they are certain that there is no god. These are hard atheists. I'm not one of them. I will tell you that there certainly is no personal god who is active in people's everyday lives. In other words, the God of the bible or the Koran does not exist. This I am 100 percent certain of. There is no doubt about it. The bible is full of baloney in that regards. Jesus probably existed. But if he did, he was a socially active person with a political and religious agenda. He was not God, nor the son of God. And now he's dead. Period.

But I can't rule out the existence of one or more entities that we might call God. My life and the decisions I make are based on mostly realities that are supported by evidence. However, more realistically, I acknowledge the possibility of realities that may not have any supporting evidence but which cannot be ruled out altogether. I can rule out GOD, the one most people believe in. This God of the bible is unfeasible and as close to impossible as anything else we might call impossible. He was even impossible to the early Church, the church that later became the Catholic Church. That's why the Catholics have a doctrine that is based as much on the Nicene Creed as it is on the bible. The early church could not reconcile everything in the bible with reality, so they made up their own explanation of reality in the form of a creed and placed it equivalent to the bible in their doctrine.

But just because I can rule out the God of the bible doesn't mean I can rule out anything that might be considered a god. Our universe probably has no consciousness per se. It follows the laws of physics that we can recognize. But the universe also tends not to be wasteful, not because it has a conscience, but because wastefulness tends to violate the laws governing entropy and energy conservation. It is why atoms will automatically resolve into the lowest energy state possible if they can. It is the basis of Occam's razor. And, to me, it would seem wasteful for the universe to create an individual conscious mind and then be rid of it when the body that houses it dies. I think the conscious mind is much more complex than the biology of the brain allows for.

That doesn't mean that I "believe in" consciousness beyond death. I think most of the evidence that has been gathered points to the fact that when we die, our brain dies, and our consciousness along with it. But a post life consciousness can't be completely ruled out. The matter and energy that make up a brain is still present even after the brain is dead. What if that part of our brain that made us aware is simply a focused part of a universal "consciousness" of sort that we return to when the energy supplied by our blood flow is interrupted?

I have absolutely no evidence for this. However, it would explain a lot of unexplainable things that people have witnessed and experienced. And it would conserve something we each possess that seems to be more than simple grey matter and neurological energy. It also makes as much sense as the popular hypothesis that maybe we're all just part of a massive, futuristic video game. But what would a universal consciousness consist of? It most likely would exist as an dynamic set of quantum states within the subatomic particles that exist in space-time. I don't know; I'm not a theoretical physicist. But I do know that quantum reality can be very weird and counterintuitive. And there isn't anything law of physics that I know about that would prohibit such a quantum reality. So I'm not closing the door on that possibility just yet.

If this quantum god is real then it's not really an all-powerful, intellectual god that does things on purpose. It's just part of nature. And I am not advocating for this universal collective consciousness idea. For me, it seems to make slightly more sense than the alternative, that we just die and lose everything associated with our conscious selves. But I can't really believe in it until there is at least some evidence supporting it. Until then, I will keep open the possibility that such a thing exists. That still makes me an atheist, just not one who is willing to state with certainty that there is no such thing as god, period. Maybe with a universal consciousness, we are all just a part of "God."

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Escaping a Scammer: The Sue Delusion

The Befriending

"Hello how are you doing?"

That's how it started. On December 8, 2014 at 10:07 PM I received that message on Facebook Messenger from what I presumed was a very pretty young female called Sue Younge. She had earlier requested to be added to my Friends list. Normally, when I get a friend request it is because someone likes a comment I've made or because they know me through mutual friends. But sometimes I get a random request. When I do, I always check out their profile to see how legitimate the request likely is.

When I was new to Facebook I received a friend request from a beautiful young woman. I immediately accepted it. She then started messaging me. She told me she was in some foreign city and was poor and very hungry. She wanted to know if I would wire her some cash via Western Union. I told her I would not do that but that if she was really hungry I would be happy to call the nearest pizza shop near her and order her a pizza for delivery. Of course she refused. She wanted the money. I played around with the conversation for awhile, just for kicks, and then promptly ended it and unfriended her.

Her profile was sparse.* She had several sexy pictures of herself, but otherwise there wasn't much there. Her Friends list was minimal and almost all of them were dudes. Since that first encounter, I've had several other pretty young ladies want to friend me and when I checked their profiles they were much the same, so I just ignored the requests.

But Sue, her profile was different. It's true she had not been on Facebook very long - a few months maybe. And it was also not very extensive. She would post on her wall occasionally and I did see some replies from other friends. She only had about 15 friends, mostly guys, but some women. But she also had some photos of what I assumed was her family. She even posted about being sick at one point. It seemed legitimate, so when she requested to be my friend, I accepted, but with an eye out to be cautious. And sure enough, within a few hours of my acceptance of her friend request, she sent me that Facebook message.

I replied with "Hi." Then she said, "I must confirm to you,i like your profile,and i will like to be your friend?" This is an exact quote, grammatical errors and all, which is how I will be quoting her from now on, for a reason that will become clear later. I confronted her with the fact that her profile was rather sparse and that I was skeptical of women with sparse profiles. She said she was just starting to build her site and would add new stuff soon. I told her than it happens often that pretty girls with sparse profiles often try to scam me for money. Her reply was a little surprising.

