Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

San Francisco 2017 Diary: day 4

Sunday, 19 February, 2017

Tuesday 31 January, 2017. 19:20

I didn’t sleep very well, and struggled out of bed when the alarm went off at 08:00. After a breakfast of bagels and cream cheese, I went down for the first talks of the day at the conference.

Today there were sessions on image quality measurement and the image processing pipeline, as well as a plenary talk on “Making virtual reality better than reality”. This talk was mostly about the challenges of producing a convincing 3D experience that avoids clashes between the different 3D cues. A good part of the talk was actually about differences in people’s eyesight, and the fact that people with different refractive errors respond differently to the monocular lens accommodation cue. A particularly interesting finding was that people over about 40 years old and developing presbyopia show such poor accommodation that it actually provides a worse 3D experience if you change the focus distance of the virtual image, since rather than accommodating for it, such people merely see a blurry image. So you have to design your VR headsets to work differently with people of different vision or ages.

Google 360
Monkey with a Google 360 VR camera array

Read more: technical demos at the conference, and the conference organising committee lunch

San Francisco 2017 Diary: day 3

Sunday, 19 February, 2017

Monday 30 January, 2017. 19:14

The first day of the conference began with me waking up about 07:20 thanks to the light of the sunrise. I had a couple of the bagels I’d bought last night with cream cheese, and then did some stretching exercises to relieve the sore leg muscles from all the walking. I slept for most of the night, but woke up briefly a bit.

I headed downstairs to the conference in time for the opening talk at 08:50. Throughout the day I attended all the talks for the Digital Photography and Mobile Imaging (DPMI) conference stream, for which I am on the organising committee. There are parallel talks in other themed streams all going on at the same time, about seven or eight usually going on at any one time. The only exception was the conference-wide plenary talk held immediately after lunch, on large scale gigapixel imaging for microscopy. The other talks in DPMI were on a range of topics from camera arrays, depth imaging, image reconstruction, capture for immersive VR, and image quality assessment.

I bumped into various people I knew: Stuart and Quan from home, Nicolas who moved to Apple from CiSRA, as well as Jackson and Paul from Apple, Norman from Imatest, Margaret from Nvidia, and Francisco, formerly from Canon in San Jose, but now out of a job following the recent disbandment of his research team there. I got introduced to a number of other people who were hanging with them, but I don’t remember much who they were.

Pear salad, Max's
Pear salad at Max’s

For lunch, I decided to try walking to Burlingame, after Stuart said he’d tried yesterday and failed because of some street blockage due to roadwork. I thought I could probably walk around it, since I knew exactly where I needed to get to, but when I reached the blockage and tried to go around, I found it was much more extensive than I had realised, and indeed there was no way through, on either side of the road. So I turned back, thinking about where to go for lunch. Passing Max’s, a sort of diner restaurant, I spotted Paul and Margaret with a few other people, and called out to them. They suggested I join them for lunch, which I accepted, making us a party of seven.

Not much more: lunch at Max’s, and the conference reception with dinner

San Francisco 2017 Diary: day 2

Sunday, 19 February, 2017

Sunday, 29 January, 2017. 20:36

Today was a very active day, with over 22 km of walking through the city of Pacifica, which is on the coast just south of San Francisco. After a restless night in which I didn’t get nearly enough sleep, I got up a bit before 07:30 and had a shower, then headed out to get a taxi to Rockaway Beach. This is almost due west of where I’m staying, just over on the ocean side of the peninsula, but there are steep mountains and the San Andreas Lake in the way, so you have to go around those.

I asked the hotel concierge to call a taxi for me, as I couldn’t get the Uber app working last night. The guy who helps guests with transport at the front of the hotel didn’t know where Rockaway Beach was, and when I told the taxi driver he didn’t know either. I had to tell him Pacifica, which turns out to be the name of the city area where Rockaway Beach is. And when we arrived there, with me using a GPS map tracking app to make sure I was going to the right place, I realise why he’d never heard of it. Rockaway Beach is a tiny settlement with just a couple of blocks of small businesses and maybe a handful of houses, with two motels right by the waterfront at the tiny beach.

The fare was nearly $60, so I gave the driver $70 with a tip. He asked me how I was going to get back to my hotel, and said there weren’t going to be any taxis here. I just said I’d figure it out and thanked him for his service. He was a cheerful chap who chatted with me during the ride, telling me how the Pacifica area used to be fashionable, but now after the tsunami threats have become well known, nobody wants to buy there any more.

View from Breakers
View from Breakers diner, Rockaway Beach

Read more: Diner breakfast, walking over Mori Point, Pacifica State Beach, and San Pedro Valley County Park

San Francisco 2017 Diary: day 1

Tuesday, 14 February, 2017

Saturday, 28 January, 2017. 19:40. Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport Hotel

I took a taxi to the airport in Sydney at midday, arriving in plenty of time for my 15:00 flight. It turned out to be delayed a bit in departing though. I met Quan from work and Stuart who used to work with us, both catching the flight to the same conference, Electronic Imaging 2017. We made a joke that Donald Trump might cancel the ESTA visa waiver program while we were in flight, and that we’d all be turned back at San Francisco airport. As it turned out, this wasn’t far from the truth, with news on out landing including the fact that some people with Green Cards were in fact now being turned away from US ports of entry.

I’d used a bunch of frequent flyer points to reserve an exit row seat, but this may not have been particularly efficient. The flight was mostly empty, and nearly everyone in economy had one or two empty seats next to them, while I was stuck in the middles seat between two large guys who had also bothered to pay extra for an exit row because they were big and wanted the extra legroom. The row of four middle seats across the aisle and right behind the bulkhead near us was completely empty as we took off. A flight attendant whispered to us that we should keep an eye on those seats and one of us could try to grab them. But as soon as the seat belt sign was turned off after take off, we looked around, and there was a woman already lying across all four of the seats. She stayed there for the entire flight.

For the first meal I had chicken cacciatore, which came with green beans and polenta. In the middle of the flight we got a hot gözleme, with cheese and something else inside. The breakfast before landing in San Francisco was a frittata with leek, plus sausage, bacon, and baked beans. I tried to snooze during the flight, but don’t think I did.

The entry at San Francisco had been somewhat streamlined, with automated booths for taking fingerprints and photos, but mine didn’t seems to work even after a few attempts at scanning the prints, so I had to go to a manual process with a person anyway. But without luggage, I got through quicker than Quan and Stuart, and said I’d meet them at the hotel shuttle pickup. But I want out on the arrivals level, and only after asking someone figured out the shuttles left from the departure level upstairs. By the time I got there a shuttle was waiting and Quan and Stuart were already getting on!

At the hotel, we checked in and I agreed to meet Stuart at 11:00, in about fifteen minutes. I raced to my room and had a quick shower before returning to the lobby. where i waited a few minutes more for Stuart. We planned to go into San Francisco to get some clam chowder in a sourdough bowl, which Stuart had been told he had to do. Since this was precisely my plan too, I offered to take him to Boudin Bakery at Pier 39.

We walked from the hotel to Millbrae BART station and added some cash to the two old tickets I still had from my last trip here. While there, an old lady asked us for help in loading cash onto her Clipper card, which we had no idea how to do, but worked out by following the prompts, which seemed to help the lady, so that was good. We caught the train to Powell Street and got off there to walk up through Union Square and over to Grant Avenue, where we walked north through Chinatown, avoiding the much steeper hills of the streets a block or two west.

Lucky red
Firecracker remains on Grant Avenue

Read more: lunch at Pier 39, the Musée Mécanique, chocolate sundaes, and brurgers, oh my

Europe 2016 diary: day 4

Monday, 16 January, 2017

Tuesday, 1 November, 2016. 21:27

We slept poorly, waking up around 04:00, and then having trouble getting back to sleep. Eventually we got up around 07:00 and decided to have the hotel breakfast, since we didn’t want to get ready to go, take half an hour to walk to the town centre, and then discover no places open to get some breakfast from. Jason had told us last night that today was a public holiday (presumably for All Saints Day), and so we thought maybe a lot of cafes might be closed.

We filled up on the breakfast, with muesli, fruit, yoghurt, bread, scrambled eggs, and croissants. There’s a Swiss thing called Ovomaltine, which comes in a few different forms. One is a chocolate spread like Nutella with crunchy bits in it. M. tried that one some croissant and liked it.

After eating, we rugged up for the morning cold. I pulled out my beanie and gloves for the first time on the trip. We walked south along the main road to the centre of Fribourg, about half an hour away. Part of the way in we passed a circus, apparently named Knie, set up with a big top tent and various outbuildings and sideshow attractions. Jason later told it that the circus was advertising everywhere but was only in Fribourg for a couple of days before moving on.

Iron and gold
Balcony in central Fribourg

Towards the centre of town, the industrial area we were staying in gave way to older buildings with steeply sloping roofs, stone walls, fountains, and other more interesting architecture. We passed through the old wall of the city, which had a section well preserved, with a guard tower. Inside we walked past an amazing old school building, with a stone lion and an eagle on the two front corners, several churches, and a museum of arts, and then the Gutenberg Museum. This led us to the impressive monolithic square tower of the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas. Unfortunately the front facade was partly covered in scaffolding for some restoration work.

We were meeting Jason at 10:00, but we were ten minutes or so early, so we went inside the cathedral to get out of the cold. Priests were setting up and a few people were seated, with more arriving as we wandered around the interior. There was obviously a service going to begin at 10:00. The inside of the cathedral showed its age a bit, and was dark and gloomy, with heavy pillars supporting the upper structure. The most interesting decorations where actually outside, on the portico around the main doors, which was covered in stone sculptures of saints and a bizarre scene above the doors showing some sort of damnation events, with people being marched naked, boiled alive in a cauldron, and devoured by giant beasts.

Read more: Walking around the old town of Fribourg, spectacular river views, driving across the Swiss countryside, the shores of the Thunersee, fancy dinner in Interlaken

Europe 2016 diary: day 3

Thursday, 29 December, 2016

Monday, 31 October, 2016. 17:56

We are in our room at the Ibis Hotel in Fribourg, after a drive from Lyon. We’re waiting until about 18:30 before we go out to meet Jason at his place to go out for dinner together.

We got up at a bit past 07:00 this morning, and had a leisurely morning since we didn’t really want to do much other than get breakfast, check out of the hotel, and pick up our hire car at midday. M. wanted to try the Slake Coffee House for breakfast, which opened at 08:00. I did some stretches to ease muscles tired from yesterday’s walking, then got dressed in time for us to head out.

Unfortunately, a handwritten sign on the door of Slake said they weren’t opening until 09:00! Since that was a bit of a wait, we walked the short distance over to Grand Café des Négociants to have the continental breakfast there again. This time it was clearly open, with several people already inside having coffee and croissants and so on. The woman who’d served us yesterday wasn’t there, but the supervisor lady was and recognised us. We ordered the same combinations as yesterday, except M. chose a pain au chocolat instead of a croissant. This time the jams included a peach one, but no raspberry. And the waiter brought two glasses of orange juice before stopping and realising M. had asked for the lemon.

Monkey at Slake
Slake Coffeehouse

After breakfast, we returned to our room briefly to pick up our iPads, and then went over to Slake to get a coffee for M. It was open by the time we got there, with a few people inside. We sat at a table near the front of the cafe, and I wrote some of yesterday’s diary while M. read a book on her iPad. The decorations were a bit funky, with the lampshade above us being a wire cage with perches inside it and fake birds sitting on them. There was also a seat for two people made from an old claw bathtub with one side removed. All the furniture was unique and mismatched.

Read more: Getting a hire car, driving across France, lunch in a small town, Switzerland, burgers for dinner

Europe 2016 diary: day 2

Saturday, 24 December, 2016

Sunday, 30 October, 2016. 14:56

We’re sitting in a cafe called Cafe Florio, in Vieux Lyon, the old part of town, having a drink break after a busy morning of sightseeing. M. is having a cafe creme, while I’m having a refreshing weissbier.

We slept reasonably well, waking up almost on the dot of 06:00, which after the clock change meant a good eight hours of sleep. M. slept through, but I woke up a few times. As we got up and prepared to go out, I checked for nearby cafes where we could get breakfast. Most of them either weren’t open on Sunday, or only opened at 10 or 11 o’clock, but there was one not far away which opened at 7, called Grand Café des Négociants.

Rugged up in our coats, we headed our just before 07:00. The weather was cold and grey, and it had rained overnight, but it wasn’t raining as we walked. But when we arrived at the cafe at 07:00, they were still cleaning inside and hadn’t taken the chairs down off the tables. So we had to wait a while until they were ready to open, so we wandered a block or two in various directions to look in the windows of some fancy shops while we waited. Eventually, they looked like they were open and we tried the door, which let us into an interior decorated in the last century, with chandeliers and velvet and silver everywhere. There was a large bar, with a huge ice bucket with bottles of champagne, and some enormous glass vases with flower displays that went up to the ceiling. The place had indeed been in business since 1846.

French cafe brekky
Breakfast at Café des Négociants

We sat at a couple of small round tables, both of us in the bench sofa by the window, and ordered the continental petit dejeuner, which consisted of a croissant and two large slices of bread each, plus a hot drink, a fruit juice, and jams and butter for the bread. We both ordered the chocolat chaud for the hot drink, and I got orange juice while M. chose lemon, which came with a decanter of water and sugar to sweeten to taste. The continental breakfast was really the only choice – they also had a breakfast with cooked eggs and other things, but they didn’t start serving that until 09:00.

Read more: Exploring Vieux Lyon, the Cathedral Saint-Jean, Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière, and yummy food

Europe 2016 diary: day 1

Saturday, 24 December, 2016

Saturday, 29 October, 2016. 13:26 Sydney time

We’re sitting on board our first flight, from Sydney to Dubai. It’s a daylight flight all the way, and we took off at 06:00, so we’re mostly awake despite trying to get a bit of sleep at the beginning.

We had to get up at 03:00 this morning to have a quick breakfast and then catch a taxi to the airport. It had rained overnight, but it had stopped so we didn’t have to wait on the kerb for the taxi in the rain, although it started sprinkling as the taxi arrived, and got quite heavy while we were driving. It eased off a bit by the time we got to the airport, so we didn’t get too wet getting out.

There was a short queue of passengers at the Emirates check in, so it didn’t take long to check our bags and get boarding passes. The woman at the counter asked if we preferred a row next to a window or in the middle of the aisles, and said the plane was fairly empty, so we could have a whole row of seats to ourselves and stretch out. I asked if there were any exit row seats available and she said no, but there was a bulkhead row, so we got that. Then it was filling in our departure cards and going through immigration and security into the departure area.

Nothing was open when we went through. No duty free shops, no food places, nothing except a lone McDonalds, where a few people were getting coffee. Our plane was the first scheduled departure of the morning, right on 06:00 when the airport curfew lifted, then the next departure was 06:30, and then no more until 08:15. So given our flight is only about a quarter full, there was virtually no business for anyone opening this early. As we waited, a couple of places opened around 04:30, a small duty free shop and a newsagent.

We boarded not long after 05:00, and the plane left the gate early. As we walked on, we checked our seat numbers, which were 43A and B. So naturally we started walking down towards the back of the plane, thinking the seats were several rows back. But when we looked at the seat numbers we were passing, they were already up in the 50s, so we had to backtrack, against the flow of other passengers. When we reached our seats, they were the the very first row, right by the entrance door! I guess rows 1 to 42 are upstairs, this being an Airbus A380. From where we’re sitting we have a view into the cockpit whenever a crew member opens the door to go in or out.

They served a breakfast soon after take off, and I got the potato and tomato frittata so M. could mix and match, swapping parts of her vegetarian meal with mine. (The other option was scrambled eggs with sausage.) Then we dozed a bit, since we’d only had a few hours sleep before getting up to go to the airport. But after a while we started waking up. M. watched movies while I tried to do the latest crossword in my weekly challenge with the guys at work, before I gave up and started writing this diary.

Over Australia
Flying over Australia

Read more: Arriving in Lyon and finding some dinner

New York diary: Day 8 & 9

Monday, 22 August, 2016

Saturday, 18 June, 2016. 18:58

I am on the plane, taxiing to take off from JFK to LAX, on the way home.

I set an alarm for 08:30 this morning, and woke up a bit before it went off. After the usual breakfast of cereal in the hotel dining room, I spent some time packing until about 09:45, when I headed out to the Discovery Exhibition Centre near Times Square, where they hold various rotating exhibitions. At the moment they have Body Worlds, and a Vikings exhibit, plus the one I wanted to see: Star Wars and the Power of Costume.

Droids!
Droids, at Star Wars and the Power of Costume.

On the way there, I noticed market stalls being set up on Sixth Avenue, with the avenue blocked to traffic for at least a couple of blocks, although the intervening cross streets still carried traffic. It must be a Saturday morning thing, because there was no trace of a market when we arrived last Saturday evening.

Read more: Star Wars, a hearty lunch, a British pub at JFK Airport, and flying home

New York diary: Day 7

Thursday, 18 August, 2016

Friday, 17 June, 2016. Written next day

We got up a little lazily as my meetings didn’t start until 08:30, and M. was planning to have a shower last thing before leaving for the airport at 13:30. I had a bowl of brain flakes and today tried another bagel, this time toasted. While I went to my meeting in the morning, M. went to the Met to check out the artwork there.

The meeting ended early, a bit before 12:30, and I went back to the hotel to find M. there packing her bag and getting ready to leave. The shuttle bus was picking her up at 13:30, and I waited with her until it arrived, then set out to walk north to the Met for our afternoon tour of the museum, arranged by Scott G, who works there.

Tony Dragon's Grille
Tony Dragon’s Grille.

On the way, I stopped at a Greek food truck called Tony Dragon’s Grille on the corner of Madison Avenue and bought a lamb gyro, wrapped in a thick pita bread. It was a little messy to eat on the street, but delicious, with hot lamb slices, salad, and tzatziki. Madison Avenue got fancier as I went north, with expensive fashion labels and jewellers lining the street.

Read more: Behind the scenes at the Met, then touring the public exhibitions