Archive for June, 2017

Ethics & photoelectrics

Wednesday, 21 June, 2017

This morning I was setting up the school classroom for teaching my Primary Ethics class when one of the Year 4 boys in my class came up to me and asked, “Can you explain the photoelectric effect?” This is a nine or ten year old kid, remember.

He has no way of knowing I have a Ph.D. in physics, and so yes, this is actually something I know about and can explain to people. I tried to tone it down to a nine-year-old’s level.

“Well, it’s a thing that happens when light hits some materials, like metals. The light hits an atom… do you know about atoms and electrons and …”

“Yeah!” he says, in a tone of voice that indicates “of course I do, who doesn’t?”

“Okay,” I continue, “The light hits an atom and it makes an electron jump out of the atom, so it can then travel through the metal as electricity.”

“Hmmm,” says the boy, “Does the electron just jump up to a higher energy level shell, or does it jump completely out of the atom?”

I skilfully hid my internal jaw-drop, as I replied, “All the way out of the atom.”

“Huh,” he said, “Well that’s pretty simple. I don’t know why someone else told me it was so hard to understand.”

He want off to his seat, and I started teaching my class…

Santa Clara 2017 diary: Day 7

Saturday, 17 June, 2017

Friday, 9 June, 2017

I slept badly and was awake before 07:00, so got up and had a shower to try to wake up. I packed my bags and checked out of the hotel then walked over to the meeting place at Intel. It was overcast and sprinkling lightly, getting heavier as I walked, but fortunately wasn’t quite heavy enough to be a problem. I got there at 08:00, so had some time to use the far superior Intel WiFi (compared to the flaky hotel one) before everyone arrived and we were led into the meeting room.

The plenary session was basically just dull administrative stuff, lasting for about an hour and a half, concluding with the resolutions of thanks to the organisers, which provoked several rounds of applause. And with that the meeting was over and we were all free to say our good yes until next time and head home. Dietmar was driving a hire car straight to San Francisco Airport to catch a flight at 14:00, so I begged a lift off him so that I wouldn’t need to get to a Caltrain station and spend probably at least twice as long getting that far.

From the airport, after Dietmar dropped me off at the rental car place, I caught Bart into San Francisco, getting off at Embarcadero. I tried dropping my luggage at the Hyatt Regency hotel, but the gu asked for my room number, and wouldn’t let me leave anything if I wasn’t staying at the hotel. So I dragged my bags with me over to the Ferry Building.

Grilled cheese + tomato soup
Grilled cheese and tomato soup, from Cowgirl Creamery

I was hungry for lunch, so got the grilled cheese sandwich of the day plus a tomato soup from Cowgirl Creamery. It was Cabot cheddar cheese with caramelised onions and maple mustard, and delicious as usual. Then I walked over to the Ferry Plaza Wine Bar and grabbed a table to sit and write up this diary while enjoying a glass of wine. I first tried the 2014 Peay Vineyards Estate Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast, feeling that would go well after the grilled cheese and tomato soup. It was okay. After sipping that away, I chose a 2014 Mauritson Zinfandel from Sonoma County. This was rich and delicious, with an aroma of dark black cherries soaked in brandy, and a long lingering taste of plums and warm spices, almost like a Christmas pudding. I’m wondering if there’s any way to get some back home, but Californian wine is very hard to find in Australia.

Read more: just hanging out in San Francisco before heading to the airport and flying home

Santa Clara 2017 diary: Day 6

Saturday, 17 June, 2017

Thursday, 8 June, 2017

I slept in today until just after 09:00, since I didn’t have any meetings to go to until the administrative working group meeting at 17:00. After catching up on overnight news and eating the All Bran for a quick breakfast, I had a shower and then got ready for a day of exploring the area on foot. I was astonished that the All Bran was noticeably sweeter than the same cereal back home in Australia. They must clearly have added extra sugar for the American version (thus making it less healthy, of course). Leaving the hotel right on 10:00, I grabbed an apple from the bowl on the reception desk, and munched it while walking.

I took the short cut behind the furniture factory, crossed the Montague Expressway, and then turned into the industrial area, taking a quite street next to the Bandai Namco building. This building had a giant Pac-Man and a couple of ninjas or something on display inside the window, and I walked up to have a look, but didn’t get a photo as I didn’t want to annoy the guard sitting inside watching me.

From here I walked up to the street running along the Amtrak railway line. There are two streets, running parallel, separated by the railway. On the south side where I was it was a quieter residential street, lined with run down houses facing the single track, obviously a poorer neighbourhood. On the other side of the railway line was a busier road, and along that were tech company buildings and then further along brand new looking apartment complexes and fancy gated communities. This was a clear and very literal case of what it means to be from the wrong side of the tracks.

Agnew station
The old Agnew railway station building

A bit down the street, I passed what looked like an old railway station building, a fairly small wooden structure right by the side of the track, that looked like something out of an old western. A white sign had letters painted in black declaring it to be Agnew station, and listed the elevation (32 feet) and distances to San Francisco and New Orleans in miles. It was locked up and obviously not in use any more, but looked in reasonably good condition. Just past this was a railway crossing where I could cross the track and then walk along the more major street.

Exploring the historic town of Alviso, the South Bay at Alviso Marina County Park, sneaking inside Levi’s Stadium, then a great dinner and ice cream in San Jose

Santa Clara 2017 diary: Day 5

Wednesday, 14 June, 2017

Wednesday 7 June, 2017

It was the usual morning routine of getting up at 07:30, showering, and having some fruit for breakfast then walking over to the Intel offices for the meeting.

It was more technical discussion this morning, including a session on our liaison with the JPEG committee, which I had to run because Scott wasn’t able to attend the meetings this week. First we had a presentation by Andy Kuzma of Intel on his work in developing a Universal Metadata Format which he is proposing to JPEG for adoption into their file format standards. The concern from WG18’s point of view is if JPEG adopts some metadata format which is incompatible with requirements coming from the image capture side, and from the camera manufacturers in particular. Fortunately Andy’s proposal looks very customisable and extensible, with few restrictions, so hopefully it will all just work. We’re going to keep an eye on things though, and I have an action to draft a letter to JPEG outlining the issues regarding requirements from our side.

Glass and wood
Intel office building

Lunch was short again, as the plan was to squeeze everything in and finish the WG18 business today, so we could have tomorrow free. This was great, except the second administrative working group meeting is scheduled for tomorrow at 17:00, and I have to attend that. But in discussions with Margaret and others I got the idea to go to Alviso, an area north of Santa Clara, on the shore of the Bay, after Nicolas had also recommended it to me the other day. It seemed like it would be a long walk, but doable, and so some good exercise.

Read more: a bit more about the meeting, then the meeting dinner at Birk’s steakhouse

Santa Clara 2017 diary: Day 4

Tuesday, 13 June, 2017

Tuesday 6 June, 2017

I got up at 07:30 and had a shower, then a banana and an apple for breakfast before leaving for the meeting. The day was sunny again, but hadn’t warmed up yet as I walked to the Intel office, where I arrived a bit early and was shown in to the meeting room with a few other early arrivers.

The meetings today got stuck into the technical ad hoc working groups, covering specifics for each of the standards we currently have under draft. I made comments on several of them, when I though something particular should be considered.

One in particular was the texture measurement with the dead leaves pattern test chart. The experiments had produced a puzzling result, with the spatial frequency response curves of test images looking somewhat reasonable when averaged with a ring-mean to average all orientations in the Fourier transform for each sample frequency, using the real part of the transform, but when the modulus was averaged it produced an obviously incorrect response as the frequencies grew higher, with the SFR rising anomalously and very obviously. Rob presented an analysis Imatest had done on this, showing that the problem was caused by nonlinear noise reduction, which had different effects aligned in the direction of the pixel axes and at 45° to them. The result was that looking at the Fourier values around the azimuthal direction revealed a sine wave artefact, with four periods, aligned to the cardinal directions. This caused the response to go negative for about half the cycle at high frequencies, so taking the real part averaged essentially zero with a small signal, while the modulus ended up averaging a series of larger and larger values as the frequency rose and the sine wave increased in amplitude.

Partway through the presentation I realised exactly what the problem was. But I let Rob finish his presentation rather than interrupt. When he was done, faces around the room looked glum and puzzled. So I took the chance to speak up. The problem was that they should have been taking the average of the complex Fourier values, and then taking the modulus, not the other way around. And then everyone was saying, “Oh yeah… of course, why didn’t we think of that?” Rob said he could redo the analysis that way and circulate the results.

Intel salad
Salad for lunch at the Intel cafeteria

We finished the morning session a bit late, giving us exactly an hour for lunch after Toru pushed the post-prandial restart back to compensate. Most of us just went to the Intel cafeteria today. This was huge, having a floor area something like three times the space of my entire company’s office back in Sydney. There were several hot food bars, with Indian, Mexican, burgers, sandwiches, and probably some others I didn’t look at, plus make-your-own sandwich and salad bars. Trying to keep healthy, I piled a bowl with salad ingredients, including chick peas, beans, mushrooms, chillis, what I thought were pumpkin chunks but might have been something else, and a few other things. I sat with Rob and we chatted about random stuff.

Read more: not much more actually, just the end of the meeting for the day and then dinner at a Mexican restaurant

Santa Clara 2017 diary: Day 3

Monday, 12 June, 2017

Monday 5 June, 2017

I slept until about 02:00, then woke up and couldn’t fall asleep again. After a while I sat up and read some more, then tried to sleep again, but without much luck. I got up with the alarm at 07:30 and had a shower and dressed for the first day of the ISO meeting.

I walked over to the meeting place in the Intel campus, taking about 15 minutes to get there. Ken and Ed and a few other people were there already, and more arrived at the lobby while Neelam figured out where our visitor security passes were. We ended up getting name tags plus Intel guest passes, both of which we had to wear at all times. Then we had to be escorted down the corridors to the meeting room. We were also told that we had to be escorted if we wanted to visit the toilets, or leave the building, and three Intel employees would be hanging out in the meeting room just so one could escort anyone who wanted to leave the room for any reason.

The meeting began with the plenary session, which was much more casual than the first plenary meeting I attended in Sapporo in 2015. It was basically logistical and administrative details and not particularly interesting.

The plenary session ended early, and I joined a lunch group of Elaine, Susan, Rita, Dietmar, Robin, and Jonathan, who were going to a Japanese place called Izaka-Ya. I got a lift with Robin, and it was a good ten minutes’ drive away in San Jose’s Japantown area. We got there just before it opened at 11:30, and squashed around a small table. Someone recommended the bento boxes, so I chose the salmon sashimi bento box. This came with salad, miso soup, seven pieces of salmon, rice, two tempura prawns, vegetable tempura, and a chunk of orange as a dessert. It was good, and definitely filling enough for lunch.

Bento box, Izaka-ya
Bento box at Izaka-Ya

Read more: more ISO meeting, then reception at the Intel Computer Museum

Santa Clara 2017 diary: Day 2

Monday, 12 June, 2017

Sunday, 4 June, 2017

I had a somewhat restless sleep, but dozed until about 09:00, before getting up and having a shower. I took it easy and checked various things on the Internet, eating an apple and a banana for a light breakfast. Around 10:30 I decided to go for a walk to stretch my legs and find some place to sit and then get lunch before returning to the hotel. I walked over to Rivermark Village again, being the closest place with likely establishments. I’d seen a burger place and bar there yesterday and though I could sit there and use the WiFi, which would hopefully be better than the hotel’s.

I arrived a bit before 11:00, to find the burger place was just about to open, and there was a queue of people waiting outside. I found a shady spot to wait, then went in once the queue had gone. It looked like a full on restaurant with lots of booth tables, and waiting to be seated. Also, trying my phone, I couldn’t find a WiFi signal. So I left and looked for something else.

Veggie scramble
Veggie scramble for lunch

I settled on the same bakery where I’d had the raspberry vanilla slice yesterday, The Prolific Oven. It also did cafe food, and was serving late breakfasts. So I sat inside and ordered a “veggie scramble”, which was scrambled eggs with chopped zucchini, tomato, onion, and mushrooms, served with a hash brown and a slice of toast. There was no salt or pepper on the table, but there was a bottle of Tabasco sauce, so I added some of that. It was reasonably good. I sat and used their WiFi for a while, just taking it easy.

Read more: visiting Andy for board games all afternoon, having American pizza, and American ice cream for dessert

Santa Clara 2017 diary: Day 1

Monday, 12 June, 2017

Saturday, 3 June, 2017. 10:44

I’m sitting on a Caltrain train heading south from Millbrae (near San Francisco Airport) towards Lawrence, where I’ll be getting off and walking to my hotel for this trip, the Biltmore Hotel and Suites in Santa Clara.

My flight left Sydney at 13:00 on Saturday, and landed here in San Francisco just before 09:30 the same day, thanks to crossing the date line. The flight was uneventful, and reasonably comfortable with my exit row seat. The couple sitting next to me were Sean and Bridget, staying in San Francisco for five days before heading to Chicago for a friend’s wedding, then going on to Washington D.C., New York, and Toronto before heading home.

I met Abhishek at Sydney Airport after he had realised from a Facebook post of mine that I was also flying to San Francisco. It turned out he was on the same flight, heading over for business with his new company, Dolby. So we arranged to meet up at the airport. He is staying here longer than me, and up in San Francisco proper for a while before heading down to Sunnyvale, but we might manage to meet up for a dinner on Thursday night.

I used some time at the airport before Abhi arrived, and some time on the flight, to draw some panels for Eavesdropper. After eating the beef brisket lunch on the plane, I tried to rest and close my eyes until the breakfast service coming into San Francisco. I didn’t really sleep, but am feeling not too tired at the moment.

Sea of cloud
Sea of clouds. In flight to San Francisco

Read more: arriving in Santa Clara, seeing someone get arrested, going for a walk to the local shops, a surprising vanilla slice, and dinner at the hotel bar

London 2016 diary: Day 3

Friday, 2 June, 2017

Wednesday, 28 September, 2016. 16:16

I’m sitting in The Pilot pub, having one of their specially infused gins and tonics. They have a range of four of these, and I chose the plum and cinnamon, which tastes pretty good. Our ISO meeting has ended a full day early thanks to some quick sessions and an incredibly short lunch break today. Which means I now have tomorrow completely free to explore London.

I got to sleep easily, but woke up at 02:30, and then had trouble falling asleep again. I got up a bit after 05:00 and did some stretching exercises and checked various Internet things, before calling M. on Facetime for a chat. After that I had a shower and then went down for breakfast. Rather than fill up on hot food, I went for just muesli with fruit and yoghurt, followed by a plain croissant.

Christ Church, Turnham Green
Christ Church, Turnham Green, Chiswick

Breakfast was done and I was ready to go a bit before 08:00. Rather than sit around waiting, I decided to go for a walk down the Chiswick High Road. The sky was only partly cloudy, and the morning sun was giving the street a wonderful light as I walked east towards Turnham Green. The black stone Christ Church on the green looked pretty in the light, and I walked around it taking photos.

Read more: wandering around Chiswick, rapid fire technical meeting, then checking out the Chiswick High Road again for dinner

London 2016 diary: Day 2

Thursday, 1 June, 2017

Tuesday, 27 September, 2016. Evening

I had a good, solid sleep for much of the night, and woke up around 06:00, although it was still dark outside so I thought it was still the middle of the night. But after trying to sleep for a bit I checked the time and it was 06:20, so I’d had a pretty good sleep.

I got up and had a shower and dressed, then waited until 07:00 when M. got home so we could talk a little bit on Facetime. And then after that I went down to the restaurant for breakfast.

I started with a plate of sausage, grilled tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, tiny roasted potatoes, baked beans, and scrambled eggs. As I finished that, Dietmar arrived and joined me. While he got a plate of hot food, I went back and grabbed some muesli, sprinkling on sunflower seeds and adding some chopped fruit to have with one of the jars of yoghurt. Over breakfast Dietmar said he was planning to drive up to Glasgow on Thursday evening straight after the meeting closed, for some vacation time in Scotland.

On returning to my room, I discovered that I’d left my key card in the light switch slot inside the room, so I had to go down to reception and get a new one. Then I did some stretching exercises in my room, before leaving about 08:20 to walk over to the British Standards Institute building for the ISO meeting. The weather was chilly, but I was only walking a couple of hundred metres and my jacket was enough for that.

At the office, a lady at ground floor reception gave me a visitor swipe card and told me to go up to BSI reception on the first floor. Doing so, another lady there took the card and gave me another visitor card, and told me to go back down to the ground floor, where the meeting room was! The security here at BSI is a bit convoluted.

After settling into the meeting room and greeting other committee members for the first time since the New York meeting, we got stuck into business. Margaret is not here this time, but Ken Parulski is, who I haven’t seen since the meeting in Sapporo last year. I also got to meet the British representative, Hani, who I’ve heard about but haven’t met before. Also new here is Nicolas Touchard of DxO in France, Norman Koren from Imatest in Boulder, Colorado, and Robin Jenkin from a sensor manufacturer in San Jose, although he’s originally from Cornwall.

The Pilot
The Pilot pub, Chiswick

Read more: pub lunch, afternoon technical meetings, then an early dinner in another pub I found