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October 7, 2007

BehindTheMedspeak: Capgras Syndrome

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Long story short: In Capgras syndrome people are replaced by inexact duplicates.

Shades of Philip K. Dick.

Here's Carol W. Berman, M.D.'s fascinating September 11, 2007 New York Times Science section article about the syndrome, considered rare but — at least in Dr. Berman's practice — becoming more and more prevalent among geriatric patients.

    When a ‘Duplicate’ Family Moves In

    My patient, a 37-year-old homemaker, gazed at the man in the red plaid shirt as he sat on the couch in her living room.

    “Who are you?” she asked.

    There was something familiar about him. He wore her husband’s boots, but the shirt made him look like a truck driver.

    “Yeah, and who are you?” the man replied with a laugh. “Come here and give me a kiss.”

    She gave the man a peck on the cheek, but she felt guilty, fearing that her husband would arrive at any moment and admonish her. Not only did the man want a kiss — he also wanted sex!

    Discouraging him, she sat down to talk. The man spoke just like her husband and knew personal facts about her. It occurred to her that her husband had been mysteriously replaced by this fellow. How it happened she had no idea; she knew only that it had.

    My patient had a history of schizoaffective disorder, similar to schizophrenia, but with more emotional range. And when she told me of this incident at her weekly visit the next day, I worried that her psychosis was recurring. “Have you been taking your medicine?” I asked.

    She admitted that she had not taken her antipsychotic, Clozaril, for a few days because of a side effect, excessive salivation.

    “With your condition, it’s important to take your medicine every day,” I said gently.

    She liked and respected me, but she could not stand it when I gave her orders. “If you knew how embarrassing it is to drool all over yourself, you wouldn’t make me take that medicine,” she told me.

    As I tried to extract a promise that she would restart her medicine, she suddenly sat back and stared at me.

    “What’s wrong?” I asked.

    There was a pause. I saw her composing herself before she spoke. “You have the same voice, but your nose is bigger and your face longer.”

    She excused herself 10 minutes early. I allowed her to go, because I knew she could not stand being with me any longer.

    Days later, her husband called to say she was going “crazy” again, believing that I and, now, her parents had been replaced by duplicates. I had to hospitalize her and restart her medication.

    My patient suffered from a variation of Capgras syndrome, in which people are replaced by inexact duplicates. It has been considered rare, but the more I work with geriatric patients, the more I am diagnosing it.

    The disorder was first described in 1923 by the French psychiatrists Joseph Capgras and Jean Reboul-Lachaux. They treated a 53-year-old who believed that her husband, her children, her neighbors and even she had been replaced by exact “doubles” in a plot to steal her property.

    In Capgras, there is an uncoupling of perception and recognition that leads many investigators to theorize that there may be a neurological, organic cause that remains unknown. Psychoanalysts have seen Capgras as an unusual form of displacement in which the patient rejects the loved one whenever negative features have to be attributed.

    Yet guilt and ambivalence prevent the patient from becoming conscious of the rejection. The bad feelings are displaced to a double, who is an impostor and may safely be rejected. Anna Freud thought this delusion allowed patients to defend themselves against loss and distress about changes in close relationships.

    After resuming her medicine, my patient quickly lost her belief that her husband, parents and psychiatrist were doubles. When she was healthy enough to return to outpatient treatment, I asked whether she had ever seen the movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” She said no.

    I thought I’d better not explain the plot to her.

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For further reading:

• April 2005 Scientific American Mind article

• September 23, 2003 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article

• March 1997 Proceedings of the Royal Society (Biological Sciences) paper entitled "Capgras syndrome: a novel probe for understanding the neural representation of the identity and familiarity of persons"

October 7, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cardboard Flat Pack iPod Boom Box

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That's different.

From the website:

    Cardboard Classic Fold-It-Yourself iPod Boom Box

    Flat pack folded cardboard with real, fully working amplified speakers.

    For iPod and other MP3 players.

    2 AA batteries included.

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$40 when it becomes available at the end of this month.

October 7, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Disintegration — by E. M. Cioran

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Not everybody loses his innocence: therefore not everybody is unhappy. Those who live naively, not out of stupidity — innocence is a pure state which excludes such deficiencies — but out of instinctive and organic love for nature, whose charm innocence is always quick to discover, those are the ones who achieve harmony, an integration with life, much coveted by those who struggle on the heights of despair. Disintegration implies total loss of innocence, that lovely gift destroyed by knowledge, life's enemy. Rich ground for love and enthusiasm, innocence is delight in the natural charm of being and the unconscious experience of contradictions which no longer have a tragic character. To attain the virginal joy of innocence, one must not live contradictions consciously, or know tragedy and thoughts of death, because such knowledge is baffling, complex, and requires disjunction. Innocence resists tragedy but welcomes love, because the innocent, never troubled by inner contradictions, have generous impulses. For the man who has cut himself off from life, tragedy is intensely painful because contradictions arise not only inside himself but also between him and the rest of the world. There are only two fundamental attitudes: the naive and the heroic. All the others partake of them. One must choose between these two in order to avoid idiocy. But for the man who has come to make such a choice, innocence is no longer an option, so there remains only heroism. The latter is both a privilege and a curse for those severed from life, incapable of fulfillment and happiness. To be a hero — in the most universal sense of the word — means to aspire to absolute triumph. But such triumphs come only through death. Heroism means transcending life; it is a fatal leap into nothingness, even though the hero may not be aware that his energy springs from a life deprived of its normal supports. All that is innocence, and does not lead to it, belongs to nothingness. Can one speak of the seductions of nothingness? If we do, we must add that they are much too mysterious to penetrate.

October 7, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Shoe Rack

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From the website:

    Shoe Rack

    A wall mounted, modular shoe rack in the form of pairs of feet.

    Mounted away from the wall, shoes hang over and behind the feet for efficient storage and display.

    Made of powder coated steel wire.

    70cm x 21cm x 7.5cm.

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$65 CAD (scroll down about 1/4 of the way from the top of this page).

October 7, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Experts' Expert: 'The best way to search videos on the Internet'

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Katherine Boehret's "The Mossberg Solution" column in the August 22, 2007 Wall Street Journal explored the state of the art in video search by testing four video search engines.

Her results are summarized below.

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Her conclusion: Truveo (top) stands head and shoulders above the others in looks and functionality.

October 7, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Finger Guard — Episode 3: Price Break

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Episode 1 way back on September 22, 2005 opened this space with a stainless steel entrant at a rather dear $14.95.

Episode 2 on August 13, 2007 expanded the materials arena by offering a hinged polypropylene version, with the added pluses of 1) a lower price ($9.99) and 2) creating it in the official color of bookofjoe, making it — duh — the Official Finger Guard of bookofjoe™.

Now comes the latest iteration from out back in the finger guard skunk works, no longer in our school color but 30% cheaper.

    Flexible Finger Guard

    In exclusive Williams-Sonoma red, this polypropylene shield easily slips over your middle finger — whether you’re right- or left-handed — and protects your fingers from cuts.

    The hinged rubber design allows the guard to bend with your finger and the bottom half holds ingredients in place.

    Dishwasher safe.

    One size fits all.

    2-1/4" x 2-1/4".

....................

Still no Bluetooth or WiFi — maybe in the next version.

It would appear to this observer that the original steel iteration offers less protection for your razor sharp knife edges than either of the polypropylene offerings.

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$7.

One last thing: Looking at the picture up top just now, it occurs to me that those sliced nubbins bear an alarming resemblance to fingertips.

Might I suggest changing out the demonstration material to scallions or celery or some other foodstuff whose color lies a bit further afield from the flesh spectrum?

People might well recoil from what they see above without ever realizing why they did so.

Just a thought.

October 7, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Identity Theft — Episode 2: The Wealthy as Targets

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Yesterday I remarked that T. C. Boyle's novel "Talk Talk" was instructive along with being hugely entertaining.

Of particular interest to me was how his fictional criminals, as the story evolved, decided to focus on the rich, reasoning they offered far better targets of opportunity than hoi polloi.

As Willie Sutton replied when asked why he robbed banks, "Because that's where the money is."

The identity thieves performed in-depth online research on public library computers, making their activities untraceable to them as individuals.

Boyle's book was published in 2006, which means he most likely finished writing it that year or in 2005.

He did his homework.

On August 17, 2007, Cassell Bryan-Low's story headlined "'ID-Theft Gang' Targeting Wealthy People is Exposed" appeared in the Wall Street Journal; it follows.

    'ID-Theft Gang' Targeting Wealthy People is Exposed

    Case Shows Amount of Data Available to Public Online, Pursuit of Deeper Pockets

    U.S. law-enforcement authorities arrested what they called an online identity-theft gang that they allege sought to steal millions of dollars by targeting wealthy individuals, including Michaels Stores Inc. co-founder Charles Wyly and a member of the Pritzker family.

    The case underscores how cybercriminals are pursuing deeper pockets, and it highlights a coming of age for cybercriminals: Some who started out with credit-card fraud have progressed to bigger targets like brokerage and mortgage accounts, which have higher limits. It also sheds light on the amount of information that is publicly accessible, even to suspected criminals halfway around the world.

    The ringleader in this case was a 24-year-old Russian named Igor Klopov, according to an indictment returned by a New York county grand jury that was unsealed yesterday. He stole $1.5 million and attempted to steal an additional $10.7 million from about 15 victims, many of whom he found through the Forbes 400 richest list, according to the indictment and prosecutors. Besides the individuals targeted, financial-services firms where his victims held accounts included Merrill Lynch & Co., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Fidelity Investments, says the indictment.

    The victim list also included a Silicon Valley couple, the head of a major credit-reporting agency and a wealthy Texas businessman, according to prosecutors. Many of the victims lived in states — like Texas and California — where deed information about properties is available online.

    Mr. Klopov allegedly focused on people with a home-equity line of credit account, a way for homeowners to borrow against the value of a home as needed. By mining publicly available deed information online, Mr. Klopov was able to readily gain information about the value of property, size of outstanding mortgages, and existing lines of credit, prosecutors allege.

    Mr. Klopov created dossiers on his victims and hired private investigators to provide him with additional information, prosecutors say. They say he also used online job-hunting Web sites to recruit accomplices to withdraw money from banks, providing them with fake identification and information on his targets. Mr. Klopov made travel arrangements for his collaborators, including reservations at five-star hotels and limo services, which he paid for with stolen credit-card numbers, prosecutors say.

    U.S. authorities yesterday also said they had arrested four other individuals — in Michigan, Texas, Florida and Kentucky. The defendants have been charged with theft, identity theft, money laundering and forgery, among other charges.

    Another victim was Anthony Pritzker, a member of the Pritzker family that owns the Hyatt hotel chain. An assistant for Mr. Pritzker said he wasn't reachable.

    A spokesman for Fidelity said the incident involved one account in late 2005 and the company had reimbursed the customer. Spokesmen for Merrill and J.P. Morgan Chase declined to comment beyond saying the firms work with law enforcement.

    The yearlong investigation was conducted by the U.S. Secret Service, the New York City Police Department and the Manhattan District Attorney's office.

    In one instance, Mr. Klopov allegedly tried to steal $7 million from craft-store chain co-founder Mr. Wyly, who was a J.P. Morgan Chase customer. According to the indictment, Mr. Klopov, posing as Mr. Wyly, contacted the bank and asked that a new checkbook linked to a home-equity line of credit be sent to a Houston address associated with one of his cohorts. The cohort drafted a check for $7 million and sent it to a gold dealer in Westchester, N.Y. To authenticate the check, the gold dealer called its bank, which also happened to be J.P. Morgan Chase, the indictment continues. The bank contacted Mr. Wyly, who informed them that he had never signed that check. J.P. Morgan Chase alerted authorities, who already were investigating Mr. Klopov.

    William Brewer, a lawyer for Mr. Wyly, said Mr. Wyly "is grateful for the good work... done by law enforcement officials."

    Using an undercover agent, who already had developed an online relationship with Mr. Klopov, authorities led the defendant to believe the gold had been purchased and began arranging with Mr. Klopov plans for him to come to the U.S. to retrieve it, according to prosecutors. Authorities arrested Mr. Klopov under the Brooklyn Bridge.

    The Manhattan District Attorney's office said Mr. Klopov, who is from Moscow and is in custody, has denied the charges. An effort to reach an attorney for Mr. Klopov was unsuccessful.

October 7, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Yin Yang Vodka

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From trifter.com:

    Yin Yang Vodka

    “Twistee Shots” employs the Yin and Yang concept.

    It comes in twisted plastic 25-ml shot glasses that deliver two separate flavors in one shot.

    One side contains a creamy vodka-based vanilla spirit and the other features one of two flavors, vodka-based strawberry or butterscotch.

    The drink is marketed by Independent Distillers USA and costs around $12 per 8-pack.

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[via my Missouri correspondent]

October 7, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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