Wounded Fish Attract Sharks

If you act like you’re wounded, you;re going to get attacked.

I once read an article about psychopaths, and one of the psychopaths in question said that he could spot his next victim simply by seeing his or her body language during a short walk down a hallway. Chilling. I think about that sometimes, especially when passing a stranger in a hallway. What signals am I giving out? Nothing to see here, actually, but I hope I don’t look like low hanging fruit for one of these morally deficient creatures to reach out and harvest.

But I do know several people who practically have “victimize me” tattooed on their foreheads. It makes me sad. It’s even worse now because they can inadvertently advertise on social media. Doing this, though, is like turning yourself into chum and casting yourself into an even bigger body of water. If you show the world that you’re bleeding, the sharks will come.

Victimizers, as a general rule, are rather lazy. Like lions, they prefer the weak and vulnerable in the herd. They go for the young and inexperienced, or the old and sick. Why chase down a healthy, confident, savvy person when you can go after a sure thing instead? Social media makes the pool of prey even larger and easier to spot.

I know a couple of people who put all their depression, sadness, and insecurity out there on Facebook for the world to see. All their posts are personal and negative and complaining about how they are mistreated by the world, how cruel and unfair people are, and how miserable they have become. That turns into a self-perpetuating situation, because they are then seen as weak, and the sharks move right in. And then, of course, they have even more to complain about. When getting personal, post your happy stuff on Facebook. Talk about the other personal stuff with trusted friends.

I once knew a young man who put an extremely graphic and detailed letter about a recent breakup with his boyfriend on Facebook. He also listed the high school he attended in his small town of less than 600 people, pictures of himself lying on a bed, shirtless, and then a post about how his parents were going to be away for the weekend. I had to call his mother and say, “Every sexual predator in the tri-state area is about to knock on your door.”

And then you have women who pretend they are incapable of doing things themselves so that others will do the dirty work for them. This is a pet peeve of mine. But make no mistake: these women are not the prey. They are the predators.

I knew one woman who claimed to be too scared to learn how to drive, and yet she was perfectly happy to let others drive her everywhere she needed to go. Another woman claimed to be too dumb to understand how to do things related to banking and professional transactions. But she was smart enough to know, consciously or unconsciously, how to guilt others into doing those things for her. Suck it up, ladies. Ask questions, take lessons, make a freakin’ effort and figure it out. Sharks of this nature can pretend to be bleeding, too, and you don’t realize your mistake until it’s too late and they snap your fool head off.

I’m thinking of this stuff today because I just watched a particularly disturbing episode of Catfish: The TV Show. For those who don’t know, catfishing is pretending to be someone you’re not and having insincere relationships online to either con people out of money or naked pictures, or simply because you’re bored and want to play mind games or get some twisted form of revenge. This happens a lot. But this particular episode, called “Paul and Caitea”, made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

Paul formed a relationship online with someone when he was 16 years old. He was convinced it was true love. For two years, his whole life revolved around Caitea. She did a bunch of red flag things. She refused to Facetime with him. (Rule of thumb: Anyone who claims the camera on their phone or laptop is broken for more than about a week is lying.) She would make plans to meet him and then stand him up. They even made plans to live together, but of course she didn’t show up.

Years later, an older Paul couldn’t get Caitea out of his mind, probably due to all the naked pictures she sent him (apparently taken with her broken camera), so he asked the folks at Catfish to get to the bottom of the situation. And (spoiler alert!) it turned out that Caitea was a woman in her 40’s who was using her daughter, Katy’s, photos without her permission to catfish an underaged boy. Because she was lonely.

I don’t know who I feel worse for, Paul or Katy. But the bottom line is that this is a seriously warped woman who clearly needs help. Instead of getting that help, she swam her sharky self around until she stumbled upon a young, naïve kid, and took over his whole world for two years, talking on the phone every night until they fell asleep. That’s sick. Now Paul doesn’t trust anyone, including himself.

Be careful out there, folks. There are a lot of people who don’t have your best interests at heart. If you see red flags, take them seriously. And for heaven’s sake, remember that if you act wounded, you’re not going to get saved, you’re going to get attacked.

Now is the perfect time to stay at home and read a good book. Try mine! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5


We Are the Intruders

And we’ve forgotten how to be gracious guests.

I just read a very sad article entitled, “Grizzly bear kills guide just outside Yellowstone National Park”. Carl Mock was a seasoned outdoorsman who happened to get too close to a male bear that was protecting his fresh moose kill. From there, nature took its course.

It was a tragedy, no doubt about it. He wasn’t purposely bothering this bear. He was out there fishing. (And I’m sure that fish don’t enjoy being hunted, either.) He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The 420 pound bear was also killed in the course of the subsequent investigation. That, too, is a tragedy.

Of course, there was the usual pushback. We should allow bear hunting to keep these monsters in check! These nature types shouldn’t be allowing predators to kill humans!

For Pete’s sake.

We tend to forget that we are the intruders upon nature, not the other way around. Wolves killing your cattle? You chose to live in wolf country. Gator took out your poodle? The gator was there first.

Nature can be harsh. If you choose to get out there in it, and I highly recommend that you do, then you have to play by its rules and accept natural consequences. I suspect that Mr. Mock understood this. May he rest in peace.

We seem to think we humans float high above the great web of life. We think we should be accorded certain special privileges. We’ve forgotten how to be gracious guests. It’s all very sad.

Now is the perfect time to stay at home and read a good book. Try mine! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5


“A segmented marine insect the size of a Labrador retriever.”

I’ve always been fascinated by the fossil record, and the evolution of life, so when the book Lab Girl by Hope Jahren mentioned a “segmented marine insect the size of a Labrador retriever” I was more than a little bit intrigued. I mean, can you imagine? Shudder.

Fortunately, upon further lazy Google research, I discovered that these creatures only lived during the Cambrian period. They were quite possibly nature’s first predators, though, and they were around for about 20 million years. I’m glad our species’ time on earth didn’t overlap, or I’d never swim in the ocean again. Ever.

The discovery of this creature kind of reminds me of that parable about the blind men who inspect various parts of an elephant and come away with wildly different descriptions of what an elephant is.

Before they ever discovered any Anomalocaris fossils, they kept coming across trilobite fossils with strange bite marks on their shells. What could be hunting these trilobites? What creature in the Cambrian period had such formidable jaws?

The first part of Anomalocaris that was discovered was a long, segmented appendage that juts off near its mouth. When a fossil of that part was found, scientists assumed it was some sort of shrimp. They named it Anomalocaris, or Odd Shrimp, for that very reason. They kept waiting for a fossil that would show the head of this shrimp, but they never found one.

Then they found a fossil of the mouth. It’s a very weird thing, most often described as a pineapple slice. It’s segmented, and doughnut shaped, with sharp prongs in the center. As a stand alone creature, it was assumed that this was some weird kind of jellyfish.

A fossil of the body was mistaken for a sponge.

But over time, paleontologists came to realize that these fossils were quite often found together, and then finally it was determined that these weird body parts all belonged to one creature. A highly efficient, shell cracking, trilobite terrorizer. And now I can’t get this creepy thing out of my head.

So I figured that the least I could do was put it into yours, dear reader. Now, check out this video, and your journey will be complete.

You’re welcome.

https _upload.wikimedia.org_wikipedia_commons_c_c3_Anomalocaris_BW

Like this quirky little blog? Then You’ll love my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Keep your Children Safe: Think Like a Pedophile

Controversial title, I know. But hear me out.

Charish Perriwinkle, 8 years old, is dead. Most of you will not have even heard of her. She was abducted from a Walmart here in Jacksonville, Florida, and within hours her body was found and her abductor was apprehended. He was a serial pedophile, someone who should never have been allowed the freedom to continue hunting. Moot point, because hunt he did.

I always hate it when abduction news stories lay the blame at the feet of the parents, because there’s really only so much you can do when there’s a monster on the prowl. But there are some disturbing lessons to be learned from Charish’s tragic end.

First of all, her abductor befriended the family that very day at a Dollar General store, and offered to meet the whole family at the Walmart to buy them clothes, and her mother accepted. That’s an astoundingly dangerous amount of trust to put in a total stranger, but then I know what it’s like to be poor and desperate. So I’ll give her the benefit of a doubt on that one.

But what I have a much harder time accepting is that once they were all in the Walmart, shopping away as you do, the creep offers to buy them all some hamburgers, and the mother allowed him to take Charish with him. Alone. And she didn’t get worried until they had been gone for a half hour.

Pedophile avoidance 101: Do NOT let your child walk off with a virtual stranger. Duh. That seems like common sense to me. But then, maybe I’m better at putting myself into the twisted mind of a pedophile than some people are. But parents need to learn to think like a predator in order to make sure their children are not the victim of the hunt. If you are a parent, a certain level of paranoia is not only acceptable, it’s required. So here are some tips. (And before you hurl verbal tomatoes at me, note that I’m saying you should THINK like a pedophile, not ACT like one.)

  • If you are a pedophile, you’re going to want to put yourself in places where you have access to children. I always find drivers of ice cream trucks highly suspect. I look askance at men who hang around public pools or playgrounds. And if you see someone chatting up the kiddies at the school bus stop, you’d be well advised to interrogate that person. And I don’t care how lost you are, if you feel the need to drive up to a child and roll down your window to ask for, well, ANYTHING, then that’s an enormous red flag. If you’re lost, ask an adult, or risk having your eyes scratched out by me or someone like me. Yes, all of this is profiling at its worst, but you know what? I could care less. Your child is too much to lose. And if the person is truly innocent, then he or she shouldn’t be offended that you are questioning their behavior and putting your child’s safety above all else.
  • Do your due diligence. Unless you know someone inside and out, for years on end, do not, repeat, DO NOT let your child go anywhere or do anything with that person alone. In fact, you’ve got to question why a person would want to spend time alone with a small child that isn’t their own.
  • Meet the parents of your children’s friends. Just because someone is a parent does not make him or her trustworthy.
  • Lock your doors and windows, close your curtains at night and leave your bedroom doors open so you can hear as much as possible. If you can’t afford a security system, I’d even consider putting a portable motion detector that triggers an alarm at a height that’s taller than your child so he or she doesn’t trigger it, but not taller than an adult. Aim it right over your child’s bed, and turn it on every night without fail. You can get them at Radio Shack. As a matter of fact, if you’re not a parent but know someone who is, this would make a great gift.
  • Teach your children. Sadly, “stranger danger” isn’t enough, because abusers are often relatives or friends. Teach your children about good touch and bad touch. Teach them to always talk to you about things, even if someone tells them they shouldn’t. Teach them to be safe. Mind you, there is a difference between making them feel insecure and constantly afraid and teaching them that safety is important and it’s everyone’s responsibility. Even theirs.
  • Don’t ignore your inner voice. If something inside is telling you that someone is creepy or suspect, err on the side of caution.
  • Participate in the National Child ID Program so that your child can be easily identified if the worst should happen.
  • When in public, do not let your child out of your sight. I once saw a toddler wandering around a large public library. No parent anywhere in the vicinity. This kid was in the same room as the homeless people who come to get out of the heat and use the internet to look at soft porn. I walked up to the kid and said, “Where’s your mommy, honey?” and he burst into tears. Even though the child was wailing, it took what felt like 5 minutes for the mother to wander out of the stacks to find the kid, and she didn’t seem the list bit concerned. It took everything in me not to slap that woman across the face. Twice.
  • For the love of God, do not sexualize your children. When I see parents entering their kids into those beauty contests, putting them in sexy little outfits, covering them with makeup and teaching them to blow kisses at strangers, I want to vomit. When children are allowed to wear clothes that are not age appropriate, it makes me shudder. Children should not be dressed to attract. You never know what you’re attracting. And what lesson are you teaching? That your looks are a commodity for manipulation? That’s a twisted and dangerous mindset.
  • If your state has a sex offender’s database as mine does, look up your neighborhood. You’ll be horrified to see how many live near you. Print out their files. Memorize their faces and addresses. And if you suspect that that person no longer lives at that address, report it to the authorities, because chances are that criminal has taken flight and is re-offending. (There’s an address near my house that looks abandoned to me, and a sex offender supposedly lives there. I’ve reported this to the police, but that address is still the one listed for this guy, and that disturbs me greatly.)
  • Pedophiles LOVE the internet. Pay close attention to what your child does on line. Your child should not be talking to anyone whom you do not know personally. Period.
  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
  • As a parent, trust should not be your default position when someone enters your sphere. Trust should have to be earned, and it shouldn’t be easy.

I know it takes energy to be on alert 24 hours a day, but this world isn’t a safe place, and your children are too precious to put at risk.

school safety

(Image credit: pasadenausd.org)

Darkness Revealed

When I drive to work at night it’s a completely different experience than when I work a day shift. Even the nuclear power plant, normally a blight upon the landscape, looks beautiful. It is all lit up and floating in a sea of blackness like a nighttime cruise heading for the Bahamas.

The traffic flow is different as well. There’s less of it, and although it seems like a more lawless group of drivers, and definitely a more alcohol-soaked one, it feels safer. This is a dangerous illusion that requires one to be on the alert.

Criminals rule the night, or at least that is what Hollywood would have us believe. So there’s also this underlying sense of excitement and danger. Most people who are out at night are there either because they have no choice or they like the thrill and the atmosphere or they don’t have the sense to be vigilant. Or they are predators who are up to no good. And since these people can’t be told apart, you have to assume the worst.

What I like about the dark hours is the sense of isolation. Even though there are still the same number of humans on the planet, somehow at night you can often feel as if you have it all to yourself. What a luxury. I look up at the sky and revel in the quiet and imagine that all those stars are a part of me. We are star stuff, after all. I seem to breathe easier at night. I feel embraced by it. I’m where I’m supposed to be.

It takes a certain amount of faith to feel safe at night. You are, after all, being deprived of one of your senses. Anything could be in the darkness. Anything at all. You can’t really be sure. There’s so much out there that you can’t see. Everything is hidden from you, and there’s quite a lot of it.

Indeed, that feeling of abundance can overtake our senses. At night we become more. More romantic, more fearful, more uninhibited, more exuberant, or more lonely and depressed. People hate to be alone on a Friday night. You never hear them complain about being alone on a Friday afternoon.

The nighttime feels like an grand entity that the daytime can never even hope to become. It takes a special effort to overcome that prehistoric desire to hide, to hibernate, to wait out the darkness. But if you make the effort, you often reap rare and sensual rewards.