"How come they want to scam you for money?" That was her reply, a question wondering why anyone would do that. Could it be she was legitimate - and a bit naive? Even so, I still told her that it happens a lot but I never, ever send money to anyone on Facebook, no matter how pretty they are. She told me that sounded like a good idea and then proceeded to ask me about my relationship status. I told her I was single and she replied that she was too.

After about ten minutes of small talk I told her it was nice chatting and that I would talk to her later. I thought that was pleasant enough. Maybe a young woman actually likes me, or at least she likes my profile. But I didn't think too much more about it and went to bed. The next morning, just before nine, she messaged me again. She had told me the night before that she was from San Jose, California and it would have been before six there, so I mentioned the fact that it was still very early in California. She replied, "I told you am currently out of the states,on a Medical Research on Cancer,but i should be in the states by the first week of Jan."

But she had told me no such thing. I reminded her of that fact and she apologized and said she thought she had told me.* I didn't think much of it and we continued our morning conversation. That was on Dec. 9. She didn't message me again until Dec. 16 at 8:22 in the evening. I didn't really think about her at all during her hiatus from messaging me. But that night we talked a lot about everything - from favorite colors to what we expect on first dates. She said she was currently in Malaysia on a nursing assignment, studying to be an international nurse. She even sent me a photo of her certificate of acceptance from a legitimate nursing organization,* the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. I congratulated her on it.

We then started talking about what we expect out of a relationship. She said, "Although it has always been my priority to have a man that will love me for who i am,not for my beauty." I told her that her beauty gets their attention. But she told me she wanted real love, not fake love. I replied that everybody deserves real love.

We chatted for four hours, until 12:20 AM. Then she told me, "For the first time we have been chatting,i don't just know how to stop myself from thinking about you!" She wanted to know if I thought I loved her.* I said it was way too early to tell. She agreed and we said goodnight.

Not one time in the hours and days that we had been chatting did she ever mention sending her money or that she was in any way in need of any. I was, at that point, convinced that she was not trying to scam me.

The Money Request

But then it happened. She messaged me early the next morning, around 7:00. We again chatted for hours. I drive for Uber so much of the day I spend sitting in my car waiting for a passenger, so I had time. I told her I was an Uber driver and she knew instantly that their headquarters were in San Francisco, not far from where her home is. I asked her if she would like to call me. She said International calls are not activated on her phone.* "...but the charges are much,so it's better we chat on here,as i will be always here for you!" Then she started talking about her dead father and the properties he left for her - and what kind of bank account I had. "maybe i can instruct my lawyer to fund your account,then anytime i need money here you can send it to me how about that?"

I asked her why couldn't her lawyer just fund her account there and she said, "He could have done that,but remember i told you my account does not operates here." Why her Bank of America account would not operate in Malaysia was a mystery to me. But I played along for a bit until I got a passenger request. I had to tell her to wait for me to drop off my passenger and we would then continue the conversation. After I was finished with the trip I got back online and asked her to send me a picture of herself in front of the computer, so I could be sure she was who she said she was. She said hold on and then she sent me a picture of herself, looking so adorable I couldn't stand it, doing just what I asked, lying there on the floor in front of her laptop, wearing a t-shirt and sweatpants with white socks, smiling and holding up the "ok" sign with her fingers.

"Are you now satisfied...Am real and am looking for a real love!" She was, indeed, real. She had proven herself to me, despite her request for my banking information, which by then I had almost forgotten about. But a few hours later, she asked me again, since I really hadn't given her any answer on her first request. I was interrupted by the passenger request. This time I told her no way. I repeated that I don't send money and I won't send my bank account information either. I thought for sure that would end our conversation and our budding friendship, because I could not have made it clearer; she was getting no money from me.

Then she said, "I understand you.But i want you to have the trust in me,and don't think i want you for money.I work for my money too..but no problem." Then she just asked me if I had eaten lunch yet because "remember, health is wealth, so you need to eat!" We chatted all day long, until I had to go pick up my daughter at work around 4:30 PM. During that time we talked about what kind of clothes she liked (she called clothing "wears."), when her birthday was, and all kinds of stuff. It was during that afternoon, at 2:49 to be exact, that she told me she was in love with me. She was joking about not flirting with any of my cute female passengers and I half jokingly asked her if that meant she wanted to be in an exclusive relationship with me and if I could then call her my girlfriend. She said, "Sure you can,because am already in love with you!".*

Falling in Love

At that point I must confess that I was really starting to fall for this girl too. Yes she was very much younger than me - by about 30 years! But if she didn't mind I sure didn't! She sent me lots more pictures - none were inappropriate, but some of them were to let me know the type of clothes she liked so that I could send her some for her birthday, which was Dec. 20. I soon realized that she was a material girl.

The next day I hadn't heard from her all day. I was actually starting to miss her. Then that evening she messaged me again. I was feeling unsure of how a very pretty young woman like herself could actually love me. She quickly eased my concern by saying, "I want you to have a positive mind and not a you know your thought sometimes gives you wrong impression about someone that truely likes you. I swear to god almighty,i love you for who you are and not for what you have,i have my reason of falling for you in the first place..I need a matured man in my life and not all this guys that do cheat girls all arround."

