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I Was Robbed!

UPDATE: I decided to include the specs for my stolen laptop, just in case someone in Boston happens across this post while doing some budget-friendly laptop shopping.

Apple 13.3″ MacBook (white) with two small cracks on either side of the trackpad. Serial # WQ7191UXYA2

In the interest of continuing to play my life out like the primary orphan in a Dickens novel, I arrived home last night to discover that someone had crowbarred through my apartment door and stolen my laptop, my camera, my favorite watch (that, okay, I never actually wore but STILL), some jewelry, and a few hundred dollars in cash (now I don’t have to bother exchanging those British pounds!). My bedroom was upended, and some local cops got to see the contents of my Nightstand o’ Sin mixed in with jewelry, decks of playing cards, and a chop cup. Weird how the thief managed to find things I’ve been missing for months. On the plus side, though, Captain Infinity and Doctor Calimari resisted the siren call of the out-of-doors in favor of cowering in a closet until I came home.

For those keeping track, yes, in the past two weeks I’ve been hit by a car and robbed.

The loss of things that were important to me sucks, and the sudden lack of safety sucks more, and the reminder that there are sucky people who suck, well, that sucks most of all. It’s all around pretty sucky. I already feel as though this incident has changed me – for instance, previously I was not in favor of the death penalty, but now I am convinced that those found guilty of home invasion and burglary should be murdered in the face by bears.


That said, the police officers and detectives helping me have been really sympathetic and reassuring. Also, I really appreciate all the kind messages I’ve received from those of you following along on Twitter and Facebook. It’s helpful to know that I’m not alone, even when I’m physically alone in my apartment while staying up all night with all the lights on holding a frying pan staring wide-eyed at the door and pondering man’s inhumanity to man.

A number of you have asked how you can help. At this point, it’s safe to say that I’ll never see my beloved MacBook again, so I guess I’m going to need to buy another one (and no, it was not insured). A few people have contacted me with the possibility of getting a deal, which I really appreciate. Others have offered me money, which I also appreciate but I’m hesitant to accept, because that’s just the way I am. However, I’m going to swallow my pride. The computer is, after all, pretty much completely used for Skepchick and SGU-related stuff, so if Skepchick and SGU fans want to help, then what the hell.

So, if you’d like to contribute to the new-laptop fund, feel free to paypal some clams to [email protected] Or, you could send something (non-monetary things like postcards are always nice, too) to me at PO Box 452, Brookline, MA 02446.

To lesson my guilt over accepting money, each person who sends money in any amount over $1 will receive a homemade Paint darwing made by me. (Macs don’t come with Paint but I’ll figure something out.) This was a suggestion made by Tkingdoll which I have stolen for myself. Oh, but not stolen like my laptop was stolen. More like in the way that one steals hearts or kisses.

So thanks again to everyone who has been checking in and helping out, and thanks for just reading, since I tend to deal with trying situations by broadcasting them to the world.


UPDATE: In just a day, you all donated more than enough for a new laptop. You’re incredible. I’m adding up the numbers but it looks like I’m all set for a laptop + security features, possibly bear-related. If there’s more money than necessary, I’ll either refund the later donations or put the money toward a cause that suits you. Uh oh library’s kicking me off…

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor.

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  1. I am so sorry that you have been invaded. It’s a horrific reminder that, to paraphrase the schizophrenia joke, there are people who are truly out to get us.

    Forgive my ignorance, but please remind me as to where and how to access your Paypal account. I’d like to help. Your computer is a neccessity for this blog, Rebecca. Plus, all communities, even electronic ones, can support each other in times of need.

  2. I’m so sorry Rebecca! Look you are fighting the forces of darkness and evil that raise children to believe in homeopathic medicine and ghosts and this leads them to a life of crime.
    Evelyn just had her laptop stolen (also a Mac). Her fun thing is that the school payments on it still have 2 years to go! But, here is the interesting point. Hers was stolen in South Africa from a home with a security system and bars on the windows. The security guards were there in 5 minutes, the thief was gone in 3.
    A lot of people were “oh well, yeah South Africa, that wouldn’t happen HERE.”

