Wednesday, November 2, 2011

On Death

Death is a great leveller. Rich, poor, famous, average Joe - All kinds of people have to face one thing - Their own death.

My uncle, whom I greatly admired for his will power in getting things done and who I had a close relationship with, passed away recently.

I am sad about his death. He was in his 70's and he had helped a lot of my relatives with their personal problems including my own family. He was a man of great will power, was very organized in life and a stickler to his routine. He has helped and inspired a lot of people I know.

I understand that death happens to everyone. I believe in life after death. I believe that death is to the body and not to the soul. My belief in this has recently strengthened due to a few out of body experiences I have had. I believe my uncle has passed on to another realm, another place, another time. My prayers to him, that he be happy and joyful wherever he is.

Death of some one we know reminds us that we have finite time on earth.
Every moment is precious. Let us use every moment towards what we really wish to do in life. Towards our highest idea of what we think is a life worth living. Towards our greatest desires. Towards our greatest love. For there is not a minute to spare and we know not when death can come knocking.
If I were to live as if today was my last, I would have no regrets passing away tomorrow - I would have enjoyed my stay on earth and perhaps it was time for me to move on.

Let us therefore enjoy our stay on earth, devoting our efforts and time towards what we love doing in life whether that be research, music, hiking or one of the gazillion things one can do while on earth.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What are you truly capable of?

Have you thought of this question? You used to eh, but experiences brought you down to earth. Life hasn't been so kind, eh?
A while back this happened to me too.. Experiences dashed my expectations.. totally devastated my aspirations. I went through a period of introspection, a reality check basically. I regrouped my self (literally), assessed my situation and decided that
giving in my best in whatever I do is the best thing to do.
'I will give in my best. It doesn't matter what I am doing. Give in your best. opportunities will come knocking. Keep giving in your best.' Well, yes this policy did help me out. I am on a new path right now having steered clear of my old self, old life, old surroundings. Life is uncertain, but I am beginning to accept that.
When you are an undergraduate, you are in a secure, protective cocoon. You feel you are invincible, that life is going to be smooth sailing when you graduate. No my dear, no. Life isn't smooth sailing. Life is about being smooth during rough sailing.
Life rocks your boat, but you got to maintain your calm. You got to be an unaffected observer. Life teaches you through experiences. Every calamity in life, every miserable moment in life is indicating something. It is upto you to introspect, investigate that misery and come to a new understanding of what works and what doesn't. The sooner you do that, the sooner you learn.. your lessons. And then it's smooth sailing for a while, until you get rocked again. But this time, you are quicker in learning the lesson... noticing a pattern to the experiences..A high always is followed by a low and vice-versa. The bigger the high, the deeper the low.
And this understanding changes your character, slowly but gradually. You realize the importance of place a high emphasis on being equanimous. You recognize that equanimity is a deadly weapon, a powerful tool to handle all that life throws at you. Through equanimity, you realize that life hasn't be throwing the kitchen sink at you as you imagined.. you realize that life has actually blessed you with cleansing opportunities... experiences that force you to clear the old and bring in the new.
Ok, we went off on a tangent or a secant there, it was hard not to. Let's get back to the original intent of the post. 'What are you truly capable of?'
Being a dreamer that I am, I ask myself these questions once in a while. I think it doesn't help being a dreamer. Why? Because, I think what you are actually, truly capable of in life goes beyond imagination. But dreaming does help me get atleast one light-year close to what I am truly capable of. I recognize that dreaming is not enough. Dreams need to be translated to reality. Well, this isn't something new, as you might concur. All technology that we use today was dreamt by some great dreamer.
But the dreamer also converted his dreams into reality. That's what we should aim for. We should first dream up the great person within us, whom we are yet to experience and then we convert that dream to reality - That is we become that great person, that humble albeit astounding personality, that equanimous character who lead by her/his example, that leader who left an indelible footprint on the sands of time. We dream, we become. We dream, we become. So on and on.. until infinity. Welcome to the game.. called life.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I could have...

I could have.... I would have.... I should have....
But, "Now" is all I have!!!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Passed the qualifiers

It wasn't a piece of cake but it wasn't very tough either. It was just Loooooong.
I am glad I am done with it.
One step at a time.
Onward ho!
In life.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Night out cycle - phd comics

I used to do this sometime back (I mean the last 2 years). Thankfully, I stopped this 4 months back.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Positive definite matrices and quadratic minimization

I was looking to understand more on positive definite matrices and a couple of theorems. I found a nice summary of positive definite matrices, their properties and role in quadratic minimization on the web here. Another link here. Another here.
Also an ultra-quick summary of Linal.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Lessons from the teaching assistantship experience

I. Introduction
I have been a teaching assistant in udub for about 2 quarters (including this one) and I find it to be a rewarding experience and a continual learning experience too. My job is to hold quiz sections twice every week where I go over examples to better explain concepts from the lectures and also give students some practice problems. I also help out with some grading. Believe me, this is not an easy job at all but at the same time it is a fulfilling and creative job. When you develop new, ingenious ways to communicate ideas and concepts to students and they "GET IT", that's awesome - that's why its fulfilling, that very feeling of having given your all into the job gives you back a feeling of fullness.

II. Key elements

From my limited experience , the key elements I have found for a successful quiz section are:

1) Know the content thoroughly and anticipate potential questions: You have already taken the course you are TAing, that's why you are qualified to be a teaching assistant. But knowing the concepts on the surface isn't enough, you got to be able to explain them, analyse them from all angles, think of potential questions students might come up with and see if you can answer them comfortably. To be able to explain content requires different preparation than just knowing the content and hence sufficient effort needs to be put in here depending on your knowledge of the subject.

2) Get to know the students, atleast their names: This is important, since your ideal quiz section is one where students are involved in it and find it interesting and useful. Knowing their names makes it easier to engage them and increases their participation in the quiz section. Eye contact is also important, you need to make them feel comfortable. These things come easily for some people who are more sociable than others. I am more of an ambivert and hence had to put some effort to get this connection thing going.

3) Make the quiz section interesting: Depending on the composition of the class, students may or may not be able to follow the class easily. If they follow the class easily, they would expect more than other students, who would be content with practicing problems related to the homework or quizzes. I try to bring in one or two examples from outside the book that the students can relate to, find interesting, and also helps their understanding of the concepts.
Cracking a joke or two now and then will also help lighten up the mood.
Variety is the spice of life, but it can also spice up the quiz section. This is something that keeps me interested too. I try out different things every quiz section, see if it works and imbibe it into my "teaching model" if it does.

4) Organize the quiz section well and incorporate time management:
Organizing or structuring the quiz section well gives the students a good idea of what's coming next, sets expectations (which isn't necessarily a great thing) and keeps them involved. Last quarter I was always on time for my quiz sections. But this quarter, I need to wake up by 7am and go to the quiz sections by 8:30am. I have had problems with the bus not coming on time and traffic signal delays. So basically, I don't have a time-window for uncertainities such as delays. It's good to be efficient but not at the cost of coming to quiz sections late every now and then. So I realized that early and am catching an earlier bus that gives me enough breathing time before I begin my quiz section.
It's also good to have a schedule of what you are going to do when during the quiz section, so that the quiz sections are efficient and the students get more out of it. Ofcourse, you have to decide the level of efficiency since being too efficient might come at the cost of rushing through the quiz section.

So that's a good summary of what I think has helped me out in the quiz sections.

III. Challenges

1) It has not been easy at all as I mentioned earlier. I wasn't given an agenda of what's to be done in the quiz section last quarter. A few examples and asking students to work out problems was what I was told. You know, just following those instructions isn't going to give you the greatest quiz section at all. When you realize that, your learning process begins. You begin experimenting, infact what you are doing is you are researching your teaching skills through experimentation!! Isn't that wonderful to be able to research your teaching skills on the fly, without reading any papers!

2) Feedback from students was my main motivation for improving the quiz section. Ofcourse, I would get feedback from students even when I didn't ask for it and sometimes, in a rude manner. Dealing with such cases was also a challenge.

3) The main challenge I would say is coming up with a basic, working, "quiz section model" that is good as it is, but can be improvized. That working model, is what I have described in the second section above.