Mother found to have maliciously fabricated allegations against father

One of the very worst things a parent can do is to try to prevent the other parent from having a relationship with their child by falsely manufacturing allegations against that parent. Sadly, this is a scenario that happens all too frequently, as any family lawyer will testify.

The recent case Re ABCDEF (Fact Finding: Honour Based Violence) is a clear example, which tragically led to a child having no contact with his father for more than half of his life. Thankfully, the allegations made by the mother in the case have been proved to be false, and steps can now be taken to try to repair the damage caused to the child’s life.

The facts of the case, as I understand them, were that the father was a UK citizen and the mother was Pakistani. They married in Pakistan in April 2011, and the father returned to this country the next month. A year later the mother joined him in England. In August 2013 their son, ‘D’, was born.

The family went on holiday in Pakistan in February 2015. They returned to this country in April 2015, by which time the mother was expecting another child. The mother and father attended hospital in August, for the mother to have her first scan. It became clear from that scan and the dates of expected delivery, and therefore the date of conception, that the father knew he could not be the biological father of the child (the mother had had sexual intercourse with another man whilst in Pakistan).

After this, the mother remained living with the father in the family home for two months, before she left without telling the father, taking D with her. The father has had no contact with D since. The mother initially stayed with a friend, but had to leave after three weeks. She then contacted the police and made allegations of domestic abuse against the father, as a result of which she was placed in a refuge. She gave birth to her second child in the following month. She named her husband as the father, but subsequent DNA testing confirmed that he was not the father.

In February 2016 the father issued an application to spend time with his son. The mother responded to the application by making various allegations of honour-based violence against the father, including that her marriage to the father was a forced marriage, that she was treated like a prisoner in the family home, that the father and his family threatened to have her deported to Pakistan, and that the father and his family made threats to kill her.

The matter was eventually listed for a fact-finding hearing before Mr Justice Keehan. It did not go well for the mother. Mr Justice Keehan found her to be “a most unsatisfactory witness”, and found that she “lied serially”, including to the police and the court.

“In the course of her evidence,” he said, “it became abundantly clear that there was no truth whatsoever in her allegations.” It had not been a forced marriage, she was not a prisoner in her home, and any threats that had been made against her did not come from the father (her brother may have made ‘honour-based’ threats to kill her). And as for an allegation that the father gave her the ‘cold-shoulder’ and that he was not warm towards her, that was entirely understandable in the circumstances. He said:

“In the circumstances that I have described, I am entirely satisfied that the mother made a false case and false allegations against the father. There is no truth whatsoever in any of the allegations that the mother has made. The father does not pose any adverse risk of harm to the mother: still less is she at risk of honour-based violence from him. His approach to her actions has been measured. It follows that, in my judgment, there is absolutely no reason why the father and [D] should not, as soon as ever possible, have the opportunity to resume their relationship. It is, in my judgment, appalling that this little boy and this father have not seen each other for some three and a half years solely because of the malicious conduct, as I find it to be, of the mother.”

And he concluded in a similar vein:

“All the allegations made against the father by the mother are dismissed. None of them are true. This mother has wrongly and maliciously sought to exclude the father from Child D’s life. There is no reason why the child and the father should not now have the opportunity to re-establish their warm and loving relationship and that the father has and plays an important and full role in Child D’s life which will be to the inestimable benefit of Child D. It is to be regretted deeply that the mother’s actions have resulted in Child D and the father not having any contact whatsoever for three and a half years”

Obviously, it is now the job of the court to see that the father/child relationship is re-established as quickly as possible.

You can read the full judgment here.

The post Mother found to have maliciously fabricated allegations against father appeared first on Stowe Family Law.

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Author: John Bolch

Milk in a Box

Single-serving boxes of milk

Losing the bottle

I’ve managed to suppress most of the memories of my college days—quite wisely, I think—but every once in a while some random factoid springs to mind. For example, I remember clearly the wonder I felt one evening in the mid-1980s when I walked into a New Jersey supermarket and saw a box of milk on the shelf. At first I didn’t comprehend what I was looking at. I had to study the package at some length before I grasped that this was not powdered milk or some milk-like nondairy product. Sitting there quite happily at room temperature was a container of milk that, so the label claimed, would remain fresh without refrigeration for months. I couldn’t figure out how they’d managed to pull this off, but I was excited. Just think of the convenience of not having to buy milk every few days, not to mention saving space in your refrigerator! I bought a box and tried it. OK, the flavor was a bit less than fantastic, but still…pour it on some cereal or in your coffee and you’d never know the difference. This revolutionary development seemed so obviously useful to me that I was certain all milk would be sold this way within a couple of years.

