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Intensely Focused

I'm not obsessed, I'm just intensely focued.

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Charlaine Harris, Toni L.P. Kelner
Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories, Volume I
Arthur Conan Doyle
Columbine - Dave Cullen I picked up this book after reading a review in my local paper and hearing the author on the Ron Reagan show. Both the review and the article stressed that many if not most of what the media said about both the shootings and the shooters was just plain wrong.

In some ways the book felt superficial, which is really unfair to Dave Cullen because it's clear he did a tremendous amount of research for this book. I'm not sure where the superficial feeling comes from. Part of it is that there's a lot of people to keep track of, and part of it may be that the sections after the attack alternate between an almost "present day" feeling which explores what the investigators discovered and a section that describes the same time period the investigators were learning about but from Eric and Dylan's point of view.

In some ways I have more sympathy for the parents of Eric and Dylan after reading the book, but in other ways I feel like there were some major warning signs Eric's parents just flat out ignored. The drugs and alcohol are pretty typical teenage stuff. But they knew of at least one pipe bomb, and one of his former friends was so scared of him his parents called the cops on multiple occasions.

I don't blame Eric's parents for not realizing he was a full blown psychopath; Eric fooled even mental health professionals. I keep thinking about an experiment I read about (I think when [b:Blink: the Power of Thinking Without Thinking|40102|Blink|Malcolm Gladwell|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/31MzZt-kMNL._SL75_.jpg|1180927] came out) where they showed people clips of other people that were a few seconds in duration and they picked out the diagnosed psychopaths with a high degree of accuracy, but when they showed them longer clips their accuracy plummeted. Eric's parents had been around him for 18 years.

It's also true that Dylan made open, blatant references to the attack on multiple occasions and with increasing frequency the closer they got to the day of the attack.

One of the scariest things I learned was that Eric and Dylan never intended the attack to be viewed as a school shooting. The intention was to blow up the school and the only reason they failed was that Eric didn't put the timers together correctly. It could have been much, much worse.

The boys weren't outcasts, they both had friends and Eric in particular was very social. It was never about getting back at the jocks or any other particular group of kids. They just wanted to kill everyone.

Cullen did a wonderful job following the killers, individual victims and their families, and the FBI's lead psychologist on the case.

He explained how some of the myths about Columbine got started and how even after the truth came out it was virtually ignored by the press.

I was bothered by at least one broad statement. He says the kids regretted talking to the press the day after the shooting, and while that doesn't surprise me he doesn't offer any supporting evidence that they regretted it.

He ends the book by describing the current status of all the major players.

It was an interesting book, and interesting that there is no profile for school shooters. They have little in common except that the vast majority are males and almost all of them had some rejection or disappointment that they overreact to (fired, a breakup, etc). And the FBI recognizes that zero tolerance isn't really the answer. Most of the time when teens talk about killing someone or blowing something up, it's just letting off steam. The concern should come when specifics are mentioned.