Chapter 2 Summary

My Life in a Laptop

Pausch is a scientist, so he is unused to thinking about how to connect people to their dreams. He spends four days gathering more than three hundred photos and many other images as well as a few sayings and words of advice; these he will project on a screen. They will help serve as reminders for him as he speaks; he is a visual thinker and he will not use a script. Every ninety minutes he stops and interacts with his children, but Jai still thinks he is spending too much time on the speech and not enough time helping her unpack boxes in their new home.

At first, Jai has no intention of attending her husband’s lecture because she has a house to get settled and myriad other important things to do. Pausch keeps telling her he needs her to be there, and she finally relents. She will fly to Pittsburgh on the day of his lecture.

He leaves for Carnegie Mellon the day before his lecture, on Jai’s birthday. They celebrated with family the night before, but it is still a grim reminder to his wife that she will never spend another birthday with him. His close friend Steve Seabolt meets him at the airport. Seabolt flew in from San Francisco for the lecture to support his friend. Seabolt is an executive at a company that makes video games. Pausch worked there during a sabbatical, and in that year the two men became as close as brothers.

Pausch has pared his presentation to 280 slides, but it is still too long. That night in his hotel room he is feeling the after-effects of a chemotherapy treatment a few days earlier, and he is still working to perfect his presentation. He works until midnight and wakes up with a start at 5:00 a.m. and doubts his plan for this lecture is going to work. He questions how an entire life can be summarized effectively in an hour. He works until 11:00 and thinks he has a narrative that might be effective.

He and Steve pick Jai up from the airport, and during a solemn conversation at lunch, Steve pledges to help Jai and the kids however he can. At 1:30 the computer lab on campus, a place where Pausch spent much of his life, is dedicated in his honor. At 2:15 he is in his office and feeling sick again, wondering if he will even have the strength to give the lecture. He rests with his laptop on his stomach and cuts another sixty slides.

People begin lining up for his lecture at 3:30. Pausch leaves his office at 4:00 and walks to the lecture hall.