2 seconds faster

I was determined to do a second 5k run this week, and this morning was the time. It was a warmer morning, and sunny, but I managed to finish in 28:57, just 2 seconds faster than on Monday. Let’s see if I can keep up this enthusiasm for doing two runs a week…

Tomorrow I’m planning to try a new sourdough recipe: sourdough challah. My friend pointed me at a recipe which he says works well, so I’m going to give it a go, sticking as close to the recipe as I can. Today I had to feed the sourdough starter this morning, then tonight I make a levain (a new word I just learnt as I’m trying new things with sourdough), which sits overnight, before being used to make dough tomorrow morning, which then rises all day, before finally being baked tomorrow night. It’s a lot of lead-up time, so I hope it turns out!

New content today:

Alchemy and kookaburras

I’ve been working into the late evening on some Darths & Droids strips… the time got away from me! So I don’t want to write too much before I head to bed. What else did I do today?

I cobbled together a quick random alchemical ingredient generator. At the moment it’s generating only herb names, but I plan to expand it.

I baked sourdough, this time with 20% semolina/80% flour. It turned out fine. I think next time I’m going to go wild and try 50% semolina and see what happens.

Oh, and I created a Twitter account for Square Root of Minus Garfield. Since all the cool Garfield remix comics are doing it.

At the dog park with Scully this afternoon, there was a kookaburra hanging around, hunting worms and stuff in the bark chips near where all the dog owners sit on the park benches. It landed right on the bench I was sitting on! I managed to get this photo… with my phone!

Sharing a park bench with a kookaburra

New content today:

More vision, and a class listing!

I’ve listed my first class on Outschool! Human Vision and Colour Perception. The first date I’ll be offering this class is Monday 1 March (Sydney time – it corresponds to Sunday 28 Feb afternoon in the US).

I’ve aimed this class at students from 12-14 years old. If you have (or know) kids this age who might be interested in learning about how we see and how colour perception works, please feel free to sign up for the class! It’s available to anyone in the world.

I spent this afternoon drawing some more diagrams for the course. I’m very proud of this eyeball:


And here’s the human visual pathway, showing left and right visual fields:

Visual fields

After making these diagrams, I had enough material to finally put together my class promotion image, which is necessary before you can publicly list the class. This was the last step I needed to complete, and so that’s why I got the class up and running today.

This morning I had to go see my doctor again about my tonsils. The course of antibiotics I’ve just completed hasn’t made the swelling go down. He wants to give some stronger antibiotics a chance, so I’m on those for a couple more weeks, then will have to go back for another appointment if the tonsil is still swollen.

After the appointment I took a roundabout long walk home, stopping off to get a snack on the way, and sit by the water while I ate. It’s nice to spend some time out in the fresh air.

New content today:

Drawing vision diagrams

Today I relaxed a bit after yesterday’s manic work at the market. By “relaxed”, I mean I went for a 5k run first thing in the morning. I tried running the loop at the halfway mark in the opposite direction today, which meant uphill sections on either side of a downhill, rather than vice versa. I don’t know if it made much difference overall, but my time today was 20 seconds slower than last week.

After the run, I got stuck into drawing some diagrams for my planned class on human vision and colour perception for Outschool. I need to draw my own diagrams to avoid using copyrighted images. Here’s my take on the layers of the human retina:

Retinal structure

I got most of the diagrams I need done, but still have a couple of tackle tomorrow. But now I can at least make a title image for my class to upload to Outschool, and start signing up students!

New content today:

Kirribilli Markets!

Today was the big market day! I had my first stall at the big Kirribilli Markets, selling my photography. It was a long, tiring day!

I got up at 5:45, took Scully out for toilet, had a quick breakfast, and then jumped in the car with my wife and Scully. We dropped off one load of equipment and stock at the market, then she watched it while I drove home and picked up the second load. I unpacked everything, and then she drove home with Scully. I wanted to be really early, because there’s limited parking for cars and vans to unload, and they said the earlier the better.

