30 January 2009

Two terms after I started the course

I suppose it is of utmost importance that a teacher/lecturer/professor offers students constructive comments when marking their papers. Just as, when I was an undergraduate, I always hoped to receive from professors remarks on merits and shortcomings of my writings as well as instructions on how to improve them, so would my students, I believe, expect from me more practical comments on their term papers apart from the two-digit marks.

I have been reading and grading students coursework, 40 ten-page papers in total, during the Chinese New Year, which is still within the mourning period for Grandpa. Partly because of the aforementioned belief and partly because of the problem of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), I felt compelled to offer at least 200 characters (actually twice the amount most of the time, i.e. half an A4 page) for each paper in a well-written manner. Thus, I worked even on the eve, first day and second day of the new year and finished the task on the third day of the new year.

Plagiarism is always the problem. It is nowadays all too convenient to google, copy and paste, without further assessing the validity, credibility and authority of online information. While some of the students would rephrase what they found to avoid the unpardonable crime of 'copy-and-paste', others simply assume that a lecture or professor is too busy to surf through the Internet and thus so oblivious to what has been posted in the cyber world.

I wonder whose responsibility it should be to teach those undergraduates how to rephrase, to quote and to include all required information in footnotes or endnotes as well as in the bibliography. Should I, a part-time assistant professor and post-doctoral fellow, reserve ten minutes at the end of every lecture to introduce academic writing–Lesson One: Plagiarism Is A Crime?

Nevertheless, I am really delighted to see those who have made the most of my office hours complete their coursework and turn in good papers. I am particularly happy to know how much a student from the medical school, who started playing the Western classical violin since the age of 3, has learnt a lot through coursework as to how the violin, its music styles, fingering techniques and holding positions vary in different musical cultures around the globe.

(Holing positions of the violin in South Indian, top, and Morocco, bottom, demonstrated by Tiffanywan, photos reproduced from coursework)

Two terms after I started the course at National Taiwan University, I am glad to see some of my students truly come to know how to appreciate various musical cultures around the globe.

29 January 2009

In memory of my late grandpa

I had been waiting for winter since last Christmas. As in Taipei it didn't fall below 10 °C until 10 January 2009, I suppose winter only came after the Gregorian New Year. I was happy to be greeted by the chilly wind blowing down streets and the wintry blast howling over the campus.

However, if only winter hadn't arrived.

My grandpa fell asleep at night on 12 January and didn't wake up, which probably had to do with the sudden drop in temperature. Grandpa passed away peacefully in bed at the age of 91 just before the Chinese New Year. For the first time in my whole life, I made a complaint about the low temp. If only winter hadn't arrived this year, he would live longer to see Wei II or Fanne II next year or the year after.

Grandpa was cremated on 21 January after a memorial service attended by more than 70 family members. He has seen his family grow and prosper, and his children and grandchildren achieve in many aspects of life, and thus in Taiwanese terms, he should be pleased to breathe his last without regrets.

Contemplating his image in the photo during Chinese New Year, I think of Grandpa profoundly.

It was taken on my late great grandmother's ninetieth birthday in 1988, when I was only 13. Forty family members in total were present here, excluding those from my granduncle's, and from left to right at the centre of the front row were my late grannie, great grannie and grandpa.

01 January 2009

Three new-year images in a row

(Click to enlarge and compare: left to right, a newly-employed postdoctoral fellow, a fresh Doctor of Philosophy and an anguished student)

Well recognised as the nation's most expected New Year's Eve highlight, the 188-second fireworks display launched from the Taipei 101 Tower heralded the arrival of a new year last night for the fifth time in a row.

The Tourism Bureau, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Chunghwa Telecom together won the bid for the right to stage the pyrotechnic show this year. In order to romote tourism and raise Taiwan's international profile, along with the show were TAIWAN, embedded in four green, red, blue and yellow hearts, illuminated on each side of the building respectively, with the notion of 'embracing Taiwan with great love'.

While the idae of TAIWAN and ♥ is slightly similar to last year's design, how about me? What do you think I have been doing? I hope Taipei 101 will keep alive this tradition and accordingly I will keep taking the new year photo and line up all the photos year by year.