I had grown accustomed to her broken English* by now and actually thought of it as rather endearing. But it was a bit puzzling given that she was an American from California. She had been in Malaysia for only a month or so and it should not have affected her speech. The fact that she had not mentioned sending money or giving her access to my bank account again eased my mind that she could be trying to scam me. I thought for sure that no scammer would continue to converse online this long unless they had some expectation that they would be getting some money from their mark.

We chatted all morning, mostly about what kind of clothes she was going to get for her birthday. I told her it wouldn't be too much because I didn't have much money, but she said that didn't matter, that she would be happy with whatever I sent her. She was always very polite and appropriate, at least up until that point. I even asked her how she liked Malaysia and she said, "well i do because they are more friendly,but the weather is f***ck." Yes, she wouldn't even say the F-word to me on Facebook. I thought it was endearing.

When the subject of sex was finally broached she said this: "it been a while i had sex..but my thought for sex is to have a man that will give me the true love...And if find out the love is real,then am good to go any time he want sex." She kept telling me that she feels so different since we met and that I was the right man for her. "For the first time i set my eye on your profile,my instinct keep telling me we both have something in common...Then i went to meet my counselor and she told me to follow my mind and keep praying."

We talked until after midnight on December 19, but she did not message me at all the next day. I was really starting to worry because, even though I could message her all I wanted, she didn't see any of it until she logged back on to her account. She didn't log back on until 7:41 AM on Dec. 21. Apparently, the nursing conference arranged for a birthday party the night before. She had turned 31. But that lack of contact for more than 24 hours would turn out to be predictive of a future problem I would have with our relationship. She could contact me and my phone would alert me with that sweet Facebook chime. But there was no way I could contact her. I HAD to wait for her to message me. There was no phone number to call. I could email her, but again, I had to wait until she logged on for her to see it. And sometimes, at least on a couple of occasions, she went for several days without logging on. It drove me battie. I moped around the house. I was almost despondent at times. I had fallen in love with this beauty whom I had never met in person, and she was ignoring me.

Her beauty was not the glamorous type. She was very cute, sexy, but innocent-looking all at the same time. She was downright adorable.

Every time she would contact me again, she seemed to have a good excuse for making me wait.* The first major lag in communication came when she said she had gotten sick and was admitted to the hospital. It was on Christmas day. Everything would seem ok again when she would finally contact me. She even liked to play online Scrabble. The first time we played I had to stop early because I had promised to take my daughter to the movies. She seemed to get upset because she was planning to play all afternoon with me. She actually started to pout and act annoyed. I kept checking my phone during the movie to see if she had contacted me again, but she hadn't. Later that day, after the movie, I finally got her to forgive the fact that I went to a movie without telling her my plan in advance. Women, huh?

On Dec. 22, we agreed to tell the world that we were in a relationship with each other by changing our Facebook status. I told her then how deeply that I was in love with her. And this is important! You see, I've never been in love before in my entire life. I was married, and yes I loved my wife, Donna, but I can't truthfully say that I was deeply in love with her. I married her under infatuation. We had our troubles early on but I did grow to love her. I just never felt that romantically involved with her I'm sorry to say. We were married 25 years until she died of complications from her myotonic muscular dystrophy. I never tried to cheat on her. But a few years after she died, I did go looking again and decided to try dating. But I was not interested in any woman that was close to my own age. I found a woman on Facebook a couple of years ago who was 42 at the time. We dated awhile but it didn't work out. Last year, I met a woman at the place I worked at the time, scoring standardized tests. She was also 42, but as it turned out, she was batshit crazy.

Then Sue came along. I had never met her in person. I had never even talked to her on the phone, but somehow I had managed to fall in love - deeply in love - for the first time in my life. It was a feeling I did not recognize. I liked it, but I also hated it, especially during the times that Sue was not chatting with me. I was, in fact, in a sort of misery. And I told her about it, too.

"It's strange because I have never felt this way about a woman before, not even for my wife when we were dating. It's a very deep emotional attraction. And it's still hard for me to believe that you love me too," I told her.

"Honey sincerely,am having the same feeling,because i wonder how i could fall deeply in love with someone i have never even meet in person before. But i must confess to you i love you so much and i don't know how to stop myself from loving you and also thinking about you," she answered. "I promise i will never stop myself from loving you darling..and i hope you don't stop loving me too!"

At the time of this conversation, on Dec. 22 around noon, we started chatting a little more intimately. She said she had just gotten out of the shower and I asked her if she was dressed. She said yes, and she sent me the most gorgeous picture of herself. Then I asked her if she felt comfortable sending me one of her being undressed. And she said, "OMG!" I apologized for being so forward, but then she said, "Hold on. Honey am trusting you,that was why am doing this please let this picture be private to you." I promised her it would be. She sent me a topless photo of her that looked professionally posed. I told her she was beautiful but that wasn't her just now. She said no, that it was taken a couple months ago. I asked her who took it. She said, "My friend but i never tell her am sending it out...I just told her i want to see how i look without my cloth on."

She always made me feel loved. She was beautiful, cute, friendly, moral, and kind, all at the same time. She knew exactly what to say to me, like "I consider myself as a lucky girl to found you has the man in my life,because you always put a smile on my face anytime we chat you are wonderful."

