Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

San Francisco diary – Day 3: 3 Feb 2014

Friday, 28 March, 2014

(written a day later)

On Monday morning we woke at 7:30 again, although I didn’t get very much sleep. We had cereal and milk for breakfast in the hotel room. I left to get to the Hilton by 8:50 for the first talk in my conference track, while M. stayed in the room a bit longer before venturing out to check out Macy’s, which wouldn’t open until 10:00. She actually went out earlier to get some coffee from one of the many Starbucks scattered around the streets.

The digital photography conference track started with a mix of papers on hardware and algorithms for various things, in particular some focused on mobile imaging (i.e. with a phone), and there were papers on image quality measurement, glass and polymer microlens designs, and other things. I had an apple from the hotel lobby fruit bowl during the morning tea break, then went out at lunch to meet M. at the front of the Macy’s building on Union Square.

We walked down Market St to a Noah’s Bagels place like the one we went to yesterday, and had some bagels again for lunch. This time M. had a nine grain bagel with cream cheese, and then picked a potato and peppercorn bagel to try, curious about the potato, but not realising the peppercorns would make it very spicy. I had smoked salmon, cream cheese, and salad on my poppy seed bagel, which came with potato salad again.

Cable Car
Cablecar on Powell Street.

Done with lunch, I still had an hour to kill before the afternoon conference session, so we popped in at Jeffrey’s Toys and Comics to look around. It was mostly children’s toys, with a small comic section and a small section of more advanced games. They had Magic the Gathering cards, but only single booster packs. I asked if they knew where I could get boxes, and the guy didn’t really seem to know, pointing me at Walgreens or Target.

I left M. at Macy’s again and went back to the conference for the afternoon session. After the tea break, I switched conference tracks since the digital photography track wasn’t so interesting, and went to the human vision track, where they had talks about the interaction of sound and vision in 3D cinema, a statistical analysis of how movie genre affects the perception of the balance between audio and video quality, and a talk by Harry Mathias, a movie maker who was nominated for an Academy Award in the 1980s, talking about modern digital technology and why almost none of it was of any use to “real” movie makers. He came across as a bit of an old fogey who hated newfangled stuff, but he made some interesting and valid points about the intersections of artistic vision and technical requirements.

At the end of the talks, I went to the Hilton lobby, where M. was, and we went together into the conference 3D cinema event, which was two hours of 3D shorts from around the world. We only stayed for the first hour, before leaving to go to La Fusion restaurant for the arranged dinner with several other people from Canon. We got the wrong street and found the restaurant a few minutes late, when most of the others were already there. There was Geoff and Quan from Sydney, Francisco (with his wife and young daughter), Su-Kei, and Sandra from Canon USA, a Japanese guy who had been with them for six months and his wife Keiko, and a few other people from Canon Japan who I didn’t know.

The food was Peruvian fusion stuff, and very good. It started with two different ceviches, a prawn one and a fish one, and a rocket and beetroot salad. Then came empanadas: beef, fish, and corn and cheese. And for the mains were a fish pot pie (deconstructed onto a plate for sharing), rotisserie chicken (deliciously moist) with a bread salad, and lomo soltado. They made M. a special vegetarian pie with spinach and mushrooms. It was all delicious. Then we had a three layer chocolate mousse cake for dessert, which was presented to Francisco for his birthday, with candles on. Apparently Sandra had bought it earlier and brought it along.

We left the restaurant just before 22:30 and walked back to our hotel, where we showered and read for a bit before going to sleep.

San Francisco diary – Day 2: 2 Feb 2014

Thursday, 27 March, 2014

21:11

The alarm woke us this morning at 07:30. M. slept well, but I had a very restless night. Nevertheless, we ate some Grape Nuts for breakfast and then rugged up for a bleak and wet day outside. It was cold and grey and rainy, so we put on all our layers. Despite this, it was very chilly and miserably damp as we walked down to Market St and then the Ferry Building to get a Blue Bottle coffee for M. The wind howled through the streets and made it very uncomfortable, but thankfully the rain was not too heavy.

At the Ferry Building we sheltered inside for a while as M. drank her morning coffee. She also got me a hot chocolate, which was nice and warming. We sat looking through the windows out to a windswept bay, with whitecaps spraying foam in the middle distance. I’ve never seen it look so miserable out there. We also saw some enormous seagulls, at least twice as big as the ones back home. After finishing our drinks we browsed in the book shop there for a few minutes before leaving.

