Empathy – the ability to step into the shoes of another person, aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide our actions. ~Roman Krznaric

While Krznaric and some research suggested that Empathy is a ‘habit’ we can cultivate, I, on the other hand, believe that it is human nature that we are born with.

I learned that from my son, when he was two.

We were in the local supermarket. I was pushing the grocery cart while my two-year-old sat in the top of the cart. Suddenly, some baby burst out crying in the next aisle. My two-year-old was so concerned that he urged me to go ‘hold’ the baby. I told him that it was alright because the baby’s mother must be taking care of him. cryingbabyHe persisted and said, ‘His mother must not be doing a good job’, and he continued to push me to holding the baby. That was when I knew that empathy is a natural instinct.  He was confident that when he cried, I would be comforting him and holding him. By putting himself in the crying baby’s shoe, he understood the baby was in need of someone’s comforting. And his understanding guided his action to urge me to find the baby, to hold him and to comfort him.

Roman Krznaric’s Six Habits of Highly Empathic People outlined some very interesting ‘habits’ to think about. Some of them seem quite manageable such as Cultivate curiosity about strangers so that we can understand the world inside the head of the other person. Krznaric suggested talking to strangers, and that ‘all it requires is courage’, I might add that it also requires some risk taking as well, especially when we were brought up to not to talk to strangers.

Chimamanda Adichie’s Ted Talk about the danger of having only a single story resonates well with me, especially her following words,

“Single story creates stereotype.

The problem with stereotype is

Not that they are untrue, 

They are incomplete, they make one story the only story.”

Empathy requires wisdom (and common sense).

Whenever I hear about the jump-on-the-band-wagon mass actions inspired by single stories, I wish that I had the creativity and means to bring empathy into the picture; or at least (by borrowing Adichie’s words again) to raise an inquiry… What if my roommate knew about the other side’s arguments on China One-Child Policy?! Or about the Tibet Movement?oneChildPolicy2

As Seung Chan puts it in his Realizing Empathy video connecting creativity and empathy, ‘Only when you are willing to listen to a different perspective, will you be surprised by a new way of thinking.’ Here is the video.

Photos used in this article are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.




Food Truck Vendors Segment Reflection

The Food Trucks report on the Live Radio Show was an opportunity for our team to embrace the aptitude of Symphony, i.e. balance, symmetry, harmony, unity,  in our final products.

How is my ability to put together the pieces?

Brainstorming for an overarching topic was a lot fun. As soon as the Food Trucks topic was decided, we sprang into action, and pretty much had just the weekend to produce our artifacts. Preference and Courtney are pro’s who seemed to know exactly what to do and started making things happen while I was still contemplating how and when to meet up with which vendors for the Vendors Segment of the show. I tried my luck with the first truck that came on campus the next day as I was pulling out of the parking lot heading toward my afternoon classes on a different campus. However my limited time did not allow me to talk to the vendor in great details, we decided on a phone interview the next day.

ordering at porchette


Relying on social media for marketing and promoting.

It was then I found out that iPhone prohibits audio-recording while a phone call is taking place. I had to bring my iPhone really close to my Mac, and then start up Audacity to record.  The audio quality inevitably suffered via the two hops (from cell phone to ), although if you listen very carefully, you can still hear most of the content.

How is my ability to see the relationships between seemingly unrelated fields?

I once had a dream to be a radio host, only to be talked out of by a friend who commented that my voice is too ‘scattered’ to grab listeners’ attention on air. Even since then, I have had problem listening to my own voice on a recording. This whole segment about producing a Radio Show was the opportunity for me to live my dream!

While editing the sound track on Audacity, I felt that I owed it to the vendors whom I interviewed to deliver something that reflects them truthfully, I wanted my product to be better than good.

Finding appropriate sound effects from http://www.freesound.org was quite successful. I was pleased to find the tune Taratata which I broke up and intertwined the pieces between the segments of Porchetta‘s interview.  Because of the poor sound quality of the phone interview, I made the choice to use the happy tunes to advance the conversation, and did not include any background sound effects.




Learn Chinese while waiting for your order.


The proud vendor sharing the 100% Sanitation grade.


Frying dumpling, Steaming dumpling.

Did I invent something new by combining elements nobody else thought to pair?

Years of listening to NPR in my long commute days inspired me to begin the Chirba!Chirba! segment with a humorous tune I will follow him because I indeed email-stalked the vendor for two days to find out their whereabouts that Monday evening, and I followed him!