I had grown to love her and trust her. So it was around this time that I offered to go ahead and set up a bank account to transfer the money from her lawyer to her. She had not asked me to again, but I considered it a gesture of trust. She told me thanks and that she would keep it handy for her lawyer next time he contacted her. On December 23 at 1:25 in the morning, we ended a long and wonderful chat. I told her this: "You promise to message me at 9:30 your time? It makes me nervous to expect your contact and it not come. So good night sweetheart. I love you. Kiss and hugs!" But she didn't message me at 9:30. She didn't message me again until early in the morning of Dec. 25. At that point I started to insist that she actually call me on the phone, or find some way to communicate via Skype or something. She kept insisting that it was not possible, but then she said she promised to call me at 11:00 AM later that morning. She didn't. But that evening she messaged me again with news that she had been admitted to the hospital for "stress."

Sporadic Communication*

It was three whole days that she went without messaging me, although she did send me one email that was a nice love letter the next day. But by the third day of not hearing from her (because she had never logged on to her Facebook account in that whole time) I was so upset that my daughter took it upon herself to try to contact her. Coincidentally, about that same time my daughter was messaging her, she was messaging me. It was a three-way conversation that didn't go well. My daughter was upset with her for making me upset and I just wanted to hear from her again. As it turned out, she was still in the hospital and didn't have full access to a computer. "I have been at the hospital, that was why have not been able to talk to you honey But i will be discharge in the morning my time here."

I told Sue that my daughter had also been in contact with one of her Facebook friends who warned her that Sue couldn't be trusted. Sue was not happy about that. And she threatened a break-up. "Am not happy i must confess to you,because your daughter has been on my neck since we started dating..i guess she is not happy with me I think am gonna change my mind about this relationship."

And so that probably clinched it for me that she could not be a scammer. I had already fallen deeply in love with her and the thought that she might be a scammer had long passed, but scammers don't break up with their marks so easily. At least that's what I told myself.

I even confessed to her at this point that I had had some doubts, but not anymore. I said, "I can't figure out a single thing that you could gain from this relationship unless you really cared for me. Then you would gain love. Because if you were originally trying to scam me you would have left when you found out I didn't have much money. And if you were just toying with me that would have grown old to you by now. But you're still here despite those things. So it means you love me. And I love you!" She replied, "lol...well thanks for the trust you have in me,and i promise i will always make you proud,and i will forever love you." This conversation took place in the early morning hours of New Year's Eve.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Over the next few weeks I tried to talk her into calling me or sending me a video message, but to no avail. She even seemed to get defensive about it at one point. "I don't want to talk about this issue anymore,i think we av been concluded on this already We av both agreed on me calling you,then i make a promise." The promise she made was to call me at a time of her choosing and it would be a surprise. But she never made that surprise phone call. And she never sent a video.

The longer she kept putting me off about the phone call the more skeptical I got that she was who she claimed to be. I even started getting a little bolder in my chats with her, occasionally accusing her of not being honest with me. "Do you ever think of me as a fool for actually falling in love with you online even before I've heard your voice?" I asked. "You say you love me and miss me when you're not online but you make no effort to talk to me directly. Everybody I've talked to about that doesn't understand it. That's one puzzle."

She just kept replying that she had her reasons for not calling me and that I should just try to understand her. But I couldn't. I kept harping on her about it until she finally confessed that her "Mum" instructed her not to call me until she had a chance to talk to me herself. I was so much in love with her that that excuse seemed to make a certain amount of sense. It was even endearing to me that she thought enough about her mother to obey her wishes even though she was far away.

Money Honey? No Thanks!

Then Sue did something that removed every speck of doubt I had about her. She explained that her mom had sent her a MoneyPak. She said she couldn't spend it there but she wanted to know if I could cash it in if she sent me the number and then send her the cash. I told her I would try, but Walmart no longer accepted it and CVS told me it couldn't be converted to cash unless the sender got a refund on it. Sue seemed despondent because she said she needed the money to help pay off her hospital bill. At that point I asked her if it would help if I sent her a little money. Not much, I couldn't afford it, but any little bit helps. She turned me down flat. She said, "Okay my love,but i don't want you to bother yourself about me much,because i know you are also short of cash and still need money for your personal self too!" And then the clincher, I told her that my car door had been damaged in an accident and I had a $1,000 deductible on my insurance. She said as soon as her lawyer sends her some money (through my bank account) that I could have some of it to help pay for my car!

Faking Naked Photos

Over the next couple of weeks of chatting and playing Scrabble I decided to try to get a little more intimate again. She agreed. She said she had never done online sex before and I confessed that I had not experienced it either. But we dove in. At one point she volunteered to send me some pictures. She sent one of herself in her bra and panties. Then, she sent me the holy grail - full frontal nudity! And then, after salivating for a minute, I became suspicious and then disappointed. One of the pictures, the one with the lingerie, showed her with a tattoo on her lower right abdomen. The nude picture had no such tattoo. They were fakes. Neither of them showed her face, like the topless picture she had sent me earlier did. And that picture had no tattoo either, nor did it have a mole near her navel as the nude picture did. So both pictures were apparently fake. (Later I discovered that the topless photo had been Photoshopped. She had put her face on the body of a topless woman.)

