My name is Brad Root and I'm a software engineer, music aficionado, video game junkie, and occasional unicyclist.

In my spare time, I build open source software, and write about my experiences as a programmer here on this blog.

You can also find me on Twitter, GitHub, and LinkedIn.

What I'm Up To - Week 17, 2020

Howdy! This is my weekly post where I write about whatever programming-related stuff I got up to in the past week.

Last Statement

I finished Last Statement within my two week deadline. You can find the source code and a link to download in the last-statement GitHub repository. There's not a lot to say about it now that it's done. The trickiest parts of it I addressed in last week's WIUT post, so I won't really go over them here.

I did change course a little on the project, in that originally I planned to show the "last statement" as well as the "summary of incident" that landed them on death row because I thought it was valuable for perspective to see what they (allegedly) did to "deserve" to be put to death. After using the screensaver myself for a while, I ended up looking up several of the people executed only to find that it wasn't so black and white.

Before now, I didn't consider myself particularly "for" the death penalty, but also I didn't think I was particularly "against" it either. But after looking into more of the details surrounding some of these executions I'd count myself fully on the "against" side of the debate.

It makes perfect sense for me to be against the death penalty because I am an "aspiring" anarchist, and my whole life I have been anti-authority, so why would I trust the 'authority' in this matter? What it really boils down to, for me, is this: human beings are not infallible. We should not be deciding who lives and dies, because any system that depends on the judgment of human beings is going to make mistakes. When it comes to the death penalty, those mistakes are irreversible in a way very few mistakes are.

I cannot imagine the pain and emotional suffering an innocent person goes through when they are on death row, facing their demise. It's too much for me to even think about deeply even for a moment. I am not a person who deals well with loss of control over my life, and I definitely can't handle it when I think I am being treated unjustly. It is impossible to say that no one has been executed in error, and it's very likely that at least several, if not many, people have been executed who did not commit the crimes they were accused of.

As such I decided that the most ethical, sensitive way to build this screensaver is to let those who have been executed speak for themselves, and to not "color" their statements by displaying their alleged crimes. If you read a last statement and you're interested in more context, it's very easy to look them up on the internet and find out more. There are those who declare, "I am guilty and I deserve to die," before their executions. There are also those who declare their innocence, sometimes with fury, and sometimes with resignation.

In the end, I think this is the most interesting thing I have built so far, though I deserve little credit for its contents, just their configuration. The wide range of emotions it makes me feel are hard to match by any other piece of art or media. Sometimes I am disgusted, sometimes I am amused, and more often than not I feel sympathy and sorrow for those who have died.

Yes, there's still a "joke" at the core of the project, which is that it looks like the built-in macOS "Word of the Day" screensaver, but the actual content of the screensaver is not a laughing matter at all. If it made you laugh when you first heard about it or saw it, that's okay and expected. But no matter how you feel about the death penalty, I think the words it shows you will affect you in some other way.

That's it for me this week. See you next week?