San Francisco diary – Day 6: 6 Feb 2014


After the usual routine this morning I left for the conference in time to arrive for the 08:30 Human Vision keynote talk, by Ed Chi of Google. He talked about scientific analysis of social networks and how they grow, giving case study examples of Wikipedia, Twitter, and Google+. The next session had talks about how visual quality as perceived by humans isn’t necessarily dictated purely by visual artefacts, but also by image subject matter, context, and surrounding context such as who looks at the image with you.

During the shortened tea break (due to talks going over time), I went out to eat an apple quickly, and bumped into Kristyn, who I’d met at this conference three years ago, and who M. and I visited at her home in Paris on our trip there in 2012. I had no idea she’d be here, so it’s lucky we happened to meet. She suggested we have lunch, and I said that M. was here, and I was meeting her at 12:15, so we arranged to meet again in the Hilton lobby at 12:10 to walk over and meet M.

The next session of vision talks again ran well over time, and I actually had to skip the entire last talk to make the meeting time. Kristyn had two colleagues with her, Albrecht and Alastair, and they were planning to walk over to the Moscone Centre to see the Photonics West exhibition there this afternoon, before flying out this evening. We walked over to Westfield where we’d be meeting M. outside the Rolex shop. We had a bit of trouble finding it, but eventually did, and met M. there.

We walked out and down Fifth St a short way, stopping in at a cafe for lunch. I had a Reuben sandwich on sourdough bread, which came with a choice of stuff, of which I chose the fruit salad. M. had a wheat bagel with cream cheese. We ate and chatted, swapping tales of work-related technical stuff, and food, and travel. Kristyn it turned out had moved back to Portland in Oregon. She recommended a restaurant called Greens up on the north side of San Francisco, as it was vegetarian, for M. We’ve checked out their website and it looks good indeed, so we may head out there one evening before we go home.

We said goodbye as we left the cafe, as we were heading different directions. M. and I went back into Westfield and went up into Nordstroms to have a look around. It was four floors, almost all of women’s fashion stuff, with a little bit of men’s clothing. That done, we headed back down and parted out on Market St, M. heading back to Union Square and me to the Hilton for the last afternoon of the conference.

There were more interesting human vision talks, including the fun last session on art stuff, followed by a discussion session in which they brought out free beers and pretzels, and opened up for questions and comments to any of the day’s presenters. I joined in with some comments about the growth of Wikipedia to Ed Chi. There was some later lively discussion about video quality, with the movie making guy from yesterday adamant that 4k video was a waste of bandwidth, since the human eye can’t tell any difference whatsoever from 2k, and that 4k uses up so much more data that they have to compress it to the point where it actually looks worse than 2k.

At the end of the conference, I went back to our hotel, where M. arrived a few minutes later. She had been to a tailor to get the button on her coat fixed before it fell off. She found one using Google, and it was on the fifth floor of a building on Geary St. When she got there, it looked like an office building and the tailor was behind a closed wooden door. She opened it tentatively and found the office full of tailors working on various clothes. The woman in charge asked what M. wanted, and she said she just wanted a button sewn on. The woman took the coat and gave it to a tailor, who fixed it in a few minutes. When M. asked how much it cost, the woman told her it was free!

Powell Street BART
Heading to the Mission on BART.

We decided to go to the Mission district for dinner. We caught BART down to 24th Street, and then walked the block to the Velvet Cantina where I’d had dinner last year with Mary and Casey and Lisa and Martin. I got shrimp enchiladas, while M. got a vegetable burrito. The burrito was enormous, but full of good veges that M. liked. We also had margaritas. We didn’t need to consider appetisers since they gave us chips and salsa, and I didn’t even want to think about dessert after the last two nights. The total price was very cheap considering we had drinks, and the food was really good.

Dinner at the Velvet Cantina
Dinner at the Velvet Cantina.

We walked another block up Mission Street to see the sights a bit before turning around and heading back to the BART station and riding back to Powell Street. We walked over to Mason Street and up the steep hill to the Fairmont Hotel, where we booked dinner at the Tonga Room for Wednesday night, the last night before we fly home. The concierge there suggested if we had two mai tais there they would have to drag us out! The Fairmont is an incredibly swish looking hotel. It looked like the entire foyer was made of polished marble.

We walked back down the hill along Powell Street and to our hotel, getting some more milk for breakfast at the Walgreens on the way.

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