Brains, Sense of Self, Coma Patients and Intentions

The human brain can do many things – regulates our body functions, processes enormous amounts of information and is where all our higher functions take place.
What the human brain can’t do is be aware of it’s own functioning, and as a result, people don’t think of themselves as being their brain supported by the body.
For most people, if they think about their brain, it’s just another organ that acts as the body’s coordinator. Part of the reason is that most people think they have a soul or that they are some energy being that is existing in a corporeal form on this plane of existence.
That the self continues to exist in some form after the body dies. But, the self is one of those higher brain functions.
It’s obvious when you consider people who have had strokes, brain injuries or a degenerative brain disease. They don’t have the same personality, cognitive abilities or interaction anymore.
It’s not the case that they are trapped inside a brain that is not allowing them to communicate, the brain’s capacity is reduced by damage and so the person changes with the damage.
Which brings me to coma patients.
Movies and TV shows always show coma patients waking up from a deep sleep. They are their same selves as before, able to walk and talk, often with little confusion and no issues getting back into life. Well, unless it’s a disease of the week TV movie, and then it’s all about the brave recovery that succeeds.
Even factoring for the varying degrees of comas, the length of time in a coma, most people who are in comas do not recover to their former state. Most die, many remain in comas and the ones who do recover, do not have the same physical or mental abilities as before the coma.
There is no awareness without brain function, you are not aware but trapped in a non-responsive body while in a coma. The brain is damaged and/or oxygen impaired and is operating at a lower capacity. It can’t generate the “self” anymore.
I did find this interesting article about using stimulus to encourage the brain to re-map or repair itself.
The above garden path is heading to this blog topic: family of the coma patient having their crisis being taken advantage of by the unscrupulous facilitated communication industry.
Parents of non-communicative autistic children are also at risk of exploitation by these same folks.
Since there is no “self” trapped inside a body unable to communicate, there is no-one directing the facillator. Even if there was a “self” trapped, there’s no ability for one person to touch a non-responsive person and be able to communicate mind to mind. People do not plug into each other and transfer files. Our brains are more powerful than computers, but they are not peer to peer networks.
Holding a person’s fingers and guiding them across a keyboard is pretty much the same as people playing Ouija. The non-responsive person’s hand is along for the ride.
In tests of facilitated communication with autistic children, it was determined that the facilitator was the responder, not the autistic child.
“many scientific studies have demonstrated that the procedure is not valid because the outcome is actually determined by the “facilitator.” [1,2] In one study, for example, autistic patients and facilitators were shown pictures of familiar objects and asked to identify them under three types of conditions: (a) assisted typing with facilitators unaware of the content of the stimulus picture, (b) unassisted typing, and (c) a condition in which the participants and facilitators were each shown pictures at the same time. In this last condition the paired pictures were either the same or different, and the participant’s typing was “facilitated” to label or describe the picture. No patient gave a correct response when the facilitator had not been shown the picture. The researchers concluded that the facilitators were not aware that they were influencing the patients “

“If you could read the mind of a person with severe autism, the argument went, you would discover a person who could read at a high level, express sophisticated emotions, and even write a touching essay about the pain and isolation of living with autism.”
The problem with this thought is that we cannot read anyone’s mind. The human brain is self-contained, it is not a broadcaster nor a receiver.
The performers who appear to read minds aren’t reading minds. They are mentalists who have studied people and know what are common things. They throw out vague questions and allow the audience or person being read to provide the information.
Many people have mantles on the fireplace and the vast majority have photos on them. Many people keep money or valuables in their bedstands, and it tends to be the left side of the bed that the dominant partner sleeps on – so that’s where the money is.
Remember the scene in Wizard of Oz when Dorothy has run away and she meeting the crystal ball reader? He diverts her attention and looks into her basket and finds the photo of Auntie Em. He then says general statements, but it’s Dorothy who says the old woman is Auntie Em. Dorothy is too young to consider her impact on her aunt and uncle, but the man knows that they would be worried and so manipulates Dorothy into returning home.
Here’s how to be a psychic in 10 easy lessons. (pdf)

So, if you can’t read a responsive person’s mind when they are feeding you clues and information.  Why would anyone accept the claim that a non-responsive (severe autistic or coma) person’s mind could be read?

