He Must Think I’m A Mademoiselle from Armentieres

It would seem there’s a variation on the “I’ve been arrested and need bail money to pay the police” scam where a purported nearly completely unknown relative reaches out to the only grandparent or aunt or uncle or cousin they know will help.

Now, maybe I wasn’t targeted for this scam, and maybe it was a legit communication. At this point — and perhaps forevermore — I’ll never really know. What’s interesting is that the emails I received were from someone claiming to be a cousin I heard discussed in hushed tones nearly 30 years ago.

Aside from that discussion, until recently, I knew nothing about that cousin or his life.

The first thing that needs to be understood is that I have only met a very small handful of cousins over the years, most of whom I met decades ago and only once. My mother came from an enormous family where nearly all of them married and had children, and those children married and had children, and for the most part, those children are married and many of them have children, too.

My father was one of four boys and they all married and had children, and those children have married and had children, and those children are, for the most part, married and many of them have children as well.

Regardless of which side of the family we’re talking about, both sides of the family have led to a rather substantial number of relatives. In fact, there’s probably enough to populate two large towns without importing strangers at this point to be considered two large towns.

A little over a month ago, someone in the anonymous virtual universe sent me a rather odd message stating he was my first cousin.

I am your first cousin, he stated.


Now proclaiming that we’re first cousins isn’t the odd part of the message because obviously I have quite a few first cousins, and even more first cousins once removed and first cousins twice removed before we even get to any of the second cousin shenanigans. Most people have a hard time figuring out how the family relationship chart works, so I’ll just drop this here to help explain things.

As I was saying, someone in the anonymous virtual universe sent me a message out of the blue stating he was my first cousin. After wondering whether I should respond, I thought I’d take a chance, so I wrote back: How are we related?

I mean, if a complete stranger is going to claim he’s that closely related to me, it shouldn’t be any hardship for him to answer quickly with the correct answer.

A day later, I heard back. He gave me the name of an uncle, and immediately followed that up by saying he had never met me!



He then said he had seen me on television doing an interview which didn’t surprise me because that’s what successful people are known to do. They share news of their ventures and upcoming campaigns and events. In fact, a great many strangers have seen those same interviews. Nothing strange there, right?

But then he felt compelled to tell me he was pursuing a career in the video game industry, and he hoped to be doing production out of LA with his fledgling startup company.

Hold up a minute there? If he’s my first cousin with no removals, and he’s the son of that one uncle he mentioned, he’s from the Silent Generation — the generation BEFORE the Baby Boomers.

You know: Silent Generation (WWII babies), Baby Boomer Generation, Generation X, Millennials, Generation Next, Digital Natives (1995 to 2012), and now Gen Alpha (those born since 2013).

Now, pursuing a career in the video game industry (his words, I swear) isn’t strange but pursuing a career that is populated predominantly by Millennials through to the Digital Natives is a little strange when it’s not a career as voice-over talent or a scriptwriter or something along those lines.

But perhaps he has a few silent partners and he’s the face of the business. Still, those silent partners aren’t going to be Silent Generation silent partners, and for the past decade, the gamification of education hasn’t exactly been raking up the big bucks the way it did back in the Reader Rabbit days.

As for going to LA for production, shouldn’t he consider the locations of the top video gaming companies such as the top 3: Nintendo in Japan, Valve in Washington, Rockstar Games in New York? I mean, if he’s going to go to LA for production, it means he doesn’t live in LA.

Hey, why not try Cary, North Carolina because one of the top 20 video gaming companies is located there and I know for a fact they don’t charge an arm and a leg for a cup of java! You also don’t have to fight to find a parking spot in Cary the way you do in LA.

Anyway, he went on to tell me most of ‘our cousins’ live in the US and he hadn’t seen them in some time. Well, he’s never met me (by his own admission) and I said earlier, I’ve only met a handful of cousins many, many years ago. If he’s holding out a carrot promising to introduce me to some more cousins, that goulash was cooked and served up long ago.

