James Cassell's Blog

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A More Difficult Second Day of Classes

Today was much more difficult for me than yesterday. First thing this morning, I had to get up at 5:00 for PT (Physical Training), then change into my white uniform to wear during the school day for ROTC. When wearing the uniform, we are required to carry our stuff in our left hand, and not on our backs. This is partially so that we will be able to salute senior officers and midshipmen as well as Air Force cadets.

My first class of the day was Introduction to Economics. It was a pretty good class, but it is going to require some work on my part. The professor said that the third edition of the text book would be sufficient, even though the current one is the fourth. I am going to return the new one I got from the library, and have ordered the third edition from eBay for $30 instead of over $100 for the new one. The subject matter of the economics class is somewhat interesting, but a lot of it seems like common sense. I am also happy that the professor is somewhat conservative rather than liberal.

Multi-variable calculus was slightly confusing, but I should be able to do fine in it. I don't have as good of a teacher as I did with Calculus 1 and 2, but I don't expect to ever have such a good teacher again, anyway. After hearing from my economics professor that the older version of the textbook was adequate, I decided to ask my calculus teacher if the older version of that book would also be adequate. She said that older versions would be fine since most of the questions aren't out of the book. I plan to return the books for this class and order the older versions for it also.

I have been enjoying being able to type my notes in class on my Rensselaer laptop. It has encouraged me to actually take notes -- something that I rarely, if ever, did in high school. The program that we were given for this task is Microsoft's OneNote. It is like a virtual notebook/filing cabinet with sections. It is quite easy to keep notes organized. Whenever I have taken notes on traditional paper with a pen, they would all get mixed up and I couldn't locate any of them. (I actually opened up my virtual notebook to refer to while writing this post; I have both laptops running side by side.)

My third class, and least favorite to this point, was Introduction to Engineering Analysis. I believe that the main reason for this is that the professor has forbidden the use of laptops in his classroom. The subject matter to this point (only the first day so far) has been physics, except that we have to use the English system of units, which I greatly despise for its complexity. We also have to hand in class work at the end of each class period in addition to homework. So far, this class seems to be the one that will be the most work.

Overall, the day was more difficult than yesterday, but I'd say that if this is as tough as it gets, I'll do fine.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Start of Classes

This morning, I went to my first class, Computer Science 1. From everything that the professor said, I should probably take Computer Science 2 instead. Unfortuantely, when I tried to make it work with the classes I'm currently taking, it wouldn't. My ROTC drill period interferes with Computer Science 2, and ROTC will always come first since they are paying for my tuition. I'm going to see what I can work out with the schedule, and hopefully everything goes well.

The second class I attended today was a period where we would normally go over the previous lesson, so it was very short given that we haven't had any lessons yet.

My laptop is becoming more manageable as I customize it to my liking. I still haven't gotten around to removing all the suff slowing it down yet, though. Also, the RPI Scheduler java program doesn't work for some reason. I hope to get it sorted out soon, though.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

End of Orientation

This has been an interesting two weeks. By far, the best part was the Adventure Quest at Silver Bay. Since returning from Silver Bay, life has been mostly uneventful.

Several days a week, movies are shown in an auditorium on campus. Tickets cost $2.50, but there were two free movies this week to whet our appetite for them (my reasoning there). The first one, Music and Lyrics was shown on Wednesday. If I had seen the first five minutes of it on television, I would have instantly changed the channel, but I sat through it, and it wasn't too bad of a movie. The second movie, Disturbia, was shown last night. I thought it was a pretty good movie, and kept you guessing until near the end.

Today, people on my floor finally got our Rensselaer laptops. It is a decent computer, but mine is faster. I still have the same gripes that I have mentioned previously. I plan to install Fedora on the Rensselaer laptop alongside Windows. One thing about the laptop that is better than was advertised, but not unexpected to me, is that it has Office 2007 Enterprise edition rather than Professional edition.

Later this afternoon, we had a "Convocation" ceremony where many of the important people of the college were introduced, and a few spoke. At the end, Rensselaer's a cappella group, The Rusty Pipes, sang the Alma Mater. I believe that I was one of very few freshmen who already knew it. I downloaded it a few months ago, and have heard it enough times to know it by now.

Classes start tomorrow, so we'll see how that goes. My first class is at 8:00 in the morning.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Starting College Life in Troy, New York

ROTC Orientation

Last Monday night (13 Aug 2007), my dad drove me up to Rensselaer. I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on the way up. It was a pretty good book and finished the series well.

The first thing I did this past week was the ROTC orientation week. We were issued uniforms, and said goodbye to our parents, and were marched off. We were loaded onto buses to go to the Air Force base (I don't remember what it was called). We spent most of our orientation there.

Throughout the week, we were supposed to be memorizing information out of "Foundations" booklets. The first day shortly after arriving at the Air Force base, I lost mine in the chaos. Throughout the week, I received a lot of flack about it, and many of the times I was yelled at started because it was noticed that I didn't have it.