I am sure that there are many people who practice facilitated communication who are sincere in their beliefs. But sincere belief isn’t a comfort to the families being taken advantage of, nor to the coma patient who’s existence is extended on the basis of this communication and the faint hope or recovery, nor the autistic child who’s parents make treatment decisions based on this “break through”.
Wishful thinking is a powerful drug.
But sincerity isn’t always a good thing, many terrible historical events were caused by sincere people.
Critical thinking, which is very hard to do when you are emotionally desperate and willing to try anything to make the crisis end or lessen.
But that doesn’t excuse the people who undertake the training and worse the ones who offer it, nor the general public who encourages or allows such belief and practice to flourish.
These people are not in emotional distress, they can presumably think clearly and chose not to.
They are perpetuating a “complementary” therapy as something that is valid and produces results, when any close and critical thinking examination of the concept and an evaluation of the practice shows that it’s a time waster that may delay or prevent other treatments with potential.
Health care and treatment is not served by a shot gun anything goes it can’t hurt so it must help mentality.
Yes, it can hurt – it can hurt by delaying other treatments. It can hurt by extending the existence of the coma patient, increase the trauma of the family who will inevitably have to decide about ceasing life support or allowing the person to slowly fail and expire.
Yes it hurts everyone by adding costs and delay – as well as diverting resources like staff, equipment, supplies, medicines and a bed – to healthcare.
I understand how desperately difficult it can be to lose a family member. How hard it is to watch them decline and fail.
I empathize with how hard it is to watch your child fail to thrive.
But the false comfort provided by facilitated communication, by therapeutic touch and other so called complementary medicines….
The reason it’s complementary is because it doesn’t work as a primary care.
If it doesn’t work there, then the only purpose that it serves is as a placebo emotional band aid to assure the families and parents that they tried everything.
If the treatment isn’t for the patient’s benefit, then why do it?

Crafting: Polymer Clay Characters


This gallery contains 20 photos.

A while ago I started doing polymer clay sculpting.  It’s basically play doh for grown ups, except you can bake it and make it lasting little sculptures. I did dust them off, but you can’t tell from the photos. Here’s … Continue reading

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Trolls, Sock Puppets and Godbots

I’ve learned a lot from internet forums. Here’s how to recognize the least nice parts of global and instant communications:


An internet troll is a person who posts on forums to cause trouble or upset other posters.

Hallmarks of a troll are that they tend not to respond to posts and repeat their claims and insults all while accusing others of the same behaviour.

Trolls thrive on attention and will wander away if no one feeds them.

Sock Puppets

This is the sign of an advanced troll. This is when a troll joins a forum under several names, all of whom agree with each other and believe the same thing.

They never seem to notice that their ISP shows them as being in the same location, for they are not smart enough to realize that other people are not as dumb as they are.


These are a speciality type of troll and are prone to creating sockpuppets.

They tend to post about their religion in atheist or scientific forums. They are not interested in talking to other beleivers, unless it a beleiver of another religion.

They are seeking to convert, even though they deny that.  They can be fun to bait, but the best strategy is to ignore the content of their repetitive posts and focus on the broader issues of the form of a logical argument and attendant fallacies, systems of morality rather than morals themselves, and their agenda.

Apparently, there’s a religious college that gives course credit for being a godbot.

The downside of godbots is how tiresome it gets to have to explain over and over to the same godbot, it’s sock puppets and subsequent godbot/sockpuppet combos:

– that what a word means is context sensitive ( I beleive in a diety is different than I beleive my car will start or the sun will rise tomorrow – the first is faith and the second is expectation based on observation and experience)

– super basic scientific concepts, like what a theory is in science vs common terms.

