Tuesday Feb 14, 2012

Funny world of Improv

Completed my first ever improv class yesterday at Westside Comedy and wanted to share my experience. First off, I had general idea about improv, but had no clue about the dynamics and other details. Improv is more than just telling jokes on the fly. Wikipedia defines Improvisation as “the practice of acting, singing, talking and reacting, of making and creating, in the moment and in response to the stimulus of one's immediate environment and inner feelings. This can result in the invention of new thought patterns, new practices, new structures or symbols, and/or new ways to act.” My primary motivation in joining this class was to practice improv speaking on any topic and do it in a manner that is funny and engaging. The skills learned can be applied in any field ranging from public speaking to general every day conversation in formal or informal setting.

It was fun and enriching experience. Through the course of 6 weeks, we went though many activities and games to learn the tools and structure of improv. It is not just about cracking jokes; to be successful in this, you need to be constantly aware of what is going on - be active listener, and work as team and support each other. It was fascinating to see how playing a mundane act with varied emotions can bring so much laughs. What you learn here can be so contrary to how we normally think, such as - if you feel weird, do it more - if you are stuck, say the truth. You learn to avoid arguments and go with the flow. It’s all about relationships filled with emotions. Sounds like valuable life lessons!!

All in all, while this class might not have made me any funnier, it definitely taught me bits and pieces about how to keep a conversation engaging and entertaining. Also, confidence to face audience and not be conscious whether I might be sounding puerile or preposterous - as it might not be a bad thing after all. Finally, confidence to crack jokes, even if no one is laughing!

Thursday May 27, 2010

My First Scratch (Golf)

Today, I went out for quick round of golf  with one of my colleague (after work) at nearby 9-hole Rancho Duarte Golf Course. It is nice little executive course (par 31), with par-3 and par-4 holes and fast greens. It was bit overcast, but nice breeze made the playing all the more enjoyable.

I played at this and other courses many times before and came close to shooting par, but could never actually do it. Since I started paying golf around 3 and half years back, it was my dream to do a scratch round (for those not familiar with golf, scratch is term used to define a round under par; for more info refer this page). Well, today was that day. I shot total of 30 for one under par (-1). I hit 8 of 9 greens in regulation and finished the round with back to back birdies. Here is my detailed scorecard.

BTW, I was lucky to score hole-in-one once at Los Feliz Golf Course around 2 years back.  

My next goal - Scratch for a regulation course. It is not going to be easy..

Sunday Dec 07, 2008

Bear Canyon Hike (California)

This saturday, I participated in a very scenic hike in a group of 16 hikers. This was about 9 mile and mostly downhill hike. Using car pooling and splitting cars at start and end point, this hike was done as one-way. After parking our cars at Switzer’s Falls Starting Point (exit on 210 and drive approx 9 miles on Angeles Crest Hwy), we packed into few cars and moved up to the start point of the hike at Eton Saddle fire road gate (approx 6.5 Miles - keep going north on Angles Crest and take Mt. Wilson Red Box road at approx 4.1 miles and drive 2.4 miles on Mt Wilson Red Box road) to hike back down to Switzer’s Falls Starting Point car parking.

The hike started by going around south side of San Gabriel Peak (6,161') and entering Mueller Tunnel. Surrounded by number of nearby Peaks – Mt. Lowe (5,603'), Mt. Wilson (5,710') and Mt. Disappointment (5,960'), you keep moving on to the fire road to reach the Bear Canyon trail head. At the trail head you find a halipad which offer breathtaking view of greater Los Angeles. It was a clear day and we could see ocean and as far as Catalina Island (approx 60+ miles away!). Hiking through bear canyon you pass though number of water streams and pools with plenty of places to sit and relax. At this time of the year, the water level was low and you could do stream crossing without getting your feet wet. But, during rainy season, the hike is closed as the water level would make it impossible to cross the streams. After approx 3.2 miles, you reach Bear Canyon Campgound, where we stopped for lunch. Further around 2 miles of hiking along streamside, you reach 50 ft high Switzer’s falls. From Switzer Falls, around 2.2 miles and approx 600 ft of elevation you reach the Switzer lower parking area.

Don’t forget to take plenty of water and food. Good hiking shoes are must due to loose gravel, as there is real risk of slip and fall. We had one little accident wherein one hiker fell and got some bruises. But, the injuries were not bad, and he was able to finish the hike. Overall, the hike was easy as there are not much elevation gains, but it is still strenuous as it was long. I really enjoyed the spectacular canyon and plenty of scenic points all along.

Here is hike log (Dec 6, 08)

9:30 am       Start (Eaton Saddle – 5,120’)
10:30 am     Bear Canyon Trail Head
12:00 pm     Bear Canyon Camp (stopped for lunch – approx 40 mins)
1:45 pm       Switzer’s Falls
3:00 pm       Return – Switzer Falls Start Point – Lower parking lot

Mt. Wlison Hike (California)

Though famous for its observatory, Mt. Wilson houses number of radio and television antennas and is famous landmark and conspicuously visible to anyone driving in San Gabriel valley and beyond. At around 5,700 ft, this is one of the highest peaks in San Gabriel Mountains. You can in-fact drive up to Mt. Wilson following Angeles Crest Highway (around one hour drive from LA downtown).

Day after thanksgiving, along with 4 other very experienced hikers; we started this hike from City of Sierra Madre at intersection of E. Mira Monte and Mt. Wilson Trail. It is long and strenuous hike through wilderness with steep elevations and passing through some shade and lot of sun. Make sure that you carry plenty of water (at lest 2 liters) and food as there is no source of drinking water on this long hike. We were maintaining quite brisk pace. Having never experienced a long hike this one, it was really tough for me and was getting slower and slower progressing through the hike and had virtually no energy left at around 3/4 of the onward hike. I had to stop and break away from the group. Fortunately, making slow and continued progress, I was able to join the group at Manzanita Ridge point. It took us approx 4 1/2 hours to reach the top. After resting for approx 30 - 40 mins at Mt. Wilson we made our way back and with few short stops made down in approx 3 hours. The total hike was around 15 miles (round trip) with approx 4500 ft. of total elevation gain.

Here is the hike log:

8:25 am      Start (89 E. Mira Monte Ave., Sierra Madre, CA)
9 am          First Water - 1.5 Mile (break 10 mins)
10 am        Orchard Camp (2,960') - 3.5 Mile (stopped for lunch approx 15 mins)
11:30 am    Manzanita Ridge - 5 miles (break 10 mins)
                  Mt. Wilson Toll Road (5.5 Miles)
1 pm          Mt. Wilson Summit (5,710') - 7.5 Miles
4:30 pm     Return -  15 Miles

Thursday Aug 21, 2008

Santa Anita Loop Hike

This Tuesday, I did another scenic hike through small portion of Santa Anita Canyon in San Gabriel Mountains. This is excellent hike for summer with plenty of forest cover all through the trail. We were group of 9 and started off around 6 pm and finished the loop in less than two hours with few minutes stop at Hodgees camp site. It was pretty dark when we reached the tail end of the hike.

With easy access from San Gabriel valley, this trail is a loop starting from Chantry Flats (exit Santa Anita on I-210 and drive around 6 miles towards mountain to parking structure), with plenty of shade, passing through several creek crossings and few campsites. The hike actually starts up the hill with steady gain and then goes down (around 400' feet lower then tail-head) before finally going up. About two miles into this trail you pass through Upper Winter Creek Junction Signpost for trails to Mt. Wilson (another 4 1/2 miles) and Mt Zion (1/8 Miles). Further down around 1/3 of a mile you reach Hodgees Campground. This limited facility small campground under dense forest cover has restroom and water. Interestingly, I was told that this campsite has highest recorded rainfall (26 inches in one day) in whole of California (could not confirm this fact though). Another two miles you reach Roberts Campground and the lowest point in the hike. Overall, the hike has moderate elevation gain rate throughout except at the end when you hit paved road of about half a mile with steep elevation of around 400 ft.

Here are quick facts about this trail.

Distance: 5 Miles
Altitude: Trailhead 2200', Minimum-1800 , Maximum 2900', Total Gain/Loss -1100'
Difficulty: Beginner
Trail Condition: Good
What should you carry (at minimum): One bottle of water

Sunday Jul 06, 2008

Echo Mountain Hike

Living in the San Gabriel Valley (foothills of San Gabriel Mountain Ranges) for over three years now, I almost had feeling of guilt for not exploring the nearby mountains. San Gabriel mountains form barrier between Greater Los Angeles Area and Mohave Desert. At 3,067 m (10,064 ft), the highest peak in the range is Mount San Antonio, aka Mt. Baldy.

While searching for outdoor activities around this area I came across excellent online resource – outdoorsclub.com. Here you can find and active community who love outdoor activities. A quick glace at the event calender reveals multiple outdoor events happening every week! The events are not just limited to hiking but other activities such as biking, camping, backpack, river-rafting, cannoeing. Through the website you can sign for an activity and also organize one. You need to be member though to sign up (first 3 free, $25 per year thereafter) for an event.

I saw one hike happening close to where I live. Following Sam Merrill Trail, at top of Lake Avenue in Altedena, this was hike to Echo Mountain Peak. With total round-trip distance of around 6 miles, the hike involves total gain of around 1400'. In a group of 6 (3 ladies and 3 men), we started off at 6:30 pm. Although warned fairly by the leader regarding the difficulty of hike, I was determined to try it out. The other hikers were quite experienced and maintained brisk pace all throughout the hike. After around one mile of hike, I was totally exhausted and was not sure if would be able to complete the hike. Though the ladies were leading the pack, the group leader stayed back to watch me. With lot of encouragement and some teasing by our group leader, I dragged along and finally made it to the top in one hour and two minutes, lagging by approx 5 minutes from the leading group. I was told that for first timer, I did good. Overall, it was great experience and I would recommend it to anyone who would like a decent hike.

Echo Mountain, also known as White City has rich past. Once a place with a resort with two hotels - Echo Mountain House and The Chalet. It also had an observatory and a small zoo. Professor Thaddeus S. C. Lowe and engineer David J. Macpherson built a railroad connection to Echo Mountain, which eventually be visited by over 3 million people from the year 1896 - 1936. Through series of fires and windstorms and waning public interest, the city was destroyed. The remains of the resort and the railroad can still be seen, reminiscent of the past glory of the place.

Sam Merill Trail Sam Merill Trail
Sam Merill Trail
Sam Merill Trail
Sam Merill Trail
Sam Merill Trail

Friday May 30, 2008

Logging In..

This is my first real foray into world of blogging. So why blog? Well many reasons but mostly to share insights about products and technologies I am working on. Also a place for me to think, reflect and connect.

I came to Sun through Seebeyond Acquisition. Part of Web Services division, I have been working on BPEL Engine for over four years now – earlier part of eInsight Business Process Manager of ICAN Suite (while in Seebeyond) and now part of BPEL Service Engine part of Project Open-ESB based on JBI Specification.


Malkit works in software development at Oracle, Inc. working in Oracle Business Process Manager, part of Oracle Fusion Middleware. Malkit came to Oracle through Sun Microsystems acquisition, living and working in Los Angeles, California.


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