Time passed—months, years, and then decades. The boxes of milk, instead of multiplying on store shelves as I’d expected, disappeared almost entirely. I found this completely baffling. Why hadn’t this sort of milk caught on? I was even more surprised when I went to Europe and discovered that in many places, it’s much harder to find refrigerated milk than boxes or bottles of milk stored at room temperature. So clearly the technology to package milk this way was still in use…but did those Europeans know something that we didn’t? Or was it the other way around? I decided to investigate.

Out to Pasteur

In order for milk to stay fresh at room temperature, two things are required. First, it must be completely free of any bacteria or other microorganisms; bacteria, after all, are what cause milk to spoil. Second, the milk must be packaged in such a way that it can’t be contaminated after the fact. The packaging must also keep out light, which can cause the breakdown of nutrients such as Vitamins A and D. To rid the milk of bacteria, dairies employ a process known as Ultra High Temperature pasteurization, or UHT for short. The specially treated milk is then stored in aseptic packaging, which preserves the sterility of its contents for long periods of time. Together, UHT processing and aseptic packaging give you milk with a shelf life of six to nine months, as long as the package is unopened.

Pasteurization is simply a matter of heating something hot enough and long enough to kill pathogens—disease-causing germs. To pasteurize milk, you can heat it to about 140°F (60°C) for a half hour, or for faster results, increase the temperature to 163°F (73°C) and reduce the time to about 15 seconds. This makes milk safe for human consumption, and in the process, dramatically reduces the number of bacteria that cause spoilage—enabling the milk to remain drinkable for a week or so, as long as it’s refrigerated. Pasteurization has little or no effect on either the flavor of milk or its nutritional content. It does, however, leave some viable microorganisms, which multiply over time—especially after the milk is exposed to air.

UHT pasteurization, on the other hand, destroys virtually all bacteria and spores. To do this, it heats the milk to a much higher temperature—around 275°F (135°C)—for about two seconds, then rapidly cools it back to room temperature. Because the exposure to heat is so brief, the milk is not damaged and remains nutritionally intact. However, UHT processing can have a noticeable effect on the taste. (I was tempted to say something about the added flavor coming from the corpses of millions of microbes, but that would have been…in poor taste.)

Meanwhile, the packaging itself must also be sterilized, and it must be filled with milk and sealed in a sterile environment. The most common form of aseptic packaging is a box made from layers of polyethylene, aluminum foil, and cardboard. The plastic keeps the package airtight, the foil keeps out light, and the cardboard provides structural integrity. This type of package is sometimes called a “drink box,” and is commonly used for fruit juices. But the boxes can be made in nearly any size or shape. Specially designed opaque, aseptic plastic bottles have also come into use, though boxes use space more efficiently and are therefore easier to store and transport.

Got Box?

UHT pasteurization and aseptic packaging are becoming more and more common not only for fruit juices but for soups and broths, sport drinks, soy beverages, pasta sauces, coffee drinks, and other liquids. But if this technology is so wonderful, why do we so seldom see it used for cow’s milk in North America?

According to one theory, it’s all about the taste: if the milk in a box doesn’t taste exactly like milk in a bottle, consumers won’t buy it. True enough, the taste is slightly different. But in defense of UHT milk, its flavor has improved quite a bit over the last few decades. As long as it’s refrigerated before it’s served, many people will be unable to distinguish it from conventional milk. Moreover (according to some tasters, at least), lower-fat varieties of UHT milk taste better than whole UHT milk—and North Americans certainly buy more lowfat milk today than they did when UHT milk first appeared. Furthermore, let’s be realistic: in the United States, at least, consumers overwhelmingly choose convenience over flavor—just look at the popularity of American cheese, instant soup, and frozen vegetables, to say nothing of the entire fast-food industry. In short, I don’t think taste is the real problem.