– that adapting and changing to new information is the strength of science, not a flaw – but that religion is glacial with change is a fault

– word games where you change meaning of the key words are not logic, clever or a sign of intelligence

– the buybull is not proof of anything but man’s ability to invent fictional stories to make themselves feel better

– that there’s nothing moral in the buybull that isn’t obvious all on it’s own – and much that is claimed to be moral and clearly isn’t by today’s standards

– that cultural standards change over time and are culturally dependent. That cultures have previously been mostly defined geographically, which is why there’s so many different religions in different areas and at different times. Religion is a cultural expression of the values/morals, not what creates or defines them.

and, why are they always so fixated on:

– gay people in general and gay anal sex in particular

– not having “things” rammed down their throats (all while trying to ram their religion into our orifices)

– quoting scripture and creationists, as if we’ve never heard it and would find it compelling, but without any indication that they understand the substance of their cut and pasting.

– claiming that anyone who proves that being religious does not make one a moral person, its not a “true” or “real” whatever the faith is.


I can only think that the reason for this behavior is that global and instant communication is somehow threatening to these small minded people.

They are overwhelmed by exposure to the world at large and have to stay in their dark corner and flail at the world, fingers firmly in ears while shouting their platitudes, the underlying meaning of which is “I’m important”

Well, there’s no Santa and in the grand scheme of things, no one is important.

But, there is comfort in this:

In your life, you are important, to yourself, your family and friends. To a lesser degree to your boss and coworker, even less to politicians and authority figures.

The farther away from yourself the less important you become to other people, unless you do something that makes people farther away from your circle care about you.

But none of that even matters, what matters is that you give your life meaning and make the most of the life you have.

Do you trolls, sock puppets and godbots really want to look back on a life spent small and demanding to be heard by crude and rude tactics?

Would whatever your god is truly be impressed and proud?

Well, maybe they diety would, after all the majority of deities are preening egomaniacs who act out violently.

But I think we can set the bar to a higher standard than that.

Try to create something positive to leave in the world.

and here’s a blog with 5 troll busting tips

The Right and Left are closer than you think

It’s funny to me how often we are given a false choice of either/or. Unless it’s a choice between two available dessert items, there are always more than two options.

Especially political identity. Left or Right.

What do those even mean? In Canada, the difference between left and right is microscopic compared to the US.

Incidentally, the US Democratic Party has always been more right wing than our defunct Progressive Conservative Party. It’s only now with the Harper party that the Democrats and our conservative party are along the same lines – but it is the first time the US president has ever been leftier than a conservative PM in Canada.

Continuing on the Canada to US on the left/right, the US right and left have very differences compared to the various political left and right parties in Europe.

Other countries that are theocracies are certainly extreme right and the countries with leftie dictators don’t have any obvious differences – so apparently, when you go extreme enough, left and right seem to be the same thing other side of a ball, rather than two opposite ends of a continuous line.

Politics are messy and the left and right grassroots movements in the US and Canada are little better – both seek to control the masses. The only difference is what each side is seeking to control. The left wants to control your public behavior and the right your private behavior.

The left appears concerned more with the what – what are the impacts of what we do on other things like the environment or people and animals. Their push to is re-consider our actions and laws with sustainability, improved rights, stricter government regulation of industry and business and other aspects of our public space.

The right is more concerned with the how – how others conduct their private lives, their bailiwicks are morals, abortion, gay sex, sanctity of marriage (why does it always seem to be about the sex with them?) and less government oversight and control. Although, how they are supposed to police private lives with less government control is not exactly clear to me.

I don’t know anyone who wants to give control over to either side, because no matter how left or right that you are, there will always be someone righter or lefter who finds you lacking.

I do think that the left side is winning, and for the most part, socially that’s a good thing.  There is no downside to at least tolerance if not actual or eventual acceptance of other groups of people. And while every group has their bad seeds, it’s not the group’s fault.

Women can vote and drive, interracial couples can marry, gay and lesbian couples can marry in Canada and in some US states or cities. We really don’t need to play more oppressed than thou – any group being oppressed or discriminated against diminishes us all. That ask not for whom the bell tolls thing still applies.

