I had outschool ethics classes at 8am and 9am, followed immediately by a Zoom meeting from 10-12 for planning the agenda for the ISO Photography standards meeting in Japan in two weeks.
Then at 1pm I had another Zoom meeting, this time with the professor of the university courses I’m tutoring. We’re gearing up for running the Image Processing and Pattern Recognition course again in semester two (beginning in August), and he wanted to go over some suggestions that I ad at the end of last year’s course for improving the course material and presentation. I’d written a list of things, and we went over those so he understood everything. I would be happy to help produce some of the extra diagrams I suggested, but I’m very busy the next few weeks preparing and then travelling to Japan, and also he didn’t want me working on course material without getting paid and he doesn’t have budget for that.
Tonight I have another ISO Zoom meeting, scheduled for 11pm-midnight my time. This is an ad-hoc group meeting for the depth camera performance topic. I missed the last one two weeks ago because I was sick. I may skip this one too, because honestly I don’t contribute much to the discussion, as it’s the others who are doing experiments with the equipment in their labs.
In between I took Scully for a couple of walks, avoiding the large band of rain that crossed Sydney in mid-afternoon. For dinner I made spätzle with split pea soup. My mother used to make spätzle a lot when I was growing up, and I made it a bit too when I first moved out, but haven’t done it much for many years now. I should do it more often.
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Friday night was online board games night with friends, so I skipped my daily update. After missing last week’s face-to-face games due to COVID, it was nice to get together online and play some games.
My Friday was very busy. I had my first ethics classes since cancelling a week’s worth while I got over COVID. I had one at 9am, which I’d moved an hour earlier because at 10am I had a Standards Australia meeting (also via Zoom), to follow-up from the ISO Photography Standards meeting I attended in February. We had the usual administrative business, and I went through the technical report I wrote summarising the discussions and events of the international meeting. It went okay, although I had to pause a few times for coughing, which is still an issue as I recover from the illness.
At lunch I went to pick up a weekly grocery shop from the supermarket. And then in the afternoon I had three ethics classes in a row. I managed okay, but again, needing to pause to cough a few times. The cough is really quite annoying. It comes and goes throughout the day – sometimes I have a long period of coughing and feel awful, and then I it settles down a bit and doesn’t bother me for a while.
Today was similar, with the coughing fading in and out during the day. I went for a walk with my wife and Scully to the Naremburn bakery and had a cinnamon scroll for morning tea, which was really delicious. On the way home it rained, and became fairly heavy. We’d taken umbrellas, but forgotten Scully’s raincoat, so she got soaked, and when we got home we had to towel her off and give her a blow dry.
I spent much of today writing new comics for Irregular Webcomic! I’ve had two weeks of no new strips after the buffer rain out a couple of weeks ago, but now I’m planning to photograph this new batch tomorrow morning and have them ready for Monday.
I made Thai red curry vegetables and rice for dinner tonight – which is the first proper dinner for both of us that we’ve had for some time, as my wife hasn’t felt up to eating much since she got COVID as well, but she’s feeling better now.
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I feel mostly better today, after a better night’s sleep. The last thing is this lingering throat tightness and coughing, which is pretty bad. It’s difficult talking for long without breaking into coughing.
Today I did some real work though. I had to write a report on the ISO Photography Standards meeting I attended in February, for Standards Australia, ahead of our follow-up national meeting on Friday. I’d intended to write it last week, but got cut short by COVID. The meeting was to be held in person in the city, but the project manager contacted me to suggest moving it to Zoom, which I agreed to.
In between writing parts of that report, I went for a walk with my wife (who is feeling a bit better today too) and Scully, trying to beat the heavy rain that fell most of the afternoon.
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The ISO meeting today was mostly administrative cleanup, going through action items and minutes, but there were two technical discussion on potential new standards that we may want to develop, based on submissions from the Italian and Spanish national standards bodies. The Italian one is the tripod strength one they proposed a couple of meetings ago, and which we need to figure out how to handle. The Spanish proposal is for a standard for machine vision cameras, and we decided that sounds like something we should be doing, so we’re encouraging that too. The side benefits of these are the hope that Italy and Spain will join out committee as full members, and hopefully host meetings in their countries some time in the future.
We had a lot of rain overnight. I mentioned last night that we’d had 20 mm of rain. By morning that total had increased to over 50 mm. And we had another 15 mm during the day today. I took Scully out for a brief walk during a break in the ISO meeting, when I thought the rain had eased off for a while, but we got caught in a heavy shower. There was news about flash flooding across Sydney and a lot of trees down, cutting roads and power lines.
But the good news is that today was much cooler than the run of very warm days we’ve been having. They haven’t been hot – it has most definitely not been a hot summer, but it’s been hovering around 30°C every day for weeks now. So today’s 22°C was a welcome respite.
