Saturday, July 26, 2008

The passing of an ordinary and yet Great Man: Randy Pausch

Despite today being a weekend, I woke up earlier than usual, meaning on work days. Wify was already downstairs starting her daily routine, another unusual sign for her too for she usually sleeps late on weekends, what with over the midnight bed time last night (or this morning to be exact). There seemed to be some kind of premonition in the air, which I had no inkling about, then.

At breakfast, I picked up the St. Pete Times from just outside the door, sauntered to the table, scanned the first page for a sense of what's happening around Tampa, Florida, and the world at large. St. Pete Times has a news gist column to the left on the first page, summarizing the various news vignettes that point to further expansion inside the paper.

While scrolling down the list of news gist, my eyes caught the title, 'The Last Lecture' professor dies, that sent a jolt through me. Randy Pausch was of course the latest Internet phenom who breezed through the blogosphere like a fresh wisp of air with his presentation of the Last Lecture caught on video, which I have blogged about here. He was best known for his delivery of life lessons, imparted with a mission-like urgency precipitated by the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer just days prior to his fated delivery.

Despite the terminal illness that would have cowed a lot of people into submission, he fought on gallantly, exuding a lustrous passion for life, and conversely, a near disdain for death, that excited those who are similarly afflicted, and more so, shamed those fortunate among us for having taken life for granted.

Life being what it is, his passing should not have been a surprise. All of us will be visited by the same fate, sooner or later. Except that in his case, it might have seen sooner than most of us thought. But his legacy lives on, not only to his loved ones who are the original targets of his 'the Last Lecture', but also the millions around the world who have been fortunate enough to catch a last glimpse of him, literally. And hopefully goad us into living a full life from this moment on. It's better late than sorry.

May Randy Pausch rest in peace, and that his family will remain strong to tide over this difficult time. We all have lost an ordinary and yet a great man, but only in terms of his physical form, and surely not the life lessons that he had had instilled into our collective psyche.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

A Memorable July 4th Weekend

America celebrated her 232nd birthday yesterday, having gained independence on July 4, 1776. And a traditional celebration mode is the combination of July 4th parade in the morning followed by fireworks in the night. The last time we partook of such a celebration was more than ten years ago, when we were still at Gainesville, once every year from 1991 to 1994, at Flavet Field in the UF campus (WT, a rising Junior at UF, remembers the name, not surprisingly).

I still remember we all used to walk from Corry Village, our four children in tow. Wify would spread out the picnic mat on an available spot on the grass field and we would sit on it, waiting for the pyrotechnics show to commence while listening (we were always seated too far to watch the action) to a live band performance on a nearby open-air stage. Then when the moment arrived, we would enjoy watching the night sky being lit up by an ebullient but ephemeral tapestry of bright spots in seemingly haphazard pattern, preceded by what sounded like a distant thunder and rising flares of projectiles in succession, eyes affixed skyward, mouth agog.

It was not until last night that we were able to reprise that child-like wondrous experience, at the invitation of Linda and Victor Hong to join them in Temple Terrace. But first, we visited their newly remodeled home that is close to being finished. It is spacious with an impressive new facade that has added depth to what was originally a ranch-style home, tastefully nestled among the stately trees. Then we were serenaded by the Hong's talented musicians, Victor on the drums, Kevin, a rising high school sophomore and his elder son, on trumpet, and Aaron, a rising 8th grader and his younger brother, on bass guitar. Then father and son (Aaron) switched roles to play on the bass and the acoustic guitar, respectively. I just wished WJ could have been here to put the sole Lee's flavor (he plays the guitar) into the musical mix.

Then we adjourned to a sumptuous dinner prepared by Linda. And the musical interlude continued wih a solo piano performance by Aaron, on an 20 years+ Roland electric piano, accompanied by some leisurely dance moves by Wify who did not seem to be able to keep her dance urges in check after her overtures to yours truly and then to Linda to join her were respectfully declined. At Wify's urging, Linda also played a tune, For Elise, on the piano (honestly this was the only number I know, the others seemed to be jazz pieces that I'm not familiar).

Then it was off to the computer room to be awed by Kevin's design of military aircrafts and Aarons' design of several animated games, under the watchful eyes of their pride parents.

Just before 9pm, we sauntered en mass to the nearby Golf course for the fireworks display, under the clearing sky that had hitherto threatened to rain on us accompanied by a distant rumble and lightning flashes. We found a spot, got seated, among the many like-minded audience, and waited patiently for the promised show to erupt above us. And we were not disappointed, reliving the memorable experience we last had more than ten years ago, captured here using the Nikon Coolpix L11 digital camera with the fireworks setting, thanks to our gracious hosts, the Hong Family.

Happy Birthday America!

The throng of people taking up their respective places. The distant display was apparently from another earlier fireworks display on another location, the relatively low height acheived belying their position further afield.

And the show we came to watch went ballistic.

This vertically stacked pattern was preceded by a staccato of shots reverberating and illuminating in the most magnificent glow of all, a grand finale to the night of celebration.