    It does! And even with bars and guards and security systems, people will rob you no matter where you are.

    The one thing the police said about Evelyn’s was that no one in South Africa has a Mac. They also didn’t take the magnetic power cord. Well someone does now! Though they can’t power it up…

    She will soon have her dad’s crappy old PC laptop…and thankfully there is a good desktop at work she can use.

    But, the next time someone says to me “well it was SOUTH AFRICA! What was she thinking!” I’ll be able to say “hey, it actually happens here also”.

    I am SO HAPPY that the kitties are fine. They are so nice, and when you get that new Pit Bull (you know, the one with no vocal cords so he can rip the face off the burglar without warning, I suggest you dump the body in the river, less paperwork that way) I’m sure he will get along well with his kitty pals. I suggest you name him “NEMESIS” and if you don’t get him fixed he’ll be more agressive.

    Seriously, big hug!

  3. And does face murdering mean that there will eventually be nasty people out there bumping blindly into each other, buzzing incoherently, looking like the silly putty people we used to create as kids?

  4. So sorry to hear about this. I’ve had two break-ins in my life, and both times I felt…violated. Unsafe in my home, knowing that strangers looked through and touched my personal things. Wondering if I was being watched, if the same people would come back and see when things might be replaced.

    I’m glad you weren’t there when it happened!

  5. Agh – so sorry to hear about the break in. Having lived in Boston, I feel your pain. This could very well be one of the home invaders like the easter bunny or Santa Claus, getting back at you and your skeptical ways. Or maybe they’re strung out and looking for some cash. Face murdering would make Jesus cry.

  6. Just added to the laptop replacement fund via PayPal. I’ve mostly been a lurker here over the past few years and this is one way to give back for all of the thought-provoking content.

    Now I guess I have to post more often, don’t I?

  7. If you have any money left after replacing the laptop, might I suggest a Kensington lock? They’re not foolproof, but they’re cheaper than buying a new laptop.

  8. I am SO sorry this happened to you! I’m really happy that you reported that your cats are okay right away. That’s always my biggest fear if I’m ever robbed–that my cats will get scared and run outside!

  9. Don’t worry, Rebecca. It’s all part of God’s plan… to keep people smarter than him from updating their skeptic blogs on a regular basis.

    Breaking into peoples’ homes deserves worse than death to face by bear… maybe babysitting for Nadya Suleman.

  10. I’m glad to make a contribution to the MacBook fund. You’re a voice for the rest of us in Texas who are appalled at what’s been going on with our school system.. Egad!

  11. Rebecca: Sorry you had to go through that. I know that when I was robbed, I felt horribly violated as well. :(

    You should train your cats to be ninjas and wear spike heels.

  12. Really sorry to hear about what happened to you, Rebecca. Although I have been fortunate (so far) and have never been robbed like that myself, I do have to say it’s been a worry for me. Living alone in an apartment is tough.

    Remind me to sign up my kitties for killer ninja lessons. :)

  13. When I had my apartment I had this weird thing from Radio Shack that would sense movement and make this horrific noise if it detected any. My cat was really fond of setting it off at 3am. Eventually I would put the cat in my bedroom and set the thing when I went out, but I can’t think it would make anymore noise than someone trashing your apartment. The thing was to shut it up you had to get a screwdriver to open the back and take out the battery (though after the cat set it off enough my neighbors didn’t care anymore).

    If nothing else make the thiefs ears ring would be a plus….

  14. @halincoh: COTW.

    I’ve had a car broken into, and my parents’ house was robbed several years back. Can’t say that made me happy. Sorry to hear that this happened to you.

  15. Really sorry to hear about the break-in, Rebecca. I will put in my ~$1.

    As a security measure, instead of training your cats to be ninjas, though, you should just teach them to bark. Most burglars run away when they hear dogs.

