Tuesday, March 17, 2009

How to be an effective mentor/coach

Last night I attended a seminar on 'How to be an effective mentor/coach', which was being presented by Mike Shalloway. Mike has been a coach for more than 10 years, and has lots of valuable insights on the subject.

He starts by talking about our biases in teaching - how we think somebody is smart if that person easily grasps what we are trying to teach. And if somebody does not understands or takes too long, then we tend to feel that the person is stupid. 'Different people have different styles of learning', says Mike. If somebody is having difficulty in following us, it usually means our style is wrong for him.

Just because we have more knowledge and experience than people we are coaching, doesn’t make us smarter. Our students could be smarter than us in other domains. The idea is to accept that we are not giving them any knowledge. That knowledge is already there, hidden. 'You just need to evoke that knowledge in them', Mike says. Make them experience it for themselves because they won’t understand or learn it if they just believe you. 'Its actually a journey together', somebody suggests from the audience.

So where does one start about evoking that knowledge? Mike gives an example from a game of Pick Up Sticks. He says, to win, one should always start by picking up the top most stick. 'After you pick the top stick, a most amazing thing happens', he exclaims. The difficult sticks that were at the bottom of the pile now become the easy top sticks. In our journey together, we need to look hard to find a place where we can both start from. A common knowledge, the simplest concept, the top stick. With our knowledge and experience we can then steer them in right direction and reach the end together. We might learn something new in the process ourselves. 'I always get deeper understanding of the subject when I am teaching it', Mike tells us.

So what is the biggest motivation for the job? 'A deep commitment to the success of the person you are coaching', he answers.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


USC Uploaded by Rohit.
I spent 2 years at University of Southern California, Los Angeles, doing my graduate studies. Looking back I think I must have spent 90 percent of the time in labs and libraries. I had no life besides studying, no car besides Garg's and Puri's, and no money to go out. But I think I had the best time of my life there!

With Google's help, I have mapped out the little life I had in the little box on the right. There are 11 notes I added on the picture. Click on the picture, and goto Flickr. There hover your mouse on the photo, and see if you can find all 11 of them.


Monday, April 04, 2005

Jim Corbett's Jungle Lore - VI

Corbett is not without humor. One of my favorite stories in the book is this one.

“The younger members of the two large families who spent the winter months in Kaladhungi numbered fourteen, excluding my younger brother who was too small to take part in the nightly bonfire or to bathe in the river, and who therefore did not count. Of these fourteen, seven were girls, ranging in age from nine to eighteen, and seven were boys, ranging in age from eight to eighteen, of whom I was the youngest. This handicap, of being the youngest of the males, saddled me with the task that I disliked intensely, for we were living in the Victorian age and when, for instance, the girls went bathing in the canal that formed one boundary of our estate, which they did every day except Sunday – why girls should not bathe on Sunday I do not know – it was deemed necessary for them to be accompanied by a male whose age would offer no offence to Mother Grundy. The selected victim being myself, it was my duty to carry the towels and nightdresses of the girls – for there were no swim-suits in those days – and to keep guard while the girls were bathing and warn them of the approach of males, for there was a footpath used by men on their way to collect firewood in the jungles, or to work on the canal when it needed repair or cleaning.”

“The entering of running water while wearing a thin cotton nightdress is a difficult feat, if the proprieties are to be maintained, for if the unwary step into three feet of water and sit down – as all girls appear to want to do the moment they get into the water – the nightdress rises up and flows over the head, to the consternation of all beholders. When this happened, as it very frequently did, I was under strict orders to look the other way.”

Jim Corbett's Jungle Lore - V

On Fear in jungle, Jim Corbett writes ...

“A wind was blowing, rustling the dry grass and dead leaves, and my imagination filled the jungle round me with hungry bears. During that winter nine bears where shot on that mountain. That I would presently be eaten I had no doubt whatever, and I was quite sure that meal would prove a very painful one for me. If a human being in normal health can die of fear, I would have died that night and many times since.

“Whatever the human race may have been in the days of the cave man, we of the present day are essentially children of the daylight. In daylight we are in our element and the most timid among us can, if the necessity arises, summon the courage needed to face any situation, and we can even laugh and make light of the things that a few hours previously made our skin creep. When daylight fades and night engulfs us the sense of sight we depended on no longer sustains us and we are at the mercy of our imagination. Imagination at the best of times can play strange tricks, and when to imagination is added a firm belief in the supernatural it is not surprising that people surrounded by dense forests, whose field of vision at night is limited to the illumination provided by a pine torch, or a hand lantern when paraffin is available, should dread the hours of darkness.”

