Saturday, November 17, 2007

Criminal Profiling = Cold Reading

This week, the New Yorker published an article about criminal profiling written by Malcom Gladwell. The article has been linked to many times by prominent skeptical bloggers, so I was prompted to read what the whole hubub was about.

As you may recall, I took a sexual abuse of humans class taught by an ex-FBI agent. He taught the psychological profiling used by the FBI profilers at quantico as though it is a scientific fact. The class was and continues to be offered at ISU as a psychology credit class, so I assumed it was based on something valid. Apparently, it isn't.

The article in the New Yorker states that criminal profiling is nothing more than the cold readings that your typical psychics and palm readers use to fool people into believing in a connection to some mystical magical world. Robert Todd Carroll adds more insight into how people come to deceive themselves into believing these cold readings/profiles.

Apparently, criminal profiling is not scientific enough to be used in the courtrooms of the UK, or the US. Profiling is not a scientific process, nor does it stand up to scientific scrutiny. It is based on the gut feelings of the FBI officers who promote it. (Alison 2002)

One of my most directed questions of that semester was, if you can profile the crime scene and get a suspect out of it, then why can't you profile the offender before the crime is committed? I now have my answer. You can't profile the crime scene accurately and scientifically.

That is the rule of science. It has to give you the tools to make accurate predictions, and criminal profile is a long way from even being close. That doesn't mean we should throw the baby out with the bathwater, however.

If scientists would do accurate prison studies of enough murderers and rapists, they could generate better profiling data. I have no doubt that all of these criminals share some early childhood experiences that would shout "here is where it came from!" I continue to argue that we can prevent the crimes in the first place if we can stop the maladaptive teaching that takes place early in life.

I feel like I wasted time and money in that class now. I think I will chat with the department head about it and show her the science that refutes the validity of that class. Nothing good ever comes from misinformation.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Justice served

Today Jacob Torres-Vasquez had his day in court. He tried to say that he was innocent in the incident, that he tried to get talk Terry into taking Zach to the hospital and that he only put cigarettes out on Zach's arm to show Terry that Zach was really out of it.

What a load of crap.

His mother was there. I felt really sorry for her. She didn't look at Zach or me like we were evil monsters who were trying to take her child from her. As a matter of fact, I really think she was glad that Zach was ok, and not just because that meant that Jake wasn't being sentenced for 2nd degree murder. She told the judge that she tried to keep Jake from being friends with Terry because she knew Terry's mother was horrible, and was known to buy drugs and alcohol for Terry and his friends.

Jake got pretty much the same sentence as Terry. His lawyer tried to get it down to probation, but the judge thought that would be way to easy.

Terry's mother? I asked the prosecutor once again to make her pay. I told how Judy intimidated Zach at Terry's sentencing and how she and I exchanged words in the parking lot afterwards. I don't understand why she isn't being held accountable. She is more culpable that any of them. Terry wouldn't be messed up the way he is if not for her. I don't know - I think she needs to pay. She absolutely has not conscience.

They said they were looking into it.

Good people are dying, some aren't even born. Evolution doesn't hate waste, she's proof of that. I really can't imagine what purpose she could possibly have that would make this world a better place. But it is not my place to make such decisions. Apparently, she still has a part to play in this world, for good or ill.

It is possible that I have watched/read LOTR a few too many times. Sounds like something fun to do this week while I don't have class! I will get my meta theory paper done, and my test and measurement paper as well.

I'm going to bed now.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Go Packers!

Green Bay Packers are on a role this year, and I couldn't be happier. I had decided that with their eminent demise as evidenced by the past few seasons, that I would be a Seattle Seahawks fan instead. Makes sense, Seattle isn't that far from where I live. But this year, the Packers have recaptured my heart. Brett looks as good as ever, and I mean his playing too, not just his...

Anyway, 34-0. Of course Fox thought the game was boring and switched it in the 3rd quarter to the Eagles - yuk! So I went out and burned branches in the back yard for the rest of the day.

I got contact lenses yesterday. I love them. I'm not supposed to wear them all the time yet, so the glasses I hate so much are still on my face. By next week though, contacts all the way!

I never really get to study the iris of my eye when I'm wearing glasses. It is distorted and there is always glare. Without the glasses I couldn't see well enough. I put the contacts on yesterday and really got a good look. I can't believe how much they have changed over the past few years. I used to have quite a bit of brown right around the pupil, but now that has really lightened up and is more gold. I have some black specks here and there where I thought I had dark brown spots. My eyes are green now. I imagine in a few years they will be gray. I guess that genetics stuff isn't set in stone.

The novel: I have three papers to write over fall break next week. I have been studying for two tests this week. I had to clean the back yard up or the city was going to throw me in jail. They don't care that my son, who has autism, likes to collect things. Ok, so most of the things he likes to collect are things most people throw away. They look interesting to him, so he collects them, and he has more time to collect them than I have to throw them away. Besides, it is easier to get him to agree to throw things away when the city is sending us threatening letters.

Anyway, I have been to busy to give the novel the kind of justice it needs. I picked a story that means something to me, so I want to do it right. And November is an arbitrary time frame. I will continue the novel between semesters, and in the summer. I think I might actually have something worth the effort here.

Gotta go, I'll be late for my next class!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I Got a New Stove

The old one barely worked. The oven stopped working just before summer, which didn't bother me much because I don't bake in the summer. Two of the burners worked (the small ones) one of the large ones didn't work at all, and the other big one needed some prompting from time to time. So I really needed another stove. This one is my first brand new stove. It is bottom of the line, no self cleaning, no timer. But it works, and that's all that matters.

I didn't think it would ever get here, though. I bought it on October 20, and I just got it last night.

So what was the first thing we baked? Digiorno Pizza. Well, it was late when it got here, and Zach had been craving frozen pizza for some time. Apparently he wanted brownies too, he baked a batch last night and has already eaten them all. Today I roasted Chicken, Tomorrow a roast.

I want to bake so many things, but I better not do it all at once. Besides, Thanksgiving is coming, I can do it then.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Robot Car

Oh, sure, I could pay the $750/semester to ride the bus to Pocatello for classes. However, I think It would work better for me to have this car. That way, I have the freedom of choosing my own time schedule while have the opportunity to study during travel times.

Ok, here goes...Dear Universe, I demand that you give me one of these cars right now!

I just looked out the window, and it didn't work. Or, as one of my favorite circular arguments goes - the answer was no.

Maybe next time.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Thank You, Dear Cheerleaders!

5406 words is what I have written to date. I'm even a little ahead of schedule. It really doesn't take long to write a couple thousand words once you get a rhythm going. What helps the most is channeling your characters. I didn't think the nurse was ever going to introduce herself to me. Last night I dreamt about the boyfriend. He really is a really swell guy. I am looking forward to seeing how he affects the situation. Maybe I'll go back a little and try to fix the uncomfortable scene I was trying to write about that first day. I can probably get another 500 words just out of that.

I think I need to do a little research and see what kind of group homes are available around here for very young mothers. I don't see how we aren't going to end up there. (In my novel)

I'm having fun. I have even had time to research consciousness and neuroscience for my metatheory of psychology. Consciousness is still the one thing no one seems to be able to agree on. I'm thinking the human brain is like the computer, only it evolved to work so much better and be so much more productive. Well traveled freeways to hard to follow bunny paths. Neural pathways traveled at the release and reuptake of a variety of neurotransmitters. So much more complex than today's computers, and so much more evolved. I don't think computers can have a stream of consciousness with the digital matrix. I could be wrong, but I really think you have to have the analog format to have a linear stream of consciousness. Just a thought to put in my paper. I have to research it, though, just in case someone else said it first. Must give credit where credit is due!

It feels good to finally be putting this novel into words. The characters have been sulking in my consciousness (the imagination part of it) for about 6 years now. My heroin changed the color of her hair, and her boyfriend became much more respectable. Vanessa is just about what I thought she'd be.

I tried to update my nanowrimo profile page, but their site is down. I wonder if they are now questioning the sanity of switching everything around a month before it had to work. It isn't working, so I bet they are. I'll keep writing anyway. It seems to be helping my mood a bit.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Nanowrimo update

Nanowrimo started yesterday. I tried so hard to get started, but by the time the day was done I only had about 800 words. Things went a little better today, and I have my two days worth. My nanowrimo stats aren't working right now. I guess they are having some kind of hardships with their sight. It is soooooooo slow right now.

The hardest part of the novel was writing about the relationship between my heroin and her boyfriend. I guess I don't remember how it is supposed to work anymore. It has been a long time already. It has been over a year since I have even been on a date. I am busy.

It is late now and I am so tired, so please excuse any nonsense you read in this post. It is all nonsense to me right now.

Classes are going good, really. I have an A in my art class, which is cool, and liberates me to really let loose. My Measurement and Test construction teacher thinks I'm awesome, and I think my History of Psych professor thinks I'm ok to. I have A in all three of those classes right now, which is so awesome. I need to focus on them.

I am actually having a blast in the History of Psychology class. That's right, it's history and I'm loving it. I actually am quite interested in history. But this class is so much fun.

It is the Psyc of learning class that bogs me down. I have a b. I don't know if I will be able to get it up to an a, but I am going to try. I'm just not going to beat myself up over it.

So, want to know what I am writing? I'm not sure yet really, but here is a couple of excerpts. Yes, it does seem a little depressing. Yes, my heroin is sitting on a ledge planning to jump to her death. Yes, the story will be about why she is there, and whether she will jump or not. I still don't know how it will end, and I have been kicking it around in my head for a long time.

The hedges died long ago. Their corpses, black and biting, still tower above me. The bristly branches are hopelessly intertwined. The ground is cold and barren, and littered with shards of broken dreams. Even the sky no longer lends light to the path.

I’ve been trapped in this maze my whole life. I wander from pathway to pathway, only to be blocked over and again. I call out to the voices I can hear just on the other side. They answer, but make no sense. My courage wanes and all hope recedes into the dark clouds above.

It is a treacherous thing to be lost and forgotten. No comfort comes to a solitary soul. A corner is turned and the way seems clear. The last of the steps are inevitably met with disappointment and pain. Surviving is to be forever trapped in pain and loneliness and hopelessness, unguided, unheard, unloved.

Today the path has brought me here, to the rim of a deep gorge. I am sitting on the edge, prepared to leap into the abyss. I wonder if help will come. Will anyone see me sitting here? Will anyone care? I no longer burden myself with hope.

The wind is warm as it strokes my face. I can feel the heat rising from the dark rocks below. I peer over the edge and look to the bottom. It doesn’t really seem that far, but I know that my eyes are deceiving me. It is the length of two and a half foot ball fields from here to the floor of the canyon.

Basalt boulders litter the floor of the canyon, but from here they look like skipping stones. Grasses poke up around them, and colorful wildflowers are sprinkled about. The sounds of the river are just barely audible because of the wind hitting my ears.

A red tailed hawk is spiraling higher and higher, riding the thermals as though he has no cares in the world. I wonder what it would be like to be him. He hunts for his dinner, and stays out of the way of danger when possible. Does he ever contemplate the meaning of his existence? Does he ever chide himself for failing to take the right paths? Does he miss his offspring when they are gone?

He is close enough now that I can see his flight feathers reacting to the small updrafts in the heat currents. He doesn’t even seem to notice me sitting here. His grace and strength are beautiful to behold. His head cocks from one side to another. I wonder if he is sensing mice below.

I am jolted out of my thoughts when he cries out. I wonder if he was directing his scream at me. He is so beautiful, and graceful. So beautiful.