The business owner’s childhood in Taiwan prompted my mental search for a tune that is related to Taiwan. One of the songs I frequently use in my classes, Sorry, my Chinese is not good, popped into my head because the song opens with a Caucasian customer ordering dumpling from a vendor! I was also able to find sizzling audio and doing-dishes audio to be the background of the Chirba!Chirba! interview. When he was describing the pleating session as if it was a party, I dressed it up with a sound clip of people chatting at party.

At the end of the Chirba segment, I included a couple of sound effects of closing the door on the food truck and the revving engine as it was pulling away. Fade-in and fade-out were used sparingly. I adopted the reminiscing monologue to begin and end the segment.

I hope I have produced a unified and pleasing sound that successfully built a relationship between the audience and the food trucks.

My trusted tools for the Vendors segment.

My trusted tools for the Vendors segment: iPhone, Audacity, MacBook, and freesound.org!

The Whole Forest Symphony

Symphony, as defined in Webster dictionary, is the consonance or harmony of color.

Its synonyms are balance, symmetry, harmony, unity, which are the design elements that we learned about in the first few weeks of our class.

So as a world language teacher, what does the ‘symphony’ thinking skill means to me?

Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century (1999) identified “The Five Cs” as the pillars in the standards-based instruction in the world languages classroom. They are Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities.

National Standards of Foreign Language in 21st Century

National Standards for Foreign Language Learning in 21st Century

“…is the ability to put together the pieces…”     ~Daniel Pink

Communication emphasizes what the learners can do with the language so that they can communicate by listening, speaking, reading and writing; and share ideas with each other.

Cultures provide the opportunity for learners to develops a better understanding and appreciation of the relationship between a language and the culture of the given language.

It is not until we understand the culture of the native speaker’s language, do we understand some of the underlined significance of culturally appropriate expressions or behaviors. As the language teacher, my job is not only to teach them the pronunciation, the vocabulary and the grammar only, but to also share with them the rich culture of the people for them to develop the ability to connect the origin and the outcome.

One of the most discussed differences between the eastern and western family structures is how the society views the family dynamics between adult children and the parents.  In the westerners’ eye, it is considered ‘odd’ when an adult child, especially a son, still lives with the parents, let alone a married couple still live with the in-laws. While the western culture encourages independence and individualism, the Chinese culture holds a deep regard to the Confucian philosophy of filial piety which is a virtue of respecting one’s parents and ancestors. Living with the parents or in-laws is precisely one of the ways to show respect and to look after them on a daily basis.

“…to see relationships between seemingly unrelated fields…”        ~Daniel Pink

Connections is about connecting the study of the world language with content of other subjects such as math, music, science, etc.  There is endless opportunities for world language teachers to collaborate and team up with teachers in other discipline on joint projects which allow learners from both disciplines cross-learn some aspects of the subjects and maximize their

appreciation of the enriched curriculum. I often team up with visual arts and dance teachers to integrate performing arts and visual arts elements in my curriculum. There are also units that integrate science and social studies with the target language.


Joined lesson with Dance class.


Joined lesson with Visual Arts class.

Comparisons is about encouraging learners to compare and contrast the languages, the practices and the products between the target language and the native language.

Many Chinese speakers have a hard time using ‘he/him/his’ and ‘she/her/her’ correctly when they speak English.  It is because in Chinese, while ‘he’ and ‘she’ are represented by two different characters, they share the same pronunciation. It becomes a challenging effort to differentiate them in speaking English.

Many non-Chinese speakers find it bothersome when encounter such error from a Chinese speaker, and misunderstanding occurs. Once we develop the understanding of the cause, we will be more empathetic about the grammatical error, and will be more receptive to the actual content of what the speaker tries to convey.

“…to invent something new by combining elements nobody else thought to pair..”        ~Daniel Pink

Communities, as the last pillar in the Standards, is about extending the learning experience from the classroom to the community, as well as being a life long learner who can continue the learning on their own after they leave the language learning program.  As a teacher, it is my job to sustain that curiosity and desire to learn, and to help the learner to acquire the skills to learn on their own.  It is different from the way I was taught where the teacher’s job is to ‘spoon feed’.


Field trip to local Chinese grocer,
learning outside of classroom.


Reading the label in target language.

A well-equipped language lab used to be the ‘technology’ for a world language program in most schools not too long ago.  In 21st Century classroom, the technology has evolved to interacting globally via the internet with web 2.0 tools over the cloud.

Education, particularly in Asia, is a competitive field where students constantly compete with each other for good grades and to get in top-ranked universities. The concept of collaborating was virtually unheard of. However, one of the 21st Century skills is collaboration – a very foreign concept for many native Chinese teachers, and definitely a challenge to be taken into account when creating lesson plans.

