Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Yokohama 2017 diary, Day 4

Thursday, 2 March, 2017

Thursday, 23 February, 2017

This morning was the “big break” from the ISO meetings, meaning we had the morning free to visit the CP+ camera show, being held in the Pacifico Yokohama convention centre adjacent to the hotel. Our instructions were to be in the meeting room at 09:00 to receive registration forms for the show and then be taken over so we could register as press members so we could get in to the “press time” from 10:00 to 12:00, which is restricted to press so they can see the show before the public crowds are admitted.

But first I woke up, a bit after 07:00 again, had a shower, and then went out to get some breakfast from the nearest convenience store, which is over in Pacifico Yokohama. It was about 08:30 when I went there, and the shop was busy with a dozen or more people constantly moving through buying snacks and breakfast or whatever. This time I stuck to the tried and true sushi rice snacks, which delivered a much better experience than the ham wraps from yesterday.

Then I went to the meeting room to get my CP+ registration. Most of the Japanese attendees weren’t there, presumably being not that interested in attending the show. But most of the visitors were also absent, and only showed up fairly late, perhaps thinking they didn’t really need to be there as early as 09:00. Sasaki-san gave us forms to fill in indicating our ages and what industry we worked in. Then at 09:30, Yamamoto-san led us over to the registration desks at the show and herded us into the right area to wait for the entry time. Dozens of staff kept people in order, making sure nobody went anywhere they shouldn’t be and checking everyone’s passes.

CP+
Inside the CP+ camera show

Eventually, at 10:00 on the dot we were allowed into the exhibition hall. This giant space was filled with booths from dozens of manufacturers of cameras, lenses, binoculars, telescopes, microscopes, and accessories such as tripods, filters, bags, and so on, as well was printers and paper. Having got the general impression last year, I concentrated mainly on visiting stalls with large photographic prints on display, to look at the photography. Many of the stalls had these, showing off either the cameras, the printers, or the paper, depending on what they manufactured. Canon also had some 8k HDR displays, which were stunning to look at.

Read more: about the CP+ camera show, more sushi, and travelling to Kawasaki for more Shabu Shabu

Yokohama 2017 diary, Day 3

Tuesday, 28 February, 2017

Wednesday, 22 February, 2017

I got up a bit after 07:00 again. I didn’t have breakfast already, so I just showered and got dressed and checked online stuff and then did some stretching exercises until 08:30. The day was bright and sunny, and looking out of the window I noticed that I could see Mount Fuji in the distance, beyond the towers of Queen’s Square, looking majestic with a large cone of snow on top.

Snow cone
Mount Fuji from my hotel room

I walked out to the convenience store to buy some food and head straight to the meeting rooms. The store was busy at this time, and I browsed the offerings, tempted by a tortilla wrap with ham and salad in it. I grabbed that plus one salmon sushi rice snack, and went out to find a secluded sunny spot to eat them. It turned out the ham wrap had cream cheese on it, which has a texture I don’t like, so I didn’t enjoy that very much. Tomorrow I’ll stick with the sushi rice snacks I think.

Read more: ISO meetings, so mostly I talk about lunch and dinner: okonomiyaki and shabu shabu

Yokohama 2017 diary, Day 2

Tuesday, 28 February, 2017

Tuesday, 21 February, 2017

This was the first day of the ISO meeting. I set my alarm for 07:30, but got up before then, just a bit after 7. I had a shower and ate my breakfast that I’d bought last night. Then after checking some email and news it was time to get dressed and go downstairs to the conference centre next door and begin the meeting.

It was good to see many of the familiar faces I’ve gotten to know over the past two years of attending these meetings, though Matsuhashi-san was no longer here. I greeted Margaret and Jonathan, and met a new guy named Laurent from DxO labs in France, though he was on the American delegation via DxO’s US company registration. Scott F. later explained to me that companies in France participating in standards work via their national body are expected to pay a substantial sum of money, whereas coming in from the US side costs considerably less, so that’s why DxO doesn’t form an official French delegation. Laurent said his colleague Nicolas (the guy who’d recommended visiting Mercantour National Park to me back in the London meeting) would be joining the meeting tomorrow.