Of course, I had to write back since there was one question — the most important question of them all — this stranger from the anonymous virtual universe had carefully avoided mentioning.

So I asked it for him with my reply. I stated I knew from experience people never reach out to strangers — related or unrelated — without a reason, and I asked him straight out what he was hoping I could do for him?

It’s been several days now since that email was sent to him, and I haven’t heard tickety-boo from him since then. I wonder why that might be?

I also wonder why he insisted on signing his interactions with me with his full name followed by PhD. After all, if you’re contacting a cousin, surely you aren’t going to sign it in such a formal way, noting the fact you have a doctoral degree, are you?

A Quarter Century and Three Pandemics Later

Who could have predicted a year ago that your 25th birthday would be memorable for all kinds of strange reasons, not the least of which was a pandemic of epic proportions that mirrored so much of the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 – 1919 … starting 100 years after that pandemic came to an end.

Of course, it’s not the first pandemic you have lived through, my son. The day you underwent a thymectomy at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto (ON), the World Health Organization announced the Swine Flu pandemic of 2009 – 2010.  What a terrifying thought that you would be dealing with healing from major surgery at a time when you were at your most vulnerable when it came to germs and bacteria and viruses.

Remember when avian flu went pandemic in 2005?  That was also pretty scary, but we weathered that storm together as well.

And let’s not forget the SARS pandemic of 2002 – 2003. SARS was short for severe acute respiratory syndrome and it, too, was declared pandemic. And there you were — a diagnosed asthmatic and an at-the-time undiagnosed myasthenic — living through a disease that could easily stop you in your tracks!

You’ve always been someone who marched to sound of a different drum, and that’s what makes you the person you are today … alive … surviving … thriving … as you hit the quarter century mark in your life.

I have a lot of great photos of you I took over the years — years when my camera wasn’t very good but still good enough to take pictures.  I don’t know if you remember this picture of you taken at your grandparents’ apartment.  You had just turned 3 years old, and you loved having your picture taken.

The year you turned 5, you celebrated with cupcakes at your daycare.  I took pictures to commemorate the day and when they were developed, your grandfather went through the photos he had from days gone by and showed you how much you and I looked alike at 5 years of age.  That’s you on the left in color, and that’s me on the right in black and white.

A few years later, Kate Reid came into your life through the Special Friends program.  I still have the first photo of you and Kate together.  At the time, she was a student at Trent and now she’s a married mom of two precious little boys of her own.

November 2005, we lost your grandfather:  Your best friend in the whole wide world.  This led to one of the hardest years of your life, but you made it through to the other side, and for Christmas 2006, Thomas and I took you on holiday to the southern US.  You hiked a couple trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the Tennessee side of the park.  We went to the North Carolina side where we visited an old mill and then visited Cherokee.  We enjoyed visiting neat places like Mel’s Diner in Pigeon Forge, and we traveled part of the infamous Route 66.  We visited Springfield (IL).

We hiked part of Starved Rock State Park (in Illinois) and we hiked part of Matthiessen State Park (also in Illinois) and we hiked part of Giant City State Park (in Illinois as well).   We didn’t stop there.  We hiked in Shawnee National Forest, and we hiked in Garden of the Gods Park.

It’s a good thing I took so many pictures because so many memories were made during that vacation.

It wasn’t long before your health took a nose dive, and you were diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis.  All the health issues that had been chalked up to a “mystery illness” by medical doctors over the years was finally identified.  You were so brave, and all Thomas and I could do was to be there for you whenever you suffered a myasthenic crisis or had to endure IVIg over the course of 5 days or wound up hospitalized for other MG-related reasons.  I know you say that most of that bad stuff is a blur in your memory, but I remember how much time you and Thomas spent talking about things such as the Harry Potter books and the Series of Unfortunate Events Lemony Snicket books, Doctor Who from back in the day and the rebooted Doctor Who, and technology and the future of technology.

