Yokohama 2018 travel diary: day 2

4 March, 2018

Tuesday, 27 February, 2018

We woke a bit before the alarm, but snoozed and rested until it actually went off. We headed out to get breakfast, hoping the Pompadour bakery would be open, but it wasn’t. We checked another cafe we’d seen yesterday in Queen’s Square, which was open, but had a poor selection of food. So we ended up at Starbucks, where M. got a chocolate scone and I had a slice of bacon quiche which they warmed up. We had to sit outside as the seats inside were full, but today was warmer than yesterday and not windy, so it was chilly but bearable.

We had a quick look in a convenience store on the way back to the hotel, where M. thought she might buy some sushi to eat later, but decided not to get anything. After returning, I had to quickly get my things together and head to the ISO meeting in the conference centre next door, wishing M. a good day exploring Yokohama on her own as I left.

I arrived at the meeting room a good ten minutes early, but it was already full, with every seat at a table taken! They had reserved a room that was rather too small for the number of attendees. I took a seat against the windows with no table, wondering how to plug my laptop in, but then they brought in an extra table and some Japanese representatives moved, leaving a couple of spots free. I grabbed one and Ari ended up next to me. I greeted the familiar faces, and also exchanged business cards with a group of three men from Canon who I hadn’t met before, including Suzuki-san, who has taken over Toru’s position as my project contact, and who I have a separate meeting with on Thursday morning.

The morning session was very administrative as usual. I confirmed with Sasaki-san that M. could come to the social dinner function this evening. We finished the morning agenda items half an hour early and broke for lunch at 11:30.

Neelam said she had sushi at a great place yesterday, so led me and Jonathan and Elaine there, although she almost got lost trying to find it again. It was in the ground floor level of Queen’s Square, near the Landmark Tower end. It was a tiny place, with stand up places around a sushi bar where the chefs made your orders. We managed to get enough bar space for the four of us, in the tiny rear room with just two other diners. Elaine and I ordered a lunch special set, while Neelam and Jonathan ordered specific items off the menu. Our set came with miso soup and about ten different pieces of sushi. One item seemed to be raw prawn, which was chewy and slimy, and neither Elaine nor I liked it much, but the rest was very good.

Stand-up sushi
Stand-up sushi bar at lunch

Read more: melon-pan ice cream, image stabilisation, meeting reception

Yokohama 2018 travel diary: day 1

3 March, 2018

Monday, 26 February, 2018

This was a business trip for another meeting of ISO Technical Committee 42 Photography – Working Group 18 Electronic Still Picture Imaging. This time, M. came on the trip with me, to visit Japan for the first time since many years ago when she spent a quick day in Tokyo.

Our trip began yesterday evening, with a taxi ride to the airport. The afternoon in Sydney had been very rainy, building up to quite heavy falls. We called for a taxi about 17:40, but ended up on hold with first one company before trying another and also ending up holding for at least five minutes before eventually getting through to book one. When it arrived we waved it into the garage so we could load our luggage without getting soaked by the rain.

For some reason the driver kept a window open and splashes of rain entered. He began going towards the harbour tunnel, but the traffic was banked up badly and he suggested taking the bus lane on the Cahill Expressway, which I quickly agreed to so we could make the turnoff before it was too late. This proved to be a good move as it got us across the Bridge fairly quickly before merging back into the Eastern Distributor, where the traffic was flowing okay after the tunnel backlog. However when we reached the exit for the airport via Qantas Drive, we were stuck unmoving for four or five traffic light cycles. I checked the RTA live traffic website and it said there was an accident directly ahead of us! Fortunately it seemed to clear soon after and we were underway again, only for a car to veer out into our lane from a U turn or right turn across the oncoming lanes, and our driver not to see him coming in the heavy rain until I yelled out! He swerved left and just missed the other car, exclaiming, “Where did he come from?” Hearts racing, we made it to the airport terminal without further incident, though it was the longest and most fraught trip I think I’ve ever taken there.