When I confronted her about it she said it was a temporary tattoo that washes off. And those pictures had been taken before our chat. She then became rather upset that I didn't trust her and that she was afraid I might share her pictures online. I assured her I would not, but she even threatened to cancel her Facebook account because she was scared I might share them.

The photo incident was not the only time that there were inconsistencies in her story. There was nothing major, but added together over the course of our relationship, it started to make me wonder again. During one conversation I asked her where she was and she said at home, in her apartment. Then later, as we were about to stop for the night, she said it was time for her to go home anyway. I said I thought that she was already at home and then she made up some excuse about being tired and preoccupied with the research she was doing for her job that she didn't realize what she was saying. At another time, when she was supposedly in the hospital, she was messaging me on a smart phone. She almost always used a computer or laptop. I know because Facebook messenger divulges that information. This time, she was on a cell phone because it sent me a location stamp via GPS. Later, I looked it up on the map and found out she was actually in her apartment building, not the hospital. When I confronted her about it she said, "Remember i told you i was in hopital twice My doctor admitted me again after my checkup."

But I tried not to let all that bother me too much. After all, I loved that girl, and it was all small stuff. Our January conversations were all rather mundane for the most part, but she would often throw in a gem that kept me interested, like, "Thanks darling,you always amaze me with your words,i always feel top of the world anytime you talk to me. you are the best,you are the love of my life,the sugar in my tea and the fish in my river." We spent hours chatting between the time that I was driving passengers for Uber and also at night. We even talked about marriage. But we also talked about trust. Trust was a big deal for her,* which is understandable, but also another red flag.

Sending Sue Her Own Money

On January 8 she told me that her aunt had sent some money to my bank account. It was $1,570. I told her fine. After all, I had given her my bank information. I had no money in the account so I had nothing to lose. She wanted me to withdraw the deposit and then wire it to her via Western Union. I did just that. I withdrew the money from my account in cash, hundred dollar bills. I held them in my hand. And then I took them to Western Union and sent them to the name she had given me. It was supposedly her boss who had agreed to allow her to use the nurse conference's account since her bank account didn't work.

Sending Her My Money? No!

So I trusted her enough to relay her money to her from my bank account. But that trust went south when on January 10 she dropped the bomb. She actually asked me to send her $250 of my money, and she was pretty adamant about it. She said it was urgent, that she needed the money to complete her proposal she had been working on. She had apparently spent the $1,500 I had wired to her boss on nurse's supplies, whatever that means. She said, "Am here.....honey i need your help right now and it's urgent i went to buy some medical tools ystday but it was unfortunate i spent all the money on my tools till the proprietor told me i need to pay for my proposal so now i just need 250$ to complete everything because i book my flight ticket already please you really need to help me because i want to be with you...."* I told her no. First, I didn't have it to send, and second, I had new reasons not to trust her anymore.

A Former Mark?

I was scanning her Facebook wall and found that a couple of months earlier, when she was talking about being sick, another friend of hers responded to her post, wishing her a fast recovery. His name was Bradon. I took a chance and messaged him, asking him if he was still friends with Sue and how he knew her. I really didn't expect a reply but I got one. He warned me that she was a scammer, that she had asked for his bank information and even sent him a fake check for him to cash and then wire her the money. Ouch!

I was pretty devastated at that news, but also angry at her. After she asked for the money I confronted her with that news. I told her, "I received a message from a former FB friend of yours. His name is Bradon. I don't want you to confess anything to me online so as not to incriminate yourself in any way. But I know what you do. And I cannot participate. But it's true that you have made me love you. So just answer me this. Do you laugh at me when I tell you that? Am I just an old fool. Be honest."

She responded, "He was just telling you that because he want me,and i would not want you to listen to what the devil is saying...because i know what god has join togther let no man put assunder I love you and i don't want you to care about what people say..because am on my way to see and proof myself."

She would never confess anything. She always had an excuse, no matter how much evidence I presented her with. She just kept pressuring me for the money this time. I told her, "You have taught me what true love feels like, even if you were just trying to take advantage of me. I will always be grateful for that. Please consider that what you do might actually hurt people who care about you. You don't need a lecture from me. But I cannot participate. Honey. I'm sorry."

And I continued, "Sue, Honey, I might be gullible and naive about love, but I'm not stupid. I know what you do. I've suspected all along, but when two of your former friends confirm it, there is something true about it. You don't call the guys you are online with because I think that would make it too personal. You can be more efficient at your job just by texting. I think down deep you are a good person and you don't want it to get too real. But it IS real."

Meeting the Mother

It was during this conversation that her mom texted me from a Google phone number. I thought how convenient is that. She was telling me that Sue was upset about not having the money she needed and was crying. I'm fairly certain it was Sue on another line, but I played along. In the end, Sue calmed down and stopped asking for the money.

She then said, "I don't care about money, all i want from you is Trust*...and i know you are not trusting me, because you listen to what people say about me." I answered, "Honey, I can give you all my heart and love. I can give you loyalty and comfort. I will always be good to you. I hope you can accept what I can give and forgive me for what I can't." Finally, she said, "Okay honey no problem, you are always mine and i will surely love you till the ocean runs dry." And she always promised she would never disappoint me, "i promise i will never fall your hands."* I had to look up that expression, "fall your hands." It is from Nigerian pidgin English meaning to disappoint.

