Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Fun things like exams and dead people

I’ve definitely stayed busy in the month that I haven’t updated. This past weekend was my first chance to slow down in a while.

Classes ended last Friday. Even some of those were optional; I didn’t have to do to calculus or Java Programming. We had our last ‘midterms’ (it seems funny to call them that this late in the semester, but all of our non-final exams are apparently midterms) last Wednesday in physics and calculus. I got about 86% on both, which was well above the average and among the highest scores on both tests.

My physics lab ended Thanksgiving week, which was extremely nice. I never have to write a mechanics lab report again! Rejoice!

My first final is tomorrow, in calculus. My last, chemistry, is next Monday, and I plan to leave for the holiday that Tuesday (1 week!). I hope everyone else is doing well on finals and such.

So, stuff I’ve been doing:

The weekend before Thanksgiving, I went to College Station to see some high school friends. I stayed with them that Friday and Saturday night. It was fun; these guys are quite amusingly random and vulgar and such, and they have some interesting friends. Their apartment is awesome, in the sense that it has random crap like aluminum cans and video game cases and big cardboard advertising-stand-type-things for video games everywhere. It’s the perfect metaphor for how these guys live life. The drive to and from College Station reminds me of home a little; I took Highway 79, which is just a small, low traffic rural highway through a bunch of the small towns between I 35 and Bryan. Also, all my Longhorn friends will be amused to know that these guys verified that all of the amazingly dumb stuff we always say about A&M people is completely accurate. We apparently aren’t exaggerating at all. Although, I was kind of disappointed that I didn’t get tackled for walking on the grass on campus.

I only had a couple classes that week. Monday I had my usual schedule, including the last of my lab (which is over now! Celebrate!). Tuesday I had a chemistry midterm that a lot of us didn’t really have to take. I explained this to most of the people there: our chemistry professor drops one midterm grade. This was the last midterm, so anyone who had As on both of the earlier ones had no reason to take it. I even found a guy who had 100% on both of the first two and took this one anyway. The efficient part of my brain was screaming at me the whole time I was there. As fate would have it, though, I ended up beating one of my older scores by a couple points.

I had been planning for over a week to skip two of my classes that Wednesday. It was fun to tell people about how I was going to skip class, so I was disappointed when they both got canceled. I spent most of that day driving home, which is always kind of boring.

Thursday I had my first (yes, meaning of more than one) Thanksgiving dinner with friends in Tom Bean. It was very different to have Thanksgiving with someone other than family, but it was also lots of fun. That evening I tried and largely failed to gather people for video gaming; we only got one console, so a few of us played that and the others played WOW (which is a cultural phenomenon everyone should know about; Google it) on their laptops through my laggy satellite internet. Yeah, they’re addicted. Friday I relaxed a lot and saw Enchanted (which was extremely funny) with Mom and Sara before hanging out with some of the guys some more. We hung out at IHOP drinking hot chocolate and such for over an hour after watching Beowulf (which was actually digitally animated, extremely well, but was otherwise underwhelming).

Saturday I had my second Thanksgiving dinner, this time at home. It was also very good. We had all the usual stuff like a turkey and Mom’s really awesome gravy and rolls and cranberries and such. I kept some leftover rolls to take back with me. I had to go back to doing useful stuff like laundry that evening, though, since I left Sunday morning.

The trip back on Sunday was interesting. I ended up moving a friend to College Station to live with the friends I mentioned earlier. The actual drive down was largely uneventful. I took I 45 to College Station, so the traffic was light. 35 was apparently awful, so that worked well. I also got to see a more rural part of the hill country, as 45 doesn’t have all the midsize towns 35 does. I ended up driving about one and a half hours longer than I would have if I taken 35 straight down and had no traffic, but the weather and traffic on 35 were bad and I got to help a friend while I avoided that, so it’s all good.

The week after that, I jumped right back into the usual routine for two more weeks (I had never thought about the fact that there are only two weeks of class left after Thanksgiving in college; weird). Our chemistry classes wound down fast and the last two last week were largely pointless. Java programming was still interesting, mostly because the last assignment was fun. I got to program wolves that kill lions, tigers, bears, and stones. Very cool. No, you’re not supposed to understand, just agree.

The last two weekends I had some interesting party-type events. Last weekend my TA for Research Methods invited me to her birthday party at the Cheesecake Factory. It was hard to find, and we had to wait a while because we had a big group and they were packed, but the food was naturally good and the company was excellent. I only knew the TA when I got there, but I met and talked a lot with several of her friends, so that was fun. I also got cheesecake, some of which I kept and took back to the dorm. Monday morning that cheesecake made the best breakfast I have ever eaten. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that awake at 8 in the morning. Last weekend, I went to the Dean’s Scholars’ Holiday-Dinner-that-can’t-be-called-a-“Christmas”-dinner. Who knew “Christmas” was not politically correct. Whatever. Anyway, I drove some people to that on Saturday evening. We had awesome music, decent food, good people and conversation, and it was generally a good time. I ended up not having to clean anything, even though I signed up to, because we have dutiful people that clean without being asked to. Only in an honors program. But, that’s cool. I ended up making two trips taking people back to campus since several ride-givers left without full carloads before the party had broken up. I learned, while hanging out with some late-staying second years between giving rides, that they generally like the leader of the Research Methods class (which all DSers take), Dr. Laude. You remember, the amusing guy that compared me to William F. Buckley, the failed politician and mediocre author, in an office hours meeting? I found this highly interesting, since I’m fairly sure most of my year is still scared of him. They take him too seriously, I think. He needs to be laughed at when he makes fun of you, that’s all.

So now I’ve spent a weekend relaxing and have done a little work and studying the last two days. This is where the dead people come in. You see, I finished the semester with several things left to do in Research Methods: three skill modules and an ‘inquiry’ (translated: I have to turn in 5+ pages of stuff that sound like a research paper). The inquiry is over criminals executed in Texas since 1982. Their info and final statements are saved online, and we have to read them and write something interesting about them. I read all 405 on my own (some people formed groups). That was a really fascinating and depressing sort of thing to do. It was interesting to see what these people had to say and think about what I would say in their place, knowing I would be executed immediately after. I was disturbed by the number of people that did not leave a statement; if I was about to be executed, that statement would mean everything to me. That will probably be the main thing I write about. Seriously though, if you ever feel like you need to get really depressed and hate life, read about those people. Sit for about and hour and read their statements and tell me then that we should still have state sponsored killing. Let me be clear: everything related to those poor people is wrong: the ways the victims were tortured, raped, and killed; the fact that the offenders spend years fighting the system with poor educations and bad public defenders (come on, these guys can’t afford good lawyers), only to die at the end; the fact that some of those 405 people executed must have been innocent, but that now we’ll never know for sure; and the fact that so many families, of victims and offenders, have been ruined by the whole ordeal. It’s all wrong. We can stop at least part of the cycle; killing those criminals does not save us money, does not deter other criminals (violent crimes overall have occurred at roughly the same rate nationwide for decades), and does not bring back the victims. Some of the people we execute will be innocent, as the system is very far from perfect. Bottom line: there is no reason for the state to execute anyone. This must stop.