We checked in and made it through passport control and security fairly quickly, although I was stopped and checked for explosives again, making it twice in two trips. We went straight to the Italianish place we’d grabbed snacks last time on our departure for San Francisco, this time planning to have dinner as the waiting time lined up perfectly and the meal on the plane would be too late for our body clocks. I got a chunk of peri peri chicken with wood fired corn on the cob, plus two salads: chick pea with cranberries and cauliflower, plus green beans with almonds and feta. It was all really nice, possibly the best meal I’ve had in an airport. M. got a slice of Margherita pizza and some lentil salad, which she also said was nice.

Boarding the plane was a bit of a trial, as there was a China Eastern flight leaving for Shanghai at almost the same time from the adjacent gate and there was construction work narrowing the corridor leading to these two gates, so the queues got confused and it was hot and stuffy and crowded. But we moved as far up as we could and were lucky when they called general boarding for our flight instead of by rows, so we managed to be almost first on after business class, even though we were seated near the front. We had exit row seats too, so that was good.

We both ignored the meal after take off, but I grabbed some red wine to help me try to sleep, and then we tried to sleep as much of the flight away as possible. I don’t think I managed any but M. got some. We had the light breakfast just before landing though, just a bit earlier our normal sort of breakfast time in Sydney, but about 04:00 in Tokyo. Our flight landed at 05:00 and we queued for ten minutes or so before clearing immigration, then headed to the Keikyu line train platform for a train. The first one was going to Shinagawa, but I saw the one after was going direct to Yokohama, so we waited for that one. This saved us from having to change trains at Keikyu Kamata, and also from accidentally getting on a local all stops train to Yokohama, like I did last year.

Monkey uses the hand holds on the train
Monkey riding the train to Keikyu Kamata

Read more: our hotel, walking to Chinatown, Motomachi, Yokohama Park, shabu-shabu for dinner

Game of Thrones, Season 3, Ep 10 “Mhysa”

25 February, 2018

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

Okay, since last time I’ve learnt that the slaughter of Robb, Cat, and the Stark army at Edmure’s wedding at The Twins is in fact the event called the “red wedding”. I was under the impression that “The Red Wedding” was an episode title, but it turns out that was a mistaken assumption from snippets of overheard conversation. All right then, without further ado… onto the Season 3 final episode.

The Twins: Sandor flees the carnage outside The Twins, where Walder Frey’s men are slaughtering Robb’s army. He holds Arya with him on his horse, but she glimpses much of what is happening. Some men ride out of the castle, carrying Robb’s body, with his wolf’s head stitched onto his neck in a grotesque parody.

Later, in the evening, Sandor and Arya come across a group of men camping in the forest. They overhear one man boasting that he was the one who sewed Robb’s wolf’s head onto his body. Before Sandor can stop her, Arya slips off the horse and races over. She approaches the man from behind and pretends to be seeking warmth from the fire. They tell her to get lost. She says she can pay for it, and offers a silver coin, which she drops with a feigned “oops”. As the man reaches for it, she jumps him and starts stabbing him repeatedly with a dagger. The others jump up to intervene, but Sandor appears and despatches them with his sword.

He asks Arya where she got the dagger; she says, “From you,” and hands it back. Sandor is surprised to find she has lifted his dagger without him noticing. He asks if this is the first man she’s killed, and she says yes. Sandor turns to leave. Arya picks up the coin, and whispers “Valar morghulis” over it – it’s the coin from Braavos that Jaqen gave her, last seen in the last episode of the previous season. Will this be a theme, that it comes up in the final episode of every season? And now that Arya has killed someone, will this begin her path of rampaging revenge that we’re so eager to see? Why is Sandor helping her? Is he really a big softy, and not the monster we were led to believe he was? He did save Sansa earlier, so maybe he’s not that bad after all.

Read the rest of this entry »

Old photos rediscovered

24 February, 2018

I found some old negatives of photos I took on my very first overseas trip, to Egypt in 1980. Some were photos I didn’t have copies of and hadn’t seen for decades, so I had them scanned. They’re on 110 format film, which is tiny, and the quality isn’t great – but still exciting to see these, among the very first photos I ever took.

The Pyramid of Khafre:

Pyramid of Khafre

More photos

Game of Thrones, Season 3, Ep 9 “The Rains of Castamere”

19 February, 2018

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

Wow. What an episode. There was some pretty astonishing stuff in this one. And none of it happened in King’s Landing! In fact, King’s Landing didn’t appear in the episode at all. Let’s get to it!

