Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Europe 2016 diary: day 6

Friday, 24 March, 2017

Thursday, 3 November, 2016

We woke up too early again, this time around 05:00. M. fell asleep again, but I didn’t. We were up and showered and ready to go to breakfast shortly after 07:00. The breakfast buffet at the hotel was pretty extensive, with several cereals and types of yoghurt, different breads and croissants with three different fillings – chocolate, apricot jam, and custard – as well as plain ones. In the hot food warmers, as well as scrambled and boiled eggs, bacon, and sausages, there were also chicken skewers, Thai money bags, spring rolls, and small triangular samosas. M. took a croissant which she thought had jam in it, but it turned out to be chocolate, so she went back for a jam one as well. I was amazed to find, amongst various doughnuts and cakes, a row of vanilla slices! So I had to take one to review for my vanilla slice blog.

Continental Parkhotel sunrise
Morning view from our hotel window, Lugano

We lingered over breakfast, allowing me some more diary writing time. After eating our fill, and telling each other how full we were, I went to use the nearby toilet, and when I went to undo my belt, the buckle popped right off and fell on the floor! The leather bits holding the buckle on had snapped! When I returned to the table I tried to tell M. what had happened, but couldn’t stop laughing for several minutes.

About 09:30 we went back to our room to pack and check out. We dropped our luggage in the car and checked out, but before driving off we walked once more down the hill to the old town, this time to look around during the day, when most of the shops would be open. As well as browsing various things in the narrow streets of the old city, we crossed to the waterfront to look at the lake and the view across to the nearby mountains. We also popped into a department store to buy a new belt for me, which took some time as we found a few small displays of belts, none of which were particularly appealing to me, and only when M. asked an assistant did we get shown a huge display of belts on another part of the floor. I picked a brown leather one and we paid and continued wandering around.

Read more: Driving to the top of Monte Brè for views over Lugano, then along the shore of Lake Lugano, before crossing over to Lake Como and driving along the shore to Como, followed by a much better dinner than the previous night

Europe 2016 diary: day 5

Thursday, 23 March, 2017

Wednesday, 2 November, 2016

We woke up early again, still not into the rhythm of sleeping through to sunrise. We showered as the sun came with wispy pink clouds over the valley. We went down for breakfast in the hotel at 07:00. Again, nearly everyone there seemed to be Chinese tourists, until later an Indian couple came in. We had muesli and fruit and things. The croissants here were nowhere near as good as in France or the French parts of Switzerland.

Hotel Weisses Kreuz view
Morning view from our hotel window, Interlaken

Back in our room, I took some photos of the sunrise and noticed that the building opposite our room was a dentist’s office, as I could see the dentist working on a lady reclining in a chair through the window. Checking the weather forecast for the Alpine areas I saw that snow was on the way later in the week, and today’s forecast was for rain, but tomorrow’s was colder, but sunnier. I didn’t want to drive through the Furka Pass in the rain, or risk getting snow and having the road closed, so considered staying for a day in the Interlaken area to avoid the rainy weather. But then I looked at a more detailed hourly forecast, and it said today was going to be partly sunny, with rain developing late in the evening. This seemed okay, so we decided to leave and spend the day crossing the Alps.

As it was a full day of driving, and nothing seemed to open in Interlaken until 10:00, we checked out, packed the car, and drove off early rather than wait and delay our departure. The sky was promisingly blue, with just a few puffy white clouds to add interest, and it remained this way all day, so our gamble on the weather paid off well.

Read more: The amazing drive up the Aare River valley, across the Alps via Grimsel and Furka Passes, descending into Italian Switzerland, the town of three castles, and dinner in Lugano

San Francisco 2017 Diary: day 7

Sunday, 5 March, 2017

Friday, 3 February, 2017. 21:36

I got up this morning and had a shower before heading out to meet Stuart in the hotel lobby. We walked to Millbrae station, stopping at the It’s-It ice cream factory to try to get an ice cream sandwich for a pseudo breakfast. Unfortunately they didn’t open until 10:00, so we couldn’t, which meant I had no real breakfast at all, my bagels having run out yesterday.

We got to Millbrae about 09:30 and then into the city a bit after 10:00, getting off at Embarcadero. From there we walked across into the Ferry Building to look around a bit. I said we could at least get some ice cream here, from Humphry Slocombe. But when we arrived at the store it didn’t look open, and a woman was setting things up. I asked when it opened and she said 11:00! Not having had breakfast, I was getting hungry now, so I bought a currant bun from a bakery, which was nice, to hold me over until lunch.

Ferry Building

We walked north along the Embarcadero, having planned our morning to arrive at Golden Boy Pizza at 12:30, the time and place designated by Scott for meeting up to have lunch together. We stopped in at the Exploratorium gift shop, but didn’t have time to justify paying the admission fee to the museum proper. Stuart said he wanted to buy some San Francisco souvenirs for his kids, and I suggested some of the things here might be good, but they weren’t really tourist souvenirs, as in labelled as from San Francisco. I saw a cool looking science tarot deck, which was a tarot deck reimagined with scientific imagery. It was attractive, but cost $30, which was too much to justify.