I was a kid in the 1970’s, but even I remember people thinking that if you recycled that you were a hippie weirdo and by the late 90’s if you didn’t recycle that you were an Earth hating jerk. Greenpeace is mainstream now.

Most office buildings are branding themselves as Green, with in building recycling and many composting, reducing energy use and putting on green garden roofs to replenish the city air. Many companies exceed what’s required by law and provide the same benefits to gay and lesbian employees as they do straight ones.

Even the US military is working on a slow retreat exit strategy from Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

We need to focus on where our interests are common, not what defines us as different. We need to recognize what challenges we are facing globally – climate change is real – what amount or if human activity contributes to it isn’t the issue at all. That we excessively pollute and have changed climate and habitat locally is not a question – acid rain I am talking to you. We know the globe’s climate has changed, there’s been warm and cool periods and ice ages.

They will happen again. But, if we’re all going to have to live along the equator because everything around it is covered in 5 miles of ice, or the oceans are a lot higher and we have to move inland, we need to figure out a way for 6 billion plus people to get along and conflicts over different skin colour, religion and consumer habits need to end.

We need to figure out a way for societies not to collapse, for business to function and achieve profits, for fair labour practices, for sustainability.

It’s the public behavior we need to be concerned about, not other people’s sex and family lives. It’s the public behavior that affects us all, after all.

Green Dinner for St Patrick’s Day

Well, we were a bit early, but we hadn’t seen our dinner pals for a while.

The theme for dinner was green. We served a green salad, BBQ pork loin, steamed broccoli, Cajun garlic’d Squid Ink Fettucine and for dessert a Melon-Mint over angelfood cake – with green whipping cream.

The Pork Loin

The pork loins were rubbed with alder smoked salt, pepper, Chinese 5 spice,  and marinated in the juice of a lemon and a lime, honey and crushed fresh garlic.

mortar and pestles rule

For the last 3 minutes of the grilling (lump charcoal and cherry wood!), given a wet rub of an herb mix of olive oil, fresh garlic, basil, parsley, 2 kinds of rosemary and the last of the winter savory.

fresh off the grill

the finished tenderloins

I had intended to cook the loins for an hour at about 300, but I made a mistake and didn’t check the BBQ, which shot up to 500 degress and the loins were cooked in 30 mins.  Which threw off the timing of everything else.

Squid Ink Fettucine

In the store the noodles were black and I thought that maybe they’d lighten to a green when cooked.

cajun roasted garlic in olive oil and lemon juice

First, the sauce – not knowing what the noodles would taste like, I wasn’t sure about what sauce to use.

I happened to have roasted three heads of garlic in olive oil and cajun spices the day before, so I decided to puree that for the sauce. I was concerned about the oilyness, so we added fresh lemon juice.

Once the pasta had cooked in 3 mins, they were blended. The noodles were lightly coated and it was a wonderful merging of flavour.

not exactly green, but too tasty to care

Dinner was rounded out with a green garden salad with a cumber and dill dressing and steamed brocolli.

I was going to make a green havarti cheese sauce, but decided I was too thrown off by the rapid cooking of the tenderloin to try it. It was also nice to balance the more complex tenderloin and fettucine flavours with a simple buttered vegetable one.


Melon-Mint over angel food cake with green whipping cream

I had partially prepared the dessert earlier. In my BBQ sauces, rubs and marinade cookbook, I came across a melon-mint relish.

I left out the savory ingredients to convert it into a dessert.

I – get ready to giggle – balled a watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe, added fresh squeezed lemon juice and chopped fresh mint. I placed it in the fridge to meld.

When I was plating the dessert, I put the slice of angel food cake (store bought), spooned the melon mix over it, then made the whipping cream.

Now, if you want perfect whipping cream with the least amount of fuss, get one of those carbon dispensors. You pour in the whipping cream, add vanilla or other extract – and for this, some green food colouring. Close up the dispenser, insert the CO2 tube and it instantly whips! Without the need for sugar.