Yunkai: Daario has a plan to conquer Yunkai. He says that he and his mercenary co-leaders (now dead by his hand) used to enter by a back gate for carousing purposes, and the guards at that gate know and trust him. He’ll sneak in, kill the guards, and then call Jorah and Grey Worm inside, so they can sneak through the city to open the front gate and let Daenerys’s army in. Jorah says he doesn’t trust Daario – it’s obvious why he doesn’t trust him: Daario is putting smooth operations on Daenerys and Daenerys likes his Fabio-like long hair and muscular body, so Jorah is jealous. Daenerys trusts Daario, and asks Grey Worm to cast a deciding vote. He says he trusts Daario too.

They put the plan into action. Daario enters the back gate, then whistles for Jorah and Grey Worm to follow. Daario has dispatched two guards and all is well… until another group of half a dozen or so guards arrive and they have to fight those. They rest and Jorah thinks okay, we managed that, but what if Daario really is setting us up for an ambush? And then even more guards arrive and surround the trio…

Read the rest of this entry »

San Francisco 2018 diary, day 8

13 February, 2018

Friday, 2 February, 2018. Written later

On our last day in San Francisco we slept in, not having to get up early to go to my conference. We dozed until 08:30, then got up, showered, finished the last remnants of the breakfast cereals, packed our bags for the flight home, and checked out of the hotel, leaving our bags with the concierge while we went out for a last day of sightseeing before our evening flight home.

I realised we wouldn’t be able to take the hot sauce I’d bought for my mum onto the plane in cabin baggage, and we didn’t want to check luggage in, so we decided to mail the bottles back home. I searched online to find nearby post offices and found one that was supposed to be on the block that Macy’s was on, south of Union Square. I figured it might take some the post office, so went there while M. detoured via Blue Bottle to get a morning coffee. We arranged to meet at the front door of Macy’s. As it turned out, I couldn’t find the post office from the street, and so decided to go into Macy’s to use the toilets. As I was looking for signs indicating where the toilets were, I saw a sign saying that there was a post office in the basement! So I went downstairs and found it, a small office with some counters and not much else. I’d been hoping to find packaging materials, but there was a sign saying they didn’t have any. However, I found some prepaid mailing boxes, one size of which was perfect, and just needed a little bit of padding improvised by scrunching up the paper bag that I’d been carrying the bottles in. So that was fortunate. It cost $36 in postage, more than the hot sauce was worth, but it was good not to have to check bags in and then spend time waiting in Sydney before getting home.

Mara's Italian pastry
Mara’s Italian Pastry

We met at the designated spot and then walked up to North Beach through Chinatown, to Mara’s Italian Pastry, for an Italian pastry each and some water. I felt like fizzy water, and M. asked the old Italian guy serving if they had any, and he said, “It’s Italian, of course we have fizzy water!” while I located the bottles of San Pellegrino in the fridge. M. had had an apricot danish-like pastry yesterday and said it was delicious and soft, so I tried the cherry version, while M., who had thought it was raspberry and wanted that, elected to try a raspberry and cream cheese ring instead. They were nice, but a bit firm and not as soft as M. had raved about, which was a bit of a shame. While we sat, the proprietor sat at the next table with another customer and chatted with him, getting up every now and then to serve someone else who came into the shop.

Read more: the Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Golden Boy Pizza, and flying home

San Francisco 2018 diary, day 7

13 February, 2018

Thursday, 1 February, 2018. 16:59

On the BART train again, ready to head back into San Francisco after another interesting day at the conference. We got up and had cereal as usual this morning before I left. M.’s plan was to go to the International Museum of Art, just a block down Market Street from our hotel, and then head over to Cow Hollow, either by walking, or catching a bus.

I arrived at the conference and checked the schedule boards in front of the rooms, to notice some changes to the program I’d organised on the online schedule planner. The first talk I wanted to attend at the Human Vision & Electronic Imaging (HVEI) conference had been moved 20 minutes earlier, overlapping the end of the very first talk I’d planned to go to, which was about image sensors for automotive cameras. So I went to the first half of that and then had to leave partway through to make sure I didn’t miss any of the HVEI talks. The sensor talk was by Boyd Fowler, who is a good speaker, but his subject is always very technical details of sensor chips, often down to the transistor and capacitor level, and this talk was no exception. Which is fine for people into that stuff, but it’s not my cup of tea, so I didn’t mind leaving a bit early.