We took you on another extended vacation in March of 2009, back to Tennessee but this time with stops in Kentucky to see where it all began for KFC and Colonel Sanders, and Georgia to visit the Chickamauga National Military Park.  You loved your day at WonderWorks back in Pigeon Forge, and as always, I took so many photos.

You underwent a thymectomy in June 2009 on the same day the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic.  That didn’t stop you from fighting to get back to living your life.

Once you were well on your way to recovery, we took you on another trip (after consulting with your pediatric neurologist) that included some pretty interesting stops including one to Hell (in Michigan) just so you could joke about having been to Hell and back.  A couple weeks later, we flew to Florida to visit DisneyWorld and NASA!

In September of that year, you won the Trent University Youth Leadership Award.  There aren’t too many people anywhere in the world who can say they have had a bursary named after them.

Darren Murphy, Community Leaders Awards Organizing Committee Chair (left) with the Community Leaders Awards recipients, Goodith Heeney, Lewis Schofield and Norm Vandenberg. PHOTO CREDIT:  Trent University

They even put together an awesome video that showcased who you were and focused on how you felt about life in general.  The video can be seen on the Trent University website by clicking on this link:  Lewis Schofield Video

Through it all, you were still a regular kid interested in technogadgetry and science fiction and acting.  Your high school drama teacher felt you had a real flair for acting, and he was right.  You created some memorable characters during Grade 9 and 10, and wrote some pretty neat scripts.  This is one of my favorite photos of you and Lola the Cat from 2010.  What a pair you two made.

You kept on winning awards, even though you sometimes wondered how that happened.  In this case, you were nominated by the staff of the United Way of Peterborough and District.

For your 20th birthday in 2015, I put together this collage with photos along the right hand side and various avatars you used over the years along the bottom with a nice black-and-white photograph of you wearing your grandfather’s suit jacket in a casual sort of Miami Vice inspired moment.  You have always had a way of throwing things together looks that remind people of days gone by while still being fresh and current.

It’s like that time when you went to the ComiCon in Toronto (around the same time) and you channeled Steve Jobs with your fashion statement.

You’ve come a long way, my son, and I know that whatever you do in life, and wherever life takes you, your story will continue to be one no one could have ever anticipated or expected.  Happy birthday, and may your second quarter century be as interesting and atypical as the first quarter century has been.

Wishing My Kid A Happy Birthday

Today is your 24th birthday, Lewis.  I know your real life and online friends know you as revstrangehope and realnightcat, but I know you as Lewis, and that’s all you’ve ever asked me to call you even though you’ve shared with me (and the rest of the world very publicly) countless handles and avatars.

It’s amazing how quickly time goes by, and as hackneyed as the phrase may sound to those who haven’t come to this realization, time flies by and before you know it, the future is staring you straight in the face.

I remember thinking when you were born, if I could hold on to a wall calendar from 1995, you could use it again in 2023 when both years would have the exact same dates on the exact same days. Imagine that! The year you celebrate your 28th birthday, you’ll be able to recycle that calendar from 1995.

Oddly enough, Time magazine’s cover story that week was “The Mysteries the Brain.”  The edition was titled, “In Search of the Mind.” Perhaps the universe was whispering a warning to me that you had a most amazing mind with incredible ideas and unexpected insights?

The month you were born, there were some amazing movies that hit the theaters, and I didn’t get to see any of them until years later:

Species (both on July 7, 1995): A government scientist intercepts a space transmission with the genetic sequence for an alien life form.

Nine Months (July 12, 1995): A successful child psychologist and full-time playboy panics when he finds out his current girlfriend is expecting their child, and the crisis of impending fatherhood hits him straight on.

The Indian in the Cupboard (July 14, 1995): A 9-year-old boy is given a cupboard for his birthday, and when he puts a small figuring of a Native American Indian inside, Little Bear comes to life.