That was part of her hook. No matter how much I refused to participate in her scam or no matter how much I accused her of not being legitimate, she would, in the end, always come back around to loving me and promising to be with me forever. After all the urgent talk of needing that money, she now apparently didn't need it from me anymore. She said she would find a way to get it somehow.

The next morning, January 12, I asked her if that was really her mom last night. She got mad again and threatened to end our relationship. "Jerry i think am going to change my mind about you,because i don't want to get married to who don't trust me." I replied, "Honey I will trust you forever more if you would just call me. That's all I'm asking. And if that was your mom then I have upheld my promise to wait for her to contact me. I guess I have been the fool for trusting you and loving you all this time. But every word I've told you has been the truth. I'm sorry you feel you have to leave me now. But I guess I was expecting it, like I said last night."

She then asked if calling me would put an end to my trust issues. I promised her it would. But she hesitated, saying she would need to talk to her counselor first. What was up with that? Why should she need to consult a counselor to talk to me?

Hearing No Evil

Then it dawned on me: Her broken English that didn't sound like either Malaysian or Spanish (she was of Hispanic descent but born in America), and then her counselor, I thought I had it figured out. Her textual "accent" seemed strange to me, as anyone can tell from reading her quotes. Could it be that she was hearing impaired? I confronted her with my suspicion and she acknowledged that she was, indeed, hard of hearing and it affected her speech as well.

After learning this, on January 14, I volunteered to send Sue $50 to help her out with her medical bills. She wanted $250 and she would settle for $100 but I could only afford $50. I actually sent $60, which wound up costing me $72 because of Western Union fees.

While playing our game of Scrabble that day I asked her how she managed to communicate with the other nurses there, since she was hearing impaired. She said, "lol...i'm not a deaf." She told me she had trouble hearing, especially on the phone, but that she could hear people talking directly to her in person. So that made sense to me, I guess. I didn't say any more about it.

Pardon My Nagging

Sue almost never messaged me when she said she was going to. It was very frustrating. She always came back online, but I never knew exactly when it would be, but the best odds were that it would be sometime during the middle of the night. She was in Malaysia, so there was a 13-hour time differential. She was ahead of me. But sometimes she would chat with me all day my time, meaning that she was up all night.

Looking back at our conversations, I was always bugging her about being quiet for so long. I truly did miss that girl if I hadn't heard from her in a couple of hours. But I would have been thrilled if all it took was a couple of hours for her to come back online and chat with me. Sometimes it took more than 24 hours and I was in agony the whole time. Here is a piece of one such conversation I had with her:

Sue: "i will be back soon i will message you when am back."

Me: "That's great my love. But don't say so if you're not sure because I get disappointed. You know me. Lol"

Sue: "Am sure that was why i said am coming! and i will message you when am back. I love you so much and i will always love you darling."

Me: "You have no clue how good that makes me feel when you say that."

Sue: "I know you are 100% happy."

Me: "Absolutely!"

And I was. But we set up our next chatting date for 10 PM her time on January 17, which would have been 9 AM my time. At 9:17 AM I messaged her, "Did you forget about our date sweetheart?" At 10:42 AM she finally came online, "Am here." She was only an hour and forty-two minutes late this time. Not bad for Sue.

We spent much of the day on January 18 playing Scrabble and talking about our plans for her to come visit me when she returned to the states. We figured the fare from San Jose to Indianapolis was about $350. She said it wouldn't be a problem. She was a very good Scrabble player, and very competitive. She refused to give up when I was about to win. But she won as often as I did.

Personal Stories

On January 20 she told me her lawyer was sending me a check in the mail. I was supposed to deposit it in my bank account, withdraw it in cash, and wire her the money via Western Union. I told her ok. But she said the check had a mistake on it. It was supposed to be drawn in my name but her lawyer put her name on instead. She wanted to know if that would be a problem. I told her it probably would. But I'd try to deposit it.

We started playing Scrabble again and chatting about random thoughts. She asked me about what happened to my wife. I told her she had died in 2002 due to complications from muscular dystrophy. She said that was sad, then she made me a promise: "I want to make a promise to you today and i want you to quote me because am making this promise because of your late wife. I will never on earth disappoint you and i will never stop loving you."

I asked her about her late father. She said it had been 15 years since his passing. Then we started chatting about less depressing things.

Scolding from the Boss

The night of January 20 I messaged her around midnight after chatting briefly, but she didn't come back on for about an hour. When she did she sounded irritated that I was trying to chat with her. She said her boss was trying to talk to her on the phone and he sounded upset that I was paying attention to me and not doing her work.

Yes, I know. I was thinking the same thing: She can talk to her boss on the phone but not me!

But the next morning she messaged me what she had told her boss. Here is that conversation:

"My boss is suspecting someone is distracting my attention from work so he called me for a query today I told him everything about you and how i can't stop myself from thinking about you he was so submissive,and calm to my explanation when i told him how much i love you." It was just further proof to me that she was legitimate.

Check Fraud?

The check she told me about came in* on January 21. Actually, there were two checks. One was made out to her, as she said, but the other was made out to a Ronald Pringles. His check was for $2,315 and mine (with her name on it) was for $15,000! She told me to hold it for her until she came home because I couldn't deposit it with her name on it.