As it turned out, the first HVEI talk was given by the same woman who gave the talk I reacted poorly to last year. As last year, she spent the first part of the talk building up how wonderful she was. She said that not only was she a cognition scientist, but she also founded a theatre production company and has written a bunch of plays and produced several short films, as she showed a slide with shots of some of her productions, oh and she also writes music too. Then she talked about human/robot interaction and showed a slide with two images of women having dinner with and playing chess with a humanoid robot. She said she deliberately chose pictures with women and not men because wouldn’t it be wonderful if in the future there were just women and robots and no men, ha ha.

Read more: talks about human vision and art, meeting Tim Jenison, champagne and cake, and lots of garlic for dinner

San Francisco 2018 diary, day 6

12 February, 2018

Wednesday, 31 January, 2018. 17:36

On the train ride home again from the conference. I woke up early again, got up and had breakfast, then left to catch the train. M.’s plan for the day was to catch the ferry to Sausalito.

Today instead of walking along the road to the conference, I walked out to the pedestrian path that runs along the shore of the bay. This is a much nicer walk, especially in the morning light, as there are hundreds of shorebirds and an expanse of misty water. I saw ducks (mallards and possibly another species), Pacific gulls, curlews, willets, grebes, and a huge white egret.

Burlingame birds
Birds on the Bay in the morning

The talks today began with a keynote by Marc Levoy of Google, who talked about pushing the boundaries of low light imaging with phone cameras. Phones don’t have great apertures or zoom capability or sensor sizes, but they do have good low-noise sensors. He showed how you can use this to produce images in really low light conditions by shooting bursts of underexposed images, aligning them, and stacking them to reduce noise. He uses a cool trick to remove hot pixels by acquiring images during the autofocus sweep, which results in everything being blurry… except the hot pixels, so they are easily detected. Alignment is done on very large image patches, hundreds of pixels square, by brute force cross correlation which can be calculated in real time. This allows images to be stacked to produce clear real time video at about 20 frames per second, in moonlight light levels. At even lower light levels, his app can produce usable photos in light too dark to even walk in, around 0.1 lux.

Read more: more birdspotting, ice cream sandwich for lunch, the guy who invented augmented reality, Thai for dinner, and freshly baked cookies in a bar

Game of Thrones, Season 3, Episode 8 “Second Sons”

12 February, 2018

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

It’s been a while since I watched an episode, with holidays and travel eating up time recently. But here we go…

Heading North: Arya wakes up in a camp and realises her captor, Sandor “The Hound” Clegane, is still asleep. She grabs a rock and sneaks over to bash his head in. Showing the supernatural senses of all good villains, he somehow knows exactly what she’s about to do and says, without opening his eyes, “I’ll give you one chance. Kill me and you’re free. Fail, and I’ll break both your hands.”

Now, I reckon Arya most likely could kill him with a single blow from that rock in her hands, but she wimps out. Geez, a rock that size hitting you in the face – there’s no way you’re going anywhere after that. I’m not sure if it’s through fear of the bloody mess she’ll make of Sandor’s face and brains, or if she lacks confidence in her own ability. Honestly, neither of these reasons seems much like the Arya we know and love. So I’m completely baffled as to why she didn’t smash his brains in.

Later, Clegane is riding and carrying Arya seated on his horse’s neck. She asks where they’re going, and he says to The Twins, where her brother (Robb) and mother (Cat) are. She’s confused on two points: (1) why are Robb and Cat at the Twins, and (2) why is Clegane taking her to them? He explains that Robb and Arya’s uncle is marrying one of the Frey girls, and that Robb will pay a handsome ransom for Arya’s return. Clegane says he’s not all bad, leaving Arya something to ponder.

I hope this is finally the end of Arya’s wilderness wandering, and she is indeed reuinted with Robb and Cat. Her story seems stalled while she’s been wandering around like this. I want her to go and get more training from her swordmaster and then go and kick some serious butt.

Read the rest of this entry »

San Francisco 2018 diary, day 5

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