“Animals who live day and night with fear can pinpoint sound with exactitude, and fear can teach human beings to do the same. Sounds that are repeated – as, for instance, a langur barking at a leopard, or a cheetal barking at a suspicious movement, or a peafowl calling at a tiger – are not difficult to locate, nor do they indicate immediate danger calling for instant action. It is the sound that is only heard once, like the snapping of a twig, a low growl, or the single warning call of bird or of animal, that is difficult to locate, is of immediate danger, and calls for instant action.”

“Fear stimulates the senses of animals, keeps them ‘on their toes’, and adds zest to the joy of life; fear can do the same for human beings. Fear had taught me to move noiselessly, to climb trees, to pin-point sound; and now, in order to penetrate into the deepest recesses of the jungle and enjoy the best in nature, it was essential to learn how to use my eyes, and how to use my rifle.”

Jim Corbett's Jungle Lore - IV

Corbett shot his first leopard at the age of 10. He writes ...

“It is not possible for me to describe my feelings as I stood looking down at my first leopard. My hands had been steady from the moment I first saw him bounding down the steep hillside and until I pulled him aside to prevent the blood from staining his skin. But now, not only my hands but my whole body was trembling: trembling with fear at the thought of what would have happened if, instead of landing on the bank behind me, the leopard had landed on my head. Trembling with joy at the beautiful animal I had shot, and trembling most of all with anticipation of the pleasure I would have in carrying the news of my great success to those at home who I knew would be as pleased and as proud of my achievement as I was. I could have screamed, shouted, danced, and snug, all at one and the same time. But I did none of these things. I only stood and trembled, for my feelings were too intense to be given expression in the jungle, and could only be relieved by being shared with others.”

Jim Corbett's Jungle Lore - III

The vastness of Corbett's knowledge of the jungle is illustrated in this narration.

“The method employed by otters in killing python, and also crocodiles, for sport – for I have never known of their using either of these reptile for food – is to approach, one on either side of the intended victim. When the python or crocodile turns its head to defend itself against the attack of, say, the otter on the right, the otter on the left jumps in – otter are very agile – and takes a bite at the victim’s neck as close to its head as possible. Then when the victim turns and tries to defend itself against its assailant on the left the one on the right jumps in and takes a bite. In this way, biting alternately and a little at a time, the neck of the victim is bitten away right down to the bone before it is dispatched, for both python and crocodiles are very tenacious of life.”

Jim Corbett's Jungle Lore - II

On his Jungle Lore, Corbett writes ...

“With the three lessons I have detailed, my jungle training – as far as my elders were concerned – was over. I had been shown how to handle and to fire a gun, and I have been taken into jungles in which there were tigers and bears with the object, I believe, of showing me that no danger was to be apprehended from unwounded animals. Lessons well learnt when young are never afterwards forgotten, and I have absorbed my lessons well.”

“I have used the word ‘absorbed’, in preference to ‘learnt’, for jungle lore is not a science that can be learnt from textbooks; it can, however, be absorbed, a little at a time, and the absorption process can go on indefinitely, for the book of nature has no beginning, as it has no end. Open the book where you will, and at any period of your life, and if you have the desire to acquire knowledge you will find it of intense interest, and no matter how long or how intently you study the pages your interest will not flag, for in nature there is no finality.”

“Few can compile a detective store of fiction, but all can compile jungle detective stories provided they have eyes to see more than the road they walk on, and provided also that they do not start with the assumption that they know all, before in fact they know anything.”

Jim Corbett's Jungle Lore - I

Jim Corbett is one of my all-time-favorite authors. I have read all his books, but the one I love the most is ‘Jungle Lore’. I have the first Indian edition of the book. It belonged to my dad who bought it in 1971 for 2.50 Rupees (which is roughly 5 cents)!

Corbett loved the jungle. He is considered the greatest tiger hunter India ever knew, and the reason he was so successful was not only because he knew the Kumaon jungle like the back of his hand, but also because he understood the jungle. He could understand the sounds the animals and jungle made, and himself make those sounds with great accuracy. He could look at the pug marks of animals on a mud path and tell a whole story of what happened there that morning. He had a sixth sense of jungle which he called his "jungle sensitiveness".

This is my 6 part tribute the man, in which I am going to quote a few sections from the book.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

San Juan Islands

Nimish and I took a trip to San Juan Islands this weekend. I got crazy playing with my new camera. I took around 466 photographs, out of which 36 came out real nice. Here are 9 of them for you to enjoy.

These pictures where originally in color, but I converted them into black and white, just to see how they would look. To my surprise they turned out very nice, especially the one on the right and the potraits.

