Friday, October 13, 2006

Natural Cycles

Yesterday, when I left for work at the same time I do every day, I saw a cop had pulled someone over. I don't think I've EVER seen a cop on my 15-17 minute rides to work. I thought it was odd, and got a good look at the cop as I passed.

I've always been of the belief that all things happen in cycles and patterns. No, not just in nature, I believe that ALL things happen in cycles and patterns. The right, the left, the zeitgeist of a society, how often you bounce your knee while sitting at work, how often your dog poops (and where!); all things.

It's hard to explain exactly what made me believe this, because I don't really recall anything particular "making" me believe it. It was just one of those beliefs/ideals that were always with you.

A while back I got a speeding ticket while speeding back from a day of paintballing. At the time, my girlfriend and I went paintballing every Saturday at the same place. We left at a certain time, we arrived at a certain time, and we left at a certain time. Every time I would speed there, and speed back. I never saw one cop (and I'm a very attentive driver, you gotta be when you speed so much!). The day I got the ticket, we met with a few friends after paintballing, and wound up leaving hours later than we normally did. I sped along; noticed the cop, knew his intent was to give me a ticket, complied, and took my medicine. He said I got the ticket because I was speeding; But I knew why I really go that ticket.

When I was in Vegas for Defcon, my interest was piqued in roulette. I watched some of the tables for about an hour, and marveled at the semi-consistency in the numbers. The tables all had scrolling displays that showed the last 15(?) numbers that came up. There was some minor level of consistency in almost all of the tables, but one table with an older gentleman at the helm had a confusing consistency. Red, red, black, red, red, black. The entire time I was there, the pattern only broke once. He mentioned that he had been doing this for over 20 years. I watched until they changed him out, and the pattern returned to semi-chaos.

A few weeks ago, I was driving out to the desert with my Dad, and I told him about the roulette spinner. I speculated that since he'd been doing it for so many years that his spinning of the ball was probably pretty consistent in force, pressure, and stroke. That fact coupled with the fact that nothing is truly random, meant that he was probably deciding to initiate the spin at similar times subconsciously. The flicker of green from the zeros in certain places on the wheel caused his neurons to fire in certain sequences at consistent times, which caused a pattern to emerge. Surely, after he became aware of the pattern, his mind would endeavor to create the same pattern, and had the physical consistency to do so. I marveled that there were so many random variables, and yet, there was still consistency. Nothing is truly random.

This talk of patterns and cycles lead me into my speeding ticket. I told him that I thought the reason I got the ticket, was because I violated the pattern that had worked for me for months and months. At the time, I expected skepticism from him, but to my surprise, he told me a corroborating story. He told me that when he was working on the streets, new people would always catch more crime in progress, but it would always die off after a number of weeks. He said a few cops speculated that there was some kind of subconscious pattern that the officers followed while "randomly" looking for crime. He said that there was no way to easily enumerate or validate any kind of pattern, but the only way this could happen, would be if there was a pattern in what the cops did, and what the criminals expected. At the time, he didn't think very much of it. Later he transferred to a job in the Sheriff's MTA department. This department didn't have any set "beat" or people randomly checking any places besides on the train platforms, yet they had jurisdiction over all the places the trains go, and everywhere in between. He said that when they drove through different neighborhoods in response to something at a distant station, their deputies would often stumble on to crimes in progress. He said that when they arrested the criminals, and turned them in to the local station, the cops would often be surprised that something like that went unnoticed by cops who regularly patrol these areas. Some of the arrests were of criminals who had been eluding the police in that area for weeks or months. He said that he knew that there had to be patterns in all police patrols, and that his department's deployment to different areas was random enough that they broke those patterns, and found criminals who were usually good at avoiding the patterns. The cops patrol in patterns, and the criminals criminalize in patterns. When a new cop, and pattern, was introduced to the system, and the criminals' patterns wouldn't inversely match, and they'd get caught. After some time, the pattern of the system would change, and only criminals of the new pattern would keep from getting caught.

This morning when I left for work at the same time I do every day, I saw someone else pulled over and, being just as surprised, got a good look at the cop. It was the same guy. Must be new.

I'm sure there will never be a way we humans can understand the infinite complexities that cause these patterns, but we sure can try to recognize when they're working, and when they're not.

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