Sunday, October 14, 2007

Worth 100' of your time . . .

Randy Pausch giving his "Final Talk"

Recently a friend, Ranjan Jayanathan from Dynamic Imaging, sent me a link to "The Final Lecture" given by Randy Pausch. You may have already seen clips of this on 60 Minutes or elsewhere. There are not many things I read or watch on the internet that affect my life, particularly at my age. This is one of them.

Randy Pausch is 48, is dying from pancreatic cancer (he gets this "elephant in the room" out of the way quickly by showing pictures of his recent CT scan and then moving on), and in this last lecture he reviews the important lesions he has learned in his life in academics and industry. This is not some sappy, inspirational video, but an exceptional human sharing what he thinks is really important, perhaps the importance of actually "living" ones life; not just existing on this planet for as many years as possible.

It is around 100 minutes, and I don't regret I made the time to watch it. It was much more important than most of the TV I watch. if you decide to spend the time, don't skip the introductions nor the post-talk awards.

Here the link to the Video:
mms://wms.andrew.cmu.edu/001/pausch.wmv
And also:
http://www.cs.cmu.edu/front_im/pausch_9-18-07.wmv

Wikipedia link here
Randy's own website here

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Postscript to the travel postings: My Trophy Hat

"Idaho Outdoors" Cap"
I'm not one for ball caps as a rule - I tend to wear a hat with a substantial brim, if anything. However there are exceptions.
The usual place I will wear a ball cap is when I am reading in bed, because the overhead reading lights here in Cedar Rapids or in the motorhome cause a glare in my glasses, and the cap works perfectly to shield that glare (this really drives Barbara crazy).
This "Idaho Outdoors" cap arrived today in the mail as a flashback to our recent trip. If you remember, we mentioned visiting the "City of Rocks" National Monument while in Idaho. The day we left, the Idaho Statesman newspaper carried their weekly "Where is this?" contest, and this week it was a picture of one of the rock formations in City of Rocks National Monument. Having just been to this out-of-the-way place, I recognized this particular formation, "Register Rock". I sent my entry in via email and . . . first prize - the cap! Now I can irritate Barbara in style with my new, fully anti-glare bed cap.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

This is STILL an important book.




Today is the 50th year of the publication of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. I have seen several articles about her and this book. It is critical for young readers to realize that in 1920 she moved from socialist Russia to capitalist America; this at a time of global evolution (not revolution) with uncertainty as to what form of society would become dominant. This novel was the best means Rand had for expressing her understanding of this conflict, and her personal philosophy.
We have seen the decline of socialism and growth of capitalism from the USSR to China to the western world. I, myself, see evils in the extremes of both, but I certainly know where I would like to live.
Capitalism, ultimately, has to be concerned with the welfare of the general population rather than simply brutal, short-term enrichment. For it to succeed, all must succeed, and the chance for that is better than the chances with socialism. The best of the reviews of Rand's book that I have come across is from the TIA, published HERE.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

CELEBRATION!

Final Night of the Trip Together
(Click picture to enlarge)

Tuesday, our final road night together, the four of us celebrated the our trip with a glass of champagne. We had spent 36 days together, and it was a bit sad to come to the end of the trip.

We have followed the immigrants along much of the Oregon and California trails, traveled along portions of the Lewis and Clark trail, and seen much of modern urban and rural Oregon. Of course, we were really glad to get to spend some time with Matt/John and Rachael in Portland. We also serendipitously connected with RV friends in Astoria and Reno and met a few new ones. (When I turned our motorhome in here in Cedar Rapids for several small fixes, I was able to tell the young lady at the service counter that I had talked with her father at the RV park in Baker City.) The weather was exceptionally good to us overall.

Barbara and I have done a lot of traveling in our 36 years together, but it is still nice to know that we can spend essentially 24 hrs a day, 39 days in a row, in less than 400 sq ft and still get along fine.

Of course that is one relationship. Traveling with another couple, there are 4 relationships that have to function reasonably well, and they did so. We have done several RV trips with Bill and Dana, but this was the longest, and it was good to see we still do it well. It requires some compromises and a certain amount of tolerance, but the payoff is well worth it.

For those of you who have followed the journey on this blog, this is the last post. I will keep it active until the constraints of Google's limit on my blog account is breached, then it will have to go. It has been fun for me; I hope it has been entertaining for you. Thank you.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Near the end of the rainbow


Stopping for the night in Elco, Nevada

After a brief stop in Reno, we are heading east on I-80 towards home. We stopped in Elco, Nevada for the night, and the four of us had a nice dinner with grilled flank steak, fresh squash, Potatoes, and a bottle of Syrah from the HillCrest Vinyard in the Umpqua Valley (click for link). The dinners prepared by Barbara and Dana in the rigs have been wonderful; better than most of the restaurants meals we have had.

The drive across northern Nevada has been much more picturesque than I remember; even mostly in overcast or light rain. The remnants of the country's first titanium mine can be seen in the gost town of Comstock just off the road. Between 1916 and 1947, at its peak it produced most of the world's titanium.

We traveled to the coast more or less along the Oregon trail and some of the Lewis and Clark route, and we are returning along some of the Northern California trails. Earlier in the day, we had in about 40 minutes by motorhome crossed the "Forty Mile Desert", a dry stretch of alkali desert first crossed by the Walker-Chiles party in 1843 (click here for a link to diary entries of emigrants). Despite the hazards, this was the dominant trail used for the immigration to Northern California until the 1860s. This was a tough task to face after having just made it across 6,143' Emigrant Gap. In addition to the loss of thousands of mules, horses and cattle, there were at least 953 graves recorded along this short stretch of the California trail.

This is a really big country; I will die without seeing all of it (though there is no harm in trying.)