Back to Sanity

Well, this is second part of yesterday’s: I was fairly depressed over nothing, and that post was celebrating the same, harmlessly.

I’ve come to a conscience. I must thank Randy Pausch, my students who said “We were reminded of you when we read that book [The Last Lecture]!” Halfway through the book, I feel we have a lot in common – from arrogance, habits, similar teaching styles, aspirations (his ideas are a bit more mature, given he had experience of years!) – I find three pillars of his life missing in mine – the fact that he acknowledged that he is dying (and I must confess each class I took last semester was as if it is my last lecture), Jai, and he was famous. I am pretty sure of doing the first, and at least one of the last two.

I also plan to take a second SIM, to isolate all academic/professional bonding to that number.

He must also be thanked for convincing me to buy a Kindle – which will save a lot of papers next sem, as I plan on using it to read my lecture notes in class, apart from celebrating return of reading habits for the year.

Dealing with Junk

  1. To better deal with junk, and to keep lectures afresh in coming semesters, I decided to delete all slides, other materials I prepared last semester. May be, typed in materials may be saved – because I can always work on improving it instead of retyping it.

Outline for Next Sem

Subject 1

Class Pattern
  1. During initial days, we will spend two hours for lectures, and the third hour for worksheet.
  2. Class will be split into 8 groups. I will be member of a group, and each group will have 5 person each. Groups will be shuffled 5 times. Each time, a new leader will be opted, in such a way that each person will a be leader, at least once.
  3. You will have to sit in groups for worksheet classes.
  4. Leaders/Group Schedule will be given at the beginning of the semester.
3CA Pattern
  1. Every month, one of the third/sixth hours will be used for review quiz, out of 15 marks each. Same day, leaders will be changed. There will be three such tests.
  2. Instead of fourth, fifth, and sixth test, you will be marked for any attempt to write your own proofs. Average of best of four will be taken, out of 15.
  3. Group leader’s worksheets will be collected and corrected, who in turn has to correct other’s papers and report back. Whether or not to work on those sheets is their wish – I will not force anyone, except the group leader – who will be marked with 5 marks in 3CA, for their leadership and worksheets. Everyone will be a leader at least once.
  4. When you are the leader, I will watch you closely and give you comments on how you can improve yourself. To listen, or not, is your wish.
  5. Another component of 3CA will be assignments, as all of you wanted. It will again be for 5 marks.

Subject 2

Class Pattern
  1. As I am exploring the subject myself, I will be making the rules for it dynamically. This will be the second course of my attention.
3CA Pattern
  1. Approximate: Assignments will be for 20 marks, 20 marks for seminars, 10 marks for some extra activity we may do in class.

Mechanics

Class Pattern
  1. First week will be spend on two things: 1, familiarising ourselves with mechanical systems we will be studying in the semester, and prerequisites required for other chapters.
  2. Second week onwards, once basic is set by teacher sharing the paper, I will start with unit 2.
3CA Pattern
  1. 10 marks for seminar.
  2. 15 for review quiz, one every month.
  3. 5 marks for assignments.
  4. This plan is not confirmed, as I will have to discuss further with teacher I am sharing the course with.

Allied I for Chemistry

Class Pattern
  1. One class will be entirely spend on theory.
  2. Next two hours will be spend on problems, which we will work as groups.
  3. You will be split into 10 groups of 5 members each.
3CA Pattern
  1. Every fourth hour, there will be a review quiz for 15 marks each. Average of best 4 will be taken for 15 marks.
  2. 5 Marks for assignment, to be submitted as a group (and each member will have to answer a question related to assignment submitted).
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Done. Dusted.

A crazy semester is done and I have re-dedicated myself to my old decision – leave no traces! I applied it wrong towards the end of last one – I made them hate me as I wound up – I can’t think of why I wanted to end so!

You are not allowed to read any further. Major part, that’s nearly 100% of it is pessimism from someone who was very highly arrogant and pessimistic. Then why the hell did I post it here? Because it’s my blog, and here is where I vent my frustration, here is where I feel comfortable, and home when I am most insecure. And it never failed to console me, never failed hide the little tears out here – except now and then, when it gossips about it in WordPress Dashboard of unknown entities around the globe.

