Europe 2016 diary: day 8

2 April, 2017

Saturday, 5 November, 2016. 21:01

We rose just before 07:00 this morning, to the sound of heavy rain outside. It had moved in during the night and looked set in for the day, as the forecast had predicted. We showered and went down to the breakfast room to see what was on offer. There was no hot meal option, unless you counted various cornetti in a warmer so that they were warm as though freshly baked, or the sandwich toaster press with which you could assemble your own toasted sandwiches if you had such a desire. But certainly no eggs or bacon or sausages. There was however a bran flake cereal with fruit pieces in it, which both M. and I had. The yoghurt I added to mine was very runny, and I almost spilled the first tub all over the place as I tipped it over the cereal, expecting to have to use a spoon to coax it out of the tub, whereas it actually came pouring out rapidly. M. told me the cornetti she had were nicely warm, so I grabbed a chocolate one. These Italian cornetti are sort of like croissants, but straight rather than curved, and quite a bit smaller. At this hotel, like the last one, there was also a large tart with apricot jam on it. The Italians sure love their apricot jam, it being the typical filling for cornetti con marmellata as well.


The rain in La Spezia, from our hotel window

After breakfast, we packed a paper bag with dirty laundry and went for a walk in search of a laundry that would do a bag wash for us. Google indicated two dry cleaners nearby, the nearest just a block away, named Casa della Penna, and a second one three blocks in the opposite direction from the hotel, named Lavanderia Everest. With umbrellas raised against the heavy rain, we tried the nearest one first, but couldn’t see a laundry anywhere near Google’s indicated location. I went into an open pharmacy and asked a lady in there, “Sto cercando una lavanderia, il nome è Casa della Penna.” This seemed to confuse the woman for a second, before she began saying in Italian that there was no laundry nearby, and that Casa della Penna was a “negozio”, a shop. I didn’t fully understand her Italian but got enough of a gist, and asked where was Casa della Penna? She pointed at a shop just across the street and down a couple of doors. We looked and sure enough, it had “Casa della Penna” above the door. But far from being a dry cleaner, it was a fancy pen shop, selling Mont Blanc pens and other similar items of luxury! No wonder the lady had looked confused when I asked about a laundry by that name! I’d thought “Casa della Penna”, or “House of the Feather”, was an odd name for a laundry, but now it made sense as a fancy pen shop, as “penna” is also the Italian word for pen.

Read more: The heavy rain spoils our plans for the day, but we make the most of it, eating good food, drinking hot chocolate, and checking out a couple of interesting local museums

Europe 2016 diary: day 7

28 March, 2017

Friday, 4 November, 2016

We woke early yet again, around 05:00, and dozed a bit before getting up so M. could shower before breakfast. We went to the breakfast buffet in the Albergo Firenze, which was similar to most of the others so far. This time thought there was bran cereal, which we both mixed with some muesli. M. had two cornetti, one with jam and one a sort of wholemeal one. I tried a bit of some paper thin looking bacon with scrambled egg, on a slice of fresh bread, and then a small slice of a tart which was covered with apricot jam and various nuts. We took our time, then returned briefly to our room before heading out to explore Como a bit.

Monkey in Como
Como waterfront on Lake Como

We walked to the waterfront of the lake, which provided beautiful scenic views across to the mountains around the harbour, with boats moored nearby. The colours of the trees added to the prettiness of the scene. Nearby was a small market, just set up for the morning. Most of the stalls were selling cheese, or various preserved meats and sausages. But there was one selling chocolates, and we got tempted into trying some samples, which were so good that we bought a few pieces of chocolate for later snacks. The stall holders, a man and a woman wearing similarly patterned clothing, were very friendly, though they spoke very little English. They seemed pleased to meet some travellers from Australia. (After returning home, I saw their email address on their stall sign in one of the photos I took of them, and sent them a copy of the photo, and they replied with thanks.)

Read more: buying snacks for the day, the Duomo of Como, driving the back roads of northern Italy, lunch at a random cafe, the Austostrada, arriving in La Spezia, and an amazing dinner

Europe 2016 diary: day 6

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

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

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.

Aside
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

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.

23:38

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

Irregular Webcomic Kickstarter post-mortem

4 March, 2017

In April 2016 I ran my first Kickstarter, for a print collection of Irregular Webcomic! Fantasy comics. This Kickstarter funded successfully, and several hundred backers had their copies of the book delivered in time for Christmas last year! I also had a few extra copies printed, and you can buy them right now from TopatoCo, here.

Here is a post-mortem analysis of the financials of running this Kickstarter campaign, for general edification and posterity. All amounts are in Australian dollars (AUD) unless indicated (converted from US dollars at the exchange rate on the date of transaction, if applicable).

First, the good news! Here’s how much income I made from the Kickstarter! Wowee!

Kickstarter income
Kickstarter pledges $23935.39
Dropped pledges (backer didn’t pay) -$255.00
Refunds -$160.00
Subtotal $23520.39
Kickstarter fee (5% of subtotal) -$1176.02
Kickstarter payment processing fees -$802.22
Total transfer to me from Kickstarter $21542.15

Now some mildly bad news: Here are the expenses I incurred in putting the book together, advertising the Kickstarter, mailing out original artwork as rewards for higher tier backers, and other miscellaneous things.

Read more: analysis of expenses and grand total profit/loss

San Francisco 2017 Diary: day 5

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

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

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