During the lunch break, Margaret led me, Jonathan, and Laurent over to her favourite nearby sushi place, in the MARK IS shopping centre not far from the meeting site. We walked there via the underground passage near Minatomirai station, avoiding the biting cold as much as possible. The weather forecast had been for a maximum of 11°C, and it felt even colder.

We got the last available table for four people and proceeded to grab plates off the sushi conveyor. We mostly ate those, but toward the end Margaret ordered some specific fatty tuna sushi from a waitress, which she and Laurent shared. We paid individually for our stacks of plates and went back to work for the afternoon.

Sweet arrows
Post-lunch desserts from Arrows Palette

But first we stopped off on the way through Queen’s Square when we found a place selling delicious looking desserts. It was a tiny booth in the open between Queen’s Square and Landmark Plaza, called Arrows Palette, which made interesting things with pastry and fruit. The four of us squeezed into the tiny shop, out of the biting cold, and ordered some of the concoctions, which were made by taking a long tube of flaky pastry, splitting it down the length, filling it with cream, and then topping it with fruit, and maybe cocoa. I had one with strawberries and blueberries. It was indeed delicious, but also quite light and not overly filling, so made a good finale to the lunch.

Read more: mostly about the dinner reception for the ISO meeting

Yokohama 2017 diary, Day 1

Monday, 27 February, 2017

Sunday night, 19 February 2017

My flight from Sydney was scheduled to depart on Sunday night at 21:35. I decided to use my complimentary pass to the Qantas Club lounge, which I’d earned when I qualified for silver frequent flyer status last year. So I left home nice and early, calling a taxi at 17:30, but it didn’t arrive for almost fifteen minutes, so it was well after 18:00 when I reached the airport. I got to use the priority check-in queue, because the night before I’d received a text message from Qantas saying that my requested seat upgrade to premium economy class using frequent flyer points had been approved, so it promised to be a good flight all round.

The woman at the check-in counter apologised, saying there were no aisle seats available, so I had to have a middle seat between other people. But she gave me a bulkhead row, with extra legroom. She also gave me a printed card with details of my return flight on it, just in case Japanese immigration wanted to see evidence that I was planning to leave the country.

I passed through into the departure area, where I changed some dollars into yen. The commission fee was outrageous, but I wanted to make sure I had enough to load up my Suica card to pay for a train fare from the airport to my hotel. After getting 2000 yen, I went up the escalators to the Qantas lounge, where they took my complimentary pass and ushered me into the hallowed halls.

The area was a bit bigger than I expected, running along a north-facing wall of the terminal, so the windows had good views of the city skyline. There were two buffet areas for serving food, though only one was open at the moment, as the lounge wasn’t very full of people. It had hot soup, fried rice, and a pasta dish, plus a cheese board, four or five types of salads, a cherry cheesecake, chocolate brownies, fresh fruit. Then there was a self serve bar with dozens of wines, beers, spirits, and mixers. And nearby was a gelato bar with half a dozen flavours and an attendant waiting to scoop out cupfuls for anyone who wanted some.

I grabbed a small plate and took some chick pea and tomato salad, zucchini, chick pea, and green pea salad, and some potato salad. I didn’t want to eat too much, as my in-flight meal in premium economy was supposed to be good too from the reviews I’ve read. I also grabbed a James Squire “Swindler” summer ale to drink. I found a seat by the window, down the end of the lounge near the closed buffet area, where there were fewer people and more space, and settled into a comfy armchair to relax before my flight.

Qantas club lounge
Enjoying the food and drink in the Qantas Club lounge

After finishing the salads, I grabbed a slice of the cherry cheesecake and took my time eating that, while watching the sunset light filtering through gathering storm clouds over the city. Checking the weather radar, it looked like a heavy storm was on a direct approach to the airport. Sure enough, it started raining, and there were lightning strikes visible. I wandered up near the gelato bar to see out the windows there, and a lady on the staff informed me that the white flashing lights we could see out the window over on the tarmac indicated lightning strikes within ten kilometres, and would turn blue if there were strikes within five kilometres, which would trigger a shutdown of aircraft movements at the airport. I returned to my seat, and sure enough, soon after the lights started flashing blue. The rain was really heavy, but I didn’t see any hailstones at all, and certainly none like the giant ones that hit Sydney the day before.

Read more: Arrival in Tokyo, travel to Yokohama, walking through Yamashita Park, Motomachi, Chinatown

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