Friday, September 28, 2007

Life is moving quickly and in many different directions these days.

First, there’s Ezra, my son. My new son. 4 weeks old today. He’s a strange, sweet addition to our lives who has become the center of everything we do. Everyday brings something new.

Second, there’s work. Busy, busy work. Upcoming trials. Lots of out-of-office hearings, depositions, meetings. I should have no trouble making up the hours lost immediately after Ezra’s birth.

Third, there’s running. Lots of running. Marathon-plus distance long runs every other week. Only running 4 days a week, I’m averaging nearly 40 miles per week. While that may not touch most serious ultrarunners, it’s a lot for me. The 12-hour Ultracentric run is 7 weeks away. 12 hours is a long time to run. Especially in 2.4 circles. What fun it will be!

Those are the biggies these days. There’s more going on, or going by, or flying by.

Oh, and go Longhorns!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

"Brick walls are there for a reason. They let us prove how badly we want things."
-- Dr. Randy Pausch

This story published in today's Wall Street Journal really got me.


A Beloved Professor Delivers
The Lecture of a Lifetime

Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon University computer-science professor, was about to give a lecture Tuesday afternoon, but before he said a word, he received a standing ovation from 400 students and colleagues.

He motioned to them to sit down. "Make me earn it," he said.

What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? For Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch, the question isn't rhetorical -- he's dying of cancer. They had come to see him give what was billed as his "last lecture."

This is a common title for talks on college campuses today. Schools such as Stanford and the University of Alabama have mounted "Last Lecture Series," in which top professors are asked to think deeply about what matters to them and to give hypothetical final talks. For the audience, the question to be mulled is this: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance?

It can be an intriguing hour, watching healthy professors consider their demise and ruminate over subjects dear to them. At the University of Northern Iowa, instructor Penny O'Connor recently titled her lecture "Get Over Yourself." At Cornell, Ellis Hanson, who teaches a course titled "Desire," spoke about sex and technology.

At Carnegie Mellon, however, Dr. Pausch's speech was more than just an academic exercise. The 46-year-old father of three has pancreatic cancer and expects to live for just a few months. His lecture, using images on a giant screen, turned out to be a rollicking and riveting journey through the lessons of his life.

He began by showing his CT scans, revealing 10 tumors on his liver. But after that, he talked about living. If anyone expected him to be morose, he said, "I'm sorry to disappoint you." He then dropped to the floor and did one-handed pushups.

Clicking through photos of himself as a boy, he talked about his childhood dreams: to win giant stuffed animals at carnivals, to walk in zero gravity, to design Disney rides, to write a World Book entry. By adulthood, he had achieved each goal. As proof, he had students carry out all the huge stuffed animals he'd won in his life, which he gave to audience members. After all, he doesn't need them anymore.

He paid tribute to his techie background. "I've experienced a deathbed conversion," he said, smiling. "I just bought a Macintosh."

Flashing his rejection letters on the screen, he talked about setbacks in his career, repeating: "Brick walls are there for a reason. They let us prove how badly we want things." He encouraged us to be patient with others. "Wait long enough, and people will surprise and impress you." After showing photos of his childhood bedroom, decorated with mathematical notations he'd drawn on the walls, he said: "If your kids want to paint their bedrooms, as a favor to me, let 'em do it."

While displaying photos of his bosses and students over the years, he said that helping others fulfill their dreams is even more fun than achieving your own. He talked of requiring his students to create videogames without sex and violence. "You'd be surprised how many 19-year-old boys run out of ideas when you take those possibilities away," he said, but they all rose to the challenge.

He also saluted his parents, who let him make his childhood bedroom his domain, even if his wall etchings hurt the home's resale value. He knew his mom was proud of him when he got his Ph.D, he said, despite how she'd introduce him: "This is my son. He's a doctor, but not the kind who helps people."

He then spoke about his legacy. Considered one of the nation's foremost teachers of videogame and virtual-reality technology, he helped develop "Alice," a Carnegie Mellon software project that allows people to easily create 3-D animations. It had one million downloads in the past year, and usage is expected to soar.

"Like Moses, I get to see the Promised Land, but I don't get to step foot in it," Dr. Pausch said. "That's OK. I will live on in Alice."

Many people have given last speeches without realizing it. The day before he was killed, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke prophetically: "Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place." He talked of how he had seen the Promised Land, even though "I may not get there with you."

Dr. Pausch's lecture, in the same way, became a call to his colleagues and students to go on without him and do great things. But he was also addressing those closer to his heart.

Near the end of his talk, he had a cake brought out for his wife, whose birthday was the day before. As she cried and they embraced on stage, the audience sang "Happy Birthday," many wiping away their own tears.

Dr. Pausch's speech was taped so his children, ages 5, 2 and 1, can watch it when they're older. His last words in his last lecture were simple: "This was for my kids." Then those of us in the audience rose for one last standing ovation.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Yesterday was a big day for me. I ran a marathon... as a training run.

I woke up with Ezra at 3:11 a.m., downed coffee and breakfast, filled my hydration pack, and hit the road. 4 hours, 24 minutes later, I had run 26.3 miles.

