Portugal Diary, day 7

24 June, 2019

Friday, 17 May, 2019. 22:37

It’s late and we’ve had a very busy day, going to Belém and exploring the various attractions there, before having a wonderful dinner in Chiado. But now it’s late and I need to sleep, so I’ll write about it tomorrow.

Written next day

Let me tell you about the footpaths in Lisbon. They’re not concrete or asphalt or paving stones or anything sensible like that. They’re cobblestones. All of them. Even the footpaths way out in the suburbs. Every single one. And not good solid basalt or granite cobbles with sharp edges and a rough surface, but limestone. Soft limestone that wears away on the surfaces and edges leaving them all rounded and smooth. And slippery. And Lisbon is a city of hills. Try walking down a steep hill paved with rounded, slippery cobblestones. I can’t even imagine how nightmarish this city would be in the rain.

Another thing about Lisbon is that black seems to be the most popular car colour, by far, followed by dark grey. The streets are a sea of vehicles absorbing the hot Atlantic sun, punctuated only by the odd car in red or white. It seems an odd choice for a place that obviously gets a lot of hot weather

On Friday morning we tried to sleep in a little, but still got up close to 07:00. For breakfast today I tried the hot breakfast service, gathering a plate of onions, ham, tomatoes, cheese, and rocket and then handing it to a waiter and asking it to be incorporated into a plate of scrambled eggs. The eggs arrived just I finished my muesli, and were cooked very nicely. I ate them with a couple of the small bread rolls that have been delicious every morning.

M.’s toes have started to blister a bit from all the walking she’s been doing, so while she returned to the room, I dashed across the road to the supermarket to buy some band aids. It was cold this morning, but I figured I’d only be outside walking for a minute. However when I got there, the supermarket hadn’t opened yet, the sign at the door saying it opened at 08:00. It was five minutes to, so I waited for it to open, in the chilly morning air. Eventually it opened and I bought the band aids. After wrapping some around a couple of M.’s toes we prepared to leave for the day.

We walked over to Roma station to get a green line train without having to change twice, and rode it to the end of the line at Cais do Sodré. The train was packed, and at one station a couple of old ladies got on and I overheard one remarking to the other in Portuguese, with the word “sardinhos” clearly being said. Most of the passengers stayed on all the way to our stop, where everybody spilled out.

Heading upstairs to the heavy rail lines, we used our Viva Viagem cards to pass through the access gates, then tried to figure out what platform to go to. The final destinations of trains were displayed next to a rapidly scrolling list of stations. We both scanned the board, and M. spotted Belém listed on one, so we headed up to platform 2, where a train was sitting waiting. We didn’t know if this was the right train to get on, so M. asked a woman getting on if it went to Belém. The woman was confused for a while as M. repeated the destination, until she finally clicked and said, “Ah! Blem! Sim!” Pronouncing words in Portuguese is very tricky!

The train was nearly empty so we got good seats. It left after a few minutes and glided along the river westwards. Belém is pretty close and it was only three stops until we arrived there, taking a bit under ten minutes. We got out and climbed a rickety old narrow metal bridge to cross the tracks and the adjacent main road to get to the side we wanted to be on.

Pasteis de Belém
Pastéis de Belém, the original Portuguese tart shop

Walking through a small park and then down a busy street took us to the Pastéis de Belém shop, founded in 1837 and home of the invention of the Portuguese custard tart: pastel de nata. Today it does a thriving business still selling the original recipe tarts, and tourists flock to it. We arrived about 09:15 and there was a queue of about 20 people to buy take away tarts. There was also another entrance with a sign promising table service, with 400 seats. M. fancied sitting down for a coffee, so we went in there, but inside it was confusing with people in front of us waiting around, and then people coming in behind us and apparently just ignoring the queue and heading deeper into the shop. There was no sign of people being seated at tables. So we decided to go out and join the take away queue, which at least was moving in an orderly fashion.

Read more: we try the original Portuguese tarts, visit the Monastery of the Jerónimos, have lunch at an interesting market, see the Tower of Belém, and travel back to Lisbon for cocktails and an amazingly good dinner

Portugal Diary, day 6

19 June, 2019

Thursday, 16 May, 2019. 15:54

I am back at the hotel after the ISO meeting has adjourned a bit early. M. is still out exploring Lisbon.

After getting up and having breakfast as usual this morning, I went to the meeting, while M. prepared a bag of laundry to be cleaned. The hotel laundry service is ridiculously expensive, charging 3.40€ for each pair of socks and 3.90€ for each pair of underwear. With conversion we’d have ended up paying something like $60 or $70. So instead we threw all our dirty clothes in a bag and I looked up drop-in laundries nearby. There were a few within walking distance, including one right at Roma metro station, which was convenient for where M. wanted to go this morning. I wrote a note in Portuguese (using Google Translate) in case nobody at the laundry spoke English, requesting a wash and dry and asking if we could pick it up after 17:00 today. So M. planned to drop that in at 09:00 when the laundry opened and then head into town to check out the Mercado da Reibera and some more of the neighbourhoods around the city.

Meanwhile I was back at the university for the final technical session, which was a preliminary report on standards for high dynamic range (HDR) image coding. There are several standards for HDR video, but none yet for still pictures, and we think we should get started on making one. There was a lot of technical discussion on colour management and rendering. Colour seems like such a simple concept, but every time I see the technical details it reminds me just how complicated it is.

After this we had the closing administrative session for the WG 18 meeting. Next was the scheduled plenary administrative working group meeting session 2, to be held over lunch from 12:15. Since we wrapped up the WG 18 stuff by 11:00, I had an hour to kill. I took a walk north through a neighbourhood I hadn’t explored yet. It was largely residential, with apartment blocks linked by quiet streets. But on the ground floors of many of them were small shops to service the residents, including several pasteleria/cafes.

Pastel de nata from Pasteleria Lirio do Campo
Pastel de nata from Pasteleria Lirio do Campo

I stopped in at four of them and ordered a pastel de nata, the famous Portuguese custard tart, at each one. I figured I’d make this an exploration of the different bakeries and compare the tarts. The prices were all different, in order 0.95€, 1.10€, 0.90€, and 1.00€. They were all good, but the third one was distinctly not as good, with the pastry being not as fresh and flaky. I walked past three other pastelerias as well, but after four tarts I didn’t feel like I should eat any more before lunch!

Read more: walking around Rossio Square and a fancy conference dinner at a swish restaurant

Portugal diary, day 5

6 June, 2019

Wednesday, 15 May, 2019. 21:41

Well that was an interesting day at the ISO meeting.

We woke up just before 06:00 this morning, so managed to get a decent sleep, which was good. I’d say that’s effectively the end of the jetlag. We went down to breakfast a few minutes earlier than yesterday, determined to be the first at breakfast today, and indeed we were, arriving as the staff were still putting out platters of cheese and meats. We had muesli and yoghurt again, and then croissants and bread with cheese. I took one of the small heated pots of cherry tomatoes so I could add them to my cheese and bread. That was really good, so I got more bread and cheese and another pot of tomatoes, rather than a second serve of muesli.

M. spent the day going to the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, which houses a historical collection of azulejo, the distinctive decorated tiles that you see everywhere all over Lisbon, and then walking through the nearby Alfama neighbourhood. She really enjoyed the museum, but said that the walk to get there from the Santa Apólonia metro station was a bit unpleasant, through a dodgy neighbourhood.

Azulejo Museum
Museu Nacional do Azulejo

I, meanwhile, went to day two of the meetings. We got stuck into the technical sessions, and were thankfully in a different room which was slightly cooler and less stuffy, but still too warm and stuffy for comfort. But it had proper desks and seats rather than the lecture room style rows we had yesterday, so that was a lot more comfortable.

Read more: a dramatic development at the meeting, a huge lunch, and exploring the Chiado neighbourhood for dinner

Portugal diary, day 4

5 June, 2019

Tuesday, 14 May, 2019. 17:17

We’re resting for a while at our hotel before heading to the meeting reception this evening, which will be at Casa do Lago, on the small lake in the middle of the park between our hotel and the meeting venue.

This morning we woke up early, being the second night after arriving, as is so often the case. Probably 05:00 or a bit earlier. Unable to go back to sleep we waited until the sun started coming up at 06:00 and then got up. We headed down to breakfast a few minutes early to find several people there already. We double checked the breakfast times, which were posted in the lift on the way back up to our room, and it definitely said from 07:00. Anyway, we ate muesli and yoghurt and some bread and mini croissants. I took a glass of what looked like a mushy fruit salad to add to my muesli, and it was just chopped fruit, so that was good.

After breakfast we prepared to head out. We left together and walked to the Entrecampos Metro entrance, where I left M. to head into the city while I turned north to walk up the park (Jardim Mário Soares) to the meeting venue. It was Building U of the Universidade Lusófona. On the way I passed the University of Lisbon as well, and the park was full of students in academic dress, as well as other students in regular clothes performing various stunts at the direction of the others.

D João I
Statue of King João I of Portugal, in Jardim Mário Soares

M. meanwhile headed south on the yellow Metro line to the end of the line at Rato, then walked south towards the Bairro Alto, or high city. She spent the day wandering around the area, checking out the sights, eventually working her way down the hill into the Baixa and Rossio Square area. Then she walked to the riverside and finally caught a train back to the hotel from Terreiro do Paço.

While she was doing all this, I was in the meetings in the university building. As I entered, I had my name marked off at a registration desk and the guy there told me which room we were using and how to get there. The room was a lecture room, with rows of fixed seating with tiny swing away desks attached, which was a change from our usual horseshoe desk arrangement. It was quite uncomfortable being in one of those seats all day and not having a proper desk to lean on. And it was very warm and stuffy. But fortunately we are in a different room the next two days. The IS&T Archiving conference is on here this week too, and today was the short courses in the same building as us, but from tomorrow they move to another building, so we’ll have better rooms to choose from.

Read more: my meetings, then the evening meeting/conference reception

Portugal diary, day 3

5 June, 2019

Monday, 13 May, 2019. 11:41

We are sitting in the Confeitaria Nacional, a traditional and old pastry shop in the old town Baixa area of Lisbon. A review site I looked at this morning said this has some of the best custard tarts in town, so of course we had to try them. We’re sitting in for a short break from the heat outside, although it hasn’t really gotten as hot as yesterday yet, and we’ve been waling among the shady narrow streets of the old area.

We slept pretty well, rousing drowsily about 06:00. We got up slowly and prepared for breakfast in the hotel restaurant, arriving there shortly after it opened at 07:00. It wasn’t very busy yet. There was a good spread of food and we had muesli with yoghurt, some small croissants, bread and cheese, and fresh fruit. They also had bowls of ingredients which you could put together and hand to the waiter to have the chef make a custom plate of eggs with, but we didn’t try this.

After eating, we returned to our room to get ready for the day out. With the forecast being 33° and sunny, we used sunscreen and wore long sleeve shirts to keep the sun off, even though it will be hot.

Monkey on the Lisbon Metro
Monkey riding the Metro

We left and got on the Metro at Entrecampos, right outside our hotel. I though this would take us direct to Terreiro do Paço station by the waterside, but we realised we had to change lines at Marquês de Pombal. The first train was full and crowded, but the second one was empty enough for us to get seats. We got off at Terreiro do Paço and negotiated the exits, having to turn around when we ended up in a wharf area with departing ferries, and no easy way to get to where we actually wanted to go.

After leaving by another exit, we emerged near the square leading down to Cais dos Colunas, a set of limestone steps descending into the river, which seems to be a historical place where Portuguese ships of exploration embarked from. (Doing some research later I discovered that these steps used to lead from the river directly up to the royal palace. However the palace was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake and never rebuilt, so now the stairs lead up to an open plaza.)

Read more: the historic Baixa and Alfama districts, São Jorge castle, and going up and down lots of hills!

Portugal diary, days 1 and 2

4 June, 2019

This was a trip I took to Lisbon to attend an ISO Technical Committee 42 Photography standards meeting. My wife accompanied me and we spent an extra week in Portugal to do some sightseeing.

Saturday, 11 May, 2019. In flight

Our trip began with a train journey to the airport. We left home just after 17:00, walking to the station. It looked like we’d just missed a train to the city, and the next train was only going as far as North Sydney, with nearly a 15 minute wait until the next city train. The North Sydney train was nearly empty, but the the one we caught after it was almost standing room only.

As we stopped at Milsons Point, we noticed on the indicator board that all the trains were terminating at Wynyard, which was unusual. I checked the trains website on my phone to find out that there was trackwork on the City Circle, and trains were only running anticlockwise. So we had to get off at Wynyard and go down to the lower platform and catch another train to Central and then change again for an airport train. Thankfully both connections were quick, but both trains were very full.

We arrived at the airport a bit after 18:00. We’d already checked in online and printed our boarding passes, so we went straight through passport and security checks. A lot of people had just filed into the immigration area in front of us, so it was fairly full, but the lines moved quickly and we were through before too long.

After buying some duty-free Plymouth gin and Drambuie to pick up on the way home, we went to the food place we always go to, to sit and have a bite to eat. M. had the wood fired haloumi, which came with fired red grapes, pomegranate kernels, a grilled red onion, and sourdough bread. We also got some smoked almonds to nibble on. The food was good, but I didn’t want to eat too much because I wanted to have the dinner on the plane and then try to sleep on a full stomach. It passed the time though, and by the time we were ready to go it was almost time to board our flight.

We boarded nice and early thanks to my silver frequent flyer status, getting seats by a window and a middle seat. It was too late to change our seats to have an aisle by the time I got to selecting our seats online.

Sunday, 12 May. 07:49 Dubai time

We landed in Dubai a few minutes early, just after 05:00. Our connection to Lisbon departed at 07:25, so we had a short time to sit and rest while M. had a coffee and a pistachio croissant from a patisseries in the terminal. We had to walk almost the length of the terminal, from Terminal C to the far end of Terminal B, for our next flight, but it was good to stretch the legs out. This flight is just under eight hours, so it won’t be long before we touch down in Lisbon.

20:41 Lisbon time

We landed in Lisbon a bit before 12:30. It didn’t take long to get out of the airport customs area. Most of the time was spent walking from what looked like the furthest gate in the entire terminal. Passport control had virtually no queue, we only had carry on bags so didn’t have to wait for luggage, and the “nothing to declare” customs door simply led straight outside.

Read more: Our first day in Lisbon, walking around the city centre, plus some photos

Australian food emojis

4 June, 2019

A quick survey shows no fewer than 10 different emoji for specific items of Japanese cuisine (as of 2019’s Emoji 12.0 list). Which is fine, but clearly other cuisines are under-represented.

So I propose they add emojis for:

  • Chicken parma
  • Chiko roll
  • Fairy bread
  • Hamburger with beetroot
  • Lamington
  • Meat pie*
  • Musk sticks
  • Pavlova
  • Vanilla slice
  • Vegemite

* There is a pie emoji, but most people seem to interpret it as a sweet pie, and the glyph is actually a slice of sweet dessert pie on some platforms, including Google Android and Twitter. Which is clearly unacceptable and un-Australian.

Game of Thrones, Season 7, Ep 7 “The Dragon and The Wolf”

22 April, 2019

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

King’s Landing: Daenerys’s group arrive in the city, although without Daenerys herself. Jon, Missandei, Tyrion, Davos, Sandor “The Hound” Clegane, and some Dothraki guards are escorted to a meeting place outside King’s Landing, in the ruins of a sort of arena. We learn from conversation that this structure used to be used to contain dragons. The Targaryens conquered Westeros with dragons, but once they had secured the land, they needed to keep a rein on the dragons, so they caged them. Over time the dragons dwindled in size and power, as evidenced by a small dog-sized skull that Tyrion picks up, until eventually they died out.

They take seats on a stage in the middle of the arena. Shortly after, Cersei and her entourage approach, with Jaime, Euron, Qyburn, and Gregor “The Six Million Dollar Mountain” Clegane. Sandor walks up to his brother and looks through the slitted helmet into his red eyes. Sandor asks what they’ve done to him, but Gregor is silent. Sandor tells Gregor that he’s always known who will come after him, and now he’s here. Sandor returns to his side of the podium.

Cersei wonders where Daenerys is. There is a flutter of wings and Drogon appears, flying above the arean, He descends and lands on the wall, crushing some of its rocks. Daenerys climbs down and walks over nonchalantly to take her seat as Drogon departs. Cersei is momentarily surprised, but quickly regains her composure. She says, “We’ve been waiting for you for some time.” Daenerys simply says, “My apologies.”

They get down to business. Jon tells Cersei about the army of the dead marching south, and says their struggles to control Westeros are pointless in the face of their mutual enemy. Cersei is cynical, saying that it’s a trick to get her to move her armies away from King’s Landing so the others can strike. She says there’s no such thing as White Walkers. Jon nods to Sandor, who departs down a set of stairs in the middle of the podium. He returns with a crate on his back and drops it onto the stage. Cersei regards this curiously.

Sandor opens the box and the skeletal zombie charges straight at Cersei with lightning speed! It seems to be unrestrained and it looks for a second as though it might reach her and rip her to pieces. But just before reaching Cersei, it is jerked back by a chain. It grasps for her, screaming horribly and clearly showing its monstrous nature. Cersei recoils in shock. Jon and Sandor walk up and hack the zombie to pieces, but each piece still moves and attempts to crawl towards Cersei. Qyburn picks up a dismembered forearm, with the hand still grasping, and regards it with intense curiosity. Jon grabs the arm and says, “They can be killed by fire,” as he sets fire to it. “Or by dragonglass,” as he stabs the upper torso of the zombie with a dragonglass dagger, destroying it.

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Game of Thrones, Season 7, Ep 6 “Beyond the Wall”

17 April, 2019

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

North of The Wall: The party trudges north through the snowy landscape. Who knows where they are going or what their plan is to capture a White Walker if/when they found some? Present: Jon, Jorah, Gendry, Sandor “The Hound”, Tormund, Beric, Beric’s priest who keeps bringing him back from the dead, and a few other random wildlings. Gendry complains about the cold, saying he’s never seen snow before. Tormund tells Gendry he’s weak, and that he himself comes from the cold North, but was fine when he visited the South. Gendry asks where in the South Tormund has been, and Tormund replies, “Winterfell”. Gendry chokes on his laughter as he says Winterfell is actually still in the North.

At a rest stop, Jon talks to Jorah about Jorah’s father, Lord Commander Mormont. Jon says Mormont gave him his sword, Longclaw, and had the hilt changed from a bear to a wolf for Jon. Jon offers it to Jorah, saying it’s his family heirloom, but Jorah declines the offer, saying his father gave it to Jon, so it’s his now. Jon also talks to Beric about what the Lord of Light wants for them, having saved both of them from death. Beric, as usual, says he has no idea why, but obviously it’s for some reason. Beric points out that a lot of men have died and had their loyal followers die because they were too proud to submit to someone’s authority – an obvious reference to Jon refusing to swear allegiance to Daenerys. Jon considers this.

Walking again through a foggy snow, they spot a large bear in the distance. The bear senses them and charges. Someone yells, “Do bears have blue eyes??” And then it’s on them, an undead zombie bear! Beric and his priest draw magical flaming swords as they and the rest of them fight it off. Eventually the bear is dead and burning, but Beric’s priest is wounded. Beric gives him a big slug of booze from a skin and then uses his flaming sword to cauterise the wounds.

They continue on in their impossible quest to find a small enough group of White Walkers that they can capture one without being slaughtered. Lo, they stumble across a small group walking through a defile, where they can ambush them! About ten of them – a perfect match for the party. They charge and initiate combat. The fight is short, as Jon slashes the leader with his sword and shatters it, which instantly makes a bunch of the zombies collapse dead, but conveniently leaves one of them still very much undead and struggling. The men jump on it and tie it up with ropes and stick a sack over its head. Someone asks why most of the zombies died when the leader was killed, except for the one they captured. Jon says, “I dunno, maybe he was the one who animated all of those ones, but not the last one.” Fair enough, I guess.

The problem is this small group wasn’t far from the entire White Walker army, and the struggling and groaning from the one they captured makes a noise which attracts their attention. Soon they hear the sounds of millions of zombie feet racing across the ice towards them. Jon tells Gendry to run for Eastwatch, tell them what’s happened, and send a raven to Daenerys. Gendry is reluctant to go, but Jon says he’s the fastest. Gendry turns to go, but Sandor grabs his giant hammer and tells him he’ll be faster without it. Gendry releases the hammer and tears off into the snow.

The zombie army approaches and the rest of the man, dragging their captive, race across a flat area of snow, but stop suddenly when they realise they’ve run onto a frozen lake, and the ice is cracking around them. The White Walkers keep coming, heedless of any danger. With no choice, the men start running again, heading to an outcrop of rock in the middle of the lake. As they retreat, Sandor hits the ice behind him with Gendry’s hammer, cracking it, and the front lines of the zombie army fall into the water. More ranks of zombies fall mindlessly into the water, before they realise the danger and halt on the far side of the gap. The men are stranded on the small island in the middle of the lake, surrounded by a ring of open water and then the White Walker army.

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Game of Thrones, Season 7, Ep 5 “Eastwatch”

16 April, 2019

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

Outside King’s Landing: It seems Jaime isn’t dead after all. Bronn drags him out of the river, some way downstream – far enough away that Daenerys and Drogon don’t instantly see them and turn them into charcoal. Jaime is well and truly boggled by the dragon though. He says one dragon is bad enough, but by all accounts Daenerys has three of them. They stagger off towards King’s Landing, downcast and beaten.

Daenerys meanwhile has captured a bunch of the Lannister army. She offers them the choice of joining her or dying. A few of the men band the knee, but about half stand defiantly. Randyll Tarly speaks up and says he will never betray the Lannisters. His son Dickon joins him. Tyrion obviously doesn’t want unnecessary bloodshed, and argues that they should be sent to Castle Black to serve in the Night’s Watch – after all, they need strong men there. But Daenerys shows no mercy and has Drogon incinerate the Tarlys. This encourages all of the remaining men to quickly get on their knees and pledge allegiance to Daenerys.

Honestly, can you really trust someone who pledges allegiance under duress of being burnt alive, since they’ve already demonstrated that their previous pledge (to the Lannisters) was only temporary? It may have been smarter to just burn the lot of them. I guess we’ll see.

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