Every one of these photos have been liberally touched by Picasa. Its a great photo editing tool, but I do wish they add a way to upload to Flickr.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Some Sommon Questions (Part-I)

(Adventures of Gopusingh and Damrulal)

Gopusingh: What is reason?
Damrulal: That which explains some phenomenon

GopuSingh: Are all phenomena explainable by reason?
Damrulal: No

Gopusingh: What phenomena are not explainable by reason?
(1)Supernatural: Ghosts, witches, Magic
(2)Occurrence of incidents: Why at any point of time and space, a certain event happens and not any other?
(3)Fundamentals: The why of life, the why of Universe
(4)Reason can explain things only to a certain limit. As we try to inquire more and more, reason fails.

Gopusingh: Why can’t such phenomena be explainable by reason?
Damrulal: Limitation of reason

Gopusingh: Is there any other means to explain such phenomena?
Damrulal: None that I know of.

Gopusingh: Can there be a way to explain such phenomena?
Damrulal: Cannot say

Gopusingh: What if a way is found to explain such phenomena? What will happen?
Damrulal: Our knowledge will increase and we will have greater control over things.

Gopusingh: Do we need such a thing?
Damrulal: Question is: Is it good to know the truth?

Gopusingh: What is good?
Damrulal: Good is a matter of personal choice. What is good to me may or may not be good to you!

Gopusingh: So the question : "Is it good to know the truth" becomes a personal question, right?
Damrulal: Right

Gopusingh: So it depends on individuals whether they want to pursue or know the truth?
Damrulal: Absolutely

Gopusingh: But if individuals did not pursue the truth, we would still be living in caves!
Damrulal: We would be.

Gopusingh: So was it good to live in caves?
Damrulal: Personal question.

Gopusingh: What is the significance of good?
Damrulal: An action or an object is said to be good if a person likes it.

Gopusingh: What is "like"?
Damrulal: A single word for a positive impression on brains.

Gopusingh: But there are things you often talk of that are good but you don’t like doing them.
Damrulal: Right.

Gopusingh: So "an action or object is said to be good if a person likes it" is an incorrect statement, right?
Damrulal: Right.

Gopusingh: What is a correct statement?
Damrulal: That which tells the truth.

Gopusingh: What is truth?
Damrulal: Fact and its explanation.

Gopusingh: What is a fact?
Damrulal: A correct phenomenon.

Gopusingh: What is correct?
Damrulal: Fact-truth-correct: all mean the same thing.

Gopusingh: Interesting. What do they mean?
Damrulal: (Long pause)

Gopusingh: So you don’t know what is a correct statement, because you don’t know what is truth?
Damrulal: You said a correct statement.


Thursday, March 10, 2005

Spring's Here!

With my new Nikon D70. Enhanced by Picasa. Posted by Hello Posted by Hello

Friday, March 04, 2005

Solving Cryptic Crossword

Solving Cryptic Crossword puzzles are easy if you know the tricks of the game. Lately I have developed a keen interest in them and have actually become quite good in spotting the clues. Let me show you how I solved one of puzzles that I found here. To appreciate each clue, first read the clue, think for a minute, and then look at the explaination.


1. Speaker prepared to roar (6)
The word prepared hints that there is a anagram in the clue. to roar is anagram of ORATOR, which is another word for speaker.

4. Fashion designer going round cold part of church (7)
Going round hints that a fashion designer is outside a part of the word cold. CHANEL is a fashion designer. C is part of the word cold. Putting C in CHANEL gives CHANCEL which is a church.

9. Self-indulgent life of dolt upset by musical (5,4)
Upset hints that the word dolt has to be modified. by means that it is next to a musical. DOLC is modified form of dolt. EVITA is a musical. Place them next to each other, and we get DOLCE VITA which is a self-indulgent way of life.

10. German painter in a southern state (5)
The word in means that there is a German painter to be found in the words southern state. ERNST is made up from last 3 letters of southern and first 2 letters from state.

11. Increase fuss about outskirts of Detroit (3,2)
ADO is another word for fuss. Outskirts of Detroit means that we should take first and last letter of Detroit - DT. ADO about DT gives - ADD TO, which means to increase.

12. Disorder outside is undermining the state (9)
Disorder means that there is an anagram in the clue. Anagram of outside is is SEDITIOUS, which means undermining the state.

13. Careful to take break in your old environment (7)
The words old enviroment hints that there is old english involved in this clue. THY is the old form of your. A word for break is in between the word THY. RIFT means break and putting it in THY gives THRIFTY, which means careful.

