Posts tagged ‘con game’


“He said that when people haven’t been buried right, their ghosts come back to haunt people”

-Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Nina 1 2 called very late Friday. I had been asleep, so I it let it stay a message. She says she is in Texas and feeling sorry about what happened.

The best circumstantial evidence available takes a very dim view of this. Still, I’m considering talking (and only talking) for the sake of closure – burying the dead.


One of my long-delayed thoughts is that appearances had no small part in my actions when I was being pressured for money.

Essentially, each person has to choose what names he will put up with being called. Given the choice between foolish and hard-hearted, I couldn’t stand the thought of head-hearted, even at steadly diminishing odds.

At times, I thought it strange that I, a person who never gambles, should be making such increasingly unlikely ‘bets’. What I’ve realized, as I write, is that the money was incidental – the real bet was trust, and from that view my reaction was quite chracteristically conservative. The only way to ‘lose’ was to refuse a genuine request for help, and that was never a risk if I never refused. Remaining unimpeachable carried more weight that what might appear to be common sense.

“Yes, but how do you feel about it?”

A Roller-Coaster Ride

The first part of my ‘factual history’ started out as a more informal account, so it already has a little bit of my impressions. At first I thought she was just a fairly outgoing person. She generally started conversations, and I could usually manage to keep things limping along. The main thing that seemed odd at first was the expression of almost astonishment the first few times I showed up.

Eventually, the flirtation was too obvious for even myself to miss, from requests to try some of my food, to “If I was your girlfriend…” or “I’m glad I’m not your girlfriend…” in response to a less apitizing lunch. So, I figured any relationship has to start on one side or the other, and I might as well take the opportunity where I found it.

When she called me the first time, she sounded genuinely excited, though it may not have been for the reasons I thought. I got rather confused about where I’d been mistaken when she said “You know I just like you as a friend, right?” I got more confused when she asked not long thereafter “Do you think I’m hot?”

Once we got into scheduling, and then lunches, I started to learn more, little of it reassuring. She was rarely available, but didn’t really seem to do anything. Well, often meeting her for lunch, her news for the day was that she got really drunk the previous night. Sometimes, it was the recent death of a relative, sometimes she just seemed to be a party girl, increasingly, it seemed like a general pattern brought on by a marriage going sour and ending in divorce.

She also went out for a cigarette after lunch. When she said she was, in fact, interested in me, this became in some sense the primary conflict: smoking and drinking wouldn’t exactly be my first choices if I was filling out a request form for the perfect mate. It’s not quite right to say “beggers can’t be choosers” – I’m love-poor but not begging. Still, it’s no great secret that one can’t expect every aspect of another person to be exactly to one’s liking.

Still, I hear the cries of “WHY?!?” Remember that strengths survey a few months back? Number one was “Input”, and I figured if can’t learn something from a near total opposite then I’ve lost the path to wisdom.

The second time she came over, she immediately started coming on to me. I wont’ say I completely didn’t notice; a head on my shoulder was a little surprising, but being used to the familiar environment of C&G I didn’t read too much into it. She of course then had to make a more direct, and somewhat exasperated, statement. This put me in the rather awkward position of trying to explain that I wasn’t actively attracted, but quite willing to see what developed.

She was a very different person that day; she said she had been drinking a bit in order to overcome shyness and declare her affection. It was also the only time we talked about martial arts (the only thing we had in common) She got pretty fired up about my weak kicks, the competative attitude in general. I actually kind of liked to see this instead of her normal attitude; I’m not sure if blaze is quite the right word.

Next week she just sort of didn’t show up. Then there was the “I might be falling in love with you” e-mail. I spent two weeks of concious effort of trying to emotionally meet her part-way, and then she was like a different person again – saying “We need to find you a girlfriend.” Aroo?

By the laptop hot-potato I was starting to get a big suspicious. When the check bounced and provided an external statement on the matter, it was a little too late – I havn’t seen her since to talk about the matter, though she did respond to an e-mail, just to say that she is working two jobs (quite a change after working none for a while) so hasn’t and won’t be available.

