The Last Lecture – Randy Pausch

Posted by Frankly Francis on March 6, 2010 under Books/Authors | Be the First to Comment

A fair time ago, The Last Lecture was recommended to me by someone whose opinion I respect.

For those that have let the memories slip away, Randy Pausch was a Professor at Carnegie Mellon who was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of 46.  In 2007, he gave a “last lecture” that got all kinds of attention and subsequently expanded upon it in best-selling book form.  He died in 2008.

Back to me: I sure took my sweet time getting around to reading it.  I really didn’t want to read it.  We all have our own unique make-up, quirks, and traits.  For better or for worse, I operate under the idea that the masses are always wrong.  So as everybody was reading The Last Lecture, then by my standards, it was not for me.

As Mark Twain said, “When you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

But in all due fairness, the masses are not always wrong.  And they certainly weren’t wrong in their embrace of Randy Pausch’s memoir.

I’d like to say that I enjoyed reading it, and to a degree I did, but my overall take on it was not too dissimilar from my post funeral home introspection…in that having paid my last respects to the deceased and my sympathy to the family, I realize that the vast majority of the things that I have to do and deal with that seem to really matter, really do not matter all that much.  I do my best to not get caught up in petty details, but I would be misleading if I said that I don’t get caught up in the petty details.

Professor Pausch’s book goes a long way in pointing out what is important and what is not so important.  He does not get deeply philosophical.  He certainly does not say anything that has not been said before.  His take is refreshingly simple and straight forward.  I would like to think that it is naturally intuitive, but even if that is the case, it never hurts to have meaningful things pointed out.

Randy Pausch

Occam’s razor dictates that the simplest explanation is the best explanation.

In fact, Pausch’s quote “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand” should make Occam proud.  I think, for ourselves and more so for our own understanding of the people around us, we would be well advised to embrace this principle.

My summary:  It is a short, easy read that offers valuable insights – well worth the time I spent on it.

In closing, my too late thanks to Randy Pausch for taking the time during your last days to express your thoughts.  I wish you were amongst us longer.



Who Are You?

Posted by Frankly Francis on November 24, 2009 under Personal | 3 Comments to Read

True story.  A good story?  I hope so.  It works for me so I thought I’d share:

A few years ago.  Out with a few guys for dinner/drinks.  It is work related, but social.  I’m low man on the totem pole.  We end-up at main guy’s house for a last soda…or many.  Sitting outside.  Fire going.  Mondo stars.

One of the guys looks at the rest of us and asks, “If you could only tell your children one thing, what would it be?”  Conceivably, not a light-weight question…

…If you could only tell your children one thing, what would it be?”

Being the restrained guy that I am, I instantly blurted out, I would tell them, “Just be who you are!”  The words were leaving my lips and I was listening to them.  Just came out of me.  Like a spontaneous combustion response.

Had time to think about it and, I stand by it.

There are lots of things to say to our children.  All kinds of advice to give.  The passing on of life lessons is important.  Active parenting is critical.  However, for me what’s paramount is not deciding my kids’ way, but being there to help guide them on the pathway of their own choice.

I trust that as a parent (and myself, as an individual) I have lived-up to that.

I’ve seen too many people transformed into something they are not.  So many that are what others want them to be.  So many that are not fulfilled in their employment.  So many that are not what they really wish for themselves.


Just Be Who You Are

Who else can you really be anyways?



Naked Crime – Part Two

Posted by Frankly Francis on March 6, 2009 under Personal | Read the First Comment

Not Me, but it is symbolic...

I’ve mentioned the general info about streaking in the 70’s in a previous post.  I also mentioned in that post that I streaked a time or two and it did have some unintended consequences:

It was a Sunday night back in 1974.  Ernie and I were bored.  We decided to streak the local 7-11 type gas station.  We did.  All going according to plan when in the midst of our “ass-cape,” Officer Timothy Onions decided to pull in to buy a pack of smokes.  He came straight at us (he actually accelerated) in his car.

Ernie went one way, I went the other.  Officer Onions followed me.  I got to the back corner of the property and lo to my wonder and surprise was a six foot fence with spikes!  Great development: Officer Onions running at me and the Wall of China in front of me.  I jumped like it was the Olympics.  That fence could have been ten feet high – I was one motivated jumper.

Ran through backyards to get to the car.  Ernie had already made it and was leaning sidewise on the seat to avoid detection.  I hopped into the driver’s seat and slid down as well.  We were the news of the moment and we must have had half of the force looking to bring us to justice.  And let me tell you, bring us to justice they did.

We had a good visual of the cars in pursuit, so any time one was headed towards us; we just slid down so that our car looked unoccupied.  It was brilliant and we were sure that we had beaten The Man.  But things can take a twist.  The police, it seemed, had given up the chase, but then one last car came by.  As we slid down into safety my foot hit the brake, thereby igniting the brake lights and furthermore giving the police officer the easiest arrest of his career.