The Net (July 28, 1995): A computer programmer starts a new freelance job and shortly after starting the job, her fellow computer programmers start dying.

Waterworld (July 28, 1995): A lone wolf mariner has adapted to the ocean and develops gills after both polar caps have melted.

Alone, each movie is interesting but when they are seen as a package, I can’t help but think there was a fair bit of foreshadowing going on that July as it wasn’t long before your love of all things scientific and computer were of particular interest to you, your love of water was evident within months of being born, and you loved the idea of magic in the world around you.

Over the past 24 years, you have lived through 8,766 days from the day you were born through to today — your birthday.

There have been 297 full moons over those years. I wonder if you remember that the full moon this month is called the Thunder Moon?  Did you know this year it’s also involved in an eclipse?  It’s actually called a half-blood lunar eclipse so, you know … Harry Potter tie-in.

As a side note, it’s going to take until March 26, 2027 for you to celebrate one billion seconds of life so let’s celebrate that when you’re 31 going on 32, okay?

I wonder if you realize what amazing things happened on July 18th in the years leading up to your birth. For one thing, Carl Sagan turned one billion seconds old on July 18, 1966. Pretty cool science connection, right, Lewis?

Also on July 18, 1966, Gemini 10 was launched from Cape Kennedy on a 70-hour mission, so that’s another science connection to your birthday. Another side note is that Buzz Aldrin was the back-up crew for the Gemini 10, and he went on to be assigned to the Apollo 11 crew that landed on the moon 50 years ago.

Talking about NASA, remember how you and I and Thomas visited NASA in Florida back in September 2009?   We picked up all kinds of mission patches for you.  Good times, good times.

But getting back to this birthday post all about you and July 18th — Intel was founded in Mountain View (CA) in 1968. By the time you were born, the digital native generation was just kicking off. How cool is that when it comes to strange albeit unrelated connections?

And on July 18, 1986, the first videotape recordings showing Titanic’s sunken remains were released to the public (and long before the Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet movie hit the big screen).

I know how much you like random facts so here are a couple neat ones for you this year on your 24th birthday:

1. If you find yourself in a room with 22 other people, there’s a 50% chance two of you will share the same birthday (month and day, but not necessarily the same year).

2. If you find yourself in a room with at least 253 other people, there’s a 50% chance two of you will share the same birthday (month and day and year).

Other random facts that have to do with the day you were born are that on July 18th that same year, 361,817 babies were born. That works out to 251 babies per minute.

You were unique, and so were all those other 250 babies born at exactly the same minute you were born.

But as unique as all those other babies were, you were MY newborn and so that makes you the most unique of them all in my heart.

You’ve lived through so much chaos and tragedy in those few short years, but I have always believed you were headed towards an amazing future. I look forward to seeing where life takes you over the years.

But this year, I’m celebrating 24 years of your life. Happy birthday, Lewis.


A Psychopath, A Schizophrenic, and An Autistic Walk Into A Room

According to scientific data, 1 in 100 persons is a psychopath, and according to scientific data, 1 in 100 persons suffers from schizophrenia.

Here is what that does not mean: It does not mean if you gather a hundred people in a room, you will have a psychopath, a schizophrenic, and 98 normal people in the room.

You could have a handful of psychopaths in the room and no schizophrenics, or a handful of schizophrenics and no psychopaths, or one person who is both a psychopath and a schizophrenic, or no one who is either a psychopath or a schizophrenic.

Yes, on average, all things being equal, you will have someone in the room with a psychopath diagnosis and someone in the room with a schizophrenia diagnosis, and it might be the same person! Then again, it might be two separate people.

That’s the funny thing about prevalence rates and incidence rates, and how a great many people confuse the two. An incidence rate indicates the risk of something happening while a prevalence rate indicates how widespread something is in society.