From the Frying Pan Into the Fire (and into the volcano, en route to the sun)

First, I wondered how I mis-read the flirting. Then I was playing emotional catch-up, being a little concerned about the smoking and drinking (and driving). I was also wondering what might happen when her lease ran out. Then she was asking for help finding a job, and I didn’t really know where to start. Then she was so desperate for money, she was ready to pawn her laptop. Technically, I offered that loan, but coming over to my house to look up pawn shops in the phone books is hardly the most efficient way to handle that operation by itself. After that she was on the verge of being evicted. When I first saw her on easter I thought she was still short on money and things had fallen apart with the family; the brother in prison stretched the bounds of credibility.

In short, I could never settle on one thing to set my mind to. Deciding how I felt got sweapt away by dark shadows whispering in my ear and crisis management.

Chameleon (And What’s Up With Texas?)

When I first met her, she mentioned moving from Texas somewhat recently, and not knowing the area well. She sometimes said she had just gotten back from a trip there. At first, she seemed mostly like a party girl who went out drinking on a regular basis. She would casually mention taking me to Texas to meet her friends

I hesitate to put forward my own wild speculations, but the message “I get drunk all the time.” with all but throwing herself at me carries a certain message. If that wild speculation has any truth to it, I’m not sure she quite knew what to do with a 31 year old virgin.

So the topic moved to martial arts. While earlier she was lapsed and didn’t have time for it, apparently her family had talked her into competing in a tournement, and this required a year of hard training. In the moment, she seemed to be trying to fire up my competative spirit, and talked about taking me to the tournement in Texas. I meanwhile was trying to practice acceptance, acknowleding she probably was better at sparring (since our school doesn’t focus on that) withou belittling the accomplishment.

Next time I saw her, after the “I don’t love you yet” exchange, she was acting like just a friend, talking about how she was going to find me a girlfriend. She had also gotten her brother to take over her place in the tournement, and had dropped martial arts again.

I’m a little fuzzy on the order of events here, but at some point she said her mother wanted to meet me. “When you’re in Texas.” Or maybe here if her mother visited eventually. Of course, when said mother did visit for a week, there was faimily strief and it was an excuse not to have visit.

She also wanted to take me down to meet the family for Laotian New Year. Such plans were also, informal, indistinct, and it almost seemed forgotten much of the time.

I tried to do a little research into con artists. There isn’t much, though one book did give me a name – Sweetheart Scam – if that’s what it is. Another book, The Big Con, was a study of con games almost a hundred years ago. A common element then was the ‘big store’, frequently involving horses or stocks, where ‘marks’ were brought in from out of town to be scammed. It’s a thought.

Excuses, Excuses.

When we were just being friendly, she would call up now and then, and wonder why I hadn’t called her. Then she lost her phone service (she had been using a relative’s family plan), not long after changing phones at that, and I couldn’t call her.

I didn’t have an address for a long time, and could never visit – after she got in the accident (in “The other car”) I offered to come down to her, since she was in pain. But the house was full of relatives, and coming to me to escape from them was the only thing for it. Then four random cousins called up from the airport; they had picked up and moved from Texas to Illinois, and were crashing at her one-bedroom apartment. In the midst of this, her mother visited, which was a reason not to come, though at one point she said mother had wanted to meet me.

Even e-mail failed one week, when her ex-husband showed up and took off with the laptop for a while. But she wouldn’t be cut of from e-mail after selling it to me, because her mother brought up the ‘other computer’ when came.

Even the bounced check isn’t finally damning; ‘obviously’ the evil ex-husband closed down the joint account, but I can only speculate since I haven’t been able to talk about it yet.

“But it’s my period.” fit the pattern rather well. It didn’t worry me too much; I rather had my doubts whether I’d see her again.

You Should Trust Your Intuition

I was a little worried from that first time she declared here interest – as she was leaving she asked for $10 for gas. It fit with her jobless situation, but the correspondence of the two events still seemed odd. If she had made a few more social visits first I might have thought nothing of it. In retrospect, I only saw her two times that didn’t involve money, and most of them were expressly for that purpose.

Even the one time she was coming on to me, I had the odd feeling that she was goading me on, but she seemed almost passive herself; like she’d let things happen but couldn’t bring herself to show genuine interest. She seemed more turned on by that last check then she ever did by me.