It could have ended there, but it didn’t.  I had to go to court.  Because I was seventeen, I had to be accompanied by a parent.  Mom, in all her unhappy glory, was there by my side.  The judge read the charges, slid down his glasses a bit, then read some more.  He looked up and asked, “Mr. Law, in attempting to avoid arrest, you ran through some backyards.  Did you know that one of those was My backyard?”  I said, “No.”

Of course, I hoped that this would make him unable to render judgment upon me and maybe it would all go away.  He went on, “You know, my daughter’s bedroom window faces the backyard.  Do you think that I want my daughter, looking out her window, to see you go running by without clothes?”

 I sensed where he was going with this and replied, “I will never run naked in front of your daughter’s window again.”  OK, so now it’s clear that this guy is going to render judgment whether he should or not…

I was found guilty of the crime of disorderly conduct and had to pay a fine, it being my first offense.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about…I’m here to talk about becoming a Certified Public Accountant.

After passing the grueling 19½ hour test and doing my years of apprenticeship time, it was time for me to become officially certified.  The application was going along fine until I hit the question, “Have you ever been convicted of any crime?  If so, provide the details.”

Paranoia and fear struck me immediately.  I mean, I’m asking the State Board of Accountancy to license me to its highest standards of accounting.  Streaking and Accounting are two very different things. 

My lawyer advised me that if I was honest and provided the details it would be much better than if I forgot that I had been convicted.

So like Arlo Guthrie in Alice’s Restaurant, when, in the midst of serious criminals at the Army Entrance Board, he has to confess to being a litterbug, I had to confess to the New York State Board that I had indeed been arrested for running around naked outside.  Arlo, to his credit, didn’t get into the army, but for better or worse, I did get to be a CPA.



P.S. I never did run naked by the judge’s daughter’s window again, but that did not end my streaking career either…

This Present Moment

Posted by Frankly Francis on February 27, 2009 under Personal | 2 Comments to Read

I was at an interesting party about the time that I had traveled 17 revolutions around the sun.  A lot of philosophical professor types getting buzzed and talking about all kinds of metaphysical existentialist things.  Yikes – an intellectual smorgasbord!

I was discussing some mundane topic like the meaning of life with a psychologist by the name of George Appleton.  I remember that he had his arm in a cast.  Found out later that George had broken it by tobogganing off the roof of his house.  Also found out that he liked to go duck hunting with a submachine gun.  Appleton may have had a few personal idiosyncrasies…

When another person joined us, the conversation took a twist.  I’m going to have to paraphrase & significantly condense, but this should be a fairly good depiction of the exchange that took place:

Other Person:  I had a rotten childhood and crummy parents.

Appleton:  OK, so what are you going to do about it now?

Other Person:   I have no friends and no one likes me.

Appleton:  OK, so what are you going to do about it now?

Other Person:   I’ve been treated unfairly by others.

Appleton:  OK, so what are you going to do about it now?

Other Person:   Life sucks, I’m bored, I never get a break, and so on.

Appleton:  OK, so what are you going to do about it now?

I’m sure you get the picture of where Appleton was coming from.  It was one heck of a revelation for me.  I was very fortunate to have been present during that conversation.

Appleton taught me that unless I could go back in time and change things, I had better be concerned about my present choices.  The present moment is everything – there is no rewind button when it comes to life.

Of course, I’ve had to re-learn this lesson periodically, but it enabled me, at a young age, to accept personal responsibility for my own life.

But that also left a lot of time for me to create other more interesting problems…

And for that, I thank you George Appleton.



Celebrating Other People’s Pain

Posted by Frankly Francis on February 8, 2009 under Personal | 3 Comments to Read

I recently recalled a perspective changing event from my youth.  Thought I would share:

My brother was sick.  Yeah, he was sick, but he wasn’t feeling well either…

Dad said that he had to go see the doctor.

I surmised that there was a good chance that he would have to get a shot.

Oh Yeah, You Know What's Comig

Oh Yeah, You Know What's Comig

The thought of seeing him squirm and in pain appealed to me, so I asked if I could go along.

The doctor visit went like this:

Doctor to my dad: This one’s sick (my brother) – can’t really do anything for him.  How’s the other one (me)?

Dad to doctor: He’s fine, so far.

Doctor to my dad: Well then, I can give him (me) a shot so he won’t get it.

Frankly Francis: YIKES!

So as this little true parable turns out, I got the dreaded injection and my brother got to see me squirm.

Last time I ever thought about seeing pain inflicted upon anyone.  As usual, I learned my lesson the hard way.