USA/Japan diary, day 3

Monday, 15 February, 2016. 21:13

Today was the first day of the Electronic Imaging conference. I set the alarm for 07:00 again, to give us time to get some breakfast and then allow me to register for the conference before the first talks began at 08:40.

Last night on our way in we’d stopped to look at the cafe in the hotel lobby, and they had a good breakfast selection, including take away cups of yoghurt, fresh fruit, and muesli, so we went down and bought one of those each. It looked like a lot of yoghurt and not enough muesli, so we also got an extra small tub of muesli to share. This was a significantly cheaper and healthier breakfast than yesterday, and tasted good. For tomorrow we’re doing one better, since they sell small tubs of yoghurt and cartons of milk, so we bought a large packet of Grape Nuts cereal from Walgreens to have with those. Previously we thought we couldn’t easily do this as the hotel room has no mini fridge, so we couldn’t keep milk or yoghurt cool. They also have paper bowls and plastic spoons in the cafe, so we’re all set.

After breakfast I helped M. sort out the trains she needed to catch to go visit Berkeley during the day, then I went down to attend the conference. Registration was quick, with no queues, and I ran into Nicolas (who used to work with me but left to go to Apple in Cupertino) there.

The first batch of talks I attended was in the Image Quality and System Performance conference. There was an interesting talk on developing a single perceptually based measure of image quality which encompassed a range of different image artefacts, such as blurriness, poor exposure, and so on. The presenter said that to calibrate the scale between different artefacts they had volunteer observers judge, for example, how blurry a sample image had to be made until it was equal in “image quality” to a second poorly exposed image. She said at first the observers complained that they couldn’t make a blurry image the same quality as a badly exposed image. So she showed them a nice sharp image and asked if that was better or worse than the badly exposed image. The volunteers said it was better. Then she used a blur slider to make the sharp image really really blurry and asked which was better, the badly exposed image, or the blurry image where you couldn’t see anything. They said the badly exposed image was better. Then she said, “Well, at this sharp end the first image is better than the badly exposed image, but when you blur it out completely then it’s worse. So somewhere in the middle it must be the same!” And after this pep talk the observers could do the task. I’m not entirely convinced that two different image quality axes can be forced to map on to a single axis like this in a consistent way – and indeed she had to throw out three of her observers as their results didn’t agree with the others.

After a brief coffee break, the late morning session began, which was the first of Digital Photography and Mobile Imaging conference, for which I am on the organising committee. This was also a joint session with the IQSP conference, and the talks were all about measuring various aspects of image quality: image stabilisation performance, image flare, MTF of ultra wide angle lenses, chromatic flare (or “purple fringing“), and using standardised illuminants to characterise sensors.

John's Grill
The historic John’s Grill.

Following these talks was the lunch for the DPMI conference committee, so I was invited. It was held in John’s Grill, a famous San Francisco restaurant which opened in 1908 and was apparently featured as a significant location in the novel The Maltese Falcon (though I’m not sure if it made it into the film). The food was of the steaks and seafood variety, and I chose a broiled salmon, which came with mashed potatoes, broccolini, yellow squash, and hollandaise sauce on the side. Over lunch, the attending committee members, a good 18 or so of us, discussed details for organising next year’s conference, which Jackson Roland from Imatest is going to chair.

After lunch was the first plenary talk of the conference, which was by Audrey Bowden, a researcher working on medical imaging, developing optical coherence tomography scanners for use in detecting bladder cancers. For testing purposes, they needed an artificial human bladder, complete with blood vessels and the various layers of muscle and fat and so on of different densities and optical properties, so that the OCT imager could produce realistic scan results. To build this, they enlisted the aid of movie special effects artists and materials!

Then after another coffee break there was the final session of the day, four talks on the image processing pipeline between capture and display. The last one showed off some automatically tome curved HDR photos and videos, which looked quite good.

The talks finished at 17:00, and then I returned to the hotel room, where M. had just arrived after spending the day in Berkeley, wandering around the streets and seeing the shops and cafes and people and the university there. We hung out for a bit and debriefed each other on our day so far.

Cablecar encounter
Couple on a cablecar, we passed while walking to dinner.

We left around 18:00 to walk up to the North Beach area and get some pizza for dinner. M. wanted to try Tony’s Pizza, which we’d walked past on Saturday, and which M, liked the look of. It had been busy then, with a queue stretching outside, and when we arrived tonight there was also a short queue. I inquired how long it would be to wait for a table, and was told “an hour, maybe 45 minutes”. Since we were getting hungry, we decided to pass and find somewhere else.

(I discovered only later when I got home and started work on reformatting this diary for the web that Tony’s Pizza is run by a guy who has won Best Pizza awards from the Pizza World Cup in Naples eleven times. No wonder it’s popular! And next time we go to San Francisco, we are definitely going to have to try this place.)

Little Italy night
Tony Nik’s Cafe (not Tony’s Pizza), North Beach.

After walking a bit further down Columbus Avenue, we found l’Osteria del Forno, which looked cozy and offered pizzas. But before going in we checked out the nearby Mara’s Italian Pastry, which had a window full of mouth watering pastries and cakes. M. asked when they closed, and the woman said 10:30, so we decided to come back after dinner for some desserts. The Osteria was tiny inside, with just ten small tables. We ordered a small pizza each, pesto for M., which was essentially a Margherita with house made pesto on it, and a “San Francisco” for me, which had ham and artichoke hearts. M. pointed out that this was because one would leave one’s heart on a San Francisco.

The waitress brought us a small basket of bread, which was focaccia slices baked on the premises. It was really good. I had a glass of rosé with my pizza, which was very nice. M. also let me try a slice of her pesto one, and that one was really good, with an excellent fresh pesto flavour. We weren’t sure initially if we could finish the pizzas, but we did! We turned down dessert though, and made our way to Mara’s.

Margherita with pesto
Pesto pizza at l’Osteria del Forno.

There, M. asked the lady what various unlabelled pastries were, and the woman answered in a slightly weary way. We bought an apricot danish-like thing for M. and a chocolate cannoli for me. M. also got some almond biscotti for tomorrow. We ate our pastries on the walk back towards Chinatown. The cannoli was stuffed with rich ricotta, the chocolate being just a thin layer of actual chocolate on the inside of the shell, and was absolutely delicious. I also had a bite of M.’s danish and that was excellent too.

On the way back to the hotel we got the Grape Nuts as mentioned already, and then returned to our room for the night. Tomorrow we can sleep in until 7:30!

One Response to “USA/Japan diary, day 3”

  1. jpl says:

    When I last visited San Francisco, I took a (free, but donations are welcome) walking tour with They are associated with the library. A great way to see parts of the city. I recommend them highly.

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