Thursday, August 26, 2010


The Centre employs mostly women: that's just how the field of conservation is these days. It can occasionally feel a little middle-schoolish, when personalities clash, but most of the time things are smooth sailing.

So it should come as no surprise that one day back in the Paper Section we ended up talking about shoes. Most of the paper conservators actually have small feet, but, mutant that I am, my feet are the smallest.

At this point in the conversation, one of the paper conservators (Sam) disappears beneath her bench, rummages around, and emerges with a pair of shoes. Turns out that she has a shoe-purchasing problem. Even if the shoes are a size too small for her, she buys them anyway, hoping that they will fit. She wears them once, is uncomfortable, and sadly pushes the shoes to the back of her closet.

Until now. Now she is pushing the shoes toward me. Which is totally awesome for me!

I came in to work on day, and these were sitting on my chair.

Sam is a serious swing dancer. Her dancing partner gave her a pair of shoes last year for a birthday present: they were too small, so he got her a second (properly fitting) pair. However, since he is a man-child, he never returned the too-small ones. A year later, he's cleaning his apartment and finds them. Too late to return them! Sam scoops them up, and they find their way to my little feet. Thanks for being irresponsible, Man-Child Paul!


I did not pay them. They paid me.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Beth Gets Married

One of my childhood friends got married almost two weeks ago. And of course I went back to Western PA for the wedding! And this is the only picture that I took the entire weekend.

Beth and her Dad. (Mum's photos from here on out).

Chris and Beth do the cake thing rather gracefully.

Awww... old friends!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

New Hair

Two weeks ago, I had Redhead Mohawk Richard cut off 2/3 of my hair. And it's wonderful! I should have done this a long time ago.

I tried to take this shot in my kitchen, in front of my formidable collection of vintage copper Jell-O Molds (inherited from Grandma) so that all could be impressed, but alas. My Big Head blocked them in each shot.

Jane Austen Fight Club

This is going to take a long time to get old.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

In Which I'm on (Internet) TV

Ages ago, before it was a thousand degrees and 150% relative humidity outside, a film crew came to the Conservation Centre. They were from the online arts and culture Ovation network, filming an episode of the travel show "The Scenic Route" in southeast Pennsylvania. And the show's theme was basically "fixing old stuff." Somehow, they found us - the CCAHA.

So, we know the tv crew is coming, and that they're going to profile one treatment project, probably in the paper section. I'm one of like twelve people in that section.

Projects are being doled out.

Supervisor Mary says, "Jess K. You're assigned Converse Accession Number Whatever."

I say, "Cool."

Supervisor Mary says, "PS. Hope you don't mind being on TV."

It ended up being a ridiculously long day in which I was asked the craziest conservation questions since my grad school interview. At certain times, I don't exactly know when, you'll be able to watch the show. Follow this link, it will tell you. I kind of never want to see it. Unless, of course, I'm totally awesome.

Host David took a number of casual snapshots after the filming. Keep in mind that this was at like 4:30 in the afternoon. We had all arrived early, and had all been told what colors we should not wear (white, black, red, patterns). We all ended up wearing green and purple. Like all forty of us.

I'm really very professional, I promise.

J-man and Tamara roll their eyes at David's skillz.

He was entranced by how we use dental tools for non-dental purposes.

These images and a brief blurb are from David's show-centric blog.

Monday, August 9, 2010

I am Tall in Taiwan (touch your heart)

My last night in Taiwan, we (Liang, Lena, me, their parents) met up with their Grandparents for a big dinner.

At the time, I had no idea how gigantic and caucasian I looked.

Liang's Grandparents - so cute! Her Grandma was like the Taiwanese version of my own Grandma. So cute I wanted to put her in my pocket and keep her as my own.

After dinner we walked to the Grandparent's local temple. Some sort of ceremony was going on, but neither Grandparent knew what kind of ceremony. So we watched for a bit, then headed back outside, where Liang's Dad attempted to convince us that we wanted to go to the snake market. Where they kill the snakes and drink their gall bladders - medicinally - I believe. He was at his most persuasive with the phrase, "All kinda snakes!!!"

We wiggled out of the snake-killing-outing and spent the rest of the night packing, watching terrible (ie actually awesome) 1970s Chinese movies, and eating yet more snacks purchased from the local 7-11.

It was a fantastic trip. It was so much fun to hang out with Liang and Lena, constantly eating almost tasty tasty things, seeing the sights. And I will owe them for such a fab time for years!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Zhisan Garden

On the grounds of the National Palace Museum is the Zhisan Garden. The interwebs inform me that the garden is in the traditional Song and Ming styles. It was lovely and shady and cool.

And you could feed that massive koi. There were coin-operated fish-food dispensers. Liang and Lena scolded little boys who were feeding the koi bread. The little boys weren't phased: they just ran to a different part of the pond and continued tossing bread to the fish. Kids these days!

Friday, August 6, 2010

National Palace Museum

We spent a morning at the enormous National Palace Museum. My get-into-museums-free card worked! As I knew it would! Henceforth I ask not good fortune. I myself am good fortune.

Thanks for the aerial shot, Wikipedia. Sans wide-angle lens and/or helicopter, I was unable to manage a complete shot of the main-building. Awesome fact: the museum is built into a mountain! And what could be more perfect than what is essentially a cave-museum for the long term preservation of these objects? Nothing!

The National Palace Museum was established in 1925 as the Palace Museum in Beijing, in mainland China, and was formed from the collections of the former Imperial family. These included ceramics, paintings, calligraphy, sculptures, rare books, jade, and various decorative art objects.

In the 1930s, to prevent them from falling into Japanese hands, the most important parts of the collection were evacuated to several different cities. This conflict, the Second Sino-Japanese War, merged into the Second World War, which was followed by a continuation of the Chinese Civil War.

At this point in time, recognizing that the Communists were winning, the Nationalists decided to take the best 900,000 pieces of already-crated cultural patrimony to Taiwan: biting their thumbs at Mao and ensuring that everything made it through the subsequent decades (Cultural Revolution and whatnot).

Welcome gate.

Liang gives me a touristy-V sign.

Umbrella? This is not a rain umbrella, but a UV umbrella! This is probably the singular most popular accessory I have seen Taiwanese women (of all ages) carrying. And so useful. How could I resist buying one? Though I haven't been brave enough to carry it around Philly yet.

Cultural locales in Taiwan involve a number of white-paved eternal courtyards. I have four words to say about that. More. Reflecting. Pools. Needed.

The National Palace Museum has the most awesome collection highlights known to humankind. You can check them out online, collection highlights. fyi, for ease of rapid-fire museum going, as I do when traveling (for evidence of this please consult the archives), consult the museum websites prior to going. You not only get the info on hours and any free admission days, but there is usually a good bit dedicated to collection highlights.

The Jade Cabbage. Smaller than an actual cabbage, but attracting Mona Lisa sized crowds, faces all pressed up against the glass of the vitrine. Artistically shot documentaries playing nearby. The most amazing gift shop items I have ever seen. It was all I could do to not purchase every single one of those little cabbage models, those mini-cabbage tipped ear scrapers, those large plush cutsey cartoon sleeping cabbages...

The Meat Stone. This piece is terrifyingly realistic.

Links above are to the National Palace Museum webpages on the pieces.

Doughnut Disection

Can you tell she's going to be a doctor (doctor)? Such glee!

In Taiwan, Mister Donut is the place to get doughnuts. (Am I some type of doughnut connoisseur? Timmy Hortons in Canada, Mister Donut in Taiwan... what next?) They are quite different that American or Canadian doughnuts, being much chewier and more... resilient. Liang is pictured dissecting some hapless creme-filled teddy bear head.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Untitled Awesomeness

Because we didn't want to own the actual thing. And because this is actually even better. (Not my covert photo, by the way.)

Damper Baby + Liang = Not as Ridiculous as You May Have Hoped

I think the direction I gave her was, "Look happy!"

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Taipei 101

Taipei 101 is the name of the tallest building in Taipei: it had been the tallest building in the world until the Burj Khalifa opened in Dubai. Like most really tall buildings, there is an observation deck at the top.

We timed our visit to Taipei 101 to involve tooling around the shopping mall on the first five or so floors, heading up to the top for sunset, and then returning to the lower stories for dinner at the super awesome food court. Which, if you read what Liang had to share, is representative of the way more awesome Asian food courts.

In a taxi, on the highway, Taipei 101 -bound.

Courtyard below.

Taipei. Please excuse the glare from the window glass.

Taipei 101 has been engineered to withstand both earthquakes and typhoons - Taiwan's regular natural disasters. Part of this engineering is a tuned mass damper: a 660 metric ton steel sphere suspended at the top of the building to help off-set motion caused by gusts of wind. The tuned mass damper in Taipei 101 is open to the public's view. It is painted a cheery yellow. And in the grand tradition of cute, the damper has been personified into a little sphere-headed-bodies cutesy cartoon named 'the Damper Baby'. I have a photo of Liang next to the Damper Baby: I forced her to pose. But as Michael has been laughing at all my photos of her, I will refrain from posting it.

Hydraulic pistons.

Theoretically Taipei 101 is shaped like a bamboo stalk. And covered with all sorts of symbolism about the cardinal directions, and land meeting sky, and sun dials, and the number eight, and pagodas. But really, it's just as awesomely tall building with a rockin' food court and a shopping mall full of things too expensive for me to afford.

Art was exhibited in the observation gallery. To exit, they made you walk through a whole floor of jade. Liang and Lena and I were all surly to the poor jade-shillers: we were hungry and wanted the elevator to be a bit closer!

Once the sun set, we headed out to the observation deck, outside.

Lena and Liang.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Midnight Taipei

View out the hotel window. Those neon characters were awesome.

Sushi (Go!)

You can get things like this at food courts! In department stores! For only a few dollars! And they're tasty! Oh, the insanity!

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial

The map I have has the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial listed as the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, which makes it sound like a university lecture hall.

"I have Organic 'til 12:30 in Chiang Kai-shek. Wanna meet at the student center for lunch after? It's chicken parm day."

Aside: if it was chicken parm day, Liang and I would totally be there.

Chiang was one of the leaders of the Nationalist Party in mainland China. After the Nationalists were defeated by the Communists, they fled the mainland for Taiwan. Where, as Wikipedia so gracefully puts it, "Chiang ruled the island with an iron fist as the President of the Republic of China [nation-state to which Taiwan belongs] and Director-General of the Kuomintang [Chinese Nationalist Party] until his death in 1975."

The Memorial is actually an enormous complex. This is essentially the welcome gate.

A theatre and a symphony hall on either side of the enormous courtyard running from the gate to the actual memorial.

Halfway along, we pause for a photo. I tell Liang at least three times that what Taiwan needs is more reflecting pools.

In case you can't read the text: No entry for those wearing slippers or slovenly dress.

And inside is a massive statue of Chiang Kai-shek, a 'la Ol'Abe back in Washington.

Though, as you may suppose from the wikipedia statement, Chiang's legacy is contentious, whereas who hates Abraham Lincoln (Vampire Hunter)?