We’d originally planned to take a ferry to Sausalito today, but the weather made us switch to an indoor plan, and we walked up the Embarcadero to the new Exploratorium at Pier 15. We got there just before opening time at 10:00, hoping to get in out of the rain quickly. But when we arrived, we were stunned to see a queue of people about 60 or 70 metres long snaking out across the exposed waterfront to the adjacent pier, then out along that pier a distance. We hurried out to the end of the queue, which was thankfully in the shelter of an overhanging roof, so we could close our umbrellas. But we didn’t relish the thought of the queue advancing slowly, leaving us in the exposed section for several minutes.

Queuing in the rain
The queue to get into the Exploratorium. The queue runs right across the middle of the photo (all the people with umbrellas), then towards the camera.

At 10:00 the doors opened and the queue moved into the museum fairly quickly. We advanced in steps to the end of the covered area and braced ourselves for the crossing of the unsheltered part. But we were fortunate as the queue moved very quickly after that. We almost didn’t stop in the open, moving quickly into the building and thankfully putting down our umbrellas again. Inside the building the queue was still about 20 metres to the ticket sale counters, but this moved fairly rapidly too. We only discovered the reason when we went to pay and the guy at the counter just gave us two tickets and said it was free entry today!

We dropped our outer layers and umbrellas in a locker then went inside to explore. The place was already busy with people, with lots of kids running around and trying all of the interactive exhibits. It was a little tricky getting a go at some of them, but with a little patience we managed to have a look at most things. Highlights included a giant virtual image mirror, which made it look as though you could touch a copy of yourself floating upside down, projected a few metres in front of the mirror. This was very popular, with several people constantly standing in front of it and gawking. There were also numerous other optical devices and illusions, perceptual illusions, magnetic and electric demos, fluid dynamics, chaotic pendulums, things that made noise or played with your hearing, and a section full of biological displays including lots of microscopes aimed at interesting micro-organisms or cells or other things. There was so much to see and do that even with hundreds of other people crowding the place we could always find an unattended exhibit to play with, or one we could have a go at with just a short wait. I think we managed to try more than half of them – trying them all would require a full day and some very good luck with some of the most popular ones.

Eye dissection
Exploratorium staff dissect a cow’s eyeball in front of curious kids.

As it was, we didn’t notice the time passing until it was almost 14:00, at which point we suddenly got hungry for our overdue lunch. We quickly walked past a section or two of exhibits we hadn’t seen yet, stopping at a few to try them out along the way. Then we looked in the museum shop quickly, and by about 14:30 we headed out and back down towards the Ferry Building, where we turned on to Market St and the Noah’s New York Bagels place we’d seen earlier, to get some lunch. Fortunately the rain had stopped by now and the cloud was breaking up a little, but it was still chilly and a little windy.

M. had a pumpernickel bagel with cream cheese and a blueberry bagel, while I had a pumpernickel bagel sandwich with pastrami, salad, and mustard. It was good and satisfying after the long time since breakfast. Then we walked back down Market St again and past Union Square and Macy’s to find the Hilton Hotel, where the conference will be this week. On the way we stopped in at the San Francisco Giants Dugout merchandise shop on Geary St, where M. bought a long sleeved Giants T-shirt. There was also one I wanted, but they didn’t have my size, so the guy phoned the baseball park store and is getting one sent over, which we can pick up on Tuesday afternoon.

Heading from there to the Hilton we got a bit confused until we finally located it, then got turned around inside the maze inside as I sought the conference rooms to find the registration desk. Having received my registration package, we left again and returned to our hotel. We rested for a while until it was time to go out for dinner.

We decided to try Italian tonight, and walked through Chinatown to North Beach. We found a place called Calzone’s on Columbus Avenue, which had been packed yesterday as we walked past and which M. liked the look of. We got a table inside, at a booth, and ordered some garlic bread and a calzone each, Mediterranean for M., which had eggplant, spinach, and cheese, while I had a Philly cheesesteak one. We also got a glass of wine each, Chianti for M. and a Zinfandel for me. The food was reasonably good, but the decor was very cool, with lots of bottles and strings of garlic hanging up everywhere over red painted walls. They had a liquorice cheesecake for dessert, which I had to try, and that was very good, with a strong liquorice flavour. It came with a minted mascarpone cream, which added a good element, and dripped with raspberry sauce, which was a bit discordant. But overall a good meal.

