San Francisco 2017 Diary: day 6

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.

Last session of the conference
Final session of the conference

After the post-lunch art session, there was a general discussion panel with all the speakers. They organisers brought in beer and wine, and I had a glass of an interesting Sauvignon blanc. The audience was quite small for the discussion, maybe only a dozen people, but it was a lively and interesting hour, which ended up with all the panelists and some of the audience giving their personal definitions of art.

After this, I met Stuart and Quan in the lobby at 18:00. We’d arranged by some email exchanges to meet and go to Nicolas’ place in Mountain View for dinner. Quan called an Uber and we drove down, but it took over 90 minutes in the traffic. Nicolas was making crepes and galettes for dinner. The galettes are savoury and made with buckwheat flour, which makes them dark. He filled them with French ham, cheese, and an egg each. The egg yolks were very bright yellow, compared to the deep golden orange ones we get at home in Australia. I had one galette and then shared another with Stuart, before we moved on to the dessert crepes, made with white flour and filled with chestnut cream.

Galette, kitchen bench
Ham, cheese, and egg galette

Nicolas’ wife Celine was there and we all ate in a very casual manner around the kitchen bench, one after another as the crepes came out of the pan. Nicolas cooked most of them, but Celine and Quan took over while he ate. We also had some Häagen Dasz ice cream with the sweet ones, and after a couple of chestnut I tried one with Nutella. With all this food they had Val de Rance apple cider from France, specially bought from an importer just for the occasion. All this was traditional for the day before Lent.

Crepe with nutella and ice cream
Nutella crepe with ice cream

After a very pleasant and fun evening, we caught an Uber back to the hotel, this time taking under 40 minutes in the lighter traffic. It was raining quite heavily when we got in the car at Nicolas’ place, but at Burlingame it was clear. I arranged to meet Stuart at 09:00 in the morning to travel into San Francisco together, and then we returned to our rooms.

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