Read more

Reverberation

Standing on a crowded railway overbridge, wondering why you stopped walking all of a sudden. You have walked this way a thousand times, but you never stopped, even for a second.

The bridge is shaking. Is it reverberating with the hundreds of footsteps falling on it every second or is it the wind? People sweat, people smile, there are some running to catch their train, some just standing on the bridge, impatiently waiting for announcements.

Why did I stop? I don’t know. But I am loving it. I saw what I had never stopped to see on that bridge till date – life!

Look at the beautiful sky to your left! The patches of cloud trying to draw a pattern! The immediate temptation to grab my phone and take a picture was overpowered by the beauty of the moment.


Rustling plates, busy restaurant. You decide to enjoy every bite you take, unlike trying to finish it fast and rush back to work.

There is life here too. The cleaner patti who helped me last day, thought I wanted something when I smiled at her. The boy at counter seemed a lot capable than his present designation, making me wonder why he chose this job. Men behind the food counter are all worn out after a day’s work – just wanted to wind it all up.

The place was empty when I came in. In few seconds, there were many new customers. I saw people, families, come and leave. There was a dad worried that they will miss the train, mom trying to make it home soon, aimless young couple who spend more time choosing their order than eating it and so on.

But it’s all about food. I wished it never ended.


You see reverberations of the busy city life even in trains. For once, I kept the little gadget in my pocket – and looked around. Most of them were lost in their mobiles, and there were men trying to find a seat somehow. I chose to ignore the man endlessly staring at me.

Everything outside the window moves just too quick, and comes to stop every now and then. There’s music in the backdrop, and coins clanging in a metal box, newspapers, family chattering.

Finally gave up to the temptation to catch up with the never-buzzing social life that I had, with my magical powers locked up in my cellphone. And all these faded away.

BASH: Certificate Generator

Outline

To go green, this time, we decided to avoid printed certificates for department conference. And from there, came this concept.

Input: Certificate template, NAME, COLLEGE and EMAIL IDs of participants
Output: Generates certificates for each participant, and mails it to them.

Algorithm

  1. Generate NAME, COLLEGE and EMAIL list of participants.
  2. Place NAME, COLLEGE (text) on the certificate template (image) starting at given pixel coordinates.
  3. Fire an email client with EMAIL in to: and addressing NAME in body. I would recommend setting it to manually click send instead of automating it – little time consuming, but I suspect quick, automatic mailing to multiple email IDs may cause provider to blacklist you as a spammer.

Sample implementation

Here is how I implemented it – our conference had 85 participants. I used BASH, imagemagick and Thunderbird to achieve the target.

Reason I Chose:

  1. BASH – cut the codes short to less than 10 lines compared to Java/MATLAB which has its own advantages, but not worth the time.
  2. Thunderbird – Was already installed and configured to my taste and had
  3. convert – I’m on Linux Mint and it’s preinstalled.

Pre-requisites

  1. Any flavour of Linux
  2. “convert” from package imagemagick.
  3. Thunderbird configured with the right email ID.
  4. Certificate template in any common image format.
  5. A file named NameList.txt with NAME, COLLEGE, EMAIL  in one line each. File would look like:
NAME1
COLLEGE1
EMAIL1
NAME2
COLLEGE2
EMAIL2
...

Sample Code

FILE=../NameList.txt
cd Certificates
while read NAME; do
   read COLLEGE
   read MAIL
   convert ../Certificate.png -gravity North -pointsize 20 -annotate +100+318 "$NAME" Certificate.png
   convert Certificate.png -gravity North -pointsize 20 -annotate -200+345 "$COLLEGE" Certificate.png
   thunderbird -compose "from='someone@somedomain.com',subject='Conference Certificate',to='$MAIL',attachment='~/CGAM/Certificates/Certificate.png',format='html',body='Dear $NAME,<br/><br/>&emsp;Please find the certificate attached.<br/><br/>Regards<br/>Organising Secretary'"
done < "$FILE"

This code generates a temporary certificate in the folder Certificates notice that parameter “-annotate +100+318” in line 6 give s x and y coordinates of beginning of NAME text, and similarly in line 7 for COLLEGE text.