Calzones at Calzone's Liquorice cheesecake
Calzones and liquorice cheesecake at Calzone’s, North Beach.

We walked back with a very light sprinkle of rain which eased off quickly. The Golden Gate Bakery in Chinatown which we’d passed yesterday with a queue of about forty people outside it was still open, and had no queue, although there were three or four customers inside. Seeing how popular this place was, I decided I had to try a moon cake from there for the recent Chinese New Year. I got a lotus seed cake, which I will probably eat tomorrow.

Back at the hotel we showered and then turned in for the night. I need to be bright and early tomorrow for the start of the conference!

San Francisco diary – Day 1: 1 Feb 2014

Wednesday, 26 March, 2014

01:15. (San Francisco time)

We are on board flight UA870 from Sydney to San Francisco. We left on time at 16:20 on Saturday, and it’s now a few hours into the flight, but at our destination it has just passed midnight on the same day. We are scheduled to arrive at 10:30 in the morning.

It’s been a fairly eventless day so far. We got up, finished packing, then took a taxi to the airport around 13:00. Check in was quick, and we’d paid in advance for exit row seats for the extra leg room, which is serving us well right now as we relax into the long haul. Through customs and into the departure lounge we headed first to the Chinese restaurant where we had some steamed buns and dumplings for lunch. Then we browsed the shops a bit, buying an eye mask for M. and a toothbrush for me (that’s the item I accidentally left behind this time).

We saw Quan from my work briefly near the gate, and arranged to meet at the baggage claim at San Francisco airport so we can catch BART together to our hotel. We boarded the plane and settled into our seats. They started showing the first movie almost immediately. M.’s vege meal came early and she said it was good – rice with a spicy lentil dhal. I had a choice of chicken or pasta with “red sauce”. I chose the chicken, which had a teriyaki style sauce with rice and vegetables. It was okay.

After the meal service had cleaned up, a group of three fairly loud Americans came and stood in the area in front of our seats, nursing drinks and obviously settling in for a long flight of consuming alcohol. One older woman was carrying a little bottle of scotch or something, and they were all swapping stories about how drunk they’d got on other flights or something. Thankfully after a while a flight attendant came and told them to go back to their seats.

10:22

We’re sitting on the tarmac at San Francisco airport,waiting for a gate to become vacant. We arrived 20 minutes early and should still be at the gate early. The sun is shining brightly and it looks like a beautiful day outside.

The flight passed with only a bit of turbulence to break it up. Breakfast was an egg dish with corn kernels in it, or a plate of fruit.

18:20

Chancellor view with fire escape
View from the Chancellor Hotel towards Union Square.

We are resting for a little after returning to our hotel and having a shower after a full afternoon out and about.

The plane eventually made it into the gate and we disembarked, then walked the long corridor to the customs hall. The queues were not long and we passed through fairly quickly, then waited a few minutes to gather our bags. We had them before we spotted Quan arriving a few minutes later. He grabbed his bag quickly too and then we walked out to the arrivals area and to the BART station to catch a train into the centre of the city. There was a train waiting there as we arrived, but we weren’t fast enough buying tickets to get on. Thankfully the next train was only a six minute wait and we piled on and grabbed seats.

We chatted a bit about the conference and our previous visits to San Francisco with Quan as the train took us to Powell St, where we got off. Quan had a reservation at the Hilton, where the conference is, while we are staying in the Chancellor Hotel, a couple of blocks away. We separated and went to our hotels.

We checked into a room on the fifth floor, looking out on to Powell St. We simply dropped our things, washed our faces, and then headed out for a brisk walk to keep ourselves awake. We left the hotel about 12:30 and headed over to Grant Avenue and walked north through Chinatown and North Beach towards Fisherman’s Wharf. It took us about an hour to get there, then we looked around the seafood eateries there and strolled along the Embarcadero towards Pier 39.

The first stop there was the Boudin Bakery for some late lunch. We had the soup in sourdough bowls: M. having the tomato while I had the clam chowder. As usual, the first meal off the plane was delicious.

21:20

We are back at the hotel after dinner and going to retire for the night soon.