15. Dormant snake outside shelter (6)
ASP is a snake. LEE means shelter. Putting ASP outside LEE, gives ASLEEP, which means dormant.

17. Treacle almost ruined wine (6)
Ruined hints that there is an anagram. The word almost hints that we have to take the complete word Treacle but without the last letter E. Solving the anagram treacl gives us CLARET which is a kind of wine.

19. Courage demonstrated by constraining one who is uninhibited (7)
The word constraining hints that the word by is holding a word for one who is uninhibited. RAVER means someone who is uninhibited. Putting it in BY gives BRAVERY, which means courage.

22. Dance in Spooner's very cold prison (9)
BITTER means very cold. JUG means prison. Spooner means modify BITTER and put in JUG. Putting ITTERB in JUG gives JITTERBUG, which is a form of dance.

24. A humorous writer or two (5)
John Wain is a writer. Mark Twain is another humorous writer. So there are two writers in TWAIN.

26. Bolt I have inserted in right frame (5)
I have can also be written as I'VE. The word frame means that we have to take the first and the last letter of the word right - RT. Inserting IVE in RT gives Rivet, which means bolt.

27. Revealing depravity, Dick the highwayman does not finish playing duet (9)
Dick Turpin was an English highwayman. Turpin does not finish means the word is TURPI. Playing hints anagram. Anagram of duet is TUDE. TURPITUDE means depravity.

28. Bear with a blemish following us around (7)
STAIN is another word for blemish. Us around means that the word us has to be inverted - SU. STAIN following SU gives SUSTAIN, which means to bear.

29. In France I must have mostly Welsh gems (6)
The word I in france is written as JE. The words mostly Welsh hint that we have to take most of the words from Welsh, and not all - WELS. Putting them together, JEWELS means gems.


1. Auto manufacturer meeting a lieutenant in "The Ancient Mariner"? (3,4)
OLDS was an American auto manufacturer. Short for lieutenant is LT. So OLDS meeting A LT, gives OLD SALT, which means an ancient mariner or, in other words, an old sailor.

2. Was sick girl set up? (5)
Delia is a name of a girl. Set up hints that we have to invert Delia to give AILED, which means was sick.

3. State fair without a tree (6,3)
OREGON is a state. Fair without a means we need to remove the letter A from fair - FIR. OREGON FIR is a tree.

4. Name of girl getting praise in secret service (7)
LAUD is another word for praise. CIA is a secret service. LAUD in CIA gives - CLAUDIA, which is a name of a girl.

5. A male representative (5)
GENT means male. A GENT together will give us AGENT, which means representative.

6. Chinese are able to sound extremely subtle (9)
CAN means able. Nice means extremely subtle. NESE sounds like nice. So CAN to NESS gives us CANTONESE, which is a Chinese language.

7. Most recent West Coast city trial (6)
LA is a West Coast City. TEST means trial. Putting them together gives LATEST, which means most recent.

8. Ruth's written about Gilbert and Sullivan overtures with a pen (6)
Ruth means PITY. Overtures means introduction to something. Introduction to Gilbert and Sullivan means the first letter of each word - GS. PITY written about GS give us PIGSTY, which is a pen.

14. Terribly versatile family (9)
Terribly hints that versatile is an anagram. RELATIVES is anagram of versatile, and it means family.

16. By no means the cleverest, anyway (9)
By no means the cleaverest means somebody who is not clever. Somebody who is not WISE. Or somebody who is LEAST WISE. Putting it together gives us LEASTWISE, which means anyway.

18. Be embraced by a giant like the Dalai Lama (7)
TITAN means a giant. Be embraced by TITAN means that the word BE is inside the word TITAN. TIBETAN is a native of Tibet, like Dalai Lama.

19. Encircle damaged bridge (6)
Damaged is hinting that the word bridge is an anagram. Solving it gives us BEGIRD, which means encircle.

20. Americans look for no revolution (7)
SEEK means look for. NAY means no. Revolution hints that we have to invert SEEK NAY. This gives us YANKEES, which means Americans.

21. Jack gets in cars - they're found on the Norwegian coast (6)
J is short for Jack in cards. FORDS are cars. So J gets in FORDS will give us FJORDS, which are long narrow inlets found on the Norwegian coast.

23. Spare part in Oedipus Rex, tragically (5)
The words part in here hints that the answer is boken and is to be found in the words Oedipus Rex tragically. EX is from the last 2 letter of Rex, and TRA is from the first 3 letters from tragically. EXTRA means Spare.

25. Entertain one of nine daughters of Mnemosyne (5)
One means A. MUSE is the daughter of Mnemosyne. AMUSE means entertain.

Here's the complete solution in the grid: