Ten Students Breathing Easier: Oral Presentations are Over!

1624282_652789108110038_2085943504_nOne of the tasks I have at Ming Chuan University is to supervise senior research projects. It’s a year-long process, involving the design and execution of a basic research project. Some projects are done by one person, but in general, the projects are done in groups of two and three. In the final semester of their senior year, there are two major milestones. The final one is turning in two copies of the their final written copy, which is due on May 26. But this past week, the first major milestone was presenting their work at their oral defense.

I supervised four groups this year, and I thought I would share their accomplishments (and relief) at completing their oral defense last Thursday.

First up: Jean and Allison have been studying the factors that influence students’ career choices. Among the factors they considered were salary, personal interest, personality, parental influence, and social trends. They are still finalizing their findings, but there appears to be some gender difference in which factors students consider more important. One thing is certain. These young women were incredibly relieved to have this part of the process complete.

Next: Julia and Colton were interested in finding out if students from our university who participated in the summer study tours held in the US during 2012 and 2013 were satisfied with the improvements in their English proficiency during the four-week intensive program. While their data collection did not go as smoothly as we might have hoped, they learned a lot about research and were able to put together a nice case study of those who were willing to share their experiences.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen it came to filling out questionnaires to help their fellow students, Teela and Helen’s project about the effects of social media advertising on college students was the most well-received. They found that while almost everyone finds advertising on social media annoying, it can be effective, particularly when it comes from the recommendations of friends. People are likely to try restaurants and cafes based on the recommendations of friends.




Finally, four students–Alaina, Ivy, Melissa, and Gary–surveyed seniors and underclassmen to see if there were differences between the two groups in the types of reading strategies they used. Not surprisingly, the students who like English make the most effective use of strategies regardless of their class standing. 10157288_840699999279213_1781581588_n

Now the next step for all four groups is to complete their data analysis and revise their written projects so that they can be submitted by the deadline. But everyone is on track, and graduation is only a few weeks beyond the turn-in date.

Congratulations to the students listed above, and all the seniors at MCU who completed their oral defense last week!



Right Writing: SofCS

Image courtesy of nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I haven’t paid much attention to Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompts–only vaguely aware of them, but for some reason, this week, I wanted to check it out more. And I was intrigued. Didn’t want to actually write it as a blog post though. My blog isn’t for SofC. But then what is it for? Lately–meaning March–my blog has languished. I have lots of ideas, but no inner push to put myself out there. It’s not like I’m not writing–I am, but I’m not writing the things that I want to put in my blog.

Oh hell, that isn’t even true. I have three freewritings–much like this–about things in Taiwan that my “audience” says they want. I used the freewriting to demonstrate the process for my writing classes. But I didn’t take them farther yet. They are still in the list of drafts. There’s something wrong when the drafts are almost equal in number to published posts. Or perhaps I exaggerate. Perhaps I need to stop worrying about the right thing to write and just get back to writing. Was it only October when I was writing nearly every day? I signed up to do that challenge again in March, and talk about total fizzle. Now the ABC challenge is due to start, but I drag my feet.

Much like I dragged my feet on deciding to participate in this SofCS post. In fact, for me, it’s not even Saturday anymore, but I finally got to the point where I decided that I wasn’t going to worry about writing “right” or if this was the “right” thing to be writing, or even if I was doing any of my current writing “right,” I just needed to write. And here it is, in not so much glory, but in breaking through the silence of the non-writing that has been my blog lately. Maybe now the floodgates can open.


This is a weekly feature of Linda Gill’s, and I’ve obviously finally taken the plunge.



A Magical Night of Dance and Culture: Then and Now

Tomorrow evening, Rena and I are going to the evening performance of Shen Yun. Here is the trailer:

Last year, I ended up getting an email inviting me to check out the performance. A similar trailer captivated me, and I was hooked. I had recently discovered through a round of list-making that dance was something I missed from my past, and this was the prefect opportunity to reconnect. I had no idea just how deeply I would connect: I got caught up in the festive surroundings of the performing arts center, in the performance itself, and in the fun of chatting with a few of the musicians afterwards at a near-by coffee shop.

Although I never posted after the performance last year, I wrote some notes. I wrote about how the first half of the show immersed me in color, props, music, and the seemingly impossible movement that the human body is capable of. Every time the curtain opened, I was captivated by the movement of form and color. The costume designers, the choreographers, and the dancers brought together color, light, and movement to create moments that were nothing less than magical.

In the second act, something went deeper and I began to see the connection between what I was seeing on stage and what can happen in quilting and other visual art. I was reconnected with the part of me that loves colors, patterns, and textures, even though I’m not always sure how to put combine them to match my inner visions. But I felt my mind totally stimulated by a whirlwind of possibility. I like to think that maybe I’m becoming a little more confident about blending these elements into the ideas I have for my quilting and how to make visual movement possible through such combinations.

I knew from the first moments of last year’s performance that I would go again this year. I kept an eye out for the posting of the schedule. And now it’s here. Less than 24 hours from now, I’ll be experiencing that magic again. I wouldn’t be surprised if this time, you might get to read about some of the details. In the meantime, I’ll have sweet dreams of the wonders that await me tomorrow evening.

What a Difference the Sun Makes

Photo credit: nuchylee at freedigitalphotos.net

Photo credit: nuchylee at freedigitalphotos.net

I am not one to make a big deal about the weather. It comes and goes, and except for when it’s really cold (or really hot), I don’t say much about it. Well until this year. This is my fifth winter in Taiwan, and while I have nothing on my friends and family back in the States in terms of weather to complain about, I have not been happy about the rain rain rain rain rain rain.

Central heat is not common in most apartments (or at the university where I teach), so when our cold spell stretched on and on this year, coupled with the rain rain rain rain rain, I thought I might go a little mad. Still the calendar said it would eventually pass, and it wouldn’t be long before I could trade my complaining for the hot, HUMID days that lie ahead. But in the meantime, I was getting a little tired of wearing fingerless gloves while I typed, and wearing three layers of clothing while huddled near the heater. But that wasn’t the only problem. The long, wet spell created another problem–laundry.

In our apartment, we have a washing machine, but no clothes dryer. No problem! We hang our clothes out on the balcony, as is the norm around here (at least for those without a clothes dryer). To give you an idea, we just had such a long spell where Dave was unable to hang out laundry that he almost broke down and carried it the two blocks for a coin operated dryer.

But what’s really been bothering me the last few weeks is that whenever I take the bus to go downtown for my exercise routine at Curves, I’ve had to deal with the wet weather. The cold I can “usually” handle, but I was getting so sick of the rain. You’ll understand more when I start posting what sidewalks in Taiwan are like. Today, after a day of classes and office hours, I headed to Curves. I planned to catch the shuttle and walk the five blocks from the train station downtown to Curves. I’ve done it several times. In the rain.

But today, I ended up on the wrong bus. (An occupational hazard of not reading Chinese.) To be fair to me though, the bus I got on was in the same place where I’ve caught the right bus several other times. But no matter. The one I ended up on was going to the train station in Taipei not Taoyuan. Luckily, I found out before we left the university premises, and the driver let me off.

I caught a local bus and settled in. Then I noticed that although it was 5:00 in the afternoon, the sun was still shining. Wait! The sun was shining! Actually, I remembered noticing the sun at 8:00 this morning, when I walked into my classroom. I’d sort of forgotten what it was like to teach with the sun out. The sun changed everything today! It was brighter even sitting in my office this afternoon. So when the local bus dropped me off at the stop closer to Curves, I walked there without having to worry about slipping on wet surfaces, or dodging raindrops, or wrestling with an umbrella. And because it had been a week since I’d been downtown at that time, it wasn’t gloomy. It wasn’t even dusk. We’ve turned a corner. When I get downtown late Monday afternoon, it will be brighter. Even if it rains–heaven forbid–at least it won’t be dusk on top of it.

What a difference a week makes. Even with a few glitches in my day, the difference between tonight and last Monday is amazing. Even my workout was much more pleasant as a result. Bring on the sun!

Move It!

This is such exciting news in the neuroscience department. It was hard to find something that I could do with my physical limitations, but now that I’ve been doing circuit training for four months, there is no denying that things are different. Yes, some of it is physical, but the majority really seems to be in the brain department. I can TELL there’s a difference in the way I think and feel. I’ll be sharing more about these effects in upcoming posts.

Taiwan Tales and Trails (Part 1)

taiwan-mapI’ve been thinking for a while about trying to write a few little pieces about Taiwan–some of the things that are part of the culture here that are a little unexpected. Some possibilities include the musical garbage trucks, the real convenience of convenience stores, Taiwanese taxis, public transportation, volunteerism, night markets, day markets, . . . well, you get the idea. Just this morning, I was thinking about which one I would write about first as I was getting ready for work. I had been listening to the rain since we got up, so I was braced for a wet walk to the bus stop.

Since my first class on Monday (and Thursday) is at 8:10, Dave and I left about 7:30 and headed to the bus stop. Amazingly, the rain let up long enough for us to get to the stop without using our umbrellas. On the two days that we leave at 7:30, we always see a woman who works at the university. We smile at each other, and she often lets us board the bus ahead of her, even on days when she arrives before us.

Typically, the bus arrives between 7:40 and 7:50. But this morning, at 7:52 the bus still hasn’t rounded the corner three stops away. Dave and I decided a taxi was our best bet so I could be on time for class. I didn’t know that the idea had already crossed his mind, but when I suggested we invite the woman to come along for the ride, he agreed. I saw a taxi approaching, and I signaled in case it was available. He pulled over as we motioned to her to join us, and the three of us got in; we got in the back, she sat in the front. Interestingly, as the taxi pulled away, it started raining hard again for a few minutes.

I got the money out for the fare, and noticed that she and the driver were exchanging money, so I wasn’t sure what our part of the fare was, but I figured, I’d still get the full fare out. We then all tried to communicate about our two separate spots to get off. She got out first, and the taxi took us to our stop which was just a couple hundred meters further.

The rain had nicely slowed down again, and we opened the door to get out of the cab. When I tried to pay, however,  the driver indicated she had already paid the full fare! Imagine my surprise! Not only that, it was funny because here we were trying to do a random act of kindness, and she turned around and beat us at our own game!

I should say at this point that there are many nice things people do for one another here. I’ve been the recipient of many sweet surprises and favors. But I am still delighted whenever something like this happens, especially when people trying to do random acts of kindness attempt to out-do each other. Maybe I’ll have to find a way to surprise her on a random day.

Happy Birthday to my Obsessive/Compulsive Daughter!


196302_1002535904650_8586_nKate can be a little compulsive at times. And obsessive. Most of the time, these traits serve her well. Occasionally, she holds on to a plan so tightly that it takes a while to relax her self-made restrictions. Eventually, however, she adjusts and her ideas just take her farther down the road of interesting projects.

So for her 27th birthday, I’m going to share how these traits help her with specific hobbies and projects; specifically, pen palling, blogging, and some of the collaborating she does with me. You will see how often she takes an  idea and runs a mile (or more) with it.


When Kate’s 26th birthday came around, she was asking me what kind of birthday post I was going to do on my blog. We came up with the idea of 26 memories from my 26 years with her. We brainstormed ideas, and it resulted in two posts: 26 Memories: 26 Years with My Daughter and 26 Years with My Daughter (Part 2)


197550_1002558825223_5394_nOver 8 years ago, Kate started writing to pen pals. From the beginning, she set up binders to keep the letters she received. Initially, a year’s worth of letters fit into one binder. Each year, the time would come when she would tell me it was time for another binder, and we’d be off to Staples to pick up another one. I never minded these shopping expeditions, because A) Who doesn’t like Staples? But more important, B) I wanted to encourage this activity because it was clear she got so much enjoyment out of it.

Over the years, Kate has continued with her pen palling, eventually even adding a Facebook Group with her pen pals as members. On the group page, she posted about the mail she received and added contests, writing challenges, and other activities. She started the group so that she could post pen pal friendly things without boring the rest of her Facebook friends. She even wrote a post about the Facebook Group here.


familyAbout a year and a half ago, Kate started her blog about all things pen pal. She shared the notebook she uses to track her pen pal activities, including when she’s received a letter, the stationery she uses, the questions she’s asked, and other interesting (at least to her) tidbits. If you don’t believe me, check it out here. She held contests, she ran a Pen Pal of the Month feature.

Of course, she included posts about other aspects of her life, including her husband, Gabe, Mr. Logan (my adorable 3-year-old grandson), and her other activities. But she has lots to share about pen pals and the way she manages her hobby, including a post about how compulsive she is about storing and organizing all her pen pal stuff. She wrote about it here.

She also did a series of posts on the Seven Deadly Sins. As I said, when she gets an idea, she runs with it. But at least she’s flexible, even if it takes a little while. When she started her blog, she wrote three times a month. The 10th, 20th, and 30th. She later increased it to include the 5th, 15th, and 25th as well.

She follows her schedule impeccably, but it goes deeper than that. She handwrites most of the drafts for her blog posts in a notebook. Every time she posts, whether for Pen Pal of the Month, a series such as the Seven Deadly Sins, posts in honor of birthdays–whatever it is–it has been scheduled weeks, sometimes months in advance of their posting. This worked well for her, until she started getting awards or until blog challenges came up that intrigued her. She got very creative in how she included some of those things in her posts in spite of her reluctance refusal to shift anything that was scheduled for a specific slot in her publishing schedule.

But Kate is nothing if not resourceful, so at the beginning of 2014, she added a new feature to her blog, known as Miscellaneous Mondays. Now, if a Monday doesn’t land on any of the days she’s already publishing, it gives her a space to post something outside her scheduled features. You can see her first MM post here. It seems she has found enough flexibility to allow for her compulsive tendencies and still give her a way to add things that come up.


085Most people might call them collections, but with Kate, collections take on a new meaning. Over the years, she’s collected Beanie Babies, key chains, shot glasses, Halloween village houses, and most especially–cows.

In her post, Pieces of Me, you can get a glimpse of some of the things that have captured her attention over the years. While she tends to be a little obsessive about the things she collects, nothing comes close to the obsession that fueled the cow shrine (see picture on right). In her bedroom, there was a built in cabinet that she soon took over to arrange her ongoing collection of all things cow. Even though the cow shrine has been dismantled, it is immortalized with this photo.


With Kate, you’re never quite sure, except for the fact that something will definitely come along. Actually, there are several other topics I could have included in this post. The way she took to collaborating with me on the musical themes, the coffee shop that she dreams about opening with me in a vacant building in Fairgrove, the ideas she has for other writing projects, the crafts she comes up with to send to pen pals and others. The list is kind of boggling sometimes. But, that’s ok. It leaves a few possibilities for her next birthday.

In the meantime, here is a picture of Kate with one of her newest obsessions. She has a few of these who have moved in with her and the guys. Luckily, they make smaller versions.  🙂