2008 Archive

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Jan 2008

Feb 2008

Mar 2008

Apr 2008

May 2008 Jun 2008

Jul/Aug 2008

Sep 2008

Oct 2008

Nov 2008 Dec 2008

Note: various links or other references may be mentioned below that no longer apply.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

 

January/February Update (Jan 14, 2008)

Dear Friends,

January is half over, and I find myself surrounded by piles of "things to do later." Sure, I'm technically finished with the fall semester (I turned in my grades today), but that doesn't mean I have time to rest. When I'm teaching, I tend to work at an exhausting pace (creating resources, organizing my lectures/classes, spending time with students, etc.), and piles form around my desk of things to do when I find time. I always hope that I can get lots done during the break between terms, but I'm always disappointed!

We were extra busy in December, and loved every minute of the Christmas celebrations we shared with students and friends. Maybe someday I'll get time to post some photos, but not now. By the time Christmas got here, I was creating a final exam and conducting oral exams with my medical students. I also gave a final writing assignment; I knew it would be a lot of extra work to grade these papers, but I wanted to give them one more chance to write so that they could see their mistakes through the eyes of a native speaker. I must admit that I was shocked when many turned in things they had not written themselves; 17 out of 63 essays contained plagiarism (things copied from another writer, without documentation). Additional papers bore unusual similarities, but I could only find 17 on the Internet--and that was discouraging enough! Frankly, I'm convinced that many local students just don't understand the western perspective: student writing must be 100% written by the student, or documented. My publisher disagrees, for an editor wrote: "We donít think there is much difference between western and Chinese thinking on the problem of plagiarism." But I just can't believe that such a large percentage of graduate students knowingly do what my classmates and I in the US would have considered unthinkably wrong.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who is facing this problem. China Daily currently has at least two articles on-line about the subject (click here for "
Fudan" or "Academics").

Chapter two in my forthcoming advanced writing textbook deals with this subject, and my recent experience is making me think I need to add a few things to the chapter before it is published. Whether we like it or not, what we do as individuals (especially educated individuals) can cast an unwanted shadow on everyone around us. Perhaps in some small way, my chapter can help the many Chinese students who write in English to better understand what readers (and especially teachers) expect, which in turn can help improve their reputation as international scholars.

Speaking of my book, my biggest task for the "break" is to proofread the final copy (the editors sent pdf files for me to print and then proof). With over 470 pages, that will take a lot of time. Vivian and I are also going to attend a conference in Thailand in mid-February (Andrew has to stay here to go to school). So, it doesn't look like I'll get time to do much work on this website, but if I do, I'll try to add a note and link below.

Wishing everyone a happy Chinese new year,
Michael Krigline for the family
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February/March Update (Feb 24, 2008)

Dear Friends,

I'm glad that February has an extra day this year--I can always use extra time! As I predicted in January, I didn't get as much done during the Chinese New Year break as I had hoped, but I did work a lot. First I cleaned my office (you couldn't even see the floor) and took care of the most urgent things that I'd been putting off. Then I spent over three weeks carefully proofreading a semi-final copy of my forthcoming textbook. You wouldn't believe how difficult it is to proofread something like this unless you've done it (and then you probably won't want to do it again!). But I hope that all the mistakes and formatting errors I found will be taken out before it goes to press (tentatively in early March, if not before). I'll keep you posted. Then, Vivian and I went to Thailand for a conference (I'm actually writing this from northern Thailand, but we fly back to Kunming tomorrow). University classes begin the next day, but I haven't heard exactly what I'm teaching. I guess I'll find out when I get home. I've added a few photos of Thailand and of our Christmas, but haven't had time to add captions. I expect that the next few weeks will also be busy, as I get into the new semester.

That's all I have time for now!

Michael Krigline for the family  
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April Update (April 3, 2008)

 

Dear Friends,
     My book has finally been published, and that was worth celebrating! (
You can see photos/details of the party by clicking here.) If you look back at the update archive, you'll see that I've been distracted by this project for many years, and at times I thought I'd never hold a copy of Successful Writing for the Real World in my hands, but that day came yesterday when 20 of our colleagues, students and friends joined us to see what came out of the box from the publisher. (You can see the timeline by clicking here.) The party was very short (I had to run back to campus for English Talk Time), but we all had a good time. Many thanks to those who came, especially from the university staff.

     People ask what I'm going to do with my spare time now. My answer is "all the things I've put off for the past four years," including attending to all the out-of-date pages on this website. But don't expect miracles--as a busy college instructor, I rarely have much "spare time"!

     Yesterday was also our son's birthday, but unfortunately we didn't get to celebrate with him. He and his classmates traveled to southern Yunnan for a community service project at an orphanage. (Cameras weren't allowed, so I can't show you any photos.) However, we are planning a "Pirates of the Caribbean" birthday party for our new 15-year-old next weekend (the guys plan to watch all three movies, play Risk and enjoy goodies in an overnight celebration).

     Vivian has been as busy as always, typing, emailing, training the new Jian Hua Services staff person, taking care of our home, planning parties, and traveling to Hong Kong, Lijiang and other places. But she enjoys all the activity and her organizational skills are envied by all.

     That's all the news for the moment (because I have a pile of papers to grade). So, go out and buy my book and get your friends to do the same! You can order the book from your favorite bookstore (in China) using this reference information: ISBN 978-7-5600-7264-7; publisher: 外语教学与研究出版社; Chinese title: 高级实用英语写作. List price: 43.90 RMB.

 

For the family,

Michael Krigline, published author        :)      (back to top) 

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May Update (May 5, 2008)

Dear Friends,

As May reaches for its second week, I feel like I haven't had a moment of rest for a long time. The first week of April was filled with things related to my new textbook (you can see photos/details of the party by clicking here). Then I gave my graduate students an essay assignment, which took forever to mark (I know I'm crazy, but I spent about an hour each working on those drafts, which they will rewrite next week). Then I gave them a midterm exam, which took two weeks to mark (due to other distractions). [Photo: Gimli still hates to be alone, so she jumps onto a lap whenever she can. But it's hard to mark tests with a dog sleeping on your arm, so she had to find another lap once this photo was taken!]

It is difficult to plan ahead when you work in China. For example, even though I knew I'd give an exam in the ninth week, I pushed these essays to the eighth week for the sake of my students. Writing is hard work, and these are all busy medical students, so I felt that it was important to put a little space between their first paper and this second one. The exam was originally scheduled as their "final exam," but many of these students are so keen to study English that they asked the university to let the class continue. Their request was not officially granted until the morning of the exam, but we are glad that we have a few more weeks together. Meanwhile, that exam day was also the day before my three new classes (for undergraduates) started. The undergrad classes don't have a textbook, so I'm once-again creating or adapting materials to use for them. I love doing this, but it does take a lot of time!

Another thing I love is to watch movies with students and friends. This month (Wednesday, in fact) we will get into the Olympic spirit by watching one of my favorite films: Chariots of Fire. I've posted a new study guide to help English-learners enjoy and understand the movie better.

As if we weren't busy enough, it is time to get my son's passport renewed, so we all have to fly to Chengdu later this month to appear at the US Consulate. We've got too much to do to make this a holiday, so we will just stay overnight and fly back, but that will be enough to eat up our "spare time" for another weekend. So, it doesn't look like I'll be doing much to update or fix the pages on this website for a while. But thanks for taking the time to check this update--and don't forget to look at the "what is new" section below.

For the busy family,

Michael Krigline
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June Update (June 13, 2008)

Dear Friends,

As usual, I've got a long list of things to do, but I thought I'd at least better add a short update before the month slips away. Last month's earthquake (in neighboring Sichuan Province) took center-place in everyone's life for a few weeks. When it hit, we already had tickets to fly to Chengdu (Sichuan's capital) a few days later; this was the Hand of Providence, for it allowed us to take a substantial monetary gift and two suitcases of medical supplies to friends who were involved in the relief efforts. The purpose of this trip was to get Andrew's passport renewed at the US Consulate so we stayed only one night, but we felt several aftershocks and saw a lot of "shaken" people. I wish I had time to write more about that trip, but I don't; someday I hope to create a Chengdu page, but that won't likely happen any time soon.

Back here in Kunming, I started negotiations to renew my contract at the medical school on May 16, but it took until June 10 to reach an agreement (which was basically their original offer without my suggested improvements). I looked into some other schools in the area, and they did offer a higher salary and/or better benefits, but in the end the difference was not big enough to justify leaving the students and colleagues I've enjoyed working with for the past year. So, I'll be at Kunming Medical School for at least another year.

That's all the time I have at the moment. I'm meeting students and friends tomorrow at a local theater to see Prince Caspian, so I want to get a study guide ready. Look at the "what is new" section below for recent changes or additions, and come back in a few weeks to see if I've had any more time to be a webmaster as well as an English teacher!

For the family,
Michael Krigline 
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July/August Update (July 13, 2007)

 

Tomorrow we leave for the US, and there's a lot left to do, but here's a quick note to get us through the summer. The purpose of this trip is to celebrate Michael's parents' 50th wedding anniversary. The whole family is gathering for a cruise in Alaska (I'm sure there will be a new page about this beautiful place once we get back). From there, Andrew and I will go to Ohio to spend two more weeks with my parents and sister (Vivian will be back in Kunming with Gimli). Then, in mid-August, we all meet in Beijing to enjoy some of the Olympics! We are looking forward to a wonderful time, and hopefully I won't be too busy in late August to tell you all about it. So, have a good summer and come see us in the fall! 

 

August 31:
     It has been a very busy summer, so I haven't had time to work on our website. Look for new pages in the coming months (when I have time), because we took hundreds of great photos in Alaska, Ohio, and Beijing. For now, I'll just say that my parents' 50th wedding anniversary celebration was wonderful, and we enjoyed four hot days in Beijing cheering for Chinese gold-medal winners. What a memorable summer!
     Yesterday I met 99 of my new students in the morning (I hear that I'll meet another 20 tomorrow). They look like an attentive, smart group of medical students, so I'm looking forward to teaching them. While grading the evaluation test I gave them, my desk started to rock! The earthquake was about 300 km (160 miles) from Kunming, so I haven't heard any reports of local damage, but the ground beneath us has certainly been unstable lately! I'm glad our sense of peace and security is not tied to things that can shake and fall, but to the One who created all of this.
     I'll try to write more soon, but that's all the time I have now!

Michael
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Family reunion on our Alaska cruise

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September (September 11, 2008)

       As I type today's date, I can't help but think of that awful day in 2001 when 3000 people died at the hands of a few evil men. I put the following note on the screen during break-time today: "This day changed all of our lives. Their madness affects us every time we prepare to fly or travel." I thought about this several times this summer: every time I packed my suitcases ("no, this gel and water can't go in my carryon bag..."), or went through security at an airport, boat dock, or Olympic venue. When Andrew was a toddler, we used to walk all over the nearby Columbia airport to watch the planes and people. Today, you can't even enter the Kunming airport without an airplane ticket. At the Olympics this year, security was so tight that we were quickly ushered out of venues once competitions were over, and we couldn't walk anywhere near the Bird's Nest or other "famous" venues. This isn't a complaint--we felt very safe. It is just an illustration of the price we have all paid in the wake of 9-11.
       But today, in China, we are on the eve of another auspicious day in history: the Mid-Autumn Festival. The holiday had been celebrated for centuries when someone got the idea of spreading rebellious messages inside "mooncakes" to help overthrow the Mongol Yuan Dynasty (1200 A.D.- 1368 A.D). Apparently, the Mongols didn't like the cakes any more than I do, so the Chinese could spread their messages without interception.
       What is a "mooncake"? Like western "fruitcakes," they are made and stored months in advance. In short, a mooncake is a pastry shell with one of several fillings, including egg, meat (these are popular in Yunnan), tea, or dried fruit (this latter type being the only one I can handle). Every year, friends, students and university officials are obliged to give us sometimes-expensive mooncakes, which we in turn pass on to thankful Chinese friends (I hope they are thankful!). You can read more about the festival and its traditional treat on many websites, including these: (one, two).
       I will leave my "August 31" note below. Sorry, but I still haven't had time to transform any of my photos into web pages. I'm enjoying my new students, and they seem to like me, too (which is always nice). It's also fun to see former students on campus. The earthquake I mentioned below was followed by another the next day. Neither one did much damage here, but many homes and lives were destroyed near their epicenters. That--like today's date--should remind all of us that no one knows how suddenly one's life will end (due to either a natural or man-made disaster). So, take a moment today to tell special people you love them, and to celebrate the precious gift of life that today brings!

For the family,
Michael
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October update (October 13, 2008)


       Well, I thought I could find time during the early October "National Day" holiday to write a new update, and fix all kinds of stuff on this website, but it didn't happen. There are always more things to do than there are moments to do them in.
       This past weekend, Vivian and I were in Lijiang for Board of Trustees meetings related to the orphanages we are a part of. Vivian has the important role of secretary for the Board, keeping everyone informed of needs and changes, as well as taking the minutes at our meetings. It is always uplifting to meet with the dedicated staff, who oversee more than 100 children of all ages and from a diverse background. Some kids are struggling with their studies (like all children), while others are doing great; more importantly, the staff is helping them to pursue individualized interests while building in them the character traits that will prepare them for a productive life. We are proud to be a part of this important work.
       Andrew is 15, now in his second year of high school. That means a lot more homework, as well as extracurricular activities, so we don't have as much time together. He was elected as a class representative in the Student Government Association, and he continues to serve on the yearbook/journalism staff. Andrew does well in everything he puts his hand to, and we are very proud of him.
       I remain busy with my 122 post-graduate students at Kunming Medical University. Like last year, I am enjoying my role in helping to improve their English level. Several have said that my class is "different" from their former English classes, because everything builds to chances to express themselves in English (instead of just passing tests or learning about the language). Their confidence levels are already starting to grow, for which I'm grateful.
       They also face their first quiz next week, and sitting next to me are hundreds of papers to grade--the result of my lessons last week on basic writing. That should explain why I never find time to add photos or make other changes to this website! (See the "what is new" section below for recent changes.)
       Finally, with world financial markets being shaken, I will close with this advice from some of the greatest minds in history:


He who will not economize will have to agonize.
--Confucius (孔子 or 孔夫子; 551-478 B.C.)
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.
--St Paul (保罗), from Romans 13:8 of the Bible (around A.D. 56)
Neither a borrower nor a lender be; for loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry [i.e., the sensible management of resources].
--Shakespeare (莎士比亚; A.D. 1603), from Hamlet


All those Americans in debt (and the growing number of Chinese people who want to follow America's dangerous "credit" lifestyle) would do well to pay attention to this timeless wisdom.
       I'll keep looking for spare time to add things and make changes in the weeks ahead, so check this page whenever you visit.

Thanks for stopping by!
Michael for the family
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PS (Oct 25): My parents have just become great-grandparents! Congratulations and blessings to my brother's daughter, Carolyn, who had her first baby a few hours ago. These two photos (and more) can be seen at http://aaronandcarolyn.blogspot.com/

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November update (November 3, 2008)

 

       November is the month of "Thanksgiving" (感恩节) in America, and as American expatriates in China we certainly have a lot to be thankful for. Foremost, we are grateful for the growing relationships we have with students, colleagues and friends in Kunming. We are also thankful for the recognition given us recently, when the Yunnan government awarded Michael the Yunnan Friendship Award (彩云奖--click here for details). Another blessing is our continued good health, in spite of long hours and packed schedules. We give thanks for Andrew's good grades and active school life, for Vivian's rewarding work both at home and with Jian Hua Yunnan, for the foreign children that Michael and Andrew continue to teach on Sunday mornings, and even for Gimli's presence in our lives. We are thankful for many blessings in 2008; this provincial award adds to a remarkable year, which included the release of Michael's textbook, a wonderful family-reunion cruise in Alaska, and three days at the Beijing Olympics. With a year this great behind us, we can't wait to see the good things coming in 2009!

       Whether or not the people in your country celebrate Thanksgiving this month, we hope that you will take the time to look back at this past year, and be thankful!

 

The Krigline family        (back to top)  

 

December Update (Dec 12, 2008) 

 

       Our Christmas celebrations are already well underway. We love this time of year, and make many opportunities to share the holiday with students and friends. When I get time, I'll add current photos to the memory-pages for 2007, 2006 and before.

       If you frequently look at the news, you might be tempted to feel despair this Christmas. People are losing jobs, others are taking home less pay, earthquake victims are still living in tents, and my students are complaining that the job-hunting outlook is bleak.

       As I was thinking about this, I found an old poem I wrote as an unemployed, recent college grad. Back in 1984, it helped me put things in perspective as few things like Christmas can! A few moments ago, a Christmas song came up on my computer's playlist, and it was encouraging to hear the chorus: "Hope is born again!" Christmas is not about temporary hope. It is not a hope based on the changing tides of politics or the economy. The hope of Christmas is based on unchanging historical facts and an equally unchanging promise from One who never changes! For two thousand years, this annual holiday has reminded us that Heaven cares deeply about our lives, both now and for eternity!

       So don't look at life through the bad news in the headlines. As my poem says, hope comes by looking from a higher perspective.

 

      Merry Christmas from the Kriglines!             (back to top)  

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