Friday, February 27, 2009

Academia Sinica

It was a really great idea to stay at the Academia Sinica guest house instead of the Howard Plaza Hotel downtown.

In addition to being close to the actual conference and meetings, I was able to get out into some of the real neighborhoods of Taipei (though a nearby Starbucks would have been nice!)

The staff of the Academia were all wonderful and helpful. And those at the guest house went out of their way to make my stay comfortable.

Thanks to you all.

Old and New

One of the disconcerting things about visiting the old temples around Taiwan was the old and new. I suppose we have the same in western churches, but it was strange seeing video displays, LED displays and, as in this example from the Longshan Temple in Danshuie, a compact fluorescent light bulb in the roof of the temple. I some other CFL in the shape of lotus flowers!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Taipei has many, many ...

  • Temples
  • Dogs
  • Motor scooters
  • Interesting foods
  • Confusing streets


  • gracious hosts (Jewel and James right)

5 + 1 things

Here's a list of the six things you can't do in the lovely park next to the Sun Yat Sen Memorial hall:

  1. Swim
  2. Release animals
  3. Fish
  4. Drop toast or crackers in the pond
  5. Litter

and one you have to:
  1. clean up after pets

Taipei Starbucks

Well, it took me a while, but I finally found one!

It pretty much looked like a Starbucks, but there were subtle differences. For instance, an interestingly odd selection of items in the pastry case. Also, they were unable to take a Starbucks card.

The coffee, however, was Starbucks, but I'm not sure what blend.

Chinese Banquet Dinner

I've never been to a Chinese banquet dinner before, so getting to go to the one for the MCN Taiwan attendees was a treat. Especially so since it was at the Silks Palace Restraunt on the grounds of the National Palace Museum.

A number of the dishes were based on art objects in the Museum (e.g. the Jade Cabbage).

Look for a detailed review on UDC641 in the near future.

Pictured here is the opening course, Suckling Pig sampler: smoked pig's ear, crisped pork skin with plum sauce and jellyfish.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

MCN Taiwan 2009

Michael Edson (OCIO) and myself gave a set of presentations at the Museum Computer Network Taiwan meeting in Taipei on February 25.

We had a large (about 150 people) and enthusiastic crowd that was really interested in the work of the Smithsonian and Smithsonian Libraries.

And a special thanks to our session leader James Lin.

NOTE: Michael Edson is a presentation ROCKSTAR. I was lucky I went first!

Here's my presentation:

Shilin Night Market

An amazing show of organized chaos! A huge area of shops, food stalls (pictured here is the turkey, there was also stinky tofu but I didn't get a chance to have any!).

Every once in a while, the cart vendors would suddenly jump up, pack their things and scatter - Police! And then five minutes later, they're back!

A can't miss sight! Thanks to Herminia for being such a great guide.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Academic Housing Smackdown

One of the interesting things about my job is that I get to travel to interesting places and stay in interesting hotels. Some are just fabulous (anything in the Kimpton line), some are really cool (any of the Joie de Vivre hotels in San Francisco, e.g. Hotel Phoenix or the Hotel del Sol), some interesting (Edward II B&B in San Francisco).

The other neat thing about some of the places that I go is that they have their own housing, aka, academic housing. With this trip, I've now stayed in three different academic housing arrangements: Trelease House (Missouri Botanical Garden), Swope Center (Marine Biological Laboratory), and the Academia Sinica Guest House.

All share in common a certain level of college dorm aspects (can you say cinder block? Single beds, cot style?), but all have their charms.

So, how do they stack up and who gets smacked down?

Trelease House (Missouri Botanical Garden)
Trelease House is a renovated apartment building located right next to the Missouri Botanical Garden. Visitors get a room in an apartment, so there are usually three rooms and a shared bath and kitchen. Pros for Trelease? Location! Right next to the Garden and price, very inexpensive. Also, you never know just who you'll be bunking with. Maybe a botanist from Kew or a grad student from China. The kitchen is great if you're staying for a while. Cons? Well, there isn't really anywhere to eat nearby (except for World's Fair Donuts – which, while fabulous, isn't a full service eatery!) Also, don't forget your sundries! No shampoo, soap, or those other things you might find in a hotel!

Swope Center (Marine Biological Laboratory)
Located in a pretty great location, overlooking Eel Pond in Woods Hole, Mass. Woods Hole is beautiful in the summer (so I'm told) but I've only been there in the fall and winter (which offers something special for the lovers of sea ice!). Swope has the advantage of a beautiful setting (even in winter) as well as a cafe and cafeteria attached to it. But the rooms themselves are uber-functional with tiny little cot-like beds. The price is higher than Trelease, but it often includes meals. Also, sundries are lacking (though there was soap last time I was there!).

Academia Sinica Guest House.
With the experience of Swope and Trelease behind me, I was expecting much the same from the Guest House. I was pleasantly surprised to find not only shampoo, but a razor and a comb waiting for me. And not only that, but a mini-fridge. Furnishing were, as expected, functional, but comfortable. Excellent vending machines and a cafeteria attached.

So, who wins? Well, they're all winners, but hey, let's give the nod to Academia Sinica Guest House.(because it's the most recent and because they have beer in the vending machines!). We'll give Swope points for the scary squirrel picture and Trelease a round of applause for the donuts!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

What do you do at 4:30 am in Taipei?

In answer to the above, well, you blog!

If you've just been flying for around 22 hours and have no idea what time it is and wake up after a dream about quality control of your mass scanning project back home (what exactly is 2% again?) and don't want to get dressed and go for a walk around the campus, why not work on the neglected food blog, UDC 641!

Now, since you are all awake on the East Coast of the U.S., you should go read: The Friendly Skies: IAD to TPE.

Now, back to bed!

"Wet Cows in the Courtyard" Tomato Head on Laptop

After landing at TPE, I exchanged some money, went through immigration and customs and went out to look for my driver. There was a huge crowd of waving signs, but I didn't see my name anywhere. I wandered around and did find a giant Tomato Head on a laptop with “I <3 Taiwan” but it wasn't him. Finally we did find each other and we headed out.

Outside where it was pretty warm and humid! The driver didn't speak much English, so we listened to the radio (Chinese pop with a really interesting rendition of “Hotel California” with interesting Chinese/English lyrics, such as “the wet cow in the courtyard”). We eventually arrived at the Academia Sinica and the driver dropped me off at the athletic center swimming pool. It was dark and closed and didn't look like the guest house, so I asked him to stick around a bit (in a combination of singles and panic); we eventually found the guest house around the corner.

The Polar Route to Taipei

Got a ride to the West Falls Church Metro with Mary and Grace; a little tricky finding the entrance to the station, but finally made it. Had plenty of time for the Washington Flyer to IAD, so we all hung out at the stop for a little while.. The bus came and Mary and Grace headed off. Uneventful bus ride to a fairly empty airport. Breezed through check-in and security and went to the gate (C-3). Stopped and got a water at the Starbucks and a neck pillow and small travel bag. Walked up and down the terminal til boarding time.

Had a window seat near the back of the plane (37 J); the plane is a Boeing 777 with at 2-5-2 set up. My seat-mate turned out to be from Taiwan (and heading back to visit his parents) living in Maryland.

There is a personal screen tv, so I got to see my favorite thing, the airplane travel map! The flight left IAD and headed west and north. We were soon over the Great Lakes and into Canada. There were some spectacular views off the frozen Hudson Bay (see picture above) and the landscape of the Northwest Territories. We then turned east over the frozen north, over the Yukon and into Alaska. Again, more spectacular view of mountains and snow.

The first food service was beef tips in gravy with mashed potatoes and string beans (and side salad and chewy oatmeal bar for desert). Later, around 8 pm (Eastern), things turned more Eastern with a bowl of hot Chinese noodles and a pecan wafer.

At about 8:30 pm (Eastern), we left the coast of Alaska and headed out over the Bering Sea. Lots of heavy clouds for quite a while and a fair amount of turbulence. About an hour later, around 9:30 pm (Eastern), we crossed the International date line.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Taiwan 2009

Originally uploaded by martin_kalfatovic
I've been invited to give a presentation at the 2009 TELDAP conference in Taipei, Taiwan.

I'll be heading out tomorrow from IAD to NRT and then on to TPE (that's Dulles -> Tokyo -> Taipei).

Follow the trip on:
  • This blog
  • Twitter
  • For conference Twitter from me and Michael Edson search Twitter tag Teldap09
  • Flickr (I might take some pictures)
Some links: