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Naila Khalisha
Carnegie Mellon University, Qatar.
Freshman//Computer Science//Class of 2016
M e n u

Homework 1 : Randy Pausch.

Randy Pausch was a professor teaching in Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He taught Computer Science, Human-Computer Interaction, and Design. I personally (and frankly,) don’t possess that much amount of knowledge regarding to this one particular man, and all I have known about him came from no more than “The Last Lecture” book, which was one of the first things given to me after I was admitted as a freshman in Carnegie Mellon Qatar. And even with that, it still didn’t give me enough impact to be curious to know more about him, until now.

One of the first matters that would always pop up when he was brought into topic is, he died recently (of Pancreatic Cancer,) not too long ago, in 2008. Cancer was always a common cause of death during these past years, but what made him special and remembered by millions of people in the world is what he did throughout the last, little amount of time he had to live.

People who were diagnosed with fatal diseases, and were declared having only a limited time to live would surely, with no doubt, fall into some form of depression. At times like these, they would re-think about everything they’ve had done in their lives, both the good and bad things. Some they would be relieved about, some they would regret. But greater than that, they would wish they had done a lot more time-worthy, beneficial activities instead of having wasted so much time doing unnecessary things, in which I quote from his “Time Management” lecture, “And you may find one day, you have less than you think.” Professor Pausch was not an exception, at all. At certain cases, he would surely address his concerns. But more than often he would turn these worries and fears into something much more meaningful, something that would inspire tons of people, convincing them that even in the worst conditions, you are still able to do great things in life, and that you don’t have to be in denial that you cannot change the ‘cards you are dealt’ in order to do so.

He is well known for the lecture he gave in September 2007, which was also, metaphorically, his “Last Lecture.” It was called “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” He also gave an abridged version of this speech in The Oprah Show, which did nothing but increase audience’s enthusiasm towards his talk. It was also nominated at the 2007 Youtube video awards. During this lecture, Professor Pausch was said to be very upbeat and quite the joke-cracker, with a very well thought amount of seriousness when he got into academic parts of the speech such as his insights of Computer Science and Engineering education. In his “Time Management” talk, one of his colleagues also addressed that he tended to make people feel the fun at the same time as they were being educated. Once, Carnegie Mellon’s president himself told him that the one thing he would always remember about Pausch was “He knew how to have fun,” to which Professor Pausch just replied, “It’s kind of like a fish talking about the importance of water. I don’t know how to not have fun. I’m dying and I’m having fun.”

On his last lecture, he recounted his childhood dreams, which was being in zero gravity, going to outer space, becoming Captain Kirk of Star Trek, playing in the Football League, and working for Disney. He realized that he could not do everything, but instead, he took the bitter fact in a very positive manner. He said, to which I quote, “I probably got more from that dream and not accomplishing it than I got from any of the ones that I did accomplish.” You are allowed to dream, and people are allowed to send you critics from what you are doing. However, you should not let these critics to bring you down and stop you from what you dream to be. People criticize because they observe you. They care and they know that you are doing a mistake and that mistake always had the possibility to sidetrack you away from what you are trying to accomplish. And you should take the most out of it. When people actually stop caring about whatever it is you are doing, and that nobody’s bothering to tell you anything anymore, that is really when you are in a terrible situation. In his “Time Management” lecture, he also made a reference to Walt Disney’s quote, “If you can dream it, you can do it,” claiming it to be one of his favorite things that he ever heard as long as he had ever been related to the Disney company.

The other thing that he became famous for, was a program called “Alice.” In one of his lectures he mentioned that this initially grew from his liking to teach middle school girls programming; by getting them engrossed on doing so. He made PC games and computer animations for educational purposes, so that these girls would not even realize they were learning something new because they were really into it, they were enjoying it and they would not believe how much they were learning as they were having fun, which was always Pausch’s intention, as stated before. “We all want kids, particularly middle-school girls, to have a better path towards Computer Science,” Pausch said, “So it really is this pure play in terms of, for lack of a better word, nobility.”

“Alice” is a computer programming environment that allows even beginners to create 3-D computer animations using drag-and-drop options. It allows students to create games and movies on their own but at the same time, it also teaches them how to program. This user-friendliness later on, started to appeal to Electronic Arts. Professor Pausch and his colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University have been working with EA for years, and the success of the “Alice” program with the middle-school girls seemed to attract the company’s interest. Soon following that, EA that produced the world-wide popular interactive game “The Sims” made a deal with Carnegie Mellon University in order to improve Alice 3.0. EA would underwrite developments of the new, improved Alice, and would even give Carnegie Mellon their 3-D models that were used for their ‘Sims’ game. To this, Professor Pausch said, “Getting the chance to use the characters and animations from The Sims is like teaching at an art school and having Disney give you Mickey Mouse.”

One of his most known memoriam is a pedestrian bridge at Carnegie Mellon Pittsburgh that connects the gates of Computer Science building and the Purnell Center for the Arts. This bridge was announced and opened by Jared Cohon, the president of Carnegie Mellon, and was named after Pausch, symbolizing the man’s hard work on linking the two disciplines.