Kirribilli Market stall

I was basically set up and ready to go by about 7:30, with the market officially opening at 8:30. I was hoping for large numbers of shoppers, but the numbers were really down on what I’ve seen at this market before. I’ve been here as a shopper before and it’s always very crowded, to the point of being difficult to walk sometimes, but today there was maybe… a quarter of the people, I estimate, if that. It’s a combination of the complete lack of tourists in Sydney at the moment, plus maybe a bit of COVID-shyness still.

Kirribilli Market stall

I managed to make enough sales to cover my costs, and make a modest profit. So it was worthwhile, but I expected and certainly would have liked to make a bit more profit. The market closed at 3pm, so it officially lasts 6.5 hours, but with the setup and then packing up and getting back home afterwards, it was a 10-hour working day for me.

Kirribilli Market stall

I’m exhausted, but at least feeling good that I’ve made some money, even if the hourly rate is pretty poor. I have Kirribilli booked again for next month, and hopefully there’ll be more customers, or even returning ones who decide that this time they’ll buy something rather than just looking.


New content today:

Virtual Sydney meeting day 5

This morning was the last day of the ISO standards meeting. It was all just administrative stuff to finish off, going over summary reports of all the technical discussions, listing action items, and so on. One important thing was to decide the timing for the next meeting, which is on 7-11 June. I’ve been fortunate to have this meeting and the previous on at a favourable time in the morning, but the European delegates have been up in the middle of the night. The June meeting is going to allow the Europeans to have a comfortable afternoon, while I will be stuck beginning the meeting at 11pm here in Sydney.

At this stage the plan is for a physical meeting at Apple in Cupertino in October, but realistically I expect that will probably be virtual as well. Even if it isn’t, there’s no way I’ll be going.

Meeting done, I spent the rest of the day preparing for tomorrow’s market. I have a stall at Kirribilli Markets, which will hopefully be busy and full of people wanting to buy my stuff. I had to collate a pile of greeting cards and envelopes and stuff them into cellophane baggies, ready for people to buy, and then print out some more price signs and stuff. Then I collected all my stuff and did a test pack of the car, to make sure I can transport it all to the market in two trips. I’m not hiring a large car this time, as the market is not far away, and I worked out that I can get everything there in two trips (with the first taking my wife so she can mind the gear while I return for the second load). It was a bit like working out how to cross a river with a lettuce, a goose, and a fox.

With that, it’s an early night, because we have to get up before 6am to start moving stuff to the market nice and early.

New content today:

Virtual Sydney meeting day 4

There were only two technical sessions in the ISO meeting today, as a spot opened up during the agenda planning meeting, and it was decided to put it at the end of today, so we could finish early. The day that is – we have one more day of meeting tomorrow.

Today’s first session was on autofocus, measuring the speed and the accuracy of camera autofocus mechanisms. The project leader has been experimenting with methods to measure these things. It’s not as straightforward as you might think. We care about digital SLR cameras, where you have manual control over things like triggering the autofocus, but most cameras these days are also phones, and we have to be able to measure those too. When was the last time you manually triggered autofocus on your phone?

Right… you don’t need to, because it’s continuously refocusing. So you can’t just place a phone camera in front of a test calibration chart, defocus it and then time how long it takes to focus and repeat 100 times to get good statistics, because there’s no way to force it to defocus. The only way to change the focus is to point the camera at something a different distance away. So the project leader was running experiments where the camera would be pointed at a distance wall, and a mechanical arm would swing in a test chart at a near distance, thus forcing the camera to refocus, and then take a photo, and then measure the photo image of the test chart to see how good the focus is – and repeat hundreds of times.

He reported that while this method seemed like it should work, there was a problem. The camera typically refocuses in a fraction of a second and then takes the photo, which we should be able to analyse for any defocus blur to see how good the autofocus is. The problem is that by the time the camera takes the photo, the test chart is still vibrating from the sudden movement into the field of view… so the photo has significant (several pixels) of motion blur in it! This makes it very hard to figure out the defocus blur. So he wasn’t sure what to do about this. I suggested changing the experimental setup to have the nearby chart fixed, but to put an angled mirror between it and the camera, which would reflect the image of a distant wall into the camera. So now the camera can focus on the wall, and the mirror can be removed quickly, forcing the camera to refocus on the near chart, which hasn’t moved – no vibration! He said that was a good idea, and he’ll try it out. There were a bunch of other technical details reported as well, which I won’t go into further.