Perhaps the issue is cost. UHT milk does cost more than refrigerated milk. This is due in part to the high cost of the equipment needed to package it, and in part to lower demand. Needless to say, if consumers adopted a preference for UHT milk, the price would eventually come down. After all, producers and supermarkets would save money in the long run on energy bills and transportation, as well as reducing waste due to spoilage.

But even though higher costs may be part of the problem, I think the real issue is one of habit. Because we’re so deeply conditioned to believe that fresh milk is something that can only be sold in cold bottles, we regard anything else as suspicious. “What could this mean? Does it contain scary hormones? Was it treated with radiation? Will I spontaneously change my political affiliation if I drink it?” These are the sorts of worries that can only be alleviated by proper education, by which of course I mean good advertising. Hey, wait a minute—did I just say we need more advertising? I never would have said that back in college. Maybe there is something in this milk.

Note: This is an updated version of an article that originally appeared on Interesting Thing of the Day on June 19, 2004.

Image credit: DebMonOf3 [CC BY-ND 2.0], via Flickr

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Author: Joe Kissell

National Joe Day

Joe coffee and espresso sign, 170 Commercial Street, Provincetown, Massachusetts, USA

It’s here at last: my very own day! Yes, it really is National Joe Day, so I guess I can spend the day…being myself? If your name is also Joe, I look forward to celebrating with you today. If not, you can observe National Joe Day by hugging a Joe, or drinking a nice hot cup of Joe, or—if you absolutely must—eating a Sloppy Joe. If you’re looking for a gift for your favorite Joe, I have it on good authority that Joes like to receive large boxes of money. Just a thought.

Image credit: Le grand Cricri [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Author: Joe Kissell

I Made A Bed From Scratch All By Myself!

For those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a while already, you’ve known that I have a done a lot of building with wood before; much of my furniture is made from scratch. The thing is, all the projects were either done by my soon to be ex husband, Michael, completely, or as teamwork between myself and him. I learned how to build as a kid, having done various projects together with my

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Author: Penniless Parenting

The Secret to Prioritizing Health as A Family

Want to make your family’s lifestyle a more healthy one? Here’s some tips from a reader how.

It is no secret that your health is incredibly important, and it must be properly looked after. You don’t only want to take care of your health, but that of your family’s as well. After all, you want your loved ones to live a long and happy life. The question is, how can you all achieve this?


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Author: Penniless Parenting

Divorce tips: Managing financial disclosure in divorce

Making the decision to get divorced, painful as it is, is just the beginning of the many decisions that you will make through the process of separating. Regardless of your situation, there will always be financial issues that need to be addressed.

Financial decisions potentially have far-reaching effects on your and your family’s future. So, we asked Mark Chapman, Partner, at the Stowe office in Reading to join us on the blog with advice on how to best manage financial disclosure in divorce.

Getting the right divorce lawyer

The first thing to do to secure a fair financial settlement in your divorce is to choose the right divorce lawyer for you. (We recently shared our top seven tips to help with this on the blog. You can watch our short video here)

With the right divorce lawyer by your side, there are a number of ways a fair settlement can be reached and in light of your circumstances, what is the right avenue for you to go down.

Now, this article is not about the different approaches to divorce settlements but, in short, they are, your solicitor dealing with the cases and leading negotiations for you, dealing with matters collaboratively, mediating, arbitration, the use of private judicial hearings for a neutral evaluation of your case and lastly, court hearings.

Plenty of options to consider, however, they all have the same conclusion: to come away with a legally binding financial settlement, set down in a document called a Consent Order. Or if reached by agreement or following arbitration or in the case of a Court imposed decision, a Court Order. Both will confirm how matrimonial finances are to be dealt with.

A fair settlement 

The concept of fairness can be difficult to quantify however in a legal sense, it is what is reasonable and equitable considering the financial circumstances of both parties in the marriage.  To establish this, there needs to be a detailed understanding of what is in the ‘matrimonial pot.’ You cannot fairly split the assets until you know what they are.

Most financial settlements will consider capital, income and pension. Often it is the house which is the most valuable asset but if it is burdened with a large mortgage there may be limited capital. It may be your pension which has the greater value, but you may not be able to access it for many years due to your age. It may be a business which has provided the family with an income, but it may also have a capital value which needs to be considered.