On the “Time Management” lecture in particular, Professor Pausch made a number of very meaningful points. He started the talk by saying, Americans in particular, have a really bad sense on dealing with time as a commodity. However, they are really good on dealing with money. He then questioned, so why can’t we relate both time and money to improve time management? Consider that time and money are the same thing. Every time you waste is dollars you burn, every time you spend on doing something productive is cash you earn.

Bad time management is also often the reason for people to fall under stress. To solve this problem, he addressed that you should think of the long term, and not just trying to run away from the issue temporarily or even avoiding it completely. You need to come up with systematic solutions that would actually work for you. He also mentioned, life is too short and it will be a complete waste if you don’t enjoy it. You can maximize your use of time, but that is only the mean and not the end. The end goal is that, you have to know how to maximize the fun.

You also have to be able to reason why you’re doing something specific. It isn’t just about doing things right, but you also have to do the right things. Sometimes, you don’t have to do everything perfectly, but as long you’re in the right track and you’re doing it for good purposes, then you should take pride on it. If you are not doing well on something, then you are learning a lot and you will become even better in the future.

Also, when you are a leader, a boss or an advisor, the one thing that you have to always remember is to take care of your people. You can always delegate, order other people to do certain tasks for you, but remember to be specific. Tell them what they need to get done by what time to avoid confusion and misunderstanding. But, on the other hand, don’t tell them how you want it done. Let them surprise you, let them work on their own pace and creativity. Give them objectives and not procedures. Be grateful, praise and thank them when they do their jobs correctly. Apologize when you screw up and focus on other people instead of yourself. Give orders, but show them that you’re still capable of getting the dirt on your own hands. Tell people to do things but do the ugliest task on your own. It builds a reason for people to respect and look up to you.

Sometimes, you won’t have time to finish something when you’re inches close from the task’s deadline. But time won’t just show up from nowhere. On this, you have to make time, by not doing something else in order to accomplish some other things. Or, in alternative, sometimes all you have to do is ask. Ask people if they can help you, talk to people if you feel you can’t handle it by yourself anymore. You get people to help you by telling the truth. Be earnest, because earnest is long term and will lead to loyalty, and loyalty is a two-way street.

At the same time, you have to know how and when to say ‘no.’ Learn to keep unimportant things away from sucking off your life. Forego interruption. Work diligently so that you will have time for other things you want to do, such as spending time with your family and those you love. When you procrastinate, there’s always, always a reason why you do that. Find out about it and try to fix it. Finding your good and bad times is also really helpful. Find the time domain when you know you would do your best. Do important things in this creative time of yours. Start stopping to think that you have all the time in the world because it will only drive you away from what you are supposed to be doing.


There are a couple of things Professor Pausch said throughout his “Time Management” lecture, and these are the ones I found really intriguing.

• “Do the important things first, even though it’s not due in any time soon.”

Missing something that is due in soon but which isn’t important would hurt much less than having no time to finish something really important that is due in later on. Because what’s not important’s not important, and should not be in your list of priority.

• Screen space.

The one thing that made me chuckle was the time when he mentioned about how one could no longer work with only single monitor in possession. And having to ask your boss to provide you with another one would really worth it, given the condition that it would enhance your working conditions. I could very much relate to this because, not only dumping every single thing in one screen would be very confusing and concentration-breaking sooner or later, it also increases the possibility of lagging.

• “Find your creative and dead times.”

I, as someone who tend to do my work past night, particularly liked the way he said that his own best time was between 10PM to midnight. And, as unusual as it sounded, everyone would have different working time preferences and he specifically said it was completely fine and normal.

• “Damn, these are smart people. (And I snuck in)”

One of the most memorable quotes throughout the lecture, mostly because it really reflects to what I keep feeling every time I go to campus. But this also told me that, even the ‘smart people’ probably feel the same way, and that we all probably feel like this towards each other. It helps me on thinking that there’s, perhaps, nothing to feel so intimidated about around these people because, in the end, we’re working to reach the same goal, under the same conditions.

• Watching Professor Pausch really gives me a sense of mixed feelings. At certain times, I found him to be very hilarious and I laughed a couple of times. But other times he would crack on-purpose jokes relating to his sickness and his nearing death and I wondered why some audience would still laugh at them. I personally think those shouldn’t have been laughing matter. Even though Professor Pausch tried to give an example of how to take life in a fun way, I still think death isn’t something to be joked around about. Sometimes I wonder if that was, under his consciousness, a way to make him feel better, to make him stop pitying himself, to remind himself how much people still cared, to show everyone that he wasn’t scared, he was still able to do things. But it was still clear as the day that he was terrified, he wished he was not the one getting sick. He wished he wasn’t the one that had to go through all those different kind of medical treatments. It showed how strong and humane he was, and it slowly built up the respect in me towards him. Randy Pausch was an inspirational man, and he is not to be forgotten.

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Course Plan
Homework 1 : Pausch
Topic Summaries