Saturday, September 22, 2007

A lecture on living

One of things I sorely miss about being on campus is attending lectures, especially when my world expanded from the confined walls of my college to what the other courses and disciplines were offering.

I then evolved to being a lecture junkie, but not so much the type that I had to sit for as part of the semester's schedule and other such prerequisites. When my schedule became more loose as I stayed longer on campus, I found myself more and more attracted to talks and discussions of various topics hosted by other colleges and institutions: anthropological, socio-political, cultural, theater, music, and, of course, the arts.

The discussants, lecturers and moderators would become my friends, if they weren't to start with, and, sometimes, the lectures and discussions would continue on in such unlikely places as the campus hostel café over bottles of beer, or in corner stores or hidden campus shacks. More often, my friends and I found ourselves among these older 'men (and women) of wisdom' moving over to someone's living room or transferring to other joints just to finish the discussion: we were usually the only females in the group (if no 'women of wisdom' were around), generations younger and from a motley of courses and interests. In reality, no discussion actually ever ends that is to the satisfaction of anyone well beyond the empty beer bottles and plates of peanuts and chips.

However, when I physically got out of college (rather informally, that is; I have yet to really finish my course formally), I was more and more removed from the academic milieu. Occasionally, when the old group got together, we'd get to know about someone's paper that is yet to be presented, or about how mundane issues as 'language use' or how the 'insurgency problems' in other areas could have progressed into a more positive and productive way, or why an art exhibit debut bombed, not because of poor attendance, but because of poor concept or rationale. Sometimes, too, we'd be the imaginary audience to a lecture whose intended audience are yet to be gathered. And sometimes, yes, these get-togethers would be dashed with gossip as was usual. You see, not all lectures are straight and boring. Interesting behind-the-scenes developments ensue, with the most likely casualty being someone's ego.

Last year, by virtue of affinity and a freer schedule, I was fortunate to attend Dr. Shaidul Alam's first lecture at the ADMU campus on photojournalism. This activity was the first in a long while. It was a breath of fresh air — a clichĂ© I never thought I'd truly experience — from the intoxicating environment of corporate blah, of running after checks and presenting design drafts and layouts and, yes, petty local politics. Nothing beats attending lectures, especially if by men and women who add their life experiences to the agenda.

A few days ago, I came across yet another interesting lecture but this time on the internet. It is by Randy Pausch. As you can see, the venue for lectures and discussions has already transcended the physical auditorium of a campus to my living room thousands of miles across the globe.

Watching this recorded talk brought back memories in college both during and right after leaving it. Of course, the video no longer provides the intimacy of the usual lectures and the opportunity to ask or interact with the speaker and the audience. However, I have yet to come across — in real life, that is — a speaker as animated, funny and poignant as Randy Pausch.

Randy Pausch's last lecture

A few days ago, a member of my Mac forum posted a link about one's time of death which really was an online "Death Meter" questionnaire about health and eating habits, habitats and other such contributory factors to one's lifestyle vs. life span (my end is supposedly Jan. 12, 2045). But what if the results turn out to be shorter and more definite than the usual ones that were generated after one clicks submit ? And besides, who is Randy Pausch?

Randy Pausch is a professor of Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction and Design (computers). If you found CG Disney rides fun (I haven't tried any), think using Google's services a joy ride (I most certainly do) and think that VR technology is cool, thank Randy Pausch.

USC School of Engineering. Information Science Institute:
...He has consulted with Walt Disney Imagineering on the user interface design and testing of interactive theme park attractions, particularly for the "DisneyQuest" virtual-reality based theme park. He also consults with Google.com and Z.com on user interface issues...

He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer which has recurred, and is given just a few months to live.

From: Randy Pausch
Sent: Sat 9/8/2007 10:15 PM
Subject: my last lecture

To my friends and colleagues,
I have one last talk to give, and I would be greatly honored by your attendance. If distance does not permit, Carnegie Mellon will also be webcasting the talk. (details to follow).
Please feel free to forward this email to anyone you see fit; I believe the talk will be especially valuable for undergraduates.
Randy

Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams
Tuesday, Sept. 18th, 4:30pm McConomy Auditorium

Randy Pausch
Professor of Computer Science, HCII, and Design
Co-Founder, Entertainment Technology Center
Abstract Almost all of us have childhood dreams: for example, being an astronaut, or making movies or video games for a living. Sadly, most people don't achieve theirs, and I think that's a shame. I had several specific childhood dreams, and I've actually achieved most of them. More importantly, I have found ways, in particular the creation (with Don Marinelli), of CMU's Entertainment Technology Center (etc.cmu.edu), of helping many young people actually achieve their childhood dreams. This talk will discuss how I achieved my childhood dreams (being in zero gravity, designing theme park rides for Disney, and a few others), and will contain realistic advice on how you can live your life so that you can make your childhood dreams come true, too.

Well, thank you Randy Pausch, for sharing your positive energy to the world.


Full video (streamed; will open to video link):

Photo above is courtesy of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's article on Randy Pausch: CMU professor gives his last lesson on life
On YouTube, minus the introductions
His homepage

If you can download the video for offline viewing, it will be a better experience, like for lecture junkies such as myself. It's very funny, informative, bittersweet and kind of long at 10mins or so, but it's worth watching. :)


EDIT: The Post-Gazette's direct video download link for Mac in Quicktime format.


EDIT2 | Sunday, 12:08 am: The Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) of which Dr. Pausch is co-founder and VP, will make the video available in two weeks' time. Please check out details from the ETC Global News here.
EDIT3 | Saturday, Sept. 29: Received an email from Dr. Indira Nair, Vice Provost for Education of the CMU of the availability of Dr. Pausch's full lecture which can be viewed here.

EDIT4 | Tuesday, Oct. 30: Thanks to fellow blogger health - pomegranate I am sharing this online, fun quiz On Randy Pausch's lecure.

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