So when someone states what the incidence rate of something is, it doesn’t necessarily mean that if you gather up the requisite number of people and sequester them in a room together that you will find anyone who fits the profile indicated by the incidence rate. In fact, you may find that your room of people implies (but does not confirm) an epidemic of whatever it is you were looking for within the group of people gathered.

When autism warriors claim 1 in 34 people has autism, that’s not accurate. It’s only accurate in areas where that is a fact. When autism warriors claim that 1 in 59 people has autism, that’s not accurate either. In 2016, a study of 8-year-olds indicated that among those studied, 1.7% of those studied had autism.  In other words, 1 in 59 eight-year-olds.

What does this mean exactly?

It means that in a school with 500 students, there may be 8 or 9 students with autism spectrum disorder. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be more students with autism attending that school, and it doesn’t mean there will be fewer students with autism attending that school.

What’s more, that 1 in 59 claim only applies to 8-year-olds as no other studies of older or younger subjects were conducted in order to collate data collected that would provide what the incidence rate might be for other age groups.

What would be interesting to study would be how many rooms of 100 people yielded one psychopath, one schizophrenic, and two autistics, leaving 96 other people wondering what might be going on with them which no licensed and accredited medical practitioner has diagnosed to date.

The Historical Predictability of Alleged Randomness

On Facebook, someone in a group to which I belong asked why random numbers are used in measurements. As an example, they pointed out that a mile is made up of 5,280 random feet, and the person posting sneered at how arbitrary numbers are used to determine measurements.

To add poignancy to the post, the poster mentioned that a kilometer is made up of 1,000 meters, and it was about time Americans got with the times and gave up what the poster called random number measurements.

Except that 5,280 feet is not a random number used to express a mile on land.

When someone talks about randomness, it’s important to understand the meaning of the word.  Random refers to something that is made or done, or that happens, or is chosen without method or conscious decision.  This means that for 5,280 feet to be a random number that defines a mile is to imply that no thought whatsoever went into determining how many feet are in a mile.

A mile is based on the Roman mille passus which means “thousand paces” and was a measurement based on 5,000 Roman feet.  As we know, not all feet are the same length. Some people have short, square feet and some people have long, rectangular feet, and a great many have feet that are about the same size. In other words, a foot in Roman times wasn’t an exact measurement.

Over the course of centuries, it was decided that since 12 was a perfect number when it came to creating divisions, and the sum of its divisors was a perfect number, that one foot would be 12 inches. This created a uniform measurement for what one foot was because every foot was now 12 inches long, and every inch was, according to King Edward II of England, the length of 3 grains of barley placed end to end lengthwise.

Barley being a common, every day food item regardless of whether one was in England or in France or on a ship somewhere out on the ocean or anywhere else, it was easy for even the simplest peasant to understand what one inch looked like, and how 12 of those inches was considered one foot.

Grains of Barley

                                   Grains of Barley

Now, it’s a fact that the average man’s foot just happens to be 12 inches long, so the average man’s foot also just happens to be as long as 36 grains of barley placed end to end lengthwise.

So the first bit of the answer to the allegedly random number has been explained: One foot is 12 inches, with one inch being clearly defined regardless of what direction you look at said measurement.

But let’s get back to that allegedly random number of 5,280 feet equaling one mile.

Back in the day, furlongs were also used. The word is derived from the Old English words furh (furrow) and lang (long) so it’s easy to see how it became known as a furlong, right?

Acres of land were measured in furlongs (which was the length) and chains (which was the width). A chain was a unit of length equal to 66 feet and was subdivided into 4 rods. A furlong was made up of 10 chains (which was 40 rods).

It was understood by all that one acre of land was 40 rods long by 4 rods wide.

Since 40 rods was the equivalent of 660 feet, and because of the Roman mille passus, it became law that a land mile was eight furlongs in length, or 5,280 feet.

When you look at this from a historical perspective, those allegedly random numbers aren’t so random after all, are they?

Elyse Bruce

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