In The End

I was at best just starting to think it might work when things started getting weird. I got a little scared towards the end, when the bounced check had voted strongly for the less favorable interpretation of events, but meetings kept getting missed and the Texas trip was marching down on us. “Whats in Texas?” “What if she asks for more money?” In the end finally disappearing made it easy on me.

I’ve had to confront trust, acceptance, and priorities, a couple cuds that still need a lot of chewing. I charged forward crying “damn the torpedos” on the conviction that primary experience is the best teacher, and given the price of education these days, probably got a fairly good deal all things considered. I never gave more money than I could afford to give, and always realizing that I might never see it again. Perhaps someone acting less suspicious could have taken me for more.

In a sense I’m wiser and stronger for the experience. Still writting this has been like pulling teeth. The first one took a day, writing on and off. This one took a wiik, mostly being written on the last day, after getting over a few rough spots.

The Agony of Real Truth and Honesty: The Story

As always, the great unknowning rules all. But the evidence is swinging twoards “A fool and his money are soon parted.”

To the larger extent I have attempted to present here only the factual account. A am conciously aware of several places where this is imperfect, and as always the ‘facts’ I have chosen to mention are subject entirely to my discretion, to say nothing of the bias in my own perception of events as they happened.

She worked as a secretary with my employer for a while, starting when I was in Las Vegas every week. I remember that because on the first trip, we called back, there was somebody new answering the phones.

It may have simply been that I was there only there two days a week for the first month, but she almost seemed surprised to see me. We managed to keep up some light conversation, usually while I heated up my lunch. After a few months of this, it finally dawned on me that she might be flirting with me. I’ll admit to choosing lunches that needed heating during this time.

My latest cooking experiments were one topic of conversation, and at one point she asked me to bring her something. I figured I’d go a step further and asked her if she wanted to come over for dinner some time.

That was a martial arts night, and I came home to two messages on my answering machine. I called her back and we talked for a little bit. After a while, she said she just wanted to be friends. All very well and good – I’ve few enough friends – but it did baffle me a bit. I figured it took pretty obvious flirting for me to even notice.

In any case the dinner was the first of many attempts; at least she called more often when she couldn’t make it in the beginning. I brought the leftovers in to work the next day, and she suggested we eat together. After that I figured company was better than eating alone, and we starting having lunch together almost every day.

She told me the rumor mill made great sport of this, though none of it reached me personally. I took her statement of friendship at face value, and was just mildly amused.

She quit about mid-February, citing personal differences with the main person she worked with. By this point we still hadn’t actually pulled off anything outside work. A last one got snowed out, but a few days later she came over for a half-planned lunch.

Next week (February 27) she was back, this time to say she was interested in me. She admitted to drinking a bit in order to be able to do so. She said she’d be back every week on Tuesday (my usual day off). She also asked to borrow $10 for gas; I only had $20s.

Next week there was no word. She had lost her cell phone service, so I sent an-email. This at least re-established contact.

Late one night she sent an e-mail saying she might be falling in love with me. It was late (or rather early) enough that I suspect she was drinking again. I had to speak honestly: i had taken her statement of friendship in good faith, and was starting back from square one, so I couldn’t match her feelings yet. Next time I saw her, she said she had probably overstated it, and overall it seemed a much cooler reception.

There was a benefit harp concert in Madison on March 15th. With all the other things going on, I didn’t ask her if she was interested until a few days before the event. She finally said yes, but it was very poorly planned and I think she ended up with the wrong time by several hours. When I finally got in touch with her by e-mail, she said she had been in a car accident coming up to meet me at my house.

I saw her briefly the next weekend. She wanted to borrow $100 for drugs and acupunture. She said she’d come back in a few hours, but I didn’t hear anything until a few days later when I guessed an IM account. Apparently, the morphine (Question: do they prescribe morphine these days?) for the accident pain really knocked her out.

She suggested spending an entire Sunday together, but disappeared again. I didn’t see her again until the next Saturday, on short notice as usual. She came over and immediately started looking through phone books to pawn off her laptop; it seems she was having trouble making rent. Now, I’ve never dealt with pawn shops, did, and probably still do misunderstand them, but have a prettty solid impression that they are bad news. I’d also been thinking about getting a laptop, so I asked if I could give her a better deal. She said the pawn shops would do about $200, and asked for $500. I looked it upon ebay later, and that was the high end for the model, so it was reasonably fair.

She also suggested that I might come down to visit her the next day; I hadn’t had anything other than an e-mail address up this point. She did give me a resume, (including address; curiously it listed the address she moved to while at my company, but did not include that company) since she was looking for work. Very early the next day, she called to say she was coming to me, and that she had some how come up with the money to pay me back overnight. She called later in the morning to cancel that and say she would be by Tuesday.

Tuesday (we’re at April 3rd now) she came and hung out for a few hours. She wrote me a check for $620 against a joint account with her ex-husband (actually, only his name was pre-printed on the check) and shortly afterwards asked about selling the laptop outright for $500 again. I thought this was weird enough that I didn’t want to do it right away. She said she was having trouble getting by in this area, and her relatives in Texas were putting pressure on her to return there. I deposited the check immediately after she left, but a little net research afterwards said it could take weeks for a bad check to come back.

I got an e-mail Friday afternoon saying she was on the edge of eviction. She was desparate, would ‘do anything’ and really needed me to buy the laptop. Since this was an immediate problem, and because I was a bit bothered by the continued denial of visitation, I puposefully respond to the e-mail, went to the bank, and then drove down there (40-60 minutes travel) without waiting for permission. She was at the offered address, but came out and told me to leave. She asked why I didn’t e-mail first, but when I got back I found a reply timestamped only a few minutes after my message.

Saturday we met half-way, and I bought the laptop (again) for $500. She mentioned that she still needed to find the other half of the rent, being a bit behind. I said I’d e-mail her when I got home on Sunday.

Sunday, (Easter) I got back from my parents about 9pm and saw her car parked outside. She said she had been waiting about 10 minutes; after she left I found an e-mail message saying she would be there at 7, and a phone message from about 7:35 saying ‘in ten minutes’. She came up the driveway in tears. I held her for a minute, only asking about the time. We went inside, sat down, and I held her until she was ready to talk. She said her brother was in prison, (in Texas) and she wanted $1600 for bail. After reflecting for a few minutes, I offered to pay the bail personally rather than simply handing her the money. At this she started to pack up and leave, going on about how trust was just as important as the money and asking if there were any good places to sell her body. The ensuing conversation game me more time to think, and I came to the same conclusion as before: I still prefered a world where someone at the last resort could receive help over one ruled by self-interest.

She left saying we would have sex soon (not that I would, especially under the circumstances) but it just happend to be her period. Monday, I got a thank-you e-mail. Tuesday I got an e-mail saying she would be by in the morning; which she wasn’t. In the afternoon I got a phone call saying she had a new evening job, and that her parents had come up with the money “plus interest” and she would be able to pay me off perhaps Thursday.

Wednesday I logged into my e-banking and found the $620 check had bounced on Monday. Later in the day I stopped by the bank and was told the reason was ‘account closed’ When it was closed isn’t public information.

Backing up a bit, as I’ve omitted some relevent set-up. Her family is Laotian; according to the web, the culture is very easy-going and has tight family ties, which generally seemed to fit with the observed behavior. In an case, Laotian New Year was April 13-15, and a few weeks ago she had invited me to go to Texas with her to meet her family. The the 13th was the coming Friday. She told me that her ex-husband worked with an airline, and she was able to get free flights as long as she kept his name, which explained how she had been able to go back to Texas so often while in a state of poverty. (Question: do these programs really exist?) It also meant she had to take care of the tickets, and could do so at the last minute.

On Friday morning I got a call saying she didn’t have tickets yet. The bounced check came in the mail. In the afternoon, I got a call saying the airline reservation system wouldn’t accept me, so she was giving up and going to work instead. She said she would see me Tuesday, which she didn’t. I haven’t heard anything since. I haven’t been pushing contact since it gives me time for research and reflection.