Read more: climbing Telegraph Hill, trying a New York egg cream soda, amazingly good pizza for lunch, the Cable Car Museum, and flying home

San Francisco 2017 Diary: day 6

Saturday, 4 March, 2017

Thursday, 2 February, 2017. 17:48

I slept better last night, and was woken too early by the alarm at 08:00. I ate my last bagel with the last of the cream cheese, after having a shower and getting dressed. Then I went down to buy some more fruit, only to find that the pop-up snack shop wasn’t there. I ran into Jackson, who suggested the small shop attached to the bar and restaurant. I went up there and they indeed had fruit, so I grabbed two apples and a banana again. I asked how much the fruit was, and the lady said a dollar, but this time when I went to pay the total was $3.26. For some reason they were adding sales tax here when they didn’t do so at the pop-up version down in the lobby.


The last day of conference talks was interesting, though it began a little inauspiciously. I chose a talk whose title promised a history of virtual reality from primitive beginnings to a bright future. It turned out to be all about CAVE immersive display rooms, and nothing at all about head mounted VR displays. It was interesting, but completely not what I was expecting.

But then came the Human Vision sessions about art and aesthetics, which I always enjoy attending because they are so different and they intersect the realms of science and art, which are both fascinating. There was a session either side of lunch, and they contained some very cool talks. The most interesting was one in which a woman told us about her research teaching blind people to draw, by letting them feel a tactile raised line drawing, and then trying to draw a copy from memory. After some brief training they got pretty good at this, and then tests of other spatial, coordination, and navigation abilities also showed significant improvement, even six months after the drawing training. So she’s advocating giving this sort of training to all blind people to improve their spatial awareness and navigation skills.

It's-It mural
Monkey at the It’s-It ice cream factory store

At lunch I basically repeated what I did yesterday, taking a walk along the bay shore while eating an apple and a banana, and then returning to the hotel via the It’s-It ice cream factory. This time I didn’t take my SLR camera, but I took my umbrella, because it was threatening rain, and in fact had been raining earlier in the morning. I also took Monkey, to get some photos with him. And instead of mint, I chose a chocolate ice cream sandwich, which was also good.

Read more: Final conference session, then dinner of French crepes at a friend’s place

San Francisco 2017 Diary: day 5

Friday, 3 March, 2017

Wednesday 1 February, 2017

It was conference routine again today, getting up, eating a bagel for breakfast, and then heading down to a day of talks. I bought a couple of apples and a banana from the pop-up snack bar which was there to cater to conference attendees. They cost $1 a piece.

The morning talks were the last of the Digital Photography conference. There was a talk about infrared camera calibration and another about measuring MTF of sensors, so they were interesting. After the coffee break was a keynote about CMOS sensor design, which wasn’t so exciting for me.

Long-billed curlew
Long-billed curlew

At lunch I went for a walk to get some exercise, across the road to the bay shore and then north along the path that runs there. I ate the remaining apple after having one earlier for morning tea, and the banana. I took my camera with me to get some photos of the birds that putter around on the shore of the bay. I didn’t have a long zoom, but got some moderate shots of a few different birds, including a big white egret, some ducks, and some wading birds. I later identified the birds as: willet, long-billed curlew, snowy egret, American crow, grey plover, and canvasback ducks.

Read more: an ice cream factory, talks about colour science, dinner at a Senegalese restaurant in Oakland

Yokohama 2017 diary, Day 5

Friday, 3 March, 2017

Friday, 24 February, 2017

I slept better during the night than so far on the trip, but this made me slightly groggy when I woke up in the morning. I dragged myself into the shower and then packed my luggage so I could check out of the hotel. I went down about 08:00 so I had plenty of time and checked out, then left my main bag at the luggage counter, and then booked an airport shuttle to Haneda for the evening after determining that it only cost 720 yen, almost the same as the train fare and a lot simpler. The shuttle I selected left at 18:17, getting to the airport around 19:00 for my 22:00 flight. The shuttle bus also took payment by Suica card, so I made a note to charge my card enough to cover the fare.

Then I went to the meeting rooms to check emails and stuff before the final sessions of the ISO meeting. These sessions went fairly quickly and smoothly, being mostly the final summaries of the ad hoc group discussions and then going through the action items and resolutions, before saying farewells and looking forward to the next meeting in San Jose in June.

Sushi chef
Sushi in World Porters

With the meeting closed by lunch, I had the afternoon free. First order of business was lunch, and this time we formed a group of six for sushi: me, Margaret, Jonathan, Dietmar, Ari, and Neelam. Instead of the one at MARK IS, we went to the other sushi train place at World Porters. The menus and pricing were identical, which made us think it might have been some sort of chain, but when we finished the waitress wrote down our bills on paper rather than scanning the RF chips inside the plates, so maybe it was different but similar.

Read more: chocolate crepes and fish, the art museum, dinner at the airport

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.

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