It was serenely enjoyable running throughout west Fort Worth in the pre-dawn darkness. No cars on the road, no humans in sight.

After leaving my neighborhood, I jogged along edge of Westover Hills before turning onto Camp Bowie Boulevard towards Hulen. I cruised through Tanglewood and down University Drive through the middle of TCU's campus. I buzzed the edge of Colonial Country Club and then took the Trinity Trail to downtown, where I circled the silent buildings in quiet placidity. As the sun finally began to rise, I made my way back onto the trail and followed it along the river behind Rockwood Park and Greenwood Memorial Cemetery. A few joggers and running clubs were stirring as I trudged up Hidden Road toward Rivercrest Country Club. A mile and a half later, I was home.

Today, I feel great. I'm going for a walk around the block with Nell and Ezra in a bit, then I'm going for an easy 4 miles.

It's pretty amazing to realize that a marathon, which used to be the ultimate goal, has now become a training run.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

When does the routine begin? There's no rhyme or reason to Ezra's nocturnal schedule. Sometimes, he'll sleep for hours, sometimes he's wide awake nearly the entire night. Nell is amazing and has infinite patience (the virtue I am lacking in extremes). Sleep is a precious commodity that I took for granted.

And now the zombie must shave, put on a suit, and do the law thing. Rubs eyes, drinks extra strong coffee, yawns.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

So here's one I hadn't planned on. An 8:30 p.m. bedtime. Yep. Last night, I had Inn of Court and arrived home a little after eight o'clock. I immediately took a shower and got in bed.

Why so early? Planning, my friends. Good, sound planning.

Two and a half hours later, Ezra's sweet, shrill cry alerted me to his need for food and companionship. But all was good because as unlike previous nighttime encounters, I was rested and ready to tend to his needs.

Much as they do in the military, I have adopted the sleep when you can philosophy. Now knowing that for at least the next couple months (hopefully not much longer) Ezra won't be snoozing for more than a few hours at a time (and usually only an hour and a half), we've decided to go with his biological clock. So it's all about sleeping 2 hours here, an hour and a half there. If you add them all up, we're getting 4-6 hours or so a night, which is less than norm, but definitely doable.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

4:40 a.m. I tried to get in bed at 9:00 p.m. Ezra wasn't having any of it. And he was stiring around midnight and again around 2:30 a.m. Now I'm drinking my extra strong coffee and preparing for my first attempted long run since becoming a dad. I'm sleepy already. Bonzai!!!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

So sitting around the house hanging with Ezra has given me a good deal of time to reflect. Mind wandering. Meditating. That sort of thing. I've been having random thoughts about all sorts of subjects, and I've been meaning to write them down when I had some downtime.
Well, Ezra J. is taking a nap (which will provide him with the energy to party late into the night), so I'm taking advantage of the opportunity to put pen to paper (so to speak).

First, it's still odd to think of myself as a "dad." Ezra is this amazing little creature who now completely absorbs our lives (in a good way), and I still have trouble believing he is ours. In the back of my mind, it all seems temporary, like a vacation. As if next week when I return to work, our lives will go back to normal. Normal is now Ezra and our family.

Second, I've been thinking a lot about patience, or my lack thereof. I've found myself getting frustrated at my inability to immediately calm my new son. Ezra requires patience. Babies take time. Solutions aren't readily apparent. (I do think that my long distance running has helped, but I've got a long way to go.) I'm trying to be better.

Third, speaking of running, I've come to the conclusion that I'm an exercise junkie. (Shocker.) I took two days off from all exercise for Ezra's birthday last Friday. By Sunday morning, I was jonsein' for an endorphin hit. So while Nell and Ezra slept, I drove the car from the hospital to the house, changed into my running gear, and ran from home back to the hospital. It wasn't a very long run, but it helped. I ran again Tuesday and twice yesterday. I don't know how far I'm going to this weekend, but it'll be at least a couple of hours. I'm planning to leave when Ezra gets up for his early morning feeding.

Fourth, I'm glad Texas didn't go the way of Michigan. And from what I can gather (I didn't watch the game), Arkansas State was close to pulling the upset.

Fifth, football on HD TV is awesome. I've only watched bits of pieces of the NFL preseason, but wow. Looking forward to tonight's game between the Saints and the Colts.

That's it for now. Adios, amigos.
I'm sleepy. Ezra James' schedule and my schedule aren't exactly in lock step. He's living the college life. Sleeping in, staying up late, going to bed after last call. It's an adjustment to say the least. I'm already completely revamping my Ultracentric training schedule. There's no way I'm doing a 26-mile long run on Saturday. With the lack of sleep I'm getting, I'd be exhausted and worthless the rest of the day--and the parent of a one week old kiddo simply cannot be exhausted and worthless.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Ezra James Valdez was born Friday, August 31, 2007 at 6:37 p.m. He weighed 8 lbs even and was 21 inches long. He's a healthy little guy who really enjoys eating, sleeping, and pooping.

Nell is amazing. She impresses me every minute. Our family is doing great.
Life is very, very good.


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