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  • In the spring of 1999, Randy single-handedly saved my life.

    If it weren't for him, I don't know what I would have done, where I would have been,
    or how I would have kept on.

    In college, there was not a single class that talked about why one should study
    Computer Science. If there were any related discussions, they revolved around
    the idea that the computer was the most amazing human invention ever,
    and that we were lucky to be training at a prestigious university at the forefront
    of Computer Science. All amounting to a seemingly logical conclusion: why would
    you not want to study computer science? After all, it's amazing!

    For some reason, this never resonated with me. It just didn't.

    Maybe it was my fault.

    I went to college because college was something I was supposed to go to after
    graduating from high school. If there was any reason, I wanted to be the proverbial
    "grown up." I wanted to live by myself away from my parents. I wanted to live
    in the US, which, believe it or not, seemed like the land of dreams back then.

    While I certainly loved playing video games on the computer, I was never
    fascinated by the computer.

    I struggled with Computer Science for a really long time. Everyone else in my
    class seemed just fine, though. In class, very few students asked questions.
    I, on the other hand, was filled with questions. But all those questions seemed
    too stupid. The questions were something like "Uh... Professor, what the hell
    did you just say? Was that English? I didn't get it at all."

    I couldn't dare ask such a question. Everyone else seemed to be getting it just fine.
    Maybe I was the only guy who didn't get it. Maybe I was just dumb. I was just too
    shy to risk humiliation.

    Randy's class was different.


    At our first class, Randy seemed to care more about whether we felt comfortable
    with him, than whether we were fascinated with the subject matter of the class.


    It was a fairly large class, and he wanted to take pictures of everyone so that he
    can memorize our names. I had a horrible cold that day, and I felt and looked like
    shit. Being the embodiment of vanity that I am, I raised my hand and asked whether
    it was ok for me to take the picture next time. He asked why, and I said it was
    because I didn't like the way I looked that day. And he emphatically said "Yes!"
    He then told the rest of the class that he was the kind of person who was ok with
    such a request, as if to use my question to get the other students to feel more
    comfortable. In retrospect, I'm not even sure where I got the courage to ask that
    publicly. :) Especially given how shy I was in all the other classes. But, I somehow
    felt like I could. That was the power Randy had. He gave others the power to do
    things that they themselves didn't know they could.

    But the most amazing lesson I learned in that class was something far more important.

    What he taught me was that the reason why it's worth learning Computer Science
    was not because Computers were amazing in and of themselves... It was because
    through one's mastery of the Computer one will be able to share with others their
    feelings of joy, sorrow, surprise, etc...

    The computer was meant to help us empathize.


    That... resonated with me... Profoundly. And with that, I became fascinated with Computers...
    Finally... As a senior in college. And with this feeling, it became clear that at the heart
    of the disconnect was how I was taught computer science, not computer science itself.


    There's a korean phrase that goes "다행이다(da hang yi dah)" which uses two Chinese
    characters 다(多) and 행(幸). The phrase is typically translated to "That's fortunate"
    or more colloquially "Thank God!" But to really understand the nuances of this phrase
    it requires that you look a bit closer.

    According to the dictionary, the word 多 is often thought of as the word for "a lot" or
    "abundance." But it could also mean "to recognize the beauty of", "to make abundant",
    "to consider important", and "to broaden one's ability to embrace"

    The word 幸 is often thought of as the word for "luck", "fortune", or "happiness". But it
    could also mean "to experience something unexpected", "to live long", "to hope",
    "to give grace", "to cherish"

    People often use the phrase "다행이다" when something potentially catastrophic has
    happened, but fortunately you are left largely unharmed. It's often accompanied by a sigh
    of relief.

    But there's a nuance that is often left out in the translation of this phrase. And that
    nuance... is the feeling of utter and sincere gratitude.

    Let's say you're walking along the pavement of a busy city street. All of a sudden a large
    flower pot comes crashing down from the apartment above. The pot lands right in front
    of you, shattering to pieces less than an inch from your feet, right in front of your eyes,
    in slow motion, making a loud noise that projects into the streets. You are shocked, stunned,
    frozen at your steps, unsure of what to make of the past half a second. A passerby who
    saw what just happened exclaims out loud "아이고, 다행이네! (Thank God!)" But for you,
    the person to whom this has happend, the feeling is far more nuanced. Yes you may take
    a deep breath, and softly utter the same phrase "다행이다...(Thank God...)" But what you
    mean by the phrase gets at the deeper meaning of the phrase.

    What you've just felt is the feeling of a near-death experience. The fine line between life
    and death. An experience that makes you realize just how wonderful life really is. Just how
    grateful you feel for the fact that you still have the opportunity to live another day...
    How fortunate it is that you can still feel the ground under your feet... How thankful you are
    for the fact that you can feel your chest move as you breathe... It is a feeling of utter and
    sincere... gratitude.

    And that... is the feeling Randy gave me.

    To have met Randy when I did... was 다행중 다행이였습니다... It was an unexpected
    experience that made me recognize the beauty in something that I was never able.
    And for that, I owe him my life.

    Thank you so... so much, Randy.

    I dedicate this book to you.

    May you rest in peace.

    Picture of Randy from: http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~robins/Randy/
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