All such assets need to be dealt with. In some of my cases, there has not been enough sufficient income to warrant an award for spousal maintenance. In other cases, pensions have been non-existent or of such a low value that they had no impact on the settlement.  Often the equity in the house, when combined with other savings, is insufficient to buy both parties houses without relying on mortgage borrowing. In those instances, one party may “need” more money than the other, often because they have a lower earning potential.

The form E 

Before one gets to answer these questions however, a full and frank financial disclosure will be facilitated by both parties using the standard Form E. You can get advice on how to fill in Form E here. You will need to provide information on any mortgages, bank accounts, debts, pension, tax etc.

Whilst it is an onerous form to complete it is thorough. The risk of just providing disclosure without completing this form is that something maybe omitted either accidentally or deliberately. However, if the financial resources are simple, sometimes the parties choose to avoid completing the form E but be aware of the risk of trying to cut corners.

Once completed the financial information is exchanged with the other party and this should take place at the same time.  Once you have the other party’s detailed financial information, you can then start to consider what a fair financial agreement may look like.

Hidden assets?

When reviewing the details, I always advise my clients to not take the information at face value. Use your instincts and if there are any gaps you have the right to ask the other party to clarify those issues, before entering negotiations. You need a clear understanding to ensure that the final settlement reflects yours, and possibly your children’s needs, whilst also not ignoring the needs of the other party.

In many commercial transactions e.g. before a business is purchased you would expect there to be a process of “due diligence” to ensure that you have a full understanding of what there is. When you buy a house, you undertake a proper survey, when you have a medical procedure this is often preceded by an X-ray. The reason is that you don’t want to be making important decisions without full knowledge. It is very difficult to undo mistakes made in haste, desperate to reach a quick settlement or to save costs. When the mistake is realised later, it can be too late.

If someone is not willing to provide full and frank financial disclosure, then it may be necessary to issue court proceedings and place the division of the matrimonial finances in the hands of the court. As lawyers, we cannot force someone to deal with matters on a voluntary basis, but a Judge has various powers at their disposal to ensure that the correct procedures are adhered to so that matters can be resolved.

We also have an in-house team of forensic accountants who can help. Highly experienced accountants they can advise on valuations, businesses, tax, trust and pensions. The team is also highly experienced in uncovering hidden assets. You can read more reasons why you may need to use them here on the blog.

To close, the key to achieving a fair settlement in your divorce is to have a clear picture of both parties’ financial circumstances, backed up with the appropriate evidence. Once this is in place, we can make sure an offer is made and the best settlement achieved for you.

Get in touch 

If you require advice on how to achieve a fair settlement in your divorce please do contact us at the details below or send us an email.  All enquiries are strictly confidential.

The post Divorce tips: Managing financial disclosure in divorce appeared first on Stowe Family Law.

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Author: Mark Chapman

Sir James Munby finds that irregularity in divorce did not make it invalid

“Rules are rules, and must be obeyed”. Or so we are often told. However, even that rule has exceptions, as the remarkable case M v P demonstrates.

The rule in question is quite simple: that if you wish to divorce on the basis that you and the other party have been separated for a particular period (i.e. use that basis to prove the ground for divorce: that the marriage has irretrievably broken down), then that period must have been completed before the divorce petition is presented to the court. Thus if, as in this case, the petitioner wishes to divorce  on the basis that he and the respondent have been separated for at least two years and the respondent consents to the divorce, that two year period must have been completed before the petitioner presents his petition. (It should be noted in passing that it will not be necessary to prove irretrievable breakdown under the proposed no-fault divorce system, so the particular problem in this case will no longer arise if we get no-fault divorce.)

And what if the separation period has not been completed? Well, prior to this case I’m sure any family lawyer would have said that the petitioner has not proved that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, and cannot therefore have his divorce. But it seems that things are not quite that straightforward…

The facts in M v P were somewhat unusual. The parties were married on the 19th of September 2011. It appears that they never lived together (the husband claimed that the wife refused to share the same household as him). The husband, who was not legally represented, presented a divorce petition on the 14th of June 2013, on the basis that he and the wife had been separated for at least two years, and the wife consented to the divorce. The wife confirmed in her acknowledgement of the divorce petition that she consented to the divorce. The divorce proceeded, and a decree nisi was pronounced on the 21st of November 2013, and made absolute on the 24th of February 2014. Both the husband and the wife subsequently remarried.