The agonizing pain of practicing real trust and lovingkindness

Well, I’ve either been badly swindled (with full knowledge as it was happening) or gotten myself the kind of love that only acting in the face of all reason can bring. Stay tuned sports fans, it doesn’t get any more real than this.

Do you believe?

In some underlying order to the world? I tend to side with science most of the time. And of course you only remember the coincidences.

A woman exits, leaving a nearly empty purfume container to remember her by. First thing I do is open up a fortune cookie from lunch, since, well, I’ve got to eat them some time.

“The love of your life will appear in front of you unexpectedly”

No, everything isn’t going as well. In some ways this makes it worse. I might be more willing to talk in a more personal context.

People are Impure

Which is a very bad title. This is something of an essay about viewing people through the lenses of programming langauge concepts; I make no comment on any other interpretation ;^)

There is a programming langauge paradigm called ‘functional’. Some functional langauges include ML, Haskell, and sometimes Lisp/Scheme. Functional languages often define themselves in terms of the lambda calculus, which is a mathematical system based around The Allmighty Lambada; the abstraction of the process of punching a hole in an expression so you can plug different values in (i.e. apply or call the function)

One thing you can do with functional programs is talk about whether they are ‘pure’, which is to say, stateless. ‘State’, if it isn’t clear, is principlly evident in variable assignments; the closest pure functional programs come to assgnment is matching function parameters with actual arguments. Most programs/langauges are not pure; writing recursive fibinocci functions is cute and all, but most real world programs find it very difficutly to get by without state.

Not that people don’t try – academics will talk your ear off about all the nasty problems of state. Not that they are wrong, just that there aren’t a lot of terribly attractive alternatives most of the time. The poster child for pure functional languages is Haskell; I’ll have to write about the hoops they jump through to do things like I/O and call it pure, but I’m on enough of a tangent just now. Haskell is also ‘lazy’ (technically, ‘normal order’), meaning that a value is only computed if it is actually needed, which like everything else can be either really good (you may never need to calculate it) or really bad (un-evaluated computations fill up your memory) depending on the program and data structure.

Anyway, pure functions can in principal be memoized (I know I’m spelling that wrong), better known as cached. If f(5) = 27, f(5) always equals 27, and you don’t need to do the computation again. Yes, this is much the same thing as GET under REST. But if you can’t guarantee that ‘f’ is a pure function, successive calls might return 28, 0, NaN, or ‘frog’ (if your language isn’t statically typed)

And people, you see, are most definately not pure. Having once asked a question or otherwise ascertained some other property, there is no guarantee that any later test will return the same value. Human interactions are, propertly speaking, completely uncacheable, and yet our entire society is built around the expection that certain values (big ones being marriage, employement, friendship, not shooting me in the head, etc.) will at least remain stable for sufficiently long periods of time for the larger structures to persevere.

Not only are people statefull, but human systems have a hard 100% uptime requirement for the life of the system – whereas one can often run a program repeatedly to try and isolate faults, there is no rewinding a person or even a conversation to try and figure out where it went wrong and make it right. Sure, most people are tolerant of interactive debugging and overwritting erroneous state, but there is a complete log – I think the greater risk involved has something to do with my reluctance to speak.

I talked some of this over with schwartzboy, who offered this anecdote:

stupid logging. Just for the record in case you ever need to know this? Wedding rings come with embedded SpouseLogger 7.5 and a microscopic RAID setup that has terabytes of free space.

An Agitation of Mind.

The REST article was something of a deliberate attempt to focus my mind. It has been in my head since well before I announced my intent to ‘blog’ more, so it was certainly something I needed to get around to. It worked pretty at focusing.

I then proceded with “I Am Loved” for a specific reason. However, those ideas were pretty much fully formed and waiting in more or less the same queue as the REST article. I made this a separate post to avoid putting any shadow on that fact, even though today’s events further reinforce it.

I can cross something off my never-done list.

“Have you ever had a woman all but throw herself at you?”

Beyond that, it would be impolite to say more in a public forum.

No, while unexpected, this is not quite out of the blue. Anyone who knows me should not be surprised that I’ve kept quiet on certain leading events over the last few months.

Hopefully this little posting exercie has quieted my mind enough to allow clearer reflection on the matter.