    Well, why couldn’t a cat learn to bark? My old neighbours had a cat that could say “hello”.

  16. @Rebecca: Rebecca – So sorry to hear about the robbery. Be safe. I PayPal’d you some $$, but it is ONLY to be used for training bears to murder people in the face.

  17. @Rebecca: I have always deeply resented the laws that present me from properly ‘boobie trapping’ and defending my home. I know it doesn’t help much but I am so sorry this happened to you.

    Now for business – If the police have not already recommended it, I strongly recommend that you throw out everything currently in the fridge. It’s rare, but not unheard of, for break-ins to also line up with petty maliciousness beyond just taking and breaking things, (in at least one case I’m aware of a drugging resulted when they left LSD in the homeowners milk), oh.. and replace your tooth brush.

    Relating to security – there is no such thing. The truism amongst people who know is that locks are there to keep honest people honest and to try and slow down the dishonest. The second part basically recognizes that nearly all criminals are not going to take the ‘difficult’ looking target, (eg. the house/apartment with a security door, steel door frame, deadbolts and security windows), when they have other options.

    Even with these steps though, as others have pointed out, all you are doing is creating a deterrent. You can’t make it impossible.

    Unfortunately, the truth is that the world isn’t a nice place and the bad people in it will do bad things. The trick is to not let this realization make you needlessly scared, (odds of event happening in first place are low), and to take steps to deter from it happening again.

    Best luck getting past this.

    @QuestionAuthority: *shrug* Tools are for the subtle. What is scarier is that the security door most people have is about two fifths of useless since I’ve regularly seen them installed into softwood frames with an un-reinforced window around the corner. Your average robber will just break something to get in.

    @Anthony McClung: Wait.. What?

    @astro_boy: The point isn’t ‘faith in the lock’ the point is to create a deterrent. Any static home security system you use, (eg. not involving animals or guards, cameras, b2b), is fairly trivial to bypass when getting in. But even the good stuff can be bypassed.. it just gets trickier.

    The most interesting thing I’ve ever heard of was a case of a computer programmer who wired his house with web-cams and a couple motion detectors. He then set up a secure web-site for himself that the web-cams would stream to when they activated, and wrote an app. to ‘page’ him or something if they activated. He was on an overseas trip when his house was broken into. He called the police, e-mailed the police pictures of the robbers in action, and talked the police through what the robbers were doing so that the police were able to get there and catch the robbers in the act.

    I thought that was really slick.

  18. “Weird how the thief managed to find things I’ve been missing for months.”

    Perhaps former professional burglars (or even current ones looking to diversify) could advertise their services to help find things you’ve lost.

    Even better, you could pay them by letting them take stuff they don’t think you’ll miss. Just insert a clause saying they can keep anything they sneak out if you haven’t noticed its absence within a certain time frame.

    Recover the important stuff, and reduce clutter! All for free!

  19. I’ll be pp’ing some aid your way.

    Face-murdering bears are good, but statistically, it was a man, and what animal do men fear more than anything (once they’ve heard of it)?

    Candiru. He deserves no less.

  20. MoltenHotMagma said: “in at least one case I’m aware of a drugging resulted when they left LSD in the homeowners milk),”

    Or, you could throw a party and see who can find the drugged food!

  21. Last time I was robbed I managed to ease my angst for the first few hours by imagining that I would use all my powers of geeky super sleuthing along with the aid of several corruptible friends in various government agencies to find the perp…and then….ohhh… and then, the cocksucker would wish to his god that the cops had got to him first.

    Then I had 1/2 a bottle of tequila and reflected on the fact the creep was probably a mentally ill crackhead, and the only important things he got away with were my passport and a portable dvd player c/w porn collection (bastard).

    Also if the feds ever caught him trying to fence the passport I knew there was a reasonable possibility of him being deported to Syria for “aggressive” interrogation.