I’m sure at this point that the reader will have spotted the problem in this case. If the parties were married on the 19th of September 2011 then they could not have been separated for two years by the time the petition was presented on the 14th of June 2013. The problem finally came to the attention of the court staff in October 2016. The matter went before a district judge, who allowed the husband to amend his petition to rely upon the wife’s ‘unreasonable behaviour’, and directed that the decree absolute remained valid.

The matter was then referred to the Queen’s Proctor. The Queen’s Proctor is an officer of the judiciary, who may intervene in divorce proceedings “to argue before the court any question in relation to the matter which the court considers it necessary or expedient to have fully argued”. The Queen’s Proctor did intervene here, applying to have the decree nisi set aside as it was a ‘nullity’, because the requisite period of separation had not expired before the divorce petition was presented, and the district judge had not had the power to cure the defect by allowing the petition to be amended. Obviously, if the application succeeded, the husband and wife were still married to one another, and had therefore committed bigamy by remarrying.

The Queen’s Proctor’s application was heard by Sir James Munby, the former President of the Family Division. To keep this post to a reasonable length, I will summarise his judgment very briefly. The central question, he said, was: was whether the decrees made by the court were void, or merely voidable. If they were void, then they were nullities, and the parties were still married to one another. If they were merely voidable, on the other hand, he could decide not to have them set aside. He decided that they were voidable (you can read his reasons for this in paragraph 103 of the judgment) and that they would not be set aside. The district judge was right to amend the petition, and therefore the decree nisi would be amended to reflect that the divorce was on the basis of behaviour, rather than separation and consent. Accordingly, the decree absolute remained valid – the parties were divorced, and had not committed bigamy.

To be honest, I found my eyebrows rising a little when I read the judgment. Whilst one obviously has enormous sympathies with the parties – they were victims of the failure of the court to spot the irregularity – the law seems to me to be quite clear, and it had not been followed. It is all very well to say, as Sir James did, that “the modern judicial conscience would revolt” if it were compelled to say that the divorce was a nullity, but the simple fact remained that parliament had decreed that the two years must elapse before the presentation of the petition, and it had not. And to retrospectively alter the divorce to behaviour after the event seems to me to be stretching logic beyond breaking point – the divorce had never happened, so it could not be amended. Still, what do I know, I am just a humble hack, not the former President of the Family Division.

You can read Sir James’s full judgment, including his searing criticism of the unavailability of legal aid for the wife (see paragraphs 116 to 122), here.

The post Sir James Munby finds that irregularity in divorce did not make it invalid appeared first on Stowe Family Law.

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Author: John Bolch

Brain Machines

A mind machine, Proteus, from MindPlace

Blinking your way to relaxation

I love gadgets, as a quick glance around my office would confirm. In particular, I seem to have the gene that favors small, battery-powered boxes that light up—my iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, digital camera, digital name tag, and laser pointers, for example, all meet that general description. Even so, I buy only those gadgets that I think will actually perform a useful activity or make my life better in some way. I reject otherwise cool gadgets that would not in fact be valuable as part of my lifestyle. It was therefore with a mixture of gadget-crazed glee and circumspect puzzlement that I first looked at a device sometimes known as a “brain machine” or “mind machine” a couple of decades ago at a Sharper Image store.

Relaxation in a Box

That it was a small box containing batteries and blinking lights was enough to induce me to pick it up; it also had cables running to a set of headphones and what appeared to be sunglasses with a bunch of LEDs mounted on the inside. The marketing propaganda said that the device was supposed to promote relaxation and “synchronize” one’s brain waves, whatever that meant. Out of idle curiosity I put the apparatus on and pressed the button. The LEDs on the glasses started blinking and synthesized sounds poured out of the headphones. I only used the device for a minute or so, but I was almost immediately struck by the sensation that I was somehow moving into an altered state of consciousness. To be quite honest, it was a bit freaky—fascinating, sure, but not something I really cared to experience standing in the middle of a store. I thought it would be well worth about US$50 to take home and experiment with, but the cost was quite a few times that, and I really couldn’t bring myself to spend hundreds of dollars on a box that made sunglasses light up.

Years later, I stumbled upon a much lower-tech (and cheaper) version of the device in another store, and I decided the price was low enough for me to satisfy my latent curiosity. Once again, the literature stated that it aided relaxation, promoted mental clarity, relieved tension, improved creativity and learning ability and so on—all rather vague and unfalsifiable claims. I took it home and tried out several of the programs.

This Is Your Brain on a Machine

The first thing I noticed was that the blinking lights—which you see through closed eyelids—produce a subjective impression of complex patterns, colors, and motion, even though the only things that vary are the rate of blinking and alternations between the lights on left and right sides. Depending on which program I chose, the pattern of blinking differed significantly over a period ranging from 10 minutes to an hour. All the while, a wavelike drone of white noise came through the headphones—a distinct disappointment compared to the higher quality (and more interesting) synthesized tones of that first unit I tried. I could have just plugged in another audio source and listened to whatever I wanted, but I was hoping for an integrated audiovisual experience.

Using the brain machine was indeed relaxing, though some sessions were more successful than others. On a few occasions, I had the distinct impression of viewing a scene before me—such as a room full of furniture—even though my eyes were closed and the only visual stimulus was the blinking LEDs. And once or twice, I spontaneously felt a very strong emotional response, almost like the terror of falling, that I could not attribute to anything external. So clearly the device had some effect, though precisely what it was doing I can’t say. It’s also not clear whether my experience would have been the same with other models; it seemed the particular device I chose was designed rather sloppily, without any real attention to the underlying principles of how the brain works.

That Syncing Feeling

And what are those principles? The idea behind brain machines is relatively straightforward and scientifically sound (as far as it goes). For many years, medical researchers have known that there is a correlation between the frequency of people’s brainwaves and their mental states. Higher frequencies are associated with normal waking consciousness; progressively lower frequencies correspond to relaxation, sleep, and deep meditation. The brain also has a tendency to synchronize its frequency with external stimuli such as lights and sounds, in much the same way as a tuning fork vibrates when exposed to a sound of the right pitch. The brain’s synchronization process is called entrainment, and it is exactly what the brain machines aim to produce. In theory, at least, by blinking lights or playing sounds at certain frequencies, the machines can encourage the brain to fall into sync, inducing very relaxed, meditative states.

Every brain machine on the market—and there are many different varieties—claims to aid relaxation, and used properly, they usually will. Other claims are somewhat more dubious. For example, I’ve read in several places that by using a brain machine, one can achieve meditative states that would take a monk or yogi 20 years of training to reach. I have to wonder about that. For one thing, most brain machines don’t include EEG circuitry to produce a record of the actual state of your brain or provide biofeedback, making claims about meditative states hard to verify. But even if it is true that one’s brain is operating at the same frequency as a Zen master’s, that by itself doesn’t mean much; the same could also be true of someone on drugs. I’m not sure it’s fair to say that simply reaching a certain brainwave frequency is somehow equivalent to the experience of spending years of disciplined training in meditation. On the other hand, unlike drugs, brain machines are legal, safe, and nonaddictive—which must count for something.

Making Light of It

In addition to the standard “light and sound” brain machines, there are several audio-only programs that purport to have approximately the same effect. You can also buy machines that eschew light and sound altogether for a more direct approach: delivering tiny electrical pulses through electrodes attached to your head. Supposedly this accomplishes the same thing, but I find the idea of zapping my skull a bit off-putting.

Without question, not all brain machines are created equal, but there is no good way to evaluate competing models objectively; you have to try them out. Unfortunately, nearly all of them are far too expensive for what they do, so experimenting with a range of models is not a reasonable prospect for most people. Still, the experience of using a brain machine is one worth having, and depending on what type of machine you have and how you use it, you may find its value in promoting relaxation or reducing stress well worth the price. As for me, I’ll be looking on eBay for a high-end unit whose owner says they’re selling it because they’ve achieved enlightenment and want money to give to the poor.

Note: This is an updated version of an article that originally appeared on Interesting Thing of the Day on June 25, 2003, and again in a slightly revised form on June 9, 2004.

Image credit: Kemitsv [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Author: Joe Kissell