I toyed with using peppermint instead of vanilla, but didn’t want it fighting with the mint leaves.

This dessert was a light and very refreshing way to end off the meal.

Elvis – Book Overview

Elvis Books to have

I have many many many Elvis books ranging from serious biographies, to gossip/tell all, picture books and a lot of in-between.

I started thinking about what books that I would recommend, so here’s my list and I am curious about what books everyone else has read that they would recommend and why.

There may be better ones out there, but I can only go by the 300 books that I own and have read. there’s over 2000 books about Elvis, so I have only made a small dent.

1. Peter Guralnick’s lastTrain to Memphis/Careless Love ( I count these 2 books as one since they are part 1 and 2)

I think this is a well researched and balanced pair of books that provided a lot of insight into the work Elvis put into his career and into the people who helped make – and unmake – him

2. Elaine Dundy’s Elvis and Gladys

Excellent research and detailed accounting of his childhood – one of the first books to really focus on this area – details several controversial subjects in a non-exploitative manner – you got a real sense of the time period and people Elvis came from and a real sense of Gladys as a person

3. Alanna Nash – Elvis and the Colonel

The most important professional relationship Elvis had as well as the most misunderstood and controversial.

Alanna is probably the only biographer of Parker and she digs very deep into his Dutch shadowy past.

Parker was a brilliant promoter who was determined to make Elvis the biggest star and the highest paid – and for many years, Elvis was the top earning singer and actor.

Parker and Elvis had a unique partnership, with Parker having all the business smarts and Elvis having the artistic smarts and neither one really understanding the other. A recipe for a disastrous success.

4. Word by Word – Jerry Osborne

Transcripts of all known Elvis interviews, press conference and public utterances. Even a reproduction of the only public writing Elvis did – an article for Motorcycle Enthusiast magazine in the 1950’s.

5. The Death of Elvis by Charles C Thompson II and James P Cole

This book contains details of the leaked autopsy, interviews with the medical team members, review of what the hospital did and didn’t do – not for the faint of heart

Elvis books to avoid

As for Elvis books to avoid, there’s actually a lot of them. Many Elvis books do little to advance any understanding or analysis of Elvis.

So, rather than specific books, here’s the categories of books that I would recommend avoiding:

1. anything by any member of the Stanley family.

If you’re familiar with Elvis’ story, you pretty much already know why.

If you’re not, the short version is that Davada “Dee” Stanley and her three sons, Bill, David, and Rick Stanley between the four of them have published about 10 books in various combination and solo efforts. Plus a terrible movie, Protecting the King.

In 1980, the four of them penned their first effort Elvis: We Love You Tender.

Dee was quoted to say that it would make the bodyguard book (Elvis What Happened) look like a kindergarten reader.

So, their books and various claims have all been launched from that poison pen.
2. By any woman claiming to have had his child or long term relationship but is unable to provide even a photo of herself with Elvis

Goes without saying – even that Vegas stripper Tempest Storm who claimed a one nighter with Elvis prior to his army induction had a photo with him.

3. Anyone who had a short term association or arms length employee relationship

Yet claims to now want to reveal the true Elvis, set the record straight or make right all the negative rumours.

They generally paint a worse picture of Elvis than the one they claim to be correcting – but really, how would a person who knew him a few months or in a narrow context know him better than people who were regularly around him at work and at play?

And incidentally, these arm’s length folks are pretty much never mentioned in any books by Memphis Mafia guys or serious writers who do research and interviews and put effort into their books.
4. Books by any person who didn’t know Elvis and didn’t do interviews with people who knew him and have no particular training in pop culture or music analysis

They tend based their book on a fantasy relationship and or a mystical connection

A big tip off for books in the third and fourth category is that if the book has photos, they are all publicity photos, concert images or fan taken candids.

Never anything that suggests an actual meeting took place and the writer certainly didn’t take the photo.
Anyways, that’s my rule of thumb for book buying.

On to more reviews!