Certificate template is placed in the same folder as the script, called Certificate.png. Generated certificates will be placed in subfolder Certificates in  a temporary file “Certificate.png”.

Notes

  • Leave thunderbird closed while running the script else the script fails. (Script will not wait for mail to be send before generating next mail).
  • It’s imperfect enough, if interested, please make a better, neater, simpler app (I am lazy to! :D) so that the world can run it in few clicks.
  • Instead of thuderbird, you can automate mailing using command line utilities like “mail” or “msmtp” etc. Read more here.

Why did I post this stupid code/idea here? I don’t know – what if it helps someone, somewhere in future? I couldn’t find a neat app which does the same online, either! I will try inspire my students to take it up as a personal project and come up with some neat click-to-do codes as well.

The Pillars of Teaching

Here is a quick review of my teaching experiment so far:

Teaching

  1. Motivate students to train themselves to learn from the textbook directly
    Students are encouraged to bring textbooks to class and refer to it while session. It helps them get used to the author and learning by themselves, equipping them to learn in future.

    1. Implementation: Students are requested to refer to the textbook along with discussion in class, so that they get used to the language of textbook author. Bright lot is guided personally to read other textbooks (since notational difference across books might cause confusion to many students)
  2. Divide, conquer and combine
    Class is divided into teams, and starts with  group discussion of concepts for the session, during which I personally go and explain the concepts each group. Then the discussion is wound up with a quick discussion to the whole class.

    1. Implementation: Groups are divided carefully, assuring that there is at least one capable of explaining and taking the discussion forward. One or two groups will be exceptionally good, motivating others to try catch up with them (risky, yet, found it working in both the classes).
  3. Mild future references, before the topic is introduced (Inductive and Deductive Learning)
    Words and concepts that will appear in future are mildly referenced in related contexts in previous classes – helps concrete keywords and generate curiosity.

    1. Implementation: For example, idea of sequences were introduced while teaching counting of countable union of countable sets – using the sequence 2,3,3,4,4,4,…. Extra exercises towards the end refers to next section before closing the chapter, attempting to generate curiosity to explore the next section.
  4. Sequential Learning
    Instead of introducing topics in one shot, it is sequentially introduced,periodically. For example, idea of limits were introduced, and explanation was done a week later, and deeper explanation will come in upcoming weeks. Instead of clouding them with a lot of information one day, it is delivered partially, over time.

    1. Implementation: Lessons are planned in ahead, at present, for at least two weeks.
  5. Convince students to write notes themselves
    Helps them organise and write the concepts themselves, trains them to write better answers.

    1. Implementation: For PG students, instead of giving the whole notes, only the questions and outline of answer, like keywords are given. At present, below average students struggle with this, and haven’t had an opportunity to reach them out personally or devised any other techniques to reach them. Also, it takes time to train students who are not used to generating content themselves – possibly they will be set by 2nd CA.
      For UG, notes are given and are encouraged to work on exercises themselves, and also rewrite the given notes in a different way.
  6. Change their outlook about exams
    Portray exams more like a “self evaluation tool”, rather than writing it out of fear to score more for grades/public approval.

    1. Implementation: Unit revision tests were conducted in the pattern they requested – open book test. But voluntary choice was given to students to avoid textbook, and write it as a normal test – and most of the students chose the latter, voluntarily.
  7. Demand and partially force them to prepare for class in ahead and come
    Notes or portions in textbook for next session is passed on in advance, and students are requested to prepare and come. The days they come prepare classes are exponentially better.

    1. Implementation: Prerequisites are posted at least a day before. References are made during class to content included exclusively in posted prerequisites, motivating students to read prerequisites in future. Haven’t figured out how to motivate majority of the class to come prepared, for now, there is response only from 20-30% in UG and 10-20% in PG.
  8. Incorporate technology, and introduce advanced mathematical tools
    Aim is to introduce mathematical tools available and possibly, encourage students to get versed with it.

