Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Last Lecture

When I was but a whippersnapper, one of my first real assignments at C-Ville Weekly (then C-Ville Review) was to interview this guy at UVA who’d done pioneering work in virtual reality. I was not computer literate; I wrote all my college papers on a Brother typewriter. I’d actually had to learn how to use a computer (thank God, a Mac) for this job. At C-Ville, we didn’t have Internet access and I did most of my research at the library.

I went to the interview with a photographer. The guy I was interviewing was a young professor, cute (although I was a student at the time and well schooled in What Is Inappropriate, which included finding professors cute). He was good at explaining things in layman’s terms. I got to try on some virtual reality goggles and run through his program. It was really cool, but I have weak eye muscles and wearing the goggles gave me a headache. That’s about all I remember from the interview.

The guy was Randy Pausch. If you’re an engineering folk, you might know him from his accomplishments in the computing field, but if you’re a YouTube watcher or a bestseller-list observer, you might know him from his Last Lecture. Pausch was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and has blown people away with this lecture.

I don’t really have anything to add to what’s already been said about his talk, which is funny and inspirational. But yesterday, I was feeling whiny and overwhelmed and up to my armpits in three different projects, and the lecture popped in my head. I (or any of us, really) could be dead by next year, I thought. Which is, I know, kind of maudlin and drama-queen-ish, but sometimes it takes maudlin and drama queen to get me to realize that I need to chill the fuck out.

If you have seventy-six minutes to spare...


Gina said...

I saw him on Oprah last year, not long after my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I almost couldn't watch it, but I'm glad I did. He's really something, and yeah, it certainly puts things in perspective.

Hairline Fracture said...

I don't have time to watch it right now, but I will. I've heard so much about this talk. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

How inspiring Randy Pausch is! If you liked "The Last Lecture", another fantastic memoir I just read and highly recommend is "My Stroke of Insight" by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. Her TEDTalk video ( has been seen as many times as The Last Lecture I think, and Oprah did 4 shows on her book, so there are a lot of similarities. In My Stroke of Insight, there's a happy ending though. It's an incredible story! I hear they're making it into a movie.