Earlier, after lunch we browsed the shops at Pier 39, checking out the various touristy goodness, including such marvels as Magnetron (a fridge magnet shop), a couple of chocolate and taffy shops, and the San Francisco 49ers sports gear shop (which also had Giants stuff and lots of other teams too). In the shop signing autographs was the retired 49ers player Bubba Paris, though we didn’t get anything signed.

Then we hopped on a streetcar to take us down the Embarcadero to the Ferry Building. The open air craft market on Market St was still open with a couple of dozen stalls showing off various wares, so we had a look at that. M. bought a cool floppy hat from a woman with a stall full of hand crafted hats. We looked for the fridge magnet woman who sold me the broccoli magnet three years ago, but she wasn’t there.

After that we crossed the road to go into the Ferry Building, where M. had a coffee from Peet’s. Next we explored the various cool food shops in the building, spotting a funky looking wine bar which we might try for a lunch snack one day.

It was about 17:00 by this time and the sun was setting, so we walked up Market St back to our hotel, where we showered and changed to freshen up. About 18:30 we left to find dinner. I mentioned the Thai place I’d been to three years ago, and M. said she felt like Thai food. So I found the name and address: King of Thai Noodle House on O’Farrell St, just a short walk from our hotel. On the way out of the hotel we asked the receptionist about nearby supermarkets, and she said there was a Walgreens two blocks down on Powell St, also right near the Thai place.

So we walked down, located the Walgreens, then went into the Noodle House. There was a queue of people waiting for a table, but the first group quickly got a table and then the group in front of us was three people but the next table they had was for two, so we got in next. Our table was upstairs, in a room painted entirely purple. M. ordered a vegetarian rice dish, pad gra praw, while I got the deep fried salmon with red curry that I’d enjoyed so much last time I was there. We also got a serve of vegetable egg rolls for a starter. The food was awesomely good, and very satisfying after a long, tiring day.

Deep fried salmon curry
Deep fried salmon curry from King of Thai Noodle House.

On the way back, M. was keen to take a look at the Levi’s store on Market St, so we walked around the block past that. We went in since it was still open, and they were having a huge sale. M. bought a pair of jeans for $30 and I got a shirt for $20. We were in different change rooms at the same time and when I came out with the shirt on I had no idea where M. was. A lady on the staff asked if I needed help and I said, “I don’t know where my wife is… She’s in one of these rooms.” She asked me her name, and I told her, and she started calling out! M. responded, so then we had it sorted.

After Levi’s, we went into another Walgreens next door, different to the one we’d located before dinner. We bought some Grape Nuts and milk for breakfast in our hotel room, and some of the Old Spice deodorants for Andrew, who wanted some of the fragrances not available in Australia. Then we came back to our hotel, took care of some catching up on the Internet, and turned in for the night. We have an alarm set to wake us up at 07:30, if we’re not awake by then.

North Sydney walking project

Sunday, 1 December, 2013

North Sydney walksI mentioned in this post back in June that my wife and I were doing a walking project: walking the full length of every street and walking path in the North Sydney council area. The area is roughly 4km by 4km, so that’s a fair bit of walking. Every trip has to start and end at our home as well – no driving to and from places on the other side of the area to walk there.

We started this project in (I think) March of 2011. I thought at the time we might be able to finish it within a year. But it turned out to take more than two and a half years.

Today we finished the last few streets remaining. Whew! This map shows everywhere we have walked, marked in orange. (I may have missed a few small details – it was very fiddly marking these off in Photoshop.)

It feels good to complete such an ambitious and long-running project. We’ve thought about starting a new one… walking every street and path in the Sydney City council area. For that one we’ll probably have to allow ourselves to catch a train or bus to and from the walking locations.

San Francisco 2013 diary: Day 6

Friday, 28 June, 2013

The last day of this trip!

Friday, 8 February, 2013. 09:54. BART train to San Francisco

I got up just after 08:00 this morning and packed my bags for departure. There was an itemised hotel bill slipped under the door. I noticed that in addition to the $18 breakfast I had on my first morning here, there was also an extra $37 breakfast charge in the same day! I pointed this out at reception when I checked out and they deducted the “second breakfast” charge. Then I left my large bag and poster tube with the baggage guy to pick up this evening before heading to the airport and walked out into the brisk morning air.

It was really cold and a bit windy. The sky looked sunny ahead, but when I turned around, I saw the entire sky behind me was covered in angry grey storm clouds. I quickened my pace, hoping to make it to Millbrae before it began raining. The clouds threatened and I thought they were gaining on me, but by the time I got near Millbrae station, it was clear they wouldn’t burst quite yet. So I stopped quickly into the Panera Bakery near the station and got a whole grain bagel with cream cheese “to go”. I took my paper bag outside and opened it, expecting to find it ready to eat, but it was a sliced bagel, a plastic knife, and a peel-back container of cream cheese. So I stopped on a seat outside to spread the cheese on the bagel, discard the waste, and then walked to the station, munching the bagel on the way.

At the station I bought a ticket. At the ticket machine next to me were a middle aged couple and an older woman (probably one of their mothers) and they were puzzling over the ticket machine. The asked me for help in buying tickets, and I told them as much as I knew, including that they needed a separate ticket for each person, which was news to them so it was lucky I told them.

16:45. Glen Park BART Station

I got off the train this morning here at Glen Park Station, then went outside to catch a number 44 bus to Golden Gate Park. I didn’t need to wait very long, and the bus took a winding route north, skirting the west side of Twin Peaks, until it reached the park. There I got off in front of the Academy of Sciences, but before going in I decided to walk across the open area in front and check out the Japanese Tea Garden. This cost $7 to enter, and at first I thought it was very small for the price. But walking around I realised that there was a lot more hidden behind the trees and small hills, making it quite expansive. The gardens were beautifully maintained and the water in the ponds was crystal clear, giving an excellent view of the koi in there. There was a small school group and a few other people around, but not too many, so it was fairly tranquil.

American Coot
American coot, Stow Lake, Golden Gate Park.

After exiting the gardens, I walked down the road past the botanical gardens to Stow Lake. I was surprised to find that the lake was actually uphill, the water level being higher than the main road that ran past it. The lake was beautiful, with lots of gulls, mallards, and grebes swimming around on the water. Quite a few people were taking advantage of the brightening weather to have picnics or just sit by the lake and admire the scenery.
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San Francisco 2013 diary: Day 5

Thursday, 27 June, 2013

Thursday 7 February, 2013. 15:22

I am having a short mid-afternoon break before a final round of talks to finish off the conference in a little while. I snoozed in a bit this morning, getting up in time to have breakfast before a talk beginning at 09:45, about search engine user interfaces, particularly for image searching. Then I went to a bunch of talks about 3D depth acquisition and correction of noisy data, which took the time up to lunch.

M. and I tried FaceTime again, getting a rather choppy video and audio connection, but enough to have a bit of a chat. Then I went out for a walk to Burlingame again to get some lunch. I’m glad I wore my coat today, as it was really chilly when the scattered cloud obscured the sun. It rained overnight and was still sprinkling this morning, but it seems to have cleared up now and the sun is shining.

I tried a new place today for lunch, the Royal Donut Cafe, which was a classic style American diner. I ordered a Reuben with onion rings. I lifted the sandwich with my hands and tried to take a bite, but the corned beef was so tough I couldn’t bite through it! I ate the rest with knife and fork, slicing the tough meat into bite sized pieces. I was looking forward to something delicious and tender, so it was rather disappointing. After finishing that, I went back across the street to the Preston’s ice cream shop and this time tried a cup of rocky road. The texture of the ice cream there is marvellous – very thick and viscous. The only trouble was my hands froze while eating it as I was walking back to the hotel!

Reuben and onion rings
Reuben and onion rings, Royal Donut Cafe.

Part way back, I took a short detour to drop the cup and spoon into a bin in a park, and walked through the park to the shoreline road on the other side. From there I walked along the bay shore back towards the hotel, getting a good long view of Oakland across the bay and the airport runway with planes landing and taking off.

Back at the hotel I relaxed for a while, having a shower to freshen up. I checked my email, and Lisa has organised everyone to meet at a restaurant called the Velvet Cantina, near the 24th Street BART station, which is convenient for everyone to get to. I’ll head there myself, walking over to Millbrae and catching the train from there. Now I just have to make sure I don’t forget to take the bags of lollies and the jar of Vegemite that I brought as gifts!
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San Francisco 2013 diary: Day 4

Wednesday, 26 June, 2013

Wednesday 6 February, 2013. 09:44

I am sitting in a conference room waiting for the next talk. The one supposed to be on now was a no-show, and the next talk can’t start until the scheduled time, so we are all sitting here twiddling or thumbs for 20 minutes. This session is about 3D data processing. Before this, there was a plenary talk by Steve Seitz of Google about producing 3D models of the world based on photos uploaded by people. By matching points between about a million photos from Flickr he produced very impressive models of parts of Rome and Venice. Probably some of my photos were in the data he used! It was really mind-blowing stuff.

37/365 A Trillion Photos
Introduction to Steve Seitz’s talk.

It looks like the poster display room is ready for setting up posters already, so I’ll go set up mine after this first session of the conference, during the morning coffee break.

18:16

I’m having a break between the end of the poster paper session and the start of the conference reception. The talks I went to today were an interesting mix of stuff, mostly on 3D video, since the the sub-conference on digital photography didn’t have any more talks. Some of the talks even presented material in 3D and we were given glasses to view it. After lunch there was a very interesting panel discussion on how much depth effect to use in 3D content, with factors coming from all sorts of unexpected and surprising (to me) areas. The panel included a guy from IMAX, one from DreamWorks, a researcher in cognitive vision science, and a guy from a 3D production house that I can’t remember.

For lunch I walked to Burlingame yet again, getting some pad thai at a restaurant I’d been in when I was here in 2011. The food was great and incredibly cheap, as I remembered it from two years ago. I have no idea why the place wasn’t full. I was the only person in there the whole time. I left a very generous tip.

The afternoon was the panel session mentioned above, plus the two hour poster session. I’d put my poster up in the morning coffee break, but from 15:30 to 17:30 the authors were expected to be standing by their posters to answer questions and describe the work to interested readers. My poster was adjacent to one by another guy from Sydney, working at Sydney University. He had little koalas hanging from the corners of his poster! Towards the end of the session he asked me to introduce him to Clement at some point, as he was interested in the job position Clement had posted on the conference notice board.

Several people asked me questions about my poster and I had to run through a full description of the work about ten times. It was good, but it made my throat a bit sore, talking for so long. I also didn’t get much of a chance to go around the room and look at the other posters there.

In a while is the conference reception, with free food, and one free drink using the coupon I got in the registration package. I hope there’s enough food to stand in for dinner! I think there was last time I was at this conference.

San Francisco 2013 diary: Day 3

Tuesday, 25 June, 2013

Tuesday 5 February, 2013. 15:27

It’s coffee break time at the conference. I let myself sleep in this morning to get over the tiredness, and didn’t get up until 09:30. I missed a few talks, but I needed the sleep. I showered and had breakfast of two blueberry bagels and an apple. The bagels were good, but apple wasn’t as crisp and juicy as Granny Smiths back home. Then I went down to the meeting rooms for the rest of the morning’s conference talks. I attended some on 3D conversion of video and heard some stats which seem to indicate consumer 3D is here to stay. One paper was about the psychology of 3D, and whether people are more engaged in 3D than 2D, whether they enjoy it more, and whether “facts” presented in 3D content are more convincing than in 2D content. The results were interesting: based on objective measures of psychological engagement, viewers do find 3D more engaging, however viewers don’t find 3D any more persuasive about “facts”. And on the enjoyment side, people enjoy 3D sports and video games more than 2D, but showed no significant preference for movie content in 3D over 2D.

3D driving
3D video games demo.

Another talk was about depth grading, which is a similar process to colour grading in video production, but related to the placement of objects of interest in a video graphic scene within the 3D depth space of the viewer. The depths need to be adjusted so they are consistent between successive shots and objects of interest don’t jump in depth between shots, to avoid eye fatigue.

Between sessions I looked at some of the technical displays in the lobby area, which included one by FlightLine, a company with dedicated hardware for filming aerospace material. The have a truck parked outside my hotel room window, with high end video gear mounted on a pan-tilt turntable on the back, for tracking planes in flight. In the lobby inside the hotel they had two guys with some of the more portable hardware, including some of the camera packages that flew with Felix Baumgartner on his record skydive. The control and memory module was barrel sized and designed to withstand 10 Gs, and the guy said it was packed with dry ice to keep it cool. Then there was a camera housing with a Red video camera mounted with a Canon EF-S 10-22mm lens, a 5D Mark II with a 15mm fisheye lens, and a small live feed video camera. It has a massive heat radiator built in to get rid of heat, which is a big issue for high altitude where there isn’t enough air to carry away heat by convection. The were showing videos of the jump, and also some shots of the last Space Shuttle launch, which they filmed from their truck in HD video and shortwave infrared. I went outside to the truck and got to climb inside to see the control panels for all the gear. They had the cameras working, but there was nothing to see from where they were parked except the hotel building across the road.

FlightLine
Flightline rep with the actual camera gear that flew and recorded Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking free-fall jump.

For lunch I walked down to Burlingame again and tried the other Mediterranean restaurant across the road from where I ate yesterday. This one had chicken kebab tacos on the menu, and the sounded good, so I tried those. They turned to to be really good, on soft tortillas, with a really spicy sauce to add on top. After that I went back to the candy store and got a cup of burgundy cherry ice cream to eat while walking back to the hotel. It was delicious – very much like Cherry Garcia only without the chocolate bits.

10:58

The afternoon conference sessions went fairly uneventfully. After they finished at 17:00, I returned to my room and prepared for an evening out taking photos. I’d arranged to meet Lisa, who lives locally, at 17:30, and she would take me out to a few good spots to take night time photos around San Francisco. She arrived on time with her own camera gear and just before we left I showed her the Felix Baumgartner camera gear that was still set up in the conference area, which she thought was really cool.
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San Francisco 2013 diary: Day 2

Monday, 24 June, 2013

Monday, 4 February, 2013. 17:15

The first day of the conference is almost over. The talks have finished, and there is only the special event showcasing some of the best applications of 3D video starting in half an hour. Then after that I’m having dinner with colleagues from Canon. We have a yakitori place in Burlingame booked.

I woke up just before 06:00 this morning, then snoozed until the alarm went off at 07:00, then snoozed a bit more until I got up and had a shower. I went down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast, having neglected to find anything yesterday to buy and be able to keep in my room to eat. There was a buffet, but I ordered a smoked chicken omelette a la carte. It came with a hash brown and sourdough toast and was very good. Then it was off to the first round of talks in the Digital Photography stream. Some talks were more interesting than others, but I took notes for all of them. There was a brief coffee break, then just before lunch I switched rooms to attend a talk in a different stream since it looked relevant to stuff I’ve been working on recently. On the way I bumped into Clement from work, and Francisco who works at Canon USA. We agreed to meet for dinner at the lobby right after the 3D video event tonight. Then I went off to my talk, which turned out to be a bit less relevant than I’d hoped.

For lunch I walked down to Burlingame and got a felafel roll at the same “Middle Eastern” place where I had lunch one time in 2011. It was good, but I noticed an odd flavour in the roll, and realised there were thin spears of dill pickle in there! On the way back I stopped in at a fruit market and bought three large and good looking Granny Smith apples, as well as a bag of blueberry bagels. That’s breakfast for tomorrow and probably the day after sorted! I also stopped at an old fashioned candy and ice cream store, with a gorgeous old sign on the building that I took a photo of. I might try the ice cream another day. But this time I picked up a bag of “bloopers”, chocolates that had been messed up during production – the look hand dipped. I tried a couple just now and they taste great, one chewy caramel with what looked like sugar crystals on top, but turned out to be salt, and another with a creamy peanut buttery filling.

35/365 Preston's Candies & Ice Cream
Preston’s Candies and Ice Cream, Burlingame.

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San Francisco 2013 diary: Day 1

Sunday, 23 June, 2013

Now that I’m caught up with writing all my travel diaries, there’s one more to be posted – my trip to San Francisco in February to attend the Electronic Imaging 2013 conference and present a paper there. (Oh and look, I’ve rediscovered the “read more” tag.)

Sunday, 3 February, 2013. 13:45. Millbrae BART Station

I am sitting here waiting for a train to San Francisco, after my flight from Sydney landed about three hours ago. The flight actually left Sydney at 16:20 Sunday afternoon (today), so I’ve arrived earlier thaI left thanks to crossing the international date line.

The flight was notable only for a few small details. When I checked in at Sydney, they charged me $70 excess luggage fee for the poster tube I’m carrying to transport my conference poster. At least I should be able to claim that expense back from work. I also asked about an exit row seat, and the woman at the desk said United charges for those. It was $160. I thought about it for a second, and the thought of being in a normal cramped economy seat for 14 hours swayed me to part with the cash. I’m glad I did, because I’m sure my flight was much more restful than it would have been otherwise. As it turned out I had the middle of three exit seats, with guys either side of me, both of whom spent part of the time watching boxing videos on their iPad or laptop.

The food was boring. The main point of interest was during the night when I had my eyes covered and was trying to snooze, when we hit some minor turbulence and the seat belt signs were activated. I heard a flit attendant ask a man standing in the open area near my seat to go back to his seat and fasten his belt. The man objected, saying, “If the plane crashes, I’m happy taking my chances here.” The attendant insisted and the man argued, saying, “You’re still walking around.” The woman patiently explained that it was her job, as it was also to look after the safety of passengers. The man refused to go back to his seat. Rather than escalate and make a scene, the attendant withdrew.

I must have managed to get some rest on be flight, because I was wide awake for the breakfast service and landing on time just before 10:50. Unfortunately we then had a wait of over an hour to get through immigration, as several flights had landed just before us by the look of the queues. After slogging through the queue, there was at least no wait for the baggage, as it had all been unloaded and was piled up ready to collect. I also had to collect my poster tube from the oversized luggage collection area. Then I walked outside to the hotel courtesy shuttle area. I didn’t remember exactly how it had worked last time I came to the same conference in 2011, and asked a group of four guys who looked like they might be attending the same conference if they were going to the Hyatt Regency. They said yes, in New Zealand accents, and before we could say much else, the shuttle labelled with our hotel name pulled up.

Five minutes later we were at the hotel and I checked into my room, getting one on the third floor with a view over the hotel carpark towards the airport and bay. I dashed back down to the lobby to collect my registration pack for the conference, then went back to the room and had a quick shower to wash off the travel grime. Refreshed, I set out with just my camera bag to head into the city. I walked north towards Millbrae, buying a banana at a small cafe along the way to tide me over until I can get a decent meal once in town.

I’ve noticed lots of people already wearing San Francisco 49ers gear or with decorated cars for the Superbowl game on today. I’ve just asked a middle-aged couple sitting near me on the train, both dressed in 49ers gear, when the game starts. They said at 15:30, which surprised me as I’d assumed it would be later this evening. They are going in to meet their kids at a bar in town and watch the game on a big screen. I guess it’ll be a bit weird in San Francisco today!

18:19. BART train from 16th and Mission to Millbrae

I took the train in to Embarcadero, getting off near the Ferry Building to see if the same woman who sold me the broccoli fridge magnet at the market there last time I was here was there. Some market stalls where there, but in various stages of packing up for the day, and I didn’t see the magnet woman.

I wanted to get to Fisherman’s Wharf as quickly as I could to get some food, so I hopped on a MUNI bus at the Ferry Building, paying $2 and receiving a transfer ticket which was good until 19:00! As it turned, out, this proved useful later on.

The bus dropped me off at the Aquarium and I walked the short distance to Pier 29. There were a few tourists around, but not very many. When I got to the pier, I saw the bar near the entrance there was full of people watching the Superbowl about to start on big TV screens. It was right across from Boudin bakery, where I wanted to get soup in a sourdough bowl. There was a bit of a queue, which gave me time to pick my soup from a choice of tomato, clam chowder, beef chili, or the daily special of yellow lentil with red peppers. I chose the beef chili this time, and took my meal out to the sunny tables outside, where I had a view across the pier to the TV screens inside the bar. From there I watched a bit of the pre-game stuff and then the kickoff as I ate.

34/365 San Francisco Sourdough
Chili in a sourdough bowl, Boudin Bakery, Pier 29.

I didn’t linger though. Once finished eating the chili and the bowl (which was delicious; you really can tell the difference immediately compared to what passes for sourdough back home), I had a quick look around, taking some photos of the Queen Victoria ocean liner which was docked a couple of piers down the Embarcadero. Then I walked towards Fisherman’s Wharf, wondering where I could get a bus to the Exploratorium or Presidio to seek out the Yoda statue near the Industrial Light & Magic offices. As I walked, I passed a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream stall, so I had to stop and get a cup of Cherry Garcia. I asked the woman serving if she knew where I could get a bus to the Exploratorium. She said she wasn’t sure, but she thought it was that direction, pointing in exactly the wrong direction to where I knew it was located. When I told her it was near the Presidio she said, “oh”, and then pondered which bus I should catch, asking her co-scooper for advice. They couldn’t agree on the most likely bus number, so I said I’d figure it out and thanked them.
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