Though it felt like a lot of hard work, the week went fine overall, I would say. They never gave us a formal exam on the information in the "Foundations" booklet, though I did learn most of it by borrowing my roommate's. We spent the last two days of ROTC orientation at Rensselaer, and on Saturday afternoon, there was a ceremony where we took an oath, and became midshipmen.

Silver Bay Adventure Quest

Several months ago, I received a packet from Rensselaer asking me which overnight "Navigating Rensselaer and Beyond" trip I wanted to go on. I chose aviation and white-water rafting as my primary and backup choices, but didn't get either. I received a call about a month ago asking if I wanted to go on the only remaining trip. I said that I would, and I ended up going on the Silver Bay Adventure Quest trip.

Silver Bay is a very large YMCA off of Lake George in New York. It is an hour-and-a-half to two-hour bus ride from Rensselaer. The main purpose of the program at Silver Bay was team building. There were many activities where working together was necessary to successfully complete the task. Many of these included a blindfold.

My favorite part of the trip was that it allowed me to make friends with a few people who are attending Rensselaer. I probably met at least 20 or 30 people whom I will be able to recognize by sight, but there are fewer than a dozen whose names I remember. (I'd list them there, but I haven't obtained permission from said people to post their names.) Walking around campus, I have seen a few people that I recognize from when I was here in July for the Student Orientation, but I remember them by sight only, and don't know their names. (I'm terrible with names if you haven't figured out.) Anyway, back on topic, the longest activity that I did at Silver Bay was a hike that lasted from 9 o'clock in the morning to about 3 o'clock in the afternoon.

"Navigating Rensselaer and Beyond" (Orientation at Rensselaer)

Since returning from Silver Bay, some orientation activities have been going on here on campus. On Tuesday (yesterday), after we returned, there was a barbecue with all 1300 freshmen; I must say that it was a lot of people.

Today (Wednesday), everyone went on a day trip. I went on the "Precision Air Rifle Shooting" trip, which happened to be right on campus in the basement of the Armory. There is a shooting range that had been used for M1's in World War II. We used air rifles which were powered by canisters of air compressed at 3000 PSI. The ammunition was little pellet-like pieces of lead. Shooting the rifles was kind of fun for a while, but became slightly onerous, with the need to reload after each shot.

This evening, there was an event in the Student Union where many video game systems, board games, and other entertainment were set up. There are people here at Rensselaer with amazing talents. Some people are insanely good at video games such as Dance Dance Revolution; others put on a good comedic show on stage; and most enjoyable to me, some have extraordinary musical talents. There was a room with a grand piano, and several students who have been playing for over a decade were playing on it through the evening. I spent most of my time in that room listening to their amazing musical talents.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Thoughts on Harry Potter before reading Book 7

I finished reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6) this afternoon. I decided that I would write my thoughts before reading the final book. I may mention events through the end of Book 6, so here is your Spoiler Warning:

Spoiler Warning!!!

The major event in Book 6 was the apparent murder of Albus Dumbledore by Severus Snape (Harry's most-hated teacher). The second chapter of the book tells of Snape making an Unbreakable Vow to Draco Malfoy's mother, promising to complete the task that Lord Voldemort has planned for Malfoy to complete, if it appears that Malfoy will be unable to complete the task.

Throughout the school year, Harry is convinced that Malfoy is up to something evil, but is not able to figure out what it is. Harry and Dumbledore go one night to attempt to obtain and destroy one of Voldemort's horcruxes. When they return, Dumbledore is severely ill due to the mission they had just been on, and to Harry's and Dumbledore's horror, the Dark Mark is over the highest tower of the Hogwarts castle. Harry and Dumbledore go at once to the tower where Malfoy manages to disarm Dumbledore. It is then revealed that Malfoy's task was to kill Dumbledore. Malfoy hesitates, and is then surrounded by several Death Eaters (Voldemort's followers). They want to do away with Dumbledore, but one of them reminds the others that it is Malfoy's job. Snape, whom Dumbledore trusts completely, arrives on the scene. He then moves to kill Dumbledore. Dumbledore is now dead.

If you read the book, it is undoubted that you will notice something I left out, but this was a short summary. Anyway, I will argue that Severus Snape is not as evil as it would seem. There was no escape from the situation in which Dumbledore died. If Snape had not killed Dumbledore, one of the other Death Eaters would have done so. By doing so himself, he further deepened his cover with the other Death Eaters, giving them no reason to doubt that he was on their side. It should be mentioned also that Snape would have died himself if he had not done so because of the Unbreakable Vow. Snape is now very deep under cover, and can provide more information to the Order of the Phoenix than anyone else.

Who will be in charge of the Order now that Dumbledore appears to be gone is something of which I am unsure. I do believe that the Order will continue, however. One more piece of evidence that Snape is not as evil as he appears is that when one of the Death Eaters started to torture Harry, he stopped him, stating that Harry was Voldemort's to finish off. Additionally, I don't believe that Dumbledore would make such a devastating mistake as to trust Severus Snape if he were not in fact trustworthy.

I find Dumbledore's demise to be disappointing and an unlikely outcome, but seems pretty firm that he is in fact, dead.

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