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Day 2 of the ISO Photography standards meeting was all technical discussions. We talked about standards for measuring low light performance, specifying camera-related vocabulary definitions, defining transformation maps for converting between standard and high dynamic range images, updating definitions of camera technical specification to handle new technologies, measuring the information-theoretic capacity of camera images and systems, and measuring autofocus performance.
One of the interesting quotes from the discussion concerned the autofocus standard. The authors wanted to allow measurement of autofocus under conditions that simulate being held by hand – with the camera shaking and wobbling due to hand unsteadiness. In a formal testing situation, you need to simulate this with a robotic device that is programmed to shake the camera in the same manner as a human hand. Another expert said that it seemed weird to have this, rather than just using a tripod to hold the camera, since we already have a different standard for measuring imaging performance when hand-held. The author responded that (my paraphrasing): Almost 100% of photos taken are hand-held, so requiring a tripod for a performance test is somewhat perverse.
Another interesting concern that was raised came about because of the recent explosion in AI algorithms. Someone pointed out that we have standards for measuring image quality that work by having the camera take a photo of a standardised test chart, and then comparing the quality of the image to an ideal reproduction of the chart, noting where the image from the camera is degraded. This reflects the real world performance, since photos of scenes will be degraded in the same way. But someone pointed out that digital cameras are increasingly using image processing to improve image quality, and soon no doubt they’ll be using AI algorithms. And if an AI algorithm knows the standard test chart it can recognise when you try to take a photo of one… and output an image which is a perfect reproduction of the test chart. So when you take a photo of a test chart, the measured “camera performance” will be absolutely perfect, but this will not reflect the camera’s actual performance when photographing a scene.
This is something we actually have to think about, to try to design a performance test that can’t be cheated in this way. There are options, such as randomising the test charts or procedurally generating them, but this all requires very careful design and testing. So we have plenty of work ahead of us in the next few years!
Tonight while teaching my new ethics class on Exploration, there was a big thunderstorm. Lots of lightning and heavy rain and wind. We had 20 mm of rain in a couple of hours, and no doubt there’ll have been some flash flooding and probably some trees down across the city. No problem here, thankfully.
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Last night when I wrote my blog entry, I thought I’d be getting up at 06:30 to start the day with the ISO Photography Standards meeting at 07:00. It’s in Tokyo, and that’s 2 hours different in time zone to Sydney… however just before bed I suddenly realised I’d done the time conversion wrong! The 9am start in Tokyo was actually 11am in Sydney not 7am!
This meant two things: (1) I didn’t have to get up so early and rush through breakfast. (2) With the finishing time also 4 hours later than I’d thought, the meeting now ended at 7pm, rather than 3pm. But the Data Engineering course I am teaching started at 3pm, in at the university. I’d planned to miss just the last hour of the ISO meeting and head in on the train at 2pm. But now that meant I’d be missing the last five hours of the ISO meeting!
Ugh… this was a bit of a mess, but there’s nothing I could do about it. I joined the ISO meeting at 11:00 and had to make apologies that I’d be leaving after just 3 hours. I was there for the opening administrative session, but missed most of the technical discussion sessions in the afternoon. It’s a shame, but couldn’t be helped.
Today was the very first day of the university semester. The class began at 3pm, and I noticed the students all sat clustered very close together in the large lecture room. And 5 minutes before the starting time, before the lecturer had even said anything, a deathly hush fell over the room as they all waited for the lecture to being. This is a first year course, so today was the first day of university for all of these students. And the lecturer said it was quite possibly the very first university lecture for many of them. Ah, that initial naiveté! It’ll wear off quickly, probably.
The lecture was good and the students were all listening and concentrating. It was introductory material for the course, the assessment methods, a demo of the Matlab software package which we’ll be using during the course, and the material I wrote on ethics of data science for last year’s course revamp. We finished a little early. One disadvantage of the course running 3-6pm is that it ends in peak hour, so the trains heading home are crowded. So I sat with the lecturer for a bit and we caught up on news since we’d last seen each other at the end of last year’s Image Processing course, before we headed for the trains.
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This morning I had an online meeting (via MS Teams) for ISO Photography Standards – specifically an ad-hoc technical meeting for investigating accuracy standards for depth measurement cameras. This is one of the new projects we’re working on and we’re in the experimental phase, gathering information to try to develop standards for measuring depth and resolution accuracy of such cameras. Unfortunately I can’t contribute with any actual experimental lab-work, but I’m in the ad-hoc group (essentially a technical subcommittee) because I have experience with and interest in these devices. The meeting was 08:30-09:30 my time, so convenient, but it ate up some of the morning.
After that my wife suggested we go for a long walk to the Naremburn bakery for morning tea. Sure! So we did that, taking Scully for a walk. They had a nice looking pastry filled with custard and sultanas, topped with flaked almonds, so I tried that.
When we got home (and this is a 4.5 km walk), I immediately changed and went out for a run. An I decided to do a long one, 5k! It was approaching noon by now, but I wanted to get it done then rather than later in the afternoon when it would just be hotter. It was an exhausting run.
I had to be home and showered and have lunch before my second game design class at 2pm – but the student didn’t show up. I’m going to have to contact the parent and arrange some make-up class time.
Then this evening was three more ethics/critical thinking classes on the UFOs topic. Two of them were good, with the kids demonstrating good critical thinking skills. But the first one I had three kids and they were all bouncing alien theories off each other the whole time, for every question! It was… well, interesting. At least I hope they had fun!
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This morning I had a meeting at Standards Australia, the follow-up to the recent ISO international standards meeting on Photography that I attended in early November. But first I had to drop Scully off at doggie daycare, and then head into town on the train.
The meeting was routine and not especially notable, except that we had a new project manager from Standards Australia taking care of the administrative stuff. This is the third manager we’ve had in the past three meetings – the previous one only lasted one meeting. I assume because she got moved onto some other committees, not because there’s anything particularly nasty about ours. In fact I think our committee is an easy one for new staff to get used to the drill, as we are fairly consensus-based and non-contentious. There are other Australian standards committees who are much more tricky to handle, as they have representatives from competing companies.
After the meeting, I headed to the game store in town to pick up a couple of board games I’d ordered: the new edition of Camel Up, and Camel Up: Off Season. The guy looked for the games in the area set aside for customer orders to be picked up, but didn’t find them. After some rummaging around out the back he returned with a copy of Off Season, but no Camel Up. He said there’d obviously been a mix-up and a copy hadn’t been set aside for me. So I’ll have to go back another time to get it.
Immediately back home I went to pick up Scully from the daycare. She really loves spending time there, and she is super tired after spending a few hours playing with other dogs.
Tonight is online board games night with my friends. We’ve played some games of Jaipur, Jump Drive, and Just One, and will continue with some others as the night progresses.
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This morning I worked on my report for the Photography Standards meeting I attended at the start of November. I finished it by lunch time and sent it off to Standards Australia. Next week we have a meeting where I will go through the report with various Australian experts from different institutions, universities, and so on. We’ll also be discussing hosting an international meeting in Sydney in October 2024. I’m hoping we can get that happening, as it would be good to have the international delegates come here again.
I had one more class on the ethics of teleportation today. This is a really fun class, because the kids are really being made to think about strange things that they’d never considered before. Today, of the four kids in the class, when I asked how teleportation would change the world, three of them thought of fairly obvious useful things, while one kid kept coming up with evil uses such as sending bombs, or weapons, or sneaking into secure places. Another kid said, “What if someone appears in your bathroom!!”
After that class I had some admin tasks to do on Outschool. I needed to post in all the classes that I’m taking some time off over Christmas, letting parents and students know the last class date for the year and when classes will resume in January. And then I sent messages to the parents of eight former students who were older/more mature, and invited them to enrol in my brand new class for January, Critical and Ethical Thinking for ages 13-15. I created a coupon for any returning students to use for a free first lesson.
I took Scully on a couple of walks, and I spent some time this afternoon going through and editing photos from my trip to Europe in June, adding some to my travel diary. I still have several more days’ worth of photos to edit from that trip. This was our hotel in Würzburg:
Oh, and today was the first day of summer here, but you’d hardly notice it, as it was chilly and overcast all day. The Bureau of Meteorology released a summary of the spring just ended, and it was unusually cold and wet. Sydney had almost double the average rainfall for the months August-October. In terms of average temperature, it was the coolest spring since 2003, and in terms of the maximum temperatures, it was the coldest spring on record – i.e. the lowest maximum temperatures ever recorded. This is the effects of a third La Niña in succession, combined with a negative Indian Ocean Dipole, which reinforces the cooler/wetter effects. They’re predicting our summer will be unusually cool and wet as well. For the third summer in a row.
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I was up at 4am for the third morning in a row for my ISO standards meeting. We had another technical session on camera pixel specifications, which is a new addition to camera definitions that was raised at the previous meeting. After that we did the administrative stuff of recording action items and resolutions and so on. The meeting finished around 10am, leaving me the rest of the day.
I was pretty tired though, so didn’t get a lot done. I went for a walk with my wife and Scully for lunch at the bakery, where I had a mushroom pie, followed by a lemon meringue tart.
For dinner tonight I made potato, rosemary, and feta pizza, with pesto sauce rather than tomato.
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