The second session was about measuring the accuracy of depth cameras – which produce images telling you the distance to points in the scene. This is a preliminary exploratory stage of what will be a new standard. The main difficulty here is that there are several very different technical approaches to making a depth camera, and a test method that will work for one of them won’t work for another. So we’re compiling a survey of what we want to measure and how we can do it for all the different types of camera. We seem to have put together an agreed list of things, and the project leader is planning to write up a first draft in time for comments and discussion at the next meeting.

This afternoon I started planning for my market stall on Sunday. I’ve done three markets at a small local suburban market last year, but this one is a bigger market in the inner city, with many more stalls, and hopefully many more customers. It’s going to be a jump up in complexity and experience level, and I have to figure out how to get all my stock and gear there in our car with my wife’s help, without hiring a larger car to put it all in. This market is much closer to home, so we can make two trips, which after test packing of the car today I’m pretty sure we can manage. I was a bit worried about one of the items being too big to fit, but turning it a certain way I managed to get it into the car boot and close the door.

I’m going to be having early mornings both Saturday and Sunday this weekend… for the final day of the ISO meeting, and then getting up super early on Sunday to haul gear to the market and be set up and ready to go before 8:30!

New content today:

Virtual Sydney meeting day 3

It’s day 3 of my ISO Photography Standards meeting. Today we had technical sessions on image noise, image flare, and image stabilisation. Image noise is about coming up with some sort of number that you can measure from the pixel values of an image to characterise how noisy the image looks to a human observer. Naively you might think taking a small region of pixels and calculating a standard deviation would be reasonable, and it is, but there are complications because of the different perceptual relationships of contrast in the bright-dark, red-green, and blue-yellow axes, and how these combine relative to one another to produce the perception of graininess in an image. So it’s far from straightforward, and this work is actually a revision of the previously published standard, which has since proven to be less robust than we’d like.

Image flare is about measuring the glare from bright light sources in a photo, such as the sun. This produces the characteristic “lens flare” effect that some directors sometimes artificially add to movies. In a digital camera, image flare is considered a fault, so if it’s present you want to measure it so you can compare which cameras perform better than others. This is the first time ISO has worked on a standard for this, and the project leaders are doing a lot of experimental work to try and develop a workable system for measuring and quantitatively characterising lens flare and its perceptual effect on the quality of photography.

And the current image stabilisation work is about measuring the effectiveness of non-optical image stabilisation methods, which means image processing to remove motion blur (as opposed to physical image stabilisation by moving the lens to compensate for unsteadiness in the camera). This is very tricky to measure for many cameras, particularly fully automatic cameras such as phones, because it’s actually impossible to take a photo with image stabilisation processing turned off, so you can’t just take a with and without shot and compare them. So we’ve had to come up with other methods of testing the cameras.

After the meeting adjourned for the day, I unwound a bit and then worked on some comics a bit, and took Scully for a bit of a walk and play in the park:

Scully and rope

For dinner tonight I walked up the street to the local restaurant strip to have something by myself, since my wife had decided to do an evening yoga class (and she takes Scully with her).

I decided to have some pasta from an Italian place called Bravo. This used to be one of our favourite restaurants, many years ago. The owner was friendly and said hello every time we came in. The menu featured “101 pasta dishes”. Basically they had about 15 different shapes of pasta and 15 or so different sauces, and they just mixed them until they had 100 different combinations listed in the menu, and 101 was lasagne. But you could just order whatever pasta with whatever sauce, and they never checked to see if it was officially listed on the menu or not. They did pizzas too, which were okay, but I preferred their pasta. And they made their own gelato! They always had 8 permanent flavours and 8 rotating flavours which changed every week. It was absolutely delicious, and the serves were very generous and pretty cheap. The servers used those broad flat palette-knife style utensils rather than ice cream scoops, and slathered the gelato into huge mounds on your cone or into the paper cup. After going out for dinner at nearly any other restaurant in the area, we would skip dessert and pick up some gelato on the way home instead. It was the best Italian place.

Until one day in 2007, when one of the kitchen staff had a psychotic episode and stabbed the owner to death in the alley outside the restaurant. I remember hearing about it on the news and being shocked. Bravo closed for a while, but reopened, obviously under new management. When it reopened, things had changed. The gelato servers now used rounded scoops and served precisely measured balls of gelato, each serve being maybe half what you used to get. And the prices went up, almost double. Soon the pasta menu changed too… no longer 101 pastas, or whatever mix and match dish you wanted, they cut it down to 8 or so fixed combinations, and again raised the prices. What used to be a cheap, cheerful, friendly local Italian place had turned into a more upmarket place with a smaller menu and higher prices. And the gelato changed too… it just didn’t taste as good any more.

I’ve been back a few times, particularly late at night a few years ago when I was waiting to pick up my wife from her singing lessons nearby and it was the only place open for me to sit in. And, well, honestly the food is perfectly fine, but it just lacks the atmosphere and the bargain basement prices it used to have. Today I really felt like I wanted some good pasta, so I went back. And it was good. But it still felt a little hollow.

Over the years we’ve lost many of our favourite restaurants in the area. We had a Thai place we really liked, but at one point it changed owners. We used to go there every few weeks, but since it’s changed owners, maybe 10 years ago, we’ve been back in there exactly once, and found the food wasn’t as good. We found a different Thai place instead, a few blocks away, which was really good. But that too closed down a couple of years ago. Our original favourite Indian place closed a long time ago. One of the pizza places we frequented has closed (although it wasn’t our favourite one, which is still going strong, thankfully).

A Japanese place we used to go to closed recently, and we were shocked. But tonight I walked past it and saw it was boarded up. At first I thought they were going to renovate and open something new there, but then I saw the development plan posted on the boarding… and it turns out the building is going to be demolished to build a new pedestrian plaza through from the street to the street behind! I’m pretty sure this is part of the planning to provide access routes to the new Metro station that they’re currently building a block behind that location. So that’s interesting.

New content today:

Virtual Sydney meeting day 2

Day 2 of my ISO Standards meeting, and we got stuck into the technical sessions. Today we had a session on measuring camera resolution, another on high dynamic range and wide colour gamut (HDR/WCG) still image formats, and a final one on vocabulary and DNG (digital negative format).

The resolution one was the most technical, involving revisionary work on the existing standard to update the mathematical methods used. We had presentations of experimental results of various calculation methods, and discussion of what changes to adopt to the previously published version of the standard.

The HDR/WCG one was more administrative details of how we define these things for still images by borrowing existing details from various video standards. We had a large discussion of drafting liaison letters to other standardisation bodies. Because there are other bodies working on image and video formats, we communicate with them when we think they may be interested in what ISO is doing. This is to make sure we don’t end up with incompatible standards for things, or don’t duplicate work, and can share comments and suggestions.

Vocabulary is just listing the technical terms defined in various photography standards. The DNG project is finally getting officially kicked off, with Adobe’s imminent publication of DNG v1.6, which will be the initial basis for an ISO standardised version of this photo file format.

With the meeting done, I turned to working on some Darths & Droids writing for the afternoon. I also took Scully to the park to socialise with her doggy friends and get a walk in.

While walking, I was using eBird on my phone to record birds I spotted. Normally in this area I typically see noisy miners, rainbow lorikeets, silver gulls, pied currawongs, welcome swallows, and Australian magpies. Today I also spotted an Australian raven, an Australian white ibis, and a little black cormorant, which are not everyday birds but not uncommon. But I also spotted a crested tern, which is less common. And then when walking back from the far end of the walk I noticed a smaller brown bird, standing on a floating boom in the harbour. I had no idea what it was, but it looked a bit like a night heron in shape. A bit of searching online revealed it to be a striated heron! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one of these birds at all before. So that was pretty cool – although it was a shame I didn’t have my SLR camera and long lens with me.

New content today:

Virtual Sydney meeting day 1

Today was the first day of the latest ISO Photography Standards meeting. I was scheduled to host this meeting here in Sydney, with 30+ delegates form around the world travelling here to meet and discuss digital photography standards in progress. Of course, with COVID being what it is, travel to Australia is impossible, so we’re having the meeting entirely online.

With delegates in Australia, Japan, three European time zones, and all four US time zones, it’s impossible to organise a time when everyone would normally be awake. So instead of meeting full time for 3 days, we’re doing 5 days of 3.5 hours – so the people awake in the middle of the night don’t have to stay awake for too long. Fortunately for me this meeting starts at 8 am and ends at 11:30 am, and the Europeans have the worst of it.

We always start with administrative stuff, which took most of today’s time. There was a lot of discussion of planning for future meetings. Normally we plan up to two years ahead, setting venues for each of the three meetings a year. The next meeting after this one was scheduled for Okayama in Japan in June, but that’s been converted to virtual because of COVID. The one after, around October, is scheduled for Apple HQ in Cupertino, California. I don’t know if that will go ahead in Cupertino or be converted to virtual – but either way I won’t be going because I’m pretty sure travel out of and back into Australia will be either still impossible or difficult. I really don’t want to travel to a country where COVID may still be rampant, and then have to go into quarantine for 2 weeks when I get back home.

We’ve put off talking about 2022 in the last couple of meetings, but we have to think about it now. The February meeting is normally in Yokohama, to coincide with the CP+ camera show. It wasn’t this year, because it was Japan’s turn to host the ISO Photography plenary meeting – the Okayama meeting – which involves all of the various photography committees getting together in one place. (I’m on the digital committee, there are also committees for image permanence/archiving, and imaging material dimensions. Standards for chemical photography processes are maintained by these existing committees – there is no longer a separate committee on chemical photography.) Anyway, the plan is to go back to Yokohama in February 2022. But given the virtualisation of the Okoyama plenary, there is some discussion of having Japan host a face-to-face plenary in 2022, which would be mid-year again to align with the other committees. So the proposal is for Japan to host in Yokohama in Feb 2022, and again in a place to be determined (perhaps Okayama) in mid-2022. The Japanese sponsoring bodies need to decide if they want to host twice in one year or not, and report back. Finally, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has offered to host in New York City for the October 2022 meeting. All assuming physical meetings can go ahead in 2022, of course.

They asked me if I wanted to host in Sydney in 2022, given I was supposed to be hosting the current meeting. But I said I couldn’t be sure travel to Australia would even be allowed even in 2022, so I didn’t want to start organising a meeting here.

Following the admin, there was the first technical session of the meeting, which happened to be the one about which I know the least, and have the most trouble following the technical discussion. So I didn’t really participate in that. We finished for the day a bit early, just after 11:00.

I’d organised to play golf with my friend at the short pitch-and-putt course, meeting after lunch at 1 pm. I drove via my favourite pie shop and got lunch there. I had a really good game today, and after 15 holes my experienced friend and I were exactly even on total strokes. Previously I’d been playing against him with relative handicaps in the teens, but now here I was holding my own without a handicap. I even got a birdie on one hole! Unfortunately, I had a huge blow out on hole 16, needing 7 strokes. That ruined my chance of beating my friend, alas. But next time… maybe I can do a bit better again.

Back home, I was pondering an idea I’d had in discussion with another friend, about making a database of Magic: the Gathering cards, to use to automatically construct cubes of cards for use with our Goldfish Draft format. I was thinking how much work it was going to be, creating and populating a database with our lists of cards suitable for Goldfish Draft… and then I wondered if anyone had downloadable data files of Magic cards.

A quick search later and I found MTGJSON, a maintained database of every Magic card ever printed, downloadable in JSON format. Not only that, they also have an SQL export! So I grabbed the SQL file, created a new database, imported it…. and voilĂ ! I had a fully populated database of Magic cards within about half an hour. It’s pretty cool when you think a task will take a long time, and you find a way to get it done much more quickly.

I still need to add fields for Goldfish-relevant data for each card, and then populate those, but it will be a much easier task with the core database already done. So: feeling very accomplished today!

New content today: