Archive for the ‘Diary’ Category

San Francisco 2018 diary, day 5

Sunday, 11 February, 2018

Tuesday 30 January, 2018. 17:32

I’m writing on the BART train from Millbrae back to San Francisco. I had a better sleep last night, but woke up before the alarm went off at 07:00. We got up and I had breakfast quickly and dashed out so I could catch the same train I got yesterday. There were a few more people on it today, but there were still plenty of seats.

After walking to the conference hotel, I checked in at the AV prep room, where they test to make sure your presentation laptop works with their projector system. Everything was fine, and I also asked for any tips in chairing a session, since I had to do that job for the first time this afternoon. The guy said there would be AV people running around the conference rooms to help if anyone had any problems.

Then it was off to the first session of the day. Today I spent the whole day in the Photography, Mobile, and Immersive Imaging conference, since I had my own talk to give before lunch and then a session to chair in the afternoon. First up Henry Dietz gave a talk about the development of multicamera systems at the University of Kentucky, showing off several systems they’ve developed over the years and presenting lessons learnt on how to design and engineer systems made of multiple cameras. The most crucial thing he said is to recognise that cameras these days are actually computers with sensors, not boxes for exposing film, and we need to start taking more advantage of the programmability in order to unlock their potential. I always like Henry’s talks as they are casual and fun and show off really cool stuff that his research group are doing by hacking cameras.

Read more: my presentation at the conference, enormous Chinese lunch, meeting friends for dinner

San Francisco 2018 diary, day 4

Sunday, 11 February, 2018

Monday 29 January, 2018. 12:53

I am sitting in the Juban Yakiniku House in Burlingame, having lunch during the conference lunch break. I had another terrible sleep, lying awake much of the night, and did not feel like getting up when the alarm went off at 07:00. But I bounded out of bed and checked the BART timetable as I gulped down a mixture of Special K and bran cereal for breakfast. Trains left for Millbrae at 07:21 and 07:36. I hurried so I could make the first one, and raced out to leave M. alone for her first day of solitary sightseeing. I just made the train by a minute and settled in for the ride to Millbrae.

The train was largely empty at this time, which was good, as I had a double seat to myself. I went through the printout of my talk to help cement in in my brain, although I’m not giving it until tomorrow. Once at Millbrae, I set out for the walk to the Hyatt Regency Hotel where the conference is on. Checking the time at both ends, it came in at 28 minutes of walking. The morning was grey, but not especially cold, and I removed my gloves part way along as I warmed up from the exercise.

I arrived at the hotel at 08:20, leaving plenty of time to register and collect my conference badge before the first talk I planned to attend at 08:50. Even before entering, I saw Nicolas outside, dealing with his transport. Then inside I ran into Kristyn, who apologised for not answering my email, saying she was halfway through replying. Her reply arrived a few minutes into the first conference session, saying she was keen to meet up with M. again, but had commitments with her in-laws while here in the Bay Area.

The first talk session was a joint session between Automotive Imaging and Image Quality & Systems Performance, chaired by Stuart. And the very first talk was given by Robin Jenkin, who I met briefly outside before he dashed off saying he needed to get ready to present. He spoke about the task of measuring image quality of automotive cameras, and how it was very different from measuring the image quality of normal photographic cameras, mainly because photography quality standards all factor in the influence of the human visual system, which is absent in an automotive context. Also the colour filter arrays of car cameras tend to be very different from the RGB Bayer filter for human-oriented photography, typically car cameras use red-white-white-white, or red-white-white-blue. The output of a car camera goes into a neural network designed to produce a decision on what the car should do, not to produce an image for humans to look at, so completely different criteria need to be used to judge the quality of the camera.

Read more: more conference stuff, yakiniku lunch, Mexican dinner

San Francisco 2018 diary, day 3

Saturday, 10 February, 2018

Sunday 28 January, 2018. 12:52

We are sitting in Noe Bagel in Noe Valley, having a lunch break of bagels. We slept late this morning, having got to sleep fairly late, after 23:00 last night. I got a decent amount of sleep, but we were woke. around 02:00 by blaring sirens on the street outside that lasted several minutes. We got up after 09:00 and had breakfast and prepared to leave slowly, managing to get out close to 10:00.

First stop was Blue Bottle again for M.’s coffee. We sat in this time so I could type up some of yesterday’s diary. While we were there, we were sitting right in front of the counter where they made fancy “siphon coffee“. Some guy had ordered one and we watched while a guy spent what felt like about 15 minutes making it, involving multiple bits of glassware that looked like they belonged in a chemistry lab. First he boiled water in a spherical flask over a heat lamp. He used the steam rising from the water to clean and polish the inside of a glass funnel like thing. Once it was clean to his satisfaction, he inserted a filter, drawing it down until it sealed by pulling a chain through the narrow part of the funnel. Then he attached the funnel into the top of the boiling water flask with a rubber seal. When he did this, the funnel sucked the hot water up into it. Then he prepared a tray with a glass of iced water and two spoons in it, a shot glass of water, and another tall glass, plus a small white ceramic bowl. He grabbed some coffee beans and ground them in a machine, putting the result into a metal cup. Then he stirred the hot water in the funnel with an icy cold spoon and measured the temperature of the water by dipping a thermometer into it. After confirming the temperature, he poured the ground beans in. He let that sit for a while, timing it with a digital timer clock, and put some boiling water into the tall glass on the tray. When the timer went off, he removed the flask from the heat and stirred the mixture of hot water and ground beans so that it drained down into the flask again through the filter in a swirl, leaving a conical mound of dried bean grounds on top. He removed the funnel and tipped the beans into the ceramic cup on the tray, then poured out the hot water in the glass. He poured some of the coffee from the flask into the shot glass, then he took the cup of grounds and sniffed them, deeply several times, then he tasted the shot glass of coffee. Finally he poured the coffee from the flask into the heated tall glass, and took the tray out to the customer, complete with the glass of cold water and the cup of leftover ground beans. We were boggled at how long it took and how complicated it was. We figured if ten people came in and ordered this sort of coffee all at once, it’d take an hour for them to make them all.

After the coffee, we went down to Powell Street BART station to add some credit onto our Clipper cards. The machine refused my Visa card for some reason, so we used cash. Then we went back up to the street to catch an F bus to Castro. The bus took a while to arrive. I was hoping for one of the historic streetcars, but a bus arrived first so we got on that. It’s a fair distance to Castro so I’m glad we didn’t decide to walk all the way.

At Castro we started walking south down Castro Street towards Noe Valley, which was our first real goal for the day. One of the first shops we passed was a place selling cookies, called Hot Cookie, which looked very tempting. All the different types of cookies had suggestive names. We decided to try a Walnut Woody, which turned out to also have chocolate chips in it, which were all molten as the cookie was still warm. The guy weighed it to determine the price. We shared it as we walked down the street outside.

We crossed to the sunny side to look in a shop, but I had to step outside after starting to sneeze uncontrollably, possibly from the incense they were burning inside, as the sneezing stopped once I was outside. At the end of the shops we crossed back to the shady side for the hike up the steep hill. We needed to get to the other side of the hill to reach Noe Valley. From the top we had some views across various parts of the city, though houses blocked most directions. And as we descended into Noe Valley we noticed that Twin Peaks was just to the west, towering over the neighbourhood.

Noe Florist
Florist in Noe Valley

Read more: Exploring Noe Valley, ice cream in Haight-Ashbury, jazz in Lower Haight, and burgers South of Market

San Francisco 2018 diary, day 2

Monday, 5 February, 2018

Saturday, 27 January, 2018. 22:29

It’s been a busy day! We got up around 08:00 after M. had a good night’s sleep, however I’m not sure I slept at all, as I was lying awake all night and trying to fall asleep unsuccessfully. We had breakfast of the Special K we bought last night, and then I had the sesame seed ball from Golden Gate Bakery, which had a sweet black bean paste filling, although it was mostly hollow, which is a good thing really as it was the size of a softball. The dough was chewy and crunchy from the sesame seeds and it tasted really good.

After walking across to Blue Bottle coffee for M. to get a morning coffee, we walked down Market Street to the Ferry Building. At the craft market in front of the building we saw the man who I’d bought M.’s silver bracelet from a few years ago, and M. got to thank him for making it. He was pleased to see us after she showed it to him and we explained the story. There were a lot fewer stalls there today than I remember usually being there, and the guy told us not to hang around here too long because there was a big protest march down Market Street planned for later in the day, and that he’d probably pack up and leave early himself.

We went across to the Ferry Building and looked at the farmer’s market there. I’d seen part of this before, in front of the building, but now it spilled around the southern end and into the space behind the building too, with dozens of stalls. Many were giving free tastings of their wares, and we got to taste falafels, hummus, three different types of nashi pears (which they call “Asian pears” here), and citrus fruit including sweet lemons, which were interesting.

Farmer's market
Farmer’s market behind the Ferry Building

Read more: Hayes Valley, The Fillmore, Cow Hollow, Marina, and dinner at Greens

San Francisco 2018 diary, day 1

Sunday, 4 February, 2018

Friday, 26 January, 2018. 21:29

We are at the Pickwick Hotel on Fifth Street in San Francisco, after a long day that began back in Sydney. Our flight left at 17:55, so we caught a taxi to the airport about 14:30 to give ourselves plenty of time. However traffic was very light on Australia Day, and we arrived with plenty of time to spare.

The airport was not busy at all. There were only departures leaving about every half hour or so, rather than every five or ten minutes like usual. So it felt very empty, and the check in lines for Qantas flights were virtually non-existent. Since I have silver frequent flyer benefits, we went into the premium economy check in line anyway, to bypass the three or four people in the economy line. I could have used the business class check in, but that was on the other side of the line of counters and we didn’t see it until too late. Never mind, we were checked in within about two minutes of arriving at the airport anyway.

We couldn’t find any of the green departure cards that we’re used to having to fill out each time we leave the country. I realised I’d heard that they were getting rid of them, and it looks like they’ve already implemented that, which is a change from the last time I flew out of Australia. Given that, we were through immigration and security quickly too, and through to the duty free shops and waiting lounges.

We walked around a bit to look briefly at all the shops, then found a seat near the large windows overlooking the runways to eat a late lunch that we’d brought with us: some bread rolls with Vegemite for M. and cheese and tomato for me. We figured an afternoon snack would be useful since dinner on the plane wouldn’t be until around 20:00. After eating, we got some drinks. M. got a coffee and then we sat in a small bar and restaurant place and I had a beer. Then we wandered around some more and sat some more, and M. decided to get a spinach and feta quiche from the same restaurant since she was getting hungry, but I decided to wait until the plane meal.

We headed to the gate, and sat near some guys who looked like rock musicians, and then we realised they were rock musicians! They had gear labelled with the name Papa Roach, which I looked up and determined was a fairly successful band from California, and they’d just toured Australia. So we assumed they must be on our flight heading home. But as it happened, there was a flight to Los Angeles leaving at almost the same time as ours from the adjacent gate, and that’s the one they got on.

Read more: Arrival in San Francisco, Chinatown, Pier 39, Ghirardelli Square

London 2016 diary: Day 5

Thursday, 29 June, 2017

Friday, 29 September, 2016. Evening

I had most of a free day ahead before my flight left from Heathrow at 21:30. With no ideas in mind, I searched online for “quirky things to do in London”. I found an article listing a top 30, and the number 1 item was the Sir John Soane Museum. Apparently the titular John Soane was an architect and collected a large array of drawings, paintings, and architectural bits and pieces, which were displayed in the house where he lived. It was pretty central, so I decided to try it.

For breakfast I had muesli, followed by a croissant with some of the cheeses that were available. Then I showered and packed my bags to check out of the hotel, leaving a complete change of clothes on top for when I returned to pick them up.

I went to Gunnersbury station to catch a train to Temple, from where I would walk to the Soane Museum. Unfortunately there seemed to be some issue with the trains, and they were all running late. As the numbers of people waiting piled up on the eastbound platform, another train pulled in westbound and quietly announced that it was terminating and turning into an eastbound train. I only noticed because I was watching it and listening to the internal train announcement. There was no announcement over the platform PA system. I got on the train with a handful of other people. But most of the others waiting for a citybound train remained standing on the platform, as the doors closed and the train pulled out.

At Temple I alighted and walked north through the Aldwych circle and along the main road, until turning right towards a green square surrounded by houses, once of which was Soane’s. I was there about five minutes before it opened at 10:00, and there was an older couple and a younger woman waiting already. Staff came out and prepared to open up, getting us to form an orderly queue as another couple of people arrived. When they let us in, we had to put all our carried stuff in large clear plastic bags, presumably to protect the things in the house from dirt, and no photography was allowed.

Sir John Soane Museum
Sir John Soane Museum, exterior

Read more: the quirky and fascinating John Soane collection, the Borough Market (is it actually possible to eat too many sausage rolls?), the Tate Modern art gallery, then heading to Heathrow Airport and flying home

London 2016 diary: Day 4

Wednesday, 28 June, 2017

Thursday, 29 September, 2016. Evening

I woke early again, around 04:00, and dozed on and off until getting up at 06:00. I had a shower, and breakfast this morning consisted of some scrambled eggs, baked beans, mushrooms, and potatoes, plus some muesli with yoghurt.

The plan was to visit the Natural History Museum, but it didn’t open until 10:00, so I had quite. bit of time to kill. I decided to use the time to walk all the way from Gunnersbury to South Kensington, where the museum was. This gave me another chance to go past Gail’s Artisan Bakery and get some goodies there. I selected an almond croissant to round out breakfast, a half loaf of sweet potato and goat’s cheese bread to have for lunch later, and a “reverse chocolate chunk” cookie, which was dark chocolate dough with white chocolate chunks in it.

Monkey in Ravenscourt Park
Monkey relaxing in Ravenscourt Park

I continued along the Chiswick High Street farther than I’d explored before, stopping at Ravenscourt Park to sit on a bench and eat the almond croissant. There was a school adjacent, and lots of parents were dropping children off. After eating, I walked a little way into the park to have a look at it, and saw people walking dogs, doing exercises, and there was one guy giving another man some sort of martial arts lesson involving swords.

Read more: tribute to Freddie Mercury, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, ice cream at Harrods’ ice cream parlour, and dinner at a pub with comic readers

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