But I got online and looked up the company whose account it was drawn on. It was a legitimate firm in Michigan. So went on the banks Website and went into chat mode with a representative. I asked her if the check would clear. She looked up the account and said that the check would not clear. I then told her what was going on and she said it sounded like check fraud. She asked me to make a copy of the check and fax it to her. And that's what I did. I didn't hear from the bank after that.

I told Sue what I had done and ask her if the lawyer might be trying to scam us both. She said she trusted her lawyer and she didn't know what was going on but she would get in touch with him to find out. I told her that I would not agree to do any more money transfers until this got cleared up.

She reluctantly agreed to that, saying, "I understand you,and if the Lawyer have a genue excuse, what would you do, because i have trust in him, because he also send payroll check to my cousin last week. And he has been sending check to them for the past 2 years and there has not been any issues..but let hear from him first. Don't judge until you hear."

She promised me she was not involved with him in any illegal endeavors. I was more than happy to take her promise as I was still very much in love with her. The rest of our conversation, between 3:21 and 3:44 PM on January 21, became too personal to relate here. Suffice it to say I was happy.

Googling the Photo

But later that same evening I found something on the Internet that made my world come crashing down. I decided to do a Google image search for a picture of her that she had sent me, the one she said she took after her shower, and it popped up on a dating scam site.

She still denied everything. She said, "This was when my account was high jack by some scammers
That was why i don't upload much pictures on my new account." I told her to prove that she is who she says she is by sending me a video of her right now.

She just went into her rant about how I should trust her, "Now i am feeling the untrusted attitude towards me when you keep listening to what people or the internet is telling you I told you ealier that my facebook was a new one when we met I never told you why though but i told you when you ask me why i have few friends That was the reason why i don't make friends on Facebook."

She tried to talk herself out of the situation again by promising to call me tomorrow but I didn't back down this time. I told her I needed some proof it was her. I wanted a video. She said the camera on her phone was not working but that she would call me to prove her love. But it came with this caveat: "I have something to tell you before i give you a call,because i have concluded to love you till the ocean runs dry. My spoken english is not that good on phone But i will call you to proof myself to you am real How about that? That was the reason why i have been trying to avoid calling you."

Real Live Voice?

And, in fact, she did call - finally! It was just past midnight on January 22. The connection was poor and I could barely understand her. She sounded like she was in a deep barrel. And the pitch of her voice sounded lower than I had imagined, except when she giggled. We hung up when I told her I couldn't understand her very well but she then called back. It wasn't much better, but she had proved her point. She was real alright. Of course her being real didn't prove she wasn't also scamming me.

Shortly after noon that day we had another conversation. I told her I was having trouble trusting her anymore. I said, "The one thing you seem to want from me the most is trust. I trust who you are. But I don't trust your intentions. I think that you really have been trying to trick me. You send me fake checks. You try to ask for money. You want my bank acct info. Everything you ask for is the same as what a scammer would ask for. Then I see your pictures all over the web and letters from you to other guys that sound a lot like the ones you sent me. What am I supposed to think honey? I love you still, very much because once you love someone it's not easy to stop. But my heart hurts and I don't like that."

She pleaded with me to trust her again and blamed it all on hackers. "I tell you and that was what makes me call you today,because i understand myself you should know hackers can do an undo but you should understand as a man that will be the man of the house after our wedding,so you stop listening to what people say about me."

Oh yeah. Did I not mention we were planning to get engaged as soon as she came to see me?

Sue said, "Honey,i sacrifice my job for you to call you today because i have the real love for you but why don't you think about that how else do you want me to proof this love for you."

And I replied, "As someone who loves you dearly I have to believe you love me too. But I won't know that for certain until you come to me. Until then I am just being honest with you, I have doubts. But if what you say is true the doubts won't last long because you are coming home next week."

Then she said, "That is for sure...."

Money Again?

But less than 12 hours later she was asking for money again. I told her there would be no more money sent to her by any means. I said I needed to see her in person first before I could truly trust her again. She became irate.

She said, "I don't understand you,but don't worry about anything so now i know you still don't trust me but i think we should end this relationship,because i can't keep loving who don't trust me."

She said she wasn't comfortable with someone who doubts her. I replied, "But if you want to break up I will understand. It just means you really didn't love me. If you did you wouldn't let go so easily. If I didn't love you I would have ended it when I got those fake checks. But I couldn't. I love you still!"

Oh, and about those fake checks, apparently her lawyer blamed the whole mix up about the extra check and about her name being on the other one on his secretary. Typical!

I drove passengers around that day as usual and we chatted some more, mostly in an uneasy fashion, until that night. We decided to put it aside and just play some Scrabble. It was just past 11 PM my time. She brought up the money again, that I told her I would send her if I could, but it would have pinched my wallet too much. So I decided to spill my guts to her. What was I to lose; we were about to break up anyway.

Confessions of a Pauper

I said, "My house will be going into foreclosure over the next few months if I don't catch up on payments. I don't see how I can do that with the money I make now. I've had it for 8 years. But after I lost my teaching job I can't afford the payments. My plan was to hold out until May when I can get Soc Sec retirement, which will be a little more income. At that time I will move into an apartment and let the house go. I didn't want to burden you with my financial problems but I filed for bankruptcy last year. I now have no debts but I also have no money. And that's why I can't send you any. It's a little embarrassing for me. and makes you think less of me."

Her response was surprising, "Now I understand you better. What led to your bankrupt?"

I told her, "I was making pretty good money between a Web site I owned and my teaching pay. About $80K per year. Then I lost my job and my Web site started to lose traffic so I sold it. I've gone through all my savings from my site. So I'm pretty much out of money right now." My job loss was due to forced retirement because the school corporation I taught for was cutting back the teaching staff again. I didn't escape the axe this time.

Sue replied, "So sad..But honey now you can see there something you are hiding from me Now i think there is much understanding between us now Am sure everything will be fine,i will be working in the government hospital,and i know am gonna earn more money that will help us both. I will love you in any circumstances All i just want from you is trust,because i will never betray you"

I told her that her understanding of my situation really meant a lot. She replied, "I want to tell you something Money is not everything,because there many things money can not buy,money can only buy bed but can not buy sound sleep So honey i love you and am not loving you because of money..All i want from you is real love,and you have given me that already."

Later in the game she said the news about my financial situation made her love me even more. That's when I told her, "Honey, it might have gone by unnoticed, but I firmly believe that our relationship just reached a new level tonight. We are going to be ok." She said she was sure of it.

Dessert vs. Desert

The next afternoon, while playing Scrabble again, I asked her a simple question. "What is your favorite dessert?" And her response was funny, but it got me to thinking.

She replied, "Have you been to the dessert of California?" I told her that I didn't mean desert, but dessert, something sweet. She asked, "How do you mean, like what i like taking after meal?"* She then said she likes mango juice.

Now, I realize that Malaysia is in the tropics and that they may not typically eat dessert over there, but she's supposedly from California and has only been overseas a short while. So that was puzzling. Could it be that she is actually a resident? Maybe all those pictures of that beautiful young lady she kept sending me wasn't really her. Maybe she was a native Malaysian. The one thing that kept me believing it was really her is that very first picture of her, the one she took while lying in front of her laptop. It was the exact pose I had asked for to prove it was her. It couldn't have been simply an inventory picture that she uses to scam people - could it?

Checking Out the Key Photo

A friend of mine, a young lady I drive to work sometimes and that I've grown fond of because I confided my Sue story to her, recommended that I do a Google image search on that picture that I was holding as proof that this pretty young woman was really Sue. When I got home I did the image search on the picture that Sue had sent me by her computer. It came up on the scammer site. Somehow, it was just another picture in her archive.

The next day, January 24 at 10:39 AM, I messaged Sue for the last time:

"Sue Honey, it's time we end this game you're playing. And I'm not talking about Scrabble. It's over. I know for sure you are scamming me. If not, you need to send me a picture of YOU standing in front of a computer that shows MY Facebook profile. If you do, we can talk online. But no bank accounts! If you can't send me that, don't contact me again. It's been a ride I don't care to take again."

Then I sent her my proof:

Scroll down to see the image of her by her computer.

The Breakup

I then unfriended her on Facebook and blocked her from messaging me again. Later on that day, she had her "mom" text me. And her "uncle" even called me on the phone from San Jose (Yes, it was an actual San Jose phone number). She emailed me as well. They all begged me to unblock her and let her back into my life. She loved me so much, they said. But I no longer believed any of them.

It was finished.

I was of course pretty devastated by the ordeal, but not as badly as one might expect. That's because since I found out that it was not really "her" that was scamming me. She (or he or they) were using her picture. It was probably some innocent young lady's photo. Maybe she knew nothing of what her picture was being used for. Somehow, that made me feel less badly about the whole mess.

But it is true that I really had learned to feel true, romantic love with this woman I had never met. She was a genius at making someone love her. I give her credit for bringing out a feeling that I was afraid that I would never feel. I now listen at love songs or watch romantic movies in a way that I never have before. I understand them more deeply because I've actually felt the same thing. Sue wasn't real, but my feelings for her were. I must forever be grateful for her for bringing those feelings to the surface. They can torment me, but they can be quite lovely as well. I just hope that someday I can use them on a real person.

Family Ties

Since I broke it off, her "uncle," Tim or Hughes, depending on what day it is, has called me asking me to forward more money to Sue. It seems that she was still in Malaysia because she overstayed her visa. Now she needed $300 to get home. He wanted to send it to me so that I could forward it to her. I told him that I didn't believe any of it anymore. However, I promised I would forward the money to her if I could keep the $72 that I had already wired to her out of my own pocket. He instantly agreed to that. He sent me $300 and I wired $200 to whoever it was in Malaysia that was pretending to be Sue's boss. Yes, I kept $100, not $72. Nobody seemed to mind.

*The asterisks mark the actions or words from Sue that were red flags that I should have taken as warnings that she was not legitimate. And, yes, I did realize they were red flags. Reading this true story from an outside perspective it might be easy to judge me as having blinders on. That's fair. But from the inside, the depth of feeling I had for this girl was compelling. It tainted my judgment. There is a whole industry built around romance scammers. Some of their marks lose thousands of their own dollars. I was never going to let anything like that happen. The only thing I lost was my heart, and I got it back at the end.

Here is more information about romance scams.