“…to produce a unified and pleasing sound.”               ~Daniel Pink

Symphony thinking is about establishing relationships. It enhances language and presentation skills. To be an effective world language teacher, it is imperative that we embrace Pinks’ symphony aptitude to achieve that whole new mind, and find a whole new approach in curriculum design. Just as it is not about the bassoon player or the first violinist but with the entire orchestra (Pink, A Whole New Mind), it is not about any particular tree, but about fostering the ability to see the forest when it comes to teaching a foreign language.

Must consider sound effects !!!


I felt pretty good after I completed the Shoe Story even though it seemed like it was a painful experience battling with one of  SoundCloud’s links to be embedded on the post.  I was pleased with the purity and cleanness of the audio which matches the student who was doing the storytelling.

But after the Studio session, I have learned to see the production from another angle. Going with the original idea of a sort-of-a radio show interviewing a budding media-artist, a jingle in the beginning annoSoundEffects5uncing the start of the program and a musical fade-out at the end for a closure would have been a nice finishing touch.

As the story teller speaks of the crowd in the mall, I could add some hustle-sound-effects1bustle crowd sound in the background to set the atmosphere.


Even when the story gets to the point about tossing out the old shoes, I could think of a way to record and incorporate the sounds of a garbage truck engine approaching, braking, the movement of the mechanical ‘arm’ reaching out from the truck grabbing the trash can,  and finally leaving. That will certainly bring some life to part 1.  garbageTruck

Part 2 of the interview is more of the storyteller’s own reflection on his work.  Will sound or music be effective there?  I cannot think of any appropriate sound to be added to the background, but perhaps a couple measures of light music in between to allow some breathing or thinking space for the audience.

sound-effects2Jenn’s series of audio clips documenting her day with her daughter is very enlightening.  I have learned that it is a very organic style of telling a story, yet it conveys so much even though some tracks are just pure sound of what’s happening in the surrounding without anyone talking, such as the dishing washing, the baby crying ….

Sound – is a wonderful element! Must consider sounds in the next project.


(Darn it, I just thought about this…, should have presented this reflection in an audio clip and added some sound effects…. That would have been great lesson learned! )

Graphics borrowed from:

1. http://roadforce.blogspot.com/p/links.html

2. http://jingles.ivmmusic.com/

3. http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/55-great-websites-to-download-free-sound-effects/

4. http://www.last.fm/music/Sound+Effects+Library

5. http://www.spoonflower.com/fabric/1143940

6. http://www.videomaker.com/videonews/2012/11/videomaker-challenge-7-sound-effects-only

A shoe story …. not that shoe story….

Bring to you live from Chapel Hill, here is Wesley….. and the Shoe story

<enter commercial break>

not-so-happy shoe.. worn-out... to be replaced...

not-so-happy shoe.. worn-out… replaced…

<return from commercial break>

reflecting on the Shoe Story process...

reflecting on the Shoe Story process…

Interviewer: Vanessa (genuinely interested in the subject)

Interviewee: Wesley (a 3rd year Media Studies student)

Recording device: iphone5

Tech-tools used:

  • GarageBand – (my Audacity was not working at the time)
  1. I edited out some of the ‘like, like, like, …’ !
  2. I played with fade-in/fade-out, but did not like the result so I un-did the attempts,
  3. I broke the interview into Part 1 and Part 2. My original concern was that the audio clip might be too long. But after I separated the track, I was really pleased at the result. The most part of Part 1 is to tell the story, and an narration of how the artist went about arranging for the videography. Part 1 ends strategically  on a thought provoking reflective phrase how to personify things like put themselves into other people’s shoes!  It provides a great segue into Part 2 which is mainly a reflection and self-assessment on the artist’s part.
  4. During the interview, there are noticeable camera shutter sounds (those are my sound effects, no…, just kidding… :D). Those were the two photographs I took using the same recording device. I considered tweaking/minimizing the sounds but, at the end, decided to leave them there because they add a little curiosity and whimsicality there.
  • SoundCloud
  1. It was easy to drop a sound file into the Cloud. Cris did a great job scaffolding the skills that we need for this project by giving us an exit task on SoundCloud after the class meeting last Thursday.
  2. However, embedding the audio track in WordPress is a bit challenging. I did exactly the same thing for both tracks, but one showed up in WordPress, while the other consistently displayed the link only.
    same technique, two results !

    same technique, two results !

    All these links....!! Which one is for WordPress?

    All these links….!! Which one is for WordPress?

  3. When I ‘share’d the track from SoundCloud, it gave me a popup with three options: Link, Widget Code, WordPress Code. Guess which one I chose the first time? Of course, #3! Isn’t that obvious!? The one that is dedicated to WordPress! Well, surprisingly, that one did not work. I then went to #2, then #1, I even tried the ‘pencil’, and the ‘Short’ link…. The result? I either got the same URL when ‘preview’ed, or nothing at all… the code completely disappeared after I returned to the editor.
  4. I Googled for expert opinions, I visited discussion forums…, thank goodness, I wasn’t the only one that experienced this kind of problem. But at the end of two hours of exploration, I finally sent out an S.O.S. , and went to sleep.
  5. I came back to WordPress the next day, and suddenly…. both tracks were embedded nicely in my blog! (I did not change a thing!!) >.<, The SoundCloud Genie must have come out last night to the rescue!!!
  6. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will remain this way tomorrow!

Design elements attempted

  1. Trimming: the two ends, and some extended pauses were trimmed.
  2. Silence: Having silence in an interview does not work for me. I think it has its place definitely in a play or drama for building up the emotions, tension, etc. But this particular story is part-story-part-documentary.
  3. Fade in/ fade out, cross-fade: I attempted these, but decided that they were too distracting.
  4. Sound effects/music: I considered these briefly and forewent. Why? Here is my logic. Since this is a college student’s assignment, I intended to keep it at its purest form, most down-to-earth, honest, unscripted. I want the story to be told unedited. To match  his status as a student and to maintain a sense of academia, I consciously made an effect to have nothing fancy, nothing ‘dressed up’.  I was after the ‘transparent’ sound… of … sincerity and genuinity. The Art of Foley sound effects video is quite inspiring. It adds a very professional and sleek finish to the production. That will be for another time, another story.

If you are interest …… here is Wesley’s finished video production. Oh, the requirement for the assignment: Sounds Not Allowed!! 

Once upon a time ….

In a poem written at about 1000B.C., it talks about the integrity of a JunZi, i.e. a superior person who upholds all the virtues.


The story goes….

Once upon a time, an ordinary man walked through a melon field, and one of his shoes got stuck in the field. The man quickly bent down to fetch the shoe. The melon farmer saw that and thought he was trying to steal the melons.

Retrieving a shoe in the melon field.

Retrieving a shoe in the melon field.

Similarly, another ordinary man walked under a plum tree with low-hanging branches. The branches messed up his headpiece. While he was stretching his arms upward to fix his headpiece, the plum farmer came running and yelling, thinking that this man was stealing his plums.

Fixing his hat under the plum tree.

Fixing his hat under the plum tree.

The moral of the combined Idiom stories advise us that to be a true JunZi (i.e. a superior person), one would rather leave the shoe behind than risk to be suspected that he might be picking the melons from the ground.  Likewise, one would also give up the headpiece without attempting to fix it in the second story in order to avoid the suspicion of stealing the plums on the hanging branches.

This idiom, In the Melon Field Under the Plum Tree, was recorded in the first Poetry Collection, Shi Jing, in 1000 B.C.  This is the first Idiom Story that I shared with my students to remind them to never get themselves into a suspicious situation such as looking down at something under the desk during a test.

Growing up, I have loved listening to Idiom Stories that explain the etymology of an idiom.  Most idioms typically convey positive messages or constructive lessons.

We love stories!

Children love stories, and grown-ups love stories….

Story-telling is a powerful tool to engage students in second language acquisition.

Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Story-Telling (TPRS) is a methodology that facilitates a natural order of acquisition by focusing on Contextualized Comprehensible Input through auditory and written means while collaboratively creating a story in an interactive manner with the teacher and the students.  Students are captivated by the development of the plot first hand because they are experientially responsible for the turns and twists in the story line, with linguistic guidance from the teacher.

Ira Glass’s comments (advices) are interesting… and some are encouraging such as “failure is a big part of success”.  I often encourage my students to feel safe to make lots of mistakes, because learning from the mistakes make the experience so much more meaningful.

However, his comments on Radio, such as those below, left me dumbfounded.

“One of the problems with being on public radio is that people tend to think you’re being sincere all the time.”

Where radio is different than fiction is that even mediocre fiction needs purpose

I believe that in order for a story to be GREAT, it must be meaningful! And to be meaningful, it needs to have a function and/or purpose. The primary purposes are: to inform, to convince, to stimulate, to entertain. I found it difficult to accept that good stories can come from someone who is insincere about the story they are telling.

Best seller novelist James Scott Bell pointed out that most writers are not

James Scott Bell

James Scott Bell

content merely to write a good story. They want to “say something.”  “that something” he said, “is usually called the meaning of a story. Meaning is the “big idea.” It is the moral message that comes through at the end. And all great stories have one.”

Andrew Stanton

Andrew Stanton

Filmmaker Andrew Stanton, who wrote Toy Story and Finding Nemo, says,

“The greatest story commandment is: Make me care.”  

Now, THAT is what I consider sincere! And once upon a time, the meaning of a story mattered.


  1. How to apply TPRS for Best Results, Carol Gaab, http://tinyurl.com/akhudgy
  2. What makes a story meaningful, Don Edgers, http://www.tiny-lights.com/searchlights.php?id=517
  3. Writing a Meaningful Story, James Scott Bell, http://www.right-writing.com/meaningful.html
  4. http://www.jamesscottbell.com/
  5. http://latimesherocomplex.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/stanton.jpg

I once was lost ….

I must say –

THE   PAST   TWO   WEEKs    have been an amazing grace for me !!

From    I once was lost ….

lost? me?

Design to me is . . . . ?

then . . .morning has broken, in search of enlightenment … .

observe and contemplate

Elements? Principles? Rule of Thirds, Unity, Rhythm, balance . . .

I am trying to see your point..,

try to see

The benefits of understanding design elements, principles or guidelines ‘far exceed acting solely in intuition’. ~Preference

WAIT . . . I THINK I got it !!


…when it comes to Arts, the most obvious answer is not always the right one. ~Meredith

I can see the Movement … or is it Graduation …?

It's a MULE, it's a HORSE . . . (Cris is shaking her head)

It’s a HORSE, it’s a MULE . . .
(Cris is shaking her head)

But John Cleese said,

While you are being creative, nothing is wrong.

So, I am . . .

... getting my feet wet, one step at a time.

… getting my feet wet, one step at a time.

and trying …

one, two, three, ... again ...

one, two, three, … again …

Slowly, but surely, …

up we go ...!

up we go …!

I feel I am empowered . . . I can do it . . .

. . . ready? GO !!!

. . . ready? GO !!!

I believe I can fly - I believe I can touch the sky!

I believe I can fly –
I believe I can touch the sky!

And while we explore the new excitement together, go for a ride on the magic carpet, we will sure find  – awaiting for us is . . .

a brand new world !!!

a brand new world !!!

And Cris, we TRUST you!



Ooops! I did it again…..  (・_・;)

I wandered into the kitchen to get a snack, and was completely distracted by the surrounding dots, lines, planes, shapes, and textures….  Not a moment wasted, I started snapping with my iPhone. What just happened here? The kitchen did not change. In fact, I haven’t cleaned it up for several days now…  But suddenly, my visual sensory is super sensitive now…. I am NOTICing things… these things… called design elements!!

I imported the pictures to my Mac, and started identifying … this is pattern, this is texture, no…, wait, that is variety, and this is pattern…. hmmm, can this be both pattern and movement?  Hey, did I just kill two birds with 1 stone?!!

A quick chat with Cris the next day brought clarity. You see, I was supposed to have a clear target first before I hunt for the object, hence, the ‘safari’!! e.g. I should put a target on my radar, say, pattern, and then put on my night-vision to find an object that represents pattern.  No problem, here we go…..

Let’s see…. refrigerator, what’s in there….?

voilà, a dozen eggs…! alRIGHT!!!

Pattern !!

Pattern !!

Now, I’m on my way…. to design…!

wordleElements2This assignment turned out to be a lot of fun paying attention to the surrounding objects, taking pictures, trying out the lighting, flash-on, flash-off, zoom…?

Ah… don’t forget the Rule of Thirds, the Rule of Perspective,….

The Oatmeal for YinYang Balance is a play of positioning myself and the angle of iphone in my hand. Wallwisher does not seem to accommodate vertical image, and it rotates my original to a horizontal image yielding a sunrise effect. Here is the original.

Play with positioning myself and my iPhone.

Play with positioning myself and my iPhone.

Emphasis: Vaseline effect to bring out the center.

Emphasis: Vaseline effect to bring out the center.

I was very pleased to acquire the Vaseline effect on the circumference of the Barley. Can you guess how I accomplished that?

effect from shift the angle again

effect from shifting the angle again … slowly

Another interesting kaleidoscope effect on the Barley.

a creamy texture!

a creamy, yet chunky texture!


Pattern ?

I really like the creamy, yet chunky texture on the guacamole, although it didn’t make it to my wall – because texture is not one of the 10 elements! So I am sharing it here.

A sprig of cilantro would have been a nice garnish to add some lively green to it.

Another vertical image that Wallwisher decides to rotate to horizontal.  So  it is left off the wall.

I am displaying it here for reference.

Is it still a pattern that the holders are not all occupied with bottles?

I must have taken 50 shots trying to capture the split nanosecond of water drops leaving the faucet on its way to the white bowl. Can you hear the rhythm too? It was surreal-ly zen-like!

The white bowl does not do any justice to the actual splatter caused by the force of the tiny water drops. Perhaps a blue glass bowl next time…. If you look (/listen) very closely, you can see (/hear) the tiny ripples it creates.

I got rhythm, I got music, who can ask for anything more…?

I am almost done… two more to go…

Movement… movement… what’s moving in my kitchen…

Aha! Got it!! Flame!! Of course !!!

The most primitive energy…fire!! I need it to cook! The flame heads upwards, always! To capture it, I tried a few shots during the day, and again later at night.

natural light from window

Daytime, natural light from window.

Rule of Thirds!!!

I got it!!

At Night, with peripheral light from the far left.

At Night, with peripheral light from the far left.

Up, up, and away… !!!

You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life… dig in the Dancing Flame

I must say that I like the effect at night, with a soft peripheral light from far left behind me. I also decided that the flash light must be turned off, otherwise, it white-washes the beautiful purple center… and yields a pale sheen on the grill. (Ugh.. who needs THAT!)

in darkness

In darkness.

With all the lights gone, in complete darkness. The flame looks a little eerie to me. The surrounding lacks definition.

Proportion is the last one I worked on…

I was planning to stop by the local market and rearrange some of the fruits in the produce section for the effect … but … suddenly (literally … as I am typing this….), here is the result! (I don’t use these measuring cups often, almost forgot that I have them.)



Last but not least, please indulge me a little for explaining the 8 Treasures Soup.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine principles, food makes natural tonics to good health when you prepare it right. The “Eight Treasures Soup”  is a dessert or snack which is consumed like winter tonic food on wintry days such as Winter Solstice and Chinese New Year.  The original recipe calls for eight ingredients.  The number eight is a lucky number in the Chinese culture.    Different versions of the eight treasures yield different properties for healing.  But essentially, it is all about balancing the energy (i.e. qi or chi, as we know it in U.S. ) and boost immune power. Key ingredients include red bean, red dates, lotus seeds, longan, sweet rice, millet (I used Brown Rice), Orange Peel, and brown rock sugar.  Some call it “Eight Treasures Congee” because of the inclusion of sweet rice and millet or brown rice.

The journey from ingredients to center piece.

The journey from ingredients to center piece.

I first arranged the 8 treasures in small cups for the pattern elements. Then added them to the boiling water which calmed the water down. Brought it to a boil again – this was captured with a series of boils that were intensified progressively – yielding the graduation effect. To achieve the visual effect of graduation, the photos were carefully re-sized, and the spaces between the photos also grow with the size of each photo.  Two Wallwisher posts were used to extend the length, i.e. denoting the ‘journey‘. The final outcome was placed in the center of the happy circle along with the 7 accompanying ingredients (one of ingredients was depleted in the journey //_o\). On hind sight, I should probably have taken a close up on the soup alone as the grand finale.  Nonetheless, Bon Appetit!

Enjoy my wall, iDesign . . .  http://wallwisher.com/wall/7w53xl9kt1

what about design?

I first saw the poster in the local Apple store, and I fell in love with it instantly!

It reminds me of Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell.

Despite of being called genius, crazy ones, outliers…, these are individuals who are committed, engaged, and possess a great amount of perseverance! They don’t follow the status quo, they don’t follow the norm. But, they make a difference!

How would I make a difference…? By communicating effectively… via visual communication!

Design, to me, used to be an intuition,… at a moment,…. spontaneous.  I knew I was missing something, but what?

St. Clair’s explanation of Visual Grammar and Visual Principles showed me a new perspective in understanding design. The Visual Space actually has its organization!

The discussion on the left and right hemispheres (note 2) helped me understand why left-brain dominant people sometimes have such difficulties understand the right-brain counterparts.

Gestalt claimed that human beings have the natural ability to organize images based on similarity, proximity and others. And mostly the interpretation can be drawn from personal experience and familiarity.

With these in mind, I am starting to see my surroundings differently now. To start off, my two favorite artists immediately came into focus, Kandinsky (1866-1944) and Mondrian (1872-1944). Their compositions portray a series of emphasis on colors, patterns, repetition, balance, …..

Kandinsky Pattern, Variety

Kandinsky Pattern, Variety


Kandinsky was also an accomplished musician, he used color in a highly theoretical way associating hue with pitch, and saturation with the volume of sound. He even claimed that when he saw color he heard music.

Kandinsky - variety, unity

Kandinsky – Variety, Unity

Mondrian Proportion, Rhythm

Mondrian Proportion, Rhythm


Mondrian believed it is possible that, through horizontal and vertical lines constructed with awareness, but not with calculation, led by high intuition, and brought to harmony and rhythm, these basic forms of beauty, supplemented if necessary by other direct lines or curves, can become a work of art.]

Mondrian Rhythm, irregular,proximity,

Mondrian – Rhythm, Irregular, Proximity,

Wright lines,pattern,harmony

Wright – Lines, Pattern, Harmony


In the same timeframe, Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) also playfully employed straight lines and colors into his works.

Wright variety,emphasis

Wright – Variety, Emphasis

As a teacher of the Chinese Language, I am more reminded of Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences which suggested the natural intelligence of each individual determines how one best learns. It is critically important that my instructional design includes the variety of visual principles to aid my visual communication with the students. Particularly when it comes to explaining the etymology of the characters, I must draw their attention to the visual elements of each characters. Design, as Daniel Pink puts it, is utility enhanced by significance! … and I’ll be on my way to change the world!

The following two video clips explain the significance of understanding the etymology of characters for anyone who may be interested to know a little about Chinese characters.


Note 1: St. Clair explained that Visual Grammar distinguishes dot, line, shape, space, color, texture, value and form, and these elements are further arranged into Visual Principles of Unity/Harmony, Variety, Balance, Emphasis, Rhythm, Movement, Pattern, Graduaion and Proportion. Visual thinking is spatial thinking. Bicognitive refers to the ability in visual thinking as well as linear thinking. Arnheim noted that artistic expression is a form of reasoning.

Note 2: The left hemisphere is specialized for linear thinking, logic and analytical abilities. The right hemisphere is involved with  concrete thinking, processing of spatial patterns relations and transformations. It appreciate the complexity in complex sounds, music, voices and tones, and face recognition.  The right hemisphere is the imaginative and creative part of the brain.

Daily Create Reflection

Creativity is not a talent; it’s a way of operating. ~ Cleese

I have been told that I am very creative, resourceful and spontaneous.

I have only skimmed though the Csikszentmihalyi’s transformative theory of Flow and John Cleese on Creativity before I started the Daily Create activities. It’s not until after the 7th DC, I sat down again and watched these two video clips in greater detail.

After I finished watching them, I was able to reflect on the 7 DC’s that I completed. I was kind of glad  that I did not watch the clips in detail in advance, otherwise, I would not have had the same realization that I had then. I would have been too purposefully trying and looking for all the fine points the two speakers made – it would have ruined the spontaneity in my creation.

You see, I am a ‘serious’ person when it comes to work and assignments. Somehow I have a clear distinction between work time vs. play time. Doing work with a playful mind is a big stride out of my comfort zone. This old baggage is mostly because of the choice of words. Growing up, I was taught that ‘play’ are what you do to relax and is never productive, whereas ‘work’ is productive. )

#1 tdc 359

Decision... Decision...

Decision… Decision… (photographed by Joanne)

… start generating random connections, and allow your intuition to tell you if one might lead to something interesting. ~ Cleese

I took a few minutes to ponder the daily choices I have to make… Walking around in the kitchen trying to find inspiration, checking out the items in the refrigerator, moving from the kitchen into the garage… and saw a few of my crocs lying on the floor. I have over 10 pairs of crocs! And every morning I will decide which pair to wear. On some days, I may have a green on my right foot, and a yellow on my left foot. Running late … and do not have enough time to ponder.

#2 tdc 363

My most valued tools..!

My most valued tools..!   (photographed by Joanne)

… step back and contemplate the wider view. – Cleese

It did not take me long to have an idea about this prompt ….  I AM a nerd and, in some ways, like to do certain things in an old fashioned way! I do not own a microwave oven.  I use the regular pots-and-pans for reheating leftovers… just like my grandma. The first idea I had was actually my round-bottomed wok. It was when I started writing the idea down on a piece of scrap paper, I noticed the pencil and paper that I was using. YES! I still like to write myself a note with them. In fact, I worry about some of my students’ inability to write without using a keyboard.

So I might add…  personal experience   contributes greatly to being creative.

#3 tdc 364

paired opposites...

Paired opposites…   (photographed by Joanne)

it’s also easier to do little things we know we can do, than to start on big things that we’re not so sure about. ~ Cleese

“What happens if I do this? What would happen if we did that? What if…?” ~ Cleese

The ultimate opposite that came to my mind is black and white.

I have a black and white Border Collie.

I contemplated switching the two colors around, but quickly realized that I probably need Photo Shop to do that.  After trying 30 minutes with the limited editing tools I have, I came to decide that I would switch out the background on the image.

#4 tdc 366

Happy Birthday, DC!

Happy Birthday, DC! …..(photographed by Joanne)

Intermediate Impossibles – try loosening up your assumptions by playing with deliberately crazy connections.  ~ Cleese

Humor is an essential part of spontaneity, an essential part of playfulness, an essential part of the creativity… ~ Cleese

While pondering what I should portray, I decided that it would not be a regular celebratory item for birthdays or anniversaries. I wanted to highlight the objective of DC, and encourage the audience to participate in the creative process.

#5 tdc 367

A poem about Cats.....

A poem about Cats….. (written by Joanne)

Creativity is not possible in the closed mode. ~ Cleese

This DC prompt caused me the longest pondering time!  I am a DOG person, not a cat person (although I do like Garfield and Hello Kitty)!

To help me loosen up, I started going through the checklist of the 5 conditions: Space, Time, Time, Confidence, Humor. I stumbled right there on #4:confidence and #5: humor ! I am not good in writing poems. In spite of maximum pondering time, this one did not turn out as I had hoped for.

#6 tdc 368

Is the background blurry.... nah....

Is the background blurry…. nah….(photographed by Joanne)

When you’re playing, nothing is wrong. ~ Cleese

This is actually my first DC, as I started the assignments in the evening of Jan 10.

When I first read the description, my Closed Mode kicked in!  I started to get a little tensed. My first thought was: I don’t have a real camera, nor a lens that can help me to blur the background. I went straight to the posted tutorial hoping to get some ideas. I then googled the topic ‘panning’ on iphone. I found a couple of articles about using the ‘panorama’ option to ‘pan’.  I thought about standing on the street corner to photo the passing cars, but then scratch the idea because it was already too dark outside.

The rolling apple example gave me the idea of a rolling orange.  Using the panorama feature on my iphone, I must have taken 50 different shots with different moving rates… only to find out later that panning is not ‘panorama’. But the bright side? I have learned how to use the panorama feature while taking a picture.  Here I come, Great Wall, and Grand Canyon!

#7 tdc 371

Excuse ...

Excuse …(written by Joanne)

Humor is a natural concomitant in the open mode, but it’s a luxury in the closed. ~ Cleese

Give your mind as long as possible to come up with something original. ~ Cleese

If writing is one of my worst skills, then humor is the runner up! This is an area that I could work on.

#8 tdc 372

My favorite place to work...

My favorite place to work…(photographed by Joanne)

You must make a quiet space for yourself where you will be undisturbed. ~ Cleese

This is my favorite (& normal….) work space where I can spread thing out and be messy. But I know where things are….  The other quiet ‘space’ is when I lie down in bed at night, moments before falling asleeep … my mind will travel through n dimensions and sometime generates the most creative and productive ideas.

#9 tdc 374

Food, Glorious Food ....!

Food, Glorious Food ….!  (photographed by Joanne)

these new connections or juxtapositions are significant only if they generate new meaning. ~ Cleese

I like to cook. I like taking pictures of the food I cook or eat.

Having a Flickr account now gives me an idea to compile a ‘menu’.  Whenever I offer to cook for someone, they can just go to this ‘menu’ and ‘order’ what they like to have.

#10 tdc 375

by Joanne

Bridge over fast-running water.. (sketched by Joanne)

Nothing will stop you being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake. ~ Cleese

….while you’re being creative, nothing is wrong. There’s no such thing as a mistake, and any drivel may lead to the break-through. ~ Cleese

I can’t draw!
Granted, in my class, I often doodle stick figures to make a point. And my students will laugh about them.. but the laugh also helps them recall the content. So is it the ‘Open Mode’ on their part such that the affective filter is lower and they are more relaxed to seize the learning moment?


The very essence of playfulness is an openness to anything that may happen, the feeling that whatever happens, it’s okay…. ~ Cleese

In John Cleese’s speech, he described that Creativity occurs when one plays for one’s enjoyment.  Though I don’t disagree, I would submit that if we enjoy our work so much that ‘working’ is just as much fun as ‘playing’, not only we would be highly creative, but we would also be in flow as suggested by Csikszentmihalyi’s seven indicators in his Flow theory.

Edward de bono, a pioneer in lateral thinking, described the PO tools of Intermediate Impossible, Random Juxtaposition, and Change without Rejection, which led to his later work of using the Six Thinking Hats method in communicating and establishing productive work teams.

You can act without certainty – your action might not be right in the absolute sense, but you are ready to “change it as soon as circumstances demand”. ~ De Bono