    1. Implementation: Simpler tools and mathematical computational tools are used in class to solve problems/illustrate concepts, and students are encouraged to try it themselves.
      Students who approach personally are given guidance to explore known mathematical packages and how to use programming to help learning etc.
      Other possible avenues need to be explored.
  9. Engage with students in co-curricular activities outside class.
    Involve students in out-of-the-classroom researches, studies and activities, that will help them communicate, write mathematics themselves, that boosts their resume.

    1. Implementation: 1. Mini-Research
      2. Programming to learn mathematics/how programming can ease day to day business
      3. The book project
      4. Coaching and discussion in subjects
      5. Other secret projects involving students
      6. Convince and prep students for research under others
      (More being explored)
  10. Method varies with subject
    1. Past techniques
      1. Old school, blackboard – chalk teaching (slow writing speeds was a personal disadvantage and caused loss of student attention).
      2. Projector (Couldn’t grab attention of the whole class).
      3. Projector and printed notes (More effective for subjects like Mechanics, Java).
      4. Partial projector and derivations on board (Real Analysis).
    2. Present techniques:
      1. Projector, Textbook, WhiteBoard for illustrations (Graph Algorithms),
      2. Projector, Textbook, Printed Notes, Black Board for illustrations and explanations (Advanced Calculus),
      3. Activity Based Learning – using Projector, Textbook (Java).

Personal Life

  1. Availability to students
  2. Approachability
  3. Moral bonding
    1. Love them
    2. Trust them
  4. (Possible future) Make students call me by name. Haven’t figured out the ups and downs of it, but will reach that point eventually.
  5. Motivate students to aim higher challenges, and be available for them, at any level.
  6. Life needs to exist outside this puzzle of teaching. Need to find other engagements to distract myself from mathematics on non-teaching days.
  7. Teaching and preps needs to be restricted to be working hours.
  8. Break down and rebuild perspective about Christianity.
  9. Surprise a person a month.
  10. Dedicate a share of monthly income for students
  11. Minimise general expenses.

Professional Advancement

  1. Widen the net of subject knowledge, explore mathematics in natural subjects.
  2. Learn how streams of mathematics were born, inspiration for each stream, triggering moment.
  3. Implementation of other subject concepts using programming.
  4. History of science and mathematics.
  5. Research and publication of papers.
  6. More thoughts and efforts needs to be put into this.

Just writing them down to organise my thoughts so far. Will expand them in course of time!

Roadmap

Personal

  1. Being approachable to more students – now, only ones who respond are being welcomed to conversations.
  2. Encourage students to encourage mutually to aim higher.

Professionally

Start doing something solid!

Teaching

  1. Sharpen current methods.
  2. Make methods reach more students.

 

When life give you lemons…

A friend just posted this as her WhatsApp status:

When life gives you lemon, make lemon tarts – foodie

Such a big lie by an extreme optimistic foodie!

I just wanted some junk to start writing with. It’s been ages since I poured my heart out here and I am sure at the end of the day, this is one of the best thing that happened to me – the blog (which got deleted, again and again).

What’s been happening with me? I got a job, which is not trivial according to society. I am at the onset of my missions, drawing war plans. I’m teaching. I realise that students are the best things that happened ot me and are turning out to be my best friends. I love them, love them all, and that kept me away from this blog all these days! A bit less of love to them, a boring class, a word of correction to them, would disappoint me just too bad – and I took all the effort from my side to not let that happen.

I attended Haggai Institute National Conference, too! That consolidated quite a lot of things God’s been talking to me and much more.

First semester was not perfect – but I think I did a good job. These are the scales I tried to implement:

  1. Be approachable to the students.
  2. Love them, more like fatherly love and not be mistaken.
  3. Devise my own teaching method.
  4. Venture into encouraging students to explore textbooks themselves, and out of textbook, taking it to the next level.
  5. Make friends.
  6. Bring in technology – and make the best of it in classroom and outside.

I am glad to say it’s been a great pleasure chasing these dreams. And satisfying, too! Quite some learning, and in grounds of moral, academic and general interest, these are my aims for the next semester:

  1. Trust the students, and understand the right perspective of trust I must use – like how God trusts me, even knowing I am all determined to misuse the trust.
  2. Encourage them to not stop with textbook, but venture beyond that, to make an impact.
  3. Be prepared with classes well in ahead – a week’s portions to be prepared the week before.
  4. Convince students to take higher steps, aspire higher in studies and life.
  5. Help them, convince them to try get clarity on life, on what to do next and help them in preparing to achieve their dreams.
  6. Finish the book project.
  7. With an evil intention – cultivate an interest in astronomy among students. The intention being revival of department telescope.
  8. Spare a good share of my income at the moment for students, to enable them, to help them in need and to give supplements for study.
  9. Finish planning and start the new mission strategy.
  10. Go home, more often.

That’s a long list already I think. Will expand it in course of time, if necessary. Onward ho! The battle countdown has begun, it’s due to start next week!

Apart from that – marriage is a recurring thought off late – not that I want to get married now, ideally, I would love to meet the lady of my life sometime around now, and get to know her better.

Eagerly waiting for December!

The other best thing in my life are my pen friends. I don’t know – there’s a lot of uncertainty about them that adds to the beauty of relationship – in fact, you just have one short mail a week, and you got to tell all that’s needed to be said that you tend to say only things that matter – unlike other friendships in person. And the wait is uncertain – you don’t know when you will get a mail or even if you will ever get a mail!

Darn. I must write back to them all soon. Time’s been ticking and job kept me busy, and I lost track of it.

I’ll kill my random rumblings here.

Ciao. Hope to write soon again!

P.S. I will be all hyper about this post and delete it very soon, the way I usually do it.

House MD: a Gift Idea

A new doctor in friendlist! I didn’t feel like stopping at a mere congratulation, this is a rare event I must celebrate!

But what will I gift her?

A fake “ID” card? Fake prescription template? But what will make them unique?

That’s when my friend, kutti doctor’s sister called her “Lady Greg House”. I had no clue who it was, Google gave me Dr. Greg House from House M.D. Eureka.

That was followed by marathon House MD Season 1, thanks to Christy Varghese.

Then this happened.

ID Card
Front: Plainsboro ID card
Front: Plainsboro ID card
Back: Plainsboro ID card
Back: Plainsboro ID card

I played a bit with bar code and ID number – both translates to “Kutti Doctor”, what I call her. Barcodes can be generated for free online, for example, http://www.barcode-generator.org/ (choose Code-39 for text codes). For ID number, I used same idea as Facebook’s 92FACEBOOK number (typing in a T9 keypad gives their phone number, 9232232665), for the same text. Each item is in a different layer in RAW XCF file, or if you are not a pro, just use the images in this post (are of fairly good resolution for and ID card – actual sizes are 1/4th of what is there in image).

Prescription
Prescription Model, Concept from House MD
Prescription: Size: 1/2 A4

It had to be a bit “Indianised”, specially prescription, moving away from small square chit in House MD. (The prescription is shown in one of the episodes when elderly lady comes to return the prescription to House). There are two pages in file – print it as two pages in one page A4 for correct dimensions.

The paper folder
Folder and Prescription Printed

Now instead of binding the prescription papers, I made a folder, when folded, will give you half A4 size. I hope you will figure out where to fold/cut and stick. Also, little care should be taken to make sure that the prescription papers fit into the folder well before sticking. I also cut it along the border on top and it looked better than a square folder.

Copyright

You are free to use it as you wish. The logo of Princeton Placeboro et al should be the copyright of studios making House MD, so please don’t use it for mass printing. Raw files are in GIMP’s xcf format (I use GIMP), I can convert it for you if you want (leave a comment below). I’d be glad if you leave a word here in comments if you used the template, it’s really encouraging to know that it came to use for someone!

Raw Files:

Check out Google Drive Folder

A Dark, Disabling Secret

[this is an extract from a mail to my pen friend]

Dear Lipsa,

I woke up today morning ready to reply to your mail. Then something that happened here invoked the biggest insecurity in me, distracting me for a while.

I am at a friend’s place and in morning, his mom prayed that “There are many with disabled children, thank you God for giving us healthy children”. I won’t blame her – it’s a common thing that nearly everyone thanks God for though I logically disagree with the idea of “thanking God for some harm that never happened to [me]”.

As I have told you, I am partly disabled. The first thing that ran in my mind is if my mother will be able to say the same. How hurt she would have been if she heard someone pray like that the days she was still syncing in to the fact that I am partially blind. I don’t know if my friend read my mind – he intervened then and there and told her not to do it.

My disability is one of my deepest insecurities, which I am in a constant struggle to overcome. I fear it. Subconsciously my eyes tear up when I am requested to explain why and how I became almost blind in one eye, things I can’t do because of it etc. The attempt to overcome it so far were all futile.

It’s deep-rooted, and that makes it a hard thing to get rid of. I’ve been called “kannu pottan (blind)”, “cyclops” (Greek mythological giants with one eye) many times while I was in school, though it was for fun, it did hurt me. You might understand why I cried when the person who stood up for me that day and told them not to do it passed away two years back. He was and is always a hero in my eyes.

On a bright side, I realised calling a weak person “dumb”, as everyone does in our society is actually also referring a real deaf and dumb person as weakling. I have been, ever since the revelation trying to stop using such words in my day today conversations.

The only thing that helped me a bit so far is looking at the bright side of it – how it helped me develop some of my good skills, and understand the need of someone who might not have had any exposure to encouragement much as me or those who have much higher disadvantages than me.

While in proVISION ASIA, even in most of them who claimed to have overcome this fear seemed to hide this inmost fear, insecurity in them, which popped up at times.

I must actively start hunting this insecurity down now I think – I want to root out it’s origins!

I hope I am not boring you – this is something you’d notice in almost every disabled person’s eyes the next time you see them, though they may sound confident enough to conquer the world.

It helps a lot to speak up about one’s fear. In fact, I think this is the first step towards conquering it.

[and some more content, irrelevant to the topic of this post].

Write soon!

Jesse P Francis

The Book List

This is more like a diary for myself, list of books I’ve read (and I remember that I’ve read it, only good ones)

  1. If only they could talk – James Herriot (2014)
  2. Dork – Sidin Vadakut (2012)
  3. Service with a Simle – Wodehouse (2016)
  4. That novel about attempted NASA Rocket launch mishap that I got from trash, returned to trash (I don’t remember it’s name!) (2012)
  5. 1984 – George Orwell (2017)
  6. The Bible – A lot of people (2014-2016)
  7. To Sir, with Love – E. R. Braithwaite (2015)
  8. The Alchemist – Paulo Cohelo (2016)
  9. The Purpose Driven Life – Rick Warren (2014)
  10. The Cross and the Switchblade – David Wilkerson
  11. The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling (2017)
  12. In His Steps – Charles M. Sheldon (2015)
  13. Back to Jerusalem – Paul Hattaway (2015)

Malayalam

  1. Almost All Basheer (2000 – 2010)
  2. Randamoozham (Sometime between 2002 – 2006)
  3. Malavikaagnimithram – Kaalidasan

(will keep expanding the list as I remember)

Recipe for a tasty PhD Scholar

Past:

Step 1: Talk to a gentleman who agrees to be your guide. He, before prescribing the text, tells you to pray, early morning, and promises that he will too, without fail.
Step 2: See how God is convincing your to work under him.
Step 3: Read a lot about your subject and sensitise yourself.
Step 4: Reject even better PhD offers at hand, since you don’t want to miss the gentleman who is praying for you.
Step 5: Get gifted with crazy big things which are absolute essential for the PhD work, as a “go-ahead” confirmation from God.
Step 6: Something in you tells you to hold the application submission a day more.
Step 7: Write “NET Qualified” just because you submitted the application late (the result came the evening before – assuring God is really up to something cool with your PhD.)
Step 8: Submit application.

Present:

Step 1: Get called for an interview as a teacher.
Step 2: Travel nearly 590 kilometres for an interview.
Step 3: Reach less than a kilometre away from the office.
Step 4: Bulb moment.
Step 5: Call up office and tell them you’re not coming for the interview, and start back home.
Step 6: Life goes on, as if nothing happened!
Result: Tasty PhD scholar thayyar!

Future:

Step 1: Trust God better. When He’s with you, nothing better assures that life will be (good) dramatic and happening enough!