    But thanks to your heartwarming tale, I now choose to believe he took his ill gotten gains, bought some crack and retreated to the hills to watch my porn collection on my dvd player…where he was summarily MURDERED IN THE FACE BY BEARS.

  22. Rebecca, that’s awful. My computer was stolen just three weeks ago. I wish they had taken my wallet instead– at least you can cancel and replace credit cards. Even when all your data is backed up, the loss of a computer is devastating. Having someone in your apartment is also troubling. I didn’t sleep for several nights after the theft.

    I’m so, so glad that you and the kitties are unharmed. Stay safe, and I’ll buy you a memorial computer beer next time I’m up in Boston.

  23. If you know any of your neighbors, ask around. Most people get burgled by people who live in their own neighborhood. It’s someone who knew you weren’t home.

    If you can find the neighborhood gossip, he/she can probably tell you who did it. When you find out, go kick down his door. You won’t be sorry.

  24. I’m low on cash (yay for self-employment taxes) but I’m going to send you one of my necklaces in the hopes it makes you smile. Any preference on squid, cuttlefish, or octopus?

  25. I’m sorry to hear about your situation, Rebecca. If I lived in Boston, I’d come over and stand guard. I’m not conventionally strong, mind you, but I do have a very shrill scream that would at the very least attract some angry, attack-type dogs.

  26. Really sorry to hear you were robbed. I’ve been there myself. Unfortunantly, I’m unemployed right now, so I can’t send anything. And I’m too far away to babysit your place. Wish I could help.

  27. A few years back I came into some money. I had a van customized into a mobile observatory / camper. It turned out great and cost a bundle. The year after, I was getting ready for a trip and had the van parked behind my townhouse in the parking lot. My plan was to leave really early the next morning. Normally, I have it parked in a secure lot. During the night, It was broken into by the thief smashing in the drivers window. They took the stereo, the rear view camera and screen, some big binoculars, and other small stuff. In the process of getting the stereo,they broke the dashboard with a crowbar or something. But, they left almost twenty thousand dollars worth of telescope gear. I think it was because they didnt know what it was or what it was worth; lucky me in that reguard. However, the point of me telling you this is that when I called the police, they took my information on the phone, gave me a report number, and told me to call my insurance company. They wouldn’t even come to my house to look at the thing. I was absolutely enraged. At least you have a police department that will respond by looking over the scene and giving you reassurance and advice. The police in Aurora, Colorado SUCK. Do I sound bitter? Sorry but that break-in cost me almost $1400 before all was said and done. And the van has never been quite the same. Now I am almost afraid to take it out of the lot where I keep it. I want to borrow those bears of yours when you’re done with them, OK?

  28. Wow, guys, you are all amazing. I’m combing through 150 emails, many of which are paypal donations and sweet, sweet notes.

    I’ll start on the, um, ‘darwings’ (shut up I was in a hurry!) as soon as possible. I’ll be sure to honor the requests of those of you who wanted specific pics, the most common being face-murdering bears.

    @Noadi: Ooh, really?? An octopus, I guess, or you can surprise me with one you think I’d like!

    That reminds me, the thief took shiny jewelry but I was SO relieved to see that he didn’t see or take the pieces I really love, which are the ones made by friends of Skepchick like Surlyramics and Peggy Skemp. I haven’t completed a full inventory but it looks like all the good stuff is still in my possession. Whew!

  29. @Denver7M: Gotta love incompetence in your criminals.

    Just after I graduated from high school, someone broke into my parents’ house and stole a bunch of stuff, including a $200 Fender Stratocaster knockoff and a $75 no-name acoustic guitar. What did they not steal, you ask? The 1930’s Gibson acoustic hanging on the wall that my dad had had for about 50 years and that was worth maybe $20,000.

  30. @Denver7M: I am totally jealous of your mobile observatory. Shows how stupid the @holes who took your stereo & video equipment were.
    If you ever worry about your Mo-Ob (since the police in Aurora are so incompetent), I’ll take good care of it for you here in Austin.

  31. @astro_boy:
    As a cyclist who’s been through several locks, I can state that there is nothing that a really determined thief can’t get through with enough time and effort. The point is making it difficult enough that it’s not worth their while to try. For example, a bike parked in a busy spot only needs a basic lock – just enough to stop somebody from casually strolling off with it, since using bolt cutters on it or stripping the bike for parts isn’t going to fly.

  32. Sorry I read this too late to become one of your PayPal heroes.

    Am I the only one who didn’t immediately realize that “darwing” was a typo? I actually was thinking that maybe that was what they call a Darwin fish button. Perhaps I have too much faith in Rebecca’s infallibility.

    Faith…would that be irony?

    And “murdered in the face by bears” *has* to be the comment of the *year.* So far.

  33. “My bedroom was upended, and some local cops got to see the contents of my Nightstand o’ Sin mixed in with jewelry, decks of playing cards, and a chop cup. Weird how the thief managed to find things I’ve been missing for months”.

    At least you now know where the things you’ve been missing for months are.
    You can turn lemons into lemonade!

    The chop cup provides the lemons. :)

  34. @Rebecca:
    as a fan of bears – might I offer some to guard you. The problem is you would have to move to Alaska for the grizzly bears, or polar bears to guard you. Please do not try to feed them, pet them, no matter how cute they are. Should someone again attempt to enter your domicile you will find them — but be careful, because they will be scat that will stick to the shoe .
    Sorry you were so violated. It is bloody awful.
    Oh- bears don’t like the face so much – they prefer going for the backstraps –

  35. @mandydax: I vote that the scarce and often mis-understood Ursus Cruorsis Facious, , commonly known as the Face Murdering Bear, should henceforth replace the high-hatted monkey as the official Skepti-Mascot.

  36. D’oh! Too late to donate?!? You don’t hear that very often. Sorry you to hear you got robbed, but how awesome is it that you have enough readership that will donate piles of cash so you can get a new comp!

    Funny thing is, since I just read about rystefn I was like “I hope this isn’t some kind of performance artwork…” On the other hand, I suspected that it was every bit as real as it sounded.

    Maybe you should spend the extra $$ on some more door locks/physical security for some extra deterrent? If that’s the case, I will still be more than happy to donate.

  37. My girlfriend’s house was broken into a while ago. Her thief was much more stupid. He stole a laptop, but it was eventually found and returned. The nice untraceable cash sitting in her wallet on the dining room table? He missed that. Oh, and after managing to get inside without setting off the alarm, he set it off while he was in the house.

    Anyway, another thing he did was go through her porn DVD collection and steal some of the disks. (The cases he left…who knows why.)

    My girlfriend, being the shy retiring gal that she is, reported the stolen disks complete with titles. The police had a hard time dealing with this psychologically. A woman talking freely about her porn collection had them squirming.

    One one hand, I wish I had been there to see it. On the other hand, I don’t think I would have been able to keep a straight face, and that would not have helped.

    Sorry to hear about this, Rebecca. Even if you can replace everything, it still sucks having some asshole going through your stuff.

  38. Rebecca – sorry to hear of your break-in, I’ve been there myself so I know that feeling of being violated.

    In any event, I’m an Apple Authorized Service Technician, so if you ever need high quality repair work done, let me know. I’ve been in the biz for over ten years, and our shop is one of the highest rated in the country. Granted we’re in Cincinnati, but we do in and out of warranty work, and I’d be happy to cut you a break on any out-of-warranty repairs you may need in the future.

  39. Not to be a stickler but I believe you were burgled not robbed. I only mention it because when I read the headline I was concerned that your things were taken at knife point or gunpoint or that you were physically accosted.This is not meant to downplay your experience. I am sure finding your place broken into and stuff missing is traumatic.

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